Rabb dropped his phone on the table with a laugh. “You will never guess who that was.”
“Lieutenant Colonel Sarah MacKenzie.”
Rabb gives his Alpha the squinty-eyed look his smart-assery deserves as both of their guides laugh themselves breathless in the background. “Yeah, it was Mac.”
He waits for his guide to collect himself before continuing. “She and Brumby came online together last week. She was so shocked! They are both sentinels. Who knew?”
That sets his guide off again, laughing so hard it might be a danger to him. “I told her!” se crows. “I told her they should discuss their results. Did they really tell all of us they were latent sentinels and not tell each other?”
“Apparently.” Rabb just shook his head with a small smile. “The engagement is off, he’s already found his guide and she’s coming back to the States for training. I told her to get her ass to Beacon Hills, we’d take care of her.”
Stilinski nods. “We do have a bunch of training groups going on.”
“I don’t think she’d be a good fit with a bunch of high schoolers.”
“We have adults coming online, too. A 61 year-old woman came online yesterday, Satomi, she’s the oldest onliner in the country so far.” Stiles wiggles his eyebrows with a face busting grin. “Oooh!! No, wait, we still have Helena Argent at our disposal. We could set her up for some individual training sessions with sentinels.”
“Are you match-making?” Derek sounds amused despite his grumpy face.
“The woman deserves a sentinel, Derek. And if she wants to be the next Argent Family Alpha – which, newsflash: she does – she needs to match a woman. Mac is a woman.”
“In other news,” Dave hands his Alpha a thick registration folder. “Yet another pair has come online. The only sons of rival families in middle-of-nowhere, Kansas. Apparently they have been a hot topic in this town for two years, now. The sentinel pulled his guide from a sinking car, saving him from drowning and brain damage, then bam! Instant friendship.”
Rabb snorts, “That should have told someone something.”
Dave nods. “Right? The guide, Alexander Luthor, has requested that they come to Beacon Hills for training. Sentinel Kent has stated no preference other than leaving Kansas as soon as possible. Sentinel Kent’s family insists they go to Sheppard’s Dale but Dad thinks they will fit better here.”
“Reason?” Derek gives the beta more squinty-eye.
“Age,” Dave supplies without missing a beat. “Sentinel Kent is just recently 18. Guide Luthor is 23. There is some concern that Sentinel Kent will not graduate on time. Kent’s family blames the guide.”
“Good grades until November.” Stiles snaps folder closed and pushes it away, looking up at his sentinel. “After that we have incidents of truancy, menacing, property damage and one recent case of aggravated assault but the charges were dropped.”
Derek frowns. If this guy is going to be trouble-
“I think punching your father in the face after he threatens your guide is the least any of you are capable of,” Stiles informs his sentinel before he can even finish the thought. “We obviously need to step up our presence in Kansas, the situation should have been noted long before the pair’s soulmarks showed up.”
Derek nods, that kind of behavior is typical of an onlining sentinel whose presumptive guide is being disrespected or threatened. “There’s a reason our relationships are protected on an international level and it’s not solely for our benefit.”
Dave glances over to his Alpha, “So October is when their bodies started cycling on?”
Stiles nods his agreement. “Probably mid-October.” He hands folder back to Dave. “Take a team to retrieve them. We’ll get them trained and bonded and worry about Sentinel Kent’s formal education later. A GED or summer school. Take Boyd and Erica with you. Lex has a reputation for being something of a princess, his father Lionel looks to be first cousin to the Devil and there is something definitely wrong with Jonathan Kent.
Derek continues when his guide leaves off, “Don’t take crap from any of them. Luthor-Kent will be in pre-bonding barracks until they finish their training. We’ll have the room next to us set up for them. You have a week.”
“Daily updates.” Dave finishes with a nod.
“We’ve had another three sentinels and four guides come online in the last three days.” Stiles frowns as he reads the report again.
They were meeting with Argent-Hale and Sheppard-Rabb to discuss the training progress of the new group, but the new group just keeps growing. They’re going to have to subdivide all the training groups again based on progress and age. That means early reevaluation of the trainees and dragging more sentinels into training duties, two things Stiles really didn’t want to do.
“What in the world could be bringing this many people online?” Dave sounds as confused as Stiles feels. “Normally, I would assume armed conflict but this is across the entire map.”
“Not all of it,” Rabb corrects. “There are a few countries that aren’t reporting unusual onlinings.”
“Those countries don’t have the Sentinel/Guide population to support onlinings.” Stiles put in. “That’s what happens when you make guides government property and indoctrinate the local sentinels into treating us like chattel. We run away. It’s got to be something else. Something bigger.”
“What could be big enough to threaten the entire world, though? Is someone about to go nuclear?”
“I don’t know. I don’t think bonded pairs would be much help in the face of nuclear fallout, though. It’s got to be an attack. Maybe aliens?” It’s a testament to how worried they all are that Stiles doesn’t receive even the smallest flash of amusement or annoyance from anyone in the room. Not even a single eye roll. The ‘adults’ in the meeting just pause and ponder his idea very carefully.
“Do you really believe in aliens?” Dave’s face makes Stiles think that seriously considering aliens is physically painful for the other guide.
Stiles does his best to not glance his sentinel’s way. Or tense up. Or really just do anything that would give the game away. Who is he kidding, they probably already know that he knows something. “Honestly, I have no idea but it would explain some of the truly fucked up, definitely not found on Earth, soulmarks that some people have.”
“So what do we do?” Chris Argent’s chronically pain filled voice cuts right through the room.
“Training.” Stiles says immediately. “We get all our new people trained, thoroughly and quickly. If biology, or the psychic plane, or god or whatever it is that’s forcing so many of us online, thinks that sentinels and guides are a solution then we need to start there and expand. Maybe apprenticeships? Assign a newbie to each bonded pair?”
“Weapons caches,” Derek snaps and points at the arms dealer. “What mobile options do you have?”
“Nothing that will fit in a Camaro.”
Instead of lacrosse practice, Stiles starts running group meditation every day after school for the newly online guides. The idea is that a strong connection to their alpha will help to steady them until they can bond. Bonus points if it provides them with the psychic confidence to surrender themselves to the training process more easily.
It doesn’t take long before every guide in the Pride, regardless of how long they’ve been online or their bonded status, is making it to at least two meditation sessions a week. They end up having to move from one of the meditation chambers to the old gym.
Five times a week, Stiles sits on a mat in the middle of the basketball court with a microphone clipped to his shirt, surrounded by the guides of his Pride. They play some weird ass ambiance music in the background and light candles all around the room. His favorite ambiance is the ocean waves one and the pillar candle is actually really great for his focus even though he hasn’t had problems with his ADHD since he bonded with Derek.
His guide minions sit in rough circles around him and follow instructions while ogling their own pillar candles. Or each other. He’s pretty sure that on more than one occasion, he gets ogled. Whatever.
The sentinels of the bonded participants either stretch out on the bleachers and try not to snore too loudly or meditate right along with the rest of the group. The divide is pretty 50/50 unless Derek is playing along. He sits back to back with Stiles and meditates. He doesn’t get a vote on the matter, so he makes sure the rest of the bonded sentinels don’t either.
Stiles isn’t sure if it’s desperation or actual relationship progress but it doesn’t take long for Derek to develop the confidence to train with the other sentinels while Stiles leads group meditation. It takes about a month but eventually Derek allows their mutual line of sight to be broken. Not long after that, he allows up to but not more than the distance of one mile to stretch between them.
Stiles almost misses having his constant shadow around but he’s mostly grateful. If he’d had to sit through one more talk about finding your anchor, being your own anchor or trusting that your abilities can do something and yes, it all really is real, he was going to punch something. Or someone. Possibly himself.
Beacon Hills – Early April 2015
Stiles’s 18th birthday party is the biggest party he has ever had.
Not that he wanted it that way. He definitely didn’t plan it that way. He’d just invited a few friends and all the family he and his sentinel have in town to the Center Gym to be total kids together. To roller skate and have a cake fight with. Maybe some Nerf action? It wasn’t quite warm enough for water balloons.
All of his invitees were actually early. Most of them just followed him over from school and helped him set up. The stragglers came in once lacrosse practice was over and they were followed by wave after wave of Pride members.
First it was just the newly online kids, which was cool and would totally still fit with his plans. Then they were followed by almost every adult in the Pride. Stiles is assured more than once that the Pride members that didn’t show up are on kid management for those that came. It’s completely overwhelming and all Stiles can think about is that they don’t have enough food for everyone.
Then, the Crockpot ladies arrive. Thank god for the Crockpot ladies.
The pile of gifts makes him feel a little gleeful. On the scale of five-year-old child to full-blown Dursley, Stiles is in the absolute middle.
The two best gifts of the night are the matching soul-covers Derek hand-wove for them both from parachute cord in their favorite colors and Peter and Chris’s team presents. Peter got Stiles into a handgun safety and concealed carry permit class for the next weekend. Chris promised Stiles his choice of handgun and enough range time to make an informed decision on what he wanted to carry once he was licensed.
Ever since their omg wtf meeting every sentinel in the Pride has gone everywhere they legally can well-armed. When the Pride informed Stiles’s dad about their reasoning and their fears, he had increased both the size and frequency of patrols all throughout Beacon County. He then called the sheriffs and other law enforcement leaders in all of the counties surrounding Beacon Hills and advised them to do the same as well as their reasoning behind it. Word had it that those he advised had repeated Sheriff Stilinski’s actions in their own counties and by contacting their neighbors.
Derek has even gone so far as to get a huge, brand new SUV and allow Chris’s contacts to modify it with its own gun safe and storage compartments full of ammunition. He flat out gave the Camaro to Cora and Gavin who had come to a timeshare agreement concerning the vehicle.
Near the end of the night, Erica corners Stiles in the gym’s add-on kitchen. “Thanks for having us here,” Erica’s sadness is like a gentle rain on Stiles’s shields.
Stiles frowns. “Why wouldn’t we?”
“A lot of bonded pairs find us uncomfortable company.” She shrugs. “A lot of mundanes, too. They say we’re unnatural.”
“Why? Because you mated another sentinel?”
“You know what I think?”
She shakes her head.
“I think those people are fucking stupid. I think that you’re online. That means that somewhere out there is your perfect guide and they are waiting for you I’m sure but you looked. Both of you looked and you couldn’t find them. No one else on this planet could find them, either, because you got all the help you could for your search. I know that and you know that.
“These mysterious guides, that no one can find, are alive and active and out there, but they are in some galaxy far, far away or something and you can’t get to them. So you found something beautiful, you made something work and that’s a miracle because you and I both know that as sentinels and guides – we are not meant to be alone. We aren’t like normal humans, being alone could literally kill us.
“I didn’t even realize how lonely I was until I met Derek. My mind protected me from the pain of not having his place in my mind filled right up until he came along and filled it. But it was worse for Derek than it was for me, I mean, he was fine until that thing that I know you know about happened to him but once it did it sent him into severe and dramatic decline. The kind of decline a sentinel doesn’t usually hit until they’ve been unbonded for like 20 years. Now, I know that very same thing has happened to you, too. Derek explained that tattoo to me. So you had to find a piece that fits, someone that can keep you happy and healthy, and you did it. Who cares that it’s different from what other sentinels have? How is it any of their business?