Beacon Hills, First week of January 2015
Stiles feels pretty. The suit is a dark, almost navy blue with discreet pinstripes that he would call ‘fun’ on any other occasion. The matching waistcoat (it’s a fucking vest, okay?) is a bit strange to wear and the tie is boring as hell, but Stiles still feels pretty.
Well, he feels pretty right up until he sees his sentinel is his dress uniform. The Marine Corp uniform was designed for bodies like Derek Hale’s.
Stiles will not pant. Stiles will not drool. Sexual tension is not a luxury he can indulge today. It’s not appropriate, either.
Stiles will be helpful. Stiles will shore up his sentinel so that Derek can make it through the day.
“You got everything?” Stiles starts to paw through the plastic box full of uniform odds and ends. White uniform gloves, a few different belt buckles and a couple of medal cases are the majority of the contents. There is also a sword on the bed that Stiles has no idea what to do with, so he starts fiddling with the medal boxes until he finds one heavier than the others.
It’s brand new. Stiles doesn’t think it’s even been opened. At least not by Derek.
“I thought your last duty station was Colorado.”
Derek nods, adjusting the already perfect line of buttons on his coat in the mirror. “It was.”
“So, are you going to tell me how you were a Prisoner of War in Colorado?” Stiles turns the open leather bound case so that his sentinel can see the medal in question. “Because I totally have this mental image of you being held hostage by a bunch of stoners and the big, bad sentinel getting ransomed for cookies.”
Derek chokes and Stiles gets a brief mental image. A flash of gold walls and flickering firelight. It’s one he gets often, so often he probably should have expected it.
Oh, so that’s what that is. Stiles sobers and waits for his struggling sentinel to give some indication of what he needs.
Derek raises one arm and Stiles slots himself into place under it. Eventually, Derek manages to choke out. “They’re still processing your clearance.”
And, really, what else can Stiles do? His sentinel wants to tell him, wants to let Stiles help but Derek also wants to stick to the rules. He wants to handle things appropriately and keep doors of future possibility open to them. It’s almost as adorable as it is exasperating.
Stiles floods his sentinel’s mind with his adoration of and faith in one Derek Scott Hale until his sentinel relaxes and gets them moving down stairs.
The last Friday of winter break, two weeks after the Hale Fire, has been declared a national day of mourning by the President of the United States. Heads of States around the world have followed his example.
Their plans were simple. At least, on the surface they were simple. A procession from the Center to the Mill that they are converting into the Fire Memorial, plant some trees, a couple of military honors and everyone breaks up for barbeque.
Thankfully, there would be no mass or other religious ceremony for them all to suffer through.
Officially, this is because the Sentinel and Guide Community internationally refuses to give precedence to one established religion over another on the grounds that it would cause divisions and issues when interacting with various cross sections of the Tribe. Unofficially, it’s because Sentinel-Guide spirituality is much more nature based than mundanes are generally comfortable with and therefore is not to be shared with outsiders.
Things got complicated when the Pride agreed to a full-honors, Armed Forces funeral procession. Apparently, this sort of procession requires “escort battalions from all five branches of the United States Armed Forces!” Stiles had wanted to argue Capitol Hill down to just the branches that those who lost their lives had served in, but it turned out to still be all five.
Jason Hale had been Army before he found and married his wife and guide Talia Sheppard, who had been a Navy JAG at the time. Jason’s twin Jacob Hale and Sophia Hale, Talia and Jason’s oldest child, were Air Force. Ava Hale and her guide Jeremy Jackson were retired Marine Corps. And Sam Hale, Talia and Jason’s oldest son, had been on Christmas leave from Coast Guard. That didn’t even include the non-Hale sentinel and guides or the mundanes that had been effected by or died in the Fire.
Now, they have three incredibly large cross-Service battalion forming up on the Center lawn including three military bands. One of them is the Army’s Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps which Derek is fighting a bit of a dork-gasm over. Apparently, their father had been a fan boy and had shared his love of the Corps with all of his children because all of the remaining Hale kids are feeling both excited and guilty about watching them get ready in their white wigs and red coats.
Two platoons of police from all around the state are forming up, as well. They will escort the procession, leading and following the military units the entire way.
Admiral A.J. Chegwidden, a close personal friend of Talia Sheppard and Rabb’s commanding officer, is acting as commander of the troops. Stiles’s dad is commanding the police escort. Both men are in the main waiting room of the Center’s office discussing security deployment over bagels and coffee.
The event gets even more complicated due to the destination of the procession. The route from the Center to the Mill crosses most of the town and has to include two rest stops for the marchers. And everyone is marching. There are no motor vehicles in a sentinel parade. Add to that the fact that both stops have public speakers, one of which is a great American poet reading one of her own original works and the other is so secret they wouldn’t to give Stiles a firm name in any of the planning meetings. (Combine that with the presence of so many Secret Service Agents and it just makes Stiles assume the mystery speaker would be the POTUS himself.)
The moment is upon them. Muffled drums are being played. The first police escort marches past the platform the Representatives of the Lost are standing on and moves out, down the Center’s main drive and into town, followed by dad and Chegwidden.
Platoon after platoon marches by until the unit Stiles has been waiting for is suddenly before them. A Marine Corp Color Guard bearing rifles and three flags; the United States Flag, the California state flag and the newly created Hale Clan flag.
It’s a simple flag, a white background with black fringe and a black Hale Family triskele with a stylized howling wolf in the center. The same triskele Derek’s father had and Derek and his Great Uncle Gage all have tattooed between their shoulder blades.
The Representatives of the Lost abandon their stage and form up, rank-and-file style behind the Color Guard.
Rather than a flag draped casket and caisson, they chose to have a relative of each victim walk in the victim’s stead, holding a picture of their lost one. Laura and Harris are standing for Talia and Jason, much to Stiles’s relief.
At first they, this very political they AKA ‘The Powers that Be’, had wanted Stiles and Derek to do it. They wanted the new alphas should stand for the old alphas, but neither Derek nor Stiles had been comfortable about that. After a few rounds of negotiation it had been agreed that a cross-gender pair would be better symbolism for the lost cross-gender pair and the local alphas should lead the marching mourners like Jackie Kennedy had for her husband’s procession.
The caparisoned, riderless horse follows the Representatives. Stiles had argued against the riderless horse on the grounds that they are honoring civilians as well as soldiers and wasn’t this just a little too military already? But Derek had wanted it, said his fallen family members had earned it, so Stiles had promptly shut the hell up.
He had even graciously accepted the choice of a solid black horse as a nod to Talia’s spirit guide.
Stiles and Derek walk hand-in-hand behind the horse.
The ‘Young Pride’, as his and Derek’s immediate pseudo-family-group slash Pride is being called, follow five paces behind them.
They form a severely muted rainbow. They all wear dark colors, but not a single one of them is wearing black (Lydia’s idea). Black had just felt inappropriate to all of them considering that Sheppard-Hale had wanted their funeral to be a party.
The Young Pride is followed at a distance of five paces by Sheppard-Gibbs with Sheppard-Cassidy and DiNozzo-David flanking them.
After them Argent-Kessler marches with Argent-Hale and one of the security pairs they brought with them.
They are followed in a self-decided order by all the visiting dignitaries that feel they could make the march, including representatives of the Sun Clan and the Pan-Arab Sentinel Alliance.
Official PASA representatives negotiating entry and then actually showing up in Hale Territory is causing quite a thing internationally, according to the internet. They’ve been highly isolationist for longer than Stiles has been alive. For longer than Derek has been alive, actually. This is the first time they have sent a delegation out in longer than anyone is willing to specify.
After the last of the marching mourners comes the second platoon of police and the end of their company.
Walking through Beacon Hills is actually really cool for Stiles. He can see where damage was caused by the events surrounding the Fire, he can see what’s been fixed and what’s left to do but he also gets to see the faces of his Tribe. They’re somber but they no longer seem to be afraid. They are definitely not the confused, horror-struck horde of even a week ago.
They make it to the Mill right on time, the approximate time of ignition for the Fire.
Things are held up as the hundreds of military personnel on site either move to help with crowd control or to pitch in to help with moving things and planting.
For the first time today, the TV cameras are in Stiles’s, and therefore Derek’s, face in a way they can’t ignore. It doesn’t really let up once things get moving again, either.
Disbursing the rest of the Young Pride so that all that hotness mingles with other families and the visitors that have been cleared to help with the planting almost works to divert some media attention. Then Sandburg-Ellison come over and put their backs into helping the Hale kids plant their parents’ trees and of course the piranhas return.
They get the trees and ashes, the first of which are of course Talia’s and Jason’s, into the ground. There are so many volunteers and the ground has been so thoroughly prepared that it takes almost no time for the trees to go up.
Derek starts quietly crying when Taps is played. Stiles wraps himself around his sentinel, tucking both their heads into the crooks of each other’s necks and holding on tight.
Neither of them are in any shape to notice or care when the three-volley salute is carried out with a cross-service squad of 7 soldiers or the Air Force fighter jets perform the missing man formation.
Stiles’s idea of ‘everyone participating separately’ in the barbeque had been brilliant.
Everywhere that has enough open space for a grill and people (and quite a few places that don’t) has a grill or fire pit waiting. Every social club or community center in the country has a crowd partaking.
Sheppard-Gibbs and Sheppard-Rabb are running the barbeque at the Center that the more political guests have been directed to.
Emma and Lydia guide all the more family-like guests, including the extended-Hales, the Tates, the Argents, the Suns and the cool new kids from Washington, to the Hale house. No, not that Hale House. The actual home that Talia and Jason raised their children in, on the edge of the preserve, not far from the lake.
Scott and Kira volunteer to hike back to the Center for Stiles’s Jeep and give Stilinski-Hale a ride to the family barbeque. By the time the four of them make it to the house, all the guests are more comfortably attired and the grill is ready for the first round of food.
Grill Master Whittemore is actually living up to the hype, but that might be more Danny’s influence than Jackson’s actual skill.
Stiles is bouncing down the stairs after changing in Derek’s old bedroom, a little high from finally getting a smile out of Derek, when the woman he’s been avoiding corners him.
“Stiles.” She crooks her finger at him and moves to the parlor like she has no doubt he’ll follow. And she’s right. Svetlana Volkov was the Hale Family Alpha before Talia and is one of the last people on the planet that Stiles ever wants to upset.
He’s not ashamed in the least to admit she intimidates the fuck out of him. Not ashamed to admit that part of him is shaking in his boots but another part, the louder part says, “No, this is right,” and forces him to raise his chin. His newfound Alpha-ness draws his spine straight and his shoulders back. It forces him to look her in the eye. It’s not something he expected but it’s a part of himself that he has become very comfortable with these last two weeks.
She settles into a chair and starts preparing a cup of tea on an actual tea tray, giving both of their sentinels time to mosey on in.
“I would like to discuss your part in the Hale Family Pride.”
Stiles nods, he expected it.
“The Pride is vulnerable right now. It needs experienced leadership, a steady hand. Gage and I are prepared to be that hand.”
Stiles shakes his head. “No.”
Her eyebrows shoot up, not quite mockingly. “No? Beacon Hills needs strong leadership or sentinels will abandon it.”
“I agree, but we feel that Derek and I are that leadership. We are young and we are new to this, but we are strong.” She opens her mouth to object, but Stiles doesn’t let her. “Strong doesn’t mean perfect. It doesn’t mean not making mistakes. It means fixing mistakes, even if they are someone else’s.”
Her eyebrow dance is definitely not mocking this time. “You don’t want to consider giving up the reins until after college? You have so much ahead of you.”
“If you had been here two weeks ago, I’m sure this would have been a different conversation but the team is pulling in tandem now and handing over the reins would be detrimental to the journey. However, there is something you could do for me. I think we would both prefer you do it, actually.”
“Take the Hale seat on the Center Council back. I’ve been told you didn’t like letting go to Talia in the first place and I’m not even sure it’s legal for me to take it. Not yet, anyway.”
She nods. “Alright, but in six months we will have this conversation again.”
“I don’t know,” Gavin Hale looks emotionally torn. “I know I have the right to the Sheppard name because my mom was a Sheppard and because I’m a guide. I know mom would have been pleased to see me take it but I feel like this would be a bad time to jump ship, you know?”
Marcus Tate shakes his head. “I am definitely taking the Hale name. My father has already offered and it’s not like we’ll stop being family with our siblings. We’ll still be here for them. It’ll just give us personally an easier time networking and getting people to take us seriously further down the road. Not that that’s a problem for you, you’re already a Hale.”
Yes, their father has offered, requested really that they both take the Hale name. They have every right to it, Peter had said. A permanent place in the Clan they should have been raised in, he said.
It might not be a big deal to her sentinel brother and father but what right does a guide daughter have to a sentinel family name?
She doesn’t fit. Even the guide her age born to the name is going to leave it behind.
Sure, they will still be biological family when Marcus changes his last name, but emotionally? Different last names would separate them. They wouldn’t be a unit any more.
On top of everything else, Marcus is abandoning her.
She gets up like she’s going back for another round of meat, drops her plate in the dirty dish tub and walks right into the preserve.
Derek isn’t sure why he started seeking Heather Kessler out. Okay, he knows why. It’s when he’s not clear on.
She’s become the most comfortable person for him to be around lately. She’s right up there with Stiles. Maybe even a little higher because he’s not in a perpetual state of mutual lust-torture with her.
She’s the only adult sentinel that he knows that had bonded with a guide who was underage when they first bonded, so she can sympathize with him without useless platitudes. On top of that, her wait to consummate the bond was a year and half rather than Derek’s five months, something that Derek finds vindictively relieving.
She lost her parents during her bond’s platonic period, too.
He finds that he wants to flat out discuss things with her that he legally can’t. Talking to her is easy. She’s just comfortable for him in a way he’s never encountered.
Well, then again, maybe he has.
“Are you a Jaguar Sentinel?”
If Xiao Chen Sun had allowed himself to hope that he would make foreign friends on this trip, he would have been disappointed. All of the Americans his age are paired off or grouped up and he’s not sure how to penetrate their clusters without destroying any chance of finding the friendship he seeks within them.
His mother would know, she’s an American, but he’s not sure where she is. The last time he saw her, she was sitting down for tea with the terrifying, white-haired guide matriarch. It’s probably not worth looking for her.
Standing from his bench seat, he wanders back over to the food. He tries lingering on the edge of groupings and, while some of them acknowledge him, none of them actively invite his presence.
One other is refilling her plate when he is. He can’t smell her very well over the scent of the food but he is certain she’s a guide. She’s beautiful. Her skin is like chocolate milk and something about her eyes is aggressive but playful.
Her right wrist is bare. She doesn’t even seem to notice. Could she be so newly online that the propriety of a soul-cover isn’t a concept to her?
He can’t seem to help himself; he needs to touch it. He knows it’s rude and completely inappropriate but he reaches out for her. Slowly, so that she can move away if she wants to.
She doesn’t move though. She allows him to touch her, watching his hand move through the air almost like a bird waiting for the strike of a snake.
He touches her wrist and turns it to get a good look at the familiar-looking reptile he thought he saw there. It’s like he can suddenly breathe, like he’s had a weight on his chest for years and never noticed until it was gone.
It’s pretty great.
Blair fights the urge to crow his happiness at being right while yet another young pairing comes together across the yard from his seat.
He beams at Maria and Svetlana as Maria’s son and Kali’s daughter find their way into each other’s lives in a very permanent way. “Do you believe me now? The Earth is using us for balance. She’s pulling all the right players to the wound and helping them pair up to increase her stability.”
“That’s impossible.” Maria Hill is shocked and confused, the majority of her focus on her son. “How could a planet, a rock, affect humans? No, there’s no way.”
Blair and Svetlana exchange a pitying look. Maria’s doubt is her own greatest stumbling block in her guide-hood.
“Give it six months,” Blair challenges. “Within the next six months every single online sentinel or guide in this yard will be bonded.”
“Uh, Mr. Hale?”
Peter looks up at the young meathead lusting after his daughter. “Yes, Jackson?”
“Malia walked into the woods without telling anyone where she was going. She’s been gone for almost a half hour.”
A useful young meathead. “Thank you, Jackson.”
The boy blushes and stammers. “I just don’t want her to get lost or hurt or anything, you know?”
“I’ll take care of it.” Peter assures, pushing his plate into Jackson’s unresisting hands and heading for the trees.
Peter finds his daughter sitting on a log on the bank of the lake. He can smell her misery, her loneliness, and it makes him more than a little homicidal. He sits down beside her without saying a word and waits.
She doesn’t say anything for a long time but after a good, solid hour, she leans against him so that he can wrap his arm around her.
It’s almost another hour before she speaks.
“I don’t know why you think I should be a Hale,” Malia finally says. “I’m not a sentinel. I don’t belong here. I should just go home.”
Should, not want to, Peter is pretty sure that’s significant. “Are you kidding? Of course, you should be here. Sentinels are nothing without guides. We need you.”
She huffs. Wrong line of attack, then.
“And, of course, I want you to be a Hale. A daughter and a guide? Do you have any idea how jealous Talia would be? She would have snatched you up so fast! Your formative years would have been hopeless. You would have gotten away with murder with our alpha guide’s willing and active participation.”
She’s looking at him now. She smells like the beginnings of hope and there’s a ghost of a smile there.
“And this boy. This Jackson,” he continues.
She rolls her eyes but it’s a happy eye roll.
“Are you going to take pity on him? That boy wants your attention so bad he’s gone stupid with it.”