Beacon Hills, End of December 2014
The last day of school before Christmas Break.
The last day of senior year before Christmas Break.
The last day of school before the last Christmas Break of Stiles’s High School Career and everyone’s been edgy all day. No one has any patience. No one can sit still. Everyone is snapping at someone. No one is happy. Not a single person is smiling. No Christmas carols or happy wishes are voiced in the hallways.
It’s oppressive. Depressing.
Not long after lunch all the sentinels in Harris’s Physics class – all four of them – go still at once. The scary kind of still. Scary, not breathing, possible fugue state kind of still.
The guide kids around the room converge on the closest sentinel. No sentinel is left out of the guide-love, regardless of established friendships, rivalries or personal preference.
“The alpha!” Scott manages to force out. It’s echoed by three other voices.
“The Hale House!”
The Hale House. A misnomer; none of the Hales actually live at the Hale House.
Well, they used to. They don’t anymore. Grand-daddy Hale had added a third floor to house the extensive Reyes-Hale brood but the kids all paired up and moved out to start their own flocks.
Now it’s a multipurpose building not far from the elementary school, used for several Hale businesses.
The top floor is predominately storage with a desk, phone line and secretary for their Search and Rescue/forest guide services.
The second floor houses the law firm. A few really posh offices with a client entrance separate from the rest of the building, according the Stiles’s dad.
The bottom floor is a nursery/daycare kinda thing. All the Hale babies in Beacon Hills that are too young for school spend their days there with the area S-n-G babies because, seriously? A sentinel-safe nursery? Nightmare. As long as your kid has a certain consanguinity with a sentinel or gui-
Stiles doesn’t remember leaving class or getting in the Jeep or the entire trip to the Hale House. That’s probably a good thing.
Jackson beat them there and is standing in front of the fire engines with Lydia wrapped around him. Jackson’s describing something to a man in fire gear. The crew chief is noting Jackson’s words on a clipboard, nodding and throwing out more questions. Lydia’s got a hand around Jackson’s wrist and is whispering in his other ear. Standard guide pose for high-sensory, low-movement events.
The crowd is being held back by deputies. The cops haven’t even gotten the barricades up yet.
Cars are pouring in.
People are running everywhere.
Scott is out of the passenger door before the Jeep is even in park. He’s hauling ass around to the side of the house and getting way too close to the fire. Blowing off police like they aren’t even there. Typical Scott-on-a-mission. Or maybe sentinel-on-a-mission?
But Stiles is needed too. He knows he is. He just doesn’t know where. Or by whom.
That’s when he sees them. Derek is standing frozen beside a large SUV on the other side of the road, just on the edge of the daycare parking lot, and –again!– way too fucking close to the fire. There’s a woman with him. She’s smaller than Stiles with hair too dark to be the same woman from the SGC. Stiles can’t get a good look at her but she feels related to Derek. She’s leaning on his chest with her hands on his neck, talking to him.
As he approaches, Stiles can feel the empathic weight behind the words the woman is using in his bones.
No. Don’t. Stay. Please, stay.
He can’t see much of her but it’s Talia Hale. It’s got to be. She’s keeping Derek out of the fire and Stiles can really get behind that.
Derek can’t. There’s a fine tremor running through his body, like he’s a horse about to bolt. Derek manages to shake his head, his eyes wide and unseeing. His nostrils are flaring. The sentinel’s muscles begin to strain with a single purpose.
Oh, hell, no.
Stiles moves to assist, hands up to touch Derek’s skin above his mom’s hands when Derek stumbles. He’s keening. Derek is keening like a dying thing and clutching the small woman’s dead weight against him while Stiles struggles to get the three of them safely to the ground.
Belatedly, Stiles moves to put his hand to Derek’s neck. He still needs to keep Derek out of the fire and maybe he can ease some of Derek’s pain, too. Not that anything really eases the pain of losing your mother. Stiles knows that personally but he still has to try.
The moment he touches Derek’s skin something snaps inside him like a bone being set, or maybe more like a joint popping back into socket. The sharp, short pressure and almost-pain is followed by an overwhelming sense of rightness. Stiles can taste Derek’s grief on his tongue. So many things are directly downloaded into his brain. Things he can’t even articulate. He knows how many people were in the house, he knows how many of those hearts have stopped beating and he knows how many of them are too far gone, too damaged to ever beat again. Because Derek knows.
Stiles isn’t sure what makes him look up but when he does he’s staring into the bright, brown eyes of a big, black wolf. Talia Sheppard-Hale’s are brown eyes looking at him through her spirit guide’s body.
Not sure what else to do, Stiles calls his spirit guide. It’s a strange feeling, combining elements of both tugging on a guide rope he can’t see and politely knocking on a wooden hollow that only exists inside his body and mind. Stiles’s grey wolf materializes as if stepping out of an invisible forest and tilts its head to one side in canine inquiry.
The black wolf huffs, quite distinctly nods and makes a break for the burning house. She hits the front door and disappears in a flash as the front porch collapses.
Gavin and Cora Hale are there, pulling their mother’s body off of their older brother, sobbing and sniffling. Tears and pain are making war on their normally beautiful faces.
Derek silently wraps himself around Stiles and honest to god growls at anyone that approaches their little group too closely.
Stiles can feel Scott drawing close. His best friend is wrapped around someone, too. A little Asian girl that fits under his arm much better than Allison ever has. She’s in pain, both physical and emotional. Scott’s need is urgent. He’s desperate. He needs to, has to, get her to his mom. The Center. The hospital. Someone he can trust. Someone who can make it better.
Stiles dazedly runs a hand through Derek’s hair as he contemplates them all. Their situation. Maybe they all need to go to the hospital. Or hugs. Probably both. This is definitely a hug day.
Without looking, Stiles throws Scott the keys to the Jeep. Scott can drive. Probably.
It will all be fine.
Melissa McCall gives the best hugs.