“What are we going to do?” Allison asked as soon she could no longer hear Sheriff John or his cruiser.
It was both natural and strange to turn to Eliot for direction. Natural because he was the alpha, more so because he was her alpha. Strange because he was a man and she was an Argent, specifically because she was a matriarch.
“Parker, take Alec and Sophie and guard Peter. We have no idea why Laura broke out or what she thinks she’s learned while in police custody.”
Parker stood quickly. “He’s vulnerable and he’s pack.”
“I’ll take Allison and Stiles with me. We’re going to hunt her down, take her down.”
“There’s no point in bringing her back,” Allison offered cautiously. “She’ll just break out again. Probably without the backup to give plausible deniability to the secret.”
“I never said we were taking her alive,” he said gently.
Right, Allison stood as well. “I’ll need my bow.”
“Wait, Allison,” Sophie called as she turned for the door. “Take these with you.” She presented her with a cardboard box being held closed by tape. “I heard hunters favored them but wasn’t sure how to get them to you…discretely.”
With the help of the beta’s claws, Allison opened the box to see, “Shock batons?”
“You’re the only person I didn’t draw,” Sophie explained. “And your Eskrima training should make these an effective tool. The current is enough to take down even an alpha, if you need to.”
“I had one in the future,” she admitted. She didn’t want to think about the cost of two because holy shit they were expensive, especially with the current altered to be strong enough to work on a wolf.
Sophie gave her a shy smile. “They’re charged, I promise.”
Allison nodded and pulled them from the box. She’d have to do something nice for her packmate because Sophie had even included a belt with several carrying options. The one attached to the belt currently was a double pouch. Allison pulled it on and ran for the door.
She sat in the back seat of Eliot’s truck and made a few final tweaks to her new bow as Eliot drove them down to the Sheriff’s Station. He drove slowly, trying to not draw any more attention than necessary to his big silver truck. Thank god it wasn’t black or the deputies would pile onto them just on sheer principal.
An ambulance took off from the station right in front of them, lights and sirens were going, so at least someone had survived.
Eliot half rolled down his and Stiles’ windows as they rolled past. He made a sharp right just past the station and took Main toward the Preserve. “There’s a pretty distinctive perfume in the air,” Eliot explained.
He pulled over a few blocks down and lead them into an alley. “Wolf and perfume. At least three males. Guns, no wolfsbane. Are either of you getting anything?”
Allison wasn’t sure but she bit her lip and said it anyway. “It kind of smells like my aunt. She wears Channel Coco Mademoiselle. Its bold enough to hide wolfsbane as long as you don’t physically have it on you and distinctive enough that she won’t be forgotten, which has always been a pretty big thing for her. She wants her enemies to know she was the one that took them out.”
“Yeah, okay. I can buy that,” Eliot agreed.
“So, we’re following Crazy Kate, Alpha Laura, and a murderous boyband into the woods?” Stiles asked, frowning at the tree line that they could see from where they were.
“Looks like it,” Eliot agreed.
“In the dark, even.” She gave Stiles a tight smile when he frowned at her.
Stiles pulled the pistol Alec had gotten him and Allison wished really hard that his back up wasn’t a knife. She did not want to see Stiles try to wrestle an alpha werewolf for his life but he totally would if he felt he had to.
Wishing would not change the inadequacy of Stiles’ arsenal. A conversation with Alec after they all survived this, however, would.
“Let’s go,” Eliot was the one that lead them into the woods but Stiles, having grown up in the woods, quickly realized where they were heading and took them on a shortcut.
“It’s a ravine with a creek running through it,” he told them. “Not huge or flashy, but enough to throw off human pursuit. Even if they have dogs, which my dad is known to use liberally, and it’s not that far from the Hale House.”
“That’s definitely where they’re going,” Allison agreed, keeping an eye open for traps. Kate was the one that taught her the standard hunter traps—and several more of her own design, even if she hadn’t known what her aunt had been teaching her at the time.
When they got to the ravine, Kate and Laura had already beaten them there. Fortunately, they were distracted, surrounded by the bodies of a handful of men and arguing about something Allison didn’t give enough fucks to figure out. Their previous relationship maybe, she thought as she slid down the embankment as quietly as she could. She put herself square in the path she figured Kate was planning to take. Honestly, Kate dying in the woods would be the best possible option for her family’s reputation with the town. It was terrible but Kate was dangerous. She was crazy with no loyalty to anything and an endless drive to kill. Something like her could not be tolerated in their territory.
Stiles took the path back toward town and Eliot stayed on top of the embankment to minimize the chances of Laura smelling him.
“Whatever, let’s go before they try to stop us,” Kate snarled at the wolf and turned to take the path Allison blocked.
She stepped out from behind one of the trees before they could leave the little clearing. “Hello, Aunt Kate.”
“Allison?” Kate stopped immediately. “What are you doing here?”
“Hunting,” she said simply. “Why are you running off through the woods with a werewolf, Aunt Kate?”
“You know about werewolves?” Kate slowly started to smile.
“I know a lot of things.” She pulled her bow and pointed it at the two women. “Including what actually happened to the Hales. And the Spencers. And the Marshalls.”
“The Marshalls?” Laura Hale demanded, looking furious. “You took out the Marshalls? What the fuck Kate?”
Eliot dropped from above, taking Laura down to the ground, and Stiles rushed forward from the woods, his gun and the pepper spray her dad had given her in his hands.
Allison got an arrow in her Aunt’s shoulder and Stiles tackled her. He tried to mace her but she planted a knee in his crotch and pushed him off.
“Allison,” she tried.
“No,” she pulled a second arrow. “You’re going to jail. You’re going to pay for everything you’ve done. For everyone you’ve killed.”
“Yeah, okay,” Kate snorted. She pulled and threw a grenade at Allison before she could even register what was actually happening. Thankfully, Stiles managed another tackle, this one on her.
And the grenade was just a flash bang. Not nice, not comfortable, but they survived.
“Come on,” Stiles pulled her to her feet.
They staggered together after Kate. Her trail was open and obvious. She wasn’t even trying to hide and Allison really didn’t fucking like that. It meant traps to her. It said that Kate had set stuff up to cover her back so she could make good time to get away.
Stiles staggered but didn’t go down. This time, Allison tackled him to the ground perpendicular of their path. Incendiary arrows hit the ground where they had been running.
Stiles took a moment to stomp out the fire before it could spread to more than a couple leaves and she reviewed their path. A tripwire. Stiles had caught his foot on a tripwire and she wished she was surprised.
“Come on, Allison, we have to go,” he tugged her in the direction Kate went.
“No,” she stopped him with her hold on his hand. “We can’t. There’s no telling how many traps she has set up and we don’t have the senses to detect them in the dark. At least, not before we set them off.”
Stiles looked in the direction Kate ran with a frown. “Well, fuck.”
“I challenge you,” he informed Laura as they circled each other, “for control of these lands and for justice. You set Kate lose on entire packs. You’re the reason my family is dead.”
“Like I give a fuck about your family,” Laura scoffed. “I didn’t give a fuck about my family. I still don’t.”
“You cared about the Marshalls.”
“They were taking care of my territory before Kate killed them. No wonder it’s been nagging at me for the last year. Where else am I going to find a babysitter?”
“You won’t have to,” he promised. He stepped into the water of the brook and let her leap at him. She wasn’t going to win this fight. She was alone and had practically no pack to speak of. She didn’t have the heart of a wolf. She definitely didn’t have the heart of an alpha, either. She had the heart of a child. A selfish, destructive, hateful child. Her wolf had to be sick just from knowing her.
She was no match for him.
They struggled in the water, trading blows that broke bones and tore skin. He heard his pack coming back to him and threw himself off of her. Laura popped to her feet and readied herself for another go but Allison hit her full on, both shock rods active and screaming as they connected with her soaked midsection. Allison dodged out to the way of a blind swipe and Stiles hit the other alpha next, giving her a face full of mace mixed with wolfsbane.
Allison pulled him away as he started to draw his knife and Eliot stepped forward. Laura collapsed to the ground still seizing from the electricity and struggling to breathe through the mace.
“Goodbye, Laura,” he said gently. She turned one wide, scared eye on him, and he slashed her throat in one smooth maneuver.
The fire of her alpha spark left her and danced up his arm. It touched the core of him and… It recoiled. It fled into the night leaving him cold and confused but also kind of grateful.
“What?” he staggered and looked at the two not-exactly teens.
“What, what?” Stiles asked sharply, looking him over.
“Her alpha spark, I didn’t get it.” He looked up at the kids.
They exchanged a look.
“I’ve heard…” Allison trailed off.
“What? Tell me?”
She sighed. “There’s a theory in the Argent Bestiary. The original one, not the electronic one. The reasoning was smudged beyond my ability to read it but they think that once an alpha stark has stayed in a single line for so long, it can only be passed to people that have that blood.”
“How long?” he asked.
“About ten generations, or transfers, or whatever.”
“The Hales are a lot older than ten generations,” Stiles said tightly.
“So, it went to the closest Hale?” he asked.
“Peter!” they all realized together.
They all wanted to run off and check on Peter, but of course, it wasn’t that simple and Allison struggled to keep her frustration to herself. They were all frustrated. There was no way she could add to the stress of everything by voicing the fury they all shared.
First and foremost, there was the issue of Laura. They had to make sure her body was found to end the manhunt but they also had to hide how she was killed for the sake of the secret. Her throat had rather obviously been torn out by someone with fingers. None of them thought it looked a damn thing like an animal attack and none of them wanted to risk bribing the medical examiner with the FBI in town, even if at least two of the team were marginally on their side.
And they needed to make sure she didn’t come back as everyone and their dog had in the other timeline.
They decided to search for another one of Kate’s traps. Eliot found it easily in the dark and, again, it had incendiary arrows which told Allison that Kate had been pressed for time and possibly desperate to get her former lover to freedom.
They moved the trap to the edge of the ravine and staged it so it looked like one of the dead men had triggered the trap and it hit Laura. Of course, that bit was mostly up to Allison but Stiles did help. It was fun teaching trap making to Stiles. He was mean enough and creative enough that she was really looking forward to what he would come up with using the new skill.
Eliot ran back to the truck for a change of clothes because not even werewolves liked walking around in wet denim and water-soaked hiking boots. He was back in time to help them scuff up the brook’s banks enough to hide what happened there.
By the time they were done, it definitely looked like a struggle had taken place but how many people and what they had done would be anyone’s guess.
They let Laura’s body burn under Kate’s arrows, half in the brook, half out until her head and neck were an undecipherable, charred mess. The banks were sand and stone so they didn’t have to worry about the fire spreading and they left the body burning as they made the final trek to the truck.
By the time they made it to the hospital Shaw, the Witch that Eliot had called in to protect Peter was long gone. Braeden the Mercenary former US Marshall was still there, though, and sitting closer to Peter than most humans would be willing to get to an injured and possibly-unstable werewolf.
Allison looked back and forth between them. Something was— “You Bit her.”
“We’d been talking about it for hours before,” Peter had the grace to flush. “I had promised to talk to Eliot about it but when I got…the power, I needed an outlet. It wasn’t like I could leave this room.”
Eliot allowed himself to collapse into the chair that had quickly become his in Peter’s room. “You did get the Hale alpha spark then.”
“Yeah, what happened?” Peter asked softly.
“Kate Argent broke your niece out of police custody.”
“And the only thing that would stop her from breaking out a second time would be death,” Peter nodded but didn’t look happy about it.
“We tried to do things the human way, Peter. She didn’t leave us a choice.”
“No, I understand. I wouldn’t tell my nephew though. As far as I know, he’s the only other Hale left and he adored Laura. He would not take you killing her well at all. If you told him, he’d probably try to kill you and there’s no way that would end in his favor.”
“Actually, he’s not the only other Hale left. Cora survived,” his nephew gave Peter a small smile. Eliot knew he’d only found her so quickly because he’d come back in time knowing where to look. Not that he could tell Peter that, the pack had made a pact not to discuss time travel with anyone that hadn’t been there that first day. “She’s with a pack in Brazil. I have the contact information from the alpha that took her in. If you want, now that you’re the Hale Alpha, you could call him and ask for her to be sent home or at least ask to talk to her. It’s your call.”
Peter looked shaken by the news and looked over to Eliot with ill-concealed unease.
Eliot just ran a hand over his face, fuck he was tired. “I can go get her if you want? Or we can ask them to bring her here? Or you can just call her and talk it out with her. However you wanna do it.”
“I’ll think about it,” Peter decided. “Once I’m out of the hospital.”
“Any idea when that will be?”
“Actually,” Alec stepped in, “the nurse working as the liaison between me and the hospital said they’d be fine with you leaving after breakfast tomorrow. Another couple days and we’ll have you all healed up and even prettier.”
Peter snorted. “Yeah, okay.
“In other news, it sounds like there was a big shooting a few hours ago. I assume it was Argent related?”
“Yeah. The break out.” Eliot waved a hand, hopefully conveying that it was all connected.
“That new wolf you were talking about, Edgerton, was involved. He should still be down in the Emergency department.”
“Allison, Stiles, if you would go tell him where to find Laura and the others? He’s the one the FBI will send to track her anyway. We might as well make it easy on him and you two need to head home soon anyway.”
“Yeah, sure,” Stiles looked at Allison. She nodded and they left.
“Parker, Sophie, if you two could run a few circuits around the hospital. I don’t want anything sneaking up on us.”
“Of course,” Parker stood immediately and the two women left.
“Alec, do you still have the integration amulet you made for Sophie after I Bit her?”
“Yeah, it’s in my computer lair,” Alec rolled his eyes at the name they always gave his computer room and Eliot smirked. “You want it for Braeden?”
“I think it’s be best.”
“Alright,” he stood, “I’ll go get it.”
“Thanks.” He waited for Alec to re-seal the mountain ash circle around the room and looked at Braeden. “I’ve known you for years. You never told me you wanted the Bite.”
“You never told me you were willing to Bite people.”
He supposed that was fair. “Sounds like we need to talk more.”
“Sounds like,” she agreed then shot him a shark like grin. “You first.”
Eliot just laughed.
By the time Allison got home, she was so tired she was regretting taking a bedroom on the third floor. She ached and she was filthy and she was kind of starting to hate everything.
“Allison?” Her mother called, stopping her at the foot of the stairs. When she turned, both of her parents were in the kitchen doorway, looking her over critically. Her dad, she noticed, had his eyes locked on her mud-covered boots. She could just imagine what was going through his head at the sight. Mud-covered boots were practically Hunter Chic.
“Is there something you want to tell us?” Mom asked gently.
Allison thought about it. She didn’t, not really, but the stress of knowing and not being able to tell her parents, the stress of keeping her knowledge of the supernatural from her parents was starting to wear on her. And she was just tired enough to be blunt as fuck, “I shot Aunt Kate in the shoulder.”
Chris’s eyes snapped up to her face, wide with surprise.
“She was helping a rogue alpha escape police custody. The arrow had wolfsbane on it so if she’s still alive she’s probably not very happy about it.”
“So, you know,” Mom concluded.
“Oh, yeah, I know. I know all about our family’s murderous tendencies,” and she was pissed about it. She was pissed about the secrets and the lies and— And the bigotry. “If I ever find out that either of you killed good, solid werewolves without cause, I’ll turn the evidence over to the FBI and see your asses in jail. Just like I did with Kate.”
Fury flashed over her mom’s face but she swallowed it down. “I take it you are the anonymous source that reached out to the sheriff.”
“You’re damn right I am.”
Her parents were both quiet for a while.
“I don’t think you should spend so much time with the sheriff’s son,” her father tried gently. “He’s obviously been a bad influence on your language.”
Allison snorted. “You two are the ones that made a habit of leaving me in the sole custody of a serial killer. I don’t think either of you have a leg to stand on for that argument. But, if you’d like to tell Babushka Lis that you think her grandson is a bad influence on me, please let me know in advance. I’d like to get popcorn so I can properly enjoy her reaction.”
“You’re obviously upset and not thinking clearly.” It was her mom’s turn to try. “We’ll discuss where we’re moving next in the morning.”
What she really wanted to do was scream and shout about them about how they never thought clearly. How their bigotry made them insane. How her mother had decided her prejudice against werewolves was more important that remaining in her own daughter’s life as a parent. How her father had no problem ignoring the needs off his only child to assist his wife in a pointless suicide and then blame other people for it.
Instead, she ground her teeth a bit, packed it all up, and shoved the neat little box of resentment down. “You do that. And in the morning, I’ll talk to a lawyer about emancipation. I’m sure the State of California will have no problem letting me walk away from a pair of serial killers related to and accepting of at least two other serial killers. They’ll probably give me a free name change to boot and I know for a fact Stiles’ uncle, Alpha Eliot, would put me up in the pack house free of charge.”
Her mother took that last bit like a blow to the face.
“Just what has Babushka Lis been teaching you?” Her father asked.
“The keys of social management. The reality of the supernatural world. A bit of magic. I don’t have a spark really but one of you has to be a Druid-potential. She’s been able to teach me enough to magically know the truth whenever someone speaks and she thinks she can teach me to magically enhance my senses. Sight for my marksmanship, smell for tracking. We’re going to start those lessons in a couple days.”
He looked unsure and more than a little confused but let it go. “Good night, Allison.”
“Here’s the thing,” Alec said to Peter and Eliot equally as they rocked along in the back of the ambulance they were taking away from the hospital. “As an alpha, you could totally force the burned tissue to heal but it would probably weaken your alpha spark. And I mean weaken it for years. Which we can’t really afford right now with the world’s two most dangerous Argents—if not all of the Argents—most likely circling.”
“I can’t just stay burned,” Peter croaked.
Eliot took his hand. Frankly, he didn’t care about the scars. He saw them as a sign of strength. His mate was badass and beautiful either way but Peter cared. Peter hated the scars the Fire had left him with and that was what mattered.
“If the hospital had put you in a burn ward and the burns had been properly abraded your burns when they happened, you wouldn’t even have scars.” Alec frowned. “Probably. I mean, werewolf healing isn’t an exact science and, honestly, abrading is supposed to hurt so much I have no doubt that your wolf would have risen up and murdered everyone involved.”
Eliot winced. If that had happened, Hunters would have shown up—probably within hours—and there would have been no Peter Hale alive for him to meet when he did. They hadn’t been mates long, but he really didn’t like that thought.
“But,” Alec continued, “they didn’t do it, so we are going to.
“Once the damaged skin is gone, you’ll heal naturally. A few days of high calorie intake and boom, done. No scars, no fire-induced weakness, and no damage to your alpha spark.”
“You’re just going to put a semi-stable alpha through murder spree levels of pain?” Peter asked doubtfully. Which, fair. “How?”
“Well, the abrading solution is supposed to be the worst of it. The burn hospitals I talked to would put you in the solution every day, pretty much all day for months for burns as severe as yours. We’re going to skip that.
“All of the werewolves in the pack other than you are going to be on pain drain duty while the most ruthless kid I’ve ever met is going to take off the damaged tissue with a silver-bristled brush that was enchanted by Babushka Lis herself specifically to promote werewolf healing after burns. He’s a Kitsune so he should be almost as strong as the betas but faster, more agile and accurate than any wolf. And, because he’s so ruthless, he won’t hesitate when you start screaming. Which would just make things worse for you.”
Eliot thought Alec was playing up Stiles ruthlessness. Sure, Stiles had been more practical than he’d expected upon meeting him again, but it hadn’t seemed as extreme as Alec was making him out to be.
Regardless, Peter took a deep breath but nodded, accepting his fate.
“We’ve set up a clean operating theater for the procedure. I’ll be outside of it maintaining the mountain ash circle, in case things go wrong,” Alec promised. “And I’ll have our pack huntress with me just in case things go really wrong.” Like Peter losing his mind and trying to killing them all.
The ambulance jolted just a little bit more than usual and Eliot looked up to see the doors of the abandoned warehouse Alec had chosen for the operation close behind them under Allison Argent’s and their new wolf, Braeden Wilson’s, hands.
Allison was rocking the full hunter look: bow, quiver full of arrows, shock batons, and ring daggers. He was pretty sure she had at least one collapsible crossbow hidden on her person to go with the bolts strapped to her thigh. Last he checked, there was no such thing as a collapsible arrow so the tiny things couldn’t actually be for her bow.
He helped Peter crawl out of the ambulance and followed Alec and their three lady-wolves into the group shower that had been set up.
After, Alec gave all of them—except for Peter—disposable scrubs and sent them into the temporary thick plastic-draped clean area. Infection wasn’t really a concern for a werewolf but the less work they made for Peter’s body to do, the faster he would heal.
There was a bare metal table standing at approximately waist height. Stiles was standing between it and a lower table on the other side with several metal brushes already laid out for his use.
“Peter,” Stiles gestured at the higher table.
Peter swallowed and crawled, naked, up onto it. “This is going to suck.”
“Yup,” Stiles gave him a small—meaning, not using his entire body—nod. “But it will be as quick and painless as we all can make it.”
Peter looked a little sick, which was fair because Eliot felt a little sick. “Thanks, I think.”
“I’m going to start with your face,” his nephew told his mate. “It’ll hurt like a son of a bitch but everywhere else I could start would only aid you in escaping treatment and I can’t allow that.”
Eliot swallowed. Okay, maybe Alec hadn’t been exaggerating Stiles’ ruthlessness.
Surprisingly, Peter smiled. “If you weren’t Eliot’s only eligible heir, I’d offer you a place in my pack as my Left Hand.”
“I’ll try to remember that when you’re wanting to murder me later,” Stiles thought about it. “Maybe later than that. Any questions?”
“What are you waiting for?” Peter shot Stiles a cocky smirk. It was a weak effort but the pack let him have it.
“For you to lay back.” Peter did. Stiles immediately grabbed the first brush in the row and crawled on top of him, putting his kneecaps on Peter’s shoulders to help hold him down. “Feel free to scream.”
And Peter screamed. Boy, did he scream.
“I talked to all the witnesses I could find and I’m confident I’ve located the place Hale and associates entered the Preserve,” Special Agent Edgerton pointed to a place not far from where they were all gathered.
“Think you can find them?” Don asked.
“Or whatever they left behind,” Edgerton said. “They’re probably long gone by now. The shooting gave them a head start. No way they wasted it.”
“You’re gonna go in alone?” John asked, looking between Don and Edgerton.
Edgerton shrugged. “Usually do.”
“You were shot yesterday.” It was a graze in the arm and didn’t seem to be troubling him at all anymore but…still.
“Take Colby with you,” Don ordered and Edgerton huffed but agreed.
“I’m coming too,” he decided.
“I suggest a riffle,” was all Edgerton had to say to that. “And a camelback if you have one.”
John had had no idea what a camelback was but it turned out to be a large water bottle fashioned into a backpack with a tube/mouth piece combo that hooked on to one of the straps for easy drinking. Colby had a spare that he changed the mouth piece on and let John use without him even having to ask.
“I need to get one of these for my son.”
Colby just grinned at him.
“He’s a long-distance runner,” John explained. “He runs every morning with his girlfriend. It’s ridiculous.”
“Maybe get one for each of them?” was Colby’s verdict and, yeah, John could see his point.
“Ready?” Edgerton asked as he walked back to them with the sniper riffle, he’d spent the last several minutes assembling. Colby picked up his own riffle but John went for the shotgun he’d had in the back of the cruiser. It might not have the accuracy of a sniper riffle but the sound of it being cocked typically stopped perps at thirty paces and that was what he wanted. Non-fatal stopping power.
Edgerton lead the two of them through the woods at a pace that would have left him breathless if he hadn’t started running with his son on the days Allison ran with her own father. He had no idea how Edgerton was tracking anything at such a pace.
Regardless of recent changes, he was still having a rough time keeping up by the time Edgerton held up his fist for them to stop.
Ahead of them was a clearing with four men in black tactical gear and a fifth body in the tan scrubs that’d given Hale when she’d asked to take a shower while in custody. He couldn’t be sure it was a woman because the body was face down. He couldn’t be sure it was Hale because most of it seemed to be missing from the shoulders up and the entire thing was extensively burned.
“There was a struggle,” Edgerton said, reading the ground as he stepped carefully around. “One person got away. Someone light, the tracks are faint. I don’t see the woman the witnesses said lead the assault on the station so I assume it was her. She ran north.” he reached down and touched a rock on the far bank and rubbed his fingers together. “She was injured.”
“She’ll need medical,” was Colby’s verdict.
Edgerton frowned at the trees around them. “You two stay here, get the crime scene processed. I’ll keep going.”
John shot Colby a look and the younger man cleared his throat. “These people have been gnawed on, Ian.”
“I don’t plan to stay still long enough to get nibbled by anything,” Edgerton promised. “There haven’t been wolves in this forest in seventy years and I’ll be faster alone.
“Don’t worry about me. Worry about whether or not that’s our accomplice.” He pointed at maybe-Laura Hale’s body. “The shooting and escape are a big deal but a serial arsonist is worse. She’s already taken out three families that we know of.”
“You got your sat phone?” Colby called out as the sniper moved away. “Check in every hour.”
“Yes, momma,” and Edgerton disappeared into the woods before John could gather himself for a go.
“He’ll be fine,” Colby assured him. “If not, Charlie will kill him.”
John shook his head and pulled his radio. “Deputy Graeme, this is Sheriff Stilinski. Come in, over.”
“You’re sure you want me here for this?” Allison asked softly into her cellphone. Babushka Lis and the Archdruid were coming over to talk to her parents about magical debts and she really did not want to be there.
“Of course,” Babushka Lis answered easily, killing all hope of escape. “How else are we going to make sure your parents don’t do a runner?”
“I don’t know, bind them to Beacon Hills?”
“Too late, we’re here. Come let us in,” and Babushka Lis hung up. Rude.
She made as much haste as she could down the stairs without alerting her parents that something was up. She was silent on the stairs but still got their attention when she darted past them for the door. Her mom looked up from where she was in the dining room with accounting books spread out in front of her. Her father from the living room where he was cleaning a gun.
Not exactly the best timing. She rolled her eyes at herself and opened the door. Babushka Lis stood there in the white wrap dress she’d been wearing when they first met. It was her duty dress, Allison was coming to realize.
Beside her was a blond man with a somewhat ragged beard and braids on top of his head with the sides shaved smooth. He was wearing a black suit with a leather waist coat and red tie. The combination should have looked tacky but somehow it worked for him.
“Allison,” Babushka Lis smiled and stepped in, kissing her cheeks on the way. “And you must be Victoria. And Christopher, of course.”
“Babushka Lis,” her mother stepped forward and extended her hand. “It’s lovely to see you.”
Allison was impressed that her mom’s voice didn’t even shake over the lie.
“No need to lie to me, darling.”
Mom ignored that. “And who is your guest?”
“Oh, this is Robert Frost, no relation. He’s the Archdruid. We’re here to talk to you about the debt your family owes these lands.”
“Why, of course,” and Babushka Lis waltzed right in and took Chris’s previous position on the couch. If there was anything other than magic she wanted to learn from Babushka Lis, it was how to exist with such…balls.
“Your family shed innocent blood in and on these lands,” Mr. Frost’s voice was deep and rough, gravelly. “They killed the pack that stood in defense of these lands for three hundred years without cause. Twenty Hale lives—werewolf, human and magical—as well as every single supernaturally-caused death since the Fire lay at your family’s feet. Including the four deputies your sister and her men killed yesterday.”
“Don’t forget the three injuries,” Lis called, prompting them to wander into the living room to join her. “One more deputy and two civilians that caught ricochets.
“Bullets don’t stop, you know. Not until they are given a reason.”
“What do you want us to do about it?” Chris asked.
“Your daughter has already started balancing the scales,” Babushka Lis smiled at her and she smiled back. “But that’s not enough.”
“The local Emissary position will be open soon,” Mr. Frost offered. “You could take it up. After a year and a day as my personal apprentice, of course.”
“Me?” Her dad looked shocked.
“Why do you think you got the random urge to move to Beacon Hills?” The Archdruid asked. “Beacon Hills? Of all places? The Nemeton called you, Christopher Argent. It chose you because it knows you aren’t like the rest of your family. You have magic, a spine, and morals. A surprising combination in an Argent. Must be where your daughter gets it from.”
Mom puffed up at the implied insult to her but Lis quailed her with a glare. “And what about me?”
“Druidic magic is about sacrifice. You could help us cleanse the Nemeton in that way.” Mr. Frost said as he took a seat on mom’s favorite wingback.
“As a human sacrifice?” Her mom scoffed.
Frost smiled and it was as cold as his namesake. “I was thinking a ritual of sexual energy but if you’d rather die than fuck your husband on a tree stump…” Frost shrugged.
“I have communed with the magic of these lands. They are furious with your family for murdering their protectors. Do you have any idea how rare alphas are? And your sister killed at least four that we know of. Your father’s responsible for another two.”
“Rare?” Chris looked confused. “Every pack has an alpha.”
“No, not even close,” Frost frowned at him. “I won’t give you the intimate truths of werewolf life but not even every state in this country has an alpha. California had one, Nevada had one. Oregon and Washington shared theirs. They’ve been forced to abandon their territories and leave their duties behind or die thanks to your family’s zealotry.
“You are a rare exception in your family in that you’ve never executed or allowed anyone with you to execute a supernatural being that hadn’t already murdered an innocent. You’ve also never attacked an alpha—but that doesn’t mean the people you hunt with are so honorable.” Allison watched Frost’s eyes cut over to her mother and felt her heart sunk.
“We’ll take care of the murderers in your family—”
Mom bristled, “is that a threat?”
“Do honestly think you’re a threat to me, Victoria Argent?” Archdruid Frost asked in a soft tone that pulled them all up short.
Mom glared but didn’t verbally respond, which was game point to Mr. Frost.
“As I was saying, it’s our place as members of the Council of Magic to punish those destroying the natural order of the supernatural world, but you have to make a choice. There’s a good man within you but he will die if you cannot overcome your family’s mindless bigotry. Hunters have a place in the supernatural world—but so do werewolves. Your family has been overstepping themselves for almost a decade.
“What are you going to do about it?”
“No one in my family has ever had magic before,” Chris said in an attempt to redirect.
“Pish,” Frost countered. “I’ve seen your family’s wolfsbane greenhouses in France. Do you know the kind of magic it takes to grow so many different types of wolfsbane so abundantly that close together? It shouldn’t work with even two types in a single greenhouse but you have dozens. Easily enough to kill every werewolf on the planet and then some.”
“That’s insane.” Allison goggled.
“That’s the Argent Way,” Frost countered. “Honestly, Mr. Argent, you need to make some changes before everyone you know and love dies. Changes to yourself and your family. Your family is making a void in nature where they should be none and the price to pay for that will be steep.”
“I can’t make any changes to my family,” He protested.
“On the contrary, you’re the only one that can.”
“No…sir. We’re matriarchal.”
Allison couldn’t help it. She didn’t even try to help it, she scoffed. When they all looked at her, she raised a condescending eyebrow at her parents. “That’s bullshit and you know it.”
“Allison!” both of her parents objected.
“Seriously, it is! If our family was matriarchal, why is Gerard in charge? Hmm? Grandma Catarina was the matriarch, then she died, and Gerard took her place? Why? Kate was fifteen. That’s plenty old enough to stand as matriarch in an old hunter family like ours. She’d completed her training. She’d had her first kill. She had the right bloodline. She met every single benchmark for adulthood our family has. So, why did she need a regent? Why does she still have a regent? Isn’t she over thirty?”
No one answered.
“Mom’s an Argent, always has been. Not our line but well aware of her supposed duties within our culture. Trained, blooded, over fifteen. Why didn’t she become matriarch of our line when she married Dad?”
Again, no one answered.
“I’m over fifteen,” she went in for the kill. “I’ve completed my training, I’ve been blooded, I have the right bloodline. Why aren’t I matriarch?”
Crickets could have been heard…if it had been the right season for crickets to be around.
“We aren’t a matriarchy. Maybe we were at one time but we aren’t now. Maybe at one time we were awesome and forward thinking and in this to protect people but we aren’t now.
“Now, this so-called matriarchy is nothing but a way to shift the blame and avoid consequences. It’s a coward’s way of life intended to increase obedience and decrease independent thought and I’m ashamed, for all of you. Gerard’s been manipulating you and controlling you—hell, he probably did it to grand-mère when she was alive too. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’d killed her because she’d figured him out.”
The silence was even longer this time.
Chris was put on his back foot, in shock and clearly thinking.
Mom was rolling her eyes and not giving a fuck about Allison’s opinion. This was the woman that had killed herself rather than stick around in any form she could to care for her oh-so-beloved daughter, Allison thought and tried not to let it hurt as much as it did.
“If rituals and magic don’t suit you,” Babushka Lis redirected them more successfully than her father had. “Donate time, money, and effort to the community. Like the Hales did before your sister so shamelessly murdered them.”
“This town wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for the Hales,” Frost seconded with a nod. “The least you could do is honor their efforts until they can take up the mantle once again.”
“Are there Hales left to take up the mantle?” Her dad asked.
If Allison didn’t know better, she’d think he was…hopeful? Hopeful that there might still be Hales around to take up the mantle.
“There is a new Hale Alpha as of last night,” Babushka Lis answered. “The previous one died last night. Thanks specifically—yet again—to your sister.”
“Another death for your ledger.” Frost drove the point home and Allison didn’t even feel bad about not protesting the charge.
Really, if her mother was matriarch-in-fact rather than whatever she has been playing at and had had proper control of Kate then Kate and Laura would never have come together. They would never have become the team of nightmares they had been. Kate would never have set the Hale Fire which meant that Laura would never have been arrested in connection to it. There would have been no break out that lead to every single one of the deaths that had happened the previous night, including Laura Hale’s.
“And the sexual ritual you want to do would be more effective if it was a virgin sacrifice,” Lis reminded Frost.
“I’m a virgin,” Allison offered. Only she kind of wasn’t. She’d had sex with Scott and Isaac and there was that drunk maybe-night with Jackson but that had been in a different life so surely that didn’t count? Unless they meant virgin as in never been used in a ritual, which she definitely wasn’t. She’d been ritually sacrificed to come back in time, after all.
Lis just made a considering noise and focused back on her father.
“I would be honored to take lessons from the archdruid,” Chris said slowly. “But there’s no guarantee that the Hale Alpha will accept me as their Emissary.”
“Alpha Hale’s acceptance doesn’t matter,” Frost waved that off. “The Nemeton picked you. It would be best for him to accept the Nemeton’s choice but if he doesn’t, that’s fine. He can get a different Emissary. You might need to focus solely on the Nemeton for years yet, anyway. Possibly just as long as it’s been abused by its previous keeper.”
“The Nemeton’s been abused?” Even Mom looked startled by that.
Allison couldn’t remember much lore about Nemetons. It hadn’t seemed relevant that summer they spent in France at the Main Argent Library, but she was pretty sure abusing a Nemeton was a bad thing.
Like, end the world and kill billions of people, bad thing.
A Nemeton was a magical node bonded to a natural form of life, usually trees or other plants. Rocks could do it but they didn’t without human intervention. Animals could do it but only temporarily. Humans could do it but that drove them crazy very, very quickly which made such an arrangement incredibly dangerous.
“Will I be able to handle it alone?” Chris asked softly. “Or will I require a coven?”
“We shall see.”
“I’m gonna go with Transformed Animal: Bear,” she decided the next night.
The Pack—or, well, Packs really—were gathered around the living room in her old house, the one Eliot was renting and probably going to buy from Gerard’s Estate. The disgustingly large receiving room had been turned into a double living room with two distinct seating areas. Both had a fire place but one had nothing but books on shelves all around while the other had a TV.
It was right off the kitchen so Eliot was cooking while most of them made characters for their first gaming session and the others watched terrible action flicks at high volume. Relatively high volume, for werewolves.
“Bear?” Alec questioned from the giant squishy chair he was enthroned upon. “I would have figured you for Snake or Tiger if you went Transformed Animal.”
“She wants to be able to slap a ho!” Stiles cackled. “Preferably through a wall.”
“I do,” Allison admitted with a blush, “and I find the additional mental fortitude is a thrilling bonus.”
Stiles bumped shoulders with her, comfort with a dash of scent marking after the jab at her own past. “I’m thinking either Magic Cop or Techie. I can’t really decide.”
“Shouldn’t you pick something else? Those are both basically you,” she rolled her eyes.
“Well, yeah, but I’ve already tried my hand at Transformed Animal: Fox and that didn’t work out well for anybody.” This time she bumped shoulders with him. Harder than he had done, though. This was a reprimand, not a comfort. “What too soon?” he grinned.
“Forever will be too soon, Stiles,” she informed him and he tipped his head in acceptance.
“Well, I for one am thinking Gambler,” Peter announced.
“Cocky, no respect for rules, devil may care attitude,” Stiles grinned at her. “See, Peter is playing himself too.”
That earned him laughs and boos in equal measure from both Packs.
Peter just saluted him with an invisible sword. “Touché. Though you forgot excellent dresser.”
“No, I didn’t.” Stiles laughed. “Though, in the Magic Cop blurb they mention being some sort of holy man on a crusade or with a cause. It’s pretty obvious they mean a vampire-hunting catholic priest or something like that but I thought it might be fun to twist that and make a monster hunting rabbi? Only he hunts people that are inwardly monstrous, not outwardly. Then we could be from the same 69 AD Juncture.”
“Maybe I saved you from something and that pulled us both into the Secret War?” she offered.
“And that realigned what my definition of ‘monster’ was,” he nodded, a typical whole-body Stiles Nod.
He considered that and agreed.
“Something your character regrets?”
“Probably,” Stiles shrugged. “Would make it a better Dramatic Hook to bring us into the story.”
“Well, I’m thinking either Martial Artist or Medic,” Parker decided. “Both Ninja and Thief are basically me and, I mean, what I do is fun but I don’t want to roleplay myself.”
“You’re still obsessed with Dr. McCoy,” Alec stated with amused affection written all over his face. She just grinned and he looked to the rest of them. “I finally got her to watch the new Star Trek with me.”
“Bones was the best character,” Parker declared. “Even if I’m married to Scotty.”
Alec looked delighted by the comparison.
“If you went Martial Artist, you could be my apprentice,” Babushka Lis offered.
“Yeah, that’s why I was thinking about it. But, Bones.”
Thankfully Lis just chuckled. “Fair enough.”
The doorbell rang. Allison did a quick headcount. Stiles, Lis, Peter, Parker, and Alec on the gaming side. Sophie, Braeden, and Eliot on the movie side. They weren’t…missing anyone?
All the wolves scented the air, even Braeden gave it a shot, though she hadn’t had too much success with anything other than keeping things locked down. In her defense, though, she was bitten only three days ago so, really, she was doing amazingly well.
“We didn’t order pizza,” Eliot frowned and got up.
Allison grabbed her shock batons from where she’d stashed them behind her on the couch and followed him to the door. When Eliot opened the door, Derek Hale was standing there surrounded by four people of various ages and Asian descents. At a guess, she’d say the Kitsune Clan Lis had called to train Stiles had arrived.
“We found him lurking across the street,” the only woman in the group announced with a wide trickster’s smile. The woman looked anywhere between sixteen and forty—though, if Allison was right about her being a Kitsune, her real age was probably in the hundreds of years. From the pictures she’d seen in another life, Yukimura Noshiko had looked about thirty until she had pretty much decided her time on Earth was ending and she let herself physically age. “Can we keep him?”
“You know, I think we will,” Eliot agreed and stepped back. “Come in.”
The woman locked arms with Derek and pulled him along as she practically bounced into the house. The three men with her—a pair of twins and an older man Allison would guess was either their alpha, or their father, or whatever the leader of a Kitsune Clan was—followed in her wake. The maybe-alpha was carrying a stack of four pizzas.
Peter was on his feet and hugging Derek before anyone could even say hello. Derek gripped him back so tightly she was a little surprised neither of them creaked with the strain.
“Nephew,” Peter’s eyes are wet. “You’ve come back.”
“They called me,” Derek admitted. “The Sheriff’s Office. To come identify Laura’s body.” Derek refused to look at any of them. “I didn’t even know she died.”
“I didn’t either,” Peter admitted. “Until I got the family alpha spark.”
“You didn’t killer her?”
“No,” he shook his head. “Last I heard she was in police custody being questioned about the Fire, a few days later I was the alpha. I don’t know exactly what happened.”
And Allison had to admire Peter’s ability to lie like butter would not melt in his mouth. His pulse hadn’t changed for even a single pulse the entire time and she would have totally believed him, if she hadn’t already learned a thing or two from Babushka Lis about truth and magically-enhanced senses.
“She was found by the police,” Eliot offered. Not lying, just skipping a few steps. “Surrounded by a bunch of Kate Argent’s men.”
She half-expected Stiles to say something about how they’d get Kate sooner or later but it never came. She looked over at her partner in crime to find him staring at the not-a-delivery-boy with shock and awe and a little bit of pain. “Stiles?” She prompted.
“You’re real. Holy shit, you’re alive!”
Allison exchanged looks with Eliot. Yeah, she didn’t know either. “Stiles?” she asked, “you know them?”
“Yeah, yeah,” he bounced a little, too excited to remain still. “That’s Nakano Daisuke, he’s a mountain kitsune. His second son is Nakano Kaede, a forest kitsune,” Stiles indicted the twin with short hair. “I never met his older son, Hayate, but he’s a wind kitsune and his daughter, Takara, she’s an ocean kitsune.”
Daisuke’s face was dark with fury, “How do you know my family?”
“From the— oh. Right.” Stiles shot her a look, half desperate and half sheepish.
Yeah, she didn’t know how to explain it all, either.
Well, Fuck. Eliot stared at his nephew and wondered what this meant for Stiles and Allison’s big secret.
“Peter, why don’t you and your nephew go upstairs and get re-acquainted?” he tried.
His mate raised a single eyebrow at him. “You wouldn’t be trying to keep a secret from me, would you, oh mate o’ mine?”
Eliot didn’t answer.
“You realize we’ll just listen from upstairs, right?” Derek Hale frowned, almost looking amused.
“Secrets make bad relationships,” Peter added.
“It’s not my secret,” he told them both.
“I don’t know, I think they deserve to know that people time traveled to save them,” Allison offered and Eliot was impressed. For a girl that claimed to hate manipulation, Allison sure had a talent for it. “Don’t you?”
“Time traveled?” Peter asked, amused disbelief filling his tone.
Allison and Stiles turned on him together, nearly identical bitch, please looks painted on their faces. They did that. Sometimes, they got so in synch that they seemed more like one person in two bodies than a pair of individuals. Eliot didn’t know if that was just them forming into a couple or something that Stiles’ ritual had made happen.
“Mischief?” Babushka Lis broke the standoff. “How do you know my guests? You met them… Before?”
“Yeah, Before. Fuck,” Stiles ran a hand over his face and leaned into Allison’s side when she threw an arm over his shoulder. “Okay, so you know about the…shadowy bastard?”
Lis, all of the Spencer Pack, and surprisingly enough the one Stiles had called Daisuke nodded. They all knew about the Nogitsune.
“This one—” Stiles pointed at Daisuke “—had come into town to train a baby Thunder Kitsune, only on his way in he was basically lured to the Nemeton and found the bastard fox. He thought he could banish the Bastard and climbed on top of that stupid stump. Only the Bastard was the one that had lured him there and took him over pretty quick. Kaede had ordered his siblings to flee and sacrificed himself to seal Daisuke and the Bastard in the stump.”
“But the Bastard already had his hooks into you,” Allison supplied.
“Yeah,” Stiles agreed. “Because this was after the Darach stuff with our parents.”
Allison nodded like she knew exactly whatever the fuck that was supposed to mean.
“When he escaped into me, he brought what was left of Daisuke and Kaede with him. The three of us made up the ritual that sent you and I back in time.”
“Dad knows a lot of rituals,” the long-haired twin, Hayate, offered after a long moment.
Daisuke grunted and dropped the pizza boxes on their coffee table. “The pizza’s getting cold.”
Stiles immediately turned to grab a slice. They ended up passing around the boxes and most of the pack took some. Everyone but Eliot and Allison did.
After they both finished their slices, Daisuke offered Stiles his hand. Stiles took it immediately which told Eliot everything he needed to know about the level of trust he had for this guy. He looked at Allison and saw her watching Daisuke very carefully. She still hadn’t set down her shock batons, he noticed with amusement.
He then turned to Parker. His second didn’t move or give herself away but he could feel her agreement in his soul. She’d keep an eye on the foxy bastards too.
“You have my mark on you,” Daisuke eventually said. “Only Kitsune I have trained have ever carried that mark and yet you have the aura of an untrained youngling.”
Stiles considered that. “Could the…Shadowy Bastard have hidden it from me? He was in my head. And he knew I was up to something and he was trying to stop me.” Stiles narrowed his eyes at the Kitsune Clan leader. “Of course, you were in my head to.”
Daisuke looked pleased to be accused. “We will unlock these memories within you,” he promised. “Of course, we will have to find out what type of Kitsune you are first.”
“Makes sense,” Stiles reluctantly agreed.
“And I have another obligation. I have been negotiating with Yukimura Noshiko to train her daughter for the last five years.”
Allison tensed but Stiles smiled. “Oh, yeah, dude. Kira’s great.”
“The Thunder Kitsune,” Daisuke guessed before Eliot could.
Stiles just smiled.
Allison cleared her throat and Stiles turned to her. “We need to take care of…That Bastard before Noshiko makes the county line. The two of them in the same place feels like a recipe for disaster.”
“That…could be a problem,” Daisuke agreed.
“Unless Kira’s coming without her mom?” Allison tipped her head with the question. It was a trait he’d watched her pick up from Stiles
“I can make it happen.”
“What happened?” Peter asked later, after food and movies and character creation. When they were all sort of sprawled together in the Pack Room in the basement. Surprisingly even the four Kitsune had joined them though Babushka Lis had declined. “What was so terrible that it made you time travel, of all things?”
“A void kitsune invading my soul and making me his murder puppet isn’t bad enough?” Stiles looked over her shoulder at the Hale Alpha. Allison tightened her arms around him in support.
“Seems a bit random,” Peter countered. “A kitsune apparently sealed into the Nemeton just randomly possesses a teenager teen years after the Nemeton was cut down? Shouldn’t that have happened sooner? Or something?”
“Why you?” Derek asked from where Braeden was spooned behind him. “Why that?”
Stiles rested his forehead on her shoulder and she decided to take that as her cue. “It started with Laura’s death. She died two days from now in the other timeline and Peter became the alpha. Of course, he’d been without a pack for six years and the drugs they’d kept him on to keep him weak and pliable were still in his system.”
“Drugs plus abandonment plus a heaping spoonful of physical agony with the alpha power suddenly thrown on top?” Stiles added without looking up. “It pretty much broke our Peter.”
“That’s why you sought me out,” the Hale Alpha realized and Eliot and Derek both tried to pull him closer by tugging him in opposite directions. He huffed and playfully shoved them both so they rocked in place.
“It’s one of the reasons,” Allison admitted. “We didn’t expect all of this…help. Mostly we sought you out was because you didn’t deserve that—everything that happened to you. I mean, yeah, you— He went on a murder spree in our timeline but he had sufficient reason and for a crazy person his aim and investigational skills were spectacular.”
“Yeah,” Stiles agreed and finally lifted his head. He pointed at Peter. “But no impromptu murder sprees this time. You want revenge, you come to us. We’ll plot it out and make it happen precisely. No splash damage on innocent bystanders this time. That goes for both of you,” he wiggled his finger between the two surviving Hales and Allison was pretty sure she watched Derek Hale fall ass over tea kettle for Stiles in that very moment.
Just one promise of homicidal revenge and the werewolf was gone. Men were so easy.
“But if any of you try to bring Scott McCall into this pack, I will personally shoot you in the ass,” she promised. She’d use buckshot for a wide-spread sting rather than murder purposes but if anyone could figure out how to lace wolfsbane into buckshot, it was her and Stiles.
“I’ll poison their drink,” Stiles seconded. “And you’ll never know which one until you’re already dead.”
“Our Derek eventually had to put our Peter down,” Allison got them back on topic. “But Peter got Kate before he did so good job, I guess.”
“If it hadn’t brought Murder Grandpa into town, I would agree.”
“We could use something to lure him into town this time,” Allison looked over her shoulder to tell him. Stiles reluctantly agreed.
“One of the four betas you— Our Derek bit became a Kanima and the murder sprees continued. Then there was Deucalion’s Alpha Pack. Then there was a Darach—though, in hindsight—I’m pretty sure Alan Deaton was already a Darach. Is already a Darach?”
“Is,” was Stiles’ vote. “The Darach was sacrificing people to awaken—” and, yeah, that had finger quotes “—the Nemeton, that’s when the Bastard got his hooks into me and escaped the tree leading to Murder Puppet time. I couldn’t— I couldn’t stop him, so I decided to prevent him—and Allison Argent, the queen of deadly efficiency, came along for the ride.”
She squeezed his hand, grateful he hadn’t called her an accident again. But then he hadn’t, not really, not since she objected to it outside the library that first day.
Stiles was great like that.
Stiles was already waiting for them when Allison’s mom parked outside of the school Monday morning. They shared a little wave and awkward smiles as she walked up to him with her mother at her side.
“You don’t mind driving Allison to Eskrima class after school?” Victoria asked without even saying hello.
“Yeah, no, that’s cool,” Stiles’ whole body bounced in agreement.
“Lovely,” Mom said flatly. “I’ll get us checked in.” And she marched right up to the office doors.
Stiles looked at her in question.
Allison just shrugged. “I have no idea. She spent the whole ride over here talking about ride sharing and gas money so expect that to come up at some point.”
“I’ll keep an eye out,” he promised then offered his arm. “Shall we?”
By the time they made it inside, her mom was nowhere in sight and the principal’s office door was closed. Though the guidance counselor for their grade was waiting for them with a smile on his face.
“Mr. Alcala,” Stiles grinned.
“Stiles,” the man greeted. “And you must be Allison.”
“Yeah,” she ducked her head suddenly unsure of herself. This had to be at least her second time meeting the man but she couldn’t remember him from a hole in the wall from Before.
“I understand some schedule changes might be in order?”
“Yup!” “Yes, please.” They both agreed.
“Let’s take this in my office.” He gestured for them to follow.
Once the door was closed and they were all seated, the man pulled out a folder and two pieces of paper. He handed one to each of them, “These are your current schedules. Why don’t you tell me what changes you want to make and why?”
“We met over the holiday and realized we were both back a year from the class we should be part of,” she started. “We decided we wanted to fix that.”
“What do you propose?” he asked rather than shutting them down like they had both half-expected.
“I want to drop Lacrosse—I already have the PE credits I need,” Stiles went first, “and pick up French 1 for the first foreign language credit I need.
“I’m in English 2 now but I need four years of English to graduate on my plan, so I’ll take English 3 this summer—preferably with Dr. Cano if they are doing it—and be ready for English 4 with my correct class mates next year.”
Mr. Alcala nodded. “As long as you take French 2 next year and pass it that would have you graduating with your class on your current plan—”
“—But you have to take two classes to be enrolled in summer school.”
“Ms. J’s summer art program,” Stiles supplied.
“I can make that work,” the man agreed and made some notes. “And you, Allison?”
“Same with the art and the English.”
Mr. Alcala just made notes, not even bothering to look surprised.
“But I want to drop Swimming and take a math credit.”
“What about the PE credit you’re missing?”
“I’m already part of Sensei Finstock’s Eskrima class and I have all the paperwork from him to do the dual credit program with BHHS.”
“The paperwork?” She handed it over readily and he reviewed it. “Technically, you’re supposed to apply to his program through BHHS,” Mr. Alcala hedged. “But the principal is terrified of your mother. Let’s see if we can use that to our advantage. You kids stay here.”
As soon as the door was closed behind him, Allison burst out laughing.
Stiles snorted and shook his head, “Looks like everyone is afraid of your mom.”
“This shouldn’t be funny,” she admitted but just kept on giggling.
“As long as you use the power for good,” he allowed.
“Whose good, exactly?”
He held up his hands. “I cannot answer that question, I plead the fifth.”
Mr. Alcala was grinning when he came back to his office. “Let me email your teachers the changes and write Stiles a note. Then I’ll walk you, Allison, to your first period.”
“So, it was approved?” she asked. “The principal okayed it?”
“Oh, yes, he did,” Alcala was still grinning but didn’t explain any further. His fingers flew over keyboard and paper pad alike and before she knew it, he was waving Stiles out the door.
“Get going, you hooligan.”
It wasn’t long after that that Mr. Alcala escorted her personally to Mr. Nguyen’s World History. Boyd was in the class, just like she remembered, but so was Takara…and Kira. She knew the Nakanos had decided Takara was going to be in classes with them to give Stiles some foxy oversight as he developed his Kitsune powers but she hadn’t realized they’d had time to get her registered. Or that Kira was in town at all.
“Mr. Nguyen, class, this is Allison Argent.” Allison gave the room a little wave. “As you’ve probably noticed, there are several new students in this class. If you ladies would stand up?” Both kitsune complied. “Takara Nakano is a Junior and Kira Yukimura is a Sophomore. I trust you will all make them feel welcome here.”
Allison took the seat beside Boyd and in front of Takara. Kira was behind Boyd so, naturally, when they were assigned into a group project, they turned to each other. Allison found the jealous looks Boyd got from other boys and a few of the girls more amusing than she probably should.
Class flew by and they managed to escape without any punishment homework despite being the loudest group in the room by far.
“Start thinking about your group History Faire projects,” Mr. Nguyen instructed them as they packed up for the end of class. “World War II is the Faire theme this year. You have to commit to a single subject by the end of the week! I’ll see you tomorrow.”
Boyd, Allison, and Kira all had English 2 after so they walked together.
She wasn’t surprised to see Scott already in the room by the time she got there. She was surprised to see a distinct ring of empty seats around him. He sat up eagerly when he saw her.
“That’s your rapist, then?” Kira asked her softly.
“He didn’t rape me,” she corrected. “He just had no respect for my desires and decisions. And he was a total asshole about it, too.”
“A future-rapist, then,” Kira glared at him and the two of them took seats as far from him as they could.
Boyd looked them over, glanced at Scott, and placed himself directly between them and him, specifically so Scott couldn’t see her without practically falling out of his chair.
He started to get up and move when three of the football defensive linemen blocked his path. Football wasn’t a big sport at Beacon Hills High, but they had a team, and defensive linemen were the biggest boys on it.
The biggest of the lot pointed at Scott’s seat until Scott sat back down, then he took the seat in front of him. Another took the seat behind and the third the seat on Scott’s right. A basketball forward and Danny Mehealani took the remaining seats in the buffer zone around Scott and all of the girls in the room relaxed a little bit.
Allison was a little surprised by how effective the rumors Sophie had helped her and Babushka Lis start were proving to be. She suspected Lis was perhaps magically helping them along but she wasn’t mad. Keeping Scott away from Peter and Eliot, away from any alpha, was important for the future.
And keeping him away from her was important for her sanity and happiness. Stiles’ too, though they hadn’t specifically discussed Scott since that first day at the library.
Stiles came in and sat in front of Boyd without even looking at Scott which was a pretty clear indication of his feelings on that subject and at least half the class noticed. Maybe they didn’t have to talk about it after all.
June walked in just before the bell rang and grinned at her as she took the seat right in front of Stiles. It was nice to feel so surrounded by friends even if only one of them truly knew her at this point. Actually, that kind of made it better. Boyd, June, and Kira were becoming her friends because they liked her and because they wanted to, not because they’d time traveled together or because their lives had ever depended on her skills as a hunter.
Lydia was the last person into the class as the bell rang. She glanced over the room, silently asserting her dominance and took the seat in front of Allison.
Allison took a deep breath and let it out slowly. Things had been going so well, too.
“I’m sure you can be friends with Lydia again,” Stiles said softly as they walked from her locker to the lunch room.
Allison shook her head. “It would manipulative and abusive. She’d bend over backwards to make a real friend she can keep. I already know what she needs and wants in a friend. It’s wrong, Stiles.”
“You think she hasn’t figured you out already?” Stiles shot her a skeptical look. “You think she didn’t have you figured out by the end of that first English class last time? She went easy on you Before because she wanted to keep you around but that doesn’t mean you weren’t manipulated into friendship with her.”
That…was probably truer than she wanted to contemplate.
“You’re not hurting her,” Stiles continued. “You have no desire to hurt or isolate or control her, you’re just getting some of your own back and I see no problem with that.”
“And then there’s the whole Banshee thing,” Allison considered that out loud. “Babushka Lis says our auras are both soaked in death. She’s probably going to be drawn to us no matter what we’d prefer.”
“Right, so we need to control what she knows to protect our secret. We have to keep our secret, Allison.”
“Agreed,” she agreed and joined the lunch line.
The cheeseburger and crinkle cut fries were still the best option in the cafeteria, sadly. The pizza looked like plastic and the corn that came as its side was 80% corn-flavored water. She didn’t even want to look at the enchiladas but she did because someone dropped a tray of it on the ground in the middle of everything and stepping in it would be a good way to break her neck.
She grabbed two chocolate milks to make up for the Gross and joined the line to pay with Stiles right behind her.
“How did you two even meet?” Lydia asked as she joined the line proceeding parallel with theirs.
“At the lake,” Stiles lied with a straight face, loud enough for everyone to hear.
“There was a shark,” Allison backed him up without hesitation.
“She saved my life,” Stiles concluded. “Now, I have to follow her everywhere until I have saved her life in return and my debt is repaid.”
Allison nodded solemnly when all she really wanted to do was laugh out loud. She’d had no idea Stiles was a Wookie. Or that he knew Chewbacca’s backstory well enough to just throw it out there on a whim.
They made it back to the where they’d dumped their stuff to find Boyd, Kira, and Takara waiting for them. Lydia looked them over and kept walking for which Allison felt both grateful and guilty.
Sometimes she didn’t even get herself these days but she just reminded herself that she’d time traveled and surely that allowed for a bit of weird and confusion. If anything allowed for such things, time travel after her own physical death had to be it.
She looked up and felt even more weird when Erica Reyes slid into the seat beside Boyd and in front of Stiles.
This chick had become a nightmare and a bully as a werewolf. She’d hit Stiles, a complete human, in the head with a part of his own car. And when you add in the things Scott had told them about her on Christmas that she would just sit herself down at their table without even asking was so far beyond the pale that it defied imagination.
Erica flicked her eyes over Allison and focused on Stiles. “I heard what Scott told you about me.”
Stiles frowned. If you knew him like she did, you could tell he was uncomfortable. As it was, Erica just braced herself for the biting comment that wasn’t coming. “Do we need to find some privacy?” he asked instead.
Erica snorted. “It’s not like I have any privacy left on this matter, the whole fucking town knows.
“Yes, I have a crush on you. Had a crush on you. You remain the only person that has never treated me like a freak or a sideshow because of my condition. You’ve never treated me like I was weak or incapable, either. Even Scott, for all his similar situation, treats me like I’m a child. Worse, he treats me like a dog that can’t even understand how to safely cross the street on my own.”
Stiles flicked a look at Allison and she slid her hand into his under the table to communicate her silent support.
“You’re perfectly capable,” he told Erica. “You might not be as old as I am but you’re not a child. You’re actually older than Scott. And his condition is just as likely to cause problems while crossing the street as yours is.”
“Thank you!” Erica threw up her hands in frustration.
“Anyway, I want you to know that I understand that my feelings are not your obligation. I am aware that I have no right to expectations. I don’t actually have expectations. Scott was referring to a conversation we both had when we were next to each other in the ER for a couple hours after really bad attacks. It was a daydream, nothing more, and if Allison is your choice, I support you.”
“That means a lot, Erica,” she stepped in when Stiles didn’t seem to have anything to say. “Have you met Boyd? And Kira and Takara are new here too. Kira is in your grade.”
“You’re really fierce,” Kira smiled, “I’m kind of jealous. I would just die if someone I trusted blurted my crush out to everyone. And I love your hair color.”
“Me too,” Takara agreed. “I have a shampoo that should help with your frizzies, if you want. My brother experiments on his hair all the time. Between the three of us, we can figure it out.”
Erica looked down the table in surprise, like she hadn’t expected to be introduced. Like she hadn’t expected to be welcomed. “Uh, yeah, that’d be great.” And she blushed furiously when Boyd silently offered her the Jello off of his tray. “Thanks.”
“You know what this means!” Allison grinned at the other girls.
“Ooh!” Kira bounced in her seat, adorably over excited. “A makeover?”
“A makeover,” Allison agreed. “What do you wanna bet I can make even Lydia help?”
“What?” Erica squawked.
“Do you think you could?” Kira gave her the big starry eyes. “She’s so fashionable! And she looks so pretty! I bet she could make us all look amazing!”
Allison turned her smirk on Stiles, “Wanna bet?”
“Sucker bet, pass.” Stiles laughed. “Let me know if you need me to drive though. We could all fit in the family car and the closest mall is a bit of a drive.”
God, she had the best partner-in-crime.
The shark story from the lunch line was not the only story they told anyone that asked how they met but it definitely got the most traction at school. Her favorite had been the one about them being random-match opponents in Little League Jello Wrestling—but the shark story really got around!
“The fuck is a tree shark?” Guy 1 asked just loud enough to be heard in the hallway as they passed.
“Trust me,” Guy 2 said comfortingly, “if you’d seen one, you’d wish you didn’t know.”
“Imma get me a girl that will punch a shark for me,” one of the goth lesbians said as Allison was walking past her alone to her Calculus class. The girl eyed her with undisguised interest. Allison had never felt quite so much like a piece of meat and she’d stood her ground in front of at least two supernaturally-inclined cannibals before.
Harris glared at them as soon as they stepped into class, their last of the day. Harris hemmed and hawed and grumped. Clearly, he was mad about something and he was glaring more than usual at Stiles, but he didn’t do anything. Not until they left class to find every bulletin board in the Science Wing covered in photoshopped pictures of sharks in trees, at least. It totally looked like something Danny would do. Allison’s favorite was the frenzy of tiger sharks circling the branches of a giant sequoia.
Stiles’ favorite was the dressing down Harris got from the Vice Principal for the fit he threw over the poster-sized picture covering the back of his classroom door.
“Man, that was amazing,” Stiles snickered and threw an arm over her shoulder.
She slid her arm around his waist to keep him moving forward before Harris could notice them and start planning his revenge. “Maybe he’ll get suspended. Wouldn’t that be great?”
“Best belated Christmas present ever!”
By silent accord, they hit their separate lockers together. Allison’s first, which was great because it reduced the amount of time they had to linger awkwardly before they could approach Stiles’ locker. It was just two down from Scott’s and neither of them really wanted to deal with Scott.
Coach Finstock had cornered Scott there.
Boyd, Takara, Kira, and June clustered just down the hall from them which made it both less obvious they were all watching and more obvious they were there at all.
“Look, McCall, I’m sorry,” Coach Finstock was saying. “I can’t let you stay on the team. Most of the program’s funding comes from community donations and the community has made it clear that they won’t support a kid like you staying on the team.”
“A kid like me?” Scott repeated. “I haven’t done anything!”
“My decision is final. You’re off the team.” Coach Finstock declared and walked away.
Scott looked around and found her and Stiles pretty quickly. Probably helped along by the numerous members of the lacrosse team sort of gathering around them. He glared at either her or Stiles, Allison wasn’t sure, but they were standing close enough together that it probably didn’t matter. “This is your fault. This is all your fault!”
“Wow!” June interrupted before anyone could say anything. “Wow! Just when I thought I had a handle on all the crazy in this town, I get surprised. And now I owe my family an apology.” She walked up to Scott and jabbed him in the chest with a finger. “I stood up for you, you piece of shit. I told my uncle there had to be some mistake. That you weren’t a monster like everyone said and kicking you off the team was a bad decision. Boy, was I wrong!
“Fuck you, Scott McCall. You are an entitled little douche bag and if you even think about hurting Allison, I’ll be in line right behind her and Stiles waiting my turn to kick your ass!”
“She won’t be the only one.” Boyd didn’t speak often but that made what he said have more impact and damn, could Allison appreciate that right now.
“Go the fuck home, McCall,” Jackson seconded him as he and Lydia stopped beside them.
“You alright?” Lydia asked softly as they all watched Scott pack his bag, slam his locker closed, and leave.
She swallowed like she was nervous. As if Scott could shake her. “Yeah, I’m fine.”
“Do I owe you an apology for having a gigantic crush on you for like a million years?” Stiles asked Lydia suddenly.
Lydia snorted and turned to him. “As if I couldn’t tell you were making a production of it. Stiles, men have been hitting on me since I was twelve. I know when they mean it and when they don’t.”
Stiles shot a speculative look at Jackson.
Jackson threw an arm over Lydia’s shoulders. “I could tell you were faking it, too. It’s not like Shitbag McCall could understand any sexuality other than Maximum Horndog. You know, you shouldn’t have to hide who you are from your friends.”
“Lydia or Danny explained it to you?” Stiles asked through narrowed eyes.
“Lydia,” Jackson admitted and, to Allison’s everlasting surprise, he grinned. “I heard you’re getting back on track with our grade.”
“Yeah,” Stiles’ whole body bobbed as he nodded. “I realized what I was sticking around for isn’t worth it.”
“I told you McCall was a piece of shit years ago,” Jackson said in the tone of a reminder and Allison… Allison hadn’t been aware that Stiles and Jackson had ever been this close. “Maybe now you’ll realize I’m always right.”
“Lydia’s always right,” Stiles countered. “Or Danny.”
Jackson ignored him and eyed Boyd. “You ever play lacrosse?”
“Not on the team,” Boyd raised an eyebrow.
“Let’s fix that.” Jackson jerked his head and Boyd followed him without a word as he and the rest of the team headed for the locker room.
Allison and Stiles grinned at each other and fist bumped. That was two of the betas sorted, one to go.
Lydia gave them an amused look and turned to follow the team out to the field.
“Let me get my books and I’ll get you to your class,” Stiles darted in and kissed her cheek before turning to his locker. That was progress. Definite progress and she didn’t even try to fight the grin that such a simple kiss had put on her face.
“You don’t have Eskrima tomorrow, right?” Stiles asked as they walked to his car from the school.
“Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays,” she confirmed. “Why?”
“Nakano-sama wants you to come to my Fox Lessons,” Stiles admitted. “He thinks that maybe you can help me get over whatever’s blocking me, you know, after everything.”
“I’ll be there,” she promised.
He held out his hand. She took it and tangled their fingers together, squeezing his hand just a bit for good measure.
“Well, of course, I’ll take the emergency appointment to school principal,” a familiar, craggy voice floated vaguely in their direction and Allison’s heart froze. Her blood turned to ice water and the world seemed to tilt. “It’s quite tragic what happened to Principal Anderson but I am prepared to support the community in any way I can in this difficult time.”
“Thank you, Mr. Silva. We appreciate your flexibility as we all get back on track. It just goes to show you how fleeting life really is. Eating lunch one second, hit by a car the next. We’ll all miss John but at least he didn’t suffer.”
Stiles kept her moving with his grip on her hand and casually as all shit glanced over his shoulder. She couldn’t bring herself to look. That voice alone was a complete nightmare. Hearing it here and now just made it worse.
They’d had such a good day, too.
Stiles opened her door for her and helped her crawl into his Jeep before going around the other side and climbing in.
“Was it?” she asked after he slammed his door closed.
“Gerard,” he confirmed. His jaw was tight and his eyes were hard enough that she knew he was contemplating actions that would make the Nogitsune look like a rank amateur.
Eliot looked up when the from door of the Pack House slammed closed and waited for voices to help him identify who had gotten home. When no voices were provided, he felt himself go cold inside.
He glanced at Peter and Parker. His mate and his Right Hand were already sitting up at attention, waiting for his play.
He stood and motioned for them to follow him silently.
When he made it down the stairs, he found his nephew and Left Hand in the front room, curled together. They were pale and shaking. He didn’t think Allison Argent could be so obviously shaken. He did not like to be wrong.
“How is he here?” Allison’s voice broke as she asked the question.
Stiles made a wounded sound and curled closer to her. “An inside man? In the Sheriff’s Department, maybe?”
“An inside woman,” Allison had tears on her face. “My mom.”
“She has a lot to lose in all the changes we’re making,” Stiles agreed, frowning in thought. “Your dad hasn’t really been home since the Archdruid took him as his apprentice, right? She’s got to hate that.”
Allison laughed, it sounded painful and more than a little crazy. “More like she doesn’t want to give up her license to murder whoever she wants to whenever she wants to.
“Why bring him into the school though?”
“They did it last time,” Stiles reminded her.
“Right, because of Scott—but Scott’s not a werewolf this time.”
Stiles somehow pulled her even closer. “You told them you were Pack, right? Maybe they think I am.”
“Fuck, Stiles. I’m so fucking sorry.”
Eliot stepped into the room and stared at them in silent demand.
“Gerard Argent just got made high school principal,” Stiles immediately explained. “Principal Anderson got hit by a truck at lunch.”
John looked up from where he and Don were going over evidence recovered from the Hale House together. The sheer number of DNA samples from people that just didn’t respect the Hale’s loss made him furious in a way he wasn’t prepared to articulate but he was prepared to talk Peter and Derek Hale into tearing that damn house down and putting up some sort of memorial that everyone would have to respect.
Special Agent Ian Edgerton was leaning in the doorway to his office.
“What’s up?” Don asked his teammate.
“Heard from some locals about some good hiding places in the woods. I want to take Colby and go check them out. See if Argent is hiding in any of them.”
“Need anything from us?”
Edgerton considered that. “Increased patrols around the Preserve. So, we can get help if we need it.”
“When do you expect to be back?”
“Alright,” Eppes grabbed another piece of tape to stick something to their case board. “Charlie stays here.”
“Alright,” Eliot closed his phone and sat down on the coffee table in front of what had become impromptu pack snuggles when Derek, Braeden, and Sophie had found the kids in such distress on his couch. “Babushka Lis and the Kitsune are on their way here, you’re all going to bunker down while I get the lay of the land.” He held up a hand before any of them could object. “I’m not going into the woods alone. Beta Edgerton and one of his team members who’s in the know are going with me.
“Peter has agreed to handle defense of this house just in case but I doubt anyone would dare attack a place fortified personally by Babushka Lis.”
“That’s what makes it vulnerable, though,” Stiles said softly, “our confidence that we’re safe. It’s what got the Hales.”
“Lis isn’t Deaton, Stiles. And we’re keeping a watch too.
“Alec, I want you to find out everything you can about Gerard’s cover. Last I heard he had no educational or child developmental certificates that should let him be a teacher much less a principal. And see if you can find out who brought him here. The kids are right, it was either Victoria or someone at the Sheriff’s Station. We need to find out who before it comes back to bite us.”
“Of course, alpha.”
The front door opened and they all heard heavy steps shuffle their way. No one from the immediate pack was missing and the Kitsune would at least knock before coming in so they all sprang apart to meet whatever was headed their way.
It was John looking exhausted, all slumped shoulders and heavily blinking eyes. He wasn’t even wearing his gun belt. It was in his hand all but dragging on the ground.
“Dad!” Stiles popped up off the couch and immediately rushed to his father.
“Hey, Stiles,” John practically slurred.
“You look…terrible,” Eliot offered.
“It’s this case,” his little brother waved his own son off. “Taking a lot out of me, that’s all.”
“There’s a guest room,” Eliot butted into it because he couldn’t not. “Why don’t you put your dad to bed, Stiles?”
“Yeah, yeah,” Stiles agreed distractedly even as he started maneuvering his father toward the stairs. A glance from him had Derek all but throwing himself off the couch to help. Eliot was relieved to note Allison just looked amused by the beta’s less than subtle interest in her mate.
“Take Braeden as your fourth,” Peter told him softly. “When the Kitsune get here, we’ll have enough bodies for me to set up proper patrols and home security.”
“You trust them enough for that?” Eliot asked.
Peter raised an eyebrow. “Protecting this pack is in their best interest. Hunters kill Kitsune too, and Argents tend to be the worst of the lot.”
Allison snorted form her place on the couch but didn’t argue with that assessment.
“Get out of here, boss,” Parker agreed. “We got this.”
“Alright, Braeden?” Peter’s she-wolf was on her feet before he even finished saying her name. “Got your badge? It might smooth things over on the official side of things.”
She gave him a look like he’d lost his damn mind but got up to get her boots anyway. “Yeah, I got it.”
This time when the door opened, there was a knock first. Braeden, who had been kneeling in the doorway to pull on her boots had her gun pulled and pointed before the second knock sounded. Eliot shot Peter a look. His mate looked nothing but smug about the quality of soldier he’d managed to recruit to their cause.
Eliot rolled his eyes but he didn’t say anything.
Yeah, Peter had done good even half crippled and trapped in a hospital bed but Eliot figured he got at least half of the credit since it was his favor that put her in Peter’s space to get Bitten in the first place and he was taking on the majority of her field training.
The door opened under Babushka Lis’ hand and, after a quick glance Peter’s way, Braeden stood down.
Behind Lis came the four Kitsune she’d called into their territory to train Stiles and their fifth foxy friend. Behind them came Chris Argent and eight people that all smelled of magic. Each a slightly different flavor of magic.
Eliot raised an eyebrow at Lis.
She gave him a lethal smile. “I told you I was calling in the Council of Magic,” she waved at her mostly-human company. “The leaders of every magical discipline on this planet. All of them, from Alchemist to Priest to Witch.”
“We’re here to help,” one of the older men with a truly impressive Aquiline nose assured them.
“We have field training,” one of the younger women promised. “You can add us to your patrols, if you’re comfortable with it. I’m Maggie Calaveras.”
“Araya’s daughter?” Allison asked and the woman inclined her head. “Huh,” Allison turned to Peter, “fight fire with fire?”
“We’ll figure it out,” Peter agreed and turned to look at him.
“Going, going,” Eliot pulled his mate close for some scenting action and made sure to touch every member of either pack he could on his way to the door. “None of you have permission to die. Remember that.”
That got him a few derisive snorts. Allison for her part just smirked at shot him a sloppy salute.
Eliot just rolled his eyes. “Assholes.”
John looked up from his perfectly made, brand new cup of coffee. “Deputy Parrish?”
“An irate citizen is waiting in your office, name of Melissa McCall? She insisted on waiting there and since you moved your current case work to the room we gave the FBI, I figured it was best.”
“Yeah, thanks Parrish.” He took a deep breath and hoped the coffee was still drinkable after he dealt with whatever had gotten Mel’s panties in a twist this time.
He opened his office and said nothing as he walked around the desk and sat down. He met Mel’s glare calmly.
“Well?” she demanded.
He took a sip of his coffee and tried to decide how much he cared. The answer was not much. “I didn’t call you here, Melissa. If you want to talk about something in particular, you’ll need to clue me in.”
“Stiles got Scott kicked off the lacrosse team!”
“Stiles,” he repeated.
“Yes,” she hissed.
“Got Scott off the lacrosse team?”
“That’s what I said!”
“When did Stiles, a minor, take a position with the school? When did he get his teaching certificate? Last I knew my son hadn’t graduated high school, much less gone to college and gotten a degree in either education or sports science.”
She spluttered and he took another sip of his coffee.
“He started these rumors about Scott being a rapist! Him and that wretched girl he’s seeing. They used rumors specifically to ruin my son’s life!”
Yeah, okay, he was done with the Blame Stiles Game. He’d been done with it for years, really, but he’d kept the peace for Stiles. After recent events, he didn’t have to anymore and that was amazing. “First of all, not playing on a single team during high school does not count as ruining a person’s life. I get that he doesn’t like it and that it’s a disappointment but that’s life.
“Second, your son is a severe asthmatic. He’s been hospitalized for it twice in the last three months, no coach in their right mind would let him actually play so all he’s really lost is some bench time.”
She opened her mouth to argue but he kept going, he wasn’t done.
“And that’s assuming Scott even got that much. We both know he failed History last semester and English is going to be just as hard for him this semester. No pass, no play. Or in Scott’s case: no pass, no bench.
“Third, what your son did grows into situations that do, in fact, ruin people’s lives. I’m of the opinion that its far better for everyone if he learns consequences now, before he destroys some poor girl’s future rather than after he goes to jail for it. Do you know what he did?”
“He asked for some stupid girl’s number,” she waved a hand dismissively.
“No. Or rather he did but he did it in the single worst way possible. He assumed that the girl that my son was already dating would just be handed over to him. That Stiles would just give her to him like a trading card or a video game. He made it clear he didn’t care what that girl—her name is Allison, by the way, and she’s amazing—wanted or preferred. She was already his as far as he was concerned. That sort of male entitlement leads to rape and other violent situations. I’m sure you, as a woman, have to be just as horrified as she was to be treated in such a manner.”
“You’re just going to take Stiles’ word for it?” Melissa demanded.
“Yes, I would but, in this case, I don’t have to. Stiles didn’t say a word about it to me. He still hasn’t, actually. Allison actually hasn’t said a word about it either. However, my brother and my mother in law both had a lot to say about it. That’s probably where the rumors come from. If you want to have words with them, you go right ahead but leave Stiles out if it. He is a kid and he’s done nothing to earn this attitude. Not from you and not from your extremely self-entitled son.”
“Scott would never hurt a woman,” Melissa protested.
“I don’t know about that,” he said honestly. “I know your son has a problem with boundaries and that he always has. The only reason he hasn’t gotten in trouble for it is because Stiles is always there to either absorb those consequences or head him off. You blame the trouble they get up to on Stiles but that’s not how it works between them.”
“How could you possibly know that?”
“Because I talk to and then listen to my son. Because I sit with them and talk to them together when they’re at my house. I don’t just heap expectations on my son without any consideration of who he is and I don’t just banish him to his bedroom to play video games when I get tired of him.
“Stiles is not to blame for whatever mess your son has found himself in. Stop trying to blame him when he hasn’t even talked to your son in over three weeks except for that one day when we all had dinner together.”
“I can see you’re not going to be reasonable about this,” Melissa sniffed and stood. “Call me when you’re prepared to have an actual conversation.”
“Yeah, okay, I’ll call you.” He waited for her to leave and for Don Eppes to take her place in his space. The door closed behind her—gently, because Don kept a hand on it. “Approximately a week after Hell freezes over.”
Don laughed, out loud and just a little mean. “Good talk then?”
“That woman thinks my son is the source of all her problems. She doesn’t care that he’s just a kid or that he spends most of his time studying, trying to beat Lydia Martin’s GPA. Or that he used to bend over backward to help her son pass when the kid could never be bothered to try—he’s just the devil to her. Never mind that there is no way every law enforcement officer in the county would like him as much as they do if he were such a monster. She just doesn’t care.”
“No allowances for them loving their boss’s son?”
“If he was as bad as she told everyone he was, I would have never been elected sheriff. I definitely would not have won the latest election back in November.”
John scoffed. “You think?”
“Let’s get out of here for a bit,” Don decided. “You said you’d take me to the so-called Mecca of Curly Fries. Let’s go there.”
John stood and pulled on his duty belt. “You good hoofing it? It’s not far and I need the air.”
“Fine by me.”
They ended their morning run in the woods but not at the Hale House. To be honest, one of the best things about Now versus Before was that there was no obsession with the Hale House. That place was terrible, dangerous, and depressing. The only time she’d seen the Hale House Now had been the time when she’d gone to walk the site in the middle of the night that one time with Babushka Lis.
It was great.
The clearing the kitsune clan had claimed for training was on the other side of the Hale House from the Nemeton, she’d noted. She didn’t know why but the positioning felt significant to her.
Of course, because their local kitsune were giant trolls, they finished the run by entering their clearing with some crazy random Power Ranger-esque backflips. Allison and Stiles exchanged a look, just grateful to have made it through a supernaturally-paced run with their feet intact.
They walked a bit to cool down before they sat down to stretched. Daisuke knelt not far from them and they both switched into the kneeling posture he preferred they take during his lessons.
“Are you prepared?” They both nodded and he continued. “Stiles is a Wild Kitsune. Wild Kitsune are rare. I have taught and known two, now three, in my entire life. The first was a Hurricane Kitsune, she had the abilities of an Ocean and a Thunder Kitsune. The second was a Volcano Kitsune, he had the abilities of an Earth and Fire Kitsune.”
“So, I’m a combination type,” Stiles frowned as he thought about it. “What combination do I have?”
“It is not that simple,” Daisuke cautioned him. “Hurricane also had the abilities of a Time Kitsune. She could call up what would now be considered a Category 5 hurricane in what others perceived as less than a minute, but was actually hours of exhausting work for her. Such an event lead to her death at five tails.”
“And Volcano?” Allison asked.
“Gave his life to end a super eruption that left unattended would have destroyed all life on Earth. You may know it as Pompeii.”
“So kitsune powers are complicated,” she concluded, buying Stiles time to think.
“Extremely,” Daisuke agreed. “And they become more complicated and stronger the more tails a Kitsune has. More, the strongest kitsune can learn to mimic the abilities of other types. Though by the age they have acquired enough tails to try, many kitsune get set in their ways and no longer think to do so.”
“How does a Kitsune gain tails?”
“They earn them. Not the first one for every fox is born with a tail, but beyond that it is a matter of age, power, and accomplishment.”
“How many do I have?” Stiles asked.
Daisuke stared at him. Evaluating him or taking a long ass time to make it clear he didn’t want to answer that particular question, Allison couldn’t tell. “Six.”
Allison choked. Stiles rocketed to his feet. “Six? How could I have six? I’m seventeen!”
“As I said, every fox is born with a tail. The second one, I believe was accomplished with the harvesting of Ms. Argent’s soul. The third was earned sending her back in time. Fourth, harvesting your own soul. Fifth, sending yourself back in time.”
“The sixth?” Stiles demanded.
“You used death to pay for the ritual. It was a complicated ritual and you were successful even if you did make a mistake. A very, very fortunate mistake.”
“Mistake?” Allison asked. She really didn’t like to think of them being here Now as a mistake.
“He has bonded your souls.”
Allison felt like he’d stabbed her in the chest. Stiles made a furious sound and leapt to his feet. “Bonded? Bonded? You’re saying I forced her—”
“No,” she glared fiercely at them both. “Stiles, you didn’t. You would never!” He was nothing like Scott, honestly.
“Peace,” Daisuke held up a hand and waiting for Stiles to stop pacing. Allison was pretty sure Stiles was supposed to sit at The Hand but that was going to happen approximately never. “The bond formed because you travelled together, because you died together, and because you had a singular goal between you when you did die. Different motivations perhaps but motivations that put you on a single path regardless.
“This bond is what drew you to work together. Once you came together, the form that bond took was your choice. You could have chosen a sibling bond but that was not what happened. Any actions you take together are your choice and always will be, the bond will simply… limit how far you can separate from each other.
“And possibly other things.”
“It drew us together,” Allison tried to force herself to think. “Does that mean we can use it to find each other? If we get separated?”
“Possibly,” Daisuke agreed. “First, we need to awaken Stiles’ kitsune spirit, and train him, then we will explore this bond and learn what you can accomplish together.”
Stiles backed away from them, shaking his head.
Allison stood and placed herself directly between Stiles and his mentor. “Kitsune spirits don’t really have a history of working out for Stiles.”
Daisuke gave her a look that told her just how tired of her shit he was. “Would you deny a werewolf his Wolf?”
She wanted to say no. She knew she should say no. She knew exactly what happened when a werewolf was denied contact with their wolf. Things like The Strange Case of Uncle Peter and Alpha Revenge happened. But.
“Stiles’ kitsune spirit is already a part of Stiles,” Daisuke tried again. “Another facet that already exists within his soul. While it is asleep, he cannot access the fullness of his gifts and he will never learn control. While it is asleep, he will remain vulnerable to that which you both fear.”
It was somewhat comforting to her that he respected Stiles’ boundary and didn’t say the N-word. She glanced back at her, well, at her Stiles.
“What’s the process?” she asked for him.
“It depends on the type of kitsune he is.”
“And he is?”
“Wild, as I said. Specifically, of Spirit and Time.”
“And how does one awaken a Spirit and Time Kitsune.”
Daisuke was quiet for a long time again. This time he was quiet long enough for Stiles’ curiosity to win out and drive him to ease his way closer.
“You aren’t going to like it.”
“You were right,” Don sighed, “those curly fries were amazing.”
John groaned in agreement. It was tempting to pop the button on his uniform pants but his duty belt made that difficult and he should probably at least pretend to be a professional in front of the FB-fucking-I.
“Try the chilli-cheese curly fries next time. They bring it out in a high-sided plate and it weighs more than your head. It’ll knock five years off your life but damn, it’s worth it.”
“Definitely worth it. Not like I’ll live to old age anyway,” Don mused.
“Life expectancy for a big city federal agent not what it used to be?” John asked.
“Could be worse but with the shootings and the bombs and the bio-weapons…” Don shook his head.
“We don’t really have those problems ‘round here.”
“Yeah, more likely to get hit by a bus than get shot up around here,” Don pulled a face. “At least until last week.”
John sighed. That had been unexpected but who could have expected paramilitary forces to storm his Sheriff’s Station for an orphan that hadn’t even been on this coast in six years? “Well, if it’s growing on you, I could use some experienced deputies.”
“It is growing on me,” Don admitted. “But I need to see this Argent Case through to the end first. The more we learn the worse it gets and I can’t not get it done.”
“Yeah,” John nodded. He got that, he really did.
Don grabbed his arm as the county bus passed them. “Hey, isn’t that—?”
John followed the direction of Don’s gaze to see an older man grab Victoria Argent and shake her violently. “The hell?”
Together they rushed forward to break up the altercation but the bus had stopped and there was a bit of a crowd flooding out. They pushed through as best they could but the bus took off and there was a scream followed by the screech of breaks.
They finally broke through the crowd to find Victoria Argent’s form crumpled and broken in the street. Her companion was long gone.
“That man!” Mrs. Norma grabbed his arm and stopped him. Every Saturday she took the bus to Beacon Valley and back for yarn shopping. She called it going to church but she didn’t have the look of a pleased parishioner about her now. “The man she was with! He pushed her! I saw it!”
Don knelt beside Mrs. Argent and checked her pulse. He glanced up at John and shook his head. Dead then, not that it was much of a surprise considering how far she had flown and the damage evident on the front of the bus.
“I’ll call my people,” he offered and Don agreed.
Don pulled his badge and held it up for everyone to see, “Everyone! I need you to remain calm and stay here. Please remain calm. Deputies will be here shortly to take your statements and then you will be free to go!” Don kept repeating his instructions as he herded enough people to make the Fire Marshall complain into the book store next to the bus stop.
“Do you know who he was?” Don asked softly when they were more or less alone.
John did, fortunately. “Jeremy Silva, the Principal pro-tem up at the high school.”
“I thought he was pretty new to town,” Don frowned.
“Stiles hates him and its stressing him out so I started looking into Silva. Stiles generally has good instincts for people.” If you didn’t count Scott and Melissa, Stiles actually had great instincts about people but that could be excused. They got in under his radar while his mom was… hospitalized.
Don seemed to read at least some of that in his face because he just smiled and agreed. “Generally.”
“Dawn,” he muttered to himself. “Fucking dawn.”
“The time when the Sun gains its strength as it wins out over the shadow,” the priest among them intoned gravely. An honest-to-god magical priest, not your everyday catholic man in the bib-thing and the robes. “It is the most powerful time possible for this particular type of ritual.”
Imhotep the Thirteenth, High Priest of Ra, was not actually a difficult kind of guy to deal with despite his religious associations. He had this well of calm to him that made the destructive side of Eliot want to take potshots at him but, well. He wasn’t overbearing in his piety.
He was the High Priest of all magical Priests on Earth, though. He was there to assist them with the…Bastard Fox at Babushka Lis’ insistence so he was not a guy anyone could take potshots at with impunity.
Thoughts of Babushka Lis had him looking to Daisuke, arguably the leader of this little misadventure to banish the Nogitsune from the physical realm and awaken Stiles’ kitsune spirit in a single stroke. Her reaction to the proposed ritual had been harsh and brutal, bordering on excessive. When they’d realized that they, as women, would not be allowed to attend the ritual Babushka Lis and Allison Argent’s reactions together were enough to permanently maim lesser gods.
Nakano Daisuke was apparently not a lesser god.
Babushka Lis’ reaction, however, was how they wound up in the woods with the High Priest, the Archdruid, and the Archdruid’s personal apprentice—who just so happened to be Allison’s very own father, Chris Argent.
Derek Hale had been invited to come along to take them up to six ritual anchor points, one for each of Stiles’ tails. Derek had been the only choice, being the only male werewolf in the pack that didn’t technically outrank Eliot. Also, as long as he was part of the ritual and they were on Hale territory, they could use his family connection to the land as the primary grounding point Stiles, the focus of the ritual.
The Nemeton was…not all that impressive, really. A perfectly flat tree stump larger than any two—or four—of the beds he’d slept in in his entire life put together. But other than its sheer size, it was not all that special.
At least if you ignored the oily black streaks running through the woodgrains and the generally unbalanced air the area had.
“Chris?” Archdruid Robert looked to his apprentice.
Apparently, this man was the Nemeton’s chosen one or something. Eliot couldn’t say he was impressed with the tree’s choice. Then again, he wasn’t a tree. Maybe there was more to the man that Eliot couldn’t see.
“Mr. Stilinski, in the center,” Chris pointed. Stiles made a face but climbed up none the less.
Chris pulled a face too, but moved around to physically place the rest of them where he wanted them. Eliot and Derek were on opposite sides of Stiles. Derek had his back toward the Hale House even though it was miles away and was standing on the ground. Eliot was placed on the stump to connect with Stiles through their shared blood. As a werewolf, he magically linked them both to Derek who was on the ground, anchoring them all to the Earth.
Daisuke was on the Earth behind Stiles to ground Stiles directly, fox to fox. Imhotep was across Stiles from Daisuke but on the tree, bringing light and the Sun to the inner circle to counter the Nogitsune’s darkness and void. He would also magically ensure sure the Nogitsune didn’t escape into Daisuke.
“In the position of power,” Chris called it. Eliot wasn’t sure what that meant and he didn’t like it but he could admit it felt right to have the Priest there.
Archdruid Robert was on the ground behind and sort of between Imhotep and Eliot but Chris took the final spot on the stump, across Stiles from his mentor.
It was two intersecting triangles, Eliot thought and maybe that the point. Two sets of three with Stiles in physical center of both.
“Now, invoke the Nemeton,” High Priest Imhotep instructed.
Argent took a deep breath and pulled a knife from his belt. He held the knife aloft, pressed into the palm of his free hand and half sang words that made Eliot’s ears ring and his eyes cross. The druid’s whole body lit up with a soft green light. To Eliot’s right, Robert was glowing a richer, almost thicker green light.
Imhotep started glowing like a small sun. A gold and yellow and orange orb that honest to, well, Ra even had tendrils of light licking off the main orb of his body like an ancient sun in glory.
Daisuke appeared to be a very small-scale mountain and Derek looked more like a wolf than a man so Eliot assumed he was seeing visual representations of everyone’s spirits or souls or auras or whatever you wanted to call them.
Stiles was a statue of milky blue glass. In some places, he was transparent. In others, he was swirled with golden glitter. A fox head tried to form. It wavered. It formed. Then, it was gone. Then, it formed. No, it was gone again. The whole thing was dizzying to watch.
Then Imhotep started chanting. His light grew brighter and then brighter again. Unfortunately, the shadows just grew stronger, more defined by such a powerful light source.
If the comic book character Venom had ever taken a fox form, that fox form bubbled out of the tree to stand behind Stiles. It was huge and powerful. It had its fingers in him, interfering with the solidification of Stiles’ fox form and whispering what could only be terrible things in his ears.
It was the Nogitsune, he realized. It had to be. How the hell had Stiles fought that off for months? And then turned around and escaped it against its will? Sweet baby…Ra.
The fox head of Stiles’ aura finally formed and solidified. Six tails blazed into being, each basically pinned by one of the men in the ritual, but a seventh tether—or something—shot out of Stiles and headed for the trees. Eliot followed it visually to find Allison Argent standing a silent vigil deep in the forest.
Silently, she raised her bow and pulled a shining silver arrow back on the string. She held it for a short eternity and let it fly. The arrow hit the Nogitsune in the chest and it screamed as it staggered away from his nephew.
Eliot staggered as the magic of the ritual shattered and fled.
The magic leaving removed a weight he hadn’t even noticed from his chest and he took his first full breath in what felt like hours even as he landed on his ass on the stump. Stiles went down too and Eliot didn’t have any power left to catch him but Stiles caught himself at the last moment.
Unerringly, he glanced up to the trees. “Thanks, Ally,” and passed out.
“And you haven’t found any connection? None at all?”
Allison took a deep breath and reminded herself that she did, usually, love the hell out of Stiles. She knew his faults. She knew his quirks. She should have expected this when once again facing Gerard in real life. Honestly, she had no excuse not to.
“I haven’t met him this time around and my parents know that,” she said, again. “Mom at least would call me on my shit, especially if she did bring him in to fuck with us. I can find no pictures of him in the house. I can find paperwork that has his name all over it, sure, but nothing that would explain how I know what he looks like when he’s claiming to be someone else and has the paperwork to back it up. Maybe we could prove it if we could come up with a reason for the police to fingerprint him? But what do we have?”
“We gotta think of something,” Stiles ran a frustrated hand through his hair. “We can’t just let him stay there, watching, waiting for us to fuck up—”
“Stiles,” Eliot called his name in a tone that commanded obedience. They looked up to see Eliot lingering in the doorway to the kitchen. “Help me with this.”
Stiles sighed but followed him into the kitchen without arguing.
The front door opened and Allison looked up to see Sheriff John enter the Pack House. He looked…tired. Exhausted, really. And he had creases on his face the spoke to falling asleep on his paperwork, Allison winced. His back had to be killing him.
And they probably should have realized he hadn’t come home last night. This wasn’t Before were everything was crazy and he’d been driven back into the bottle to drown out all of the crimes he couldn’t solve. This was Now when he’d been coming home to see Stiles every day and ate no less than two meals a day with them as a pack, as a family.
John Stilinski took off his coat and hung it up. Then he sort of lingered in the doorway. Allison almost dismissed it as an exhaustion thing but his eyes were clear.
She watched him watch the Pack lay out breakfast on Alpha Eliot’s stupidly large dining room table. She watched him realize something, his eyes sparked just like Stiles’ did when he made a sudden leap of intuition that was actually correct. Then he got confused. Then he got angry.
His angry face was a lot like Stiles’ murder face, which was…bothersome.
“Did you Bite my son?” He demanded the moment Eliot laid eyes on him.
Allison swallowed and looked at Stiles. Stiles met her eyes, swallowed, and turned to Babushka Lis. Babushka Lis glanced around the room, saw them all looking at her and pressed her lips together in her patented Disappointed Grandma face.
“Is there something you need to tell us, Lis?” Alpha Eliot asked her sharply.
“How could I possibly know what I need to tell you because you don’t know?” she returned and, yeah, that didn’t fly. She sighed at them like they were all such a trial. “Traditionally, Druids sacrifice their criminals. After the Nemeton was cleansed of the Dark Influence, Alan Deaton was tried by the Council of Magic and sacrificed to the Beacon Hills Nemeton following the druidic way.”
“You didn’t think we’d want to know that?”
“Well, of course you would, but there was no telling how long his spells would linger in any of his victims after his death. The experience would have been taxing and emotionally wounding to John in a way that would drive him to seek home, pack, and safety. I was going to tell you after I saw the signs it had, in fact, worked.
“No reason to get anyone’s hopes up before that,” her eyes flicked to Stiles and Allison understood.
Allison understood it on a bone deep level, actually. Babushka Lis hadn’t wanted to cause one more disappointment that would haunt Stiles. Not one she was responsible for, anyway.
“You didn’t take into account that the station and my deputies are as much my home and pack this place is while I was…what, exactly?”
“He had you spelled to ignore and forget the existence of the supernatural to keep you from noticing his foolishness and calling me in to fix it,” Babushka Lis looked…utterly pissed. “And he killed my daughter to do it. Poisoned her to make her open to his magic and then drove her mad.”
“He’s why she jumped,” Sheriff Stilinski rubbed his hand over his mouth. “That’s why she…made all those accusations.”
Allison immediately moved to lean against Stiles to comfort him. She’d known his mother had died from a disease that wasn’t fatal but she hadn’t made the jump to suicide, though maybe she should have. Stiles had basically committed suicide to come back in time and save them all—he had to learn that behavior was acceptable from somewhere. Powers That Might Be knew his father would never.
Stiles shifted a bit and she glanced around him to see Sophie leaning on his other side, lending her support. Derek moved to guard Stiles’ back while Braeden took his hands and started to chuff his fingers. They always felt like ice when he was upset so it was probably a good thing she had volunteered for that particular duty.
No, she decided, it was a good thing. All of it was. This was Pack. Pack was family. This was what family did and it most definitely was a good thing.
“Alright, we can talk while we eat,” Eliot decided and gestured for them to sit at the table. “You kids have school today and the last thing we want is Argent attention because you both missed a day.”
Breakfast was surprisingly subdued for a Pack meal. Probably because Babushka Lis and Alpha Eliot spent all of it explaining the whole time travel thing to Stiles’ dad. Allison didn’t argue against it because literally the entire rest of the Pack knew and Stiles’ dad was the best one to help them on the legal front—that was why they had taken Kate’s Journals to him in the first place, after all—but that didn’t mean she helped them handle it.
She stayed silent and vigilant at Stiles’ side because that was what Stiles needed. Someone there for him, someone that wouldn’t leave and wouldn’t be distracted. She could feel that in her soul.
The discussion of his mom’s death had shaken him, obviously. Her death had been traumatic, Allison knew that. Even Before, it had been obvious in how much more mature Stiles always had been compared to Scott. As a group, they had talked about the possibility Claudia Stilinski’s death had been caused by Alan Deaton but never this directly. It seemed like the truth of the situation was just beginning to settle on Stiles.
She glanced at Derek Hale thoughtfully. She could relate to the shock of new facts. Reframing your mother’s death after the facts you had known were changed was…hard.
It was just another shitty thing for her and Stiles to have in common.
John watched the kids—four of them, including the six-hundred-year-old kitsune that looked sixteen and had shown up with an actual sixteen-year-old kitsune because it was their turn to drive—pack up and get ready for school. He hated to do this, especially after Eliot had just made it clear they all had to go to school, but he couldn’t risk Allison learning the truth from rumors. Also, since she’d apparently time traveled back in time two years, she definitely counted as an adult at least mentally so he didn’t feel right about keeping it from her because of her age, either.
“Allison.” The huntress looked up at him with big, wide Bambi eyes and he wondered momentarily how many people had fallen for her innocent packaging in that other future. “I need to talk to you for a minute.”
“Yeah, okay.” She followed him into the kitchen easily enough.
He was pretty sure everyone in the house could hear them despite being at least one room away but he appreciated the pretense of privacy none the less. He’d learned pretty young it was the best you could get with a werewolf in the house. “There’s no easy way to tell you this. It’s about your mother.”
“She’s dead?” Allison’s eyes flicked around his face. “Isn’t she?” When he didn’t say anything, she sighed. “I’ve gotten this talk Before.”
“She was pushed in front of a bus. Had to be a heat of the moment thing, there were almost a hundred witnesses including myself and one of the FBI agents currently in town investigating your Aunt’s crimes.”
Her throat clicked as she swallowed. “Who?”
“Who murdered my mother?”
He eyed her suspiciously. She went from Snow White to Evil Queen faster than he’d have thought possible if he hadn’t just witnessed it himself. “A man named Jeremy Silva. We’re investigating him, but he’s—”
“My grandfather,” her voice cracked and her Ice Queen demeanor wavered but she held onto it with both hands. “My grandfather killed my mother?”
“Jeremy Silva is Gerard Argent? Why didn’t you tell me Jeremy Silva was Gerard Argent?”
“How could I prove it?” she demanded. “There are no pictures of him in my house and, technically, I haven’t even met him yet.”
“You mean, other than the newspaper article you gave me on the day you turned over your Aunt’s journals about the mysterious disappearance of an English Teacher and the man she’d suddenly married that allowed Kate Argent to swan her way into Derek Hale’s life and murder his entire family?” he asked in return. “He’s identified as Gerard Argent in that article. There’s a picture of him, too!”
She staggered like he’d stabbed her. She was caught before she could go down by Stiles on one side and Derek Hale on the other.
“You know?” Hale gave him big wounded eyes. “You know that I—”
“I know that you were taken advantage of,” he cut the young werewolf off before he could blame himself for Argent crimes. Not that John thought it halted the train of thought inside the very young man’s head but he could try, dammit. “An adult, a teacher that you should have been able to trust, used you. She manipulated you and used you to kill your family. It’s not your fault, Derek.”
Derek looked pale and shaken.
John looked at his son, they needed to get Allison out of here before Derek’s Wolf got riled. She was an Argent and while she might not agree with her family, she smelled like them. Having her in the room for this conversation was stupidly dangerous.
Stiles silently pulled Allison out of the room.
“Now, son, if you’re willing to testify against her you can help put her in jail for a very long time. For what she did to you and for what she did to your family.”
“You okay?” Allison asked softly as they stopped by her locker.
“Not really,” Stiles admitted with a self-deprecating laugh.
“I’ve been there too, you know. I don’t know that anything helps but if you think of something…”
“You’ll be my first call,” he promised. Then he glanced around. “Any idea why Lydia is looking at us like we’re the scariest things she’d ever seen?”
She closed her locker and looked down the hall. Sure enough, Lydia was pale—like, just-screamed-for-the-dead pale—and Jackson stood by her side looking like he smelled something that personally offended him. “Let’s check it out.”
Stiles smirked and took her hand. They walked down the hall side by side to face down BHHS’s power couple.
“Everything okay?” she asked as they stopped.
“I— No.” Lydia gave a half-hysterical laugh that ended in a bit of a sob. “But I’m trying to wrap my head around it.”
“What happened?” Stiles asked.
“I…” Lydia leaned forward and spoke softly. “I met the High Necromancer this weekend.”
“Oh,” Allison and Stiles exchanged looks. Something else Babushka Lis hadn’t mentioned, not that she actually had any control over the leader of a magical order separate from her own or what they did. Not that there were enough Sparks for a proper magical order but, still.
“Yeah, oh. Apparently, I’m a type of Death Elemental called a Banshee?” Lydia shook her head. “He wants to do a ritual to activate my magic.”
“Okay but do you have to?”
“He said if it happens naturally or if something forces my manifestation…there are barriers between the living and the dead for a reason.” Lydia took a deep breath. “He said I could talk to you two, that you know about magic.”
Stiles nodded with only half his body and Jackson moved closer to him. It amused Allison probably more than it should to think that Jackson was preparing to catch him as he flailed himself onto the floor. “Uh, yeah. My grandma is a Spark. Apparently, my mom was a Spark too?”
Lydia shot Stiles a look full to the brim with sympathy but no pity, for which Allison was grateful.
“My dad’s a druid,” she offered. “He’s being trained by the Archdruid right now. I have some magic too but, not a lot.”
“Enough to train?” Lydia asked with interest.
Allison shrugged. “Just a few tricks to help me keep up, really. Enhanced senses, lie detection, that kind of stuff.”
Allison blinked. “With werewolves? Did the High Necromancer not warn you that we live in the heart of werewolf territory?”
“He prefers the title Warlock.” Lydia raised an eyebrow.
Allison rolled her eyes.
“But no, he didn’t… but he did mention that the Bite was probably the worst way to open my so-called gifts even if it was one of the most powerful ways to do it. As in, I would be at my most powerful if it happened.”
“But also, the most unstable,” Allison guessed.
“Yeah… I assumed he meant Vampire Bite or something. I mean, he’s a necromancer.”
“As far as I know Vampires do not exist,” Allison admitted and the face Lydia made amused her more than it ever should have. That was probably why she added, “Fae though, those you have to watch out for. I’ve heard the really like Banshees. You know, in ways that aren’t healthy for Banshees.”
“A reason not to activate,” Lydia decided.
“A reason to activate as soon as possible,” Stiles corrected. “Once you’ve mastered your gifts, you’ll have defenses against them. Right now, you’re walking through a gunfight you can’t even see without a vest or cover.”
Lydia considered that. The reordering of priorities was visible in her eyes. “I’ll think about it.”
“We can talk about it later, if you want?” Allison offered.
“After school,” Lydia agreed. “If that’s cool?”
“Dude, get off my nuts!”
Allison looked over to see Jackson well inside Stiles’ personal bubble. He was practically wrapped around him and Jackson’s eyes were all half-lidded and languid. It was a weirdly familiar look on him. A very pleased werewolf sort of look and Stiles clearly didn’t know what to do with it.
“You smell like family,” Jackson rumbled. Honest to god rumbled! Exactly like a werewolf, actually.
“Oh. Oh, no.”
“Parrish,” he called as he rounded the front desk with Derek Hale behind him.
He knew he shouldn’t have favorites but Deputy Jordan Parrish was definitely his among the newer deputies. He figured that was alright, Tara was still his favorite overall. “Call Christopher Argent, see if you can get him to come down this afternoon.”
“Notification?” Parrish guessed, looking sympathetic.
“And legal identification,” he confirmed. “But let me tell him that when he gets here.”
“Of course, Sheriff.”
John led Hale into the FBI room, thankfully they were all there when he entered. “Since you’re a victim giving a statement, we can let you pick who you give it to. Two officers, one from my department and one from the FBI.”
“You,” Hale immediately decided.
John was relieved. It was what he wanted to happen and knowing that Hale still trusted him was a bonus but he honestly felt like this situation called for them to maximize the werewolf’s comfort. It wasn’t like they didn’t have a surplus of qualified personnel on the case. “And the FBI agent?”
“Not him,” he pointed at Colby Granger. “He’s an Argent man.”
John felt his face flush in fury but Granger held up his hands peaceably before he could say anything. “I’m not but it’s not like you get to pick your parents. That said, I left them when I was sixteen after Gerard Argent got my dad killed on a hunt that was not necessary. I haven’t been home since.”
“I’m sure their raging homophobia helped,” Edgerton muttered.
Granger tipped his head, conceding the point. “And the racism. Anti-Semitism, too. If there’s a way to be an asshole, hunter families got it mastered.”
Derek made a face but moved to the next FBI agent. He and Edgerton flashed beta blues at each other and Hale kept on looking. He skipped over Megan Reeves completely which…John thought might be fair. Other than hair and eye color she didn’t have much in common with Kate Argent physically but in Derek’s situation that was probably more than enough.
“Can’t be him, can it?” Hale was pointing at Dr. Eppes.
“I’m not an official FBI Agent,” Dr. Eppes agreed apologetically.
Derek looked back and forth between Don and his second for several moments before nodding to his choice.
“My name is Special Agent David Sinclair,” Hale’s choice offered his hand as he approached the werewolf. Offered it like one would a human, not a dog, which John was grateful for, but not surprised by, considering he had a beta already out as a werewolf on his team. “Let’s get some coffee and the three of us can find somewhere to talk this out. What do you say?”
“Lydia texted me,” Allison told Stiles as she met him at his locker after school.
He squinted at her. “Okay.”
“I guess she’s decided she’s more upset about this whole thing than she thought. She key smashed.”
“Lydia?” He stopped loading up his backpack to stare at her. “Key smashed?”
“That’s what I said.”
“Are you sure you don’t want to change your answer?”
She snorted a laugh. “I mean, it could be that an alien stole her phone. Stranger things have happened.”
“Especially in this town,” he agreed. “You skipping Eskrima?”
“No, are you kidding? Sensei Finstock’s been cool about the days I’ve missed but he’s not that cool.”
“We agreed to meet at the juice shop down the street after. She’ll pick me up and bring me home from there.”
“Keep your phone on you,” he told her. “And if you need me, key smash.”
“I’m telling you!” his nephew flailed so much Eliot was surprised he didn’t sprain something. “He’s a total werewolf! I don’t know how! Before, he got Bitten and then he became a Kanima and then he became a werewolf.
“Also, how did another Spencer wolf end up born in Hale territory? How?”
“You’re adorable,” his mate said it like it was a surprise and a wonder to recognize the charm of his nephew. Eliot would be offended on Stiles’ behalf if he wasn’t already anticipating the I told you so’s he would get to trot out later that night.
“What?” Stiles flailed in offence.
Peter raised an eyebrow. “Why would a possible wolf born in Hale territory be a Spencer?”
“It’s happened before!”
“What do they say about lightning striking the same place twice?” Peter taunted good naturedly.
“That’s happened too! Three times, even! Just because it’s unlikely does not make something impossible. You should know that, Mr. Werewolf.”
“He’s far more likely to be a misplaced Hale wolf, is all I’m saying.”
“How?” Stiles demanded.
“I wouldn’t touch a woman with a ten-foot pole, but I had two older brothers, either of which could have fathered a son before he died—though I’m not sure if David is actually dead or not. He and Talia were on rough terms even ten years before the Fire. I’m honestly not even sure where to begin to look for him.”
“Speaking of looking,” Stiles segued in style. He pulled a folded napkin out of a front pocket and handed it to Peter. “The alpha of the pack Cora is staying with, name and phone number. I called him, he’s not willing to just send her up here on my say-so but he’s invited you and Derek down for a visit. If she recognizes you and is willing to come, he’s prepared to let her leave his territory and his pack to return to her family lands with no hard feelings.”
Peter stared at the napkin like it was going to bite him but, in the end, reached out and took it.
Eliot dropped a hand on his shoulder. “I can have Alec book you both plane tickets. We’ll get you on the way after dinner.”
“Yes,” Peter’s voice cracked and he had to try again. “Yes, thank you. Thank you very much.”
“Yeah, well,” Eliot left the table in favor of his truly indulgent kitchen. “I’m making tacos and you can’t stop me. Messy, hard shell tacos with shredded lettuce.”
His mate made a face, the prissy bastard, and Stiles just laughed.
“Allison? Order for Allison?”
She smiled and tipped Smoothie Guy as she took her order. A Berry Blast Attack for her and a Hakuna my Guava for Lydia. Lydia didn’t start drinking them for another year Before but Allison felt no guilt on jump starting her addiction. There was a space of at least six months where Hakuna was the healthiest thing to enter Lydia’s body for weeks at a time.
Of course, Lydia had been losing her mind to crazy Uncle Undead and Death Magic at the time but, still.
When she sat down at one of the outdoor tables, a car honked at her. She looked up to see who it was and recognized Lydia’s little gold Prius.
“Really?” she asked no one. “You can’t even get out of the car?”
She scoffed but got up anyway. She crossed the street—taking the time to walk down and use the crosswalk because fuck you too, Lydia—and climbed right into her former/future best friend’s car.
“Got you Hakuna my Guava. It’s your new favorite,” she closed the door and handed the smoothie to Kate. Fucking Kate.
“Don’t,” Kate grinned as she took a sip from Lydia’s smoothie and Allison slowly removed her hand from the door handle. “We’d hate to ruin the upholstery,” her eyes cut to the back seat and Allison followed them to see Gerard holding Lydia. The gun to her ribs was a nicely dramatic touch if really fucking dumb. So very dumb. If he shot her at that angle, he’d shoot himself too.
Not that that would make Lydia any less dead and Allison would still have psycho Kate to deal with.
“Fine,” she faced forward and put on her seatbelt because fuck Kate, too. “Fine.”
The Hale House, Allison laughed bitterly to herself. Why was she not surprised that Psycho Aunt and Murder Grandpa took her and Lydia to the Hale House? Fuck, wasn’t anything sacred to these people?
Even as Allison thought it, she already knew the answer was no.
A double no for anything even vaguely werewolf-related.
Hell, Kate probably held the Hale House as her personal fucking trophy in her quest to kill all the werewolves.
“What are you doing here?” Lydia demanded as she too was handcuffed to the bit of chain link fence already standing in the room.
Allison kind of wondered if it was the same bit of fence Kate had tortured Derek on Before and then got a really bad feeling about the whole set up. Kate had tortured Derek with electricity. Human bodies could not take as much electricity as a werewolf could.
“You weren’t supposed to be here!” Lydia hissed.
“I was meeting you! Like you said!”
“Did you even read my message?” Lydia demanded. “I made it clear you shouldn’t come.”
How the— “The key smash?”
“Yes, the key smash! I would never voluntarily key smash in my life!”
“Lydia,” Allison tried for patience but the appearance of car batteries was making that really difficult, “I’ve known you for like a week. How could I have possibly known that?”
“You’re dating Stiles!”
And that…was probably a good point. Stiles had known everything there was to know about Lydia at one point in time. He had, in fact, commented on her use of key smash in the original message but it hadn’t seemed out of place for either other them. Probably because they were remembering the time she came into her powers Before, Allison groaned.
Lydia had done a lot of things she would never when her powers had been awakening Before. Including—but not limited to—going naked and dirty in public.
“My, my, what terrible language you have there,” Murder Grandpa tutted at her. “Seems those dogs are a worse influence than I thought.”
“Profanity is worse than murder?” She glared at him and wished she really could kill with a look. “Or racism? Or kidnapping innocents? Or torturing your own granddaughter?”
“So, you do know who I am,” Gerard looked pleased by that. “I thought Chris would never tell you.”
“He didn’t tell me, the newspaper did. After I read Kate’s murder journals, I found that article about the English Teacher you married to make room for her at the High School. Did you kill her too? Did you kill your own wife?”
“I have no wish to discuss the intimacies of my marriage with my granddaughter,” Gerard said loftily which implied several horrifying things, really, none of which Allison wanted to think about too closely. “But yes, she has passed. I fail to see how that’s relevant to our current situation.”
“I think it’s entirely relevant,” Lydia argued, dammit. “Allison has a right to know about her grandmother.”
“Elizabeth was not her grandmother. And her fate has nothing to do with Allison’s.”
Allison had to remind herself to breathe. The English teacher’s name had been Mary. Mary Christmas. So, who the fuck was Elizabeth?
“What is my fate, then?” She jutted her chin out stubbornly, hoping that if she pissed him off, he’d ignore Lydia in favor of her.
“A few tests,” he admitted as he sat down in a wooden chair. “Simple ones, really. You see, I don’t take it kindly to people filling the granddaughter’s head with lies.”
“Lies?” Allison scoffed. “You mean like how werewolves are people? Or how killing them for no reason is murder?”
“Both,” he nodded agreeably as he picked up a pair of jumper cables and tested to joins on the leads. “You’ve been corrupted. You ruined everything. For me, for Kate, for hunters everywhere. Makes me wonder…what else have they corrupted you with?”
Oh. Oh, no. “I’m not a werewolf.”
“I’ll just have to prove the truth of that for myself,” He smiled. “No hard feelings, right?”
“I was hoping you’d say that,” he connected the ground connection to the fence. “I was really hoping you’d say that.”
“Peter and Derek are in Redding. Braeden just put them on the plane to Sacramento,” Eliot updated the pack as soon as he got the text from his mate’s beta.
“Will they be back for the welcome to the Pack dinner we’re having for Edgerton?” Parker asked, tilting her head curiously.
“We haven’t set a date yet so, probably,” Stiles stood. “I should go to bed. School in the morning.”
“Who are you and what did you do with Stiles Stilinski?” Alec asked jokingly.
Stiles laughed. “I am Stiles I just— I feel weird.”
“It’s— I think maybe I’ve gotten a little codependent? It’s strange not having Allison with me, like it hurts. In my stomach and my heart.”
Eliot stepped up to his nephew and put his hand on his neck. Stiles’ skin was strangely warm but also cold. He tilted Stiles head to get a good look at his eyes. “How strange?”
“Like, electricity. It’s just—jumbling me up inside.”
“Have you ever felt anything like this before?” Eliot pressed.
“No, well, not Now. Before. When I…died? I think I got something like this then but not Now.”
Eliot wasn’t sure what to say about that. He knew his nephew had sacrificed himself to come back in time but him casually discussing his own death was…something special. And not in a good way.
The front door opened. “Eliot?” Sophie called as she entered with two sets of footsteps behind her. “I found these two on the walk up,” she explained. “They’re looking for someone.”
“Danny?” Stiles asked as he moved towards the new comers. “Jackson, what’s wrong?”
“Where’s Lydia?” Jackson asked, his voice a growl. And, yeah, this kid was a werewolf. His wolf’s scent was weak and tangled with magic. Eliot figured his wolf scent had been getting stronger all day because he’d touched Stiles at school but Eliot hadn’t smelled anything more than a human from of the boy’s scent on Stiles. Now the Wolf scent lingered in the air, like the smoke of a forgotten candle three rooms away.
“She’s with Allison. They were meeting for smoothies after Eskrima.”
“Where’s Lydia?” Jackson repeated, his eyes tried very hard to flicker to beta gold but they couldn’t hold the change.
“Lydia was supposed to check in,” Danny put a cautioning hand on his friend’s shoulder. “Twice. She was supposed to check in twice and she hasn’t at all. I couldn’t track her phone which is weird because she never turns it off but, we were hoping maybe she was with you?”
“We’re not at my house and I’ve never brought anyone but Allison here,” Stiles pointed out. “How did you find us?”
“We went to your house first,” Danny admitted. “But then—”
“Smell,” Jackson really growled this time and Danny gave him a little shake. Jackson covered his face and took several deep breaths. “I don’t know how but I could smell you and Allison. Your house, another house, here. I followed the smell here.
“Am I a werewolf?” The kid’s voice cracked as he asked.
“Yeah,” Eliot confirmed. The longer the kid was around them the more prominent his Wolf grew.
“But he wasn’t Bitten,” Danny objected. Then he looked at his friend, “Right? You weren’t Bitten?”
“No, he wasn’t Bitten,” Stiles agreed, frowning. “He was born.
“The real question is why is he manifesting so late? More Deaton fuckery?”
“It’s a safe bet but we can have Lis check him out,” Eliot agreed. “Your family alpha just left the country, Jackson, but he’ll be back. He’s my mate, we’ll all help you until he gets back.”
“Family alpha?” Danny asked.
“He’s a Hale,” Eliot shrugged. “I bet now we can guess what happened to the unaccounted-for Hale brother.”
“Peter can make sure when he gets back.” Stiles promised their pack’s latest beta.
“We can do better than that,” Aunt Kate’s voice drifted in from the hallway.
It sounded like a scream to her ears because Allison’s sense spells were beyond her control but part of her mind readily identified Kate’s lazy predator tone. It was the same one she’d used when talking to or about Derek Hale Before.
She honestly had no idea what she was smelling but it came in with Kate. Cold and metal and musty but kind of wet.
Allison opened her eyes and watched Kate set a bucket of water down on the plastic tarp at her feet because just when you think things can’t get worse, they do.
Kate took the long-handled sponge off the implement table and put the absorbent part in the water. Once it was thoroughly soaked, she flicked it up Allison’s body until it landed on her shoulder. Kate let it rest there with the water running down.
“You know,” Kate mused, “you were always my favorite. The only useful one in your family. The smart one. The only reason I forgave Chrissy for marrying that bitch…but then you shot me and I take that kind of thing really personal, Ally-cat.”
Fuck. That. Nickname.
“I hope you’re allergic to wolfsbane for the rest of your life,” Allison smirked because she hadn’t just shot her aunt, she’d shot her with a wolfsbane arrow. “What are your little minions going to think when you react to it almost like a werewolf?”
Kate’s lazy amusement fled and she hit her in the mouth. Then she did it again. And a third time.
“Kate!” Gerard called her off but Allison could already taste her own blood. She didn’t have the coordination to spit on her aunt, mores the pity.
“I turned evidence of your crimes over to the police,” Allison told her. Kate turned back to her like she was going to hit her again but Gerard cleared his throat. She looked to her father and Gerard gestured to the door. Reluctantly, Kate went. “They are going to hunt you for the rest of your life!” she promised.
Not that that would be very long, not after this.
She’d see to it herself if she had to.
John watched his son and his son’s friend Danny do something terribly illegal but didn’t say a word against it as they tracked Allison Argent’s phone and got nothing. Bupkis. Last known location was a smoothie shop, as expected, several hours ago.
Fuck, he did not want to be the one to tell Christopher Argent that another member of his family was dead.
“Where would they take her?” Ian Edgerton asked, pacing the room in a tight little circle. “Who would take her? Why?”
“Murder Grandpa,” Stiles told them. “Gerard Argent. We know he’s in town and we all know how Argents deal with betrayal. Even from family.”
“Would he know she betrayed him? Them?”
“Dad said he saw him with Victoria and Victoria had to have it figured out. Allison said she didn’t tell them but she didn’t deny her mother’s accusations either and god knows Chris wouldn’t turn Kate or Gerard over to the police.”
“He’d execute them,” Ian agreed grimly.
“What does this have to do with Lydia?” Jackson demanded.
“She was bait,” John couldn’t keep his peace. He wouldn’t pace but he couldn’t keep silent. “It’s not like Argents care if you’re innocent or if you’re following their stupid Code. They’ve used humans against werewolf friends and family before.” God knows he’d seen plenty of evidence of it in course of his investigations for the last few days.
“Do we call Chris?” Stiles asked though not like he wanted to.
“No,” was John’s visceral reaction.
“You know Allison best. You’re connected to her magically,” Alec told Stiles which was fucking news to John! “Is there anywhere she hates? Even if she’s never given you an actual reason for it?”
“The Hale House,” Stiles said then he grabbed his stomach. He looked confused but he sounded confident when he repeated, “She’s at the Hale House.”
“Parker, scout the area,” Eliot ordered, his eyes were shining red. “Edgerton, get your pack.”
“Whoever is holding Allison it’s definitely hunters at the Hale House,” Parker announced upon her return. “They have traps like crazy and the smell of wolfsbane is intense.”
“Could you confirm Allison was there?”
“No, I didn’t think I could get that close,” Parker admitted. “But there was a woman that smelled like her running the perimeter. Not her mom but related.”
“Kate Argent abducted her own niece. She’s torturing her own niece,” Stiles’ laugh sounded more than a little deranged and Eliot very carefully did not look at his younger brother. “Or maybe it is Gerard that’s doing the dirty work. Not that that’s any better.”
“What’s it look like?” he gestured at the white board Alec had procured for their little gaming group.
Parker quickly picked up three different colored markers. She drew the Hale House as a black square, noted entrances and exits in green, and added headcount complete with general paths taken in red. “I don’t know how many are inside,” she admitted.
“You couldn’t get that close,” Eliot said to confirm he’d heard her the first time. “And the traps?”
Parker grinned. “Well, they look like they’re still in place,” and she pulled out a pocket full of bits and bobs. Key components that were directly involved with the weaponization of each individual trap. He’d never been more proud of his little Wolf Burglar.
“What’s the land look like?” Edgerton asked. “What angles are we working with?”
“You gonna snipe ‘em?”
“Best way to take ‘em down is long range in the dark,” Edgerton agreed. “It’ll get them running, looking for the sniper. Cause chaos in the ranks.”
“Can you blow up a car?” Parker asked with way too much curiosity in his opinion.
“At the right angle with the right ammo, yes,” Ian raised an eyebrow. “It’s not as easy as the movies make it look.”
“How many snipers do we have?” Eliot asked to redirect.
“Me,” Ian volunteered because obviously. “Charlie can spot for me. I’ve trained Dave and Megan. Colby can spot for Dave.”
“I’ll spot for Megan,” John volunteered. Then he made a face, it looked a lot like his son’s pissy face, “Chris Argent is a sniper and he’s going to want his daughter back.”
“I won’t make him kill his sister or his father to get her,” Eliot admitted. He also wasn’t sure they could trust him not to switch sides. Chris Argent might be in the process of learning better but he’d lost a lot recently. And no one could make a guy fall back into bad habits quite like family.
“Where am I?” Stiles asked.
Eliot started to answer but John vetoed that right quick. “You’re not coming.”
Stiles flailed at them. “Of course, I’m coming! They have Allison!”
“Stiles,” Eliot cut them both off before things could get…loud. Okay, louder. “We have an unstable, newly emerging beta here,” he gestured at Jackson. They both took in his steadily glowing eyes and the tiny tips of pointed teeth peeking out from behind his lips. “I know you have the skills to get him stabilized, so get him stabilized.”
Stiles made a face not unlike the time when he was five that he confused a live Goldfish with goldfish crackers.
“You also need to be on guard,” Edgerton added. “In case this a trap, you’ll have to rescue us all.”
At that, Stiles’ murder face came out. Eliot was rather glad Peter was well on his way out of the country and not here to see it. His mate already had one nightmare about his nephew, the man didn’t need more.
“Fine, I’ll stand guard.” Four columns of golden smoke formed around the room. When the smoke cleared, each column of smoke was replaced by people-shaped beings in gold masks and blue and gold ninja gear. They had no smell, their eyes glowed Murder Blue, and they all pulled short swords from sheaths on their backs in a frightening type of synchrony. “But when you fail, I will kill them all.”
This time Eliot did look to his little brother. John didn’t look surprised. He just looked resigned and maybe a little sad to be proven right.
“Thank you, son.”
Stiles sneered at them all and thundered up the stairs. After a moment, Danny and Jackson followed him.
Hopefully Allison could fix…that.
After they got her back.
Allison came back to consciousness to shouting. She could hear people running up and down the halls and she risked activating her hearing spell just enough to confirm the sound of gunshots. High caliber from a far distance.
The cavalry had arrived.
“Lydia,” she turned to look at her friend. They’d moved her to a bit of fence by the door so they had to watch each other get tortured but, hey, it had gotten Lydia away from the water so Allison wasn’t mad. “Lydia, you have to wake up.”
Lydia opened her eyes but they were glowing gray, like fog over a gravestone. “They’re coming,” she said in a hushed, creepy voice.
The door opened. Gerard and Kate rushed in. They locked the door behind them and quickly started packing their things.
“Take care of the girl,” Gerard ordered Kate as he turned to deal with Allison himself.
The door exploded inward. Gerard reacted more quickly than Allison would have expected and caught Eliot in the chest with an Argent Special taser. Sophie darted around Eliot and tackled Gerard to the ground. She picked him up and slammed him down and picked him up and slammed him down to the soundtrack of Lydia’s Scream.
Kate, being directly in front of Lydia, tried to cover her ears to block the noise but Lydia’s Screams were never just volume. They were magic and taking the full force of one to the face had Kate’s eyes and ears bleeding before Sophie even had Gerard fully on the ground.
Allison glanced down to Sophie.
She was still seated on Gerard and shaking slightly, staring at her own hands in shock. Eliot got up off the floor and staggered over to his beta. As they watched, Sophie’s eyes faded from beta gold to murder blue.
The werewolf cried.
The next time she woke up she was in a hospital room alone but for her dad.
No, not alone. There was a blue and gold Oni in the corner of the room. It felt like Stiles in her soul so she didn’t mind…mostly. Regardless of past associations, she could do with that little bit of additional security, if she was being honest with herself. Multiple fingers in both hands looked to be broken going off the splint work so there was no way she could pull a bow or hold a knife to defend herself. And she was covered in salves with more monitoring equipment than she could identify hooked onto her body.
Yeah, more security was good, she decided and a second Oni silently appeared in the corner opposite the first.
Careful not to startle the Oni, she laid a bandaged and splinted hand on the back of her father’s head where it was resting on her bed.
His head popped up immediately and she let her hand fall to his shoulder, she was too tired to move it further. The relief in his face almost made her cry but he was already so she tried to be strong.
“Allison?” his voice cracked. “Who did this?”
“Kate,” she told him. Her voice was ragged and he promptly grabbed a Styrofoam cup and poured her a drink. “Kate and… Gerard. He said— name was Gerard Arg—” and she couldn’t even finish her own last name, wasn’t that terrible?
Chris looked even more devastated by the news. “Dad? My sister and father?”
She nodded very cautiously. “Where— Stiles? Sophie?”
“They were here when the police called me,” her dad had the grace to look chagrined. “I might have lost my temper.”
“I didn’t know who hurt you. And they’re always with you,” he defended himself.
“They saved me. They’re my pack.”
Chris made a face but she couldn’t keep her eyes open. She’d change his mind later, Stiles would help.
“Sophie, she—need—” and the world went black.
The next few days she slept more than she’d expected, damn pain meds.
Of course, she was supposed to be sleeping a lot. She had a metric tonne of healing to do and of course they had to do surgery a few times. Both when she first got to the hospital and in the days after.
She was never alone though. Even when the doctors and nurses at Beacon Hills Memorial bullied her father and Stiles out of her room, the Oni stayed. They watched her sleep. They kept her safe. She had no idea how Stiles was maintaining them magically or whatever but they never wavered and she was entirely grateful for it by the end of the second week.
“No one else can see them, can they?” she finally had to ask after Blue silently intimidated the orderly she really didn’t like out of her room.
Stiles laughed. “The hospital would lose their shit if they could see them. And your dad.”
“Your dad,” she added.
Stiles rolled his eyes but agreed. The laugh didn’t fall off his face at the mention of his father though and that was nice. Different from Before.
Despite being invisible, the Oni could obviously affect the physical environment. The Aura of Menace was real. And Gold had moved more than one vase full of flowers out of her line of sight. He’d also pulled the blinds for her that one time Melissa had been the on-call on her floor and Allison refused to call anyone Melissa’s entire shift.
“Where’s Sophie?” she asked Stiles softly.
“She’s not…” he hesitated. Stiles. Hesitated. “She’s not handling it well. What she did.”
“Saving my life?”
Stiles shot her a look and yeah, that was what she figured. Sophie was not prone to physical violence. What Gerard and Kate had driven her to do… “I want to see her. I need to talk to her. Can you ask her to come?”
Rather than answer, Stiles pulled out his phone and sent a text message.
When she saw her, Sophie looked…ragged. Her hair was up in a sloppy bun that it had probably been in for days. Her eyes were red and her cheeks were puffy despite her werewolf healing. Her clothes were probably Parker’s version of pajamas, sweat pants and a stained t-shirt. That she’d looked like that at all much less gone out in public like it said a lot to Allison about her state of mind.
Sophie used her looks as armor and weapon, even when they were just shopping or getting coffee. That she left both sword and shield at home made Allison think she was looking to die. Maybe not consciously but still.
The way Eliot was hovering told her she wasn’t the only one to see it that way.
“Hey,” she greeted softly, like Sophie was made of glass. Sophie tried to smile at her but it looked painful and it didn’t last. “Do you know why they called them murder blues?”
Sophie made a sound like Allison had stabbed her and made some serious eye contact with the floor but, eventually, she shook her head.
Sophie glanced up at her, startled for just a moment, before she went back to intimidating what was clearly an extremely dangerous floor tile.
“Yeah, you see, murder blues are a sign of guilt. Regret. They’re proof that you have a conscience.
“You see, a werewolf could kill a hundred people—they could even kill them in horrible ways—but if they don’t regret any of those deaths, their eyes will stay gold. Some pack enforcer’s eyes never turn blue but that doesn’t mean they haven’t killed people or that they haven’t done terrible things for their packs.” She knew now—from seeing it—that pre-resurrection Peter Hale’s eyes had never turned blue despite his status as his sister’s Left Hand. The fact that they had been blue after his resurrection had, in a way, proven to Allison that he had regretted Laura’s death.
Not that she would have cared for the knowledge Before but she had the perspective to care about it Now.
“Hunters call them murder blues because it’s easier, because over the years they decided it was proof that blue-eyed betas deserved death—but blue eyes really just prove you deserve to live. They prove that you regret the life you took even though he was a terrible person and your pack would never have been safe while he lived.
“You saved your alpha, Sophie,” Allison fought it but her eyes welled anyway. “You saved me. You saved our pack.”
Sophie finally looked up at her, hope writ large on her face.
“Your beautiful blue eyes prove that while you may not be human, you are not a monster.”
They both cried and maybe, just a little, they both healed.
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