A Hope in Hale
Fandoms: Teen Wolf, Sentinel
Content Warning: R
Warnings: Character Bashing, Death – Minor Character, Discussion – Kidnapping, Discussion – Slavery, Hate Crimes, Violence – Canon – Level
Genres: Alternate Universe, Angst, Fusion, Science Fiction
Relationships: Scott and Stiles, Scott/Allison, Derek/Stiles
Alpha Readers: WestWind, HarleyJQuin
Beta Reader: Pixyblades
Word Count: 55,265
Author Note: First, the Scott/Stiles pairing is platonic. The slavery warning is from an oral report and only mentioned once. Thanks to HarleyJQuin for the fictional name of the country in Stiles’ report, Tezcatlipoca. Thanks to my Alpha Readers, WestWind & HarleyJQuin, and to by Beta, Pixyblades. Finally, there will be no sex since Stiles and company are underage. For most of the story Derek is 18 and Stiles is 16 with a sixteen month difference in age..
Summary: Blair Sandburg smiled as he watched the ten-year-old Prime Guide and his barely online sentinel play superheroes in the next room. “Don’t worry, Noah. Every Prime has a perfect match somewhere. Stiles just latched onto Scott out of need when he came online so traumatically with his mother’s death. It won’t take long for him to realize the bond is unbalanced and let go.”
Noah Stilinski gave a slightly choking laugh, “I know my son. Perfect match or not, you have a hope in hell of him letting go of anyone he has decided is his.”
Stiles jerked his head to the side and turned to look at the person sitting next to him on the bench. “Thanks a lot, Coach. I didn’t need that eardrum anyway.”
Coach Finstock ignored him and started yelling at the players on the field. “What was that? No, really…what was that? My dead grandmother could have walked through that hole. When you are playing defense, you want to…oh, I don’t know…maybe defend the goal.”
Raising his mask, Scott looked at the other players and then back toward the bench. “Coach, I think everyone is just tired.”
“Shut up, McCall,” Jackson practically growled at Scott, who ignored him entirely and steamrolled on.
“We’ve been pushing really hard.” Scott gave his best puppy dog grin.
Stiles lowered his head and groaned.
“You’re tired?” Coach asked as he dropped his clipboard on the ground, walked out to the middle of the field, and wrapped an arm around Scott’s shoulders. “You are tired?”
Stiles raised his hands in a What can I do? motion when the sentinels on the team looked his way.
“I am so sorry you are feeling tired. I’m sure everyone is so thankful that you spoke up and informed me of that. I wouldn’t want to be too hard on you when you are tired and sleep-deprived.” Coach Finstock turned Scott around to face the other players. “I’m certain that during a game, the other team won’t mind if you all bring your blankies to take a nap halfway through the game. Maybe we can get the band to play a lullaby. Would you like that? Would you McCall?”
Stiles was honestly surprised. Scott looked scared and had kept his mouth shut. Maybe he was finally learning something.
“I think I’m going to help you all with how tired you are.” Coach looked over the entire team then gave a brief one-armed hug to Scott. “I’m going to let you lead the team on suicides. How do you like that? Maybe some suicides will help you learn to play through a little tiredness?”
Coach blew the whistle again. “What are you waiting for. Suicides. Move. Go! Go! Go! Anyone slacking will be riding the bench for the next game.” Coach stalked back to the bench. “Tired,” he grumbled under his breath.
“Well, I’m sure they will understand the definition after this, Coach.” Stiles leaned forward to pick up the clipboard off the ground and hand it to the man.
“Is there a reason you’re sitting here instead of running suicides with the rest of the team, Bilinski?”
“You said anyone slacking off would ride the bench. I’m riding the bench, so I honestly don’t see a reason to do it. Consider me slacking.” Stiles picked up his history notes and started reviewing them again.
“Being part of the team means participation. So out on the field,” Coach ordered. “Since your sentinel is the one who won you today’s activity.”
“No, Coach, I don’t think so. I completely respect the team, but you and I both know I’m not really a part of it. I’m here because the state requires that bonded sentinels playing organized sports must have their guide present to participate. That goes double for contact sports. The concern being that a sentinel could experience a feral episode due to the inherent violence in the sport and become a danger to players and spectators.” Stiles shook his head. “It’s all bullshit based on one incident during a Redskins game when an online player keyed into a gay-bashing incident in one of the restrooms. He went feral and injured several people on his way there. Everyone freaked out and demanded laws to protect people. They completely ignored the fact that the incident caused the victim to come online as a guide, and that guide later bonded to that same sentinel.”
“And why do I care about that?”
“Because, it’s been proven over and over again that there are only three reasons a sentinel will go feral: to protect the guide, to protect the tribe, and to protect themselves in a life or death situation. Drilling and practice with the team ensure they know the game is not a literal life and death situation. If we weren’t hormonal teenaged idiots, I could even play because he would instinctively know by that same concept that I’m safe. So, unless someone is in real-life danger, there is no reason for me to even be here. It’s a waste of my time and your resources when you could have someone riding the bench that might actually get to play.” Stiles looked back down at his homework.
“If you hate this so much, why are you even here?”
“Because even when he’s an asshole, Scott is my brother. This is important to him. He worked hard to make the team. I won’t be the one to take that away from him. Even if practice is a waste of my time.” Stiles looked up to see Coach Finstock staring at him like he was just noticing him.
“Alright, Stilinski. Fine. I have to keep you on the team roster because of regulations, but those are only binding during games. The school district will pay for a conservator for practice and games if sentinels are on the team. I’ll call the Center after practice. I expect you to attend games and ride the bus with the team to away meets. You will dress in the jersey during those, but you don’t have to suit up with the team.” Coach grimaced as he watched the players run. “I still expect you to make the cross-country team if you want me to sign off on your Phys.Ed.”
“No problemo, Coach.” Stiles grinned broadly, excited. “Cross-country is my sport. So…can I go?”
“Get out of here while I raise my blood pressure yelling at these idiots.”
Stiles was up and running in a flash toward the locker room. He found his phone and hit favorites before selecting the contact labeled Stalker Dude. Stripping down, he changed as the phone rang.
“Derek! I got cut loose early. Did you still want to go with me into Beacon Valley to pick up those graphic novels?” Stiles asked as he shoved his legs into his jeans.
“Yes. Where do you want to meet me?”
Stiles smiled at the excitement in Derek’s voice. “Where are you? I can pick you up.”
“NO! Um, I’ll drive. I just got my car today.”
“Oh, that Hyundai you were looking at?” Stiles struggled into his shirt while trying to shove his foot into his shoe.
“So, what did you get?”
“You’ll see when I pick you up.”
“OK, I see how you are. If I wasn’t so ethical, I could totally use my father’s access to look up new vehicle registrations.”
“Well, I could just meet you in Beacon Valley instead,” Derek responded dryly.
Stiles pulled his duffle out and started shoving all his gear inside to empty the locker. “Fine! My house, 15 minutes.”
The call ended without another word, and Stiles hefted his bag onto his shoulder. He was out the door and running toward the parking lot without another glance back at the players still running on the field.
Derek carefully pulled up in front of the Sheriff’s house. He allowed himself a moment of smug satisfaction at the gob-smacked expression on Stiles’ face before he forced himself to scowl when Stiles molested the fender and door. Stiles leaned in the window to run his fingers over the leather seats.
“Stop molesting my car.”
“Dude! You got a Camaro. How did you go from a Hyundai Accent to a Camaro?” Stiles slid into the front seat and buckled up before continuing to run his fingers over the leather.
“Uncle Peter said that if I was going to spend a year searching for myself, I should do it in style. He and Aunt Zamira matched what Mom and Dad were willing to pay.” Derek slid his sunglasses back into place and pulled away from the curb.
“That does it. I wanna be adopted by Peter.” Stiles started playing with all the controls until Derek slapped his hands away from the radio.
Derek shook his head. “That just proves you haven’t spent enough time with Peter yet. Though I do look forward to watching the two of you argue about arbitrary legal age determiners again. That was entertaining. I thought Malia was going to propose to you right at the dinner table.”
“He’s got serious game. It’s too bad I don’t have time to join Debate this year.” Stiles drummed his fingers on the dashboard in time with the song playing low on the radio.
“Speaking of game, why did you get cut early from practice?”
“Eh, Coach and I talked. It’s a complete waste of time for me to be at practice when I’m not allowed to play. The school’s been playing fast and loose with conservator rules. See, as a bonded guide, I’m allowed to pinch-hit as a conservator during a crisis no matter my age. That’s because the law never dreamed of an under-aged bonded pair. So they keep shoving me in situations with sentinels instead of paying for a conservator. I put up with it when I need to be in the class anyway, but enough is enough.” Stiles met Derek’s eyes for a moment before Derek turned his attention back to the road.
“So you’re off the team?” Derek asked softly, not sure if this was good or bad.
Stiles fidgeted a moment. “Sort of? So…like Coach can’t take me off the roster, or he has to take Scott off too. And while Scott and I are having issues personally, I’m not going to screw over him and the team. So I have to ride the bench at the games so Scott can play, but Coach agreed that I don’t have to be there for practice. That means I’m free after school except for session days at the Center and game days.”
“How is it going with you and Scott? I was raised with sentinels and guides, so I know they are just people, and sometimes they argue, but we’ve been hanging out for a month, and I’ve never met Scott.”
“Scott and I are hard to explain. We’ve been together since I was ten and he was nine. We are totally like brothers, and frankly, he’s a really great guy. The thing is, he’s always been a bit binary which I find strange for a sentinel. But in his world, things are right or wrong, black or white, good or bad. He doesn’t always get that the line between them is ten miles wide, and all kinds of people live in between.”
Derek stretched his neck to the side until it popped. “Sounds rigid. I have trouble seeing you bonded to someone like that.”
“Opposites attract and all that shit,” Stiles shrugged.
“Seriously, over the years, I’ve dragged his ass into sooo much trouble. I had a huge issue with impulse control right after I came online. I can’t tell you how many times Uncle Blair, Uncle Jim, and Dad had to rescue us from my great ideas. Scott whines, but he will follow me into trouble every single time. And then I’ve totally used his puppy eyes to get us out of punishment.” Stiles smiled as if at a memory.
“So, what happened. Because according to Cora and Malia, he’s a complete dick.”
Stiles sighed and threw his head back. “I don’t know. Honestly, puberty, maybe. Last year he started getting a little headstrong…well, stubborn. We separated for a couple of weeks at the end of the summer when Scott visited his father and his guide. Scott’s father…there’s the complete dick. He’s the type who thinks a guide should just be around to support his sentinel. Scott’s always called him on his bullshit, but he won’t talk about his visits.”
“Something go wrong on the visit?”
With a huff, Stiles shrugged, “I have no clue. I’m not allowed to go any longer since the last time I spent time with the man, he pissed me off, and my primary shield failed. Every sentinel in a ten-block radius came knocking on his door. My conservator pulled my ass out of there and slapped a complaint in his file with the Center.”
“So you think his father got in his head or something?” Derek spotted the Leaving Beacon Hills sign at the same time as Stiles, who waved at the deputy parked behind the sign.
“I don’t know. It’s more like, well…you have to understand what it’s like to come online as a kid. Your body and your brain aren’t really ready for it. And, unlike adults, control doesn’t just happen. For about a year, they couldn’t separate us if they tried. I was a mess, and Scott would start screaming that his skin was burning if they kept us apart. Blair and Jim found a way to teach us, then worked on the Conservator teams that kept us stable all day round. They took us in shifts. Taught us Control 101. Got Scott stable. And, eventually, they figured out that if they kept a team on me, we could even separate overnight. It took a couple years for us to be able to function as individuals, but we always had conservators with us.”
Stiles leaned against the glass. “This last year, Blair and Jim have focused on breaking ties with Conservators. So, this is the first time in our lives since coming online that we’ve had any freedom without 24/7 adult supervision. It’s awesome, but I think that sometimes Scott wants freedom from me too. He wants freedom from being a sentinel even though he loves the instant respect he gets with the whole Prime title.”
Derek started to open his mouth to respond when Stiles’ stomach growled. He laughed as Stiles blushed. “Food before comics?”
“Hell yes!” Stiles fist pumped. “Mama Cee’s is at the next exit.”
“You’re going to order chicken and waffles, aren’t you?” Derek scowled. “We’re eating there. You’re not bringing food into my car. I’ve seen the way you eat.”
“I would not dream of sullying your pristine seats with syrup.” Stiles smiled, “And, of course, it’s chicken and waffles. I’m still trying to get the recipe for her seasoning.”
“I don’t get that. Waffles are for breakfast or ice cream cones. How do you eat them with fried chicken?” Derek shuddered.
“And this is why living abroad during your formative years has ruined your enculturation. Chicken and waffles are a part of Americana that you just need to embrace. Set aside your preconceptions of normal and try it.”
“I don’t think so.”
Derek signaled and took the exit to Mama Cee’s Southern Eatery near the edge of Beacon Valley.
They ordered and started eating without a pause in Stiles’ verbal deluge. Usually, the sound of someone’s voice would rub Derek the wrong way, but there was just something about Stiles’ voice that Derek wanted to hear. It was easy to listen to him move from one subject to the next with barely a grunt of input needed to keep him going. Derek was constantly amazed that he had just fallen into this friendship with Stiles. It was probably the most effortless relationship he had ever had outside his parents.
“So, what about you?” Stiles was saying as they picked their way through the last of their meal. “Deaton’s been complaining that you haven’t returned to the Center to complete your assessment.”
Derek let out a long sigh and pushed his plate away.
“It’s been a month, Derek. What’s stopping you?” Stiles sucked hard on his soda straw.
Derek stared down at his fingernails and started to pick at a bit of paint on his nail. “I always wanted to be an artist. My earliest memories were drawing or painting. My grandma would take me to museums and art galleries. Even with my family, I never thought I would come online.”
“Malia told me what happened, you know. I mean, not everything…but she told me that it was bad.” Stiles put the drink to the side.
“Yeah, bad. It was my fault, you know.” Derek glanced up at Stiles before looking away. “There was this woman, Kate. She was really interested in my artwork. I met her while I was at one of the art museums. She was just an acquaintance. Or that’s what I thought. She was actually part of that Anti-S&G movement that popped up in France about six years ago.”
“The ones that are insisting that Sentinels and Guides should be tagged and regulated?” Stiles made a face like he had a sudden bad taste in his mouth.
“That’s the one. Kate was using me to get information about the movement of people. It’s not like I paid attention enough to make it worthwhile. I left the room any time I could. But she got what she wanted anyway.” Derek focused on the tablecloth and spread his fingers out. “The children of the delegates went on a weekend camp out for unity or something stupid like that. It was the weekend before they were having their final vote on the proposed laws. I told Kate I wouldn’t be at the museum that weekend because of the campout.”
Stiles reached out and grabbed Derek’s hand. “What happened?”
“We were a little over halfway to the campground when the bus was stopped for an accident in the road. These guys got on with weapons and took over. Kate and her father were leading them. They forced the bus driver to take us in a different direction and threatened everyone. They were talking about taking us someplace secure and recording proof before they contacted our parents. They were going to use us as leverage to make our parents vote down the laws.”
“And that’s when you…came online?”
“They turned down this road and stopped out of sight of traffic. They had several vans waiting to split us up. This one kid, Amid, he was only twelve. He panicked and wasn’t responding to any of the languages they were speaking. When he didn’t move, one of them grabbed him and held the gun to his head. Said they needed to leave one behind as proof they meant business, might as well be him.” Derek gripped Stiles’ hand tight and took a shaky breath.
“I don’t know what happened. One moment I was sitting in that seat, scared to death. The next, I was smashing in his skull. Before anyone had a chance to blink, I charged off the bus after the next guy. Cora, Malia, and Kira, the daughter of the Japanese rep, followed right behind me. We were all online, and we didn’t stop until most of them were dead.”
“That’s some fucked up shit.” Stiles shook his head. “But, I thought Malia said her dad was the one that saved her.”
“Yeah. Kate’s brother, Chris, disagreed with his family’s beliefs. He came to pick up his daughter, who was living with his ex-wife, when he found out about the plan. He headed straight to Mom, Peter, and the Authorities. Peter was allowed to come along because he could identify all the kids. They were right behind us and had seen everything. Kate got the drop on Malia and tried to use her to bargain her way out. Peter slipped around one of the vehicles, got Malia away from Kate, and practically ripped her head off.”
“It’s hard to imagine Peter doing that what with how he likes his perfect clothes and manicure.” Stiles grinned a little.
“He’s an Alpha Sentinel,” Was all Derek could say.
“How long did it take for you to come down?”
“They tranq’ed us at the site. Even Peter, and boy was he pissed about that. He obviously wasn’t feral, but any civilian sentinel who is involved in a violent encounter is tranquilized and put in Center holding until they are evaluated.” Derek sighed, “They knocked me out twice.”
“Whoa! You woke up feral?” Stiles shook his head. “Dude! That is epic.”
“No. Don’t you see, it’s not epic. It’s proof that as soon as I let them do that assessment, it means the life I wanted is over.”
“Why?” He held up his hand to stop Derek from speaking. “I mean it. Why does this have to change your life? So you’re an online sentinel. So what? Has it broken your ability to draw? Or could you maybe use your senses to get more detail? I don’t know how that works. But, if your family can focus on Law, why can’t you focus on Art?”
“You don’t know what it’s like to suddenly lose everything, Stiles.”
“No. You don’t know what it’s like to lose your mom and your mind on the same day. I lost my Mom, and that sucks royally. I knew she was dying, but I didn’t really understand what that meant. Not until the moment I was online and feeling this bright light flicker and fade in my mind. I don’t even remember when Scott got there. It was like I was ripped in two, and then the other half of me was returned, broken but back. And, was I given time and support to deal with it? No. Not at first. Suddenly people were trying to rip me away from my Dad, and everything was just too much unless Scott was at my side.” Stiles slouched down.
“I was too young to understand everything that changed. My life stopped being about me and became the Scott/Stiles show. My earliest memories were of pretending that I was a policeman like my dad. I loved solving mysteries and investigating crime. But, see, law enforcement is one of those fields where sentinels and guides are required to work as a pair. Unbonded sentinels and guides are paired up for a working bond for field certification.” Stiles blew out a long breath, then shrugged. “Scott absolutely wants nothing to do with the law. Anytime I go off on a research or investigation binge, he changes the subject and insists we do anything else.”
“Heck, the only thing he wants is to study medicine—another field that requires pairs to work together. Whenever we try to talk about our future, he talks nonstop about Med School. He won’t even acknowledge that I can’t stand being in a hospital.” Stiles pointed at Derek with a sharp jab. “I mean that literally. I have a lot of trouble shielding out the pain and negativity in hospitals. So we both have to tank our dreams and try to find a compromise.”
“So you’re saying we were both screwed by our biology, so we might as well make the most of it?” Derek asked, realizing Stiles might be the first person who got it.
“Well, as far as coming online, we both got screwed. But there’s got to be something of what we want that we can hold onto. You should be able to find a way to prioritize your art, and maybe I can focus on another aspect of law. And Scott, maybe he will have to learn to bend a little.”
Stiles picked up his coffee from the counter and headed out to his Jeep. Deaton was totally against caffeine at the Center, so Stiles only had a short window to drink it before his Center Management session with Deaton. He jerked at the knock on his window and barely avoided wearing the drink.
“Sorry,” Allison Argent cringed slightly as she said it.
“No problem. What’s up?” Stiles looked around to see if Scott was there.
“I was wondering if we could talk.”
Stiles held in the sigh. “Yeah, sure. We can talk.”
She moved around to climb into the passenger seat. “Stiles, Scott is taking all of this really hard.”
“Alright. I’m going to stop you right there. Look, you are probably a great person, but the issues between Scott and me right now aren’t your business. My dad and his mom sat us down and forced us to talk. It didn’t do much good, but we are doing what we need to do right now to get through it. He didn’t respect me or any of the other guides, and I decided to call him on it. The problem is that he has some bullshit reasoning that he was protecting us when he was really trying to control us. When he accepts that what he was doing is wrong, and more importantly, understands why it was wrong, I will forgive him. Not before.”
“I guess I can understand that,” Allison said softly, looking over the parking lot at the cars lined up to exit. She tilted her head back and blew out a frustrated sigh. “No, I don’t understand. I don’t really understand anything about sentinels and guides. My mom and the rest of the family only spouted these horrible things that I know aren’t right, but I don’t know what’s the truth. And I really don’t understand this fight between you and Scott.”
Stiles started to open his mouth, but she cut him off with a hand up to stop him.
“No. It’s not your responsibility to teach me. This isn’t about you…not really. I just wanted to be sure this fight you are having with Scott isn’t about me. Scott said something about you not wanting him to date me?” Her voice was tight, and she was looking away from Stiles as she said it.
“Oh, for fuck’s sake!” Stiles slammed his hands against the steering wheel, then took a deep breath and forced himself to calm down when Allison flinched at the movement. “The argument we are having is not about you.” Stiles rubbed his hands over his face while thinking. “Honestly, Allison, you seem to be a nice person. I have no issues with you. If you and Scott want to date, fine. I told Scott that to make a point, but obviously, he isn’t willing to see it yet.”
Stiles turned to face Allison. “Our argument is about respect and his high-handed attitude. Scott isn’t always great at compromise when he has the slightest belief he is right. And this time, he is completely in the wrong.”
“I’m lost now. When we’re together, Scott is a perfect gentleman. He’s sweet and thoughtful and always willing to talk to me.”
“I believe you. Scott can be one of the greatest guys you ever want to know. We’ve been bonded for years, and I know how wonderful he can be. That doesn’t stop him from being a jerk, too. Look, the issues we have are between Scott and me. I’m not trying to drag you into it.”
“But it feels like I’m in the middle of it, and I don’t really get it.” She shook her head when Stiles took a deep breath. “No, I recognize it is not your job to educate me. I just wanted to be sure that I wasn’t the one coming between the two of you. So, you are going to be OK if I keep dating Scott?” Allison looked at Stiles hopefully.
“Yes. Go forth and date. Enjoy your time while you have it. Our bond is completely platonic, so he can date you if you want to.” Stiles waved her forth, and for a moment, he was afraid she would break protocol and try to hug him. Thankfully, she just gave him a big dimpled smile and then slipped out of the Jeep to head toward her car.
Stiles leaned his head back against the seat and closed his eyes. Scott wasn’t getting it. He wasn’t even trying to understand why his behavior was so wrong. Stiles leaned forward and rubbed the back of his neck and head to try to chase away the beginnings of a stress headache. Where the fuck did this attitude of Scott’s come from? Has it always been there, and he’s just now seeing it for what it is? The more time they spend apart, the greater the divide becomes.
He debated with himself. Doc Deaton frequently asks after his bond, so he could discuss it with the man. But it feels like this is something private between him and Scott. The last thing he wants is to open himself up for another full-time conservator.
It can’t be too bad, after all. Scott hasn’t complained once about his senses. At least no one has said anything to Stiles about it. And, as long as he keeps his shields locked firmly in place, Stiles isn’t having any issues. So, while Uncle Blair may say that compromise is at the heart of a healthy bond, Stiles isn’t going to be the one to give this time around. Scott was wrong and needs to come to terms with it and accept responsibility.
With a final nod, he put on his seatbelt and started the Jeep. He considered pouring out the coffee, then got a grip on his sanity. Hell no, coffee is the elixir of life. There is no way he will sit through a Deaton Special lecture on Center Management and the Needs of Aging Populations without caffeine. Pushing away his Scott-shaped frustrations, Stiles focused on his latest readings. He needed all of the research he had discovered last night to hopefully derail Deaton’s agenda. He was hoping geriatric jello wrestling might do it.
Deaton silently stared at Stiles for an abnormally long time. He wondered if it was the jello that did it. If so, then it’s Stiles 217 vs. Deaton 372. He was gaining on the man. Forcing himself to remain still was murder, but it would be a tie if he moved before the man broke.
Stiles had years of practice derailing Deaton’s lessons. Of course, Deaton has years of experience circumventing Stiles’ machinations. A chime from the computer drew Stiles’ attention, and he glanced at the screen. Immediately realizing his error, he looked back to see Deaton had flipped open a file, a picture of Scott and Allison on top. Damn, Deaton 373. Well played.
“Perhaps today we should discuss your sentinel.” Deaton tapped over Scott’s photo.
Stiles slouched back in his chair. “I would rather talk about geriatric sentinels.”
“Your father has reported that Scott has not stayed at your house since the fight.”
“So what if he hasn’t.” Stiles locked down his shields tight and looked Deaton in the eye. “What happens between Scott and me is none of your business.”
Deaton raised an eyebrow. “For any other sentinel and guide pairing, that would be true. But you are aware that your current conservator-free state is probationary this year.”
Stiles choked down that twinge of fear. They had worked so hard to be able to live free of twenty-four-hour supervision. He wasn’t going back to that. Not now. Derek would never hang out with him if he had a conservator.
“The statute of care states that any sentinel or guide who is unable to maintain steady control, with no fewer than two episodes a month, must submit for evaluation, with the Center being the final authority on the necessity for a conservator. An episode being defined as…yadda, yadda, yadda.” Stiles paraphrased from the care and feeding of guides coursework. “Neither of us has experienced an episode. So there is absolutely no reason to start talking about conservators again, Doc.”
“There have indeed been no reports of sensory or empathic trouble around the two of you,” Deaton conceded. “Why do you think that is? Sentinels and Guides can certainly work separately, but it is rare for bonded Primes to spend more than a week or two apart. Do you have any insight into why you and Scott are doing so well with almost no contact?”
“Maybe we’re just steadier than everyone thought. It just proves the point that we don’t need a conservator.”
“Are you using your empathy in everyday life?” Deaton asked as he set aside another folder.
“Not really. There isn’t much I need it for on average. And, trust me, you don’t want to go scope out the emotional temperature of your average American high school. It’s a hormone-driven cesspool.” Stiles scratched the back of his head then shook his head firmly. “Nope, no reason to use it.”
“You know it’s not healthy to lock it down completely, Stiles,” Deaton admonished. “If you do not feel safe completing at least your daily exercises, then that is another conversation we will need to have.”
“No!” Stiles held out a hand to stop Deaton from writing that down. “I do my exercises. I just prefer to go out into the Preserve to do that. I’m not neglecting anything. I just chose not to lower my shields when there are a lot of people around.” Or, really any people around, Stiles thought.
Deaton nodded. “I understand Scott has been spending much of his time with this girl, Allison. Do you feel that is detrimental to your bond health?”
Stiles sighed, “I don’t care if he is seeing Allison.” Why was everyone so concerned about the Scott and Allison show? The two of them were like cotton candy, ice cream, and lollypops—sweet and sickening in large doses. “Look, if Scott and Allison want to date and spend every moment together, except when they are texting or talking about each other, well, that isn’t any concern of mine. Everyone knows we are platonic. Why is that so hard to understand?”
Deaton stared at him until Stiles became uncomfortable.
“What?!” He cried out when the silence became too oppressive.
“Scott has firmly expressed his heterosexuality, as you are aware,” Deaton began without looking away from Stiles. “Just as you have expressed your own bi-sexuality, which is very common for sentinels and guides.”
“Yeah. So what? Sentinels and Guides run the full gamut of sexual preferences. As Uncle Blair always says, nature provides.” Stiles leaned forward against the desk to lean his arms there.
“Yes, nature provides. We know that highly compatible bond pairs will have matching preferences. Nature provides the sentinel and guide with a bond-mate that will complement and complete the pairing.” Deaton held up a hand when Stiles opened his mouth. “The higher the pair’s rating, the more the preferences must match. You want to know why people keep inquiring about your bond health? There has never been a recorded case of a platonic Prime Pairing. Frankly, we figured that Scott would open up and express a change of preference, at which time your pairing might evolve. But we can now see that his stated preference is correct. That leaves us with many interesting questions about the nature of the bond.”
“Just…ick…seriously? It is seriously creepy that a bunch of old guys are sitting around jonesing about my bond. I mean this in the most bad touch way you can imagine; you guys need to back off!” Stiles pushed back.
Deaton raised his hands in surrender. “Very well. The subject of your bond is off-limits for now. Be prepared for Dr. Sandburg to take this up with you during your next evaluation.”
“Don’t bet on it.”
“On a different note, it has been noticed that you are spending a lot of time with an unbonded sentinel. Do you feel that is wise?”
Anger flared. How dare he even mention Derek. He had no right to ask. The intensity of his reaction barely registered as Stiles stood, letting the chair fly back a foot. “Leave Derek Hale out of this. He’s my friend, and I don’t want anyone talking about him.”
“So you don’t have trouble maintaining your shields in his company?” Deaton gave Stiles a look that was asking so much more.
“My relationship with Derek is off-limits, too. You know what, you and your creepy bond stalkers can just go take a flying leap. I’m allowed to have friends and date and whatever else I want to do. And this conversation…it’s over.”
Stiles grabbed his backpack and left, wishing the door to the office could slam behind him.
Noah Stilinski pulled his cruiser to a stop outside the main house at the Hale Estate. It was good to have the Hales back in Beacon Hills. The community had felt their loss while they were overseas defending the rights of sentinels and guides. About three-fourths of them had moved home. Noah could see children playing outside the individual family homes on the drive up to and surrounding the estate house.
Peter Hale was sitting in the swing of the wrap-around porch, a small child sitting next to him with a book in hand. He smiled and waved to Noah before taking the book from the child and pointing him in the direction of one of the nearby houses. The child hugged him around the middle then took off running.
“Peter,” Noah acknowledged him in greeting. He wasn’t sure why he was here, but he suspected it might have something to do with all the time Stiles was spending with Peter’s nephew.
“Noah, thank you for coming on such short notice.” Peter shook Noah’s hand and then turned to open the door. “We are just waiting on a couple more guests, but I’ll explain why I asked you here.”
Peter’s movement halted a moment before the sound of another vehicle approaching could be heard by Noah. Noah looked back to see a black SUV park next to his cruiser. The driver was male, approximately Noah’s age. The passenger was a teenager. Father and daughter, if Noah had to guess.
The man said something to the girl before unbuckling his seatbelt and opening the door. He rounded the front of the vehicle and started walking toward the porch before the girl started moving.
“Christopher, I haven’t seen you in a while.” Peter reached out to shake hands. “Come on in; we will do introductions all around.”
Noah followed them into the home, suddenly wondering why he was asked here. The man, Christopher, looked familiar though Noah knew they had never met. The daughter was nervous but trying to put on a brave face.
They approached a kitchen that looked like it was out of one of those magazines Stiles was always getting for the recipes. Some soup was in a slow cooker on the counter, and there were cooling racks with fresh bread.
Peter motioned to the counter closest to the kitchen table. “Coffee, tea, please help yourself.” Then he proceeded to fix two cups of tea.
Breaking the awkward moment of indecision, Noah stepped forward and filled a mug with coffee before taking a seat at the table. Christopher and his daughter followed suit, Chris to the coffee while his daughter accepted a cup of tea.
Just as they got settled, a woman in a Dr. Who t-shirt and jeans stepped into the kitchen and right into Peter’s space, wrapping her arms around him. He bent his head down to the crook of her neck and took a deep breath before moving for a quick kiss. She pulled away and took one of the cups with a smile, then slipped around him to sit at the table.
“Hello, if I know my husband, he has not introduced anyone yet.” She grinned impudently at his loud sigh behind her. “I am Zamira Hale, and this is my husband and sentinel, Peter. Now, Christopher Argent, we met briefly.”
Noah relaxed; that’s why the man was familiar. He moved to Beacon Hills just before the start of the school term and had been by the Sheriff’s Department several times to complete the paperwork for Argent Arms. Deputy Sheriff Tara Graeme usually handled those inspections, so Noah hadn’t had a reason to meet the man yet.
“Please, just Chris,” he responded with a slight smile. “Our initial meeting was…unfortunate. He motioned to his side. “This is my daughter, Allison.”
“Hi.” She fluttered her hand up to slip a curl behind her ear.
Noah suddenly understood. This was the Allison mentioned by Scott any time he was allowed to speak for more than a few sentences. He picked up his mug while nodding. “And that would leave me. I’m Noah Stilinski, Sheriff of Beacon County.”
Allison’s eyes flicked over to him, “You’re Stiles’ Dad?”
“Yes, I am. I figure that’s probably why I was invited today?” He looked toward Peter.
The man didn’t look the least embarrassed. “As a matter of fact, Noah, Miss Argent has questions about Sentinel and Guide bonding, and Chris reached out to me. While I and my guide are perfectly competent in answering such questions, I realized that I have little understanding of the situation between your son and Sentinel McCall. I’m at a loss to explain it and was hoping you might be insightful.”
“I see.” Noah held in his sigh because how do you explain Stiles and Scott?
Zamira looked at Allison and gave her a warm smile. “I’m certain you have a lot of questions, but maybe it’s best if we start with a lesson on sentinels and guides first to give a basis for those questions?”
Looking relieved to not be put on the spot, Allison nodded, “Please.”
“Bonds are considered sacred among our kind, and most sentinels will not talk about their bond outside of the community. It has allowed a lot of misinformation to filter through popular media.” Zamira smiled, “Most sentinels don’t care, and frankly, guides use some of the fantasy that’s been shown in movies to our advantage.”
“The truth is that few of us understand the full nature of bonding. But we have empirical evidence that helps us explain what we know.” Peter placed a tray of snacks on the table before taking his seat next to his guide. “In the simplest terms, a bond is a steady connection between a sentinel and guide. This can happen as a purely empathic bond initiated by the guide and accepted by the sentinel or through the psionic plane.”
“An empathic bond is what you hear sentinels and guides refer to as a Working Bond.” Zamira motioned outward. “Most of the sentinels and guides you run into have an empathic bond. It is not a permanent bond. All sentinels and guides are trained to form them. And, it is sufficient for your average pairing to function at the height of their abilities. Even as a fully bonded guide, I could form a working bond with several sentinels to allow them to function in an emergency.”
Allison leaned forward, “So the stories of sentinels who are married and have families but only work with their guides are true?”
“Yes, there are thousands of sentinels and guides who are only partners for work. That is sufficient to balance their gifts and allow them to live full lives apart. Though you will find that they usually live in communities with multiple partners, so there is close interaction even when not working,” Zamira agreed. “I will note that they are the minority as far as pairings go. Even with an empathic bond, most pairs want to be monogamous.”
The girl let out a breath and sat back as her father leaned forward with a frown. “But that is just for those with a working bond, correct?”
Peter smiled at the man, “Yes, you are correct. That’s just for those sentinels and guides who have an empathic bond. For those of us who are blessed with a psionic bond, we are together in every sense of the word. I’ve heard it called everything from True Bond to Life Bond. I think the latest blockbuster labeled it a Soul Bond, which is melodramatic and probably the closest explanation I’ve heard.”
“When a sentinel and guide form a bond through the psionic plane, it is a permanent bonding. While we can certainly spend time apart for work and life, we lose some of the power and flexibility of our gifts to do so. It is also uncomfortable to try. It’s like missing a part of you.” Zamira reached out and took Peter’s hand. “I provide him a baseline for his gifts and a physical stability while he provides me a shield against the emotional energy of the world.”
“Could you be platonic? I understand some life bonded pairs are,” Allison asked quietly while shrinking down a little at her father’s sudden piercing gaze.
“Yes, we could, but why would I want to try? Look at him. I won the lottery,” Zamira smiled broadly.
Peter pulled her in with a little laugh for a kiss. “I’m the one who won, believe me.”
Chris wasn’t going to let that piece of levity stop him. “Platonic pairings are relatively rare, aren’t they?”
“In the overall population, not as rare as you might think. But this is where we have to address that not all sentinels and guides are made equally.” Peter looked at his guide a moment before turning back. “I know you have all heard the terms Sentinel, Alpha Sentinel, and Alpha Prime Sentinel. Same titles for guides, of course. What you need to understand is that these rankings are not political. They are established based on the abilities and overall power of the individual. For classification purposes, we recognize anyone who has all five senses enhanced above the range of a normal human as a sentinel. It doesn’t matter how much over they are. While we acknowledge that some will have better hearing and others better sight and so forth, we do not distinguish between those abilities.”
Zamira motioned toward herself. “Guides have a completely different ranking system since our abilities are mental and not physical. But the bond with a guide will increase a sentinel’s use of their senses by an order of magnitude. The weakest sentinel will perform at the level most people recognize as a sentinel if they have a working bond with a guide. I don’t want to bore you to tears with a dissertation on how the energy of the psionic plane affects our gifts. Just suffice it to say that any guide can help, but the stronger the guide, the greater the increase.”
“An Alpha Sentinel can not only operate at a much higher natural range for our senses, but we are gifted with the ability to manipulate or tap into a bit of the psionic plane, which allows us to stabilize other sentinels. It’s believed to be a leadership function since it only seems to appear when we have a dense population of sentinels and guides.” Peter took a sip of his coffee. “I’m not sure if we know how that happens, I’m sure there are those who study that sort of thing, but it never interested me.”
Chris looked toward his daughter before looking back at Peter, “And Primes?”
“Oh, yes. The elusive Prime. Those who can actually weld psionic energy. If sentinels are soldiers and Alphas are the officers, then Primes are the generals.” Peter grinned impudently, “But don’t think that means you can’t argue or dispute them. Talia and I have had some epic battles of will. I was the ultimate annoying little brother, I assure you. But in an emergency, I will instinctively give way to my Prime.”
“Yes, but the bonds between alphas and primes are different,” Chris pushed. “They are this psionic bond, you said.”
“Yes,” Zamira answered, meeting his eyes. “That ability to tap into the psionic plane means that our bonds will always be psionic bonds.”
Peter chuckled, “Let’s just stop beating around the bush. You want to know if the bonds are sexual. Yes, always. Psionic bonds are intense. I’ve only ever seen three platonic pairs. One was a set of identical twin alphas, another were alphas, monks who lived their entire lives under a vow of celibacy, and then….” Peter glanced at Noah.
Noah set his cup down and pushed it away. “Scott and Stiles.” Noah tapped on the table a couple times, trying to figure out how to explain those two to his son’s sentinel’s girlfriend. Something that shouldn’t be possible. “Well, Stiles is nothing if not contrary. You have to understand how Stiles came online. My wife had a degenerative brain disease, and a do not resuscitate order. She understood there was no hope and didn’t want to be kept alive by artificial means. I was supposed to be off, but it was New Year’s Eve and bad weather, so I was called in for a half shift. I got the call too late to get to the hospital in time. He was alone with his mother when she died. He felt her die, and I think he almost followed her.”
He rubbed his face to chase away the memories, “So many came online in his distress, but they were all older teens and adults. And then there was Scott. Dr. Sandburg is always saying nature provides. He believes Stiles dragged Scott online because he was the only nearby latent sentinel close to Stile’s age. It should have been impossible for them to bond at that age, but somehow they did.”
Chris leaned forward, “Impossible because of their age?”
“Their age, yes, that was a factor. But impossible because Stiles is a Prime and Scott’s…not,” Noah shrugged.
Allison shook her head. “I don’t understand. Scott’s a Prime. Everyone calls him Prime McCall.”
Peter stood up and grabbed the pot of coffee to refill everyone’s cups. Noah accepted his thankfully as Peter explained, “This is where politics cross with ability. I mentioned that even a weak bond could increase power?”
“That is within a given range. It is rare, but occasionally an Alpha is compatible with someone who is not. The increase in ability will not give them access to the psionic energy in the way of a natural Alpha even though their senses have been boosted. But as a courtesy to the natural Alpha of the pair, both are given the title Alpha.”
“So, Scott’s not a Prime?” Allison half asked, half stated.
“No. Scott has the title because of the bond with Stiles, but he will never have the abilities of a Prime.” Noah looked at Allison while trying to suppress his discomfort of speaking about his son’s potential sex life. “Look, this is really Stiles’ and Scott’s business. If you are serious about building a relationship with one of them, you have to accept that they are a package deal. For the longest time, we thought Scott would grow up and realize that Stiles is his match. But the last couple of years, we realized that Scott is as straight as they come. They really are platonic. However, they are still a bonded pair, and you have to respect that.”
“I really like Scott. I don’t really know Stiles that well because we don’t hang out together.”
“For the short term, that’s up to you kids. I’m not going to get involved in teenage romance. But if you are going to have a relationship, then the three of you need to get together on this. They may be arguing now, but eventually, the needs of the bond will pull them together,” Noah warned her.
Peter nodded his head. “There is a reason why bond interference is a high crime. Even with a platonic pairing, the needs of the bond will come before anything and anyone else. You have to let go of jealousy, you can’t play little manipulative games, and you can’t make demands that bring you between them. That’s why you have to be willing to accept them both. Nothing you give Scott will ever match what he gets out of his bond. It can still be fulfilling and worthwhile, but you have to accept that sometimes you will come in second in his life.” Peter huffed, “And now I realize I’m going to have to have this same conversation with my nephew. He’s in a slightly different situation, but he will have to come to terms with his feelings on this as well.”
Chris sighed and looked at his daughter, “I don’t know that I’m comfortable with this. I know you like this kid, and he seemed nice when you brought him to dinner, but I didn’t know he was bonded to a Prime at the time.”
“No, I think we need to have a long conversation about this…just the two of us.”
“But Stiles said he didn’t care if Scott and I dated.”
“And you already said they were arguing. What if he changes his mind? What if someone starts claiming bond interference. I’m sure Stiles meant exactly what he said, but I don’t know that I want to take chances with your college eligibility. Admission boards take this seriously.” Chris pointed at her as she opened her mouth. “I can be reasonable, but this is a discussion between father and daughter.”
Allison crossed her arms and sat back in the chair with a huff.
Chris shook his head and stood. “Thank you all for helping us understand this a little better. I think it’s time for us to be going.” The Argents left with the usual pleasantries.
Noah sat back down to finish his coffee. It was excellent coffee, after all. “Between you and me, Blair has always believed that eventually Stiles would grow out of his dependence on Scott and seek a real bond. There was always a chance that Scott would manifest alpha or prime abilities to match Stiles. But he is now within the age range for a sentinel to begin coming online, and there have been no changes. Scott has absolutely no drive to form deeper connections with his own guide, or really anyone who isn’t female. I wasn’t surprised in the least when I was told about his girlfriend. I was worried about how Stiles would take it, but he is falling just as deep with your nephew. I’m not sure how the Scott/Allison relationship will turn out, but I can say Stiles is really excited about his date with Derek.”
Zamira laughed lightly, “Derek is still in denial that it is a date.”
“I’m sure Stiles will disabuse him of that soon.”
“I’m not so sure this is a good idea, Derek.” Stiles looked down at the rented skates like they were a bomb waiting to explode. “I know I do pretty good overall, but I’m sorta touch-sensitive. It’s one thing to sit on a public bench, but to use public shoes?”
“You’re wearing a thick pair of socks. I think you are safe from skate bleed-over.” Derek finished lacing his own skates and knelt to help Stiles.
Stiles waved his hands out wildly. “It could happen. What if the last person wearing these skates was in a horrific skating accident? What if they tried to jump, fell, and were paralyzed?” Stiles’ eyes popped open, and his face took on a horrific expression. “What if there was a huge accident on the ice and the skate came down and castrated the wearer? Derek, those could be castration skates! Do you know the nightmares I would have?”
Derek froze a moment in shock at that visual then started to laugh. “I don’t think there have been any accidental castrations on the ice rink, Stiles. Besides, I don’t think it’s possible to castrate yourself with your own skate.”
“I see how you are. Absolutely no care for the delicate sensibilities of a guide.” Stiles tensed up a moment, then relaxed as Derek pulled the boot up onto Stiles’ foot.
“I think we’re safe from crazy flashes.” Derek just shook his head and watched as Stiles adjusted his foot in the skate for a proper fit before Derek started tying the laces. The little grin on Stiles’ face was endearing as he quickly put on the second skate in excitement.
There was a lot about the boy that was endearing. The way his eyes sparkled when he was excited. How he could jump from one topic to another and somehow, in the end, make them connect in a way you never considered. The fact that his body was literally never still unless he was meditating. The more time Derek spent with Stiles, the more things he noticed.
Lately, he spent every available minute with the boy, and Derek had to admit that Stiles Stilinski was quickly becoming addictive. He was doing everything he could to keep this thing they had going on as just friends. He kept reminding himself that he is now 18 and Stiles is 16 1/2. Just one-and-a-half short years until Stiles is legal. One and a half long, cold shower-filled years. Keep it friendly. Friendly and Chaste, that’s what it needs to be because anything else was courting trouble.
Who was he kidding? Beyond a doubt, this friendship was becoming more. And Derek, for once in his life, was letting himself have what he wanted. Not pushing, just letting it happen. Being near Stiles felt like color had returned to Derek’s world after a year of charcoal. The air smelled cleaner, the world felt warmer, and colors were vibrant…like Stiles.
Stiles stood on the skates and wobbled, Derek reaching out quickly to steady him. “You’ve got me, right?”
“Yes, Stiles. I’ve got you. I can’t believe you’ve never been in here.” Derek kept hold as he slowly moved Stiles out onto the ice.
“Never. I tried rollerblading once. But there were the dogs and the dog-walker and then me down with a broken arm. Followed, of course, by the thirty-eight sentinels who charged in practically feral at my distress.” Stiles bobbled a little as he waved his hands around, then rethought that to grab hold of Derek. “After that, me and skating of any type was off the table.”
“I promise to save you from broken bones, so no calling sentinels in a panic.”
“No promises,” Stiles muttered.
Derek shook his head, “You can do this. It’s just balance and believing in yourself. I know you have at least half of that down.”
“Hey, I believe in myself. I believe I’m going to face-plant right on that ice and probably take you down with me.” Stiles smirked at Derek.
“If seeing the future is one of your guide abilities, you better warn me now.” Derek stepped onto the ice and moved backward slightly, giving Stiles space to follow. Reaching out his hands, he slowly led Stiles out on the ice.
Derek held both of Stiles’ hands while coaching him on balance and movement. After a while, Derek transitioned to the side, keeping one arm loosely around him. Stiles kept a solid stream of commentary throughout, ranging from the history of ice skating, skating in the Olympics and the travesty of the Sentinel and Guide ban of the 1900s, and the romantic use of skating in film.
There was opportunity in Stiles’ clumsiness that allowed Derek to keep his hands on him throughout the afternoon. It also allowed him to feel the vibrations of the muscles working against one another as his body followed Derek, and Stiles’ mind took off after whatever caught his eye.
The way little clouds of steam appeared whenever Stiles snorted and laughed at Derek’s weak jokes and then somehow turned the subject around and made it funny. It was one of the best dates of Derek’s life.
Derek’s mind stuttered to a stop. It was a date?
Stiles gave him a quizzical look, and they moved toward the side of the rink. “Something wrong, Derek?”
“Is this…is this a date?” Derek watched for any hint of horror and wished he had kept his mouth shut. “Forget I said that.”
“No. I mean, no, I won’t forget.” Stiles chewed on his bottom lip the way he did when he was worried he would say something stupid and was stopping to think it through first. “Do you want this to be a date?” His heartbeat sped up, and his eyes widened, allowing an unobstructed view of those beautiful hazel eyes.
Derek hesitated, “Would you mind? If this is a date?” He held his breath.
First, there was a blush, followed by a pleased smile, “I think this is a date.”
Watching those lips widen into a full smile, Derek leaned slowly down for a kiss. A wolf-whistle caused them to break apart before their lips could meet. The fast-moving missile known as Sentinel Erica Reyes barreled between them, laughing. Stiles flailed and spun on the ice, aiming for and missing the retaining wall. Derek reached to try and stop the fall in vain. Luckily Guide Boyd was following right behind Erica and was able to get a tight grip on his fellow guide to save him.
“Erica, Mr. Waterman is going to ban you if you cause an empathic event in his rink!” Boyd called out to Erica. “Get back here and apologize.”
“Spoilsport.” Erica skidded to a halt next to them as Boyd passed Stiles back to Derek. She looked back and forth between the two of them. Boyd nudged her, and she rolled her eyes. “Sorry for the scare, Stilinski. You’ve got one hunk of sentinel here. Does Scott know you’re dating another sentinel?” Her words were teasing, but her expression was mischievous.
Stiles jerked against Derek. “As Scott is so fond of telling me, it’s none of his business who I date. Our pairing is platonic, and I can date Derek if I want to.”
“Down, Boy. It’s not my business who you date.” She grinned, “Well, that’s not true, is it? It’s always my business if something might upset my Primes.”
“Well, right now, your Prime would be less upset if you took your concern to another part of the rink.” Stiles motioned her to the far side.
Erica opened her mouth to respond, but Boyd got there first. He grabbed her by the hand and pulled her along with him. “Have fun, guys. And keep it PG out here. This is the children’s main session.”
Derek felt himself blush at the look Boyd gave him. Right, Stiles…underage. He pulled back and took Stiles’ hand to continue skating. They kept it friendly, thankfully. Erica and Boyd weren’t the only ones from Stiles’ school that checked them out, just the most vocal.
Over snacks from the concession, Stiles rubbed the back of his head and took a big breath. “Since we’re dating now, I was wondering…well, next Saturday is the Sadie Hawkins Dance at school. Not that I’m the girl here, because neither of us is the girl. But would you go with me to the dance?”
With a smile, Derek nodded, “I would love to take you to the Dance.”
Derek parked in the Center’s parking lot and took a deep breath before heading inside. Stiles had some father/son dinner with the State Sheriff’s Association. They did it every year, and Stiles said something about his father confiscating his cell phone after some incident several years back. So there was no way he could text Stiles today. And, after yesterday’s date, he really wanted to text him.
Instead, he made the very adult decision that it was time to schedule his medical and evaluation. He was still keeping his senses locked down, but Stiles made him realize that he owed it to himself to explore what being a sentinel could mean for him. He was ready to try. As long as no one tried to push any guides at him, he would be fine. Derek knows he can’t have Stiles that way, but then again, he doesn’t want anyone to take that place. Stiles and McCall might be ok with a platonic bond, but Derek isn’t sure he could split focus that way. It feels like looking for a bond would be like cheating on Stiles.
Derek entered the Center and immediately felt his hackles rise. The press of calm, calm, calm rolled out in waves rocked by people crying and the smell of fear and sorrow. Guides were walking around the Center entry and waiting area pushing out calmness and peace to everyone. A hint of smoke lingered in the air.
Heading for the main desk, Derek pulled out the Sentinel ID card Peter had dropped in his lap after he bailed out on his assessment. The man at the desk had the yellow badge of a mundane sensitive. He stopped his hurried action of stacking clipboards to scan Derek’s ID. Then motioned Derek toward a door on the other side of the room without saying anything before reaching to shove intake forms into the clipboards.
With a shrug, Derek headed for the door. There were no handles on the outside, only a scanner. Before Derek could decide if he should try his ID, the door opened, and a female sentinel stepped to the side and motioned him in. She pulled the door firmly shut behind them and started walking before he could even ask.
“Are you experiencing any sensory spikes, or do you feel like you are in danger of zoning?”
“Do you feel any building urges to protect the tribe or an individual at this time?”
“Are you in control of your senses?”
“At this time, do you feel your control slipping and/or feel you are in danger of entering a sentinel imperative or feral episode?” She looked at him this time as if judging him.
“No?” Derek answered, wondering what was up with the twenty questions.
She hesitated a moment, then nodded. “And what is your purpose here today, Sentinel?”
“Thought I’d schedule my medical and assessment,” Derek murmured.
“OK, as you might have noticed, we are stretched a bit thin at the moment.”
“Yeah, what happened?”
“Apartment fire on the south side. Injuries, but they don’t think there were any fatalities. But the fire brought a lot of latents in the area online. And there are a high number of sensitives living in the complex, so we are diverting resources to settle them as well.” She looked him over, “You seem settled. If you aren’t experiencing distress, then we would prefer to remove you from the immediate vicinity and schedule your assessment for a later date.”
“OK, fine with me. My sister and cousin are here. I was supposed to pick them up after their class since my sister’s car is in the shop. I need to get them before I leave.” Derek looked around because he had no idea where the classrooms even are in this place.
“They are sentinels?”
“All guide classes have been canceled. Sentinels were relocated toward the edge of the preserve to distance them from the stress in the Center. They are running the obstacle course. You could just join them. You’ll be in class with them anyway once you complete your assessment. Might as well meet everyone.” She led him to the rear doors and had him out, and pointed in the correct direction on the field before he could protest.
Derek gave himself a full minute and then started walking. He passed the various buildings on the campus and crossed over the track and sports field. This was so much better than the one they had when he was a kid. Derek can remember coming out with the family when his Mother would host events at the Center. That whole building the community thing she would do.
He could spot the obstacle course from here. It was the sentinel advanced law enforcement course. He had heard that Sheriff Stilinski even made his mundane officers run the course. Stiles had stories to tell about those officers. He looked up to see Malia and Cora competing against some boy about their age. He was athletic and didn’t miss a step keeping up with the two of them. Malia beat them both, of course, but then Malia was cutthroat.
Checking in with the sentinel holding the clipboard, Derek stripped out of his leather jacket. He shoved his wallet, car keys, and sunglasses into the pocket before hanging it on a post and starting to warm up. His jeans were relaxed fit, so he had enough give to maneuver. Not as good as the athletic wear the rest were wearing, but it would do.
He lined up and let his mind mentally recreate the course with directions and spatial relationships calculated. When his name was called, he took a deep breath and slowly released it while forcing himself into the mindset of the wolf. Uncle Peter would talk about his spirit guide as if he could almost join with it. Using the power, grace, stamina, and speed to augment your own. Let yourself feel the freedom and joy of the animal within.
The whistle sounded, and Derek was off. He tore through the course like the wind, barely touching the ground as he maneuvered through each hazard. He relied on his natural athleticism, though he could see the two sentinels on his left gaining on him quickly. The last third of the course hit a section that relied heavily on eye-hand coordination, and Derek saw the others pass him by. He made himself pull up short rather than unlock his senses to give himself the advantage they were using. He finished the course a good forty-five seconds behind them and walked back to his gear and the disappointed expression on Cora’s face.
“I don’t want to hear it,” was all he said as he picked up his jacket.
“I just don’t understand why you lock it away.” Her arms were crossed over her chest, and her hip cocked out to the side in a way that telegraphed all of her frustration. He memorized the pose with all the light and shadows giving her depth. The breeze gently blowing the pieces of hair that had fallen from her ponytail.
Derek grabbed his car keys and shoved his sunglasses back on his face. “I said I don’t want to talk about it.” He glanced back at Malia in line for another round. “Are you through yet? Your part won’t be in until Thursday, so I’m your ride.”
With a grunt of frustration, she marched over to Malia and pulled her from the lineup before heading to a pile of bags near the start of the course. Derek watched long enough to know they would follow before turning to walk back toward the parking lot. He hadn’t taken more than a handful of steps before a boy of about sixteen came charging across the field and knocked him down.
Derek lay there just a moment in shock before rolling up onto his feet and taking a defensive stance. Years of self-defense training at the Hale Pack’s estate had him responding without hesitating. The boy charged again, and Derek sidestepped him before tripping him and taking a moment to pin him to the ground.
“Calm Down!” Derek called out to the struggling sentinel. He looked around to see if there were any Center personnel nearby to help. He wondered if the kid was having a feral episode due to the guides in distress inside the main building.
“Let go!” The boy practically growled at Derek, though honestly, it didn’t feel like much of a threat. This kid was barely online.
“Not until you calm down. I’m not going to allow you to hurt yourself or anyone else.” Derek looked up to see all of the sentinels surrounding them but not making a move to assist him. He could see Cora and Malia trying to push their way through the circle, but the girls were being held back. What the heck? The kid struggled once or twice more before deflating. When he was sure the kid wasn’t going feral, he slowly released him and backed up.
There was silence while the kid found his feet and turned to glare at Derek. “You’re Derek Hale.”
“Yes. Do you normally attack people you don’t know?”
“You’ve been seeing my guide without my permission. It stops now.”
Derek froze a moment. This must be Scott McCall, Stiles’ sentinel. But that doesn’t make sense because Stiles is powerful, and this sentinel is—not. “We’re just dating. Stiles said you have a platonic bond.”
“What kind of bond we have doesn’t matter. What matters is I’m notifying you of a formal injunction against you for pair-bond interference. I’m forbidding you from seeing or communicating with my guide. Stay away from him, and no one will speak about this. I’ll place the injunction under a Sentinel Prime seal, and no one has to know about it unless you break it.” McCall was practically foaming at the mouth.
Derek choked on his breath. “What does Stiles think about this?”
“Stiles understands his duty to his sentinel. Do you really think he wanted you? The most important person to any guide is their sentinel. He’s mine, and you will leave him alone, or I’m going to drag the high and mighty Hale name through the mud. Let’s see how your family would feel about their murdering son then.”
It was like a slap across the face to Derek. “What?”
“I saw the report of how you came online. All of those people you murdered.” Scott pointed at Derek, “Well, I don’t want you anywhere near any guides in my territory. You’re broken, and you should have been locked up.”
Derek felt a moment of rage but then was hit with all of the doubt racing through his mind. Remembering the feel of a neck snapping beneath his hands. Without another word, he turned on his heel and headed for the car, ignoring the sound of a fist connecting with a face behind him. He didn’t stop until he was in the Camaro.
Cora and Malia climbed in, Malia frowning at a broken fingernail.
“Derek,” Cora said softly, her voice dripping with anger and sorrow in equal parts.
Derek threw the car into drive and peeled out of the parking lot. “I don’t want to talk about it.”
Stiles picked up his lunch from Mrs. Linda in the cafeteria and quickly made his way to the unused classroom next to the Library. His hands were shaking, and his shields felt brittle. It was a bad combination for eating in a crowded lunchroom. He stared at the unappetizing chicken pasta and debated forcing himself to eat it before pushing it away.
He couldn’t figure out what went wrong this week. Saturday was one of the best days of his life. He and Derek had so much fun, and they had plans to meet up during the week a couple times and then the Dance this coming Saturday. How did it go from that to his number blocked and him banned from entering the Hale Estate? Peter Hale had regretfully, yet firmly, ordered him to stop trying to contact his nephew.
Cora and Malia had taken to eating off-campus and would sit on the opposite side of the room when they were forced together by their schedules. The hostility poured off them, even through his shields. They went from his best friends to enemies overnight, and he has no idea why.
Hell, every sentinel in the school was avoiding him—even his own. Though, to be honest, Scott had been avoiding him for a while now. The difference was that instead of being on his high horse and convinced he’s done no wrong, Scott is now angry. All. The. Time. The bond, what little there was to be felt, was vibrating with anger. It set Stiles’ teeth on edge, and he was walking around exhausted with a constant headache.
That whole thing about guides being immune to headaches was bullshit. And his concentration was just gone. Meditation wasn’t helping the way it did at the beginning of the year. Stiles had taken to avoiding the Preserve because that’s where Derek went, and he couldn’t face anger there too. Not in his safe space.
Dad was busy at the station. There was a serial arsonist on the loose, and they were working the case before someone ended up dead. And the Center was handling a large intake and training for the newly online. Short of an ISO room, Stiles didn’t think anything was going to help.
And let’s face it. If he did check into an ISO room at the Center, Blair would be all up in his business in a hot minute. Goodbye freedom, hello Conservator. If Scott was mad at him now, he would be pissed for life.
It was exhausting being here. Stiles looked back at his tray and felt a wave of nausea roll through him as his headache spiked. Enough was enough. He walked the tray back to the lunchroom and dumped it before heading to the nurse’s office. Fifteen minutes later, he was out the door.
He looked up at the silent sentinels sitting on the lawn before heading home. Stiles wasn’t one to avoid his trouble, but maybe a day of wallowing was in order. It’s Thursday, and none of his classes have tests scheduled for tomorrow. Yes, a mental health day was definitely in order.
And if he moped over a picture of him and Derek at the waterfall, that was 100% his right. What did he do wrong?
Derek worked with decisive brushstrokes as he spread the paint across the canvas. He was working in blacks and whites with flashes of blue and red as the whim took him. Playing off positive and negative space. Light and dark. The darkness rolling around the edges, creeping in to smother the light.
In frustration, he threw the paint pallet down on the floor and turned away from the canvas. Nothing was working right anymore. One moment the paintbrush was like sandpaper on his skin, the next, he couldn’t feel the brush strokes. The room was too hot; it was too cold. The light wasn’t right…could never be right again.
Every bit of hard-won balance was gone. Stiles was gone. And he was thoroughly pissed off that he couldn’t even get Stiles’ side of the story. Peter had sat him down and gone over bond interference law in detail. McCall was entirely within his rights. Unless Stiles disputed it, no one could say anything. And Stiles hadn’t denied McCall’s claim in any single way.
Derek turned back to look at the canvas and saw Stiles’ eyes staring back at him. He hadn’t planned to draw it, but it was there, staring at him. Anger welled up inside of him, and he grabbed his knife to cut it, slice after slice until it was unrecognizable.
He spun around in the room, drawings and paintings of Stiles staring at him from every surface. He descended on the closest one with a scream, hacking away at it until it was confetti, then turning to the next one.
A hand closed around his wrist, twisting the knife out of his hand as he fought against the weight of Peter wrapped around him from behind. He struggled once and then again to throw him off before waves of calm flowed over him, and Zamira stepped forward to gently take his face and bring it down to rest on her shoulder.
He could feel the vibration of her voice on his skin. “Peace, honey. We have the watch; let it go.”
Zamira’s words seeped into Derek. With a sob, he wrapped himself around her and let out all of the frustration. First, she was humming to him before she started to sing. She sang a soft lullaby as he was moved to his bed. He accepted their comfort and support as he drifted on the edge of sleep.
At some point, his hearing followed Peter through the house as he put the kids to bed. For a moment, he thought he heard the soft sound of his mother’s voice in response to Peter’s urging, “Talia, it’s time for you to come home.”
It’s noon on Saturday when Stiles forces himself out of bed to find something to eat. He’s not really hungry, but he needs something to nibble on to fight back nausea. The headache is a low thrum along his shields, and they feel a little thin. He doesn’t feel the slightest guilt about sleeping late. It’s not like anyone is calling him to go do anything.
He threw himself into a research spiral, trying to figure out what went wrong. But if there is anything to be found, no one is talking. It doesn’t matter anyway. Derek hates him now, and he doesn’t even know why. Was it the date? He shouldn’t have asked him out. He should have kept it just friends.
Stiles looked at the coffee and decided that caffeine is not the answer today. He dug the peppermint tea out of the cabinet and threw the kettle on the stove. Leaning against the counter, he closed his eyes and let himself just exist while trying not to focus on his body’s reactions.
A pounding at the front door caused him to jerk and flail for a moment. Who the hell could be here today?
Stiles slowly moved toward the front door, not sure he wanted to face the cloud of anger on the other side of the door. He stopped with his hand on the doorknob while trying to make himself peek out to see who it was when a familiar voice called out.
“Stilinski, open the damn door.”
Stiles bit his bottom lip and turned the knob. “Well, if it isn’t Ms. Malicious and Ms. Vindictive. To what do I owe the honor?”
Cora shouldered the door open and stepped inside, looking like she was preparing for battle. Stiles glanced to Malia, who looked just as angry, but she took the time to shrug before pushing through to join her cousin. Cora paced in the living room like a caged animal. He wasn’t entirely certain if she would calm down or attack. He could tell she had her senses dialed up because she was reacting to the slightest air currents in the room.
The sharp whistle of his water kettle caused the two sentinels to flinch back and stop their movements in shock. Oh well, he would take what he could get. Stiles spun around and ran back to the kitchen to shut it off before it could wake his Dad.
While he was at it, he grabbed a couple more mugs and grabbed the chamomile from the second shelf. The last thing those two needed was more caffeine. He threw the bags into the cups and quickly poured the water. He turned to find a tray to set the cups on and jumped to see the girls right behind him.
“Would you stop that?” Stiles swallowed hard and tried to get his heart rate under control. “I swear sentinels are going to give me a stroke.”
Grabbing his cup, he motioned them to take their own and moved over to the other side of the table so he could have a shield between himself and the girls. Malia shrugged and grabbed both cups when Cora refused to move. Malia took a seat and reached for the sugar to liberally doctor her tea. Cora kept to her feet, pacing again.
When the silence stretched about as far as he could take it, he opened his mouth to speak, but Cora beat him to it.
“Why? Why the hell did you do it, Stilinski?” Cora asked.
Stiles slouched down in the chair, wishing he could hide. He just knew he had gone too far, too fast. He ruined everything.
“Why?!” Cora slammed her hands down on the table, causing Stiles to jump and hot tea to splash onto his hand.
“Ouch! Fuck!” Stiles bolted out of the chair and to the sink to run cold water over his hand.
Malia sighed loudly and shoved Cora into a chair before going to the refrigerator to grab a cold pack out of the freezer. She checked Stiles’ hand and then wrapped the pack in a dish towel and put it in his hand. “Don’t kill yourself, Stiles. Not before we get an answer.”
Stiles nodded, “Ok, yeah. It’s my fault, OK. I don’t know what I was thinking. I mean, I thought it was a date. And in my defense, Derek said it was a date. I shouldn’t have invited him to the dance. What was I thinking?” Stiles shook his head and waved his hands around.
Malia traded a weird look with Cora and then forced Stiles back into a kitchen chair and took the one next to him to hold onto his hand and the cold pack. “You asked Derek out?”
“Yes. I pushed too fast, and now he hates me. Hell, all the sentinels hate me. I know he hasn’t been dealing well with being a sentinel, and I had to go and get all pushy and ask him to go with me to the dance. He said yes. I thought he really wanted to go. But he was just humoring me because I’m a guide, right?” Stiles looked up at the girls. “He just wanted to be friends, and I went and ruined it all. I mean, I almost kissed him at the skating rink. He must have been so relieved when Erica interrupted us. OMG. I’m a predator. He must think I’m trying to force myself on him.”
Cora full-on paused like her brain was resetting. “You kissed Derek?”
“Yes. No. Almost—not quite.” Stiles took a deep breath when he felt the first hint of hyperventilation come over him. Slowing down, he felt tears start to build in his eyes and forced himself to stop it. He wasn’t going to start crying now like he was pathetic. Who was he kidding? He was utterly pathetic. “I tried. I mean, I thought it was mutual trying. I leaned in, and then he leaned in too. But Erica barreled into us, and Derek pulled back quick. He must have been so fucking relieved. He has been so nice, and to think I was taking advantage of him. Did he think he had to because I’m a guide?”
“Calm down.” Malia pulled back on his hand when he tried to wave his arms around. “If Derek tried to kiss you, then I’m sure he wanted to kiss you. I guarantee he did.”
“Right. If Derek really wanted to kiss me, someone needs to explain why he won’t even speak to me anymore. Your father forbade me from coming to your house, and Derek blocked my phone. He blocked it, Mal. I can’t even talk to him to find out why he hates me. That’s not the sign of someone who wants to kiss me. I mean, no one has ever wanted to before, so I’m not exactly an expert at this, but I’m pretty sure when someone wants to kiss you, then they want to see and speak to you, too.”
“Well, he probably did it because….”
“Malia Hale!” Cora hissed at Malia. “NO.”
“N. O. No. Not a word.” Cora glared at her cousin.
“What? Do you know something?” Stiles looked between the two of them before squinting. “You do know something. Spill.”
Malia opened her mouth, but Cora stomped on her foot.
“Stiles, we received a Prime order not to get involved. You understand how that works,” Cora stated before getting a look in her eye that kinda scared Stiles if he were honest. “So, this means you don’t have a date for the dance.” It wasn’t a question. So Stiles didn’t respond. She cocked her head to the side then nodded to herself. “Neither do we. So you are taking us to the dance.”
“I don’t dance,” Malia stated just as Stiles added, “I don’t feel like a dance.”
“Yes, we all dance, and we are going. Go get your shoes on Stilinski; we are going to the mall and finding something to wear.” Cora stood and pulled Stiles to his feet before he could argue further.
While he trudged up the stairs to find a pair of socks…and maybe some clean underwear, he could hear snippets of conversation behind him.
“Why not just tell him that….”
“…orders mean we can’t, but obviously the jerk didn’t tell him….”
“…guarantee you he will spill if we….”
“Fine, but you are buying the outfits. Dad took my card when he found out I bought those chains….”
Stiles was on his way back down and slipped on the last step, and landed on his rear. “Did you say you were buying chains? Um, to each his own as long as it’s safe, sane, and consensual, but that’s a no-go for me.”
Malia froze a moment before a smile grew, “But think of all the fun we could have.”
Stiles swallowed. “Red light,” he whispered.
“You two have the most disgusting minds.” Cora practically picked Stiles up by the collar of his jacket. “Her little brother tricked her into buying some chains for him so that he could organize an insurrection at school. Uncle Peter’s cut her off until she proves that she won’t let herself be manipulated by a five-year-old.”
“It’s not fair. Benjamin has an unfair advantage,” Malia pouted.
“What kind of advantage could a five-year-old possibly have…other than a twin?” Stiles asked with a slight grin.
Cora started pulling them to the doorway, “Only that he’s possibly Peter’s clone. He’s five going on thirty-five, and I’m not entirely convinced that he won’t become a super-villain.”
The familiar feeling of fingers running through his hair woke Derek. He had slept half the day, his senses beyond his ability to suppress. Generations of sentinels born to the Hale Family meant their rooms were designed to soothe the senses. Derek pushed up from where he was lying on his stomach shirtless, the slight rash from something in his art supplies was flaring up, but he couldn’t bring himself to care. Without even hesitating, he reached over and wrapped his arms around his mother’s frame.
“Mom.” The sound of the word was hitched and broken.
“Oh, my sweet boy. I never should have allowed them to convince me to stay behind so long. All is fine now. Your father and I are home. The Pack is home.” Talia Hale continued her calming motion of running fingers through his hair.
“It was supposed to be another month.” Derek sighed, “I’m sorry you had to come back for me.”
“Derek.” It sounded like her heart was breaking. “Everything I ever do is for you and your sisters. All I have ever wanted is a better life for you. Sometimes I allow duty to the tribe and the territory to slip in before you, but never doubt you come before them. My family is the heart of my tribe. I feel I have failed.”
“No, I’m the failure. I made myself believe I could have him, but I can’t. He belongs to someone else. I wish I had never come online. If I wasn’t a sentinel, then maybe no one would care if we were together.”
“It is a small consolation, but I firmly believe that when you find your guide, you will forget how this feels. Nothing and no one is ever as perfect for you as your own guide.”
“But he is perfect,” Derek insisted. “The way the light catches his eyes when he is telling a story. How he jerks around spastically, and you are just certain he’s going to injure himself. His voice is like warm water washing away all the tenseness of the day. And his skin is like a soft scarf against you. And that scent…it’s like earth and lightning at the end of a storm. I don’t think there could be anyone more perfect than Stiles.”
Talia stared at him in a way that was, for just a moment, more Prime than Mother. “Your father and I will take care of this. It’s time we took back our place in our territory. Now, I understand your sister will be out tonight, but we will call you to the dinner table once the meal is ready. Peter is preparing something. Travel was exhausting, but I am glad that we are finally home.”
Stiles pulled into the school parking lot and found a spot to park. He leaned down to rest his forehead against his steering wheel a moment while he centered himself and prepared to walk into the angst and lust-filled event known as a High School Dance. The deep bass of the music was thumping even out here. In the back of his mind, he hoped the sentinels were taking precautions to modulate their senses.
“Why did we have to take your jeep again, Stilinski?” Malia asked as she fixed the strap on her shoe.
“There is nothing wrong with Roscoe. So, no disparaging my baby. Besides, Roscoe is a negative touch space. No empathic impressions besides my own. If you have a sensory episode, come out here. Seriously, never trust the school’s Emergency Sentinel Safe rooms during a school dance. Without fail, some dumbass will sneak in for seven minutes in Heaven. Those rooms are tainted within the first hour,” Stiles pointed out.
“Way to take the romance out of the evening.” Cora just stared at him until he let loose with a snort.
Malia tapped on the armrest. “So are we just going to sit here all night, or do you want to dance?”
“Sit here,” Stiles whispered without looking up.
“Nope, not going to happen. You said you wanted a chance at a normal life. You wanted to experience High School the same way everyone else does. That means we will go in there and dance to music that our kids will one day ridicule us for enjoying. We will take pictures and in ten years worry about our taste in clothes and hairstyles. We will see if the idiots from the basketball team had the balls to spike the punch. And we will eat crappy food and pretend we like it,” Cora insisted.
Stiles looked up at her with a grin. “I will eat the crappy food, but I don’t promise to like it.”
“She said pretend to like it. Get with the program, Stiles. Dad says that sentinels rarely learn the value of the white lie and should always follow the lead of their guide who will strive to avoid hurt feelings.” Malia grinned maliciously. “It’s all in how one presents the evidence to the jury. One can remain factual and yet lead them to the truth you want them to see.”
“You know, Peter is scary,” Stiles shook his head while feeling Malia’s pride in her father. “Uncle Blair says obfuscation is your friend. It opens doors and soothes tempers while smoothing the way for peaceful outcomes.”
Cora raised an eyebrow. “What does Prime Ellison say about that?”
Stiles broke out into a grin, “Uncle Jim says that obfuscation may be Uncle Blair’s friend, but it commonly comes back to bite Uncle Jim in the ass. He also says it is his duty to protect his guide even if he sometimes has to protect his guide from said guide’s big mouth.”
“OK, are we ready to party?” Malia asked.
“Checklist, checklist,” Stiles pointed around. “Keys and purses, check. Crappy unscented flowers that are dying as we speak, check. Phones at the ready to catch embarrassing photos of our classmates and use them as blackmail later, check.”
Cora rolled her eyes as Malia grinned. “Uncle Peter on speed dial to bail us out when the two of you inevitably land me in jail.”
“Dad would proudly bail you out if, for just once, you weren’t at fault for the trouble you land in,” Malia said as she flicked her hair over her shoulder. “Now come on. I refuse to wear these shoes for more than two hours. So we’re on a timer, people.”
Stiles opened the door then grabbed the red jacket that matched the monochrome red suit the girls insisted he wear. He quickly pulled it on before opening the back door for Malia. She was in a spaghetti strap dress that fit her tightly before giving just a slight flair at the hips and ending mid-thigh. Her stilettos of the thousand straps a perfect color match.
“Why did you even get those shoes if you don’t want to wear them?” Stiles asked and stood awkwardly as she stared at the hand he offered her to exit the car.
Malia rolled her eyes and took Stiles’ hand before landing perfectly balanced on the ridiculous heels. “I got them because they match the outfit perfectly, they make a statement that I’m not afraid to appear strong and sexy, and they make my ass look great.”
Cora joined them on the driver’s side of the jeep. Her dress was a lace panel sleeveless high low dress with a pair of Mary Janes to match the dress. They were all dressed in the same monochrome red to match. Stiles was so past questioning why, but he officially now knew more about women’s formal wear than he ever wanted to know.
“Yeah, because you really care that they are staring at your ass,” Cora said as she stepped up.
“They always stare at my ass. Tonight I make them want it but know they will never get it.” Malia stepped to the other side of Stiles and reached for his arm. “Now, let’s go. Remember head high, shoulders back, we own this place, and they are all going to know it before the night is through.”
Stiles shook his head at their antics and offered Cora his other arm. “Showtime.”
They swept into the dance, and Malia moved them into the short line where the student photography club took photos for their club fundraiser. They totally rocked it with some great poses. Then they scoped out the decorations and set up to pick the best place to mark as their territory.
“OK, we stick to the plan. We only dance with each other. We protect each other’s backs. They are beneath us, and we don’t give them the time of day. And if any of them touch my ass, Cora can beat them up.” Malia started dragging them to the dance floor. “I forgot to ask, you can dance…right, Stiles?”
Stiles rolled his eyes, “Yes, I can dance. Uncle Jim insisted that as Primes, we were required to learn how to navigate all kinds of social settings, and dance class was part of that. Along with etiquette, formal dining, and speech.”
Malia tugged him forward while Cora slid a finger under his belt, and onto the dance floor they moved. Soon they were moving as one with the music, and Stiles allowed himself to relax and just enjoy the music and flashes of fun he was getting from the girls when they touched him.
Dancing with two girls simultaneously should have been awkward. Instead it was as if they formed a moving buffer between him and all the other dancers. And they could read his movements to anticipate and move with him. It felt like no time at all before they were all thirsty and headed for the food.
Coach Finstock stopped them along the way, “Bilinski, is McCall here?”
Stiles glanced around for Scott but kept his shields locked down so he couldn’t reach out for his sentinel. “Don’t really know, Coach.”
“Well, if you see him, remind him that he has three papers due for Econ, or he won’t be able to play.” Coach gave him a bug-eyed stare. “I need my players playing, or we can’t play. If we don’t play, we lose. Do you want to be a loser?”
“Um, no…but I’m not allowed to play anyway, Coach. We had that talk.” Stiles smirked at Finstock when the man glared at him.
“Are you your sentinel’s keeper or what?”
Stiles shook his head sharply, “That would be a no.”
“Excuse me?” Coach looked at him hard.
Cora growled, “He said he isn’t Sentinel-Better-Than-Thou’s keeper.
Coach Finstock just looked perplexed as he looked back and forth between Stiles and Cora.
Finally, Malia sighed, “I’m on a timer with these shoes, and I need something to drink before I dance again. Twenty dollars says the basketball team spiked the punch.”
“Suckers bet,” Cora grabbed Stiles and turned him back toward the refreshments. “I can smell the alcohol from here.”
“Right, check out the bottled water and make sure they didn’t tamper with it,” Stiles instructed.
Behind them, Coach yelled out, “Keep those hooligans away from the punch.” The last he saw, Coach was headed for a group of Parent/Teacher Chaperones and pointing toward the punch bowl.
The girls were meticulously checking the food and water before handing it to Stiles, then they headed for a table to sit a moment and eat. They barely had a moment’s peace before a chair was pulled out, and Allison Argent had a seat across from Stiles.
“Hi.” Allison put a cup down on the table and nervously moved it around between her fingers.
“Yes?” Cora asked, her face suddenly stone.
Stiles put a hand on Cora’s arm to rein her in. “You look very nice tonight, Allison.” And she did, like a sexy Disney princess.
“Thanks. So do all of you. You really clean up nice, Stiles.” She smiled, just barely showing a hint of dimples.
Malia nodded, “He does. It took a lot of work to make that happen. You wouldn’t believe the labor involved.”
Allison laughed and then stopped when Malia’s face kept the same deadpan serious expression.
“So, you here with someone?” Cora asked. Stiles wasn’t sure if it was an actual question or a request to leave the way Cora delivered it.
Allison sighed, “I was supposed to meet someone here, but….”
“Allison.” Chris Argent suddenly appeared next to the table and looked over their food. “Do any of you have the punch?”
Allison looked down at her untouched drink while Stiles, Cora, and Malia held up water bottles.
Chris took the drink from in front of Allison and replaced it with a soda. “Someone spiked the punch.”
She gave him a plastic smile, “Thanks, Dad.”
He nodded toward Allison and then looked at Stiles and the Hales quizzically. “The three of you dance well together. Try to keep it PG.”
“Right,” Stiles replied, a little weirded out by the look the man was giving them.
Malia just nodded her head and replied with a wide-eyed, earnest expression, “I have a hard no touching my ass rule tonight. They are protecting it.”
Argent’s brow furrowed, and he just said, “Good,” before walking away from the table.
Stiles tried hard not to cackle. “You are evil.”
Malia shrugged but turned back to Allison. “Seriously, what was that about?”
Allison huffed and lowered her head to the table a moment before looking back up. “Scott asked me to the dance, but Dad doesn’t want me dating a bonded sentinel. So he made me break up with Scott. We thought we could just meet up here, but Dad up and volunteered to be a Chaperone at the last minute. I can’t sneak away, and every time Scott enters the room, Dad is suddenly right beside me. I just want to scream.”
“Wow. Um, I don’t know what to say.” Stiles felt awful. It hurt to hear her talk about wanting to date Scott, and he was feeling just a tiny sliver of satisfaction that Scott wasn’t allowed to date her. On the other hand, he felt terrible for feeling satisfied because that made him a horrible person.
Malia patted her arm. “That’s horrible. I mean that someone just randomly decides who you can and can’t date for no reason other than their own hurt feelings. I can’t imagine what you are going through, but I bet Stiles can.”
Stiles looked over confused, as did Allison.
“Malia,” It was a low, warning sound from Cora. “Don’t go there.”
“Oh, I’m not going anywhere. Except to dance. I want to dance some more. Do you want to dance, Allison?” Malia asked Allison while staring at Cora.
“I’m not sure I….”
“Good. Let’s all dance.” Malia stood up from the table, and Cora followed her up.
“She’s right. We should all dance together.” Cora waved her hand roughly in the direction Mr. Argent left. “If he sees you with a group that’s not Scott, maybe he will relax and get distracted.”
Allison seemed to make a decision. “It’s a dance. So, I should dance.”
Stiles found himself dancing again, this time with three partners moving around him. He was surprised at how quick Allison was to pick it up and blend in. They were moving slowly around the dance floor, directed by Cora and Malia and Stiles just went with it. He was sure there was a pattern to what they were doing, but he was having fun and didn’t want to invest himself in whatever they were planning.
It was about six or seven songs in that the crowd parted as they did some inventive form of a Bachata with the girls trading off both with Stiles and each other. Allison was giggling through the whole thing, and Stiles was just trying to keep up with Malia, who was practically making out with every partner she had. They ended in a flourish with Stiles plastered to Allison’s back while the two of them were sandwiched between Malia and Cora. There was applause, and Allison spun around to hug him, then Cora when the crowd suddenly parted like the Red Sea.
Scott came stalking toward them, his hackles raised and practically growling. He planted his feet and reached out a hand to grab Allison.
“Scott! What are you doing?” Allison ripped her arm out of Scott’s grasp.
“Allison, you need to step away from them,” Scott ordered.
Allison’s brow furrowed in confusion as she looked between Scott and their little group. “We were just dancing, Scott.”
“No, they aren’t just dancing.”
“Yeah, pretty sure we were just dancing, McCall,” Cora wrapped an arm around Allison’s shoulders. At the same time, Stiles felt Malia’s chin rest on his shoulder.
“You should just shut up. You’re already in trouble for being here in the first place, Hale.” Scott tried to reach again for Allison, but she stepped back, putting Cora between herself and Scott.
“It’s a school dance, and I’m a student. Pretty sure I’m allowed to be here.” She looked over with a smirk at her cousin. “We did have permission, didn’t we?”
Stiles felt Malia nod, “Father gave us explicit permission to have fun as long as we avoid anything immoral or illegal. Though he was willing to give a little on immoral under the right circumstances.”
Cora grinned wickedly and looked up and down at Allison, “I could get a little immoral going on given the right circumstances.”
Scott growled and grabbed Allison’s arm, ripping her away from Cora. Allison yelped, and Stiles spotted her father making a bee-line for the dance floor.
“Scott, let her go.” Stiles tried to step forward, but Malia held him back.
“No. It’s their fault I’m not allowed to date her.” Scott motioned toward Cora. “They deserve all the trouble they’ve brought down on themselves.”
“What trouble could we possibly be in, McCall.” Cora motioned around, “The only thing we’ve done here tonight is dance.”
“Seriously, Buddy, you need to get a grip.” Stiles finally broke out of Malia’s grasp.
“Stop telling me what to do, Stiles. I’m sick and tired of having to clean up after you. This time they screwed up big time, and I’m going to see the whole damn Hale Pack sanctioned.” Scott dismissed Stiles and stared again at Cora. “That’s right. I gave you a Prime Order to stay away from my Guide, and you broke it. That’s Pair-Bond interference.”
Stiles felt a crushing pain in his chest. “You did what?!”
“You gave no such order, McCall,” Cora squared off, and Malia moved behind her.
“Yes, I did. You were there when I gave it and sealed it to all Sentinels. Don’t try to play dumb.”
“What did you do, Scott?” Stiles whispered.
“You’re right. I was there, McCall,” Malia stepped forward and looked down on Scott from her heels. “You placed a formal injunction on Derek Hale for pair-bond interference and forbade him from communicating with your guide. You said nothing about any other Hale.”
It was like a punch to the gut. “No.” Stiles mouthed the word, no air passing.
“I also ordered no one to speak of it, yet here you are with Stiles.”
“Right, here we are at a dance with Stiles. We haven’t mentioned Derek to him once. You’re the one who brought it up.” Cora motioned over toward Stiles. “Looks like you didn’t have the common decency to explain to your own Guide why his boyfriend wasn’t allowed to talk to him anymore.”
“Why?” Stiles choked out, tears building in his eyes. Why did you do it?—Why didn’t you tell me?—Why do you hate me?…why?…
“It’s their fault!” Scott was shouting out his frustration. “The Hales told Mr. Argent all these lies about sentinels and guides, and suddenly I’m not allowed to date her anymore. Well, if I can’t see Allison, then why should you get to date Derek?”
“When have I ever stood between you and Allison? When have I ever stood between you and anything you wanted? I put myself through a summer of hell so that you would be able to go to school without a conservator. I live with headaches and lousy sleep so that you can pretend we don’t have a bond until it’s convenient for you. I put out fire after fire for the idiotic decisions you make and never expect a thank you. But this? This isn’t something I can….” Stiles choked and wiped his face with the back of his hand. “I can’t….”
The shock, anger, frustration, fear rolled over him from the students in the gym. Stiles tried to take a breath, and it felt like everything was shattering around him. He gave one last devastated look toward Scott, then turned and ran for the door. His shields were failing, and he needed away before he lost control.
He was in his jeep and peeling out of the parking lot before he knew which direction he was headed. His breathing was ragged, and he was hanging onto his primary shield with everything he had. Still, he needed away from civilization before he blew and took Beacon Hills with him. He needs someplace away, someplace safe. He turned at the next intersection and headed for the preserve. There is only one place he feels safe anymore.
Derek pushed his food around on his plate, not really focused on the dinner conversation around him. It was good to have the family home. To have Mom and Dad home. But even so, it didn’t solve his problem. Because even their presence didn’t fill that empty void that had recently felt like Stiles.
He reached up to scratch at the back of his neck then put his hand down when he caught Dad’s eyes on him. So what if he was getting another rash. He couldn’t bring himself to care.
Peter was regaling everyone with the exploits of Micah and Benjamin when Derek suddenly felt like he had been punched in the stomach. He pushed away from the table and bent over while the phantom pain washed over him. The noise around him rose like he was in a crowd, and he just pushed it all away until he could take a breath, but it felt like his breath wasn’t coming.
Suddenly he was overcome with a sense of urgency. He needed to be up and moving. Derek lept to his feet and started pacing. A wash of calm flowed over him and allowed him to breathe, but it was immediately overwritten with the need to move.
No matter which way he turned, someone blocked his path. They were speaking, but nothing made sense. It felt like movement even when he was standing still. Panic overtook that feeling and deep hurt.
Peter’s obnoxious ringtone blasted from his phone, and Derek spun around and felt a throbbing in his head before he felt it split in two.
“Stiles.” He knew it. It just had to be Stiles. He needed to go, to get there.
“Get where, Derek?” His father’s voice was soft and melodic with a hint of command to answer.
“To Stiles. He’s hurt.” Derek was certain of it.
Derek turned toward the door and growled at those who were in his way. Peter pushed forward and took his arm.
“Derek,” Peter shook his arm, “Stiles was in distress when he ran out of the Dance. His primary shield was failing, and half the student body is recovering from a panic attack. Do you know where he would go? Can you find him?”
Derek didn’t even hesitate. He nodded firmly and practically tore open the door. He didn’t bother to wait for the sentinels and guides following him out of the house.
Stiles felt like his world was breaking apart as he threw open the jeep door and took off, running toward the path to the falls. He knew he should be centering himself and rebuilding his shields, but how did you center yourself on a lie?
It felt like his life was a lie, and every moment of happiness was draining out. When it was gone, there would be nothing left holding his shields together.
He tripped and fell several times but just pushed up and kept moving. Stiles just knew that if he didn’t get far enough away, he would hurt people. And no one deserved to be hurt like he was…like Derek had been.
It felt like his shields were expanding and contracting with every breath he took. Every time more of it shattered and fell away. Every breath, another breach, another fracture. His empathy and every gift that made him Prime was battering away and trying to escape.
He skidded to a stop as the trail opened wide and gave way to the rock that formed the top of the falls. He missed the path down and pinwheeled a moment where he stopped at the edge of the rocks. His chest was tight, and he couldn’t seem to take a breath. For one moment, he could swear he heard the howl of a wolf before blackness overtook him, and Stiles felt like he was falling.
“Noah, The Falls. Derek is leading us toward The Falls.” Peter was calling out to the phone from behind, the group was keeping pace, but they would never catch up with Derek’s lead.
A part of him registered the Sheriff’s response through the phone, “Found his jeep still running at the closest point of the trail. We’re following the path to the top of The Falls. The last time he lost control, we had a three-state empathic event.”
“Aaron is Prime, and we have three Alpha Guides with us. If we can reach him, we can at least buffer him from the worst of it. The important thing is to find him safe,” Derek’s mother called out from where she was gaining ground.
“Are we sure we are going in the right direction?” Someone asked. Derek wasn’t paying attention to who was still with them.
Dad’s voice was strong from his place behind Mom, “Yes. His shields are failing. That feeling of danger that you can’t explain is him holding on by strength of will. I can buffer us, but when he blows, it’s going to be bad.”
Derek felt another burst of pain and fear. It drove him on, faster, stronger, the terrain blurring beside him. His only goal was to reach Stiles. He could hear the voices behind him fade as he focused everything he had on his goal. He focused only on reaching Stiles.
How he knew Stiles was at the falls, he would never be able to explain. Explanations weren’t needed. It just felt like there was a piece of him with Stiles. Watching over him. Trying just as desperately to reach the boy as Derek was now.
He hit the uphill portion of the trail that would take him up to the pool at the falls. The place he had first seen Stiles. Every rock, tree, and bush was carved into his memory as he ran, jumped, and dodged any impediment. His breathing was deep and steady, fueling his body as that sense of urgency fueled his spirit.
He spotted the opening in the trees that marked the clearing around the Falls and forced his muscles to make the last climb. Bursting into the clearing, he skidded to a halt, looking everywhere for Stiles. Where is he? Derek is sure the guide is here.
The mournful sound of a wolf drew his eyes up to where the full moon lit the top of the falls. A familiar form cloaked in shadow wheeled his arms about, seeking balance at the top. He froze there a moment as if held still between the beat of a heart. Then the form crumpled and fell limply into the dark waters below.
“Stiles!” The scream tore out of Derek as he watched a moment too long. Then instinct kicked in, and he sprinted with all he had to the water’s edge and launched himself into the water from one of the rocks surrounding it. He swam down, searching, but the darkness cloaked everything, and the movement of the water was pushing him from where he should be. He stayed down until his lungs burned then surfaced, taking deep gulps of air.
He cursed everything. He’s been fighting his online state for so long that, now that he needs it, he doesn’t know how to use it. He breathed and thought of how it felt when he first came online. Not the fear or the guns or the blood. But that knowing. That acceptance of how his senses blended to protect the kids, to find the danger. To find…
The heartbeats…there; deep down, he could hear that sound. One of the many sounds he had unconsciously labeled Stiles without even realizing it. He took two more deep breaths and then dove deep. He let go of everything that had been holding him back and embraced the sentinel within. The voice that whispered, Protect the Guide, was shouting with determination.
He removed everything from his focus except the sound of that slowing heartbeat. Derek opened his eyes, and as natural as breathing, he allowed his sight to follow the sound until he could make out the form of Stiles resting on the bottom of the pool. His limbs moving limply with the current.
Derek cut through the water until he reached Stiles. Wrapping one arm around the guide’s chest, he pushed off with his legs toward the surface. He was halfway there when the heartbeat stopped. No, no, no, no, no, no, no. The word rang out in his head with every stroke until he broke the surface and screamed for help.
Mom and Uncle Peter were already in the water and swam toward him. Together they pulled them toward the bank of the pool where Dad and other members of the Pack were waiting. Stiles was lifted out of the water, and they surrounded him while Peter and Zamira helped Derek out.
Derek’s eyes, however, were fixed on Stiles as Mom and Dad began CPR. The shout of “Stiles!” from above heralded the arrival of the Sheriff and his search party. For Derek, the screams from above were eclipsed by the silence of Stiles.
Stiles pushed himself up from a prone position, his fingers digging into the soft loam beneath his hands. The sounds of a flock of birds taking flight from the tree beside him forced him to jerk his head up to look around. The world was blue. Above him was the largest tree he had ever seen, branches reaching into the sky and roots spreading out as if to support the world.
He turned over and sat up so that his back was against the trunk. Then drew his knees up to hug against his chest. It was dark here, and the shadows moved with life, watching him…waiting. It felt like curiosity and anticipation. There was also a bit of darkness. A void waiting for him to fall.
Stiles felt untethered. He felt he should recognize something about this place, but it wasn’t coming to him. Stiles squeezed his eyes shut and wished fervently for help, for guidance. He thought back to all those panic attacks he had as a child and wished for that blanket of safety to envelop him. The feel of his daddy’s arms around him, the soft feel of Uncle Jim’s fingers combing through his hair, and the peace of Uncle Blair’s gifts warming him to the soul.
“Oh, hell, Mischief. This is not how I wanted you to get here.”
“Uncle Blair!” Stiles looked up to see Blair kneeling in front of him in the blue landscape. He launched himself forward to wrap his arms around the man.
“Hey, kiddo. It’s ok. It’s ok.”
“I’m not sure about that. I think I’m having a psychotic break. Everything is blue.” Stiles looked around and then back at Blair. “Even you, dude.”
“Well, this is the psionic plane. Most people seem to experience it as blue. Those of us who are strong enough can eventually learn to manipulate it to conform to the normal world’s color scheme. But that is just a comfort mechanism if you spend a lot of time here.” Blair was looking him over carefully as if trying to read Stiles.
“This is the Psionic Plane? Really? I’ve never been able to get here before. All the meditation in the world could never let you drag me here. Wait, how did you bring me here?” Stiles gestured wildly.
Blair smiled sadly and sat down across from Stiles. “I’m so sorry, kiddo. This one wasn’t me. You did this all on your own. Do you want to tell me what happened tonight?”
“I’m not sure. I just was suddenly here.”
“I think if you focus, you will remember. What’s been happening in Beacon Hills?” Blair prompted him.
Stiles grunted, “Scott is a dictatorial asshole. Is that what you mean?”
“You’ve mentioned that. I believe I told you that a true bond is a partnership with give and take, but there must be mutual respect and emotional equality to be healthy.”
“Yes. But lately, I give, and Scott takes. All he cares about is his girlfriend and having all the respect. Half the time, he is lording his position over everyone and making decisions without even asking what I think. The other half he resents me for taking any of his time. And the one time I call him on his bullshit, he turns it into a war between the two of us.” Stiles was waving his hands around as he spoke.
“When he got his girlfriend, I backed off and gave him his space. But when I finally find someone I like, someone I want to spend time with, Scott goes behind my back and threatens Derek with pair-bond interference.” Stiles frowned and then looked back toward Blair. “His girlfriend’s father ordered her to stop dating Scott because he’s bonded to me, and Scott is taking it out on me. He admitted it to me, and I just lost it. I came out to the preserve because I knew I was gonna blow, but I ended up here instead.” He looked around again. “Why did I end up here over a panic attack?”
Blair looked sad and shook his head. “You didn’t get here because of a panic attack, Stiles. A Guide will find their way here through dreams, visions, and rarely meditation. Alphas and Primes can learn to reach this place during meditation consistently. But a Prime will be pulled here…at the moment of death.”
“Whoa, wait. Are you saying I’m dead?” Stiles started to stand, and Blair grabbed his arms to keep him seated. “No, I can’t be…not that.”
“I don’t know what happened, but I have been here before. I’ve stood where you stand now, kiddo. You are at a junction, and I’m so sorry you face this choice so young.”
Stiles ran his hand over the back of his head. “What choice? I think dead isn’t exactly a choice.”
Blair took his hand, “You can choose to stay here on this plane to become a guide and counselor to those who follow us. There are teachers here who come when a lesson is needed. You can feel them around us. Or, you can choose to release your burdens and move on to the next adventure. Those of us here can’t tell you what you will find there.” He squeezed Stiles’ hand harder. “Or, you can choose to accept the burden of Shaman for the tribe and return to continue your journey back home.”
“I can go back? How can I go back if I’m dead?” Stiles gave Blair the stink eye.
Blair released Stiles’ hands and held his own out to teeter-totter, “You are on the cusp, caught in the moment of decision. But keep in mind, the path of the Shaman is one of lifelong service to the tribe. You can’t return from this unchanged.”
“I’m not sure I understand.”
“The gifts of a Shaman are intense, and our connection to this place and to all the sentinels and guides we lead and mentor is profound. There is something about coming so close to crossing over that breaks down barriers and provides us access that is denied the rest of the community.” Blair’s eyes were shining as he described it.
Then his eyes went dark and guarded, “But you have to know that you cannot walk this path completely alone. Your sentinel will be your rock, your anchor, and your shield. No one and nothing will stand between you.”
“That’s not fair, Uncle Blair. Scott and I are supposed to live like monks for the rest of our lives?” Stiles huffed, “He will never forgive me.”
Blair smiled sadly, “Primes are partners in life and in love. Jim is the only lover I will ever have. He desires no one but me in his heart and in his bed. The only platonic pairings I have ever seen at that level were asexual. Do you really identify with that, Stiles?”
“Hell, no.” Stiles leaned back and thumped his head against the tree…against the imaginary tree? If this place is energy, then is this an energy tree? A tap on his knee got his attention. “How can Scott be my sentinel if he can’t be my partner? I don’t think he’s cut out for the Shaman gig. I mean, I love him like a brother even when I want to knock his head off, but he’s kinda self-centered. I don’t even think he’s a good leader. He doesn’t understand that there is a difference between doing what you believe to be right and believing that you are doing what’s right because it’s what you believe. Wait…did that make sense?”
“Yes, it does. So, you have to ask yourself, Stiles, is Scott your sentinel?” Blair held up his hand when Stiles opened his mouth. “Don’t just answer because that’s how things are. Reach inside and find that tether that connects you to your sentinel and tell me if it is Scott you are reaching for.”
Stiles closed his eyes and felt that link he had always followed to Scott. He felt it in the pit of his stomach like a link between his navel and the sentinel. It was wrapped in the feel of this plane. The energy he had always associated with Scott was steeped in the psionic plane, yet it felt one way. There was no reciprocation.
There was a spike of fear that felt like it was coming from higher in his chest, from a spot that had always ached, never feeling completely full. That fear vibrated softly, so light and tenuous. But it felt like color and life and home and…Derek.
It felt like… “Derek,” Stiles whispered.
“Yeah, I thought so.”
Stiles’ eyes flew open. “Wait, how long have you known that Scott wasn’t my sentinel?” Stiles glared at Blair.
“Kiddo, we knew from the first moment. Scott was your woobie. He was a big, overgrown puppy you needed as an emotional support sentinel. But it was pretty clear the only reason he was online was to help you. We tried to separate you, but you weren’t having it. So, we’ve done the only thing we could do. We let you grow up.”
“All of this separation without conservators was a setup, wasn’t it? No one would step in and help when Scott got up on his high horse. Not Dad. Not Doc Deaton.”
“Only partly. It was decided this year that the two of you would be left to find your own way as long as it wasn’t detrimental to your health and the tribe. We didn’t foresee everything that’s happened, but no one can foresee finding your perfect match while holding onto a working bond with another sentinel. Don’t be mad at your father. He’s your strongest advocate and was only doing what he thought was right.”
“I’m mad. But I’m self-aware enough to know that I inherited Dad’s stubbornness.” Stiles sighed, “What do I do now?”
“Now, you make a choice,” Blair stated and stood up before taking a step back. Animals and people stepped out of the dark to surround Stiles. “We stand witness, but the path you walk is yours.”
Stiles considered. What would moving on be like? Would he see his mom again? For a moment, he could swear he heard his dad calling his name just before the mournful howl of a wolf broke through, and Stiles closed his eyes and whispered, “Derek.”
The Sheriff paced like a wounded animal, returning over and over to Stiles’ side as the CPR continued. The man had made it past ordering Stiles to wake up and was currently begging. Others had made it down the trail and were milling about, watching.
Derek didn’t care to watch; he listened. The sounds of a chest being compressed were horrendous. The breaths that sluggishly moved the chest weren’t helping. But those were sounds of what was being done to Stiles. They weren’t the sounds of Stiles.
Scott stood off to the side in his own little bubble of grief. But Derek didn’t want him to approach. The sentinel within insisted that the other man had no right to be near what belonged to Derek.
One of the Deputies approached the Sheriff and told him the ambulance arrived at the trailhead. They were only another fifteen or so minutes away. The Sheriff acknowledged with a sob. Minutes away. Minutes Stiles didn’t have.
His parents continued their work, but they traded a glance that Derek knew. The one that meant no hope. They were going through the motions but no longer had purpose. He could smell sorrow drift on the wind and just shook his head.
“No.” Derek moved his mother aside and took over chest compressions. “You can’t give up. Stiles wants to live. He’s a fighter. He has dreams. He wants to graduate high school and go to college. He wants to eat curly fries in every State while blogging about his travels. He has a list a mile long of people he wants to speak to just so he can make them question their life choices. He wants to see the world and backpack across Europe. He wants to ski in the Swiss Alps. Which is ridiculous because he would probably crash, cause an avalanche, and break half the bones in his body. But he doesn’t care because he wants to do it all just to know that being a guide didn’t stop him from living his life.”
Someone touched Derek’s shoulder, but he shrugged them off and kept going. “But to do it, he has to live. Do you hear me, Stiles? You have to live. You can’t leave me when I just found you. You’re mine. Do you hear me, Stiles? You’re mine, and you can’t just walk away. You have to fight for us. You are worth everything. You understand me, Stiles? Come back.”
His father leaned back from Stiles and reached out a hand to stop the compressions. Derek shook his head and then pushed his father out of the way. He moved to the right and realigned Stiles’ head before pinching his nose and covering his lips to blow a breath into the guide’s body.
The bitter iron taste he had fought the last few days was blasted away by the taste of water and something so sweet he had no comparison. He felt his body adjust as taste combined with all of his other senses to complete the picture that was Stiles in his mind.
The howl of a wolf jerked Derek’s attention to the side as he saw a huge black wolf appear beside him. The wolf circled Derek and Stiles before turning with a growl and charging at Scott McCall. There were screams as the wolf seemed to pass through the boy’s chest. But it emerged from the other side, dragging a white wolf with it.
Scott and the white wolf fell to the ground, barely moving. The black wolf moved forward and nudged the white wolf. It tried to stand but fell. With a whimper, black nudged him again. White struggled to his feet, then stumbled across to stare at Derek with Stiles’ eyes. There was just a moment’s hesitation before the wolf gave a leap, landing on Stiles and disappearing in a flash of light.
Stiles jerked once, then again before he rolled and started coughing up water. Everyone moved in quickly to support him, encouraging him to breathe between the coughs. It was several minutes while he expelled what he could, and they rolled him back to recline on his father’s legs.
Stiles looked around wildly until his eyes locked on Derek. He held out a hand, and Derek didn’t hesitate to lurch forward and grab it. Determined to never let go.
Stiles opened his mouth to speak, but not even a sentinel could hear a sound. He leaned in close when Stiles pulled at him. “Sentinel.” The sound was so very soft and yet caused every nerve in his body to thrum in answer.
Derek leaned his forehead against Stiles’ and whispered back, “Guide.”
Noah watched as his son was strapped onto the stretcher, a bottle of oxygen between his legs. The mist of breath fogging the mask was the only thing keeping him together. As soon as the straps were tight, the team moved into position, lifted him, and set off down the path to the Hale House. Derek was lifting with them as they had sent one back to move the ambulance to the Hale House since it was an easier path than the one up the falls.
The moment they were out of sight, he sat down on the ground and let himself cry. For a minute there, he had believed his son was dead. He wanted to chase after him, but he just knew that he needed to accept the pain and fear before he could let it go and safely join Stiles. So he let go, and his mind raced back through the years to every close call they had. Back to that horrifying day when a child came online and traumatized three states. Back to the day when he lost his wife and almost lost his son.
A hand on his shoulder brought his attention back to the present. He looked into the knowing eyes of Aaron Hale.
“We’re here for you, Noah. The Pack will always be here for you.”
Noah nodded, unable to speak. He focused on his breathing. He worked through the exercises the Center had given him for creating a calm mental state. Once he felt in control, he started to look around. The searchers that had followed him into the Preserve slowly split apart and headed back toward town. He would need to remember to thank them all. There was a group about ten feet away. They were focused on whoever was in the middle.
When he felt ready, he took Aaron’s hand and allowed the Prime to help him up. Talia Hale broke away from the group and joined them, her face serious.
“Aaron, we need you,” she started and turned back before stopping and looking back toward Noah. “Sheriff, I believe your assistance is desired as well.”
Noah followed, noticing how the group naturally parted for the Prime pair. He had seen the same thing happen with other Primes, though never for his son and sentinel. Noah stopped and considered, huh; it looked like his son finally had his true sentinel.
He breached the circle and found Scott McCall sitting on the ground. He seemed smaller, off-balance in a way that was hard to define. Noah wiped his face of his earlier distress and then knelt next to Scott.
“Scott, son, you ok?”
Scott stared at him a moment like he wasn’t tracking. “Mr. Stilinski, your voice sounds weird. It’s like the world is wrapped in cotton.”
“Really, that must be disconcerting.” Noah exchanged a look with Aaron. “Scott, I know you haven’t met them yet, but this is Prime Guide Aaron Hale. Is it ok if he checks you out?”
Scott shook his head no but started to weave and looked dizzy. He seemed to reconsider and nodded slightly. “Maybe that’s a good idea.”
“Thank you, Scott.” Aaron’s voice took that bit of modulation Noah associated with Blair when he wanted everyone to be calm. He didn’t use it often, but there had been that one time with the bar fight that had everyone blissed out and feeling no pain. “I’m just going to touch the back of your neck. I want to see how you’re doing.”
They were like that for a few minutes before Talia Hale moved forward and placed a hand on her husband’s shoulder. It was perhaps ten minutes later before they pulled away. Their expressions didn’t change, but there was a tenseness that hadn’t been there before.
Scott opened his eyes and blinked at them. “I feel sleepy.”
Talia motioned toward a couple of the people remaining who Noah recognized as Hale cousins. “Why don’t you let my friends here help you get to the Center. You had a stressful day, so Doctor Deaton should check you over and give you an ISO room to sleep in.”
“I could just go home,” Scott mumbled as he got up and started walking with the men.
One of them nodded at Aaron, who was whispering instructions before turning back to Scott. “You could, but then we would all be in trouble with Doc Deaton. You know how he is about checking in with the Center when anything happens. He would have us all doing meditation for hours as punishment.”
“Yeah, I tried to tell him that Sentinels don’t need meditation, but he made me do twice as much,” Scott whined.
“See. I’m telling you, the man’s sadistic. Best you just go in, so none of us are in trouble.”
Scott sighed, “I don’t want anyone to get in trouble.”
Noah cocked his head to the side, considering the strangeness, and watched them leave. He turned and raised an eyebrow in question at the Hales.
Aaron looked around and then shook his head. “I don’t have a clue. If I didn’t know for a fact that the boy had been bonded to your son, I would swear he was mundane. I’ve never seen anything like it.”
“Is he going to be OK?” Noah had to admit that he wasn’t happy with Scott’s behavior recently. But, the boy had been practically a second son to Noah. He certainly didn’t wish him ill.
“It’s not like he is hurt, exactly. Maybe it’s temporary. I can verify that he has no bonds with anyone. I mean…he doesn’t have the capacity to bond. I…I just don’t know. Best we get him to the Center and set up some tests.” Aaron seemed to want to say more but just stopped.
Talia looked between the two of them, “I think it’s time we moved out, gentlemen. We both have children who need us tonight.”
“This is ridiculous, Dad!” Stiles yelled from the bedroom of the suite they were sharing for the day in the Hale House. “Absolutely no one does this anymore.”
Noah grinned at the complaint that had been repeated in many forms for the last week. “I swear if you are not in that shower in two minutes, I am going to march in there and bathe you like I did when you were a toddler. You threw tantrums about bath time then, too.”
“Tantrum?!” The voice grumbled unintelligibly. “This is just an outdated social construct. We already have a bond.”
The slamming of the bathroom door was followed by the sounds of running water, so Noah figured it was progress. A sharp knock on the door was followed almost immediately by the entrance of Jim and Blair. Noah was up and moving in for a hug.
“Damn, it’s great to see you guys.” Noah released Blair and turned for a simpler version with Jim.
“There was absolutely no way I was missing this. Not after I had to practically coerce the two of them into it.” Blair motioned toward the bedroom and held up a bag while placing a second bag next to the chair.
Noah nodded then took his seat by the coffee table. “I expected the two of you at least an hour ago.”
Jim watched his guide sneak into the bedroom and return sans bag. “We had to stop at the Center to review the tests and check out Scott.”
“Oh, has a decision been made?” Noah had been concerned about Scott’s condition.
Blair grabbed a bottle of water and handed it to his sentinel to open before taking a seat. “Man, I’ve been comparing notes with Shaman all over the place. No one has ever seen it happen before, but as far as we can tell, Scott was never supposed to come online.”
“Well, he was obviously online for years.”
“Sort of.” Blair waved a hand at his sentinel when Jim nudged him. “OK, so what we think happened is that Stiles was pulled online with his mother’s death. I mean, literally pulled online. He was so wrapped up in her that some portion of her gifts we thought had gone dormant were instead linked to Stiles. When she was dying, she was unknowingly taking him with her. He came online out of self-defense.”
Blair drank about half the bottle then screwed on the lid. “If he had been any other kind of guide, it would have been ok. But Stiles was always meant to be a Prime. I was nineteen when I came online, and that is considered way too young for a Prime. Guides are meant to come online when our brains have completed their growth. Stiles coming online at his age…frankly, it was a miracle he survived.”
Noah watched as Blair started to peel the label off the bottle.
“Over the years, we’ve done a lot of testing with the two of them. Stiles had an unusual attachment to Scott. Not just the sentinel/guide bond, which frankly we always got the impression wasn’t completely reciprocal, but a physical attachment. It took years to find a way to separate them for any appreciable time.”
“I remember,” Noah murmured. He noted the sound of the shower turning off and focused back on Blair. “But what does this have to do with Scott’s abilities?”
“Our theory is that at the moment Stiles came online, he was fighting against his mother’s death and the overwhelming power that was tearing his mind apart. His brain hadn’t developed to the point where he could handle the flow of psionic energy on his own as guides instinctively do when they come online naturally.”
Blair leaned forward and bounced the water bottle from hand to hand, getting into his teacher mode. “What we don’t normally discuss outside the community is that psionic energy is sentient. There is debate about the level of sentience vs. sapience.”
“Blair,” Jim said.
Blair waved his hands around, “The point is that Spirit Animals are a physical representation of our individual links to the psionic plane. They act independently of us. So, when Stiles came online, his spirit animal sought his sentinel to bring that person to Stiles.”
“His sentinel wasn’t around, so the energy found a substitute. It found a mildly latent sentinel who didn’t have a link to the psionic plane and could therefore never come online. Stiles’ spirit animal, his very own link to the psionic plane, merged with Scott to bring him online so that Stiles could have an anchor to survive. It’s amazing, and it explains so much. How Stiles could even form a working bond with a Sentinel so far below his level. Why Scott never had a problem functioning once we stabilized Stiles, but Stiles would experience empathic pain when they were separated. Why Stiles could never reach the psionic plane even with my assistance. He couldn’t get there because his link there was stuck in this plane of existence anchoring Stiles and Scott.”
“Slow down, Chief,” Jim put a hand on Blair’s arm to stop him from waving the bottle around. “The end result is Scott is basically back to where he belongs. He has a few heightened senses but nothing extraordinary. We’ve decided to label him medically dormant. He will receive medical and educational benefits from the Centers. We’ve already started him with a counselor who specializes in coming to terms with dormancy.”
Noah let out a long breath of air, “A dormancy label won’t be good.”
“Dormant sentinels are watched because they can sometimes be a danger to themselves and the community. But we have been working to educate the populace that a medically dormant sentinel is essentially no different from a mundane. He will be able to have a full, normal life with no stigma attached,” Blair assured Noah.
“How’s he handling it?”
Jim laughed, “That boy has always had a one-track mind. The first thing he wanted when we told him was for us to talk to Chris Argent to see if it was ok if he dated Allison now that he isn’t a sentinel anymore.”
Noah shook his head, “I swear…that boy.”
“He’ll have good days and bad days as he comes to terms and adjusts to his new situation.” Blair opened his bottle again. “We will make sure he has the support he needs to succeed. Without knowing it, he protected the tribe when our most vulnerable member needed it. The community owes him a debt.”
“Good, I wouldn’t want him forgotten because he had outlived his usefulness.” Noah leaned back and rested his head against the back of the chair. “So, how long are you two here for this time?”
“Two years,” Jim stated.
Blair jumped right on top, “At least two years. My little padawan is the youngest Shaman on record. He has soo much training ahead of him.”
“NO! What the hell is this?” Stiles’ voice seemed to raise an octave.
Blair called out, “I told you I would supply the clothes, put it on.”
“I would put it on if it were clothes. This? This is not clothes.” Stiles marched out of the bathroom wrapped in a towel, holding out a sliver of material with the Bat-Signal on the front.
Noah looked down at his feet to hide his grin.
“We’ve been through this.” Blair wagged a finger at Stiles. “A formal bonding ceremony is a respected traditional method to cement a bond platonically when one or both parties of the bond are beneath the age of consent. Many primitive tribes require it even when the participants are of age. This way, Derek can officially complete the physical portion of the bond with witnesses present that the proprieties were maintained.”
“Fine, but I’m supposed to wear this? I don’t think so.”
“You will only wear it through touch, smell, taste, and hearing. You’ll be able to take it off when Derek does sight.” Jim supplied helpfully.
“It’s the only time until you are of age that he is allowed to see you completely naked short of an emergency.” Blair motioned toward the thong, “Frankly, the aversion to nudity is a societal construct.”
“Right, well, you aren’t the one who’s expected to flash his future in-laws. Especially when they all look like that, and I’m a scrawny waste of sarcasm and bones.”
Noah pointed at Stiles. “There’s nothing wrong with the way you look.”
Blair grinned, “Did I tell you I lived a year in a nudist colony when I was ten? When everyone is naked, no one cares. Look, would it make you feel better if everyone stripped?”
“NO!” Noah wasn’t sure if it was Stiles, Jim, or himself who shouted it first.
Stiles grabbed the thong and took off for the bedroom.
Noah laughed and pointed at Blair’s chest. “You are manipulative.”
“Trust me, the last thing a teenager wants to think about is seeing his parents naked.” Blair reached over and picked up the second bag. He pulled out a white silk robe and slippers. “Give him this to wear out. He’ll be so relieved he shouldn’t give you any problems.”
“And the reason you didn’t tell him that only you and Derek will actually see him naked?” Noah asked.
“Where is the surprise in that?” The two left to get in position to officiate.
Noah gave Stiles another few minutes before he knocked on the door. “Son, you ready to go?”
Stiles was looking in the mirror with his arms wrapped around his chest. Noah took pity on him and held up the robe and slippers where he could see them in the mirror.
“Oh, thank fuck!”
“Language.” Noah met his son halfway and helped him into the robe. “You ready to bond with your sentinel?”
“You know we already have a bond. This is just for the official record. Scott and I never did this because neither of us was of age.”
“I know, but then Scott was never really your sentinel, was he?”
“No. Now that I know what having a sentinel feels like…no, he wasn’t. Scott was like my brother. But Derek…Derek is my world. I think I’m falling in love with him, and I don’t even know when that happened.”
“That’s all that matters. We are going out there and getting the official B.S. out of the way. Then the two of you are going to work on training and school while your bond grows. When you are legally old enough, and both of you are ready, then you will complete the sexual part of the bond and never mention it to me.”
Stiles blushed and laughed.
“But you will take this journey together to determine who you are meant to be. I can’t wait to find out who that is. Until then, know that you are my son. My amazing, gifted, compassionate, sarcastic, intelligent, spastic son. I am so proud of you, kiddo, for not being afraid of becoming the person you are. And, I am so thankful you made the decision to come back to me.” Noah knew they wore matching tears as they hugged. When they broke apart, he reached over and grabbed a couple of tissues for them.
“OK, let’s get this ceremony over with.” Stiles adjusted the tie on his robe and put on the slippers. “Do you think if I raise enough of a fuss that I can get Derek to strip with me?”
“You better not be seeing that boy naked until the age of consent, or I’ll have Jim order a chastity belt for you.” Noah pushed Stiles toward the door.