Becoming – 1/2 – Sibyl Moon

Title: Becoming
Author: Sibyl Moon
Fandom: Teen Wolf
Genre: Paranormal/Supernatural, Pre-Relationship, Shifters
Relationship(s): Gen, Pre-Derek/Stiles
Content Rating: R
Warnings: Hate Crimes/Hate Speech, Torture, Violence – Graphic, Discussion-Murder, Discussion-Rape, Discussion-Torture, Murder, Violence-Canon-Level, Kidnapping, Drug/Alcohol Use. Per Drug/Alcohol use: Sheriff drinks heavily in one scene. Discussion of Rape/Assault: Kate Argent & Bite as assault/rape. Hate Crimes & Hate Speech: As related to werewolves & hunters.
Beta: Twigen, alpha by DarkJediQueen
Word Count: 57,600
Summary: A few days before Christmas, while out on his nightly run, Stiles is attacked by a monster in the preserve. When he begins to change, it doesn’t take him long to figure out what’s happening to him. Once he discovers Derek Hale is back in town, he finally has a few answers, even if they lead to more questions. Stiles isn’t sure he can trust the other man, but he believes that Derek is as invested in tracking down the feral alpha as Stiles is and that will have to do for now.
Artist: Penumbria



Chapter One

“Fuck!” Stiles cried out, falling back on the ground, churning pine needles and wet earth as he went, his eyes focused on the thing coming at him. He felt his headlamp tear from his head as he went down. It was too dark under the thick canopy of the preserve to make out what was attacking in the failing light of the evening, but it didn’t look like anything he had ever seen before.

Teeth clamped down hard on his side. His screams echoed in the icy air floating on visible wisps of exhaled breath, tears coursing down cheeks hot with fear and anger. Black spots swam across his vision. He was going to die.

He didn’t want to die.

No! He refused to die out here for his father, Tara, or the other deputies to find. He gathered his strength, trying to think past the searing pain and suffocating fear.

Stiles flung out the hand that had his stun baton looped on his wrist. Finding the button by sense memory alone, he slammed the baton down on the back of the creature’s skull with a crackle of electricity.

The thing released him, ripping its mouth away. It howled as it pulled back. Stiles managed to crawl into a sitting position. He brandished the weapon with one hand, letting the charge buzz loudly in the quiet of the woods while he pressed the other hand to the wound on his side.

“Go on, try that again,” Stiles hissed, taking in gulps of air and getting slowly to his feet. He refused to stay on the ground if that thing came at him again. “I’ll thrust this so far down your throat your ass will spark.”

The beast shook its head, making grunting growling sounds that turned the blood in Stiles’ veins to ice. Spittle flew as the beast lunged.

Stiles slammed the baton down on its shoulder, giving it another full charge. It whined, turned, and ran in the opposite direction.

“Shit, fuck,” Stiles breathed harshly through his teeth, leaning back on the tree he’d fallen onto when the beast had lunged. He kept his eyes out on the woods around him. He started to walk cautiously back towards the road home, his weapon at the ready.

While that last hit had been pure luck and bravado, he silently thanked the self-defense classes that Tara, one of his father’s deputies, had suggested he take years ago when he’d begun to spend so much time at the station. She’d signed on as his sometimes guardian when his dad’s duties took him away. Tara had also been the one to encourage the Sheriff to allow Stiles the baton last year. It was a well-known fact that Stiles liked to run the preserve trails when he could, and, as safe as the area was, the occasional animal attack was a concern. Tara carefully didn’t mention the target Stiles made as the Sheriff’s only son and the department’s darling.

Stiles took a minute to try and locate his headlamp. When it proved elusive, he dug his phone out of his jacket pocket, sucking in his breath as the movement jostled the wound on his right side. Luckily, the fight hadn’t broken his phone or cracked the screen and Stiles was able to flick it into flashlight mode to make his way out of the preserve. Stiles reached the road with no sign of the attacking monster. He paused, lifting his shirts to look at his sluggishly bleeding side. He pressed at the skin around the wound and winced, sucking in air through his teeth. It hurt like hell.. The continued bleeding wasn’t a great sign, but it didn’t seem worthy of a hospital visit from what he could see in the dingy street lights. Or the bill that would follow.

Stiles clambered into his Jeep and cursed the fact that it was a manual. He locked the doors and set the baton on the passenger seat to rummage under the seat, holding his breath against a scream when doing so causing him to put pressure on his wounded right side. He dug out his first aid kit and then cleaned the wound as well as he could under the dim car light before slapping some gauze and tape on it. He’d give it a better look once he was home, but it would do for now. Tossing the kit back, he started up his Jeep and began the painful drive home, doing his level best not to tense up his stomach muscles. Stiles knew he was driving much slower than usual and hoped he didn’t attract the patrol deputies’ attention. He was just glad that it was late enough that the roads were mostly clear, even if he wished he hadn’t put his daily run off so late today.

Pulling into his spot in the driveway, Stiles parked and turned off the Jeep. He laid his head against the window and closed his eyes, listening to the engine tick as it cooled down, just letting the pain wash over him. Finally, sucking in a deep breath, he looped his baton back around his wrist. The door popped open with a creak as he eased his way out of the vehicle. The more time went by and the more adrenaline wore off, the more painful it became to move. Stiles knew he needed to get inside, get the wound cleaned, and adequately bandage it before he could finally crash into his bed.

He shuffled from his Jeep, across the yard, and up the front porch. White puffs of breath filled the air in front of him as he unlocked the door, jiggling the key and knob as it stuck like usual. He got inside as quickly as he dared and shut the door behind him with a soft click. Stiles toed his shoes off and left them on the mud mat under the coat hooks, where he hung his baton. Then, he began navigating his way through the darkened house.

He knew his dad was in town working a double tonight. Jonah, one of the deputies, had just had a new baby and was out on paternity leave. Noah Stilinski had worked a lot of doubles over the last six years since his mother, Claudia, had died. The Sheriff was either working doubles or he was out of town on county business. If he had to guess, Stiles would say his dad made it home about once every couple of weeks these days.

Stiles made his way up the dimly lit stairs, passing the faded squares on the wall where pictures used to hang.

Stiles figured his dad had stopped seeing this house as home when they’d realized his mom wasn’t returning from the hospital. He knew that his dad loved him. Noah Stilinski just had a hard time looking at a son who took after his mother in looks and mannerisms and being at a home that he’d built with the woman he’d loved. Stiles was used to his dad being out of the house and relatively absent from his life.

He reached the top of the stairs and went into the bathroom. Flipping the light on, he spent a minute cursing it as his eyes adjusted before he extracted himself from his jacket and shirts. Carefully peeling away the makeshift bandage he’d applied earlier, he gagged a little at the pain and the blood. He straightened from where he’d leaned on the bathroom sink to catch his breath and shut the bathroom door, turning to the full-length mirror on the back of it to get his first look at the injury throbbing on his side.

A gash that could loosely be called a bite mark, jagged and bloody, was visible on his side near his hip. It didn’t look deep, just painful and ugly. There was bruising showing up around the edges of it already. It was still bleeding sluggishly down his hip and into the waist of his jeans. Stiles picked up his shirt but breathed a sigh of relief when he realized the beast had bitten him under his shirts and jacket and not through them. At least he wouldn’t have to worry about threads or fabric in the wounds along with dirt and whatever potential diseases that thing carried.

After throwing away the bandaging from the car, he rummaged around under the sink for the peroxide, some antibiotic cream with some numbing agent in it, and the tape and gauze. Stiles set the supplies on the lid of the toilet and turned on the shower. He finished undressing and stepped under the spray to rinse off the mud that had caked-on through his clothes from his wrestling match with the monster. He figured his sweats were a dead loss, shredded and muddy. Quite possibly his jacket as well. He hadn’t taken a good look at his shoes after he’d taken them off downstairs, but he thought they’d held up well enough.

Sighing, Stiles braced his forearm against the side of the shower and leaned his head on it, letting the water run down his side and over the bite. Grinding his teeth together against the pain, he took up a cloth with his free hand and, keeping his eyes closed, began to clean around the wound as gently as possible.

He stood under the spray after he finished washing for a few minutes longer, still leaning against the wall and just letting the pain fade to an acceptable level before he turned the shower off and grabbed a couple of towels. He wrapped one around his waist, careful of the wound, and used another to give his hair a ruffle. Stiles patted the bite mark dry using a small hand towel.

The bleeding had mostly stopped, cleaned up, and didn’t look as bad as it had at first glance. It was still a jagged and ugly thing; painful, too. Stiles wasted little time pouring peroxide over it, catching the excess with the towel and dabbing away any runoff. Then, he rubbed in the antibiotic ointment before sticking a large square of gauze on it. He taped that down securely. He cleaned up the bathroom and took the trash to throw away in his room. There was no reason to leave it for his dad to possibly find and get upset about if he came home while Stiles was asleep. He didn’t expect his dad home that night, but there was no reason to tempt fate.

Stiles threw his clothing in the hamper; he’d sort out what was salvageable later. Then, with the last of his energy, Stiles pulled on a pair of sweats and a t-shirt before turning off his light and curling up under the covers. He was careful to stay off his injured side.

He was starting to feel feverish, and a headache was blooming behind his eyes. He hoped that the monster hadn’t given him rabies. He’d researched that shit once upon a time, and he was not interested in the required needles for the treatment. Today had been the first day of winter break, so at least he didn’t need to worry about being up for school in the morning. Hopefully, this was just the adrenaline crash and he’d feel better after a good night’s sleep.

Chapter Two

Stiles dreamt of fire.

The heat seared his bones through to the marrow.

Smoke billowed around him, crowding the air out of his lungs. Children screamed, choked, and fell into gasping silence. There were others nearby shouting, begging, and praying.

“Please, please.”

“Let us out.”

“It’s hot.”

“I can’t breathe.”

“Mama, mama, please.”

Bolting awake, Stiles sat up in his bed, a hand on his chest that was wheezing with each breath he took, and his legs tangled in the sheets. Staring straight ahead, he reoriented, grounding himself in the familiarity of the room and attempting to shake off the lingering effects of the dream. They were the most realistic dreams he’d had since his mom and Scott had died.

He listened to see if he’d made enough noise to disturb his dad if he was home, but didn’t hear anything at first.

It was like a physical blow, knocking him back against the wall at the head of his bed. He whimpered, attacked with everything, every sound. The creak of the floorboards echoed. He recognized his neighbors’ voices from three houses down, but he heard the audio for a porno instead of early morning greetings. Birds chirped shrilly, drilling into his head. Stiles heard movement that he realized was his dad fixing coffee in the kitchen while squirrels chittered over something at the same level.

Clapping his hands over his ears, he whimpered again, sliding down the wall and curling into the bed. It stopped as suddenly as it had begun. Cautiously, Stiles lifted his hands from his ears and then sighed in relief. He thought he’d gone deaf for a brief moment before realizing that he’d just stopped hearing the entire world.

He uncurled, sitting up, moving with caution, not wanting to trigger another attack. He breathed in and gagged, “What is that smell?” A cursory search had him staring at his hamper with confusion and sniffing the air as scents seemed to speak to him in a language he almost knew. He wasn’t altogether sure he wanted to know the language when it came at him like this, though.

“Fucking christ.” He stumbled back as a veritable wall of sounds attacked him again. “This is some fresh bullshit,” Stiles muttered, huddled on his bed with his head pressed beneath his pillow until it passed. Hoping it would pass.

There was a knock at his door and Stiles just moaned from his nest of blankets. His dad opened the door and poked his head in, eyebrows raising when he saw Stiles huddled up in the middle of his bed.

“You ok, kid?” he asked, stepping into the room. His uniform was already on, freshly pressed, lines crisp.

His dad smelled like fresh coffee, soap, and stale whiskey. There was comfort and sorrow in that scent that Stiles wanted to simultaneously hold close and push away. He winced as his sinuses burned, closing his eyes and breathing through his mouth briefly.

“Think I caught a cold or something,” Stiles said. ”I think I’m just going to stay in bed for a bit longer, maybe watch something. Take it easy today, ya know?”

“Probably a good idea.” Noah paused. “You going to be okay on your own?”

“It’ll be fine. Nothing a little rest won’t fix,” Stiles assured him, and, even though the answer was obvious, he couldn’t stop himself from asking, “I thought that you were off today?”

“I was until Marty fell off his ladder while putting up Christmas lights. He’s in some kind of decoration war with a neighbor.” His dad laughed, shaking his head and rolling his eyes.

“Jeeze,” Stiles winced. “He’ll be okay?”

“Yeah, just strained his shoulder and back. He’s out until after Christmas and then probably on desk duty while it heals.”

“Poor guy,” Stiles commiserated. “Could be worse, though.”

“Yeah.” His dad leaned over and ruffled Stiles’ hair. “You’re starting to grow your hair out, huh? I didn’t know that you’d changed your mind about that, kid.”

Stiles ignored the sharp, familiar bite beneath his ribcage. He’d stopped buzzing his hair in August. “I’m letting it grow out some. See how it looks after all this time,” he said, grinning and hoping it wasn’t as brittle as it felt. “Try something new for the new year.”

“Alright, just try not to let it get out of hand, though.” The sheriff stood back up, nodding to him, the scent of bitter citrus mixing in with the coffee/soap/whiskey. “Be good. I’ll see you tomorrow. It’ll be another double today, so I’ll catch some sleep in the bunk at the station. If you need anything, Tara should be available for you. She’s not on shift tonight.”

“Okay, Dad.” Stiles watched his dad turn away and felt his smile fading, the sharp edge of pain already dulling again. “Love you.”

“Love you too, kiddo,” he said, shutting behind him as he left.

Stiles fell back a little on his bed, as emotionally drained as always after interactions with his dad, which left him feeling guilty, as usual. The strange language of scents had been there again and almost entirely focused on his dad this time. He didn’t know what to think about that, but it was something to add to the growing list of strangeness for the morning.

He stared at his ceiling for a few minutes before the previous night came slamming back into his awareness. He untangled himself from his blankets as fast as possible, getting a hand to his side. The side that didn’t throb in pain.

“It doesn’t hurt,” he whispered, looking down. Stiles made his way into the bathroom, trying to ignore the spikes in his hearing and smell. A few moments against the wall in the hall while he listened to the Barrys having a morning fight over dirty dishes, and then he was in the bathroom.

Shutting the door, he sat on the toilet lid and carefully pulled off the bandage. He didn’t see the gash on his side at all. Standing, he moved to the mirror on the door to get a better look.

“It’s gone.” His words echoed back at him. He softened his voice to a whisper. “What the actual fuck.”

Fear shivered through him. Was this how his mom had felt when she’d started to forget things?

“No. No!” He shook his head. “I saw that thing, and there was a wound here.” He hustled himself out of the bathroom and back down the hall to his room. He rummaged in his hamper, finding his muddy clothes. Pulling his shirt free, he saw the blood on it. “Ok, ok,” Stiles muttered, taking a moment to breathe and fight through another bout of cycling senses before he moved on.

Stiles went to his trashcan next, upending it and finding the discarded bandages from the night before. They were as bloody and disgusting as he’d expected. “Okay, so that was real. How does a wound disappear overnight?” Stiles wondered aloud, as he always did when he was trying to think. “I wasn’t exposed to any gamma radiation or other comic book device that I’m aware of.”

His hearing chose that moment to spike again. His knees buckled and he sat on his bed, bouncing briefly. Closing his eyes, he rubbed his fingers over his temples. He tried to focus on how to get back to a baseline so that he could start researching what was happening to him. There was more going on here than disappearing wounds and overly sensitive senses. Focus wasn’t one of his strengths on the best of days, but he tried to pull his hearing back in from the activity in the houses around him. He attempted to focus his hearing on his room, approaching it similarly to his panic attacks, concentrating on the hum of the laptop, the shuffling of his feet against the carpet, the scrape of fingers scratching against the fabric of his sweats.

Opening his eyes, he glanced up, catching sight of the blown glass ornament on the bookshelf glittering sharply in the sunlight. He flinched when his hearing snapped back to normal. His vision then began to kaleidoscope, to telescope. Stiles would snap to a zoomed-in view of each grain of wood on the bookshelf, each prism of light from the ornaments dangling from the shelf, and then back to his normal vision so fast that he felt almost blind.

He cycled through his senses this way a few more times, with his sense of smell acting up, as well, until it seemed to level out the more he tried to focus on maintaining a balance between all his senses together. It wasn’t an easy task, and as soon as he got distracted, he’d find his hearing or vision trying to make out what was happening six blocks away.

He didn’t for a minute think that this was the end of it, but he needed to find out what was going on. He made a quick trip to the kitchen to make an egg and bacon sandwich and grab some coffee before retreating up to his room and booting his laptop up. By the time he’d finished eating his breakfast, and his mug was long since empty, he’d run out of printer paper twice.

“Lycanthropy,” Stiles said to himself, glancing between the papers and the screen in disbelief. “Motherfucking werewolves…”

He wanted to scoff, say this was some poorly done prank. He reviewed his memories of the night before again and, with what was going on today -the healing bite, the super senses – well, he just couldn’t dismiss it.

He’d ended up down a rabbit hole on the internet and finally found one bulletin board that looked like it might be somewhat legit for a certain value of that term. He double- and triple-checked the code he’d set, then made an account and added a very carefully worded post. He’d see what came of it. He hoped the lessons he’d bribed out of Danny, the hacker kid in school that one of the deputies had picked up a couple of years ago, would keep him hidden from anyone that came snooping.

“So I’m a werewolf,” Stiles said out loud, trying the phrase out and ignoring the disbelief in his tone. “I’d always hoped I would be a wizard.” He flopped back onto his bed and stared at his ceiling.

Did this mean he was going to turn into a beast on the full moon and attack everyone? His research hadn’t been detailed on that front. Some of it was pretty firm in the slavering beast category, some of it was a complete fantasy, and he now knew more about people’s werewolf fantasy porn than he ever wanted to. Another school of thought pointed to werewolves as basically normal humans with just a little extra something. Stiles was going to go with the rule of thumb he’d learned over the years when he’d had his research binges. The truth was usually someplace in the middle and hidden in the weeds.

Super hearing, check. Super vision, check. Super nose, unfortunately, check. Super strength, need to test. Super healing?

He looked down at his side, where it was perfectly smooth under his t-shirt. “Shit,” he said with feeling, closing his eyes against the reality of what was happening. “Fuck,” he muttered, gnawing at his lip. He hoped he could pull this off. He figured if he didn’t end up mauling someone next month, he’d have to find a way to tell someone, his dad or Tara. He couldn’t imagine keeping this a secret for very long with Tara, and this was not a conversation he wanted to have in any universe with anyone. Hopefully, he could come up with some proof so he didn’t end up occupying a bed in the psych ward.

He realized he was hungry again, so he took his dishes into the kitchen, washing and setting them in the drainer. He made up a pot of noodles, baked some meatballs, then dumped all that in the pot with some sauce. He fucking deserved it after the night he’d gone through and turning into a werewolf. Grabbing a fork, he took his pot to the living room to eat while he watched something on one of their streaming services and tried to forget the horror show that was taking over his life.

Hours later, unable to resist the need to know more, Stiles was back at his computer doing some more research, checking to see if somebody had answered the message he’d put up.

He’d already tested strength on the old weights in the basement. That had been another item checked off. It hadn’t been the best idea to do on a full stomach, but it hadn’t taken much to realize he was going to have to keep an eye on the fluctuations of his strength for now. He’d figure out how to explain the hole in their wall down there to his dad later. Luckily neither of them went down there very often. He gave thanks to whatever was listening that he was on winter break. He had no idea how he’d manage any of this if he had school to worry about too.

There were a few dickish responses to his post, but nothing substantial, so he ignored it for now and shut his laptop down. He ran his hands down his face feeling much older than his seventeen years.

He always did this time of year, between the anniversaries of the two deaths that defined what he considered the end of his childhood. His mother’s death in November after a lingering illness had been hard enough for an eleven-year-old. To have his best friend end up sick and having their asthma complicate it in such a way that they passed away on Christmas morning. Well, that made this time of year agony for both him and his dad.

He probably wouldn’t see his dad much until mid-January, just as he hadn’t seen him much since the anniversary of his mom’s death last month. He couldn’t blame the man overmuch.

He’d let go of a lot of his anger he’d in that first year towards his dad. He just felt a lot of pity for him. He loved his dad and recognized that he hadn’t dealt well with the loss of his wife, single parenthood, and a son with a double dose of grief within such a short amount of time.

“Sleep,” he reprimanded himself. He needed to rest now and stop his thoughts from ping-ponging around his brain. He hated this time of year. He spent a long time forcing himself not to get wallow inside his head. This time of year was difficult, though. Usually, he’d find something to distract himself. It was supposed to be deciding whether or not he would take the tests in January for early graduation at the end of the month.

Werewolves were not something he’d expected, but he couldn’t deny that this would certainly be distracting. He fell to sleep, thinking that he’d rather be planning his argument about early graduation with his dad than dealing with being attacked and changed into some kind of beast.

Chapter Three

Stiles woke to the front door slamming. He flinched awake from more dreams of fire, pain, and death. He didn’t know what those dreams were about, but they disturbed him deeply. They swirled like smoke around his dreams, mixing in with replays of the attack.

He rolled over and slapped his hand at his bedside table until he came to his phone groaning when he read the display. It was only eight in the morning. He’d hoped to sleep in much later today. That way, he could ignore his problems that much longer.

At least he was getting better at this hearing control thing. The door shutting had been loud. He doubted that his dad had slammed it shut. He could hear his dad moving around downstairs too clearly for it to be normal, but he wasn’t tuning into the daily show put on by the neighborhood. His sight was more manageable, so long as he didn’t focus too hard on something in the distance, it stayed pretty level.

He pushed himself the rest of the way out of bed. He was awake, and he might as well get up. He needed a good run, maybe that would clear his mind some. He threw on some running clothes, making a mental note to grab his running bag out of the Jeep at some point soon.

“Hey, Dad,” he called as he passed the kitchen where his dad was once again in uniform. He didn’t look like he was settling in to stay either. “You headed back out?”

“Just stopped in to grab some files I left in the safe here. I’ll be working all day again. You be careful running around today.” His dad gave him a look over the mug of coffee he was drinking in large gulping swallows.

“Will do, Dad,” Stiles said, grabbing a banana and a bottle of water before heading to the door. “Love you.”

“Love you too, son,” his dad replied.

Bitter orange hung heavy over coffee and whiskey when Stiles slipped by him, and he made a note to see if he could figure out what those scents meant if they meant anything beyond the fact that his dad drank too much of both coffee and whiskey these days.

Stiles grabbed his lighter jacket and his keys, looping his baton on his wrist, before heading out to the Jeep. He thought he’d run at the school today. He wasn’t feeling entirely comfortable going back into the preserve just yet.

Getting to the high school, he parked quickly and headed towards the track. He was always surprised by how spooky the area felt when school wasn’t in session. Shaking the feeling off, he began to stretch and warm-up for his run, ignoring the others around him.

A few other kids were running already. Stiles figured they were like him and die-hard runners, or else they were training for the lacrosse tryouts that were due to take place after winter break.

He started to run, falling quickly into a runner’s headspace. Letting his mind blank and then slowly fill with what he needed to work out. He let everything roll around in his mind, looking at the different pieces of the puzzle and trying to figure out how they fit, or if they did fit at all.

He’d gone running in the preserve two nights ago after skipping the night of the lunar eclipse. It’d been dark, and he’d almost been to the Jeep when he’d been attacked on the running path by a giant monstrous-looking beast. He’d been attacked, bitten, and despite how crazy it sounded, he’d been changed.

‘Werewolf,’ Stiles thought as he settled into the rhythm of feet hitting the ground. That thing hadn’t looked like Lon Cheney at all. The thing had looked like some mutant experiment, not any kind of wolf he’d ever seen. He mentally squinted, feeling the trickle of fear tickle his spine when he remembered the muzzle, drooling with the razor fangs, the hooked claws, and the matted fur that smelled like death and rot. He guessed he could call it a wolf, but only because he didn’t know what else to call it.

He let the thoughts cycle through, not dwelling too long on any of them right then. He finished his run and started his cool-down walk, stretching his arms, legs, and neck before heading back to his Jeep.

Unfortunately, when he got to the parking lot, he saw the Jackson Whitmore had just parked.

“Great,” he muttered. The two of them couldn’t seem to breathe the same air without getting into a fight. Not since long before Scott had died, and it had only gotten worse over the years.

Stiles might have also bribed and blackmailed Danny, Jackson’s best friend, into helping him improve his, not entirely legal, computer skills over the last few years. Jackson had discovered this not too long ago and was determined to make Stiles pay even more for making Danny upset.

“Stilinski,” Jackson sneered, “What are you doing here?”

“I don’t know, Jackass,” Stiles said without pausing on his way to the Jeep, “Having a party, what does it look like? I was running Einstein.” He got to his Jeep and opened the door only to have Jackson slam it shut out of his hand.

“You don’t get to come running on my track without permission,” Jackson snarled at him.

Stiles felt anger course through him in a red hot wave, rumbling like an earthquake in his head. Getting ready to turn around and tear into Jackson, he turned to the side and caught his reflection in the side mirror of his Jeep. His eyes were glowing gold and he was starting to acquire extra hair on his face.

“Back off,” Stiles gritted out around a mouth of fangs, closing his eyes and leaning his forehead against the cool metal of his Jeep door. He pulled in a few deep breaths, trying to will the changes away.

“Why should I, loser?” Jackson grabbed Stiles by the shoulder and forced him around. “I’m not afraid of you.”

“Maybe you should be,” Stiles snapped and shoved Jackson away from him. Jackson practically flew across the two parking spaces between the Jeep and his car. “Leave me alone, Jackass, or you’ll regret it.” He pulled the door of his Jeep open quickly, starting it up and peeling out before Jackson could recover from his shock.

Stiles slowed down once he was out of the parking lot, drawing in deep breaths and glancing in the mirror. The glowing eyes, fangs, and sideburns were gone, but the alien anger was still there, rumbling under the surface. He drove around town for a while until he felt calm enough to head home.

“Hey, son,” his dad was getting into his car when Stiles pulled up.

“Hey, dad, thought you were working?” Stiles asked, turning off the Jeep and hopping out to head over to his dad.

“I am. I spilled lunch on my uniform and needed to grab the spare here. The one I keep at the station is at the cleaners,” Noah said with a smile. “I thought you were going to be running today?”

“Yeah, I just got back,” Stiles replied with a shrug. “I used the track at school. I wasn’t feeling the preserve today.”

“Well, you do what you can.” It was apparent that his dad’s attention wasn’t on the conversation with Stiles anymore but on what was coming through the radio in his car.

“Sure, Dad,” Stiles said after a minute. “Eat something semi-healthy for lunch, would you?”

“Sure, love ya, kid.” He shut the car door and started to back out of the drive.

“Love you too, dad.” Stiles let out a breath and wondered if he’d ever felt so entirely alone as he did right then.

He headed into the house to clean up and get something to eat. Then he put in a few more hours of research on his now glowing eyes and those ridiculous sideburns.

There were a few answers to his queries on the bulletin board. Some were just bullshit. Even as ignorant as he was, Stiles could pick those out pretty well.

To: [MM@gmail.com]

From: [Art@gmail.com]

Your question is an interesting one. Werewolf mythology is pretty interesting when you know where to look. There are many theories out there about why the werewolf myth stays so strongly in our collective memory. When it comes to the comparisons or what werewolf packs might be like versus actual wolf packs, well, I always favored the Alpha, Beta, Omega theory.

If you’re interested in learning more from an old librarian interested in myths, send me a PM on the board here.

Art

‘Well,’ thought Stiles, ‘Isn’t that interesting?’ He shot a private message off to Art as soon as he found the mechanism, this time with a few more questions. He kept himself as hidden as possible, just in case. Still, he crossed his fingers that he’d get answers to his questions and not stranger danger invitations. Stiles was a cynical kid who was fast growing into a cynical adult. He’d be eighteen in April, and if he took his school counselor’s advice, he’d be graduating at the end of next month.

“In case I need to go live in a cabin in the woods and live off Bambi and Thumper.” He sighed and leaned back in his desk chair, flailing when it tilted a little too far. He reached out and grabbed his desk to pull himself back up, only to pull the desk over on top of him.

Stileslay on the floor stunned, back aching from the desk chair that had managed to flip him out just as the desk crashed down. He bit his lip as he noticed he’d landed wrong on his arm and had broken it. Wincing, holding back the tears of pain that were threatening, he managed to get out from under his desk. He moved his arm gently, cradling it to his chest, and went to get his phone to call for help when another sharp pain shot through his arm, bringing him to his knees. Pain blurred his eyes and he heard the bone crunch at the same time he felt it. Everything went black.

Stiles came to, staring at his ceiling, feeling tired and shaky. He lifted the arm that had been broken and noticed that it was perfectly fine. “Huh,” he managed through a dry throat. “So, super healing, but it doesn’t do much about the pain.” He moved his arm a few more times, still feeling the phantom pain. He wasn’t sure if that was a good thing, but at least he wouldn’t have to explain a broken arm to his dad today.

He got to his feet, staggering some, and straightened his desk back up. Checking to make sure that his laptop had survived the crash, he saw that it was okay with some relief. He set it down and went to get more to eat and drink. He theorized that healing must take a lot more energy than average if it left him feeling so shaky.

He made himself a bowl of cereal for dinner and sat staring at the refrigerator as he ate, trying not to think about anything for a little while. Magically healing arms, horrid nightmares, he’d about reached his limit for the day.

He grabbed his laptop after he changed into a worn t-shirt and shorts, he put on a movie and just got lost for a while.

Chapter Four

Stiles dreamt of fire again. It burned all around him.

Children screamed, whimpered, and cried.

Adults shouted, begged, and cursed.

“Please, please.”

“Let us out.”

“It’s hot.”

“I can’t breathe.”

“Mama.”

“Alpha, please.”

“Come, little wolf.” The voice slid into the dream as if it belonged there, in Stiles’ head. “Come out and play.”

A discordant note struck. The voice was compelling, but it was wrong. It didn’t belong here. Stiles yearned toward it all the same.

“I am your Alpha.” It pulled at him stronger now. “You will come to me.”

Stiles had always been a contrary shit, though. He pulled back harder than he’d leaned forward and a rope snapped.

Stiles woke face down in the middle of the preserve; his shirt was gone. Luckily, he was still wearing the sweats he’d gone to bed in. Picking himself off the ground with a grunt, he could feel the leaves and mud crusted to both his bare feet and chest. He didn’t know how he got here. He remembered watching a movie the night before, the hazy dreams of fire, and he had a hazy memory of a very creepy voice.

“Right, so apparently I tried to follow creepy,.” Stiles looked around, brushing absently at his chest. He vaguely recognized this part of the preserve from his runs. Getting his bearings, he started in the direction most likely to lead him home. He’d have to pass by the burned-out ruin that used to be the Hale house. The place had given him the shivers the last few years whenever his runs had taken him nearby. He’d made a point to avoid it on all but the brightest and sunniest days.

He trudged through the woods, trying to ignore how beaten up his feet were feeling and hoping that his dad hadn’t noticed him disappearing.

“I didn’t just walk out my front door like this,” he muttered, rubbing his hands over his head, knocking a few more leaves and some caked dirt out of his hair. “I really hope I didn’t leap out my window.”

As he got closer to the Hale house, he felt himself begin to tense up, even more than usual. He smelled something with his new super sniffer but couldn’t place it.

“This is private property.” Looming out of the trees was tall, dark, and handsome. The man also looked angry enough to tear Stiles in two.

Stiles narrowed his eyes, mind screeching to a halt when the guy took an obvious sniff in the air.

“You!” He stomped towards the other man, stopping only when something in his brain clicked into place. “I recognize you, Derek Hale, right?”

“Yes, why?” Derek’s eyebrows went up and then back down as he glared.

Stiles was fascinated. He’d never seen eyebrows so expressive before. He shook his head to get himself back on track. “Who the fuck do you think you are? You attacked me in the middle of the preserve, bit me, and changed me into a werewolf. What the fuck, man?” Stiles had the brief thought that he should be wary of Derek, but he was too pissed to be scared at the moment

“I didn’t attack you.” Angry eyebrows were now angry, confused eyebrows. “Or bite you.”

“Well, someone sure did, and now I have glowy eyes and fugue states that have me half-dressed in the middle of the woods.” Stiles had paced forward, crossing his arms over his chest and glaring at Derek.

“Something bit you?” Derek leaned forward, taking an even more obvious sniff of Stiles. He reached out to touch Stiles on the shoulder. He managed to look shocked, confused, and angry all at once when Stiles slapped his hand away.

“Yes,” Stiles huffed. “What, you think normal people end up half-dressed in the middle of the preserve days before Christmas?”

“I didn’t bite you.” Derek flashed his eyes at him.

Stiles wasn’t sure what that was supposed to mean. They were a beautiful blue, but he had the feeling that Derek was trying to show him something else. “Well, how do I know that?” Stiles asked, poking a finger at Derek’s chest. “You’re a werewolf, I got bit, and now I’m a werewolf. You see where I’m going with this, right?”

“Don’t touch me.” Derek’s glare went up a notch, and Stiles pulled his hand back. “Only an Alpha can change someone. They have red eyes.” He flashed his blues again and said. “I’m a beta.”

“Again, how would I know that?” Stiles shouted, turning around in a circle and waving his hands around. “All I know is I was attacked by some huge slavering beast a couple of nights ago, and now I’m all this.” He gave jazz hands as he indicated himself. “I’ve had two days to research, but the internet is not as forthcoming on actual lycanthropy as you might think, man.”

Derek sighed long and hard. “Come with me, and I’ll tell you what I know. I suppose you want to put some clothes on too.”

“Of course, I do.” Stiles stopped, unsure what he was going to say, and Derek was already walking away. “Hey, wait up. Any chance you have a spare pair of shoes, slippers, flip flops?”

“Do you ever shut up?” Derek didn’t turn around but did seem to be leading Stiles over the less rough parts of the path.

Stiles shrugged, even though Derek wasn’t looking at him. “I don’t talk that much. You must live a solitary life. I’ve made sure to avoid the station since all this happened, though, too afraid I’ll let something slip about turning into Lon Chaney Junior Junior.”

Derek whirled on him. “You haven’t told anyone.”

“That was definitely not a question,” Stiles snarked back. “But, no, I haven’t told anyone. If I don’t end up mauling someone in the next month or so, I’m going to have to tell my dad or someone, though.”

Derek’s eyebrows were doing something too complicated for Stiles to interpret on such a short acquaintance.“It isn’t safe. You can’t tell anyone.”

“Dude,” Stiles started to say, feeling his own eyebrows beginning to lift.

“Don’t call me, dude,” Derek bit out, looking like he wanted to bite Stiles.

Dude,” Stiles said again just to be obnoxious. “I’m going to tell my dad at some point, or he’s going to find it odd that I’m howling at the moon every month. If not him, then one of the others is going to have to cover for me, at least until I can get a hold on this and get my own place.”

“You don’t have to howl at the moon every month.” Derek rolled his eyes skyward as if asking for strength. “If you learn to control it, then it shouldn’t be a problem.”

“Yeah,” Stiles sat down on the steps of the Hale house once they came to it. “Who is going to teach me? You?” He laughed and then choked at the look Derek gave him. “Hey, I’m still not sure you didn’t bite me in the woods the other night. What are you even doing here?”

Derek looked to be fighting with himself. Words were obviously not his strength, “My sister came to town to look into some things, she hasn’t been answering her phone, and I can’t feel her anymore. I came to find out what happened. If you’ve been bit, then someone killed her and took the Hale Alpha spark.” He opened the front door of the ruin that had once been his home.

“Okay.” Stiles spread his hands out in a stop motion, “There is a whole lot to unpack there. Give me a minute.” Stiles grabbed the t-shirt and socks that were thrown his way, dropping them almost immediately. Picking them up, he managed to drag the shirt on and sat down again to put on the socks.

“What?” Derek’s eyebrows were doing that complicated thing again. Stiles was starting to figure that it meant that Derek was confused and didn’t like it.

“Okay, so your sister came back to Beacon Hills to look into some ‘things’.” Stiles put air quotes around ‘things’ and stared at Derek. When Derek just stared back, Stiles sighed. “I am going to assume by ‘things’ you mean wolfy things.” He manfully ignored Derek’s growl at that.

“Yes.”

God, it was like pulling teeth with this dude. “Okay, and she stopped answering her phone or checking in, so you came out here?”

“Yes.”

“Uh-huh, and the part about not feeling her anymore?” Stiles felt his eyebrows raise again as he looked at Derek.

Derek looked like he wanted to start moving around but was refusing to give in to it. “Packs have bonds. Laura was my alpha, and when the bond snapped, I felt it and knew she’d died. When I didn’t become an alpha, it was only logical to assume another wolf killed her and stole the spark to become an alpha.”

“Okay.” Stiles smiled encouragingly at Derek. That was a lot of words, and Stiles believed in positive reinforcement. “Good, information like that is what I need to figure this out.”

“Figure what out.” Derek was growling now. “You need to stay out of this.”

“Yeah, how about no?” Stiles looked at Derek with his best ‘you have to be shitting me’ look. “I’ve been bitten by the wolf you say killed your sister, and I’m going to assume you mean to,” Stiles made a gesture across his throat with a finger, “this other wolf. Well, I’m a little unhappy with the guy – the girl? I don’t want to be sexist here. Anyway, I would like to have words with this alpha myself before you go all grr.” Stiles held his hands up like claws and scrunched up his face in an imitation of an animal snarl.

“Go all grr.” Derek looked like he had no idea how he’d ended up in this conversation, which was fair. Most people didn’t know how they ended up in their discussions with Stiles. “I’m not taking you for a fight against your alpha.”

“They’re not my alpha!” Stiles growled, chest rumbling as he came off the porch in a move sudden enough to have Derek take a step back before he braced himself. “That beast bit me without consent. Is that what werewolves do, just go around biting innocent people and screwing up their lives? Then laying claim to them like they’re property?”

“No.” Derek’s face went, if possible, even more blank. “The bite – it’s supposed to be a gift. It isn’t supposed to happen like this.”

“Well, it wasn’t a gift for me,” Stiles spat. He felt the bones in his face begin to stretch, hair starting to shift and grow down the sides. At the look on Derek’s face, he figured his eyes were glowing again. “I didn’t ask to be attacked and scared out of my mind in the woods. To be bitten and changed. To have to hide what I am from the world for my whole life now? Or, what, I’ll end up on some lab table?”

“You could,” Derek nodded. “Or there are hunters that could come and kill you if they think you don’t have enough control or whatever bullshit reason they come up with.” He looked at the house behind Stiles.

Stiles stumbled back in horror, his mind tumbling as more puzzle pieces clicked into place. He looked between Derek and the house. “Hunters did this? They burned your home down and your family? They were all werewolves?”

“We were mostly born wolves. Some of us were human. We were just a family.” Derek shook his head and looked back down at Stiles. “You can’t tell anyone. You can’t trust them.”

“And I should just trust you then,” Stiles said, then sighed. He didn’t think Derek was any real threat right now. “Fine, I won’t tell anyone, for now.”

“Good,” Derek said, glaring again. It seemed to be his default expression. “You should go home.”

“We didn’t finish talking about this alpha thing.” Stiles flapped his hands as he spoke.

“We can talk later,” Derek said, his head tilted to the side. “Someone is coming, and I don’t need to answer questions about you being here, especially without your clothes.”

“Fine.” Now that Derek mentioned it, Stiles could hear a car making its way down the rough track that passed as a road towards the house. “Stiles Stilinski, sheriff’s kid. You should be able to find my house easily enough. Just try not to be obvious about it. You kind of look like a thug right now,” Stiles said as he got ready to head off into the woods toward the road that would take him past his house’s backyard. It was a long way home, but there was less chance anyone would see him that way. “I’ll come up with a reason why we know each other later before any of the people that care have a chance to get too nosy.”

“Go,” Derek hissed at him, waving him away like he was trying to swat a troublesome fly.

“Fine,” Stiles stuck his tongue out at the back of the guy’s head and started to run home.

His dad wasn’t there when he let himself in the backdoor, so Stiles figured his dad either hadn’t noticed him missing or assumed he’d gone for a run once he woke up. It would explain the backdoor not being locked. Kicking it shut with his foot Stiles noticed a note and his keys on the kitchen table.

Don’t forget your keys next time, kid or your baton. We got it for a reason, stay out of the woods until we can talk. I mean it, Stiles.

“Huh,” Stiles muttered, picking up the note., “Guess that means that something has happened in the woods.” He wondered if it had anything to do with his nighttime excursion and if he’d hurt anyone, but he hadn’t noticed anything that would lead him to believe he’d done more than roll around in the leaves and dirt.

He poured himself some cereal, eating it standing up. He wondered where his phone was, absently figuring he should text his dad and let him know that he’d made it home okay. Rinsing the bowl and spoon, he dumped them on the draining rack, his mind on his conversation with Derek in the woods.

He headed up the stairs to shower off the woods and get dressed. Luckily, his feet weren’t too bad off and were already healing. He’d had a moment of panic when he thought that something might get healed inside the cuts and scrapes, but that didn’t seem to be the case at the moment. Wrapping a towel around his waist, he headed into his room after emptying the water tank of all their hot water. He grabbed at a pair of underwear and was dropping his towel as he turned around.

“Derek!” His voice pitched higher than he’d ever admit to as he clutched at his towel in front of himself. “What the fuck, man?”

“We didn’t finish talking.” Derek had the gall to look confused like Stiles was the one being rude.

“Okay, okay.” Stiles took a breath. “We are going to discuss your lack of social skills later. For now, turn around.”

“Why.” Derek crossed his arms in a creak of leather. His frown turned suspicious.

“Because, you neanderthal, I’m naked, and outside of a locker room, I like to maintain some mystery. Just turn around.” Stiles stared at Derek until he huffed a sigh and turned his back to Stiles.

Stiles managed to get a pair of underwear and sweats on before drawing a deep breath. “You can turn back now,” he took a t-shirt from another drawer and pulled it on.

“Your modesty preserved?” Derek asked dryly.

“So you have a sense of humor under all that leather,” Stiles said, ignoring the actual comment. “Good to know.”

“You wanted to know about the Alpha,” Derek said, keeping his arms crossed and glaring impressively.

“Yes, why do you seem so sure I’m going to join him and be his puppy?” Stiles demanded, still feeling affronted at the thought.

Derek sat down on the end of Stiles’ bed. He planted his feet on the floor and his hands on his knees. He huffed a breath as if looking for a place to start talking.

Stiles felt his eyes drawn to the thighs that were so tightly encased in those jeans. He had no idea how Derek could breathe without the seams straining. Those thighs were a work of art, and he wanted to ask Derek to stand up and turn around, just to see if the ass was equal to the thighs. He thought it might be. He’d been a little distracted in the woods, but he remembered the glimpses he’d managed, and this man was one of nature’s wonders.

“You know I can smell you, right?” Derek asked, looking at him with an unamused expression on his face.

“I know that I can smell better, but deciphering it hasn’t been a top priority. I mean, the super strength, super hearing, and other things took more precedence in the grand scheme of things.” Stiles shrugged, not sure what Derek was getting at.

“I can smell your chemosignals and pheromones,” Derek said, rather more dryly than Stiles thought necessary.

“Oh, that’s interesting,” Stiles said, leaning forward and ignoring the laughter in Derek’s tone. He tried to pull the majority of his attention off Derek’s magnificent thighs and back to the topic of werewolves. “You’ll teach me how to tell the differences, right? There are so many tests we can run.” Stiles felt his mind start to whir away with ideas. “Oh, I forgot to take my meds today.”He laughed. “No wonder I’m so scattered up here.” He waved a hand around his head.

“Meds?” Derek was using a question mark again. Stiles hadn’t even known him a day, but he felt that was progress.

“Yeah, I have ADHD. So, I have trouble focusing.” He paused, fishing the bottle out of his bedside drawer. Explaining his ADHD in as simple terms as possible, he continued. “Also, a little trouble with impulse control, but between the meds,” he shook the bottle, “and the exercise regimen recommended by the last doctor who wasn’t an asshole, I’m doing pretty good.”

“I don’t know if those meds will work for wolves,” Derek said slowly. “You’re going through a lot of changes now, but most of them won’t settle completely until your next full moon. Your first moon as a wolf is important in a lot of ways. That’s one of them.”

“So, is there a way to reverse this?” Stiles asked, ignoring Derek’s words and dry swallowing his pill.

“Not that I’m aware of,” Derek said with a shake of his head.

Stiles appreciated that he didn’t try to lie to him, as far as he could tell. “You make it sound like I’m going to be tied to this alpha for all time or something,” Stiles said, plopping onto the kitchen chair he’d commandeered after the fiasco last night. “I didn’t sign up to be a werewolf, but you say there is nothing I can do to change that.” He waited for Derek’s nod. “Well, I’m not going to be someone’s puppy puppet just because they attacked me in the woods.”

“You won’t have a choice. I told you about the bonds,” Derek insisted, his hands curling into fists. “He’ll call you, and you’ll go. It’s why you were in the woods last night.”

“Hmm,” Stiles said and thought over a few things. He didn’t wholly trust Derek, so he would keep some things to himself, for now, the substance of his dreams being one. They felt too important to share or to dismiss. “What about these hunters you were talking about?”

“They burnt down my home, trapping my family inside and killing them,” Derek snarled.

“Everyone?” Stiles asked, although he had vague memories of the Hale fire, “The children?”

“There is no mercy with hunters” Derek deflated. “There never is, just death, betrayal, and more death.”

“They sound like a regular party crowd.” Stiles sighed. “I need to know how to resist the alpha. Stop telling me I can’t and start giving me ideas on how I might do it.” Stiles growled at Derek. He knew his eyes were glowing again, so he shut them and took a couple of deep breaths. “Look, I’m exhausted. I’ve been so tired lately it’s ridiculous.” He added as an afterthought.

“It’s part of the change,” Derek said. “We didn’t have many bitten wolves in our pack, but I was old enough to remember the last one before the fire. The first month was a lot of sleeping, eating, and training.”

Stiles leaned forward, his elbows on his knees and chin in hand. He had no reason to trust Derek, but what he kept coming back to was that he had no choice right now. He had to trust someone. Derek seemed to know what was happening, even if his social skills seemed to be lacking in some areas.

“Where were you for the last six years?” Stiles asked suddenly, eyes wide. Maybe they’d been living in a cave hidden in the woods. That would explain so many things.

“New York,” Derek’s eyebrows scrunched as he replied, “Do you ever stay on one topic?”

“ADHD, dude,” Stiles sat back and shrugged. “I’ll hyper-focus on something, usually not at all relevant to what I’m supposed to be doing, or I’m all over the place. The meds help, but they aren’t a magic cure. And New York, really?”

“Yes, why.” Derek tilted his head slightly, his brow furrowing as he frowned at Stiles.

“Well, not that I’m one to talk, but you don’t seem like you’ve spent a lot of time around people, is all.” Stiles tried to put it delicately when Derek just stared at him, he sighed. “Dude, your social skills are pretty bad.”

“Why do I need to use them with you,” Derek said dryly.

Stiles stared at him until he saw the slightest tick at the corner of Derek’s mouth, “Ha, wolf’s got jokes. You’re hilarious.”

“I’ll look around today and find somewhere we can train,” Derek said, standing. “That is if you still want my help.”

“Yeah, dude. I’ve gone about as far as I can on the training without more information.” Stiles said, standing, getting ready to head to the door and walk Derek out when he crouched up on the windowsill. “What.” Great, he was losing question marks now.

“I’ll get in touch when I have a place,” Derek looked him over, “Keep doing what you are and try to keep from mauling anyone if you get angry.” He leaped out the window and was already to the preserve by the time Stiles got to the window.

“Ha ha ha, that was a joke, right?” Stiles called after him, “Don’t maul someone, yeah buddy, right at the top of my list there already.”

So, it looked like, at least for now, he was going to throw his lot in with Derek Hale. That meant Stiles was going to need to do a whole new type of research. He needed to know everything he could find on the Hales and the Hale fire. He also needed to understand what happened to Laura Hale, and then he’d get back to his bulletin board buddy to see if he could corroborate Derek’s ‘only alphas can turn someone’ speech.

That is if Art wasn’t a false lead on the information. Stiles rubbed his hands over his head a few times and sat down heavily on his bed. Suddenly everything felt like too much. He’d been turned into a werewolf by something that attacked him during a run in the woods. Yeah, maybe he shouldn’t have been running so late in the evening, but it wasn’t his fault.

Now he was a werewolf, and some hunters probably wanted to kill him and a super-hot werewolf that would be training him. This could all only end in disaster.

“Oh my god.” Stiles had a sudden epiphany. “He could smell me.” He looked down at his cock. “Well, he could definitely smell you.” He flopped back on the bed, throwing his arm over his face. This was going to be so awkward, but that was the theme of his life most of the time.

“Okay, enough navel-gazing.” He slapped his hands together and sat up. First things first, he would get something to eat, then he was going to call his dad and find out what was going on with the woods. He glanced at the clock in the kitchen as he poured a bowl of cereal and saw that it was only eight, which explained why his dad thought he’d gone running. He usually went before dawn when he had trouble sleeping. He’d had the headlamp for those times. His dad hadn’t mentioned it, so he hadn’t noticed its absence yet. He rinsed his bowl and pulled out his cell from the pocket of his sweats. Hitting the speed dial for his dad, he waited while he listened to it ring.

“Stiles, I’m a little busy right now.” His dad’s voice was crisp. He was obviously in full-on sheriff mode.

“Yeah, I know. I got your note, and I wanted to let you know I made it home,” Stiles said. “Also, I was worried about your warning.”

“Just some animal attacks, we’re looking into it.” His dad sighed, and Stiles heard him shut a door, closing out some of the background noise. “I’d appreciate it if you’d stay out of the preserve until we know what’s going on out there. Go running around the neighborhood or the track at school, okay?”

“Yeah, dad, sure.” Stiles nodded even though his dad couldn’t see him. “Do you know when you’ll be home?”

“Not until late,” he sighed, and Stiles could almost see him running a hand over his face like he did when he was tired. “I’m going to be covering for a few of the other deputies so they can be home with their families for the holiday. I need to deal with what’s going on here, and then I need to travel over to Springwater for work.”

“Make sure you remember to eat,” Stiles said. “More than coffee and pastries, Dad.”

“I hear ya, kiddo,” he said. ” “I’ll check in with you if I’m going to be any later than tonight. You let me know if you head out, okay? Just text me. I might not be able to take the call.”

“Sure, Dad.” Stiles forced himself not to grip his phone too tight. “Love you.”

“Love you, too, kiddo. Look, I gotta go.” The Sheriff was back in his voice and Stiles heard someone murmuring in the background.

“Okay. Bye, Dad.” Stiles hung up the call and just stood in the kitchen for a moment, wondering when he’d become so alone. He knew his dad loved him, but they were like two planets orbiting each other, and it had been like that for so long he could only vaguely recall what it had been like before.

“Okay, if he isn’t here, I can do what I need to,” Stiles said to the empty room. Time to look at the silver lining here.

He headed across the house to the office, finding it unlocked as he’d expected. Opening the door, he made his way over to the computer and booted it up. He logged in and found that his dad wasn’t in any files, which was good. Stiles had set up an account for this, though, and he had his own log in once he got into the system. No sense in being so careful getting into the files only to have his dad realize that the Sheriff’s username was logged for files he had never seen.

The Hale fire files were first, which Stiles figured would be with the unsolved case files. He wasn’t clear on the actual events surrounding the fire. Between losing his mom and then Scott in such a short amount of time, he hadn’t been paying much attention to anything outside his own home. The Hale fire had been one of the few things big enough to penetrate his little bubble of grief, especially since his dad had been part of that, though he’d only been a deputy then.

Stiles remembered being at the station, waiting for his dad, when Derek and Laura Hale had come in. Both had had that dazed look of shock that Stiles had still been seeing on his dad’s face at the time. Derek was practically curled into himself and Laura was barely holding herself together.

He’d only been eleven, but he’d recognized the pain so intimately that he’d had to leave the room. He’d made it into Tara’s office and gotten the door shut before he’d descended into a panic attack. When she’d come in and held him, he’d just sobbed on her shoulder. It had been one of the rare times he’d allowed himself to let go with his grief around another person. Tara had taken him home and stayed with him while his dad worked through the night. It hadn’t been long after that when Tara had become his secondary guardian while his dad was out of contact or unavailable.

Actual details of the fire, though, that was a mystery. Stiles printed the file out quickly; he didn’t want to risk being in the system any longer than he needed to be. After that, he pulled up the database and put in the names of the Hale fire survivors.

Derek Hale DOB November 7, 1989

Laura Hale DOB August 15, 1986

Peter Hale DOB October 27, 1976

“Jesus Christ,” Stiles swore. They were all so young. He knew that Laura was probably dead if he took Derek at his word, and he knew where Derek was, for the most part. That left Peter. Derek hadn’t said anything about him and Stiles didn’t know of him from around town. He wondered if he’d moved away. A few clicks of the mouse cleared up that mystery. Peter Hale was a resident of the long-term care ward of Beacon Hills Memorial. Stiles printed out what he had on the Hale’s records and then backed out of the system as carefully as he’d managed to get into it.

“Thanks, Danny,” Stiles breathed as he shut everything down after wiping the history as well as he could, doing the same to the printer as he got his copies. The lessons he’d bribed out of him had left Danny very unhappy with Stiles, but it was paying off in spades now.

He left the office and headed up to his room to study the files. He’d use his laptop and see if he could get into Peter’s medical records later. It had just given his current known address, so he’d have to do some digging to find out why a werewolf was in the long-term care ward. Maybe the magical healing had a limit. It was something to look into.

He was curious to see why the Hale fire had been marked as accidental, though. Derek had seemed sure that it was arson, and with the number of the dead, the department should have conducted a more thorough investigation than the case files were showing. Derek might be biased against hunters, though. Stiles couldn’t say, not for sure, as he didn’t know enough about this new world yet.

He wasn’t naive enough to think that even regular humans wouldn’t try to hunt down the werewolves if they knew about them. Werewolves were different and people tended to hate what was different. They had trouble enough with prejudices among their own species; why wouldn’t they hunt down what would easily be seen as a separate species, a threat to their own?

On the other hand, he didn’t think that werewolves would turn out to be the paragons of virtue and all that is good. The Alpha attacking him and Derek’s belief that this Alpha killed Laura for her power were evidence of that. None of it spoke to a peaceful and retiring species.

‘So, accidental, hmm.’ Stiles sat on his repurposed kitchen chair facing his laptop and read the reports in his hands.

“This is bullshit,” Stiles muttered when he came up for air nearly two hours later. Stiles could trust nothing in the Hale file besides the basic facts, and even those were suspect. Between reading the reports, researching terminology, and looking into how actual arson investigators worked scenes, he’d decided that it was either the worst case of incompetence he’d ever seen, or there had been some hefty bribes and blackmail at play back then. He’d need to get his hands on the full arson report, rather than the summary that he’d printed with the file, but from what he could see, there was either some half-assed work going on or some people out there were very dirty.

“I’m going to vote for dirty,” he muttered, shuffling the papers and sticking them in the back of his filing drawer to keep them from being found. He grabbed his laptop and dumped it on his bed when his stomach growled again.

“Really?” He glanced down at his stomach and then looked at his phone to see that the time was 11:30. “Huh, I guess I should eat.” He laughed when his stomach growled again as if in agreement. Thudding down the stairs, he turned into the kitchen, mind on food and research. The calendar hanging next to the microwave caught his eye when he turned to the cupboard for a bowl, and he froze.

December 25th.

Fuck! Christmas.

His dad had mentioned the holiday, but he’d completely ignored it. They hadn’t celebrated Christmas in over six years. Today was the sixth anniversary of Scott’s death, and he’d forgotten the date.

Choking on air, he steadied himself on the back of one of the chairs, squeezing his eyes shut. He managed to stave off the panic attack this time. Opening his eyes, he saw that his hands were normal, but he’d left some interesting grooves in the chair back.

Swiping his keys off the table, he grabbed a jacket at the door and shoved his feet into a pair of ratty sneakers. He shoved a pack of pop tarts into his jacket pocket, opening another with his teeth, and climbed into the Jeep. He backed out of the drive and finished his pastry, stopping only when necessary. He came to Beacon Hills Cemetery, pulled in the parking area by muscle memory alone. Hopping out of the Jeep, he shut the door and traded the pop tarts in his pocket for his keys.

Heading into the cemetery, he followed one of the paths he’d memorized six years ago.

“Hey Scott.” He lowered himself to the ground. Tearing open the packet, he shoved the wrapper into another pocket. “It’s been a while.” He studied Scott’s grave and absently pulled up a few weeds with his free hand.

“Things are weird,” he said, chewing methodically. He thought about what he’d tell him if he was still alive. “I’m a werewolf now, for one. Yeah, didn’t see that one coming, I bet.” He laughed, remembering all the games of make-believe he’d played with Scott. “I don’t know what to do about it, but I bet you think it’s cool. I’m learning to control it, and if Derek Hale isn’t some evil villain in disguise, then he’ll be helping me figure it all out. The Hales were all werewolves, or most of them anyway. I’ll have to ask Derek more about werewolf genetics later.”

He laid back on the grass next to the headstone and thought about the last few days. “Derek is also hot as hell.” He started to laugh. “Hot as Hale, I’ll have to remember that one. So even if he is evil, I’ll have some nice eye candy when he kills me.” He rolled his eyes at himself, even as he chuckled.

“So, that’s all that drama,” he said, lifting a hand from behind his head and waving it to encompass everything. “I don’t know what to do about dad, but we’ve talked about that before. I know my dad loves me, but I don’t think he knows what to do with his life outside of his job anymore. He hasn’t for a long time, and, buddy, I’m getting tired. When mom died, he crawled into the bottle for a while, and when that didn’t fix anything, he crawled into work. He never did crawl back out of work, and he’ll still share the evening with the bottle more than he should. He’s not violent or anything when he drinks, you know that, but sometimes I don’t know whether he means what he says then or not. I don’t know what he’ll do if or when I go away to college next year. I do know I can’t stay with him, Scott, not like this. Not when he hardly notices when I’m around. He makes me so angry sometimes, but mostly, I’m too tired to deal with it anymore.”

He closed his eyes and just lay there, both hands behind his head as he thought about Scott. Scott had been his best friend from the time they’d been in diapers. Scott’s mom, Melissa, had been a support source for both Stiles and his dad in the month following his mom’s death. Then suddenly, out of nowhere, Scott had come down sick one of the nights Stiles had been staying over. Scott went into the hospital, and like Stiles’ mom, he never came back out. Grief made his stomach clench, and his heart hurt, but he swallowed it back. He’d lost both Scott and Melissa that day. She’d moved back east to be closer to her family after Scott died. Leaving Stiles’ raising to his dad and the deputies at the station, not that anyone would ever blame her for leaving.

Sitting back up, he ran a hand over the stone, “I miss you, dude. I’ll be back later with an update about this whole werewolf thing.” He got to his feet, trudged back to his Jeep, and headed home to finish his research. He felt a little lighter after talking with Scott, but he also felt the need to direct his attention somewhere other than the old wound of his grief.

His return to the house was a lot more composed than his exit had been. He parked and pulled his phone out to see the time. It was nearly three. He’d been gone longer than he’d anticipated, but his dad wasn’t back yet, so he’d head up and get back to looking into Peter Hale.

His stomach interrupted his plans as he passed the kitchen. Okay, he’d do some more research after he got something to eat. Those pop tarts hadn’t lasted long. He made a couple of sandwiches using the last of the lunch meat they had. He added it to the list on the refrigerator door, grabbed his plate, and headed up the stairs.

He got to his room and was at his door when he realized that someone was in it. He tried sniffing out who it could be, but he still didn’t know how to do much more than identify primary scents. Stiles would learn the chemosignals and pheromones that Derek talked about later. Then he listened, being careful not to cast his hearing out beyond his house.

“Just get in here, Stiles,” Derek said from the other side of the door.

“For fuck’s sake, Derek.” Stiles juggled his plate as he opened the door and glared at Derek.

“You could wait until I’m here, even if you aren’t going to use a door or call ahead.”

“I don’t have your number,” Derek said from where he sat, reading a book from his shelves.

“It’s not that hard to ask for it before jumping out of windows,” Stiles complained. “So, I assume since you’re here that you found a place to train?”

“Yes,” Derek said. Stiles watched how his eyes scanned the room as if looking for something hiding in the nonexistent shadows.

“Okay.” Stiles sat and took a bite of his sandwich. He decided he’d look up hypervigilance later and see if he was correct about his musings. “So where are we going to be training my illustrious wolf?”

“A loft apartment downtown,” Derek said, rattling off the address. “Come by tomorrow, and we’ll work on your control.” He stood and headed towards the window.

“You know my dad’s the Sheriff, right?”

“Yes.” Derek looked at him with a question on his face.

“Well, I hope we’re going to be in this loft legally then.” Stiles just smiled at the glare he received.

“I own it,” Derek said before turning and jumping from the window again.

“Damn it.” Stiles took an angry bite of his sandwich. “I meant to ask him about the fire.”

That was going to be something that would have to wait for tomorrow. He finished his meal and spent the rest of the afternoon and evening researching Peter Hale’s medical records. There was something off there, but Stiles wasn’t sure what.

His dad came home after he’d been at it a while. He poked his head in the door of his room, and he raised his brows at Stiles. “You’ve been out of this room since you got back from the preserve this morning, right?”

“Of course.” Stiles smiled. “I had to eat, and all the food is in the kitchen.”

“Hilarious. I’m headed to bed. I have another long one tomorrow. I have to head over to Springwater and deal with a few things. I’ll be there overnight at least; you’ll be okay here?”

“I’ll be fine. If I need anything, I can always call Tara,” Stiles assured him.

His dad looked at him closely. “Love you, son,” he said and knocked his fist against the frame a couple of times and nodded at his son.

“I know, dad. Love you, too,” Stiles said, picking his laptop back up and smiling, “Go to bed, old man. You have a full day tomorrow.”

After his dad left, Stiles spent the rest of the evening on his laptop. He sent in the paperwork he needed to finalize for his school and to get his appointments for his testing dates after the break.

When he finished with that, he hit the board and sent a few messages back and forth with Art. It was difficult getting the information he wanted without giving too much away, so that was a slow-going endeavor. In his oblique way, Art had confirmed Derek’s assertion that only alphas could turn someone, and rumor said that their eyes glowed red.

Eventually set his laptop aside and got ready for bed. He double-checked that his window was shut and locked. Then he wedged his chair under the knob of his closed door. Hopefully, that would keep him from wandering tonight. As he settled into sleep, he hoped that the nightmares would stay away.

Chapter Five

Stuffing a pop tart in his mouth, Stiles turned into the parking lot attached to the address that Derek had given him the day before. It was 8 am, but he had another of those dreams last night and wanted out of the house. He’d at least waited until after sunrise, but he hoped that Derek was up.

Shutting the Jeep off, he headed into the building. Eyeing the ancient elevator, he considered the stairs for a brief moment. Shrugging, he made his way in and closed the door before heading up to the top floor. The box rattled alarmingly, and Stiles decided he’d take the stairs down if he made it out of the thing intact.

“You’re early,” Derek said, coming into view as Stiles stumbled from the death trap of an elevator.

“I can’t be early. You didn’t give me a time,” Stiles said before getting a good look at Derek. His mouth went dry. The man was wearing another pair of those painted-on jeans and nothing else, the top button undone, and his hair was the cliche of sexy bedhead.

“Why, why are you doing this to me?” Stiles closed his eyes and tried to will away his physical response. Derek Hale was hot on a typical day, but he was a walking wet dream right now, making the endeavor difficult.

“What.” Derek scowled harder at him, if possible, giving the air a sniff.

“Don’t even, mister!” Stiles shook his finger at the other wolf., “I’m seventeen. Wind makes me horny. You are just – gah!” Stiles just waved his hands around. “Look, I’ll try to control it, but you keep your sniffer to yourself.”

Derek just looked at him with raised brows. “Gah?”

“I’m done with this conversation,” Stiles determined with a clap of his hands. “So, what are we training today?”

Derek directed him towards the other side of the loft where there were some exercise mats and weights out.

“You have quite the setup for someone who hasn’t been here in six years,” Stiles said as Derek had him use the weights to see where his strength currently was.

“We’ve had someone we trust looking in on our properties while we’ve been gone,” Derek said, motioning Stiles over to some mats set up on the floor. “Now we meditate.”

“I don’t think that’s going to work very well,” Stiles said, once again ignoring Derek’s glare. “I’ve never been very good at it, that’s all.”

“You need to find an anchor,” Derek shrugged. “You seem to be doing okay right now, but when the next full moon comes, you’ll need an anchor.”

“An anchor?” Stiles asked, sitting on one of the mats and mimicking Derek’s pose.

“Yes, an anchor is what holds us to our humanity,” Derek said.

“That doesn’t make sense,” Stiles argued. “I mean, I get having a focal point if the wolf part of the brain wants to be too forward, but you are human.”

“We are, and we aren’t,” Derek replied, “regardless, you need to find an anchor. Something that will help you hold to your humanity, especially when the pull of the moon is strong. A good enough anchor might be some help against the pull of the Alpha.”

“Well, that I can get behind.” Stiles slapped his hands on his thighs. “Let’s get to anchoring.”

“You,” Derek stopped and pinched the bridge of his nose. “Never mind, just close your eyes and focus on what makes you human.”

So Stiles closed his eyes and thought about what it meant to be human and what it meant to be a wolf. He didn’t know how as a werewolf there was such a definitive distinction between being wolf and being human, but Derek was his only expert at this point.

His dad – his dad – was a point in the human column; so were Tara and the others at the department. He wasn’t sure that any of that would hold him to humanity, though. He loved his dad, and his dad loved him, but the bond between them was stretched pretty thin these days. He was closest with Tara at the station, but until he could tell her about werewolves, there was going to be a wall between them.

“Stiles,” Derek’s sharp voice brought him back out of his thoughts. “Any progress?” he demanded.

“I know a few things that won’t work.” Stiles shrugged. “I don’t think this is going to be as easy as you seem to think it will be.”

“I don’t think it will be easy,” Derek replied, rolling to his feet in a move that had Stiles choking on his tongue.

“You are so unfair,” Stiles muttered, clambering to his own feet.

“What?” Derek turned back to look at him as he pulled a shirt on, finally.

“Nothing, just talking to myself over here,” Stiles babbled, moving his hands in a shooing motion.

“You’re a strange kid,” Derek said after staring at him a minute.

“I’m the strange one?” Stiles started to laugh until he had to sit down again, “I don’t think I’m all the much younger than you are, by the way, so lay off the kid crap.”

“I’m 22,” Derek said. “I’m not a teenager.”

“So what, I’m a teenager,” Stiles shrugged, “I also turn 18 in about four months. So, like I said, old man, lay off the condescending bullshit, okay.”

Derek stared at him until Stiles’ cell phone rang, pulling their attention to it. Stiles grabbed for it and looked at the caller ID. It was his dad.

“Hey, dad,” Stiles said, watching as Derek’s head tilted just enough to show he was listening.

“Stiles.” The Sheriff was in his voice, so it must be serious. “I heard from one of the deputies that you went over to the old loft on Wilmington Street.”

“Yep,” Stiles said. “Sorry, I forgot to text.”

“Stiles,” he sighed. “Why are you at the loft? You don’t know anyone in that area.”

“I know, dad,” Stiles replied. “This is Derek Hale’s current address, though, right?”

“Yes.” The Sheriff’s voice was cautious now. “How would you know that, son?”

“I’ve been talking with Derek for a few months now, online.” Stiles laughed, giving his dad the fabricated response he’d come up with last night about not only why he was here, but also about why he was hanging out with Derek Hale, someone who hadn’t been in Beacon Hills for six years. “He came into town the other day and we ran into each other, literally.”

“You’ve been talking to Derek Hale online.” There it was, the sigh of exasperation. “How did you come to talk to Derek Hale online, Stiles?”

“One of my roleplaying boards,” Stiles said, shrugging even if his dad couldn’t see him. He didn’t think he needed to tell his dad that he hadn’t been on one of those boards for the last year. “He ended up in one of my groups. We got to talking about monsters and magic. He let slip some information, and you know how nosy I can be.”

“I’m aware.” Stiles could almost see his dad pinching the bridge of his nose. “So, you figured out that he was Derek Hale from Beacon Hills?”

“Yeah, I never said anything since I didn’t expect to meet him in person,” Stiles replied. “After what happened to his family, I didn’t think he’d ever come back here. It was a surprise to run into him yesterday. I insisted on coming over to visit.”

“Of course, you did,” his dad sighed again. “Stiles, just be careful. Derek came into town to report his sister missing two days ago. He probably doesn’t want to play any games right now.”

“Yeah,” Stiles glanced at Derek, whose face now resembled a stone statue. “I got that. He’s really worried, dad. He said that she’s never been out of contact like this. They’re conscientious about it since the fire.”

“I know, son.” Another sigh. “We’re doing all we can. When I get back from Springwater, unless something comes up, you should have him come over for dinner.”

“I can ask,” Stiles replied without commitment. “He might not want to leave the loft for very long, though.”

“Just ask.” There was the sound of a door opening and voices coming from his dad’s side of the line. “I’ve got to head out. Let me know if you go anywhere else, please, Stiles. A text is all I’m asking for.”

“Sure, Dad. I’m sorry I forgot. I just got excited about seeing a friend.” He played the lonely kid card, and it worked, just like it always did.

“I know. Love you, kid.”

“Love ya, Dad.” Stiles ended the call. “I assume you heard all that?”

“I don’t play roleplaying games.” He glared at the phone in Stiles’ hand and then at Stiles.

“Maybe not, but we need a reason we’re hanging out for now.” Stiles shrugged,. “Plus, if someone hears us talking about werewolves, we can just play the roleplaying card for them.”

“I’m not coming to dinner,” Derek responded immediately.

“I figured.” Stiles flopped down on the only real piece of furniture in the loft other than the bed in the corner. “You need a new couch; this one is terrible.”

“I didn’t get it for you.” Derek huffed at him, exasperation obvious.

“Of course you didn’t.” Stiles laid down with his head over the back of the couch, tilting his neck so he could see Derek. “It’s killing my back and I’ve been on it less than a minute.”

Derek’s eyes flashed blue and he turned away. “You are unbelievable.”

“Am I?” Stiles asked, smiling without malice. “I don’t know about that. You know, I’m not even sure if I should be trusting you. You seem hellbent on tracking down your sister and this alpha, leaving me behind to figure everything out on my own.”

Derek turned back around to stare at him. His eyes flashed blue again before he closed them and pinched the bridge of his nose.

Stiles was used to eliciting that expression, so he wasn’t too concerned about it. However, he did wonder where Derek got off telling him about control when his eyes kept impersonating a strobe light.

“No, I mean come on, Derek,” Stiles continued. “I can’t get all the information from my senses like you can. As you said, none of my abilities are stable yet, and as for the smelling thing…” Stiles trailed off, waving a hand in the air in frustration. “It’s like I’m in a foreign country there; I hear the language, but I don’t have anything to compare it to, so I can’t translate it beyond ‘Ms. Casker smells like peanut butter now’.”

Derek gave a long-drawn-out sigh. “I’ll teach you that, but we need to get your anchor first.”

“Because that will be what helps you find and defeat this alpha? Or because it is the best place to start with me and my fluctuating abilities?” Stiles rolled his head on the back of the couch to stare straight at Derek and saw the look of surprise that flashed across his face. “I’m not actually an idiot, you know.”

“I want to catch the alpha.” Derek shrugged without shame. “You could be a help in doing that if you can control yourself. So yes.”

“A means to an end?” Stiles gave a bitter smile. “Or bait?”

“We’re becoming a pack, one way or another,” Derek said. “That means we’re brothers.” It looked like Derek would continue on that theme, but Stiles was choking on his laughter.

“No,” Stiles managed, waving his hand at Derek when he calmed down. “We are not brothers. I can possibly get behind becoming a pack. My research has shown that it’s important for werewolves to have one, but there is no way in this universe I will ever consider you my brother.”

Derek looked a little hurt for a second before he covered it up with another scowl. “Fine, if that’s how you feel.”

“Oh, don’t get your panties in a twist, boo.” Stiles smirked when Derek growled at him. “It would be a little disturbing to want to jump my own brother, is all I’m saying.”

“What the fuck.” Derek’s eyes were so wide that Stiles could see the whites easily.

Oh, look, we’ve lost the question marks again, Stiles thought with a sigh. “Man, you said you could smell my pheromones and chemosignals, right? Well, do they smell familial at all?” He stared at Derek, feeling his eyebrows lift. “Because if so, we need to talk about some things.”

“You’re impossible,” Derek finally said after a long moment.

“Practically my middle name,” Stiles said, rolling to his feet. “So, are we done with this training for now?”

“For now,” Derek agreed, crossing his arms and giving Stiles a nice view of taut muscles outlined by his shirt. Brotherly was not an option here.

“Then let’s talk about your sister and this alpha,” Stiles said, moving towards the counter in the kitchen area and hopping up. “I’ll need to get you some whiteboards or something so we can lay things out easier.” He glanced around the apartment, trying to think about what he would need to start putting things together.

Derek stood there in silence, glaring at him, but Stiles was getting used to his glares. While Derek had more time and training as a werewolf, he didn’t seem to want to hurt Stiles physically. That muted his fear response quite a bit.

“You reported your sister, Laura?” Stiles stared back at Derek until he nodded reluctantly, “Okay, you reported her missing, which is a good strategy if you are right and she’s dead. If they find her body, later on, you should make sure you have a decent alibi for the twenty-four hours surrounding her time of death.”

“I was in New York getting ready to fly out here when I felt the bond snap,” Derek admitted through clenched teeth. “I didn’t kill my sister.”

“Didn’t say you did, dude.” Stiles waved away Derek’s ire. He continued as thoughts tumbled over and took shape in his mind. “I’ve given Dad a reason that we know each other. You’ll have to pretend you can stand to be in the same room as me,” he said, raising his eyebrows at Derek’s glare and pointed at him. “Which means you can’t glare at me like that around him and maybe tone it down when we are out in town.”

“I don’t see why you had to tell your dad anything,” Derek growled, stalking closer. “You should have kept him out of it.”

The way Derek moved towards him flipped all kinds of switches for Stiles, and he just stared for a minute when Derek got right up in his space. “You know, your eyes are beautiful. What color are they?”

Derek’s head snapped back, his head tilting in what was evident confusion. “What does that have to do with anything?”

“Hmm?” Stiles leaned closer, trying to get a better look. He overbalanced on the counter and caught himself with a hand on Derek’s chest. His excellent and substantial chest. He snatched his hand back before it could give it a testing squeeze that would probably get him tossed into a wall. “Nothing just noticed them and was curious.”

“You -” Derek shook his head, obviously deciding to let it go. “Why did you tell your dad anything?”

“Because he’s my dad and he’s not stupid,” Stiles said. “The deputies knew I was here, so he did, too. You’re lucky it was him on the phone and not Tara. She’d be harder to lie straight out to. This way, the story will go through dad and circle to her, and I’ll just have to confirm it.” He laughed and tried not to think that his dad knew more about him through his deputies than with any first-hand knowledge. “This way, we have a reason to be around each other without being too suspicious and it gives you an in with law enforcement if something happens.”

“Like what,” Derek grunted, but he looked to be taking in what Stiles was saying.

“Well, like those hunters you were talking about, and I don’t think you would have warned me if you didn’t think they’d show up here eventually.” Stiles gave Derek a glare of his own. “This way, maybe they’ll be a little hesitant to take you on if you are at least on speaking terms with the sheriff.”

“They’ll suspect both of you as being sympathizers at the very least,” Derek warned.

“Yeah, well, it’s not like I can change what I am,” Stiles said. “I don’t want my dad to be in danger, but unless I suddenly move out and live completely separate from him, I don’t think this will stay hidden more than six months or so.”

“You’re still in school,” Derek said with a frown.

“Ok non sequitur, I’ll bite.” He laughed at his pun, “Yes, I’m still in school, but I’ve already been in talks with the career counselor about taking my tests in January for early graduation. I was going to put it off, but after all this, I don’t think that would be a good idea.”

“Why wouldn’t you want to graduate early?” Derek asked.

“Because my dad wanted me to have the full high school experience.” He shrugged. “When I got back into the right frame of mind for school, I had fallen behind some. I managed to catch up quickly and moved ahead faster than he wanted me to. He asked if I wanted to miss out on everything. I knew he meant that he didn’t want me to take the advanced track. I still managed to get through everything quicker than I should have.” Stiles laughed mirthlessly. “As I said, I was going to put it off, but I already sent in the paperwork to move ahead the other day.”

“School will probably be difficult for you until you have better control,” Derek replied. He didn’t seem to be agreeing or disagreeing with him. “College won’t be any better.”

“Yeah, I just about took Jackson’s head off the other day when he was a dick at the track.” Stiles thought about how Jackson had flown the short distance between the two vehicles and how close he’d come to mauling the asshole. “College can wait, or I can do some online classes while I figure out how to attend class long term.”

“Hmm.” Derek looked at him, a complicated expression on his face. “You’re smart, aren’t you?”

Stiles laughed. “Way to make that sound insulting, dude.” Laughing some more, he nodded. “Yeah, I’m pretty smart. There have been some hurdles through school, but I’ve managed.” Raising his finger, he pointed it at Derek. “Don’t think I didn’t notice you changing the subject, though.”

“I didn’t.” Derek frowned, snapping his jaw shut, huffing. He glared at the wall behind Stiles.

“You did,” Stiles argued. “Now, am I bait or your partner in taking down the alpha?”

Derek was silent, arms crossed. He glared at Stiles at full power now. “We aren’t partners. I let you help because you’re going to end up in the middle anyway.”

“So, bait it is, then?” Stiles sighed. “I’ll have to trust you to be my backup, and dude, you do not inspire that kind of trust right now.”

Derek shrugged, looking completely unapologetic. “I didn’t say that you had to trust me. I just want to keep you from killing someone and bringing hunters down on our heads before I can get the alpha.”

Stiles stared at him and wondered at the pinch of hurt Derek’s words caused. He’d known that Derek wasn’t interested in anything but his own need for vengeance and that Stiles was just a means to an end for him, but still. “Ouch. I’m crushed, Derek. I may never recover.”

“You’ll get over it,” Derek said with a roll of his eyes. “Once I take care of the alpha, I’m going back to New York.” He looked at Stiles with some speculation in his eyes, “I could probably try and find someone to help you afterward.”

“Your generosity knows no bounds.” Sarcasm rolled off Stiles’ tongue, sharp and cold. “I get it, I do, but maybe you can be a little less of an ass while we pretend to be friends in front of my dad and around town.”

“Why?”

“Because if you don’t, you’re going to be their suspect, and even if you’re cleared, the town will still think of you as a suspicious character. None of that will help with your goal of taking down the alpha.”

“I don’t care.” Derek managed to shrug angrily. His tone was dismissive.

“Okay, good talk.” Stiles felt exhausted trying to deal with Derek. “I’m going to go get some coffee and work on pushing my graduation date up since those are things I know I can accomplish today.”

He stopped and patted Derek on the shoulder, ignoring the glare he got. “See ya later, Sourwolf.” He headed out the door and down to his Jeep. He needed some coffee.

Chapter Six

That set the pattern that became his routine over the next few days.

When his dad made it back from Springwater, they did their quick single gift Christmas exchange, awkward hugs, and Die Hard tradition. Stiles couldn’t say how their traditions became more uncomfortable and silent every year, but they did. When they went their separate ways, the sheriff spoke to him a bit more about Derek, but he didn’t seem suspicious about the friendship. If anything, he seemed relieved that Stiles had an actual flesh and blood friend again.

The dreams of fire and death continued to disrupt his sleep every night, and he found himself in the preserve twice more, but he thought the meditation ‘find your anchor’ sessions with Derek were helping some. He still hadn’t told Derek about the dreams; he wasn’t sure what to think of them. He figured it was his active imagination putting the things he was reading about the Hale fire into his dreams. He could do without his active imagination, just this once.

That was the status quo for the next week, and then a jogger found Laura Hale’s body. More to the point, they found half of her body. The Sheriff’s department was cordoning off the preserve and commencing a search for the other half.

“Excuse me?” Stiles stared at Derek in horrified shock. “Half?”

“It’s a hunter’s device for ensuring that a wolf stays dead,” Derek said, shrugging as if it meant nothing, but Stiles could see how haunted his eyes looked.

“If hunters killed your sister, what about this alpha?” Stiles asked, moving on without giving in to his desire to hug Derek.

“I don’t know.” Derek scowled. “It means there are hunters in town, though.”

“Yeah, I got that,” Stiles said dryly with a roll of his eyes.

“They’ll probably know I’m a werewolf,” he said. “Which means if they’ve seen you with me, they’re going to assume you are one too.”

“Lucky me,” Stiles said, taking a bite of one of the sandwiches he’d brought over to Derek’s place. The guy never had anything to eat except some protein bars and the occasional carton of take-out leftovers. “Not much I can do about that now, though.”

“School starts in a couple of days,” Derek said, again changing the subject.

“Yep, I’ve already got my paperwork in, and Ms. Dillon emailed me this morning. I’m on the list to take the scheduled tests this month. After that, I’m all done with high school. Assuming I pass,” Stiles laughed. “It was amazing how easy it was once I decided to do it. I had more credits than I’d thought.”

“So, you won’t be in school after this month?” Derek asked.

“No, as long as I can pass the tests. I won’t be in school this month beyond checking in with Ms. Dillon and any studying I need to do in the school library. I still need to find some way to tell my dad, though.” Stiles shrugged and changed the subject back to Laura. “Did they say anything about the cause of death?”

“No,” Derek huffed. “They’re checking my alibi.”

“Yeah, that’s routine. You’d have a lot more trouble if you were skulking around in the woods or had been being all sketchy when you got into town. Instead, you reported her missing and contacted your online buddy,” Stiles pointed a finger at himself and ignored Derek’s eye roll. “Even if you didn’t come over for dinner, you’ve managed a couple of decent conversations with my dad and the occasional deputy around town. So, unless something unusual pops up, you’ll be fine.”

“You mean like checking my online presence and seeing that I’ve never been part of any online role-playing group.”

“Oh, I took care of that after I left here that day.” Stiles waved that worry away.

“You took care of it.” Derek’s eyebrows looked like they might lift right off his forehead at that.

“Yeah, I got your information and you are a member of one of my bulletin boards. You have been for the last four years, and though you usually lurk, you’ve been in a few of the smaller campaigns.”

Derek sighed, shaking his head and apparently deciding just to let that go. “I have to figure out a memorial for her once she is released.” He sat down on the couch and just stared at the wall. It looked as if things were starting to catch up to him.

“Derek,” Stiles stopped. He didn’t know what to say to the man that had lost the last real member of his family. He did know what he’d hated to hear when he’d been on the other side, though. “I’ll help in any way I can.”

Over the last week, Stiles had realized that while Derek might have some genuine social and anger issues, he wasn’t a bad guy. He was just dealing with a lot and it didn’t help that he didn’t know what to do with Stiles at all. As a person or a werewolf.

“I’ll be fine,” Derek snapped just before his shoulders slumped. “I’ll be fine,” he repeated, a little quieter.

“Of course you will,” Stiles agreed, coming to sit beside him on the couch. He was careful not to touch Derek since that always seemed to unsettle him. “Doesn’t mean you have to be fine right now, though.”

He didn’t bring up the fact that the deputies were going to be scouring the preserve for the other half of Laura’s body over the next few days or that the alpha hadn’t made any sort of move beyond having Stiles end up half-naked in the wood a couple of times.

Derek turned his head to look at Stiles and finally seemed to see him. “Thanks.”

“Any time, dude,” Stiles said with a smile.

“Don’t call me, dude,” Derek ordered, but there was a slight tic at the side of his mouth that showed his amusement.

“It’s late. I need to go home and get some sleep,” Stiles said reluctantly. It was becoming more difficult to leave Derek alone every day. He was genuinely starting to like the guy. Derek was gruff and kind of an asshole, but he’d been helping Stiles. In just this week, Stiles had come to call him a friend. He didn’t know if Derek would say the same thing, but he thought he saw a slight softening of Derek’s attitude towards him.

“I’ll see you tomorrow.” Derek said. “We can go running in the preserve if they open any of the trails.”

“Sure,” Stiles nodded and headed towards the door. “Hey, if you need anything, my window is open.” He left to the sound of Derek’s amused huff. It warmed him all the way to the gas station.

Pulling up next to the pump, he noticed the two black SUVs that pulled in behind him and felt the hair on the back of his neck go up. He shot a text off to Derek and another to Tara at the station, she might not be in the know, but if someone was following him, she could at least document it.

He got out of his Jeep, despite Derek’s reply to ‘Get out of there idiot, go home.’ He needed gas, and since he’d be home alone, it was probably safer here than to let whoever was following him home.

“Hey, Miss Mary,” Stiles said with a wave. “Can I get twenty on pump two?”

“Sure, Stiles.” Mary shook her finger at him “Don’t go buying a bunch of junk in here. You need to make yourself a real meal. You can’t live off peanut butter cups and soda, young man.”

“I’m young still,” Stiles said with a laugh, pulling his wallet out. “I should take advantage while I can get away with it.”

“Be careful,” Mary laughed with him, taking his money and waving him off. “Take too much of an advantage, and you’ll start to look like Bill here.” She pointed to the enormous orange tabby that was curled up in his bed, glaring at Stiles.

“I don’t know, Miss Mary,” Stiles said. “Bill has a nice, plush life. I could get behind that.”

Miss Mary smelled like lavender and lemon and cat. Stiles turned his head and sneezed twice. He smiled apologetically at the older woman, but she just waved him off.

“Go fill your Jeep up, you rascal,” Mary swatted at him.

Stiles was still laughing as he left the store and headed towards his Jeep. He kept an eye on the SUVs while he started to fill up and wasn’t surprised when the doors opened and a group of rangy-looking men stepped out and moved towards him.

“Hello,” Stiles said with a smile. “You folks lost? I don’t recognize you from around here.” He took in the hunting rifles and bows they were carrying. He widened his eyes and frowned at them. “You’re not going to hunt around here, I hope. The preserve is off-limits for that kind of thing. You shouldn’t have your guns out here, either. There’s an investigation going on right now anyway, so it’s closed for camping, too.”

“We saw you with Derek Hale,” the man that had taken point said. He was of average height, stocky build with short-cropped brown hair scattered with grey. He sported a matching beard, trimmed neatly, and a hunting rifle held across his body.

“Yeah?” Stiles leaned forward, interested. “Derek is a friend. You know him?”

“He’s dangerous,” he snapped viciously, waving the weapon he was carrying. “You’ll stay away from him if you know what’s good for you.”

“Wow,” Stiles said, eyes widening. He stepped back. “I don’t even know you or your buddies here, so I don’t think you get to have an opinion on my friendships.”

The pump stopped and Stiles pulled the nozzle out of his gas tank and hung it back up. He turned, tightening the cap back on his tank, keeping the men in the corner of his vision.

“We’re being nice and warning you to stay away from Derek Hale,” one of the others said as he stepped forward, face twisted into a sneer.

“Still don’t know who you are,” Stiles said, slipping his hands into his pockets and leaning against his Jeep. He curled his lips into a smirking smile that had earned him detention in every chemistry class he’d had with Mr. Harris last year. “Seems kind of rude, you know?”

The man who’d spoken originally stepped forward. “I’m Christopher Argent. Who are you?”

Stiles let his smile creep onto his face slowly as he replied, “Stiles Stilinski, and it looks like you are going to need to leave.”

“Who the hell do you think you are, kid?” One of Argent’s bully boys stepped forward, a knife in his hand.

“Not the group of grown men intimidating an underage kid at a gas station,” Stiles replied as he watched two County Sheriff’s vehicles pull into the station with their lights on.

The group of assholes stepped back as Stiles gave Tara a wave when she stepped out of the lead vehicle.

“Stiles,” Tara started, approaching slowly, her eyes not leaving the weapons, “Who are your friends?”

“Hey, Tara,” Stiles said with a quick wave. “Not sure who the rest of them are, but this gentleman here says his name is Christopher Argent. I was telling them that the preserve is closed to hunting if that was what they were looking for.”

Tara and her partner, Ben Rowder, had managed to circle the area closest to Stiles while deputies in another vehicle were coming up on the other side of the group.

“He’d be correct, Mr. Argent,” Tara replied. “Are those weapons loaded?” Tara’s service weapon was in her hand at her side while she asked her questions.

Stiles heard the anger riding every word she spoke and, if it were anyone else, he’d feel sorry for the hunters that had fallen into her bad books.

Derek’s Camaro pulled in on the other side of the station and he got out to head towards Stiles. One of the deputies moved to stop him.

“It’s okay, Donny, that’s Derek. Mr. Argent here was telling me that I should stay away from him, but he wouldn’t say why.” Stiles turned wide eyes to Christopher Argent. “We’ve been friends for a while and my dad, the Sheriff, knows him.”

Donny let Derek pass and he headed over, planting himself next to Stiles and glaring at everyone. “Hunters?” Stiles whispered so that only Derek would hear him. Derek gave a short nod.

“I’m afraid I’m going to have to ask you gentlemen to come down to the station,” Tara said, gesturing to the other deputies around them. “Please put down your weapons and come along peacefully.”

Stiles saw that each of the deputies had their weapons out, and while they weren’t yet pointing them at the group of hunters, they were ready to do so. He noticed the deputies were in gear. Someone had let them know about the weapons involved in time to put on their vests between his text and their arrival. He glanced at the store where he was sure Miss Mary had her nose pressed to a window.

“I think there has been a misunderstanding here,” Argent tried to defend himself, carefully holding his weapon away from his body.

“You are in a public area with loaded weapons,” Tara replied. “That is against the law. I’m sure that your lawyers can explain the misunderstanding to me once we get to the station.”

“No, I won’t let him stand there pretending to be human,” one of the taller men said, his blonde hair almost entirely covered by a ball cap. He brought his rifle up and aimed it at Stiles and Derek.

Instantly the deputies had their weapons out and up. “Sir, put the weapon down.”

“No, he doesn’t get to stand there pretending to be normal,” he ranted, practically foaming at the mouth with his need to attack.

“Joseph.” Argent had laid his weapon down as soon as the deputies had shouted. “You need to put your gun down, son.”

“No, I have to protect everyone from those beasts.”

“Put your weapon down, or we will shoot!” Ben said a few feet to the side of Tara.

It all happened in a matter of seconds. Crazy hunter shot at Derek and Stiles, Derek yanked Stiles around to cover him, and the deputies opened fire on the hunter.

Stiles felt the bullet hit Derek’s arm from where he had it wrapped around him. “You’ve been shot.”

“Yes,” Derek said through gritted teeth. “It’s been laced with wolfsbane. I can feel it already.”

“Shit, what do we do?” Stiles said, shoving Derek back some to try and get a look at his arm.

“Need to get this bullet out,” Derek said. “Then I need one just like he shot me with so I can heal the poison.”

“Okay, okay.” Stiles took in a deep breath, “I’m assuming you don’t want them to know the bullet is still in you then?”

“No, they can’t do anything, and the risk of being found out is too great,” Derek said, adjusting his arm, covering the wound.

“Okay, look, we’ll say you were grazed, but you’ll refuse medical attention,” Stiles said. “They won’t like it, but there isn’t much they can do about it. I’ll grab one of those bullets and you can tell me what I’m supposed to do with it.”

“Has to be one marked with the wolfsbane stamp. A regular bullet won’t work,” Derek said, leaning back against Stiles’ Jeep, which now had two bullet holes in it as well.

“Stiles, you okay?” Tara came up to them as the rest of the deputies began to block off the scene and arrest the remaining hunters.

“I’m fine,” Stiles assured her. “The Jeep caught most of it, Derek got grazed, but he doesn’t want to go to the hospital.” He glanced at Derek and then moved a little away to talk with Tara. “I think he has a phobia about hospitals like I do. It really is just a scratch, but I’ll make him keep an eye on it.”

“It’s a good thing you texted me, Stiles. This could have gone down a lot uglier than it did.” They both turned to look at the mess behind her. It was pretty ugly already. Two of the hunters were down and not getting back up, another was wounded, and the other four were in cuffs in the back of the deputy’s vehicles. “Do you have any idea what they wanted?”

“No,” Stiles shook his head because, while he did know, he was still bewildered by their blatant attack on him at a gas station in the middle of town. “Christopher Argent told me I needed new friends and that Derek Hale was dangerous and to stay away from him. He got all intense and intimidating when I asked why and told himthat he didn’t get to decide who I was friends with.”

“Okay, take your friend home and get his arm cleaned up. You’ll have to leave your Jeep until we can clear it from the scene.” She gave him an apologetic look. “I’ve got to get back, but you probably want to give your dad a heads up since this is going to go out over the radio.”

“Shit,” he cursed and ignored the amused tilt of her mouth as he nodded his thanks. “I’ll call him now, get it out of the way.”

“If he’s not back, I’ll have one of the others take your statement so I can sit with you tomorrow, okay?” Tara asked, pulling him into a quick hug, made awkward by her tactical gear. “Scared the crap out of me, little brother.”

“Sorry,” he tried to smile, but he could already feel the adrenaline crash trying to happen. “I’m going to be at Derek’s tonight. I’ll feel better there than home alone. I assume you’ll be at the station.”

“Yeah,” she said, stepping back and holding him at arm’s length. “We are going to talk about Derek Hale, though, but I suppose he’s safe enough. Go on, now. I really have to get back over there.”

Stiles watched her walk away before turning back to where Derek was standing, pale and shaking. “Head to the Camaro. I’ll meet you there,” he said to Derek. “I want to check on Miss Mary really quick, and then we can head to the loft.”

Derek’s glare was weak at this point and he stared at Stiles’ chest for a moment. His brow furrowed before he nodded and headed over to the Camaro.

Stiles watched Donny follow him, probably to get a statement, before heading over to the store. He entered to see Miss Mary sitting on her chair looking at him with wide eyes, the store phone in her hand. “I called them as soon as I saw those vehicles had blocked you in, Stiles. They said they were on the way.”

“Yeah, I noticed that they didn’t look very friendly and sent Tara a text about it.” Stiles shrugged. “They’re going to tow my Jeep, so I’m going to go with Derek for now. You going to be okay, Miss Mary?”

“I’ll be fine,” Miss Mary sighed, finally hanging up the phone. “That was terrifying, but you have a good young man. He protected you quite well, just like a knight in shining armor.” She gave a fluttery sigh, a hand pressed to her generous chest.

“You’ve been reading your romances again, Miss Mary,” Stiles said with a laugh. “Derek is just a friend and he’s here because of his sister.”

“Oh yes, terrible thing. The fire years ago was bad enough, but for them to just start to come back home and then poor little Laura killed. That poor boy, you tell him I’ll stop by that place he’s living and bring him some casserole. He can’t be eating right all by himself while he’s grieving and then this.” She waved her hands around to indicate the mess outside.

“Yeah.” Stiles pulled his face into a solemn expression. He felt no remorse about using what weapons he had against the hunters, even if one of those weapons was the number one gossip in Beacon Hills. “That was Christopher Argent. He was trying to tell me not to be friends with Derek, trying to say Derek was dangerous, but dad did those checks I pretend not to know about.” They shared a little laugh at that. “And Derek was the one to protect me tonight, so I don’t know what they have against him, but I’m worried about it.”

“Oh, don’t you worry, Tara and the deputies will help your father figure it all out,” Miss Mary said with a firm nod.

“Yeah, I’m sure they will,” Stiles agreed. “I’m going to head out and give dad a call, then try and get some rest tonight.”

“You take care, Stiles, and take care of young Mr. Hale as well.”

“Will do,” he said and gave a jaunty wave, secure in the knowledge that he’d just passed one of Beacon Hills chief gossipers enough fuel to set her up for weeks. It would help keep Derek as a victim of the hunters and hopefully give them pause before they tried anything else.

Now, he needed a bullet. Keeping his eyes on the crime scene techs that were arriving now that the living assailants had been hauled away, he circled the vehicles from the side opposite all the activity until he reached the nearest vehicle with a door open. Stiles poked his head in and saw a duffle with more weapons and a box of disposable gloves on the floor. He slipped on a pair of the gloves and started digging through the duffle until he found a wooden box. He flipped the box open and found bullets with a flower of some sort stamped on the end. With another glance around, he took the box and pulled off the gloves, slipping both into his pocket. He walked back around the car and waved at Mickey, who was the head of what amounted to their forensics lab.

“I’m going to take Derek home. If anyone asks for us, we’ll be at his loft. I don’t feel comfortable going home with dad out of town. Who knows if they were following me around or not.” Stiles shuddered.

“Sure, sure,” Mickey said, his eyes watching his guys gather evidence while he stopped to talk to Stiles. “Take care of yourself, kid. This got ugly fast from what I heard.”

“Yeah, it did,” Stiles agreed before giving a wave and heading back towards the Camaro. Derek was leaning against the side, looking pale and sweaty. “Well, you don’t look too good. Give me your keys. You can’t drive like that.”

“Did you get it?” Derek ignored him, so Stiles batted his hands away and grabbed the keys out of his pocket.

“Of course I did,” Stiles replied with false affront before he led the unresisting wolf to the passenger side door and got him settled. Once he was in the driver’s seat and backing out of the parking lot, he glanced at Derek. “So, wolfsbane?”

“It was in the bullet.” Derek managed to shrug his jacket off.

Stiles got a glimpse of a large hole in the meat of his bicep, black lines running out from around it. The smell was horrendous and Stiles gagged for a second before he caught himself. “How bad is it?”

“If it reaches my heart, I’m dead,” Derek said, leaning his head against the window.

“Well,” Stiles managed, taking the turns that would lead him back to the loft. When they got there, Stiles had to help Derek up to the loft, which meant making use of the death trap elevator.

“I can do it,” Derek muttered, trying to walk on his own, only to thump up against the elevator walls and lean hard as the elevator moved upwards to the loft apartment.

“I’m sure you can,” Stiles said with false cheer, “But you don’t have to now, do you?”

They survived the elevator, and Stiles got Derek laid out on the couch. “Okay, now what?”

“You need to open the bullet,” Derek gasped out, and Stiles noticed that the black lines had disappeared under the sleeve of Derek’s shirt.

Stiles made Derek sit up so he could get the shirt off him and see how far the poison had gone. He grimaced at how close those black veins were getting to Derek’s chest and quickly popped open the bullet. “Okay, now what?”

“Pour what’s inside into a pile.” Derek managed to get his shirt off with only a small struggle before falling back on the couch.

Stiles did so and then looked back at Derek for further instructions.

“Light it on fire.”

“Light it on fire,” Stiles repeated blankly.

“Yes, then take the ash and press it into the bullet wound.” Stiles could see that he was gritting his teeth against the pain and that damp sweat was visible on his skin.

“Oh, this is all sorts of fun,” Stiles muttered. “How am I supposed to light it? I don’t have any matches.”

“I’ve got a lighter in my pocket.” Derek lifted his hips and tried to get out the lighter that Stiles could see outlined, but he didn’t seem to have the strength.

“Well, this isn’t how I imagined getting into your pants,” Stiles said, smacking Derek’s hands out of the way and wriggling his fingers into the tight denim to pull out the lighter.

He flicked it on and set fire to the pile of debris from the bullet. It sparked and flashed before leaving behind a pile of dark ash. “Okay, now I just press it into the wound, no problem.”

He gathered up the ash and turned back towards Derek, only to find him passed out and pale. “Great, just great.”

He leaned over and pressed the ash into the bullet wound, waiting for it to do whatever it was supposed to do. Derek arched up off the couch, growling and eyes flashing, before slumping back down, once again passed out. The black lines were beginning to disappear, though, and Stiles could hear Derek’s steady heartbeat, so he told himself not to worry. Stiles cleaned up and tossed the blanket from the back of the couch onto Derek before grabbing his cell.

“Stiles.” The relief in the sheriff’s voice was palpable.

“Hey, dad,” Stiles said, trying to sound reassuring. “I’m fine. Tara and the deputies got there on time, and so did Derek.”

“I heard.” His sigh of relief echoed between them. “Tell that boy that he has to come to dinner now so I can thank him for saving you.”

“Saving me?” Stiles heard something in his dad’s voice that led him to believe that something had happened that he wasn’t aware of.

“Mickey told me the trajectory of the bullets that hit the Jeep, son. If Derek hadn’t moved you, according to Tara…” His dad didn’t finish, but Stiles heard the fear in his voice and felt his fear swamp him.

With shaky legs, he sat down on the end of Derek’s bed, the only other real piece of furniture in the loft at the moment. “Wow, I didn’t know it was that close. I’ll let him know. I was going to stay here at the loft tonight if that’s okay.”

“That’s fine, kid,” his dad said. “It looks like they were following you and not Derek, despite what they were saying about him. I’d feel more comfortable with you there. I’ve got some deputies keeping an eye on the loft for now.”

“Thanks, Dad,” Stiles said. “Are you coming home?”

“Not right now. You’re okay right?” his dad asked.

“Yeah, I’m fine. Maybe a little shaken up, but I’ll be okay,” Stiles reassured.

“Okay then, I need to finish up here before I head home unless you think you need me?” the sheriff asked, but Stiles could hear him already shuffling papers and starting to type on the computer.

“No, I’m fine,” Stiles said. “You finish up, and I’ll see you when you get back to town.”

They talked a few more minutes before Stiles ended the call. He set the phone down beside him on the bed and stared across the room at Derek, who was still passed out on the couch. He got up and managed to get Derek’s shoes off before covering him up again. Feeling exhausted himself, Stileskicked off his shoes and took his jacket off before crawling up onto Derek’s bed and curling up under the covers to try and get some sleep.

Chapter Seven

Stiles woke to the sun shining into his eyes from Derek’s large, uncovered windows and to the smell of eggs and bacon. He sat up, rubbing his eyes with the back of his hand, before crawling out of Derek’s amazingly comfortable bed.

“You’re awake.” Derek’s voice was gruff, but there was something else in it as well. He was transferring scrambled eggs from a pan onto a large plate. Another plate piled high with bacon and sausage sat next to it. “Good, breakfast is ready.”

“Um.” Stiles’ brain was still half asleep, and the image in front of him didn’t compute, but he knew better than to say that. “Thanks?”

“Your dad called,” Derek said, handing Stiles a plate with some of everything and a fork. He gestured towards the couch and the coffee table, so Stiles headed that way to eat. “He won’t be back for a couple more days and asked if I wouldn’t mind having you stay with me.”

“He say why?” Stiles asked, sitting and forking up some eggs. “I know I felt uneasy last night about going home, but things should be fine today, right?”

Derek shrugged. He still looked uncomfortable that he had even the most minor of relationships with the sheriff. “He didn’t tell me much. Just that the hunters aren’t talking and that another died at the hospital.”

“Shit,” Stiles muttered around his eggs. “So we don’t know if there are others around, then?”

“No,” Derek said, eating his breakfast. “We know that Christopher Argent’s wife is in town since she went down to try and bail him out.”

“How did that go?” Stiles asked with a tilt of his head.

“They go before the judge this morning. I guess charges and bail will be decided by then,” Derek replied, obviously not putting much thought into it.

“So we’ll be roomies for a bit, then?” Stiles asked, but he didn’t doubt that Derek would let him stay. “You could always stay at my house; we have an extra room if you want.”

“Why can’t you just stay here?” Derek’s brows furrowed at him.

Looking at the dingy brown of the leather covering the couch, Stiles said,“Well, as lovely as this couch is, I don’t think it’s made for sleeping. Leather isn’t comfortable to sleep on, is all I’m saying.”

“Hmm.” Derek looked down at his plate and took a couple of bites of his eggs. “I like it here and you can sleep in my bed. I’ll take the couch like last night.”

“Hopefully not like last night,” Stiles said, scraping the last of his eggs up, “I don’t want to deal with any more bullet holes, thank you very much.”

Derek stood and took their dishes before heading back to the kitchen area.“I’ll take you by your house to get some clothes and things. “Then, I want to take you somewhere, introduce you to someone.”

“Huh,” Stiles said, standing up and heading into the bathroom to wash the bacon grease off his hands. “Okay, I’m ready.” He came back out running damp hands through his hair. It was still pretty short, but it was beginning to grow out enough to be noticeable when he looked in the mirror.

Derek grabbed his leather jacket and shrugged into it. “Come on.”

Stiles stepped into the elevator after him, still unsure of the contraption. He pulled his phone out to see what time it was and stared at it for a minute.

“Fuck,” he said and looked at Derek, who looked utterly unruffled. “It’s late, how the hell did I sleep so long?”

“I told you before.” Derek glared at him. “Don’t you ever listen? Your body is completely changing from human to werewolf. From what I remember, it’s an exhausting process. You need to eat more too.”

“I listen,” Stiles said a bit defensively. “I just didn’t expect to sleep well past noon, even after last night.”

The elevator came to a stop and they headed out of the building to Derek’s car. Stiles climbed into the passenger seat this time and caught the scent of cleaning products just over the leather. “You’ve been awake for a while if you managed to get the scent of death out of your car, talk to dad, and then make food. I’m pretty sure you had to go to the store to get ingredients for that since last time I looked, Old Mother Hubbard had stocked your cupboards.”

“I woke up a few hours before you,” Derek said as he pulled out of the parking lot. “I had things to take care of.”

They sat in silence for a few minutes before Derek came to a red light. He looked over at Stiles and then laid a hand on his shoulder. “Thank you for your help.”

Stiles wanted to laugh; Derek was so awkward at the moment. He didn’t because he was growing very fond of this awkward Derek who was trying so hard, even if he did revert to glaring scowls before too long. “You’re welcome,” Stiles said. “It was no problem. We’re pack, aren’t we?”

Derek took his hand back to start driving again, and the silence grew heavy between them. “Yeah, we are.”

“Good,” Stiles said. “That’s really good.” He studied Derek for another minute. He was still the fucking hot leather-wearing, scowling, grumpy guy he met a couple of weeks ago, but he was also becoming like a friend to Stiles. “Pack,” he murmured, turning to look out his window as they drove towards his house.

The rest of the drive passed in comfortable silence.“Come on in,” Stiles said once they’d pulled into his driveway. “Might as well be comfortable while I take care of things here.”

Derek scowled but shut the car off and followed him into the house. Stiles unlocked the door, holding it open for Derek.

“I’m going to go pack up some things for the next few days.” Stiles shrugged at Derek’s curious look. “I don’t know when dad will be back. Even with what’s going on, I doubt he’ll make it back here in the next few days, and he’ll be busy at the station after that. If I need anything, I can always call Tara, I guess.”

“Okay.” Derek nodded, moving into the house, seeming to be taking in everything as he looked around.

Stiles tried to imagine what the place looked like to a stranger. The faded material on the furniture. Dust that gathered on shelves no matter how much Stiles tried to clean. Marks on the walls where pictures used to hang and the apparent spots on the mantle and shelves where pictures had been removed and never replaced. He wasn’t embarrassed by his house, but he was aware it was an empty place, especially since his mother had died.

Stiles gave himself an internal shake and got back on track. “You can grab something to drink in the kitchen if you want,” he said. “I’m going to head up.” He jerked a thumb towards the stairs. He put his words into action and grabbed a duffle to shove some clean clothes into. Wrapping his laptop and cords carefully, he put that in the case along with his files on the Hale fire.

It might be awkward, but he still needed to do some research. “Hey Derek, you do have internet, right?” he yelled down the stairs.

“You don’t have to yell; I can hear you just fine,” Derek said. From the sound of it, he was climbing the stairs.

“So, do you have internet?” Stiles asked again, quieter this time. He looked up as Derek came through his bedroom door.

“Yes, Stiles, the loft has internet and Wi-Fi.” Derek looked like he wanted to roll his eyes at him but refrained.

“Okay.” Stiles shouldered his duffle and his computer bag. “Then I guess I’m ready to go.”

Once more in the car and on their way to meet Derek’s mystery person, Stiles wondered for the first time if Derek would get upset about his research into the fire. He decided he’d put off that discussion as long as possible, just in case.

They were pulling into the Beacon Hills Memorial’s parking lot before Stiles realized who they were more than likely going to meet. He kicked himself for not doing more research on Peter Hale. He knew the guy was in some sort of coma or dissociative state, but he hadn’t dug far enough to know what the diagnosis was precisely.

“So,” Stiles started to say, but Derek was already out of the car and waiting for him before he managed to finish the word. “Right.”

He got out and followed Derek into the hospital and up to the long-term care ward. He hung back when Derek signed in, then followed him down the hall to an open door. Stiles looked in the doorway that Derek had entered and looked at the man propped up in a wheelchair staring out the window.

“This is my Uncle Peter,” Derek said, unnecessarily. “He’s the only survivor besides me, now.”

“What happened to him?” Stiles asked because he had the feeling it had to be pretty bad for Peter to end up in here with the werewolf healing factor. “Is he a wolf?”

“Yeah,” Derek said, taking a chair near his uncle. “He was in the house when the fire started. He was the only one who got out of the house alive. He was hurt bad.”

“Why is he here?” Stiles asked, leaning against the wall near the door. He felt icy fingers dance along his spine the longer he was in the presence of the catatonic wolf. “I thought he’d heal, or you would have taken him with you.”

“Laura said we couldn’t take him with us.” Derek looked like he’d disagreed, but left it at that. “He was too hurt and we didn’t even know if he’d survive.”

“That seems kind of harsh,” Stiles said, turning his gaze from the scarred wolf and looking at Derek. “Were you able to check on him over the years?”

“No,” Derek ducked his head a little. “We knew that hunters were responsible for the fire and we weren’t sure whether they were going to come after us. Laura said he’d be safe here since he was in a coma, that the hunters wouldn’t bother with him.”

“That doesn’t seem right.” Stiles came off the wall and walked closer to Peter. Leaning down, he looked closer at him. Red hot ants crawled across his skin, and he backed away quickly. “I don’t think your sister should have left him here by himself, especially under his own name.”

Derek shrugged again. “I didn’t think about it for a while, but when I did bring it up, Laura told me it was her decision. She was my alpha and my older sister. She knew best.”

“Well, if something like this happens to me,” Stiles said, “do me a favor and don’t leave me as a sacrifice to whoever comes after me, okay?”

“Sure,” Derek said seriously, and even when Stiles squinted his eyes at him, he couldn’t tell if Derek was joking or not.

“So, why did you bring me here?” Stiles asked. “I mean, it’s nice to see your uncle and everything, I guess, but I feel like there is more to this than that.”

“This,” Derek said, gesturing at Peter. “This is what hunters do. They set our home on fire and killed almost everyone inside – eleven people, children, and humans among them. They didn’t need a reason beyond the fact that they could.”

“I got that,” Stiles said in slight exasperation.

“No, you don’t, or you wouldn’t have attempted to face down those hunters at the gas station,” Derek practically snarled at him. “You could have been hurt or even killed, and they wouldn’t have cared.”

“Maybe, maybe not.” Stiles stuffed his hands in the pockets of his jeans. “I wasn’t going to bow to their intimidation tactics, though. I may not have a handle on all this wolf stuff, but I do have my own resources to use in our protection.”

“What would you have done if they’d killed one of those deputies?” Derek asked, standing and moving towards Stiles, backing him into the wall. “You could have lost control of your wolf. Right now, they don’t think you’re one of us, but once they do, you’ll never be safe again.”

“Listen, buddy.” Stiles poked a finger into Derek’s chest. “I’m not going to roll over because those rejects from redneck college think they can tell me what to do. If I don’t do it for you, I sure as hell won’t do it for them. You can take your growly grumpy self out of my face because I’m not going to sit by and let them get away with it, either.”

“You’re going to get yourself killed,” Derek snapped, face scowling directly into Stiles’. “You’re going to get your father and all those that you love killed if you aren’t more careful.”

“If you don’t get out of my face like this, I’m going to kiss you,” Stiles said, swallowing down his annoyance and fear. He smirked at the startled look that came into Derek’s eyes. The threat did get him to back up some, though. “I understand that you’re cautious about hunters, but I’m not going to hide because of what might happen.”

“You’re infuriating!” Derek took Stiles by the shoulders and gave him a quick shake as if trying to get through to him.

Stiles felt his eyes flash and he shoved Derek back. “Maybe I am, but you don’t get to decide how I’m going to react to those assholes. I’ve never backed down from bullies, Derek, and that’s just what they are: bullies with guns.”

“Those guns will kill you.” Derek’s frustration leaked through his voice as it dropped to a whisper. “They’ll kill you.”

Stiles got it, then, or at least he thought he did. Derek was alone now and Stiles was the only one here with him. Peter was catatonic, Laura was dead, and Derek had no one left. No one but this newbie stranger. He’d called Stiles pack, and maybe, just maybe, Derek was as hungry for a connection to someone else as Stiles was these days.

“I’m hungry again,” Stiles said, pushing himself off the wall Derek had backed him into. “Let’s go get something to eat and talk about what happens next.” He turned and left the room without looking back.

Derek was right behind him as he reached the car. He waited until they were seated before turning to look at Derek. “I’m not going anywhere, Derek. Yeah, those assholes might try and kill me, but I don’t think they’ll risk it right now. They’re here for something else besides you and me. We need to find out what brought them, and then we can get rid of them.” He smirked at Derek’s glance. “One way or another, we’ll get the hunters out of town.”

They ordered pizza back at the loft and Stiles set up his laptop while they waited for it to arrive. He was doing a quick search to see if Art had gotten back to him when his eye caught a post about halfway down the page.

‘Revenge Spiral seen in California’

He clicked the link and saw an image of a deer with what looked to be a spiral carved into the side. The background in the photo was disturbingly familiar.

“Derek,” he called over to where Derek was doing pull-ups on a bar he’d set up in the doorway of the bathroom.

Derek just grunted and continued to work out. Usually, Stiles would be very appreciative of such a view but now didn’t seem the time.

“What exactly is a revenge spiral and why is someone carving it into deer in our town?” Stiles asked and watched Derek freeze halfway through a pull-up.

“What did you say?” Derek slowly relaxed his arms and dropped from the bar, turning to look at Stiles.

“A revenge spiral.” Stiles gestured to his laptop. “It looks like one was found on a deer, and if I’m not mistaken, that deer is in our preserve.”

“Show me,” Derek strode across the room shirtless and sweaty.

Stiles took a breath, trying not to swallow his tongue. It didn’t help because now he could smell Derek. Leather, cardamom, and rich dark chocolate filled his nose and made him a little light-headed.

“Show me,” Derek demanded again, standing over the couch where Stiles had set up with the laptop.

Stiles turned his laptop to show Derek the post on his message board. “I found this site that first day before I met you. A lot of the information is shit, but there were some things on here that rang true, so I keep an eye on it. This photo popped up. I didn’t see it until now since things have been hectic the last few days.”

Derek leaned over, putting his hand on Stiles’ shoulder as he read the posting. “Fuck.”

“Yeah?” Stiles looked up at him. “What does it mean, Derek, and should we be as worried as I think we should be?”

“This is probably why the hunters are here. If they’ve seen this and put it together with Laura’s death, then they think they are hunting a rogue wolf out for revenge in Beacon Hills.”

“In other words, they’re here for you.” Stiles ran his hands over his face, feeling suddenly tired. “This is just awesome. So, what do we do?”

“I don’t know, but this isn’t good.” Derek stood up and began to pace the loft.

Stiles let his eyes follow him while he thought. “Do you think this is why Laura came back?”

“Maybe.” Derek stopped and looked at him. “It would make sense, I suppose.”

“So, whoever did this probably lured her here to kill her,” Stiles said, horrified. “This wasn’t a spur of the moment thing. This was premeditated murder if that is what happened.”

Derek turned and looked out the windows at the fading light of the day, but not before Stiles saw the look of despair on his face. “I should have come with her.” It was said so quietly that if Stiles hadn’t had werewolf senses, he wouldn’t have heard it.

“This isn’t your fault Derek.” Stiles set the laptop on the coffee table and crossed over to the vast wall of windows to stand beside Derek. “You haven’t said much about your sister, but what you have said has left the impression that Laura did whatever she deemed she had to. If she thought she needed to come here and deal with this, then you weren’t going to stop her.”

“She told me to wait in New York for her, that she would only be gone a few days, and then when she came back, we would celebrate Christmas and the New Year together.” Derek sounded so lost that Stiles wanted to hug him, but he refrained.

“It sounds like she wanted to check it out, but she didn’t take it seriously.” Stiles mused, “I think we should take it seriously, so tell me exactly what this means.”

“It’s a symbol of revenge when done like this,” Derek said. “I don’t know all the history behind it. That wasn’t something I’d learned before the fire.”

“Okay, what else?”

“A wolf or a pack will draw it to declare that they are on the path of vengeance, usually after a pack death from an outside source.” Derek paused, obviously searching his mind for the details he’d learned. “This one on the deer, that’s just the beginning volley. The declaration, if I remember right. Next would be the death of those that are guilty.”

“Guilty of what?” Stiles wondered.

“I don’t know.” Derek was quite obviously frustrated. He blew out a breath. “I just know that an alpha or their counsel usually decides something like this.”

“But the only alpha here that we know of is that crazed monster that probably killed your sister and bit me.”

Derek stared at Stiles, a kind of horror etched in his eyes. “Laura wouldn’t have been able to keep from coming here if news of this had reached her. We might not live here anymore, but this is Hale territory, and she’d have felt the drive to protect it.”

“Do you think she knew who or what wanted revenge on the Hales?” Stiles asked, tapping his fingers on the side of his leg as he thought.

“I don’t think so. I didn’t find anything in the Camaro or left in her motel room when I checked on it before reporting her missing,” Derek said.

“Do you think the alpha was targeting Laura for more than her alphaness, or was it against the Hales as a whole?” Stiles asked. “Like did your mom have anyone who would harbor a grudge long enough that they’d come after the last of the Hale pack?”

“I don’t know,” Derek said, frustration leaking out. “I don’t know any of this. Laura was the alpha heir; I was going to be a beta. None of that would have been something I needed to know.”

“But Laura would have told you now if you were in danger, right?” Stiles put a hand on Derek’s shoulder but didn’t take offense when Derek paced away from him.

“I think she would have,” Derek replied, “if she found anything to indicate that it was us that the spiral was targeted at. If she had time.”

“Yeah.” Stiles nodded. “If she had time. So, her death could have been threefold. Her alpha power, revenge, and to keep her from talking.”

“I don’t know,” Derek said. “The werewolf you describe as coming after you – the monster? That isn’t how we look during the shift; he has to be sick somehow. I would think it was an omega that got her spark, but I don’t think an omega could have gotten the drop on her and killed her.”

Stiles was silent as he thought about that. He decided to keep his opinion that Laura could have been distracted enough that anyone or anything could have gotten to her. “You talk about omegas like they’re outside a regular pack. When I did research, an omega seemed to be a normal part of wolf packs.” He hadn’t followed Derek when he’d moved away, but he hadn’t sat back on the couch either. He just crossed his arms to stop his fingers from fidgeting and watched Derek.

“We aren’t actual wolves, Stiles,” Derek said, his exasperation evident. “An omega is a lone wolf in a way. They have no pack bonds and will slowly go mad. Go feral.”

“Feral?” Stiles felt his breath hitch. “Is this something I need to worry about?”

“Not at the moment,” Derek said. He went into the kitchen and got them both a bottle of water.

A few minutes later, there was a knock at the door. Stiles paid the delivery driver and carried the boxes into the living area. Tossing them onto the coffee table, they sat on the sofa and ate directly from the box.

“So, not at the moment…” Stiles encouraged Derek to continue.

“You have a pack bond to the alpha.” He shook his head at Stiles’ sputtering denial. “You do. It might be thin and unable to influence you much, but it is there. We’re also pack, so the bonds between us are starting to grow. That will be enough to keep you from going completely feral, as long as we are careful on your first full moon.”

“So, this alpha douche is part of the reason I’m not crazy.” Stiles chewed on his pizza in contemplation. “Even though the evidence is showing that he’s probably a crazy feral alpha?”

“A rogue alpha,” Derek corrected. “Most alphas don’t go feral in the traditional way since most pack bonds originate from them. They go rogue.”

“Let me guess.” Stiles felt his lips twist in distaste. “Rogue alpha is just a diplomatic way to say feral alpha. Who knew that the werewolf world had politics? That might be more than I can take.”

“Alpha, beta, omega,” Derek said with a shrug, sitting back on the couch and wiping his hands with the napkins provided by the pizza place. “It’s a spiral of its own. An omega can become a beta, and a beta can become an alpha, and an alpha can, eventually, become an omega.”

“Like your tattoo.” Stiles waved a hand at him. “The triskele.” At Derek’s look, he smiled. “Of course I looked it up. I didn’t get much beyond the general meaning, but I’m guessing yours means more than some religious structure or a paganism interest.”

“Yes,” Derek said, scowling at his flippant attitude. “It’s to remind me of the cycle in the pack structure, especially after ours was destroyed.”

“Yeah, about that,” Stiles said, ignoring the way Derek’s glare seemed to intensify. “How and why did the hunters do that, after so many years of the Hales living in Beacon Hills? I’m guessing they knew about you before that time.”

“They knew,” Derek said. “I don’t know that they needed a reason to kill us.”

“Okay, but how, then?” Stiles asked, once again back to feeling like he was pulling teeth to get information out of the other man. “How come your mom or someone else didn’t see them coming?”

Derek was back on his feet, angry, and if Stiles didn’t misread it, guilty. “A hunter got close to a younger member of the pack. Secrets were given away and the pack was betrayed.”

“Who was it?” Stiles waved away Derek when he growled at him, “Not the kid, but the hunter.”

“She was an Argent,” Derek bit out. “Kate Argent.”

“Any relation to our pal Christopher?” Stiles asked, already putting together the parts that Derek wasn’t saying.

“She’s his sister,” Derek said, once again glaring at his reflection in the windows.

“Wonderful,” Stiles said. “I guess we can expect her to show up at some point if she’s still alive.”

“More than likely,” Derek agreed.

“Fanfuckingtastic.” Stiles went to the kitchen and washed the grease off his hands before returning to the couch to do a little research.

“I’m going out,” Derek said suddenly. “You don’t go anywhere.”

“Why can’t I come with you?” Stiles said, standing up and following Derek to the door.

“Because I told you to stay here.” Then he was gone before Stiles could so much as look at the shoes he’d taken off shortly after they’d arrived at the loft.

Stiles stood there looking out the door and debated following him but ultimately decided not to. Derek quite obviously needed some time to deal with things and Stiles had research to do. Putting together what Derek had said, it wasn’t too hard to figure out that Derek had been the younger wolf who had given away pack secrets. Stiles wasn’t sure that he agreed that Derek had betrayed his pack. Especially if his calculations were correct and Derek was fifteen or barely sixteen at the time this was going on.

Stiles sat down at his laptop and typed through the protocols that should keep him hidden from anyone who would be looking. He got into the county’s database and pulled up their information on the Argents. He scrolled through, ignoring most of Christopher’s information, but saving it offsite so he could print it out and study it later. He went in further and found Katherine Argent. He didn’t follow that trail back to the FBI to see if they had her fingerprints because he wasn’t as secure in his ability to get through their protections.

He set up a deep dive on her name and found that she’d taken a position as a substitute teacher at the high school right before the fire under her alias as Katie Silva. Things began to fall into place as he saw that she was at least six years older than Derek and his teacher.

“Fuck.” Stiles closed his eyes against the information, letting it sink in. His stomach churned, but he shook his head and got back to work. He couldn’t figure out how she’d gotten past the fingerprinting to be a teacher with her false identity but guessed that the hunters had an in at some level to help them pass in situations like that.

Stiles opened a blank document and began to copy and paste as much information as he could. He’d already saved Katherine Argent’s file offsite with her brother’s file and hoped he’d have time to look into that more thoroughly.

He felt the day dragging on him once he’d finished saving everything, so he shut it down and decided to get some sleep. He hoped that his nightmares of the fire were over. He couldn’t remember any from last night anyway.

He dragged a pair of sweats and a t-shirt out of his bag before changing and curling himself up on the couch. He refused to take Derek’s bed again, and as uncomfortable as the sofa was, he figured it was better than the floor.

Chapter Eight

He was running. The air was ice in his lungs.

“Come on, little beta,” the voice crept in. It delved deep into his being, calling more than his surface self.

The wolf howled. He was on the hunt. Stiles fought the wolf. He didn’t want to hunt. It wasn’t time to hunt yet.

Wolf and man tangled in his psyche. He felt the phantom echo of the bite on his side. Hot breath at his neck, slamming his head into a hard surface. He whined as pain crackled in his bones. Fangs stabbed into the back of his neck, shaking him hard enough to rattle his bones. His wolf fought him, attempting to submit. Stiles forced the wolf back, refusing to give.

“I am your alpha. You will obey me. It’s time to hunt. My prey waits for death, for my vengeance.”

He was in the depot behind the elementary school—most of the school buses parked in their barns. One sat to the side, and that was where he needed to be. A red haze filtered over his vision as he walked across the yard to the bus.

“Vengeance,” it whispered through him. He felt the burning pleasure of what he was about to do. “Finally, they begin to pay for what they’ve done.”

There was a man on the bus. He was panting loudly. Stiles could smell the scent of fear over the alcohol the man had consumed that night. He could smell that the man had pissed himself as soon as his first footstep had touched the bus.

“No, please,” he whimpered at the back of the bus, crouching against the emergency door. Stiles had already disabled it when he had chosen his killing ground. “I’m sorry. I didn’t know.”

“Now you do.” Stiles’ voice echoed strangely in the bus. “You have to pay your dues. We all do eventually, Mr. Meyers.”

Stiles felt the shift come over him. He lunged towards the man, tearing at him with teeth and claws. Blood poured hot down his face, flesh tore beneath his teeth, beneath his claws. He reveled in the bloody death he left on the floor of the bus when he stepped back.

“Look at you, my beta.” Another man was there when he’d finished. “You will make a wonderful packmate. Beautiful in your destruction.” He reached to touch Stiles.

“No!” Stiles screamed, coming awake. He was standing barefoot and shirtless in the preserve. Trees and the scent of blood surrounded him. His hands were covered with what could only be drying blood. His chest was covered with it as well. When he swallowed thickly, he tasted the sweet-salty copper of it. Staggering, he fell to his knees and began to retch uncontrollably.

“Stiles.” It was Derek’s voice coming from some distance away. The crash of his footsteps sounded as he hurried in Stiles’ direction.

Stiles couldn’t answer. He just kept retching until his stomach was empty. Tears ran down his face. He crawled from where he’d been sick and curled into a ball at the base of a tree. He was shaking, cold and hot at the same time.

“Stiles.” Suddenly, Derek was there, reaching for him. “Come on, let’s get you up.”

“I killed someone.” Stiles’ voice was a whisper, his throat burning with more than stomach acid. “I practically ate them.”

Derek squatted down next to him. He leaned in and scented the blood on Stiles. “All I smell is animal blood. Rabbit, maybe some squirrel in there. I don’t smell any other blood but your own.”

“I saw, I saw it!” Stiles said emphatically, mind still muddled from what he’d seen and done.

“Come on, let’s get back to the loft.” Derek hefted Stiles up to his feet and began to lead him out of the preserve. “We’ll talk there.”

Stiles made the trip back still half in a daze. His stomach clenched against getting sick again. He’d heard what Derek had said, but he didn’t quite believe him. Derek managed to get him into the Camaro, buckling him in like he was a child.

Derek looked at him for a minute before leaning over him to get something from the back seat. He dropped a scratchy blanket in his lap. “You’re shaking. You’re either in shock or cold. Use this.” He shut the door and went around the car, getting in and turning the engine over. He began to drive back to the loft in the grey light of predawn.

“Thanks,” Stiles managed through his sore throat. He wrapped the blanket over him, trying to get warm.

“I shouldn’t have left you alone last night.” That was all Derek said after that.

The drive to the loft was silent, both of them caught in their thoughts. Stiles was trying not to remember what had happened. The warm rush of blood when he’d bitten the man. The excitement, the thrill when he’d stalked, hunted, and killed the man on the bus—the draw to the other man who had praised his kill and talked of more.

Derek pulled into the parking lot and came around the car to get Stiles out since he couldn’t get his fingers to cooperate enough to undo the seatbelt or open the door.

Derek was surprisingly patient and gentle with him as they got back to the loft apartment, taking Stiles straight into the bathroom and sitting him on the closed lid of the toilet.

He wet a cloth and began to wash the blood off Stiles. Stiles just sat there, his brain still trying to process as it came back online. When Derek bent down and looked into his eyes, Stiles managed a small smile of thanks.

“If you’re up to it, a shower would probably help.” Derek said. “I’ll get you some clothes to change into.”

“Thanks,” Stiles repeated at Derek’s back. Derek just nodded and continued out of the room, shutting the door behind him.

Stiles got up and turned to the shower, quickly setting the temperature as hot as he could stand. He grabbed a clean cloth from the shelves next to the sink and tossed it in the shower. Stripping his ruined clothing off and leaving them piled on the floor, he finally stepped under the spray. He took a handful of Derek’s body wash and the cloth, and then he began to scrub.

Stiles didn’t think he’d ever feel clean again, and he washed his mouth with some of the water. Gagging, he fought not to get sick again when the water’s heat was too reminiscent of the feeling of the blood.

“Stiles, your clothes are on the sink.” Derek’s voice cut through his thoughts. “I brought your toothbrush, as well.”

“Yeah.” Stiles’ voice was a croak. “Thanks, Derek.”

“We’ll talk when you get done,” Derek said. “I’ll be in the kitchen.”

Stiles heard the door shut and hoped that Derek wasn’t going to expect him to eat anything anytime soon. Stiles opened the shower door, stepping on the mat. He grabbed his toothbrush from the top of his clothes and then added some toothpaste to it before getting back in the shower.

He scrubbed at his teeth as hard and thoroughly as he had his body. He was reasonably sure he’d never forget the taste of blood at the back of his throat or on his tongue, though.

Finally finished scrubbing and brushing, he tossed his toothbrush out the shower door towards the bathroom sink. He just stood under the hot water, leaning his arms on the wall and ignoring the fact that some of the moisture on his face wasn’t water.

“Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck,” he muttered, hitting his fist against the wall in a steady beat, the word echoing in his ears, just over the sound of his heart. When the water began to cool, he finally made himself move to turn it off.

Climbing out of the shower, he dried off and dressed quickly, grateful that Derek had included socks with the sweats. The sweater must have been one of Derek’s since Stiles had never seen it before. It was dark red, fitted at the shoulders, and hung down over his hands when he put it on.

He walked out into the open area of the loft and turned to head towards the kitchen. Derek had unearthed a couple of bar stools from somewhere and situated them at the counter, so Stiles sat down in one.

“Here,” Derek said, sliding a mug of something steaming hot across the counter to him.

Stiles took the mug from him and sniffed it. He got the scent of mint and chamomile with a touch of honey. He just nodded and attempted a smile since he wasn’t sure what to say beyond thanking Derek again.

“I’m sorry I wasn’t here last night.” Derek sat in the chair next to Stiles. His shoulders hunched as if expecting a blow. “I should have been here to stop this.”

“Derek,” Stiles sighed gustily. He didn’t want to get into Derek’s martyr complex at this particular moment. “This wasn’t your fault; I don’t blame you for what happened. Unless you had some part in my killing someone.”

“I had nothing to do with what happened,” Derek said sharply, looking up. His eyes flashed blue for a minute before he got himself back in control. “You didn’t kill anyone either. Just–Just tell me what happened from your point of view.”

Stiles took a sip of the tea to soothe his throat and calm his stomach.

“It was hazy at first. I felt, well, I guess I would call it my wolf. It wanted to go hunting, but I didn’t want to. Something didn’t feel right. I don’t have a problem with my wolf and you know that,” he said, looking at Derek.

Derek dipped his head in acknowledgment. He’d remarked on how well Stiles had taken to the bite and training, especially for someone unwilling.

“So, the fact that I wanted to fight against whatever was pulling the wolf part of me set off some serious red alerts,” Stiles added, drinking some of the tea to soothe the rasp in his throat.

“Were you awake?” Derek asked. He leaned forward, looking at the mug of tea until Stiles took another drink of it.

Stiles set the mug down on the counter and thought. “No, looking back, I’m pretty sure that I was asleep when it all started. For the better part of everything, I was running on my subconscious mind.”

“All right, go on,” Derek said, sitting back again.

“Well, then there was a voice.” Stiles shuddered. “This really creepy voice, male, I think. At least, it had the feel of a man to it. He called me his ‘little beta’, told me to come hunt and that I didn’t have a choice.”

“Sounds like the alpha.” Derek nodded like he hadn’t expected anything else. “What happened after that? Just tell me what you can remember.”

Stiles took a deep breath and let it out before he could continue. “He said that our prey was waiting for death, for vengeance. The next thing I knew, I was in the old bus yard and the red haze was even more noticeable when I was looking around there. I went straight to the bus where a man was hiding. I don’t know how I knew to go there, but it’s where I knew I had to be.”

Derek laid a hand on his knee when Stiles’ breath caught and he fought down the urge to gag again. “It’ll be okay, Stiles; you didn’t kill anyone. Finish telling me what you saw and I’ll explain.”

“Yeah, okay.” Stiles took another shuddering breath, drinking in the scent of Derek. The leather, spice, and green plants spoke of comfort and safety, which Stiles desperately needed. “I got on the bus and the man was in the back. I could smell him and I knew what I smelled. It was his fear and shame and he’d pissed himself at some point. I could smell that, as well. Vengeance kept running through my mind. Other than that, I wasn’t really thinking in words. I spoke to the man, but it didn’t sound like me. My voice echoed weirdly.” Stiles paused and took a deep breath before continuing. “Then I attacked him. I killed him with claws and with my teeth. I tore him apart, Derek.” His voice began to climb and he felt the hysteria bubble up from his chest.

“Stiles! Stiles!” Derek reached over and shook him gently. “You didn’t. You did not kill anyone. It was the alpha; he’s trying to call you out.”

“Why?” Stiles felt lost. He wanted to curl up and forget what he’d seen, what he’d done the night before. “Derek?”

“If he gets you to hunt with him and kill, it will solidify the pack bond that you have with him.” Derek pulled Stiles up and led him over to the couch. “Here, sit,” he ordered Stiles down and then covered him with the throw before moving to get another blanket off his bed, adding it to the pile.

“Are you sure I didn’t kill anyone?” Stiles heard how small his voice sounded and hated it, but he couldn’t seem to get over what he’d seen.

“I didn’t smell any blood on you that wasn’t an animal.” Derek paused. “Other than your own. He probably called you and, when you resisted, your wolf went hunting for what it would consider appropriate prey.” Derek shrugged when Stiles looked at him with wide eyes. “The alpha probably carried you along with the bond while he made the killing that he’d wanted you to take part in.”

“So he killed someone then?” Stiles asked, eyes squeezed shut against the inevitable. He hoped the answer was no.

“I don’t know for sure, but probably,” Derek said. “I have never trained to be an alpha, but I have heard some things about this. Laura and my mom both sometimes had emotions bleed over the bonds. They had a lot of control, though, and it didn’t happen very often and never as purposeful as this seems to be.”

“It was revenge. That’s why the alpha killed that guy,” Stiles said. “If he did kill him.”

“That’s what you said,” Derek agreed.

“So we need to find out if he did kill someone. And if he did, we need to find out everything we can about them because this is suddenly bigger than just your sister if he’s killing people in bus yards for revenge,” Stiles said with a shudder as he remembered the end of the dream.

“What?” Derek moved to sit next to him on the couch.

“He was very creepy. He called me beautiful, but it was gross, and then he moved to touch me. That’s when I woke up in the preserve. I was trying to get away from him. I knew I didn’t want his hands anywhere near me.” Stiles shuddered again. “He gave off some nasty bad touch vibes.”

Derek raised his brows and then nodded. “Some alphas – not my family, but some – believe that their betas belong to them in all ways. Those packs tend to be pretty small, only about a handful of wolves.”

“So it wasn’t just vibes. This alpha is really into lack of consent, what with the bite and now his creepy seduction attempts.” Stiles felt like getting sick all over again.

“It seems that way.” Derek shook his head and stared hard at Stiles. “The bite is a gift. My mother always said that. It was something I grew up just knowing. What happened to you was an abomination and could have resulted in an out-of-control omega here in Beacon Hills. The fact that you have enough control to keep from going omega and to fight off the pull from the alpha is amazing. I don’t think anyone else could have pulled this off.”

“Stop, you’re making me blush,” Stiles said, attempting to gather himself back together.

“I’ve never seen you blush about anything, even when you should,” Derek muttered the last part of his sentence.

“Yeah, when is that?”

“The way you eat curly fries or molest the straws in your drinks,” Derek answered automatically. Stiles saw that his ears were turning pink but decided not to say anything.

“Okay, never mind that, then,” Stiles said, hiding a smirk at the thought of Derek flustered by him. The idea helped kill some of the gross feeling lingering from his interaction with the creep in his dream.

“We need to head to the bus yard and find out if my,” he paused at that point. “If my dream is at all true.”

“We’ll have to be careful,” Derek said. “If I’m right, I doubt the body has gone undiscovered. If it has, it won’t be for very long.”

“No, it won’t.” Stiles swallowed harshly. “There will probably be a lot of blood, and if someone doesn’t find him soon, then we can call in an anonymous tip if we find a body.”

“Okay.” Derek stood, looking down at Stiles. “Are you sure you’ll be okay?”

“Yeah, of course,” Stiles said, and at Derek’s raised eyebrows, he shrugged. “I don’t have much choice, do I?”

“You could wait here,” Derek suggested. “I could go look and let you know. You don’t have to see it.”

“I think.” Stiles paused and tried to think of what he needed to say. “I need to see it with my own eyes, or I’m never going to be able to get it out of my head. At least this way, I’ll know what happened a little more clearly.”

“Alright,” Derek said with another careful look at him. “Get your shoes on, and we’ll head out.”

Riding in the Camaro towards what was most likely a murder scene had Stiles reflecting on this new life. He was a werewolf, Derek had become something of a friend in the last week or so, and an alpha out there wanted to make Stiles his murder puppet while creeping on him.

Werewolves and all that came along with it was not the direction he’d thought his life would go, but he doubted anyone in his previous life did either.

“Derek,” Stiles said, getting the other wolf’s attention. “Thanks for being my pack.”

“No problem,” Derek said, scowling at his steering wheel after he’d parked. “I’ll take care of the alpha, Stiles. Don’t worry about him too much.”

“I think you will,” Stiles said, a little shocked that he trusted Derek to follow through on his promise. “You won’t leave me behind when you go back to New York, right? I mean, you’ll stay in touch?” Stiles asked. He didn’t know why it was essential to make it clear right now, but he felt unmoored and desperately needed to know.

“As long as I can, I’ll stay in touch with you, Stiles,” Derek replied, and while that wasn’t unequivocal, yes, it was close enough for Stiles.

“Cool,” he said and got out of the car. The scent of blood was heavy in the air, and Stiles was surprised that people without supernatural senses couldn’t smell it. “I wish you’d been wrong.”

“So do I,” Derek said, frowning towards the bus yard just a few feet away. Flashing blue and red lights were already there, as well as the police tape and deputies to keep out the gawkers.

“There’s Tara.” Stiles pointed. “I’m supposed to meet up with her about the hunters at the gas station later, anyway. Let me see what I can get from her.”

Derek grabbed his arm and pulled him back. “Or we could wait here and listen in to the conversations happening over there without them telling you to go away.”

“Oh, yeah.” Stiles blinked at the thought. “That would be better, wouldn’t it?”

Derek looked at him with a quirk of his lips that Stiles had taken to mean that Derek was amused.

“Uh-huh, smart ass, what are they saying?” Stiles asked with a roll of his eyes.

“They think an animal got into the bus and killed one of the bus drivers. They’ve identified him as Garrison Meyers.” Derek listened some more. “He had a known drinking problem. When he was attacked, they think he was too intoxicated to get away.”

“Garrison Meyers,” Stiles repeated and then winced when he saw that Tara was looking his way. “I need to go talk to her. It would be noticeable if I didn’t try and find out what was going on since they’ve seen me.”

“Go on.” Derek waved him off, obviously still listening to the crime scene techs to see if he could pick up any more information.

“Tara, what a surprise to see you here,” Stiles called out as he came up to the police line. “I thought you’d still be busy cleaning up from the other night.”

“Yes,” Tara said sardonically. “I’m sure it’s a shock to the system to see me at a crime scene. The real question is, what are you doing here?”

“Well.” Stiles shrugged. “Derek was taking us out to get breakfast when I saw the lights. You know me, I had to make sure my favorite people are safe.”

“Uh-huh.” Tara glanced over to where Derek was leaning against his car with his arms crossed, a scowl on his face. “Did you nag at Derek until he brought you over here?”

“Nag.” Stiles drew back in false affront. “I would never.”

“Poor guy.” Tara shook her head at Stiles’ antics. “He didn’t know what he was getting into when he became your friend, did he?”

Stiles grinned at her. “Probably not. Now, he’s met me in real life and it’s too late for him to back out now.”

“Well, you’ve seen we’re okay, so you can head on to your breakfast date,” Tara told him, reaching over to push him away from the line gently.

“What happened, Tara?” Stiles turned serious. “You might be joking with me, but you look upset and the techs are pretty green looking.”

“You know I won’t tell you anything about an active investigation,” Tara began to say.

“I know.” Stiles held his hands up as if suing for peace. “Just, this doesn’t have anything to do with the other night, does it?”

Tara looked at him, startled. “That what’s bothering you? No, this doesn’t have anything to do with that. We have most of the assailants in jail right now, so you don’t need to worry about any of them for the time being.”

“That’s a relief.” Stiles went to head back to the car, but paused. “Hey, Tara – will any of them make bail and, if they do, are they staying in town?”

She looked uncomfortable, but nodded. “Christopher Argent is already out. His family recently moved here, so he’s out and waiting for his day in court, but if he bothers you again, you let us know.” She fixed him with a look he knew all too well. It was one that he knew better than to argue with. “Matter of fact, Stiles, I’m going to insist that when you come down to the station this afternoon to give your official statement, that you fill out a restraining order against each of these guys, especially against Christopher Argent. Now, Derek’s an adult, so I can only advise him strongly to do the same. These guys seem to have some kind of beef with him and a restraining order will give him some measure of protection if one of them starts to harass him.”

“Yeah, I can do that. I hope I don’t have to deal with any of those guys again, to be honest,” he said, wiping suddenly damp hands on his jeans. “You’ll be the one signing off on my statement and the restraining order?”

“Of course, kiddo.” Tara reached over and ruffled his hair. “Standing in as big sister guardian until your dad gets back. You go have breakfast with your internet boyfriend. We still need to have some words about internet safety later.” She raised her eyebrows at him.

“Jesus, Tara,” Stiles huffed with a laugh. “It’s not like that at all.”

“No?” Tara eyed Derek over Stiles’ shoulder. “Too bad.”

“You are a wicked, wicked woman, Tara Graeme.” Stiles shook his finger at her before turning serious. “Stay safe, Deputy Tara.”

“You too, kiddo.” She turned around as her name was called. “I’ve got to go back to work.”

Stiles waved at her, turned, and headed back to the Camaro and Derek. “I didn’t get much from her, but I didn’t expect to. You get anything else?”

“Not much,” Derek said as he slid back into the car. “I can tell you that I didn’t catch your scent anywhere near here.”

“Well, I couldn’t smell much over the scent of blood, so I can’t help much on that front. You smell anything else?” Stiles had been working on his senses, but he’d only been practicing deciphering scents for a couple of days. His hearing and anger spikes had been more critical on the control scale.

“I did catch the scent of something,” Derek said, frowning as he shifted gears and they headed through town. “It was familiar, but I can’t place it. It might just be something in Beacon Hills from when I was a kid, but I don’t know.”

“Well, let’s head to get something to eat. I don’t think I can handle meat right now.” Just the thought made Stiles’ stomach lurch. “I will not turn down pancakes, though.”

“The diner?” Derek asked with a level of resignation that Stiles didn’t appreciate.

“The diner,” he agreed firmly. “Don’t pretend that it’s such a hardship to eat there. I know you like their food.”

“Maybe not for every meal,” Derek said, turning the car around and heading towards the diner on the other side of town.

“I don’t eat every meal there,” Stiles defended with a grin. “Just every meal I can get away with.”

Derek just raised a judgemental eyebrow at him and continued to drive. “After breakfast, we’ll continue to work on your training. You need to be able to decipher scents as soon as possible. You don’t want to have everything overwhelmed by one strong scent. That’s dangerous.”

“Okay.” Stiles shrugged in agreement. “I need to look up this Garrison Meyers as well, find out why the alpha would kill him while claiming revenge. He wasn’t a werewolf, was he?”

“No, not that I’m aware of,” Derek said, pulling into the parking lot of the diner.

“Well, it sounds like we have a plan for the day. Let’s eat and then get to it.” Stiles was up and on his way into the diner before Derek could say anything to him. Stiles was doing his best not to think about what had happened last night and the part he’d played in it, even if it was just as a viewer. His stomach churned, and he felt his anxiety rise as his mind started to play over what he’d seen.

A warm hand settled on the back of his neck. “Breathe,” Derek’s voice was a quiet rumble in his ear. “This is not the place to lose control. We’ll get the food to go if you don’t think you can handle this.”

“No, no.” Stiles shook his head but leaned into the warmth of Derek’s hand. “I’ll be fine. I need to stop thinking about it for a while.”

Derek grunted, his hand dropping as he moved away from Stiles.The warmth and sense of safety Stiles had gotten from Derek’s hand was immediately missed. Shrugging his disappointment off, he followed Derek to a booth.

After they ordered their breakfast, they sat in silence. Stiles listened to the diners as they came in and left. News of someone dying on the bus was all over town now. While Tara and his dad might want to keep a lid on things, Beacon Hills, while not a small town, did have a small-town mindset, and everyone would know everything before lunch if Stiles didn’t miss his guess.

The waitress delivered their orders to the table before Stiles had a chance to say anything. Stiles caught Derek’s eye after she left and nodded over towards the table of three older men discussing their theories on the killing.

“I was thinking. Everyone is going to know about Meyers’ death by lunch. I might have underestimated this town,” he muttered, stabbing a bite of pancake and swirling it through the syrup on his plate and sitting back.

“Maybe,” Derek said, eating his breakfast with small, precise bites.

Any other day, Stiles would mock him for his dainty werewolf manners, but he just finished his meal as quickly as possible. They drained the last of their coffee and Stiles glanced at the gossiping customers around them one last time.

“Let’s go,” Derek said quietly. He stood and threw some money on the table to cover the food and a generous tip.

Stiles scowled at him but didn’t argue. He’d tried to fight Derek paying for everything when they’d first started eating together, but Derek had just frowned at him and said they were pack. Stiles had gotten the impression that he’d hurt Derek’s feelings if he insisted on paying, so he let it go for now.

“Okay, back to the loft,” Stiles said, following him out. “I should probably text dad, check-in with him. Find out if he knows when he’ll be back. I also need to check in with Tara and see when she wants me down at the station to do my paperwork.”

Derek just hummed at him in agreement and they drove back to the loft.

Stiles texted his dad but didn’t get an immediate reply. He did get one from Tara and made arrangements to meet with her later to give his statement and start the restraining order paperwork.

Stiles and Derek worked on his senses for a while until Stiles’ frustration started to get the better of him and he began to flash his eyes and snarl at Derek. Then, they meditated for an hour to help him find his anchor.

Derek drove him to the station, where they both gave their statements about the incident with the hunters and Stiles filled out the restraining order.

“You need to fill one of these out for yourself,” Stiles muttered when Tara walked away to get the forms.

“It won’t do any good,” Derek said, shrugging. “I’ve told you that.”

“Well, it can’t do any more damage than what’s been happening, Derek,” Stiles insisted. “Just fill it out. It can’t hurt.”

“It could,” Derek muttered sullenly.

“Derek, have you decided what you’d like to do?” Tara asked, returning to her desk with a stack of papers from the printer.

Derek heaved a sigh, looking at Stiles, and then he looked back at the deputy. “I’ll fill out the restraining orders, but I don’t know how much good they’ll do.”

Stiles got ready for bed that night, satisfied that he’d helped Derek stand up to the hunters, even if nothing ever came of it. He finally received a short text from his dad saying he’d be home the next day. Falling asleep, Stiles made a note to look into Garrison Meyers after school. He’d almost forgotten that the first day back was tomorrow and he had to meet with Ms. Dillon. Derek had agreed to take him home early to get ready and then to the school for the meeting.

Chapter Nine

Fire roared. The ceiling buckled.

He had to get out. Get out.

The heat burned to the bone.

What was happening? Why?

Wolfsbane in the air. Perfume.

An attack. Murder.

He would have his vengeance.

Stiles broke through his dreams, shooting up in the bed. Derek jerked back from where he’d been leaning over him to avoid a hit to the face.

“Fuck,” Stiles said, breathing rapidly, cold sweat prickling on his skin as it dried in the air of the loft.

“Was it the alpha?” Derek demanded. He’d insisted that Stiles take his bed while he slept on the couch again. In part to make sure that Stiles wouldn’t get out the door without Derek being aware. He sat next to Stiles now, his hand on the bed where it had fallen from the shoulder he’d been shaking Stiles awake.

“No,” Stiles said. “At least, I don’t think so. I just dream of fire, probably because of the research I was doing on the hunters and the fire. It made its way into my subconscious.”

“You looked into the fire?” Derek asked. He stood up and moved away. “Why would you do that?” He sounded angry, but Stiles thought he detected some fear behind it.

“Because I wanted to know what I was up against,” Stiles said warily. He knew that this was always going to be a sore subject for Derek, but he was so off-kilter from waking that the filter on his words was utterly gone. “You know the fire wasn’t your fault, right?”

“Wasn’t my…” Derek stopped pacing and looked at Stiles with something akin to horror etched on his face. “You know.” His tone was accusatory, his eyes beginning to flash blue.

“I don’t know,” Stiles protested, wincing when Derek glared at him after glancing at his chest. “I’m not lying, not really. I did some research, and I can guess what might have happened. Between what you’ve said and what I turned up on the Argents, I deduced what probably happened.”

“Then you know it was my fault,” Derek replied, sounding gutted. He sat on the couch, legs giving out as if his strings had been cut. “I betrayed them.”

“No, it wasn’t.” Stiles got out of the bed and stomped across the room to sit on the coffee table in front of Derek. “You were used by what my research shows is a manipulative mass-murdering bitch.”

Derek looked at him with devastation in his eyes before he crumpled into himself. Stiles could sympathize to a certain extent; he blamed himself for his mother’s death, and for Scott’s, though he knew it wasn’t logical or realistic. That didn’t stop it from hurting like a raw and open wound every time he thought about it.

“Derek, it wasn’t your fault,” Stiles repeated. “I know that you don’t believe me, but it really wasn’t. She took advantage of a fifteen-year-old boy and used that to attack your family.”

Derek was trying to pull himself together and it didn’t look like he was doing so well. Stiles noticed that Derek was retreating to his default when he didn’t know how to deal. Anger.

Derek’s eyes flashed and he stood up so suddenly that Stiles flailed back for a moment before he caught himself.

“You don’t know what you’re talking about,” Derek snarled, eyes flashing blue and his teething lengthening before retreating to normal. “You are just a stupid kid that got involved in this world by chance. You don’t understand any of it.”

“You might be right,” Stiles said, standing carefully and nodding. “I still say it wasn’t your fault.”

Derek glared at him, then looked out the window. Stiles followed his gaze and saw that the sun was beginning to rise. “I’ll take you home so you can get ready for your meeting at the school.”

“Yeah, okay.” Stiles realized that their conversation was over for now. “Let me grab my things.” He didn’t bother changing his clothes, just slipped his feet in his shoes and threw his stuff into his backpack and laptop case.

Derek was waiting next to the elevator when Stiles got there, his face set in a permanent glare.

Stiles ignored him, knowing that he wouldn’t get anything out of a Derek that was so defensively angry.

He’d think about why he could read Derek so well later when he was alone and could spend some time analyzing it. Or maybe he would just ignore it until it went away like he was doing with about half of what was happening right now.

Derek made it to the Stilinski home in record time. The early grey light of predawn was starting to show in the sky when they arrived and Stiles hurried through his house to change his clothes and repack his bag for his meeting with Ms. Dillon.

He was back in the Camaro and on his way to the school in no time. The sun had risen sometime while he was in the house and he had about thirty minutes before the first bell when he arrived at the school.

“Thanks, Derek,” he made sure to say to his silent chauffeur. “I don’t know how long this will take, so, unless you want to wait.?” At Derek’s glare, he moved on. “I didn’t think so. I can find my way home afterward. I will see you later, right?” He couldn’t help but ask the question.

Derek grunted. “Yeah, I’ll be in touch.” He pulled away almost as soon as Stiles shut the door.

“Well, isn’t that fantastic? Pissed off the werewolf that’s supposed to teach you how to werewolf. Awesome, Stiles, just awesome,” Stiles muttered to himself, hitching his bag on his shoulder. He walked into the school, ignoring everyone around him. Just like he had for the last few years, he went directly to the counseling office to talk with Ms. Dillon, the counselor, about the testing schedule and what he had left to do in the school itself before he could graduate.

“Mr. Stilinski.” Ms. Janice smiled at him, rising from her desk to greet him. “I noticed that you changed your mind about finishing up your schooling ahead of time.”

“Yeah.” Stiles shrugged his backpack off and sat down in the chair across from her. “I know my dad wanted me to do the normal school thing, but I’m getting bored and I don’t want to hold back anymore just to fit into some arbitrary timeline.” He had sat down and gone over reasonable arguments for this that didn’t include werewolves anywhere in it.

Ms. Dillon shuffled some things on her desk and pulled out a file, which turned out to be his. “Yes, I can see that.” She smiled at him to take the sting out of her words. “Mr. Harris has been sending more notes about you than usual this year.”

“Yeah, he’s not my biggest fan,” Stiles agreed. “I try to do what I’m supposed to, but the more bored I get, the more distracted I get. So, I thought about the options you mentioned and decided this was the path I wanted to take.”

“Your email made it clear that you’ve thought it through. The rest of your correspondence regarding the matter was highly informative and thorough,” Ms. Dillon said, nodding and making some notes in his file. “We just need to get you a schedule for your testing, then. You’ll have the next two weeks to study for them. We’ll schedule you for testing on the 18th and 19th. If we use both full days for testing, you’ll finish by the cutoff dates, and we should have the results back early in February.”

“What do I do about school and classes between now and then?” Stiles asked, wanting a clear idea of what the next few weeks would entail, at least academically for him.

“You can take the next week and clear out any past due assignments you have to turn in, but as of right now, your classes are complete. As long as you pass these tests, high school is over on the 20th.” Ms. Dillon smiled at him. “I have no doubts that you’ll pass with flying colors.”

“Thanks, Ms. Dillon,” Stiles said, standing and hooking his backpack with his hand. “I guess I’ll clean out my locker and take my textbooks to the library. I should be able to turn them in today.”

“That sounds like a good plan.” She smiled. “You can take advantage of the library and study halls here if you need them to study.”

Stiles was already shaking his head, “I don’t know how well I would focus there. It’s a good option if I need it, but I think I will be fine.”

“Of course.”

Stiles smiled at her and headed for the door with a wave of farewell.

“Mr. Stilinski – Stiles?” She sounded oddly hesitant for the first time since he’d known her.

He turned around. “Yes, Ms. Dillon?”

“It’s been a delight to watch you move through this school.” She paused as if weighing the wisdom of her following words. “Your mother would be quite proud of you.”

Stiles felt a lump stick in his throat. Ms. Dillon had worked with his mother at the library before finishing her degree. “Thanks, Ms. Dillon. I appreciate that.”

“Go forth and conquer,” she said with a slightly watery smile.

“I shall, I shall,” Stiles replied with a salute, just as he had when his mother had said the same thing to him. He hurried out of the office, throat too full of grief to say anything else.

He made his way quickly to the library and the table back in the far corner. He just sat there trying to breathe, like he always did when his mom came up in conversation with someone who knew her.

Once he got himself under control, he cleaned out his locker, throwing away the junk that had accumulated in the last few months and stacking up the books that he would need to turn in to the office and library before he left. He made his way to the few classrooms that had assigned work over the break. He turned in his assignments before heading to the library to check in the textbooks.

Done with that, he sent a text to his dad to let him know that he’d be at the house when Noah got in.

It was just after noon when Stiles headed out of the school. He shouldered his bag, now filled with the detritus of his high school career, and headed out to walk home. He wished that he felt okay enough to call Derek for a ride but figured they could both use some space after this morning. Really, he just didn’t want to call and have Derek refuse to answer the phone, but he wasn’t going to think about that.

He was nearly halfway home when he heard a car pull up beside him and he felt those icy fingers of fear pirouette up his spine once again. He did his best to look unaffected as he found himself staring into the face of Katherine Argent, hunter and murderer. He wasn’t even going to label her other crimes right now.

“Hello,” he said with a hesitant smile as he stomped down the rage that was trying to build inside his mind. “Are you lost?”

“No, sweetie,” Kate said, a crocodile smile stretching her mouth and turning Stiles’ stomach. “I believe you’re just who I’m looking for. You’re the Stilinski boy, right?”

“Yeah, I’m Stiles,” he said, wondering what the hell was going on and if he could call for help before she tried to kill him. “Um, Stiles Stilinski, that is.”

“There was a bit of a misunderstanding between you and my brother,” She gave him a flirty smile, and he had to force his stomach down. “I’m Kate Argent.”

“Oh, uh.” Stiles hooked his pack up higher. Preparing to drop it and run, he hoped he wouldn’t have to. “I don’t think I can talk to you.” He held tight to the act of the stupid high school kid and prayed to make it away from her without a bullet hole in his person.

“Oh, come on, sweetie.” Kate opened her door. Blond hair fell away from her face in waves as she uncoiled herself from the car. She was wearing tight blue jeans and a low-cut red top. She was the image of what would appeal to most teenage boys.

If Stiles hadn’t known about what she’d done, she might have been able to fluster his bisexual heart. He did know, and she smelled of wolfsbane, gunpowder, and deceit. He hadn’t even known that deception had a scent until just now.

“No, really,” Stiles said, backing away. He made sure to keep that dopey teenage boy look on his face. “I don’t want you to get in trouble.”

“I won’t get in trouble.” She smiled, her red lips curving up seductively, and she winked at him. “I just want to clear up this misunderstanding?”

“What misunderstanding?” He forced himself not to say, ‘your brother and his gang accosted me at a gas station and then tried to kill the deputies who came to tell them to stop.’ He had a feeling that wouldn’t go over well.

“Chris was perhaps a little too enthusiastic in his approach,” she said, leaning forward and giving him a good view of her breasts. She laid a hand on his arm, brushing down the sleeve of his shirt before pulling back. “But we just wanted to protect you.”

“Protect me?” Stiles kept his voice steady, his heart beating too fast when he’d realized that she was moving towards him. “He told me that my friend was dangerous.”

“Derek Hale?” she asked, and she began to walk around him in a circle. “Derek is dangerous.”

“Derek wouldn’t hurt anyone,” Stiles said, leaving out that Derek planned to kill the alpha because that was a whole other story. He followed her movements, even as he was getting dizzy turning in circles. “He’s been my friend for a long time and my dad did a background check on him and everything.”

“I’m sure your father looked everywhere he could,” Kate agreed, coming to a stop right in front of him. “He just doesn’t know where to look. I promise you, Derek Hale is dangerous and you should stay away from him if you want to stay safe.”

“I don’t understand,” Stiles said, forcing the anger he felt to stay down. The absolute last thing he needed to do was flash his eyes at her right now.

“You’re a cute little thing, aren’t you?” She said, leaning in, “Just take my warning seriously, Stiles, if you want to be safe. Derek Hale is dangerous. Stay away from him. Get your dad to stay away from the Argents. We’re just here to help.” With that, she turned around, got back in her car, and left.

Stiles sucked in a shaky breath. Spots danced in his vision as he waited until her tail lights were out of view before he bent with his hands on his knees and drew in great gulping breaths of air not polluted with wolfsbane or her potent mix of scents.

“Creepy lady is creepy,” he muttered, but it didn’t seem like they knew that Stiles was a werewolf. They seemed to think that he was just some poor dope that had somehow become friends with Derek. He also got the impression that they intended to kill Derek sometime soon. He didn’t know if they thought Derek was the alpha or were just trying to use him to draw out whoever was leaving spirals and bodies lying around.

He waited a few minutes and then pulled his phone out of his pocket. Stiles tried calling Derek, but he didn’t pick up. He refused to let that make him uneasy or angry. Stiles left a short message telling him that Kate was in town and being creepy. Then, he texted him the same message. That done, he hurried home as quickly as possible. He had no desire to be accosted by Kate or the hunters that had probably come into town with her. Once he was home, he shut and locked the door.

Dropping his pack, he slid down the door. He felt his breath begin to come in gasps. His chest felt tight. He closed his eyes. He tried to breathe. In and out, in and out.

It took a few minutes, but the dizzy feeling began to fade and he could breathe again. When he opened his eyes, he still felt sick to his stomach and wobbly. He got to his feet before looking down and realizing that his claws were out.

His anxiety began to climb again and he couldn’t concentrate on putting them away. He moved out away from the door and managed to get to his room. He tried the breathing exercises that Derek had run through with him. It wasn’t helping and he could feel it getting worse. The hair was beginning to sprout on his face. His mouth was full of teeth. Teeth that didn’t quite fit while he was mostly human.

‘Find your anchor,’ he heard Derek’s voice order in his mind. It was a common refrain during their meditation sessions.

He tried to cast his mind out to find an anchor to keep his shift under control. He hadn’t had problems to this extent since those first few days, not since Derek had begun to help him. He remembered Derek saying that he would be changing a little bit more each day until his first full moon as a werewolf.

Stiles found himself staring at his bookcase, filled with books that he’s collected over the years. The books that his mother had given him or encouraged him to read. He could almost hear the sound of her voice as she read from the books. Fiction, histories, biographies, and anything that caught his eye were on those shelves.

‘Knowledge,’ Stiles thought as everything began to ease down. Knowledge, knowing things, books. That was his anchor. He felt the fangs melt away; his claws disappear.He hurried into the bathroom to look into the mirror. His eyes weren’t glowing and he’d lost the sideburns he’d felt. He looked like his usual everyday self.

“Fuck me,” he said with a sigh of relief. He started to giggle. He’d never admit it to anyone, but he was full-on giggling in relief. He sat on the bathroom floor, almost dizzy with it.


Related Posts

SibylMoon

Hello, I'm Sibyl. "There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you." -- Maya Angelou

5 Comments:

  1. Oh my goodness! This is such a great start. I’ve seen fix-its where Stiles got bit instead of Scott but not one where Scott was also just completely out of the picture. It’s amazing how that shift changes everything.

  2. I love this first part. Stiles’s dreams of the fire broke my heart but I live that his anchor is knowledge. It fits so well with him !

  3. My heart broke a little at reading that Scott is dead and Stiles is all alone. I ADORE Stiles’ character voice and Derek is adorably failing at the whole human interaction thing.
    Thank you so much for sharing!

  4. Wow, that was an exciting chapter.
    Stiles does amazingly well to figure things out and start to work on his control. He is so alone, but now he at least has Derek, another lonely soul.
    It is sensible to use the law to protect themselves. The great thing about the restraining orders is that any approach can be halted quickly and the minute anything happens to either of them there are some obvious suspects to hand and Kate would also look suspicious.

  5. This is so great! I’m enjoying reading your story so much!
    It’s the first time ever I’m sad that something happened to Scott, more for Stiles and Melissa losing him at such a young age then for Scott himself, but still.
    I love to see how you develop the realtionship between Derek and Stiles, and I was shaking with fury when Kate was suddenly. Can’t wait to find out how they’ll find out who the alpha is and if they are able to get rid of the Argents.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.