Your Heart in My Hands- 1/2 – Audrey Trevors

Title: Your Heart in My Hands
Author: Audrey Trevors
Fandom: Teen Wolf
Genre: Drama, Family, Kid!fic, Shifters
Relationship(s): Noah Stilinski/Peter Hale
Content Rating: NC-17
Warnings: Hate Crimes/Hate Speech, Violence – Domestic and/or Against Children, Discussion-Sexual Abuse (Kate Argent & Derek Hale), Discussion-Murder, Explicit Sex, Hate Crimes & Hate Speech (Against Werewolves), Kidnapping, Violence-Canon-Level, Death-Minor Character
Author Notes: This is my first completed story of this length. A huge thank you to the mods who made this whole process easy and fun. An extra huge thank you to my artist, DarkJediQueen who made a wonderful banner and cast collage. She really captured the characterization I was going for.
Beta: Grammarly
Word Count: 54,025
Summary: Noah Stilinski moved back to Beacon Hills with his son when his wife died, hoping to find the support he’d had growing up. He had not expected to be drawn out to the home of his ex-boyfriend from high school or get embroiled in the same supernatural happenings that had made him leave all those years ago.
Artist: DarkJediQueen



 

Prologue

October 1990

Beacon Hills, California

“Is there something you’d like to say to me?” Noah Stilinski closed his locker and turned to face the teen who’d been following him around for the past three weeks. He wasn’t in any of his classes and, from what Noah had been able to tell, he had no business being in the senior wing of the school. The boy looked like a sophomore based on some of the other people he’d seen hanging around who he knew from sports.

“I think you’re hot.”

Noah jerked at his words, and barely resisted taking a step back. The sheer cockiness of the statement was unbelievable. It was a question and not a question at the same time, and the bluntness was something that Noah couldn’t get used to, no matter how long he’d been in Beacon Hills. Everywhere else in the country, that kind of statement would get someone beat up in a back alley—or on a front lawn—but here it was just shrugged off. Even the football player digging through his locker next to Noah ignored the comment. The teen raised a challenging eyebrow, as if daring Noah to say something.

Noah never could resist a dare.

“Who are you?” Noah leaned back against his locker and crossed his arms over his chest. He looked the boy up and down, taking in muscles that were just starting to firm up, and dark hair that just barely curled across his forehead. The cocky smile that grew wider the more Noah looked. He hated to admit it, but it was a nice smile.

“Peter Hale,” he held out a hand, and Noah took it slowly. At the contact, a spark ran up his arm and he quickly let go. He flexed his fingers at his side and Peter’s grin grew even wider.

Yeah, this was someone who was used to getting what he wanted, and Noah just hated to seem like an easy mark.

“Nice to meet you. Not interested. Stop following me.” Noah ignored the flutter that continued in his stomach and turned away. He shifted his backpack on his shoulder and stepped past Peter.

He was halfway down the hallway before Peter yelled after him.

“I know you think I’m hot, too! You should give me a chance!”

Noah rolled his eyes and resisted the urge to turn around and take another look. He felt Peter’s eyes follow him until he turned a corner.

Yeah, there were some things he wasn’t sure he could get used to. Being hit on by hot guys…well, maybe he could get used to that one.

– – – –

February 1991

The windows of Noah’s truck were fogged up, making it rather hard to see the movie. Not that he cared. And from the moans Peter was making, he didn’t think Peter cared much either. He pressed harder against him, making that moan turn into a whine, and Noah didn’t think his cock could get any harder.

He ran his hand up under Peter’s shirt, tweaking a nipple before smoothing his thumb back over it. Peter bit his lip, and yep, it turned out his cock could get harder. Noah moaned and kissed back with more pressure.

A loud thump outside and the car shaking broke the haze around Noah’s thoughts and he pulled back, breathing heavily. Peter stared back at him, his eyes dark and weighted in promise. It took everything Noah had in him to not dive back in, press down, sink himself in Peter.

Since Noah had given into Peter in October—let himself have what he wanted—they had been like this. Caught up in each other. Unable to resist. They couldn’t be left alone without all thought fleeing their minds and their bodies gravitating towards each other.

It sent a shiver up Noah’s spine and he sat more firmly back, sucking up air that didn’t have quite so much arousal soaked in it.

Peter made a disgruntled noise before he too sat up and leaned back against the truck’s window. “You didn’t have to stop.”

Noah shook his head, “I’m not going to have sex with you at the drive-in.”

Peter cocked his head, an obvious judgmental look in his eye, “I don’t know why not.”

It was an ongoing argument between the two: where sex was appropriate. The two teenagers were ready for sex at any time, and it was only Noah’s sense of decorum that kept them from having sex on any and all available surfaces. Peter, on the other hand, was raring to go, and it didn’t seem to matter to him where they were. Noah was the voice of reason, and Peter the voice of temptation.

It was a hard burden to bear.

Peter leaned in and slid his hand onto Noah’s cock, “You could at least let me take care of this for you.” The purr to his words made Noah’s breath catch and the squeeze that followed made his eyes slide shut.

“Fuck,” he hissed, clenching his jaw.

Peter leaned in and nipped his chin, “Let me…”

Noah hesitated for a moment, but then Peter squeezed a little more. He nodded, and pulled Peter into a hard kiss. Between them, Peter’s hand sped up, stroking hard and fast, and it was barely a minute before Noah spilled between them. He rested his forehead against Peter’s for a moment before pulling back with a groan.

“Well, that was embarrassing.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Peter grinned, satisfaction written across every plane of his face. “I thought it was pretty hot. I like that I get you all hot and bothered like that.”

Noah huffed a laugh.

“Aren’t you forgetting something?” Peter’s grin turned sly, and Noah’s mouth curved up in response.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he mimicked with a smirk. Peter’s hips thrust up into Noah, his unhandled cock obvious as it rubbed against him. “Oh, that.”

“Yeah,” Peter raised his eyebrows, “Oh, that.”

Good-naturedly, Noah reached between them, and teasingly ghosted his fingers along Peter’s jeans, coaxing a whine from his boyfriend.

“You have to be kidding me!” Peter arched towards him more, an obvious attempt to get Noah to make more contact.

“Maybe just a little,” Noah slipped his hand into Peter’s jeans and gripped his cock firmly.

“Bastard.”

“That’s not a nice thing to say to the man with his hand on your cock,” Noah grinned.

“Didn’t I fuck you out already?” Peter complained. “How do you have so much energy? Just get me off!”

“As you wish,” Noah said just to watch Peter’s eyes darken. He stroked quickly, twisting his wrist in the way he’d learned Peter liked, and soon his boyfriend was coming in Noah’s hand.

The two sat in the steamed up truck breathing deeply for a long moment before Noah laughed, “You know, I actually picked this movie because I thought it would be good.”

Peter leaned forward and rubbed a hand over the windshield, wiping away the steam. “I don’t know, car chases, revenge? It seems a little meh.”

“Well, something called Die Hard seemed like it would be pretty good,” Noah righted himself in his seat and tucked himself back into his jeans. He tossed some tissues to Peter so he could clean up too.

Peter, of course, took his own sweet time with it. He always did, and it drove Noah a little bit crazy. He was able to restrain himself long enough for Peter to cover everything up. A covered up Peter was a little less temptation, at least a level of temptation Noah could handle.

He lifted his arm and curled his fingers towards Peter. Like always, Peter was quick to move in. He’d never say it to his boyfriend’s face, but Peter was a bit of a snuggler. Not that Noah had a problem with that. He rather enjoyed the hard, warm press of Peter against his side. He tightened his arm and enjoyed the heat that connected them.

Long, quiet minutes drifted between them as they focused on the movie and Noah almost missed Peter’s next words.

“I want you to meet my family.”

Almost, but not quite. Noah looked down at Peter in surprise. “I thought we’d talked about this.”

“I know you don’t want me to meet your dad, and that’s fine. I get it. He sounds like an ass, but I want you to meet my family.” Peter was quiet after that, and the words hung between them. They were a heavy presence in the air almost like another person sitting between them.

Noah wasn’t sure he was ready for family. He wasn’t sure either of them really were. Family was a big step after all, and Noah’s experiences with family made him even more reluctant. But he’d also never felt like this before, and it made him want to throw caution to the wind. So, as he constantly found himself doing around Peter, he gave in.

“Sure, let’s do it.”

Peter looked at him, surprise evident on his face, “What?”

“I want to meet your family.”

The blinding smile and the hot, heavy kiss that followed were enough to erase any doubts from his mind.

– – – –

May 1991

Noah found it hard to do anything other than stare at the sight in front of him. In his chest, his heart raced and he was grateful he’d had plenty of practice when it came to not running from something that scared him because right now there wasn’t anything he could think of that had scared him more. Ever.

Peter’s eyes glowed an alarming yellow, and he was pretty sure his boyfriend didn’t have eyebrows anymore.

“What the fuck?” Noah shook his head. Feeling rushed back into his body and he took a step back, “No seriously, what the fuck?”

“Noah-” Peter took a step toward him, but Noah backed up even more as he held out his hand.

“Don’t come closer,” he said. His hand was shaking so he dropped it down to his side, clenched in a fist. He glanced around, looking for something, anything, that he could use to protect himself. He didn’t see anything.

His heart lurched. It was something he hadn’t ever thought he’d need to worry about. Protecting himself.

Not from Peter.

Over the past eight months they’d grown unbelievably close. At times, Noah almost felt like they were the same person, split into two bodies. He knew Peter better than he knew himself.

At least he thought he did. Now he wasn’t sure he knew much of anything.

“I need you to stay over there and tell me what the fuck is happening.” His voice was shaking now.

“Noah,” Peter leaned toward him, but there must have been something in Noah’s eyes, something that let Peter know that any other movement toward him would send Noah running, that kept him in place. “I’m not going to hurt you.”

“What are you?”

It was obvious his words hurt Peter, his face closing off even as he answered, “A werewolf.” His shoulders drooped, “I’m a werewolf, Noah.”

It was like a punch in the gut, having a word for it. Noah couldn’t make sense of the information. “What? How? When? When did you become a werewolf?”

“I’ve always been a werewolf. I was born this way,” Peter didn’t meet his eyes. And Noah felt the betrayal and lies bite their way through him.

“This whole time?” Kiss after kiss flashed through Noah’s mind, every touch, every laugh. It was hard to believe. Impossible to believe. Even with Peter saying it was true. So much felt wrong. “What about your family?”

Peter flinched again. That was enough for Noah.

“Them too, huh?” He snorted, and suddenly his legs couldn’t hold him up anymore. He landed on his ass with a thump and couldn’t resist the laugh that escaped his throat, although it ended up being more of a bark. He buried his face in his hands, unable to grasp the ridiculous situation he was in. “My boyfriend is a werewolf.”

“Noah,” As Peter took a step toward him his foot made an unbelievably loud crackle in the dry grass. Noah looked up at him again.

“I can’t do this.” He let the silence carry his words, and watched Peter almost collapse in on himself.

“What?”

“Peter, you’re a werewolf. I can’t—I’m not,” he rubbed his forehead with the tips of his fingers. “I can’t do this. I won’t say anything, but I can’t do this.”

“Please…”

From somewhere deep inside, some hidden depth he didn’t know, Noah found the strength to pull himself up onto his feet. He needed to get away. Now.

“I’m sorry, Peter.”

He walked away, leaving Peter behind, standing there alone. It felt like every step was breaking his heart a little more, but he knew he couldn’t do this. Not with this secret hanging between them like an executioner’s blade.

“Wait!” Peter called after him, making him slow even as he tensed. If Peter wanted to stop him, he didn’t think there was anything he could be able to do about it. Peter seemed to sense the fear running through him, as he attempted to reassure him,“Noah! I’m not stopping you, I just…I want you to trust me.”

Noah spun toward him, and laughed, “How do you think I could ever trust you after this? I know you couldn’t tell me right away, I would have thought you were crazy, but what about when we slept together? When I met your family? When I said I love you? Why couldn’t you tell me then?”

There was no pleasure in watching Peter flinch at his words. Just tiredness, and an anger that refused to slip away.

Peter reached into his pocket, and Noah flinched back, but all that was pulled out was a bottle filled with something dark. It was impossible not to see the hurt look that flashed across Peter’s face before all expression went away, and Peter shut down in front of his eyes.

“Here.” The words were short and sharp as Peter tossed the bottle to him.

Noah fumbled to catch it, and when he held it up, all he saw was a gray dust. “What is this?”

“Mountain ash,” Peter shoved his hands into his pockets. “I know you don’t trust me, but this will keep me, or any werewolf, away. We can’t get past it.” Noah raised his eyebrows in surprise, and Peter laughed, a short bark, “I know you don’t trust me, and I know it’s not much, but…this is all I can do. I can’t erase the last thirty minutes and make you forget everything. I want you to feel safe. To be safe. And this is all I have.”

“Thanks,” Noah said slowly. “It doesn’t change anything, but thanks.”

He wasn’t sure why, but the gesture made it feel a lot harder to walk away.

– – – –

July 1991

Peter sat alone, under a tree where he knew no one would look for him. All he wanted was to be alone, and his big family didn’t leave much room for that.

The footsteps he heard right before the scent hit his nose made Peter knock his head against the tree behind him, “Can’t you tell when I want to be alone?”

“Can’t you tell that as your big sister it’s my prerogative not to care?” Talia asked as she settled next to him. Peter snorted.

“I don’t want to deal with family tonight.”

“It’s a good thing I’m your sister, not just your family,” she shoved lightly against his shoulder, and then rubbed her cheek against his. Peter didn’t try to resist rubbing back. Even though he wanted to be alone, the scent of family was reassuring and felt like home. Talia’s warmth against him called him back.

It wasn’t perfect, of course nothing had been perfect since Noah had walked away, but it was as close as he could get today. Maybe ever.

His heart hurt a little more.

“Noah enlisted,” his quiet murmur barely ruffled the leaves near him, but he knew Talia had heard him. She heard everything.

“I’m sorry.”

“He’s leaving,” Peter’s voice cracked a little and he cleared his throat. “I knew he didn’t want me. Not after what he found out, but while he was here, while I could still see him every day…it was like it wasn’t real, you know?”

Even as he asked it he knew she didn’t. Talia had her mate. She had a family with David. She hadn’t screwed everything up.

“He could come back.”

It was an empty statement, one she’d made multiple times, and every time she said it he felt a little more like throwing up.

“You didn’t see his face. He never mentioned joining the army. He wanted to join the Sheriff’s Department.” He knocked his head against the tree again and clenched his fists against his thigh. His claws bit into his palms. “He’s doing this to get away from me and I don’t think I could handle it if I got him killed.”

“Peter, Noah’s choices aren’t your fault. Whatever happened, and whatever happens, Noah’s choosing this,” Talia gently took his hand that was closest to her and unfurled his fist. She wiped away the blood on his hand and pulled it between both of hers.

“I don’t want to lose him,” Peter whispered.

“I know,” Talia whispered. She leaned against him and their words drifted off into the wind. They sat there silently for over an hour, Peter letting Talia hold him.

The silence was only broken by the loud sound of small footsteps trampling through the forest.

“Mama!” Derek bounded forward. The toddler was unsteady on his feet, and slipped a few times, determinedly righting himself and moving forward. He threw himself at Talia and Peter. “I found you!”

Talia smiled and cuddled Derek close, “Who let you out and about all alone?”

Derek giggled back at her, “I ‘scaped.”

“Of course you did.”

Derek smiled at her brightly before turning to look at Peter. Whatever he saw must have given some hint to what Peter was feeling because his smile turned to a frown. “Uncle Peter sad?”

“Yeah,” Talia agreed, “Uncle Peter’s sad. I bet he could use some cuddle time.”

“Yeah!” Derek nodded. He crawled across Talia and into Peter’s lap. “Love you,” he murmured into his uncle’s chest.

“I love you, too,” Peter whispered back. He buried his nose in the two-year-old’s hair and breathed in deeply. He held onto his nephew even tighter.

Chapter One

January 2005

Beacon Hills, California

Noah Stilinski tucked his son into bed. It had been a long, hard day, and despite being in Beacon Hills for four months it hadn’t gotten any easier for either of them. The transition from an army base in Germany back to the United States after losing Claudia had worn Stiles down. The culture shock meant each day was a battle, and even someone as energetic as Noah’s son couldn’t bounce through every day.

Stiles blinked up at him, sleep evident in his eyes.

“I’m not tired,” he muttered, rubbing his eyes. Noah smiled down, unable to resist ruffling his son’s hair, even though there wasn’t much of it. The stubble bristled against his palm.

“I know, I know,” he leaned down to kiss Stiles’s head gently. “You’re never tired. That doesn’t mean it’s not time to go to bed.”

“Daddy,” Stiles whined.

“Don’t Daddy me, Stiles. You know when it’s bedtime, it’s bedtime.” Noah kept his voice firm, not letting any hint of weakness through. He knew Stiles would gobble it up, and stretch it out into a mile of his own way. And Noah would be the one to pay for it tomorrow.

“I don’t want to go to sleep alone, what if something happens to you?” The whine had left Stiles’ voice, and the upset had drifted in. Almost a year since Claudia died, and Stiles still wasn’t ready to be alone. Noah couldn’t even count the number of times he’d put Stiles to sleep in his own bed and woken up with a small body tucked next to his own.

“I promise, I’ll be here until you fall asleep, and I’ll be here when you wake up,” Noah said. He scooted onto Stiles’ bed and ran his hand gently over his head. He hummed softly, waiting for Stiles to fall asleep. Sometimes it took a while, sometimes it was only moments.

Tonight it looked like it was going to be a fast night. Stiles drifted off within minutes, but Noah waited until fifteen minutes had gone by. Stiles had a tendency to go out like a light once he fell asleep, but Noah never risked it. Whatever comfort he could offer his son, he wanted to give it. Even though it made his back ache a little in the mornings, scrunching up in Stiles’ bed with him.

When he was sure Stiles was out for the night, Noah carefully shifted out of bed, covering him carefully with his blanket. He stood over the bed, looking at his son. Every moment felt like a gift, since Claudia had died, and he didn’t want to take anything for granted, not now.

After looking his fill, Noah pulled himself away and quietly walked down stairs. He flipped the television on, making sure the volume was soft enough to avoid waking Stiles before he swung into the kitchen to grab a beer. Settling on the worn-in couch, he opened the bottle and took a long drink.

Noah still wasn’t sure coming back to Beacon Hills was the right move. He’d avoided it for so long, over ten years, and being back still set him on edge. It felt like every moment he was waiting for the other shoe to drop. Sometimes he was sure Stiles could feel it. His son had been rather attached to him since they’d moved here.

He just hadn’t been able to resist the job offer. Noah had wanted to work for the Sheriff’s Department since he was a teenager, and when the job of deputy had opened up, he’d applied—hadn’t even thought twice about it. It wasn’t until after he’d gotten the job that he’d even wondered about Peter, if he was still there, if he was with someone.

He’d spent what felt like a lifetime teaching himself not to think about Peter, and in the course of a few days, it had bit him in the ass.

The thought made Noah hate himself a little, even as he’d hated the idea of Peter being with someone else. He hadn’t been able to stay, but he hadn’t stopped caring about Peter. It was why he’d moved away, enlisted. Peter was just too much temptation.

Noah banged his head against the couch and took another drink of beer. Fucking Peter. It was enough to make him want to move all over again…that or hunt him down and pin him to a wall. Of course, it was too soon. For him and for Stiles. He didn’t know what his son would think of that: a man, his dad moving on.

God, Noah wished he hadn’t moved back to Beacon Hills.

– – – –

Noah woke up, still on the couch, beer empty and lying on the floor at his feet. He could barely make out the buzz of a midnight advertisement playing on the television. He wasn’t sure what woke him, only that his heart was racing, and he needed to leave. He needed to leave right now.

Instinct and habit had him buckling on his holster and grabbing his keys before he even thought about Stiles. “Shit.” He didn’t know what had made him do that, forget his son, but instead of wasting another minute, he picked up his phone and dialed as quickly as he could make his fingers move. “Clara? It’s Noah.”

“Noah, my god it’s…just after midnight. What’s going on?” His neighbor’s voice was groggy, and he felt bad about waking her, but the itch, the panic, the frantic beating of his heart, just wouldn’t leave him alone.

“I know it’s late, and I’m sorry, but I just got called out, and I was hoping you could come over and stay with Stiles? He’s still asleep.” The lie rolled off his tongue smoothly.

The silence on the other end, however, only made his skin itch more.

“It would only be for a few hours,” Noah added, willing her silently to agree.

“Of course, dear,” Clara sighed, “just let me get myself ready and I’ll be right over.”

Noah thanked her and hung up. The ten minutes it took for Clara to walk over from her house were torture, and it took every ounce of restraint he had in him to keep Noah from running out the door before she got there.

When she finally knocked on his door he leapt for it, pulling it open with more force than he originally intended. Clara’s shocked face greeted him, and he smiled gingerly at her.

“Seriously, Clara, thank you,” Noah ushered her in. “Stiles is upstairs, asleep. He should be out for the rest of the night. I’ll be back as soon as I can.”

“Go, Noah, go,” Clara waved his off, “I can see it must be something serious for you to be so on edge. We’ll be fine.”

Noah thanked her one more time before heading out the door. He hopped into the sheriff’s department car that was checked out to him and resisted flipping on the lights.

He didn’t know where he was going, but followed his gut. He found himself heading out of town, driving down a road he was familiar with, in another life. Noah wasn’t sure what was happening at the Hale house, but every part of him screamed he needed to be there.

He’d been hoping it was nothing, and until he saw the smoke in the night sky, he had managed to convince himself it was just an urge to see Peter. He’d been avoiding seeing him since he came back and maybe it had just come to a head. But he knew the Hales didn’t light fires, and that was too much smoke to be a simple campfire in the area. He reached for his radio.

“This is Noah Stilinski, I’m coming up to the Hale house in the preserve. There’s a lot of smoke, you need to send the fire department, fast,” he said after the click. He pushed the gas pedal harder.

Navigating the winding road, even at top speed, felt familiar, and normal, even after all these years. Within ten minutes he was pulling to a stop and staring up at the Hale house like he had so many times before.

Of course, this wasn’t like all those times, and his stomach dropped at the sight in front of him. It wasn’t just smoke he was looking at, but flames. The Hale house was on fire, and he didn’t see any sign of the Hales leaving the house. In fact, the only person he saw was a young woman he didn’t recognize.

Noah slowly got out of his car, keeping his hand by his gun. “Hello? Is everyone okay?”

The woman spun to face him, her hands cupped in front of her. In the flickering flames Noah could make out dust piled in her palms, and an alarmingly wide smile on her face.

She laughed, and Noah flinched. “I don’t think they’re okay!” Her voice was high pitched and gleeful and made Noah’s skin crawl.

“Ma’am, I need you to step back!” Noah yelled, resting his hand on the butt of his gun. She laughed again, and he could hear a faint thudding. He kept his eyes on her as he slowly moved closer.

“They’re going to burn!” the woman cackled, dropping her hands down in front of her, letting the dust fall to the ground. Her hand brushed against her jacket, and Noah could see the gun holstered at her hip.

Years of practice and habits formed under hard task masters had Noah acting quickly and on instinct. He pulled his gun and stepped closer.

“I need you to put your weapon on the ground!” He was careful not to point the gun at her. He kept it aimed at the ground and hoped to end this peacefully, despite the increasing uneasy feeling slipping over him. The thudding grew louder, and he was pretty sure there was roar coming from the house.

“They’re not getting out of there! Not alive!” The woman pulled her gun and held it loosely in her hand. Despite the loose grip, there was a power to her stance, and Noah knew she had done something, this fire wasn’t an accident.

“What did you do?” Noah finally asked as he realized that she wasn’t going to put the gun down.

“They’re locked in there like the animals they are!” She turned to face him fully, the fire lighting her from behind, “And I’m afraid I can’t let you set them free.”

She raised her gun, but before she could do more than point it, Noah was already taking the shot, purposefully putting his bullet in her shoulder. She fell backwards, hitting the ground, and he closed in quickly and kicked the gun out of her hand and far away from her.

“You can’t save them,” she gasped, clutching her shoulder.

“You don’t know that,” Noah said, looking at the house.

“But I do,” she smiled.

The gunshot that followed hit the ground next to him, and Noah ducked down instinctively. More shots followed, ringing through the trees. He kept an eye on the woman as he moved closer to the house, hoping to put some more ground between him and whoever was firing at him. Without a clear view, there was nothing Noah could do but hope they’d keep missing. His foot brushed through the dust the woman had dropped, and it shimmered in the firelight.

It was a powder he recognized, one he’d lined his bedroom window with for two months during high school. It was a powder he had looked at while overseas, a powder he had kept on him until he’d met Claudia.

Wolfsbane.

He wasn’t quite sure how it worked, but based on what Peter had told him, he was pretty sure it was a barrier. Noah glanced toward the house, where he definitely heard thudding now.

He fired back, into the dark, and quickly made for the door. Across the threshold, just on this side of the door was a line of mountain ash, and a quick glance to either side showed it extended past the doorway and around the house. Firing one more time, Noah reached down and wiped his hand through the line, careful to make sure to break it completely.

Without waiting to see if it worked, Noah turned and fired on the men that had come in from the tree line. He stepped away from the door and behind him, he heard the sound of wood breaking. He kept moving forward, stepping away from the house when he was sure one of the Hales was getting through.

As his gun clicked empty, he reached his car. Noah ducked in, keeping his head low, and grabbed the spare clip he kept in the glove box. The gunfire didn’t stop, although it wasn’t all aimed at him anymore. He glanced behind him, seeing the shape he sometimes saw in his dreams.

Werewolves.

Even now, after all these years, it was hard to believe. But the shifted forms he saw were real.

“I called the Sheriff’s Department,” he yelled out, “they should be here any minute!”

Almost in answer to his words, the faint sound of sirens echoed in the distance. Between that, and the sight of un-contained werewolves who looked pissed at what had happened, the men turned and headed back towards the woods. Noah fired a few more shots, catching one of them in the leg and causing him to tumble to the ground.

He looked back to make sure the woman was still where he left her, and found himself looking into the eyes of a man he’d tried hard to forget.

As the emergency vehicles entered the clearing around the Hale house, Noah couldn’t take his eyes off of Peter.

– – – –

It took much longer than the few hours he’d promised Clara for the wrap-up at the Hale house. Once the fire department arrived it took over an hour for them to put out the flames.

During that hour, Noah had turned over his gun and empty clip to the deputies that had followed, checked on the few members of the Hale family that had needed oxygen and a trip to the hospital, and avoided all further interactions with Peter Hale.

That didn’t mean he didn’t do his share of looking. Hell, he couldn’t even help himself. The teenager he’d known, the one who had shown promise of turning into a handsome man, had definitely fulfilled said promise. He kept his hair short now, closely cut, but stubble grew along his strong jaw line. It was enough to fill his stomach with a well-known warmth, one he ruthlessly pushed away. Noah shook his head and turned back to the blackened frame of the Hale house.

“Thank you, Noah,” the quiet voice behind him made Noah want to jump, and he barely resisted the impulse.

“You don’t need to thank me.” He took a deep breath and turned to look at Talia Hale, older and still as beautiful as ever.

“All the same, we owe you our lives.”

“I’m sure you would have figured something out,” Noah said. She shrugged and stood next to him, looking at her broken home.

“It’s been in our family for generations. I can’t believe someone would just burn it down.”

“There’s no accounting for the crazy of some people,” Noah agreed. He hesitated before asking, “Do you guys have a place to stay?”

Talia’s nose wrinkled in response as she shook her head, “No, we all still live here, adding to the cult rumors. Of course, some of us will be going to the hospital with the injured, but the rest of us don’t really have anywhere to go.”

“I’m sure the Beacon Hotel could take you in. From what I remember they always have an empty room or four.”

Almost before he finished speaking, Talia was already shaking her head again, “It’s not really preferable. Especially now. All of the strange smells. You wouldn’t believe the shoddy job some hotel staffers do, and we have enough young ones that it’s not a good idea,” she smiled at him. “Don’t worry, we’ll figure out something.”

“You could stay with me.”

Noah wasn’t sure what made the words come out of his mouth, and from her face, Talia wasn’t sure either.

“You don’t have to—I didn’t mean to make you feel like you had to—” Talia stuttered, obviously trying to give him a way out.

Noah raised his hand, cutting her off, “No I meant it,” and he realized he actually did. “My scent should be familiar, I’m sure there’s still some of it left in the house, and I know about werewolves, so that won’t be a surprise I mean, there’s only, what twenty of you?”

“Twenty-seven if we include the humans, but like I said, some will be in the hospital.” Talia paused before asking, “and your son?” Talia’s question was quiet, almost tentative. Noah was surprised she’d even bring him up.

“You don’t need to worry about Stiles, he sleeps like a log. Once he’s out, he’s not going to move.”

“And Peter?” This question was said even slower, and Noah felt his awareness of the man rise again.

He glanced over his shoulder and locked eyes with the man in question. After a few seconds, Peter looked away.

“Peter’s fine too, as long as he’s okay with it.” Noah purposefully didn’t watch Talia as she turned her attention to her brother. His response was obviously in agreement, because she turned back to Noah and smiled.

“Yes, I don’t know how to thank you, but that would be wonderful.”

He nodded and walked away, to where the sheriff was standing. “How are we doing?”

Sheriff Kane turned to look at Noah and sighed, “You know I can’t tell you that Noah.”

“I do,” Noah nodded. “Doesn’t mean I can’t ask. I just thought I’d check in, and see how everything was going. See if you needed anything?”

Kane grunted and looked at the scene. Noah followed his gaze and took in the parade of deputies, firefighters, and paramedics marking things off, and cleaning up the scene. “I think we’ve got everything handled.”

“Looks like it.”

“This was a real mess,” Kane said after a moment.

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” Noah agreed.

“And she didn’t say anything to you? Any reason why she did it?”

Noah glanced at the woman who had been at the center of everything. She was sitting in a police cruiser, handcuffed and silent. Her earlier look of glee gone from her face, and in its place: blankness.

“She didn’t say anything,” the guilty twinge was minor and easy to push away. There was no reason to get locked up for being crazy at this point. He couldn’t tell Kane the Hales were werewolves and that this woman clearly had a problem with that.

“I guess that would be too much to ask for,” Kane sighed. “You’re free to go. I’ll need to speak with you tomorrow, but you should get back to your kid.”

“Thanks,” Noah hesitated before asking, “and the Hales?”

Kane raised an eyebrow. Apparently Noah’s avoidance of all things Hale had not gone as unnoticed as he’d hoped. “They’re free to go too. I’ll need to talk to them of course, but that can wait.”

“They’re staying with me until they figure something else out,” Noah tried to sound matter-of-fact, but based on the look of curiosity that crossed Kane’s face, he didn’t do a great job.

“That’s right, I seem to remember hearing something about you and Peter, once upon a time,” Kane wiggled his eyebrows a little, and Noah ignored both that and his clenching gut.

“There’s nothing between us now, but the Hales are friends. I can’t leave them with nowhere to go,” Noah shrugged.

“Okay, just let them know what I said, and I’ll see you all tomorrow.”

Noah nodded and walked back to Talia, who from the cock of her head had been listening to every word, “I’m ready when you all are.”

Talia nodded and called over a few of the family members. Noah watched as she gave everyone their marching orders, and they hopped to it like troops. Two adults headed for the ambulances while someone else headed for the huddled children. Everyone else made for the cars parked nearby.

“Don’t they need keys?” Noah asked.

“There’s a little magic left in the world,” Talia smiled, and the rumble of engines echoed her words. “We’re ready when you are.”

“Must be nice,” Noah sighed, and headed for his own car. He waited for everyone to safely get into the vehicles before putting his car into drive and heading back the way he’d come.

This time he made sure to drive slowly and carefully, taking the corners at a more reasonable speed than he had before. Yes, he’d invited the Hales back to his home, but he was willing to put as much time between now and actually interacting with all of them as he could.

Twenty minutes later he was parked in his driveway, and a veritable dealership worth of cars was spread along the street. Noah headed to his front door, waving at Talia as she popped out of the front car. He unlocked the door and eased it open, wincing a little when he saw Clara, awake and sitting on the couch, knitting away.

“Clara, I’m so sorry, I wasn’t expecting to be gone for,” he glanced at the clock and winced again, “four hours. Thank you so much for staying with Stiles.”

“Don’t even worry about it Noah,” Clara tutted as she put her knitting away. “I’m happy to help and Stiles was as quiet as a lamb up there. It gave me plenty of time to get some knitting done. I have a few birthdays coming up and they wouldn’t be perfect without a lovely gift from their Grammy.”

“Still, I truly appreciate it,” Noah repeated. He stepped over and offered his arm to Clara. She accepted and he gently pulled her up.

“Nonsense, you’ve got an important job, dear.” At that moment, Talia opened the door and stuck her head in, raising her eyebrows questioningly. Noah nodded and waved her in. Clara’s eyes widened in surprise, “And it looks like you had to bring your work home tonight. You’re such a good boy, Noah,” she patted his arm and pulled him towards the door.

He helped her dodge the children who darted in, and led the way across his yard and up to her front door. She tutted at him while he waited patiently for her to unlock her front door. It took a few tries, but she got it open and turned to look at him.

“You’re such a good boy,” she smiled and patted his cheek before quickly turning and practically bouncing through the door. Noah shook his head and chuckled a little. The energy of some people.

He turned and headed back towards his house. His yard was empty of people, but a few lights had flicked on downstairs, reassuring him that everyone had made it inside safely. Noah entered and pulled the door closed behind him.

He made his way to the living room, where the majority of the Hale pack had gathered. He hadn’t thought of his home as small, especially not with Stiles whirling through it, but put fifteen werewolves and a handful of humans in it, and he was surprised anyone had any breathing room at all. “I’ve got two spare bedrooms, if you wanted to split everyone between those and here,” he offered. Talia looked around the room before shaking her head.

“No, I think we’d all feel better if we stuck together. Perhaps just some blankets. Do you have any we could use?”

It took a few minutes for Noah to gather the blankets he had in the house and the pack to form a literal puppy pile on the living room floor. They’d shoved the coffee table out of the way and pushed the couch back, leaving the floor clear to be filled to the brim with wriggling bodies as everyone settled in.

“Let me know if you need anything,” he said as he handed the blankets over. “The bathroom is through that door, and there’s another upstairs.”

Before he could add anything else, a familiar yawn interrupted him and made him turn back towards the staircase. Stiles stood on the stairs holding a blanket wrapped around him.

“Daddy?” he asked, rubbing his eyes, “Are we having a sleepover?” Giggles from the children in the living room made Noah sigh as he walked over to his son.

“Yeah, we are,” he said, picking him up carefully. Obligingly, Stiles wrapped his arms around Noah’s neck, “But you’ve got a nice warm bed waiting for you.”

“What if I want to sleep down here?” Stiles yawned.

“Maybe another time,” Noah answered, pressing a kiss to Stiles’ head. “Tonight you’re in your bed.”

“Mmkay,” Stiles agreed, nestling his head into Noah’s shoulder. Noah waved goodnight to the Hales, before carrying Stiles upstairs and tucking him into bed. He was out before Noah even turned out the light.

Rubbing his head, Noah made his way to the upstairs bathroom only to freeze at the sight of Peter. He was shirtless in front of the mirror with a towel in his hand.

“Um sorry,” Noah said, taking a step back.

“No, I just wanted to get some of the ash off of me,” Peter shrugged, gesturing at his chest. “The downstairs bathroom was occupied.”

“Yeah, don’t worry, I was just going to—You know what? You don’t really need to hear it. Don’t even worry about it,” Noah backed up all the way into the hallway.

He quickly made his way into his room and closed the door behind him. He leaned against it for a moment, sighing and trying to collect himself, before walking over to his bed. He tossed his clothes onto the ground and grabbed a pair of flannel pants before climbing into bed.

He settled on his back, stared at the ceiling, and tried to forget the sight of Peter’s muscled, slightly wet, naked chest.

It was a long night.

Chapter Two

The next morning, Noah beat everyone in the house to the kitchen. Even with his late night interruption, he was wide awake, and with everything that had happened pancakes seemed the order of the day. It was an easy comfort food, and he had fond memories of Claudia in the kitchen whipping some up for Stiles when he’d had a bad day. He tried to keep his noise to a minimum, knowing the Hales were just in the living room, but apparently he wasn’t quiet enough. Though for on-edge werewolves, he doubted there was such a thing as “quiet enough.”

From just beyond the kitchen’s doorway he heard a snuffling sound, and when he turned to look Noah could see a nose peeking around the edge of the doorframe. He grinned at the sight of the wrinkling little nose. It was quickly wiped off his face when a larger hand pushed the girl fully into the kitchen, and followed her in.

Noah turned back to his bowl of batter, and tried not to splatter pancakes everywhere as his mixing picked up. He didn’t want to be rude, not after what had happened last night, so he quickly mumbled out, “Good morning.”

“Morning.”

Noah listened to Peter’s footsteps come closer, as well as a quieter patter of feet. Out of the corner of his eye he could see the girl had latched onto Peter’s pajama pants, not letting go as they moved closer. He was only grateful that this time Peter was wearing a shirt. There were some things Noah didn’t think he could take in the morning. Not before he’d had his coffee.

“What are you making?”

Noah stopped and turned to stare at Peter. The werewolf blinked blearily back at him, not completely awake yet, which might explain why his nose and eyesight didn’t work. “Pancakes.”

Peter gave a hum before leaning over the bowl, “I don’t think that’s going to be enough. When you’re cooking for werewolves you need to cook for an army. Isn’t that right, Malia?” He poked her, making her giggle.

“Is that right?” Noah raised an eyebrow and looked down at Malia. She looked about the same age as Stiles. She definitely had the same air of mischief floating about her. “I don’t think I’ve got enough hands if I’m supposed to be feeding an army. You wouldn’t happen to know anyone who could help me, do you?”

She giggled again and nodded. Noah pointed her towards an empty bowl and let Peter help her with adding ingredients. She followed each instruction closely, nodding along very seriously as Peter reached around her to pull things within easier reach.

“Daddy, I’ve got it!”

Noah blinked hard and jerked, spilling some of the batter on the counter. He glanced at Peter who continued to patiently help his daughter, no sign that he’d noticed Noah’s reaction. He wasn’t sure why, but he hadn’t pictured this when he’d let himself think of Peter. Hadn’t pictured a little girl with Peter’s bright eyes and happy smile.

“So, you have a daughter?” On the inside he flinched over how ridiculous he sounded.

“And you have a son,” Peter held the bowl while Malia stirred the batter.

“Yeah, Stiles. He just turned ten.”

“Me too!” Malia chirped. She looked up at him with a wide smile. Peeking out between her lips was a little gap where she was missing a tooth.

“Did you have a good birthday? With lots of presents from your mom and dad?”

“I got lots of presents,” Malia nodded. “My daddy got me everything I wanted, and I don’t have a mom, because they weren’t mates. But that’s okay,” she looked up at Peter, “because I know that he loves me anyway. Even if he does try to buy my love with presents.”

Noah bit back a grin at Peter’s chagrined look, “Yeah, parents do that sometimes. But we’re really just trying to show we love our kids.”

“Sometimes I think she remembers everything I say and holds onto it just to repeat it when it will embarrass me most,” Peter sighed, shaking Malia’s shoulders a little as she giggled.

“I understand that feeling. I’m pretty sure Stiles waited to swear for the first time until we were in front of all my in-laws at a wedding in a Catholic church.” Peter’s laugh made Noah feel better than it probably should. It was a flash to the past, when everything Peter did made Noah feel a thousand times better.

“Luckily I don’t have to worry about that. It’s just me like she said.”

Noah nodded, but couldn’t think of anything he could say without sounding ridiculous, or desperate, or extremely nosy. He wanted to know the story, of course he did. But he also knew he couldn’t ask without offering up something of himself, and he wasn’t ready for that. He was just grateful when Talia came in and saved him from himself.

“Good morning all,” she sang as she came in. She reached down and tickled Malia before rubbing Peter’s head. “I’d get started baking those pancakes before the hungry horde sets in. You know they wait for nothing.”

Noah nodded and poured a couple of pancakes onto the pan he had ready. “If you want to be a help you could cut up some fruit from the fridge,” he told Talia.

“Of course, cutting board?”

He waved her towards one of his lower cupboards and flipped the pancakes. “You’re up kind of early.”

“Well, once one of us is up, the rest are soon to follow,” Talia shrugged as she deftly sliced through a cantaloupe she’d pulled out of the fridge. “Plus, I wanted to check in with the hospital. Sarah and Lily spent the night, and I know my brother could probably use a break from his family.”

“I wouldn’t mind stopping by either, just to make sure they’re okay. Uncle Paul gets a little confused in new places,” Peter added. Noah looked at him, taking in the clenched hands that were holding onto the bowl, and the blank expression on his face. Even so, Noah remembered enough that he could see the discomfort Peter was trying to hide. He switched out the finished pancakes and poured some new ones.

“If you guys are out and about already, Sheriff Kane mentioned having you come by this morning and give statements.” If Peter needed an out, he’d give him one. “There’s enough of us here that Malia should be fine. I know I’ll be checking in later too.”

“Are they going to let you investigate?” Peter asked quietly, running his hand over Malia’s tangled hair.

“I don’t know, maybe. There are some deputies off right now, so they might need the extra hands. It probably wouldn’t be in any meaningful way. People do know that I have a history with the Hales.”

Peter nodded as Malia announced, “Done!”She pushed the bowl up over her head toward her father and almost upended the batter onto her head. Peter caught it with a small smile and passed the mixing bowl over to Noah.

“I guess I’d better get Malia ready so we can head out.”

“Dad, I don’t need your help!”

Peter ushered her out of the room, following quickly behind. Noah watched him leave.

“Is he going to be okay?”

Talia looked at him and shrugged, “It’s hard to say. No one expects their home to be set on fire and hunters to try to kill everyone.” She stopped cutting and turned to face him fully, leaning her back against the counter. “I don’t know what they were thinking. There were humans in the house. It’s not like hunters to do that.”

“Some people are just evil.”

“I guess.” Talia frowned for a moment before turning back to the fruit on her cutting board.

The two finished preparing breakfast in silence. Noah remembered a package of bacon he’d hidden in the back of the fridge from Stiles and fried it up. He had a feeling the werewolves in the house might not be satisfied with just pancakes and fruit. The rest of the Hales slowly trickled in making happy noises as the smell of bacon filled the kitchen, along with Stiles who frowned at his father.

“I thought I said no more bacon?”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” Noah rubbed Stiles’ hair and pushed him towards the food. “Eat up.”

Stiles frowned at him one more time before grabbing a plate and a few pancakes. He settled into a seat out of the way and started digging in. Noah grabbed a slice of bacon, ignoring Stiles’ angry growl, and walked over to his son.

“So, Stiles,” he began, biting into the bacon. He chewed for a second, trying to pick the right words. “I’m going to be busy today-”

“You’re busy every day, dad.”

“Right,” Noah nodded, “the difference being today you aren’t going to school.”

“Really!” Stiles dropped his fork and looked up hopefully. One of the harder transitions since their return was school, and Stiles hadn’t made a lot of friends yet. Getting him ready for school was an exercise in patience every day. At this point Noah was pretty sure he could sell sand in the desert.

“Really. A lot happened last night, and I think we’re just going to have you stay home. The Hales are going to be with us for a while and they’ll be watching you while I duck into the office.”

Stiles looked around them, and his confusion was written across every feature of his face, “Why are they staying with us?”

Noah ignored the pause of every werewolf in the room as they eavesdropped on their conversation. “Last night their home burned down, and they need somewhere to stay.” Stiles made a confused noise, and Noah sighed, “You know how I told you I lived here before I met your mom?” He waited for Stiles’ nod before continuing, “Well, I knew the Hales back then. We were actually pretty good friends, and I wanted them to have somewhere safe to be.”

“Okay, and they’re going to watch me?” Stiles asked as he glanced around the room. Noah could feel his eyes take everything and everyone in, and then Stiles shifted uncomfortably.

Noah nodded, “Probably Laura and Derek. There are kids your age, so you’ll have someone to play with, too.” Laura waved at Stiles, and Derek grunted. Noah kept his eyes on Stiles, watching him carefully.

Stiles’ gaze darted around the room, and the self-conscious expression on his face broke Noah’s heart. Stiles leaned in and motioned to him. Noah moved closer and Stiles whispered in his ear, “What if they don’t like me, like the other kids?”

Noah closed his eyes before answering, pushing back the wave of anger at all those kids who couldn’t deal with someone a little different. “They’re pretty good kids,” he whispered back, “I think you’ll be okay. And if you aren’t, you can call, and I’ll see if Clara can take you.”

“Promise?”

“Promise.”

Stiles nodded and settled back on his chair, but from the careful way he was eating his pancakes, Noah knew he wasn’t completely reassured. He rubbed Stiles’ head one more time before stepping away.

The first person to catch his eye was Peter, his face blank as he stood with Malia. He knelt down and whispered something in his daughter’s ear before pushing her towards the table. Malia quickly gathered some pancakes and fruit before sitting next to Stiles.

Even though Noah couldn’t hear what she said, he could see Stiles’ face brighten up, and he felt something inside him unclench a little. He walked back into the kitchen, and Peter followed behind.

“She’s a good kid.” Noah turned on the faucet and quickly rinsed his fingers. “Stiles doesn’t have many friends.”

“Neither does Malia,” Peter replied. “She’s a little more aggressive than other kids.”

“That won’t bother Stiles, he’s a spitfire. She can’t out-aggressive him.” Noah sighed and looked at the clock, “I need to go in. The sooner the better.”

“Stiles will be fine. Hunters tend to take a break after a big hit, and they won’t attack in the middle of a neighborhood like this.” Peter’s reassurance was calm, and unsurprisingly exactly what Noah needed to hear. It seemed Peter remembered Noah’s quirks too.

“Do they do this a lot? Try to kill entire families?”

“More than we want to admit,” Peter sighed.

“People are terrible.”

“Yes, they are.”

– – – –

The sheriff’s office was a busy place when Noah arrived and he nodded to the deputy on staff, Tara Graham, as he walked by, “Is the sheriff in his office?”

“Yeah, he said you could go on back when you got here.”

Noah thanked her and made his way to the office in the back, dodging deputies as they hurried around, trying to answer phones, juggle paperwork, and deal with people who’d come in person to file a report. He knocked on Kane’s door and leaned in.

“You ready for me?”

Kane waved him in and gestured toward the chair across from him. It took barely ten minutes for Noah to report what had happened last night, from waking up to the arrival of the emergency vehicles, careful to skip over anything that might seem other. Which was a lot. When he’d finished, Kane leaned back and shook his head.

“I hate hunters.”

Noah choked on his next breath, “What sir?”

“Hunters, werewolves, the supernatural. It’s all a pain in my ass.”

“I didn’t realize…”

“That I knew? You can’t be the sheriff in this town and not know something really weird is happening. Plus, Mark is the most obvious werewolf ever. Sometimes I can’t believe they let him be a deputy,” Kane shrugged. “I had to talk to a few people to confirm, but I was pretty sure about everything before I did.”

Noah nodded slowly, “And you’re telling me because?”

“I want it to make sense when I tell you to get to work. I know you were involved in the shooting, and you’re friends of the family, but we’re in over our heads here, and I could use someone else in the know who also knows what they’re doing.” There was a large pile of folders on Kane’s desk already, and it would only grow larger as reports drifted in from different departments.

“Okay,” Noah nodded. “I can help however you need. As long as you don’t think it will look like we’re trying to cover something up.”

“You’ll have a partner, and you won’t be filing any reports. Everything will be double-checked by someone else. I just need someone else helping push the supernatural back under the rug.” Kane leaned back in his chair and stretched his back, the crack of shifting vertebrae audible to Noah from across the desk. The shadows under his eyes stood out stark in his face. “Can you help now? I have more reports that need to be organized and interviews to be handled than I know what to do with.”

Noah smiled at Kane, “I think I can handle that.”

– – – –

His desk was covered in folders by the time Talia and Peter arrived. Kane waved them through to the back, and motioned for Noah to follow.

Noah stood and headed back to the interview rooms. He watched Kane settle Talia in one room and Peter in another before coming back out.

“I know it’s not exactly protocol, but for the initial interview I’d like you to talk with Mrs. Hale,” Kane said.

“It’s a little more than not protocol,” Noah shifted from one foot to another, frowning.

“Maybe,” Kane acknowledged. “However, there’s no one senior enough to handle the interview, not with Deputy Sage on vacation, and there’s no way I can let you interview Peter Hale. I’ve got the room set up to record, and Deputy Graham is going to come back to watch both interviews. It’s all going to be above board. Just like I said.”

“If you’re sure,” Noah hesitated before taking the file Kane held out to him.

“Here’s a list of questions I’d like you to ask. I’ve had the deputies doing research all night and there’s some questions we’re hoping Talia could answer.”

Noah glanced through the pages in the file. There were only a few questions, but he was surprised by the information they’d uncovered. “The woman, Kate Monroe, was a teacher at the high school?”

“A substitute.”

“That doesn’t sound like the type to murder a whole family to me.”

“Apparently they come in all sizes. Are you ready for this?”

He nodded and stepped into the interview room. The door closed quietly behind him. A quick check showed the light on the camera was on and recording.

“Good morning Mrs. Hale,” he kept his voice steady and politely withdrawn. Even if it was public knowledge they knew each other he didn’t want anyone to have a reason to think he might be less than impartial. Not for something this serious.

“Deputy Stilinski, it’s good to see you,” Talia’s voice was also cool and remote, any of their earlier closeness gone. It was as if they hadn’t had breakfast together this morning.

“I heard you went and visited your family in the hospital this morning. How are they?”

“They’re doing well. There were some concerns about smoke inhalation, but after a night on oxygen the doctors say everyone can be released this afternoon.” She paused before adding, “I know that I wasn’t asked here for pleasantries, and I do have family to get back to, so if we could skip any more pleasantries I would appreciate it.”

“Of course,” Noah agreed. He ran through the series of questions Kane had handed to him, and all of Talia’s answers matched up with what he already knew. The final question was the only surprise.

“Do you know a woman named Kate Monroe? I believe she worked at the high school?”

“Not personally.” Talia’s hands were folded on the table in front of her, and the tensing of her fingers were the only sign she was thrown by the question. “I believe she was Laura and Derek’s teacher for English. Neither has had anything negative to say about her, not that they tell us much about their day. Typical teenagers in that way.”

“Something I’m not looking forward to when my son reaches that age,” Noah exchanged a smile with her. “From evidence collected at the scene, we can tell Ms. Monroe was the one who lit the fire. Do you have any idea why she’d do that?”

“No,” Talia’s eyes were wide, and her jaw dropped open slightly. “Are you sure?”

“We are.” Noah closed the notebook and leaned forward. “You’re sure there weren’t any issues between a family member and Ms. Monroe? Maybe a problem with Derek or Laura?”

“No, nothing!” Talia’s knuckles were white on the table, “I haven’t received any calls from the school about them, they haven’t said anything. There’s no reason for her to have lit the fire.”

“Alright,” Noah settled back in his chair, giving Talia her space. “As of right now, Ms. Monroe is alive and in custody. I want to assure you we’re doing everything we can to make sure we have everyone responsible for this and that you and your family are safe. If you don’t have anything else,” he waited until Talia shook her head, “then you’re free to go. Thank you for your time. We’ll keep you updated as we have more information.”

“Thank you, Noah,” Talia smiled at him before standing. She walked out of the room quickly, and before it swung shut he saw Peter leaning against the wall, waiting for her.

He stood slowly, stretching. Interviews were one of his least favorite parts of the job. All of his muscles tensed because of the stress that was palpable even in a routine interview.

Noah checked in with Tara to make sure she had everything for the report and no additional questions. She reassured him she had everything and he headed back to Kane’s office. He knocked, and entered, closing the door behind him. Kane looked up, eyebrow raised, “Well?”

“Nothing we didn’t already know, but we got confirmation that Monroe was Laura and Derek’s teacher.” He hesitated before adding, “Something about the whole situation just doesn’t sit right with me.”

“What do you suggest we do?” Kane asked, and Noah could feel him weighing him, judging his pause and answer as he gave it.

“I think we need to talk to the kids. They know more than anyone else.”

Kane nodded slowly, and Noah felt relief knowing that his boss obviously felt the same disconnect that he had. Something was wrong in the state of Denmark, and it felt like it went back to the school. “All right, if you’re sure. Arrange for it tomorrow. We’ve got too many other interviews to get through today.”

Noah nodded and went back out to his desk. He groaned at the sight that greeted him. The piles of papers were even higher now. “I had the day off!” He announced to the other deputies. “I am here out of the goodness of my heart!”

Noah ignored the muffled laughter from the desks around him as he settled in to work. He focused on going back over the reports, looking for anything that would give him more of a clue to what had happened last night.

– – – –

Peter pulled Daniel up onto his hip and out of the way of his werewolf siblings and cousins. “Watch it you guys! There are breakable small humans in the room, too!”

Daniel giggled and pushed against Peter’s face. “Down!” He cheered, apparently not agreeing with the level of fragility Peter had ascribed to him.

“I don’t think so.” Peter bussed Daniel’s nose with his own. “You can hang out with me.”

Daniel giggled and reached for Peter’s nose.

“You guys are really loud!” A voice announced from the stairs. Peter glanced over and watched Stiles descend the stairs. He bounced a little on each one before hopping down the final three, tripping, and almost falling on his face. Peter hid his smile in Daniel’s hair.

You’re really loud!” Malia cocked her head, her eyes scrunched in the way that meant she was listening really hard. Peter tilted his head, listening for what she heard, and the loud thump thump of Stiles’ heart filled his ears. It was a little louder and a little faster than most of the humans he knew.

“I am not!” Stiles sputtered, waving his hands.

“You are,” Malia nodded slowly and wrinkled her nose. “And you smell funny!”

Stiles’ eyes grew wide and his jaw dropped a little. “I do not!”

“You do!”

“Well, you look funny!”

“Do not!”

“Do to!”

“Nuh-uh!”

“Yah-huh!”

“Nuh-uh!”

Stiles stepped closer and Malia pounced. She rolled them all over the ground, bumping into the couch.

“Watch it children,” Peter said as he stepped over them. He ignored the tugging on his pants as the two tussled and sat down on the couch. He shifted Daniel into his lap as he kept an eye on the two on the floor. It was a little surprising how easily Stiles had taken to the idea of werewolves and the supernatural. He’d been confused for all of five seconds and then thrown himself into the mix whole-heartedly. The ability of children to adapt was refreshing, their voices, on the other hand, not so much.

“You look funny!” Stiles screamed.

“You smell funny!”

“I do not! My dad makes me take baths and everything!” Stiles somehow managed to flip them so he was able to escape Malia and took off running. He got about five steps before Malia pulled him to the ground again. This time she rubbed her face against his cheeks, holding his face in place with her hands.

Peter resisted the urge to laugh at the affronted expression on Stiles’ face.

“There! Now you smell better!” Malia declared, sitting back on her heels. She smiled at Stiles, “I like you!”

Stiles’ eyes were huge as he was dragged over to Derek. His nephew had been quiet all afternoon and looked surprised to have Malia climbing up on the seat next to him. She yanked at Stiles until he climbed up too, much more slowly and carefully than she had.

“Derek! You should play with us!” Malia demanded. Derek glanced over to Peter and he shrugged. He knew better than to get involved when Malia wanted something. Maybe he did spoil his daughter.

A small noise drew Peter’s attention to the door, and he looked over to see Noah watching Stiles and Malia, a soft expression on his face.

A moment later his eyes met Peter’s, and Peter’s heartbeat a little bit faster. He quickly turned his attention back to Daniel in his lap. He laughed at the sight of his nephew chewing on a pillow with a large frown. He pulled the pillow out of his mouth and offered Daniel a much more child-friendly toy.

The awareness of Noahidn’t leave for a long while.

It wasn’t until after dinner that they were finally alone. Noah stepped out onto the back deck, taking a moment for himself and then found himself staring at Peter. His heart thudded hard in his chest. He’d tried to avoid it, looking at Peter and registering every detail that had changed.

He couldn’t resist now. Peter’s hair was darker, longer; his cheekbones more prominent; his face a little lined. It only made Peter even more enticing, and it was a temptation he couldn’t let himself fall into.

“We can’t do this,” Noah said the words softly, let them drift through the night air.

“This?” Peter’s words were equally soft.

“I can’t do us.” He waved his hand between them. “Not right now. There’s too much happening, with the fire and your family. And there’s Stiles to think of. Claudia, my wife, died a year ago, and I moved him back here to help him. Us, right now, it won’t help him.”

“I get it. I don’t want to hurt your son.” Peter didn’t look at him, and Noah tried not to feel the bite of it when he was the one saying this couldn’t work.

“Thank you.”

Chapter Three

“Stilinski, have you looked at this yet?”

Noah turned to raise his eyebrow at Deputy Falls, the newbie they’d assigned to do the much disliked paperwork slog. He was holding a folder up, and across the front Noah could make out the words “Monroe” written across it.

“What is it?”

“It’s Kate Monroe’s file,” Falls handed it over, and Noah flipped through it. From the brief look through Noah could see the missing pieces.

“This paperwork only goes back two years,” Noah sighed and rubbed the space between his eyebrows. “I know you know how to run the program, Falls. I’m the one who taught you.”

“That wasn’t the problem, sir.” Falls turned back to his computer and pulled up their program for running background searches. As Noah watched, he input the information into the program and ran it. Only a few documents popped up. “This is all I can find.”

“That can’t be right,” Noah leaned over him and double checked the search parameters, but everything seemed to be correct. “Huh, hand me the folder again.”

He glanced over it, looking for anything that might explain what was going on. There was too much information missing, almost like Kate Monroe hadn’t existed before two years ago. Nothing stuck out to him as an explanation, but that didn’t mean he couldn’t find it.

“Move on to the next suspect, I’ll dig into Monroe.” He watched Falls’ face drop and patted him on the shoulder, “It’s not your fault. This is going to require more than a normal search. I’ll show you later.”

He waved off Falls’ thanks and took the folder back to his own computer. He entered in Kate Monroe’s information again and clicked through the documents pulled up. Nothing went further back than two years, and everything went to dead ends. Her history started in a small town in Arizona, and that was it, no parents and no family. It was like she’d sprung from nothing.

Noah sighed and decided to go at this from another angle. He pulled up her mug shot and stared at it. Her eyes were hard and unforgiving, and Noah was pretty sure he wasn’t imagining the challenge in them.

There wasn’t much Noah liked more than a challenge.

He stripped all identifying information out of her file and created a new one, with only her picture and basic information such as height and weight. He sent it through the search program and sat back. While he waited for anything to pop back he pulled up newspaper records from that small town in Arizona around the time Monroe was there.

Nothing.

Noah groaned and rubbed his forehead. He looked at the clock on his computer and held back another groan: four hours gone by already.

“Who are you?” he asked the picture.

He pulled up news articles from the surrounding town, and in one, buried deep, he found a familiar face staring back at him. Kate Monroe.

Only that wasn’t the name listed in the caption. “Who the hell is Katelyn Ross?”

He entered her name into a new window of the search program and found the same frustrating puzzle Kate Monroe revealed. A few documents and a minimal history going back only a few years.

“What the fuck is going on?”

A quick phone call only raised more questions.

“Hello, Kenton Sheriff’s Department, how may I help you?”

“Hello, this is Deputy Noah Stilinski from Beacon Hills County, and I was hoping you could answer a few questions for me about a person of interest in a case, or direct me to someone who could?”

“Of course, give me a moment and I’ll send you to one of our deputies.” Noah shifted in his chair as the phone clicked to a silent hold, his instincts itching that he was onto something.

“Hello, Deputy Stilinski? This is Deputy Calbourne. What can I help you with?”

“I’m looking for information about Katelyn Ross. She was a teacher in your town about three or four years ago.”

“Right, give me a moment,” the sound of papers shuffling echoed through the phone, “Katelyn Ross. Yeah, she did work here. A lot of the kids liked her, but she left pretty quickly. Probably couldn’t handle the stress of it all, you know?”

That sounded promising and Noah leaned forward, “The stress of what?”

“The fire that happened…” Calbourne stopped for a moment before continuing, “A whole family died. I’m pretty sure she taught some of the kids. Everyone was devastated. The family had been in the community forever. No one was really surprised when she left, Katelyn had always been a bit of a soft touch. She just wasn’t built to deal with that kind of loss.”

“Any idea where she went?”

“No, I mean, she didn’t have many close friends here. I think someone said she went back to her family in New York, maybe?”

“New York,” Noah made a note on his paper. “What was the cause of that fire?”

“Arson investigators ruled it an accident. Not surprising with old houses.”

“Right,” Noah tapped his pen against his folder as a few pieces of a puzzle slotted into place. “Thanks. You’ve been a big help.”

“Happy to help. Any reason you’re looking at Katelyn?”

“Her name is being tossed around by the school board, and they asked the sheriff’s department to do a little extra leg work.”

“They always do,” Calbourne laughed. “I hope it doesn’t take up too much of your time.”

“Me, too. Me, too.” Noah thanked him once more and hung up. He looked at his notebook and back at his computer. Once is chance, twice is coincidence. Did he want to go for lucky number three?

Two hours later and Noah had a lot more than three instances. Fuck. Kate Monroe, or whoever she was, popped on and off the radar, each time with a different name. Each time a family died under accidental circumstances. Each time she disappeared.

A ding from his computer distracted him from the horrific picture being painted. Noah pulled up the original search window and found a much younger Kate Monroe staring back at him. She couldn’t be older than fourteen or fifteen, and she was standing with her arms around two other people, both men. The caption read “Gerard Argent with children, Christopher and Katherine, at the opening of Argent Arms.”

This was more than he’d been able to find anywhere, and there was something about it that rang truer than any other name or backstory he’d found so far. He walked back to Kane’s office and knocked on the wall next to the open door.

“Sir?”

“Come in, Stilinski. What can I do for you?” Kane was obviously distracted, looking through a file as he made notes.

“I found something sir, that I wanted to run by you.”

Kane put down the folder he’d been looking through and gave Noah his full attention, “That doesn’t sound good.”

“It’s not, sir. What do you know about the Argent family?”

“Nothing good.”

“That’s what I was afraid of.”

Noah laid out what he’d found for Kane, and by the end of it Kane was reaching into his bottom drawer and pulling out a bottle of whiskey. “I was really hoping this was going to be simple and straightforward.” He held up a glass, “Want one?”

“Sir?”

“I’m declaring us officially off duty now, and you were never supposed to be on duty. Sit down and have a drink. We’ve earned it.”

Noah nodded and waited while Kane poured two fingers of whiskey for each of them. The whiskey was smooth as it hit the back of his throat and Noah felt the warmth fill his stomach. It eased the sick feeling that had been building up all afternoon.

“Rogue hunters in Beacon Hills,” Kane shook his head and tossed back the rest of his glass. “We’re going to have to question the kids.”

“I know.” Noah stared at the glass in his hand, slowly tilting it back and forth to watch the whiskey slip from side to side. “I figured tomorrow would be soon enough. She’s in custody for now, and it’s late.”

“Good call. It’s just one thing after another with that family right now.”

“Not their fault,” Noah kept his warning soft, with just enough heat to warn Kane off.

“Didn’t say it was,” Kane leaned back in his chair. “I’m tired. This job takes a lot out of you, and then the supernatural…It’s a young man’s game, and I’m not a young man anymore.”

“What are you saying, sir?”

“I’m saying when I offered you the job, I had a plan. Get you comfortable, get Beacon Hills to like you, and retire.”

It took every ounce of self-control for Noah to keep the shock off his face. “There has to be someone better for the job.”

“Not that I can see,” Kane put his elbows on his desk and cupped his chin. His eye contact was unnerving. “You’re what the job needs. You’ve got a history with this county but a fresh perspective. I have a feeling we’re going to need that in the coming days.”

“Sir?”

“Relax, Stilinski. I’m not looking for an answer now. Just something to keep in mind,” Kane waved his hand, a blasé dismissal. “You can head out. I’ll let Talia know we need to talk to Laura and Derek.”

“Yes, sir.”

“You’ll be handling the interviews. A familiar face will probably get more out of them.”

“Right,” Noah nodded and walked out of the office, leaving his half-full glass behind.

It had been a long day, and he was looking forward to spending some time with his son.

– – – –

The next morning Talia brought Laura and Derek to the Sheriff’s Office bright and early. Noah showed them to a small waiting area hidden from the view of the rest of the office. A brief look over, taking in Derek’s uncomfortable shifting, and he turned his attention to Laura.

“If it’s all right with everyone, I think we’ll start with Laura. We just have a few questions to ask you about your teacher Kate Monroe.” Out of the corner of his eye, Noah saw Derek jerk a little in his seat. A seed of discomfort found its way into his stomach.

“That’s fine with me,” Laura said after looking at her mom. “Is mom allowed in with me?”

“Of course,” Noah nodded. “You’re a minor, and you’re not under investigation. Either way, we don’t question anyone under the age of eighteen without a parent present.”

Laura looked relieved, and Noah did his best not to take offense. He’d probably feel the same if he were being questioned by the sheriff’s office at her age.

He stopped by Kane’s office, letting him know he was starting the interview so he could observe, and led the two Hales into the interview room down the hall. Noah seated them facing the mirror before taking his own seat across from them. He gave the standard rundown about recording the interview and answering all questions honestly before asking his first question.

“What is your opinion of your teacher, Kate Monroe?”

“She was okay,” Laura shrugged. “I didn’t have a lot of contact with her. She was my teacher, yeah, but we didn’t talk outside of class or anything.”

“Why is that?”

“I don’t know…she was my teacher?” Laura ran her hand through her hair, tugging a little before dropping it back into her lap. “It wasn’t a big deal or anything. She wasn’t mean to me or anything like that.”

“Is there a reason she would have been mean to you?” It was obvious Laura hadn’t expected the question as she shifted a little in her seat.

“I…I don’t think she liked me?” Laura winced a little as she said the words. “I don’t know why. I swear I never did anything to her!” The words were directed at her mother, who smiled at her and rubbed her back.

“I know you didn’t, Deputy Stilinski’s questions are routine. There isn’t a wrong answer here,” the words were soft and reassuring, and Noah could see Laura visibly relax.

“What made you think she didn’t like you?” Noah asked, feeling his way through the relationship dynamics. He wanted a better idea of Kate’s interactions with Laura before he moved on to Derek.

“She didn’t call on me,” Laura offered weakly, “even if I was the only one with my hand up. Sometimes she dismissed my answer, even though I know it was right.”

“Okay, and did she do this to anyone else in the class?”

“Not that I noticed, but I guess I could be wrong.” The crease between her eyebrows grew deeper.

“Was there anything else you noticed?”

“She smelled funny? Not bad funny or anything,” Laura was quick to add, “but just a little off. Like she was wearing too much perfume or something.”

Noah made a note in his file to check Kate’s apartment for perfume and other scent-related articles. “All right, I have one more question for you.”

Laura took a deep breath and nodded, “Okay?”

“What do you know about the Argents?”

Talia stiffened in her seat, and for the first time Noah could read concern on her face. She looked over at Laura who had frozen in her seat, “Laura?”

“I-I…not a lot?” Laura shrunk down in her seat, and her eyes were glued to the table in front of her. Noah was pretty sure she wasn’t even blinking. Maybe not even breathing.

“What is ‘not a lot?’” Talia’s voice was low and dark.

“I know they’re hunters, and they don’t always do what they’re supposed to do. And they…they don’t like our family?” Laura’s voice dropped off to a whisper.

“Laura!”

“I’m sorry mom! I didn’t mean to eavesdrop, but you and Uncle Peter were really loud, and Derek and I didn’t want to get in trouble!”

Talia sighed, and her head dropped for a second before she turned her attention to Noah, “I don’t understand what the Argents have to do with Kate Monroe?”

“If you don’t mind, I’d like to talk to Derek before I answer that question.”

– – – –

Derek was obviously uncomfortable in the interrogation room, more so than Laura had been. Noah felt a pang of guilt at the questions he knew he was going to have to ask, and the guilt that already seemed to be forming in the teenager. He wasn’t the only one who noticed—Talia exchanged a concerned glance with him before placing her hand on Derek’s shoulder.

He relaxed the tiniest fraction.

Noah took that as his sign to begin asking questions. “Thank you for coming in Derek. I know it’s a rough time right now, but you’re really helping us understand what happened and who did this.”

He waited for Derek to say something, but all he got was a small nod. The teenager had been quiet in his house, but what he was giving off now was a total lack of personality, and the barest sense of awareness. Noah exchanged another worried look with Talia.

“I just want to ask you a few questions about Kate Monroe.” He waited but Derek still didn’t say anything. The pit in his stomach grew. “What was your opinion of Miss Monroe?”

“She was nice.” The quiet words echoed in the room.

“Can you explain a little more? Nice, how?”

“She listened to me, helped me with my homework,” Derek’s fingers squeezed together tightly, and Noah could see his knuckles turning white.

“How often did she help you with your homework?”

“A lot.”

“Once a week?” Noah asked gently. Derek’s knuckles grew whiter.

“More.”

“That’s a lot of help.” Noah looked at Talia. She looked back, confusion obvious on her face. “Did you struggle with English a lot?”

“I just wanted to do well.”

“And Miss Monroe helped you with that?”

Derek nodded.

“Did you have any other interactions with her?”

“What do you mean?”

“Outside of school?” Noah watched Derek shift in his seat. Under the table, Noah could hear his foot start bouncing. It made a tap-click noise that filled the room with an anxious energy.

“A little, yeah.”

“Oh? Where did you see her?”

“At games and stuff.”

“Nowhere else?”

Derek’s eyes slipped over to his mother before refocusing on the table. He didn’t say anything. There was something obviously wrong happening here.

“Derek? Did you see Miss Monroe anywhere else outside of school?”

Derek didn’t say anything.

“Derek?” Talia’s voice was soft, and she covered her son’s hand with hers. “It’s okay, you can answer Deputy Stilinski’s questions. You’re not going to be in trouble.”

Noah watched as Derek practically buckled under his mother’s words.

“I don’t understand…I thought she liked me!” The words practically rushed out of Derek, and his entire face collapsed. All evidence of the stoic teenager was gone, and in its remains was a broken kid.

“Miss Monroe?” Noah kept his words quiet and reserved, letting Derek control the conversation.

“Yeah, Kate…She said she liked me. That I was more mature than other boys in the class. She said I was special.”

Derek’s words made Noah feel sick, and from the whitening of Talia’s face she felt the same. They both sat there quietly and listened as Derek continued speaking, explaining how Kate made him feel special, that she liked him, that she wanted him and understood him. Derek’s voice thickened as he continued, heavy with sadness.

She’d convinced him it was okay: their relationship. His parents would understand, she’d said. They’d accept them being together because they belonged together. She knew he could feel it.

“And when she asked me to help her sneak into the house…I didn’t think it was a big deal. She loved me!” His voice broke off in a sob and Talia pulled him into her arms. She slowly rocked him back and forth.

Noah didn’t say anything, he just let Talia comfort her son who had been used in the most horrific way possible.

Eventually, Derek stopped sobbing and simply rested his head on his mother’s shoulder. Talia looked at Noah and gave a slight nod, adding, “I think Noah has a few more questions for us.”

Derek turned his attention back to Noah, his eyes rimmed in red. “I’m ready.”

“First, none of this is your fault,” Noah told him, steel in his voice. “I don’t think it is, and your mother doesn’t think it is,” he waited until Derek nodded. “Second, there was nothing you could have done to prevent this. Kate was going to do this, no matter what.”

The surprise was obvious on both of their faces, but Talia was the one who spoke, “What do you mean?”

Noah ignored her question for the moment, focusing on Derek, “What do you know about the Argents?”

“They’re hunters,” Derek answered after darting a look at Talia. “Some of them are okay, but we still need to be careful. I don’t understand what that has to do with anything.”

“When we looked into Kate Monroe’s background, we didn’t find anything. Until two years ago, she didn’t exist. After digging around, we found her.” He hesitated before adding, “her real name is Katherine Argent.”

To say Derek freaked out was putting it mildly. The only thing that kept him in his seat was his mother’s grip, and even then Noah could see her muscles strain against his pull. His fingers scrambled at the table, and the gentle scratching of nails shifted to the shriek of claws.

“Derek!”

“It’s my fault!”

“No, no honey, it’s not!” Talia’s voice was calm and soothing, even as her eyes widened in shock.

“It is, mom! I could have gotten everyone killed! I almost got everyone killed!”

“Derek,” Noah leaned forward, moving to make eye contact as the teenager shifted, trying to get away. “Derek!”

He stopped moving and finally focused on Noah, golden eyes flaring brightly.

“It wasn’t your fault,” Noah repeated. “There was nothing you could have done.”

“But-”

“She’s done this before, Derek,” his words finally stopped Derek from moving, and his features shifted back into human.

“What?” his voice broke as he said the words.

“She’s done this before. Always under a different name, but she’s done it before.” Noah watched the realization cross Talia’s face at his words, followed by resignation and sadness.

“She’s done it before?” Talia asked softly. Noah nodded.

“Always families, alway with one in high school.” He took a deep breath and wished for a glass of whiskey before continuing, “based on what Derek’s said, I have to guess that’s how she operates. She finds a student, and…” he let the silence speak for him.

Talia’s fists tightened before relaxing, “But you have her in custody?”

“We have her in custody,” Noah agreed. “We’re keeping an eye on her. All access is restricted.”

Talia nodded, “Do you have any more questions?”

Noah looked over at Derek who was sitting in quiet shock before shaking his head, “No. If we find anything else out, we’ll let you know. You guys are free to go.”

He stood and waited for them to follow. The moment Derek was on his feet, Noah stepped around the table and pulled Derek into his arms. He held him tight for a long minute before releasing him.

“You’re going to be okay,” he told him quietly. “It may not feel like it right now, but you’ll be okay.”

Derek gave a small nod before walking out of the interview room. Talia thanked him quietly before following. Noah stepped out and watched her catch up to her son. She stopped his quick march and pulled him into her arms. Laura stepped over to them, confusion on her face. Talia pulled her into the hug. After a minute she pulled back and led a much steadier Derek out of the station.

Noah added the notes from the interview into his case file, hesitating before adding the words “sexual abuse of a minor.” It made his heart ache. When everything was typed up, he sat back, staring at the unbelievable words written across the screen about a woman who had clearly lost all her tentative grip on sanity, if it had even existed in the first place.

He picked up his desk phone and dialed the number of the deputy on duty at the hospital.

“I’m calling to check on Kate Monroe.”

“All quiet, sir. No issues. She woke up an hour ago, but didn’t cause any issues.”

“She didn’t want anything?”

“Just her phone call.”

“And she made it?”

“Yes, sir.”

“All right, thanks. Keep me updated if anything changes.” He dropped the phone back in its holder without saying good bye and rubbed his forehead, immensely tired. It seemed the day from hell wasn’t quite ready to end.

He grabbed his cell phone and dialed a number he had only recently added to his phonebook. “Talia?”

“Yes?”

“Kate got her phone call. You should probably prepare for incoming Argents, just in case.”

Chapter Four

The next morning, Talia made an announcement to the pack, all of whom had been released from the hospital. She had them gather in Noah’s living room and informed them of the Argents’ role in the burning of their home.

“In response to this senseless attack, I’ve asked the Council to come to Beacon Hills and render judgment.”

Her words drew sharp inhales and a low murmur from the pack, all of whom obviously understood what was being left unsaid. Noah wished he could say the same.

“What did they say to your petition?” Peter asked from his seat on the stairs. His hands were folded carefully in his lap, but Noah could tell from the whiteness at the knuckles that he was anything but calm.

“They agreed.” A low roar met her words this time, and Talia had to take several minutes to calm everyone down. When they finally stopped talking, she reassured them, “We will be alright. In this, we are in the right and the Argents are in the wrong. I don’t want you to worry about this. We just need to continue on like normal and wait for them to make their ruling.”

She smiled at each of them, including Noah, before dismissing the room. Noah waited until the room was clear of everyone except Peter before asking, “What is the Council?”

“The ruling group for supernaturals,” Peter answered as he stood up. “When there’s unusual conflict between groups they can be asked to intercede and their word is law. No one risks interfering.The last time anyone did, it ended up…messy.”

“And they’re coming here?” Noah worked to keep the skepticism out of his voice. He wasn’t sure he was ready to trust an outside force with the case they were slowly building in the Sheriff’s Office. In this, like so many other things, Peter seemed to read Noah’s mind.

“Don’t worry,” he stepped forward and patted Noah’s shoulder. “They make sure that one of the Council is a part of law enforcement. It keeps everything above board. If someone disappears into the system, no one says a thing.”

“It’s the only way we can make sure the rest of the Argents don’t try to finish what Kate started,” Talia dropped onto the couch. She crossed her leg over her knee and then immediately uncrossed it. “I know Kate’s been arrested, but like you said, she made a phone call to someone. If it’s an Argent we could all end up dead. This is the only way I can think I might stop that.”

“I understand.” And Noah did. If it was Stiles he would do anything to protect him. Hell, he already had. Once upon a time he thought it would take an act of God to move him back to Beacon Hills, but here he was. Noah rubbed a hand over his face. “What I don’t understand is why you included me in your meeting?”

Talia darted a glance at Peter before answering Noah, “You’re pack.”

Peter walked out of the room and Noah heard the sound of the back door opening and closing.

“How am I pack?” Noah asked the question softly, afraid of the answer being both what he hoped for and what he wasn’t ready to hear.

“You know how you’re pack,” Talia raised an eyebrow and he could feel her frustration. “Even if neither of you are ready to admit it, you know how you’re pack. Both you and Stiles.”

Noah nodded and leaned back against the couch. “I heard there were some construction crews headed up to the Preserve.”

The abrupt subject change didn’t seem to throw Talia in the least. “Yes, we’ve finally drawn up some plans that everyone agreed for the re-build. Plus, it will keep something like the fire from ever happening again,” her eyes flashed red. “I refuse to let my family be a target.”

“Any idea of the timeline?”

“Are you trying to run us out?” The words were teasing, but an undertone of hesitation slipped through Talia’s voice. Noah sent her a reassuring smile.

“Of course not, just trying to get an idea of how long everyone will be under-foot. Plus, I’m pretty sure Malia chewed up one of my slippers,” Noah shrugged and gave a small frown as Talia released a little giggle. The exact reaction he was hoping for.

“I’m afraid you might have to put up with chewed slippers for the rest of your life. Once we like someone, we tend to like them forever. Plus,” a teasing glint entered her eye, “it’s not like we’re taking Stiles with us when we leave.”

Noah couldn’t hold in the laugh, “That was a little below the belt.”

“But true.”

“But true,” Noah agreed.

– – – –

Two Weeks Later

Peter was relieved to get out of Noah’s house, even for a small amount of time. It was becoming torture, being in the place that smelled like Noah, pack, and family. The cheering voices behind him and the small body slamming into him reminded him that this little foray was not just for him.

“Dad! I want to go on the slide!”

“Then go on the slide, Malia. No one’s stopping you,” He gave Malia a quick hug before pushing her off toward the playground.

He watched as she ran forward a couple of steps before waving back at Stiles. She pouted ridiculously until the boy got to his feet and followed after her. The two climbed the rickety slide and gave high-pitched screams as they slid down one after the other. They raced back to the ladder and Peter turned his attention to his other charges. Daniel, Tyler, Georgie, and Max were playing in a surprisingly clean-smelling sandbox while Cora, Lily, and Jenna swung on the swings, giggling with each other. The mix of werewolves and humans, all happy and all pack, warmed him. The only damper on the day was sitting next to him, growling and complaining.

“I don’t see why we needed to come to the playground,” Derek grumbled.

“The kids were getting antsy,” Peter reminded him. “No one wants to deal with a house-locked werewolf.”

“And why did I need to come?”

Peter raised his eyebrow, “Did you really want to stay and listen to your mother and aunts and uncles prepare their case?”

“Didn’t you want to be a part of it?”

Derek’s question struck a rather painful chord with Peter—any other day and any other place he would be part of it—and he did his best to shrug it off, giving Derek a teasing smile, “You know I’d rather cause mayhem than prevent it.”

“There’s not much mayhem happening right here,” Derek pointed out.

“Give it time,” Peter turned his attention back to the children, “Malia causes mayhem wherever she goes.”

He missed Derek’s response because a strange smell caught his attention: a burning, sickening smell that stung his nose. A smell that didn’t belong. Peter looked back and forth, making note of where each of the children were as he looked for people who also didn’t belong. He didn’t see anything, and instead focused his attention on what he could hear.

A heartbeat, faster than any of the others surrounding them. Heavy breathing, the slick of someone licking their lips. A metallic clink, as someone cocked a gun.

“Derek!” Peter grabbed his nephew’s arm and pushed him toward the sandbox, “Grab them and get to the car! Get them home!”

“Peter?” Even as he asked the question, Derek moved toward his brother and cousins.

“Lily! Cora! Jenna! Time to go home! Now!” He moved quickly toward the slide, the farthest park toy from them. Malia and Stiles were laughing too loudly to hear him as they rattled up the slide. He reached them just as they climbed up top. “Hello dear ones.” He kept a calm, happy smile on his face, “I think it’s time to go home.”

Malia frowned at him, “But we just got here! I want to stay!”

“Time to go home,” Peter repeated.

Stiles was the first to move, he slid down the slide and got to his feet slowly. Every move he made was filled with caution, and it was obvious he had picked up the tension that filled every bone in Peter’s body.

“I’m ready to go, Malia,” Stiles glanced around.

“Fine,” Malia sighed. She slid down the slide, crossed her arms and stomped her way to Stiles. The two began walking back to the car, and Peter gave the park another sweep. He let out a deep breath before he saw them.

Two men in leather jackets walked slowly up from the woods beyond the park. One had his hand close to his hip, clearly holding onto something. Peter glanced behind him. Derek had the toddlers in the car and was buckling his brother Daniel in. The other two toddlers were already in their carseats, although unbuckled. Derek had obviously realized the need for urgency and chosen to secure the human family members first.

Lily and Jenna were racing to the car, their human legs not able to keep up with Cora as she slammed next to Derek. Stiles and Malia were nowhere close. His daughter was dragging her feet in an obvious attempt to sway his decision.

He looked back as the heartbeats he heard doubled. A man and a woman came in from the side of the park, close enough for him to see their faces. The woman smirked at him, and he was suddenly looking at the barrel of a gun.

“Run!” It was the only word he was able to get back before his attention was focused on avoiding getting shot himself. The four hunters closed in quickly, and he wasn’t quite fast enough to avoid the knife that sliced through his arm. He hissed as the cut burned with wolfsbane from the blade.

“You didn’t think we’d let you get away, did you?” The woman’s smile was a mouthful of teeth, bared. She looked more like an animal in that moment than Peter ever had. He growled back.

“Enough talking,” one of the men spit out. He held up his gun, and Peter darted closer and swiped at his arm. The man let out a cry of pain as he dropped the gun. His yelp drew the other hunters’ attention and Peter was able to lope back, turning part of his attention to the children. He could just make out Derek’s panicked voice as he called the sheriff’s station and reported the armed group.

A series of unexpected gunshots made his heart stop, and he jumped backwards. Safely out of reach of the hunters, he looked to where he’d last seen Malia and Stiles, and almost had a heart attack. The two were pinned down in the half-buried tractor tires that dotted the outskirts of the park as a set of four more hunters closed in on them.

Malia’s teeth and claws were shifted, and Stiles seemed to be the only thing holding her back from trying to take on the group herself. The two kept low to the ground, making themselves smaller targets for the hunters who continued shooting at them. Peter wasn’t prepared for the kids to suddenly move, and it was obvious the hunters weren’t either as they darted around the back of the tires, steadily moving closer to the car.

Unfortunately, the hunters were quick to adapt. Their shots began to move precariously close to the children, ghosting their footsteps as they scrambled towards Derek.

His nephew had gotten everyone else in the car, and was in the driver’s seat with his door open, waiting for Malia and Stiles. A few bullets pinged off the trunk and Peter could make out divots from other bullets that had made contact with the vehicle.

The space between Malia, Stiles, and the car looked unending, and the hunters were getting closer. Both to the car, and the two still outside.

In the distance, Peter could hear police sirens and, praying he was doing the right thing, he yelled for Derek to go. He met Derek’s panicked eyes with his own and gave a quick nod. His nephew gulped and started the engine.

As the car peeled out of the lot, Peter hit the button in his pocket, unlocking his Camaro. Malia looked back at him, and he nodded at her. Her eyes were wide, and it burned to see how terrified she looked as she nodded back. The two children’s trajectory adjusted, running instead for the relative safety of the Camaro.

Peter picked up his pace, running to intercept the hunters before they reached the children. Time slowed down, and all he could hear was his panting breaths and his heart thudding in his chest as he raced forward.

He threw himself at the closest hunter, not even thinking as he pulled his claws across their throat, cutting off a pained scream. He rolled out of their fall to the ground, leaving behind the body as he turned to the next hunter.

Out of the corner of his eye he sees the police cars arrive and Noah leap out of one of the cars. Stiles screamed and changed direction, heading towards his father. Peter caught the glint of the gun in his peripheral and, without thinking, moved. The shot fired, and Noah yelled as Peter threw himself between the hunter and Stiles, catching the bullet with his chest.

The pain burned as the wolfsbane flared through his veins. The blackness that clouded over Peter’s vision turned to a startlingly vibrant white that seemed to focus around Stiles. And then there was nothing else as Peter’s head hit the ground.

– – – –

Noah struggled to hold in all the panic he felt and the urge to gather Stiles back up in his arms and never let him go. He’d never seen anything more heart-stoppingly terrifying than the gun aimed at his son.

Not until he found himself surrounded by three dead bodies and knew his son had caused all of it. He rested his head against the wall of the hospital and continued forcing down the urge to grab Stiles and run.

Melissa McCall hummed slowly as she checked Stiles out. Her face gave nothing away. Talia squeezed Noah’s hand before walking over to check on Peter. The man was being kept in a hospital bed by a series of increasingly frustrated nurses as they cleaned his bullet wound. The bullet he’d taken for Stiles.

Noah clenched his fist and knocked it against the wall, earning him a frown from Melissa. “We try to keep the hospital in one piece if you don’t mind.”

“Sorry, Melissa,” Noah sighed. “It’s just hard.”

“He’s fine!” Talia called. She’d managed to force Peter back into the bed and had one hand flat on his chest, holding him down as the nurse changed his bandage. It struck a funny bone Noah didn’t know he had, and he held back a chuckle as Peter pouted at his sister.

“I don’t think I’m going to feel better until he’s up and moving,” Noah admitted glancing at Stiles’ still form in the bed. The nurse finished up with Peter and Talia stepped back with one more look at Peter. He sighed and nodded. Talia ran a hand over his hair and walked back over to Stiles’ bed. She nudged Malia over and sat down on the edge.

After Melissa walked away, she said, “Magic does this sometimes. Comes out of nowhere. And when it’s powerful, like what Stiles has, it can take a lot out of you. He’s just recovering.”

“I want him to wake up now!” Malia stated, pushing Stiles a little.

“He’ll wake up when he wakes up,” Talia said. “The best thing for him is to let him rest, which means no pushing, and no growling at anymore doctors.”

Malia scrunched up her face and shook her head, “I don’t like doctors. They smell funny, and they were poking Stiles a lot. It’s not nice to poke!”

Noah gave in to the urge to laugh and wiped a hand over his face, “No, it’s not nice to poke, but sometimes they have to.”

It was another hour before Stiles even moved, and the whole time it felt like Noah was in limbo, waiting for any sign that Talia was right. Peter had joined them and calmed Malia down enough to allow the doctor back in to check Stiles out.

When Noah tried to complain and send him back to his bed, Peter just rolled his eyes, “I’m a werewolf, Noah. It takes more than a bullet to slow me down.”

Talia turned a laugh into a cough. “I’m sure not even a wolfsbane bullet could stop you.”

Peter frowned at his sister, “And I’m sure I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Of course you don’t.”

Stiles’ groan interrupted any more comments, and Noah focused his attention back on his son, “Stiles? Stiles, can you open your eyes?”

“Dad?” Stiles blinked slowly, each attempt to open his eyes ending with them closed again.

“I’m right here, Stiles. You’re okay, son. You’re safe,” Noah squeezed Stiles’ hand between his and smiled when Stiles was finally able to keep his eyes open.

“I don’t…what happened?”

“You don’t need to worry about that,” Noah told him, running his hand over Stiles’ buzz cut. “You just stay focused on me, okay?”

“But I remember shooting, and there were men…They were angry, and Peter! Peter!” Stiles’ eyes went wide and he frantically looked from side to side until he caught sight of him. He lunged up and latched onto Peter, clutching him tightly, “They shot you! I was so scared! Peter!”

Noah looked over Stiles’ shoulder at Peter as he ran his hand over Stiles’ back. Peter looked back, and it felt like they were falling even deeper.

Chapter Five

Peter looked at the recently cleared land, trying to imagine a home. Instead, all he could see was a house on fire, and he shuddered before turning to look at Talia. She was watching him, and Peter resisted the urge to confess. What he felt the urge to confess to, he wasn’t sure, but she definitely looked like she was expecting something from him.

“What?”

“Are you happy?”

It wasn’t a question he had expected from his sister, and he fought to keep the confusion and surprise off of his face. “I don’t know why you think I wouldn’t be.”

“I know living with Noah hasn’t been easy, and Stiles wasn’t something you ever expected either.” Talia took a step toward him and Peter backed up a step. He turned his back to her and focused on the smell of freshly churned dirt. It had been a week since the attack at the park and Peter had done his best to stay out of Noah’s way, which had been easy because almost all of his attention had been focused on his son. Avoiding Stiles was a little bit harder.

“It’s been fine. Malia likes him.”

“And that hasn’t thrown you? I know you better than that, Peter.” He heard her walk up close to him until he felt her warmth at his side.

“What do you want me to say?”

“I just want the truth. We all feel it, the way the pack bonds are changing. They’re growing like they once did. They’re making room for Noah, and I’m worried about you.”

The words hung between them. A bitter taste sat in Peter’s mouth.

“There’s nothing to worry about,” he spat out, resenting her concern. Her own mating had gone fairly easily, and the judgment he felt from her was hurtful, even if she didn’t mean it. “I’m not going to let him hurt me.”

“I know you won’t. You don’t let anyone in, not anymore. I’m more worried about you hurting you.”

Peter flinched and looked away from Talia, “I’m not going to hurt myself.”

“You say that, but last time…” Talia sighed, “Last time you almost didn’t recover when he left. We were so worried about you. You went a little crazy there for a while.”

“This isn’t like last time, and it wasn’t all bad.”

Talia rubbed her hand across the back of his neck and gave a little squeeze, “I know.”

“Malia’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me,” Peter tilted his chin as he looked at her. “You know that.”

“I wouldn’t trade Malia for anything, but sleeping with anything that moves might not have been the best way to get her.”

Talia’s voice was calm, but Peter was sure that he could feel actual judgment pouring off her this time.

“Talia you don’t know what it’s like. You met David, and there was nothing that could ever come between you guys. He was a born wolf, and there wasn’t an adjustment period,” Peter sighed and turned back toward the clearing. He was tired of looking at her and seeing her feel sorry for him. Ever since Noah had left the first time, she wavered back and forth between walking on eggshells around him and trying to force him to see the error of his ways. “I had to go over all this with mom. I don’t want to rehash it all with you. I’m not a child. So what if I had a few one night stands a lifetime ago? Get over it.”

Talia sighed and then pushed Peter’s shoulder with a playful growl and he rumbled back, trying to emphasize that he wasn’t going to be pushed around.

“Come on, let’s get back to the house.”

– – – –

“No running!” Noah yelled as he pushed the front door open. He hung up his coat before walking back to his office to lock his gun in the safe, dodging two children along the way. One of whom was partially shifted. All he wanted after the long day he’d had was a stiff drink, but with a houseful he had a feeling he wouldn’t get it.

Even two months after the fire his house was still werewolf central. The only ones still living there full time were Talia, David, their kids, and Peter and Malia, but where the alpha lived, apparently there went the pack. It meant on days like this there wasn’t a lot of peace and quiet.

Stepping over the toys and shoes that covered the floor, Noah sighed and walked into the kitchen. He could make out the murmur of voices coming from there, but he didn’t expect the unfamiliar faces sitting at his kitchen table.

He frowned but slowly walked to the fridge, trying not to stare. Ever since the Hale takeover of his house Noah had done his best to avoid making anyone feel like they needed to ask permission or explain themselves, but it sometimes left him feeling a little left-footed when he came home to strangers. Or sometimes people he was familiar with—keeping the surprise off his face when he’d seen Alan Deaton in his living room a week ago had been much harder than he would have thought. He must not have done a good enough job because he could hear some chuckles behind his back as he grabbed a bottle of water from the fridge and felt his neck flush red.

“Who is this?” A musical voice asked, a hint of humor in their tones. Noah turned and smiled at the woman.

“Noah Stilinski,” he walked toward them and held out his hand. “Nice to meet you.”

“Linnet Chatelain,” she replied as she shook his hand.

“Hunter Chatelain is the head of the council,” Talia said, waving Noah into an empty seat at the table. The man sitting next to Linnet nodded, but made no effort to shake his hand. “She’s in charge of making sure the investigation is fair, and she’s one of the decision makers.”

“It was very kind of you to take the Hales in,” Linnet said, the question obvious in her voice. “Not many would.”

“I’ve known the Hales for a long time. It wasn’t really much of a choice.”

“And you are part of the Sheriff’s department?”

Noah nodded slowly, “Yes, yes I am.”

“We wanted to find a quiet place where some of our more conspicuous members would be able to attend. Did you know somewhere private that would work? Cyndaquil is quite…large.”

The man next to Linnet snorted, “That’s one way of putting it.” His voice was rough, untamed, and a little wild, making the hair on Noah’s arms stand up.

“This is Kian Bennet,” Linnet rested her hand lightly on her companion’s shoulder. “He’s one of the other members of the council. Any help you could provide would be much appreciated.”

Noah hummed, a habit he’d picked up from Claudia, and tried not shift nervously while he thought. “There’s the Old Cooper place, but kids like to go up there. The vet clinic has a large outdoor space, but it can be seen from the road,” he let out a slow breath. “I think the best part, if you want to avoid being seen, is probably out on the preserve. I’m sure Talia mentioned the Hales own most of it, and teenagers know better than to go out there.”

“Unseen is best,” Linnet agreed. “I doubt anyone wants to explain a dragon to the public.”

“Dragon! There are dragons?”

Noah resisted the urge to face palm as Stiles bounced in from around the corner. Despite how loud his son could normally be, when he chose Stiles was practically invisible.

“Stiles!”

Dad,” the whine was heavy in his voice, “dragons!

“We’ve talked about eavesdropping,” Noah kept the laughter that threatened out of his voice, and after a quick glance at Talia he avoided looking at anyone else around the table. The amusement he felt was echoed in her eyes, and she looked like she was barely holding it together.

Dragons!”

“Eavesdropping.”

Stiles drooped in front of him, and nodded slowly.

“So who is this?” Linnet asked, leaning forward and resting her elbows on the table. Noah had to resist the urge to hide Stiles behind him. It was a ridiculous impulse, not only because Stiles was ten and leaning towards her already, but also because Linnet hadn’t done anything threatening.

“This is my son, Stiles,” Noah placed his hands on Stiles’ shoulders, holding him in place and stopping the nervous vibrations that were running through his son’s whole body.

“So this is the one,” she hummed.

“What do you mean?”

“The one who protected everyone so well. Talia told us about what happened. It’s part of why we came to personally oversee the investigation. Not the only reason,” she reassured them, “It’s just not often we find a spark of such magnitude.”

Noah’s hackles raised. There was something about the way she said “spark.” Something that set him on edge. “Yes, that was Stiles. Now, I think he has some homework to finish.”

“Dad!”

“I know you didn’t start when you got home from school. You always put it off, and there’s been a lot going on, so I’ve been letting it slide. Today, you need to go and work on it,” Noah gave Stiles a little push and ignored the pout that featured prominently on his son’s face.

“But-”

“I’m sure you can ask someone about dragons later,” Noah said firmly.

“If he’s really interested in that,” Talia said, “I don’t know why he would be. There’s so many other things, like magical trees, flying horses. Water spirits, fairies, pixies, gnomes. But if he just wants to know about dragons, I guess we could talk about it.”

Stiles gasped and his eyes widened. He swung his head back to his dad and the pleading look on his face made Noah want to roll his eyes. He resisted.

“Go.” He waited until Stiles was out of the room before shaking his head and sinking into his seat. “You had to mention dragons.”

“Your son is quite enthusiastic. I have to admit I wasn’t expecting it. Most sparks we meet are a bit more restrained,” Linnet told him.

“Stiles wouldn’t know restrained if it locked him in a closet,” Noah said. “He’s always been a wild bundle of energy. It’s all I can do some days to keep up with him.”

“Fascinating.”

The tone of Linnet’s voice sent a shiver down Noah’s spine, but he just smiled back, “He always has been.”

The hour it took for Linnet and Kian to leave wore Noah’s nerves down to the edges. He wanted to know more about this spark thing, and he wanted to know from someone he trusted.

“Peter, can I talk to you?” Despite everything that had happened between them, and everything they were avoiding talking about, there was no one he’d trust more to give it to him straight.

Peter looked up and nodded, and Noah motioned towards the backyard. The two walked out and Noah made sure to check that the door was closed behind them. He glanced around the backyard.

“Do you hear Stiles out here?”

Peter cocked his head to the side. “No. It’s just us. What’s on your mind?”

“What’s a spark?”

“A spark is a type of magic user. Typically, they’re pretty powerful and pretty rare.”

“Linnet said that Stiles was a spark.”

“That would make sense. What he did at the park…” Peter hesitated, “that takes a lot of magic. It wasn’t just typical, every day, small magic.”

“You’re saying my kid is magical.”

“He’s very magical.”

Noah nodded and sighed, “Of course he is, because we didn’t have enough on our plates already. So, what does that mean for Stiles? How did this happen?”

“It means he’ll need to be trained eventually. Sometimes it’s just accidental magic, sometimes it’ll become more purposeful. You have time, if this is the first time you’ve seen Stiles perform any magic.”

“I haven’t seen anything that looked remotely like magic,” Noah was relieved. He wasn’t ready for this. He was very much not ready for this. “So, did he learn it somewhere, or…”

“No, that’s not how a spark works,” Peter explained. “A spark is something you’re born with. It’s typically found in families. Not every generation, necessarily, but he got it from his parents.”

“So, Claudia,” Noah nodded. There had always been something a little magical about her. He tried to smile at Peter, but he was shaking his head.

“Noah…” The hesitance that filled Peter’s voice made Noah’s stomach churn. “When we dated, in high school, my mother did some research. It’s what the alpha does for any serious relationship that involves a non-wolf. It’s not Claudia’s family that Stiles got his magic from. It’s yours.”

The shock of Peter’s statement rattled Noah completely. There was nothing he’d heard about anyone in his family to support the possibility of magic. Claudia at least had always had a certain mysterious and playful air that made the idea more palatable. “What are you saying?”

“Stiles got his magic from you. It means you’re a little more than just human yourself.”

“Well, fuck.”

Peter’s laugh did not make Noah feel any better about the situation.

Chapter Six

It took a week for the entire council to make their way to the meeting site. A week in which Noah tried to wrap his head around his son being magical, and that magic coming from him. He was not successful. Instead he tried to focus on the upcoming meeting and not worrying about it. Another item in which he was not successful.

The Hales hadn’t been doing any better than Noah. Everyone was on edge waiting for the meeting. This first assembly would be just the Hales and the council so they could finalize the process. Peter had been the one to explain it to Noah, taking the time when everyone else was in charge of the children.

Ever since he’d gone to Peter for his support with Stiles’ magic, there had been an ease between them that had been missing before. Everything wasn’t perfect, but they could talk to each other now.

“Because we’re the petitioning members, we get met with first. They allow us to give input on the process and voice any other concerns. Then they’ll meet with the Argents and inform them of the decisions. They have a chance to request any changes after that,” Peter had laid it all out very matter-of-factly, and didn’t appear to be concerned at all. Noah wished he could feel as relaxed.

Waiting out in the woods, even surrounded by people he knew were physically stronger and faster than pretty much anything out there, made Noah twitch even more. The kids had been left at his house with the teenagers watching over them, and the multiple sets of grandparents as back up, but Talia had reassured him it was just because the meeting was going to be boring for them. Not because of any danger. Noah buried his hands in his pockets and wished he’d brought his sidearm as back up.

Peter had caught him slipping on his gun belt and laughed at him before making him put it back in the safe. Noah wasn’t sure how much he agreed with the need to go unarmed, but he kept that to himself.

Everyone in the clearing tensed, and after a few moments, Noah heard a car rumbling in the distance. He took a deep breath.

The car appeared through the trees and pulled to a stop on the other side of the clearing. It was a large SUV that reminded Noah of the FBI visits he’d had in the past. Reflexively, he straightened his back and widened his stance. Peter snorted and Noah resisted the urge to punch him in the arm. It was not the image he wanted to present to the Council.

Six figures climbed out of the car, Linnet and three others who were seemingly human—one with feathers woven through their hair—Kian Bennet, and one that was…green. The last person was green, and as they stepped closer Noah realized the other’s feathers weren’t woven through their hair, the feathers were part of their hair.

Noah wished he’d asked more questions before agreeing to come.

Before he could say anything, there was a loud rustling overhead and the air pressure tightened and pressed in on Noah’s ears. There was the crunch of leaves, and in front of him the air moved.

A dragon blinked into existence in the clearing, landing on the ground between the Council and the Hales. There was nothing else it could be, a lizard as large as a semi-truck could only be a dragon. It shook its wings and settled back. The other six Council members moved closer to it. Talia stepped forward.

“The Hale Pack is honored and grateful to meet the Council and welcome you to our territory. Thank you for hearing our plea and intervening on our behalf.” The words were overly formal, and at odds with the cheerfulness and carefree nature Noah had come to expect from Talia, but Peter had explained there was a sense of ceremony that went back hundreds, if not thousands, of years.

“We are pleased to be so welcomed,” Linnet replied. “If you are ready, we can begin the official hearing of the complaint now.”

“I thought they had already heard the complaint,” Noah leaned closer to Peter so he would be the only person who heard him. Apparently he really wasn’t accounting for supernatural hearing, because across the clearing Bennet growled deep in his throat.

“As part of the formal convening, we must have an official record of the complaint,” Linnet said placidly. She folded her hands together in front of her, “It is also not customary to speak out of turn during the convening.”

Noah winced and nodded, deciding it was the better part of valor—and sanity—to not agree aloud. It was also probably better to not say anything at all.

“Alpha Talia Hale, you have called the Council and we have answered,” the dragon rumbled. “What is your complaint that you bring to us for judgment?”

“Thank you Ser Cyndaquil,” Talia bowed her head slightly and Noah filed away the name and address in his memory because if Stiles was going to ask about anything, he was going to ask about the dragon. “We have requested a judgment on the Family of Argent. Two months ago, they stole their way into our pack, abused our children, and burned our den to the ground. It was only through the quick actions of a close friend that our pack escaped with all lives in tact.”

“And what evidence do you offer that this is true?” The green man leaned forward, curiosity bleeding off him, and in a moment of surprise, Noah realized it was an actual feeling he was receiving and not just an assumption he made based off of the man’s expression.

“That man, Noah Stilinski—who is here today—was able to apprehend the perpetrator and her accomplices.”

The green man hummed and straightened, “And why would they call a convening if the perpetrator is already in custody?”

“Foster offers up a good question,” Linnet raised her eyebrow at Talia.

“While the person directly responsible for the attack is under arrest, we have reason to believe the Family of Argent might seek retribution,” Talia paused, her hesitation apparent before she continued, “there was already another attempt made on the pack children.”

“There was no mention of this when we met,” Kian frowned at her.

“I didn’t want to bring it up outside of the official convening,” Talia admitted. She shrugged and held her arms out, gesturing to her pack, “There was no guarantee you would hear. And we were afraid of retribution from the family.”

“These claims will need to be investigated.” The feather-haired woman’s voice was sharp and piercing, and tingles ran up Noah’s spine.

“Of course,” Talia nodded. “I’m sure one of your magic-users will be able to read the signs from the attack.”

“And why is that?” One of the other figures, who hadn’t said much finally spoke. His gaze was dark and heavy as he looked at each of the adults on the Hale side. When his eyes turned to Noah, there was a hum in his head, and a pressure that threatened to push him to his knees. It was only once he moved on that Noah was able to take a deep breath.

“The attack was not prevented by any physical act. One of the children displayed previously unknown magical ability and was able to stop the attack.”

The man raised an eyebrow and hummed. The toneless noise rang through Noah’s head.

“Then we will designate a magic user to both the Hale House and the site of the second attack,” Linnet declared. “They will reveal what happened and inform the rest of us. I will join your sheriff in questioning the captured perpetrators. We will reach out to the Argents and ask for their delegate.”

“We thank you for your time,” Talia stepped back, lining up with the rest of her pack. Linnet nodded and they retreated to the parked SUV.

No one spoke until the rumble of the engine had completely disappeared from their hearing.

“That was not what I expected,” Noah admitted, walking to where the dragon, Cyndaquil, he reminded himself, had been standing. There were large imprints bigger than any dinner plate he’d eaten off of in the ground. When no one said anything, he turned back to look at the Hales. Amused faces looked back. Yeah, it was pretty obvious they were laughing at him.

“Were you expecting only those who looked like you?” Peter asked. “That’s a little ethnocentric of you.”

“Perhaps,” Noah shrugged. “I guess next time I’ll be better prepared. I know you said there was going to be a dragon, but…hearing it is very different from seeing in this case. And the rest…”

“The council is made up of representatives from multiple species, so there is some level of fairness and equality when it comes to cases like ours. No one species may have more than one representative. Of course,” Peter chuckled, “species is a little misleading. Right now, Linnet Chatelain is the head of the council, and stands for the hunters. Obviously, she’s human, but Oliver Bryant would qualify as human too. What matters in terms of the Council, though, is that Oliver is a witch.”

“Oliver was the guy, right? Who asked about magic users?”

Peter nodded, “He’s one of the most powerful witches in the world right now. Training under him is an honor much competed over.” Peter’s words were heavy with unspoken meaning like he was trying to hint at something, but Noah really didn’t want to know what he meant.

They’d said eventually Stiles would need to be trained, and the disappearing and reappearing snacks Noah made sure were out of his son’s reach under normal conditions spoke to that. He was sure he had put the remote for the television away, but when he’d gotten home earlier that week Stiles had been perched on the couch watching a show.

No one else had been home.

“And the feathered lady?”

“Gunilla is a valkyrie. It’s been a while since any served on the council. Most of the time they tend to keep to themselves. Foster is a forest nymph, which is why he’s green. Some of the other types of nymphs are more human-shaded than others.”

“I don’t really understand how I didn’t know about this before high school. How anyone doesn’t know about this.”

“We hide,” Talia’s voice was tight. “Can you imagine what would happen to us if anyone knew?”

Noah sighed and shook his head. He’d seen too much of the evil side of humanity to even pretend that the situation wouldn’t end in disaster. “Was that everyone on the Council?”

“There’s Shannon as well. Shannon O’Leary. She is a druid, although she doesn’t have much contact with other druids. They tend to isolate themselves.”

“And she’s magical?”

“In her own way.”

“Great.” These days everywhere he turned was magic.

“Don’t worry,” Peter nudged him with his shoulder and turned them back toward the trail that led out of the preserve. “You won’t have to deal with any of them very much. And the only magic you have to worry about is the one that your family stirs up.”

“That’s not very reassuring.”

“It wasn’t meant to be.”

– – – –

Noah was finishing paperwork when the man walked in. There was something about him that caught his attention, and when he focused he realized what it was. Danger.

He was a little older than Noah, and every step he took spoke of knowledge. Knowledge of how to protect himself, hurt others, and handle himself in a fight. It was a posture and bearing Noah knew he himself still had from his time in the Rangers. He tensed up as the man walked toward him.

“Deputy Stilinski?” The man waited for Noah to nod before continuing, “I’m Christopher Argent. I’m here about my sister, Kate.”

Noah forced himself to relax and ran through all the ways he could disable the man in front of him. The tension slowly released and he stood up with his hand held out. “I’m sorry we’re not meeting under better circumstances.”

“Agreed.” There was a challenge in Chris’s eye that put Noah on edge and he straightened. “I was hoping to see my sister?”

“You’ll have to talk to the sheriff about that.” He pushed away from his desk and stepped toward Kane’s office. “It’s right this way.”

Christopher Argent follows him back to the office which Noah enters without knocking. The last time he’d checked, five minutes ago, Kane had been staring at paperwork with a level of spite Noah tried to reserve for homicidal maniacs. “Sheriff? Christopher Argent is here to see his sister.”

“Thank you, Noah. I’ve got it from here,” Kane waved Argent in. “Why don’t you get back to work and I’ll handle Mr. Argent’s visit.”

Noah nodded and walked back to his desk. He snagged his phone and dialed his house. Waiting for anyone to pick up was a level of frustration that was becoming more familiar than he would have preferred—apparently the Hales brought that out in him—but finally he heard the click.

“Hello?”

“Derek? I didn’t think you were supposed to be home yet,” Noah shook his head. “Never mind, is your mother there?”

“Yes,” the words were said slowly, a question evident in them.

“Can you go grab her? I need to talk to her.” Derek’s agreement led to a long pause during which Noah could hear the ambient noise in the background: children giggling and the loud clatter of something metal. After a few inaudible murmurs on the other end, Talia spoke up.

“Noah? Is something wrong?”

“No, nothing,” he was quick to reassure her, “I just wanted to let you know that Christopher Argent is here at the station and asking to see his sister.”

“Oh, well that’s good to know. We weren’t expecting him for another couple of days. I’ll let the Council know and they can send someone over to handle him.”

“Thanks, I know it’ll be appreciated. We’re all getting a little tired of Kate over here.”

“I hadn’t realized. What’s going on over there?”

“She’s just a bit of a pain in the ass.” It was putting it mildly. He’d rarely met a more demanding, self-righteous person in his life. She complained about everything, from the food she was served to the deputy assigned to watch her.

Talia snorted in his ear, “I can imagine. Listen, I need to call over and get them to send someone to you, They’ll be able to handle Christopher. I’ll see you when you get home?”

“Of course, hey,” a realization sprang to Noah’s mind, “what was Derek doing home? I thought he would still be at school.”

“There was an incident at school, some sort of power failure, and they sent all the kids home.” As if called by her words Noah heard a crash echo in the background.

All the kids?”

“Yep, apparently it wasn’t confined to the high school.” Another crash rang out. “I’ve really got to go, Noah. Thanks for letting me know about the Argents.” Before the final click he heard Talia’s voice faintly yell, “Malia! I told you to get down from there!”

Noah chuckled as he put his phone down and refocused on his paperwork. The pack had cleared out now, gathering in other places unless necessity demanded they meet at the Stilinskis’, and he was so ready to have his house back to himself, but it was times like these when he was grateful for a little back up. He couldn’t imagine Stiles hyped up on a surprise early release hanging out at the office. Plus someone else got to clean up the mess he knew Stiles was the center of.

He managed to get through three follow-up reports before the next interruption. Thankfully it was one that promised to make his life a little easier.

“Noah Stilinski?” Linnet Chatelain smiled at him when he looked up. “I’m here to see Sheriff Kane on behalf of the FBI. We have information about Katherine Argent and are going to be coordinating for a joint investigation.” She offered her hand and Noah went with the implication that they’d never met before and shook her hand.

“Right this way,” He led her back to Kane’s office and knocked on the door.

“Come in!”

Noah motioned for Linnet to enter in front of him and closed the door behind them. Christopher Argent was frowning at Kane, obviously not pleased with whatever he had been told.

“Sheriff Kane? I’m Special Agent Linnet Chatelain with the FBI,” Linnet’s words caused Argent to straighten up and wipe his face clean of all expression, and Noah resisted the urge to smirk at him. “When you ran Miss Argent through the database, our techs raised some alarms. We have paperwork requesting a collaboration during your investigation.” She handed over a folder and smiled benignly.

“Your timing couldn’t be better,” Kane said as he looked over the paperwork. “This is actually Christopher Argent, Miss Argent’s brother. He was hoping he’d be able to see his sister and I was just telling him we weren’t prepared to handle that request.” He put the file down on his desk and folded his hands on top of it. “Everything looks in order. Perhaps you’d be more able to answer Mr. Argent’s questions?”

“Of course,” Linnet agreed. “If you wouldn’t mind setting up an office space for me, I would be happy to fill Mr. Argent in.”

“Chris,” Argent said, standing up and holding out his hand. “I insist. I’ve heard a lot of things about you Special Agent Chatelain. You have quite the reputation in some of my circles.”

“Hopefully all good,” Linnet shook his hand and moved to the office door. She stopped before opening it and turned back to Kane, “If it wasn’t too much of an imposition, I was hoping you’d be able to assign a deputy from your department to assist.”

“No trouble at all,” Kane agreed. “Stilinski is available right now, and I couldn’t think of someone more capable in this situation. He’ll get you set up with the proper office area. I believe there’s an empty room down the hall?”

“Wonderful,” Linnet smiled after Noah nodded. “If you could lead the way, we can straighten everything out.”

They walked down the hallway to an unlabeled door. Noah pushed it open, revealing a dusty desk and two filing cabinets. On the wall was a cork board with a few stray papers pinned up. Linnet settled in the chair behind the desk and motioned for Noah and Chris to sit in the chairs positioned across from her.

Chris settled in, and opened his mouth, but Linnet beat him to it. Noah again found himself resisting the urge to smirk. Something about the man just rubbed him the wrong way, and seeing him lose in even a small way brought a thrill of satisfaction.

“Chris Argent, I am here on behalf of the Council to oversee the investigation into your sister and the Hale fire. We are surprised by this breach of conduct. Normally, I would expect you to wait to be summoned before appearing at the office holding your sister.”

As her words sunk in, Chris looked uncomfortable and he shifted slightly in his chair. He looked briefly at Noah before nodding, “Of course…but,” he looked at Noah again, and Noah resisted the urge to channel his son. Sticking his tongue out at the man was not dignified. “…Should we be discussing this now?”

“Noah Stilinski is aware of the circumstances surrounding this investigation. In fact,” Linnet pulled a file out the bag she was carrying, “based on the official report he was the first on the scene and prevented any of the Hales from dying.”

“But-”

Linnet raised her eyebrow when Chris tried to interrupt her, “He has been read fully into the situation, Mr. Argent.”

Chris visibly deflated. “Of course. I would never want to suggest the Council didn’t do their due diligence.”

“As to the matter of the charges your sister is facing and the Council is investigating.” Linnet flipped a page and pulled out a separate piece of paper. She handed it to Argent. “This serves as official notification that the Council is investigating Katherine Argent for the charges of murder, attempted murder, willfully ignoring council ordinance, and operation outside of the Hunter’s Code.”

Argent’s face turned red, but he nodded and took the paper.

“We welcome your observation of the investigation, per Council code,” Linnet added as he read over the paper.

“You can count on it,” Chris agreed. “I need to let my family know the charges,” he added as he stood up.

“Of course. We can reconvene tomorrow.”

Chris nodded and left. As the door swung shut behind him, Noah let out a deep breath of air.

“This is going to be fun,” he sighed, for a moment forgetting who he was sitting with. Luckily, Linnet only laughed lightly.

“It always is,” her face turned business-like. “Now if you don’t mind, I believe I’m going to need a computer and access to the official files of the case.”

Noah stood up and nodded, “I’ll go grab those for you.”

“Thank you, there’s a lot I need to cover.”

– – – –

She really hadn’t been joking when she said there was a lot she’d need, and Linnet had kept Noah on his toes the whole afternoon. She’d sent him after paperwork from the case, files from the school, interviews with staff and neighbors, and more. By the time Noah was off duty for the night and on his way home all he wanted to do was put his feet up with a cold beer and a game in the background.

The chaos that greeted him when he opened his front door was an unwelcome surprise.

“Stiles!”

“I don’t know how to undo it!” His son’s voice was loud and panicked, and it took everything Noah had in him to not turn around and walk back out the door.

“What is going on?” he asked, hanging up his coat. He walked back to his office to lock up his gun, but a bright yellow blob in his peripheral caught his attention.

“It wasn’t me!” Stiles yelled as Noah took in the bright and embarrassed appearance of Derek Hale. Yellow was not a good look on the teenager. Noah rubbed his head, the tiredness he’d been feeling all afternoon sinking into every bone.

“Stiles…”

“…It might have been me,” Stiles admitted, looking down at his feet.

“Just…tell me what happened.”

“Well, we were just playing,” Stiles explained. “And I just wanted Derek to be Batman, and…” his words were interrupted by Derek coughing. Bright green bubbles floated out of his mouth, and Noah had to resist the urge to bury his face in his hands.

“Stiles…”

“I didn’t mean to!” Stiles’ face dropped and tears welled up in his eyes. Noah ran his hand over Stiles’ head and kissed his forehead.

“I know you didn’t,” he agreed. “Just try to change him back while I put my gun away. It’s okay.”

Stiles nodded and Noah headed to his office. He quickly put his gun in the safe, making sure it closed tightly when he shut it. He made a pit stop in his bedroom to change out of his uniform and into a more comfortable t-shirt and jeans. As he changed he gave his shower a quick wistful glance. There wasn’t much that sounded better than a hot shower at this point, but he forced himself back into the living room.

Stiles was sitting on the floor with his knees curled up to his chest. Derek was still yellow and the bubbles were coming more frequently. He settled onto the floor next to his son and wrapped his arm around his shoulders.

“I can’t make him turn back!” Stiles turned his tearful face to look at Noah. The sadness that weighed down his eyes made Noah close his eyes, a headache beginning to form. “I really tried!”

“I know you did,” Noah squeezed his shoulder. “I know you did, but we still need to find a way to change him back.”

“I think it might be time to bring in someone who knows what he’s doing,” Peter said, looking at them from the couch. It was the first time one of the other adults had spoken. All of the adults had simply let Stiles try to figure it out and the headache behind Noah’s eyes grew.

“Who?”

“Oliver Bryant.”

Chapter Seven

Oliver Bryant was driving Noah slowly and ridiculously crazy as he looked Derek over without saying anything. Every so often he’d just hum and tap his chin. Soon Noah was going to punch him. Or strangle him. Something that wasn’t good. Noah’s patience had been pushed too far today, and the hour Oliver had spent staring at Derek was not helping. At all.

“He’s going to be able to fix him, right?”

It was the tenth time Stiles had asked that question since Oliver had gotten to their house, and every time Noah reassured him and nothing happened, Stiles’ face dropped a little more. By this time he was cuddled in Noah’s lap, gripping him tightly as he kept his eyes on Oliver. Malia had also shifted over so she was laying half on Stiles and half on Noah, her closeness an obvious attempt to comfort Stiles.

“He’ll fix him,” Noah repeated, squeezing Stiles.

“It’s just taking him a really long time.”

“Some things can’t be rushed,” Oliver said from where he’d stopped. “This is stronger than I thought it would be. I’m not surprised you weren’t able to change him back on your own.”

“But you can, right?” Talia asked. She’d taken a position next to Noah, and every so often she’d run her hand over Stiles’ head. Peter had left the room the moment Oliver arrived, although he’d stopped by periodically to check on the progress being made. The man seemed on edge, and it wasn’t something Noah felt like dealing with, so he had pushed all the questions that filled his head down ruthlessly.

“Of course I can, but unless we wanted Derek to turn green or shrink, or have some other unfortunate experience I have to understand what Stiles did.” The look Oliver directed at them was highly insulted, and extremely amusing despite the situation.

“And?”

“And,” Oliver walked over and knelt down in front of Noah. He tipped Stiles’ face towards him, and for a long minute the room was silent as the two stared at each other. Before it could get truly uncomfortable—having a grown man stare at his ten year old son was not something Noah enjoyed—Oliver sat back on his heels. “You are truly impressive Stiles. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Stiles beamed at him, “Really?”

“Really,” Oliver nodded. “You are quite powerful, you know.”

“Great,” Noah sighed. At Stiles’ affronted squeak he squeezed his son tight. “Now could we fix what my quite powerful son did?”

“Of course,” Oliver turned back to Derek and murmured a few words. His fingers glowed a bright white that spread to the rest of the room. There was a sudden flash, and when the spots faded from Noah’s vision he was relieved to see Derek back to his usual tan and bubble free. He’d had no idea how he was going to explain to Stiles if Derek had been stuck like that.

“Derek!” Stiles bounced out of Noah’s arms and over to Derek. Jumping around he chattered at his friend at a speed incomprehensible to Noah, but based on his expression Derek seemed to have no trouble understanding. Malia scrambled up after Stiles and flung her arms around her cousin.

“Thank you,” Talia said, leading Oliver away from the chaos that was swiftly encompassing the living room as Derek’s brothers and sisters joined in the piling on of Derek.

“I’m happy to help,” Oliver said, “it’s not often I get to examine something so interesting done by someone so interesting. Have you thought about a teacher for him yet?” The last question was directed to Noah, and he shrugged.

“We haven’t given it any real thought,” he admitted. “After all, we have time don’t we?”

“Not as much as we might have thought,” Oliver said. “If Stiles is already using his magic to fulfill wishes, he’s stronger than we thought, and he’s coming into that power faster too. A teacher sooner rather than later would be best.”

“Perhaps Deaton?” Talia suggested. “He’s our emissary, and would be well-suited for the task.”

Oliver frowned but didn’t say anything, just gave a small hum. Noah’s stomach churned at the expression as they arrived at the front doors. It was so reminiscent of Peter’s reactions to the vet that Noah felt even more uncomfortable with the idea of him teaching his son. Talia’s goodbyes at the door were quick, as were her thanks, before she turned back to the living room and Noah was alone with Oliver.

“Really,” Noah said, offering his hand to Oliver, “thank you. I don’t know what I would have told Stiles if you hadn’t been able to fix this.”

Oliver hummed as he took Noah’s hand, “Don’t worry about it,” he said before his voice took on a misty quality and turned thready and light. “You might want to speed up the search for a teacher sooner rather than later.”

“What?” Noah frowned.

“Magic begets magic,” Oliver answered before walking out of the house. Noah stared after him, confused and ready to just crawl into bed. But first he needed some answers.

– – – –

Perhaps he should be surprised the person he chose to seek out was Peter, but it was starting to feel like nothing could surprise him anymore. Maybe it was because Peter was a single father, maybe it was because he’d been there when Stiles first showed magic, or maybe it was the connection that was beginning to sing between them, an old familiar melody he’d once thought was long gone.

Whatever it was, Noah was grateful to have Peter on his side this time. The night was cool on his face as he leaned against the railing on the back deck away from his son and the rest of the Hale pack as they prepared for bed.

“What?” Peter asked from next to him. Peter had been out there since Oliver left, and when Noah had gone to get him for dinner, Talia had told him to leave him be. It was only now, when he was ready to talk, that Noah interrupted his quiet.

“I just don’t know what to do,” Noah sighed. “It feels like everything has spiraled out of control since January. Who knew three months could change everything?”

“I know what you mean,” Peter said softly. “Sometimes, you think things are going one way, and then the drop of a hat can change everything.”

Noah flinched, feeling guilty as he turned to look at Peter, “Listen, what happened before…what I said. I’m sorry. I was surprised and scared and I didn’t know what to do.”

“I wasn’t talking about us,” Peter laughed, “although I appreciate the apology. I was talking about Malia.”

“What do you mean?”

“After you…I didn’t think I was going to have someone. It’s not supposed to happen. You get one mate, and yes, you kind of put that down.”

“I said I’m sorry.”

Peter shook his head a chuckled, although to Noah it sounded kind of sad. “Well, after you left, and I graduated, I…did my own thing. I went to college away from the pack, and…just, embraced being alone,” he sighed. “I knew I didn’t have a mate, so there was no one stopping me from doing anything.”

“And by anything, you mean?”

“I had sex with a lot of people,” Peter grinned after Noah laughed. “A lot of weres do that. They go to college and let everything run wild. I just didn’t expect to because I met you. Most of us don’t meet our mate so early.”

“Maybe there’s a reason for that,” Noah mused. He looked at Peter, who stared back as if he was expecting judgment from Noah. “I don’t blame you. I mean, obviously I wasn’t celibate. I got married, had a whole life planned out. There’s just some things you can’t account for.”

“And that’s what I mean. I got back from college, and that didn’t stop me from sleeping with who I wanted: man or woman, supernatural or human. I was just a little more circumspect about it,” Peter paused, and Noah held his breath, not quite sure what he was waiting for. “Of course, when Malia’s mother got pregnant, there was no hiding that. But I don’t regret her. And when it turned out she was a were-coyote,” Peter shook his head. “Sometimes not knowing is okay, Noah. I didn’t know that you leaving would mean I would get Malia, and that turned out amazing.”

“There’s a big difference between a kid and a kid having magic,” Noah pointed out.

“And you’ll figure that out, too. We’re all here to help you.”

Noah nodded and stared out at the woods in front of them, carefully shifting through his thoughts. Going forward without a plan wasn’t something he liked. Ever. The closest he’d come to that was moving back to Beacon Hills, but even then he’d had some basic ideas of what he wanted to do. Avoid Peter being at the top of the list, which had turned out so well.

“So Deaton?” Noah asked, and Peter turned to look at him, a frown taking over his face. “Talia suggested him when Oliver brought up the idea of a teacher. But Oliver didn’t seem too thrilled with the idea. Do you know what that’s about?”

Peter slowly shook his head, “I don’t. I mean, I know Talia has always trusted him, but I’ve gotten a weird feeling from him.” He tilted his head thoughtfully, “Of course, that could be from practically anything. It’s hard to tell.”

“I just wish I knew what to do,” Noah admitted. He gently shoved Peter in the shoulder after he snorted. “I realize I can’t control the fact that Stiles has magic. I just wish this was like any other skill. Find a teacher, if you don’t like them, find a different teacher. I don’t even know how to go about searching for a magic teacher. And if you don’t know about Deaton…I trust you Peter. No matter what, I’ve always trusted you.”

Peter leaned his shoulder against Noah, and Noah soaked up the heat, feeling the support being offered. It was the closest he’d felt to someone in a long time.

“We’ll figure something out,” Peter murmured. Noah’s heart fluttered a little, and he embraced the warmth for a moment before focusing on the slowly waving trees that danced in the slight wind.

Chapter Eight

One thing Noah really appreciated about Linnet Chatelain was her promptness. By the time he made it into the office the next day she was already at her desk sifting through paperwork. She returned his greeting with a nod of acknowledgment.

“What do we have on deck today?” he settled into the seat across from her and she looked up from the file on her desk. She rubbed her eyes before tapping the folder.

“I want to re-interview Katherine Argent,” she said. “You did a good job before, but I want to take her statement again when she’s aware of the Council investigation. We can seal off the room from any surveillance and let the original interview stand for legal purposes.”

“And?” Noah asked. “What if she reveals any information that relates to other ongoing investigations here?”

“Regardless of what she says, I’m taking her into custody,” Linnet stated firmly. “She’s under Council authority now. And we’ll be handling any ongoing cases. Either way it’s federal, and if you guys are okay with us stepping in, the FBI is going to take the lead. Eventually it will move solely to the FBI building.”

Noah sighed but nodded. Before he could get up, there was a knock on the door.

“Come in,” Linnet called, and the door was opened by an older man with grey hair. Chris Argent was right behind him. “Can we help you?”

“I’m glad to see you’re all here,” the man moved further in the room. He drew himself up and seemed to try to spread himself out to take up more space. Noah rolled his eyes at the common intimidation tactic.

“I don’t know where else you would think we would be,” Linnet said drily. “I also am not sure why it’s your business.”

“I’m Gerard Argent,” he said, offering his hand, “I’m going to be overseeing the investigation of my daughter.”

“I was under the impression that Chris was the representative of your family,” Noah said.

“There are some changes we decided to make,” Gerard said. “With a case of such importance, I decided it would be best if I stepped in. When we heard the charges, we were quite concerned. And still are. I want to keep a close eye on everything.”

“Are you suggesting the council isn’t objective in this case?” Linnet raised her eyebrow. It was all Noah could do to keep from laughing as Gerard stuttered and tried to back track.

“No…No, of course not. We have complete faith in the Council…It’s…I was just saying I didn’t want to place too much of a burden on my son,” Gerard’s hand came down on Chris’s shoulder with a heavy thud. “I want to make sure our family is represented by the best.”

“So your son’s not the best?” Noah muttered under his breath. He bit back any further comments when Linnet shot him an amused but frustrated look. They’d done their best to keep the relationship impartial and strictly business, but Noah had to admit he’d developed some fond feelings for the woman. There was some definite fear of a strong, slightly terrifying woman there, but it was colored by fondness.

“Well, in any case, we are ready to inform you of the next step in the investigation,” Linnet stood up. “I’ve had a chance to look over the file completely and have decided to interview your daughter again. The Sheriff’s Department did a good job, but I have a few questions they wouldn’t have known to ask.”

“Of course,” Gerard agreed, sliminess practically oozed off of him, and Noah got a worse feeling from him than he ever had from Chris. “I will get to observe the interview, correct?”

“That is the way it goes,” Linnet smiled, although it was more of a baring of teeth.

“Wonderful,” Gerard’s smile was as insincere as Linnet’s, and Noah wondered who was more animal, werewolves or the humans who hunted them. Right now he wasn’t going to risk betting on it. “Then can we get started?”

“I’ll just page someone to bring Katherine out of holding,” Noah said, jumping up. He moved quickly out of the room, but tried to keep it slow enough that no one could claim he was running.

“Tara? Can you grab Katherine Argent out of holding and move her into Interview Room 5?” Noah asked, grabbing the deputy who’d been there for years. He seemed to remember her starting his last year of high school.

“Interview 5? Aren’t the cameras out in there?” The confusion was heavy in her voice.

“Yeah, don’t worry. We have a camera set up,” Noah reassured her, trying not to feel too guilty as she relaxed and nodded. It wouldn’t be the Sheriff’s Department that took the hit for an out camera, and according to Linnet it was standard practice with supernatural crimes and the reason they had witnesses from both sides observe.

“I’ll go grab her now, then. Is there anything else you need?”

“Nope, that’s it. Thanks.”

“Don’t worry about it Noah. I’d rather have you as liaison with the FBI than me,” Tara’s tone was amused, and she smiled at him.

“Well, still, thanks,” Noah said as she walked away. She waved a hand in the air, acknowledging his words as she left. Noah looked around and thought for a minute about going back and letting the Argents and Linnet know Katherine was on her way up, but he quickly discarded the idea.

He was not throwing himself back into that ring. He had enough conflicting personalities in his life, he didn’t need to get in the middle of that too.

It took five minutes for Tara to bring Katherine Argent up, and after the transfer of custody Noah led her into the interview room. He double checked that she was securely locked in place before going to Linnet’s office.

“Special Agent Chatelain?” All three in the room jerked to look at Noah, and the air was heavy with tension. He’d definitely made the right choice then. “Katherine Argent is ready for you in Interview Room 5. The cameras are disabled.”

“Thank you,” she looked at the men and gestured toward the door. “Gentlemen. After you.”

Chris and Gerard followed Noah out of the room and down the hall. He opened the door that led to the observation room and followed them in. A few moments after they entered, Linnet opened the door to the interview room.

“Thank you for being patient, Miss Argent. I have a few more questions for you.”

“And you are?” Kate leaned forward, placing both her elbows on the table. The arrogance in her voice was sharp and set Noah on edge. He shifted uncomfortably.

“Council Member Linnet Chatelain. I’m here to investigate the claims the Hale Pack have made against you,” Linnet’s voice was calm and even. Any trace of tension from her earlier interactions with Gerard had vanished.

Every sign of arrogance left Kate’s body, and she practically slumped on the table. “Hunter Chatelain, I’m so glad to see you,” the words were practically a sob and made Noah want to gag in disgust. “I don’t know what’s happening.”

“Why don’t you tell me what you know,” Linnet’s voice didn’t show any sign of discomfort at the change in Kate. It was almost as if she hadn’t even noticed.

“I was in the woods, and there was a fire. I was just trying to help, and this man shot me,” Kate lifted her injured shoulder, the one Noah still felt pretty good about shooting. “He arrested me. You have to help.”

“From his report, you were not only armed, but holding wolfsbane.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Kate’s eyes sparked. It was fast, and angry, but it disappeared just as quickly and once again she appeared to be a confused and helpless woman. “I was trying to help.”

“The Hales are a well-known and peaceful pack. What were you doing at their home?”

“I told you, I was just in the woods for a run. I didn’t know it was their home,” Kate repeated.

Noah frowned at the glass, taking in every twitch she made. He had to admit she did a good job appearing innocent and confused. Her eyes were bright with unshed tears, and she practically trembled in her seat as she played with her fingers nervously. If he hadn’t been there that night, watching her laugh as the house went up, he might have believed her.

“I don’t understand the point of this questioning,” Gerard said, startling Noah. “She says she didn’t know the Hales lived there. This is ridiculous.”

“She’s been living in the town since September,” Noah said. Chris Argent jerked next to him, and Noah felt the man turn to look at him. “The Hales are very well-known in town. Everyone knows the Preserve belongs to them.”

“Kate isn’t the most observant person,” Gerard said dismissively.

“You worked for the school, is that correct?” Linnet asked, drawing Noah’s attention back to the glass.

Kate nodded, “I did. I was a long term substitute in one of the classes.”

“And you taught two of the Hale children?”

“Were they werewolves?” A look of surprise spread across Kate’s face and Noah felt sick. “I had no idea. I didn’t make the connection. I hope they’re okay.”

“Kate,” Linnet pressed her hands down on the table and leaned forward. “Derek Hale came forward and said you engaged in a sexual relationship with him. He says you knew he was a werewolf.”

“I would never,” Kate’s face was shocked. “That poor boy. He must be so confused. I’m in a relationship with someone else right now. Adrian Harris, from the school. He’s another teacher.”

“The chemistry teacher?” Linnet’s voice was quiet.

“Yes, why?” Kate said the words slowly, as if feeling for a trap.

“We have evidence that the fire was started with chemicals that only a professional would know.”

“Are you saying…Adrian started the fire?”

“Hunter Argent!” Linnet’s voice was sharp and loud. “I am tired of the games. We have multiple eyewitnesses that report you on the scene of the fire. Why do you insist that you had nothing to do with it?”

“I…I,” Kate’s voice choked into a sob. “He made me! I told him what I did. I told him about werewolves, and I mentioned there were some in the town. He made me tell him who they were! I’m sorry, I couldn’t stop him.”

“Who?” Linnet’s question was quiet as Kate continued to sob across from her.

“Adrian Harris.”

From there the interview was nothing but sobs as Kate refused to answer anymore of Linnet’s questions. She finally stood, obviously giving up. Noah wanted to punch someone as Linnet exited the room.

“I think it’s fair to say she was a part of this,” Linnet said when she entered the observation room.

“Through no fault of her own,” Gerard protested. “Look at her. It’s easy to see she was manipulated into participating. She would never do this on her own. Argents follow the code.”

Noah noticed that Chris didn’t seem to have anything to add. He was staring at the glass, watching his sister cry.

“She should be released!” Gerard argued.

“There is no way we can do that.” Noah wasn’t about to let that woman walk out of the station free. He had a very sick feeling they would never see her again unless she was lighting another home on fire. “She was at the scene of the crime and was armed. She attempted to fire on a deputy who declared himself.”

“You,” Gerard’s voice was slick, and made Noah’s skin crawl, “I’ve read the report deputy. You were at the scene. You were the arresting officer, and you were the man who claimed she shot at him.”

“What’s your point?” Noah shot back, his frustration rising.

“My point is how can we trust anything you say? I’ve asked around. The Hale Alpha is staying at your home, and it seems like this isn’t the first time you’ve been involved with them,” Gerard sneered.

Noah clenched his fist.

“Gentlemen,” Linnet interrupted, “there are other interviews that need to be completed before the Council makes any decisions. We are still waiting for the crime techs to return forensic evidence. I will let you know when our next steps are ready to proceed.”

Noah gritted his teeth as she walked out and back to her office. There were times it seemed like she believed him and the Hales, and it was almost like she found the Argents distasteful. Then there were moments when he had a feeling the whole case was going to go up in smoke and the Hales were going to be defenseless. The acting ability of the Argents made him sick. He doubted Gerard Argent really believed Kate was innocent, something in his self-righteous attitude was too similar to his daughter.

“I don’t know what you think you’re doing, Deputy Stilinski,” Gerard said, drawing Noah’s attention back to him, “but I might think twice before I sided with those animals against my own kind.”

Noah bit back an angry and hateful remark as Gerard and Chris Argent walked out of the building. He was pretty sure he knew who the real animals were, and they walked around on two feet all the time.

– – – –

Noah spent the rest of the afternoon being dodged and ignored by Linnet. When he asked why he was being excluded from the investigation she raised an eyebrow.

“Those were some very pointed claims, Noah. And your reactions are just helping create doubt. You’re too close to this.”

“That doesn’t mean I can’t participate in the interviews,” Noah protested, “I’m not saying anything.”

“Perhaps,” Linnet agreed, “but as a member of the council I must make sure the process remains as unbiased as possible. You may continue as a liaison, but your role in the investigation cannot go any further. I will let Sheriff Kane know of my decision.”

Her decision meant Noah was stuck on desk duty, answering phones and dealing with the complaints of the town that had been pushed to the back burner because of the fire.

Between answering questions about a perceived crime wave that was all in Mr. Beck’s head, and taking the report for a missing dog, Noah made a quick phone call.

“Hello?”

“Peter? It’s Noah.”

“What can I do for you, Noah?” Peter’s voice warmed at his name and Noah felt a corresponding flutter.

“I’m calling because I’m not going to be able to pick Stiles, Malia, and Cora up from school. I got shifted to a less active role in the case which means I’m picking up some of the slack around the office,” Noah sighed.

“Well, that doesn’t sound fun,” Peter’s smirk was obvious even over the phone. “It does explain why we didn’t see you this afternoon.”

“What do you mean?”

“The pack was interviewed today. I truly enjoyed looking at the Argents’ smug faces during the questioning.”

Noah frowned, even though he wasn’t on the case anymore he had been paying attention to where Linnet was going, which was pretty easy because she hadn’t left the office the entire day. “What do you mean?”

“Shannon O’Leary brought them to the house after calling. She wanted to make sure Derek was available for questions,” Peter’s voice was tight, and Noah winced, positive that hadn’t gone well.

“And?”

“And, it’s hard to know. We all were in agreement, and records show we haven’t done anything to warrant the interference of hunters. Of course, the Argents could have something up their sleeves, some made up slight that would warrant their interference. I don’t know why they would have moved otherwise.” The tension seemed to grow, and Noah felt a corresponding tightness in his chest.

“It’ll be okay, Peter,” he tried to reassure him. “Kate’s interview did not put her in a favorable light, especially with my report. I don’t see how anyone could side with the Argents, much less the Council.” As the last words left his mouth he flinched. They didn’t sound nearly as reassuring as he’d hoped they would, especially when his voice shook a little.

The silence on Peter’s end seemed to carry that out.

“Peter,” Noah tried again. “It’ll be okay. You guys didn’t do anything wrong.”

“Sometimes that doesn’t matter,” Peter replied flatly. “I appreciate it, but I have to go pick up the kids.”

“Peter—”

The click that ended the phone call felt very final, and Noah felt his heart sink. When they had a conversation like this, Peter felt like someone he didn’t know. Not like he used to. And he was a man who did what it took to keep his family safe. In a moment like this that didn’t seem to add up to anything good.


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AudreyTrevors

I'm working my way back into a writing groove, and I'm really excited to be working on a big project.

3 Comments:

  1. I’m thoroughly enjoying the story. I had all sorts of plans to be productive this afternoon but I was very happy to have an excuse to escape into your wonderful story. The plot is very engaging and I’m loving the characterizations of Noah, Peter, and the rest of the characters. The emotional viewpoint of the narrative is just lovely. Thank you so much for writing and sharing your work. I’m going to continue being a complete sloth and escape into the second part. Best, The Nut.

  2. I’m enjoying this story a lot. <3 <3 <3

  3. I enjoyed the tension and flow of the plot. The interaction of the characters supported the story wonderfully. Thank you so much.

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