Perchance to Dream
Fandom: Teen Wolf
Content Warning: NC-17
Warnings: Character Bashing, Dark Themes, Death – Major Character – Discussed, Death – Minor Character, Explicit Sex, Hate Crimes, Kidnapping, Murder, Racism, Rape/Non-con, Violence – Canon – Level
Genres: Alternate Universe, Fantasy
Relationships: Derek Hale/Stiles Stilinski, Peter Hale/Noah Stilinski
Word Count: 24,839
Author Note: This is part two of a three-part series I am writing for Rough Trade. Part one, Walking Shadow, should be up on my website before the challenge starts. Part three will come in our time traveling November and is tentatively titled What Plighted Cunning Hides. All warnings apply to the series, not individual stories.
Summary: As Derek prepares to see his sister Cora for the first time since the fire, he is plagued by dreams of memories that never existed. Sparkling brown eyes, a mischievous smile, and skin dusted in moles that are in perpetual motion.
To die, to sleep;
To sleep, perchance to dream. Ay, there’s the rub.
For in this sleep of death, what dreams may come
—Hamlet, Act III, Scene I
Derek Hale, Alpha of the Hale Pack of Beacon Hills, California, took a ticket and waited for the gate to lift so he could drive into the parking garage. He usually hated using parking structures. They were too closed in and gave too many opportunities for Hunters to trap an unsuspecting supernatural.
Here he was willing to make an exception. The top two floors of the attached office building belonged to the Law Offices of Carson McCray and Associates. One of the premier supernaturally aware law firms in the country, and incidentally the Hale Pack representatives for over one hundred years. The building and surrounding structures were warded to the hilt for the protection and anonymity of their clients.
Derek parked and headed for the elevator. He could smell a faint trace of Peter, so he knew his uncle had beat him here. Carson had requested their presence immediately for an urgent issue. Derek had no idea what issue. But Carson was a planner and a plotter, so if he said something was urgent, Derek took him at his word.
The elevator vibrated slightly going up. Derek felt the warmth generally associated with wards, one of the few magics he was sensitive enough to recognize. It was disconcerting that someone in this building was setting wards that could reach the elevator. He would have to mention it to Carson. It was sloppy, and the badly set wards could have negative consequences if a mundane was in the wrong place and time.
The elevator opened onto the penthouse level. Carson’s assistant was up from the desk and moving around before he could reach it.
“Alpha Hale, Mr. McCray is waiting for you,” She didn’t even stop her movement as she escorted him to Carson’s office. “Mr. McCray, Alpha Hale has arrived.”
“Derek, thank you for coming on such short notice,” McCray was up and headed to the sidebar to fix him a drink.
Derek recognized the wolfsbane mark on the bottle and raised an eyebrow. He turned to see that Peter was already present with a glass in front of him. Peter just gave him an elegant shrug as if to say I have no clue. Derek nodded and took his seat. Derek accepted the drink but set it aside as Carson took his seat.
Carson reached into his desk and pulled out a folder but didn’t open it. “So, a little over two weeks ago, my office received a call from a representative of the Tavares Pack from Brazil.”
Derek felt anger and hurt flash through him in equal measure. “What do they want?” he practically growled at Carson.
Peter gave him an inquisitive look, but Carson maintained his composure until Derek controlled his eye flash.
“It seems word of the Hales returning to Beacon Hills have reached far and wide. They wished for me to represent the Hale Trust and identify the interlopers.”
“In other words, they wanted you to identify who the new Alpha is and have them removed from the territory?” Peter tilted his head to the side as Carson nodded. “By what right did Tavares make such a request?”
“They claimed to be acting as conservator for the territory until a rightful heir is designated.” Carson let them stew on that a moment.
Derek and Peter just exchanged looks. What the hell was that supposed to mean? Derek finally shook it off and turned back to Carson.
“I don’t care what they are claiming. Tavares didn’t want anything to do with us when the fire happened, so why should we give them the time of day now that we are building a pack again?”
“What do you mean, they didn’t want anything to do with you?” Peter asked.
Derek stood to give himself room to move. He rubbed at that phantom pain in his chest where broken bonds existed. “After the fire, after Laura and I ran, we kept moving for a while. We practically lived out of our car. The peaceful packs we found, they didn’t want us in their territories. They were either afraid of hunters trailing us or wanted Laura to give up the Alpha power to join their packs. A few times, we had to run because some saw two teens as easy pickings.”
“Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for those who want the power to seek out those who inherit too young,” Carson acknowledged.
With a shrug, Derek agreed, “I hated them, but I understood it. Peter always said those who can’t protect the power don’t deserve to keep it.”
“I take it you had to defend yourselves more than once?” Peter inquired.
“Yeah. We tried to run when we could. But the first time, it was someone on the fringes of a peaceful pack. He was supposed to be escorting us to a motel that the pack owned. Instead, he and four of his goons jumped us. One was holding me while the others tried to take down Laura. She took down the ringleader, and everyone else jumped back in shock, so she grabbed me, and we took off. The other time was a formal challenge. She did that maneuver you taught us, Peter, and took his head clean off in under ten seconds. I asked her why she killed him like that, and she told me that the only way to stop the challenges is to be more ruthless than they are willing to be. Go for the killing blow every time, and they will think twice.”
Peter nodded, “Sound strategy. But what of Tavares?”
“It was after that second fight. I asked Laura to call them and ask for Sanctuary. Well, she called them, and they denied her. Told her that she could send me and they would find someplace to put me to work, but that they had no use for Laura.” Derek paced back and forth a could times, hands clenched and locking down his wolf. “They didn’t want to help us then, so why would they care what happens here now?”
“Did you hear them say this, Derek?” Peter asked.
Derek shook his head. “No, Laura left me to make the call. She didn’t want to chance anyone tracing the call to our location.”
Peter exchanged a look with Carson that got Derek’s hackles up. “Did you investigate their claim, Carson?”
“Yes. I explained I had already confirmed the identity of the Hale Alpha. I informed them that Alpha Derek Hale had claimed the territory by right of blood, inheritance, and the Hale Alpha power as destined by Fate.” Carson pulled the folder closer and tapped on it.
Glancing at the folder, Peter asked, “And their response?”
“Shock. They were under the impression that only one Hale escaped the fire.”
Derek growled, “Bullshit. They knew Laura and I were alive.”
“No. According to their source, everyone died that night in the fire. Their source was young and traumatized, but they had no reason to doubt her account.” Carson opened the folder and pulled out five photos of a scowling girl staring at the camera taken about a year apart.
Derek’s heart skipped a beat before it started to race. He reached out and took the earliest photo and stared, not caring about the tears beginning to fall. “Cora.”
Peter was holding the most recent photo, his hands shaking. “How?”
“According to Cora, you saved her, Peter. Somehow you got her out, but you were trapped. You ordered her to run, and she did. She felt the bonds breaking all at once, and she just kept running. Cora stayed hidden and put as much distance between Beacon Hills and herself as she could. She made it to the Gonzalez Pack in Mexico somehow, and they took her in until they could contact the Tavares Alpha and request sanctuary for her.” Carson pulled out some notes, which he handed to Peter.
He gestured toward them as he continued, “They took her in, and she had no idea anyone else had survived. For her safety, they only confirmed the fire via news media, and the story they got was the one that erroneously reported the entire family dead.”
“I don’t understand. Laura called….”
Peter sighed, “Did she?”
“Why would she lie?”
“She hated the Tavares Pack, Derek.” Peter reached out and took Derek’s hand, “They were a reminder that Talia loved your father, not hers. Laura’s father wanted the prestige that came with the Hale Pack name. Paul did everything he could to get into her bed when Mom and Talia went to that summit. She finally let him because he was persistent, and she wanted to get laid. But Talia never had an emotional connection to him. Paul tried to push marriage when she came up pregnant, and Talia refused. He stuck around until he had to watch your father romance Talia. He left when they announced the engagement.”
“Laura always said that Mom and Dad’s marriage was political.”
“Well, the Tavares Pack is one of the most respected packs in South America, so our Mother wasn’t above facilitating that union. But, no, Talia and Aaron were sickeningly in love. Besides, while Aaron’s grandfather was the Alpha of the Tavares Pack, Aaron was born and raised in the States.” Peter handed back the notes.
“I don’t remember Paul, other than Laura being upset when he died.” Derek looked through the other photos; it was like a dream. Cora was alive and grown. There was no mistaking that Hale eyebrow.
“His family was pack adjacent to the Meader Pack. As I understand it, he tried to challenge the Alpha twice before he was kicked out. He was angry and bitter and fed that to Laura when she was young. He moved to New York where he died, but the reports weren’t consistent regarding how.” Carson accepted back the photos. “Laura’s issues aside, I have confirmed that Cora survived and made it to your Great-grandfather’s pack. Your father’s uncle, Mateus Tavares, is the current Alpha.”
“Derek, Cora wants to come home. They practically had to tie her down to stop her from coming as soon as she heard the two of you were alive. They are requesting you come to escort her yourself. And, I think they want to see you and verify she will be safe with you.” Carson pulled out the last page.
“I have all of their contact information here. We are unraveling all of the necessary paperwork to confirm Cora’s identity and get her a passport. I have contacts in the State Department that are Aware.”
“I want to go.” Derek was practically vibrating with the need to see his sister. “Peter?”
“No, I can’t leave. Noah isn’t doing well.”
“Peter!” Derek flashed his eyes at him. “I realize you’re in love with the man, but I think Sheriff Stilinski’s delusions will hold a while. This is your niece.”
“Yes, she’s my niece. I held that baby in my arms, and I’m overjoyed that she’s alive. But, I want her to have a territory to which she can return. Argent the Elder may not be stalking Beacon Hills now that he is pushing his Citizens Protection Initiative into cities around the country, but the CPI is still causing trouble here. I can’t trust them not to make a move if they have a perceived opening. I will stay behind to protect our Pack and to prepare rooms for Cora.”
There was a tone from Carson’s computer. He tapped it, “Gentlemen, perhaps you can discuss your plans later. I think you would prefer to see this.” He turned the computer around and placed a microphone on their side of the desk. “Take as long as you need.”
Derek froze as two faces appeared on the screen, but he could make himself acknowledge only one “Cora.”
Derek tried to relax in the passenger seat of Joannie Mitchum’s SUV as he watched the scenery pass by on the way to the airport. It had been a toss-up on whether the flight from Sacramento or San Francisco was shorter. While both had a stop in Houston, the flight from San Francisco didn’t require him to change planes.
His plan to leave his car at the airport was nixed by the Pack. That led to the debate on who would drive him. Joannie had quietly informed them all that they were watching her kids while she drove Derek to the airport before spending the day at a Spa in San Fran that she was dying to try. Peter had immediately booked her an appointment.
He checked his travel papers for about the fiftieth time and sighed.
“Heavy thoughts?” Joannie asked.
“I hate traveling.”
“Most Alphas do.” She signaled to change lanes. “You have a connection to the territory that is deeper than anything a beta could understand. When we fled Beacon Hills the first time, it took forever for us to feel like the ground wasn’t moving under us. Part of that was being on the fringes of a new pack. But part was how profound the connection can be to a territory with a nemeton.”
“I’m sorry that Laura left the rest of the pack behind when we ran. I feel like it’s my fault.” Derek looked away as memory intruded. Those first weeks were full of pain, guilt, and grief. Anger came later.
Joannie patted his leg. “That is all on Laura. She was a scared kid, but she was an Alpha. I can’t imagine what she was feeling, getting the Alpha inheritance that way, but I prefer to trust in Fate and give her the benefit of the doubt.”
Derek thought about that, “How could Laura leaving you be Fate?”
“Well, she ran with you. The few hunters we identified took off in different directions because no one knew where you went. That gave the rest of us time to exit quietly without making waves. Well, most of us, at least. Laura was fated to be an Alpha, and maybe with time and training, she would have made a great one. But all she had was what your mother was willing to teach before she passed.”
She squeezed his leg, “But, Derek, it was enough to keep you safe. I can’t second guess why she did what she did. But she kept you alive. Ultimately that’s what an alpha is supposed to do, protect the pack. It’s not your fault that you were the only pack she felt she should protect.”
“I know you’re right. I feel you’re right. I just wish we could have grown up with the family. I wish I could have led a life where I was taught how to be a proper alpha, and then when the time was right, I could have inherited my own spark. I would have taken you as the Den Maker in an instant.” He smiled wistfully at Joannie.
“Well, we’re here now.” Joannie gave a little laugh, “Mom always said we would someday be full Hale Pack and not just adjacent. So we make the best of what we have. The pack is growing strong. You have more petitions every day. With the Briggs family, we’re up to nineteen already.”
Derek smiled, “Peter was excited to finance Brigg’s Complete Auto. The first thing he did was give him Noah’s old Jeep to fix up, but he refuses to let them do a paint job on it.”
“I’m amazed that thing still runs considering all the duct tape on it.”
“Yeah, Noah is sentimental about that thing. I think it belonged to his wife or something. Though it’s weird, when I drove it over to the shop, I swear it smelled like a high school boys’ locker room.” Derek shook his head at the thought. It would have been different if it was an old smell since he knew the Sheriff never drove the vehicle. He would just go out and start it up and sit in it. But Derek could swear the scent was fresh like someone had neglected to shower after a long workout.
He caught Joannie looking at him as they stopped for rush hour traffic. “I know you’re fond of Noah. Is there a reason you haven’t made him pack yet?”
Derek swallowed back his initial reply that the man was just human. It was a bullshit excuse, and he knew she would call him out on it. “I’m giving Peter and Noah time to settle into whatever it is they have going on. Sometimes it feels like it’s some weird support group. I can tell they are attracted to each other, and God knows they fuck like rabbits every time they fall in bed together.”
“Derek!” Joannie was laughing even as she tried to sound like a scolding old aunt.
With a chuckle, Derek held out a hand in appeasement. “Seriously, Peter is completely gone on Noah, but I feel…I don’t know…protective? I guess that’s the best word for it. It’s like I feel that I made a promise to protect the man. He’s not ready to be pack, and I respect it. But there’s a space waiting on him when he wants it.”
“Well, of course, you feel protective. Noah is Peter’s mate in everything but name. We can all feel like he’s part of us already. Like there’s a bond that is coming to us through you and Peter, I guess. It’s just a grey zone that feels like something is missing in the Pack.” Joannie pulled over into the exit lane for the airport as the traffic finally started to move again.
“Yeah, I know what you mean.” Derek rubbed at his chest absently. “It’s like there’s a whole in the Pack, and someone important is missing. I’m hoping that will be filled when we get Cora back and Noah decides to join us.”
“I’m sure it will. Fate doesn’t like to be thwarted. If it’s meant to be, Fate will find a way.”
“So where exactly are you taking me, anyway?”
Derek ignored the little brat and kept walking. He was going to be late. He could only hope Paige gave him enough time to get there.
“Look, I could have just stayed home alone, you know. The least you can do is tell me where you’re taking me so that I know which officer to call for help when Dad is beating you to death for dragging me into trouble.” It was hard to ignore the constant, incessant, annoying talking. It just wouldn’t stop. And the way the kid talked with his whole body…it was no wonder he ran into things. “Argh.” Like now.
Derek picked him off the ground and kept moving. The clumsy little brat didn’t even pause to breathe.
“No, seriously, are you incapable of human speech?”
The kid stopped to brush the dirt from his jeans. With a sigh, Derek grabbed the back of his hoodie and started pulling him along. He squawked and kept up his complaints and questions, but Derek didn’t feel like answering. The only family member who knew about Paige was Peter, and it was Peter’s fault he was stuck with the kid. It might be petty, but he wasn’t above taking out his frustration on the brat.
“What is your damage, Tarzan? Can we try speaking in at least single-syllable words?” The kid jerked loose, and Derek glared at him until he started moving. “You know my father’s a deputy with the Sheriff’s department. He might even run for Sheriff in the next election. So, to law enforcement, this might be classified as kidnapping. I mean, you haul the Deputy’s impressionable, innocent, eleven-year-old out into the creepy woods against his will.”
“It’s called babysitting,” Derek all but growled at the kid.
“It speaks! See, you forget that we were left at home…my home. Where you were supposed to sit on your butt and make sure I didn’t burn down the house. And seriously, it was one time, and the fire department proved that soldering iron was on the recall list. You make one little mistake that isn’t even your fault, and they act like you’re a baby. I don’t need a sitter.”
“What were you doing with a soldering iron?” Derek would let the kid talk as long as he just kept moving.
“I was making a burglar alarm.”
“How…you know what, I don’t want to know.”
“Fine with me. But I still want to know where you are hauling me when you are supposed to be watching me at home. I don’t really care. As long as you’re the one in trouble when we aren’t where Dad expects to find us. I have a long history of not being where Dad expects to find me, and I guarantee you that you don’t want to face that, so we need a plan to mitigate damage.”
“What does an eleven-year-old know about mitigating damage?” Derek tried not to smile at the weird little guy.
“I know a lot more than you.”
Derek rolled his eyes and pulled the kid out of the way of the rock he was about to trip over.
“I know that there is a breach of contract. In this case, the contract between you, the sitter, and my father, the employer. And when said contract is breached, it is your duty to mitigate the chance of additional or future damages. That means, Tarzan, that you hauled me out of my home where you were supposed to be watching me, and now you have to protect me from getting hurt because of your bad choices.”
“You’re not going to get hurt. We are just going to go get ice cream.” Derek held onto the tree limb until the kid got past it.
“Wrong answer. Dad has like six flavors of ice cream in the freezer. He gets them for me every time he feels guilty.” The sour scent of sorrow flowed off the boy suddenly.
“Look, if you have to know, I’m supposed to meet someone at the ice cream shop. We’re going to be late, so if you could move faster, I would appreciate it. I don’t want her to leave before we get there.”
“Her?” There was an evil cackle, and Derek jerked before looking at the kid with wide eyes. Where the hell did that sound come from? “Tarzan’s got a girl-friend,” he sing-songed.
Derek growled at him. “Shut up.”
“Did you go up to her and say, Me Tarzan, You Jane?” He laughed, “Wait, is her name Jane?” He gave Derek a mocking look, “Girls are gross; why do you want to spend time with them?”
“Her name is Paige, moron. And I like her, a lot.”
“Oh, does she know you have a crush on her? I can’t wait to see….”
The sharp crack of a gunshot rang out nearby, and Derek tackled Stiles to the ground behind a tree. A scream was followed by the sounds of running feet. They were approaching fast, and Derek listened for the direction, realizing they were too close for them to run without being seen. He motioned for the kid to stay quiet and received a nod.
Suddenly, a form came running onto the path, holding his abdomen. Derek could smell the blood running freely. Hunters with guns that smelled of wolfsbane surrounded him, and the injured man shifted to attack them. They shot him again, and he fell, his breath wet and wheezy. Derek got a good look at the man’s face as he shifted back to human, but it wasn’t anyone he recognized. There were a lot of unfamiliar wolves in the territory for the Summit that Alpha Ducaleon was organizing to make a treaty with the Hunters. Looks like these hunters didn’t get the message.
“I thought wolves knew that they should travel in packs.” One of the hunters said. “I figure any wolf that’s alone has to be an omega, don’t you boys?”
“Sounds about right to me.”
“Not…omega…,” the wolf wheezed out.
Derek could spot the black veins that were covering his arms and chest through the torn shirt and bit his lip to hold back the sob. He wanted to howl for his Alpha, but he knew better. Peter had drilled them all on how to hide and stay safe.
“Well, what do we have here?”
Derek spun around to see the hunter pointing a weapon at him and the kid. The kid he was supposed to be protecting. He pulled the kid behind him between him and the tree. “He’s human. He doesn’t know about this.”
“Oh, but he knows now, doesn’t he?”
“Just let us go. We haven’t done anything wrong.”
“Sorry kid, wrong time, wrong place. Way I see it, you were born a beast, and the kid’s a witness. Too bad.” The hunter raised his weapon to take a shot when suddenly the wolf launched himself from the path onto the hunter, ripping out his throat.
“Run!” He shouted as the other hunters descended on him.
Derek grabbed the kid and took off running, lifting the kid to carry him when he couldn’t keep up. A growl was cut off by a hail of gunfire. It was followed by shouts, running, and more gunfire. Derek cursed when he felt like he had been kicked by something and his leg was on fire.
All he could think about was finding someplace safe for the kid. Anyplace to keep them safe from the hunters, to keep them hidden from the hunters. Derek tripped and fell, dropping the kid as he went down. He scrambled back toward him and tried to pick him up again, but the kid was holding onto something and wouldn’t let go.
“Wait!” He ripped himself out of Derek’s grasp and stood up to pull on the object in his hand.
They were in a clearing; the only thing present was a massive tree stump. The object the kid was pulling at started to move, and Derek realized it looked like a cellar door hidden by the stump. He pushed the kid out of the way and used his own strength to wedge it open. He couldn’t tell how big the space was, but there was room for the two of them to fit inside.
“Get down there, now,” he ordered and waited until the kid was far enough inside to follow and close the door. It was just in time as he heard the hunters calling to each other as they ran through the clearing.
The kid was crouched down on the dirt floor, his eyes wide as saucers as he stared at Derek. Derek realized his eyes were glowing as he took in the room nestled below the tree’s roots. He moved closer, a finger over his lips in the sign for silence. He looked back toward the small shafts of light filtering from above where he could still hear the hunters and then motioned again. The kid nodded his understanding and made a motion like zipping his mouth shut.
The sound slowly faded as they passed on by, but Derek heard them on a cell phone calling in help to track them down before they left. He let go of the ladder he was holding onto and tried to turn when the pain in his leg caused it to buckle, and he fell to the floor.
“What is it?” the kid whispered as he moved closer without any hesitation.
Derek reached down and slowly let his nails turn to claws on just one hand to slice open the jeans over his injury.
“That is wicked. What are you?”
“Whoa, werewolves are real? Was that guy a werewolf? Are there a lot of you? Do you turn bloodthirsty at the full moon and eat people? Because if you do, there’s this bully in school named Jackson that could seriously be a snack for you guys.”
“No, we don’t eat people. We’ve been around a long time. If we ate people, then don’t you think someone would have noticed by now?” Derek shook his head. He tried to get a good look at his wound; it wasn’t pretty.
“You got shot!”
“Quiet,” Derek hissed. “They aren’t close, but they’re still out there looking for us.”
“But, we have to get you to a hospital. I mean, look at it. It looks like you’re already getting gangrene or something. Mrs. McCall is a nurse, and she had these medical books with pictures of gangrene, and it was beyond gross.”
“It’s not gangrene. It’s wolfsbane poisoning. The hunters put it in their bullets. If it reaches my heart, I’ll die.” Derek felt around the wound until he could feel the location of the bullet. It was just under the skin in front. It had almost made it all the way through.
He took the kid’s hand. “Do you feel that, just under the skin?”
The kid looked a little green but nodded. “Yeah.”
“That’s the bullet. I need to get it out. I’m going to cut open the skin and pull it apart. I need you to get the bullet.”
“That’s a crazy, bad idea. That’s why we need a hospital. So they can do this in a sterile environment with drugs and doctors, and tools. You can’t ask an eleven-year-old to dig around in your leg for a bullet. I mean, it’s kind of cool and gross and, well, crazy.”
“I’m a werewolf. I can heal without drugs and equipment. We don’t really go to doctors. But I need to get the bullet out, or it will keep poisoning me.” Derek didn’t want to tell him that the poison was already there. He was just hoping to survive long enough to get help, but he was in no condition to run.
“Right, werewolf. OK, I can do this…no, I can’t.”
“Yes, you can. I have faith in you, kid.” Derek let the claws grow again and sliced in deep enough to feel the bullet. He clenched his jaw to keep from screaming and pulled the skin apart.
“I see it.” The kid jabbed clumsily with his fingers, and Derek fought the urge to growl at him. “Got it. He held up the bloody bullet and swallowed. “That is the grossest thing I’ve ever done, and I challenged Scott to a gummy bear contest once.”
Derek ripped off part of his shirt and pressed it down on the wound. “You did good, kid.”
“Would you stop calling me kid?”
“Can’t remember your name.”
“What kind of name is Stiles?”
“Better than the one my parents gave me, trust me.”
“OK, then, Stiles. Thanks.”
They made small talk for a while, and Derek tried to save his energy for their chance to make it home. He needed to get Stiles to safety. He moved to check the wound, which wasn’t healing. Instead, black goo was oozing from it.
“I thought you said werewolves heal.” Stiles scooted from his side closer to Derek’s leg.
“We do when we’re not poisoned.”
Stiles moved his shirt aside to see the black veins traveling up his leg. “How do you get the poison out?”
“I’m not sure. Uncle Peter said something about burning it out, but he also said you had to have some of the same kind for the cure.” Derek leaned back against the wall. He tried to judge the time but only knew they had been out here for a few hours. He was dizzy and needed to make some decisions before things got worse. “Look, I don’t know how much longer before this gets me. I was hoping that we could wait until night to try to make it out of here. But I’m not sure I will be able to walk.”
Stiles shook his head. “No, you don’t get to go all sour puss wolf on me. You have a contract with Dad to stay with me and watch me and keep me safe. You’ve been keeping me safe, but you have to stay alive to do that. I just found out about werewolves and how many other things are there out there that I need to guilt you into telling me about when the adults won’t? So you are going to live. Do you hear me?”
Derek closed his eyes a moment in pain because he didn’t want to leave the kid. He was kinda growing on Derek.
Stiles took off his hoodie, pulled his own t-shirt off, and pressed it against Derek’s leg. “You are going to get your werewolf butt in gear and start healing. If we have to burn this out of you, we can do it. I believe we can do it, and you have to believe it too. Mom always said the greatest power in the world is our ability to make what we believe come true.”
Derek’s leg suddenly felt like it was on fire from within. He opened his eyes, and Stiles pressed the shirt down, his eyes and hands glowing white. The wolfsbane in his system flashed, and then the black poured from the wound before the wound sealed up and started to heal.
The glow faded from Stiles’ eyes, and he crumpled over, Derek barely catching him. He looked from the boy to his leg in wonder when bright light blinded him.
Derek jerked as a hand touched his shoulder and squinted his eyes.
“I’m sorry to wake you, sir. We are nearing our destination. I need you to secure your tray and return your seat to an upright position.” The flight attendant moved on to the next row as Derek adjusted his seat before securing his seatbelt.
He checked the time and rubbed his face. He was surprised he could sleep on the plane. He moved his leg and felt a slight burning sensation that seemed to just ghost away.
The pilot came on the speaker and welcomed everyone to Belem in Portuguese before repeating it in Spanish and English. Derek watched out the window as the plane descended and hoped this was the beginning of something good. He just needed to believe.
Derek made it through the press of humanity and the long lines with at least a shred of his patience intact. Airports and bureaucracy were terrible combinations. He had only a carry-on and a small backpack, so he was set. Derek was used to traveling light and purchasing clothing as needed. Werewolves had a tendency to go through clothes quickly after all.
He walked to where people were holding up signs while others waited to welcome their loved ones. Derek just looked around, hoping to spot Cora. His eyes caught a familiar face in the crowd, and he flashed back to a memory of his father in the stands at his first basketball game with a proud smile. Derek froze a moment before hefting his bag and heading over.
“Alpha Mateus,” Derek acknowledged the man awkwardly.
The man gave him a stern look, then broke into a smile and wrapped his arms around Derek in a huge hug. It took a moment for Derek to drop his bags and return it.
“None of that Alpha between us, my boy. It’s Tio to you. Look at you, all grown up and so much like your father.” He picked up the bag from the floor and barely gave Derek a moment to grab his pack before leading him away, an arm still wrapped around him. “It does this old heart good to see you alive and well. And, already an alpha. I was sorry to hear of your sister. I wish you children had been able to come to me.”
Derek tensed a little at the mention but forced himself not to pull away. “So, she never contacted you?”
“Laura? No, never. And we didn’t know to look. Cora was so young and angry when we got her. Too young to feel the difference between broken bonds and damaged ones. We should have looked harder, but we feared alerting any that Cora lived. The papers said all perished save Peter. But the stories we heard of him…well, he did not wake, and we thought the wolf had died and left a shell of a man. If we had known the wolf still lived, we would have done something.” Mateus led him to a car and placed the bags in the trunk.
“It’s ok. The important thing is you saved Cora. I can’t thank you enough.” Derek stared at him across the top of the car. “I mean it.”
“My boy, what would one do for family? No matter how far you may go, we are family.”
Derek took in the view as they headed out of the city. His Portuguese was rusty, but he pointed to one of the signs and tried to sound it out, “iniciativa de proteção aos cidadãos.”
Tio Mateus cursed, and Derek just raised an eyebrow at him. “Is new civic organization. Is trash talking of protecting the good people from the monsters of the world.”
Derek swallowed hard, “Argent.”
Mateus flashed his eyes at him, and Derek just rolled his. “It was started by Gerard Argent in the States. I’m not sure of his endgame, but the hunters mix with normal people and teach them to watch for danger. Supposedly they want to stamp out crime, but what they are really doing is using it as an excuse to identify and keep an eye on any supernaturals. I didn’t know it had spread outside the U.S.”
“They are up to something,” Mateus nodded. “Hunter filth is always up to something. I will spread the word in the community.”
Derek nodded and then changed the subject, “I expected Cora to be here.”
“Oh, she was a mad little firecracker. But if she is to return to the States with you, it is best she sits her school exams. I do not know what she will need in California to graduate. Still, I expect her to finish her schooling and go to universidade.”
“Our attorney is working with the school board to determine what she’ll need. Some of it she can test out of. If homeschooling is better, we can do that, but I would like her to do her senior year at Beacon High. For the social skills, if nothing else. I missed out on that.” Derek thought about how much they had all missed out on, and it still hurt.
“Expect a fight, but stand firm. Getting Cora to study what she cares not knowing is a struggle.”
“Well, then at least one thing hasn’t changed. Cora once shredded four history books because she didn’t want to read them. Peter bought a case of them and just kept putting a new one in front of her. You should have seen the look on Cora’s face when Peter told her he took the money for the books out of her allowance, so she better decide how much of a refund she wanted.” Derek started laughing with Mateus.
He caught a tender expression on Mateus’ face and lifted an eyebrow in question. “Is good to remember with laughter. It lifts my heart that you can laugh so. It means you can love.”
Derek rubbed at his chest and looked out the window. “I love my family and my pack. That’s all the love I need.”
“As long as you can love, you can grow. An Alpha who cannot grow with the pack is a dead Alpha.”
Mateus turned down a road, and Derek felt the moment the car passed through wards. They buzzed a little strangely. “Is something wrong with the wards?”
“You can feel that?”
“Yeah, I can usually feel them.”
“You get that from my mother’s side. A long line of witches there. She came to apprentice to my Grandfather’s Emissary. Papa just knew she was his mate and chased her around for months before she would speak to him.” Mateus chuckled like there was a joke in there. “The stories of him chasing her are, how do you say, epic.”
“Did she become the Emissary?”
“No. Alpha mate and Emissary are not a good combination. She would hex any who looked wrong at her children. But she had a talent for wards, and many of us inherited her talent to feel them.” He glanced back toward Derek and seemed to consider something. “Your Tia Izabella, my baby sister, was born human and served as our Emissary for many years. She is retired and her boy, Paulo, is my Emissary now. He is away to meet with other Emissaries about a strange magic on the wind. But Izzie can tell you of your ward sense if you want.” Mateus barked out a laugh, “Ha! She will tell you of it if you don’t want, too. Never cross a witch when she thinks she has something to tell you.”
Derek smiled and then sat up as they broke through the forest into a town. The houses and businesses were in good repair, and it was humming with people moving about their business for the day. They approached a community with several homes around what looked like a mansion converted to a community center.
“The Tavares Pack is throughout town. We have the Pack House,” He pointed toward the mansion, “and all are welcome there. It is more meeting hall for the Pack. Most live in the houses around it. But we thought you might be more comfortable in one of the apartments.” Mateus came to a stop in front of what looked like a triplex. It was facing the rear of the Pack House. “Papa had these built when my brothers and I wanted to move out. It was our…bachelor pads, I think you call them. This one will always be here for you when you visit.”
Derek turned to look at him, “Tio Mateus….”
“You are family, Derek. It would have been yours when you turned eighteen. Now it is yours as it was meant to be. So you always have a place where you know you are welcome.” Mateus got out and opened the trunk to grab the bags.
The apartment was a one-bedroom with a kitchenette. Derek noted that the living room bookshelves hid a murphy bed and was relieved that the bedroom had a queen. It was nicely decorated with handmade quilts on the bed and tasteful but heavy wood furniture. It spoke of welcome and comfort.
“We’ll just leave everything here, and you can unpack later. If I don’t bring you to your Tia Gabriela immediately, I will be sleeping in the den if she doesn’t kick me from the house.” Mateus motioned toward the door, and Derek nodded and followed him out.
“Everyone is excited to see you; we’ve planned for a party for the whole Pack.” He chuckled, and Derek realized that his horror must have shown in his scent and on his face. “That will be for the weekend. Tonight your Tia insisted it should just be the close family. You and Cora need time to reconnect.”
“Thank you,” and boy did Derek mean that. The Tavares pack was huge, and Derek was sure he wouldn’t be able to deal with all of them and see Cora again at the same time. “I don’t want to be rude to anyone, but I just need to see Cora.”
“Of course, you need to see your sister, my sweet boy.”
Derek looked up to see Tia Gabriela rounding the car and approaching him with open arms.
Derek smiled and moved forward into the hug. He took a deep breath to scent her and smelled a touch of cinnamon and corn. “Tia Gabriela, I’m so glad to see you. Do I smell mugunza?”
“Derek, you inherited the Tavares nose. But how did you know it was mugunza?” She laughed.
“I remember when you visited last. I think I was ten, and you made mugunza. I took one look at it and refused to eat it. I think I called it gruel.” Derek wrinkled his nose and shook his head at his childhood antics.
“Yes, you did. You refused to touch it. But then all the kids loved it so much, you snuck into the kitchen later and ate so much of it you made yourself sick.”
“I couldn’t understand how something that looked so bad could taste so good.”
“But you bounced back and asked for more the next day.” Mateus came up from behind.
Gabriela turned toward him and put her hands on her hips, “And you were supposed to bring him to the house.”
“We were headed there, my love. Tell her we were headed there, Derek.”
“We were headed there.” Derek made the delivery as deadpan as possible.
She wrapped an arm around Derek’s waist and took his arm, “You old reprobate, go park your car. My nephew and I will stretch our legs.”
Mateus gave her a peck on the cheek then drove off while Tia Gabriela led Derek toward the House.
“Now, if there is anything you want, you let me know. Other than dinner, everyone will leave the two of you alone tonight. Cora’s classes are afternoon, and she has exams all week so that she can finish the school year early.”
Derek frowned, “We can keep her out of school for the rest of the fall semester at home, but she will need to do placement tests so they can determine what she needs in January for spring.”
Gabriela shook her head, “America and your backward seasons. She will gripe, but she has her heart set on restoring your Preserve. Cora has been researching your University of California for a Wildlife Management degree. She does not know we are aware, but we have watched and planned. It is your place as her Alpha to provide her the opportunity to live those dreams.”
“I’ll do everything I can,” Derek promised. “I wish we could all live our dreams. Sometimes our dreams are so much better than reality.” Derek murmured the last.
Tia Gabriela hugged him with the arm around his waist. “Our dreams, true dreams, are a window into a world that Fate desires. She teases us with possibilities if we are just willing to make the sacrifice to see them come true.”
Derek yawned as they climbed the back steps.
“Look at this old woman talking your ear off when you are exhausted from your travels,” she clucked at herself.
“No, I’m fine,” Derek insisted, even as another yawn escaped.
“Silly boy,” She fondly tousled his hair and then pushed him toward a hammock strung up in the shade. “Go rest for a while. I will wake you when Cora arrives.”
Derek gave in gracefully and gave her a kiss on the cheek. “Thank you, Tia Grabriela.”
She left him there to go back inside. Derek shrugged and took the opportunity to stretch out on the hammock. He set it to gently swinging in the afternoon breeze as he closed his eyes for just a moment to relax.
The car came to a stop, and the distinctive sounds of Cora stomping up the front steps could be heard. She banged the door open and yelled out, “Derek, get your butt outside and deal with him before I kill him!”
Derek groaned as he pulled on his shirt and ran his hand through his hair again. He grabbed his jacket and headed downstairs to deal with the yelling.
“Rude, Corella deVille! You almost took my fingers off in that door!”
“I’m going to take your head off if you don’t shut up.”
“Children, do I need to separate you?” Peter came out of the kitchen holding a small picnic basket.
“YES!” They both yelled, then Cora turned and stalked off.
Derek rolled his eyes and walked past them on his way to the front door.
“Derek!” Stiles spun, tripped, righted himself, and started running toward Derek. “Did you get it? Tell me you didn’t crash and burn again. Please, tell me you kept your cool, and you got it.”
Derek pulled out his wallet and opened it up to show off his brand new driver’s license with a grin.
“Yes!” Stiles leaped into the air with his fist raised in victory. “I knew you could do it. This is going to be great. We can take off, leave the grown-ups and grumps behind, and cruise the town.”
Derek shook his head. “Have to be another time. I’ve got a date.”
“Noooooo. I thought you said you would never date anyone again after Paige moved to Timbuktu, Michigan for that fancy music school. What gold-digger has her hooks into you now?”
Tapping Stiles on the chest with each point, Derek corrected the boy, “Hey, first of all, I can date if I want to. And Paige worked hard for acceptance to that high school. And, for your information, Jeremy Jones is not a gold-digger.”
“Ewwww, you’re dating JJ Jerkoff?!” Stiles shouted.
“Language!” Peter admonished Stiles as he bumped the basket against his rear-end.
“But, Pops, Jones is a bully every time he comes to the Junior High.”
“No, he’s not, Uncle Peter,” Derek defended his friend. “He’s bossy with his little brothers. And the twins get into enough trouble that they need someone to boss them around a little.”
“I don’t care if they are brothers; he’s pushy and a bully and I hate him! If you want to spend all your time making out with a bully, then I hope you wreck and they take your license away. Maybe I’ll curse your tires and see how well you drive.” Stiles’ face was twisted up, angry, and he was turning red.
Derek just stared at the boy in shock as tiny twitches of electricity sparked between his fingers.
Peter dropped the basket before reaching out to spin Stiles around. He gripped him on the shoulders and shook him a little. “Don’t you ever, ever threaten someone with magic out of anger and spite. Magic is a gift and a tool. It should be used with knowledge, consideration, protection, and love. Don’t let it poison you with hate.”
Stiles’ face crumpled, and Peter pulled him into a hug. “I didn’t mean it.”
“I know you didn’t, sweetheart.” Peter took out a handkerchief and wiped Stiles’ face before giving him a last hug and handing him the basket. “Your magic tutor is waiting for you out back. He wants to take you out to the lake to work on your water element. Here is a snack and an early dinner if the two of you take more than a few hours.”
“OK, thanks, Pops,” Stiles took the basket and, after one last forlorn look Derek’s way, dropped his backpack and headed for the back door.
Peter just raised an eyebrow at Derek as the back door slammed shut.
“I didn’t start that, Peter.” Derek blew out a breath in frustration. “I’m allowed to go out and date. I don’t know why he blew up like that.”
Peter just shook his head. “Derek, I’m sure he doesn’t understand it. Did you notice that at the beginning of the year, everything was Lydia this and Lydia that?”
“Yeah, won’t shut up about her. So what?”
“He hasn’t mentioned her name in almost two months.”
Derek thought about that. It couldn’t be right. He was always talking about the perfect strawberry goddess, the most intelligent girl in his class. But, come to think of it, he hasn’t heard her name lately. “So, he got over her.”
“She went to the movies with Jackson Whittemore.” Peter reached down and picked up Stiles’ backpack. “The thing is, I don’t think he really liked the girl. He thought he was supposed to like a girl because all the other boys in school talked about girls, and you always talked about Paige. Now you say you’re going out with a boy.”
“Peter, that’s stupid. You and Noah are married. Stiles has no reason to be mad about me dating a boy.” Derek slid his wallet back in his pocket and reached for the car keys on the hook by the door.
With a sigh, Peter leaned back against a wall and shook his head. “It amazes me how blind teenagers can be. He’s not angry, Derek. He’s jealous. And, probably a little confused.”
Derek just stared, his brain not connecting. “He’s a kid, Peter. He’s only twelve.”
“He’s twelve, going on thirty, with ADHD and a few neuroses that we are working on with his therapist. It doesn’t help that intellectually Stiles is ready for college, but physically and emotionally, he’s still just a kid. He’s also filled to the brim with magic. When this all mixes together to overwhelm him, we have to pull him out of school and blame it on his meds. It makes him the awkward, spastic little freak to the other kids. He’ll grow into it eventually, but for now, his hormones and emotions are running everywhere.”
Peter ran fingers through his hair and took a breath. “His feelings are not your responsibility. But, he is your friend, even if you are sixteen and he is twelve. The two of you share a special bond. I expect a future Alpha of my pack to show a higher level of maturity when it comes to being sensitive to his emotions. Don’t rub your dates in his face and leave the rest to Noah and myself to deal with.”
Derek rubbed at his chest where his pack bonds felt heavy and nodded. “I can do that. I’ll make sure Stiles knows it’s ok to like boys and girls. But, I don’t feel the same way about him.”
“Of course you don’t. He’s still a child. Your feelings are just as valid as his. Just don’t let his crush ruin your friendship.” Peter tossed him something, and Derek caught it.
Derek looked down at the keys in his hand, “What’s this?”
“Well, if you’re going out on a date with this guy, I figured you would rather do it in your own car. It’s around back.” Peter broke into a huge smile. “A few days late, but Happy Birthday, Derek.”
He stared in shock at his Uncle before he looked back down at the Ford Mustang logo on the key fob. Derek gave out a big whoop and hugged Peter hard before running for the back door.
Throwing open the door, he ran out to see Mom, Dad, Laura, Cora, and Noah surrounding the car. It was a black mustang with blue flames across the hood and front fenders, tapering out over the doors. They were all grinning like loons at him. The answering smile on Derek’s face was so big it hurt as he ran his hands over the hood.
“So, Derek,” Laura’s voice had an edge of certainty as she came up next to him. “Who gets the first ride? Me or Cora?”
Derek looked at his sisters, then turned to look across the backyard toward the trail to the lake. Stiles was standing there with his tutor, watching everything with a frown.
“Stiles!” Derek called out. “Wanna go for a ride?”
Stiles jerked around and looked to his tutor before handing the man the basket and running toward Derek. “HELL, YEAH!”
“Language!” all of the adults called out, then Noah just put his head in his hands.
Derek climbed in and adjusted the seat and mirrors before tightening his seatbelt. He started up the engine and listened to it rev.
“Drive careful!” Noah called out to them.
Derek traded a wicked look with Stiles then took off. The sound of revving engine and radio blaring with them.
The slamming of the car door doused the music, and Derek jerked himself upright from the hammock.
“Derek!” Cora was up the stairs, onto the porch, and launching herself at him before he could stand. The hammock spun, and they both landed in a tangle of limbs on the porch.
“Cora.” Derek held onto his sister. The heat of her body, her breath on his neck, the scent of her sun-warmed skin, the sound of her heartbeat all came together and chased away that last worry that it had all been a dream. She was here, and she was alive.
“I don’t know how to feel about Uncle Peter,” Cora’s scent was angry/sad/confused.
They were curled up in Derek’s apartment after a slightly too long dinner with the family. It was their first chance to be completely alone. Cora had questions, and Derek had decided to get the hard ones out of the way fast. He figured she needed as much time as possible to come to terms before they returned to Beacon Hills.
“You’re allowed to feel however you need to feel,” Derek reached out to take her hand. “I was angry at him at first. But you need to keep in mind that the Peter who first woke up wasn’t Uncle Peter.”
She gave him a quizzical look, so he tried to explain.
“Six years in a coma, not healing properly. Later, we figured out that Kate sent a hunter in as a nurse who kept dosing him with a wolfsbane infusion that kept his healing suppressed. They wanted to use him to flush us out. It’s why they didn’t just kill him outright.” He was rubbing his fingers gently over her knuckles, something he did when she was a child to relax her.
“I honestly don’t know what changed. I think the hunter tried to give him a drug to kill him, and instead, it jump-started his healing. I don’t even know if she was aware of it at first, but she set out a trap for Laura. Somehow Laura became aware of activity back home and left me in New York to investigate.”
Derek sighed and met Cora’s eyes. “Peter’s memory of it is mixed up. He killed Laura. He regrets that he was the cause of her death. But he doesn’t regret taking the Alpha power to protect our territory and get vengeance for our Pack. His oath as the Left Hand was the only thing he had to hold onto. He was practically feral and all but omega, but he held to his oaths. In the end, I agreed to help him if he would relinquish the power once all involved in the fire had paid. He killed Kate Argent and then gave me the power.”
“So, is he healed? Is he Uncle Peter now?” And God, did she sound like a little girl asking if her favorite uncle was coming home.
“He’s better and closer to the Uncle Peter we remember every day. I don’t know if any of us will ever really be the same, but I trust him to protect the pack.”
“So if he’s better, then why didn’t he come with you?”
“A few reasons, I think.” Derek started counting off on his fingers. “He’s hyper-protective of the pack, so he isn’t comfortable with both of us leaving them. He’s been doing some research project about the Preserve, magic, and the nemeton. I don’t pretend to understand it. I think he is nervous that you’re going to hate him, and frankly, Cora, you were his favorite way back when. It will kill him a little if you outright hate him, even if he thinks you should because of Laura.”
“I don’t hate him. I’m angry, and I don’t know what to do about that. But I can’t hate him; he saved me.”
Derek just nodded in understanding, “And finally, he has this little romance thing going with the town Sheriff. He’s a widower, and Peter has latched onto him. They have some kind of co-dependent thing going on, but they are completely besotted with one another.”
“Oh?” Cora smirked, “Peter’s in love? I remember him telling mom that love was for suckers and saps.”
“Yup. And the best part about it is that they are oblivious. They just call it friends with benefits or stress relief, but then Peter stops to take him lunch every day at work.”
“This is just too good.” She leaned forward and grinned like she had done when they were kids plotting against Laura and Peter. “How much can I get away with before he stops feeling guilty?” She raised an eyebrow and let loose with an evil little laugh.
“You know I could pass the college entrance exams in my sleep.”
Derek rolled his eyes before he turned back to put a stack of jeans into his suitcase. “And I know that you have researched everything you can on fourteen-year-olds in college. But there is no way Noah and Peter will let you graduate early just so you can tag along with me to college.”
Stiles sighed and threw himself onto Derek’s bed.
Derek pushed him back with the case. “Besides, I’m just going to Stanford. I’ll be back for weekends all the time.”
“Ha! You say that now, but when you’re pledging some fraternity and spending all hours with your college friends, you’ll forget all about me.”
Derek grinned, “Trust me, Stiles, I could never forget you. You’re like five-day-old hot tuna; the smell’s never going away.”
“Hey, screw you, too.” Stiles threw a pillow at him, and Derek dodged it with a laugh.
“Seriously though, you’re starting High School this year. You’re going to completely blow the curve and leave the idiots wondering what happened.”
“Right, because being the biggest nerd in the school is the way to get ahead.” Stiles blew a raspberry. “Screw you, Cujo, you’re just setting me up for a daily trip into the dumpster. I’ve seen the movies. I know what the jocks do to the nerds.”
“Then go out for sports.” Derek looked over his bags and decided he needed more socks.
Stiles shot up in the bed and gave Derek a Stilinski-patented What-the-Fuck? look. Noah could deploy it with master-level precision in his role as Sheriff. Stiles was just starting to hit an age where he could put force behind it.
“Take one look at this scrawny heap of bones and skin, remember how many times you have kept me from dying, and then tell me one sport that I could possibly not be considered an instant laughing stock.”
Derek looked him up and down before staring at him firmly, “Cross-Country.”
“Field and track. Look, not everyone is meant to play contact sports. Just because those are the sports that get all the attention doesn’t mean that the others aren’t just as important to the school. So, play to your strengths. Your coordination is getting better. You still have a couple growth spurts to go, but you have a runner’s body. Use it. You run through the Preserve with the Pack all the time. So, think about it. Coach is always looking for long-distance runners.”
“Is this the same Coach who Dad says is insane?” Stiles looked at him like he was the crazy one.
“Yeah, he’s a little crazy. But he’s cool in a weird way. I think you would like him.” Derek zipped closed the suitcase and set it by the door. He wasn’t leaving until tomorrow for the Freshman Orientation week, but he didn’t want to rush in the morning.
He pulled his desk chair around and took a seat facing Stiles. “Look, I need to go to college alone. Consider it a life lesson in survival and finishing what I start. There’s an Alpha there that Mom has set up for me to work with to see how Alphas in large cities run packs. If I’m ever going to have a pack of my own, it’s something I need to learn. And you need to learn how to handle school and everything without me, too.”
“Because I have to learn how to be alone? Trust me, Derek, I was alone before all the supernatural stuff exploded in my face. I know how to be alone, and it sucks.” Stiles moved back until his back was to the wall, and he pulled up his knees to hug them.
“No, not how to be alone. You need to learn that you are self-sufficient and capable and extraordinary. You have the strength and the resolution to achieve any goal you set your mind to and the fortitude to face your challenges.” Derek took a breath and tapped Stiles’ shoe. “You can stand on your own two feet, but even when none of us are around, you will never be alone. That’s what Pack means. And you, Stiles Stilinski, you are the heart of our Pack.”
“Eww, enough of the mushy,” Stiles’ ears were red. It was kinda adorable.
“High school and college, that’s where the world starts to get real. But no matter what, Stiles, we’ll always be friends.” Derek held out a hand, and Stiles immediately took it.
“Wouldn’t have it any other way.”
A knocking at the door caused Derek to turn.
“Derek! It’s dinner time.”
Derek rubbed the sleep out of his eyes and looked around to see the time.
“Derek!” Alexsandre Tavares, one of Derek’s many cousins of indiscriminate degrees and subsequently his neighbor, knocked again on the door.
“I’m coming!” Derek called out. “I just need to wash my face and change my shirt.”
“Do what you need, but you will never be as handsome as me.”
The sound of heckling told Derek that Alex wasn’t alone.
Derek used a washcloth to freshen up, then grabbed his shirt for tonight’s Pack dinner. He opened the door as the razzing reached a peak outside.
“The way I see it, if you are so handsome now, then we have nothing to fear. From here on out, you will just get fat, lazy, and old. The rest of us will become distinguished.” Derek grinned when the men broke out in laughter.
Alexandre tried to look affronted, but he was just too easy-going for that to last long. “Come, let us eat, drink, and dance with all the pretty girls. Then I will show you who will grow fat and lazy.”
The sounds of music were already playing across the lawn as they headed toward the lit-up backyard. Long sturdy tables were laden with food, and children ran around, chasing one another. The occasional flash of golden eyes reminding Derek of a childhood playing with his siblings.
Five days Derek had been with the Tavares Pack, and Tia Gabriela had made sure that he wasn’t overwhelmed with family. He sighed as he watched them all from the outskirts. This was the other reason Peter hadn’t come. These people weren’t Peter’s family. He let go of a little bit of the anger he had been nursing for Laura as well. She wouldn’t have accepted them either.
He allowed Alex and the guys to pull him in, and he just joined the flow. Derek gave up on trying to remember everyone and just focused on linking scents. That was something he never forgot. There were friendly faces, more food than even a wolf could eat, speeches and introductions to the Pack, music and dancing.
Cora drifted back and forth between Derek and her friends. He realized that while this was a welcome for him, it was a farewell for her. They couldn’t leave until all of her paperwork for re-entry to the U.S. was finalized, but they likely wouldn’t see all of these people in one place again. He encouraged her to have fun and spend what time she could with them.
When the music turned soft, people gathered around the tables, tired from the dancing, to talk and connect. There was a sense of peace. Derek felt the need to move away for just a few minutes. Seeking a bubble of solitude. He stood at the edge of the clearing, staring at the sky and breathing in the fresh air.
“The night is beautiful, is it not?”
Derek turned to see Tia Izabella approaching him, a light shawl wrapped around her shoulders. “When we were kids, Cora and I would sneak into the Preserve at night to watch the stars. Dad would come out and tell us the stories of the constellations.”
She smiled and leaned into him. “There is magic in such memories. They feed the bonds that connect us.”
“Can humans feel the bonds? Uncle Peter said not all can.” Derek was thinking of Noah. Of the bond that was waiting but seemed unanchored or unfinished.
“Yes. All living things can feel the bonds between us. Belief is what makes a difference. Their belief and yours. An Alpha has an immense well to nurture bonds if only the alpha believes in the connection and wills it into being. A human’s ability to feel that bond depends on how much they reciprocate that belief. Too often, humans dismiss what they feel as not logical or fantasy. Those of us who have a touch of magic have more belief than the average human. For us,” She touched her chest and then Derek’s, “the bond between our Alpha and us becomes a physical presence that anchors us to the world.”
Derek turned to look at her, “Magic users need anchors?”
She nodded emphatically, “Yes. As much if not more than your wolf does. Without our anchor, we can lose ourselves in the magic. We lose control and either burn out or lose control of our minds.”
“The Hale Pack Emissary was a druid, and I don’t remember anything about anchors.”
“Druids,” Izabella scoffed. “They like to make you believe they are so mystic. Their religion is their anchor. Their sacred Balance.”
“Balance isn’t a good anchor?”
“Whose Balance is it? Is Balance the same for all of them? What evil will they do to maintain their idea of Balance?” She waved her hand like wiping it away. “Balance between nature and magic is important. But it is not something that they should have to shape.”
“So the rituals and symbols they use? Is that just another way of manipulating balance?”
She tapped a finger against her lips a moment. “Rituals and symbols are not exclusive to druids. They are a way all magic users reinforce their anchor so they can control whatever amount of magic they can tap into.”
Izabella removed her shawl and knelt down on the ground. Derek followed her. She stretched out the shawl and placed it so that it curved back and forth with the fringe feathering out around it.
“Magic is like a river through the Earth. It’s the life’s blood of all that exists. It flows through the world in leylines.” She touched the fringe. “Tendrils dissipate the magic into the world until it infuses the ground we walk on and the air we breathe. Those of us with the talent to use magic can use little symbols and rituals to gather the magic to us and control it.”
She drew out some runes in the dirt, whispered some words, and a small, golf-ball-sized ball of gentle light appeared. “We are limited by how much magic we can control and how much we can gather. The closer to the tendrils, the closer to the leylines, the greater the magic we have at hand. But we are still limited by what we can control.”
Izabella pointed back toward the shawl. “You are in Beacon Hills, where a nemeton exists. The magic flows and pools in such a place so that even those with little ability can do great works. We have such a place here, down the river. Perhaps I will take you to see it.”
“I would like that.” He wondered what the difference was between a healthy and damaged nemeton. “So, all magic users need anchors and use rituals and symbols to reinforce their anchor and control magic.”
“Well, not all,” She laughed a little. “If a magic-user were a Spark, then rituals and symbols are meaningless.”
“I’ve never heard of a Spark.” Derek glanced from the ball of light to Izabella.
“Few have that do not know of nemeta. Sparks are rare, almost legend. Nemeta are not just places of power; they are a release valve for magic. They occur on the nexus of many leylines and magic pools under them. When the world’s magic isn’t releasing properly, when the world is damaged in some way, the nemeta release the pressure by spreading magic into the world in a burst of power. If all goes right, it will show as a burst of renewed life and growth. It flows outward, healing what was damaged.”
“If all goes right?”
“Nemeta are always represented by a living thing. Trees, cacti, coral, and so on can all be nemeta. They are sturdy and hard to damage. But, all living things can be damaged. Little damages it can heal as it releases magic. But catastrophic damage, that isn’t so easy. When that happens, the node can shift either all or in part to a new life that is nearby.” She picked up her shawl and wrapped it around herself again.
“There have been times in our world’s history when a nemeton was damaged so and latched onto a new life that was human and had the potential for magic within. These people are Sparks. They have a direct tap into the magic of the world. Their only limit is their imagination, their belief, and the strength of their anchor.”
Derek considered that and sat back on his heels in thought. “Why is their anchor so important?”
Her eyes took on a faraway look, “Imagine the power pouring through a nemeton when the pressure must be relieved. What being could survive without a complete belief in their connection to their own humanity? I would not wish to tempt such fate without a connection to my Pack and a bond that was as strong as steel.”
A cold chill ran down his back, and Derek tilted his head to the side as if hearing a whisper of leaves on the wind. Izabella nudged him and motioned for him to get up. Derek stood and then reached down to give her a hand up. He smiled softly and offered her his arm before leading her back toward the tables.
“Be careful on your travels, Derek.” She said before they neared the others. “There was a shifting of power earlier this year as if a renewal was starting to release, but it didn’t happen. Magic has been capricious since then.”
He followed her gaze back toward the little ball of light that was now dancing about as if someone was tossing it from hand to hand. He looked to Tia Izabella, and her brow was wrinkled as if trying to exert control. The light spun about as if in a whirlwind, then seemed to burst into tiny sparkles and dissipate on the wind.
Derek parked his car outside the Stilinski residence and took a deep breath before getting out. He double-checked his hair in his rearview mirror and looked around to see if any of the neighbors were watching him. Kicking himself for being so self-conscious, Derek opened the door. He climbed out before reaching in for his jacket because there was no way Noah was letting them escape without photos.
He adjusted the red waistcoat of his tux and then slipped on the jacket before heading up the steps to the front door.
“Finish admiring yourself?” Peter was opening the door before he even reached it.
“Well, when you have this much to admire.” Derek traded grins with his uncle as he entered.
Noah was immediately on him, the flash blinding him for a moment. “Sorry, but you and Peter smiling at the same time? I had to do it.” He slipped his phone in his pocket and held up his hands in surrender. “Come on in, Stiles is going through round thirty of how to fix his hair.”
Derek followed them into the living room and carefully took a seat. He glanced at the clock, but they had plenty of time, so he wasn’t worried. They sat in silence for a few minutes, neither of them knowing how to start a conversation. Peter walked in with a glass of water and placed it in front of Derek before rolling his eyes.
“I’ll be up making sure he doesn’t shave himself bald in frustration.” He headed up the stairs, and they were left in silence again.
Noah sighed, “Look, Derek, I just wanted to say thank you for treating this seriously. It means a lot to me that you agreed to go to the Winter Formal as Stiles’ date. I know you’re finishing your program at Stanford, and dropping everything for this isn’t what you were planning on.”
Derek shook his head, surprised and suddenly nervous. “No, it’s fine. I…well, I wanted to go to the dance with him. Stiles is my best friend, and I would never want to do anything to hurt him. But I like him…a lot. Not just in a best friend way, if you know what I mean.” Derek cut himself off and flinched at the look of shock on Noah’s face.
“You’re not just saying that?”
“No, sir. I was actually hoping you might give me permission to date Stiles for real.”
Noah looked suddenly stern, “You’re 21, and Stiles is only 17.”
Derek nodded, “I realize you’re concerned. I just want to date him. To find out if we might be something more than just friends. But I swear I would never do anything until he was legal and ready. I don’t want to hurt him, and I would never want to lose his friendship.”
Noah’s expression was stern/considering, but Derek noticed his scent was happy/relieved, “Well, I believe you when you say you wouldn’t cross the line with him until he’s ready and legal. And, as he has pointed out to me ten times in the last week alone, he will be 18 in four months. So, I will tentatively give my blessing.”
Derek felt like his heart was beating a million beats a second. He smiled wide, “You won’t regret it.”
“Oh, I’m sure I will. But I trust you. And, I’m sure you won’t mind a chaperone or two on occasion.”
“Chaperone?” Derek blinked.
“Chaperone,” Noah repeated with a smirk.
“Dad! If you scare him off now that I have a date with him, I will never forgive you.” Stiles came down the steps, followed by Peter.
Derek just stared at him. Gone was the gangly-limbed spastic boy and in front of him was a well-toned, confident man. The black tux was perfectly fitted to accentuate his shoulders and impossibly long legs. The bright red waistcoat, a match for Derek’s own, set off that pale skin in a way that drew attention to the long throat. The wide, sparkling eyes seemed to be pools of liquid amber staring back at Derek.
He didn’t notice that Peter had descended the stairs until he heard his voice behind him. “Well, if you want to get out of here in time for your dinner reservations, then you should line up and let Noah get his photos.”
Derek just nodded, unable to take his eyes off Stiles. He felt hands on his arm moving him over to the stairs. “Derek, may I introduce your date for the evening, Stiles. Stiles, this is Derek. Now let’s move in close together and face the camera.”
The camera flash caught Derek unaware, and he turned to look back at the two men who were chuckling as they motioned for Derek to put an arm around Stiles. He gave in gracefully and allowed Noah to get about a hundred pictures to document the occasion. Peter took over at one point, muttering something about mug shots and prison photos.
Finally, they were out the door and headed to the restaurant.
“I thought we would never escape the torture.” Stiles wiggled around in the seat, getting comfortable as he reached out to adjust the air vents and then the radio. “I’m starving, so I’m totally holding out for dinner. But, if you don’t really want to go to the dance, we can just hang out.”
Derek was quiet until they pulled into the restaurant parking lot, then he grabbed Stiles’ arm before he could unbuckle his seatbelt.
“Derek?” Stiles’ voice was tentative.
Reaching out, Derek turned Stiles’ face up until he forced him to meet his eyes. “We are going to have dinner, then we are going to the dance and dancing all night long. I’m not going to the dance with you because I felt sorry for you or I’m doing you a favor. Stiles, I’m going to the dance with you because I like you, and I want to date you. Noah gave me permission tonight, so this is our first official date.”
“Seriously. But this is just dating, so we can figure out if we want more.” Derek put his hand over Stiles’ mouth before he could say anything. “No matter what, we stay friends. And nothing more than dating will happen until you are eighteen and we are both ready for more.”
“Holy crap! And Dad didn’t try to shoot you when you asked? That means you’re practically son-in-law material. I’ll probably be the only 18-year-old virgin at school, but I am all in on the dating thing. Though, it’s going to be hard to beat this. This is a hell of a romantic way to start dating.”
Derek raised an eyebrow as he opened the door, “What, you think I can’t do romance? Challenge accepted.”
He got out quickly and made his way over to open Stiles’ door. Derek offered a hand to help Stiles out and received a laugh in return.
“What am I, some damsel?”
“Why, you wanna be Snow White?”
“Hell, no. I think I’m more Belle.”
“Because you tamed the Beast?”
“Well, if you wanna go there…but I was thinking that if someone was going to make me be the princess, then I better get the awesome library as a consolation prize.”
Derek reached out to take Stiles’ hand and lead him into the restaurant with a smile. They were jostled as someone passed by them and knocked Derek back against a post.
“Sorry about that.”
Derek looked around and noted that the boat had docked at the little pier.
“Sorry to wake you, Derek,” Tia Izabella’s son Paulo said as he removed his hand from Derek’s shoulder. “This is our stop.”
Derek nodded and noted that the Pack members making the trip with them were already on the dock. “How far is it to the nemeton from here?”
Paulo and Izabella were taking him on the day trip to the Nemeton. Few packs lived as close to a node as Beacon Hills, but he had learned that the Emissaries and pack elders usually checked on it several times a year.
“It is only an hour inland from here,” Paulo responded. They checked their packs for supplies and water before heading out. Three others followed behind, but it was clear they were there as escorts and protection only for the human members of the Pack.
Paulo only returned home two days before, and Derek hadn’t had a chance to speak to him much.
“I understand you were having a meeting with other Emissaries,” Derek broke the silence. “Is that something that happens often?”
Paulo shook his head, “No, maybe one or two when working on treaties. But such a large gathering? No. But, the meeting was not so much about emissaries as about magic.”
“You were learning magic?”
“Ha! As if those old fakers would share their parlor tricks.” Tia Izabella scoffed at the idea.
Some of the pack members rolled their eyes. Obviously, this was a common complaint.
“Mama, please,” Paulo half scolded-half begged. “Not all are willing to share. And, no, we were comparing notes. Magic has been strange for several months now. It is erratic and hard to control. We gathered to test and compare. There is much worry.”
“What’s to be worried about?”
Paulo looked concerned, “One colleague reported that in a desert, there was a storm for three days. It was over only one square mile. Now there is an oasis where before there was only rock and sand.”
“So, what, a little pond or something?”
He shook his head, “An artesian fed lake surrounded by trees fifteen feet tall for shade grew in three days.”
Derek took a deep breath in shock. “That’s not possible.”
Izabella called back from in front of them, “With magic, possibility is only limited by power, control, and imagination. Though that is a lot of all of those combined.”
“There were many more stories. Some of renewal and many more of destruction. Magic can be a powerful tool in the right hands. But if there is no control, it can be a bomb waiting to explode.” Paolo met Derek’s gaze as that sunk in and then moved forward to take the lead.
They continued in silence until they reached an area where the vines and growth were turning brown. Paolo and Izabella traded concerned looks then raced forward into the worst of the dying vegetation. Derek heard Paulo curse as Izabella started to cry softly.
He broke out into a clearing with a giant wimba tree taking center stage. The tree itself looked healthy, but the vegetation around it was dead.
Members of the Pack would come no closer, but Derek ventured forth next to Paulo and Izabella, who lay hands on the tree.
“What caused this? Disease?” Derek asked.
“No.” Paulo shook his head and looked around. “The magic…it drew from life instead of fed it. This is not normal. Even a sick nemeton is a source of life. It is the magic; it does not flow right.”
Derek turned in place. A sudden wind whipped around them all and turned into a dust devil. Wherever it touched, the detritus crumbled and blew away, leaving soil stripped of life behind as they watched.
Paulo pulled Derek and Izabella in close against the tree as the rest of the pack members moved out of the clearing. Paulo and Izabella were both chanting desperately, and Derek felt the presence of wards surround him.
One dust devil split into three and then nine before they all headed for the tree and then just disappeared into a gentle breeze. Derek closed his eyes as the scents of medication, rosemary, and peppermint flowed over him with the breeze and brought an image of liquid amber eyes to mind. He wondered where he had seen those eyes before.
“Has anyone been out to the Nemeton recently to check on it?” Derek accepted the cup of tea from Paulo as he took a seat at the table. He glanced back to the screen at Peter’s silence. “Peter?”
Peter let out a long exhale then nodded. “Noah goes out there regularly. The Nemeton is unchanged, but he says the land around it is behaving strangely.”
“Strangely, how?” Paulo asked.
“Over the last several months, it seems to alternate between growing and dying. As if the seasons are sped up near it.”
“Have you seen this?”
Peter shook his head, stopped, then raised a hand and tilted it from side to side. “Every time I’ve been, it looks…as if it were Fall. Everything changing color and the leaves falling. I honestly haven’t given it much thought. But there is no way that the leaves can be falling every time I go. Eventually, the trees would be bare unless they are growing new leaves.” He sounded suddenly perplexed.
“You haven’t been going with Noah?” Derek asked, confused considering how much time Peter spent with the man.
“There are times he needs me with him and times he needs to go alone. I respect that.” Peter’s tone indicated he wouldn’t be discussing the subject of Noah again.
“Just take care of him, Peter. It’s important that someone watch out for him. And make sure he’s eating healthy.” Derek tensed up when he said that. He couldn’t explain why it was important that they took care of Noah, but it was.
Paulo seemed to sense that they had strayed into forbidden territory and redirected the call. “Do you know if there are any other reports of magic affecting the land?”
“Well, that’s hard to say. What is magic, and what is just coincidence?” Peter pulled out his tablet and opened a file. “The power grid has been experiencing issues, so we may end up with rolling brown-outs soon. The tides are higher than normal along the Pacific Coast. At the same time, the Gulf and Atlantic hurricane season was extended this year. The weather is just a bit off all over the globe, but not uniformly so. Meteorologists are having nervous breakdowns.” Peter flicked around on the device.
“Climate is a hot button topic, so the smallest difference is reported. But is that just general climate change, or is it magic at work?” He shrugged, then shook his head. “Migratory patterns seem off. Not just for mundane animals but for supernaturals as well. There’s been a recent uptick in supernaturals drawn to places of power. For the darker types, it’s a fight to keep them out. For the peaceful variety…well, those we can speak to seem concerned for their safety.”
Tio Mateus, who had been quietly reviewing reports to the side, spoke up, “We have had more than the average request for permission to stay in our borders for the last month. Is this what you mean?”
“Alpha Mateus,” Peter acknowledged the man with a slight bow of the head. “Yes. Some of them are relocations after Argent’s CPI made waves where they were living. Others report they feel uncomfortable where they are and request permission to enter the territory. Not just our territory, but I’ve been communicating with other Packs who are experiencing the same issues.”
“Do we know what the Hunters are up to with the organization?” Mateus asked Peter.
“When it first started, I would have guaranteed you that Gerard was after the Hale Pack. But he hasn’t made a move against us. In fact, overall, there’s been a decrease in hunter activity.” Peter traded looks with Mateus.
Derek thought before speaking, “Several months ago, a group of Beacon Hills citizens told me that it felt like they were always being watched. What if that is their purpose for now? To identify and watch us?”
“And, of course, it is hard to object to the neighborhood watch…watching.” Peter grimaced at the words. “The question becomes, what are they doing with the information they are collecting on us? And what are their plans for all of the unaware humans among them?”
Paulo shook his head, “I will leave the Hunter issue to the Alphas for now. It is more important I focus on these sudden bursts of magic. For now, things can be a mystery, easily explained by scientists with their theories. It is not happening where people can see, so there are merely strange discoveries after the fact.”
Derek leaned back from the table and rubbed a hand over his eyes. If random magical whirlwinds start wiping out vegetation in populated areas, it’s going to be impossible to explain it away. And what if they touch humans? Derek shuddered at the thought. What a way to start witch hunts again.
“…would appreciate your druid’s contacts in the U.S. pooling their observances.” Paulo was saying to Peter, and Derek realized he had zoned out for a moment.
“I will pass your request to Deaton,” Peter responded before looking back toward Derek. “Carson received confirmation from his contact with the State Department that Cora’s identity has been restored. Since Mateus was listed in Talia’s will as a guardian for the children if I was not available, Carson has built a paper trail showing Mateus took legal custody of Cora after Derek and Laura ran. We have no idea why her records are missing, but since the Sheriff’s Department reopened the investigation into the fire, we suspect foul play.” Peter had a smirk on his face at that.
“So, we just need to go to the Embassy and get the paperwork signed?” Derek considered, “What about the custody issue if Mateus has legal custody?”
“I gladly give you custody of your sister. You are young, but it is only right that she can finally return home. She is only months from turning eighteen anyway. Even bureaucrats can understand the desire to reunite with family.” Mateus waved it off as an easy to manipulate story.
“So just a few more days, and we should have everything we need to come home. As soon as we have the paperwork in hand, I will book our return flight and let you know when we’ll arrive.”
Peter smiled softly, “Bring our girl home, Derek.” He waved and cut the connection.
Mateus smiled at Derek, “I will get the plane tickets to Brasilia for us.”
“I can pay.”
“No, let me take care of you, Derek.” Mateus waved a hand at Derek. “Your cousin Raissa is the Pack attorney. She will go with us to handle things. This story was hers in part, so the paperwork will match.”
Derek nodded his acquiescence. “Let me know when.”
It took four days in Brasilia, dealing with the American Embassy, to finally obtain Cora’s passport. She kept threatening to return to the States the way she left them. It took a lot of persuasion to convince her to let the lawyers handle the mess.
Derek was honestly just ready to take Cora and leave for home then and there when they put the completed papers in his hand. Tio Mateus insisted that they return with him until after the full moon. The torn look on Cora’s face made the decision for him. As tough as she acted, she needed this one comfort before taking her back to the place of her nightmares.
Their flight back that night was odd. Through the plane windows, auroras were seen in blues and greens across the night sky. It made Derek’s skin crawl, similar to badly set wards. The impossibility of the sight over the Brazilian sky had him trading concerned looks with Mateus. He was happy to have his feet back on the ground. Paulo spent most of the night on the phone with his contacts while Izabella was out walking their ward lines.
Derek slept fitfully, with the odd dreams he was prone to having lately fading in and out. He was left each time with the vague impression that there was something he needed to remember. Unfortunately, Derek could never remember the dreams, just that he had them. The next day he was out of sorts but tried to find some time for himself to shake off the feeling.
He used the skype setup in the Pack House to call Peter and book their flight home on Sunday. Most of the belongings Cora wanted to take had been shipped home two weeks prior. Peter confirmed everything was received. He was personally decorating Cora’s suite with a mixture of her belongings, new purchases, and a few items saved from their childhood.
When the call ended, Derek decided to force himself to seek out something useful to do. He headed for the community rooms to see if help was needed.
Derek acknowledged several members of the pack who were helping set up for tonight’s pack run. Part of Derek was excited at the chance for a full moon with the whole Tavares Pack. It’s been years since he participated in such a run. New York City had an open borders policy for wolves, but it’s more about nonaggression than about inclusiveness.
The other part of Derek is missing his pack back home. It’s the first full moon he hasn’t been there for them. As the Alpha, he feels responsible. He’s not much of a talker these days, not since Paige, the fire, Laura, just everything. But he’s spent a little time talking to the Pack to shore them up and reinforce that Peter and Joannie are organizing everything at the Pack House.
They put him to work for a few hours, hauling things around. For a while, it was nice to not be the Alpha and just be Derek, who the older relatives could boss around. A few of their full moon traditions differed from those of his childhood, but he paid attention to the ones he could incorporate into his pack. The community showers and heated pools were something he was certain Peter would latch onto.
As night began to fall, everyone gathered in robes and slippers. Whatever was easy to remove. When it looked like almost everyone was here, Mateus and Gabriella appeared. He led her to the center of the yard and waited while Gabriella gave her blessing to the pack. Then he shifted, his eyes glowing brightly and his body showing all of the strength and power of Alpha with no hint that age had slowed him.
Derek felt the power of the moon and the pack thrumming in his veins. He glanced at his sister as Cora grinned back at him. Then Mateus lifted his head to the sky and called forth his pack. Derek allowed the call to pull forth the wolf and gave it rein to answer. With his blood humming in tempo with the night, he lifted his head with the pack and answered the Alpha’s call.
They ran through the night, Derek and Cora, and everything that was missing suddenly clicked. It was as if they were children again under their elder’s eyes. Chasing and catching, hunting and playing, they were one with the wolf and the family.
Eventually, they returned to the House, returning to their human shape and cleaning up before soaking out tired muscles with others who were already taking advantage of the water. Derek allowed himself to drift off in the soothing water without realizing it. Just as his head dipped down under the water, he felt hands wrap around his chest. The scent of medication, rosemary, and peppermint came to him with the barest whisper of a voice saying, “Trust me.”
He splashed back to the surface and noticed he was alone in the pool. Several were showering off the run, so he took that as a sign to get out. The smell of smoked meats and drink pulled Derek toward the tables where Cora was digging in. He grabbed a plate and joined her.
“So, just two more days?” Cora asked as she tore into a rib.
Derek threw a napkin at her, “Yeah, we fly home Sunday morning, and we should arrive in San Francisco on Monday.”
“I know things can never be the same, but I’ve really missed being home, ya know?”
“Yeah,” Derek nodded and reached an arm around to pull her close. “All those years in New York, I missed home, too. Sometimes I hate the place, but I also love it. It took me a long time to figure it out, but there are a lot of really good memories there if I just let myself have them.”
“And, maybe some new memories for us to make?” Cora asked quietly.
“Definitely. We are rebuilding our pack. The Hale Pack. We need all the memories we can make.”
As good as the full moon had been, the next morning started with a headache for Derek. His news feed from America was filled with reports of strange occurrences around the world, along with a small story about how the Citizen’s Protection Initiative had earned a government grant to expand their program across the U.S. The falling crime rates in CPI-assisted cities were noted.
Derek hated that the network between supernaturals was so haphazard. The hunters could organize in public at will, while they had to stay hidden. Trust was hard when one only had word of mouth and the traditional methods for introductions. They were stuck relying on networks like the druids, who rarely gave a straight answer.
He skyped with Carson briefly as he shared their travel arrangements and set an appointment for Cora to meet him and review her inheritance. He followed that up with one last call to Peter and the Pack to ensure they had all of the arrival information.
Once he was finished, he spoke to Mateus a while before taking his leave. “I promised Alex and the guys I would go out with them.”
“Good. Young men should go and have fun. Don’t worry so about this and just enjoy your night.” Mateus winked at him.
“You’re not upset that I’m not spending my last night here with family?”
“Your tias and I will see you off in the morning. The teens have their farewell party with Cora tonight, but the chaperones will see them to bed by midnight. You have said your goodbyes to everyone else. It is your last night in Brazil, go out and do what young men do when they are young and free.” And with that, Mateus returned to his reports.
Shaking his head, Derek climbed to his feet and left. He didn’t really feel like going to some club, but they were insistent, so he was consoling himself with the thought he could beg off early.
Heading to the apartment, Derek spotted a couple of the guys getting out of the van the pack used for general transportation. Several members of the Pack were paid from pack funds to handle the daily commutes. Something was comforting about being surrounded by pack at the end of the day.
They called out to him, and he just waved as he kept walking. He checked that his outfit for tonight was ready and slipped into the shower. Derek looked in the mirror and considered leaving the stubble but decided against it and reached for his razor.
If he didn’t know better, he could swear the lights dimmed slightly as if mourning the lost stubble. Derek shook his head at the silliness of that thought. Maybe once they were back home, he would let it grow out again.
He heard Alex and Vito in hushed conversation outside, so he dressed quickly. Vito Bosco Vidal was a bitten wolf. Derek had a lifetime of telling the difference. No one had offered his story, and it wasn’t Derek’s place to ask. He was Alex’s best friend in the pack but worked as a guide on a tour service down the Amazon. Vito was just back after a ten-day trip taking some scientists on an expedition.
“So, you’re going to show me how clubbing works in Brazil?” Derek raised an eyebrow at the two.
“It is our duty to see you are properly educated in the art of seduction through dance.” Alex grinned and elbowed Vito, who just rolled his eyes.
“Just give it to him so we can get going,” Vito said. “I’m starving.”
“Give me what?”
Alex reached into a pocket, “It is not meant as presumptuous or disrespectful. We all know you are an Alpha of your own Pack. But, while you are here, you are under Tavares protection. The clubs are neutral, but tempers can get high, and you are an unknown alpha in the city.” He pulled out a heavy gold chain with a pendant. It had the Tavares Pack symbol, a compass inside a moon so Pack will always find their way back, on one side, and the Hale Pack triskele on the other.
“You want me to wear the Pack symbol while we are out tonight?” Derek hesitated a moment before reaching out to take it.
“Alpha said you are Pack. Even when you go back to America to lead your own pack, you will be Tavares. It’s your right to wear the symbol. But, I had them add the Hale symbol, too.” Vito reached under his shirt and pulled out his own. He flipped it over to show a symbol Derek didn’t recognize. “My family died of disease. My parents were studying the magic of the Amazon and were friendly with the local tribe. The tribe would not help, but they sent a messenger to the docks where the path toward the Nemeton starts. Some of the men there knew of the Tavares Pack and sent for someone to check on the sick. Mateus came with others and saved my life with the Bite. But it killed the family magic.”
“I’m surprised you didn’t reject the Bite.”
“I wanted to live, and Mateus and Izabella would not let me give up.” Vito slipped the necklace back under his shirt. “Accepting one symbol does not mean rejecting the one of your birth.”
Derek nodded and slipped on the chain without another word before turning toward the van where the rest of the group was waiting.
They headed out to a restaurant for dinner, the men all trying to explain how best to catch a girl at the club.
“It is all in your pickup line. You must be funny, so you make them smile.”
“Pah, they smile because they are laughing at you, not your jokes.”
“Don’t listen to him, Derek. You must be able to entice them with your words.”
“You are all wrong. Any fool can get a girl to dance with him if he has the right moves. Make eye contact and seduce them with your body.”
“Right, you call that cat in heat move, seduction?”
“I am the best dancer here!”
“If only he could dance on his own feet.”
Derek laughed as they traded insults, not really paying attention to who was speaking, just enjoying the atmosphere.
Vito shook his head and met Derek’s eyes across the table, “Don’t listen to any of them. The girls want to dance, and they want to talk. But, no honorable girl will make the first move. They will dance with their friends and try to get your attention. Ask her to dance. If she says no, just back off. Move on to another or try again later. If she lets you dance with her, then just have fun. But the true seduction is through the kiss. If she leaves you after the kiss, you will not get another chance.”
All of the men were nodding their heads. Alex reached over and slapped Vito on the back. “It is true. The true way to catch a girl is through the kiss. Of course, I am the best here at that as well.”
They laughed, and all threw things at Alex.
The club was owned by a small pack from the city. Derek spotted the Pack mark woven into the sign. There were runes inset into the door frame disguised as decoration. Still, they were similar to those he had seen in New York clubs frequented by the supernatural. Protection, clear mind, joy. Derek noticed all the guys moving clothes to display their pack marks and pulled his medallion out of his shirt.
Inside, the music had a deep bass beat that vibrated in his bones. He took in the bar, tables, lights, dance floor, and band, along with the DJ booth. They opened their tab, grabbed their drinks, and took over a couple of tables before Alex insisted he show Derek how this was done.
Derek just shook his head and leaned back to drink his beer and laugh as Alex was shot down by the first girl he approached. After that, the men moved back and forth between the tables and the dance floor. Sometimes bringing a girl back to join the group for a while. More often than not, they were returning alone.
Vito leaned in on one of the trips, “Rumors have made their way of the rich American visiting family. We get nowhere because every girl is waiting for you to dance.”
“I’m sure they don’t care if I dance.” Derek looked around and noticed eyes on him from every side. Girls whispering and giggling. Men looking angry.
“Dance, my friend. Dance and pick a girl so she will be the belle of the ball, and all others will be jealous.” Vito hauled Derek to his feet and gave him a push toward the dance floor.
It opened for him and just pulled him in. He started dancing, just letting his body move with the music. He looked around the girls with too much makeup and dressed to impress. None appealed to him, and he wanted nothing more than to return to his seat. When he turned to go, Alex led the guys on blocking him in, and he just shook his head and turned back to his search.
Over near the edge of the floor, one girl caught his eye. Her hair was a soft brown, her lips full, and eyes a golden amber that he almost mistook for a beta’s flare. But the scent said she was human. Her makeup accentuated her features without trying to cover up the tiny moles dotting her cheek. He moved in close and waited for the song to end before asking her to dance. She just nodded with a bit of a smile, and Derek moved in close to lead her further onto the floor.
For a while, he just let himself forget who he was and where he was. He was lost in those eyes that seemed to glow from within. When the music ended, Derek felt drawn down and lowered his face to hers until his lips touched hers.
A shock hit his system, and pain flowed from his chest as he jerked away, every fiber of his being screaming that this was wrong, wrong, wrong. Her eyes were open wide, and she was trembling as he just backed away from her and shook his head. Lights above them sparked and broke.
“Sorry,” Derek muttered as he headed out of the club and into the night air.
“Derek!” Vito and Alex were running out after him.
“I can’t. I can’t do that. Not now…not that.” Derek ran his fingers of one hand through his hair in frustration as he rubbed his chest with the other.
The men traded looks, then Alex turned and went back in while Vito took hold of Derek and started leading him toward the van.
“It is ok. The club is not for everyone. And I swear some of them bathed in perfume.” Vito kept up his review of the club, the music, the women, and the fools trying to win them over until Alex and one of the others made it back to the van with the keys.
Derek just let himself withdraw until they made it home. “Look, I’m just going to get some sleep. You should go back and enjoy yourselves.”
Vito leaned down to talk to the other man before he and Alex exited the van with Derek. Derek watched as the van headed back into town. He just raised an eyebrow at the two men.
“I have a refrigerator full of beer, and my ears are bleeding from the bad music. I would rather have a drink with my friends while I let them heal.” Vito slipped down to the apartment on the end.
Alex just shrugged, “He has beer, and I have cards.” He motioned toward one of the tables with rocking chairs in front of the apartments. “What else do we need under the stars at night?”
Derek sighed but realized that he wouldn’t sleep until this feeling passed, so he nodded. “I’m going to shower off the club, and I’ll join you.”
He stripped out of the clothes as soon as he was inside and threw them into the corner. Just the thought of packing what the girl had touched made his wolf angry. He scrubbed down twice and then brushed his teeth. He walked through the bathroom, packing all of his toiletries except the toothbrush. He could replace that at home. He dressed in shorts and a t-shirt, noted his clothes for tomorrow were laid out, and slipped back outside.
Alex and Vito were sitting at the table, both having showered as well. There was a bucket with beer, and they were playing blackjack, using poker chips. They played and talked for a while as Derek calmed down, and he finally let go of the stress.
“So, was there something wrong with the girl? I have not seen her there before, but she is young, so perhaps her first time?” Alex asked as he shuffled the cards.
Derek shook his head and tensed up before just taking a deep breath and letting it all out. “I really can’t say. There was something about her that reminded me of someone. I’m not sure who. I don’t remember anyone who looks like her, so it must have just been something about her.”
“Well, we could all see there was something. You honed in on her like a wolf stalking prey.” Alex just smiled when Vito groaned at the imagery.
“Yeah, it’s just, when I kissed her, it felt so completely wrong. It felt like I was cheating on someone only a hundred times more.” Derek just ran his fingers along the cards he was dealt without picking them up. I can’t explain it.” He rubbed absently at his chest and the remembered pain.
“Mateus says when you find the one meant for you, that the world stops, and everything just feels right.” Vito pointed toward Derek with the top of his beer. “So, maybe if it is the wrong one, you can feel it just as strong.”
“It could be. The thing is, I don’t think I’ve met the right one yet, so why would it feel like cheating?”
Alex tossed in some chips and just shrugged, “It must be some Alpha thing. Thank mother moon that I will never be one. Imagine if I couldn’t have all the girls at the same time?”
Vito threw a chip at the man’s head, and Derek just laughed as Alex became more flamboyant about how he was god’s gift to women everywhere.
“You know, kidnapping the Sheriff’s underage son is not the way to a long life.”
“It’s not kidnapping when you invite someone out, and they agree, Stiles.” Derek smiled as he picked his boyfriend up and lifted him over the tree branch in the path.
“It is so kidnapping when you put a bag over their head and lead them out into the woods, Sourwolf.”
“You came with me into the woods, and the bag was necessary because there is no way you wouldn’t peek if I just blindfolded you.” Derek shook his head. “It’s a surprise, Stiles. Besides, you said you trusted me.”
“I trust! This is me trusting you. I don’t let just anyone lead me into the creepy woods at night, you know. Of course, I thought we were going on a date, so this surprise better be worth it.”
“It’s worth it.” Derek really hoped it was worth it. He spent half the day getting it set up. He saw the gentle glow through the trees ahead and had a moment of butterflies in his stomach, suddenly worried that Stiles wasn’t ready for this.
Derek moved into the clearing around the Nemeton, leading Stiles carefully to the center. He double-checked that nothing had been disturbed. The trees surrounding the clearing were laced with lights, while mason jars stuffed with battery-operated fairy lights were placed randomly all over the clearing giving it a soft, fanciful glow. A table and chairs were decked out for a candlelit dinner with the large picnic basket sitting beside it.
Derek let his attention wander last to the Nemeton, heaped with cushions, blankets, and pillows. The stump was surrounded by more lights, and a basket of lube and condoms was ready for use. Derek took a deep breath and let out the tension. He didn’t want Stiles to think he was pushing.
Derek turned Stiles, so his back was to the Nemeton. He didn’t want that to be the first thing he saw. “Ok, you can take off the hood.” He let go of Stiles and stepped back, anticipation and a little fear running through him.
“Finally!” Stiles reached up to remove the hood and froze, a look of surprise and then wonder flowing over the expressive face. “Wow, you did all this for me?”
“You said you wanted a romantic dinner.”
“I would say you nailed it. Derek, this is….” Stiles just turned slowly in place, taking it all in. “This is beautiful. I can’t believe you went to all this trouble.”
“I wanted to do it. You’re worth it.”
Stiles turned to face him but stopped when his eyes caught sight of the Nemeton. “Derek?”
Derek swallowed hard. “No pressure. Nothing will happen unless you want it to. I just wanted to let you know that I’m willing whenever you’re ready.”
“Ready? I’ve been ready forever. But I thought you had the underage rule.”
Derek laughed and shook his head, “Stiles, I know you’ve been studying like crazy, but you do know tomorrow is your birthday, right?”
“Well, yeah, I am aware of that. Tomorrow is my eighteenth birthday. Tomorrow.”
“Stiles, it’s nine o’clock. Tomorrow starts in three hours.” Derek watched as the light came on and a look of excitement spread across Stiles’ face.
“I’m legal after midnight. No more waiting, no more Sheriff’s deputies trolling us on dates, no more little Hales tagging along as chaperones. OMG, I’m going to have sex with my hot boyfriend!” Stiles turned and jumped into Derek’s arms for a quick dirty kiss. “Best birthday ever!”
Derek laughed out loud at Stiles’ antics as he jumped down and started dancing around the clearing. He ran over and ran his hands over the blankets, feeling how much cushioning Derek had built up for them.
Stiles turned and looked at Derek wide-eyed. “You remembered my fantasy. Holy shit, yes! I’m going to be a virgin sacrifice on the Nemeton!” Stiles ran back for another kiss. “If this is a dream, I never want to wake up.”
Derek frowned as light broke in.
“Derek, you need to wake up.” Cora’s voice was followed by a shake.
Opening his eyes, he blinked at Cora in confusion.
“Wow, you were really dreaming there. Sorry to interrupt something fun, but we need to get moving if we’re going to make the airport.” She tossed his clothes at him and turned to finish packing up her stuff.
“Right, airport.” Derek pulled on his shirt and then swung his legs out of bed to pull on the pants. He glanced toward the window of the apartment Cora’s pack had loaned him for his stay in Brazil. It was still dark, but if his time sense was correct, they still had plenty of time before their first flight.
“So, what were you dreaming about?”
Derek paused. There was the impression of sparkling eyes and a happy smile. “I can’t remember. I was talking to someone, I think.”
“No idea. No one I know.”
“Whatever. I’ll take the bags out to the car.” Cora grabbed the bags and took off.
Derek slipped on his socks and shoes before grabbing his bag with their passports and Cora’s papers. He ran his hand through his hair and looked around to see if they had missed anything. Derek glanced in the mirror and, for a moment, saw the faint outline of long-fingered hands holding a mason jar full of fairy lights. He blinked, and the image was gone.
Derek spotted Cora making her rounds through the pack, who had woken early to see them off. Only a few actually tried to hug her; Cora might be more relaxed, but she was born prickly. She took it with good grace, but he knew she had said her goodbyes yesterday and just wanted to get moving.
He glanced over to where Alex was putting Derek’s duffle bag into a box. He had used the clothes he purchased here to wrap some of the breakable souvenirs he picked up for the Pack back home.
“I could just check that, you know.”
One of the guys, Ricardo, laughed at him. “Fragile is just another word for drop.” He turned toward Derek with a smile and made a motion like tossing something aside, his arms highly visible in the neon Val-de-Cans International Airport baggage handler’s jacket he was wearing. Ricardo was working at the airport four mornings a week while studying technology and education at the university.
Alex shoved Ricardo from the side. “International package shipping might get it to California before you do. With this guy, you don’t even know if he can read to put it on the right plane.”
“Travel safe, my friend.”
Derek traded back-slaps, hugs, and fist bumps with the guys and turned back toward the thinning group. There were a few kissed cheeks from cousins and aunts. He smiled at each as they took their leave.
“Alpha Hale,” Mateus stood tall and looked intense. His eyes glowed red, and Derek allowed his own to answer. Tia Gabriella moved next to Mateus just to his right. “The Tavares offers his hand in peace, honor, and kinship to the Hale. May we never know conflict. May we always be brothers under the Moon. I offer you and yours safe harbor. And, if ever Hale calls for help, know Tavares will gladly court war for you.”
Derek gave a barely perceptible nod of the head, leader to leader. “The Hale accepts the Tavares hand in peace and brotherhood. Sanctuary shall always be granted to you and yours. Let it be known that he who courts war with Tavares courts war with Hale. I stand ever ready to hunt at your side.”
Mateus pulled Derek in for a hug, “Travel well, nephew.”
“Goodbye, Uncle.” Derek turned and accepted the hug and kiss from Gabriella before getting into the car.
“Wow, I’ve never seen a treaty like that,” Cora glanced back before kicking her feet up onto Derek’s lap and giving him a smile. “Tia Izabella, do all Alphas get so full of themselves when they act all formal or just male Alphas?”
Derek shoved her feet away with a growl.
“I find all Alphas think a lot of themselves, but the males are the ones that like to strut around and bang on their chests.”
Ricardo laughed from the back row, and Derek could see Paulo just letting out a big sigh from the driver’s seat while forcing himself not to scold his mother.
Derek just rolled his eyes and caught Paulo’s attention to change the subject. “Thank you for driving us to the airport. You didn’t have to go to all this trouble.”
“Yes, he did,” Izabella pulled down the mirror on her visor to look back at Derek. “I want to see my niece and nephew off, and I don’t drive.”
Derek blushed slightly. It’s been years since he’s had so many people care enough to see him off. They chatted on their way to the airport, nothing important, just current events and the like. When they reached the international drop-off point, Ricardo said his goodbyes and took off inside for work.
Paulo slipped to the rear to grab their backpacks since they both were down to just carry-ons after shipping the rest of the bags. Derek was relieved they wouldn’t have to deal with more luggage.
Izabella reached for Derek’s arm and tied a woven bracelet around his wrist. He just raised an eyebrow and looked at her.
“It is a protection charm for travelers. Humor an old woman and wear it until you get home.” She finished tying it off and then gave Derek a long hug. “I am so thankful you were returned to us.”
She turned to Cora, who willingly traded hugs with her then just stuck out her arm to accept a bracelet even while rolling her eyes at the gesture.
“And you…stand tall and be proud to be a Hale. It’s what you were born to be.” She gave Cora a kiss on the cheek then returned to the car.
Paulo returned with the bags and then turned when his mother cleared her throat and held out a large envelope.
“Thanks, Mamãe.” Paulo took it from her and offered it to Derek. “A small favor, if you will. Your layover in São Paulo is about five hours. The Emissary of the Santos Pack, Arthur Mansford, has studied the history of magic’s impact on the environment. He learned I had the original copies of these letters from the original settlers in our region. He will meet you at the airport.”
“I’ll deliver them if he’s there. What if he’s not?” Derek looked down at the envelope then slid it into the pocket in the backpack’s rear, next to his laptop.
“His Alpha’s mate is in charge of Airport Security. Bento Rey Santos, just deliver it to him if Arthur does not make it.” Paulo moved in to shake Derek’s hand while clapping him on the shoulder. “It was nice to meet you, Derek. Stay safe. I will send information for you and your druid as I learn.”
“Thank you. Take care, Paulo.” With a final wave, Derek hefted his backpack and headed in.
Check-in went smoothly, and they settled in for tea and breakfast while waiting for their flight. There wasn’t much to say, and he was wide awake by now, so he spent most of the flight reading a book.
When they reached the Campinas International Airport in São Paulo, Derek was surprised to find airport security waiting for them. They were quickly escorted away from prying ears and outside onto the tarmac. A vehicle was waiting for them with a woman and two men inside, one of them elderly.
“Alpha Hale, I apologize for the spectacle,” the middle-aged man spoke. “I am Bento Rey Santos. May I present my mate and Alpha, Rebeca, and our Emissary, Arthur Mansford.”
Derek nodded once, “Alpha Santos,” Derek acknowledged. “My sister, Cora Hale.” Derek completed the introductions. He was still on guard because of the unusual circumstances.
Arthur spoke, his voice excited. “I am sorry for how you were pulled away. Young Paulo informed me he found the pages I needed, and you had them. I just could not wait to get them. Luckily my Alpha has a mate who is prone to indulge an old man.”
Derek relaxed and removed the envelope from his pack. “Yes, he said you were an expert on magical history.”
“I’ve made it my life’s work to understand how magic keeps our world alive. The observations of those who came before us provide snapshots into the changes magic has wrought over the centuries. These pages represent the completion of one such work. Every written document of the magic associated with the Eastern Amazon Nemeton.” Arthur looked ecstatic just opening the envelope. He sighed and quickly closed it to protect the pages.
“I’m glad I could help get these to you.”
Alpha Santos smiled at Arthur then turned back to Derek. “We do thank you, and I hope to repay you in some small way.” She motioned out, and Derek noted that they had driven to the other end of the airport. “Weather has been disrupting flight schedules everywhere. We noted that your flight would be delayed due to a flight crew issue. You were looking at another six-hour layover before moving to Mexico City. We took the liberty to change your flight to another airline. An electrical malfunction required the passengers to change planes and delayed this flight, which is advantageous. It is due to leave in twenty minutes. Just enough time to get you on it.”
Bento smiled, “Just enough time with a little help to grease the wheels. You will still have a layover in Mexico City, but only three hours instead of ten.”
“Thank God!” Cora exclaimed.
Derek nudged her as Bento laughed. He turned to Rebeca. “Thank you, Alpha Santos. The Hale Pack thanks the Santos Pack for their hospitality.”
“Well met and safe travels, Alpha Hale.”
The vehicle pulled to a stop, and Bento escorted them inside and to the desk to get their new tickets before racing to board before the jetway doors closed.
“We don’t have to meet with the local Alpha at every airport, do we?” Cora whispered as they found their seats in first class and secured their bags.
“No, as long as this flight is, I certainly hope not.”
He texted Peter the update to their flight information and then turned off his phone. He spent a few minutes as they prepared for takeoff, just pulling in his senses before he forced himself to relax for the flight.
Derek spent most of the flight reading. Cora had the cutest little snore as she slept next to him. He was envious because he had never been able to sleep when flying.
The layover in Mexico City allowed them to stretch their legs and grab a bite to eat. The world news reports he viewed had an odd mixture of strange nature images, civil unease, and many ads for the Citizens Protection Initiative. It was becoming a worldwide movement in an extremely short time. That took money and a lot of it.
It made his back itch, right over his Pack symbol. Derek felt an overwhelming urge to return to Pack territory. He tried to make himself relax because he could tell he was bleeding those instincts into the pack bond, and Cora was responding. He just kept her close and counted down the minutes until they could board the plane home.
During takeoff, the pilot explained that the roughly four-hour flight would take closer to five hours due to a slight change in the flight plan to avoid a sudden storm at the U.S. border. Derek felt a gentle warmth in the bracelet on his wrist just a few minutes before that announcement. Cora just took his hand, indicating she had felt the same.
The Mexico portion of the flight was fine, but there was a thrum through Derek as they crossed the California border that he knew from experience was chaotic magic. The sky was clear, but the plane was rocked by turbulence, and the fasten seatbelt sign flashed overhead. Attendants were locking down everything as quickly as they could move while making their way back to the jump seats to buckle up.
The pilot’s voice was practiced and calm to an unenhanced ear. But Derek could make out a multitude of warnings and alarms with voices relaying orders in the background. The plane rocked hard, and Cora reached over to grip Derek’s hand. He glanced at her and saw a tinge of gold in her eyes. He just started whispering, “Alpha, Beta, Omega,” over and over until she squeezed her eyes shut and started chanting with him.
The plane leveled out, and they breathed a sigh of relief.
“Well, folks. Looks like we got through that rough patch,” the Pilot spoke with a much calmer voice than before it started, and Derek could sense the change in chemosignals around him. “I’m going to keep the seatbelt sign engaged for our approach to San Francisco. They have a bit of a traffic jam below us, so we are going to make a wide pass and come back around before we start to descend.”
A couple of attendant lights were activated based on the little dings Derek could hear. They were quickly followed by the chief steward announcing that everyone was asked to stay in their seats with their seat belts buckled for safety. The stewards would also remain seated for their protection.
He heard a few grumbles before Cora huffed.
“Assholes. We’re almost there, and they want to be served something after that ride?” From there, her comments just got more biting, and Derek had to hide his grin.
Suddenly there was a burst of color and light, then the plane bucked, and there was screaming, and the scent of terror filled the air. Alarms were blaring, and the oxygen masks dropped. Derek reached for his, but his coordination was off. He couldn’t seem to grab it.
The plane felt as if it were tumbling from the sky and his last sight as darkness closed in was of Cora unconscious without her mask.
Derek lay stretched out on the blanket in the patch of sun that broke through the Nemeton’s branches. His eyes were closed, and he felt relaxed in the way someone could only feel when surrounded with safety, love, and mate.
The soft Polish lullaby his mate was singing mixed with the sounds of leaves rustling in the gentle breeze.
Derek cracked an eye open and looked at his mate. Stiles was sitting cross-legged on the ground, a bag of oranges on his left, a pile of orange peels on his right, and a bowl with orange slices in front of him. His fingers were tapping out the rhythm of the song while four oranges floated slowly in a circle around him. A fifth hovered in front of him as the peel slowly separated from the orange in one long continuous spiral. When it finished, the individual sections floated down, one at a time, to the bowl. Two more oranges rose up, one to circle around him while the other started being peeled.
Breathing in the scent of orange on the breeze, Derek sighed then grinned when one of the sections floated over to him. He took it from the air and popped it into his mouth, then closed his eyes in enjoyment of the sweet taste.
Derek rolled over onto his stomach and rested his head on his arms to shield his eyes. “Exactly what kind of magic homework is peeling oranges, anyway?”
He could practically hear Stiles rolling his eyes. “I’m not peeling oranges. Well, ok, so I am peeling oranges, but that’s not the point of the lesson. It’s about multitasking.”
Derek huffed out a laugh, “If anyone understands multitasking, it’s you, Stiles. Why in the world would he give you that lesson? It’s like he doesn’t even know you.”
“I know, right?” Stiles laughed. “But I think the real lesson is not allowing myself to be blocked by subconscious limits.”
“So the only limits to magic are the amount of magic available at a given location and the amount an individual is able to control. A group can collectively control more but is still limited by the pool of magic available and vice versa,” Stiles was revving up into one of his lectures.
Derek enjoyed listening to Stiles ramble about magic…well, about anything really. So he just hummed his interest and let the man go.
“As a Spark, my own limits are based on my willingness to believe.” Derek didn’t even have to look to know Stiles was waving his hands around now as he spoke. He could still smell the orange peel letting out bursts of scent as hit separated from the orange.
“I mean, Nemeton aside, we’ve already proven that I can tap into ley lines from pretty much anywhere on Earth now that the Nemeton is healed. It’s just easiest in our own territory. If the Nemeton was still damaged, well, then I would be so completely screwed. I never would have made it away for college. Visiting your family in Brazil would be a no-go, too. And there is no way I am missing out on your Aunt’s cooking.”
“Multitasking?” Derek murmured with a hidden grin.
“What? Oh, right, multitasking. So if my only limit is my belief in what I can do, then it becomes about proving to myself that I can do whatever I set out to accomplish. So, if I can shred a piece of paper, then I can shred a wall. The substance and the action are all the same, just on different scales.”
Derek gave a slight nod, not bothering to open his eyes. The sun felt so good here. And he didn’t need to comment. They had all seen Stiles rip apart the wall of that house to get to those shifter kids the rogue hunters had taken.
“If I can shred a piece of paper, then I can peel an orange. Same mechanics, just slightly more refined. If I’m levitating the orange to peel it, then no reason I can’t levitate more to go with it. How many can I levitate? Well, why is there a limit? An orange is an orange, so why not levitate all I have? If I can levitate the oranges, then why not levitate other things with them? And, of course, that’s hot work, so a nice breeze to cool me off while I do it is fine,” Stiles rambled on.
“Why just the breeze right here? Why not all around us?”
Stiles gave that funny little grunt that meant you missed his point, but he was humoring you. “Well, I could give the entire clearing a gentle breeze, then why not give the Preserve some air? Maybe I should stretch it out and let all of Beacon County get a little relief from the heat? The thing is that just because I could give all of America a gentle breeze doesn’t mean I should. I might be able to control the wind, but I cannot anticipate every outcome of that kind of action. If I change the weather here, what does it do a mile away? Ten miles? A hundred? I can shield the rest of the atmosphere from my actions right here. But the further I go, the more likely I will miss something important, and the ripples will be catastrophic in Colombia. I mean, I could change the weather and ruin coffee crops. Derek, you can’t ever let me ruin coffee! Life as we know it on Earth would end!”
Derek laughed and rolled over to look at his mate’s outraged expression…and saw a tree. To be more exact, he saw the upper branches of the tree. He was hovering thirty feet in the air. Derek scrambled up on hands and knees with the blanket below him, seemingly supporting his weight. He looked down at Stiles, who was staring at the orange he was peeling, his arms waving around as he went on about coffee shortages and the death of humanity. About fifteen oranges were spinning around him.
“What the fuck!” Derek yelled.
Suddenly everything fell, Derek with it. His arms were pinwheeling, and he was tumbling. He shifted and was trying to get his feet under him to absorb the landing. The ground was rushing up to meet him, and Derek braced himself for some severe pain.
“Oh, shit!” Stiles yelled as he spun toward Derek.
He was maybe three feet from the ground when everything suddenly froze. Derek took a few deep breaths before he let go of that moment of fear and forced his shift back.
Stiles scrambled over to him on all fours and then knelt beside him with his face scrunched up in chagrin. “Oops?”
“Oops? Is that all you have to say for yourself? What the hell was I doing thirty feet up in the air?”
“Oh, didn’t you hear me when I said that if I could levitate oranges, then I could levitate other things?”
“Ha, ha. For the record, falling to my death isn’t the way I want to go.” Derek pushed himself up until he was sitting on air.
Stiles moved in close, and Derek could smell his contrition mixed with rosemary, peppermint, and another scent that meant desire/love/home/trust. “Hey, Der-bear,” he whispered, and Derek could feel his breath ghosting across his lips. “You know, no matter what, I would never let you fall.”
Derek closed his eyes and let himself lean forward into the kiss, and felt the fingers thread through his hair. He broke away and looked into those liquid eyes.
“Derek?” The voice gasped.
“Derek!” Cora’s fear drilled into the darkness, and Derek shook his head.
“What?” He opened his eyes and looked around at the plane they were on. He was still strapped into his seat with oxygen masks hanging limply in front of him. He reached for one, then realized the sensation of falling was gone.
He looked around, and it looked like people were starting to rouse. One two rows back flashed orange eyes at him, and he responded with his own red. He turned to check Cora and saw her eyes were pointed toward the plane window. He noticed flashing lights and leaned over to look. And felt his pulse skyrocket.
They were at the airport…sort of. The plane was hovering about eight feet above the runway, frozen in place. They were surrounded by emergency vehicles, far enough away for safety but close enough to see everything.
Derek leaned back from the window. “What the ever-living fuck?” This was bad. This was supremely bad.
Cora leaned toward him and hissed, “Who in the world has the power to do this?”
Derek suddenly smelled orange peels and sunlight, liquid amber eyes above a full grin with moles that moved like constellations when he smiled. He closed his eyes and breathed deep, noticing a hint of medication mixed with rosemary and peppermint.
“What’s a Stiles?”
“Holy shit, Derek. You have a mate?”
“Yeah, I think I do.”
“What do you mean, you think?”
“I’m not sure, but there’s something I remember.” Derek glanced back outside, then looked at Cora. “I remember that whenever I’m in danger, he’s there for me. He’s my heart, and he would never let me fall.”
“Thank you, Stiles,” Derek whispered. Then the plane gently floated to the ground and tipped toward one wing. There was a loud grinding of metal that was followed by exclamations as everyone regained consciousness.
Then it was controlled chaos as emergency exits were deployed. Everyone was forced to deplane before being checked out by medical personnel and bussed to an area to be sequestered until statements could be taken.
It was hours before they had finished their questioning, claimed their bags, and were able to confirm their identities to be released. Derek refused medical treatment on their behalf and agreed that he would get checked out by his own physician.
The airport and airline worked to give them some privacy from the press and public to escape the row of cameras trying to get the story of the Miracle of Flight 408.
Derek just wanted to get the hell out of there. As soon as he was able, he had turned on his phone and sent Peter a message that they were fine, and his phone blew up with messages. Derek ignored them all and allowed Peter to handle everything. He just focused on keeping his cool and preventing Cora from eviscerating the next person who asks her if she’s sure she doesn’t know what happened when she was unconscious.
“Uncle Peter?” Cora whispered before she took off and leaped into Peter’s arms.
Peter held on tight and just seemed to soak in the contact. Derek watched for a couple minutes before Peter let go with one hand and reached for Derek, pulling him into the group hug. The Hales were together again.
Days later, the furor surrounding the miracle flight hadn’t died down. Explanations ranging from miracle to aliens were making the rounds. Derek had been approached once, but he had pushed back hard and directed everything to his attorney. Their official statement was that they were unconscious when it occurred and didn’t have a clue. But they trust the airline and the National Transportation Safety Board will figure out what happened. Otherwise, they have no comment.
Air travel had been restricted in areas experiencing “unusual phenomena” and Derek was just glad to have his feet on the ground. The Pack was relieved to have them home, and they took some time to recover and bond as a Pack. Cora had good days and bad days as she adjusted to the memories that Beacon Hills stirred up. But surprisingly, it was Noah who kept her balanced. He was spending more time with the Pack, and it just felt so right to have him there.
Derek was glad that something was going right because he was a little lost in memory. Memories that his conscious mind kept insisting never happened, but his heart and soul knew were truth. He wandered around town and the preserve while images superimposed over the present.
Images of a teen with brown hair, amber eyes, moles, and a wide smile. Even as he spouted facts like weapons, he tripped and turned in a spastic whirlwind of movement and sound. At the diner, at the school, at the sheriff’s station, and at the vet. In the Preserve, everywhere he went, that scent followed him.
It was night when he found himself outside Noah’s house. Peter’s car was in the driveway next to a blue jeep. Derek climbed in and could smell teen angst, medication, rosemary, and peppermint embedded into the steering wheel with just a hint of curly fries. He breathed deep. Then started to gasp as images suddenly assaulted him, and the gasp turned to sobs.
His chest was on fire, and he felt like his heart had been torn from his body. Hands pulled him from the jeep, and before he knew it, he was on Noah’s couch, wrapped in a blanket and Peter’s arms.
Derek opened his eyes as Noah sat down on the coffee table in front of him and put a glass of water in his hand.
“Here, have a drink. I’d give you something stronger, but I know it won’t work.”
Forcing back the tears, Derek took a drink before handing him the glass. “Sorry.”
“Hey, that’s ok. You’ve been through a lot lately. Any idea what set that off?” Noah had his Sheriff Dad voice as Stiles called it. Where he can be a completely freaked out Dad and a calm officer of the law at the same time.
“Yeah, I think so.” Derek wasn’t sure what to say. He looked around and saw that the two men had been sharing a plate of nachos before he arrived. “Um, Peter, Stiles will kill you if he finds out you let Noah eat that stuff.”
“Now, Derek, the man’s allowed to splurge now and th…Stiles?” Peter traded glances with Noah before he turned toward Derek. “Derek, you know who Stiles was?”
Derek just nodded at first, then sniffed and wiped his eyes with the back of his hand. “Noah’s son, Stiles. The spastic, pain in the ass, amazing, brilliant teenager who I think is my mate. God, Peter, Stiles is my mate.” He rubbed at his chest as he shook, and Noah pulled him into a hug.
“Was, Derek. Stiles was.” Noah’s voice was thick with sorrow.
Derek shook his head firmly. “No, is. I can feel him. There’s this bond to him. It’s tight and stretched impossibly thin, but it’s still there.” He saw the look on Peter’s face, and Derek cut him off before he could say anything. “I’m not imagining things, Peter. I can feel it. Everywhere I go, I can smell him. It’s more than just memories. I wasn’t certain at first, but I know he’s still here.”
He leaned back and closed his eyes a moment before he spoke again. “The thing is, I think Stiles is a Spark. And, when the plane was falling…he caught us. He saved us. I don’t know how and I don’t know why it happened. But I know whatever happened at the Nemeton when magic went crazy didn’t destroy Stiles. He’s still here, and he’s been protecting me the entire time.”
“How can you be so sure?” Peter asked; he smelled hopeful but concerned when he looked at Noah.
“Because I believe, Peter. I know he’s here. And if he’s here, I have to believe there’s a way to get him back.” Derek rubbed at his chest and felt that thread of a bond vibrate. “I remember. He saved me. Now it’s my turn to save him.”