Reading Time: 160 Minutes
Title: You Always Return Home
Series: We Are All Works In Progress 3
Fandom: Teen Wolf
Genre: Drama, Established Relationship, Paranormal/Supernatural, Shifters, Slash
Relationship(s): Stiles Stilinski/Jackson Whittemore
Content Rating: NC-17
Warnings: Violence – Graphic, Canon Hunter Racism, Canon Hunter Hate Crimes, Discussion-Murder, Discussion-Other Trigger Topics, Discussion-Rape, Discussion-Torture, Violence-Canon-Level, Violence-Graphic, Explicit Sex
Author Notes: A wonderful thank you to my alpha readers VMures and Starkindler and to my beta ScarlsLikeVelvet, you all made my story better than it was! And a HUGE shoutout to my artist Twigen! Twigen made me such wonderful art. I love it so very much.
Beta: Alpha: VMures & Starkindler Beta: ScarsLikeVelvet
Word Count: 62,870
Summary: Beacon Hills. The home that Stiles hadn’t been to in a very long time. Now Beacon Hills is calling to him and he’s got to try and blend his new family and his old.
“Hello, Stiles,” Derek said as he came up beside Stiles in the grocery store.
Stiles turned from where he was, looking at the various sushi on display, trying to figure out which ones he wanted. The rest of the team was off in the Preserve, doing some training with Sammy, and so Stiles was alone for lunch. He had gone out for one item needed to make dinner but had stopped by the sushi display.
“Alpha Hale,” Stiles said.
“Stiles, please, it’s Derek,” Derek said.
“Fine, Derek. How is everything going?” Stiles asked.
“Good. Of course, your father is keeping you apprised of everything going on with the case of the person who got into the Sheriff’s house. It’s at a dead end, but no one is shocked on that.”
“Yeah, Jackson’s still pissed at…” Stiles trailed off and waved his hand to his side. Since it was possible they would need to keep up the wounds’ appearance, Stiles had not magically healed them. Which had kind of pissed of Jackson, but it was still something that needed to happen. They needed to keep their nose cleaner here in Beacon Hills. The FBI could step in at any point in this, and they had no clue who they were going to get, and some didn’t know what the hell was going on in the world. Stiles hoped that Celeste kept a close eye on that, but sometimes even she couldn’t help with things.
“I know what it’s like to have accidentally hurt someone you care for,” Derek said.
“Yeah, I heard about a few of the issues that were going on while I was gone. After my aunt found out what I knew, she made sure I knew what was going on with my former friends when I needed to know.”
“Can we talk?” Derek asked.
“Sure. Um, I just need to check out. We were short on cornmeal for dinner tonight.”
“Not getting sushi?”
“Well, it was going to be lunch, and if we are talking, food is going to be involved since I’m hungry. So, I don’t need to get sushi. Um, I walked here. It was a nice day, so I thought that it would be good. So unless we go somewhere close, you’ll have to drive me.”
“There is this nice little place across town. I have a few things to grab; you know what the Camaro looks like. I’ll grab what I need, then we can stop at the house and drop off my things then we can head out. I would say that I can shop later, but I’ve got a thing this afternoon.”
“Dude, I have no cares what we do. I’ll just read over shit while you are putting up your things.”
“Good. Great.” Derek smiled.
Stiles saw the man that he had hoped Derek would become in that smile. The happy man who wasn’t so weighed down by his shit. Stiles headed to the checkout to get the cornmeal and saw a pack of Reese’s on sale, so he grabbed them. He checked out and went outside to find Derek’s Camaro sitting on the far side of the lot with no other cars around it. It was the same one, still in perfect condition. Stiles laughed as he took in how well it was cared for. Stiles knew that the car had been one that Laura had used to get from New York to Beacon Hills when she had come out, but it had been Derek’s car, the one indulgence that he had bought for himself in a city where he took public transit.
The car door opened up, and Stiles shook his head. Only an idiot would break into the deputy’s car, and only someone who had a death wish would actually try and steal it. Still, Stiles was shocked that Derek still kept it unlocked. Stiles dropped his bag into the backseat, where he took in the gym bag and a work uniform laid over it. Stiles knew that Derek had pushed himself into being the best deputy that his father had. Stiles still wasn’t sure that Derek wasn’t doing it some way to make up for the hell that Beacon Hills had become in the years after the fire and even after Derek had come home to Beacon Hills.
Sitting in the front passenger seat, Stiles thought about how he had hoped for a chance like this years ago, but he wasn’t that young, dumb kid anymore. He had a partner that he loved and trusted above anyone else in the world. He knew that Jackson loved him and wanted him to stay forever. He knew all of that, so he wasn’t worried about Jackson leaving him. It was the kind of thing that people dreamed of. Stiles would never take that for granted.
Derek opened the car door and slipped his small bag of groceries into the space behind the driver’s seat before he sat down in the seat. He started the Camaro, and it purred just like it used to. There was no indication that it wasn’t still fresh off the lot. Derek said nothing as he pulled out of the lot and turned them toward the Preserve. Stiles messed around on his phone, checking in with a few people he kept in contact with that owed him favors magically. Stiles had a feeling that Beacon Hills was going to be a hot spot for a while, and he might need more power than he had.
“So, how are you liking being on a hunter team?” Derek asked when he was pulling into the driveway at the new Hale house.
“It’s been great. I knew what I was getting into when I got my own team. I went around with Kaïs for a while, and then I was on Helena’s team for all of college. It was just a matter of settling in with being in charge. It helped that my team was all around my age. I had learned all that Helena thought I would need at her knee before turning me loose on my team.”
“And your team includes two people from Beacon Hills?”
“Well, Sammy was kind of an accident. He was in the middle of some shit that had him learning the truth about everything. After that, he dove headfirst into the world and left behind hockey, which shocked me. Jackson was a shoo-in for coming onto the team as well with everything.”
Derek nodded his head. He pulled the Camaro into a spot in front of the house. “Did you want to come in?”
“Nah, I’ll just play a game on my phone while you go and do your shit. I’m quite happy where I am right now. So go.” Stiles waved his hand.
Derek laughed and got out of the car.
Stiles focused on his phone, playing a stupid game on it to pass the time. He wasn’t sure that he needed to focus on anything else. They were at a dead stop with the case. There was nothing else that was helping them figure anything else out. Stiles hated it when they were at a standstill and unable to go forward. They were waiting for another attack, and that felt like he was worthless. Barrow hadn’t been seen, the magic-user that Stiles was pretty sure that Deaton hadn’t made a move, and there was nothing that proved that Deaton was doing anything at all. He wasn’t seeking out anyone in Beacon Hills, but then anyone with pets came to him after taking over his practice again.
When the game proved to not keep his attention, Stiles got out of the Camaro to stretch his legs a little bit. He could feel Adam’s wards on the house from where he was. He wasn’t going to get closer to check them out. He would come later with his team to make sure everything was still in place on that front. He had promised Jackson a long time ago that he wouldn’t do anything like wards without at least one team member who was supernatural around.
The front door shutting had Stiles looking up at where Derek was locking it. Stiles frowned as Derek had changed his shirt from a T-shirt into a sweater. Stiles wasn’t sure why he had done that. Maybe he had spilled something on it while putting up the groceries, or he had been doing something else in it beforehand. Jackson had shirts he wore when doing random things and shirts that he wore out to eat. It was hard to tell, and Stiles had long ago stopped trying to figure out why people dressed the way they did. He loved his layers and his graphic tees, even now. Jackson had gotten used to it and lived with it, but he also got to dress Stiles up nicely when the situation called for it. Stiles opened the Camaro door and dropped down into the seat again, just as his email pinged.
Derek was in the car and had it started up again before Stiles got his email loaded.
“Um, wherever you want to eat is good with me. I need to read this over and deal with it, and then we can chat and stuff,” Stiles said.
Stiles read over the beginning of the email. It was a collection of items from various professors at Rivers who had compiled what they knew based on what Stiles knew about what was going on in Beacon Hills. He scanned the rest as he found points on with what he knew, but there were just as many as were not relevant to what they had going on. Stiles forwarded the email to Kira to print it out to add to their murder board at the house. He saved the email to his current case folder on his phone and closed out everything. He looked up just as Derek was pulling into a place that Stiles remembered his father talking about. Peter liked to take him there on dates since the food was great and the place was fairly open to allow people to feel less cramped inside of there.
“Oh, dad’s talked about this place. I’m excited.”
Derek grinned as he looked at Stiles.
The place was pretty dead, but then it wasn’t even eleven yet, which meant people working weren’t out and about to eat just yet. Stiles got out and inhaled, smelling the mixture of scents from the restaurant and the other shops around, one of which was a coffee shop. It was still pretty good. He was glad that he was getting to go here. Jackson liked to eat out, but he opted for places he knew instead of places he didn’t. Stiles eating here meant he could talk Jackson into it for a dinner date when they had the chance.
“Hello and welcome, table for two?” the maître ‘d asked as Derek and Stiles walked up to the podium.
“Yes, please,” Derek said.
They were shown to a table in a corner made for at least three but possibly four. Stiles saw that most of the tables were the same size. He shrugged as he sat down. Derek wasn’t sitting yet, though, so Stiles looked at him. Derek looked a little off-kilter, but before Stiles could ask what was wrong, Derek sat down.
“So what’s good here?” Stiles asked.
“Everything. I have tried everything here at least once. Mostly I get what sounds good on the day.”
Stiles nodded his head. He looked at the menu, and it looked like it was one of the places that had a simple as hell menu, which Stiles liked. He liked places that had short menus that they regularly updated than places that had massive ones. He never could pick what he wanted when places had big menus. The first thing that stood out to Stiles was that the menu had a Cajun theme to it. He wondered if that was because of Mardi Gras. He was more than okay with that if their food was good. Stiles picked his meal with ease just as the waitress came up to the table to take their drink order.
“Derek,” the waitress said.
“Melanie, this is Stiles, the Sheriff’s son.”
“Nice to meet you,” Stiles said.
Melanie gave Stiles a weird look, but she returned the greeting. “What can I get for you to drink?”
“Wine?” Derek asked.
“Uh, sure. White, sweet,” Stiles said. He looked at the menu again to decide on an appetizer. He needed to eat a good bit, and he knew it.
Derek ordered his own appetizer, and it was one that Stiles wanted to try, but he liked the idea of another better, so he ordered that. He hoped that Derek allowed him to try a bite of the other.
“So after this is over, how long are you staying?” Derek asked.
“Uh, hold on.” Stiles licked his finger, traced a sigil to the top of the table, and pushed his magic into it. It would make it to where they couldn’t be overheard by anyone unless they were within a foot of the table. They would be able to hear everything around them, though. It was one of the most used spells that Stiles used. “My team will stay as long as we like, and you allow, of course.”
“I heard your father talking to Peter about you may be staying for a long while. I like the sound of that.”
“Yeah, I’ve not been home in so long this place feels weird and strange to me instead of home, and I don’t like that.” Stiles knew it was his own fault for not coming home. He picked up the pitcher of water that Melanie had set down and filled his glass after flipping it over. He held out the water toward Derek, who took it and filled his glass.
Stiles noticed the way the pitcher shook in Derek’s hand. Stiles had never seen that before, not on Derek. He had seen other Werewolves doing something like that when they were nervous. He had no clue why Derek would be nervous around him. “You know I’m not going to hurt you, right?”
“I don’t think you would hurt me,” Derek said.
“Then why are you nervous?”
Derek waved his hand to encompass everything around them. It made no sense to Stiles. So he tried to figure it out. Why would being in the restaurant with Stiles make him nervous? Stiles saw the flush on Derek’s face. It was like he hit a brick wall.
“Dude, this is not a date,” Stiles said. He didn’t laugh, normally he would have, but he was just too shocked. There was a point in his life where he would have loved being on a date with Derek Hale. Yet, this was not that point. It hadn’t been that point for many years. “I’m in a committed relationship.”
“What? Your father has never mentioned it.”
“He doesn’t like to at work and such. He loves Jackson.”
“Jackson? You are in a relationship with Jackson Whittemore?” Derek looked like he had smelled something shitty. “What do you see in that pompous asshole?”
“He grew up, Derek. Something I think you might want to do. You’ve not been around him for over a decade. You’ve changed a lot over that decade.” Stiles stood up. He didn’t care if they were hell and gone from anything close; he wasn’t staying here with Derek on this thing that Derek thought was a date. “I wouldn’t date someone that wouldn’t date me when I was younger and trampled over my feelings instead of talking like a fucking adult.”
Stiles stormed out. He went right to the Camaro and grabbed his groceries. There was a BHPD car driving past, so Stiles waved them down.
“Can I help you?”
“Do you mind dropping me off at the Sheriff’s station? My name’s Stiles Stilinski.”
“Where is your car?”
“At my place. I went out on what I thought was a lunch with an acquaintance, but he thought it was a date without asking me out. I am happily in a relationship.” Stiles was too pissed off, and if he had anyone on his team come and get him, Jackson would kill Derek. Jackson was secure in the knowledge that he was with Stiles. He was secure that Stiles loved him. He was fully secure in many things but knowing that Stiles was pissed off meant what pissed him off had to die.
“Yeah, sure. I was heading that rough direction anyway as I’m going for a drink run for the station. I’ll drop you off first and then get the drinks. I’m on desk duty for a while because of my leg.” The officer waved his hand toward his leg, where Stiles saw a brace. He was dressed in uniform, but Stiles had seen deputies who would do the same thing. They didn’t like to be just left behind, so they worked as well as they could inside the station. Tara had been horrible when she had a broken arm once. She had been stuck in the station. Stiles came over a lot to spend time with her, so she wasn’t alone when he was done with school. He still wasn’t sure that she was happy about him being there that much, but she allowed it since Stiles was lonely.
“We heard the rumor you were back in town,” the officer said.
“Yeah, I finally figured that Pops had come to me enough that I should come to him.”
“He told us last time we asked that he liked getting out of town to go and visit you. Allowed him to focus on you.”
“Yeah, that part was nice,” Stiles said.
Stiles frowned when he saw his father standing outside the station with his arms crossed. There was no way that he knew he was on his way. The officer hadn’t radioed what he was doing, and Stiles hadn’t told anyone. Unless Derek said something but why would he assume that this was where Stiles was going?
“Dispatch called, thanks, Hank,” Noah said after he opened up Stiles’ door.
“I had the radio on, and dispatch heard and called your father. I had already reported you getting into the Camaro. I know that’s Deputy Hale’s car,” Hank said.
“Peter’s on his way to talk to Derek to make sure that nothing comes of this. You’ll have to tell Jackson.”
“Oh, I would never keep anything from Jackson like this. He’s going to laugh his ass off, though. I just want to forget this ever happened, really.”
Noah pulled Stiles in close for a hug and wrapped his arms around him. Stiles nestled into his arms, taking the comfort from his father.
Stiles really hoped that Derek hadn’t been hanging on for him. That he hadn’t spent a near-decade waiting for Stiles to come home after the shit that had happened, which made Stiles leave.
The team was scattered around the island in the kitchen when Stiles traipsed in just before dinner needed to be started. He was hungry because he had forgotten that he hadn’t eaten lunch in a rush to leave Derek. He had snacked on some things and ate a few Reese’s, but it wasn’t filling.
“I’m gonna need a Werewolf size portion, and then I have a fucking story to tell you.” Stiles entered the kitchen fully and stopped when he saw Derek standing there. He had a smirk on his face.
If Stiles felt like getting into it with a Werewolf, he would walk across the kitchen and punch the alpha in the face. Beside Derek was Cora. She looked smug as well. Neither of them was as good at it as Peter.
“Alpha Hale here was telling us a very funny story,” Jackson said.
“Yes, about the date you two went on,” Kira said. She was smiling like she was near bursting out laughing but thankfully, she wasn’t in the line of sight of Derek or Cora.
“So, how was the date?” Jackson asked.
“A little abrupt and kind of sucky. I mean, I didn’t even get to eat before figuring out it was a date. If the wine had been served, I might even have tossed it in Derek’s face.”
Cora’s mouth dropped open, and she looked between Jackson and Stiles.
Stiles wondered if any of the alive Hales besides Peter knew what a real grown-up relationship was like.
“You aren’t…you were pissed,” Cora said.
“Yup, pissed at your brother, not at Stiles. Stiles would never cheat on me.”
“How can you be sure?” Derek asked.
“Because I know my lover, and he isn’t that kind of person,” Jackson said.
“Huh, shows what you know.”
Jackson didn’t rise to the bait that Derek was lying down.
“Alpha Hale, I think it’s time for you and your sister to leave. You have worn out your welcome.”
Derek glared at Stiles, but he did leave. He knew when he was beaten. Whatever he wanted to do with coming here like he did, he wasn’t going to be able to do.
“And Alpha Hale, if you ever trick me like that again, I’ll make sure that you know you can’t ever ask anyone on a date without actually asking them first. I have the power, and there isn’t a single hunter in this world that would kill me for it either.”
The door slammed shut a few seconds later.
“So, they run here?” Stiles asked.
“We assume they were on the outside of the house waiting to cross the boundaries,” Jackson said.
“He, what, offered lunch?”
“I have no clue if I said I would have a meal with him, or he asked. I thought it was to talk about the past, air everything out, and for him to apologize. I didn’t…we’ve barely said anything to each other. I get that I am awesome, and everyone wants me,” Stiles said. He shook his head when Janice and Sammy started to laugh.
“Well, he thought he was so smug, standing there talking about how you and he went on a date to the most romantic restaurant in the city,” Kira said.
“Dude, I’ve heard my dad talk about it, but he also goes there alone and gets lunch. I didn’t know it was the date spot of the town now. I haven’t lived here in a long fucking time.”
“Well, this is not the only issue we are having with the Hale Pack,” Jackson said.
Stiles looked at his team. Depending on the issue, it was a crapshoot who would crack and tell him what was going on.
“McCall is stalking Kira like he used to do Allison after he was first turned.”
“Oh, fucking hell.” Stiles rubbed his hand down his face. He was sure that he wasn’t going to salt and burn the entire Hale Pack. It seemed like shit was going fucking crazy in Beacon Hills. “Wait, he fucking chased Allison around like that when she was his anchor. What the hell is his anchor now?”
“Who knows, it might be his own hand jerking his cock for all we know.”
“Jackson, don’t be so vulgar.”
“Sorry, I’m still pissed at Hale. He was so fucking smug and thought that I would do something stupid about it.”
“He wanted you to get into a fight with him and then prove that you weren’t worthy of Stiles, and then he could step in and take Stiles from you,” Janice said.
“Is that what you saw?” Stiles asked.
“Yes, the muddy future I talk about is becoming clearer but still not enough for me to actually see anything, really. It’s quite a relief.”
Stiles nodded his head to that. Janice’s visions of the futures they could be part of had been cloudy for over a year. It wasn’t the worst thing in the world, it made their footing a little more like the rest of the world, but when it came to knowing what the hell was coming, Stiles didn’t like it.
Janice had no control over her visions. She had no idea when she was going to get them. She had no idea what they would be about. Last week she had one about the waiter dropping a plate on Stiles’ head. It had been good but also stupid. Yet, it was the way of things. Magic was a fickle little thing, and it chose what it wanted to be seen.
“Well, keep me up on that. I think that we are right where we need to be.”
“Agreed,” Maia said.
“So what are we going to do about McCall?” Jackson asked.
“Well, we can get him in jail for stalking. At this time in his life, he really should know better than to stalk people, female or male,” Stiles said.
“And you think Alpha Hale will be fine with that?” Sam asked.
“I have no cares about what he thinks.”
“Hear, hear,” Jackson said.
Stiles flipped him off, and the team laughed. Jackson’s eyes were happy at least a little bit. He would still probably stick close to Stiles.
No one had really hit on Stiles in a long while. Everyone they interacted with in New Orleans knew that Stiles was taken. The best claim would be a mating bite on Stiles, but Jackson wasn’t ready for that. It wasn’t like most of the Hale Pack would understand what it meant. Stiles knew that the Hale Pack was better than it had been, but it wasn’t the best yet. Ignorance still seemed to be bliss for them.
Stiles jerked awake, unsure of what had woken him up. Jackson was rolling over and grumbling about something, so it wasn’t something to do with noise, or Jackson would be up. Stiles touched the wall at the head of the bed; the wards on and around the house were still set. He wasn’t sure what the hell was going on. He got up and walked over to the window to look outside. It took but a second to get the door onto the balcony open. He needed to take a measure of the whole area for this. Something was going on, but he wasn’t sure what it was.
“Stiles?” Jackson asked.
“Who is in the house?” Stiles asked.
“Janice, Sammy, and Joe are asleep. Maia is in the kitchen; it sounds like she’s cooking. Princess is snoring in the living room.”
“Where’s Kira?” Stiles asked.
“Nowhere in my hearing.”
“Call her,” Stiles said. He walked back inside and moved to the bedroom door. He opened it. “MAIA!”
It wasn’t a shock that a few seconds later, the sound of Maia’s running footsteps sounded down the hall.
“Where is Kira?” Stiles asked.
“She went shopping. She and I couldn’t sleep. We napped too much today. She was getting stuff to make some breakfast meal that she loves, but it takes time. Why?”
“I feel like someone is walking all over my grave.” Stiles hated the feeling, and he knew now that it had to do with Kira.
“I’ll call her.”
“It’s going to voicemail,” Jackson said.
“Kit up for war,” Stiles said. He grabbed his cell phone from the bedside and dialed his father. He knew that he was covering the night shift tonight after a call out. He was staying in the station.
“Did you get powers of precognition?” Noah asked instead of a standard greeting.
“I was about to call you. I have your girl here. She’s…well, she’s not fine, but she’s alive. She’s asking to speak to you before she gives a statement. I will allow you and all of your team down here. Peter’s on his way as legal counsel for her.”
“I didn’t think he took that up again full time?” Stiles asked.
“He didn’t. He still dabbles, but he gladly took on her. I will allow you and Peter in with her. She stalled and asked for legal counsel first thing. I think that she’s innocent of wrongdoing, other than protecting herself, but it was public, and the other side is well known in town here. Well known and well-loved.”
“Gotcha. I’ll make sure no one has any weapons on them.”
“You say that like every single one of you isn’t a deadly weapon even without a weapon. Get here quickly, before the other side does.”
“You got it, Daddio.” Stiles hung up and looked at his team. “I mean it, no overt weapons. I have ways of getting us all weapons if need be. I don’t want anything that will tarnish my father’s reputation. If you cannot control yourself, then you need to stay here.”
No one spoke up.
The trip to the station was one of the longest of Stiles’ life. They all chose to ride in the same SUV. It would fit all of them on the way back, which was the only reason Stiles agreed. He didn’t want anyone to be on their own and didn’t want his team split up. Stiles saw Isaac as soon as he walked into the station. Isaac was covered in blood from what looked like a broken nose. He was sitting at a desk and talking to Parrish.
“Your friends can wait in my office,” Noah said.
Stiles nodded for them to go. They all filed into the office. Stiles followed his father to the depths of the station. He rounded a corner to hear Scott going off. This was going to be interesting as hell to listen to.
Stiles stopped in front of the interrogation room that Scott was in. A man was sitting in a chair across from him, letting him rant and rave. He wasn’t restrained, which was good as it would look strange if Scott started to bleed with the way he was jerking around. A pissed-off Scott was someone that would not realize that he shouldn’t be acting like he was. The deputy who was sitting across from him looked bored. He turned his head to the window, and Stiles realized that it was Roberts. Stiles stayed where he was.
Noah reached over and turned on the microphone that allowed more of the sound to escape.
“She should have just gone on a date with me the first time I asked,” Scott ranted.
“Is this recording?”
“Yes, he’s not asked for a lawyer or anything. So we are just recording it all. We also have a doctor on the way. One of the ER doctors will come over while on shift and check out victims and perps if we deem that they are not that hurt. This will be a test to make sure that he’s not under the influence.”
“Which you know he’s not, but getting the bloodwork done will help keep this in court. You are getting devious in your old age, Daddio.”
“Old age, my ass. All of my grey hairs are from you, not age.”
Stiles laughed but sobered up when Scott’s head turned toward where Stiles was, even though he couldn’t see through the mirror, even with his Werewolf eyesight. Scott rushed right over at the window and banged his fist on it; it wobbled but thankfully didn’t crack.
“I hear you out there, Stiles. This is all your fault. You told her lies about me, and now she doesn’t want me.”
Stiles raised his eyebrows at that. He wondered what other shit Scott was going to spew.
“She should be mine. She will love me.”
“Let’s go,” Noah said.
“Yeah, that’s…holy fucking shit, Dad.”
“He’s been spouting off that shit. We might still end up with him getting committed for his crimes if he keeps on, especially if he spouts off about Werewolves, as there is only so much we can do on hiding that. Yet, what else can we do? I’m not letting him go. I’m afraid, and so isn’t Celeste, that he would do worse shit.”
Stiles nodded his head to that. He knew that things were going to be iffy for a while. He just hoped that shit didn’t come to a head from both sides at the same time. Stiles didn’t mind fighting a war, but he really didn’t want to split up into two fronts on that. There was backup close by, but not that close.
Kira was in another interrogation room with Wilcox sitting across from her. She had a bit of cloth pressed to her nose. Kira had good control of her healing, so she kept herself from healing like she had been trained to do. Peter was sitting beside her, but it didn’t look like anyone was talking.
“We’ve already gotten images of everything, and she was checked out at the ER and full scans done. We had all of that before we brought her here when she was released. Wilcox has been with her since the moment that we arrived on the scene. So yeah, we have a cluster fuck. Scott wasn’t stopping the healing, which doesn’t work out in his favor at all. She looks like hell, and he’s pristine other than the blood all over her. It won’t be hard for a jury to see the images and cast him in a bad light. We won’t really have to do a thing on that.”
“Yeah, Scott’s mouth has always been an issue. He’s just never had to face what he spouts off. I’m sure that even his training as a Werewolf was downplayed when he was there. I would assume that he played them. Scott is smart, just not always street smart as it were, or sometimes even book smart. He’s not the dumbest person on the block, though. He can do enough to get himself through situations.”
“So why did she ask for a lawyer?” Noah asked.
“It’s standard procedure just in case. Celeste has had teams railroaded when hunters or the bad guys she’s after had standing in a town. It’s nothing on you and your people, dad. She’s just covering her ass by following the playbook we are told to stick to. She’ll calm down once I get in there. She was supposed to have groceries with her. Were they found?”
“Yeah, Roberts, put them in the fridge in the breakroom with your name on them. No one will touch them. The note still lives on the fridge that touching things with the name of Stiles will get ex-lax put into coffee.”
“I’m going to head into there.” Stiles laid his hand on the doorknob and waited to see if his father would say anything, but he didn’t.
“Kira, Mister Hale, Deputy Wilcox, I wish this were under better circumstances. Now, tell me what is going on, please,” Stiles said.
Wilcox pointed at the chair that was beside him, so Stiles dropped down into it.
“Miss Yukimura, can you please start at the beginning?” Wilcox asked.
“I was coming out of the store. I had gone shopping for some items because I couldn’t sleep, so I would make a pretty labor-intensive breakfast that we normally don’t mess with. I was just getting the groceries into the boot, and when I turned around, a guy was standing there.”
“No, the bean pole, the curly-haired one.”
“Mister Lahey?” Wilcox asked.
“Yes, that one. I think his first name is Isaac?” Kira asked, looking at Stiles.
Stiles nodded his head.
“Anyway, he told me that a man named Scott wanted to talk to me. Which the only Scott I know of in town is Stiles’ former friend. I told him that I needed to get back to get the groceries put up and breakfast started. Isaac said it wouldn’t take long, but Scott came over himself before I could say no again. He told me I was pretty and I should go on a date with him. This wasn’t the first time he had asked me. I was getting coffee one day and sitting and reading when he sat down across from me and asked me out. I told him no, and that I was in a relationship with someone else. He said that he would be better for me than them. Without knowing anything about them. Well, I didn’t take kindly to that and told him to fuck off. The shopkeeper came over and asked me to leave after that. I did so that a scene wasn’t made. When I looked back, Scott looked smug. I haven’t been back to that coffee shop since. I went to the one that is in the book store. I’ve been told that Scott doesn’t read unless he has to.”
Stiles laughed at that, and Peter glared at him. Wilcox gave over his fist for a hidden fist bump under the table. Stiles wasn’t sure why Peter was trying to make him be nice about anything. He knew exactly what kind of person Stiles had already grown up to be.
“Mister McCall said that you have been ignoring him when all he is doing is trying to give you compliments.”
“That means that all he has to do is be nice to someone, and they have to pay attention to him. I don’t think that’s the way it works. I mean, I am nice to a lot of people that I don’t know. That doesn’t mean I want anything from them. The idea that men pay a woman a compliment and are expected to receive sex or attention in return is horrible. That means that we have no agency over anything, and that’s just not something that I want to believe in this day and age.”
“I agree with you, Miss Yukimura; I’m just going over everything that we have been given,” Wilcox said.
Kira nodded her head. She looked at Peter, who gave her a smile and patted her shoulder. “Anyway, I shut the boot of the car and then walked around to the front of it to get inside. I didn’t expect them both to come running. Scott stopped me from opening the car door, and Isaac boxed me in from the other side. I’m a petite woman, so my parents made sure that I could defend myself from anyone that decided that no wasn’t a word they wanted to listen to.”
“Which is very smart of them. Mister McCall said that you attacked first.”
“Well, I guess that depends really on your definition. My exits were blocked off, and when I moved between them, they held out their arms to stop me. I told them to allow me out, or I was going to scream for help. Scott said something about how they were there and I didn’t need help. I just needed to agree to a date. I told him no. I was already with someone else, and he said they didn’t matter since it wasn’t him. I told him that it mattered to me because they were who I wanted to be with. I told him that he needed to step back. Scott reached out first and tried to grab me. I put my back into the SUV’s side, and that was then he reached out again to touch me without permission. That was when I batted his hand away. He didn’t like that and grabbed me hard on the arm. That was when I screamed the first time at the same time I kicked him in the balls. His friend tried to grab me and punched him in the face. So then Scott got pissed off and slapped me. I wasn’t sure what the hell to do at that point since they were still blocking me in. I don’t like to hurt people.”
“Mister McCall said you had no reason to attack.”
“Trapping a woman against a vehicle and trying to touch her again and again with her saying no is more than enough reason to react with violence to escape the situation,” Peter said.
“And I agree,” Wilcox said. He looked at Peter and then back at Kira. “Why did you ask for a lawyer?”
“I’m a female of color who was nearly assaulted by a man who seems to have standing in town. I would rather cover my ass.”
“Scott’s part Mexican. His grandfather on his mother’s side was full-blooded who married a lovely woman who wasn’t. They moved here to the United States since his family didn’t like that he married a White woman,” Stiles said.
“Ah, well still, I am covering my ass. Fuck people who say that only guilty people ask for lawyers. Smart people do when they know they can be railroaded.”
“We have the footage from the parking lot of the store. The owner was more than happy to give it over, Miss Yukimura. Now tell me what happened next.”
“I tried to shove Scott back, but he didn’t move nearly as far as I thought he would, and that was when he slapped me again. I punched him in the nose then, breaking it. Isaac tried to grab me, and that was when I punched him and broke his nose as well. I then ran into the store and found that the cops had already been called.”
“Yes, the BHPD was already responding to an incident on the far side of town, and we had a car in the area; that’s why we got it and not them.”
Stiles knew that someone had reported it as something of the Supernatural variety, which was why the Sheriff’s Department was pulled into it. Many were in the know in the city from what Stiles knew, and they all helped watch each other. That Scott and Isaac were involved at all meant that they needed a deft hand dealing with things.
“So you punched them both, and then?”
“Scott grabbed me and shoved me into the SUV. I elbowed him in the stomach, and then he bounced my head off the SUV. He fought after that, and I lost a bit of time as I tried to get him off me. The other guy just stood there and watched. I ended up getting a good hold of Scott and tossed him off of me. He landed in a heap, and about ten seconds later, the Deputies showed up. They had their lights on but no sirens. The curly-haired man tried to run away, but Scott told him to stay. He said that they weren’t going to be in trouble.”
“Thank you, Miss Yukimura. Please write up a statement,” Wilcox said as he ripped a sheet of paper off the notepad he had in front of him. He slid it over to Kira along with the pen before standing up. “Stiles.”
“Yeah, you got it.” Stiles stood up. He walked around to ruffle Kira’s hair. “You good?”
“Peter’s with me. I’m good.”
Stiles nodded his head. He figured that Kira only asked for Peter to have someone who would be seen as trustworthy with her to protect her. It was simple to have someone there with her, but none of their normal lawyers were anywhere near here. Stiles caught Peter’s eye and made sure he knew with a look that Stiles was leaving her in his care and nothing was to happen to her. Peter nodded his head.
Wilcox was standing outside of Scott’s room, waiting for Stiles.
“Let’s see what he says to this,” Wilcox said.
Stiles laughed. This wasn’t going to go well at all. He leaned against the wall right beside the window. He needed to be close if Scott started to do something stupid. Wilcox went into the room, sitting down beside Roberts, handing him the sheet of paper that Kira’s statement notes.
“Mister McCall, you are in a lot of trouble.”
“No, I’m not,” Scott said.
“Yes, you are. You talk about her attacking you, but you put your hands on her first, trapped her against a vehicle, and wouldn’t let her leave. Then you tried to grab her. She reacted to a threat, and you are bigger than her, you and Mister Lahey both. I will admit you will have a hard time getting a jury to look at you as the victim.”
“I am the victim. She attacked me for no reason.”
“Mister McCall, trapping someone to where they couldn’t leave and not taking no for an answer on a date is not ‘no reason,’ and you should know that.”
“Well, whoever she’s dating isn’t me, so she should drop him. I bet she’s with everyone on her team. I can see that.”
Stiles laughed to himself. He had heard a few people make comments like that before when Maia or Kira turned them down and saw the way Janice, Joe, and Sam was.
“Mister McCall, this is being recorded,” Roberts said, finally chiming in on the conversation.
“And? That’s gonna help if you recorded her as well.”
“Yes, we did, and no, it’s not gonna help you. Your best bet is to just come clean about everything. Why did you stick around after she said no.”
“Well, women like to play hard to get. I have a former girlfriend that she played hard to get for a while after breaking up once. Sometimes they want to be chased.”
“Actually, no should be respected the first time that anyone says it, no matter their gender.”
“Well, that’s not what I think,” Scott said.
“And that’s the issue, isn’t it? What you think. What you think is right and everyone else is wrong.”
“I’m a leader. I’m highly respected.”
“I think I need brain bleach,” Stiles said.
“I agree on that,” Noah said. He sighed and rubbed his hand over his face. “We really don’t need this shit with everything else that is going on. It’s just a handful we don’t need. She’s pressing charges for assault. It’s gonna be a court nightmare. If he spouts off like that in court, no one is going to be able to save his ass. Kira looks like a little ray of sunshine, and I know that she could have done worse to him.”
“Yes, she could have killed him and Isaac easily. I want to talk to Isaac. Aloneish.”
“Aloneish?” Noah asked.
“Well, I want him to think we are alone.”
“Interrogation room four. It’s far enough away from everything. You can use it, and I’ll bring him back. I will have to observe, just in case.”
“That’s fine. You can even record it.” Stiles shoved off the wall, looking at Scott and scoffing. He headed out of the hall to head down the other to find the interrogation room. It was just where it had been the last time that Stiles had been pulled in there for a bit of tough love when he was a teenager and caught egging a house of a horrible kid who liked to bully other kids. It wasn’t exactly the best thing in the world, but it was what it was.
Stiles sat down in the chair and waited for his father to bring Isaac in. Isaac was looking around as he was escorted in. He looked at Stiles with anger on his face. Yet, his eyes were wrong. “Fucking hell. Dad, get Maia in here now.”
“I’ll send Parrish to get her.” Noah looked back at the mirror.
“Stay in the room as well. Isaac, when did you become close with Scott again?”
“A few weeks ago. He was lonely,” Isaac said.
“Yeah, we have someone who is playing around with minds. Unfortunately, I can’t exactly save him unless Scott doesn’t take this to trial. I can’t get on the stand and talk about magic and spells.”
“I’m not under a spell,” Isaac said. He slammed his hands down on the table. The cuffs on his hands rattled.
“I need Derek as well.”
“He’s already here. Someone tipped him off that two of his pack were in here.” Noah leaned out the door. “HALE!”
It was a moment later that Maia and Derek appeared in the room. Derek was looking at Isaac like he had been found with his hand in the cookies were a present for someone else. It wasn’t the worst thing in the world, but it was pissing off Derek.
“He’s going to get into trouble unless Scott takes a plea deal because we can’t cover up his crimes, and he did do them. He didn’t do them of his own volition, but he did them. He’s under a spell. I can see it behind his eyes, and I can get rid of it, but I need you to consent for him as his alpha,” Stiles said.
“Yes,” Derek said. He walked around to stand behind Isaac, grabbing his shoulders and pushing him down into the chair.
“You didn’t need to do that,” Stiles said. He touched Isaac’s hand, and the young Werewolf went still. He couldn’t move at all. Stiles smiled before he turned to focus on his task. A small tattoo started to move. It went from the crook of his arm and raced down it.
“What the hell?” Noah said.
“Yeah, this was a new little friend that I picked up when Celeste sent me to Tibet for that meeting two years ago. He’s pretty useful.”
The tattoo raced up Isaac’s arm and disappeared under his shirt before appearing again on his neck. He ran all the way to Isaac’s forehead and settled there, looking like he was digging into Isaac’s brain. He snagged something, and a black maw of wiggling ink appeared. The tattoo rushed back to Stiles, and the maw of ink popped off Stiles’ skin and hovered at eye level.
“Huh, that’s interesting,” Stiles said.
“What is?” Derek asked as he let go of Isaac, who was slumped down now and panting.
“He was spelled with this before. It’s…a triggered spell. Someone made him follow along behind Scott before, but I can’t tell when right now. I have to get this back and perform a spell on it. Dad, you got a pen?”
Noah handed over a pen, and Stiles stripped it apart and pushed all of the ink out of it before using it to soak up the spell. It wasn’t the best, but it was the easiest way to get it out of there. He slipped the pen in the pocket of the long-sleeved shirt he had thrown on before leaving.
“Derek, I need to see every single member of your pack. I want them all in the room together, and I will check everyone for spells. Anyone who resists will be restrained, and it will be done to them. My team will protect me; your job will be to keep them corralled. Maia will go with you and make sure that as soon as someone crosses the doorway, they can’t leave again until I check them out.”
“And if I wanted someone else to do it?” Derek asked.
“Adam could, but it would take days. He wouldn’t be able to check everyone at the same time. Me, I can do it all at once using the wards that Adam laid on your house.”
“Fine,” Derek said.
“Two hours?” Stiles asked; he looked at Noah.
“Yeah, that would work with getting you all out of here. Will Mister Lahey be fine?”
“Yeah, he’ll be just fine.” Stiles stood up.
“Thank you,” Isaac said.
“You are welcome,” Stiles answered.
The Hale Pack was bigger than Stiles thought it was. It was bigger than Adam knew and, therefore, bigger than Celeste knew as well. Stiles didn’t fault Derek for that either. The Hale Pack had seen a lot of troubles over the years, and at this point in time, people underestimating them was something that might save their life.
“So, you are all wondering why you are here. Well, it’s pretty simple, actually. Someone is messing with at least Isaac’s mind. He was spelled to make friends and stay close to Scott. I don’t know why and I don’t really care. The motivations are the person’s, and I’m just stopping this.”
“Wouldn’t why it was done help find out who did it?”
“Yes, but we can’t find that out. We can speculate and go from there, but it’s nothing we can prove, and sometimes that means we put ourselves into a silo. Being in a silo is not good. So, I’m going to look at all of you. I’m going to make sure you are safe from all magics. If you have gotten a spell put on you by someone of your own choosing, raise your hand. Maia will take you to the kitchen, and I’ll look at you in private. Magic is awesome, and I love it, so there will be no judgment.”
One of the betas that Stiles didn’t know raised his hand. Stiles looked at Derek, and Derek nodded his head. He agreed to the man being taken out. Then Liam raised his hand, but he looked unsure.
“Yes?” Stiles asked.
“I think…I think I was under a spell, and it broke a few hours ago. I called Mason, and we talked about it. I was coming here to talk to Derek about it when we got the call to come to the house.”
“Into the kitchen with you. Anyone else?” Stiles asked.
Three other people raised their hands. Derek looked like he was ready to blow up. Peter looked green in the gills, and Stiles’ father was rubbing his back.
“Okay, you have two seconds to get your hand in the air.”
No one else did, so Stiles tapped into the wards. He brushed his magic over every single person in the room. He found two with remnants of spells inside them, Erica and Boyd, from years ago, around when Isaac’s first one was cast. Stiles could feel the way the house’s wards wrapped around all of them in there. There was a lot of love. Derek loved his pack, and it resonated in the wards. This was why whoever it was had spelled the people. They couldn’t touch the house.
“Okay, everything is good. No active spells on anyone here.”
“No active, which means you found remnants,” Derek said.
“Yeah. We can talk about that, us and the ones who were spelled after I deal with something. First, Alpha Hale, Beta Hale the Elder, we have a meeting at a different house. Let’s go.”
Derek looked confused, but Peter just got up and tugged his nephew along with him. Stiles was pretty sure that Peter knew where they were headed.
“Sure,” Jackson said. He pushed off of the wall that he had been leaning against.
“Everyone else stays here. No one leaves. Maia has the placed warded to where no one can. If a beta has an issue with it, lock them up. I will deal with them when we get back.”
Stiles headed out the door, and he breathed a sigh of relief when he did. The magic on the betas that were in the kitchen was massive. He could feel the spells lingering on them when he had got there. Peter and Derek were waiting for him over by the Preserve’s thick part that led to the old Hale house. He waved for them to go first.
The closer that Stiles got to the house, the more he felt it. The bad intentions and the horribleness. This place was ripe for the picking, it seemed. He wasn’t sure what the hell had really happened the night of the fire, but the spells on the house that he could feel the echoes of now told him that it had been set up.
“We have one big assed issue,” Stiles said.
“What?” Peter asked.
“You didn’t actually kill everyone involved in the fire,” Stiles said.
“I am not killing Derek. He was innocent of intent,” Peter said.
“Yeah, he was, but Deaton was not. This place…fucking hell, it reeks of magic that was meant to keep you all inside. Kate Argent was working with Deaton.”
“How do you know it was Deaton?” Peter asked.
“The spell work is the same as what was on Isaac, Erica, and Boyd. It’s also a match for the spells that Adam had broken on Deaton’s shop years ago. I know that stench, if you will. I don’t know about the new spells because there is something different. What he did, he confessed to, but he never confessed to any of this. This is going to turn into a cluster fuck, Derek, and it’s not going to be good.”
“I…I worried that there was more to it but not in a way I could prove,” Derek said.
“I have a feeling that I know a little of what was supposed to happen, but I don’t want to talk about it until I talk to dad about a few things. I will come out here and cleanse the spells from this house. There is a reason you were drawn here, Derek, and I was too young to realize what it was.”
“What about Adam?”
“He’s good at magic, but there are higher orders of magic that are undetectable, and this is one of those. He might have felt something was wrong but probably assumed it was the toll of the fire and warping the ley lines in the area. That just takes time. Think of that like an infection. You have to get rid of what’s causing the infection, and then the body fights off the rest. It’ll be a hard-won battle on this, but it’ll be good. I need a good night’s sleep and a few good meals into me before I tackle this.”
“Charge whatever you want,” Derek said.
“Dude, I don’t do this part for money. Just feed me, and you’ll be fine. I’m sure that Jackson can handle getting me food. Now, what do you want to do about your betas? I cannot make it to where no one can spell them again, but I can make it to where you would know. That will require a huge assed meal as soon as I get it done.”
“Pizza works best,” Jackson said.
“I’ll call in the standard order from the three shops with some from the fourth for Stiles and his team when they open up. Jackson, you and I can order for your people.” Peter drew Jackson away, and Jackson looked at Stiles.
Stiles nodded his head before walking up to the burned-out house. He touched it and sighed. He knew that the city had wanted to step in and take care of it at one point, but Peter had made sure that hadn’t happened. Stiles was happy to see it there, but he was also sad. It was still a monument to the Hales’ pain. He touched a piece of wood, and he found a small spell that was linked wholly to Derek.
“Someone wanted you to hurt,” Stiles said. He turned and waved Derek closer. Stiles touched his chest while he touched the house. “Why you?”
“Why me what?”
“Why were you the focus of the pain? I mean, Deaton could have easily told Kate everything she needed to know. Why have her seduce and rape you? Why have you be a survivor? Why you?”
“I can answer part of that,” Peter said as he got closer again. Jackson was on his heels. “Talia and Greg had a few issues for about a year. I thought they were going to get divorced. Things were rocky, and then it was starting to get better. Right about at the height of when they were good again, Talia got pregnant with Derek. Deaton had been upset about it and pissed. I can see him thinking that Derek’s birth was the reason they stayed together.”
“Mom cheated on dad?” Derek asked.
“No, Derek, she didn’t. She did spend time with Deaton after that. It’s the emissary’s job to console the alpha and to be the therapist of sorts. Deaton took what was a close friendship and thought it was something more. He thought he deserved more because he was a good friend.”
“Sounds like Scott, only he thinks that strangers he is nice to should have sex with him.” Stiles shivered, thinking about it.
“Well, he learned it somewhere, and it wasn’t his actual father,” Peter said.
“Let’s tackle this another day. Let’s get my betas taken care of, and then we can deal with the rest. You and your team are welcome at the house for as long as needed for you to recover, Stiles.”
“Thank you, Alpha Hale.”
Stiles wasn’t sure that it was all Deaton and Scott. There was too much finesse on everything that spoke of smarter people. He didn’t like it as it meant there was a player that he didn’t know.
“Stiles, I have information,” Kira said as she leaned over his back.
“Yeah?” Stiles asked. He dropped the file and let Kira set down a new one. They were in the house’s kitchen, and a few other team members moved around the house. Everyone was on a knife’s edge because nothing had happened in over a week. Stiles knew that things were not nearly as horrible as some of the team, like Jackson, was making it, but they were never used to the waiting game that things like this took. The villains they fought in New Orleans weren’t playing long games. This was a fucking long game for Deaton. There just wasn’t an understanding of what his endgame was. It was something that Stiles didn’t like.
By all accounts, Deaton had been saved from the path to at Darach that he had been on. So it seemed that whatever that path was, he had just started it again. Stiles had no idea why Deaton would want to become a Darach.
“Well, this is interesting. Where did you get this?”
“Adam texted me the link, and I printed it off. The thing is, I know who we can contact to find out more information about that period.”
“My father. Researching that is how mom and dad met.”
“Oh, yeah, your mom was alive then. Well, contact them, and we can see what kind of shit was happening in Beacon Hills at that time. I still have no clue if that was the point that the Nemeton was hurting over or not, but World War II is as good a starting time as any for what is going on. It was in the 1900s, and I know that. I’ll read over this.”
“Sure.” Kira pressed a kiss to Stiles’ forehead and danced away from him.
Stiles smiled. Kira’s happy personality was one of the best things about her. It wasn’t like Stiles let things get dour, but there was just something about her that made everyone have a better outlook in dour times, and this was dour. Picking up the file, Stiles went out to the back porch. He found Jackson sitting on the steps, so Stiles sat down behind him, boxing in his body in between his legs. Jackson leaned back.
“How is everyone?” Stiles asked.
“Good. Really good. Restless, but then we usually are coming in with more information than we have here, but we are making good progress. Joe and Sammy went on a run. Janice and Maia are sparring in the basement. I hear Kira on the phone with her mother, who doesn’t sound too happy about anything. I think she’s lying about something from the tone that I can hear.”
“Well, how about we head up to the bedroom?” Stiles asked. He dropped the file and slipped his hand under Jackson’s shirt, scratching his nails to excite Jackson just like he liked.
“And if I don’t want to?” Jackson asked.
Stiles jerked his hand back as quickly as he could. Jackson hadn’t been into sex all that much since the night that he had attacked Stiles while under the control of someone else. They were at a dead end on the whole thing as the flies were connected to too many things in the world. For all Stiles knew, they were a strange manifestation of something else that had never been seen before.
“Sorry,” Stiles said. He laid back, looking up at the roof of the porch.
“I didn’t say I didn’t want to. I just…I’m afraid of hurting you,” Jackson said.
“Then don’t. Jax, you and I are closer than this. You have never once lost control, even when you were hyped up on that odd bit of wolfsbane that it took forever to cure. You chased me and took me down, but you never hurt me. When you are in control, you will never hurt me. I know that you hate losing control, but you can’t help it. It took over dad and Peter, Jax. They are two of the strongest-willed men that I have ever met. They were taken over as well; you snapped out of it, Jackson. You were the only one.”
Jackson twisted around to look at Stiles, a faint smile on his lips. He kept moving to where he was balanced on hands and knees on top of Stiles. That faint smile turned to the start of a feral grin.
“Run,” Jackson said.
Stiles laughed, and he got his legs up and used them to throw Jackson back and into the yard, using a bit of magic to give him a head start. He had to make it to the bedroom before Jackson caught him.
The rush overcame Stiles, and he slammed into the wall as he threw the door open. He wasn’t going to look back at what Jackson was doing, that waylaid delaying long enough for Jackson to catch him. Kira yelled something, but when the backdoor slammed open again with Jackson on Stiles’ heels, she shut up.
Stiles made it to the bedroom and onto the bed just as the bedroom door was jerked open again. Jackson only paused long enough to shut the door so the sound wouldn’t carry. Jackson flipped Stiles onto his front, and his teeth closed over the side of Stiles’ neck to hold him in place. Stiles gasped and buried his face into the bed as hands closed on his hips before fingers turned to claws.
“Don’t even. You love these jeans,” Stiles said.
Jackson laughed and let go of him before pushing up. He backed off and allowed Stiles to start to strip himself. Stiles rolled to his back so he could watch Jackson do the same. Jackson didn’t have claws, but his eyes were still glowing a little, the blue that always made Stiles’ pulse race. He did think that blue was pretty, and while he knew the reason for Jackson’s eyes, Stiles knew he wasn’t just his blue eyes. He was a good man, better than he had been in high school. He had changed so much over the years, and every single day, Jackson made Stiles fall in love with him.
Stiles dropped back onto the bed once he tossed the last of his clothes away. Jackson growled at Stiles when he started to push his way up the bed. He fell onto his back and spread his legs. Jackson crawled up into the V made by Stiles’ legs. His hands grabbed Stiles’ hips to pull him down the bed. He slipped off and put Stiles’ ass right at the edge. Jackson swallowed him down with no pause. Stiles lost himself in what Jackson was doing to him, even as Jackson was getting rougher and rougher. It wasn’t until there were claws in his hips that Stiles tried to shove off Jackson, but he dug in harder.
Jackson tipped his head up to look at him, and Stiles knew those eyes. Dark and dead eyes. Just like the eyes, he had seen the night Jackson, Peter, and Noah had attacked him. Jackson ripped his claws free of Stiles, ripping so much flesh as he did; the pain was there but not what it should be, and then Jackson brought them down again. This time on the inside of Stiles’ thighs, and it was over. There was blood everywhere.
Stiles jerked and landed on the floor, his staff was in his hands, and he was looking around. He was nearly into a panic attack, and he had just woken up. There was no one around him. It was only once he was sure no one was attacking him, he looked down at his legs to find that he was still in the clothes he had put on that morning. There was no blood.
Maia was the first one who made it into the living room. She stopped right at the door when she saw that Stiles had his staff out. She kept someone from coming in behind as well.
“Our little fucker overplayed their hand. They fucked with me. Where is Jackson?”
“He’s out in the yard talking with the neighbor about begonias.”
“Okay. I want to gear up, but I need him first. Please. Everyone else, get your gear going. We are heading out, and I’m going to lure the fucker to me. I figured out part of what he wants.”
“What he wants?” Maia asked.
“It’s a lot, and I am not doing it more than once. So just…” Stiles trailed off and waved his hand. Stiles got up, keeping his hand on his staff.
It didn’t take long for Jackson to come into the room. He sniffed as soon as he entered, his eyes bugging out at what had to be fear all over the room.
“Come here,” Stiles said. He held out his arms, finally dropping the staff. It didn’t disappear like most of his weapons did. It never did. It was a real thing that he had, for all intents and purposes, summoned.
“When is a door not a door?” Stiles asked.
“When it’s ajar. What is…you are shitting me, right?” Jackson asked.
“No, I’m not, but you…need to keep that to yourself for right now. We can’t let it slip that I know what’s going on. We are heading out to the Nemeton, and I will shield everyone to ensure no one knows they are there. Then I am going to deal with this fucker.”
“The team is going to ask.”
Stiles gripped Jackson tightly, getting rid of the memory of Jackson hurting him like that. The Nogitsune had gone after him in the exact wrong way. Stiles had fears, but that wasn’t one of them. It had fed off of the wrong kind of fear, and it had shown itself.
Looking for his phone, Stiles snagged it as soon as he found it on the floor. He texted one person. He had a plan.
Stiles crossed his legs and waited for the Nogitsune to come to him. He knew that his team was around him, and he knew that none of them were ready for this. Stiles and Jackson had taken on one Nogitsune years ago when they had been visiting Japan on vacation. Hunters there had taken a shine to them, and they had been shown things that no normal person saw. While they had been out, they had come across a Nogitsune who had been wreaking havoc across the countryside. It had taken all of them to take it down. Stiles knew what to do to take it down now. He had been taught that since no one on the team had known that at the time. It was one of those things that Stiles had kept close to his heart. He hadn’t even talked to Kira about it.
The biggest issue was that this wasn’t a normal Nogitsune; this wasn’t Kitsune who had gone dark. This one had been called down to this plane of existence and set loose. It lived for chaos and pain. On either side of Stiles on the ground was a pair of short swords, pulled from the weapon menagerie he had collected over the years. It wasn’t hard to see why people would try and kill him for his weapons. He had gotten these from a pair of weaponsmiths in Scotland when he had gone there with Celeste a year ago. He had trained to learn how to fight with them, and he had come out better. It had been a good little trip, even if he had missed Jackson. Stiles would rather not leave him like that again, but he knew that he would have to. Some didn’t mix with wolves like the Gajos did. They didn’t go after them like the Argents did, but they didn’t allow the races to mix as it were.
“There you are, you are late,” a voice called out.
Stiles opened his eyes and looked around. He found the person who had been taken over standing at the edge of the very small clearing.
“I am late? I’ve been here for a while. You haven’t sought me out before this. Attacked me, yes, but that was it.”
“You should have been mine years ago. I loved feeding on your magic. You didn’t know that I was here, and you didn’t care to give me what I wanted. Your dreams were delicious. I fed on them. The chaos. The pain.” The man who was housing the Nogitsune stepped into the light shining from the sun above. “I will have you, and I will destroy you.”
“Come and try.”
The man paused, his eyes darting around. “You try and trap me.” A hand raised up, and Stiles watched as the man touched the shield that Stiles had thrown up. It had been just a diversion as when the Nogitsune dropped the shield, the real fun was going to start up.
“Eh, I had to try.” Stiles stood up, picking up his swords at the same time. He grinned at the Nogitsune and waved it forward. “Come to your death.”
“I think I should be the one to say that.”
“Human, thinking you know anything,” the Nogitsune said.
The man stepped up, and Stiles could finally see his face.
“Huh,” Stiles said.
“We chose someone that wouldn’t have you killing them off the bat,” Wilcox said.
“Off the bat.” Stiles looked at his swords, and he laughed. “Well, you chose the wrong person to go into. You should have gone into my father. It might have actually saved your life.”
“Really? You are trying to make me think that you would kill this man?”
“He would give his life to protect the world. He would rather that I killed him than let you keep on going.”
“YOU CAN’T KILL ME!” Wilcox screamed.
“Oh, sweetie, I really can.”
Derek Hale stepped out from behind a tree, slipping out of the hiding area that Stiles had made for him.
“What do you think you are going to do with him? He’s a worthless alpha.”
“Nah, he’s learning after years spent not understanding what it really meant to be an alpha. There is a reason why heirs are groomed. It’s also why when betas become alphas, other alphas help them learn. It’s pretty easy to let that power go to your head.” Stiles nodded his head at Derek, who moved and was ready.
Derek grabbed Wilcox by his arms and held him still; the deputy started to fight him. Stiles lunged forward, shoving both swords through the two wolves. Derek screamed, but Wilcox roared in anger.
As soon as the blood started to drip from the open wounds, Stiles started to chant. He kept on chanting the same words over and over again, pushing his will and his magic into what he wanted to happen. Kira was right behind, ready to do what needed to be done.
The Nogitsune was screaming and yelling, trying to scare them.
“You dare to do this to me? It was your mother who brought me down. She wanted me to destroy those who were killing her friends. I am IMMORTAL!”
Wilcox’s eyes glowed yellow before flaring to red. He slumped down, and out of his body, a fly flew out. Kira caught it in the jar that Stiles had made sure would hold it.
“Ready?” Stiles asked Derek.
“Yes,” Derek answered.
Stiles jerked his swords free. Both men screamed and then collapsed. Jackson and Joe were the first over to them, getting the pair apart and ripping clothes open to check on the wounds. Derek’s healed up first, and Wilcox’s were slow behind it.
“Roberts?” Stiles asked. He looked at Jackson.
“I don’t know. I’ll text your father.”
“I figure that Barrow’s body is somewhere. Look at the effects that are being had on this body. And Wilcox is a Werewolf. He’s going into a cell, though. He’ll stay asleep.”
“What was that?” Kira asked.
“The easiest way to get a Nogitsune out of a body is a change. If it had been my father, Derek would have changed him into a Werewolf as any other change at his age would have killed him. But the change from a beta to an alpha, even just for a few minutes, was enough.”
“So, Hale’s still the alpha?” Janice asked. She crouched at Wilcox’s side and touched his face. She smiled and nodded her head. “No cell needed for him. He’ll be himself when he wakes up. I would make sure that Roberts is here, though, just to be safe.”
“Your father is on his way with Parrish,” Jackson answered.
“How long have you known?” Kira asked.
“It tried to get me to let it into me. It brought up things that I don’t know. But what it knew revealed what it was. Then it was just a matter of figuring out how to lure it out, and that was the next thing. The feints over the last week since the last confirmed sighting of Barrow have all been at me. It wants me. Why does it want me? Magic.”
“It was burning out the Werewolf body, just like it did Barrow,” Jackson said.
“Yes.” Stiles looked at Maia. “We good?”
“No one is around, according to Joe and Sammy. Joe traced the scent of where Wilcox came from, and there is nothing there. He didn’t leave any traps.”
“Good. Derek’s pack is staying back, at least they are supposed to, no matter what they felt. Peter’s with them, so things should stay calm, but who knows what would happen if someone gets very upset about everything.” Stiles knew that right now, Derek’s pack could be a threat to him. He needed to make sure that it didn’t actually happen. He needed to make sure of many things, but the most important thing was protecting Derek right now.
“Jax?” Stiles asked.
“We are good. Go.”
Stiles nodded his head. He walked over to the Nemeton and opened up the door before going under. Now that he had fully felt the Nogitsune, he could feel the point where the Nogitsune had been trapped for a very long time. He touched there and felt cancer. There was a lot that needed to be done to heal the land. He would be here for a long time because even he didn’t have the power to do it at once.
“Okay,” Stiles said. He touched a root of the tree and gasped.
Seeing someone else’s memories was not something that Stiles ever liked to have happened to him. He dropped to his knees and let the memories wash over him. He found what the Nemeton was trying to tell him. The memories that he saw showed him a vastly different picture from the little bits he had heard from the parties involved.
“Oh, holy shit,” Stiles said.
The small shack in the middle of the Preserve where William Barrow’s body had been found was the most desolate place in the world. There wasn’t even anything to keep the place warm. It was assumed he died of exposure in the cold snap that happened the night the coroner estimated that he died. It hadn’t taken but a day for the body to be found; the smell was strong enough the cadaver dogs were on the trail as soon as they had been out of the truck they were in.
“Stiles?” Noah asked as he sat down at his desk.
Stiles looked up from the images that had been taken of the crime scene.
“Sorry, so I don’t know how to bring any of this up. There is a lot to unpack from what I saw from the Nemeton.”
“From the Nemeton?” Noah asked.
“It was…Well, I think that it’s trying to right a few wrongs. Malia Tate is alive, and it’s going to take a lot to rescue her. Then we need to figure out who her family is and where the whole Werecoyote part came from. She’s in the Preserve in the body of a coyote, stuck in the shift after being in it for so long. She might never want to come out of it, but I think that if she figures out what being in a pack means, she might change on her own.”
“I’m sure that Wilcox and Roberts can give you the rundown. Derek and I can go after her later.”
“Her father ate a bullet on the day that Malia would have turned eighteen. She’s alone. His money and everything was donated to charities. She has no one left in the world.”
“Well, she will have the Hale Pack. Now onto the second bit of mind-fucking. I know who Jackson’s biological father is, and he’s alive.”
“No, Jackson’s parents both died in the car accident,” Noah said.
“No, they didn’t. The mother did. But the man she was married to was not the father. She cheated on him, and the real father never knew she was pregnant. Someone else covered that up.”
“And the father is…”
“Well, now that I have seen it, I can’t unsee it, and I’ll have to ask Peter for his permission to marry his son when the time comes.”
Stiles watched his father’s face as he said it. He watched the way that he tried to figure out if Stiles was joking or not. Stiles leaned back when the words fully sunk in.
“That…is not as shocking as it should be. So how does that work?” Noah asked.
“Talia Hale took the memories. She did it at the Nemeton, along with the location of said Nemeton, and took Derek’s memories of that night as well. I haven’t unpacked everything enough yet, but I think that Talia didn’t like Derek being as he was. Derek’s memories of the night that Paige died are false as well. There are gaps.”
“So, there is a lot to unpack with Derek and with Peter. You…need me there?”
“Yes, but only for Peter. I’ll have Cora there for Derek. We will all be in the same room talking about this. No one else. I’m not even going to have Jackson in there.”
“How does that feel?”
“He’s finally accepted that his biological parents loved him and never would have left him if it was their choice. I have no clue what I even want to do with any of that.”
“Well, your team is still working on things. Why don’t you go to the house, and I’ll send Peter there and then collect Derek and Cora on my way home?” Noah asked.
“Yeah, that works. I told Jackson I would be with you most of the day.” Stiles stood up. He felt like he had fought in a war instead of just a small skirmish. He was mentally tired, especially after trying to figure everything out with Jackson and Peter and just so many other things. The Nemeton was smart, and it had collected everything that it felt was done wrong in the area. Stiles was still unpacking a lot of it, his brain only working on some of it at a time. Stiles figured that he would be unpacking it all for years, and Stiles wasn’t even sure the Nemeton had given him everything. He just wanted to settle into a happy life, not dealing with the trash of Beacon Hills, but it seemed that it was what was going to be his life. He was pretty sure that the Nemeton wasn’t going to allow even Adam back here to settle down as the protector.
Stiles knew that he was trapped here, but he wasn’t going to keep his team here. He would make sure that they found another team that would take them in, though that might be hard. Jackson wasn’t going to, so he would stick around.
Rubbing at the bridge of his nose, Stiles knew that none of the team was going to leave. Maia was going to be staying, as well as Jackson and Sammy. That meant that Kira, Joe, and Janice weren’t going to go anywhere either. Stiles just hoped that they had enough missions that took them just far enough away that no one felt like they were trapped.
“I’ll see you at the house.”
Noah nodded his head as he picked up the phone.
“Where is Peter?”
“He said he had things to do today, shopping. I’m sure he’s stocking up on food and items he thinks are needed. Why?”
“You said he wasn’t home. So I just wondered what he was doing. I know he took a little time off what work he did do to help with everything.”
“He’s just out and about doing retail therapy, as I call it.”
Stiles snorted and nodded his head. He gave his father a smile before he left his office. He still wasn’t sure what the hell he was going to say.
Stiles felt Jackson getting closer, and he looked at Peter, who didn’t look shocked.
“What did you do?”
“Well, I stopped by to see Noah before I came here, and the man is good at his job, but when he comes to me, he’s not that good at keeping things a secret. He didn’t tell me much, but he did say that he thought that you could do from having Jackson here.”
“My father is a meddling asshole,” Stiles said. He stood up and opened the door just as Jackson got onto the porch. He didn’t look shocked to see Stiles here or that Stiles looked like shit. Derek and Cora were taking their time getting there. Noah had been snagged about something before he left the office. All the time was doing was making it so that Stiles was eating himself alive mentally.
“I knew that something was up, but I didn’t realize that it dealt with all of the Hales.”
“Well, the Nemeton is a good spy. It’s been spying on everyone in town for years, and it spilled everything to me,” Stiles said.
“And what you know involves the Hales?” Jackson asked.
“Yes,” Stiles said. He looked at Peter to see that he was still reading the book he had been, but his eyes weren’t focused. He was paying attention to him and not it.
The sound of slamming car doors had Stiles looking behind Jackson. The last two Hales and Noah were there.
“I’m going to handle this in my way, Jackson. I need…I need you to just support me, please. Mostly for this first part.”
“I can do that. You know that.” Jackson looked worried.
“Good. Let’s all go out back. We can sit on the back porch.”
It took only a few minutes for everyone to be settled on the back porch. Noah came out with a six-pack of artisan beers that Peter really liked.
“I guess I can share,” Peter said.
“I replaced it in the fridge,” Noah said. He sat down beside Peter and looked at Stiles. “We are outside in March, and I have no clue why we can’t be inside.”
“Pacing, that’s why. Derek, this will affect you more than anyone else, but it will affect Peter as well. So to get everyone up to speed. The Nemeton hasn’t been able to do a lot of things in the area like it should. It has gotten good at spying, though. It’s spied on many people over the years, and it collected those memories of when it could have someone do something about it. The first big memory that it gave me was Peter and Derek going to Ennis to talk to him about if he was willing to bite Paige when she agreed to become a Werewolf if Talia didn’t agree to do it.”
“No, that’s not how that happened,” Peter said.
“Yes, it is.”
“I was there!” Peter yelled.
“He was there. We went to him and asked him to bite her, and he did; he chased her down. I regretted it as soon as I heard her scream. He had already bitten her, though.” Derek looked like he was ready to punch Stiles for bringing all of this up.
“No, that’s the memories that were given to you, manipulated to make it seem like that, key sections taken out to suit you.”
“Why?” Peter asked.
“Well, we brought up part of it a while back about Deaton and his love of Talia. He manipulated her, making her think it was better for Derek. To scare him into never doing something like that again and turning Derek against Peter. I think it also put Derek on Kate’s path.”
“Why would my mother do that?” Derek asked.
“You were becoming better than Laura. Unlike the Argents, the Hale’s have never used gender as a reason to pick the next alpha. Yes, your grandmother was the alpha, and then Talia, but you showed an aptitude for being the next alpha, from what I can tell. It was a lot of little things that we’re adding up to Laura not being the heir apparent for her alpha, and I don’t think your mother wanted that.”
“So she…that’s why no one in the pack really paid attention to me after. Mom said she would tell everyone that I took her suffering away from her. That she was going to die anyway. I had so much guilt over it all.”
“I bet you didn’t have blue eyes before she took the key memories.”
Derek shoved himself up and moved to the middle of the yard and started to pace.
“And that’s the worst of it?”
“No, that’s not the worst of it. There is a girl in the Preserve who needs you guys to find her. She shifted into her Coyote form and hasn’t come out of it since she was a kid. She’s around my age. She was adopted into an all-human family. I have not figured out how she shifted or why. The Nemeton doesn’t have all of that, or I haven’t found it in my head yet. Either one of those is a viable option. The Nemeton thinks she will come with you guys if you go into the Preserve in your wolf forms. Then she can come home and act as part of the pack, not a pet, and if she chooses to take back her humanity, she can, or she can stay like she is, and you have another fighter in the pack.”
“I’ll deal with that later,” Derek said. He sat down on the stairs leaning against the handrail and looking at Stiles. “You have more.”
“It’s…well, what your mother did to you and Peter around those memories is horrible and fucking disgusting, but this…It’s just shitty but in a very different way. Now, Peter, you have a child.”
“A child?” Peter asked.
“Well, a son. He’s not a kid anymore. He’s a grown adult with his own life, and he’s happy in that life. I don’t…I don’t want to keep who it is from you, but I don’t know how you will react to what is going on and everything else. I don’t think he wants a father in his life right now. A good friend would work, and maybe down the road, he could call you dad.”
“I…” Peter looked away from Stiles.
“Peter asked me seven years ago to look into if he had a child out there. He felt like he did. I couldn’t find any evidence of it. There was one big transfer of money from the pack fund, but it was turned into cash, and then it was gone. I was never able to trace it,” Noah said.
“It went into a trust for the kid. Well, a payoff, as I don’t think it all went into a trust fund. Talia paid off the mother and the woman’s husband to never darken her doorstep again, and as far as the Nemeton can tell, he was never watched to see if he would turn into a Werewolf.”
“I don’t know what to say to any of this.” Cora looked like she was going to throw up.
Jackson laid a hand on Stiles’ shoulder and tugged him back into his body. Just that act made a new memory unlock in his brain.
“Peter, does the name Corrine mean anything to you?”
Stile wasn’t sure he was ready for this, much less any of them.
“Well, it seems she’s the mother of the second child you had. You reacted horribly to having your son taken from you and the memories and got Corrine pregnant.”
Stiles had a headache from the new memories. He really wished the Nemeton had done better at giving him everything on Malia out there in the Preserve as he wouldn’t have brought it up like he had if he had known.
“Corrine was known as the Desert Wolf, an assassin for hire. A rogue US Marshal took her out a few years back, losing her life in the process,” Peter said.
“You slept with an assassin?” Cora asked.
“I didn’t know she was at the time. I knew she was a Werecoyote, and that was all I cared about. It was…I felt wrong, and now I understand why. I guess she got the stuff with the memories correct with that one?”
“I would assume so. Now I…I’m actually fucking pissed at the Nemeton right now,” Stiles said. He let Jackson take all of his weight. Jackson wrapped his arms around him and held on tightly.
“She’s the coyote in the Preserve, isn’t she?” Noah asked.
“Yes. The memory didn’t come forward until just a moment ago.” Stiles closed his eyes as the headache spiked again, and he hated it. He felt the pain start to fade as soon as Jackson’s hand slipped under his shirt. He let the sound of silence from everyone around him wash over him.
“I have two kids,” Peter said several minutes later. “One is stuck in full shift form, and the other is who the hell knows where.”
Stiles didn’t know what to say to that. He could tell Peter that his son was there in town, but he hadn’t talked to Jackson yet.
“I’m right here, Peter,” Jackson said.
“What?” Stiles shifted in Jackson’s arms and looked at him. Jackson was smiling. He pulled Stiles’ face in to press a kiss to his forehead. “How?”
“You looked a little pissed when I got here, and that means that you didn’t want me here. You always want me around when you are giving bad news. So, that means the news was about me in some way.”
“You know me too well,” Stiles said.
“Nope, not possible when it comes to you. I know you just well enough, thank you.”
“I think that these are needed,” Noah said. He handed out the beers and popped the cap off of each before settling down again.
“I don’t know what to feel,” Derek said. He drained the beer in his hand.
It was like it was the impetus as everyone else drank their beer down as well.
“Join the club,” Cora answered.
“I loved my sister,” Peter said.
“You did?” Noah asked.
“Yes, did. I have found out enough information over the years that the love I had for her as my sister has been eroded by the actions she took as alpha.”
“Ditto,” Cora said.
“I need…” Derek waved his hand toward the Preserve that was visible just beyond the backyard fence. He stripped off his shoes as fast as he could and laid down the items from his jean pockets before running, his clothes shredding as he shifted into his wolf form and was gone.
“Cora,” Peter said.
“You got it.” Cora took her time stripping her clothes off and then was gone in the blink of an eye. Her wolf form was smaller, but it seemed she was built for speed.
“How are you doing?” Noah asked.
“Numb. I’m numb. I can understand why they want to head out. Derek and Cora both find solace in being out there like that. I don’t.”
“No, you go upstairs in our bed, cuddled together and trying to ignore the world. Why don’t we go and do that?”
“Sure.” Peter let himself be pulled up when Noah did it. He stopped at the backdoor and looked at Stiles and Jackson. “Thank you for telling me. Thank you for trusting me to know it. Jackson, it’s all up to you what we do about this. I won’t ask for more than we have.”
“I’ll let you know,” Jackson said.
Stiles didn’t say a thing when Jackson dropped his head to bury his face in Stiles’ neck. They stayed like that for a good long while.
“The thing is, Stiles, I already look at him as a father. Not my father but your father and, therefore, someone I should respect. It’s not gonna take much to look at him as my father. Time will be needed, but I could see myself happy with him as a father. No one would balk at me calling him Papa or Pops or something like that. I already call your father, Dad.”
“This is true. Do you want to go home?”
“Where is the rest of the team?” Jackson asked.
“Out and about. I have no clue. We can message them to clear out.”
“No, I just don’t want to talk. I like the idea of going home and cuddling in bed with you. Can you be the big spoon?”
“Sure will. Let’s go.”
As soon as Stiles got out of his Jeep, he knew that something was wrong. He looked at the station door to see if he could figure it out before he stepped inside. He didn’t think he was going to be able to, though. Someone was making a play, but he wasn’t sure if it was Morrell or Deaton. He had been digging enough to know that no matter what those in control of the Druids thought, they weren’t good people. They weren’t good at all.
Stiles texted Jackson to assemble, and then he set off the beacon on his phone before slipping it inside the Jeep. There no one would be able to touch it. He ran his finger over the rune that stopped anyone but he and his team from touching the Jeep. It was his fucking baby, and he made sure it was protected. Once he was sure, it was all as protected as he could get it. He strolled up to the front door of the station and threw open the door.
“Daddio! It’s lunchtime!” Stiles yelled, just like he used to when he was a teenager and was dragging his father from work after being there too long without seeing the light of day.
“Sorry, Stiles, but your father is busy,” Deaton said from where he was sitting down on the corner of a desk.
There was a leg sticking out from the corner of the desk.
“I hope you didn’t kill them all,” Stiles said.
“No, Marin merely put them to sleep. You, on the other hand, are going to die for interrupting my plans. If you hadn’t meddled in things, Derek never would have stayed alpha, and Scott would have been the Alpha of Beacon Hills. I spent a lot of time making sure that you were lured out into the woods and Scott would be bitten.”
“Dude, really? You wanted him to be an alpha? Why? What did that get you?”
“Talia Hale’s legacy thoroughly destroyed. Derek Hale a disgraced alpha who couldn’t protect anyone in his family. Peter Hale crazy and in Eichen where he couldn’t harm anyone. The return of Cora slowed my plans a little, but then I factored her into the plans, and she was going to be his downfall.”
“Wow, a Bond villain monologue without me even having to goad you into it. So you just what? Played the long game and worked on getting me back here to kill me?”
“I wasn’t going to do a thing with you, but then the Nogitsune was released, and it seemed to want to draw you back. I talked it into letting me help draw you back with a few dropped bits of information.”
“So you are that sure you are going to kill me that you don’t mind telling me everything?”
“That and it’s a good distraction.”
Stiles nodded his head as it was a very good distraction. It was just bad that Deaton forgot that Stiles had grown up in this place, and he knew where all of the mirrors were that allowed the deputies to see every angle of the place. He saw Morrell sneaking up from an angle that he couldn’t see without the mirror. Just as she raised whatever it was she would use to bash him over the head, Stiles turned and grabbed her by the throat. He grabbed the item with his other hand and jerked it free before tossing it at Deaton.
Deaton stumbled when it hit him where he had been rushing at Stiles to free his sister.
“You are not really that stupid, are you?” Stiles turned, and next, he shoved at Morrell, pushing her away from him as far as he could get. “I know this place like the back of my hand. I know where the mirrors are that stop people from crashing into each other and ensure that every angle of this place is visible. There was a hostage situation about three years after I was born. The then-Sheriff made sure that he didn’t have that issue anymore. Yeah, they can be shot out but doing that means others can shoot them.”
“You are smarter than we thought,” Morrell said.
“Lady, I’m smarter than a lot of people think. They think that because I have ADHD that have to be stupid. So, how about you both just surrender and come with me to the holding cells that have your names on them. Then we can make sure that you never bother anyone else ever again. You are going a long way for revenge.”
“She should have loved me. She should have left him and married me.”
“Dude, you don’t even understand anything. You just wanted her, and you thought that you should have her. No matter what she wanted. It’s not like you wanted her to want you; you just wanted her.”
“She loved me! She came to me with all of her problems, not that weak man she married!” Deaton yelled.
Stiles saw the crack in Morrell’s armor as she looked at her brother. Stiles figured that she hadn’t realized how crazy her brother was. She had probably gone alone to get revenge on the town that ended her pack. The Alpha Pack was her pack, and Stiles knew that even Emissaries got caught up in the shit that packs did. Morrell wasn’t good. She had allowed her pack to kill people instead of turning them in. If she was a good person, the Alpha Pack never would have got as far as they did.
The rehabilitation method had been tried with both of these people. It hadn’t worked, so that meant it probably never would. It wasn’t like the joke that prisons had for rehabilitation. No, usually it worked with magic users.
“You saw the pack destroyed because you hated Talia for not choosing you over the man she loved. What were your plans for Laura and Derek?” Stiles asked.
“Well, Peter took care of Laura, and then Derek killed Peter like he was supposed to. I didn’t see Peter coming back. It would have been easy to make Derek kill himself after he killed his pack for power.”
“Because everyone wants power,” Stiles said.
“Those who say they don’t are lying,” Morrell said.
“Spoken like someone who doesn’t understand people like me.”
“You? You are the third most powerful hunter in this country at the moment, only behind your cousin and your aunt. You want power, or you wouldn’t be there.”
“None of the Gajos want power; they want to protect. Power gives them the ability to do that, but they will choose protection over having power every time. If I knew that killing myself to kill you would stop you from ever hurting anyone else again, I would do it. So chew on that.”
Stiles knew he hadn’t bought a lot of time. He had, in fact, only bought seconds, but those seconds were all that he needed. The door behind him opened up, and there was Jackson, and the rest of the team, as well as Derek’s pack, flooded in from all around, every single entrance that they could. Boyd even came through the Sheriff’s office. Stiles could see movement beyond him, and then there was talking.
“He’s awake,” Erica yelled.
“That means the rest are going to be waking up soon,” Stiles said.
“Well, then I guess we should do what we are going to do.” Deaton threw a baggie of something onto the floor, and it exploded, but instead of whatever powder was inside spreading around, it just dropped to the ground.
“Aww shucks, that’s horrible. I guess that you’ll have to figure something else out.”
Deaton looked scared at that. Morrell looked downright fucking terrified.
“Yeah, see, there are lovely spells that make it impossible to toss around Mountain Ash powder or even mistletoe powder, and especially wolfsbane. Take them.”
Derek and Peter were the ones to grab them. They were shoved until they disappeared into the holding area.
Stiles waited for them to be gone from sight before he rushed to his father. He didn’t even pause in his rushing and hugged the shit out of him. Now things were over; Stiles could let all of that fear out. As soon as his father’s arms closed around him, he started to sob. He and his father slipped to the floor, holding onto each other. Stiles could hear his father talking to him, but he couldn’t make out a single word. It was as if everything was crashing down on him. If he had not been as prepared as he was, who knew what that powder would have done to those who were in there. Wolfsbane was poisonous to humans. It could have killed everyone in there, and Stiles didn’t like it at all.
Jackson’s hand closed over his shoulder, so Stiles let go of his father with one arm and reached up to cover that hand. There was nothing else much to do but crouch there until he was sure that he would not burst out into more tears.
Emotional overload was something that Stiles knew well, especially after hard hunts. He usually broke down in the shower, though, not in the middle of the damned Sheriff’s station.
“Come on, Stiles. Let’s go check on everything,” Noah said a few minutes later.
Stiles nodded his head and let go of his father. Jackson pulled him up and tucked him into his side, giving Stiles a little bit of support.
“You think that you actually have all of their traps?” Noah asked.
“Yes, they wanted to kill me. There was nothing more to it than that. They were going to use what they thought were people I would do anything to protect. Every single person who worked here agreed to give up their lives to protect innocents.”
“You would have let them kill your father?” Derek asked.
“I would have let them kill me and everyone in there if it meant I could kill them. Yes, the deputies are innocents, but none of them would ever want their life to mean more than someone else’s, not like that.”
Derek snorted at that and looked at where Chris and Allison were entering the station. They were kitted out for a fight, but it was all over. “There are those that think that giving in to hostage-takers gets good results when it really doesn’t.”
“Word,” Stiles said.
Derek looked at Stiles, giving him a smile before he stepped over to him.
Stiles eyed Derek when he held out his hand and cupped his cheek. Stiles saw the look in his eyes, though. It seemed like he was letting things from the past go.
“Breakfast soon?” Stiles asked.
“Tomorrow,” Derek answered.
“It’s a date,” Stiles said.
Derek laughed and nodded his head. He let go of Stiles and stepped back to check on his pack.
“I’ll get the stuff,” Maia said, waving her hand at the powder on the floor.
“Make sure no one else touches it. I want to know what it is.” Stiles was pretty sure he knew exactly what it was, but he wanted to be sure that nothing else was lingering in it. “Is anyone hurt?”
“No, he came in, and she followed and blew a powder in our faces,” Roberts said as he came out of the back area. “The cells are all fine. They didn’t even try and find out where McCall is being held, so that wasn’t the point of this?” Wilcox asked.
“Well, it’s exactly what he said, I assume. We won’t know until we have figured out exactly what they were going to do besides kill me. They haven’t even come the closest to killing me. I think I was in more danger from the Darach in New Orleans during Mardi Gras,” Stiles said.
“Well, I want this place checked over.”
“I’ll take Stiles around.”
“Roberts and I will check on security.”
“Stiles?” Noah asked.
“I need to call Celeste. After I check around, can I do that from your office?”
“Yes,” Noah said.
Stiles dropped down into the chair across from where his father was sitting. He reached over and pressed the button to put it on speaker, and then he dialed Celeste’s office number.
“Noah?” Celeste said as she answered.
“Actually, it’s Stiles, Noah, Jackson, Peter, and Derek.”
“Alpha Hale, Peter, lovely to have you in this. What’s going on?”
“Deaton and Morrell attacked the station. We have it all on camera. Noah is already pushing to keep them in the human courts, and then after they serve, whatever the Druids want to do with them can happen. Once their magic is bound, and I can’t be the one to bind it.”
“Why?” Celeste asked.
“The Nemeton has asked that I don’t.”
“It’s more awake?” Celeste asked.
“Yes, and after they were put into cells where they couldn’t work any magic, the last of the bindings on the Nemeton broke. Deaton’s had a long time to bind the Nemeton to him to where even I didn’t know what was going on. Jackson and Derek are going to take me out to see it in an hour and then get me whatever I need.”
“Alpha Hale, is it okay if Adam and his team come to stay there, to have more of a presence while everything is going on?” Celeste asked.
“Of course, Ma’am. They are welcome at any time. Don’t worry about that,” Derek said.
“Good. Good. Now. I hear that there are a few issues with the pack…”
“Nothing that can’t be handled by myself and Peter, Celeste,” Derek said.
“Hmm. And if I came there right now?” Celeste asked.
“I’m changing my name,” Jackson said.
“What?” Celeste and Noah asked at the same time.
“I’m changing my name. I’ve been working on getting my name changed back to my biological father’s name.”
“Biological…your parents are dead,” Celeste asked.
“Well, not really. There is a lot to unpack, and that can happen later. I don’t need you spouting off at the mouth like I do to change a topic,” Stiles said. He shoved at Jackson with a smile on his face. Jackson caught his hand and pulled him into his lap.
“It’s fine, Celeste,” Noah said. “We had found out that things were not as stable with the Hale Pack before the fire that we had thought. We are dealing with the fallout of it, but everything is fine.”
“Everything is fine? Are you about to shoot the console and jump into the trash compactor?”
“Dear Gods above,” Peter said.
“Stiles and his aunt are a lot alike. I felt for Kaïs when they were living under the same roof for two years. I bet he threw a party when Stiles went to France.”
“Oh, Daddio, you know you love me.”
“Yes, Stiles, he loves you; he just hates the Gajos way of being,” Celeste said.
“You are all trolls,” Noah said.
“There is a reason I like him,” Peter said.
The conversation broke down after that, but Stiles just listened to them all. He was tired, and he knew it. He needed a few hours of sleep, but first, he needed to check on the Nemeton. He would need at least an hour with it, but with Jackson and Derek there, he knew he would be safe.
Stiles looked at Scott, who was being held without bail since his mother had given up on him and he was a flight risk. There was also the fact that no one was going to post bail for him since his mother all but disowned him.
“Here to gloat?” Scott asked.
“No, I never wanted anything like this. You went after one of mine, though, Scott, and you are now dealing with its issues. Isaac took a plea deal and is working off his issues and going to therapy. You are stalling out. Deaton and Morrell will be in here with you soon. They attacked the Sheriff’s station and took deputies and the Sheriff hostage.”
“He was just trying to fix what you did.”
“What I did? Scott, I haven’t been around for a long time.”
“You left before you could do what you needed to with the Nemeton. Deaton said it was your fault it drew the Darach in.”
“Oh, my Gods, Scott. The Darach followed the Alpha Pack and the Alpha Pack came because of Peter. None of that was on me. You’ve been blaming me since I left?”
“You left us.”
“And I sent in better help than we had here at the time.”
“They disrupted the balance.”
“Scott, I don’t know how to tell you this, but the universe balances itself. It doesn’t need help, nor does it want help. Druids are supposed to maintain the balance of their own lives, not other lives. The crap Deaton was feeding you on that is just that, crap. I’ve checked you for magic; I know that he’s not turned your head with it. You have followed along behind him and done everything he wanted, and he fed your ego. Made you believe that you were something more than a jumped-up little shit.”
“You don’t know anything. Hiding away from everything in the world.”
“Hiding? I’ve been out in the world and learning, Scott. Learning about how the world really works and how everything is supposed to be in places where hunters and the supernatural live together in harmony. This place was fucked up with Gerard and him doing what he did.”
“Deaton said you lied to your aunt about him. That’s why she killed him.”
“No, she killed him because there was no way that he was ever going to stop. He would get information out of prison, and he would make sure that his little war happened no matter what. He wasn’t going to stop until he had got what he wanted, which was the death of them all, even if that meant that anyone with a little magic would be next.”
Scott looked like he was freaked out, but he was still that stubborn asshole.
“Yeah, hadn’t thought about that yet? They don’t stop until no one is left that doesn’t fit their idea of perfect. After the obvious supernatural people, next would be magic users for no other reason than they aren’t fully human. The world would not survive that. Magic users use the magic around them; they pull it out of the ley lines, stopping the ley lines from becoming overly active. Even Werewolves pull from it. The world would implode if everything supernatural was destroyed. You might hate yourself for not being human, but you need to let it go on hating the rest of your kind.”
“They are not my kind. None of you are.”
“Well, you are kind of right. I’m on the side of humanity, no matter the race.”
Scott scoffed and looked away.
“This was your last chance. The ADA on your case isn’t going to listen to a plea deal no matter what after I walk out of this door.”
“I don’t need you. I’ve never needed you, Stiles. You gave up on your humanity when you went to live with your aunt and left us all alone.”
“Keep on dreaming, Scott.” Stiles left the cellblock that Scott was on, looking at the men and women awaiting trial. He was sure he had seen more than a few on the news lately. Just because things were strange didn’t mean the only criminals had been the supernatural kind.
Jackson was waiting for him outside of the holding area. He smiled at him.
“Ready to go?” Stiles asked.
“Sure. I was talking to this guy here. He’s great. He has a lot of stories about things that people have tried to smuggle in here. The kinds of stories that will make you laugh,” Jackson said.
“Yeah, Conner is good for that kind of thing. He’s always had really good stories. Well, both of us did.”
“We got the entire lunchroom laughing so hard most shot milk out their nose,” Conner said. He laughed and shook his head. “I heard you were back in town. We should get together.”
“It’ll be this big guy and me here,” Stiles said as he bounced his hand off Jackson’s chest.
“My partners won’t mind.”
“Oh, you finally asked Alana and Greg out?” Stiles asked.
“Summer after senior year. We’ve dated since then. They are going to marry soon. I get pretty good insurance working here, but Greg’s job doesn’t. Alana’s is the best, so they will marry so that he can get on her insurance. We bought a house last year, butts onto the Preserve. Seen the Hales running around there sometimes.”
Stiles looked at Conner, seeing him wink before he looked down at his paperwork. Stiles headed for the door, and he looked back at Conner once. Conner knew about everything. He was probably one of the many who did in Beacon Hills. It just proved more and more that the people here were all sticking their heads in the sand.
“Good visit?” Jackson asked as Stiles got into the Jeep, getting behind the wheel and shutting his door.
Stiles waited until Jackson was in on the other side before he answered.
“It was. Scott’s got no magic on him; he’s had no magic on him. He’s just been twisted. Fed too many lies about the balance of the world. He thinks that Druids are meant to balance the world instead of just balancing their own lives. Who knows what Deaton’s crimes are. Who knows what he had wrought with his crimes.”
“That’s why we are staying,” Stiles said.
“I figured. This town is fucked up, and they need someone level-headed like Maia to be around.”
Stiles laughed as he slowed down for the deputy, who was waving them over as he headed toward the parking lot’s exit. “What’s up?”
“I’ve got something strange, and your father said you were in here talking to McCall and probably had not turned on your phone again.”
“Ah, no.” Stiles patted his chest. He found his phone and turned it back on. “So you need us to follow you?”
“Yes, please. It’s not far.”
Stiles nodded his head and looked at Jackson. “Text the team. Don’t let them freak out.”
“I won’t.” Jackson started to type away at his phone.
Stiles followed along behind the pair of deputies in the SUV and wondered what they had found. It was like the world was inhaling again after the shit that had been going on. Stiles just hoped that there wasn’t anything really big going on. When they went to one of the lesser-used trailheads for the Preserve. It was mainly used by the hardcore runners as the path was not flat at all and was good for cardio. Stiles got out of the Jeep. It was all the deputies that knew about the supernatural but didn’t want to do much with it and didn’t broadcast it. Stiles had respect for them. It was a lot of extra work, and there was enough that knew and could step up and do what was needed.
“How far out?”
“Only about a mile. Wilcox is there, so I am sure you can find him.”
Stiles looked at Jackson, who waved for Stiles to take the lead. Stiles ducked under a low-hanging branch as he came at the trailhead from the side. He could smell magic and ozone. That was strange as Maia wasn’t going to play with magic in the Preserve without telling Stiles about it. He smelled it more the closer they got. He stopped as he saw a pair of kids who were slashing out at Wilcox.
“Pick up some kids?”
“No, we had reports of what smelled like fire and came to look into it, and we found these two. They are in a Mountain Ash circle and seem to be on the feral side.”
“Stiles, they are from the Smith Pack in New Orleans.”
“Shit, okay, that means the spell failed. George, Amara,” Stiles said as he crouched down at the edge of the circle. Now that he was looking, he could see that he did know them. Amara loved him a lot, and George was partial to Jackson.
“Spell?” Wilcox asked.
“The previous alpha was a shit alpha, and their control was fading. Magic was taking the pack from them. These two are orphans that were taken in when they were just over a year old. I tried my best, but the sins of the pack were too much. They were doing a renewal, but it must have failed. There is a stigma about these two.”
“Why?” Wilcox asked.
Amara rushed the barrier, trying to get to Stiles. She smacked off of it and landed on her ass with a growl. Her eyes flared blue.
“Shit. It’s been a long time since kids were born with the eyes.”
“Yes, I’m fairly certain that the pack they were with before blamed them for the death, and the emotions make them feel guilty. Jackson and I promised the pack that we would take them into the team if the spell failed. Celeste and Kaïs agreed to it. There are other teams with kids. They are left with the main pack when they go on missions and the like. I figure that given our situation had changed; hopefully, Alpha Hale won’t mind babysitting.”
“I won’t,” Derek said from the edge of the small clearing. He looked like he had run there with a few bits of nature stuck in his hair. He wasn’t in uniform, but the magic put these two in his lands had to have been felt by him.
“The spell failed as it was supposed to drop them pretty much in our laps. I would say the Nemeton messed it up.” Stiles reached through the barrier, and Amara grabbed onto his hand and tugged at him. Her little Werewolf strength meant that she nearly got him toppled over.
George was on his feet, but he didn’t go for Stiles; he went for Jackson, holding out his hands in the symbol to be picked up. Stiles broke the barrier with his free hand and picked up Amara.
“Twins?” Derek asked.
“Yes. Mother died in childbirth, and father trying to defend them from the hunters set to take them out. He killed them, but he died of his wounds before help could get there. He delivered his kids, though. The pack found them and hated them. They were traded to the Smith Pack, who took them with no issue, but the other pack was a traveling pack, and they were told to never set foot near New Orleans again. The other packs in the area agreed that kids shouldn’t be traded no matter what, but they still didn’t like the Smiths for taking them in with their blue eyes. It’s a long assed story. I’ll need to set about grabbing the adoption papers we have and getting things cleared with the governments.”
“Peter would help,” Derek said.
“Yeah, he’ll be the best for this. You okay to drive the Jeep?” Stiles asked Derek.
“Are we good?” Jackson asked Wilcox.
“Sure, I’ll update the Sheriff that it’s nothing big. A snuffed out fire, just the smell on the wind.”
Stiles nodded his head, and he looked at Jackson. There was a depth of emotion there, and Stiles wasn’t sure what Jackson was thinking, which was odd as he usually always knew. This was a change, but Stiles wasn’t sure if it was the next path of their life here in Beacon Hills.
The twins were on the couch, asleep when Stiles came out of the kitchen with a cup of coffee in his hands. Derek was still sitting down in the chair close to the fireplace that was crackling away. Stiles was glad that he was able to be around fire now. Jackson shifted in the chair he was in, and Stiles sat down in his lap, handing over the coffee before settling himself down better in Jackson’s lap.
“You were lying back there,” Derek said.
“Yes, well. Celeste didn’t want it well know what actually went on with the pack. I couldn’t be sure that the area didn’t have someone listening in. The pack was cursed. It was quite the thing back then, and they were trying to break it. The kids were unaffected as they weren’t in the pack when the curse was laid, but they were brought into it that activated it. Celeste has been working to find everyone there a pack to stay in, but the main person who the twins were attached to died a few months back, and Jackson and I were always the secondary for them if they didn’t attach themselves to someone else. The renewal they were doing was pretty big, and it took a lot of power to do it, but only the pack could do it. They must have found the right time to do it and did it. Then it failed, and the magic I seated in a charm was broken, so the twins were sent to Jackson and me.”
“You said the Nemeton messed that up.”
“Yes, crossing the Nemeton’s main area of power must have short-circuited the spell. I spent a year trying to fix the pack, but the curse on them was pretty strong. Found the person who did it, but they killed themselves before I could get them to drop the curse. The issue with curses is that if the person dies, the spell doesn’t. So they were stuck.”
“Why were they cursed?” Derek asked.
Jackson huffed and rolled his eyes. “It was fucking stupid once we found out who it was. I guess the guy was someone who thought that he should have who he wanted because he was magically inclined. He also thought he had a bigger prick than he did, and well, that meant he swung it around in everyone’s face.”
Stiles shook his head and took a sip of his coffee. “The alpha of the pack had chosen that his daughter would marry who she wanted. It didn’t cause any issues in the pack, but this guy thought that he deserved her for no other reason than he wanted her. He thought that she should have no right to tell him no since he wanted her. Well, he was denied pretty hard by her and her father. She ended up a good distance away as she found love in the son and heir of another pack. It was a tense time, but it was long before us. The curse activated the next time someone was brought into the pack, not born into it. I don’t know if that was on purpose or not. What I said before is the traditional tale, if anyone asked. Celeste will send someone to check things out, the team that replaced us there.”
“Speaking of that. How is your team settling here?”
“Pretty good. For the next while, until the kids are settled, Jackson and I will take turns.”
“Peter’s already planning their bedrooms, by the way. He said it was his prerogative as a grandfather.”
“Yes, well, we have a lot of shit going on, and I’ll gladly dump that in his lap.” Stiles yawned, despite the coffee he was drinking. He shouldn’t be this tired, but he figured it was stress catching up to him.
“Let’s get him up and into bed for a nap. Derek, do you mind grabbing the kids. They will sleep with him. I’ll work on getting the spare bedroom cleaned out. They can stay in there as long as they like.”
Jackson waited for Stiles to finish off the coffee before standing up, holding Stiles in a bridal carry. They waited there while Derek picked up the kids. They clung to him easily as he walked ahead of Stiles and Jackson to the upstairs.
The bed was mostly made, the covers were thrown over to make it look a little better. Derek settled the twins down and left more than enough room for Stiles to crawl between them. Stiles was set down to change his jeans and into something better to take a nap in. It wasn’t the worst thing he could have slept in, but it was uncomfortable. He came out of the bathroom to see that Derek was sitting in the chair in the corner, and Jackson was nowhere to be seen.
“He said he was going shopping to get some food things for the kids. Things that they like. I guess he knows what they like?”
“Yeah, they are pretty easy kids.” Stiles got into bed between the kids and laid down. It felt strange. He had known that there was a chance he would end up with them, and at the time, it hadn’t seemed like the biggest thing in the world, but now it was. He and Jackson had two kids, and they weren’t even married or anything like that for their world.
“Your dad and I talked,” Derek said.
“Yeah?” Stiles asked. He wasn’t going to fall asleep just yet, still strange to have the kids with him, but he knew he would need to get used to it. It wasn’t like they wouldn’t jump into bed with him and Jackson when they wanted. Nightmares were something that even Werewolf children got.
“He laid a lot of things out for me. I regretted how I treated you ever since I did it. Peter beat the shit out of me. Let me understand that while I was alpha, he could still beat me without all of his power back. He trounced me, and he also learned that I hadn’t been taught at all how to fight by Laura. He trained me hard after that. I wrote an apology letter to give you. I’ve rewritten it a few times over the years, but I am not sure I want to give it to you. I say a lot of things in it that I know now aren’t true.”
“Like?” Stiles asked.
“That I am in love with you. I did like you, and I think that if you had stayed around, I would have fallen in love, and it wasn’t going to make me like Kate.”
“Derek, there are a lot of ways you are not like Kate. She had many issues, and her attraction to teenage boys was just the tip of that iceberg. I understand why you shut me down; I do. You chose a shitty way to do it. I knew everything, you know that, right? I had already pieced together what she had done to you and your family and how she had done it. You could never be her because you had not set out to hurt me, to kill my family. You weren’t going to be using me against everyone that I love. I wanted a date to see if we were as compatible as it seemed we were. I wanted to go out to a diner and eat stupid curly fries while trying to get you to open up. I realized something, though.”
“What?” Derek asked.
“I realized that I wanted to fix you. It wasn’t until after Jackson and I had become a lot more serious.”
Stiles stopped when he heard claws on wood, and the door was opened up, and Princess came barreling into the room. She stopped and looked at the bed with her head cocked.
“Come on, girl,” Stiles said, and he patted the bed.
Princess jumped up there and laid on Stiles’ legs, sniffing at each of the kids before settling down.
“Where was she?”
“In the Preserve. She’s been running it a lot. I think she’s following the paths your people leave when they patrol. She’s tagged as a working dog like the police would have, so even if she were caught, no one should blink an eye. Anyway, I wanted to fix you. Correct the damage done to you. I wasn’t malicious about it. I just wanted you to stop hurting.”
“I did. Once I started to rely on my pack again. When I learned how to not act like Laura had with me. My memories of mom running the pack were muted. I didn’t want to remember. I used Laura’s teaching, and it wasn’t until I sat down with a therapist because your father said I wasn’t becoming a deputy without it, I learned that Laura did that because she blamed me. She said she didn’t, and she might have believed that, but she did. How she treated me as her beta was nothing short of abuse.”
Stiles nodded his head. He looked at Derek, really looked at him. He looked tired. Everything had been so fucked up with his pack lately.
“There’s room,” Stiles said. Pointing on the other side of Amara.
Derek nodded his head, but he didn’t move at first.
“I mean it.”
“Jackson won’t get pissed?” Derek asked.
“Dude, Jackson knows that I would never cheat on him. We may not be married or bonded or anything like that, but we are together to the end. We’ve been through too much shit together for us to be anything but supportive of me helping people. Come and get some cuddles in with a kid that if I have any say in this will call you Uncle Derek.”
“I think I would like that.”
“Good. Now I want to sleep. Shut up.”
“You can’t tell me what to do,” Derek said as he climbed into the bed. He stayed above the covers.
Stiles rolled out of bed, knowing that his nap had turned into a night of full sleep. Derek wasn’t in bed anymore, but Jackson was asleep. He didn’t even twitch as Stiles got up.
Coffee was needed, or tea. A nice strong tea did sound really good. Stiles went down to the kitchen to find that Derek and Peter were there. He saw them looking over papers.
“What are you two doing?”
“Well, I wanted to talk to my dearest nephew, and he was here, so here I came. Your father went in early so he could get out early to come over and spend the evening with the kids. I have the plans here for the house.”
“Dear gods, are you really going that crazy?” Stiles asked.
“They are my first grandchildren—no matter which side you want to consider that on. I don’t care that they are adopted. I wouldn’t care if they were Argents.”
Stiles laughed. He walked over to where the teapot was and found it warm and full. He poured out a cup and took a sip. It was unflavored and very strong. He grabbed one of the little half and half cups and dumped it into it. It helped the bitterness. He sat down beside Derek, waiting to see what Derek did. Derek just leaned toward him, so Stiles scooted even closer.
“Dude, this is a massive bedroom,” Stiles said.
“Yes, along with a bathroom. We have a company that would come and build onto the house at the back. They would build the new addition and then break the wall into the house into the bedroom.”
“That’s Maia’s bedroom.”
“Going to be the kids’. She’s already agreed, and she’s moving into Kira’s room.”
“You were told to keep out of that,” Stiles said as he glared at Peter.
“He did. I told him because we caught them at lookout point the other night.”
“Seriously?” Stiles asked.
“Yes,” Derek said.
“Well, that means that Jackson won on that one. You don’t wanna know what I promised him.”
“No, don’t even,” Peter said.
Derek laughed, looking at his Uncle with shock on his face. “That’s a change.”
“They are both my sons,” Peter said.
Stiles leaned into Derek as he laughed.
“Oh, how the tides have turned,” Derek said.
“Yes, how they have.”
Stiles let the two Hales pull him into how the house would be revamped to fit children inside of it and rooms that they would need. The one workout room in the basement would have to become Stiles’ workroom for magic, as doing it at the kitchen table wasn’t an option anymore.
It felt like his life was being changed without his okay. He looked at the time to see that soon Jackson would be getting up. It was not something he wanted to be around for at the moment. He needed some alone time.
“Stiles?” Derek questioned when Stiles filled up a travel mug with tea and added half and half before heading to the door.
“Just gonna take a while.” Stiles glanced at the Hales to see Peter with his hand on Derek’s arm, holding him back from heading after Stiles.
The Preserve was still waking up. The daytime animals were coming out of where they slept, and the nighttime animals were all already in their hidey holes.
Stiles wasn’t sure what he was doing out there, but he just kept on walking. He ended up where they had taken the transport van with Jackson trapped inside. He sat down on the overlook area and just looked out.
“You know that I can feel you, right?” Jackson asked a short time later.
Stiles had heard the snapping as Jackson followed him, but he hadn’t thought it was Jackson. He assumed it was a deer just moving around and eating breakfast.
“So, I spent a little time shopping yesterday,” Jackson said.
“Yeah?” Stiles asked. He knew that Jackson had. He had slept through him coming back, but that meant nothing really. He had known when Jackson got back; it was probably when he had gotten home that Stiles settled down into full sleep.
“I got something for you. Though it’s not traditional at all, but then we are not traditional, even inside the supernatural world. So, yes or no?”
Jackson handed over a sheet of paper. It was from a tattoo shop, with the header for the shop at the top, and it was a sketch of some kind. Stiles looked at it and tried to figure out what it was. It was like a band, like the stupid tattoo that Scott had on his arm. However, instead of it being solid, it had a design in the band. Stiles knew the symbol for the Gajos family, and the infinity symbol wasn’t lost on him. There was a smaller piece of paper clipped to the top; it looked like a shrunk-down version. Stiles touched it.
“Jackson?” Stiles asked. He wasn’t sure what this was, and he didn’t want to get whatever it was wrong.
Jackson pulled the slip of paper off the clip and then tugged Stiles’ right hand away from the paper.
Stiles got it as soon as Jackson wrapped the paper around his ring finger. He almost said something but stopped. Kaïs and Celeste both wore their rings in Polish fashion. It was a tattoo wedding ring.
“I thought we could get the upper and lower bands done first as engagement, then add on the symbols as our wedding ring.”
“You are asking me?” Stiles asked.
“I know you know my hang-ups, but we are settling in here. We are going to be here for a long time. I won’t be shocked if Kaïs, Celeste and the rest of the family, and the business move here at some point. I want to start that next bit of life with you,” Jackson said.
“I…” Stiles hadn’t thought that Jackson would ask him. Stiles figured that he would have to talk him into it for the kids, being married was better, and the adoption was still going to occur. So being married would make things a hell of a lot easier on them, even in California. So Stiles had plans. He had detailed and drawn out points that he would use to all but bully Jackson into doing it. “Yes.”
“Good. You had me worried there that you were going to turn me down just so you could ask me.”
“That’s not…okay, yes, that is something that I would so do. But no, I’m not going to do that. You went out and went ring shopping and decided on tattoos?” Stiles asked.
“No, I knew I wanted tattoo rings for years. Just not like the idiot with the one on his back does. I know you have perfected the tattoo process and that one shop does them on this coast. I thought that maybe we could head up soon and do that. We can wait until then to announce this, or we can do it now.”
“You don’t know me well enough to marry me if you think that I am going to be able to keep that shit a secret,” Stiles said.
Jackson laughed, and he reached out and pulled Stiles into a kiss. It didn’t do nearly as deeply as Stiles wanted, but he was okay with that.
“So you proposed in private. Did you ask my father?” Stiles asked.
“I asked him two years ago but told him that it might be a long time. I just wasn’t ready, and I think it’s here, being home, that helped me through it all. I may have stopped living here a long time ago, same for you, but I think we both knew that we were coming back here one day.”
“Yes, I think we were as well. I always had plans, but I never knew that was going to happen. I never knew when I wanted to come home, but it feels right this time. We can settle into everything slowly. Even if we got two kids before we were even engaged.”
“I will work with Peter to figure out what kind of wedding we want.”
“Peter’s been saying for years he’s paying for the wedding when we do finally get married. So think that you and him working on it is a good thing. You know my opinions on a lot of things. So I don’t think you will be doing anything I hate.” Stiles moved to crawl into Jackson’s lap. His fiancé readily wrapped his arms around him.
“No, I won’t. I would like to get laid the wedding night.”
“Dude, I think the whole bond thing kind of has a requirement of sex,” Stiles said.
Jackson laughed and nuzzled in at Stiles’ neck before bearing him down to the ground, trapping him there. “Don’t think I don’t remember where we are. Despite how I acted, I had a little respect for you. You were fucking human, and you weren’t scared to be in there with me, even though I was chained up. You were strong as hell and never tried to do anything but what you thought was right. You made me want to be better in some ways. I went to London because I wanted away from all of this. I wanted to be free to learn who I was. I wanted to make sure I was worthy of the gift I had been given, and there was a part of me that saw it as a gift from the moment that Derek had bitten me. I freaked out after he did and ran into the Preserve. He tried to take me down without hurting me, but we rolled into the fucking lake area. He left me then as I was pulled out of my freaking out when I hit the cold water.”
“I think I would have liked that, even then, seeing you all wet.”
“I was in a white shirt that had gotten ripped as Derek tried to take me down.”
“Wet T-shirt contest!” Stiles giggled before he leaned up to kiss Jackson. He cupped the sides of his fiancé’s face. He loved thinking that word. Hell, he was happy just calling Jackson his. He would keep him the rest of their lives.
“We should head back. You need to eat,” Jackson said.
“Yeah, breakfast would be good. Or we could slip away and head into town and do breakfast with just the two of us.”
“That sounds even better. Now, let’s go.”
Jackson got up and held out a hand to Stiles, pulling him up to toppling him over into his body. Stiles laughed, and as soon as he was steady on his feet, he shoved Jackson away from him. He was okay with being seen in slightly dirty clothes. Jackson looked a lot better, but he hadn’t been on the ground but on top of Stiles. Jackson held out his hand, and Stiles threaded their fingers together. He drew up their linked hands and kissed the back of Jackson’s hand. Jackson blushed a little like he always did when Stiles gave him affection like that.
It was chaos in the house when they returned. Stiles had no clue who was where but there was more than his team in there. He found Derek in the living room with Amara and George. The kids looked like they were being taught how to control themselves while at the same time just playing. It was probably something that Derek remembered his family doing with him when he was young or had seen being done to Cora. Cora was on the couch and recording what was going on with her phone.
“You are lucky they like me,” Derek said.
“Papa!” George yelled as he ran at Jackson.
“Daddy!” Amara yelled, and Stiles barely caught her when she jumped into him. He did catch her, though.
“Peter has lunch in hand, even if you two weren’t around,” Derek said. He stood up and brushed off his knees. He looked happier than he had even that morning.
“Stiles, you need to call Braeden!” Maia yelled.
“That means she probably has a case for us to take,” Stiles said.
“No, she sounded like she wanted to visit.”
“Oh, um, Derek, we have a bounty hunter who is friends with us. She was chasing someone a few years ago, and our paths crossed. She’s pretty fun. She won’t hunt your pack and will be a fun addition to the dynamic here. I’ll find out more about it. As in how long she wants to stay. Is she allowed into your territory?”
“Yes,” Derek said.
“Cool. I’ll figure that out. I’ll text her after we eat lunch.”
“Holy shit,” Cora said.
Stiles looked at her, and then he followed her gaze down. He grinned and raised up his hand where his new tattoo sat. The guy who ran the best tattoo shop in Beacon City was in the know and was happy to learn a technique that would get him more business. Stiles smiled at her.
“That’s a cool tattoo.” Cora stepped up and raised up Stiles’ hand to look at it. Jackson let his hand fall down. Cora was looking at Stiles’ finger a lot since it was just two thin lines. “Well, it’s kind of plain, but how did you get it on Jackson as well?”
“Magic and herbs. I figured that out years ago.”
“Stiles, does the placement on fingers have a meaning?” Derek asked.
“You are not as sly as you think,” Stiles said.
“Derek?” Cora asked.
“Polish tradition has rings for marriage and engagement on the opposite as the standard English practice, Cor.”
Cora looked at Stiles and then Jackson before she squealed and pulled them into a hug. It was a long line of the rest of the house, all except for Peter. Stiles left the bulk of the people in the living room area and found Peter in the kitchen. He had headphones in, and that meant he didn’t hear shit outside of it. Stiles leaned against the counter so that Peter wouldn’t freak out by him just appearing at his side. Even Stiles’ team knew to keep out of the kitchen when Peter was cooking.
“Yes?” Peter asked as he jerked his headphones off of his head. He looked a little shocked to see him.
Stiles opened his mouth, but then there was Jackson behind him, wrapping an arm around Stiles’ shoulders and putting his newly tattooed finger on display.
“Ah, that happened, did it? Stiles finally get up the gumption?” Peter asked. He was smiling as he said it.
“No, actually, I asked him. He was very shocked. I can show you the details we are going to add for the full-on marriage part later.”
“So this was why Noah messaged me that I needed to have a good lunch going? He said he was coming to eat.”
“Yes, he’s going to take a half an hour extra on lunch and then head back in and get here just a little later than what he wanted to spend the evening getting to know Amara and George. Lunch would be really good, though. Need any help?” Stiles asked.
“Yes, you two can both help me.” Peter plucked the second earbud out of his ear and turned off the headphones before canceling the music on his phone. He was smiling as he did; he didn’t seem to mind the interruption, which was good.
Stiles lost himself in cutting up Peter’s veggies for the stir-fry while Jackson worked on the spices for the rice and sauce. Stiles snacked on a few veggies while the team kept the twins entertained. This was what life was going to be like for the next while for them. Getting settled into a life.
In New Orleans, Stiles had always felt like they had one foot out the door. They would be doing the same kind of thing, but it felt like he had a place to call home. He remembered Celeste telling him that he would know what place he would call home as soon as he got there. They had felt the same for New York, but he was his own person and would have his own home. It was a good home too.
When it was time for everyone to come in and get their lunch, Maia draped herself over Stiles’ back.
“So, it finally happened, huh?” Maia asked.
“Yes, it did.”
“He doesn’t look scared at all. He looks content. More content than I think he’s looked in a long time. You guys are so good together. Assholes, yes, but you love each other.”
“Hmm, we also don’t go parking and get caught by the deputies.”
“Dammit, Alpha Hale said he wasn’t going to tell,” Maia said.
“What did he look like?” Stiles asked.
“What do you mean?”
“His face, what did his face look like.”
“Oh, normal, but he was grinning.”
“Yeah, he grins when he lies like that. He so told everyone. Especially when I brought up that your room was being taken over as the kids’. I kind of yelled at Peter, who had been threatening to lock you both in a closet until you confessed your love.”
“Well, I’m glad you didn’t. We talked a lot over the past year. I know that it seems stupid, but we wanted to be sure that we weren’t falling together since we were the only ones left.”
“You and Jackson were together before the team formed. Sammy was attracted to both Janice and Joe from the moment they met, but he waffled for a while until he got used to the fact that Werewolves don’t see relationships the same way. The wolf wants what it wants, as Janice says.”
“It does. Assisi did pretty good at getting us ready to face anything in the world, but the inner dynamics were a little lacking, but then I understand why no two packs are the same. How did Kira’s parents react?”
“Kira hasn’t told them. She’s still very upset with her mother about the whole Nogitsune thing and doesn’t want to talk to her yet. I did have Kira write her an email, and it’s dated and stuff for now. Then she can send it along with a few corrections when she’s ready. Thankfully both parents are letting her work through all of this on her own.”
“Good. I’ll find the time to sit down and talk to everyone as an individual, as relationships, and then everyone together to make sure that we are all still on the same page.”
“No one wants to leave for two main reasons.”
“Yeah?” Stiles asked.
Maia finally got off Stiles’ back and came around to face him. He leaned against the counter. The sounds of those in the dining room area wafted out to him. It sounded like everyone was eating, which was good. They would join as soon as they were done talking.
“One, you are happy here. You’ve been happy everywhere else but not like this. You get to see your father every day. Go down and bug him at work and pester him about salads and everything. He’s gonna be retiring soon, and we all know it. He’ll want to have you and the kids around.”
“Jackson and Peter.”
Stiles nodded. He knew that it would change the dynamics. It hadn’t taken long for everyone on the team to learn that Jackson and his parents did not get along. He sent them emails every once in a while to let them know he was alive, but he would never, ever be close enough to want to share a holiday with them. They never tried to make him feel upset at not wanting them. They accepted it and let him into their lives with their families when the time was there. “That’s a good reason to stay, but it’s not something that Jackson would want.”
“Which is why you and your father are first as well as you being happy. He would do anything to make you happy.”
“Yeah, he would, wouldn’t he?” Stiles asked like he realized it for the first time.
“Quit being a dick,” Jackson yelled.
Stiles laughed and headed into the dining room to allow Maia to get her food. Jackson had already gotten Stiles’.
Everyone fit around the table, just barely. They would have to figure out something else for when Derek brought around his pack more because there was barely enough room for them.
Amara came and sat in Stiles’ lap with her tiny plate of food. It was all divided into sections on the plate, a plate that Stiles knew they hadn’t had before. George had a small plate as well, but his was all mixed together.
“What part don’t you like?” Stiles asked as he poked at the chicken that was in a pile all on its own.
“I don’t like it mixed,” Amara said.
“Oh, okay.” Stiles looked at Jackson, and the look on his face said they would talk about it later.
Amara picked up a bite of chicken and stuffed it into her mouth. She had a spoon on her plate, buried in the rice, so Stiles hoped that meant she wouldn’t try and eat it with her fingers. She picked out bits of the veggies and ate them in whatever order seemed to make sense.
“You know, if I didn’t know any better, I would say that she takes after you,” Noah said from his seat beside Peter.
“Dude, I wasn’t this bad, was I?” Stiles asked.
“Worse. All of the veggies had to be apart—carrots here, peppers there. Your mother started to make the veggies bigger so that it was easier. It was just when you were learning to eat on your own, though. You got better at it as you got older.
“Well, that’s good.”
Stiles looked at Jackson, who was smiling at George on the other side of him.
Things were really looking up.
Stiles pulled Amara close as he sat down, pulling her into his lap. He shifted his leg around to where it was on the lounger’s foot area before he dropped her on his other leg. He closed his eyes as pain flared from the movement. He sighed and relaxed back. It was full-on summer, and the wedding was just a short while away. He would be healed up in time for it, but only just barely. He really wanted to just sleep, but there was a big party going on to celebrate the full safety of the area and the wards that Stiles had placed all over Beacon Hills. Beacon Hills was no longer a beacon. They would be as safe as they could be.
The area had seen the dismissal of so many Druids who had come to see what their apathy had wrought. Hell, Stiles was pretty sure that the Druids were not going to be in charge of anything for a while. Their neutrality was causing more issues across the globe. Celeste would be busy for a long time as she worked on making sure the other Nemetons were settled and happy. The cancer had been spreading from the Beacon Hills Nemeton out into the world. Stiles was bound to this Nemeton now, so he couldn’t go out with them and figure out what was going on with the other Nemetons.
“Daddy,” Amara said.
“How long?” Amara laid her hand on the brace that was on Stiles’ leg.
“Who knows, sweetheart. I want to say not long, but given the damage done and that it was a curse, it could be months.”
“Yes, it does, but please don’t say that.”
“But Pops says it,” Amara said.
“Yes, well, Pops says a lot of things that will make him get in trouble with your fathers,” Stiles said.
Amara laughed and slowly worked her way off of his lap. She never touched his injured leg. Jackson was upstairs grabbing everything that was needed to clean up Stiles incisions.
“Son,” Noah said as he walked over with Stiles’ drink.
Stiles was getting used to being waited on hand and foot, but he didn’t like it all that much. It was hard to move around with anything and his crutches. Especially since the painkillers he was on made him a little dizzy for about an hour after taking them. It was why he was supposed to stay where he was. Jackson was inside working on the final touches of their parts of the food. Janice and Sammy were picking up the stuff from the store they were going to be eating. Maia, Kira, and Joe were working on getting the tables set up. The heating charms on the hot food were done to make sure it stayed warm but didn’t get nasty, like if they had used a chafing dish.
It wasn’t like Stiles would go crazy, but Jackson had put several of Derek’s pack on watching him. Derek was the main one, and he was the one who settled in with him after his surgery since the man who had attacked him had escaped, and Jackson wasn’t going to stop hunting him until he found him. So Stiles had been in the hospital with Derek fucking Hale watching over him, checking everyone and anything that had come into the room. So then things had changed when the guy had actually tried to get into the room. Derek had shot him with a standard bullet, and the guy had dropped. Thankfully, it was pretty shut and close, even if Derek was on desk duty until he was fully cleared.
“How are you feeling?” Noah asked as he sat down on the chair beside Stiles.
“Eh, pretty good.” Stiles shifted in the seat a little. He needed to move around soon to make sure his back and body didn’t start to ache. He didn’t want to have to go inside and stretch out on the bed if he didn’t have to in the middle of the party.
“Good. Here. Take your pill.” Noah held out his hand and in his palm was an antibiotic. Stiles had snacked about fifteen minutes before then, so it was time to take it. He tossed the pill back and then drank half of the glass of liquid before downing the other half. It was a juice of some kind. It took a few seconds after Stiles was done to register that it had been grape juice. He shook his head and leaned back, closing his eyes. He listened to Amara and George playing before he settled in to just stay where he was for the time being. The pill would start to take effect and make him feel a little off. His magic didn’t like it, but it was the best pill.
“Ready?” Jackson asked.
“Sure,” Stiles said.
The wound care was usually done outside where the smell of blood and innards didn’t stay inside. The kids didn’t like the smell, so this was so much better. He snagged the bottle of water that he had left there earlier and took a sip of it before leaning up.
The brace wasn’t too horrible, but it kept his leg where it needed to be to heal, but the surgery wound needed to be cleaned, so there was a method to strapping and unstrapping it to clean and dress the wound. Stiles cast a spell that he created a few years back that allowed for this kind of thing.
“Head up,” Jackson said.
“Yeah,” Stiles said. He closed his eyes because as much as he could handle the whole seeing blood and flesh of other people, he couldn’t do it when it was him.
The antiseptic stung, but Stiles kept his reactions down. The kids didn’t do well with Stiles in pain. The first week home after getting out of the hospital had been horrible. Every time Stiles moved, the kids were right there, afraid that something was wrong and he needed to go back to the hospital. Jackson and Derek had traded off watching him. When Jackson had headed out again after the first week, it had been Derek, Peter, and Cora who had been with him, helping to take care of the kids.
“Someone is coming,” Jackson said.
Stiles looked at where the backyard gate was, and he tried to see who was there, but he couldn’t see anyone. Then there was a growl. Stiles looked down at where Jackson had strapped him back up. He grabbed his crutches and pushed himself up onto them, and headed to where the growling was coming from. He found Derek and Cora were facing a woman.
It took Stiles a few seconds to recognize Braeden.
“Braeden, you finally made it. I thought you were not wanting to visit me since you’ve been taking jobs instead of coming to visit me.”
“Sorry, I kept on getting missions that needed me to deal with them.”
“Well, you are badass.” Stiles looked at Cora to see she had relaxed, but Derek had not. He looked just as tense, but he wasn’t shifted anymore. “Derek?” Stiles asked.
“I…I’ve been dreaming of her for a while now. Since you said she was coming months ago.”
“Really?” Stiles asked. He looked at Braeden to see that she wasn’t shocked about that. “Brae?”
“I’ve been having dreams of him as well. Not too many, but enough the last few weeks to get me to come here. What happened to you?”
“Come into the backyard, and we will tell you. Jackson just got me all stitched up.” Stiles turned slowly to make sure that his good leg didn’t give out on him. Jackson was right there to make sure that Stiles didn’t do anything stupid.
“So there is a party going on?”
“It’s a party to celebrate the area being fully settled down and none of us dying,” Stiles said.
“So it’s okay that I am here?” Braeden asked.
“Yes, there is a gun safe if you want to drop anything in there. We have Amara and George here,” Stiles said.
“Oh, it’s been a while since I’ve got to see them. I heard their pack’s bonds were broken. So, they are with you now?”
“Yes, the adoption went through a few weeks ago. We are settling here full time.”
“Oh, Beacon Hills seems fun. I already got pulled over by the Sheriff. Your father is scary, Stiles.”
“He really can be.” Stiles started to settle down, and Derek was right there to take his crutches as Jackson helped Stiles get his leg up. Stiles’ father walked over with a body pillow to slip under it so that it wasn’t on the hardwood for hours. Thankfully, Stiles’ excursion to see who was there gave him the movement he needed for now. The only reason to get up would be going to the bathroom.
“This is your new family?” Braeden asked as she sat down on the ground at Stiles’ side.
“New family, old family, meshed together family. We are all adjusting to using all being here. My father is happy to have me home. Jackson said he’s come over before work to look at me sleeping since I’ve been sleeping in the last while. Body healing and all of that.”
“So you said you would tell me how it happened.”
“Yes, well, it’s a strange tale that will start with my team taking a case in Canada. Never really been there before, and hunting there was hell and gone from hunting anywhere else. It’s warm, it’s summer, and there was something causing blizzards. So we went hunting. Tried to find a reason for the blizzard that wasn’t someone making it happen. Magic-users can cause things to happen when they don’t have control of their magic.”
“I’ve hunted one before. Turned him into your aunt a year ago. He needed to get control and stop being hunted by someone who wanted to use him. Someone who knew just enough about this world to do damage.”
“Hmm, yeah. He went to France and is with Helena.”
“That’s good. I think he’ll do well under her.”
“So, we are running around the Canadian wilderness trying to find someone who was doing this. Then I found it. A Canadian hunting family had been trying to make the best killer—someone who would kill Werewolves and anyone else who they didn’t deem to be human. Only the magic-user sided with the Werewolves and turned on the hunters. Then started to go for all hunters. The blizzard was to pull me up there. They wanted to kill me so I wouldn’t be able to protect any hunters.”
“I was in Florida during this, but I heard part of it.”
“So we thought we found the issue, traps laid that were being set off by animals that were making the blizzards. Once I got the traps all taken care of, we started to follow the trail, and just outside of Beacon Hills, they attacked me. Traps were laid, and they had been down there the whole time. It was crazy. The SUV I was in blew up, and I was thrown out of it. Then he went for me. Shattered my leg. Seven breaks and surgery were needed. He thought it would kill me, but I lived. He came to take me out to the hospital. Derek ended up shooting him in the head.”
“Damn. I know just before that you guys got the area fully settled. It’s another reason I wanted to come here. I need slowness. I’ve been bounty hunting for so long.”
A bark had Stiles looking away from Braeden. Princess was running toward them with Malia on her heels. Malia fitted in with them well, she hadn’t yet shifted back, and Stiles didn’t think that she ever would. He had a feeling that she was happy as she was but that she endured being with the pack. She was a hell of a lot happier with them than she had been before them.
“And who is this?” Braeden asked as Princess slipped up beside her, licking her face while Malia hung back.
“Malia. You actually know a little bit about her. Up here, Malia,” Stiles said.
Malia moved around the lounger’s back and got up onto Stiles’ lap, being careful with his injured leg.
“Malia this is Braeden. She’s helped my team and me. She’s gonna stay for a while. Maybe work with Derek at the station.”
“Deputy would be nice,” Braeden said. She reached out to let Malia sniff her hand.
Malia’s eyes flashed blue at Braeden.
“Werecoyote? Those are rare in this area.”
“Yes, well, her mother didn’t know she was alive and had trouble tracking her down again after trying to kill. Then you killed her.”
“The Desert Wolf?” Braeden asked.
“Yes. Talia Hale gave her to a human family, and then Corrine found her.”
Malia started to whine, so Stiles scratched at her head.
“Corrine shot her, and she shifted for the first time, and it caused a wreck. We are unsure if she desecrated her family’s bodies or real coyotes did. We found her in the Preserve, and she might stay like this forever, and we are fine with that. She and Princess go and play in the Preserve in the afternoons and then come back and nap. I’m not shocked they are back now. This is about the normal time they come back.”
“Everything is ready,” Jackson said. He held out a plate to Stiles and had a second plate there as well. He handed it to Braeden. “Drink?”
“Whatever is local,” Braeden said.
“Juice. Don’t care about the kind.”
Jackson leaned over and kissed the top of Stiles’ head before pressing one to Braeden’s temple.
It always made Stiles’ heart swell when Jackson was open with affection for other people besides him. Braeden liked it as well as it meant to her that she was accepted. She had a horrible scar across her face from an alpha that she had gone against while hunting the Desert Wolf when the alpha Pack was being taken care of by the Gajos.
Stiles was more than happy that she felt safe here. He looked at where Derek was to see that he kept on looking at them. If Derek was dreaming of her, Stiles wondered what he was dreaming about exactly.
The Nemeton had to be why they were dreaming of each other. It was trying to pull them together. It had pulled her here to be with him. It wasn’t the worst thing in the world.
Stiles wanted to see Derek happy. He wanted to see him chasing after little kids. Stiles was pretty sure that Braeden was close to wanting to settle down with kids.
“Stiles,” Jackson called out.
Stiles pulled himself out of his head and looked away from Derek. Jackson was holding out a glass of juice. It had a different color than orange juice but wasn’t as light as pineapple. He took a sip; it was guava juice. He hummed in happiness. The juice was good for him right now with the calories and sugar it packed. His leg bones might be resistant to healing because of the spell used to damage them, but it at least allowed some faster healing to happen if he had enough power behind it. Calories were the best for that. They burned off easily.
“So this is Beacon Hills?” Braeden asked.
“Yes, sleepy little Beacon Hills.”
“Sleepy?” Derek asked as he sat down on the foot of Stiles’ lounge chair.
“Well, from here on out, it ought to be. At least, I hope so. So, Derek, how are you feeling?”
“Good. Centered. You were right that the Nemeton was a lot of the issues, that and the spells weaved by Deaton.”
“Yeah, it’ll be better now.”
Braeden looked at Derek, and Stiles could see her thinking about things. Stiles wondered if she would mind staying at the house. Derek would have many reasons to come over to allow him time to get to know Braeden without it being one-on-one.
Stiles felt the bed shift, and it woke him up. He groaned and looked at the pre-dawn light that was trying to break through the curtains.
“Sleep,” Jackson said.
“I hate you,” Stiles said.
Jackson laughed, and the bed jiggled as someone crawled onto it. There was fur. He laughed. He wasn’t sure if it was Malia, Princess, or Derek. Derek, who had spent the better part of three days now in wolf form. He couldn’t shift back, and it was pissing him off, but so far, he was doing okay with it. He had decided that he would rather be with Malia and Princess than hanging out at the Hale house. It was quite interesting, but Derek was able to move around, but he had to be carried up and down the stairs by someone who wasn’t Stiles.
Braeden had been helping with that while the pack protected the land, and Stiles’ team worked on figuring out where the alpha who Derek had killed had come from. The fight had been hard and long. The alpha had been drugged and insane. It had been mercy that had Derek making the final kill when he had shifted to his wolf form to kill the alpha.
There was nothing to do but make sure that nothing else got through. Stiles felt like it was his fault that this had happened with opening up his mouth about the place being safe. He knew that it would never be fully safe. Beacon Hills was named as it was because it was a beacon for the supernatural. The place wasn’t nearly as much of a beacon as it used to be.
“Up,” Stiles said, and the bed moved again. Then there was not one but three bodies around him. Derek flopped pretty much on top of him while Princes settled in front of him and Malia behind him. Stiles felt overly warm, as he usually did when all three were with him, but he loved it. Derek moved a little to where he was not on Stiles’ bad leg at all and went limp.
Jackson came back over an hour later to get Stiles ready to head down to the first floor. Derek was going to need a bath later today; his wounds were healing slowly due to the wolfsbane poisoning in the alpha’s claws but also the fact that it was an alpha who had done it to him. Stiles would also check over Derek’s wound and redress it.
Stiles was the only one besides his sister and uncle that he allowed touching his wound. It was healing well, and Stiles was happy about that. He had been unable to figure out what strand of wolfsbane had been used, and therefore he couldn’t burn it out. They had tried with a blow torch, but it hadn’t done a thing.
Derek was on the couch when Stiles and Jackson got downstairs. Stiles laughed when Derek looked up at him and then laid his head down again.
“You are horrible,” Stiles said. He hobbled over to where he was. Stiles was good on his crutches, but after nearly falling on his ass a week before going down the stairs, he didn’t go up and down them without someone with him.
Malia and Princess slipped out the door that was cracked open so they could do so. Derek would go out soon, but he was to stay on the porch so his wounds didn’t become infected. They didn’t need him getting sick. Derek wasn’t used to being sick or hurt like this. Hell, it was at least good that Derek wasn’t too horrible.
Stiles settled down on the couch, and Derek wiggled closer to get his head on Stiles’ leg. Stiles worked on cleaning and dressing the worst wound on him. It was their morning ritual while Stiles recovered from waking up.
It was easy to do, and it allowed Stiles a few minutes of quiet time. No one bothered him while he was working on the wounds. Stiles liked these moments.
“I thought I would never see the day,” Peter said.
Stiles looked up at him after coaxing Derek to stand on his own four legs to wrap the gauze around his chest.
“What?” Stiles asked. He trusted Peter probably more than he trusted Derek, but there was something in Peter’s tone.
“I watched him pine for you.”
Derek growled at Peter’s words.
“Oh, shut up.” Peter’s words were full of venom.
“I knew what his pining was really a cover for, but he was already dealing with a lot of other things, and I wasn’t going to burst his bubble. So I watched. He was upset every time that you didn’t come home. He turned bitter for a few years. Your father never talked about you, and I wasn’t going to bring up who you were dating. That was a can of worms I didn’t want. This makes me happy. I think the two of you would be good friends. Lord knows Jackson would never be jealous. But as I said, I never thought I would see the day where the two of you are chummy like this, and it makes me happy.”
“I’m glad it makes you happy. Could have done without the creepy bits that made me think you were going to kill Derek.”
“It keeps him on his toes.”
Derek growled at him.
“You go, Derek. Make him pay.”
Peter laughed and walked away. Stiles hadn’t even been aware that he was there. Normally he wasn’t until dinner. As much as they could, Noah and Peter were here for dinner. It made things better, especially with the team and the pack being away so much right now.
“Also, your father found the person who sent the alpha this way,” Peter called out.
“DAD!” Stiles yelled. He tried to jump up, but Derek jumped on him to take him down the couch and laid over his lap. “Sourwolf, let me the fuck up. DAD!”
“Stiles, I’m right there,” Noah said as he came around the couch with a cup of coffee in his hand. He looked amused as hell. It was strange to see him looking so worn out. “Peter’s an asshole, but he’s taking Malia and Princess out on a run. Derek, move your tail.”
Derek curled his tail in to make room for Noah to sit on the couch.
“I caught a small news report out of Portland, Oregon. It was just small and stupid, but it had a detail that caught my eye. I looked into it more. This was yesterday before I was set to leave. Then I just kept on. I went home on time, I thought. It was after two. I told Peter about it, and he made me sleep until a little bit ago.”
“So who was it?”
“The FBI already has them in custody. They were stockpiling arms, and in a joint ATF and FBI incursion, they found a lot of shit that pulled in a profiler. They found a journal, and it seemed that they were after someone named Hale. That tripped a flag with me big time. Yes, Hale is moderately popular, but the case felt off to me. Then I got word that the special unit of the FBI was looking at things. That made me think it was Derek, Peter, or Cora they were after. So I contacted the Portland PD. Once I described the man, they asked for hair to do a DNA sample; I gave them the case number on the sample already sent. They pushed it through quicker with the FBI.”
“All of this since last night?”
“No, sorry. I misspoke. This part was three days ago. Last night I was busy with the connections that we found. I worked all night long and only went to bed at what I thought was normal.”
“You are tired and talking like it’s all happening at one time.”
“Yes, well, you do the same; you got that from me,” Noah said. He closed his eyes and took a few deep breaths. “I found the connection days ago, but it all got back to me last night. I know some, they know some, and the FBI just wants this done and over with. Anyway, I guess this guy had rantings about the Hales. He hated your father, Derek. I guess that your father slighted him in some fashion, and when he found out your pack was settling down and spreading out, he took offense and decided that you needed to be killed. He tortured an alpha with no pack and made him want to go after you and then turned him loose from Portland. There is a string of murders down the coast, but no one had linked them together as they were too far apart for someone on foot to have traveled, and there was no evidence of a car being used to flee the scene.”
“An alpha can cover a lot of ground, more than a human.”
“Yup, the manner of deaths was enough to put off linking them as well. One had their head bashed into a rock, another their throat slit by what looked like a strange knife, another was registered as an animal attack. He was covering his tracks without noticing just by the easiest method he had for killing at the time.”
“So we are safe?” Stiles asked.
“Yes, he worked alone, and it was the only alpha he had done it to. He was captured before he figured out that he had failed.”
“Well, that’s a lot of shit,” Stiles said.
“I knew that Derek’s been hyper-aware, and his being stuck in his form and injured was making him upset, so I had hoped that finding this out would help him calm down.”
“I’m sure that it will. We are hungry, though.”
“Breakfast is nearly ready; let’s head in.” Noah stood up again, tugging at Derek’s tail, making him snap and growl even as his tail was wagging.
Derek moved slowly off of Stiles, testing his skin that was almost fully knitted back together. He was still in danger of ripping it all open again, but it was at least better for Derek that he was healing.
“So, we can be happy and go-lucky again.”
“Well, I wouldn’t say that. But yes.”
Stiles laughed. He nodded his head and looked at Derek, who was looking at him. Friendship was going to take time.
Stiles dropped to the ground and rubbed at his leg, it was aching, and he wasn’t sure how much he wanted to run. He had been cleared to get back to his normal routine by the doctor he was seeing. He had to find a new one in the area that would not question his healing too quickly. It wasn’t that hard, really, since Celeste had a list of them from across the country so that her teams would find care anywhere they went.
A body rammed into him from behind, and he leaned over to take in the blow. He rolled to the side and saw it was Jackson in his full wolf glory. He was glorious like this. He was grey and white with minimal black on him.
“Hey, pretty boy,” Stiles said.
The glare from Jackson was exactly like Jackson would do if he was in his human form.
“You are pretty,” Stiles said. He sat back up and rubbed at his leg again.
Jackson walked around to sniff at Stiles’ leg.
Jackson gave Stiles a grin before he licked up Stiles’ leg.
“You are gross,” Stiles said.
Jackson huffed and walked off toward where they were headed.
Stiles watched him until he couldn’t see him anymore. There were many of the Hale pack out in the Preserve with them. Stiles’ team was also out there, but they were having a lot of fun playing tag. Stiles was not playing tag. He needed to not do the kind of dodging that was needed for that with his leg.
“INVADERS!” someone yelled.
Stiles looked up at where the voice came from. He got to his feet, pushing away the pain in his mind. He needed to not have that happen. No one was coming into his land again to hurt anyone, not like this.
The sound of everyone heading to one area made Stiles put on a burst of speed. He rushed into the clearing to find the pack surrounding but the team was being pushed back.
“STOP!” Stiles yelled.
“Stiles,” Derek said.
“Hellcat, what are you doing here?”
“Thought it was time to drop in on you there. I decided to take a year off of teaching.”
“Really?” Stiles asked.
“Yup, I left my team there, and I’m going to work with your team. Though, I had planned on stopping at the Hale house to introduce myself to the Hale Alpha and then head into town and find your ass. I guess I was found first.”
“Helena Gajos, this is the Hale Pack.”
“Helena, welcome,” Derek said as he finally pushed through where his pack was still blocking the way for Helena to see out at Stiles’ team.
Jackson dove between Boyd’s legs and tackled her down to the ground. Helena started to laugh. She patted him on the head.
“So yes, you scared them,” Stiles said. He grabbed Jackson’s tail and tugged on it before looking at Derek.
Derek held out his hand to Helena to help her up. She wrapped Derek in a hug, which had Derek freezing up. It was quite funny to see.
“I want curly fries,” Helena said when she finally pulled out of hugging Derek. “And I want to see Braeden.”
“Why?” Derek asked.
Helena looked at him, her eyes wide. “Well, well, does someone have a crush on her?”
“Oh, they have been dreaming about each other before Braeden came here. I think it’s the Nemeton.”
“Oh, that’s interesting,” Helena said. She looked at Derek with an assessing eye.
Stiles laughed as Derek looked like he wanted to run for the hills.
“I feel like I’m not safe,” Derek said.
“Yeah, you kind of aren’t,” Stiles answered. He walked over to Derek and wrapped his arm around his shoulder before pulling him along toward the house. “Let’s go clean up and then we can all go out and eat. Curly fries sound fucking awesome to me. A good burger as well.”
“That does sound good,” Helena said. She looked at all of them.
“Oh, the diner has a big assed meeting room that we will take over,” Derek said.
“Yes, and we can pick up Braeden. I’m sure my father will allow her to have an extended lunch. It’s lunchtime, right?” Stiles looked at his phone that was strapped to his arm. It was just after twelve. It would be just after one when they got there, and hopefully, the lunch rush would be close enough to over. It would be a good chance to have everyone in Derek’s pack get to know her. It would be hard to get to know her, and not everyone on Stiles’ team knew her well.
Helena caught up with Stiles and wrapped her arm around him. “I missed you.”
“Yeah?” Stiles asked.
“Mom felt that I had been away from home for too long, and I agreed that I think I was done teaching. I’ll be staying here if you and Alpha Hale are okay with it. If not, I’ll go home, but I would like to index and categorize the Hale library before that. Stiles has been teasing me with it.”
“Well, the library is all Peter, but I’m sure he would be fine with that, and I look forward to getting to know you.” Derek smiled at her, and he seemed more relaxed.
Stiles wasn’t sure what the hell the future was bringing, but so far, he was enjoying what he was getting out of life in Beacon Hills. He hadn’t seen himself coming home, but he was damned happy to be here.