Fandom: Teen Wolf
Challenge: Every Fandom Bang 2021
Genres: Alternate Universe, Fantasy
Warnings: Canon-Level Violence, Death-Original Characters, Discussion-Murder, Kidnapping, Racism, Torture, Mention Suicide-Canon
Relationships: Chris Argent/Peter Hale, Allison Argent/Scott McCall
Alpha/Beta: Jilly James/Pixyblade
Art: g-love99 AO3: https://archiveofourown.org/users/g_love99/pseuds/g_love99
Word Count: 26,802
Author Note: Part of the Every Fandom Bang 2021 Challenge. https://everyfandombangs.wordpress.com/ Inspired by Unobstructed Views by Jilly James. Also, thank you to Jilly for the Alpha read. I was too stuck in what I planned to do that I didn’t see what I needed to do. Pixyblade stepped in for some Beta. Any mistakes after that are my own. Check out the incredible art by g-love99. You can find more of her awesome work on AO3: https://archiveofourown.org/users/g_love99/pseuds/g_love99
Summary: When the Hunters of the world are cursed to literally live and die by the Hunter’s Code, Chris Argent must choose on which side of the confrontation he will stand.
Chris Argent ran through the Beacon Hills Preserve, just six paces behind Sheriff Noah Stilinski. Ahead of them, Peter Hale was fighting his desire to surge forward to reach his Pack over the need to lead the two humans in the right direction. Chris wished desperately that the two men would allow him to handle this alone.
“Noah, you really shouldn’t be out here,” Chris tried again.
“Go to Hell, Argent.” Noah glared back at Chris. “That’s my son your hunter buddies decided to kidnap. So I’m going to be here, and I swear to God if one hair on his head is hurt, I’m going to pay it back ten-fold.”
“They aren’t my buddies. They were supposed to be passing through to deal with a wendigo in Seattle. Kidnapping a human, even a pack human, is against the Code.”
A condescending voice called out, “Oh yes, the mighty Hunter’s Code. Perhaps werewolves should start living by your Code.”
“It’s not the time, Peter.”
“It’s never the time, Christopher. But if you two are through arguing, perhaps you would like to hurry up. I can hear them at the Nemeton, and I believe things are escalating.”
“Damn!” Noah cursed, and they increased their speed.
They froze at the edge of the Nemeton’s clearing to take stock of the action. The McCall and Hale Packs were spread out behind their alphas. Murderous was the only way to describe Alpha Derek Hale, who looked one second from shifting. Alpha Scott McCall was trying to reason with the hunters.
It took only a moment for Chris to examine the hunters, all fourteen of them. Leading the team was Ryleigh. He should have known. The Connery Clan of Hunters originated out of Ireland. They made the Eastern Seaboard their primary territory when a faction of the Family immigrated in the late 1800s. They had approached Chris for permission to hunt in Argent territory to track a family of wendigos that appeared to be moving toward Seattle. Chris had authorized the hunt and forgotten about them since they were headed out of town.
That was not a mistake he took lightly. He looked to each Hunter, memorizing faces. The only other name he knew was Calvagh Fay, Ryleigh’s second for this team. He was also the one pointing a gun at Stiles.
Clinching his jaw to avoid cursing, he looked over Stiles, who was on his knees in front of the Hunters, with Cal holding a gun to his head. The kid looked like he had been ground up and spit out. One eye swollen shut, hunched over in a way that suggested bruised ribs if not broken. Hands tied in front of him. He was wearing the remnants of the Beacon Hills PE shirt, torn, bloody, and filthy. Gym shorts in only slightly better condition. Chris winced when he realized that Stiles’ shoes were missing and the soles of his feet were bleeding. Given a chance, Chris wasn’t sure Stiles would be able to run.
He grabbed Noah to prevent him from running out there and getting Stiles killed. One hand wrapped around his mouth, another over his hand, forcing him to leave his weapon in the holster. It took a good minute before the man calmed down and nodded. Chris glanced back at the proceedings and noted that Peter had disappeared instead of helping him with Noah. The man could take care of himself.
Stepping forward, Chris entered the clearing making sure to not telegraph aggression. Connery,” Chris addressed Ryleigh, though he was aware of everyone’s actions. “Want to tell me what you’re doing with a human in my town? Last I heard, I gave you permission to hunt in Washington. How did that become breaking the Code in Beacon Hills?”
“You’re going to preach to me about the Code, Argent? You’re a disgrace to your name. Allowing these mutts to run around your territory, pretending to be human. You should have put them down ages ago.” Ryleigh shook his head, “Your poor sainted father would be disappointed in you.”
“My father was disavowed by our Matriarch for Code Breaking. I don’t think he’s the example you want to emulate.” Chris slowly approached the Hunters in an attempt to reach Stiles. “This Pack is peaceful. We have a treaty with them.
“Treaty? Treaties are for humans. You don’t make treaties with a pack of rabid dogs, Argent. You put them down,” Calvagh Fay snarled.
“Seems to me the only one you’re threatening is a harmless human kid.” Chris didn’t allow his gaze to fall back to Stiles. The kid’s silence was disconcerting, even if it was the best thing at the moment.
“Human pack bitch is more like it. We’re just saving him. Teaching him the error of his ways.” Cal shoved the barrel of his gun at the back of Stiles’ head, forcing him to look down. “Isn’t that right, bitch?”
The Pack growled as Stiles grimaced but remained silent.
“See, this one can learn,” Cal gave a gruff laugh.
“Stiles.” Noah’s voice was his soft negotiator’s voice.
There was a slight jerk before Stiles curled in on himself further.
“Nuh, uh, uh,” Cal said mockingly. “Little bitch knows the consequences of trying to speak out of turn. I’m afraid, Sheriff, that I can’t allow you to interfere. Discipline is important; I’m sure you will agree.”
“If he’s done something that requires discipline, then it’s my place as his father to see to it. Tell me what he did, and I will see he is suitably punished.” Noah stepped up next to the Nemeton, between the Hunters and the Pack, directly across from Stiles.
Ryleigh mockingly shook his head, “Your son here has been hanging out with the wrong crowd, Sheriff. He’s too ashamed to admit it, but those mutts over there have defiled him.”
“If that’s the case, then I need to open an investigation. Let me take him back, and we can let the law handle this.” Noah sounded supremely reasonable, Chris thought. Too bad the Connery Clan was anything but reasonable.
“The only Law these mutts understand is a wolfsbane bullet to the head.” One of the other boys spat out. There was a fire in his eyes that Chris had regularly seen in Gerard during a hunt. The last thing Chris wanted was for that fire to spread.
Noah shook his head, “I’m the law in this County, boys. A wolf goes feral and has to be put down for public safety; I can accept that. Peaceful packs being targeted are never going to cut it here. I won’t allow a hunter to randomly target a wolf any more than I allow a wolf to target a hunter. But you boys made a couple mistakes here.” Noah held up a single finger, “First, you took my son. The Sheriff’s son who almost everyone in Beacon County recognizes on sight.”
Inching just a hair closer to Stiles, Noah held up another finger, “Second, you thought you were smart taking him from the Beacon High cross country trail. See, we’ve had issues on that stretch before. A while back, when Gerard Argent was Principal, he set up cameras along that trail. Students at the school leaked that video to social media, so your faces are all over the place.”
Connery’s men tensed up, trading glances and clutching their weapons as they shifted from foot to foot.
Chris saw the Pack slowly spreading out into a better fight formation and felt like cursing. He caught Derek Hale’s eye and tried to give him a sign. Derek had a moment of surprise flash in his eyes before he motioned his Pack to take a step back. They instantly responded, all except McCall, who was shrugging off the hand Derek gently tapped on his shoulder.
“Now I can’t make those videos disappear, not with the way social media spreads. But you let my son go and step away; I promise I won’t block you leaving the County. I don’t have a beef with Code-abiding Hunters, but I do require they follow the Code to the letter while in my County.” Noah kept that hand up with two fingers as he gestures with the other toward the gun on Stiles. “But you keep that weapon pointed at my son, and all you’re telling me is that you’re not real Hunters anyway. The way I see it, a Hunter with no Code is just a murderer.”
“Let him go, Cal,” Chris said softly. “Let the kid go and take your shot at getting away.”
Cal and Ryleigh exchanged looks; Chris thought they might be reconsidering their options, but it was hard to tell.
“Yeah!” Scott yelled out at them. “Let him go and get out of here.”
Cal’s face firmed up, the hate returning, and Chris realized blood would be shed today. “Don’t go telling your betters what to do, you damn mutt!” He jammed the barrel of his weapon into Stiles’ back, knocking him forward a little before he raised the gun toward Scott, “Or, maybe you want me to put you down before I take care of your little bitch here?”
It seemed to happen in slow motion. Chris watched as the gun came up from Stiles headed for Scott. A third finger rose silently to join the two uplifted on Noah’s hand. There was a blur as Peter came out of nowhere to tackle Stiles and move him out of the line of fire. As Noah tried to grab Scott when the Alpha moved forward, the loud crack of a weapon’s rapport echoed over the clearing. Noah flew back onto the stump of the Nemeton, blood starting to run down his chest.
“Dad!” Stiles’ heartbreaking scream froze everyone in place as the boy fought loose from Peter’s grip and ran toward the Nemeton. He was on it, applying pressure to the wound with his bound hands.
“Stiles?” Noah’s voice was weak. He tried to lift his hand up to his son and failed, the hand falling limply back to the tree stump.
“You’re going to be OK, Dad. You hear me. You have to be OK.” Stiles practically sobbed the order.
“I’m proud of you.”
“No…we’re not doing this. Not now. You can tell me how proud you are when I get my doctorate and write a book about how crazy this shit-hole is. But you’re going to be there to see me do it.” Stiles looked around and locked eyes with Derek Hale. “Derek, you can help him, right?”
Derek closed his eyes and looked away while shaking his head sharply in the negative.
“Bullshit! You promised me. If anything ever happened, you would give him the Bite to save him. You have to try!”
“It’s going to be OK, Mieczyslaw,” Noah whispered.
Peter Hale put his hand on Noah’s head and pulled pain with a grimace. “It’s a wolfsbane bullet, Stiles. The Bite would kill him.”
The loud snap of a branch refocused everyone on the Hunters, who had moved back as if looking for an escape. Noticing attention back on them, Ryleigh pointed his weapon toward the Pack again. “That’s not our fault. You were our witness, Argent.” He pointed toward Scott. “He was going to attack us. It was fully within the Code for us to defend ourselves. Not our fault the Sheriff got in the way of a justified kill.”
“The Code?” Stiles looked toward Connery with venom dripping from his voice. “You break your precious Code whenever you want, then hold it up as a talisman to justify your murders. I’m sick and tired of hearing one of you use that damn Code as a reason to terrorize, brutalize, and murder innocent people who just have the misfortune of being born something different than you. So you can take your Code and choke on it.”
Stiles looked down at his father, who had fallen unconscious as his blood continued to seep between Stiles’ fingers. “I wish you were bound to your damn Code. Bound to live by it and Bound to die by it. May it give you just as much protection as it gives those you hunt.”
Ryleigh looked at Stiles with an odd expression and opened his mouth, but Cal interrupted whatever he was about to say.
“Well, boys. Way I see it, it’s time to clean up loose ends and eliminate witnesses.” Cal swung his weapon toward Stiles.
Chris yelled out a warning and dove for the far side of the Nemeton for cover. The last he saw as the bullets started flying was Derek Hale and Scott McCall balancing Noah’s body between them as they and the Pack ran for the cover of the woods. Peter dodging behind them with Stiles slung over his shoulder in a fireman carry.
Gunshots and smoke filled the clearing, combined with screams of pain as Chris gripped his weapon and curled himself deep within the roots of the tree stump. He stayed still when the bullets stopped and waited, but all he heard were a few whimpers and some wet gasps for breath. He stood slowly, carefully, while he determined no one was standing. Chris turned in place, looking down at the ground. In a semicircle around the Nemeton the entire Hunting team had fallen, dead and dying from bullet wounds. Not a single member of the Pack had remained to fight.
Chris turned slowly to take it all in, not understanding the carnage. The dark red of Noah’s blood on the stump of the Nemeton caught his eye as it flowed and words appeared.
Nous chassons ceux qui nous chassent.
They remained until Ryleigh Connery breathed his last breath on this earth, then all the blood was absorbed into the Nemeton.
Peter felt relief when Stiles finally passed out. The boy had to be in agony, and there was no way Peter could drain pain and run while carrying him. Working in tandem, Derek and Scott outdistanced him while supporting Noah between them. They were getting him into the back of the Sheriff’s SUV when Peter caught up with them. Derek grabbed the keys while Scott stayed in the back, applying pressure to the Sheriff’s wound.
Peter shifted Stiles around and onto the back seat. There was little he could do for him in his current state, and he was afraid of driving debris deeper into the feet. He was jostled hard when Derek put the car into gear and peeled out with shouted orders to the pack to meet them at the hospital. Peter nodded his approval. Safety in public. Don’t give them a chance to hunt us down.
He heard McCall begging under his breath for Noah to be ok. Peter might do the same if he had it in him to beg anymore. Damn hunters. They take and take. He ran his hand through Stiles’ hair to move it out of his face. It was such a relief the boy had let his hair grow out from that ridiculous buzz cut. He felt heat radiating and cursed at the infection that had already set in. Humans were so impossibly fragile.
Derek’s attention was focused on the road as he blew through every sign and light on the way to the Hospital. The flashing lights of the deputies following them had no chance in hell of catching up.
“Scott, call your mother and let her know we’re coming in!” Derek yelled out as he ran the light and was almost struck by two vehicles.
“Nephew, I would appreciate you paying attention to where you are going. I’m certain the Sheriff would prefer his vehicle arrive in one piece. Preferably with all of its passengers alive,” Peter said, knowing the Alpha would hear him without raising his voice.
“Shut it, Peter. I told you Argent couldn’t be trusted,” Derek spat out.
Peter felt his gut churn. He should have known better. What is it about Argents that the wolf finds so enticing?
“Mr. Argent is ok. Those guys aren’t Argent Hunters. Allison told me her Aunt had Gerard killed for breaking the Code,” Scott defended them after hanging up from a quick conversation with his mother.
“I will deal with Christopher in my own time,” Peter stated while making his voice as steady as possible. “But those others, they have forfeit their lives.”
“What does that mean?” McCall demanded. “You’re going to kill them, aren’t you? We can’t kill them.”
“They were going to kill all of us, Scott.” The anger in Derek’s voice was taking it down into alpha levels. “They were going to kill the Sheriff and Stiles.”
“Look, they made a mistake, and I agree they need to go to jail for that. But, we can’t go out and kill people in cold blood. It’s not right.”
Peter’s voice was low and deadly, “You want to reason with them while they sneak someone into the hospital to slit your best friend’s throat so that they clean up loose ends? That’s what they do. It’s what they always do. You may believe you have a treaty with them, an agreement…a relationship, but they will turn on you. Eventually, they will decide you are dangerous, or inconvenient, or unnatural, or maybe just a witness, and then they will remove you.”
“But if you hunt them down and kill them, you’re no better than they are, Peter,” Scott insisted.
“Oh, the righteous authority has spoken.”
“Peter,” Derek growled.
“No. I’m not going to listen to this today. Stiles had it right back there. If they want to live by their Code, then I should give them a reason. I’m the Left Hand of the Hale Pack. Forged in blood and necessity. Let me loose, Alpha mine, to do my damn job!”
Derek gripped the steering wheel hard and spun them into the ER, heading straight for the ambulance bay and honking his horn. The doors flew open, and people came running out, Melissa McCall in front of them and shouting orders.
Peter slipped back and to the side against the building as Stiles was evaluated and moved onto a gurney. Noah having already been whisked away. Police cars were pouring in behind them, blocking access. Luckily Parrish was one of them. He saw the grimace as the man got a glimpse of Stiles’ feet. Derek and Parrish had a whispered conversation before the Deputy gave the signal to the others to stand down.
Derek glanced around and then raised an eyebrow at Peter. Peter shrugged and then motioned that McCall had followed the Sheriff in without waiting on his friend. Derek sighed then walked over to stand next to Peter.
“You’re right, and you’re wrong.”
Peter tensed, “Oh, well, enlighten me.”
“The last thing we need is a vendetta against the Hunters. I don’t want to pull all of them down on top of us. You know that’s what would happen. But you are right about one thing. You are my Left Hand, and I haven’t been allowing you to do your job.”
Peter felt a bit of relief at finally being recognized. At the release. “Most Alphas are not comfortable with the actions of a Left Hand. I understand that.”
Derek nodded, “You’re not wrong. But just keep in mind, your job is to protect the pack. I don’t want vengeance; I want protection and justice. Only the ones who come for us. Do you understand?”
With a sigh at the restriction, Peter muttered, “Of course, only the ones who hunt us.” He paused, then smirked, “So, that’s eventually all of them. I can be patient.” Peter pushed away from the building and started walking away. “First, let’s see if these are coming for us or if they decided to tuck tail and run.”
“Be careful.” Peter didn’t grace that with a response.
As he slipped away, Peter looked toward the Preserve. Chris didn’t follow them. It was the thought that hadn’t left him for a moment. He wanted to search the man down to make sure he survived. He would destroy anyone who so much as harmed a hair on the man’s head. He wanted to wrap Chris up and keep him safe. He wanted to eviscerate him for the betrayal. Peter cracked his neck to the side and took a breath. No, home first because right now, he isn’t sure what he will do if he finds himself face-to-face with the man.
Considering the amount of blood on Peter’s clothing from first Noah and then Stiles, Peter was amazed he made it across town without being arrested. It was sad how the people of Beacon Hills were so willfully blind. He headed for his condo, double-checking security to make sure no one had accessed it. There were times he needed his privacy, and today was one of those times.
Peter carefully removed his clothing and placed them in a trash bag. He would either destroy them or turn them in as evidence. It depended on which way the Sheriff’s Department decided to spin this. He scrubbed hard until he was confident the smell of blood was neutralized.
He dried off on his way to his closet and stopped to look at the bed. The covers were on the floor, the stale smell of sex lingering in the room. His toe brushed against something, and he bent down to pick up the small round object. It was a button from Chris’s shirt.
Peter flashed on the memory of ripping it from him just to hear Chris bitch about ruining another shirt. Damn, he loved to listen to that man bitch and moan…and moan.
“Damn it to Hell!” Peter turned to the closet and barely contained himself from ripping off the door. Betrayal left a sour taste in his mouth.
Dressing quickly, he headed down for his car. He decided to check on the new Pack House. While it galled him that they had been driven from the location of the original home, a place where generations of Hales had lived and died. They had made the decision to rebuild on a slightly more scenic portion of the property. It was closer to town and, with the right money, had been close enough to install the best internet possible, something woefully lacking at their former home.
There were three floors with a wrap-around porch for the main house. But several three-bedroom cabins with room to expand lined the path to the main house. Only a few of the cabins were complete. The construction phase of the Pack House was finished, and the decorator had been hard at work, but it was still incomplete. Since no one was living here yet, there was no reason for the Hunters to target it. Well, no reason but spite. He checked everything, but no signs of tampering. There were old scent traces of wolfsbane around the perimeter, so they had been here, but it was clear they weren’t camping the spot. Pity.
Leaving the car, Peter moved carefully toward the Nemeton. He needed to catch a clear sample of their scent to determine which way they went. Peter took a deep breath and let it out slowly, forcing his muscles to relax. Chris hadn’t followed them from the damn stump. Did something happen to him? He was afraid the answer to that might break him. Would they have killed their own?
He was halfway there when he heard the sound of boots stomping around the woods. He focused on the sounds coming along the trail he had taken earlier today. Voices drifted on the air with a scent he knew as well as his own, and Peter felt relief flood him.
“Argent, you’re certain this was all of them?” Deputy Jordan Parrish asked. The hellhound was a peripheral member of the pack.
“As certain as I can be. When Ryleigh petitioned to hunt in my territory, he declared a 14 man team. Unless he lied about that as well, then they are all dead.” Chris’s voice was riding an edge of nerves that Peter didn’t usually hear.
“And, you just happened to survive unscratched while fourteen Connery Hunters are dead?” the disbelief in Deputy Michael Judson’s voice was not in the least out of place.
Curiosity was killing Peter. Fourteen Hunters dead when the Pack didn’t stay to fight?
“I told you. The Connery’s opened fire, but the Pack grabbed the Stilinskis and ran. I took cover, and when the shooting stopped, I found them all dead by gunshot.” That little grunt Chris had when he took a deep breath and stopped himself from questioning your intelligence was there. “I’m as much in the dark as to what happened as you are, and I was there. Have we heard about the Sheriff and his son yet?”
Parrish sighed, “UnderSheriff Tara Graeme is coordinating from the hospital. They arrived at the hospital alive, but I haven’t been advised of their status.”
Peter closed his eyes at the memory. Noah Stilinski was one of the rare, truly good men he had met in his life. He didn’t deserve to be shot down trying to save a hot-headed kid who didn’t stop to consider the consequences of his actions. And Stiles…if his father didn’t make it, they were going to have to fight to keep that one alive. If there was ever a human that personified Pack, it was Stiles. He would fight for every one of them he decided was his. But his anchor in this world was his father.
Judson cleared his throat in the silence that followed. “Let’s get moving and figure this out. We are going to have to stage the scene for the official reports. These people can’t just disappear. Not after that video of Stiles hit the net. We need a story, and we need to make sure this supports it.”
“Drug deal gone wrong,” Chris stated firmly.
“Spin it for me, Argent.”
Hmm. Interesting. Judson was a good Deputy but quiet. He knew a lot about the supernatural. It was hard to hide that lack of surprise, but there wasn’t any explanation of where Judson gained the knowledge. Yet, here he was, comfortable with Chris in a way that spoke to familiarity. Peter put two and two together and realized it equaled Hunter. He seethed at the knowledge of another Argent Hunter living quietly in their shadow. How many more were hiding in plain sight?
“Stilinski was investigating, got too close, and they grabbed his son to keep him quiet. Their faces hit social media, and they panicked. They attempted to kill the Sheriff and his son. They turned on each other because murdering a Sheriff is an automatic death penalty. Somehow they killed each other. Derek, Peter, Scott, and I heard the gunshots and investigated. Since we were so far out here, the others got the Stilinskis to medical care while I contacted the Sheriff’s Department and stayed to lead you to the scene.”
Judson responded, “That could work. Easy to set up. Tara knows the Sheriff’s style and can build a file.”
Peter stayed in place as their voices faded. He considered catching up, joining them…seeing Chris. Peter slapped his palm against the tree, strong enough to break skin just to feel the burn. Damn it, how can he want to kill someone and kiss them at the same time? With a last glance in their direction, he headed back the way he had come. Time to check in with the Pack. Time…he needs to give himself some time to figure it out before he faces Chris again.
Chris entered the hospital, determined to get an update on the Stilinskis. He had spent the last three hours giving his report to Deputy Jordan Parrish and three others on the Beacon Hills staff who were read into the supernatural. First the real story, then the official one. The one that started with Stiles taken to stop the Sheriff’s investigation into a drug deal and ended with the perpetrators turning on each other after shooting the Sheriff. Hopefully, no one would ask why none of them were facing one another.
A quick inquiry in Emergency had him routed up to the surgery waiting room. There were several deputies in the area, both guarding and waiting for any word. Chris gave his name to one who checked a list and waved him through the door. The kids and Hales were waiting to one side. Derek, Scott, and Peter were freshly showered. Derek and Scott dressed in scrubs, while Peter had obviously taken the time to return home to dress. Considering the amount of blood Noah had lost, he wasn’t surprised.
He met Peter’s eyes as he approached, and Peter gave a sharp shake of the head before he could even ask. Chris felt a stab of disappointment at the rejection. He deserved it but hoped Peter would let him explain. Their friends with benefits arrangement had been going so well, but Chris knew Peter was jockeying for more. Honestly, that was a break with the Hunter’s Society that he had been afraid to make. The potential repercussions were nightmarish, and Peter had suffered enough.
Chris glanced over at Melissa McCall, who was holding her son’s hand a few chairs down. He walked over and took a seat across from her. She was pale, and it took her a moment to meet his gaze.
“What do we know?” Chris asked her.
“Noah’s in surgery. There was significant blood loss, and the bullet tumbled a bit on its way through. ER doesn’t think it hit any major organs, but we haven’t had that confirmed by the surgical team. They need to control the blood loss, and they have to do some reconstruction on his shoulder.”
“Bruised ribs, an uncomplicated orbital fracture that doesn’t look like it will require surgery, and a dislocated left wrist. Both of the wrists are lacerated and swollen. Stiles was pulling at his bonds a lot, so they will splint both his hands and re-evaluate his right wrist when the swelling goes down to make sure they didn’t miss anything. But it’s his feet that have them concerned. Fractures on one and deep lacerations on both.” She choked on a sob and took a deep breath. “Those bastards beat his feet with something that sliced them all to hell. They took him into surgery an hour ago. They had to rule out concussion first.”
Chris bit back the bile as he closed his eyes and leaned back to let himself relax. Connery Clan had a sadistic little trademark of damaging feet and rubbing in a wolfsbane paste before releasing a wolf when they blooded their young in a first hunt.
Scott whined softly, “He’s not going to be walking for months. I don’t even know how he stood up at the Nemeton.”
“Adrenaline,” Chris murmured.
He leaned back in his chair, the images from the Nemeton flashing through his mind again on repeat. He needs to call his Matriarch to report. He needs to contact the Connery Matriarch and Clan Chief to notify them of their losses. He needs to understand what happened.
“Mr. Argent,” Chris looked into Scott’s worried eyes, “when is Allison coming back?”
Chris stared at Scott a moment, thinking that he should be worrying about his best friend right now, and then sighed, “She is training with her Great Aunt in France. She will come home once our Matriarch has decided she has advanced enough in her training.” And this is precisely what he had been telling the boy every week since Allison was forced to take her finals a week early and report for assessment.
“But she’ll be able to go back to school with us, right?”
“That’s not my decision to make, Scott,” Chris grimaced. Considering his own on-again/off-again relationship with Peter, it was hypocritical to disapprove of Allison’s relationship with Scott. Still, she was his teenage daughter, and Scott was a werewolf and a boy, and… OK, double standards were ugly, but he was willing to go there.
“You are still talking to her, aren’t you?” Melissa asked her son.
Scott nodded, “Yeah, but her aunt only lets her call once a week. And it’s only for half an hour. She’s totally unreasonable.”
That caused Chris to smile because Adèle Argent was the height of reasonable. As Matriarch of the Argent Hunter Family and Chairwoman of the Grand Hunter’s Council, she was the soul of diplomacy. However, she was also the kind of reasonable that could coldly call judgment down on Supernatural or Hunter alike. In her book, it was perfectly reasonable to order the execution of a hunter and an alpha to stop a war and protect the humans and hunters.
That is essentially what she did with Gerard. When Gerard instigated his little holy war against all werewolves after Peter exacted his blood debt on Kate, Chris didn’t participate. But he didn’t do enough to stop him, either. Chris thought staying neutral and warning Peter and Derek was sufficient. After all, Derek helped Peter avenge his Family, and Peter willingly passed on the Alpha spark to Derek once he was through. Chris had seen the evidence of the broken Code and heard Kate’s unwitting confession, so by the Code, he was forced to stand by and allow the Hales to enact justice and wipe the slate clean.
Gerard wasn’t willing to let it go. And he had manipulated Victoria and Allison into following him. It had cost Victoria her life. He had never loved the woman he shared a daughter with, but he had respected her until those final moments. And Allison, she had fallen so far, so fast. It was pure luck that she hadn’t taken her first life. The fact that she pulled back at the last moment and sided with the Pack against her grandfather had been the one thing that saved her.
Chris had captured Gerard when he tried to escape with his followers. Then he had reported all to Adèle and given up his father and his daughter to her judgment. He only hoped she understood why before she returned home.
The doors opened, and a nurse stepped into the open doorway. All heads came up, waiting. She looked around until her gaze connected with Melissa McCall, then she waved her forward. They didn’t even stop to talk as the nurse gently directed her through the door and shut it behind them.
Everyone was looking around uncomfortably and shifting back and forth. Chris looked over to Scott’s worried expression, but he had his head cocked to the side. Several of the werewolves were doing the same; they just seemed confused/anxious instead of Scott’s concerned/worried. Scott met his eye, and Chris just raised an eyebrow at him in question.
Scott leaned forward and whispered, “The bruising is real bad on Stiles’ feet, and they are swollen. That’s making it harder to deal with the cuts. Most of the cuts didn’t damage anything critical, but they are already infected. The surgeon might have to leave some of it open and bring him back for a second surgery to close them after dealing with the infection and swelling. It’s taking time to clean them up before they can decide. But they are really deep, and it’s going to be at least eight to twelve weeks before he can put weight on them, so they heal right. But the fractures on his right foot are worse than they thought, and they are going to have to put in plates and screws to keep it together. Mom and the doctor are discussing internal vs. external stabilization because of the amount of damage on that foot.”
Chris gave a tight nod and added it to his mental report to Adèle. He pulled out his phone and sent a request for a skype meeting via the secure Family servers. The immediate offer of meeting within the hour was countered. He confirmed a time in about four hours, hoping to have information on Stiles and Noah by then. Regardless of the deaths that occurred, the good Sheriff and his son were owed reparations from the Connery’s. Hopefully, she could push through a Council referendum to make them donate toward the medical bills.
It was almost thirty minutes later before Melissa returned to the waiting room. She looked around but spoke to Undersheriff Tara Graeme though it was clear she was addressing everyone. “The surgeon is finishing up with Noah now. The damage wasn’t as severe as they originally thought. A vein was nicked, so they did have to do a transfusion, but no organs were damaged. There was muscle damage to his upper chest and shoulder. They have repaired it and are confident that as long as there are no complications, he should eventually regain full range of motion.”
Melissa turned to Tara, “I’ve already let them know that the department wants to set a protection detail on Noah and Stiles until you are sure that the threat is over. They understand, but Noah will be in ICU for at least the first day while he’s monitored because of the bleeding risk. They insist that the officer be stationed on the door outside the unit to reduce stress to the patients.”
“That’s fine. We can limit who is allowed in the unit and work with the hospital on the restriction.” Tara acknowledged before asking, “What about Stiles?”
“Stiles is going to be in surgery at least two more hours. There were some complications on his feet. His recovery is going to be a little harder. He won’t be walking on those feet for at least twelve weeks. And, with the damage to his wrist, he wouldn’t have been able to navigate crutches anytime soon anyway. We are looking at a week minimum before we decide if he can go home. Noah won’t be able to care for him, and the house isn’t wheelchair accessible.”
“Well, the important thing is they will be OK. Let them know we will want a guard on Stiles’ door, too.” Tara motioned to a couple of the deputies who had grouped around them. “We will divide it into four-hour shifts.”
Melissa nodded her mouth a firm line. “I’m down as their medical proxy if Noah isn’t able to make decisions, so I’ve already let them know I agree with you. Let me know if you have trouble with the staff, and I will get Administration involved.”
She glanced around again. “I know everyone is worried about them, but it’s going to be a while before anyone is allowed to see them. If you feel you must stay, I understand. But I think most of you can go ahead and clear out. Noah will feel better knowing the town is being taken care of while he’s laid up.”
Tara turned to her people, “I agree. If you should be on duty or you are scheduled for duty later, please move on. We will keep everyone notified through the department system, and I will have some volunteer opportunities to help the Sheriff and his son up on there later today.”
All of the officers, save the ones she had indicated for the first shift of guard duty, trickled out after exchanging words with Tara. Then Melissa escorted Tara back, presumably to discuss the guard situation with the hospital.
Chris looked toward the group of werewolves who were in a whispered conversation with Derek. Erica Reyes and Boyd looked to argue, but Chris was confident that their Alpha was the most stubborn person in the room. Lydia Martin obviously issued an ultimatum to Peter just before she stood and left, Jackson Whitmore dragging his feet behind her. Eventually, only Derek, Scott, and Peter remained. Scott, unwilling to give up his place as best friend, Derek who obviously felt responsible. Peter stayed to make a brief list with Derek before he, too, stood to leave.
Standing, Chris followed Peter toward the elevator and then had to rush to catch up when the man turned toward the stairwell instead.
“Peter!” Chris called out to the man who was already to the next landing.
“No, Christopher. I honestly don’t want to hear the excuse. Now is not the time. Frankly, I don’t think there is a time where you can make up for not warning us about rogue hunters in our territory.” Peter’s eyes flashed blue in anger before the man got himself under control.
“They weren’t supposed to be in the area. Hell, they weren’t supposed to be rogue. They approached me for permission to hunt in Argent territory because they followed a family of wendigo headed for Seattle. They followed the Code and established procedures for notification of a hunt.” Chris ran his fingers through his hair. “How was I suppose to know they would break code like that and take a human boy?”
“A Hunter is willing to break Code, and you are surprised? Don’t feed me a line. You want me to trust you. Well, this is the result of trusting hunters. You say you want to work with the Pack to protect this territory, then roll out the red carpet for anyone who wants to come here and target my Pack?” Peter’s voice was a deep growl as he stared up at Chris. “I wanted you, and I trusted you. You helped save Erica and Boyd. You turned on Gerard. But you want me to keep being your dirty little secret. Well, no more.”
Chris closed his eyes and swallowed hard as the words kicked him in the chest. “Peter…” he whispered in pain.
Peter held his eyes another moment, then turned away, “Now, if you don’t mind, I have preparations to begin for the care of my pack members. Warn your hunter friends away, Chris. If any of them approach, I assure you we will protect what is ours.”
Chris forced himself to work through some calming exercises to compartmentalize today’s events to prepare for his meeting with Adèle Argent. After Peter had walked away, he found himself lingering in front of the liquor cabinet. That was unacceptable.
He quickly restrained himself and redirected his energy toward a written report for the Council and a brief investigation into the Connery Team’s wendigo story. At least that part was accurate. There were consistent reports through five states that clearly show a family grouping on the move. It only took three calls to confirm the likelihood of a Seattle area destination. It was only when they reached Beacon Hills that they went off the rails. What was it about this godforsaken County that caused the worst depravities to shine?
The signal for the beginning of his meeting started, and Chris enabled his camera and microphone after ensuring the connection was as secure as they could make it.
“Christopher, it is good to see you again. Our next phone call was not scheduled for five days, so I was concerned when you requested this meeting.” Adèle Argent greeted him while looking like the fashion-conscious businesswoman she portrayed to the world at large.
“Aunt Adèle, you are looking particularly stunning today. I wish this could be a social call, but I’m afraid there was an incident this morning.”
Her demeanor changed in an instant. Gone was the warmth of Family, and in its place was the cold, calculating Hunter Matriarch. “An incident.” She accented the word in a way that meant a complete understanding of the meaning behind that phrase. An incident was only mentioned when Hunters screw up in a way that could potentially out the community. Gerard’s fate was mild compared to some families who had broken Code.
She removed her glasses and gave the screen her singular attention. “And what exactly did this incident entail?”
“Four days ago, a team from the Connery Clan contacted me for permission to hunt in Argent territory. They had found evidence of a wendigo family causing trouble in at least three states. Connery presented evidence that the Family had moved through Northern California on the way to Seattle. I approved their petition and placed a call to the Johnston Pack in Oregon to warn that the team should be passing through but not stopping per our current treaty with the Pack.”
Chris sighed, “I made an assumption that Ryleigh Connery was headed to San Francisco to meet up with his team and proceed north. And because his team was never supposed to enter Beacon County, I did not warn the Hale or McCall Packs about the incursion.”
“And while you neglected the current treaty provisions with the local packs, what in fact was the Connery Clan doing?” Adèle asked, her voice with just the slightest emphasis on neglected.
“They entered Beacon Hills and stalked the local packs. At approximately 4 p.m. yesterday, they abducted Stiles Stilinski from the High School cross country trail. He was held hostage through the night, and by all evidence, he was beaten and possibly tortured. They called the Hale pack this morning to arrange a trade. It was, in fact, an ambush.” Chris flinched as the sound of a glass breaking drew his attention to the side.
Allison rounded Adèle’s desk to enter the camera’s range. “Dad, is everyone OK? Did you get Stiles back?”
“Calm yourself, Allison dear. A Matriarch must learn to not allow personal ties to interfere with the business of the Family. Allow your father to finish his report. You may receive your answer without having to reveal any potential weaknesses to an enemy.” She stared Allison down until the girl moved once more from the camera’s view to listen in. “Continue, Christopher.”
“I became aware of the problem when the Left Hand of the Hale Pack approached me in the company of the Sheriff, Noah Stilinski. I disavowed any knowledge of their actions. After checking with known Teams, I did not receive a response from the Connery Team. I informed Stilinski and Hale that if it was the Connerys, they did not have permission to hunt in Beacon Hills, only in Washington State. While with them, Alpha McCall contacted me with the Connery’s demands and a request to mediate to obtain Stile’s release. I agreed and headed toward the Beacon County Preserve. The Sheriff and Peter Hale accompanied me.”
“And the outcome of this?” Adèle prompted when Chris paused.
“I arrived to find the Connery Clan demanding the submission of the Hale and McCall Packs in exchange for the life of Stiles Stilinski. As the packs are peaceful, I informed the Connerys that they were in serious breach of the Code. I confirmed to all present that the Connerys were not and have never been authorized to Hunt in Beacon Hills. I also reminded them that Stiles is human.”
He straightened up, “They informed me that they didn’t care and found my actions in allowing the packs to survive an insult to Gerard’s good work. At that time, Noah Stilinski attempted to negotiate a safe exit for the Hunters in exchange for his son’s life. The offer was not accepted. Instead, the Sheriff of Beacon County was shot by one of the hunters.”
He heard Allison’s intake of breath. “Peter Hale got Stiles clear before the shot, and then Stiles briefly confronted the hunters before the Pack escaped with Stiles and Noah, who was in danger of bleeding out from the gunshot wound. The Hunter Team proceeded to fire multiple rounds into the woods.”
“I see, and they left you behind, Christopher?”
“I took cover when the shooting started and remained there until there was no longer movement.”
“How many of the Pack were killed?”
“None.” She responded with a disbelieving eyebrow. It was understandable; the Connery’s were known for their marksmanship. “Did the Pack act in self-defense or retaliation against the Connerys?”
“No. The Pack all escaped and ran instead of engaging. I believe their greater concern was reaching medical attention for the humans.”
“And where is the Connery Team now?”
“Dead.” She just stared at him until he felt the need to fidget. He didn’t, but he certainly felt the need. “They died from friendly fire.”
“Just how does an entire Hunter Team succumb to friendly fire while chasing a pack of werewolves, Christopher?”
Right, how? Damned if he knew. “I do not know, but I can speculate.”
“Then do so.”
“This incident took place at the remains of the Beacon Hills Nemeton. It is just a tree stump now, but I believe the node is not dead as was previously suggested. I believe it was simply dormant. For a moment after the last of the team died, I saw the Hunter’s Code written in French in Sheriff Stilinski’s blood. The tree absorbed the blood. I brought in members of the Beacon County Sheriff’s department that are in the know. On initial inspection, it appears that each member was shot by their own weapon. As if the bullets turned on them. I have no idea how to explain it. But the wolves are unarmed. If we allowed ballistics to run its course, I am certain that the evidence would indicate they shot themselves. Though the trajectories will not support that evidence.”
“Have you informed the Connery Matriarch yet?”
“No. My duty to report to you comes first.”
“And the Sheriff and his child?”
“They received medical attention in time to save the Sheriff. Blood loss and the gunshot wound will be his primary issues. He is expected to recover completely if there are no complications.” He shifted on his chair. “Stiles will require a bit more. The Connerys have renewed their practice of damaging the feet of the victim. Of course, on a human, that is debilitating. He has deep bruising and lacerations on the souls of both feet. His right foot was broken and required surgery. His wrists are in bad shape, though it appears self-inflicted. One is dislocated. He will be non-ambulatory while healing.”
“I see. First, you will endeavor to determine why those hunters are dead. Use any resources needed to determine if this has any continuing repercussions in the area. Second, follow up on loose ends. We cannot allow this situation to expose us or the supernatural. I can’t believe they went after the human Sheriff’s son. Third, you will take action to assure the Pack that these individuals were not operating with Council authority when they broke Code. While they have personally paid a high price for the lapse, I will see to it that the Pack receives compensation from the Connery Clan for the attack.”
“I think you will find that the Pack will not want the Connery’s money. One of Stiles’ schoolmates, Lydia Martin, is creating a GoFundMe account for Stiles and the Sheriff to help pay the medical bills. An anonymous donation to that account would be the best course of action.”
“I will take that under consideration.” She sighed lightly while looking toward Allison. “I will handle all of the communications with the Connery Clan. If you are contacted for details, refer them to me. If they enter your territory, I want to know about it immediately. They will not take the loss of their next Clan Chief so easily. Watch your back and warn the packs in the territory to take care until we have issues resolved to my satisfaction.”
“Now, Allison, dear. Go call your wolf and discover what he may tell you. You may have as much time as you need today to get the information from him.” She shook her head as Allison ran from the room.
“She is doing well?” Chris asked.
“She is learning. I withhold judgment until I determine how much she can learn. Good day, Christopher.” And Chris was staring at a dark screen.
Peter enlarged the diagram on his iPad and made a few alterations to the plans before emailing them back to the contractor. The decorator’s revised schedule was acceptable with the approved bonus for early completion. And if the decorator just happened to be a witch who specialized in protection wards, then that bonus would be worth it.
Switching apps, Peter returned to his latest book and began to read. He was not so engrossed in the story that he didn’t notice the uptick of the heartbeat next to him. He checked that the IVs were flowing properly before setting down his tablet and reaching out to place a hand on the nearby thigh to begin draining pain at the first twitch.
Stiles came to consciousness slowly this time. Hopefully, this would be better than the first time when they had been forced to sedate the boy to keep him from damaging himself. None had been happy, but he was feverish and lost. Peter grimaced at the pain before withdrawing.
“Da…” The mumble was attempting to take form.
Peter shifted closer to his head when the arms started to twitch and flail. “It’s ok, Stiles. You’re safe. Everyone is safe. You’re at the hospital, and everyone is going to be fine. Can you hear me? Listen to my voice, Stiles. We have you, and no one is going to hurt you again.”
“Da…dead.” The heartbroken mumble had Peter gripping Stiles shoulder firmly. The heat from the fever was still radiating.
“No, Stiles. Your father is alive. They saved him, and he is going to be fine. He’s in another room and already demanding to see you. Do you hear me? Stiles?”
“mmm…live? No lie?” The eyes opened but weren’t focusing.
Peter ran his fingers through Stiles’ hair. “No lie. He’s going to be fine. They don’t want him moving around for a few days, but he’s going to recover.”
“Safe?” Stiles muttered more than asked, his alertness increasing along with the sweat on his brow.
“Everyone is safe. Problem eliminated.” Peter could feel the heat increase with Stiles’ movement. “Derek is taking a turn with your father to handle his pain and keep us informed. The Pack has a schedule to make sure you’re not alone.”
“Pack?” Stiles asked wistfully.
“Yes, our pack…your pack, if you want it.” Peter saw the look on Stiles’ face that showed how much he wanted to belong. Derek would never turn him down, but Stiles would never ask. Not as long as he balanced between Derek and McCall.
The boy tried to move and whimpered as tears flowed silently. “Peter…hurts.”
Peter reached down to pull more pain, but there was more than he could draw safely. Feet were the most inconvenient things. Reaching for the call button, Peter noted a change in his complexion as he waited for the answer.
“He’s awake and in pain.” Peter cocked his head to the. “I think his fever is up, and he’s feeling a little nauseous.”
Stiles huffed and grimaced. “Tell all my secrets.”
“Only the boring secrets. I keep the good ones to myself.” Peter stepped back as a nurse entered and ran through a check on Stiles. A second nurse entered and changed the IV to a new stand and handed Stiles a button to self-dose. This while the original nurse was dosing him with an anti-nausea med.
They made some notes on a keyboard at the side before cleaning up and leaving them. Peter noticed that Stiles was starting to drift off as the pain medication entered his bloodstream. He was fighting it, but Peter moved back in place to lightly massage his scalp.
“Rest, Stiles. Let the Pack take care of you and your father. Trust us to keep you safe,” Peter whispered to him as he dropped off.
Chris read over the coroner’s report that he had been slipped while in line at the coffee shop. Michael Judson was a good man, a good deputy, and a former hunter. He hadn’t agreed with Gerard’s brand of hunting and had left rather than break the Code. Knowing Chris was against raising his own daughter as a Hunter, Michael had applied in Beacon Hills around the time Chris had moved here. Little did they know Gerard and Kate had already marked this town.
Michael had stayed out of it at first. But was willing to help Chris with details to keep his family safe. But even after Gerard had been executed by the Council, Michael had refused to return to the Family. He had a wife and child unaware of the supernatural, and Chris could respect the man’s desire to protect them. Still didn’t stop the man from stepping in when the Sheriff’s department needed to cover up something not quite normal.
Chris sighed as he read the ballistic reports. They would need to throw doubt on the weapons. Parrish had worked with them to stage the scene as best they could to hide the evidence, but this was pretty damning. He was there when it happened, and he still couldn’t believe it. He had a theory and had contacts searching for reference material, but so far, nothing helpful had been found.
Chris suspected that the Hale Library that Peter had hinted at so often would be the best source material on nemeta. However, since Peter still wasn’t speaking to him, it was next to impossible to say.
His phone rang, and Chris checked the caller ID with a sigh. He thumbed the accept button on the screen. “Adèle.”
“Christopher, what has been learned regarding the incident?”
“Each of the men was killed with bullets from their own weapon. The trajectories confirm that the wounds were not self-inflicted. The deputies have altered the evidence to change who was holding which weapon to hide this.” Chris leaned back in the chair and rubbed his face with his free hand. “Source material on nemeta is limited. Most were written by druids and are not reliable. A treatise on the balance that answers nothing and leaves you with more questions than you started with isn’t helpful.”
“What about your local druid?”
“He is away at present. The magic users I have reached out to refuse to have anything to do with Beacon Hills. If you have any that you could send our way, it would be appreciated.”
“I shall do so. The Connery’s are not the only Family that is upset by this occurrence. Many are calling for retribution against the Hale Pack.”
“What?” Chris wanted to thump his head on his desk. “I thought I made it clear the Connery’s broke Code. They kidnapped a human kid. I don’t care if Stiles is pack or pack adjacent; he’s an underage human they kidnapped and tortured.”
“It’s been four days, Adèle, and the kid is still in the hospital high as a kite on painkillers because of what they did to him.”
“I said I agree, Christopher. The Council will not be sanctioning any retribution. I am only warning you that the Connery’s have support.”
“Are they headed my way?” Chris pulled out a pad of paper and began making notes. The ongoing silence caught his attention. “Adèle?”
“My call regarding reparations went unanswered today. Reliable sources report that the Connery Clan Chieftan, Dougan Connery, was packing vehicles with his second, Bryne Watters. He is Ryleigh’s Uncle, as you well know.”
Chris grimaced. The Connery’s Clan Matriarch and Chieftan are usually brother and sister. Connery heirs were chosen from the Chieftan’s children. The oldest son became the heir, while the next Matriarch was selected from his daughters by the current Matriarch. So the current Clan Chief, and consequently Ryleigh’s father, is Dougan Connery. While Dougan’s youngest sister, Fionna Watters nee Connery, is the current Matriarch.
The Connerys were well known to Chris. He had been a hair’s breadth from a formal engagement with Fionna when Kate had that hunting accident that rendered her sterile. After that, there was no way Gerard was allowing that union. It would have meant a future Argent Matriarch raised to be secondary to a Connery Matriarch. It was the only time Chris had ever been thankful for Gerard stepping in.
“Any doubt they are headed this way?”
“No. I am sending you assistance but do not know if it will reach you before Dougan. Remember our treaties and your duty. I want twice-daily check-ins. We will maintain the Code at all costs. If there is anything else you need, get in touch. Now I must follow up on a couple reports of hunting parties who have not checked in. Goodbye, Christopher.”
Chris exited the elevator onto the surgical floor and made his way to Noah Stilinski’s room. The man was supposed to be released today. However, a fever last night had signaled an infection. The doctors wanted another day or two of him on IV antibiotics before cutting him loose. Chris had heard through the grapevine that there was still debate if the man would return to his own home or if the Pack was taking him in once he was released.
He would need a little help to navigate for another week, but the concern was that he wouldn’t be able to lend a hand for Stiles’ care. No way would Noah just sit it out with his son in pain, but physically he just wouldn’t be able to give the support needed. Chris had no doubt the deputies and the Pack would lend a hand. Still, the news he was bringing made him question the safety of associating with the Pack once the Connerys arrived.
Hell, for all Chris knew, they were here already. It’s possible if they sent a closer advance team. Clan Connery had people in the field almost constantly, so it wouldn’t surprise Chris if they already had people nearby.
Chris stopped at the door to show the deputy his ID. Not like the man didn’t recognize Chris on sight, but at least they were following protocol. Once he was verified and approved, Chris gave a brief knock of warning and then opened the door.
Noah looked much better than the last time he had seen the man. His color was still pale but approaching normal. He still had two IV bags attached, along with the standard hospital equipment, but his eyes were clear if still tired.
Chris’s entry interrupted a conversation between Derek Hale and Noah. A notebook was spread out on the tray in front of Noah with Derek’s finger keeping place on a line. Peter Hale was sitting on the convertible couch in the room, a book in hand.
No one spoke for a moment before Peter stood and dropped his book on his seat. “I should go check on Stiles.”
Chris kept his position in front of the door to block Peter’s exit. “Please, I’m not here to make trouble, but I have important news.”
Derek looked to the Sheriff before turning to face Chris. “We’re listening.”
“The leadership of the Connery Clan is on the way to Beacon Hills. They are demanding retribution,” Chris started by just tearing off that bandage. “I’m to let you know that they do not have the support of the Council. They have been informed that their men broke Code, and they were notified they owed restoration.”
“What does that mean?” Noah asked, “Owe Restoration.”
“It means they owe you, your son, and the Pack for the damage done outside the Code.”
Peter scoffed, “So their response to the Council is to head to Beacon Hills without permission to hunt our Pack? I see how much power your mighty Council has.”
Chris held his tongue because Peter wasn’t wrong, but he wasn’t right either. The Council had a lot of power, but it was broadly political within the Families. It was the power of Families working together to enforce the Council’s rule that carried weight. But he had to admit that it was rarely fast to act, and much damage could be done before the cause was deemed sufficient.
“I don’t want anyone else to get hurt.” Chris directed his words to Derek, but he prayed Peter would take them to heart. “I just ask that you don’t give them an excuse. It will hold more sway with the Council if the Hale Pack is blameless even after all of this happened.”
Derek nodded, “My Pack won’t make the first move, but I guarantee we will make the last one if they try something. I won’t let them get their hands on another of my people.”
With a nod, Chris glanced at Noah, who looked angry but contained. “I promise you I won’t allow anyone to touch Stiles again,” Chris assured the man. And it wouldn’t matter if he had to call in an Argent task force to protect that kid; he would do it.
“Did those Hunters have permission from their Matriarch to go after the Hale Pack?” Noah asked, but Chris heard the real question, to go after my son.
“No.” Chris ignored Peter’s scoff and Derek’s look of disbelief. “Ryleigh was training for Clan Chief. Connery Clan still has a Matriarch to handle the Politics and run the Family. Clan Chief makes independent decisions in the field. He would have felt it was his right to make that call and just report it in after the fact.”
Chris sighed at the look the Hales were giving him. “They changed direction and moved fast when they went after Stiles. There was no doubt in any of their minds that they were breaking Code when they did it. They just didn’t care. They figured by the time they reported it, the Hale Pack would be gone. They could have just written him off as collateral damage and probably had a plan on how to hide the evidence.”
“And you think their people are headed this way to what…finish the job?” Noah asked while looking like he was going to come up out of that bed.
“If they just come to ask questions and retrieve the bodies, then we are fine. I guarantee you it’s what they are going to claim they’re here for. But they are going to look for any opening to put a Hale down. Their men are dead, and no Hales received a scratch.”
“You’re wrong there, Argent.” Derek’s eyes glowed red. “Stiles and Noah were hurt, and that means Hale Pack was hurt.”
The vibration of his cell phone caused Peter to sigh as yet another string of text messages were received from Stiles. He glanced down and saw yet another list of approved meals for his father. He needed to get something for the boy to focus on other than that phone before he drove Peter mad. A bored Stiles, even one drugged and in pain, was a dangerous Stiles.
Peter looked around the grocery store and decided to ignore half of Stiles’ lists. He looked down at his basket and compared it to his shopping app. It looked like meat and bread were all that was left. He headed for the Meat Department first and waved toward the counter help. “Order for Hale.”
“Of course, Mr. Hale.”
The store was on the opposite side of town from the Pack House but had the best selection of organic vegetables and non-hormone beef. The family had been an investor in the store once upon a time. Peter sighed as another message came through. He read it and laughed.
Stiles: Chicken soup…make sure it’s low sodium. I will know if you don’t. I have eyes everywhere, Mister.
Peter: Leave the man’s soup alone.
He gave a smile and nod as his order was placed in the basket.
Peter: And why aren’t you in physical therapy? Texting isn’t one of your approved exercises.
Stiles: PT sucks
Peter shook his head. They were working on some small movements on his right foot and a lot of work on his wrists. Hopefully, by the time Stiles was ready to put weight on his feet, he would be able to handle crutches.
Glancing to the side, Peter saw Chris carrying a handbasket up an aisle. His heart clenched like a hand around it, and he took a deep breath to steady himself. He quickly spun the cart around, disappeared down the nearest aisle, and headed for the checkout. He could always stop by the bakery later.
He noted Christopher’s vehicle parked next to his own. He barely stopped to load the groceries before pushing the basket behind the man’s vehicle and driving away. Chris was visible in his rearview mirror, jogging out of the store as Peter pulled out of the parking lot.
If the man wanted to speak to him so bad, then he could damn well come out to the Pack House to do it. Better than having him ambush him in public in the mistaken belief that Peter wouldn’t cause a scene.
He headed for home. It wasn’t long before he pulled down the drive to the new house. Issac had been one of the first to claim one of the cabins. Close enough to be with the Pack, with his Alpha, to feel protected. And yet far enough to feel independence.
As he approached the house, he saw Noah relaxing on the front porch swing. It had taken only one night trying to navigate his own home before the man caved and accepted the offer of the Pack. Right now, he was staying in the downstairs guest suite. Starting next week, if they were lucky, Noah would move upstairs, and Stiles would be released.
It had cost to have the room converted into a fully handicapped equipped area, but it would be months before Stiles could handle stairs. Derek hadn’t hesitated to authorize it because Stiles was worth it.
Issac and Erica came out of the house and made short work of the groceries. He could hear them arguing over the selection of junk food already.
“What happened?” Noah asked, his gaze intent. Studying Peter. It was disconcerting as hell.
“I completed my domestic duties for the day. Though, perhaps not to Stiles’ exacting standards.” Peter shrugged and took a seat.
“Hallelujah. Just promise me you got real bacon,” Noah grinned at him.
“Stiles was under the impression that there is a cut on the turkey classified as bacon. While I never concede when I am correct, I have come to the conclusion that it is not worth the argument to attempt to correct him.”
Noah frowned, “Does that mean no real bacon?”
“That means my bacon is bacon.”
“Thank you for the Hale stubbornness. Now that we have verified that I will not suffer fake bacon, I repeat…What happened? You’re a little flat.” Noah ignored Peter’s glare. “And I couldn’t help but notice that you didn’t even pretend to be annoyed by the kids.” Noah was examining him again.
Peter held his gaze, determining if it was worth it to dismiss it. Noah’s gaze didn’t falter, and Peter finally sighed. Tenacity must be a Stilinski trait. “It was nothing more than an annoying attempt to get my attention.”
“So Argent tried to track you down again? Sooner or later, you will have to talk to the man,” Noah pointed out.
“I chose, Later.”
“Wow, you’ve got it bad, don’t you?”
Noah gave a little laugh, “I remember you from before the fire, you know. When you wanted something or someone, you pursued it. Ardently. Honestly, it was the only time I could tell what you were up to. Any other time, you were impossible to read. You may tell the world you’re a pragmatist, Peter, but deep down, you’re a closet romantic.”
Peter froze his expression to keep from giving anything away, “I believe you have me mistaken for someone who cares.”
“I’ve been a cop most of my adult life. You don’t stay at it this long without learning how to read people. You like to pretend you don’t care, but I know better. The best Protectors are the ones who honestly care about the people they protect. Someone who doesn’t care wouldn’t have insisted on being the person watching over Stiles every night.” Noah pointed at him with his good hand. “Someone who doesn’t care wouldn’t make sure that Issac has the one snack food he specifically asks for even though he was nervous as hell to even ask for something he wants.”
“I just don’t want to listen to him whine. And my best opportunity to catch a hunter in the act is at night,” Peter insisted.
The look on Noah’s face screamed bullshit.
“I’m not ready to speak to Christopher yet,” Peter admitted surprising himself. Damn, he needed to keep his distance from the good Sheriff. Was he craving adult conversation so much that he was honestly willing to let the man get to him?
“Then don’t. Take the time to figure out what you want. The two of you have been sneaking around for the last five months?”
Peter looked up at the man in shock; that was a little too accurate.
Noah laughed, “You’ve got a condo across from the Beacon Community Bank. Someone was hacking the ATM out front. The camera captured Argent’s vehicle entering the parking lot four times during that month alone. Good ol’ fashioned police work.”
“Well, that is depressingly pedestrian. And now I have to figure out how to deal with surveillance.”
“You’ve got time.” Noah stood up slowly and turned toward the door. “Just make sure once you know what you want, that he is on the same page. You deserve someone that can accept you for who you are.”
Peter watched him go then moved to the swing. He allowed the motion to center him as he watched the shadows of the clouds race across the grass.
Chris shuffled through the various reports he had printed out while brandishing the yellow highlighter. He usually was against printing these out, but comparing data on a screen just wasn’t helping. Gaining access to all Argent reports was relatively simple. But it had taken a lot of favor trading to talk himself into two weeks of reports from the six other Families he was associated with in the Western Hemisphere.
Cross-referencing those with the police reports Judson was able to pull across the U.S. showed a disturbing trend. One he needed to get a grip on before things became untenable. He highlighted another report and made a note to have Judson check DMV for Orlando, Florida. Looks like some Hunters are not honest in the official records. Color him surprised.
He pulled up his spreadsheet and started entering data. So far, he had reports from the U.S., France, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Scotland, and Spain of hunts gone wrong. Individually they are just an odd occurrence. Maybe a little bit coincidental. Taken together, a disturbing pattern was forming.
A hunt against a suspected omega gone feral resulted in the deaths of two hunters, the omega unaccounted for and reported to have left the territory. There, an attempt to corral a coyote by placing spikes on a public road of all the damn places ended with the coyote driving off, somehow missing all of the spikes or possibly with puncture-proof tires. Meanwhile, all four hunter vehicles lost all of their tires, one of the vehicles rolling and ending with the idiot riding in back in traction.
Chris looked at this latest account and felt his stomach churn. A report of a Pack with a feral alpha attacking children. They tracked the Alpha to a cabin in West Virginia and decided to circle the place with mountain ash and burn it down. He clenched his hand tight a moment and breathed hard. Of all the damn lessons to learn, that is not one he ever thought to see repeated.
He glanced at the hunt leader’s report. The only things that burned were outside the mountain ash as if the fire could not pass the line. The team was called away because of a personal emergency. As if any self-respecting hunter ends the hunt because of personal business. Chris flipped through the police reports then cross-referenced the team roster and home addresses. Yeah, quite a coincidence that the team of ten was trying to burn down a cabin at the exact moment the homes of six of the men caught fire. Thank God the worst injury was smoke inhalation. Exactly how much smoke did the wolf have to breathe before the hunters left?
Chris got up and headed to the kitchen to get a snack. He decided on a quick sandwich and pulled everything out of the refrigerator. The last thing Chris wants is to report his suspicions to Adèle, but he needs to make sure Allison is kept safe. He can’t risk her involvement until they understand the extent of what is happening. Slamming the squeeze bottle down on the counter in frustration resulted in an explosion of mustard across his white shirt.
“Damn it!” He stripped off the shirt and headed for the laundry room. Rinsing it off, he threw it in the washer with some detergent and set it to soak. Then he went to his room to find another shirt. He pulled open the drawer and grabbed the first one he touched. It was halfway on before he realized it was Peter’s.
Chris sat back on the bed and stared at the shirt in his hands. The material was overpriced and so much softer than he would have expected Peter would wear. It had been a surprise as he slipped his hands under the shirt to slowly strip it off the man. Chris ran his hands over it before slowly slipping it back over his head and pulling it on.
He took a few breaths before returning to the kitchen and finishing his sandwich. Chris looked around at the kitchen and listened to the silence. He had never really had a problem with silence before, but there was something desolate in this silence.
The incoming call appeared on his computer with an insistent chime, and Chris returned to his desk and tapped his Skype to accept. It had taken him almost two full weeks to track down the foremost authority on nemeta in the Hunter world. He was surprised at the identity since it was someone he had worked with in the past.
A severe face appeared, and Chris forced himself to relax. “Joon, it’s good to speak to you,” Chris played with the paperclips at his desk while speaking to his counterpart.
“It has been too long, Christopher.” The man sounded tense and distracted. When he had agreed to the call, he had indicated he was busy.
Chris nodded slightly, “I agree. Thank you for taking the time to speak. I was hoping you had time for a question.”
“I am open to a question, but my time is limited. I’m investigating a mystery.”
“As am I. Perhaps we can help each other,” Chris offered.
There was a significant pause, “Perhaps.”
“We have a nemeton we believed was dead or dormant. Now we believe it may have only been sleeping,” Chris began.
“Nemeta do not die. If the node that anchors the nematon dies, it will move to another and begin the growth cycle anew. But the anchor must be obliterated for this to occur. Most likely, it hid and will only show its power once it is called upon,” Joon stated firmly.
Chris considered this. If he wasn’t sure of his answer, Chris knew Joon would not have spoken so. But, as he had recently learned, Joon’s Family had extensive first-hand knowledge of nemeta. One existed in his territory. His Family had worked with the supernatural in his part of Korea for generations to keep it safe.
“My question for you, Christopher. How may one meet death by their own hand and yet not seek to take their own life?”
“An accident?” Chris asked more than stated, his stomach tightened, and he clenched his jaw shut, knowing this was not the case.
‘An accident where no mistake was made, and fate never turned the weapon aside?” Joon gave Chris a look that said he knew more than he was saying, which meant the Matriarchs were talking.
With a pause that was telling, Chris took a deep breath. “My Matriarch has been informed and has, in turn, informed the Council. Blood was spilled at our nemeton when the Connery Clan broke Code. First, they kidnapped and tortured a human boy. Then they almost killed the boy’s father when he tried to secure his son’s release. All this to lure in the Pack. The Pack and the humans survived, but the Hunters died, all seemingly by their own hands.”
“I see. The sacrifice of innocent blood. A father’s sacrifice for a son. This blood spilled upon a Nemeton is powerful on its own. Was it heart’s blood?”
“An artery was nicked; they barely got him to help before he could bleed out,” Chris confirmed.
Joon looked contemplative before his face became decisive. “I will speak to my Matriarch and see that she posts bans. It is a dangerous puzzle. Until more is known, we must be cautious in the hunt.”
“You believe your accidental death is related?” Chris started scribbling notes. “What happened there?”
“It was a training mission. It was only to be a meeting with the local Right Hand. Peaceful. There were insults, and it became physical. One of the men pulled a knife, but in stabbing the wolf, the wound appeared on the man. It is tense with accusations, but the report is clear the wolf did not initiate the altercation.” Joon stared at Chris through skype. “There is much anger. There is fear. But the truth has been spoken, and we know the wolf did not instigate the fight. My Matriarch will have questions.”
“I will tell my Matriarch to expect a call.” Chris looked down at his notes. “Any wisdom you have to speak, I will listen.”
“Your words will also be heard. My library awaits me; when I learn what I can, I will call.” And with that, Joon ended the call.
Chris looked through his notes. He needed to call Adèle, but first, he needed to compile this and finish his report. At least a preliminary report. Joon was not wrong that Hunts needed to stop or proceed carefully until this was figured out. He checked the time, then sent her an email with the first half of his report. It included a promise of more by tomorrow. Unfortunately, Chris still couldn’t give a first-hand analysis of the nemeton. Adèle’s promised magic-user had not yet materialized, and she has been exceedingly busy putting out fires with the Council. Chris wondered how many of those fires were related to Beacon Hills.
A knock on his door had him automatically reaching for his weapon to tuck in the small of his back. He checked his security camera and sighed as the angry green eyes of Dougan Connery stared straight at the camera.
For two weeks, he’s been waiting for this shoe to fall. Whatever the hell the Connery’s have been up to, they stayed off the radar. Either that or people just won’t talking. He didn’t like it and found it suspicious that they suddenly appeared the day after Stiles was released from the hospital.
Feeling a migraine coming on, Chris reached out with one hand and unlocked the door. He kept himself balanced and ready to move if needed.
“Dougan.” Chris opened the door and stepped aside. The last thing he needed was for his neighbors to witness anything.
Dougan entered, followed by Bryne Watters, Enforcer and brother-in-law of Dougan. Two other men took positions just outside the door.
“I’m sorry for your loss,” Chris murmured to the two men, directing it primarily at Dougan. Even if the team broke Code, the man did lose his son.
“If you were sorry about it, then you would be gifting us the hide of the wolf responsible,” Bryne bit out.
“I was there. Not a single wolf touched one of your men. They, on the other hand, kidnapped and tortured a human kid.” Chris held up his hands, palm out to signal his desire to stop the escalation. “What do you hope to accomplish here?”
“My wife will arrive in a day or so. We will be here until they release my son’s body so that the Clan can take him home.” Dougan looked away, “Supporting my wife is my purpose.”
“I understand and will do what I can to influence the police to release them.” Chris let his eyes drift from Dougan to Bryne because he caught that inflection.
The fire was burning bright in Bryne’s eyes as he glared at Chris. “I am here to learn what happened to our men. My nephew is lying dead on a morgue slab, and I want answers.” He took a menacing step closer. “I’m going to investigate this, and you better believe, Argent, that everyone guilty is going to pay. I don’t care if it’s the Alpha, one of his mangey Pack, or the little Alpha’s pet.”
Chris hardened his expression, “Keep in mind that the police are investigating the kidnapping and torture of the Sheriff’s son and the attempted murder of the Sheriff. The last thing we need is anyone drawing more attention to the community in Beacon Hills.” He considered a moment before speaking again. “There are forces in play right now that you don’t know about, and we don’t completely understand. I will ask my Matriarch if I can share. For now, it is best to proceed with caution and do not become aggressive unless it is in self-defense.”
“Everything I do is in defense of humanity,” Dougan’s voice was like granite. “My boy understood that every day is a fight for the survival of humanity. It’s our job to rid the world of those beasts.”
Chris squared off against him, “It’s our job to protect the supernatural from exposure by dealing with those that become a danger to humanity. Sometimes that means taking them out before they can go feral. Sometimes that means protecting them from themselves. But defending humanity has never been about genocide.”
“If you truly believe that, then your father didn’t raise you right,” Bryne spat out.
Dougan put a hand on Bryne to pull him back. “No, Argent is right. It’s not about genocide. If we could properly collar the curs, they could serve a purpose. But let’s make one thing clear. My human son is dead. My human team is dead. Loyal, trained human hunters are dead. As far as I am concerned, that means the Hale Pack is compromised, making them fair game. I’m not asking permission to Hunt in Argent territory. I’m telling you that my men and I are here to euthanize those dogs as soon as we determine which are to blame.”
Connery spun on his heel and was out the door before Chris could respond. The only thought he had as the sound of the slamming door echoed around his empty apartment was that he needed to warn Peter.
Chris spotted Peter’s overpriced dickmobile as Chris passed the gas station on the edge of town. He spun around in a completely illegal Uturn and gunned it back through the intersection to skid to a halt blocking Peter’s car. The asshole has been dodging him since the incident, and Chris had finally had enough of this juvenile bullshit. Things were far too dangerous for the man to be ignoring every attempt of Chris’s to warn him and his damn Pack of the trouble that was now at their door.
Chris got out of the vehicle and slammed the door before planting himself next to Peter’s car and leaning back with his arms crossed. Peter Hale was going to get his head out of his ass and listen or else. Chris had all damn day to stand here.
It was almost twenty minutes before the man left the convenience store. He strolled over to the car and walked to the other side, picking up a squeegee, and started washing his windows. Chris had to admit that when Peter wanted to be a prick, he dedicated himself to the role.
“Are you about done with this charade?” Chris asked as Peter started on the third window.
“Oh, Christopher, when did you arrive? Never mind. I will be finished soon if you need gas. I suppose it is too much to ask that you know how to drive that monstrosity or that you realize that you can access the pumps from the other side.” Peter stepped around to the windshield and edged into Chris’s space. “Excuse me, but I would like to get my windshield.”
“Peter, we need to talk.”
“No. You don’t get to dictate when and where we talk. Just like you don’t get to withhold information after promising me you were turning a new leaf.” Peter pushed Chris aside and scrubbed the windshield down before efficiently removing the water.
“You’re right. Even though there was nothing deliberate or malicious in it, I fucked up. Are you happy? I fucked it all up, and I am sorry.” Chris drew in a ragged breath and let his expression break to show the pain in his eyes. He had lost so much ground with Peter, and it hurt to realize how much he missed what was supposed to be mutual stress relief. When did it become more?
“No, you don’t get to do this now. I’m not through being angry. For once in my miserable life, I wasn’t the one who fucked up, and I’m allowed to be angry that somehow I started to care. So get out of my way. I’ll let you know when I’m ready to talk.”
Peter threw down the squeegee and pushed him back with his strength. But this time, Chris grabbed on and refused to let go. “Fine. Take all the time in the world. I won’t pressure you. When…if you are ever ready to come back, let me know. But right now, this isn’t why I’ve been trying to get you to answer your damn phone.”
Chris squeezed and shook him a little. “The Connery’s have descended on Beacon Hills, and they are out for blood. They insist they are going to make the Pack pay as soon as they decide who is to blame.”
“Fuck.” Peter looked at Chris hard as if trying to read his soul. “Tell me this isn’t sanctioned, not even a backroom sanction.”
“No. The Council is spitting nails and threatening to descend on Beacon Hills for a full-on Grand Council. However, there is one thing I haven’t had a chance to tell you since you were refusing to speak to me.” Chris let Peter go and stepped back a step. “At the Nemeton, after the Connery team died and your Pack left, I saw the Hunter’s Code written in Noah’s blood on the Nemeton’s stump. It was only there a moment, but things have been happening.”
Peter cocked his head to the side. “What things?”
“Hunts gone bad. Attempts to kill a wolf ended with the wounds appearing on the Hunter instead. Inexplicable accidents. It’s not every hunt. For every report of an oddly failed hunt, there are two successful reports elsewhere. There are just too many of them to be a coincidence. Something is going on.”
“I wish you were bound to your damn Code. Bound to live by it and Bound to die by it,” Peter whispered.
“What?” Chris felt like he was punched in the stomach.
“It’s what Stiles said at the Nemeton that day after they shot Noah.”
“Do you think this is Stiles’ fault?”
Peter gave him that look like he was suddenly surprised Chris could feed himself. “No, this is not Stiles’ fault. I need to research this and figure out what it is.”
“And what do you recommend in the meantime?”
“Well, if I were you, I would be careful what you aim at. I am quite enamored with some of your parts and would be sad to see you lose them.” Peter started to lean in a little with a filthy grin when a motor revving followed by loud screeches filled the air.
A van, two trucks, and an SUV slammed to a halt around them, blocking them both in. Connery’s men were out of the vehicles and surrounding Peter in a flash.
“Calm, Peter. Don’t give them an excuse,” Chris whispered.
Bryne Watters climbed out of a truck and walked toward them. “You sleeping with the dogs now, Argent?”
“I’m fulfilling the treaty between the Argent Family and the Pack protecting this territory,” Chris replied calmly. “We don’t need trouble in broad daylight, boys. It’s going to be hard defending yourself against a man who is just filling up his vehicle.”
Bryne smiled with a bit of malice. “And such a pretty car it is, isn’t it, boys?”
Chris closed his eyes and willed Peter to keep it together while he flashed back on a similar scene when he first cornered Derek in Beacon Hills. Intimidation Tactics for Hunters 101. Suddenly he truly regretted the kind of asshole he had been back then. So sure of the rightness of his actions.
Peter turned on his most bored expression and leaned back against the front fender as if he had not a care in the world. “Pretty? That is the extent of your impressive vocabulary. I would have expected sleek, sexy, powerful, exciting…oh wait, are you talking about my car or me? I could see how you might be confused.”
“Think you’re smart, wolf? See, boys, wolves are predictable. They are territorial when it comes to their possessions. Is that what happened in the woods? Is that boy your own special little toy? Is that why you attacked my men when they were trying to show him the dangers of sleeping with wolves?”
Chris was impressed that a clenched fist was the only tell Peter had that they were getting to him. He watched the men circle the vehicle and sighed.
“I’m giving you one warning, Bryne, that you may not like the repercussions of your actions,” Chris shifted, so he was out of the line of fire.
“Shut up, Argent.” Bryne smiled coldly at Peter, “Boys, it looks like his windows are dirty.”
With weapons in hand, the men slammed them in unison into Peter’s windows. The shattering of glass rang out all around them, followed immediately by shouting.
Peter looked around wide-eyed before his lips turned up in a grin, and he reached over to rub at a speck of dirt on the unmarred windshield of his car. “I think you missed a spot.”
One of the men sprung forward and punched Peter in the face before dropping to the ground, blood gushing from his nose.
Chris stepped to block Peter as everyone looked between their man on the ground and the broken windows in all of their own vehicles.
Bryne and three of the men pulled their weapons and pointed them at Peter. “What the hell have you done?”
The sound of a siren pulled their attention, and everyone retreated to their vehicles, where weapons were quickly stowed away. Peter kept his nonchalant stance next to his car while Chris discreetly kept an eye on the men moving out of his immediate range of vision. It wasn’t long before two Beacon County Sheriff’s Deputies stepped out of their car. Chris was immediately relieved to see it was Judson and Parrish.
“Is there a problem here?” Parrish asked calmly while he approached.
“No, Deputy,” Chris responded when it looked like Peter might show his inner assholishness. “These gentlemen were just asking for a recommendation on a glass shop nearby. Seems they’ve had an unfortunate run of bad luck.”
“And the gentleman with the broken nose?”
Bryne Watters clenched his jaw tight. “Tripped.”
“Right.” Parrish looked over, “Mr. Hale. Mr. Argent. Since this doesn’t concern you, why don’t you move on? Deputy Judson and I will be happy to help these gentlemen find the repair shop and urgent care.”
Bryne shook his head, “No need, Deputies.”
Judson grinned, “Oh, we insist. Our citizens expect us to be helpful.”
Chris took note of Bryne’s anger boiling under the surface before trading a meaningful glance with Judson.
“Happy to be moving on, Deputies.” Chris turned toward Peter, “Hale, if you could let your nephew know that my Aunt gives her regards and requests I speak with him.”
Peter inclined his head in acknowledgment before bending over to pick up the squeegee for the window. He started to hand it to Bryne before cocking his head to the side. “I don’t suppose this is useful.” He dropped it again before climbing into his car.
Chris sighed before moving out.
Peter tapped on his steering wheel as he waited for his light to turn green. A small caravan of rental vans caught his attention as they crossed the intersection in front of him. They were headed in the direction of the Days Inn and La Quinta. He recognized one of them from a photo Chris had of Allison with his in-laws, the Belangers. So the Canadian Hunters have arrived.
Peter forced down his anger. Grand Council meeting be damned. If they thought they could pass judgment on his Pack, they were going to learn something. Hunters were crawling out of the woodwork. Derek stomped around for two days when a group of them surprised Erica and Boyd at the old homesite. The two of them had made a project of rescuing some of the plants from the old home for transplant before they had the place torn down.
Boyd wasn’t usually a worry for Peter. Of all the children Derek gifted with the Bite, Boyd was the most level-headed. Once he found his anchor, the young man took to training. But Erica, impulsive barely describes dear Erica. She has the most delicious willingness toward violence. Surrounded by Hunters with their annoying intimidation tactics…he and Derek had arrived at the most opportune moment with Derek’s new truck.
It was amusing to watch them run, Peter had to admit. Especially when Derek stopped that truck between the hunters and the kids while reporting loudly on his phone that the Sheriff’s department needed to send deputies to the Hale House for armed trespassers. Noah’s advice was coming in so handy.
Peter noticed Bryne Watters’ truck outside O’Fallen’s Pub as he headed for home. Just what they needed, a bunch of liquored-up Hunters at 3pm. He thought back to the fear in Erica’s eyes as she was surrounded. The way Boyd couldn’t decide if he needed to stand between her and their antagonist or the silent members approaching from the back. The stench of fear drifting through the House from physical pain and nightmares. Stiles’ screams in the night, choked off as if werewolf hearing doesn’t make privacy a concept instead of a reality.
He gripped the steering wheel hard and then turned into the next parking lot to turn around and go back. Parking so that the car was masked by a van, Peter checked the perimeter before verifying there were only four hunters in the bar. Well, there were only scent trails with the mark of wolfsbane, mountain ash, and gun oil for four.
Letting his hearing loose, he followed the sounds of cutlery and glasses, footsteps, muted conversations. The sounds of the kitchen and meat sizzling on the fire. He shivered at that last sound. His skin tingled, and a horrid smell of burnt flesh seemed to come as if from memory. It was followed by the sensation of something wet flowing between his fingers.
Peter looked down to see blood leaking from his hands and unclinched his fists. He took a couple deep breaths and forced his claws to retreat, then turned over his hands to watch the wounds close. Lovely, it looks like killing Kate didn’t resolve his PTSD after all. Oh well, yet another issue to suppress before Noah finds out. The man has known about the supernatural for less than a year. He’s already found an aware therapist for his son and convinced Derek to go. There has got to be fae blood in the Stilinski family tree.
He refocused on the search for hunters and, this time found them.
“I’m telling you, we go for the Sire like we usually do, the Council will sanction us and protect the puppies like they are trying to do with that puppy alpha. Gomes didn’t deserve to be crapping in a bag for the rest of his life. The dogs attacked him, and the damn Council has been screaming at my wife for the last two days. So instead, we take the puppies. Trap them somewhere, and their sire will come running.”
Right, Christopher, the high and mighty council has ordered a hold for all hunts. And here are hunters having a nice little late lunch as they plot trapping the kids to lure in Derek.
Peter returned to his car and popped the trunk. He reached for a wet wipe first to clean his hands then started to close the trunk. He should just go home and warn Derek…and leave them to plot. Instead, Peter grimaced as his eyes fell on the bag of potatoes. The kids must have been in a hurry; it looks like they missed the bag when they grabbed the groceries last night.
He looked from the potatoes to Watters’ truck to the pub. Derek was going to kill him later. He grabbed a couple of the larger potatoes and drifted over behind the truck. A little added werewolf strength to get them firmly lodged in the tailpipe, and if he squeezed the end of the pipe closed a little, that was just serendipitous.
Peter entered the pub and quickly spotted Bryne Watters in one of the corner booths. He allowed himself just a moment to imagine eviscerating them before reminding himself that he promised Derek that he wouldn’t start any bloodshed. So instead, he leaned against the bar, motioned toward the bartender, and gave his order before throwing down some twenties and accepting his ale.
He turned to watch when the bartender handed the waitress the drinks. She loaded her tray and headed for the table.
“Here are your drinks, boys.”
“We didn’t order anything.”
“No. The gentleman at the bar ordered four Salty Dogs for your table.”
They turned in unison, and Peter just held up his glass to toast them. One started to stand, but Watters grabbed his arm.
When the waitress started to pass, Peter stopped her and threw a twenty on her tray. “A tip for the beautiful lady.”
“Thank you, handsome. Your friends didn’t seem too happy to get the drinks.”
“Alas, I do believe they lack a sense of humor.”
She smiled, “Well, maybe they just don’t have anything to laugh at.”
Peter sighed dramatically, “Maybe you could help me with my delivery again to see if I’ve improved.”
“What do you got?”
Peter tapped his lips a couple times as if in thought, “Two hunters meet in the woods. The first one said to the other, “Boy, am I glad to see you. I’ve been lost for hours.” The second hunter said, “That’s nothing; I’ve been lost for a week.”
She grinned and shook her head. He noticed the hunters shifting and muttering to each other.
“Two skunks observed a hunter sneaking through the woods on an early Saturday morning. “I hope he’s not going to shoot at us,” said one skunk. The second skunk bowed his head and said, “Let us spray.”
She gave a little laugh. One of the hunters tried to get up again.
“On the first day of the hunting season, a hunter fell out of a deer stand and broke both his legs. ‘Why couldn’t this happen on my last day of hunting?!’ the hunter cried to the doctor. ‘It did,’ the doctor replied.”
A groan from her this time, and Bryne was standing next to the table.
“A hunter asked his Pastor if it was a sin to hunt on Sunday. ‘From what I hear about your aim,’ said the Pastor, ‘It’s a sin for you to hunt any time.’”
She chuckled and shook her head as all of the hunters stood up.
“A hunter just messed up another hunt. This happened to him more times than he could count. He would spot his prey, take careful aim, fire, and miss. He would sneak up close just to get busted and watch the prey run away. He would sneeze just as the prey came into range. He would fall asleep on the stand, waking in time to watch his prey scamper away. Frustrated, he complained to his hunting buddies: ‘Everything that happens to guys that don’t know how to hunt keeps happening to me!’”
She groaned, “Honey, you need better material.”
Peter nodded and set down his drink, “Oh, those weren’t jokes; that’s just an average day hunting for my friends here.” He stepped to the side and motioned for her to continue on to the kitchen. Then he smirked at Watters and turned to leave.
He was halfway to his car when one of them caught up to him. The man pulled a shock baton and swung it, but Peter dodged and kicked him in the chest, sending him back toward his buddies. OK, antagonizing is one thing; a fight in public is another. So Peter took off for his car and was in it speeding away when Watters led them all to his own truck.
The truck sped out of the parking lot after Peter, and he smirked while watching his rearview mirror for the fireworks. Suddenly Peter’s car coughed, and he was losing power. No. Not now. It coughed again, choked, and died. Peter reached for the ignition and listened to it crank without turning over. “Shit!”
He threw open the driver’s door and took off on foot. Watters’ truck wasn’t even slowing down. He would pick the one spot with no cover. Damn. Peter added speed to out-distance them and looked for an exit. A block ahead, he saw that stupid red Honda Fit Issac insisted on driving at the gas station. Issac was just getting into the car with a bag.
Peter put on speed and intercepted them as he started to leave. He grimaced when he saw Stiles in the passenger seat, but he couldn’t leave them here and chance Watters wouldn’t recognize the car.
He jumped in the back, barely noticing both seats folded down, and ordered them to “Go!”
“What the hell, Peter?” Stiles started before he followed Peter’s eyes with a glance in the mirror back to the approaching truck. “Go, Issac. Now!”
Issac took off, but there was no way this car would outdistance that truck for long.
“What did you do?”
“I was merely listening in on their plans to get the Pack,” Peter stated while looking around. “Issac, take the next right just after we round the bend.”
Issac glanced back in the rearview, “The forest road is blocked. We’d be trapped.”
“They finished work on the bridge yesterday; I took it this morning. It will come out right on the highway. We can lose them and cut the drive in half.” Peter looked back, “But you need to move fast enough that they don’t see us take it.”
Issac hit the gas with a nod, and Peter just hoped they could make it in time.
The turn was fast, and the wheelchair in the back crashed against his side as Stiles screamed in pain. Peter reached forward to grab the boy by the shoulder and drag him back against the seat while pulling pain and looking through the back window.
“Why are you even out running around?” He growled at Stiles.
Stiles cursed as the car hit a bump. “Physical Therapy, asshole.”
“I think it’s ok to slow down now, Issac.” Peter moved the wheelchair over to give himself some more space and contemplated if he could raise one of the rear seats while the car was in motion. Finally, they made it to the bridge, and Issac suddenly gunned the vehicle, sending Peter sliding back against the rear hatch. “I said slow it down.”
“I don’t think that’s a good idea.”
Peter looked up and saw Issac’s frightened eyes in the rearview mirror before he turned back and saw Watters’ truck a ways behind them on the road and closing. “You are quite right.”
Stiles let out a little sob at the jostling, and Peter pulled himself forward to drain pain again. “Not again. Not again.” Stiles was whispering.
Peter looked back to see a hunter lean out of the back window with a rifle. He pushed Stiles forward, “Down!” There was a cry of pain and a sob. Seeing the highway through the trees ahead, he instructed Issac, “When you hit the highway, don’t slow down. They won’t be able to take the turn as tight so that can gain us some distance.”
Another gunshot rang out as they hit the highway, and Issac made the turn, only slightly drifting across the road. The harsh sob from Stiles at the motion echoed. Peter found himself back against the rear glass as he watched the truck pull out behind them. The hunter leaned back out and fired, but Watters’ truck suddenly spun as a tire blew.
Peter called out, “Yes!” Then turned and dropped drawers before plastering his buttocks up against the glass. “Pucker up and give us a kiss.”
“What are you, twelve?” Issac asked incredulously from the front, not slowing.
Peter sighed and pulled his slacks back up. “Call it a minor moment of insanity. Though it is supremely satisfying to see them inconvenienced.”
Issac shook his head, “You almost got us killed.”
“Well, if you had purchased a reasonably powerful vehicle, we wouldn’t have had that problem,” Peter dismissed it.
“Stiles, are you ok?” Issac’s voice changed.
Peter’s head popped up to look. He listened to the rabbiting heartbeat and the quiet sobs hiccuping behind the whistle of breath—the smell of fear that hadn’t calmed with the loss of the hunters.“Take the next road, Issac, and stop the car.”
Issac nodded with wide eyes and made a left, then slowed to a stop just past the tree line. Peter jumped out and opened Stiles’ door before squatting down next to him. He took in the wide eyes that weren’t seeing anything and the death-grip on the seatbelt. The boy was already over the edge into a full-blown panic attack.
“Stiles, sweetheart, listen to my voice. Can you hear me talking to you? Everything is fine. We have you, and you’re safe. Everyone is safe now. I won’t let anyone hurt you again.” Peter reached for his hand and pulled back at the jerk.
“It’s just me. I’m taking your hand. You can feel my fingers on your hand.” This time he followed the jerk and coaxed Stiles to let go of the strap. He moved his hand against his own chest. “Do you feel me breathing, Stiles? Come on, you know the drill, match your breathing to mine, in—out. Slow it down. Everything is safe, and you can slow it down.”
It took a couple minutes before the breathing started to calm. Peter, keeping up the soft patter of words. “Issac, I think Stiles would like it if you pulled some pain for him. Issac is just going to touch your arm, Stiles. Is that ok?”
There was a barely perceptible nod, but Peter was relieved to see it. “Good, there…that feels better, doesn’t it? Just keep breathing with me.”
“No guns here. They are still changing that tire back there.”
“N-n-no, asshole. G-gunshots,” Stiles corrected him.
Peter closed his eyes and nodded while kicking himself. “What triggered you.”
“I am sorry, Stiles.”
“Can’t be dead, Peter.”
“You aren’t going to die, Stiles. I won’t let them get you again.”
“Not me, you jerk. You. Keep doing this, and you’ll end up dead. They went for me. They almost killed Dad. They tried to kill Scott. And you keep walking right in there. I can’t lose another person I care about.”
Peter looked up at him in shock, a warmth spread out, and he ran his fingers through Stiles to grasp his hand. “No more stupid risks. I won’t make you go through that again, sweetheart. I won’t regret focusing them on me instead of the Pack, but I promise I won’t initiate anything again. Think you’re ok to get home?”
Stiles nodded, so Peter shut the door and rearranged the back so he could raise one of the seats and sit properly. As Issac pulled back onto the road and headed for home, Stiles asked, “By the way, what happened to your car?”
Chris tapped his steering wheel as he waited for the Council jet to taxi across the jetway. Passports and visas had been checked when the Council switched planes in Atlanta, so they wouldn’t have any delays. Well, any more delays. After all, Chris had been waiting at the Beacon County Private Airstrip for the last three hours.
He glanced to the side at the other vehicles waiting for passengers. The advanced teams from the Council, along with individual Families, had started arriving two days ago. It was just hours after one of Bryne Watters’ men had tried to eviscerate Scott McCall. The boy was suitably cowed from the near-death experience and suddenly declaring his allegiance to the Hale Pack. It was probably the only good thing Bryne had accomplished since arriving.
Of course, his man didn’t see things the same way. The surgeons saved him, but he had lost most of his small intestine. Chris closed his eyes and smiled when he thought about how Scott had freed himself, and instead of running, the stupid kid had risked his life to save the Hunter that had been intent on cutting him in two.
The sound of a car door brought him back to himself, and he looked up to see that the wheels were being blocked and the door was already open. It was a matter of minutes as staff ran around unloading baggage, and passengers started to deplane.
Adèle exited the plane and gracefully descended the stairs as if she were a queen. Every part of her was perfectly coiffed and designed to create an image of superiority and power. Chris barely gave her a glance since his eyes were drawn to the person directly behind her.
Allison looked tired, but she had a healthy glow and a new wardrobe. Her hair was blowing in the wind as she slid on her sunglasses. A huge smile appeared when her eyes met his. The moment her feet touched the asphalt, she bounced and took off.
“Daddy!” Allison ran into Chris’s arms, and he breathed a gentle sigh of relief to have her with him again. To know deep in his soul that she was safe.
Allison stiffened in his arms and let out a put-upon sigh. With one last squeeze, she stepped back beside Adèle.
“We all know you’re happy to see him, child. But a public display is to be avoided when potential enemies are present.” Adèle made the smallest motion with two fingers toward the other Council members, seemingly ignoring them as they found their waiting vehicles.
Chris knew from bitter experience that every movement was being analyzed for weakness. “You look well, Adèle. Travel agrees with you.” Chris stepped forward to place a chaste kiss on her cheek.
“Travel may agree with me, but being confined to the same space as some of those vipers is ruinous to my mood and digestion.” She stepped away and walked to the vehicle. “Come. I need food, a bottle of wine, and a long soak in a hot tub before I’m forced to endure their presence once more.”
While the ladies got comfortable, Chris loaded their baggage in the back. He nodded to Adèle’s assistant, coordinating Council staff accommodations, then exited the airfield as quickly as possible. Several planes were due in, and he had no desire to meet them before it was required.
“Did you tell Scott what time I was getting in?” Allison asked as they pulled onto the highway.
“No.” Chris glanced back in the rearview mirror to see Allison belted in but with her feet propped up in the seat to the side. “Derek has been keeping the Pack close for safety. The Connerys have not complied with the Council’s Hold Order. There have been no deaths yet. They are pushing the envelope in their attempts to get the Pack to make a move and justify their actions.”
“So, Scott really joined Derek’s Pack?” Allison asked in disbelief. “He’s a True Alpha. If someone is joining a Pack, shouldn’t Derek join Scott’s?”
Adèle shook her head. “You have a misconception of the relationship between a territory and a Pack. There is a natural connection between the two. The bond is strongest through an Alpha, but the entire Pack is bound to both the land and their Alpha. It’s why a wolf with no Pack will go omega faster if driven from their territory.”
“It is also why Peter Hale was able to maintain as much reason as he did when he awoke. Six years in a coma with broken pack bonds? He should have been completely feral. While I admit by all reports he was exhibiting a form of insanity and his reactions were driven by the wolf, he enacted a detailed campaign of revenge. It was his continuing unbroken connection with a territory that hosts a Nemeton that allowed him to retain the mental capacity to do that.”
“I cannot even fault him since, in his state, it would not have been solely revenge. He was instinctively eliminating threats to the territory. If one were to tell me that during the early days, the Nemeton itself was exerting control, I would have no doubts as to the validity.”
“So Scott joined them because he felt that Derek had the greater right to the territory? I don’t think that’s Scott,” Allison scoffed.
“No, hon. Scott joined the Hales because he realized there’s safety in numbers, and the Connerys don’t care if the Pack is innocent or not. Their attempt to kill him was calculated and merciless. The Hales saved him, and that opened his eyes. But it was the threat to his family that changed his mind. He joined to keep his mother safe,” Chris explained.
“But his mother is human,” Allison huffed.
“They threatened her safety to get him to turn himself over.”
“He should know better. He almost got himself killed.”
Chris grimaced because the threat should have been just that, a threat. “He knew what they did to Stiles, and he’s just human.”
Allison pulled in on herself. “How is Stiles?” She asked after a moment’s silence.
Chris sighed, “He and Noah are staying at the new Pack House. Unfortunately, the Stilinski home isn’t equipped for a wheelchair, and Stiles will be in one for another two months minimum. Noah is healing well, but physically he can’t take care of Stiles, so he accepted the Hales’ offer to help.”
“Do you think it would be OK if I went to see him?”
“Absolutely not!” Chris reacted without thought.
At the same time, Adèle commanded firmly, “No, Allison.”
“But Stiles is my friend. Why can’t I see him?” Her eyes were flaring with anger.
Chris held his tongue on every argument about keeping her away from the wolves when he doesn’t know if interacting with them will get her hurt. Instead, he let Adèle play the heavy.
“A Grand Council Meeting will be called within this town in mere days. Every action we take between now and the meeting has political consequences,” Adèle instructed.
“Even if all I’m doing is visiting an injured friend?”
“Even when a potential Argent Matriarch enters a territorial Alpha’s Pack House.” Adèle turned in her seat and glared at Allison. “Do not play at being naive in these circumstances. You will not enter the Hale Pack House or meet with a member of the Pack unsupervised until the Council has completed its work. Like it or not, child, you have a part to play.”
Allison crossed her arms. “We are handling this all wrong. The only way the Packs will trust us is if we work with them, as part of them, instead of acting like we have the right to police them. We hunt them down like animals, but they’re not.”
“You are young,” Adèle said the words with so much weariness that it caused Chris to look her way. “They are animals. Never forget that. What most Hunters forget is that so are we.”
“What the hell!” Chris held on tight and hit the brakes as a red car cut out from a crossroad in the Preserve. It spun onto the highway in front of him. He briefly recognized the driver as Issac Leahy. Immediately a black truck driven by Bryne Watters followed them, a hunter hanging out of the back window with a rifle. The hunter fired a moment before the truck spun out and blew a tire. As it sped away, the last view of the car was of someone’s bare ass pressed firmly against the rear glass.
Allison leaned forward, “Was that Peter Hale?”
Adèle lowered her sunglasses and smirked, “He has rather impressive assets.”
Allison snickered before bursting into full laughter, her giggles following them down the road as Chris just sighed.
Peter watched as Chris and Allison Argent exited their vehicle and started up the front walk, each holding the handle of a trunk. They stopped where the walk split to head either to the front steps or the handicapped access ramp and let the trunk rest on the ground. Peter saw Chris hesitate as he noticed how Peter stood firmly on Derek’s left while McCall stood to the right.
“Alpha Hale,” Chris’s eyes were locked firmly with Derek’s. “I come on behalf of the Grand Hunter’s Council with a request for your presence this Friday.” He took a step forward and held out a vellum scroll.
Derek stared at it a moment, then made a motion toward Scott. McCall stepped forward and accepted the scroll before returning to Derek’s side. Thank goodness the boy was taking his position seriously even though he had already made doe-eyes at Allison.
Derek broke the seal and unrolled it. The damn thing had skilled calligraphy with a formal invitation written in Latin along with the required assurance of protection and safety, signed in blood. Derek’s nostrils flared when he noticed that. He remained steady but handed it to Peter.
“An invitation to attend the proceedings and a request to testify if asked. I see all of the traditional components have been included. Signed in blood by the entire Council. Tell me, Argent, if we chose not to honor the request will we find ourselves unwilling guests of the Council?” Peter locked eyes with Chris, who closed his eyes and shook his head.
“No. The Council desires your willing cooperation only. The Hale Pack has already been recognized as blameless. All we’re trying to do is save lives here. Yours and ours,” Allison answered in his place.
Erica scoffed behind them. Well, Peter would give her that. Once someone has perforated you with arrows, it’s difficult to pretend you are on the same side. Derek cleared his throat and crossed his arms. Erica stepped back.
“Christopher?” Peter asked.
“No one will fault you for refusing. You have no reason to trust us. If you need, we can allow your betas to hold Argent men hostage during the meeting.” Chris answered Peter before turning back to Derek. “If you need, I will allow you to hold my daughter hostage since I am required to testify.” Allison stood straight and raised her chin but showed no surprise as she glanced at her father before looking at Derek.
McCall shook his head, “We don’t need that, do we, Derek? We wouldn’t hurt Allison anyway.”
Derek’s eyes locked with Scott’s, “You want to just meet up with them on their say-so after last time?”
“Want to? No. You were right, and I was wrong. I almost got myself and Issac killed because I want everyone to be honorable. But this isn’t one group of random hunters; this is the Grand Council. The ones who give them orders. They announced their intention to come to town. After that first time with Boyd and Erica, they have approached us for permission to see the Nemeton and investigate. They’ve even sent you notifications every time a new hunter hits the county line.” Scott motioned toward the Argents, “I’m just saying that a little trust isn’t out of line here. Not blind trust, no. But meet them halfway.”
Noah stepped forward to stand just behind Scott and Derek. “When do you need an answer?”
“Preferably by Thursday if you require a hostage,” Chris responded. “I promise you there are no repercussions if you decline.”
“You will have my decision on Thursday,” Derek uncrossed his arms, and the Pack moved out of formation.
Allison looked longingly at Scott before turning back to Derek. “I would like to talk to you and your Pack about something unrelated if that’s ok.”
Derek leaned against one of the posts and shrugged. “OK.”
Allison squared her shoulders and stood straight, but her fingers were twisting in her shirt. “I wanted to apologize to everyone for what I did. I was hurt by the way my mother died…no, for the way she selfishly chose to end her own life instead of living with the repercussions of her actions. I was hurt and angry and searching for someone to blame. She was my mother, and I didn’t want to blame her. I didn’t know what really happened, and when Gerard fed me his lies, I was too self-absorbed to see them for what they were.”
She locked eyes with Derek. “I blamed you for the pain I was in, and that was wrong. I never stopped to question why you would have bit Mom. Up until that moment, I didn’t have a single issue with werewolves and knew that they were just spewing hate.” She raised her chin, “I’m sorry, Derek. You weren’t to blame, and you didn’t deserve what was done to you. I promise you that if something ever happens again, I will come to you to get your side of the story before I act.”
Derek shrugged again but didn’t speak. Instead, he glanced over toward Erica, Boyd, and Issac.
Allison nodded a few times then turned toward the betas. “As for you three, I am so completely sorry. I was blaming Derek and wanted him to hurt as much as I did. It’s not an excuse, just an explanation. I don’t expect any of you to forgive me. Still, I want you to know that I will never forgive myself for breaking the Code and going after people who never harmed a hair on anyone’s head. None of you deserved it, and I can never make up for the pain and fear I caused you.”
“Stiles, I’m sorry to you too. I knew Gerard was going to target you, but you were never supposed to get hurt. I was promised that they were just going to keep you out of the way until they could go after Derek. But you keep getting hurt when all you ever do is try to be a good friend. I’m not going to ask you to forgive me. But, I hope that maybe someday we can start over. You’re Scott’s best friend, and I would really like it if we could be good friends, too. Someday.”
Stiles shifted in the wheelchair, “I’m not going to make promises now. I mean, I don’t hate you as you…but you’re still a hunter, and I’m kinda having a hunter hate-on for good reason.” He motioned toward his feet, and she flinched.
“Yeah.” Allison looked for a moment like she was going to cry as she looked at the shape of Stiles’ feet. The broken one in a brace with external hardware was horrific. A velcro strapped boot protected the other from accidental contact even though he still couldn’t put any weight on it and wouldn’t for a while.
“So, what’s in the trunk?” Scott interrupted.
“The Council has brought back the practice of paying reparations for wrongs committed. I’m not trying to buy your forgiveness or anything. I know I have to earn that. But, I just wanted to give you and your pack a gift. This is from me, not the Argent Family.” Allison reached over and opened the trunk.
“Custom leather jackets from the best shop in Paris.” She pulled out a leather jacket and held it out to Derek.
Peter noted that the Hale Triskele was artfully worked into the snaps and in minor details. Derek looked it over and then nodded to the pack. They moved forward hesitantly to take the jackets.
Erica pulled hers on slowly, “I don’t know that I like you, but you have good taste.”
Allison grinned and grabbed a jacket from the bottom. A red leather jacket with a large rounded hood. She stepped up onto the porch and held it out to Stiles. “I thought this would be more your color.”
Stiles smiled as he took it and then raised an eyebrow at her. “Why do I feel like there’s a Little Red Riding-hood joke in here?”
Scott came up behind her and wrapped his arms around Allison. “Want to go for a walk?”
She looked over at Derek and Chris, who both nodded, and then the two of them took off toward the back of the house.
Peter watched them go and then looked back toward Chris, who was watching him and not his daughter. Peter traded looks with Derek and then set down his jacket and headed for the cabins. He motioned toward them as he passed, and Chris silently turned and fell in beside him. It was a tense silence that persisted until they had reached the privacy of the first unoccupied cabin.
“This has turned out beautifully here,” Chris started, looking anywhere but at Peter.
“Derek was studying architecture in New York. They let him submit this design for his capstone project. Concept through execution.” Peter watched Chris move, always deliberate, always with an economy of motion. Reading Chris on visual queues alone was almost impossible. It was scent that could give him away. Especially like now when he wasn’t trying to mask his scent.
“I wanted to apologize to you for keeping you in the dark,” Chris started without turning around to look at him. “If it’s any consolation, it wasn’t a conscious decision to leave you out.” He reached out and turned a vase on the counter, adjusting the arrangement slightly.
Peter watched his hands at work, fingers not stopping. The slightest little shake of the hand was Chris’s only tell.
“Have you figured out yet why you did it?”
A barely perceptible shrug followed by a slight nod was the only answer at first. The silence stretched until Chris turned to face Peter. “I was trying to keep the parts of my life compartmentalized. I had Argent Arms, Allison, my relationship with you, and my duties as the Argent Regent on the West Coast. I was so focused on keeping them all separate. I thought I could keep everything working and safe if I could just keep them all apart.”
“So when it came time to chose, you chose Hunters over everything else.” Peter pointed at him then pointed back toward town where all of the Hunters had taken over the hotels. Chris shook his head no, but Peter didn’t give him a chance, “No. I accept that you didn’t have a clue that they were headed here instead of Washington. That’s not where you failed. You warned every pack along the way that hunters would be passing through and why. You gave every single one of them a heads up that they should watch their betas until they confirmed the Connerys were gone. But you invited them here. You had them meet you in Beacon Hills of all places to approve their damn hunt, and you didn’t warn the Hale Pack that hunters were on our doorstep.”
Peter stepped into Chris’s space and jabbed his finger in his chest, “You didn’t warn ME!”
Chris reached up slowly and took Peter’s hand. “I screwed up. I screwed up and lost something I didn’t even realize I had. I’m sorry, Peter. I’m so damn tired of being sorry for trying to have something I want.”
“What is that supposed to mean?”
“Nothing.” Chris sighed, “It means nothing.”
“Well, if it’s nothing, then maybe you should just go back to your Matriarch and report in like a good little soldier.” Peter pulled back his hand. “And while you’re at it, you can tell your Connery friends that their latest attempt to get me looked more like the Three Stooges meets the Wolfman.”
Chris choked a moment before his hands came up in frustration, “Peter, you can’t keep doing this.”
Peter shrugged him off, “Yes, yes I can, Christopher. We aren’t the ones in the wrong here. So I refuse to hide in the shadows and let your precious hunters terrorize me or my pack.”
A sharp scent of fear spiked, and Chris’s heart rate increased, “Sooner or later, they are going to find a way to get to you. Do you want to leave yourself open for that kind of retribution?”
Peter glared at him, “What do you care?”
“I care, Peter.” Chris turned around and hit the wall. “Damn it! You make me care. It’s you and Allison, and to hell with everyone else. But you can’t make me care about you and then throw your life away. I didn’t even love Victoria, and it still killed me that she chose to end her life instead of living for our daughter. I hate her for the choice she made. I hate the Code that made her believe she was right to do it. I hate everything about this life that means I can’t have you. But I can’t hate you, Peter. Don’t make me hate you, too. I don’t think I would survive it.”
Peter surged forward, chest to chest with Chris. “Fuck you. I want you. Do you hear me, Christopher? I want you. I’m in love with you. But I can’t go back to what we had before. I won’t. I can accept your daughter’s place in your life, but I can’t come second to anyone else. Not anymore. I don’t have enough love in me to share you with divided loyalties. I’m a wolf. I can’t walk away from the Pack. I will choose the Pack every time because a wolf without a pack is a dead wolf. So you need to ask yourself, do you love me enough to give your first allegiance to the Pack? Do you love me enough to put me first?”
Tears were rolling down Chris’s face as he leaned forward and kissed Peter softly. Then he pulled away and turned to the door. “I need to go.”
Peter felt like something deep inside cracked and felt the wolf inside howling in pain. He got the urge to shift and head for deep in the Preserve to nurse his despair in peace.
Chris turned back, “This isn’t a no, Peter. I need to think. I need to see if there’s any way out that won’t end in you dead. So just wait for me, please.”
Hope rushed up, and Peter leaped forward to turn the man back around. “I’m a patient man. If there is even a chance I can have you with me as a partner, I will wait. Just promise me that when you figure things out, you’ll let me know your decision.”
This time Chris surged forward, and their lip met in delicious heat as bodies wrapped around one another in need/desire/want. They broke apart when the need for air outweighed the desire to devour.
The tap of a horn outside the cabin proceeded the sound of Allison’s voice calling out, “Dad! Aunt Adèle wants us to get back now.”
Chris smiled and called out, “Tell her she can wait.” Then he leaned in for another kiss.
The bell began to toll, calling everyone to their seat. The building had been rented out and secured using a selection of men sworn to carry out the Council’s will regardless of original Family affiliation. They were the only ones allowed weapons during the proceeding.
He looked to the Chairwoman’s position, where Adèle was already seated. Allison behind her and to the right. The placement was both a sense of pride and worry for Chris. He hadn’t wanted this life for Allison. But she was adapting well now that Gerard and Kate were no longer around to influence her.
The seats filled quickly, first the Council members, then representatives of all of the families. Two tables were set in front of the audience. The Connerys approached the first table, taking their seats in some formal order to which Chris barely paid attention. Finally, the Hale Pack entered and were escorted to the seats reserved for them. He noted Noah walked in, head held high and with the air of authority he usually held as Sheriff, but thankfully dressed in civilian clothes. He winced as Stiles was pushed in, the wheelchair legs designed to support his damaged feet. They parked him next to Derek’s chair at the end of the Hale table. Chris furrowed his brow in thought, wondering why the other four chairs at that table had been left empty by the Pack.
There was murmuring, and he turned back to see more people enter the room. He glanced at Adèle, and she didn’t seem the least bit surprised. A woman of apparent Japanese descent practically flowed down the aisle before taking the seat beside Hale. He allowed his eyes to briefly flash red at her in greeting. Hers responded with a flash of orange, and Chris considered the repercussions of a kitsune attending the meeting.
The following two walked together. Chris instantly recognized Nickolas Alvarez, one of the few identified Grand Elders among U.S. vampires. He appeared to be around forty, but it was well known they could manipulate their appearance. It was rumored he was over one thousand, but that wasn’t information they would willingly share. Popular vampire lore was so far from the truth, and even among Hunter Families, the reality was seldom taught.
The woman had platinum blonde hair that definitely came from a bottle with streaks of blue artistically added to highlight the blue of her eyes. Delicate earrings dangled from her ears with tiny talismans. Chris blinked and realized he was looking at the High Witch, Raven Albrecht.
He hissed in a breath and looked over at Adèle, who was maintaining a regal bearing as if she had not a care in the world. What the hell was the woman up to, and why hadn’t she shared it with him?
One last burst of activity proceeded the arrival of several men and women dressed in formal robes. Chris was not even surprised when the Archdruid took his place at the final seat while Alan Deaton followed behind and sat between the Pack and the Druid Council.
When the last was seated, Adèle raised her hand, and the bells stopped. The doors were closed and locked, the guards blocking the doors both inside and out. The lights dimmed over the audience. Only the Council and the visitors in the first rows were highlighted.
“I, Adèle Argent, Chairwoman of the Grand Council of Hunters, do call this inquiry to order. Let truth be our guide and unity our goal. Let all who serve upon the Council set aside loyalty to our Families and acknowledge our obligation to the Council.” She stood and removed the Argent pin in her lapel and handed it to Allison. Around the room, all those sitting on the Council rose and did the same.
Once seated, she looked over everyone present without expression. She finally rested her eyes on Brey Watters nee Connery, Matriarch of the Connery Clan. “Let me start by stating what this Inquiry is not. This is not an inquiry into the actions of the Connery team that led to the injuries suffered by Noah and Mieczysław Stilinski.”
Chris raised an eyebrow in question as Stiles let out a little squawk at the mention of that name. Derek was giving him the strangest look to the side, and Scott was covering his face with his hands while he could see several members of the Pack mouthing the name.
Adèle continued without hesitation. “Those actions have already been judged. The Council has sent word across our community that all members of the team lead by Ryleigh Connery were declared Code-breakers.”
Brey stood, “I protest. Ryleigh is not present to defend his actions, and you have allowed no one to speak for him. I demand a reversal of your decision. I want to see this so-called proof of guilt. Am I suppose to accept the word of a wolf over the word of a human?”
“There is your proof; have you not eyes to see it?” Adèle pointed toward Stiles, who shifted uncomfortably in the chair. “Your men left video evidence of their crime. They kidnapped a human boy from a school activity using sedative darts. They did not even care to mask their appearance as they threw him into an ATV and left the scene. For that alone, I would have them sanctioned if they still lived.”
“The boy is a member of the Hale Pack. If he wants to debase himself with those mutts, then he must risk the repercussions,” Brey dismissed the argument.
Adèle turned her head, “Tell me, Mieczysław….”
“Stiles. Please, for the love of all that’s holy…it’s Stiles.” His arms were flailing about, and he moved, then grunted in pain and sat back.
“Very well…Stiles.” She inclined her head in acknowledgment. “At the time you were taken from the trail, were you a member of the Hale Pack?”
“Not exactly.” Stiles glanced at Derek and then back over his shoulder at Scott. Scott nodded at Stiles like a bobblehead toy. Derek cocked his head to the side and then gave one sharp nod. “Before all this…” Stiles motioned toward his feet, “I was kind of playing go-between. Derek and Scott didn’t always see eye-to-eye. Scott has issues with authority figures.”
“Stiles!” Scott hissed.
“Are you seriously going to deny it? Dude, I have just two words for you…Summer Camp.”
“That counselor had it coming. He totally didn’t have the right to tell us….”
“Boys!” Noah Stilinski’s voice was low but carried.
“Sorry.” Came out in unison.
“So…” Stiles glanced back and then shifted in the chair again, “Scott has a little bitty issue with being bossed around. Derek, on the other hand, and I mean this with great respect, but Derek has not always been the best communicator. They were a little like oil and water at first, so officially, I wasn’t really part of either Pack, I guess you could say. I mean, Scott is my best friend, practically my brother. But he wasn’t really building his own Pack when the whole True Alpha thing happened. Scott didn’t want to pull anyone into it with him. Derek, on the other hand, has been trying. But I think he was kinda scared to invite humans into his Pack. I mean, seeing how Hunters killed the human members of his previous Pack.”
“But, officially, you were neither a member of the McCall Pack or the Hale Pack.”
Stiles motioned back toward the Pack, “Oh, now we are one big brassed-off Pack. I’m glad I have them because contrary to popular belief, they actually care what the fuck happens to me.”
“Language,” Noah hissed from the audience.
“The boy, no matter how involved with the Pack he may have been, was not officially a member. Therefore the Council’s ruling stands, and the Connerys will pay reparations.” Adèle turned away from Brey and motioned toward a Council Member who was signaling. “Lynn Pembrooke is recognized.”
“The injury is significant, I agree. But you sanction the Connerys when it is known the Argents’ crimes against the Hales are tenfold the damage.”
“I agree, and it is damage that can never be balanced. However, the Argents have already requested the opportunity to meet with the remaining Hales and discuss an appropriate settlement.” Adèle looked toward Derek.
Derek nodded, his shoulders tight, “We have agreed to the meeting, and it will be scheduled at our convenience.” He glanced back to Peter, who nodded agreement.
“No further debate will be heard on this matter. It does, however, serve as an introduction to our purpose here. Reports have been submitted to the Council from almost every Family represented. Reports of hunts ending in unexplainable ways. Odd episodes of bad luck are strangely in proportion to the violence attempted against a member of the supernatural. Inexplicable Injures. Unexplainable deaths.” Adèle’s gaze swept the hall in the silence.
Chris glanced around and noted almost every representative nodding agreement. Far more than the reports he reviewed.
“We have traced those reports to the earliest, here in Beacon Hills. The Council calls Christopher Argent to testify.”
Chris forced himself to compartmentalize any nerves so he could appear the classic Hunter. No less than would be expected of an Argent born and raised. “Matriarchs of the Council, thank you for your time. The kidnapping of Stiles Stilinski, a human associated but not a member of two Beacon Hills Packs, has already been mentioned here today. He was taken from the trail used by the Beacon Hills High School Track Team as he was participating in the team’s cross country practice. He was missing overnight, and law enforcement issued a State-Wide alert because students at the school hacked the security feed and posted the video of his kidnapping to social media.” Chris gave a stern look toward the Connerys before turning to remove them from his field of vision.
“Members of the Pack who were with the team reported the smell of gunpowder and aconite at the site of the abduction. With that report, Sheriff Stilinski approached me regarding assistance locating his son. Inquiries to known Hunting Teams in the region resulted in either a negative or no response. The Connery Team being the team with no response to calls.” Chris glanced toward Noah, who was grim-faced. “I spent most of that night working alongside Sheriff Stilinski and Peter Hale as we searched for the boy. At approximately eight a.m. Peter received a call from Derek Hale. The Pack received the bloody shoes of Mr. Stilinski along with directions on where to meet them if they wanted to see the boy alive again.”
Chris gritted his teeth before continuing. “When we arrived, the Pack was squared off against the Connerys with Stiles being held between them. Noah redirected their attention and placed himself between the two groups and subsequently next to the stump of the Nemeton.”
“When neither Noah nor myself could talk them down, Peter took advantage of an opening to rescue Stiles. There was a gunshot, and Noah was hit. His body fell across the Nemeton. Stiles tried to put pressure on the wound, but it was obvious that without medical attention, he would bleed out. Ryleigh Connery tried to claim that the shot was justified in the Code, but Stiles told him what he thought about that and said some words about them being forced to live by the Code. The Connery team decided to eliminate all of the Pack and opened fire. While I took cover, the Pack was able to save Stiles and Noah and get them to medical attention in time.” He gave a slight nod toward Noah.
“When the shots stopped, I came up to find all of the Connery Team with gunshot wounds.” Chris took a deep breath and locked eyes with Adèle. “For a moment the words Nous chassons ceux qui nous chassent were written in blood on the Nemeton.”
There was silence before a voice spoke. “What were the exact words spoken by Stiles Stilinski while he knelt in his father’s blood?”
Chris looked from the Archdruid to Adèle, who inclined her head in permission to answer. Swallowing hard, he said, “I wish you were bound to your damn Code. Bound to live by it and Bound to die by it. May it give you just as much protection as it gives those you hunt.”
There was murmuring, and he looked to Stiles, who was breathing hard, his eyes glassy. Derek ran a hand down his arm and looked back to Noah, who quickly moved from the audience to kneel down next to Stiles’ wheelchair, speaking to him softly.
“For those of you who are unaware, I should introduce you to our guests.” Adèle motioned to the four people next to Derek. “Derek Hale, Alpha of the Hale Pack, Territorial Alpha of Beacon Hills. Next to him is Noshiko Yukimura, a kitsune and representative of Shifters within the East Coast Territories traditionally protected by the Connery Clan.” Noshiko made the tiniest of bows toward the Connerys in a way that would be construed as an insult.
“Next, Grand Elder Nickolas Alvarez, representing the U.S. Hierarchy of Covens and Raven Albrecht, High Witch. Finally, there is Archdruid Winston Beresford.” She gave it a moment to sink in.
“Archdruid, it is my understanding that you have all visited the Nemeton to evaluate it and these reports to determine if they are indeed related?”
He stood. “Yes. The Nemeton is wounded but vibrant with life and magic. It is clear to those who can read the signs that this is the origin of the binding upon you all.”
“Binding? You mean this Curse the boy has placed on us?” Brey Watters spat out. She turned and pointed toward the Council. “And you want us to pay reparations to them when he has signed our death warrants?”
The Archdruid looked down his nose at her. “History tells us that the first Hunter Family stood before the Nemeton in the Gévaudan region of France and took a vow to hunt those creatures that threatened human settlements. They also vowed to partner with those who shared their goal to protect all who wished to live in peace. Other Families followed this practice for generations until modern life convinced you that the Oath was more a pledge to a Family than to your Calling. You forgot that those who shared your goals may not be human. You forgot that you are oath-bound to protect, not destroy.”
He motioned toward Stiles, who was still pale but looking calmer. “The boy in ritual called down condemnation upon all Hunters. And, in doing so, he asked not for you to pay for the crimes of your past. Instead, he asked that you be held true to your oaths so that history will not be repeated. The Nemeta of the world agreed and bound you.”
Stiles raised a hand, “I was a little out of it, but I don’t remember doing some kind of ritual.”
Beresford shrugged, “Rituals come in all forms. We perform them without thought every day. It matters only that a sacrifice was made upon the Nemeton. That the Nemeton did not require a literal death is moot.”
“How do we remove this?” Someone shouted.
The audience exploded in sound before a wave of magic pushed everyone back into their seats.
“Seriously? What are you, children?” Raven Albrecht stood in the middle of the meeting, a faint glow surrounding her. “Not a one of you has any common sense. The only damn reason any of us have ever feared you lot is that you’re ruthless, armed to the teeth, and outnumber us. It’s obvious that we never had to fear your intelligence.”
She walked over to the audience and grabbed ahold of Peter. “Mr. Hale, can I have your assistance?”
“Of course, anything for a Lady of your caliber.”
She led him to the middle of the room and left him there before turning and marching over to Bryne Watters. “Mr. Watters, a moment of your time?”
Watters looked around and then raised his chin and followed her without allowing her to touch him.
“Great, so…here’s your chance. Hit him.” She stepped back and motioned Watters to move.
“Is this a trick?”
“No, it’s a demonstration. You’ve been trying to catch him for days. Here he is, so hit him.” She motioned with one hand before raising an eyebrow, “If you have the balls to try, that is.”
With a growl, Watters moved quickly and punched Peter in the stomach. Immediately Watters doubled over, grabbing his stomach.
Albrecht shook her head. “Well, that went as expected. It was kind of stupid to wallop him when you have been told what the results are.”
“I really like her,” Chris heard Stiles whisper to Derek from across the room.
Watters stood back up and glared at the witch. But she just grinned at him.
“Now, Mr. Hale. I invite you to return the favor.” She had the grin of a cat with an empty canary cage.
Peter cocked his head to the side and tapped his finger against his lips. “You believe that this is reciprocal, don’t you.”
She continued to smile.
“Very well, for demonstration purposes only. And because I am now so curious.” He looked at Bryne, “I suppose intent might matter. And I wouldn’t want to miss my one opportunity.” Peter stepped forward and punched the man in the face before flying back, his nose bloody but healing almost instantly. “Well, that was unpleasant.”
Albrecht returned to her seat without another word.
Beresford stood back up, “We, the representatives of the supernatural community, have met and determined that this is not a curse. You are merely bound to your oaths. It affords you the same protections against the supernatural as they have against you. The Balance is maintained; who are we to change that?”
Chris closed his eyes as chaos erupted.
“So you’re saying I have magic. Like seriously, whoa, magic? How much do I have? Do I have to learn incantations and spells? Are there books? And if there are books, can I digitalize them?” Stiles was on a roll with Archdruid Beresford. Chris wondered how long the druid’s patience would last.
“Yes, Stiles. You have an immense well of untapped potential. If you are amenable, I will take you on as a student while I am here to assist in healing the Nemeton,” Beresford answered with a bit of a grin. “For all our safety, I feel you should receive the appropriate education.”
“Seriously, Beres? You’re gonna make him all cryptic and stuffy,” Raven huffed. “I agree you have more patience than I do in getting the basics shoved down their throats, but I insist on getting at least six weeks of his summers to round out his education.”
Chris listened to the two of them negotiate time while Stiles was lying on the blanket spread out in the clearing by the Nemeton. Members of the Druid Council were surrounding the stump with various crystals and rocks as part of their cleansing effort.
They worked in earnest since Noshiko Yukimura had requested their assistance in removing a malevolent presence from the Nemeton the day before. First, they subdued it and return it to where it belonged. Now they wanted to prevent any lingering taint from infecting the area.
“So, did the whole sacrifice thing work because of my magic?” Stiles’ question drew Chris’s attention back to the group.
“No, Stiles.” Raven shook her head. “Everyone has a little flicker of magical potential in them. That kind of ritual sacrifice didn’t require any magical feat on your part. That all came from the Nemeta. Ley lines are the magical life’s blood of the world. Nemeta are the physical representation of the nexus of these lines. Where they meet the magic pools and feeds the land. Individually it is believed that a Nemeton may meet the parameters for sentience. Some of us believe that collectively the Nemeta of the world might occasionally cross over into sapience. It is almost impossible to quantify, so who knows if we are correct. Suffice it to say, the sacrifice got its attention. Your words gave it form. The Nemeta decided. There’s not a one of us that is going to take the chance to question the Nemeta’s will.”
“Whoa, so if the Nemeta is the life’s blood of the world and it’s sapient, does that make the Nemeta Gaia?” Stiles asked, and Chris felt his heart skip a beat.
“That is a fascinating question,” was all Beresford would say.
Their conversation was interrupted by the Hale Pack’s arrival. Scott and Allison were holding hands. Chris refused to consider the implications of her jacket buttons being off by one.
Adèle stood from the folding chair and tray she had been working at for the last hour. She walked to their side of the clearing, and Chris took a breath before following her.
Chris would have been amused at formality in the middle of the Preserve if not for the reason they were all there.
“Have you considered our offer of reparation for the damage caused to the Hale Pack by the Argent Family?” Adèle asked though they had already been through three days of negotiation.
Derek gave the nod. “I have. While nothing can ever restore what we lost, your offer is acceptable.”
“Money has little equivalence to a life cut short. Therefore, as we agreed, five million each to the remaining members of the original Hale Pack. We also guarantee the education and start-up funds for all members of the current Hale Pack for the next ten years.” Adèle motioned to the pack members surrounding them, and Chris noted that the teenagers looked exceedingly happy about that one.
Derek nodded his assent.
“The lives of the perpetrators have been forfeit, so I cannot offer those to you. Therefore, I offer you the life of my only living nephew and the father of the next Matriarch of the Argent Family.” She held out her hand, and Chris breathed deep as he took it and stepped next to her. “May you accept him into your Pack as an offering of peace between us. While he will ever be an Argent Hunter, the Argents release him to give his first allegiance to the Pack.” Adèle kissed Chris on the cheek then stepped back.
Peter moved forward and took Adèle’s place. “Alpha, I bring before you one who would be Pack. Do you accept Christopher as yours?”
“Christopher, will you forsake all ties and bind yourself to the Pack, accepting the authority of the Alpha?”
“I do.” Chris knelt in front of Derek. “Alpha, I ask for a place in the Hale Pack and give you my allegiance. At this time, I do not ask for the Bite. But I do request that should there ever come a time through injury or illness that my life can be spared that the Bite be granted.”
Derek’s eyes flashed red, and his nails grew, but he placed his hand upon Chris’s neck and squeezed without breaking skin. A warmth bloomed within Chris’s chest, and he breathed hard and fast in wonder as he could suddenly feel a connection to the Alpha, Pack, land, and…Peter. A bright and shining light lead to Peter and felt like home.
Nous chassons ceux qui nous chassent –We hunt those who hunt us.
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Dude that was awesome!
Wow! This is amazing. I love the world building you did here. The characterization and storyline were great. Such a fun read! I thoroughly enjoyed working to create art for this fic ?
I totally love your art!
Brilliant! Loved the Chris POV . . . . and well, really the entire thing. As always your writing is so smooth, and your version of the magical settlement was just amazing! Thank you so much for all of your time, effort, and creativity to create this amazing reading experience. Just Brilliant!
Wow, I love this. I think my fave characters are Stiles, Peter, Chris and the Sheriff and you’ve portrayed them really well in a great story.
Absolutely marvellous story and the art is gorgeous.
Thanks for sharing!
What a wonderful story. I love how the binding goes both ways… no one can take advantage of the other side. Nice use of Chris POV, and that Scott finally got his head on straight. Hopefully, Stiles will learn about his magic and recover fully.
I really enjoyed that!
Awesome, I really enjoyed this!
What a perfect story to read on a sunny Saturday! Love it!
Thank you for sharing this, it was wonderful.
This was amazing. I loved everything about it. It was interesting to see so much from Chris’s pov, I don’t get to read many fics from him that keep me interested and this grabbed me and didn’t let go.
The magic and the code and the repercussions of it…wow, so amazing!
Just lovely all around.
Thank you for sharing,
Wow. Terrific idea and an excellent story. Love how you mirrored the hunter/pack struggle in Peter and Chris’s relationship. Poor Stiles. Those Stilinski’s sure take a beating. Thanks for a wonderful read.
I really enjoyed this story. I actually liked staying in Chris POV for much of it, which is quite unusual. Thanks for sharing.
That was great! Wonderful, wonderful story. I enjoyed it even more this time. Thank you so much!
This was fantastic!! Your writing is flawless and the characterization was perfect. Thank you for sharing this with us ♥
Oh my god, this was amazing. The world building was perfection. The humour was on point. My heart broke for Stiles so much but I loved that you showed his trauma having a lasting affect.
This was brilliant and I loved every word
This was great ! I really enjoyed them figuring out what Stiles had done.
Thank you for sharing !
A fantastic story! The basic premise is terrific, and the writing is equally good. (And the crack about the supernatural having nothing to fear from the intelligence of hunters is pure gold :D)
This was fantastic! The “curse” was prefect and I was a little surprised when it backfired on Peter like it did on the hunters, but it makes so much sense. All of the relationships are great, but Peter being so protective of Stiles is perfect to me. Thanks so much for sharing your hard work, it is much appreciated.
Wow, an amazing story.
I love that Stiles’ words had power and that they carried righteousness not vengeance, because that way lies war.
It was great to have Stiles and Noah officially pack and that Scott realised he and all the wolves were better off banded together.
So good. Love to see everyone, especially Hunters, finally held to their oath. Thanks for sharing.
Awesome story! Loved how you leveled the playing field. Will read again ??
This was absolutely awesome! I love the double nature of the binding and the alternating POVs. (Though, poor Stiles)
That was absolutely fantastic. I loved the way you had the binding work, and that it was recipricol. I suspected that it might be when Peter’s car had an issue immediately after putting potatoes in the Hunter’s tailpipes. 😀
Just brilliantly done. Thank you for sharing it with us. <3 <3 <3
Oh, that’s awesome!
Don’t know how I missed this. I love your writing and this is exceptional.
I really enjoyed seeing things through Christopher’s eyes. Loved how Peter was with Stiles and the pack. A true protector. All the supernatural reps were really cool.