Walking Shadow – Part 1

Walking Shadow – Part 1
Author: Ellywinkle
Fandom: Teen Wolf
Series: Shakespeare in the Preserve
Series Order: 1
Series Content Warning: NC-17
Series Warnings: Character Bashing, Dark Themes, Death – Major Character, Death – Minor Character, Explicit Sex, Hate Crimes, Kidnapping, Murder, Racism, Mention Rape/Non-con, Violence – Canon – Level
Genres: Alternate Universe, Fantasy
Relationships: pre-Derek Hale/Stiles Stilinski, pre-Peter Hale/Noah Stilinski
Word Count: 35,788

 

Author Note: So many to blame. Thanks to Keira for helping me brainstorm an April Rough Trade idea…and landing me on one that is too big for a single challenge. This will be a three-story series I will be working on all year. I’m thinking of calling the series Shakespeare in the Preserve because it starts with a fucking tragedy. Thank you to DarkJediQueen for help with ripple management; it made a big difference in the plot. And, yes, there will be character death in here. But guys, keep in mind…the endgame is time travel. I believe in a happy ending.

 

Summary: Peter willingly gave Derek the Alpha Spark once his family was avenged. Stiles was the only one who noticed that he gained a mark at the moment Derek became Alpha. Now Derek is trying to rebuild a pack while Argents are sweeping in to cause trouble. Stiles just wants to know what is this soul mark and why does all of the weird stuff all over town keep happening to him? When the Nemeton demands Stiles fulfill his role, can Stiles survive Magic’s Call without a soul anchor?

Cast


 

Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.
— Macbeth, Act V, Scene V

 

Chapter 1

Stiles Stilinski punched the gas on Jackson Whitmore’s Porsche, not caring that the vehicle was never designed to navigate the road to the old Hale House. He had to get there in time. It was like something was hooked into his chest and pulling him in that direction. He wasted so much time going to the hospital instead of following Peter Hale to the property, and now he doesn’t even know why he did it. He needed to know Lydia was safe, but it could have waited.

“I’ve been patient, Stilinski, but I want to know what’s going on.” Jackson practically growled it from the passenger seat.

There was a time that sound would have made Stiles nervous. Of course, that was before he had to stand up to a crazy alpha werewolf and make demands for a girl’s life.

“Stilinski!”

“What? You want to know that things you stopped believing in by the time you finished elementary are real? That there really are things that go bump in the night? Can you handle the truth, Jackson? You can’t unknow this shit.” Stiles took the next turn at speed and used some of those defensive driving techniques all the deputies taught him when his dad wasn’t in the car to stay on the road.

“I know there is some fucked up shit going down around here. I thought your boy McCall was on drugs at first, but now I’m thinking it is something else, and you brought it down on Lydia. I want to know.”

“Fine. So no, Scott’s not doing drugs. Drugs would be awesome because you can quit those. All of these wild animal attacks around town? Not so much wild animal as were-animal. As in, werewolf. And no, I’m not crazy. I’m talking the glowing eyes, fangs, claws, hair growing, howling at the full moon, full-on not-so-fantasy werewolves.” Stiles glanced briefly toward Jackson. Instead of disbelief, he saw confusion give in to dark understanding in the boy’s eyes.

“Yeah, so Werewolf 101. Werewolves are real, and there are different kinds: Alpha, beta, and omega. Most werewolves are betas. I’ve seen gold eyes and blue eyes, not sure why there are two colors. Don’t know if it means anything, and I don’t really care. Omegas are betas without a pack…I think. My main source of info isn’t very social. Alphas are the bosses. Leader of the pack. They have red eyes.” Stiles shuddered slightly at that.

“Before the start of term, Scott and I were in the Preserve when Scott was attacked by this crazy, feral Alpha werewolf. See, you become a werewolf by being born one or being bitten by an Alpha. Scott turned and suddenly gets perfect health, stronger, faster, tendency to try to kill his best friend on the full moon.” Stiles shook that last part off and focused on the road as he continued. “All the crap going down has been that Alpha killing people and trying to force Scott to kill with him. Took a while but found out his name is Peter Hale.”

“Hale…like the Hale Fire Hales?”

“Yeah, gold star. The Hales are all born werewolves. Town founders and all. Thing is, I’m not so sure Peter is as crazy and feral as I first thought. You see, werewolves are the things that go bump in the night, but I’m starting to think the real monsters walk around like respectable weapon salesmen during the day.” Stiles half muttered to himself. Fucking Pendant?

“Weapon salesmen?” Jackson didn’t sound as confused as Stiles would expect him. “Like Mr. Argent?”

“What do you know about Argent?”

Jackson jerked a little, so Stiles must have sounded a little harsher than he thought. “The man’s a little scary.”

“What did you do that he started showing the potential psycho side of the family?”

“Nothing. I wasn’t doing anything.”

Yeah, that didn’t sound suspicious. Stiles decided to let it pass and figure that out later…if they were still alive. Because headed toward an intersection between scary and scarier wasn’t the smartest move he had ever made. “So the thing about predators is that there is always something else out there hunting them. For werewolves, it is werewolf hunters. They believe that all werewolves need to be destroyed. I mean, I guess that’s their belief based on available evidence. You’ve got to ask yourself how an entire family of werewolves was trapped in a burning house. I mean, they can punch through walls, so why did they just stay there and burn, you know?”

“Why?”

“I don’t have all the facts yet. It’s not like there’s a guidebook for this. But the Argents are werewolf hunters, and they have a serious hate-on for the Hales. My Dad reopened the Hale case when Laura Hale died. It was arson, and a witness saw a woman with a strange pendant involved. Allison’s Aunt Kate gave her an old family heirloom pendant that she wore for years. Derek Hale was blaming the Argents for his family’s deaths, and while he never came out and said it, I think it was Kate Argent who did it.”

“That’s fucked up. But is Peter the one who attacked Lydia?”

“Yup. I think that’s my fault…maybe. Peter can’t get Scott to help him, and he’s looking for Derek. He’s been going around killing everyone that he thinks was in on the fire that killed his family. How the fuck he figured that out while he was supposedly in a coma, I don’t know. But that shows a lot more reasoning than someone who is feral should be able to show. I mean, he still might be a psycho, but he’s not an out-of-control psycho. He attacked Lydia but didn’t kill her and allowed me to call you to get her help. He didn’t want her dead. He offered me the bite and when I said no, wasn’t angry, just said some BS and respected my choice. He wants help killing Kate, but he wants to save his nephew. I know he and Derek talked about something when we discovered Peter was the Alpha. I don’t know what, but Derek’s attitude changed. Peter calmed down on some of the attacks. But then Derek disappeared, and Peter jumped back into super scary land. It’s not normal, but it’s not crazy, you know?” Stiles shook his head and took a deep breath after that verbal diarrhea.

Jackson gave a harsh laugh. “Now I’m starting to think you’re maybe a little whacked, Stilinski. He’s killing people, and you don’t think that’s crazy?”

“I’m just saying that even with the slaughter, there hasn’t really been any collateral damage. I mean, Lydia, yeah…and his nurse. But I don’t have the whole picture there. I just know that the ones who die are the ones who harmed his family. He could have gone on a major murder spree through town and just mowed people down right and left, but he didn’t. Thing is, the Argents have threatened people. People who’ve done nothing. And if Kate is the one who burned down the Hale House, then it has to mean something that he has had more than one opportunity to kill Allison and hasn’t.” Stiles waved one hand and quickly grabbed back hold of the steering wheel when Jackson screamed like a girl. “I’m not saying it’s right. I’m just saying he might be more sane than we were giving him credit for.”

“Why do we care if he’s sane if he’s killing people?”

“Because if he’s sane, we can reason with him. He is after revenge or retribution or whatever justice he doesn’t believe he can get any other way. Argent is out there running around with his own little army of enforcers. He’s obviously not worried about being caught by the law.” Stiles huffed, “I don’t know. I just don’t know. I need to find Derek alive and maybe see if I can get the sourwolf to use his words and tell me what the fuck is going on. I just…I need to know, Jackson. I need to see the big picture and understand. I feel like I’m being pulled into this whole fucking shit show kicking and screaming, and I need to know why.” The frantic tone of his voice caused him to clamp down and stop talking.

Jackson was silent as Stiles continued to race down the road, barely making the turn-off to the Hale House. As they approached the scene, he could see the fight already in progress. Kate Argent fired a weapon at Derek before turning on Scott. Allison was being held back by her father, who had a weapon out and surprisingly pointed at Kate. Stiles turned into the slide as he slammed on the brakes as Peter made his appearance. The Alpha moved so fast that he was a blur, knocking down and disarming people as he moved. Stiles didn’t even hesitate as he wrenched open the door and raced toward the scene, Jackson only a few steps behind him.

Peter picked up Kate by the neck, his eyes bleeding red as he stared at her with hate. Allison was up and by her father’s side, placing a weapon in his hand as he struggled to turn toward Peter. She scrambled backward, her hands reaching for her own bow.

Stiles hesitated briefly between the players, that tugging feeling ripping him from the inside, then ran toward Derek. Derek had been shot but was still moving. Trying to get to his feet. Stiles slipped an arm under him and pulled him up.

“Hale!” Chris Argent’s voice called out as he steadied the weapon.

Peter’s response was more of a growl as fangs slowly lowered, and fingernails grew. His eyes never left Kate’s struggling body as his head twitched an ear toward the Argents.

“Don’t do it, Peter! I will kill you.”

“Right, that’s what you people do…don’t you?” Stiles yelled out, not sure why. “You just kill them.”

“Stiles, stay out of it.” Scott hissed from the other side, where he hadn’t gained his feet yet.

Argent didn’t waver in his aim. “You don’t understand how things work, son.”

“Oh, I think I finally have it figured out just fine. I’ve heard you hunt werewolves, but you know what I’ve figured out…Argents hunt Hales. End of story.” Stiles spat back at him. “My Dad reopened the Hale fire investigation. Arson. I hear a young blond woman was the ringleader. Was wearing an unusual pendant necklace. I don’t believe in killing, but I do believe in justice. When do the Hales get justice?”

Chris grimaced and shifted his grip slightly. “That’s not the Code.”

“Code?” Allison asked; she had found her bow and arrows and had one knocked and pointed at Peter.

Nous chassons ceux qui nous chassent.” Chris took a deep breath after the last word, then continued, “We hunt those who hunt us.”

“How did my family hunt you?” Peter growled. “We never broke your damn Hunter’s Code, yet Argents came after us again and again. If we kill one of yours, you deliver retribution on the pack. If you kill one of us, well, it’s just another mutt you put down, right?”

“If she broke the Code, there are repercussions…,” Chris started.

“Oh, I agree. There are going to be repercussions. But we all know that justice will never be delivered by a Hunter,” Peter snarled.

Derek suddenly straightened next to Stiles, and his demeanor changed in a heartbeat. “I name Kate Argent Codebreaker, murderer, rapist…” his voice hissed the last word, but if anything, it grew stronger. “As the heir of the Hale Pack, I demand a Blood Debt of the Argents.”

Chris shook his head, “No.”

“Yes.” The smile on Peter’s face was downright evil.

“It’s your damn Code.” Derek spat at him. “She took the youngest, most innocent of ours. Should we take the same of yours?”

Stiles looked between Derek and Peter as he saw the fear in Chris Argent’s eyes. “What?”

“Time’s wasting, Argent. We either receive Justice from the perpetrator, or we receive Blood Debt from the Argents. Which will it be?”

Chris reached back with an arm and grabbed Allison, “Justice, and the slate is clean?”

Kate’s eyes grew large, and she started kicking at Peter, whose grip did not allow her to make a sound.

Derek nodded, “Clean slate, and you leave my pack alone.”

“Dad?” Allison looked at her father in horror.

Chris locked eyes on his sister and then slowly lowered the weapon. “You brought this on yourself, Kate.” He backed away, dragging Allison with him step by step.

Stiles swallowed hard as Derek turned to face Kate, knowing her fate was sealed.

Peter smirked, “Why nephew, I wasn’t sure you had it in you.”

“Finish it, Peter.”

With a broad smile, Peter shifted in an instant and practically ripped Kate’s head from her body. He watched as her body jerked to a stop and stared down at her with the most angelically pleased expression. The sight made Stiles shiver slightly, and he stepped back, not sure what to do.

“Well, that was extremely satisfying.” Peter glanced toward Chris and Allison, who were watching in horror. He started to take a step in that direction when Derek stepped in front of him.

“We had a deal, Peter. Are you going to honor it and your oaths to the Pack?” Derek held his ground as Peter snarled a moment before pulling back a step.

Stiles backed up a few more steps into the shadows, uncertain what was happening.

“You are correct, nephew. We had a bargain” Peter slowly turned to circle Derek. The half-naked Derek, and why the hell was this the first Stiles had noticed that? “Whatever lapse in judgment I may have experienced, I have never broken oath.” From behind Derek, he reached out and touched Derek’s back. “Marked by birth, born to lead, as Fate has spoken, so do I hear. I release my claim of Alpha. May the power seek the one who is destined.”

Peter finished his circuit and latched onto Derek, who seemed to vibrate in place a moment, but kept his feet as Peter slowly crumpled to his knees. His eyes seemed to bleed out as the vibrant red dimmed before he flashed to a bright blue then bowed his head before Derek. The tableau remained a moment before Derek’s eyes flashed red, and he leaned back his head to let out a roar, Peter following his lead.

From the shadows, Stiles doubled over as an intense pain burned through his chest. That tugging doubled and split, one half seeming to lead to Derek and a second out into the Preserve. Unable to keep his feet, he fell back on his ass gasping for air, the continued howl covering the sound.

“What did you do?” Scott yelled at Derek. He looked between Derek and Peter as his eyes flashed gold. “That was my only chance to become human again.”

Stiles shook his head, trying to clear it as the words registered. What the actual fuck did that mean?

“The legends said you have to kill the Alpha that changed you,” Scott half growled/half whined.

The pain was receding, and Stiles tried to climb to his feet. Did Scott mean what he thought he meant?

“The bite is a gift. The only cure is death,” Derek stated.

Peter grinned, “That could be arranged.”

Derek growled at Peter, “Enough. You bit him. He’s pack. End of discussion.”

“No,” Scott shook his head. “I’ll never be part of your pack.” He turned toward Allison, who was crying. “Allison…”

Chris Argent raised his gun again. “You need to go, Scott.”

Scott looked confused. “But…”

“My treaty is with the Hale Pack. If you aren’t part of them, then there is no treaty protecting you. You need to go.”

With a last longing, confused look toward Allison, Scott turned and ran, never once looking toward his best friend. Stiles groaned as he straightened up.

Derek didn’t even look his way. “Stiles, you need to take your friend and leave.”

“Derek.”

“I don’t have time for you. Go.”

The words were like a knife slicing at him. Stiles just stared a moment before Jackson grabbed him by the arm and started dragging him back to the car. He was pushed into the passenger seat but rolled down the window as Jackson raced to the driver’s side.

“My Dad’s looking for the woman with the strange pendant for the fire!” Stiles shouted out the window as Jackson put the car into gear and started to drive. His last glance at the passenger door mirror was Chris Argent pulling something off of Allison’s neck.

 

“Dad?” Allison asked as Chris pulled a necklace from around her neck and over her head.

“It’s the Code, honey. We protect people from the danger and the knowledge of the supernatural. There isn’t time to explain, but I need you to be strong for me now.” He looked her in the eye, “Go to the car, Allison.”

Derek registered that she retreated, her hands always on her weapon like a good little Hunter. He didn’t miss that she kept the door open as she sat down to keep her field clear for a shot. Chris Argent was forcing himself to breath in slow, measured breaths. His heart rate was still too high for a human, but his sister’s body was in pieces on the ground. The man still hadn’t holstered his firearm.

He held up the necklace where Derek could see it. With slow steps, Derek approached Argent and accepted the pendant. He was struggling slightly to contain the energy the transfer had left him. It felt like he was being compressed into a tight space and flying in a million different directions at once.

“I leave this on her, and the Sheriff will know she was the one.” Derek cocked an eyebrow at the man.

“She broke Code. The Sheriff isn’t read in and has reopened the file. We can’t make it disappear; that would just bring down suspicion on the Family. This way, we can deny knowledge and weather the storm when it comes out.” The man was refusing to look toward the body even as he asked, “Do you need help staging it?”

Peter moved slowly toward the scene, erasing evidence carefully as he moved. “I think it best you get yourself and your daughter away from here. It’s easier to lie to the police if you don’t know the details of what they find. I’m sure you are quite aware of that strategy.”

Chris clenched his jaw then nodded sharply. “I’ll prep Allison. Just keep up your end.”

“For as long as the Argents can keep theirs,” Peter muttered under his breath.

They waited for Argent and his daughter to leave before carefully staging the scene and triple-checking that all evidence of the teens and Argents that had been present was gone.

Derek watched Peter work. His skill and attention to detail hadn’t dimmed in the years of his incapacitation. Every blade of grass was set to tell the story they needed. The man was an expert at making bodies disappear. You could search the entirety of the Preserve for fifty years and not discover where the evidence was buried. But there were times that it was detrimental to hide it all.

“I need to know if I can trust you, Uncle Peter.” Derek had always been a little bit of a blunt object.

“You either trust me, or you don’t. Your trust will prove accurate or not.”

“I don’t trust anyone.”

“Then why in the world would you want to trust me? I thought you had learned something, Derek.”

Derek cracked his neck and held back his desire to choke Peter. “Why do you have to be so contrary?”

“One must find their entertainment in the most common of places.” Peter took a deep breath and then let it out. “I have no plans to upset the status quo or earn your distrust. I realize we did not always have the most congenial of relationships, but I respect the Marks of Fate. Talia was so proud when you were born with the Alpha mark. The Hale Triskelion on your back as clear as day. It was a surprise when Laura had already been born with the Mark. She was so certain it meant the Pack had grown strong enough to split. Her pride was our downfall.”

Derek turned away in shame. “It wasn’t Mom’s pride. She was a great Alpha. I’m the one who killed our family.”

Peter was in front of him in a flash, holding onto him and shaking him firmly. “No. The ones who killed our family are dead. You weren’t prepared for what happened. Talia wanted to wait until you were older to start your training. Laura was already learning everything because we were certain she would succeed her Mother in Beacon Hills. But she was so certain that you could wait until after college to start your training. I didn’t question her decision. I should have, but I was busy and not thinking. Then it was too late.”

Derek looked away and squashed his feelings. “How are we going to do this?”

“Unpleasantly, I suppose. You will need to tell all, I’m afraid. Most of the sordid little details. Kate came to town to finish what she started. I was showing signs of returning to consciousness. She took me before I could speak and has kept me in her little den. She took you, and you discovered she had your poor Uncle Peter. Blah, Blah, Blah…accomplice and her turn on each other. We escaped and found them like this.” Peter looked around distastefully. “I suppose we need to go back to the tunnel and leave the appropriate evidence down there.”

“And how do you suppose we make them believe she was hurting us?” Derek asked, following Peter.

“Well, you were drugged. Kate hadn’t started anything yet…short of the missing shirt.” Peter sighed as he moved the last pieces into place, repeatedly using his nails to open his skin and bleed on the instruments. “I do have some ability to control my healing. And as you are aware, wounds inflicted by an Alpha take much longer to heal.”

“Wounds inflicted by an Alpha?” Derek questioned with a tiny smile. He could enjoy this.

“Please take it easy on the face. After all, the Hale Trust has been paying a plastic surgeon to reconstruct me for years.”

Derek’s smile grew as he moved closer.

“Derek, there is no reason to be unreasonable about this.” Peter’s eyes widened. “Derek?”

 


 

“That didn’t happen. That didn’t fucking happen.” Jackson’s voice held a tinge of hysteria.

Stiles could generally relate to that response, but he was dealing with this feeling like his chest had been ripped open. The initial pain had dulled to this strained throbbing burn that was impossible to describe. He could only hold on and ride it out, wondering for just a moment if he was being pulled in two.

“He practically ripped her head off. Shit!” Jackson spun a little getting out onto the county road leading into town. “Are they seriously going to just walk away from that?”

Walk away? When was walking away ever an option? Stiles shivered and took a deep breath. It was ragged, but he wasn’t dying. He took another, and then another. He couldn’t afford to let this get to him right now. He touched his chest and felt bruised and raw. The closer they got to town, the more the pain receded. He let Jackson rant on while he focused on just taking one breath after another.

Everything was flashing through his head from the day Scott was bitten to tonight. This was fucked up beyond recognition, but it all finally made a sick sense. This Hatfield and McCoys thing the Argents and Hales had going on was a disaster. He starts to understand that he was in the deepest pit of denial of all thinking he could keep his Dad safe from all of this madness. Shit! He just stood between bloodthirsty enemies and shouted them down. What kind of stupid is that?

“We can’t tell anyone. You hear me, Stilinski? Spaz out on your own time, but no one can know about this. This didn’t happen.” Jackson’s voice finally got through to Stiles.

“You’re right. You don’t tell anyone about this. You weren’t there, and nothing happened,” Stiles bit out. “These people will do anything to keep this shit quiet. You get that, right? Kill a few bystanders and make sure the bodies are never found? Not a problem. People have gone missing in the Preserve for generations. If they decided we needed to go down, they wouldn’t give a rat’s ass that I’m the Sheriff’s son or your Daddy is a high-priced lawyer. Just means the authorities would search a little longer.”

“You’re serious.”

“Believe it. Do you really think werewolves have stayed a secret this long because they aren’t willing to do whatever it takes to protect the secret?”

They continued in silence until they reached the hospital. Jackson pulled into a space near the Emergency Room doors. He turned off the car but just stared at the doors. “Is Lydia going to become one of them?”

“I really fucking hope so,” Stiles muttered.

“You want her to become…that?”

Stiles sighed and rubbed again at his chest. “When Peter offered me the bite, he told me that it was a gift. If it didn’t kill me, it would make me faster, stronger, increased healing. Do you understand? If it doesn’t kill you, then you become a werewolf. As fucked up as all this is, I would rather she be a living werewolf than a dead Lydia.”

“She could still die?” Jackson grabbed Stiles’ arm, forcing him to face him. “Make them fix it.”

“Fix it? You expect me to wave a magic wand and make everything better, Jackson? Trust me, wishes don’t come true. If they did, Scott would be human right now, and we wouldn’t be in this shit show. You want to take your chances and go back there to find Peter Hale? Be my guest. The jury is still out on if he is a psycho, so I wish you luck.” Stiles ripped his arm out of Jackson’s grip and opened the door. “Just remember that I warned you. Now, if you can pretend to be a decent human being while we are in public, that would be great. We need to get in there and check on Lydia.”

Stiles slammed the door shut and headed for the door. It was maybe twelve or fifteen steps before he heard Jackson follow him. A glance at the reserved parking at least offered the relief that his Dad was no longer at the hospital.

Jackson caught up with him as they entered the hospital. Softly he asked, “How long before…you know?”

With a shrug, Stiles responded, “Scott’s wound was healed the next day. Like gone. I don’t know what’s normal.”

Deputies Jones and Hastings were on the door to Lydia’s room. Hastings looked relieved to see Stiles. “Kid, your Dad is looking for you. Where did you disappear to?”

“Jackson offered to help me find my keys. Is Lydia OK?” He tried to look around the door.

Hastings reached over to grab something. “She’s still unconscious. Look, I need to take your clothes as evidence.” He glanced at Jackson and the blood on him. “Both of you. We can either do this in a room here, or I can drive you both to the station. Your Dad has already given permission, Stiles.”

Stiles froze for a moment. Glancing down at the blood on his clothes, he tried to remember if any of it was from Derek. Damn, it was a chance he would have to take. If it came up…well, he would think of something then. “It’s ok to do it here.”

“Am I a suspect?” Jackson asked.

“Son, everyone is a suspect until they’re not. But the doctor told the Sheriff an hour ago that it looked like an animal attack.”

Jackson looked between Lydia’s room and Stiles before he sighed. “Sure, but I need to call my Dad first.”

“Stay here while you call him.” Hastings looked at Jones, who nodded and then motioned Stiles toward a room. He pulled out a series of bags and set them down on the exam bed. He placed a camera next to them and then stuck his head out of the room. A moment later, the door opened wider, and nurse Melissa McCall, Scott’s mom, entered.

“How you doing, Stiles?” Her voice had that soft tone she took with victims. Stiles decided he hated it.

“Fine.” He ignored the look she had to that comment. “So, impartial witness?”

Hastings nodded. “If you prefer another nurse or a male nurse, we can do that, but it’ll take longer.” He put on a pair of gloves and picked up the camera. Melissa gloved up and headed for the bags.

“No, Mama McCall is fine.” He fingered his shirt. “So, strip, huh?”

“Start with your shoes.”

Stiles worked his way from shoes to socks to pants. Melissa bagging each item individually while Hastings took photos and had him turn around to check for injuries. Stiles supposed it was good that he didn’t have any fresh wounds for the first time in days. He turned his back when he removed his shirt and reluctantly handed it over.

“Arms out,” Hastings ordered, and he heard the click of pictures. “You’ve got some interesting bruising here, Stiles.”

He knew he had several bruises between Peter, Derek, and Scott. Hell, even Jackson had layered a few on. “Lacrosse and the usual school jerks.” Stiles shrugged it off.

“Right. Turn around.”

He put his arms down and turned toward them.

“Stiles Stilinski!” Melissa’s angry exclamation made him jerk upright. “Where the hell did you get a tattoo? Does Scott have one? Does your father know about this?”

Stiles froze in confusion, trying to figure out what she was talking about. Her angry glare was centered on his chest, while Hastings had a little smirk as he raised the camera to take a picture. Stiles looked down, and centered over his heart was a dark shape with three spirals spinning out from the center. He reached up to touch it in shock.

“I was wondering why you were so hesitant,” Hastings said with a laugh. “The artwork is good, but your Dad is gonna flip. Hope it wasn’t anyone in Beacon County that did that. I like most of the artists around here.” Hastings tapped his own arm that Stiles knew was covered in several tattoos.

“Um.” Stiles’ mind was reeling. “I can honestly say none of the shops around here gave that to me.”

Melissa shoved some scrubs at him and spun him by the ear. “Go clean up, and don’t think I’m not going to grill Scott about this. Did you at least go somewhere clean? Sometimes I just don’t know what you two are thinking.”

Stiles grabbed the clothes and hustled into the bathroom, locking the door behind him. Moving to the mirror, he just stared at the perfect symbol on his chest and rubbed at it. The pain from before starting to fade to a memory.

 


 

Chapter 2

Derek hesitated on the page, setting down his pen to read it closely before signing. “Are you certain this is necessary?” He tapped the fourth paragraph.

“Yes, Derek, it’s completely necessary.” Peter started to reach for the page, but Derek pulled it back.

Carson McCray, attorney for the Hale Pack for who knows how long, placed a calming hand on Peter’s arm. “I realize that the concept of living incapacitation of a werewolf is unheard of in pack lore; given Peter’s experience, I believe it is integral to your pack dynamics to provide for the pack in the event of catastrophic events. I personally am overjoyed that Peter recovered, but his circumstances were abysmal without his Alpha present to make decisions for him.”

Derek tensed up at the off-hand mention of Laura, and Carson sighed as Peter withdrew his hand from the table.

“Derek, I loved your sister. She was a true joy in that bossy, larger-than-life way that your mother had when she was happy. She was born to inherit a large, stable pack that would allow her to slowly grow in wisdom. She would have experiences that would temper that exuberance. Eventually, I would have advised her the way I advised Talia. That wasn’t to be.” Carson leaned back. “I do not speak ill, but instead of running to the law and the protections established by generations of Hale Alphas, she took you and ran. It was years before I found her. And when I did, she would not respond.”

Grimacing, Derek looked away, not wanting to think about those years they lived without, staying off the grid. They weren’t pleasant memories, but they were the closest he had ever been to his sister. Derek understands why Peter killed her. Now that he is Alpha, the signs are so clear that Peter is still healing, still slightly unbalanced. When he says he was an omega, practically feral, but still fulfilling his Pack Oath to protect the territory, Derek believes him. Peter’s morals may be questionable, but his oath to the pack doesn’t waver. The bond they share burns with the guilt and shame he has for killing Laura.

Carson was still speaking. “Without her direct orders, I could do nothing substantive for Peter’s care beyond what I did. Since all Pack members were represented by the firm through the Hale Trust, I couldn’t act for him directly. This document will give them individual protections as well as Pack protections. It’s the right thing to do.”

Derek nodded and reached for the pen. He scrawled his name across the page and then quickly repeated it on the following three pages. They sat quietly while the silent assistant from the corner came forward and notarized the documents. The eyes flashed slightly with that hint of orange that marked him as a werefox. Derek allowed a brief flash in response. A moment later, he was gone.

“OK, that puts the Trust, wills, and assets in place. It allows the firm to continue representation, and it re-establishes identities. The Beacon County Sheriff and the FBI both reviewed our documentation and accept the story that Peter has been under the care of a Plastic Surgeon for years.”

“The surgeon won’t have a problem corroborating the story?” Derek asked.

Carson shook his head. “He and his team are paid well to protect the secret. The local hospital records have been altered. In our favor was the nurse who was poisoning Peter. She manipulated the nursing list for Peter’s ward for the last six months. We were able to use that to insert the completion of Peter’s treatment, so no questions. In fact, the authorities have decided that it was Peter’s return to Beacon Hills that set this into motion.”

Peter tapped his fingers on the table. “So the past is wrapped up, we’ve taken the first step to secure our future, now to work in the present. Have you secured the new packhouse?”

“I don’t see why the warehouse loft isn’t good enough. There’s plenty of space to remodel.” Derek slouched down in the chair. The loft was remote, if a bit industrial.

“My dear nephew, that loft might be appropriate for a young alpha without a stable pack if you want to recruit nothing but teenagers to our ranks. But, if we want adults and stable families, we need something a bit more respectable, don’t you think?” Peter met his gaze. “Buy it for the investment if nothing else. Actually, it might do for a decent dojo. Training space for the pack that can double as a bolt hole. We should be able to reinforce the building and provide safe rooms.”

Derek cocked his head to the side in thought. That…wasn’t a bad idea. “I like it. Let’s do that. The loft at the top should be a full apartment. Plenty of space to gather and relax. The second floor can be converted to two-bedroom apartments. Should be able to get at least six out of it. That leaves the bottom two floors for training space.”

“And the House?”

“We need two. One in town that’s up against the preserve. Two master suites, library, office, formal living room, and casual family room. And we need a large kitchen. Something big enough to cook for a full pack.” Derek exchanged looks with Peter, who grinned.

“Agreed.”

Carson tapped his pen where he was taking notes. “So you do plan to rebuild the pack?”

“Yeah. Once we scout a new location, we can start the motions for a new packhouse in the Preserve.”

“But the house in town will remain for a more public face for the family. Our distance from the town allowed us to be targeted without questions. Our return to Beacon Hills needs to be respectable,” Peter pointed out.

“In that case, I do have information on several families searching for new packs. I will only vouch for the ones who have been vetted. A couple left potentially abusive situations. I have three small families who relocated but haven’t been able to mesh with a pack yet. Two of them lost their pack to hunters. The other one was a bitten who didn’t do well with the alpha heir.”

Derek looked to Peter with a raised eyebrow.

“I’ll meet with them first. Determine if they are a good fit before I allow them to meet you. Your mother rarely allowed non-family entry to the pack, but there were several that lived in town as pack adjacent.” Peter hesitated a moment, then looked between the two. “I…don’t know what happened to them.”

“Most left Beacon Hills not long after the fire,” Carson explained softly. “I assisted where I was aware to find them suitable connections. A few that were known to the hunters were subsequently tracked down. I think at first, the hunters were trying to locate Derek and Laura. Several were taken in by Satomi Ito. We may be able to negotiate if any wish to return to Beacon Hills.”

“I might…eventually. I’m hesitant to pull many in right now. I have a treaty with the Argents, but Gerard Argent came for the funeral last week and hasn’t left yet. Let’s start the meetings but not make a firm timeline until we know when he is leaving,” Derek instructed them. There was just something about an Argent that he could never completely trust.

“That is reasonable.” Carson made a couple of notes. “Have you given any further thought on reading in the Sheriff?”

“Mother didn’t read in the prior sheriff,” Derek noted.

Peter scoffed, “And look how well that worked out. The man happily let himself be bribed by hunters to look the other way while they murdered our family.”

Derek clenched his jaw to bite back the retort, “The man could have taken a bribe if he knew about us or not.”

“Peter, you know that Derek is right.” Carson placed a hand on Peter’s arm to calm him. “However, we know that Noah Stilinski is an honorable man. Former Army Ranger, deputy, sheriff, and a single father. Increased diversity in the department drastically after taking over. There is one mark against him for treatment of alcoholism. That’s not on any formal record, but I have my sources. Brief treatment in rehab, but no noticeable issues since then. If the man still drinks, it’s not in public and not on the job. Has a father in a retirement home, debts from mortgage and medical bills. The bills are attributed to his deceased wife. His commitment to the Law is probably the biggest stumbling block to the reveal.”

“Don’t let that fool you. Noah strongly believes in the Law, but his sense of Justice is stronger.” Peter picked up one of the pages from Carson’s file on the Sheriff. “But, he is absolutely a man of his word, and he loathes discrimination in any form.”

Exchanging a glance with Carson, Derek leaned forward. “Sounds like you know the man.”

“It is nice to be underestimated due to good genetics, but I am a bit older than I appear. Our good Sheriff grew up in Beacon Hills. Noah was a senior when I was a freshman. What can I say? The man has always been able to fill out a uniform,” Peter raised his eyebrows suggestively.

Derek rolled his eyes. “Seriously?”

Peter blatantly ignored them as he looked at the page in his hands but continued speaking, “Not that he gave me the time of day. Graduated and ran off to join the Army for the GI Bill to pay for college. Don’t know why but he volunteered for Rangers and served five years I think it was before an injury sent him home for recovery. They started a voluntary force reduction, and he took the early out then started college during rehab. Or so I heard. I was off to college myself by that point. He returned to Beacon Hills after college as a deputy with a pregnant wife in tow.” Peter looked up from the page and stopped speaking as he blushed slightly. Then he grinned unrepentantly, “So maybe I paid a little attention to what the man was doing over the years.”

It took a moment for Derek to shake off the images of a young Peter stalking the Sheriff. Finally, he took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “OK then, we approach the Sheriff and educate him on the history of Beacon Hills.”

“Should I approach Stiles for an invitation?” Peter asked.

“NO.” Derek took a moment to knock down the tightness in his chest from the thought of Stiles being involved. “I don’t want him involved. Once Sheriff Stilinski is in the know, Stiles has no reason to be involved with any of this. He’s just human. There’s no reason for him to get in the way and endanger anyone.” Derek rubbed absently at his chest.

Peter slowly slid the page he was reading back to Carson while he stared at Derek with that stupid knowing expression that had always pissed him off as a kid. “Right, no reason for him to be involved at all since the boy is just so good at keeping his nose out of our business.”

 


 

“Stiles!”

The shout caused Stiles to flail, upsetting his chair and sending him crashing to the floor to swim in a ream of cheap printer paper. He jerked his head around to find the source of the offending sound that woken him from his precarious perch.

“Dad, do you even know how dangerous it is to wake someone like that?” Stiles shook his head and then crawled toward the bed to pull himself up before sprawling across the unmade surface. He noted the sun wasn’t even up.

“Nope, that’s not going to fly. You want to stay up all night indulging in some game or research, that’s fine. But you are grounded, and that doesn’t mean you can sleep the day away. First thing you are going to do today is clean this pigsty.” Dad looked around the room before bending down to pick up a few of the pages. “And, what the hell is this? You’re grounded for running off and getting a tattoo. An illegal tattoo, I might add, since you are still underage. And here you are researching more tattoos?” He wadded up the pages. “I swear, when I find out who did that to you, I’m going to personally see they are shut down and lose their license.”

“I honestly don’t know how I got it,” Stiles muttered under his breath.

“What did you say?”

“Nothing. Nothing coming out of this mouth, Pops.”

“See, I’m pretty sure I just heard you say you don’t know how you got it. That means you were compromised. What was it? Alcohol? Drugs? Is that what’s been happening?” Dad moved in close like he was going to grab Stiles’ arm and check for needle tracks.

“NO! Just, no. I’ve never done drugs. The only thing I’ve got going for me is my brain. Short of Adderall, I’m not going to screw that up.”

Dad nodded at him. “And, do you have any idea what happened to a new, unopened bottle of whiskey I recently purchased?”

“Nope, not a clue.” Stiles crawled back to sit against the wall, just out of his father’s reach.

“Stiles.”

“OK, fine. So Scott and I may have tried it out in the Preserve. But I decided I don’t like the side effects. A couple of homeless took it off us.” Stiles leaned his head back against the wall and closed his eyes. “We didn’t drive, and we crashed at Scott’s house.”

“Son, I’m just looking out for you. You’ve been moody, getting into trouble, lying to me. Every time something happens around here, you’re in the thick of it. That tattoo is either a symptom or a cry for help. If you weren’t drunk or doing drugs, then how do you explain not knowing how you got it?” Dad froze, and suddenly the Sheriff was standing there. “Stiles, did someone do something to you without your consent?”

Stiles jerked in shock. He didn’t just….”Dad, no. N.O. absolutely not. This is still 100 percent virgin territory. I mean, look at me, who would want a piece of this? Just, whatever is going through your head, the answer is no. Forget everything I said. I got a little crazy with some of the guys, and we found a place way outside of Beacon County. When the time came, I was the only one who didn’t chicken out. There, fine. Does that satisfy you?”

He stared at Stiles until Stiles crawled off the bed and knelt down to start picking up all the paper. Dad reached down to put his hand on Stiles’ head and tilt it up with a sigh.

“You’re still grounded. Don’t leave the property. I want the laundry and dishes finished and vacuum the damn place. I’ve got a lunch meeting with the FBI, but I will be home by six. You’re cooking.”

“Of course I’m cooking. But you know, we are running a little low on some of the basics, so I might need to go to the store.”

“Give me a grocery list, and I’ll pick it up on the way home.” Dad headed downstairs.

Stiles was stumbling up and following him down the stairs. “Come on, Dad. It’s groceries. I’ve been grounded in this house for three weeks. How long until Roscoe and I am released on bail?”

“Well, we might talk again about your sentence next week. But the Jeep is just fine where it is for now.”

“In Police Impound???” Stiles waved his arms around. “Isn’t that a complete abuse of your authority? Roscoe didn’t even do anything wrong. The least you can do is let me bring him home.”

“It’s staying where it is until next week. Unless you are ready to reveal the name of your tattoo artist?” Dad slid on his sunglasses as he stared Stiles down.

Stiles started to fidget. Damn, he was never getting the jeep back. For a moment, he thought of pointing the finger at some dive location in Beacon Valley, but none of them deserved a police presence for something they didn’t do.

Dad nodded once, then turned and was out the door. Reaching for the doorknob, Stiles stopped himself. It wasn’t worth the fight. He turned and then slid down the door until he was sitting on the floor. What the heck was he going to do? He’s been researching non-stop for the last three weeks. There is literally nothing to distract him from it. It’s not like any of his friends have taken the time to call him or drop by to check in on him.

Stiles banged his head back against the door and then winced and leaned forward to wrap his arms around his knees to prevent himself from rubbing at the mark on his chest. His research had revealed that it was a triskelion. He had pages of material on the origin and meaning of the symbol. Mystical purposes for the placement of tattoos in magic and ritual, spontaneous marks appearing. Though most of the material on the latter was medical in nature.

What he couldn’t explain was the cause of spontaneous tattoo appearance. There was nothing out there to explain it. He did hook up with a kitsune from New York on a supernatural message board. He’s been on it a couple months, but it was worth it for the bribe he had to pay to get on. This kitsune had explained that other than temporary marks generated during high rituals, the only type of marks that even remotely resembled a tattoo were Fate Marks. But see, Fate Marks were like a weird kind of birthmark. You are literally born with a symbol that designates that you are fated to do something/be something. Who really knows. The point is, Stiles is definite he wasn’t born with this thing.

Stiles climbed to his feet with a deep sigh and went back upstairs to change into some fresh clothes. He glanced around his room at all of the clothes thrown everywhere and the lack of clothes in his drawers. Ok, so maybe Dad wasn’t wrong about laundry. He looked to his bed and then grabbed his clothes hamper and started picking up the clothes. Might as well get it started. Hard labor, check. Maybe he can go back to bed while the washer is running. Stiles sat down on the bed then just fell back, closing his eyes and imagining the room was dark once more. A moment later, the lights surged brighter and then went dark.

“Shit.” Stiles got up and made his way carefully through the house, noting that none of the lights were working. He made it to the fuse box, but nothing was tripped. A glance out the windows showed some of the early risers in his neighbors looking up and down the block. None of the lights were on.

He grabbed a flashlight from a nearby drawer and headed back up to his room and his forgotten phone. He pulled up the electric company app and reported the outage. A few minutes later, the update showed an estimated three hours until the power came back on. Well, laundry and vacuum are out. Might as well go back to bed.

Stiles’ last thought as he stretched out and let sleep claim him was that it was a fortuitous chain of events that gave him a perfect excuse to get some actual sleep.

 

Gerard Argent is officially a pain in my ass, Sheriff Noah Stilinski thought as he ducked back into the break room of the Beacon Hills Sheriff’s Station. OK, it wasn’t the most adult thing to do, but the man had done nothing but intrude on the investigation into his daughter’s crimes. Everything the man said seemed to have hidden meanings. Noah knew there were more questions than answers, but the answers Gerard was willing to give set Noah’s bullshit radar off from ten miles away.

Add to that the FBI sticking their head into the mix, and it was just headache-inducing. Noah had felt a small jolt of pure satisfaction when Rafael McCall had shown up with the task force doing the investigation. One little offhand comment about how McCall’s son was dating the niece of the suspected perpetrator and the man had been pulled from the case and ordered out of Beacon Hills. Don’t want to have even the appearance of impropriety, now do we. Yeah, it’s the little things in life that make it worthwhile.

Now, if he can just make Argent go away. Noah sighed and decided it was time to suck it up and face the trouble.

“Ahem,” a voice sounded from the room behind him.

Noah spun around and found himself face to face with Deputy Sheriff Tara Graeme. She raised an eyebrow at him, and he cringed slightly.

“You see, Noah, it’s times like this that I really see the resemblance between you and Stiles.” She shook her head slowly.

“Just getting a little caffeine to boost me.” That’s right. It’s a break room, and there’s coffee in it. Lousy coffee since he kept his private coffee maker in his office with the drinkable stuff Stiles picked up from that organic market. And there was no way in hell he was admitting to the kid that he preferred something organic.

“Right. That’s why you are hiding in the shadow of the door waiting for Mr. Blowhard to leave,” She nodded twice then looked him up and down. “You need me to take this while you run away with your tail between your legs?”

That tone was mocking, but Noah suddenly perked up. That’s right, he should have been off duty half an hour ago. Therefore, it’s not his job to speak to a concerned citizen if it doesn’t involve an emergency. Noah smiled, “Thank you for offering. Look at the time. I’m off duty and late for my check-in with Stiles. Since he is still grounded, I need to be a good role model and keep him to the schedule I set for him. Leave me a note if there is something the office will need to address tomorrow.”

Noah straightened up, put on his serious face, and headed straight to his office, past the Argent at the front desk. He ignored the call for his attention and quickly grabbed his firearm, keys, and bag from his office. Locking the files in the desk and then the office behind him, he pushed his way on through. Without stopping, he stated on his way to the door, “Mr. Argent, unfortunately, I will not be back in the office until tomorrow. Deputy Sheriff Graeme will be happy to speak to you about your concerns. However, please keep in mind that the FBI has taken the lead on your daughter’s case, and no one in this office may review the details of that case. Have a good evening.” And he was out the door before anyone could speak.

He stopped at the grocery store on his way home. Stiles had sent him a text earlier with a short grocery list for dinner. The kid was still grounded, but he was trying to lighten the sentence by cooking dinner every night. He looked at the list a moment. Extra virgin olive oil. How is oil, virgin? Tofu. Nope, that’s out. Grain-free bread. How the hell do you make bread without grain? Is the kid trying to punish him by feeding him this nonsense?

Noah headed through the store, grabbing the essential list with a few reasonable substitutions. First stop, meat. He’s the adult, and tonight he is going to eat steak. And bread, real soft, wonderful white bread. Nope, not even going to feel guilty. Some potatoes to go with his steak. Heck, might as well get all of the fixings along with real, full-fat sour cream. He hit the baking aisle and reached for the first bottle of olive oil.

“I wouldn’t do that if I were you.”

Noah spun toward the voice, bottle in hand. “Excuse me?” He looked into the slightly smiling face of Peter Hale.

“The olive oil, if you are going to the trouble of buying olive oil, you should get a decent quality extra virgin.” Peter motioned toward the bottle in his hand.

The man had a shopping basket with just a few items. Most of them real food, none of those boxes Noah had in his own basket against Stiles’ list. “You mean virgin oil is a thing?”

The man had a warm little laugh that made Noah pay attention. “Yes. It has to do with the quality of the product and the method of producing the oil. Extra virgin is a higher quality and healthier oil. Incidentally, it is also the best tasting, in my opinion.”

“Oh. In my experience, healthy and best tasting never go hand in hand.”

“Then you just aren’t cooking the right meals. There is absolutely no reason to skimp on flavor to achieve health.” Peter leaned over the basket, “Though it appears you are not overly concerned with health.”

Noah blushed slightly, “Well, the kid is concerned but sometimes….”

“I understand.” Peter reached up and picked a bottle from the top shelf. “I believe you will enjoy this one.”

“Thank you, I owe you one.”

“There is a way you can repay that.”

“Really?”

“My nephew and I have a few things we would like to discuss with you. Outside of the Sheriff’s Station and preferably away from the FBI.”

Noah raised an eyebrow, the previous flirtatious atmosphere disappearing. “And the subject of this discussion?”

“Not fit for public venues, but enlightening, I assure you. The Hale family founded this town. We’ve given our lives in service to the town. It’s traditional, you might say, for the head of the Hale family to meet with the Sheriff when one is elected. Normally we would invite you to the family home for a casual dinner. Alas, we find ourselves without a permanent residence as of yet. Perhaps we could keep with the tradition and visit with you at your home?” Peter kept his demeanor casual, but there seemed to be a promise of so much more in the simple request.

Noah thought about it a moment. There had been no evidence found that the Hales were some sort of crime syndicate, but he was just a bit uneasy about the request. He remembered Peter from before the fire. The man was always up to something. Never anything he could be caught doing and always with the plausible deniability, but on the edge of things that happened. It only took him a moment to weigh his options before his damned curiosity won out in the end.

“Ok, why don’t you come by tonight?” When Peter looked like he might decline, Noah threw in, “How do you like your steak?”

The man gave a pleased little grin. “I’ve always preferred mine rare. Derek will take his medium. Say, seven o’clock?”

“Seven it is,” Noah gave him another nod and watched the man stroll away before heading back for more steak.

 


 

Seven rolled around quicker than he thought. Stiles griped about the meal and then about the guests that Noah still hadn’t identified. The last thing the Hales needed was a Stiles who had enough time to do more research on them than the kid already had gotten by snooping into the case file on the fire. His son had an amazing mind, but sometimes Noah was certain that it balanced on the edge of the blade between good and evil.

The doorbell pulled him out of those thoughts. He tapped Stiles on the shoulder when his son tried to move in front of him. “I’ll get the door. You go check on dinner.”

“Fine.”

Noah opened the door with a polite smile. Peter Hale stood on the porch, his outfit casual yet clearly not purchased at any of the local mainstream stores. Derek was a bit better dressed than the last few times he had seen the man. They were standing easy so clearly had healed well from any of the wounds inflicted by Kate Argent. Noah redirected that line of thought. If this was an attempt to gain more information into the investigation, he would shut that down quick.

“Please, come in. My son, Stiles, is finishing in the kitchen now. It should only be a few more minutes until dinner is ready.”

“Thank you for inviting us, Sheriff,” Derek said politely if slightly tense.

“Please, Noah. I insist.”

“Noah,” Peter acknowledged as he drew out the name as if he were stroking it. “Then it must be Peter and Derek. We completely insist.”

Derek gave a little snort, then covered with a nod. “Derek, please.”

Noah led them to the living room for a few minutes of small talk before Stiles’ curiosity got the best of him.

“Dad, dinner is almost ready,” Stiles called from the kitchen, his voice moving closer. “What drinks should I…you? What are they doing here?”

Noah sighed and stood quickly. “Stiles, these are our guests for dinner tonight.”

“Stiles. You’ve been well, I hope.” Peter gave a smirk when Stiles huffed.

“Peter.” Derek seemed to almost growl the name.

“Seriously. What are you doing here?”

“There are things about the History of Beacon Hills we feel the Sheriff needs to be aware of. Traditionally my family takes care of that notification.” Derek looked so tense speaking to Stiles that Noah wondered if this was a good idea.

Peter stepped in smoothly. “Perhaps we should have dinner first before we begin any discussion? It smells marvelous.”

“Perhaps you should take your creepy….”

“Stiles!” Noah stomped down on his son’s attitude. “Peter and Derek are our guests tonight. I expect you to treat them as such.” When Stiles opened his mouth to protest, Noah spun him around back toward the kitchen and lowered his voice so the Hales couldn’t hear him. “Not another word. If you ever want to see your jeep again, you will go back to that kitchen and start plating dinner. You will be courteous and behave.”

He gave Stiles a little shove then turned back. “I apologize for my son’s behavior.”

“That’s quite all right. I’m certain Stiles has his reasons,” Peter reassured him. Derek just grunted.

Dinner was tense and quiet. Stiles was stewing in his chair and he banged his silverware against the plate. Derek seemed to withdraw. The two of them refused to look at each other. It would have been a disaster if not for the easy banter between himself and Peter. The man was sly and witty. He was educated and able to converse on any number of subjects. Why Stiles didn’t want to jump in was a mystery.

After Dinner, the tension ratcheted up. Stiles was pacing when he wasn’t chewing on a thumbnail. Derek looked like he was forcing himself not to bolt. Peter lounged back on the couch as if there wasn’t a care in the world.

“We might as well get started.” Peter looked toward Derek, who nodded. “The Hale family literally founded this town. We’ve lived here since before the first settlers breached the Preserve. We have always seen ourselves as protectors of the territory.”

Stiles huffed.

“I can appreciate that.” Noah gave Stiles the look.

Peter leaned forward. “What is not well known is why we feel the need to protect this territory. You see, there are stories and legends throughout human history of things that cannot be explained through logic and science. One of those things is us. The Hale Family is descended through an unbroken line of werewolves.”

Noah let out a laugh before choking it back when Peter and Derek’s eyes glowed. He froze for a second, his brain halting and then running in spurts as he readjusted his entire worldview. “Werewolves.”

“Yeah, they’re werewolves,” Stiles exploded. “Howl at the moon, eyes, claws, teeth, rip and shred while running crazy through the streets, werewolves.”

“Now, Stiles, I’m certain you can agree that I never actually ran crazy through the streets,” Peter grinned at Stiles, derailing his speech.

Noah latched onto the one thing that suddenly made sense. “Stiles, you knew about this? How long? Is this what you’ve been lying about? Wait…Scott knows about this too, right?”

“Dad.”

“No, don’t Dad me.”

“You don’t understand,” Stiles threw his arms up.

“Of course, I don’t understand, not if everyone is lying to me.”

“I had to protect you.”

“No. I’m the father. It’s my job to protect you. I’m the Sheriff. It’s my job to protect this town. Your job is to be a kid.” Noah looked at the way Stiles held himself. “I think you should go up to your room, and we will discuss this later.”

“What? Dad, you don’t know what’s been going on.”

Derek had a hand rubbing his chest when he suddenly spoke up. “He’s right. Your just a human kid. You need to stay out of this. We came to tell your father everything.”

“Go, Stiles,” Noah pointed. The look of utter rejection on Stiles’ face almost made Noah cave, but he held firm until his son had left the room. Turning back to the Hales, he took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “I’m sorry about his behavior.”

“Don’t be. Stiles has good reason, but he needs to be out of all this.”

“Well, we can agree about that.” Noah thought for just a moment that a drink sounded terrific before he forced himself to refocus. “I get the feeling that werewolves are just the tip of the iceberg. I mean, it certainly explains a lot about this town and some of the things I’ve seen over the years. So, bring it on. Give me everything you have. Then we will figure out if I should be arresting you because suddenly all of the weird animal attacks are starting to make sense to me.”

Peter grinned broadly, “Very well. Any time you find beings who do not conform to the strict definition of human, you will find those who believe they don’t have the right to exist. In current society, they are called Hunters. So let me tell you about a family named Argent and their belief that my kind does not have the right to exist.”

Noah leaned forward and listened intently for the next several hours as secrets were revealed and a hidden world and war became known.

 


 

Chapter 3

Noah crouched down near the scene to examine the marks in the dirt. Behind him, the silently flashing lights of the patrol cars set off strange shadows across the ground. He ignored the sound of approaching footsteps as he carefully checked the direction and weight distribution of the marks.

“Sorry to pull you away from your time with Stiles, Noah,” Tara Graeme said as she came to a stop just to his right hip.

“You probably saved me from having to ground him half the summer.” He motioned toward the tracks, “Looks like we have a witness who took off.”

“Or a second perp who got cold feet.”

Noah nodded his agreement. “Could be. We need to follow those trails back.”

“I’ll get a few of the guys prepped. You want me to take it?”

“No.” He glanced up at her before standing. “I’m out; I might as well take a walk.”

She placed a hand on his arm to prevent him from returning to the cars. “You’ve been in a mood for at least a week now. Well, more like a month since the great tattoo reveal. But I thought you were getting over that when you came back in a snit about a week ago. You going to share what’s going on with you any time soon?”

If only it was that easy. “I just got a bit of disturbing news, and I’m figuring things out.” Noah looked at that damned raised eyebrow that the woman used like a weapon. “I will tell you what I can when I can. But, for now, I need you to just give me a little space to figure things out.”

“Does it involve Stiles? You know I never question your parenting, but a month in solitary at Casa de Stilinski has got to have that kid climbing the walls. Maybe it would be better to put him to work at the Station. You know I have decades of case files to digitalize.”

“A month doesn’t seem long enough. Sometimes I want to just wrap Stiles up in bubble wrap and lock him in a soft room.” His mind flashed to the image of Stiles standing between a gun-totting Hunter and a Werewolf. Not enough bubble wrap in the state of California.

“I’ll admit Stiles has the drive, determination, and imagination to get in a heap of trouble. But he has a good heart, Noah. And sooner or later, he is going to be out there discovering the mysteries of this world all by his little self. You’ve raised him well, so you need to trust that he will do the right thing when the time comes.” Tara grinned and patted his arm.

Noah shook his head. “I don’t doubt his intentions, but his ability to consider the consequences and make the safe damn choices…that’s what I worry about.”

“Well, hell, Noah. That’s called being a teenager.”

Ignoring her smirk, Noah reached into his cruiser and pulled out his jacket. Movement at the edge of the tree line near his cruiser caught his attention along with a distinctive flash of blue eyes. He looked over to Tara, who was giving orders to officers on scene. Slowly closing the trunk, he moved to blend into the shadow.

“Peter?” Noah whispered.

The man seemed to practically appear in front of him without making a sound.

“What are you doing here?”

“Would you believe taking a stroll through the Preserve?” Peter in that smart-ass tone that Noah absolutely did not find cute…absolutely.

“Hale, I don’t have the time right now.”

“Unfortunately true. We have an overdue party. Family group. Four wolves. Husband, wife, and two-point-five children. So…average. They were previously Hale adjacents but are moving back to Beacon Hills to join the pack. Their pack in Kansas City received too much attention from Hunters, so the Alpha was cutting off non-related wolves in the area.” Peter’s tone indicated what he thought of that cowardice. “They were due in last night but took a longer route because they were concerned about being followed. Found their vehicle at the meet-up tonight, but they weren’t with it. We tracked their scents to about three miles from here, where they split into two groups. The female and children headed deeper into the Preserve. Derek is following that trail. I’m tracking the male. Ran across an omega scent along the way.”

Noah took a deep breath and let it out slowly. He glanced back toward their scene. “Can you tell which…?”

“The Omega. Has the barest scent of feral with Hunters surrounding it. I can’t say if he could have been saved or not. But we have one of ours on the run and Hunters following.” Peter took a step back toward the darkness. “I should move ahead; just try not to shoot first if you run upon someone in the dark.”

“Sheriff?”

Noah stepped forward into the light so his people could see him. A glance backward told him that Peter had silently disappeared.

“Everyone ready?” Noah looked at the three deputies who were ready to go. “Marks, you will take lead. Cox, you sweep left, and Parrish, you’re right. Blankenship, you are going to bring up the rear. I’ll be focusing on tracks unless one of you thinks you can track better than me.” Noah looked at them and thought for a moment that the newby, Parrish, considered speaking then refrained. Noah would need to check out his tracking skills when he had time to evaluate him. Preferably during daylight. “Remember, we don’t know if this person is a perp, victim, or witness. Don’t drop your guard but let’s not shoot anyone until we know how they’re involved.”

They spread out into formation and started following the trail. Whoever was running was going for speed over stealth. And there were at least two sets of footprints following. Luckily those prints helped cover up the fact that their primary was moving in a way that wasn’t quite human.

They were about an hour in, and Noah recognized the area as close to an access road at the edge of the zone between the public Preserve land and Hale land. The snapping of a branch had Noah and his men pulling their weapons and swinging toward the sound.

“Whoa, don’t shoot.”

“Hold your fire!” Noah called out before moving forward. “Scott! What are you doing here?”

The boy looked like a deer in the damn headlights. How in the world was this kid able to hide the fact he was a werewolf from Noah for all this time? Answer…Stiles. Damn.

“Sheriff. You need to help. I was just…um cutting across the Preserve, and there are these guys with guns and crossbows. They have a guy tied up over there.” He pointed back toward the direction of the tracks. “I think they are going to kill him or something.”

“How far?”

“Not far. Near the trail to Mynar’s Rock.” Scott turned to go with them.

Noah motioned his men to start moving. “Scott, are you out here alone?” Scott was silent a moment, and Noah sighed. “Is Stiles out here with you?”

Scott looked surprised. “No. Stiles isn’t here. Why would Stiles be out here?”

“Then who is here? And Scott, if you don’t answer me, I’m dragging you home to your mother, and we are having a long talk about walks in the woods.” Noah looked up at the moon and back to Scott.

Scott’s eyes widened in understanding, and he swallowed hard. “Allison. I was out with Allison Argent. But she drove home. You’ve got to help the guy, Sheriff. I think they caught him because he’s a werewolf.” His voice dropped on the last word.

“OK, Scott. We will handle….”

“Peter Hale is in the woods watching them. He told me to run, but you can’t trust him. I think he’s going to kill them all. You don’t know how dangerous he is,” Scott’s words were stumbling over themselves.

“We’ve got this. I know about the Hales. I know about werewolves and hunters. I can handle Peter Hale, but I need you out of the way, now.” When the boy started to protest, Noah turned on what Stiles called his Sheriff’s Voice, “Go home, Scott. No stops, no side-trips. I want you to go straight home and stay in tonight.” Noah stared the teen down when it looked like he might be stubborn and waited for the nod of agreement. He watched Scott take off running toward home before he turned to double-time it to his men.

It was barely a minute after he met up with them that they could hear the sound of a man begging for his life. From the look of things, they didn’t have time to wait for backup. There weren’t enough of them to surround the men, so he split the team in two to give him coverage.

He couldn’t hear the words spoken between those present and the keening that the man suspended by his wrists from a tree branch was making. Still, he could see a man moving from the other side of the clearing with what was clearly a sword.

“Beacon County Sheriff’s Department! Drop your weapons and put your hands in the air!” Noah spoke loudly and forcefully, keeping his voice controlled and authoritative.

The men in the clearing turned toward Noah’s voice, but it was telling that not a single one loosened their grip.

“Drop them. My men will shoot if anyone makes a hostile move.”

From the back, a familiar voice called out, “Why, Sheriff Stilinski, I know what a busy man you are. I’ve barely had a chance to speak to you since I arrived in this fair town. So I wouldn’t want to bother you or your men tonight.”

Noah groaned softly, then took a breath. “Mr. Argent. Why am I not surprised to find you here? I’m going to need you to drop that…sword?”

“What, this little thing?” Argent’s voice sounded smug, and Noah really wanted to shut it up. Was it too much to hope the man would do something stupid and let his deputies shoot the sorry SOB? “You wouldn’t let your men open fire for an antique like this, would you?”

“For that deadly weapon? Yes, as a matter of fact, I will allow it if you take another step closer to the hostage.”

“Hostage?” And now Gerard’s voice grew cold, “This is no hostage, Sheriff. This is vermin, a blight on society, an animal. Did you see what he left behind back there? I assume you have since you were following this beast’s trail.”

“I don’t see a beast there. I see a man. And in this County, people are innocent until proven guilty. If he is guilty of that scene, then I assure you he will pay for his crime.” Noah took a step forward but made sure he had cover from a tree for vital organs. “Now everyone is going to put their weapons down before there is a misunderstanding that we will all regret.”

Argent said something quietly to the men, and after a bare moment’s hesitation, they all started laying down their weapons. He waited until everyone save Argent was on their knees before motioning his men to move forward.

Cox and Parrish quickly moved in to secure the men, while Marks and Blankenship held back to cover them. Noah moved forward and removed the sword from Argent’s hands. He could hear Marks to the side calling for backup and transport.

“You are making a mistake, Sheriff. If you understood what was happening around here, you would welcome my help.” Argent’s voice had a quality that might have been hypnotic if Noah hadn’t been aware of the secret the man thought he held. It was disconcerting because it was the kind of voice that could convince people to follow, and that was dangerous.

Noah stared at him, considering. “Alright, you have something to tell me; I’m willing to listen. But not here.”

Argent gave a smug little grin and held his hands out in front of himself for the cuffs. It kind of made Noah sick to his stomach, but it was better to find out what the man was willing to share first. Maybe he could get the man to talk himself into a cell.

With a last look, Noah moved toward where Parrish was cutting down their hostage.

“Are you ok, sir?” Parrish was asking.

“Yes, I think so. Thank you so much for saving me.”

Noah got the impression the man was liable to bolt, given a chance. “Sir, I’m Noah Stilinksi, Sheriff of Beacon County. We are going to take everyone in for statements and to determine if charges need to be filed.”

“Oh, I’m fine. I don’t think I want to file any charges.”

“That’s your choice, but Beacon County may file charges even if you decline to cooperate. We witnessed your life being threatened with deadly weapons. And, unfortunately, there is the matter of a crime scene back near town that we are investigating. Due to that, I’m afraid we are going to have to take you in.”

He tensed up, and Parrish looked ready to make a move. Noah waved him off and motioned him back to guarding the other prisoners. The deputy stepped back but kept both Noah and the prisoners in his field of vision.

When he was far enough away for privacy, Noah whispered, “Peter, if you can assure him that he will be fine, and we just need his cooperation.” While Noah couldn’t hear anything, the man cocked his head to the side as if listening.

His eyes widened, and then he nodded though he was still tightly strung. Noah could barely hear him when he responded urgently, “Peter, Joannie and the kids ran for safety. I don’t know if all of the Hunters followed me. I’ve got to find them before….” The sudden relaxation in his posture threatened to send him to his knees before he took a deep breath. “Thank you. Thank Derek for me. Just keep them safe.”

Noah saw a flash of blue eyes in the dark at the edge of his vision before the man disappeared. “I am sorry, but we need to do this by the book so that there isn’t a manhunt to find you.”

“It’s ok, Sheriff. Peter vouched for you. It’s going to be difficult to explain the blood, but it’s all mine.”

Noah nodded, “I understand. I’ve known a few people who are subject to stress nosebleeds. Sorry to hear that happens to you. We will have to take it as evidence, I’m sure you understand.”

“I’m happy to cooperate, Sheriff. You are just doing your job, after all. And the name’s Craig. Craig Mitchum.”

“Welcome back to Beacon Hills, Mr. Mitchum.”

 


 

Stiles sat in his father’s chair, trying all the drawers in the desk. They were locked, of course, because Dad had locked up at the end of the day. He hadn’t expected to be back before tomorrow morning. Certainly not before midnight. Definitely not to be called back because of your son. Stiles rubbed at his chest; the tugging pull dragging him in two different directions was pulsing hard tonight. He still had no explanation.

The door opened, and Susan Michaels stepped in with a bottle of water and a cup of tea? She raised an eyebrow at him before setting down the cup and pointing at the couch.

“I thought I told you to lay down until your father arrived.” The deputy was approaching retirement age, but Stiles had always felt this big sister vibe from her.

Stiles shook his head. “I don’t think sleeping is going to happen right now.”

“I didn’t say you have to go to sleep, though the good Lord knows you need it by the look of you. I said lay down and rest. The body can get a lot of mileage out of simple rest.” She kept pointing with that overly patient look until he caved and moved to sit on the couch.

“Happy?”

“Eventually. Here’s something hot to drink. It’ll warm you up.”

Stiles reached for it. “I could use a little caffeine.”

“It’s chamomile with honey.”

With a grimace, he took a sip. It was a little too sweet for his taste, and that was saying something. She must be worried he was still a little shocky.

“I’m fine, you know. You don’t have to sit here.”

“I’ve got nowhere else to be. And you, sweetness, have an unusual definition of fine. We found you sleepwalking in the Preserve, Stiles.”

“I wasn’t in the Preserve.”

“You were ten yards from the tree line when we caught up with you. Are you sure you can’t remember how you got there?” Sue’s voice gentle at the question.

“No. Dad sent me to take a nap like a toddler, and I woke up with your flashlights in my face.” Stiles put down the tea and broke open the bottle of water to take a long drink. “Dad said I looked tired and told me to go lay down. He was putting something together for dinner. I was just appeasing him so he would let me have the Jeep back tomorrow. I was on the bed, then I was in the Preserve. I’ve got nothing here, Sue.”

“It’s ok, Stiles. This isn’t the first time you’ve taken one of these strolls. We just thought you had grown out of them.”

“I’ve done this before?” Stiles was surprised. He didn’t have any memories of sleepwalking. Well, of anyone mentioning he had done it as a child.

“Lord, yes. There was a time about two years before your dad was elected Sheriff that the department had a regular patrol through your neighborhood just to stop you before you walked too far from home. You were really good about just taking our hand and getting into the car so we could take you home.”

“Two years before…that’s when Mom….” Stiles blinked back tears. That was when Mom was admitted to the hospital.

“Yeah. It only lasted about seven months, but you weren’t sleeping right then either.” Susan sighed, “Do you think this might be because of the grounding?”

“No. I don’t like it, but I understand why Dad did it. I can’t really explain…it, you know?” Stiles motioned toward his chest. It wasn’t like the entire department didn’t know about the damn thing, even if no one knew where it came from…Stiles included.

“Your father is stubborn but fair. Just talk to the man. He’s worried about you, and tonight’s little adventure isn’t going to help that. So talk to him without that attitude and smart mouth I know you can’t control.” She smiled and ruffled his hair.

Stiles leaned back on the couch and closed his eyes. “Was he upset when you called him?”

“He doesn’t know yet. He’s with a team tracking a suspect in the Preserve. If you had kept going, you might have crossed paths with him, so it’s good we caught you.”

Stiles started to sit up, and she pressed a hand on his chest.

“Nope, stay where you are. He’s fine, and they are bringing in several prisoners. Not going to talk about the case, so don’t ask. I know you.” And there was the Big-Sister-I’m-In-Charge voice.

Stiles huffed but lay back. He wouldn’t admit it, but he really was exhausted. He had barely slept since their fight about Stiles’ involvement with the supernatural. Every time he closed his eyes, another scenario would pop in with his Dad ending up on the wrong side of some Hunter or Creature.

Stiles understood the fear was irrational…in an entirely rational way. Knowing about this stuff for a week didn’t equate to the months Stiles has been dealing with it and didn’t count just because someone was the Adult.

“I’m going to turn off this light and go back to my desk. I don’t care if you sleep, but you will lay on that couch with your eyes closed until your father gets here.” She rubbed a hand through his hair again, and he registered through his closed eyelids when the light was turned off just before he heard the door close.

Certain that he wasn’t going to sleep, he started counting his breaths in and out, slowing them and making his body relax even if his mind wouldn’t stop.

It seemed like only a moment later when he heard whispering.

“Thank you so much for finding him, Susan. It scares the hell out of me to think he might have walked right into the middle of that mess.”

“I’m with you, Noah. It was just like when he was a little boy. Came right with us and didn’t really wake up until we were at the Station. He was a little disoriented, and we checked him over; a little cold, but at least he was wearing his hoodie and shoes. Max had a pair of his sweats in his locker that we got on him.”

“How long has he been out?”

“About an hour and a half. He looks like he could really use the rest, so we’ve tried not to disturb him.”

“Yeah, you’re right there. I think we could both use some rest. Let’s leave him asleep, and I’ll work out here while we wait for Argent’s lawyers to arrive.”

Stiles perked up as the door closed. Argent? He sat in the dark, rubbing his chest and thinking of all the ways this could go horribly wrong.

 


 

Derek had never felt more like an Alpha, more responsible for another life, than when Joannie Mitchum handed him her four-year-old and asked him to protect the boy. She shifted her two-year-old daughter from her arms to her back and secured her there with a long piece of fabric that she quickly wrapped around them both and tied off. It gave her freedom of movement and the chance to protect herself.

Taking a different path to avoid the Hunters that had lost her trail a while back, they moved in silence toward the rendezvous point to meet Peter.

They were there a good half hour before Peter strolled into the clearing near the grove. The relaxed set of his shoulders and the visible relief at finding them all safe was telling.

“Joannie, look at you all grown up. Last time I saw you, I was trying to convince you to run away with me.” Peter moved toward her, and Joannie met him halfway before wrapping him in a huge hug.

“You prick. That was my wedding night.” She leaned back and ran a hand down Peter’s face. “I’m so glad you are ok. Did you find Craig?”

“He’s fine. The Hunters caught up with him before I got there, but the Sheriff interrupted them before they could hurt him. He has been taken in for questioning along with Gerard Argent.” Peter smirked at Derek. “And, let me tell you, that was one of the most satisfying sights. Gerard Argent in handcuffs, being placed in a police van. It just gives me a warm glow.”

“Peter.”

“He. Is. Fine.” He looked at Joannie, “The Sheriff is in the know. It looked like some hunters killed an Omega. The Sheriff’s Department is investigating the death, so Craig will be questioned. I’ve already called Carson, and he is sending representation from his office for Craig. Noah will handle this by the book, but he knows Craig is a witness.”

Joannie sighed and hugged her son at her side. “Do we have somewhere to go?”

“Yes. It is amazing what you can do in a couple of weeks when you have enough money to throw at people.”

Derek rolled his eyes. “We have a Pack House. We’re still furnishing it, but we have a Jack and Jill set up for you until we can remodel a family suite in the other wing.”

“That’s perfect, Derek.” Her eyes were getting a little teary, and Derek was suddenly worried that she was going to burst into tears. “We’ve never been offered space in a Pack House before.”

“Well, it’s about time, then. Let’s get these kids home and cleaned up. Maybe a little dinner? Peter can go out to pick up dinner and maybe a couple changes of clothes for you all until we can get your car and belongings.” Derek glanced at Peter, who nodded.

Derek allowed Peter to drive, but it was tense until they entered their own property. Derek finally relaxed once he was sure they were safe.

 


 

Noah leaned against the counter in the breakroom while District Attorney David Whitmore doctored his coffee with more sugar than even Stiles could stomach. He had a love/hate relationship with the man. Noah conceded that Whitmore was good at getting convictions, and he was all about taking the credit when he did. He was also the first to yell police incompetence if he couldn’t make a case stick.

“You want to release Mr. Mitchum on his own recognizance?” Whitmore finally spoke after downing half the cup.

“He’s a witness if I can get him to agree to talk. But the lab rushed through a blood typing from our victim, Mr. Mitchum, and Mitchum’s clothing. Victim was A-neg, and Mitchum is B-positive. Blood on the clothing is B-positive. Matches his story of a nosebleed.” Noah rubbed at his face to fight back the tiredness. “Way I see it, the man is a witness and the victim of assault, maybe even attempted murder. But he is the victim here.”

“And there we have a problem. Other than being tied up and threatened, our victim doesn’t have a mark on him. They didn’t harm him.” Whitmore raised a hand to stop Noah’s reply. “I don’t doubt they meant the man harm, and I’m certainly willing to pursue a case against the three men who caught him and tied him up. But, Noah, I don’t honestly have a case against Argent.”

“You don’t think you could make a case? The man was approaching him with a sword.”

“Everyone’s story agrees that Argent and his two companions didn’t arrive until after Mr. Mitchum was tied up. Your initial reports say you saw him approaching the others. I mean, I admit that it’s odd for a man to be taking a walk in the Preserve with a sword, but I’ve seen stranger things out here, and so have you. He claims he was trying to diffuse the situation when you arrived, and even your witness didn’t speak to the man.” Whitmore downed the rest of his cup and tossed it toward the trash can.

“Sheriff, by all means, you should continue your investigation. The first three, feel free to charge them with assault, false imprisonment, and criminal threatening. Encourage Mitchum to get a restraining order against them. But cut Argent loose for now. No matter how bad his daughter allegedly turned out, he’s going to play the grieving father card and skate.” Whitmore picked up his briefcase and headed for the door. “Let me know if your investigation finds anything more.”

Noah watched him walk out and made himself take a few calming breaths. Peter and Derek had warned him that it was difficult to get justice for werewolves when the evidence healed before it could be documented. When he was confident he could walk out of the room without looking like he wanted to kill someone, Noah went looking for Graeme.

He gave instructions regarding charges and those to release, for now. Trusting his deputies to follow through, he checked in again on Stiles, who had been sleeping on the couch most of the night. Watching his slow breathing as the kid was sprawled half on-half off the couch, Noah just allowed himself a moment of relief that his son was safe.

Admittedly the month-long grounding had been harsh, but Noah could see the cracks, and that tattoo had been the last straw. Stiles might think he was clueless, but there had been signs that things had changed with his son for the last few months. Stiles was out at all hours of the night when Noah was working. Scott wasn’t hanging around the house, eating him out of house and home, like earlier in the year. The two of them were still in trouble together, but Stiles was just as likely to be the one getting caught at the wrong place with Scott nowhere around him.

At first, he thought maybe Stiles was falling in with the wrong crowd now that Scott had a girlfriend. But the fact that no one had come to see Stiles while he was grounded was telling. To find out that the crowd his son had fallen in with was werewolves? He had been tempted to shoot all of them on the spot.

Stiles twitched and mumbled something about bunny teeth and tree stumps in his sleep before he settled back down. Noah sighed. If the Hales hadn’t been so upfront about the situation and willing to answer every question he asked, he would have locked Peter up in a second. But there was no evidence, and if you could get a judge in the know about the supernatural, it was clear from the descriptions and Derek’s testimony that Peter was running on pure instinct at the beginning.

Noah would never agree with murder and vigilantism, but he could understand justice, and the Hales didn’t have a chance of justice in a world that didn’t recognize the truth of their existence. He would, however, be educating them in depth on the practice of law and how it could apply to everyone.

Obviously, the stress of being homebound was getting to Stiles if he had started sleepwalking again. He and the Hales had discussed everything and been in agreement that Stiles needed to be cut off from all things supernatural. Noah wasn’t kidding himself that everything would be avoidable, not with Scott’s situation. But, he was determined that his kid be safe.

Noah shut and locked the door, then sat down in the guest chair after moving it next to Stiles. He reached out and rubbed his hand over his kid’s head to wake him up gently. “Stiles.”

The sharp twist-jerk that sent Stiles off the couch and face down on the floor made Noah wince. Graceful his kid was not.

“Wha?”

“Good morning, kiddo. Time to get up.” Noah offered a hand as Stiles climbed back on the couch before rubbing his eyes briskly.

“What time is it?” Stiles asked though it sounded more like wha-i-ee-it through the yawn.

“Seven forty-five. I’ve got another couple hours here before I head home and sleep. This evening you and I are going to have a long talk about my expectations going forward. But for now, you are going to stay out of anything related to the supernatural.” Noah held up a hand when Stiles started to protest.

“No, no arguments. I said for now. Maybe after I learn more about what’s really going on, I will be able to open that up, but right now, I need to know more than anything else that you are safe.”

“But Dad, now you’re not safe. You don’t really know it all between the Hales and the Argents. Heck, they’re not the only things out there that can cause seriously deathly like death.” Stiles started to wave his hands around.

“Now is not the time or place to get into this. I’m not going to ask you to stop being friends with Scott; I would never do that. Though Scott and I are due for a long talk with his mother. Just for now, if you want me to be safe, then I need to focus on the danger and not be worried that you are in the line of fire.” Noah reached out and pulled Stiles in for a hug. “Staying safe is the only way you will ever keep me safe, understood.”

Stiles let out a big sigh, “Understood but not agreed.”

“Well, as long as it is understood and obeyed, I will take what I can get.” Noah hugged him again, then leaned back. “So grounding is lifted. I had Jones bring your Jeep over from impound.” He reached into his pocket and pulled out the keys and some cash. “It’s had an oil change and a few repairs. Go fill it up and get yourself breakfast. I don’t expect you back before dinner but stay out of the preserve and away from anything named Argent or Hale. Agreed?” Vibrating in place, Stiles reached for the keys, and Noah pulled them back with a raised eyebrow. “Agreed?”

“Yes, hell yes. Agreed. Whatever. Freedom. My poor Roscoe needs to experience freedom.” The boy practically jumped in the air once he had the keys in hand. “Back by dinner, no problem.” And then he was out the door running. Noah grinned at the crash and Sorry! he could hear as Stiles made his way out of the station.

Noah shook his head and made his way out toward the interrogation rooms where their visitors were waiting. Tara stepped out of one and stepped aside as the hunter was taken back to a cell. His attorney waited at the end of the hall as a deputy came to escort him out.

“Noah, I thought you were going to take Stiles home.” Tara looked him up and down. “I don’t mind working a double, but you need some sleep.”

“I’m going. I just cut Stiles loose. He’s back on the road with the jeep, so I wouldn’t mind everyone cutting him some slack on speeding tickets today.” Noah traded a grin with her.

“I’m sure we can look the other way as long as he’s not reckless. But if he’s driving himself home, why are you still here?”

“I need to have a word with Argent before we cut him loose.” Noah leaned back against the wall. “Just an honest chat to set expectations during his visit. I’ll be heading out as soon as I finish.”

“You want me in there or in observation?” Her face was suddenly grim yet resolute. Noah always knew she had his back.

“No, probably best if this conversation isn’t witnessed. Completely off the record.”

“Anything I need to know?”

Noah shook his head. “Not yet. But I’ll let you know the moment you need it.”

Tara Graeme nodded once then turned to leave. “The three we’re charging are in lockup until their bail hearing at 10. Mr. Mitchum’s lawyer drove him out of here half an hour ago as you ordered. We’ll start cutting loose Argent’s two friends as soon as you go in for your talk.”

“Good. Call Cartwright to cover the shift for you. I don’t want you working a double. The man’s been chomping at the bit to come back from paternity now that his mother-in-law is helping with the twins. He can run things from the station for the day.”

“Don’t know if the man fears the diapers or the MIL more,” Tara laughed. “He should pay me for giving him an excuse to get away.”

She was out the door, and Noah took a couple breaths to get himself into the right mindset before entering the room. The attorney sat upright and adjusted his tie. Argent was seated at the table as if the picture of reasonable patience. Something about the man set Noah off, but he didn’t let it show as he moved forward.

“Mr. Argent, I want to thank you for your cooperation today. Considering the circumstances and crimes committed, it is best that we can get statements as soon as possible. I’ve been told that you have signed your statement of tonight’s events. We, of course, won’t be pressing any charges for last night’s incident. So you are, of course, free to go. Though I hope in the future that you and your friends don’t run around with swords in the woods.” Noah held Argent’s gaze as his tone implied a warning.

“Of course, Sheriff. I only want to help where I can.” Argent’s false earnestness was difficult to swallow.

“Speaking of help, you offered to give me some information. After tonight, I think I might need that.” Noah looked pointedly at the attorney. “Perhaps we can start that now?”

The attorney opened his mouth, but Argent overrode him, “That’s an excellent idea. Thank you for your expertise, but seeing as the Sheriff is reasonable and open-minded, now I think you can leave.”

The attorney and Argent traded stares for a minute until Argent’s face became hard, and the attorney backed off and nodded. “I’ll wait out front for you in case there is any problem with leaving.”

Noah shut the door then reached up to disconnect the video feed before taking a seat. “So, I understand that your family has a lot of experience with situations like last night.”

“My family has a long and gloried history dealing with these situations as you called it, Sheriff. What do you think you know about last night?” Argent had a little smirk like he thought he was reeling Noah in.

“I know that the world isn’t black and white. There are things out here that most people would have trouble believing.”

Argent nodded, “That there are. You obviously know, so there is no reason to beat around the bush. There are monsters in this world that the sheep refuse to see. It’s been the duty of the Argents and others like us to protect humans from those monsters for generations. It’s not a job; it’s a sacred calling.”

“I see. Who determines which ones are monsters? You?” Noah leaned back. “Are you the ones who decide which are safe and allowed to live and which have to die?”

“Someone has to make the hard calls.” Argent had a bit of light in his eyes that didn’t look healthy at all. “But no matter what face they wear in the daylight, you have to understand that there are humans, and then there are all of them. If we are going to protect the humans, then we can’t pick and choose. My daughter understood this.”

Noah leaned in toward Argent, “Your daughter who murdered almost the entire Hale family? Who burned children alive?” Noah shook his head. “I was told that your family lived by a Code. What kind of code advocates the murder of children?”

“My daughter understood that this is a war for the survival of humanity. Sometimes in war, tough decisions have to be made. Would it have been better to leave those children alone to go feral? I assure you even a child of their kind can murder adults. They don’t even regret it. Look what happened in this town when one person was left alive to go feral. A murder spree.”

“I’m not ok with that, either. I have been shown evidence that the person in question was non-compos mentis at the time, and there is no evidence to convict in a court of law.” Noah held up a hand when Argent started to speak. “I’m going to stop you before you say something incriminating about taking care of that problem outside of court.”

Argent’s eyes flared in amused anger, but he remained silent.

“I’m certain you have a lot of information about what my deputies could be up against out there, but I’m concerned that the information might be tainted with bias. I want to keep an open line of communication with you, but I need to make something clear to you since I understand that you are nominally in charge with those men.”

Noah stood up so that Argent had to look up toward him. “I’m giving fair warning to everyone involved that the law will not look away and let things slide from here forward. You and your men will leave the Hales and their pack alone. Hell, you will leave anything supernatural in this town alone. If you feel something needs to be dealt with, you will bring it to me, and I will make the call if extraordinary force is needed.”

“And if the issue is with the Hales?” Argent asked, just a thread of anger in his voice.

“It’s my job to investigate and determine if any laws in this County have been broken.” Noah pointed at him. “I’m giving the same talk to the Hales, just so you know. I’m not going to put up with trouble from either side. I expect you to keep your people under control. I don’t exactly have the budget to assign deputies to watch all your men, and you know it. But I guarantee that I will find out if any of them go Hunting off-season.”

“Understood, Sheriff.” Argent suddenly got a creepy little smile. “It’s too bad you don’t have more eyes and ears out on the streets, isn’t it. It would be nice if the concerned citizens of Beacon Hills could take the time to help out our law enforcement officers considering the recent rise in crime.”

Argent stood up and put on his jacket before heading toward the door. “Have a good day, Sheriff. I think you and I will be seeing a lot more of one another.”

 


Series Page                                                                                      Chapters 4-6

 

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