“It’s okay,” she said to him. “It’s okay.”
He was really close to her and he was crying. Allison had hated him once but she’d loved him first. And he was crying.
“Scott. Scott, it’s okay.”
She was cold, so cold. And tired. So very tired—but nothing hurt. She just wanted to close her eyes, just for a minute but Scott was so sad.
Her dad! He would be sad too, when he found out.
“You have to tell my dad! You have to tell my dad—” that I’m proud of us, never made it out but howls filled the air and that was good. That was right. That was—
Allison opened her eyes. She was warm and safe and—she’d had the craziest dream. Maybe…not a dream. She looked at her hands. Her bow calluses were thicker, way too thick for a person that hadn’t held a bow in over a year. And she still had the gun and knife calluses she’d earned training with her father after her mother…had died. After her mother had killed herself, because werewolves were real and she couldn’t handle being one herself.
Her hair was longer than she had kept it once she had started hunting. And there was a small backwards five burned into her neck behind her ear lobe. Allison swallowed.
Cautiously but not quite afraid, she pushed up her cami and there, just below her breasts, a little to the left was a scar. Thin, about an inch tall and tapered toward the bottom. A perfect match to the sword the Oni carried, she placed a hand over it and let herself feel the ghost…of her own death.
She could fix that, though…if this was real. She worked through a few mental exercises her father had taught her once upon a time and even pinched herself but her situation didn’t change. As far as she could tell, she was sitting in her bed, in the house she lived in with her parents before moving to Beacon Hills. A glance at her phone told her it was the Friday before Winter Break and The Move.
She could stop Stiles from being possessed.
She could stop Lydia from losing her mind to the Call of the Dead.
She could stop Scott from being Bitten and getting dragged kicking and screaming into the world of the supernatural.
She couldn’t, in good conscience, have the same relationship with Scott. As much as she’d loved him—and, yes, hated him—their relationship wouldn’t be the same. Not because he wasn’t going to be a werewolf and would therefore be a completely different person than the one she had loved, but because she knew more about him than he’d ever know about her. That…imbalance…was uncomfortable.
The kind of uncomfortable she refused to live with.
But she could still protect him, if distantly. Keep him from hating himself, keep him from hating Peter. Keep him from hating Stiles, whom he’d not-so-secretly blamed for putting him in Peter’s crosshairs in the first place.
Allison could even save Peter from his bloody rampage, maybe. She’d have to have Kate arrested—but Kate made that choice. Kate had chosen to murder people. Then she had chosen to come back and torture the survivors. She’d chosen to use children against their parents and families. Kate going to jail was on Kate and it always would be, no matter what role Allison played in it.
She didn’t have much time. Peter would already be running in the woods on the full moon. He—or his nurse—were probably already setting the trap for Laura Hale soon.
Allison got up and wandered into Kate’s room.
Kate always had a room in their home, a landing pad that enabled her vagabond—more like, hunter—lifestyle. Among the things they always packed and moved to their new-current address were Kate’s books and shelves.
Most of the books were actually journals Kate kept of what she called her little victories.
Allison had read them after her mother’s death in the other timeline. Well, she’d read them after she’d learned the truth about her mother’s death, while she and her father had been in France, recovering. They’d opened her eyes to the reality of Hunters. Kate and Gerard’s version of reality, at least. They were the real reason why she’d changed the Code.
She found the one for the Hale House Fire. To make sure what she’d read in that other life was still true, she forced herself to read it cover to cover and to look at all of the pictures.
Kate may have been a terrible human being but she was an amazing historian. No, Allison decided, the entries were too opinionated for a historian. She was more like a scientist. From a detached point of view—which Allison wasn’t naturally good at but had gotten better at during their time in France— the books were a very clear record of Kate’s experimental progress and her feelings about her results.
Kate had kept records of what worked and what didn’t. How she’d evolved to… larger sample sizes. From single kills to families to entire packs. Where she got what information, who participated, and how she got to them.
A serial killing scientist, Allison grimaced to herself.
She took the three most important books—the Hale House Fire book and the book before and the book after—to her bedroom and shoved them into the bottom of the bag that would see her through the move, and threw clothes in on top of them. Then, she pulled packing crates out of the hall closet and packed up Kate’s books so her parents wouldn’t notice the missing volumes.
A knock on the door frame made her look up from where she was closing the last box. Her dad was there, bedhead, flannel pajamas, and all.
“Allison?” he blinked and she had to smile. Chris was nowhere near a morning person. He’d faked it for her for years because she was but it was nice to see him so relaxed while her mom was still alive.
He looked at her for a long moment, confusion clear in every line of his face. “Coffee.”
She laughed and stood, leading him down the stairs to the kitchen. She hit the button on the coffee machine on her way to the fridge. She had come to enjoy morning teas and the occasional hot chocolate in France but for now orange juice would do.
Her dad stayed hovering near his life source. By the time he’d finished his first cup, she had his pancake recipe all mixed up in the world’s least subtle hint ever.
Halfway through his second cup, his eyes started sparkling with humor, proving he was awake despite the hunter-typical grim visage he’d maintained for so many years. “Chocolate chips or blueberries?”
“Chocolate chips for me but we both know mom will want blue berries.” She turned back to the cabinets and set out both.
“I was surprised to see you packing,” he offered as he poured out the first pancake and tossed chocolate chips in it. “I thought you didn’t want to move.”
“I don’t,” she admitted. Moving to Beacon Hills had killed her last time and she wasn’t eager to do that again, but it also made her live—truly live—for the first time in her life. “But I don’t have any friends here. We moved halfway through the semester and there was a lot to do for me to catch up, I just didn’t have time. This time we’re moving at the start of a semester and I’ve already finished everything for this semester at this school. And the schools have compatible schedules so everyone else will be starting new classes, too. There’s nothing for me to catch up on. I’ll be able to just…make friends. Maybe.”
She looked away. “I would like some friends.”
Chris just nodded, a frown firmly in place, and flipped the pancake.
“Is there anything you can tell me about the new place? Mom said it was called Beacon Hills, right?”
“I haven’t been there in years,” he admitted, “and I’ve never stayed there for long. It’s a nice, small town. Quiet, surrounded by woods.”
“Is there an archery range? Or a proper gym?” She didn’t have to fake her eagerness. Beacon Hills actually had a badass archery range because of all the bow hunters in the area. She was looking forward to using that range again, actually.
“I can’t remember.” Chris shrugged, playing at causal in the most endearing way. “Maybe we could go together? Set up the new house? Explore our new stomping grounds?”
Allison blinked. Mom, as the matriarch, ran everything so her dad always handled the domestic stuff unless it was better for the family business to have him act like he was in charge. As a future matriarch, setting up their new base was technically below her, but this was her dad. “When?”
“You said you’re all caught up. I’ll sign you out a day early, we both know nothing happens on the last day before a big break anyway. We’ll pack up some bags and head out.”
“Sounds good,” she agreed, then grinned when Chris dropped a plate of chocolate chip pancakes in front of her.
Allison could say, without a shadow of a doubt, that Beacon Hills was a lot less…terrible in the clear light of day.
“There’s a lot of hills,” she observed idly. “How am I going to walk everywhere with this many hills? Going anywhere will take forever!”
Her dad frowned as he considered the hills like he was seeing them for the first time.
“Maybe I could get a bike?” she tried.
“It might be time to get you a car,” he decided and hit his blinker. Three minutes later they were at the used car lot where she’d gotten her little red Toyota last time.
It was small, a locally owned shop. Her mother preferred them because they directly contributed to the local economy so the entire family shopped locally, even if it cost more. How had she not noticed how much her mother had run roughshod over the entire family last time around? How had she been convinced that was normal?
It wasn’t exactly normal but it wasn’t exactly a bad thing either unless her mom was having an episode but, still.
Her little old car was there but so were another dozen short, sleek sedans and coupes. Hilariously, there was a used Wrangler, about fifteen years younger and painted a blue just darker than Stiles’ precious Roscoe. While an SUV was definitely the way to go in Beacon Hills, the Wrangler was not a win for her.
She went with the small Chevy SUV in the back.
It was silver which was a bad color for a hunting vehicle but was also amusing because she was an Argent, which of course meant silver in French. Chris approved of the footing and drive of it and it had more bells and whistles than the little red thing her mom had arbitrarily picked for her the first time around.
“Good choice, sweetheart,” her dad bussed a kiss on her forehead. “Let’s get some lunch.”
He led them to Stiles’ favorite dinner. She ordered Stiles’ favorites—a peanut butter milkshake and curly fries—just to prove to herself that she had no hard feelings over the whole lethal stabbing thing. The Nogitsune killed her, nothing else.
After lunch, they headed to the exact same house they had lived in last time and Allison…just couldn’t do that. Not again.
“Are we renting this or do we own it?” She asked Chris when he climbed out of his big black Suburban.
“Own,” he answered looking up at the house. “Your grandfather buys properties all over to rent out. The last lease on this one ended a month ago. I had cleaners through it a few weeks ago.”
“It’s still a little rough,” she observed.
“Nothing a few coats of paint and some new appliances won’t fix.”
“It’s really big. Can’t we have…something smaller? Maybe with a pool?”
He looked at her, finally. “Well, we need room for Kate. And a guest room wouldn’t go amiss.”
A guest room for Gerard. The very last thing she wanted was Gerard living with them ever again. “Kate, I can understand but we never have guests. Never ever.”
“You really want a pool, huh?”
“It would be amazing,” she admitted. “We’ve never had one before.”
“Yeah, alright. Follow me.” He climbed back into his truck and she scrambled to follow.
They stopped again at a significantly smaller house. An open kitchen-dining room combo, a living room and a large office made up the bottom floor; the second floor was a master suite, second bedroom and separate bath; and the third floor was an attic in-law suite that she claimed for herself immediately.
It was built right into the roof with four large windows. She wouldn’t be able to paint it like her bedroom in the other house but the lovely exposed wood made that not even an issue.
This house had no grand entry way decked out with white marble, no formal dining room, no pretentious library with books no one would read, no murder basement. And there was a pool. It. Was. Perfect.
“The sheriff lives across the utilities access area in the back there, down a few houses. Three, I think,” her father commented as she started designing her room in her head. Bed in the back, she couldn’t get the four poster she had loved but that was fine, she could put her gauzy curtains on the windows instead. String lights in the rafters, desk on the right. Maybe she could get a kotatsu? Kira’s family had had one and it was amazing, especially for working on big group projects in the winter.
She gave her dad her biggest grin and he sighed but started calling around to update the movers and the power company and the estate manager. She couldn’t even care that there was no real place to put their arsenal.
In fact, that could be counted as a bonus.
She dreamed that night.
It was dark, cold. She was alone and her leg was throbbing. Every time she moved her leg, no matter how little, pain shot through it in hot, maddening spikes. She struggled to get her phone out of her pocket without moving her leg. She got her phone out and the flashlight on.
She was in a basement, surrounded by pipes and broken furniture. She took a deep breath, mentally braced herself, and turned the flashlight on her leg.
She was in a bear trap! Her whole leg up to her calf!
“I know what you’re doing, boy,” a creepy ragged voice had her jerking the light up. There was a…man on the stairs. His whole head was wrapped in dirty bandages except for a bloody mouth full of glittering gold teeth. “You think you can escape me?”
He skittered closer to her, back hunched, head twitching to inhuman angles. “You’ll never escape me!”
He ran at her and she bit back her screams, scrambling for a weapon she didn’t have. His hand reached out for her and—
The lights were off!
She was drowning! She couldn’t breathe, she was drowning!
A light flared above her, beckoned to her, and she kicked off the bottom. She struggled to the surface. Plants and chains and creatures she didn’t want to think about or identify slowed her progress but she would not be denied. She was getting out! She was getting back to her dad! She was getting back to her friends.
She broke the surface, gripped the edges of the pool just wider than her shoulders and pulled herself up.
When she looked down, her hands were wrapped in ragged bandages. She wasn’t in a pool, either. She was pulling herself out of a puddle of bandages in the middle of a wooden floor.
Someone grabbed her arm and pulled her up but she couldn’t see them. She had to get the wraps off!
Another set of hands started helping and when she looked up, she saw—
He frowned at her in confusion, “Allison?”
She woke up as dawn was beginning to brush the horizon. The first thing she did was drag her father out of bed and into a run. He was just as pleased about it as she expected he would be but he’d have lost his mind if she’d gone without him on their first morning in a new town.
He didn’t even try to change her mind because matriarchy.
They spent their second day in Beacon Hills shopping for furniture, for food. Decor.
While he picked paint and hired painters, she signed up for Eskrima at the dojo just down the strip. She didn’t remember there being a martial arts trainer in Beacon Hills the last time around but, honestly, by the time she was interested in those things she had been her father’s #1 apprentice.
Hilariously, her new sensei was a Finstock. About five years older and a great deal calmer than the Coach, by the name of Will, but still a Finstock.
“Found what you were looking for?” her father asked as the girl behind the counter—her age and going to Beacon Hills High, June Finstock—wandered off to run Allison’s card for her class supplies.
“Did you know this was here?” she asked instead.
“No, I didn’t,” Chris gave her a look that said he wanted to ask but he wasn’t sure he could. She was very familiar with it from after she became the West Coast Matriarch Before.
“I had a weird dream, last night,” she answered his not-a-question. “I’m not— I’m not afraid or anything, I just want to be ready, you know? I feel like,” she contemplated what to say next. “I feel like I have a lot to learn.”
He stared at her for a long time but nodded as June returned. “Maybe they can tell you where to get one of those kotatsu things you wanted.”
“Kotatsu?” June frowned at them.
“Yeah,” Allison smiled. “It’s like a table with a built-in quilt and heater on the bottom side. I found it on tumblr.” That was a safe bet, right? Tumblr had everything. “They look amazing.”
“They are,” June agreed. “Dad’s friend in LA has one. I think if you go to Smith’s across the street, he can order you one. Guy’s magic, I swear.”
Allison tried not to tense at that. Magic, great. But they could always check it out. If her dad went all hunter mode on the guy, she’d at least know why. “We’ll check it out,” she promised as she took the gym bag full of supplies June passed over the counter.
Once they were outside Chris gave the storefront a once over. “Maybe your mom and I will sign up too, make it a family thing.”
Allison rolled her eyes. She’d just bet they’d be signing up too. She wasn’t even sure why she was surprised. “What about the range? Google said Zeke’s is the best privately owned archery range in NorCal.”
“After Smith’s,” he promised.
Their third day in Beacon Hills, her dad dragged her out of bed for a run at dawn. Allison grumbled a bit about it but it was nice, almost like old times, him making what she wanted happen without her having to explicitly ask.
“Painters should be here soon,” Chris panted as they wandered up and down the stairs of their back porch to cool down.
“Did you have to go deal with the packers at the old house today?” She frowned at him.
“Yeah.” He shot water from his bottle to his mouth. “You good to stay here while I go do that? I’ll leave you cash for a tip. And mace. And a taser.”
She snorted. “Yeah, we don’t have much here. But I have a book and I can throw our bags in my room and lock it.”
“Sounds like a plan.”
An hour later, she sat on the front porch as her dad drove away. There was something…nagging at her. She grabbed the earliest volume she had of The Encyclopedia of Kate’s Terrible Behavior and resumed her post.
It wasn’t until the painters were breaking from lunch that it dawned on her.
Earlier in the book, Kate bitched about Gerard having a fling with a useless, mouse of a woman. Later on, she gloated about a useless mouse of a woman teaching English at Beacon Hills High. Even later, she mentioned a useless mouse of a woman suddenly going on a honeymoon that she would never return from with her sugar daddy.
Fuck. Was Gerard the sugar daddy? Did that make him directly involved in the Hale House Fire? Had he seduced and murdered a normal, defenseless woman to make room for Kate to enter Derek Hale’s life?
Fuck, fuck, fuck.
Allison needed proof. If Gerard had conspired, possibly even assisted with the Hale House Fire, they could put him in jail for that too rather than leaving him wandering around looking for revenge while they investigated his own crimes separately.
Shit. She needed to go to the library. They kept past issues of the paper at the library and Beacon Hills was a small town with correspondingly small news. Something as scandalous as a high school teacher running off with a rich, older lover never to be heard from again would have been in the papers for months. They might even have the whole ‘romance’ documented. Possibly even with pictures.
It was the middle of the afternoon by the time the painters were done and she could take off for the library. Honestly, if she hadn’t promised her father that she’d stick around she wouldn’t have waited that long.
She grabbed the backpack with The Encyclopedia of Kate and locked everything up. It wasn’t a far drive but nothing was, really, in Beacon Hills itself.
She rushed into the library, barely able to think beyond the need to get into the archives to just check.
She totally didn’t notice the person stopped in the doorway until she practically ran him over. She saw him in her peripheral and jerked back, hand already going for her taser before she froze. Only his hand on her arm kept her from landing on her ass.
“Stiles?” she gasped.
He frowned at her in confusion. “Allison?”
“Holy shit,” she gripped his arm. “You know me?”
He gripped her right back. “You came back too? No one else was supposed to—what?”
“No one else supposed to what, Stiles?” She stepped closer.
“Privacy,” he decided, looking around. No one was paying them any attention. “We need privacy.”
They ended up in her SUV since people were less likely to recognize it than his mother’s Jeep. Not that either of them articulated the thought, but after everything, they really didn’t need to.
“The…you know,” he started. She nodded. She knew about the Nogitsune. “I couldn’t— I couldn’t— I—he knew a lot, you know? Was over a thousand years old? He knew I was a Spark and what that meant.”
“What did it mean?” she asked softly.
“A Spark can make anything happen,” Stiles explained. “We’re the rarest of magic users, born to deal with a specific magical disaster. In exchange, the rules of magic—or physics or reality or whatever—don’t matter to us, as long we have the imagination and the will, we can make it happen. Like Green Lantern.”
“Okay,” she gripped his hand. “How did that get us here?”
“He knew more than me. He was more connected to my magic than I was by the time—by the time I knew what was happening. I couldn’t just force him out but I wasn’t his first host. He… He hadn’t explored everything they knew—everything the previous hosts knew even though it was all right there.” His phone went off, he checked it and turned off the ringer.
“But you did,” she guessed.
“Yeah. We—me and what was left of…the other hosts—we made a ritual. It would send me back to before I was possessed. So, I could trap him or banish him properly.”
“But you didn’t have your magic, he did.” She could guess where with was going. “You used my death?”
“Not yours specifically,” he shook his head. “Just the next death he caused. I tried taking the energy he was feeding off of and it worked a bit but it wasn’t enough. He—ejected me, trying to stop me, but I was too tied up in the ritual. Nothing he did could stop it. The next death would effectively kill me too, send me back here.”
“So, I died, then you died, and we both came back?”
“You weren’t supposed to come,” he admitted. “No one else was supposed to come.”
“How were you going to stop Kate without me?”
“I was gonna, I—my dad’s brother is an alpha werewolf. I was going to have him claim Peter as a beta to heal him and buy me the time I need to get the evidence together. Me meeting Peter would explain my curiosity to my dad enough, he wouldn’t even question me looking into the Fire.”
She shook her head. It made sense, but— “How were you going to lure an alpha werewolf into Hale Territory without a Hale on board?”
“Family Hanukkah,” he said immediately. “We haven’t had one since mom died. Grandma and Dad are onboard. He couldn’t really say no without outing himself as a wolf and he’s definitely the beg forgiveness, not ask permission kind of guy.”
“That clearly runs in the family,” she snorted.
He gave her a small smile, much more reserved that the wild grins he used to throw around.
“We can prevent everything, Stiles.”
“I know,” he nodded. “That’s why I’m here.”
“Well, you’re not doing it without me.” He snorted at her. “Do you…do you still have your magic?”
He blinked at her. “I should, why?”
She hauled her backpack into her lap and pulled out Kate’s journals. “I have all the evidence we need but she talks openly about werewolves and we can’t endanger the secret like that. Hunters, werewolves, and witches would line up to murder us.”
“I could change it to a generic ‘monsters’, maybe.” Stiles took the first one and opened it. “Edit them or copy and edit?”
She thought about it. “If we can, copy and edit. I want to keep the originals and document the fall out for future Argents. Add it to the annals, as a warning.”
“I can do that,” Stiles agreed. “I’ll have to read them all, though.”
“If you have all the evidence,” he tipped his head to one side, foxlike in curiosity. “What brought you here?”
She pulled the first volume out of his hands and opened it to the right sections. He read them and looked at her for confirmation rather than guessing. “I think Gerard is the sugar daddy Kate mentioned, the one that seduced the English teacher.”
“Which means he disappeared at least one vanilla human to make the Hale Fire happen.” Stiles tipped his head the other way in thought. “Do you have a library card?”
“Not yet.” She hadn’t bothered to get one in the other timeline either which was kind of sad now that she thought about it.
“There’s no way Mrs. Reyes will let you in the archives without one,” he nibbled on his lower lip and checked his phone again. “She’ll let you in with me. Probably.”
“What about Scott?”
“He doesn’t have a library card, either.” Stiles shook his head. “We can’t—I can’t let him in on this, Allison. He— I get the True Alpha thing was rare as shit and all but—”
“It ruined his life,” she finished. “More than asthma ever did.”
“Thank god,” he slumped back against his seat, relief clear in the line of his shoulders. “Yeah, Wolf Time did not work out for him.”
“How are we going to keep him out of this?” She asked softly.
“I’ve, uh, I’ve already started the grand blow off,” Stiles swallowed. “Right now, the whole Hanukkah thing is why but, you know, I’ll come up with more excuses. Transparent excuses and then none at all.”
“You do have experience with it,” she admitted with a wince, knowing she was probably partially to blame for Stiles getting the grand blow off in at least one instance.
He made a face but nodded. “It would be easier with a…significant other to be an excuse but…” he waved a hand. “I’ll make up a boyfriend or something.”
“You have a girlfriend,” she retorted.
He gave her the wide eyes.
“Okay, maybe we aren’t like that,” she admitted. “But you sacrificed me and dragged me back in time against my will. I think I get to claim at least best friend status in recompense if I want it.”
He pointed at her. “I’ll be the best damn friend you’ve ever had.”
She held out a hand. “We’ll destroy our enemies and save our families. Together.”
“Friends that slay together, stay together,” he agreed and they shook on it. “I was thinking I could quit the lacrosse team, distance myself from Scott some more, when we get back to school. Not like I ever got to play anyway.”
“Then you can join my Eskrima lessons with Sensei Finstock in town,” she decided.
He snorted but didn’t argue. “You were held back a year too, right?”
Allison went still. She’d never told anyone in Beacon Hills about that. “How did you know that?”
“Math,” he eyed her and raised an eyebrow. “You’re like six months older than me and I was held back after my mom died. How many classes off are you? We could catch up with our grade and graduate end of next year.”
“It would distance us further from Scott,” she conceded. “Are you sure you want to go that far?”
“Do we have an option? If we’re in this, there’s no going back.”
As if to underscore the point, Stiles’ phone buzzed, again. He checked it then ignored it, again.
Allison huffed at herself. She’d realized things couldn’t be the same because time travel, but she hadn’t really realized. “What about the others? Boyd, Erica, Isaac.”
“Them becoming wolves?” he asked and she nodded. “I’m not opposed but it’s not really our choice. That’s kind of between them and their alpha.” Stiles made a face, “It especially helped Erica with the seizures but it got to her head in a terrifying way. And it killed her.”
“Things would be different with a different alpha, though.”
Stiles nodded, but didn’t say anything. She assumed he needed to think about it, which she could understand.
“We could save Isaac though, from his dad?” She offered. “Through your dad, maybe?”
Stiles thought about it for a moment. “Not sure how it’ll work out but we can try.”
“What about Boyd?”
“The big problem is his life is his little sister’s disappearance. His family sort of shattered and blamed him, leaving him all alone. I tried to investigate Alicia’s disappearance before but,” Stiles shook his head. “There is no trail. I don’t see how we can fix all that without finding her.”
“Realistically, if they blamed him and shunned him for losing her when he was just a kid, too…” There probably isn’t anything they can fix, she doesn’t say. “His real problem is loneliness, though. That was why he joined the Pack.”
Stiles raised an eyebrow. “You got an idea?”
“I’m the new girl,” she shrugged. “And, you know, the first time around I didn’t get to school until third period?”
“Right,” he agreed.
“Boyd was in my first period Math class that year. And, I think he was in the history class I had before the English class where I met Scott, too? I’ll just show up to school earlier and latch onto him. Drag him over to you at lunch. I didn’t really know him the first time around so it wouldn’t be completely skeevy or anything.”
“Alright. I can see if we can get Erica a service dog. Maybe my uncle can do something? The legal channels take years to get people dogs but if he can’t find one for her within a month, I’ll be shocked. He’s got connections everywhere.”
“That should make her epilepsy at least manageable,” she agreed. Then she grinned. “Maybe we can set her up with Boyd. They both kind of danced around each other until—”
“Yeah, until. Shit, what about Cora? Do you think Deucalion already has her?”
“If he does,” Allison contemplated that for a moment. “I already have sniper training? And I’m less opposed to guns than I was at this point last time.”
“That should not be attractive,” he shook his head and she laughed. “Alright, lets hit the archive, then I’m making dinner.”
They climbed out of her car and marched back up the little hill the library was on shoulder to shoulder.
“Mrs. Reyes!” Stiles grinned as they made it up to the counter. “How’s Erica?”
The woman that turned around had Erica’s face. It was half hidden by a large pair of glasses and shrouded in gray-streaked brown hair but Allison wanted to hit herself. Of course, Mrs. Reyes was Erica Reyes’s mother. Why didn’t she catch that earlier?
“She’s doing well, Stiles. Three weeks without an episode, she’s on a roll.”
“Holy guacamole, that’s great!”
The woman gave him a small smile before her face went stern, like a real-life McGonagall. “Now, what mischief are you needing my help with?”
“No mischief!” Stiles squawked and flailed indignantly. Allison didn’t even try not to laugh.
“You forget, I knew your mother.”
That Stiles sobered quickly. “My friend here, Allison, just moved to Beacon Hills and wanted to learn about the town. I was hoping you could let us both into the archive even though she doesn’t have a library card.”
“You know I can’t do that Stiles,” Mrs. Reyes sighed.
“I’ll stay with her the entire time!”
“No, the last time we did that vandals wrecked the archive. We’re still not sure we recovered everything, you know that, Stiles.” Stiles deflated and the woman gave Allison a judicious look. She reached for a postcard and slid it across the desk. “You need to fill out an application for a library card. It requires a piece of mail with your address in Beacon Hills on it to confirm you actually live here.”
Allison blinked at her and the woman just gave her an expectant look. “This is the application, if you’re under eighteen, it needs a parent’s signature but if you can get it back to me today, I can have a card for you tomorrow.
“Now, I’m going to go into the back and handle returns for half an hour,” and she turned around and left them alone at the desk.
Allison and Stiles shared a look. She grinned. He hissed, “Yes!!” and gave a little fist pump.
He filled out the postcard while she filled out the application.
“Let me sign it,” he flapped both hands at her when she got to that part. “That way when she asks you can honestly say you didn’t fake your dad’s signature.”
Allison could see the wisdom in that, “Alright.”
They waited for about fifteen minutes in silence before she couldn’t take it anymore. She turned to face him. “I was thinking about cutting my hair. I like it long but with everything… it’ll get in the way, you know?”
“Are you asking my opinion?” Stiles asked.
“You are kind of the only friend I have to ask, Stiles,” she grinned to take the sting out of the words.
“Well, I mean, do what you want but,” he reached out and curled his fingers into her curls that had tumbled onto the desk. “I like it long. That moment when you set you know who on fire, in— Before? Looking like Snow White and Merida’s love child, all firm and resolute?” She nodded. She knew what he meant, the night they had killed Peter Hale out at the old Hale House. “That was probably the first time I’d ever felt physical attraction for a woman. Total sexual awakening for me.”
Allison knew she was blushing, she knew it, but refused to acknowledge it. “So, Lydia?”
“Eh, Lydia was safe, you know? I knew she’d never look at me like that so I could publicly, embarrassingly pine for her and get made fun of for that rather than get made fun of for not wanting to fuck everything that decided to stay still long enough.” Stiles shrugged like is wasn’t important but she knew him enough to know that meant it was really important to him.
“Demi?” she asked. He gave her the startled eyes again and she leaned in to ask properly—softly, since he apparently didn’t want people knowing. “Are you demisexual?”
“Uh, yeah,” he swallowed. “Most people don’t even know that’s a word.”
“Not being a bigoted asshole is, like, point one on the Disney Princess Licensing Contract,” she said breezily, throwing her hair over her shoulder in a callback to the Brave movie that wasn’t even out yet. “I know I faltered for a while there but there were special circumstances. And it never had to do with LGBT stuff.”
He smiled at her. A small, real smile.
Mrs. Reyes walked up to them, “Can I help you?”
“Um, yeah, I was hoping to get my library card?” Allison smiled.
Mrs. Reyes took the application and postcard and looked them over. “Is this your signature?” she asked, just like Stiles had predicted.
“No, that’s my father’s. See,” she pointed. “His first name, Chris. That little squiggle is how he always does the ‘topher’. Then our last name, Argent.”
“Alright, come back in the morning,” Mrs. Reyes rolled her eyes. “I’ll have your card for you then. Once you have it, you can swipe yourself into the county archives. Whether you bring Stiles or not is your choice but my daughter always finds him distracting.”
“Rude!” Stiles protested and the woman laughed as she walked away.
“So, what can we do now?” Allison asked when they were alone.
“Dad’s on nightshift this week. I need to get home and get dinner in the oven before he wakes up.” Stiles blew out a breath. “You can come with me, stay for dinner, if you want. I’ll read the first book and see if I actually can duplicate it.”
“My parents won’t be back for another day or two so that works,” Allison agreed. “And it’ll give your dad the chance to get used to me before we spring the whole My Aunt the Werewolf Serial Killer thing on him.”
Stiles snorted. “I’m not lying to him. Not again.”
“Well, we can tell him we met at the library. It’s true enough…unless you’re planning on telling him about time travel?”
“I don’t want anyone to know about what we left behind. Not before the, you know, is dead or banished.” Then he admitted. She got the feeling that he was ashamed about not being able to say Nogitsune, not that she blamed him for that tiny hang up. “I kind of hate that you know about it.”
She rolled her eyes. “You’d rather do this alone?” She glared when he didn’t answer.
“I’d planned to do it alone,” he eventually admitted.
“Well, get over it. You can’t be the brains of this operation if you’re moping.”
That made him cackle. “If I’m the brains, does that mean you’re the brawn?” and he gave her a grin.
Allison laughed. She knew—okay, she believed—Stiles wasn’t discounting her intellect or planning abilities but it was amusing to subvert her family’s way of doing things. And if Stiles already had a plan, it was a waste of time they didn’t have to form a new one this late in the game.
Allison followed Stiles home easily enough after that.
“I think I’ll run over next time,” she announced as she joined him on the porch.
Stiles lead her right inside. “Same house?”
“Nah, we’re like back to back and down a few. Dad said three?”
“The rental house?” Stiles frowned as he threw himself onto the chair at the desk in his room. “You guys are renting?”
“No, the Argent Estate owns it and the Estate Manager acts as landlord. Dad said it’s a Gerard thing. He just likes owning houses all over, I guess.” Allison took a seat on the foot of his bed.
Stiles grimaced. “Including a house terrifyingly close to the sheriff in a town where his daughter has already killed more than ten people.”
“I hadn’t even thought of it that way,” she admitted. Then she thought about it. “None of the windows have a good angle to spy on this house. Not the ones high enough to see past the fence at least.”
“They still could have been keeping really close tabs on us. And the utilities alley thing…” he waved a hand toward his backyard.
“Yeah,” she agreed. “He could have loaded the house up with cronies and all kinds of gear.”
Stiles shrugged. “Nothing we can do about it now, though maybe it does explain some of the things he knew that he really shouldn’t have. I always figured it was just that Scott was his bitch for longer than he would admit, but maybe not.”
“Do we have anything that can detect bugs?” she asked after a moment of consideration.
“No, but we’ve got RadioShack and the internet.”
“Let’s add bug detectors to the ‘to do’ list. I don’t think I’ll sleep peacefully over there until I know for sure we aren’t giving away our out secrets by just existing.”
And Stiles honest to god pulled out a composition notebook and added ‘surveillance detection’ to a list on the first page. Allison laughed and held out her hands for it.
Stiles rolled his eyes but handed it to her. “You read that. I’ll go start the oven.”
“What’s for dinner?” she asked hopefully. Another night of takeout was not something she wanted. It was fun for a while but didn’t really help when she was trying to get back into Hunter shape. Not to mention, she’d heard enough about Stiles’ cooking from Melissa to embrace her first opportunity to eat his food.
“Lasagna,” he eyed her speculatively. “Vegetarian lasagna.”
She made a face and he laughed. “If you promise to help make my dad eat a bowl of salad, I’ll make garlic bread with real butter.”
“And real cheese?” She narrowed her eyes at him.
“Fine,” he sighed.
He laughed again and left, she got to reading. They had a lot to do.
John woke to the sound of voices coming from his son’s room. It wasn’t the strangest thing. If Stiles was home, he was usually gaming or at least chatting with Scott.
But the voice wasn’t Scott.
It wasn’t Stiles’ ex-friend Jackson, either.
He thought the voice was female, strangely enough, but Stiles didn’t have any female friends and the school didn’t give group projects over the holidays.
He leaned in the door way and watched as his son and a girl he’d never seen before worked on Stiles’ latest crime wall. He didn’t look too closely at Stiles’ crime wall because that way lay madness but…it was interesting to see him working on one with another person. Normally, he didn’t even bring Scott into his room after his walls got to a certain point.
But that probably had more to do with Scott’s sensitivity towards law enforcement. John would call it a prejudice and he’d link it directly to Rafe, but never out loud. Stiles would fight tooth and nail against anything he considered a criticism of Scott.
The girl picked up what looked like a magic tome movie prop and pointed something out to Stiles that made him grab his yellow yarn.
By the look of the book, he’d guess they were working on some conspiracy theory. Stiles didn’t just work out crimes on his wall…but the number of times that Stiles resetting his crime wall had corresponded with the station getting an anonymous tip that would break open a case—well, he wasn’t an idiot. But. Crimes got solved, victims got helped without the discussion of possibly compromised chains of evidence, and Stiles got some spending money.
It was a win all around, so he’d always let it be.
“Stiles?” he called.
Both teenagers straightened and turned wide eyes on him. “Yeah, Dad?”
“Lasagna,” Stiles checked his watch. “It’s about time for the bread to go in. Is it cool if Allison stays for dinner? I kind of already bribed her with cheesy garlic bread to help me.”
“Am I getting bribed with cheesy garlic bread?”
Stiles gave him the stink eye. “If you eat a salad.”
“With dressing,” he agreed. He could do that for cheesy garlic bread.
“Something healthy, not Ranch,” Stiles countered.
“Nice to meet you, Allison,” he called as he shook his head and left.
“You too, Mr. S!”
“Uncle Eliot says they’re ten minutes out!” Stiles shouted up the stairs at his father.
Allison watched Stiles pace for two minutes before she dragged him into one of the living room arm chairs and made him sit. Then she sat on one of the chair’s arms and threw her legs across his lap to keep him in it. She didn’t mind the tapping and the fidgeting but when the Stiles’ dad had made it to the bottom of the stairs, his face made it clear he minded. He minded very much so she reached and sunk her fingernails into Stiles’ starting-to-grow-out buzz cut.
Stiles made a noise somewhere between a gurgle and a purr and tilted his head to get her scritches right where he wanted them. The tapping stopped.
When the knock came, Sheriff Stilinski answered the door.
A short, thick, and built man with long hair came in first. He and Sheriff John started hugging and back slapping with mutual cries of “John!” and “Eliot!”
The sheriff’s little brother, she assumed.
Eliot turned and gestured the people behind him forward.
First came a small, thin blonde woman. “John, this is my best friend—” Allison’s wolfy decoder ring translated that to the alpha’s Second “—Parker Hardison.”
“This is her husband—” mate “—Alec Hardison.” He was lovely and easily the most respectable-looking of the bunch. The bar was rather low though, considering the state of the people crowding in the doorway. His beard was tidy and full and none of his clothes were ripped or stained.
“And Sophie Devereaux, another friend. We’ve all been working together for years now.” She was a new wolf. Single-digit months since the Bite, judging by how close she stood to her alpha and how he kept a hand on her. The brief flash of beta gold eyes was a good indicator, too.
“You don’t need this much moral support to visit family,” Sheriff Stilinski looked flabbergasted.
“They are family!” Stiles objected and Allison slid her feet out of the way so her could stand. “I invited them, the more the merrier, right?”
“Stiles!” Eliot hugged him before John could respond.
Stiles accepted the hug easily. “Is this everyone?”
“Yeah, of course. Well, except—” Eliot gestured at the white-haired woman just clearing the doorway. “We waited in Redding to pick up your grandmother. Save time, gas, no one gets left out.”
“Baba,” Stiles smiled and Allison walked over to meet everyone.
The woman ripped off her sunglasses to get a better look at Stiles. She seemed utterly speechless as she stared. “Mietek?” She cupped his jaw in one hand and pulled his head down for a better look. A tear rolled down her face but she didn’t seem to notice. “Oh, my little Mischief, what has happened to you?”
“Uh,” Stiles shot her a desperate look.
“Why don’t we all step inside and close the door?” Allison offered. “We can get drinks, everyone can calm down, and we can talk it out.”
“And who, exactly, are you?” Parker asked.
“Oh, that’s Allison,” Sheriff Stilinski introduced her, attention still centered on his son and mother in law. “Stiles’ girlfriend, Allison Argent.”
Okay, so Mr. S dropping the A-bomb in a room full of wary supernaturals had not, exactly, calmed things down.
Allison stood, patiently, inside a magical containment circle erected by Babushka Lis—one of the scariest magic users on the entire planet—while Eliot and Parker ran the neighborhood to check for tricks and traps. Sophie paced around the house, clearly on guard, while Alec hacked—well, she didn’t know what but she had the feeling he was hacking everything.
Because she was an Argent and they didn’t trust Argents. Not that she blamed them.
Fortunately, the only wolfsbane to be found in her possession was the wolfsbane laced into the mace her father had given to her before he left. The fact that that mace had been in her bag up in Stiles’ room had not won her any favors.
Stiles re-entered the room, bringing his grandmother tea. There was a bright green tea infuser hanging on to the edge of the cup and even still Babushka Lis didn’t hesitate to take it. It was adorable and nobody even zapped her when she grinned and laughed at the grandson-grandma scene.
Though she was kind of surprised that Stiles was being so accommodating to his Grandmother of Terrifying.
Stiles’ father was sort of laid out, frozen on the couch. Babushka Lis had placed her son in law in magical stasis without even a blink when he’d almost shouted himself into a heart attack over the eyes and the fangs and the claws and the magic.
Allison had figured Stiles would lose his shit about what amounted to an attack on his father when he’d so adamantly protected the man Before but he hadn’t.
Maybe his reaction to the supernatural had put Stiles off?
But Allison was confused by the sheriff’s reaction, too. According to Stiles, his father’s mother had been a human born to a pack alpha. His grandmother had run away from her pack when her father had tried to force his only child to marry his chosen successor. Then his brother had been born a wolf. John had learned about the supernatural at that point and he’d learned even more when his mother had sent Eliot back to the pack of her birth.
Stiles had gotten all of that information from his father in the future so surely, he had to know all that information now?
“We’re secure,” Eliot announced as he entered through the front door. Parker dropped from the second floor, the show off, jumping the entire staircase to do it. Allison just rolled her eyes.
Babushka Lis gave Eliot a look and they all sat down civilly enough. Well, not her because magical containment. And not Eliot because alpha bullshit, probably.
“Now, Stiles,” Babushka Lis took the reins, “if you would tell us what happened to you, we would appreciate it.”
Stiles nodded and complied without a single complaint. His face was so earnest, Allison didn’t trust it. “About two-ish years from now, I was possessed by a…Nogitsune.”
Allison snorted at the looks that earned him. Something happened—past tense—on a date that was in the future. Only Stiles could comply while really not.
No wonder his family called him Mischief
“Possessed-me went on a three-month killing spree that escalated until Oni that weren’t technically his? Killed Allison for him.”
They all looked at her, she pulled her shirt up to show them the scar just below her bra. “I woke up in my old body with the scars I got from the…Nogitsune events. I got to Beacon Hills as soon as I could.”
“Why?” Ms. Devereaux asked. “If you know such a terrible thing is going to happen here, why would you come back?”
“Because we could prevent it all,” Allison answered. “That future was blood soaked. At one point, I think we were, what, six deep? On revenge murder sprees?” She looked at Stiles.
Stiles tipped his head to one side. “Peter Hale killed Laura in revenge for her, as his alpha, abandoning him after the Fire. Her alpha power let him go on a revenge spree against Kate Argent for setting the Hale House Fire in the first place. Then Gerard Argent went on a revenge spree for Kate. Then there was Deucalion and his revenge spree against Gerard. He was followed into town by a Darach and her revenge spree against Deucalion and his second Kali, which was arguably caused by the thing Deucalion was avenging.”
“There was Scott basically framing Derek for my mother’s murder and causing my revenge murder spree,” Allison added.
She frowned at Stiles when he looked like he wanted to protest. “Scott told the recently-promoted Argent Matriarch that an alpha killed her mom for no reason. That Derek was, and I quote, just crazy or something rather than admitting that the Bite was an accident that happened when Derek tried to save Scott McCall’s worthless hide and that my mom had chosen to commit suicide rather than be a werewolf. That totally counts as a frame job.”
“Fine,” Stiles sighed, “but you didn’t actually kill anyone. Just non-permanently maimed them a bit. Matt, though, with the Kanima. He killed a ton of people—people that had actually saved his life, by the way—including half of dad’s deputies.”
“And then there was Gerard’s spree with the Kanima.” Allison chirped, enjoying the confused shock they were getting probably a little too much.
“Noshiko technically started the entire Nogitsune thing with a revenge spree for the death of her lover at the Internment camp,” Stiles added.
“And his spree was revenge against her?”
“No. His spree was about food,” Stiles shook his head. “Not that he wouldn’t take revenge if he could get it or if it just amused him—but chaos, pain, and strife all feed him. They are his food and he never gets full.
“And he was flexing after his long-term confinement.”
Allison considered that. “Her whole trying to stop him thing seemed more vengeful against him than protective of her daughter to me.”
“Eh, that might be a point of view thing? Just because it’s one doesn’t mean it’s not the other but you gotta remember she was old. Like nine hundred years old. Fully nine-tailed fox. She wouldn’t show us what she was really feeling if she was drugged to the gills much less on an actual battlefield.”
Allison tipped her head, conceding that. “But if she was nine hundred years old, why the hell did she call a Nogitsune to get her revenge during World War II? Wouldn’t she have already been as powerful as she was?”
“Fuck if I know,” Stiles admitted. “Saint complex? Too good to get her hands dirty? Laziness?”
Allison honestly didn’t know.
“Was that nine or ten nested revenge sprees?” Parker asked after an extended moment of silence.
Stiles just snorted and shook his head.
“Why didn’t your father call me?” Babushka Lis asked.
“I don’t know,” Stiles admitted. Then he sort of squinted at her. “You would have come?”
“In a heartbeat,” she swore.
“We all would have,” Eliot seconded.
“Honestly, he never talked about any of you until I was possessed and I didn’t want to push, you know? Before that. After mom died?”
“After your mother died,” Babushka Lis said like she was realizing something. She turned to her son in law and started to cast something, golden magic flickered between her fingers for several minutes. “He’s been cursed,” she told the rest of them. “Ignorance, avoidance, forgetting. Since my daughter died.”
“Which means what?” Allison asked. She had a few ideas but, well, Babushka Lis was the expert.
Babushka Lis blew out a breath. “It means that he effectively knows nothing about the supernatural despite growing up with a born wolf. He won’t know anything until the person that set the curse lifts it…one way or another.”
“So, his freak out was legitimate?” Allison nodded with everyone else. “What does that have to do with Mrs. Stilinski’s death? The timing of that can’t be an accident.”
“Someone killed Claudia,” Eliot guessed. “Because their magic wouldn’t stick to John while she was alive?”
“Of course, it wouldn’t,” Babushka Lis scoffed. “My daughter gave her family the best magical protection on the planet.”
“But that means that once she was dead and not around to renew the magic, it would have fallen apart very quickly,” Alec added.
“But who?” Allison asked. “And why?”
“That is what we are going to find out.”
“Where do we start?” Eliot asked, trying to move them along. “Not with the magic thing, with the saving lives thing.”
“Peter Hale,” his nephew answered immediately. “We need to get his nurse away from him. She’s like crazy obsessed with him. I’m pretty sure he can’t move outside of the full moon yet which means she’s the one setting out the bait to bring Kate back to Beacon Hills. Between his abandonment by his alpha, the loss of his pack to the fire, and the extensive burns on like half of his body, he’s got plenty of reason to go through with the revenge she’s trying to give him but if we get him stabilized, in a pack and healed…”
“We can redirect his energy,” Eliot blew out a breath. “And having a Hale in my pack would validate my claim to the territory.”
“You’re going to claim the territory?” the girl, Allison, asked in surprise.
“Laura hasn’t and she’s had years to do it. Sophie could use some stable territory time to settle her wolf and Hale’s connection to the land is probably the only reason Peter’s still alive so it’s not like we can really take that from him and expect him to recover.” He shrugged. “Always figured I’d retire and become the wise old bartender, advising young heroes or whatever.”
Allison smiled while his pack all snickered all around him.
Stiles made an interested noise. “Can I use that? I want to write supernatural detective novels. Maybe a series…”
”Whatever, I don’t care,” he waved his nephew off, “don’t cut the hair.”
Stiles fist pumped so hard he almost fell out of his chair.
They all waited as Eliot thought something over. There were a lot of variables to consider. Eventually, he turned to their Emissary. “Alec, I want—”
“Full and complete control of Peter Hale’s care and assets. Like, yesterday.” The hacker grinned.
Eliot rolled his eyes, “Parker—”
“Be prepared to pretend to be a nurse,” she gave him a sloppy salute. “Also, pack presence and security guard to our new, injured member.”
“Sophie?” he asked rather than setting himself up to get interrupted again.
“Base of operations,” she supplied. “A rental house rather than the hotel rooms we were planning, preferably with direct access to the woods.”
“Oh, I know a house for rent,” the Argent girl interjected immediately.
Eliot and his pack blinked at her.
“Your old house?” Stiles asked, his eyebrows up and interested in the idea.
Argent nodded. “It’s huge, tons of room.”
“Full murder basement,” Stiles seconded to the pack.
Eliot didn’t quite know what to say to that and after a moment Argent carried on. “You might want to check it for listening devices? We were set to move there before I convinced my dad we needed a pool—and I totally wouldn’t put it past Gerard to spy on his own family.”
“I don’t think I want to live in a house owned by Gerard Argent,” Eliot admitted as gently as he could. The girl was important to his nephew, after all.
“I don’t think I want the murder basement available to Gerard Argent’s use,” Stiles argued. Then he frowned at the containment circle Argent was still in. “Can she sit down? I think we all know she’s not going to murder us at this point.”
Eliot looked to Babushka Lis who just waved a hand negligently.
Carefully, Argent took a step forward, when she didn’t smack face first into magic, she perched across the arms of Stiles’ chair. Eliot kind of liked that, honestly. It showed a surprising amount of care. Even Stiles would have a hard time flailing out of his seat with an active Argent Safety Belt in place.
“A basement would make cooling my computers easier,” Alec offered.
“And it’s technically owned by the family estate, not specifically Gerard,” Argent added.
“Fine,” Eliot shot Sophie a look.
Her answering smile was all teeth, “I’ll tour it as soon as possible.”
“What about the Hale Fire?” Babushka Lis asked. Then she focused on Stiles, “Most of the problems from your other timeline seem to stem from there.”
Stiles shrugged. “I started gathering the evidence I eventually found Before pretty much the moment I landed in this body. Ally brought her Aunt’s murder journals. Kate documented the Hale Fire really thoroughly.” Stiles hesitated and looked at his uncle. “Did you know Kate killed the Spencer Pack?”
Eliot sat down abruptly. Parker and Sophie surged toward him in response to his distress.
“No,” he croaked. He cleared his throat and tried again. “No, I didn’t. I was still in the Bahamas, on vacation. Everyone died in the explosion while I was away.
“That’s when he outed himself to us,” Parker said softly with a glance at her husband.
Alec nodded. “The three of us were on the beach when he suddenly became alpha, he had a hell of a time hiding it. Parker took the Bite that night to give him pack and keep him stable, I became their Emissary… The official reports said it was a problem with the gas main.”
“It was Kate,” Stiles corrected. “She seduced Jacob? Like she did with Derek, here. He looked fourteen in the murder journal photos?”
“He was a third or fourth cousin,” Eliot ran a hand over his face. “The explosion was just after his sixteenth birthday.”
“She also got the Marshal Pack last year,” Stiles added. “I haven’t had time to look for any survivors.”
“I’ll take care of it,” Alec promised immediately.
“So, we have evidence,” Babushka Lis said.
“Sort of? I mean, we can’t give the journals as-is to the cops. She straight up ID’d all of her victims as werewolves.” Stiles huffed. “I was trying to duplicate and alter them, change ‘werewolf’ to ‘monster’ so she’d just sound crazy but—”
“Crazy will still get her in jail,” Eliot said. “Especially for murder. Werewolf will get us all killed for outing the community.”
“That’s what I figured but I couldn’t get the spell to work.”
Allison put an arm across his shoulders. She’d seen firsthand how much the failure had affected Stiles, it was not a pretty sight.
“You’ve gotten the spell to work before?” Babushka Lis asked.
“Yeah. You know, Before. I copied the Argent Bestiary and changed it from Ancient Latin to Modern English with a single spell.”
“Before you were possessed?” she asked softly.
Stiles looked up at his grandma sharply. “Yeah? What do you know that I don’t?”
“Your aura,” she rolled her lips inward and pressed them together. “It is no longer the aura of a Spark.”
“What’s it the aura of?” Allison asked when Stiles just kept staring open-mouthed at his grandma.
Allison spun her legs out of Stiles’ lap without making him ask. He immediately stood and left, thundering up the stairs to his room.
She held up a hand when his uncle stood to follow. “Give him a minute.”
Rewardingly, the man listened to her.
“I can power the spell,” Babushka Lis told her. “We’ll have to do it in a ritual, for him to cast with my Spark, but we’re family. It will work.”
“Kitsune cubs need training, right?” Allison asked.
“Kits,” Babushka Lis corrected, “and yes.”
“Does anyone know an adult kitsune that would train him? I can’t contact the one I know and I’m pretty sure Stiles would rather punch her in her whole face than train under her.”
“I’m not quite certain what a Kitsune is,” Ms. Devereaux tried.
It wasn’t Allison’s place to educate her, and she didn’t know much besides, so she didn’t say anything.
“I know a few,” Lis admitted. “I’ll have to call in some favors.”
“But you will?” Allison asked.
Babushka Lis raised a single eyebrow. “He is my grandson.”
Allison decided to take that as a yes.
“Allison? Are you alright?” her mother asked as she practically floated in the front door.
Allison was so much more than alright. She was amazing. She felt sturdier, stronger, more grounded, and happier than she’d ever been.
Stiles’ Uncle Eliot had made her pack. Her! Pack! Not on a probationary basis. Not with terms and conditions. Not because she was someone’s mate—future or otherwise. Just because she was herself, just because she’d done exactly as she had decided to do the moment she landed in the past.
And! And, because she was—technically, because time travel—an adult, he’d offered her the position of Left Hand. Once they were both more comfortable with each other she would be the guardian, war leader, and dirty deed doer of the pack. Not that Eliot Spencer needed someone to do his dirty deeds, he was plenty ruthless on his own—but every alpha needed someone to watch their back and it put her on an even footing with Stiles as his heir and Parker as his Second or Right Hand. Together they would stand for the pack, just behind their alpha.
She could feel the alpha bond on her heart or her soul or whatever that core at the center of yourself was called. Through him she could feel Parker, Alec, Sophie, and yes, even Stiles.
She thought maybe Babushka Lis was flirting with a pack bond but she wasn’t really sure and the bond was so new, she didn’t want to test it.
“I’m great,” was all she said out loud. “You guys are here early. I didn’t expect you before tomorrow?”
“I couldn’t leave my little girl up here all alone,” her mom said and Allison could remember a time, not actually that long ago, when she’d found that charming rather than controlling and irritating. “I started packing as soon as you two left, there wasn’t much left for them to do by the time the movers got there.”
“Okay, cool,” Allison walked into the kitchen to get a glass of water in an actual glass for bed but the disposables she and her dad had gotten to tide them over were still on the counter.
She turned to her mom, “Um?”
“I decided it was time for new kitchen stuff so I left it all behind.” AKA she was in a super huge rush to get to Beacon Hills and couldn’t be bothered with it. “Would you like to go shopping with me tomorrow?”
“Um, actually I have plans for tomorrow.” She didn’t even have to fake being sheepish.
Her mom was taken aback. “Plans?”
“Stiles and I are spending time with patients at the hospital tomorrow.” Well, they were going to visit with Peter, but it totally counted! “And then we’re going Hanukkah shopping.”
“Stiles?” her mom asked.
“Hanukkah?” her dad asked as he walked into the room, pulled a red solo cup and filled it with milk. She felt a little cheated on the cup’s behalf. That was a beer cup, not a milk cup.
“Stiles’ family is Jewish. Hanukkah was in the beginning of December this year but they’re all together now so we’re starting tomorrow.”
“They invited you?” Chris double checked.
“I wouldn’t just invite myself into someone else’s holiday, Dad. They haven’t been together in ages so they wanted to do a sort of Secret Santa Lottery thing and they wanted eight people for it. I’m their eighth.”
“Secret Santa Lottery?”
“Yeah, it was Stiles’ idea!” She didn’t even have to fake enthusiasm for it. “We each wrote down the usual Secret Santa information, stuff about our interests, hobbies, collectables. Every night we’re going to pick a name and we have the next day to buy our person a gift to give them the next night.
“But you can’t get yourself or the same person twice in a row,” she hastened to add.
“First night is like ten bucks and it goes up every day from there. I got Stiles’ uncle, Eliot, for tomorrow night. He loves to play country music so I’m think a collection of cool looking guitar picks? Or maybe a holder? Oooh, do they have pick holsters you can put on your guitar? Wouldn’t that be cool?”
“Sounds pretty cool,” Chris agreed.
“Stiles got his grandma, Babushka Lis.” Her mom paled and her dad spit out his milk. Explosively. “Are you okay?” she asked him.
“Yeah,” he croaked and she rubbed his back to encourage proper breathing.
“I’m not sure why she goes by Babushka since she’s Polish, not Russian,” Allison pondered in her casual best. “I’m pretty sure that’s not the Polish word for grandma but I don’t know, I’ll Google it.”
She did know, actually, because she’d asked.
Babcia was the Polish word, though Stiles called her baba informally. Being called babushka was just one of the steps Babushka Lis took to conceal who she really was from people that would use her true identity against her. For that matter, Lis wasn’t her legal first name either but she’d been using it for so long she answered to it more naturally than her actual given name.
“What’s Stiles getting his grandmother?” Victoria asked distractedly.
Allison turned away from Chris. “Oh, he hasn’t said but he’s totally going to be looking for novelty tea infusers. Because he is the absolute Worst, he made her tea with a T-Rex infuser before dinner tonight. Brought it to her with a bright green T-Rex just hanging on the rim of her mug. And, to prove that they are completely related, she took it! I thought Eliot was going to faint!”
Just like her dad looked like he was going to faint.
“Sounds like you have a busy day tomorrow,” her mom said.
“Uh, yeah, is that okay? I mean I’ve only known Stiles like two days but we met at the library and his father’s the sheriff. So, it’s okay, right?”
“Just let us know where you’re at as always and I’m sure it’ll be fine.”
“Thanks, mom!” Not that she liked checking in every other hour but at least she wasn’t being ordered to ignore him like mom had tried with Scott?
Though, Allison wasn’t going to delude herself. The lack of that particular order was probably because her parents knew better than to offend Babushka Lis, rather than due to any perceived virtue Stiles may or may not have.
“Of course, sweety. Good night.”
Allison bounced up the stairs to her room and wondered how else she could use Babushka Lis’ reputation to manipulate her parents.
She thought Stiles—and probably Lis—would be rather proud.
First thing in the morning, Allison ran over to the Stilinski House.
“Hello?” She called out as she entered through the back door. “Anyone home?”
“Oh, good.” Allison jumped when Babushka Lis appeared out of goddamn nowhere. “You’re right on time, we need you for the ritual.”
“Uh, what?” She followed Stiles’ grandma into the living room.
All the furniture had been moved aside and a carpet with a circle theme had been laid out with the cardinal points labeled and appropriately laid out. Stiles was standing at the northern point of the middle circle and his Uncle Eliot was at the western point a ring further back than Stiles. In front of Eliot, in the inner most circle, stood all three of Kate’s murder journals in a stack.
Babushka Lis gestured for her to stand at the eastern point with a stack of several reams’ worth of unpackaged paper before her, also in the inner circle.
This left Babushka Lis with the position at the southern point.
“Questions?” Babushka Lis asked.
“Uh, yeah,” Allison raised her hand out of habit, “what are we doing?”
“We are making altered copies of your aunt’s journals,” Lis answered. “The number four within the circle evokes the Earth, making the copies stable and permanent. I am providing the energy. Stiles is providing the spell. You and Eliot are working as our connection and balance.”
Interesting but, “How?”
“Eliot and I are the most powerful of our respective kind, an alpha among werewolves and a Spark among magical humans. Eliot and Stiles are both shapeshifters, a wolf and a fox.
“You and I are powerful, intelligent women running the show in a world drowning in testosterone.” Allison couldn’t help but smile at that description. “You and Stiles are both hunters. He prefers to call himself a detective but the skills and instincts are the same, even if the application is different.
“You connect to me, I connect to Stiles, Stiles connects to Eliot, Eliot connects to you.”
Babushka Lis nodded. “And the circle is complete. Stiles and I will touch to transfer energy directly in the middle but the circle will prevent surges and backlash.”
“Two Male balancing two Female,” Stiles added.
“That’s right,” his grandmother smiled. “Now, shall we? We need to have this done before John gets home.”
“Do we need to do anything in particular?” Eliot asked.
“Remain in the circle until it is dismissed.” Without waiting again, she pulled a pinch of what looked like salt from a small glass pot and took her position. She threw it in the air and it came down around them, all but invisible but physically forming the circle.
Babushka Lis put her right hand on the stack of paper, Stiles put his right hand on the journals, and they gripped each other’s left forearms tightly. A comfortable heat passed through her body in a direct line between the two kneeling figures as Stiles began to chant and Lis began to glow.
It was the craziest thing she had ever seen, which rather blew her mind. A man turning into a not-wolf monster, that was fine, but a glowing grandma? That was strange. Then all that crisp, clean computer paper started to shrink and grow, and dance in a cyclone.
Several pages compressed and changed into the leather cover of the first journal then pages started to stack and bind themselves within it, writing appeared on the pages as they stacked themselves. The top cover of the journal formed only for the cover for the next journal to stack on top of it and have pages fill it, too.
Photographs, of Laura and Derek Hale formed in the air in front of her face before flying down to slide into the places they belonged in within the journals.
More photos of more victims formed.
Bar napkins with handwriting and lipstick stains joined the flurry. Receipts. Business cards.
The spell Stiles picked was very thorough.
In maybe ten minutes, all movement ended and there were two identical stacks of journals. All maroon leather, all with gold leaf pressed on the spines. The page colors were the same. When she opened them, the handwriting was the same.
The only difference she could find when she read them later was that the word ‘werewolf’ had been replaced with ‘monster’ and since Kate had used the word monster herself several times, it didn’t even read as strange.
Alpha Spencer helped Babushka Lis into an arm chair while Allison rolled up the magic carpet, and Stiles started setting the furniture to rights.
Just in time, too, because the sheriff walked in the front door as she was setting the carpet out of view on the back porch. He greeted all of them with a tired nod, stole some water from the Brita in the fridge, and went upstairs so Stiles and Eliot could get started on breakfast.
“What are you all planning to get up to today?” Sheriff Stilinski asked after he’d locked up his service weapon and changed.
“I received legal conservatorship of Peter Hale recently,” Eliot lied easy as anything to his own brother. “We knew each other before the Fire, I didn’t realize he’d survived until recently.”
“What are you going to do with him?”
Eliot shrugged as he put a bowl with various cut fruit on the table. “We’re going to settle in town, unless you object.”
“It’ll be good to have you around,” Sheriff John immediately assured his brother.
Eliot shrugged like he didn’t care but Allison could feel the tension leave his end of their bond. “I’ll close my bar in Boston and open a new one here. Probably buy a house, take him there. He deserves better than to rot in a hospital like he is.”
“Oh!” Allison pulled a card out of her back pocket. “I talked to my parents this morning. Dad said he’d have the realtor handling rental agreements meet you at the house we were talking about. They’re cleaning it up still because the last tenants were really rough with it but the last work should be done today. You guys can tour it at nine, before the tile guys get there at ten. He confirmed there is a big bedroom on the bottom floor, and it has its own bathroom.”
“That’ll be easier than getting Peter’s stuff up to the second floor, thanks Allison.”
“Terrible, what happened to that family,” Stilinski shook his head as he took his seat. “It’s a good thing you guys are doing.”
Then he dug in without complaint when Stiles set an egg white omelet in front of him, probably because everyone else got the exact same thing.
“How are we going to get in to see Mr. Hale?” Allison asked later when Stiles’s dad wandered up the stairs to bed. “I mean. I know you have conservatorship or whatever, but is there an office we need to go to or anything?”
Eliot just sort of blinked at him while Stiles snapped and pointed at her. “I’ll call Melissa.”
He immediately fished his phone out of his pocket and had it to his ear within seconds. “Hey, Melissa! I had a question I wanted to ask you. My uncle just got put in charge of a patient in the long-term care ward. How does he, you know, do that? Like at the hospital?”
Stiles made a bunch of “yeah” and “uh-huh” noises before finishing with a “That would be great!” Then he immediately deflated and said, “Yeah, put him on,” and Allison figured that Scott must have finally cornered him with the help of his mother. This was probably only the first direct discussion of the many it would take to break things with Scott—Allison knew firsthand how obsessive the guy was—but she sidled up to Stiles and let him lean on her anyway.
“Hey, you still down to practice lacrosse with me?” she heard Scott ask in his best happy puppy tone.
Stiles scrubbed at his brow in a frustrated manner. “No, buddy, I can’t.”
“But you promised!” Scott objected. “You said we’d practice every day and we haven’t done one!”
“Yeah, I know I did but I didn’t know my family would be in town…maybe tomorrow?” Stiles closed his eyes and put a hand over his face.
“Why not today? It’s early, Mom hasn’t even gone to the hospital yet.”
“Well, I’m helping my uncle—”
“With some weirdo in long term care, I heard her say,” Scott cut him off.
“Yeah, I but…” Stiles’ face was a study of pain. “I have to do this. I never get to see my Uncle.”
“Stiles,” Scott whined like a child.
“I’ll see you on Christmas, right? You and Melissa are still invited to dinner.”
“We’re still celebrating Christmas with your uncle in town? I thought the rest of your family did Hanukah or whatever.”
“Of course we’re celebrating Christmas! We can celebrate both!”
“Fine,” Scott grumbled. “We can play lacrosse after?”
“Yeah, sure, buddy. I’ll see you then.” Stiles hung up before Scott could make more demands and just sort of deflated.
“Everything okay?” Eliot asked.
“He wants me to help him practice for lacrosse. Like I promised I would,” Stiles shook his head. “Like practicing with anyone could get an extreme asthmatic on the team.”
“If it helps, you’re saving lives by pushing him away,” she offered.
“It helps. Not as much as I’d like it to but it helps.” Stiles shook himself and stood, “We have two hours until it’s time to meet Melissa and she gets us past all the hospital red tape.”
“Shopping, house tour, then hospital?” She asked.
“Shopping, house tour, then hospital,” he confirmed.
They made it to the hospital as Alec and Parker were about to enter. They were both wearing deep blue scrubs that would stand out in the sea of green that typically staffed Beacon Hills Memorial.
In addition to scrubs, Alec wore a white lab coat and a stethoscope. Allison assumed that made him the doctor for the day. And it made sense, really, he was the magic user in the pack. He’d have the best luck healing Peter and it made no sense for them to pretend otherwise.
The four of them rode the elevator up to the second floor of the long-term care ward. Eliot was waiting for them as their car arrived.
“This way,” Eliot lead them right to the room.
Allison didn’t know what she had expected but it wasn’t this. Peter had been such a villain in that other life, such a terror. Now he looked like a failed Two-Face cosplay with one side of his body significantly smaller—and significantly more damaged—than the other.
Eliot activated the alpha eyes and leaned down to whisper, “Peter.”
She wasn’t sure if she was imagining it but Allison thought she saw his eyebrow twitch.
“Peter, my name is Eliot. I’m alpha to the Spencer Pack of Las Vegas.” Peter definitely gave a breathless sort of snarl at that. “I know what happened to your pack.” The snarl became a whine. “It happened to my pack, too. We have the evidence now to make sure they pay for what they’ve done but we don’t want them to claim another victim.
“We’re here for you, Peter. We’re going to protect you. We’re going to help you heal, and if you decide to join my pack, you’re welcome.”
Peter’s eyes flashed beta gold, surprising the shit out of Allison. “Pack.”
“Yes, Peter, pack.”
Peter managed to turn his glowing golden eyes on Eliot even though they didn’t seem to focus much. “Mate?”
“We can’t, Peter.” The werewolf in the bed whined again and Eliot took his hand. “Your man has to choose us, too, wolf. That’s all. I’m not rejecting you.”
“Pack,” the wolf repeated on a sigh.
“Pack,” Eliot agreed and Allison felt a little tentative something join the pack bonds in her core.
“Alec,” he ordered.
“On it,” the guy took out a small knife and cut Peter’s thumb. He dragged a piece of paper across the blood. Different sections of paper turned different colors when the blood touched it. Some didn’t turn any colors at all and Alec’s face was severe the entire time he looked at it.
He shook his head and opened part of Peter’s IV she wasn’t sure was supposed to be opened and managed to get some fluid out. He handed the sample to Eliot, “What do you smell?”
“Morphine and Christmas. Mistletoe, mostly. Xanax, maybe some muscle relaxer?”
“That’s what I thought.” Alec pulled the needle tight out of the back of Peter’s hand. They all watched in horror as it welled closed with just a touch of black goop.
“Fuck,” Alec turned to his wife. “We need five bags of saline.”
Parker nodded and started going through the large bag she had with her. Alec pulled a vial of clear purple liquid out of his pocket and handed it to Eliot.
Eliot smelled it, “No wolfsbane, no mistletoe,” he sniffed again. “No mountain ash. What is it?”
Alec took the vial and introduced it to Peter’s body through his feeding tube. “Cleansing Draught—trust me, buddy,” he said to Peter directly, “you do not wanna taste this. It’ll force whatever chemicals they’ve been using to keep him weak out of his body. The saline will make him pee it rather than throwing it up or sweating it out. It will also help keep him hydrated.”
Parker hooked the first clear bag on the IV rack and connected it to the secondary needle in the bend of Peter’s arm. Alec reached up and cranked the drip as high as it would go.
“Leave it there for two bags, take it to half for two bags, and take it to the old slow rate after that,” he ordered. “By then the drugs should be on their way out of his system and we can give him stuff to boost his healing. Other than pack time, I mean.
“I’m going to go get at least one doctor and probably a couple nurses arrested,” Alec left the room, radiating authority Allison wasn’t sure he actually had.
“What are we doing for pack time?” Parker asked.
“Uh, Peter’s a huge Harry Potter nerd,” Stiles said, holding up a tablet. “He should have gotten to read Order of the Phoenix before everything, you know, happened? But I figured we could start at Goblet of Fire, just in case?”
“It’s the best one anyway,” Allison agreed.
“Yeah, alright,” Eliot agreed. “But I get to read Harry’s parts.”
“Shotgun Hermione!” she cried, making him laugh harder.
“Alright but I get McGonagall. And Snape. And I’ll narrate.”
Alpha Eliot rolled his eyes but he was grinning. “We get it, Stiles, shut up and read already.”
Stiles cackled again.
The pack tethers around her heart felt like family. Like home.
They were taking a break, collectively mourning Winky’s freedom, when Eliot got the signal from Alec and turned to Allison and Stiles, “Alec’s got the ball rolling on the investigation here at the hospital but we all know it’ll be a month or two before they take anything to the police. I want the official investigation into the Fire re-opened before that. You have two days to get the other journals copied, then we talk to John.”
“The first thing Dad will do is seize the rest of the set,” Stiles bit his lip, considering.
“Do you have to read them all to copy them?” Allison asked, looking at Stiles. “Because that has to be a pretty big consideration in our timeline.”
Stiles thought about that, “Let’s talk to Baba.”
“Let’s take her lunch!” Allison grinned.
“You just want to hit the sandwich shop on Fifth,” Stiles accused playfully. Not that Eliot blamed him, he was absolutely not fooled by her either.
Thankfully, she just grinned wider. “Well, yeah.”
It took them four days to get the copies made. Mostly because there was a mix up and the moving company the Argents were using didn’t manage to deliver their stuff on time. It was annoying but it allowed the pack’s theft and return of Kate Argent’s book crates to fly completely below the radar as Allison’s parents took their turns losing their shit at the moving company.
“Today,” Eliot reminded them while he helped Stiles get Christmas dinner ready. Scott and Melissa were coming over for the annual Stilinski-McCall dinner and no one was looking forward to it.
“We need John distracted or he’ll stick his nose into Stiles and Scott’s problems. We can’t allow that.”
Allison deflated with a pout. “Just because you don’t celebrate Christmas doesn’t mean I don’t.”
Stiles snorted. “Pretty sure the atheism means you don’t celebrate it.”
Alpha Eliot raised an eyebrow at her and she just shrugged. “It was worth a shot.”
“You don’t want to do this?” he inquired in a soft tone. And she didn’t blame him. If she didn’t want to go through with their plans for Kate, that could be a pretty significant problem. It was half the reason he let her in the pack in the first place. As a compensation for the damage they were going to do to her biological family.
Allison glared at him. “I don’t want to do it alone. I haven’t done any of this alone, I shouldn’t have to do this alone. Are we a pack, or aren’t we?”
Eliot and Stiles exchanged a look.
“She raises a good point,” Stiles offered.
“And she can’t really explain to Dad all the research I did.”
Eliot gave him a doubtful look but waved him off, “Alright, go. Take lunch to Parker and Sophie when you’re done. Maybe something soft for Peter while you’re at it.”
“Will do.” Stiles thundered up the stairs to get his work folders.
Within five minutes, they were climbing into Roscoe.
Fifteen minutes later, they were at the station.
“You ready?” He asked her when she didn’t immediately open her door.
“No,” she laughed, “but this is probably something I’m supposed to be nervous about.”
Stiles closed his door and turned to her, “Nervous?”
“She’s still my aunt, Stiles,” she scrubbed a hand over her face. “She’s been a huge part of my entire life and I am the one about to sign her death warrant.”
Stiles didn’t have anything to say to that. There was, in fact, nothing to say. He just took her hand and held it.
“Do you remember the first time my family’s murder habits came out? The looks, the whispers. And we were established in Beacon Hills at that point. We had friends and the business was booming. We were anchored here. We’re not now. What if my parents decide to leave?” What if they take me away? She didn’t say.
Stiles squeezed her hand. “Pretty sure that would be obstruction of justice,” he said flippantly and she snorted. “Seriously, this investigation is going to take a long time. It’s not like TV. Real life is not a case a week, DNA tests in an hour. Real police work takes time and with all the states involved they’re going to have to call in the FBI, which will take even more time. We might be lucky and it might be done before we’re ready for college, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it wasn’t.”
“And it’s not like Kate or Laura will cooperate and speed things along,” she agreed reluctantly.
“At this point, I’m just hoping there’s no shootout.”
Allison groaned. “And now there’s going to be a shootout. Fuck.”
Stiles rolled his eyes. “Come on. If Dad’s chicken salad is too soggy, he’ll hit the vending machine the second we’re gone.”
A woman she’d never seen alive was standing at the front desk. According to her name tag, her name was Graeme and she was much prettier with her bowels on the inside of her body.
“Hey, Tara,” Stiles greeted breezily and Allison had to fight the urge to apologize for making Stiles come with her. God, was this the first time he’d been back to the station since they came back in time? She felt like an ass for asking him to do this.
Tara raised an eyebrow at the two of them. “Lunch delivery?”
“Chicken salad,” Stiles confirmed. “On a croissant, even.”
Tara laughed. “I hope you brought chips or you’re going to have a rebellion on your hands.”
Stiles grinned right back at the deputy. “We’ll just see about that!”
“Go on back,” Tara rolled her eyes. “I’m not wishing you luck. I’d like to get back in the field before next year.”
Allison just shook her head, like Sheriff Stilinski would punish someone for supporting his son. Even if it was supporting Stiles specifically against him.
They entered the Sheriff’s Office and closed the door. Allison set her backpack on the floor between the two guest chairs as Stiles laid out his dad’s lunch like a magician starting a trick.
Stiles’ dad tucked into his sandwich easily enough but paused in his chewing when Stiles sat down beside her.
“Well, this is ominous,” he said after a forced chew.
“Is it?” Stiles asked lightly.
Sheriff John gave his son the look that deserved. “Am I going to want to arrest either of you at the end of this conversation?”
Stiles and Allison exchanged a look. “No,” they answered together.
“…I was under the impression your relationship… wasn’t established yet?” he offered delicately and Allison was confused.
Stiles, thankfully, was not. “We are not having sex.” He sighed and rolled his eyes so hard his entire upper body went with it. Allison giggled at his exasperated tone. “We are both still virgins and will be for a while.”
“We’re barely holding hands,” she agreed, “and it hasn’t been romantic hand holding either.”
“Alright,” the sheriff said peaceably enough. “I’ll sit here and I’ll eat this whole sandwich but one of you better start talking ‘cause something’s going on.”
“I don’t know where to start,” she admitted.
“Beginning’s usually best.” Stiles’s dad pointedly took a huge bite of sandwich.
“Okay,” she braced herself. “As long as I can remember, my aunt Kate has had a room in our house. Her official residence is wherever we’re living and we move her stuff right along with our own. Mostly her books and some clothes but she’s on our phone plan, my parents pay her credit card. She’s…basically my big sister.”
“Alright,” the sheriff agreed.
“Well, when my mom told me we were moving to Beacon Hills, I remembered that Kate had a book labeled ‘Beacon Hills — 2004’ on her shelf.”
Sheriff John gave her a sharp look at the year but continued eating.
Allison pulled the original stack of altered journals and set them on the desk. With the way they were stacked, he could only read the Beacon Hills book’s title.
“I…didn’t find the kind of insight into the town I was looking for. I couldn’t believe what I was reading, actually, so I read the first book on the shelf. It’s horrific. I— I think my aunt is a serial killer.”
John took a deep breath. Then he took another bite of his sandwich and chewed it slowly, he had a feeling he wouldn’t get back to it after he asked, “And where do you come into this, Stiles?”
“We met at the library, like we told you,” Stiles started. “What we didn’t tell you was that Allison was trying to get info to either confirm what her aunt had done or confirm she was a complete wackass and none of it actually happened.” Allison gave a snort at that but she also looked like she wanted to cry. Which made sense, if they were right about what they had found, her Aunt was a wackass. “It took me a bit to get what she was really researching from her but then I started to help and…we realized we had to bring it to you.”
“You’ll probably have to call the FBI, actually,” Allison added. “There were…several states involved. Human experimentation. Crimes against children.”
“Crimes against children?” he asked, sharply.
“She seduced Derek Hale to get close to the Hales and burn their house. He would have been fifteen at the time,” Allison looked him in the eye. He could tell it was hard for her and that she didn’t want to do it but she did. “That was not the only time she did it. And he wasn’t the youngest, either.”
“You realize I’ll have to question your parents?” He asked gently. “Even if I don’t tell them where I got this evidence, they’re gonna realize pretty quickly that it had to come from you.”
“I can’t let my aunt keep murdering people,” she said with tears visible in her eyes. “Women, children, some not even born. I can’t!”
His son pulled her face to his shoulder and let her sob, let her get it all out. They were both silent as she cried out all of the many horrible things that had happened because of her aunt, all of the terrible things that would happen to her family as it all came out. Then, together, he and his son maneuvered her onto to couch in his office.
“This is why you’re avoiding Scott?” He asked Stiles softly as his girlfriend dozed vaguely against his chest.
“You think I haven’t noticed Scott not being in the house constantly?” He raised a single eyebrow at his kid. “Not eating me out of house and home? The lack of gaming marathons? No sneaking out to practice lacrosse at inappropriate hours?”
“Stiles, give me some credit, I am a cop. And a fairly good one.”
“I just—this is so serious, you know? So big. And I’ve never known anyone that…” Stiles’ gaze went unfocused. “Cora was in my grade. In my class. We weren’t exactly friends but she never laughed at me when I did something stupid, she just kept me from catching myself on my face. She didn’t deserve this. Her family didn’t deserve this.”
“Allison’s family doesn’t deserve it either,” John offered softly.
“Yeah!” Stiles agreed, “And you know Scott, he…he hates my crime walls. Hates the mysteries. Him whining about all of this seemed, just, beyond the pale, you know? But Allison jumped right in with both feet, got right to investigating it even though she wasn’t sure how. It kinda made me realize how little Scott and I have in common.
“And Scott jumps to conclusions,” Stiles finished softly. “If he knew about this—”
“Un,” Sheriff John winced. Scott would judge the hell out of that poor girl who was already suffering. And she was going to suffer so much more before everything was through. “He gets that from his mother, unfortunately. Mel’s great but once she makes up her mind…” Well, there was a reason they’d never dated, no matter how many hints Melissa had tried to drop over the years.
“Yeah. I’m sure it makes her a great nurse, but—”
“Yeah, but.” He had to sigh. “I can’t promise to keep this quiet. I’ll try but she’s right, with crimes in multiple states I’ll have to bring in the FBI. It’s their jurisdiction and I have no control over what they tell the press.”
“I know and I made sure she knows that but she doesn’t deserve to be punished for the existence of her psycho aunt.”
“We’ll watch out for her,” He decided. He’d seen a lot of broken hearts in his time—less, thankfully, since moving back to Beacon Hills—but that was what Allison was. She hated what she was doing. She hated going to the police, possibly breaking her family apart, but she hated what her aunt had allegedly done more. His heart went out to her and if he or his family could help, he was glad they were there to do it. “Eliot’s practically adopted her anyway. If you two break up, I wouldn’t be surprised if she kept him in the divorce.”
“You guys are way more invested in our relationship than we are.” Stiles snorted. “Can you stop? Like, just let us be us?”
“Alright, alright,” he shifted around a bit, promising himself he wouldn’t push. “Now tell me what research you did so I can look it over rather than redoing it.”
“I started with the Fire Inspector…”
John watched his son wake his new female best friend and kept his peace. He knew that look on Stiles’ face though. It was the same way he had looked at Claudia before he’d accepted for himself that she was The One.
He suspected that particular light in Allison’s eyes when she looked at his son was something basically the same.
But he kept quiet.
No teasing, no jokes, as promised. He just gave them both a nod and a wave when shuffled out of his office talking about getting her home in time for Eskrima lessons with her parents. John just scrubbed a hand over his face wondering about the kind of family that felt physical violence was a suitable bonding activity.
Maybe that explained something about Kate Argent. But then again, maybe not.
As much as he’d rather not, he pulled the Beacon Hills book close enough to read. After all the research his son went over with him, he had a good idea what he was going to find.
It was hard to process, though.
The Hales had been a cornerstone of the community in Beacon Hills before it had even had a name. They’d established the Preserve, run a number of green energy and conservation projects all around NorCal. They’d run the fundraisers that had built new town hall and established the public transportation system. Until the Fire, they’d hosted the yearly benefits for the county library system.
Even Alan Deaton’s little humane society situation had been funded by the Hales. Hell, for all he knew it still was.
Talia Hale had been sheriff before him. He’d been her deputy and had run for sheriff when she’d decided to go for Mayor—she’d gotten it, of course.
Her mother had been principal at the elementary and eventually the high school. One brother had been a deputy with him. Another had been in the service and hadn’t been home in years, John honestly wasn’t sure if he was dead or alive at this point. Talia’s sister had run Beacon Hills Memorial Hospital. Her oldest daughter had been in Medical School, no doubt going to follow her aunt’s footsteps. Peter, Talia’s youngest brother, had been in law school before the Fire and his coma. John would have given good odds on him being DA within the next ten years.
The other kids had been too young to guess at what they were going to become but the chances of them not going into public service of some kind were infinitesimally small.
That the Hale House Fire that had killed at least a dozen Hales had not been an accident… He didn’t know what to do with that. The fact that one of the Hale’s own was involved maybe explained it but, in a way, it really didn’t.
He opened the journal to get acquainted with the torrid affair of Laura Hale and Kate Argent. An affair that had killed so many that he was sworn to serve and protect because—according to Kate, according to Laura—Laura’s mother had been controlling, domineering, and stubborn.
Days like this made him glad Stiles was as wayward as he was. At the very least, he knew Stiles would never murder a dozen people to escape him.
If he ever did something his son couldn’t stand, Stiles would tell him. Loudly, possibly in public, with a PowerPoint presentation and live testimonials. And if after that he failed to fix the problem, Stiles would leave. It was a strange thing to find comfort it but somehow, he did.
John picked up his desk phone and dialed a number by memory. Thankfully the man he needed hadn’t changed his number and he answered the phone within two rings.
“Hey, Don? John Stilinski, sorry to call you on Christmas but I need a favor. I’ll warn you, it’s a pretty big one.”
An hour of fight training with her parents standing shoulder to shoulder with her and a shower later, Allison was feeling so much better. She had done what she had set out to do when she woke up in this time. Now Kate’s fate was in the hands of adults and professionals.
Oh, she didn’t doubt she’d have to deal with the fall out. She didn’t know Laura well enough to say one way or another, but Kate had proven that she wasn’t the kind to come quietly. Gerard, too.
And her parents were likely going to be pissed. Not for doing the right thing, she didn’t think, but for not coming to them first so they could deal with it. Honestly, she was over the whole vigilante thing. She got it, somewhat. There were things the law could not handle like rogue omegas and alphas on revenge sprees. But what they could handle, they should—and completely human bigoted psychos? Those were utterly within their wheelhouse.
“Hey, sorry I’m late,” John said as he walked in his own front door.
Allison popped up immediately and took his duty hat, only incidentally putting the Stiles’ dad between her and Scott. “Not late yet,” she assured him, “dinner’s still a half hour out.”
The man relaxed. “Great, I’ll change and be back down.”
Scott took Sheriff John’s coat, earning him a weird look, but the the older man didn’t say anything as he made his way upstairs. Jesus, how had she forgotten how pushy and flat out dense Scott was? If this kept up, she was going to have to be rude.
She hung up the sheriff’s hat and excused herself to the bathroom. Maybe if she hid in there long enough, maybe he wouldn’t be hovering outside the door when she left it.
She made it thirteen minutes before there was a knock on the door.
She wasted another two minutes washing her hands before she gave in and opened the damn thing.
Stiles, surprisingly, was on the other side, looking at her in concern. “Everything alright?”
“Yeah,” she sighed. “I know he’s your best friend but if Scott doesn’t give me room to breathe, I’m going to be rude. Possibly with my knee.”
He snorted. “He can be a little dense sometimes. Just tell him to flat out to leave you alone and he should.”
It was her turn to snort, like she believed that. She’d tried that with Scott McCall before, in another life. It hadn’t done anything but made him try harder then. She honestly didn’t expect it to work any better this time around despite the lack of history between them.
“Okay, fair, but he doesn’t have a grandma around to set him straight on boundaries.”
She waited as Stiles ducked past her to wash his hands and closed the door between them and the rest of the house. “Boundaries?”
“Yeah, boundaries. What’s acceptable treatment and what’s not, to both give and receive.” Stiles shrugged. “She really didn’t approve of me taking the blame for everything. I mean, I was just sixteen, turned seventeen in the middle of everything. Things were wildly out of control and we were all in situations we had no training for.
“I killed a man,” Stiles looked at himself in the mirror and she got the feeling he didn’t like what he saw. That was okay, though, most of the time she didn’t either. “I killed him violently and with forethought. I burned a burn victim and I regret that.
“I don’t,” she admitted and Stiles stared at her in surprise. “Oh, it was all terrifying but I don’t regret that part.”
“What do you regret?” he asked.
“Stabbing Isaac?” she shrugged. “He didn’t deserve that and he’d been so many peoples’ victim already.
“Capturing Boyd and Erica for Gerard? Oh, and…”
“And?” he prompted.
“Not stabbing Gerard in the eye when I had the chance.”
Stiles snorted. “Why didn’t you?”
“Scott,” she scowled. “He’d have known and I couldn’t take The Face.”
“…You ever notice how creepy old men just sort of gravitate to Scott?” Stiles asked slowly. “First Deaton, then Gerard, and even Deucalion. What do you think that says about him?”
“Nothing good,” she decided.
Stiles nodded his agreement and they went back downstairs together.
“So, is there a particular night of Hanukkah that’s more important than the others?” She asked as they joined the others.
“Not really,” Stiles shrugged. “Hanukkah’s not all that big of a holiday?”
“What?” She frowned at him as he pushed in her chair for her. “But I read all about it. Online they made it sound huge with the Maccabees and the revolt and stuff?”
“I mean, it’s a great story? And we are proud of it but it’s essentially an excuse to get the family together, spoil each other, remember miracles exist. It’s just that, because its nominally in December, people try to make it compete with Christmas? But it’s not really that big of a deal.”
“Seriously?” she looked at Babushka Lis for confirmation.
Stiles’ grandma just smiled. “For Hanukkah, every evening everybody gets together. We light the candles, say the blessings over the candles, sings the songs, and go about our business. Now, Purim. That’s a big holiday.”
“The story of Esther,” Lis smiled.
“It took place in Persian Empire,” Stiles explained. “Queen Esther saved the Jewish people from execution by exposing Haman. Haman was royal vizier to King Ahsuerus—who is presumed to have been Xerxes I—and he planned to kill all of the Jews in the Empire.
“See, King Ahsuerus ordered his wife to display her beauty at a party but she refused which, obviously, displeased him. He had her executed and threw what amounted to a beauty competition to find his new queen. Esther won and was made queen.”
“Now, Mordecai was Esther’s uncle who raised her,” Babushka Lis picked up the tale as Stiles scampered into the kitchen to help bring dishes full of food to the table. “He refused to bow to Haman and it infuriated him so he plotted not just to kill Mordecai but all of the Jews in the empire. He received Ahsuerus’s permission and backing to do this and cast lots—or purim, in ancient Persian—to figure out what day. He decided on the thirteenth of the month of Adar.”
Stiles tagged in. “Now, at first, Esther was rightfully afraid. She wasn’t any safer in the palace as a Jew than any of the others but if she approached the king, he could have her executed per the law, just for wasting his time. But Mordecai talked her around and she fasted for three days and three nights.”
“Then she approached the king regardless of the law against it and invited him and Haman to a banquet.” Lis took her turn back. “At that banquet, she invited the two men to another feast the next night. At that feast, her husband was so pleased with her that when she revealed that she was a Jew and Haman’s declaration would kill her, too, the King was so enraged he had Haman hung on the gallows Haman had specifically raised to kill Mordecai and promoted Mordecai to Haman’s old position.”
“Now, the decree couldn’t be undone,” Stiles finished. “So, the King gave Mordecai and Esther permission to make another decree. They decreed that the Jewish people could kill anyone that posed them a lethal risk. Thousands of people throughout the empire were killed on the thirteenth of Adar, including all ten of Haman’s sons.”
“This is still celebrated today?” Allison asked.
“Um-hmm,” Stiles agreed.
Babushka Lis shrugged. “Charity, giving of food, reading the story—which can get pretty lively in the right crowd with boos and hisses whenever Haman’s name comes up.”
“People dress up,” Stiles grinned as he finally dropped into his seat. “It’s like Halloween but two days, not one.”
“When is Purim this year?” Because she had no idea when the month of Adar was supposed to be.
“This year it’s March nineteenth and twentieth,” Lis answered promptly. “A Saturday and Sunday.”
“We should totally dress up,” Allison decided.
Stiles snapped and pointed at her. “Only if I get to be Esther.”
“I’ll be the best King Xerxes you’ve ever seen!”
“I see a great deal of trying on beards in your future,” Stiles foretold.
Allison grinned at him. “Ooh! Like a fashion show! Or, maybe, a beauty pageant?”
“Fitting,” he agreed. “Very fitting.”
For the record, Eliot hated Scott McCall.
He had hated the kid since the very moment Stiles had said, “And then I got my best friend Bitten,” and promptly taken the blame for every terrible thing that happened in that nightmare of a future.
Never mind that Stiles had been a child and no more to blame for what happened than Scott himself who had made his own decision to enter to woods that night. Never mind that that Stiles had had no control over Peter Hale or his actions. Never mind that that Peter Hale hadn’t even had control of his actions as he’d been driven insane by the torture that was a body that couldn’t heal but wouldn’t die. Six years of torture, wrapped in burning skin.
Stiles inappropriately taking blame for that wasn’t this Scott McCall’s fault, he knew that. But he could see the roots of that other Scott McCall’s actions in the way this one already treated Stiles and he hated it. He hated with more fury than he’d though he was capable of.
That was why he was in the kitchen hiding from pretty much everyone they had over for Christmas/Night Five dinner. He had to get ahold of the warring impulses that were shaking his control.
He ducked back into the doorway and made eye contact with Alec. His Emissary immediately stood and excused himself.
Alec entered the kitchen with a side of Babushka Lis and, well, Eliot wasn’t mad about that. He also wasn’t mad about the privacy barrier she threw up over the kitchen’s doorway. The acoustics in the room could carry for miles.
“I hate that kid,” he admitted softly.
“Most of us do,” Babushka Lis agreed and Alec snorted his agreement.
“Pretty sure most of you would kill me if I invited him into the Pack.”
“Ya think?” Alec gave him the incredulous eyes.
“I don’t want him as a beta in any way shape or form,” he assured them. “My wolf would rather rip him in half…so why am I struggling with the overwhelming urge to Bite him?”
Both magical humans started at him. Then they looked at each other and went to the door of the kitchen.
Alec came back quickly, shaking his head. “I got nothing. I think there’s magic there but mages are about elements, big things. Small, human-centered stuff is not my forte.”
Babushka Lis looked grim when she came back. “It’s druid magic, a compulsion, but I can’t break it down.” She shook her head. “I probably could, break it down or pull it off but it would be obvious and that’s rather counterproductive to keeping him ignorant of all that is not vanilla human as our Stiles would say.”
“Druid magic,” Eliot sighed and scrubbed a hand over his face. “Like that completely useless druid vet Stiles talked about from the future?”
“Like that druid vet that Scott has been talking up since he got here to anyone that would sit still long enough?” Alec countered.
“The Hale Emissary was a druid,” Babushka Lis added softly.
“Chance of there being multiple druids in Beacon Hills?” Eliot asked.
“Absolutely none,” Lis shook her head, “unless they were part of the same coven or family group.”
“Which would make them all at least complicit in each other’s magical crimes,” Eliot guessed and Lis inclined her head.
“I was thinking earlier, when I was helping Stiles look into the Fire, that the Hale Emissary had to be criminally negligent for not giving the Hale House proper wards,” Alec added.
“He didn’t help Peter, either,” Eliot agreed. “Even monthly visits from his Pack’s Emissary would have reinforced Peter’s pack bonds and allowed him to heal in a year, maybe two. Quicker than that, based off his recovery rate with Parker watching over him and the rest of us just popping into his room at random intervals.”
“Much faster than six freaking years.” Alec learned against the counter. “So, the Hale Emissary failed his due diligence, let his pack be murdered and tortured, and set up a kid to become a werewolf whether he wanted to or not. What does that tell you?”
“He wanted to replace the Hale Pack,” Eliot frowned. He didn’t like it but it fit. “Preferably with someone he could control. Like a kid that trusted and loved him.”
“A child that he could manipulate,” Lis glared. “Do you think he’s the source of future-Scott blaming Stiles for the Bite?”
Eliot shook his head. “I don’t know that I’d go that far. He might have encouraged it but this Scott is pretty obviously the type to blame Stiles for everything that goes wrong for him. He already is.”
Babushka Lis nodded. “We need proof. I can call the archdruid and he’ll come because he owes me a favor, but we need something to prove that his druid is a piece of shit.”
“Alec, find out if Alan Deaton had any legal obligations to the Hales, any paperwork connecting them.
“We can’t document and prove magic but legal paperwork can prove he’s at least some of what we think,” he explained to Babushka. “Like if he was left in charge of Peter and deliberately did nothing.”
“You can’t document magic,” she raised an eyebrow. “I think I’m due a trip out to the Hale House tomorrow. Perhaps the Hale’s graves as well now that I’m looking specifically for druidic foolishness but, in the meantime, what are we doing about Mr. McCall?”
“Could you make him avoid Eliot?” Alec asked.
“I could but the emotional repercussions of such a spell could cause the kind of social issues that would be a disaster in a small town.”
And Scott McCall was the kind to leap on the worst possible explanation even for his own behavior and act like it was truth even if he knew it was wrong. For the attention, if nothing else.
“What about making him just avoid alphas in general?” Alec tried. “Then, it wouldn’t matter if he carried around the compulsion for an alpha to bite him because he would instinctively avoid alphas. It wouldn’t be anything specific to Eliot.”
“Hmm,” Babushka Lis rubbed her chin contemplatively. “If I made it alpha-potentials, he would avoid both Eliot, Stiles as Eliot’s only blood heir, and other shifters with no predictable pattern to those not in the know about the supernatural. Possibly even Allison Argent, though I couldn’t be sure strictly human power structures would register.”
“Laura and Derek Hale,” Eliot added to the list.
“And all of the kitsune we have coming to train Stiles. Possibly even Deaton himself, if he ever starts or is contemplating a coven,” She finished. “Yes, I think that is our best option.”
“What do you need?” Eliot asked, relieved to have something of a solution.
“I need…” she thought about it. “I need you to make hot chocolate. For everyone.”
Eliot snorted and turned to the cabinets. That, he could do, and he honestly didn’t even care why. As he worked, she picked up one of the mugs, licked the tip of her finger and started to draw little glowing runes, first along the handle then under the base of the cup.
After he filled the cup from the pot he used to make the hot chocolate, she picked up that specific cup and another. Alec loaded himself up with cups and Eliot followed suit without asking a single question. They walked out together and he had to make a mental note of how smoothly Babushka Lis handed Scott McCall the ensorcelled cup. It was impressive, her face gave nothing away.
This was not a woman to play cards with.
“Man, Allison’s amazing!” Scott gushed and Allison tensed. Stiles had dragged Scott into the kitchen rather than his room to do their Christmas exchange in private. It was probably in deference to Scott’s sensitivity and the wall of Kate’s crimes that was still exploded all over Stiles’ room but the sound carried really well from the kitchen.
“Yeah she is,” Stiles agreed. “So, uh, I got you a l got you a bunch of Xbox points. I figured…”
“Dude, do you think she’d date me?”
“Dude! She’s so hot. And funny. And she puts up with you! She’d totally date me, wouldn’t she?” Scott had that stupid dreamy tone in his voice. Ugh, she couldn’t believe she’d ever found it charming.
“Puts up with me?” Stiles asked softly.
“You know how you are, dude, don’t even.” Stiles had no response to that. “Do you think you can put in a good word for me?”
“No, Scott, I won’t put in a good word for you.”
“Dude, whatever, I’ll just give her my number.” She could totally picture Scott’s eye roll with that tone. God, he was such a little asshole!
“Dude, Scott, Scotty, my man. She’s not going to date you.”
“Because she’s dating me, you jerk! She’s not the cheating type.”
“What? Why is she dating you? You don’t deserve her.”
“I don’t deserve her? Scott, she’s a person not a fucking trophy!” God, she wanted her taser.
“You know what I mean!” Scott whined.
“No, I don’t. What do you mean?”
“I mean you’re supposed to date Erica! She’s had a crush on you forever, we have it all planned! Me with Allison makes it all perfect.”
“There is so much wrong in that sentence, I don’t even know where to start.” Both boys were silent for a few minutes. She could just imagine Scott’s hurt/confused face. “What does a girl that’s never talked to me have to do with me dating Allison?”
“When you stop being distracted by Lydia, you’re going to fall in love with Erica. Everybody knows that. You can’t hurt Allison like that, bro. That’s not fair. Just let me have her.”
Allison put her face in her hands. What. The fuck. No. What the actual fuck.
“I think you should leave,” Stiles said almost gently. “And don’t call until you realize how fucked up you’re being.”
“Whatever, man, mom’s waiting in the car anyway. See you later.”
Scott hustled through the living room and didn’t even wave. Stiles followed behind and the moment he was in range, Allison pulled him into a hug. Their first kiss was not going to be a territorial display so she encouraged him to hide in her neck and glared a Scott full force when he turned around to talk to her.
Scott, somehow, still looked confused. He huffed and walked out without saying a word.
“Well,” Sheriff Stilinski looked unsettled.
Allison burst out laughing. It was so…awkward and terrible and yet not actually a surprise.
“I’m sorry,” Stiles mumbled as he pulled back.
“Hey,” she used his hand to pull him close to her again. “That wasn’t your fault, you know that, right? That was all him.”
“I can still be sorry that I introduced you,” he countered. “Sorry that I didn’t know he was like that.”
“Well, I’m not exactly thrilled to be talked about like some sort of…door raffle you can just hand out however you please, but you didn’t do that.” He tipped his head in reluctant agreement. “And you can expect me to be so rude to him like—Oh. My. God.”
“Sounds legit,” he agreed. “If you need help going up with ideas…”
“I don’t want to hear about them!” John cut his son off. “The last thing I need is Melissa accusing me of helping her son get picked on.”
“We’ll plot privately,” she promised.
“That’s all I can ask,” he agreed. “I do, unfortunately, have news; both good and bad.”
“What’s up, John?”
“As I’m pretty sure you all know, there has been a break in the Hale Fire Case.” Nobody admitted anything but Sheriff John didn’t really wait for them to admit anything, either. “Bad news: I had to call in the FBI. Good News: They’ll be here tomorrow.”
“But!” Stiles objected.
His father continued right over him, “Bad News: I’ll be going in to work tomorrow. Good News: Rafe McCall is not the Agent the FBI is sending.”
“Who is?” Allison asked.
“Stiles, you may or may not remember Don Eppes?”
“Eppes?” Stiles frowned. “From the temple mom liked in LA? The dad was Alan, a city planner?”
“Right,” John agreed. “Alan’s oldest son is Don. He’s Special Agent in Charge of LA’s Major Crime Unit. I called in a favor and asked them to come. Don agreed and we might get his brother and dad in the bargain.”
“It’ll be nice to see them,” Stiles shrugged.
“I’m going to go in for the mid-shift briefing.” The sheriff stood. “Explain things to my crew. I’ll be back in about two hours.”
As soon as the cruiser had pulled out of the drive, Allison rounded on Babushka Lis, “Okay, missy, why are you so pleased?”
“Me?” She placed her hand on her chest in an over-acted show of innocence. Then she turned to Eliot, “I’m going to need to get out to the Hale House tonight.”
“Before the FBI show up,” he realized.
“That and druidic magic is often empowered by moonlight, if there is any there to be found it will be more obvious at night regardless of the phase of the moon.”
“Alright,” he nodded.
“No, really,” Stiles squinted at his grandma. “What have you been up to?”
“Hmm?” She made the inquiring noise around the rim of her cocoa cup.
“You just decided to investigate the Hale House tonight, literally right now, but you’ve been leaving the house every day and coming back worn out. What have you been doing?”
“I have been throwing runes up around the hospital so no one will think too much of Peter Hale’s sudden, speedy recovery but mostly I’ve been gossiping, darling.” She smiled at their incredulous looks. “Honestly, it’s a wonder. Both weapon and defense, particularly in a small town like this Beacon Hills.”
“I’ve been investigating the McCalls and everyone around them. I’ve also been planting the seeds that maybe they aren’t quite as upstanding as they seem.” Babushka Lis shrugged. “You see, since the Hale Fire there has been a social vacuum in this town and no straight forward pillars of the community for everyone to focus their energy on. Several have tried. The Whittemores, for example, but they aren’t terribly relatable. The rich, powerful attorney, his ice queen wife, and their perfect golden son. The poor nurse and her sick son, however? That, the town rumor mongers were all over. Especially after she kicked her husband out for hitting their son—oh yes, the gossips know practically everything, my darlings, you just have to get them to be willing to share it.”
She considered something for a moment then added. “They might not know what they know in the case of supernatural events like with the Hales but they do know it.”
“I feel like I should take lessons in this,” Allison admitted.
Babushka Lis hummed her agreement. “It’s a good tool for a matriarch to have. You don’t have magic to make sure you know the truth when you hear it—” she stopped sharply and stared at Allison. “Or maybe you do. Whichever, we’ll work on it.”
“You’ve been going out every day to gossip?” Eliot asked incredulously as he sat down.
“Of course,” Babushka Lis raised an eyebrow at him. “You might not consider Scott McCall our enemy but that doesn’t mean he isn’t. He’s as responsible for that terrible future as any number of people and I’ll have him and that horrible woman that birthed him run out of town before the end of the school year. Possibly by Spring Break.”
“And that nonsense in the kitchen just gave you concrete ammunition,” Allison realized in wonder.
Babushka Lis smiled at her warmly. “I won’t even have to exaggerate—and you all witnessed it. It’s wonderful. He’s going to be a pariah by the end of the week.”
“That’s so evil,” Allison grinned. “Teach me, wise master!”
Lis laughed out loud. “Come along, young padawan. You can walk with me in the woods.”
“If you could all gather round?” John sighed as he stood in front of the night crew.
Beacon Hills Sheriff’s Department was not the biggest force he’d served on and their holiday night crew wasn’t even a quarter of their headcount but right now he was glad of it. Glad he got to practice breaking the news before he had to deal with the majority of his minions tomorrow because nothing like this had ever happened here before and he’d like a preview of how his people would take it. The guys he had on right now would work like a pretty good sample, he figured.
Parrish was the new kid, knew basically nobody; Jamison was an old timer, who had been an old timer even before Talia Hale got elected; and Sanchez was the middle ground, in her early twenties but she grew up in Beacon Hills. She would have graduated somewhere in between Laura and Derek Hale, possibly knew them both.
“Earlier today we received information that not only was the Hale Fire of ‘04 not an accident but that it may be connected to a handful of similar crimes in at least two other states,” he told them and all three stood up a little straighter. “The FBI has been notified and will be here in the morning. I want APBs out on Laura and Derek Hale. I know they left the state several years ago but if they come back for any reason, they need to be brought in for questioning.
“I’ll be going to the hospital with the team the FBI sends. Peter Hale likely isn’t in any fit state to answer questions but we have to be diligent if we are going to get to the bottom of this. Questions?”
Parrish raised his hand. “Are they suspects? The Hales?”
“Right now, I would classify them as witnesses. Anything more than that is at the discretion of the FBI.”
“Do you have a line of inquiry we should follow, should we manage to bring one or more of them in?” Sanchez asked.
“If you manage to bring one of more Hales in to the station, I expect to be called immediately. Questioning will be left up to me or the FBI. Any other concerns?” That got him headshakes. “Alright, I’ll be in my office sending out the APBs and then I’m going home, to bed. My duty pager, radio, and cell phone will all be on.”
“I want you at your Disney princess best,” Lis told her as they walked arm in arm up the street. “Bring our order to the table, help pick up abandoned trash, volunteer for knitting lessons.”
Allison thought about that. “You want them to see for themselves what a nice young lady I am as you tell them about how horrible Scott was to me last night.”
“Exactly,” Lis smiled. “Up for it?”
Allison thought about it. She really hated the way Scott had treated Stiles and Stiles was an inescapable part of her life now, or at least she wanted him to be. “Let’s run his mangy ass out of town.”
“That’s my girl!”
They stayed arm in arm throughout the ordering process. Allison held Lis’ chair for her and made sure she was comfortable. She fetched their order when it was ready and arranged things appropriately between them. She even asked Lis’ permission to ‘cruelly abandon’ her in favor of the crochet lessons that were on offer from the elderly woman in the corner.
Ms. Norma—the woman teaching her to crochet—was thrilled to have her undivided attention.
She fetched and carried for the older woman. She followed her every instruction, learned three different stitches, and let the older woman complain about her children that moved to the big city and the grandchildren she barely got to see once a year.
“You good to run the lead on this?” Colby Granger, the former Army spy currently on Don Eppes’ team, asked when he parked the cruiser. John and Don had picked him because he was young and cute. They figured he was the member of Don’s team least likely to set the Argents on their guard.
John frowned at him. “Why wouldn’t I be?”
“These are the parents of your son’s girlfriend, aren’t they? And we’re talking to them about serial killers in their family? That’s got to be awkward.”
“We’re trying for a friendly conversation,” John countered. “Doing them a favor, really. That’s not awkward.”
Colby looked doubtful but John ignored him and exited the vehicle. A reasonable amount of time after he rang the doorbell, the door opened under a short red-haired women’s hand. “Victoria Argent?” he double checked.
“That’s me,” she confirmed, glancing between the two of them. “I’m afraid Allison isn’t here right now, Sheriff.”
“No, last I heard she’s getting coffee with my mother in law,” he agreed. The woman stared at him like she was trying not to flinch. It happened surprisingly a lot where his mother in law was concerned and he didn’t get it. Honestly, she wasn’t that scary. “We actually need to speak with you and your husband.”
“Perhaps you should come in,” she stepped back and they followed her.
“Chris?” she called as she entered the living room. Her husband was seated on the couch reading but he looked up at his name. “We have visitors, Sheriff Stilinski and—I’m sorry, I didn’t catch your name,” she said to Colby.
“I’m Special Agent Colby Granger, ma’am,” he produced his badge for her.
She looked the badge over and nodded. It looked like she actually knew what to look for on a legitimate badge. He’d even be willing to believe she was memorizing what she had read in that handful of seconds. “How can we help you gentlemen today?”
“The FBI has received an anonymous tip connecting Gerard and Katherine Argent to a number of violent crimes against people and property in no less than three different states, including the Hale House Fire here in Beacon Hills,” Colby very gently took the lead, giving the story John and Don had agreed to. “We’ve come for two reasons. First, we’d like you to come down to the station to answer some questions. Second, we’d like you to voluntarily surrender anything you have that may belong to Kate or Gerard as evidence.”
The two Argents exchanged a long, speaking look.
“I should mention the federal prosecutor has been apprised of the case and we can call for a warrant at any time,” John offered. Personally, John would rather give over every single one of his sibling’s belongings before he allowed the disruption caused by the execution of a search warrant to happen anywhere near his kid.
“Well,” Mrs. Argent stood and clapped her hands. “I suppose it’s a good thing we haven’t unpacked Kate’s things yet.”
Mr. Argent stood as well and moved toward the staircase. “I’ll need some help getting it all downstairs. Kate mostly leaves crates worth of books with us. A box or two of clothes.”
“I’ll come,” Colby immediately volunteered, for which John’s back was grateful. He was all too willing to let the young do the heavy lifting.
That was what he kept his deputies around for anyway. “I’ll call for evidence pick up.”
Two deputies showed up with the big truck with a back compartment that held boxes with evidence bags and tape that they used to seal everything. When they turned the key, sealing everything in the compartment, John pocketed it and sent them on their way.
“Thank you for your cooperation,” he said to the adult Argents.
“Of course, Sheriff,” Victoria gave him a smile that was about as friendly as a knife to the jugular. “We’ll contact our lawyer and be down to the station later today.”
He didn’t think lawyers were necessary, not for what he had in mind, but it was their right so he just gave them a close-lipped smile. “See you then.”
John and Colby were about halfway back to the station when is radio squawked, “Sheriff, this is Deputy Graeme, come in. Over.”
“Sheriff here,” he confirmed.
“Sheriff, I am escorting Laura Hale to the station now. Hale’s vehicle is a black 2011 Chevy Camaro, California license plate H-A-L-E-Y-E-A.”
John’s companion may or may not have palmed his own face at that.
“ETA?” He asked.
“Twenty minutes, sir.”
“Alright, we’ll see you there.” He shut off the radio and turned to Granger. “Might ought to tell your boss.”
“Text already sent, sir.”
“You still think he’s coming?” Stiles asked as he bundled up the wrapper that used to hold his sandwich.
“He’ll come,” Eliot confirmed. The new werewolf in his territory had better fucking come. He wasn’t quite sure but he thought there might be a nascent connection between the two of them. He didn’t think the guy was Spencer Pack, he just didn’t smell that familiar, but he was in Eliot’s pack territory none the less. That meant Eliot had to deal with him either way.
A pair of men rounded the corner. One was short and pale with long, curly hair. The other was older by at least ten years and he looked familiar but Eliot couldn’t place him. He smelled right though. He was the wolf.
He flashed red eyes at the stranger. The man inclined his head, baring his neck just barely, and flashing electric blue eyes.
Eliot stood and offered his hand, “Eliot Spencer, my nephew Stiles Stilinski.”
“The sheriff’s son?” Short and curly asked.
“Yeah, yeah,” Stiles whole upper body bobbed as he nodded. He held out his hand, “You’re Dr. Charlie Eppes, right? I’ve read some of your papers.”
Eppes blinked. “You know my work?”
“I have a friend—” Stiles paused. “Well, I know a girl that would probably murder to meet you. Or at least commit a fairly serious assault.”
The new wolf snorted.
Eppes looked up at him. “This is my mate, Special Agent Ian Edgerton.”
“Army sniper,” Eliot realized. “Best sniper in the Army.” That was where he recognized the guy from and he kind of wanted to kick himself. He should have remembered that.
“Retrieval specialist for the FBI now,” Edgerton finally spoke.
“And you’re on the Argent Case?”
“Charlie consults for his brother’s team. We just finished our honeymoon.”
Eliot kept his eye roll strictly internal but took that little tidbit to mean they weren’t ready to be separated yet. Not that separating a wolf from their mate ever worked out for anyone.
Still. There was taciturn and then there was this.
“Retrieval specialist?” Stiles asked, tilting his head like a little fox. “What’s that include?”
“I bring in fugitives,” Edgerton answered. “Tracking, sniping, whatever it takes.”
“Are you a good sniper?”
“Number three in the States, best in the Army when I was there,” Eliot answered for the man.
Edgerton frowned. “Some young pup has it now. A Sergeant Alvarez. He might actually be better than me.”
“Is he a—” Stiles silently snarled and made a claw motion with his hand. “—too?”
“Not that I know of,” Edgerton snorted what might have actually been a laugh.
“Why’d you leave the Army?” Eliot asked.
“Wanted something different,” Edgerton shrugged. “Wanted to leave before they kicked me out. Or buried me.”
Eliot got that. Leaving on your own terms had always been his preference, after all. Nobody made his choices but him.
“Was that before or after the—” Stiles flailed a bit but there were no claws, pantomimed or otherwise, this time.
“Before. About three years ago, I was hunting a fugitive through Nevada.” Something in Eliot froze. Nevada. Three years ago. Did that mean…? “I got attacked by a rabid omega. He shattered my spine but I got enough lead in him to put him down. The alpha on his trail found us about the time I was realizing I would never walk again. He gave me the Bite as an apology, he said. For not taking care of the problem before it became mine.”
“Did you catch his name?” Eliot asked softly.
“Richard Spencer. I stayed with his pack a month for training before the FBI called me back.”
“He died not long after,” Eliot guessed.
“Yeah,” Edgerton studied him. “How did you know that?”
“Wait,” Stiles, surprisingly, flailed. “Wasn’t Richard Spencer—?”
“My grandfather,” Eliot finished. “Your great grandfather.”
“So, you are my alpha,” Edgerton raised a single eyebrow.
“Only if you want me to be. Contrary to popular belief, pack bonds cannot be forced. Magic can simulate them but,” he shook his head. “I’m the only alpha in California right now, if that matters.”
Edgerton snorted. “Considering I just moved to LA, it’s kind of important.”
“I’d take you, if you’re interested.”
“I think I’d take you too.” Edgerton stared at him, scented him obviously, and stared some more. “I need time. The case has to come first.”
“I understand.” And he could even appreciate it on some level but he was man enough to admit it hurt a little, not getting an out and out yes from a wolf his grandfather had bitten.
“What about Colby?” Eppes asked.
“A member of our team, most of them are in the know. Granger’s part of the mini-pack we’ve formed in LA. The Grangers are a vassal family, sort of, to a hunter family. He grew up in the know and his dad died hunting an omega when he was fifteen but he never bought into the hate rhetoric. Ended up leaving home early, never gone back.”
“Is he going to be a problem? I already got one set of Argents to deal with, even if their daughter is surprisingly reasonable.”
Edgerton made an amused sound, “The daughter is the source?”
“Anonymously,” he confirmed.
“Roger that. Colby won’t be a problem. He’ll follow our lead and if we leave it with you, he will to.”
“Alright—” Twin buzzing cut him off and both members of the FBI team pulled out their phones.
“Laura Hale was spotted near the county line and is being escorted to the Sheriff’s Station as we speak,” Edgerton announced.
Eliot stiffened almost perfectly in synch with Stiles.
“It’s time to move Peter,” Stiles realized.
“Yes, it is.”
“What do you know about other types of magic?” Allison asked as they settled into her little SUV after lunch.
“Whatever do you mean?”
“Well, there was this friend of mine. She was Bitten by an alpha and it woke her powers as a Banshee. I don’t want to say it made her crazy, but…”
“It made her unstable.” Babushka Lis considered this for several moment. “I’ve never known a death elemental awakened outside of ritual. I can’t imagine how strong she must have been…to even survive it.
“Perhaps I need to call a full council, not just the archdruid,” Lis hummed to herself.
Allison’s phone went off. “I got the moves like Jagger! I got the moves…!”
“That’s Stiles,” she announced.
Babushka Lis laughed. “If anyone has moves like Jagger, it’s my Mischief,” she snickered some more.
“Half flail, half seizure,” she agreed. “Do you mind checking it?”
“Not at all.” Lis poked around for a few moments. “Apparently it is time for Peter to leave the hospital. Eliot wants you there for the meet and greet before they move him.”
Allison grimaced, the plan for healing Peter was a legit nightmare. He’d survive it, she had no doubt but she couldn’t imagine wanting to survive it. She wouldn’t wish it on Deaton, much less non-psycho, 100% victim Peter. “Ask him about the bow I asked for.”
She thumbed around the screen a bit and Allison couldn’t help but notice that Lis navigated Allison’s phone more easily than Allison did, despite her repeated—and, upon reflection, probably joking—complaints about her own lack of proficiency to Stiles.
“It is in Eliot’s backseat. You’ll have to put it together on site before the healing. They ask that you drive Hardison’s vehicle to the site.”
Allison considered that. “Do you want to take my car for the rest of the day? I can’t drive two at the same time.”
“And you are no werewolf to run back to the hospital with ease. I will take it to Mietick’s home. It will surprise no one to see it there and I would rather not upset your parents by taking it home for you.”
“I appreciate that.”
Lis waved her off. “To the hospital.”
“So, when are we getting him out of here?” Allison asked.
Alpha Eliot sighed. “Come on, I’d rather discuss this just once.”
They all entered Peter’s private room together.
All but Parker who was already there in her scrubs playing the nurse as ordered. She had Peter mostly upright when they entered. He was bright eyed and… innocent looking. Allison hadn’t expected that. Even with the burns on half of his face, he looked like the young, fun uncle Derek had once described him as rather than the furious, twisted thing she had come to know and fear.
“Peter,” Eliot greeted.
“Alpha,” the man said in a gravelly tone. Parker offered him the bendy-straw source of water. He took it gratefully and tried again, “Alpha.”
Eliot ran a hand over the burned side of Peter’s face and cupped it, scenting him. “My name is Eliot. Eliot Spencer, Peter.”
“Eliot,” Peter gasped faintly.
“You know my second, Parker.” At Eliot’s gesture the two nodded to each other despite the fact that Parker was already seated on Peter’s bed. “Sophie is the one playing EMT. Magic man that just sealed the door is Alec, our Emissary and Parker’s mate.
“This is my nephew, Stiles,” Peter and Stiles rubbed a hand across each other’s cheeks. Again, with the scenting. “He’s a kitsune, not a wolf.
“Long story,” he admitted when Peter frowned at him.
“And, finally, Allison Argent.” Peter snarled but Allison held out her hand anyway.
“Enhance your calm,” Eliot put a hand on Peter to help him regain his center. “Allison is the one that brought proof of her Aunt’s crimes forward. Without her, we still wouldn’t know what happened to your family. Or mine. And I doubt we’d have ever known to track you down.”
“Yes, alpha,” Peter subsided with obvious reluctance.
Stiles threw an arm across her shoulders, scent marking her and claiming her. Marking them as a unit as much as two kids that were not fucking could be.
“Alright, as most of you probably heard even if you weren’t in the meeting with me, the hospital is reluctant to release Peter so soon after he woke up. We can’t afford attention on any of us so we’re going to go with it. Babushka Lis—”
Peter choked on the name. Eliot gave him a moment to recover and Allison smirked.
“—Babushka Lis is confident her spells will force them to back off within a day and a half, two on the outside, so we’re going to wait two and try again.
“In the meantime, Peter, we’re going to seal the room with mountain ash. This is to protect you.”
“From who?” Peter goggled.
“My niece? Why?”
“Evidence suggests she conspired with Kate to kill your family. We can’t be sure she won’t come after you, so, we’re going to keep up our visiting rotation. We’re going to seal the room, and I’ll specifically spend more time here with you than anywhere else.”
“Laura? It was Laura? Are you sure?”
“We can get you a copy of Kate’s journals if you like,” Stiles offered before she could. “Most of the Beacon Hills one has been corroborated with other evidence.”
“I—” Peter hesitated. “I’ll take you up on that offer actually. I think I need to read the books. See the evidence.”
“Sure thing,” Stiles agreed.
“…how is Babushka Lis involved in all of this? Why did she bother?” Peter asked.
“She’s my grandmother,” Stiles answered, neatly addressing both questions with three little words and horrifying Peter in the process. “She’s gonna be here tonight. We’re doing Night Six here with you since Dad’s working late and will miss the fact that we’re not doing it at home.”
“Night Six?” Peter tilted his head.
“Hanukkah,” Stiles answered. “Don’t worry. We got an electric menorah for you and everything.”
“We do need to go shopping, though,” Allison interjected. “We still haven’t gotten our gifts for tonight.” She looked pointedly between Eliot and Peter and raised an eyebrow.
“You’re not subtle,” he told her.
Allison dimpled at him, “Was I trying to be?”
“You’ve been spending too much time with Stiles—”
Stiles flailed. “Rude!”
“Get out of here. All of you. And seal the circle behind you.” He didn’t look up at Peter until they were all gone.
“What was she not being subtle about?” Peter asked.
Eliot sat down and took Peter’s scared hand. “Your wolf asked about being mates.”
Peter’s eyes widened and he sat back a little bit.
“I can’t deny that I find the idea…exciting.”
Peter shot him a doubtful look, “Really? Even with the—” he gestured at his scars.
“You’re a beautiful man. I know you don’t believe that right now but you are. And the scars are a sign of strength. They show the world everything that you’ve survived.”
“I’m not keeping them,” Peter said flatly.
“I’m not asking for that. It’ll simplify things, actually. Alec will only have to finalize one plan to heal you once he knows you want them gone.”
“You’re planning to heal me?” Peter sounded strangely vulnerable when he asked the question.
“Of course,” Eliot frowned. “No matter what else you and I may become, you are pack. You deserve to be at your best. And only you get to define what is your best.”
Peter was quiet for a long time and Eliot set back in his chair to relax. He did not, however, release Peter’s hand.
Peter inhaled like he was preparing to speak and Eliot focused on him. “You’re a beautiful man, too.”
Eliot grinned. That was a step in the right direction. And if Peter wanted to take things slow, that worked just fine for him.
John watched Laura Hale get settled into a chair in the interrogation room. He’d argued against using it. He’d figured it would put her on the defensive, make her difficult to deal with. Getting answers would be impossible if she was on the defensive, particularly on this subject. No matter what else she was, when it came to the Fire, she was a victim. She’d lost all of her family except a younger brother and an uncle.
But she’d never visited the uncle, a bitter little voice in his head pointed out. And the precious younger brother wasn’t with her. If she cared about him, if she wanted him safe, she wouldn’t have let him out of her sight, would she?
She sprawled in the suspect’s chair like she didn’t have a care in the world. Like they couldn’t touch her and she knew it.
Don entered the room trailed by Edgerton who was carrying a pile of evidence. Ms. Hale sat up sharply and glared red eyed—no, red cheeked—at Edgerton. Her glare kicked up a notch when Edgerton obeyed Don’s silent gesture to put the evidence on the table but didn’t say a word. As Don had ordered, he didn’t glare at her or say anything, didn’t acknowledge her in any way.
It was a mind game, a dominance play, to put Don in a superior position for the interrogation.
John had never even heard of this tactic in particular but the Eppes brothers had been sure it would work. John was a little mystified at how successful it was. All of Hale’s comfortable self-assurance was gone. She was furious and on edge just because two men had walked into the room.
What. The fuck.
Don sat down. “Ms. Hale, my name is Special Agent in Charge Don Eppes.”
“Mr. Eppes,” she gave him a razor-sharp smile. “How can I help you?”
Don raised a single superior eyebrow at her but didn’t correct her, which surprised John. Maybe he was trying to show that she was so far below him that her disrespect didn’t matter to him? John added it to his WTF list.
“We have questions regarding the fire that killed most of your family.” Don informed her smoothly. “Evidence has been discovered that suggests it was not an accident.”
“The Fire Inspector was quite sure it was faulty wiring.” Ms. Hale sat back of forced her shoulders down, lowering the defensiveness of her posture.
“We’ve had an expert within the FBI examine your family’s home since it’s still standing. Even now, six years later, he was quite certain it was deliberately set. The evidence of accelerants was clear even to me once I knew what to look for.”
Hale glared bloody murder at Don. “You went in to my home? You examined it? Without asking permission?”
“It’s still a crime scene, Ms. Hale. It has never been reclaimed from the county by your family. We had no need for us to request anyone’s permission to enter the premises.”
Hale was obviously furious but she didn’t say anything.
“I remind you that this conversation is being recorded and that you have the right to an attorney before we continue this conversation.”
That, somehow, made Hale more furious. “I don’t need an attorney. I haven’t done anything wrong.”
Don accepted that with a nod. “Tell me about your family. Your father?”
“Never knew him. Mom didn’t keep men around, didn’t want anyone to interfere with her independence.” Wow, the woman had been dead six years—she’d been murdered—and her daughter straight up hated her.
“What about your siblings? Did you have the same father?”
“Derek and I did but, like I said, mom didn’t let men stick around. God knows who fathered Sora and Cora but they weren’t the same man.”
“Sora and Cora died in the fire. What about Derek?”
“Weak, broken,” she rolled her eyes. “He was great but then he thought he was in love and she died and boo-fucking-woo.”
Okay, she didn’t resent just her mother.
“Self-righteous bitch,” Laura muttered. “All about protecting her own choices while she took away everyone else’s. You think I wanted to go to medical school? No, I wanted to join the Marines like Uncle Jefferson. I could go to school later if that was what I wanted but no, I had to go right out of high school and follow Aunt Kara’s footsteps instead.”
“You seem to resent your family quite a lot.”
Laura snorted. “Just mom.”
“Is that why you asked Kate Argent to murder them?”
Laura went still and looked up at him sharply. “Excuse me?”
“Is your mother’s controlling nature the reason you seduced Kate Argent and convinced her to murder almost your entire family?” Don repeated like it was the easiest thing. Like he was asking about the weather.
Laura smirked at him and sat back. “I’m sure I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
Don opened the file waiting at his right hand and pulled out a stack of photos. He laid them out meticulously, one by one. John knew what they were; selfies of Kate and Laura, compromising photos, cell phone screenshots of text conversations. “Would you like to try again?”
“My parents have gone down to the station. I assume to answer questions,” Allison said as she tucked her phone away. “Again.”
Silently, Stiles reached and turned on the police scanner they’d had installed in the center console of the Jeep, a Night Five gift from Eliot that definitely went beyond the budget they had all agreed to. They gave him a pass though, seeing as it had been Christmas as well.
“Who’d you get for tonight?” he asked idly.
“I can’t tell you that,” she grinned and he just raised an eyebrow at her.
It was Night Eight and their budget was a hundred and fifty bucks. Surprisingly it had been a bigger challenge to shop for someone she knew than for a person she’d just met. She wasn’t exactly sure why but it had to be something to do with the expectations, she figured.
She and Stiles were always together. They’d time traveled together so everyone expected her to give a Stiles a good gift. She was sure she had, but still.
They exited the Jeep. Everyone but Peter was at Stiles’ house for the Last Night. It had actually been Peter’s idea. He’d insisted, and other than his protection—which was being seen to for the night by a pair of women that had each owed Eliot a favor—no one had seen a reason to disagree.
They carried the pies they had gone to Beacon Beach to buy into the house as Eliot and Sophie finished putting dinner at the table.
Stiles’ dad was already at the table and he wasn’t in his uniform for the first time since Allison had turned over Kate’s Journals. He smiled at the sight of the pies and his expression didn’t change when he turned his eyes on her specifically. That was a relief. She wasn’t certain she could maintain a close relationship with Stiles if his father hated her. There had been so much strain and stress between them Before that she couldn’t fathom being the cause of that pain—for either of them—this time around.
Dinner was lively. No one mentioned the case or the FBI that were still dominating both the Sheriff’s Station and the majority of the town’s gossip.
They ate. They lit the candles on the table and activated the last candle on the electronic menorah in the window, said the blessings over the candles, and settled down in the living room to open presents.
“I want to go first,” Alec stood, holding a stack of wrapped presents.
“That’s fine,” Eliot nodded.
“I got Parker,” he announced and handed one present out to each person.
Allison opened hers to find a book titled Feng Shui Action Movie Roleplaying. On the cover was a man holding what looked like an automatic rifle, an obvious monk, and what might be the ghost of a woman with a flower blossoms in her hair all standing in front of an explosion. She looked up at their Emissary for an explanation.
He focused on his wife. “You said you wanted to try tabletop roleplaying. This is the easiest, least serious, and most fun system I know of. I’ve already made copies of the blank character sheet—each book has one. All we need is to read the book, make characters, and acquire some six-sided dice and we got a group.”
“Would you guys be willing?” Parker asked, grinning first at her husband and then at the rest of them.
“I’ll run it,” Alec offered. “I got a campaign in mind.”
She shared a look with Stiles. He shrugged. “Save the Cheerleader, save the world.”
“We’re in,” she explicitly agreed.
Sophie looked doubtful.
“I’ll give it a shot,” Eliot agreed.
“I won’t have the time,” Sheriff John frowned. “But it sounds interesting.”
“You could watch once we get going?” Alec offered. “Hang out, have food that’s terrible for you, laugh at the ridiculousness.”
“Sounds fun,” John agreed.
“I would love it,” Babushka Lis agreed. “I’ve played this game before but I was a Killer, I named her Mrs. Smith because I have no shame. I want to try the Old Master class.”
That threw Allison for a loop. Thankfully, she wasn’t the only one.
“If anyone has the right to the Old Master, it’s you,” Alec agreed and Babushka Lis grinned.
“What’s an Old Master?” Allison asked.
“Did you ever see the show Kung Fu: The Legend Continues?”
“Yeah. That’s kind of random but, yeah.”
“The Dad was an Old Master.”
Babushka Lis shook her head. “The dad was a Monk. The old lady with the cigarette from Kung Fu Hustle, she was an Old Master.”
Alec gave her the Squinty Eyes of Consideration for a few moments. “I want to give you that one but there are no Monks in this game, you might be thinking D&D. Feng Shui is just Martial Artists and Old Masters.”
“And Karate Cops,” Babushka Lis added.
“How many classes are there?”
“They’re called types or archetypes in this one,” Alec explained. “But there are probably twenty or thirty of them.”
“What juncture?” Stiles asked from where he was flipping through the book. “Some of the archetypes are from the past and some are from the future.”
“Doesn’t matter,” Alec promised. “I can get you in the same time, no problem, as long as none of you make your characters unwilling to work with others. Reluctant heroes that don’t like people are fine, but they gotta realize they can’t do The Thing alone.”
Stiles tipped his head in agreement and Allison started looking at the book. “What page?”
“Archetypes start on twenty,” he told her. “Explanations of what everything means is before that.”
“This Scrappy Kid looks like he stepped out of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom,” the Stiles’ dad observed.
“Uh. Page thirty-nine.”
“I’m not sure if this Transformed Animal is awesome or awkward,” Stiles told them. “Page forty-five.”
Allison looked and realized it probably hit too close to home with the whole Nogitsune thing.
“Am I good to give my gift?” Parker asked.
“Yeah.” “Sure.” “Go ahead.” Stiles even closed his book and focused on her to give her his cooperation. Allison did the same.
“I got Babushka Lis.” She got up and handed Babushka Lis her present. It turned out to be some expensive tea and a membership to a tea of the month club. If she wasn’t thrilled with the gift, she gave every appearance of being so.
Babushka got Allison. The gift bag had two skeins of really expensive yarn from the website Mrs. Norma had suggested days ago and a series of different sized crochet hooks with thick handles for easy use and comfort with a long project.
“I got Stiles,” Allison admitted as she pulled the box beside her seat out and handed it over.
Stiles tore into the box with all the excitement of a five-year-old, like he always did, but then he went still at what was inside. He pulled it all out and spread them across his lap to get a better look. First was a pair of t-shirts. She hadn’t been able to resist the binary joke when she saw it, and she’d bought the ‘out of your Vulcan mind’ one mostly so she could steal it after he’d worn it a few times. Stiles petted both of the shirts briefly before he picked up the signed baseball helmet and turned it in his hands reverently.
“Is that okay?” she asked rather nervously. She didn’t know anything about baseball other than how to generally play the game. And she didn’t know anything specifically about the Mets but she’d seen it, remembered he loved the Mets, and it had been in her price range.
“You got me a baseball helmet signed by Mike Nikeas,” he gave her the wide eyes. His cheeks were flushed a fetching pink. “There’s no way that was within the budget.”
She shrugged because budget-schmudget. She would spend a lot more money for that look on his face. “It’s Last Night.”
“Holy shit, dude!” he hugged the helmet to himself and grinned at her.
The house phone rang. John wandered into the kitchen to answer it. All of the werewolves got really unhappy, really fast. Sheriff Stilinski started grabbing his badge and gun belt before he even hung up.
He was buckling on the belt when he walked back into the room. “I know it’s not my turn but I have to go. I got you, Eliot. I managed to get you two tickets to the Sooners vs Longhorns game. It’ll be in the beginning of October in Dallas.”
“Yes!” Eliot jumped out of his seat.
“Just game tickets,” Eliot’s brother warned. “You still have to get there yourself.”
“That is not a problem,” Eliot assured him as he came in and got a hug from his brother. “I know exactly who I’m taking too.”
“Envelope is in the coffee table drawer. Gotta go.” And he was gone.
They sat in silence as the cruiser pulled out of the drive and he took off with lights and sirens going.
“What happened?” Babushka Lis demanded before she could.
“A group of people in black SUVs rolled up on the Sheriff’s Station and shot it up with automatic weapons,” Eliot told them. “It’s unclear if Laura Hale escaped or if she was broken out, but she’s gone and there are a lot of wounded.”
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