Choices (and the Protection of the Territory)

Status:
  • Complete
Content Rating:
  • PG-13
Fandom(s):
Teen Wolf

Relationship(s):
Peter Hale/Stiles Stilinski

Warning(s):
  • Character Bashing
  • Discussion - Murder
  • Violence - Canon-Level
Genre(s):
  • Alternate Universe
  • Crossover
  • Episode Related
Word Count:
33550

Author's Note:
AU from around episode 509. Technically a crossover with Shadowhunters, but only Magnus Bane from that show makes an appearance. If you are unfamiliar with the mythology of that show, I believe it is sufficiently explained in the narrative. Originally posted as part of the 2017/2018 teenwolfbigbang on LJ.

Summary:
Stiles decides enough is enough. After learning some new information about his mother, which connects to a strange new power he's been hiding, he decides to leave to get some training. Stiles eventually returns to BH when there's trouble that isn't being handled properly by the pack there, which opens a series of meetings and a test for the Alpha of the territory.


The first part of the school year was over, and everything had worked out for the best.  Stiles had heard there was some situation with the Beast of Gevudan that was still an issue, but after all of that drama with the Dread Doctors, and the Chimeras and Theo Raeken, Stiles wasn’t sure he cared.  He had used his own resources to get Lydia out of Eichen House, though he worried that Doctor Valak might come looking for her if they didn’t follow through with their plans. He had also heard from his father that more than one long-term patient had taken advantage of the power outages and brown-outs and their effect on the closed ward and the supernatural wings.

Having been a patient, Stiles couldn’t find it in himself to care too much.

Other issues hadn’t been finished, and maybe they still needed to be dealt with, but not by him.  He had drawn his metaphorical line in the sand, and his part in this circus was over. Now all Stiles could do was try to deal with his own issues.  If his life wasn’t in a constant state of danger anymore, maybe he could think. Not that he blamed Scott for the threat, not exactly. Scott wasn’t the one who started the rollercoaster.  But he was the one who kept letting the bad guys walk away without any repercussions. He was just done with that kind of threat looming at his back.

Stiles knew that he could make an effort to clear the air, but between Scott’s inability to see anything in shades of gray, and his belief in someone that absolutely could not be trusted, Stiles was not that interested in mending fences.

Unfortunately, despite Stiles anger over Theo’s manipulation and Scott’s lack of support, Stiles was still plagued by the issue of Donovan and what had happened to him and Stiles part in that.

His father’s injury was another concern.  He knew his father’s job was dangerous, and his inclusion in the supernatural life in Beacon Hills certainly increased that danger, but Stiles couldn’t help but blame Theo for this latest mishap.  The injury wasn’t life-threatening. In fact, his dad was already at home recovering, and would probably be back at work next week, but he still worried.

He had taken the out his father offered him when he brought up early graduation again.  It was something they had talked about after the Nogitsune, and again during the Deadpool, but Stiles had wanted to stay and graduate with his friends.  However, that decision had changed in the last couple of months. Stiles had a feeling there was more to his father’s desire for him to get his head on straight and get out of town for a while than just the usual worry.  He was concerned his father had noticed how twitchy he’d been lately, and that his moodiness wasn’t just because of what had transpired. Because of this edginess, the first time Stiles left the house after the situation with Theo and the conflict with Scott, three weeks had passed, and he honestly wasn’t sure whether he was avoiding other people or just didn’t want to deal with the looks he’d get.  He wasn’t even sure exactly what the story was. Did people know what had happened to Donavon? Obviously, they didn’t realize he’d been turned into a Wendigo against his will, but that wasn’t even the worst part because Stiles had a sense of people now. Ever since that Nogitsune had made its home inside Stiles’ skull, he could sense certain things about people. The killer instinct was just one aspect of it.

The truth was, Donavon was a killer, the Chimera in him, only gave him a means and a method.

He went to the grocery store and filled the cart up like usual, but he felt disconnected from everything.  The vegetables his dad would complain about but eat anyway entered the cart. The veggie burgers he knew his dad secretly preferred though he would never, ever admit it.  He even bought some snack foods he would hide in the house even though he knew his dad would ferret them out eventually. It all felt as if it should be incredibly ordinary.

He saw Straus, one of his dad’s deputies, browsing for ice cream and he knew his dad would hear about this trip out by the time he had gotten all the food back home.  It didn’t really matter. His dad had been watching him more carefully the past few days, wondering when he would crack, when he’d finally broach the subject they weren’t talking about, or perhaps when he’d leave his self-appointed exile.  His dad may have been fine with letting Stiles find his footing on his own, but he wasn’t fooling himself that it was only because he was worried about Stiles. He knew his dad had been wondering what he would do next, but he wasn’t ready to talk about it yet.  It was one thing to take the tests and make the move to graduate early it was another thing to face what came after. He wasn’t even sure if he was really ready to think about it yet.

His father had been moderately indifferent when he had found out about Beacon Hills Supernatural underbelly.  It wasn’t until later that Stiles realized why he really he wasn’t as surprised as Stiles was expecting. Stiles had thought at the beginning of his big reveal that he might have to resort to puppets or stick figure drawings to get the whole story out, or maybe call someone over and ask for some sort of paranormal demonstration.  But no, his father had already known the supernatural existed, and it turned out he had known about that far longer than Stiles had. As the Sheriff of Beacon Hills, Stiles dad was not an idiot. Who knew? However, the Sheriff was not as unruffled about Stiles involvement.

His father’s knowledge about the supernatural had sort of made all the time he spent lying worse, really.  The fact that he didn’t have to lie to his father and ruin their relationship the way he had, and yet. Things were still a little awkward between them.  Because while his father may have known about the supernatural world before, it had always been somewhat distant. Plus he’d never had to juggle his life as the sheriff and his life as Stiles dad in such a way before.  He was definitely having some problems coping with the reality that there were just some things you couldn’t put in a police report.

So, here Stiles was, at the grocery store, after three weeks of isolation in his own house, by his personal choice.  He hadn’t had many visitors in that time. Jordan Parish had been by twice, supposedly to pick up things his father had left behind, but Stiles knew there was more to those visits than either of them were saying.  Lydia had come by once. She’d taken one look at him and told him to call her when he was ready. He wasn’t exactly sure what that meant, but perhaps he was almost there.

He hadn’t seen or heard from Malia, but his dad said that she was searching for her mom.  Part of him wanted to be out there with her, but part of him understood that some things you need to face alone.  He got that.

He had only heard from Scott once.  At first, he was surprised, later though, he was just relieved.  To be honest, he was not really sure what he’d even say to him if he had called.  The situation with Theo Raeken brought a lot of things out into the open, not all of them pleasant.  And the one time they had spoken? It hadn’t exactly gone well.

Stiles lay across the part of his bed without clothing, books, and bags and stared at the ceiling.  He could still make out the hand-painted symbols his mother had drawn there when he was four. She had never explained precisely what they were.  She told him hauntingly once that they were protection, but he could never figure out from who or what. Of course, he’d been seven when he’d asked, and he’d been thinking the metaphorical monster under his bed not the real monsters outside his door, but perhaps it didn’t really matter.  The protection hadn’t worked, had it?

He still got nightmares of things that ran free in Beacon Hills, and the things that chased his dreams were sometimes more terrifying than the real thing.

He heard the knocking on his front door and debated whether or not he was ready to answer it.  He knew Scott was on the other side of that door and he couldn’t ignore it forever.

Sighing heavily, Stiles made his way downstairs and opened the door.

“Can we talk?”  Scott asked.

Stiles shrugged.  “Sure. Come on in.”  He stepped back and let the werewolf into the house, but instead of going back up to his room, he moved into the living room instead.  He didn’t feel like explaining his halfway packed luggage strewn across his bed just then.

“I realize maybe we didn’t end things very well…last time we spoke.”  Scott hesitated. His eyes scanned the darkened living room but eventually landed on Stiles.

“You think?”  Stiles asked, a trace of the old anger in his tone.  He took a deep breath as his mom had taught him when he was a kid and let it out.

“Do you want to talk about it?  What happened with…Donovan?”

“No.”  Stiles shook his head.  He knew this was the time for him to come clean, separate the truth from whatever tale Theo had spun, but he just didn’t care about that anymore.  He had already made his decision about leaving, so it didn’t matter.

“Okay.”  Scott stared at him for a second, not sure what to say after that.  Should he apologize, just ignore it? “Um……so are we good?”

Stiles stared at him for a long moment, not sure what was the best answer here.  No, they were not good. But what was the point, really. It felt like they were coming at things from two different places and the middle just kept moving so they could never quite reach it. So he just nodded.

Scott nodded back, his shoulders relaxing slightly and then he just…started talking about what had been going on in the past couple of weeks like it was a regular day.  Stiles stared at him in bewilderment for a second. He shook his head and sat on the couch to listen as Scott told him about how he’d worked out some crazy scheme and how the Argents were coming; the Argents, and Deucalion…and after that, he just couldn’t anymore and just tuned him out because it didn’t matter.  His time in this madhouse was finished.

Scott nudged him with his foot, bringing his attention back to the alpha.  He really, really wasn’t in the mood for social niceties, but Scott was so excitable, even after everything they had been through. How could he just be the same, after all of it?

“So, what do you think?”  Scott asked again.

Stiles blinked.  Had Scott asked him something?  He had thought Scott had moved on from his stupid plan and was just rambling about school and Liam and Hayden, and could Stiles care less about that?

“About what?”  Stiles finally asked.

“The pack. ” Scott said, staring at Stiles seriously.

“What about it?”  Stiles looked over at the werewolf with a blank stare.

“What do you think about Theo staying in Beacon Hills?” Scott asked in exasperation.

Oh, that.  How many ways could Stiles express how not pleased he was about this latest development?  And would it matter in the end? It didn’t matter what Stiles had to say about it.

“What do you want me to say, Scott?  I don’t want that guy anywhere near me, but it’s your pack, so…”  He shrugged the back of his head digging further into the couch pillow as his eyes wandered to stare at the living room ceiling.  His mom had painted in here too. He could see the strange loop in the farthest corner of the room, in some glittery design he could almost make out, but not quite.

“You’re an important part of the pack.”  Scott persisted.

“Am I?”  Stiles finally turned to face his oldest friend.

“What is that supposed to mean?”  Scott asked, his face turned down in a frown.

Stiles sighed.  “Nothing. You just seem to do things just fine without any input from anyone else, which as you’re the Alpha, is fine.”  He stressed. “But don’t act like you’re waiting for my opinion or my approval, or whatever when you’re going to turn around and do whatever you want in the end anyway.”

“Is this about my plan with Gerard?”  Scott asked, tensing for…something. “Because I just told you  I didn’t know Chris was going to bring him.”

“And about Deucalion.”  Stiles agreed because if he was going to bring it up, he might as well get it all out there.  “And the fact that you even called Chris at all is part of the problem.”

“I thought you liked Chris?”  Scott asked, confused.

“I don’t dislike him as much as the rest of his twisted family.”  Stiles allowed, knowing even as he said it, the elephant in the room would be bugling his non-existent trunk.  He and Scott didn’t talk about Allison, not anymore.

“We needed his help.”  Scott insisted.

“And Deucalion?”  Stiles pushed. That was the real sore spot, Stiles could admit.  It wasn’t that Scott had called Chris, or that Chris had brought his insane father because maybe, that had been a necessary evil.  Maybe Deucalion had been too, but that wasn’t even the point here.

“Theo couldn’t find out what was really going on.”  Scott insisted. “These Dread Doctors and this Beast of Gevudan are bad news.”

“Right.  Because Theo has no idea what the Dread Doctors are really up to, or how Lydia ended up down in the sewers?”   He scowled and pointed a finger in Scott’s general direction. “And even if I hadn’t already decided this whole thing was bullshit, working with people who’ve tried to kill us?  Not high on my priority list.”

“You were willing to work with Peter, usually.  And Derek has threatened you more than once.”

“Lots of people have threatened me, you included.  Peter has never truly tried to kill me.” Stiles muttered, more softly. “Besides none of the Hales are here now, so it doesn’t matter whether or not I would work with them.”

“Deucalion never tried to kill you either, not directly.  He was only after Derek.” Scott pointed out logically, totally ignoring Stiles comment about Derek and Peter.

“Because that makes it so much better.”  Stiles sighed again. “Deucalion isn’t the issue Scott, not really.  It’s you, making secret deals with people who will kill us all if it would benefit them.”  He took a deep breath. “And now you want to welcome Theo Raeken into your pack? I just don’t get it.  You still hate Peter like he murdered you and all the puppies of the world, but you’re ready to forgive a sick twist like Theo who has an agenda?”

“I don’t know why you won’t trust Theo!”  Scott growled. “Besides, Peter cursed me!”  Scott snapped out. He had adjusted to being a werewolf, but he still held Peter Hale accountable.

“Without Peter, we wouldn’t even be having this conversation.”  Stiles was tired of hashing over the same old argument. He’d forgiven Peter a long time ago for whatever small part he’d had in the upset of Stiles chaotic little life.  Honestly, he understood Peter more than he did Scott these days. He wasn’t sure if he wouldn’t have done the same thing in a similar circumstance. The Nogitsune had shown him far more of himself than he ever wanted to see, and most days he was okay with ignoring it, but some days, the truth was too close to the surface for denial to make a dent.

“Exactly!”  Scott snapped.

“No.  Without Peter, you would be living in your normal little world, and the pack wouldn’t exist.”  And our friendship probably would have crashed and burned sooner…maybe. Stiles thought pessimistically as he stared at the ceiling again and tried to ignore the rising heat thrumming under his skin.

“Look what he did to Lydia.”  Scott pressed.

Stiles rolled his eyes, knowing Scott brought this one up because he and Lydia were close, and if anything might move him to anger on their behalf, it might be the girl he had once crushed so hard on.  However, a lot had changed since those days. “Lydia accepts Peter’s…attack and subsequent possession as the spark that lit her fuse, so to speak.” She would never word it quite like that, but she wasn’t here to correct him.

“Okay.”  Scott nodded as if he was accepting this, “But if you really believe that, why didn’t you factor him into your plan to get Lydia out of Eichen House?”

Stiles blinked.  “Um, because Lydia is a Banshee and was being kept in the locked ward…for supernatural creatures.  You know, the area where the Mountain Ash barriers live?”

“Maybe.”  Scott began, with a scowl “But you didn’t even mention Peter as a possible resource, and he was there.”  Scott pointed out, trying to press his point that Stiles didn’t really trust Peter, not where Lydia’s safety was concerned.

“No, he wasn’t,”  Stiles said quietly.  “Peter would have helped, probably.  He likes Lydia, but he had already escaped Eichen house by then.”

Scott stared at him in disbelief.  “When did that happen?”

“When we went to talk to Dr. Valak, and Kira shorted out the power.”  Stiles shrugged. “I’m not sure of all the particulars, but my dad was notified a few days later that three people had escaped the closed ward.  Peter was one of them.”

“And you didn’t think I needed to know that?”  Scott snapped again, his eyes flashing red.

Stiles rolled his own in reply.  He’d known Scott a long time, and while he’d been terrified once or twice in the past few years, Scott didn’t scare him. “Why?  He left Beacon Hills. What are you going to do, chase him all over the planet because he made you a werewolf? Get over yourself.”

Scott scowled.  “Fine. But Theo is here, and he’s staying, and you need to learn to coexist.”  He said it with finality.

Stiles shrugged.  It didn’t matter. With any luck, he and Lydia would be gone before Stiles was forced to coexist with Theo.

Stiles shook his head at the memories.  The truth was, he just wasn’t sure whether he and Scott had enough in common anymore.  The situation with Theo and the Dread Doctors, and the lies and misunderstandings just proved that there was a divide between the way they saw things.  Stiles wasn’t sure if they could cross that divide. He wasn’t even sure if they should.

He looked around at his neighbors as he bought his groceries and wondered how many of these people had been put in danger because of the things that happened in Beacon Hills?  How many had been protected because they were willing to do what was necessary?

*

Stiles had just finished putting his bags into the Jeep when he looked up and saw Theo Raeken walking pulling into a spot across the parking lot.  The sight of him made Stiles angry, remembering the way he had made him feel after Donovan, and manipulated the situation to his advantage, trying to gain sympathy from his father, and pit Scott and Stiles against each other.

He knew Scott’s reaction was only partially Theo’s doing.  He and Scott could take some of the blame as neither of them had tried to talk about it really.  Stiles because he didn’t want to think about what had happened, and Scott because he believed everything Theo had said to him.  Still, Theo had started all this, and having him in town and running into him, just made his blood boil.

Theo climbed out of his car and looked directly at Stiles, his smug smirk telling him that Theo knew precisely what his reappearance in Beacon Hills meant.

Stiles turned away and got into the Jeep staring blankly at his steering wheel, thinking that there would be no peaceful coexistence, no matter what Scott wanted.  He looked in the rearview mirror at Theo’s car and stared for a long moment, his anger like a fire inside him, waiting to be ignited. He felt the heat on his hands and heard the loud pop from somewhere outside and turned to look out the window.  Nothing seemed amiss, so he shook his head and started the engine.

*

“You think you might be ready?”  Lucas asked him quietly.

“Ready for what, exactly?”  Stiles asked looking past his own reflection to his father.

Well, you’ve been sitting in this house for weeks, and except a few grocery runs, this is the first time you really look like you’re getting ready to go out and face the world again. So, son, I thought maybe you might be ready……to you know, go out and meet the world again.”

Stiles laughed a little, more at himself than because his dad was being funny, though he sort of was.  “Yeah, I guess, I have been a bit of a hermit lately.”

“I understand.” He stared at his son solemnly “What you had to do, with Donovan, I know it was hard.”

“He was trying to kill me,”  Stiles whispered. “But, he was doing it to get to you.” Stiles watched his father for a minute and then turned away.  “It wasn’t hard, not really. The lying afterward. That was hard. To you, to Scott, but, I think that’s when I realized that something had to change.”

“I agree.  That’s why I think it’s time for you to get away, for a little while.”  His father watched him for a moment, looking as if he was going to say something else, but then he just shook his head and sighed.  “Also, I, uh have something for you. Something else.”

Stiles looked at his father in confusion.  “O-kay.” He drew the word out as if by doing so it would give it more understanding.

“Something your mother would have wanted you to have.”  Noah Stilinski held out an object thickly wrapped in fabric.  “I know I gave you a hard time last year when you talked about wanting to graduate early, but things were different then.  Don’t you think?” He asked carefully. “I just want you to know that I appreciate you talking to me this time. I want to believe that we’re past the lying and the hiding things stage of our relationship.”

Stiles looked away from the object in his father’s hand and stared at his father.  “We are, dad. I did think about just, doing it, but it wasn’t about you. I just…I didn’t want you to talk me out of it.  I thought maybe you’d try to get me to go back and fix things.”

“You mean with Scott?”  His dad asked quietly.

Stiles nodded.

“That’s between the two of you. I won’t press you about it.”  He looked down at the object in his hand and held it out. “These were hand-crafted for your mother when she was younger than you are now.  By the person who taught her magic. I know she meant for you to have them when you were old enough. I tried to believe that her life and yours weren’t the same, but you’re more alike than I admit sometimes.”

Stiles wasn’t sure what to do with that.  He had always known that his mother wasn’t like other mothers but, the things he remembered about her were mom things, so he didn’t often think about the stuff that had made her different. His memories of his mother were fuzzy sometimes.  He remembered how she was when he was really little, mixing smelly things in the kitchen or spending time in the garden out back, but he also remembered her spending time in the attic. She had turned it into an artist’s studio with paints and canvas and always the pervading smell of wet clay and earth.  When she had gotten sick, his father had just closed it up, locked the door and never went inside again. Even now, he wasn’t sure his father had ever gone back into Claudia’s domain.

Stiles would go into the attic when his parents were at the weird little clinic his mother had insisted on going to because she said the healers at the hospital couldn’t help her. On those nights, his father would go directly from work to the clinic, and Stiles had stopped believing his mother would ever come home.  He liked the smell in there; it smelled of clay and Earth, and paint. It also smelled a little like the city: energy, and ozone.

*

Peter Hale sat behind the bar at Pandemonium and watched as Magnus intercepted a message from…somewhere. He would admit he wasn’t all that comfortable with fire, but Magnus used more blue flames, and they were more for show than destruction. Though Magnus was dangerous, he liked to hide his sharp edges in flash and sparkle.

Peter let him play the masses. They both knew the truth. Peter had met Magnus when the wolf was young, and Talia had sent him on a trip to gather information. That trip was probably equal parts her needing the information and her wanting him away from home for a while.

Magnus had found him interesting, and though Peter couldn’t perform magic himself, he found himself sucking up the knowledge like a sponge anyway.

When Scott McCall had decided to have him locked up in Eichen House for orchestrating the Deadpool, Peter tried to find it in himself to be shocked as well as angry, but he just felt resigned. He knew it was only a matter of time before something would happen and he could break out, or something would happen, and he would break in.

Stiles hadn’t really been a part of the plan to lock Peter up in Eichen. That was mostly Scott and Deaton, with a little practical help from Chris Argent. And Peter knew that Stiles wouldn’t let him rot in there forever. They weren’t exactly friends, but they did have an understanding of sorts, and Stiles, more than any of the others, knew exactly what went on behind Eichen House’s closed doors.

There had been a break-in of some sort, Peter guessed. He hadn’t stuck around to see what was going on. When the power had been shorted out by whatever had invaded Eichen, he had made his move and gotten out while the attention was elsewhere.

He knew he couldn’t stay in Beacon Hills.  It was his home and his families territory.  He hated to leave it behind, especially in the hands of a baby Alpha who had no idea what responsibility he held, but he needed to regroup.  There was only one place he could do that in safety.

So he made his way to New York.  It took him longer than he thought to get there, traveling side roads, and keeping to himself mostly.  He was just leaving Pine Bluffs, crossing the border from Wyoming into Nebraska when he ran into a little trouble.  Three wolves took exception to him nearing their territory and decided he would make an easy mark. That was a mistake they didn’t live to regret.  He wondered for a passing moment if the Alpha would be leaving behind other pack members who would be lost without him, but then the moment passed.

Once the Alpha power had settled, he reached out, trying to sense if there were any wolves connected to this power, beta’s he could now claim, but there was nothing.  Apparently, the three he had killed were all there were. Pathetic. He cleaned himself up and continued on his way.

Now, months later, settled in New York, a lone Alpha, he didn’t feel connected to the land or any strong desire to make a pack.  He wasn’t sure why that was exactly. It was strange. Maybe it was because he knew his territory was back in California, and being in New York was temporary, perhaps he knew that there were established packs nearby so he should be cautious.

He didn’t think so though.  He felt like he was waiting…for something, though he wasn’t sure what.

“Okay.  Change of plans, Dumpling.”  Magnus said as he turned away from his one-sided conversation and moved towards the bar.  “I need to run an errand. Can you keep an eye on the place until I get back?”

Peter smirked.  “Sure. But don’t be too long.  If Alec brings any of his…friends with him, I am not as tolerant as you are.”

Magnus waved a hand as if Shadowhunters entering his club were no big deal.  “I shouldn’t be too long, I just need to talk to a few people and get some supplies.  We’re going to have some guests soon.”

Peter raised an eyebrow but didn’t ask any questions.

*

Deputy Jordan Parish entered the house quietly.  He wasn’t worried about waking anyone. He knew the sheriff had gone to work already and Stiles would have been awake for several hours already.  He was concerned though about the state of the house. Jordan was worried about the state of Stiles, to be honest. He’d been by a few times in the past few weeks, and Stiles always looked somewhere between surprised he was there and disappointed it was him.  Jordon wasn’t sure why that was exactly. They weren’t close friends, but these days Stiles didn’t have many of those so, he wasn’t sure what Stiles was expecting if he was expecting anything. Perhaps that was the problem. His expectations had hit an all-time low after the past few months.

“You here for breakfast or are you just slacking off?”  Stiles asked quietly as he came down the stairs.

“Mostly slacking off.”

“And the real reason you’re here?”

Jordan sighed.  “We’re concerned.”  He looked around the room and noticed the lack of Stiles normal frenetic piles of information that always seemed to migrate from his room no matter how many times the sheriff told him to keep his charts and his boards of strings in one place. “Lydia and I.”  He clarified, looking at Stiles carefully. “Look, I don’t have the history with you that Lydia does or even the experience with the supernatural that living in this town for so many years has brought to you both, but what I do have is understanding of people dealing with stress and trauma.”

“You think I’m doing the wrong thing? By submitting my request to take the tests for my last classes and graduate early?”  Stiles rubbed a hand over his head and looked away. He had struggled with the decision, but when he had finally made it, he just wanted it over with.

“No, not necessarily.”  Jordan paused. “Things are little weird right now, I know.  Lydia has mentioned that things are a little strained at school, and she’s already submitted her own request to graduate early.”

Stiles nodded.  He knew that was true.  Lydia could have graduated over a year ago, but after Allison had died, she needed the normalcy of going to Beacon Hills High with everyone else.  Now though, after the past few months, and the Hell Lydia had gone through at Eichen house, normal was off the table, for both of them.

“Look, schools out at the moment, so you have this break” Jordan continued as if Stiles hadn’t been lost in his own head for a minute. “So no one necessarily thinks anything is amiss.  Does anyone even know what you’re thinking? But when you don’t come back, things might get more awkward. I just think maybe it shouldn’t seem like you’re running away.”

Stiles nodded.  “Yeah, I know. It was dad’s idea, really and I just sort of…went with it.  We had talked about it before, last year, after that whole possession thing and the time I was out recovering and everything.  We sat down and talked about how I could graduate early if I wanted. I had enough credits already. I was really only taking electives and extra courses to fill out the schedule.  But we decided that I should stick with it, finish school with my friends, and ultimately, it was important that all my friends stay together after what happened with Allison, after what I did.”

“And now you’re not sure that was such a good plan?”  He pressed. He knew what the issue was. Jordan wasn’t a member of Scott’s pack, but he had seen the tension between Stiles and Scott in the past few months, he knew there was something broken.  He just wasn’t sure if it was fixable.

“No.  I was pretty sure that wasn’t going to work anymore.”  He sighed again. “I just can’t…settle here. There’s this energy thrumming through me that just says get out, get out, get out.”

“Literally?”  Jordan asked because in Beacon Hills, you just never knew.

Stiles snorted because Jordan was so earnest, and he was at that point in his supernatural education where he wouldn’t discount anything and wanted clarification because Beacon Hills was crazy.

“Um, no, not literally.”  He ignored the little voice inside his head that reminded him there was a sort of energy thrumming through him.

“And your dad is on board with you leaving now?”

Stiles nodded. “I thought about just doing it on my own, you know?  Submitting that paperwork and telling him after because I thought he might want to change my mind or fix things with Scott, or even take Scott’s side.”  Stiles shook his head. “But then he brought it up while I was still thinking about it. ” He looked sideways at the deputy. “Dad hasn’t said anything outright, but I think he just really wants me out of Beacon Hills.  This last little drama, with Scott and me on opposite sides of things, I think he’d just rather I was away, for awhile.” Stiles shrugged.

“And you’re okay with that?  Leaving him here?” Jordan asked carefully.

“Well, maybe for a bit.  I think we both need a little distance.  My father from seeing me in the middle of everything, and me from…this place.”  He paused a minute. “This last few months have been…weird, and stressful. When Donovan died…when I killed him, I thought everything was over.  My relationship with my dad, my friendship with Scott, it was all going to end.” He snorted bitterly. “Turns out I was only part right.”

Jordan watched him for a long moment before speaking.  “Scott got over what happened, didn’t he? Lydia said that he…that he understood.”

“Did she?”  Stiles shrugged.  “Maybe he said he understood, he might even believe it, but…there’s a part of him that believes there was a better way, but that’s not even the worst part.  The worst part, is I know there wasn’t, and even if it had happened again now, I’m not sure anything would change. I can see this chasm between us opening and I’m not sure where we fit anymore.”  He didn’t mention the fire underneath his skin he could sometimes feel. He felt it that night too, longing to get out, to burn everything in sight. He had a weird relationship with fire. Ever since the night with the Molotov cocktail’s and Peter’s death, he felt connected to fire in a way he didn’t think he had any right to.  He kept the thoughts of fire, and the way it danced inside his skin to himself.

Jordan opened his mouth and then shut it again.  He shook his head and then looked away, unsure. There was something other he was sensing about Stiles now, but he was still too new with his abilities to feel comfortable testing them.

“Out with it, Deputy.”  Stiles huffed a laugh. He hadn’t known Jordan Parish long, and he was only starting to get to know him really well, but he usually wasn’t awkward, not about stating his mind anyway.  He could be unsure about the supernatural aspect of his life and about being a Hell Hound, and what exactly that might mean, but not about giving sound advice if he thought you needed it.  Stiles could tell there were aspects to Jordan’s hesitancy that might be tied up with the supernatural, but there were other parts, that were normal human concern.

“Lydia told me what happened with that other Werewolf.  She wasn’t pleased about it, to be honest.” Jordan hedged.

“Deucalion?  No, she wouldn’t have been.”  Stiles had gotten quite the earful from Lydia about the mess and double cross between Scott, Gerard Argent, and Deucalion.

“To be honest, I was a little confused about it.”  Jordan sighed and finally took a seat on the couch.

“Okay.  What confused you exactly?”  He wasn’t sure what exactly Lydia had told him, so it was possible Jordan was just operating with half the information.

“Scott’s arrangement with the wolf, Deucalion, stopped Theo Raeken from causing a bigger issue, didn’t it?  So I’m not really sure why she was so angry.”

“Did she tell you about when Deucalion was here before?  How he and his merry band of Alpha’s nearly killed us all.  His second, Kali was responsible for the death of two of Derek’s Beta’s, Boyd and Erica.  In the end, after everything, Derek and Scott let him go. Lydia’s angry that Scott made a deal with the devil, again, and didn’t tell anyone, again.”

“Again?”  Jordan asked.  This was starting to feel like he had missed a lot of the story.

“Back before all of that, Scott made a secret deal with Gerard Argent to stop Jackson. She told you about Jacks, right?”  He did not want to be explaining that little family drama.

Parish nodded.  “Yes. She still talks to him, every Sunday.”

Stiles smiled to himself.  Of course, she did. Saturday afternoons were Danny’s day, and Stiles had gotten stuck with Monday evenings.  “Okay, well, Scott didn’t tell anyone about the deal he had made with Argent back then, either.”

“So, this secret deal-making is a habit, then?”

Stiles shrugged. “We haven’t really talked about the deal he made with Deucalion.  He knows I’m unhappy about it, but I’m not sure if he truly understands why. Plus, Scott and I have never seen eye to eye on the Argents, so he tends to avoid talking about them.”

Jordan raised a brow.  “You get along with Chris okay.”

“He’s an exception,”  Stiles said. He didn’t mention Allison.  It was a touchy subject, especially with someone who hadn’t really known her.

“So, basically Lydia’s upset at her Alpha, and you don’t disagree with her reasoning.  The recent upset has caused you both to take your finals early and graduate. People know Lydia is doing this, but you, not so much.  People are going to be blindsided.”

“You know.  Lydia knows.  My dad knows. Jackson and Derek know, though neither of them is in Beacon Hills, so I’m not sure if they count. I told Malia, but she’s out of contact right now, so she hasn’t gotten back to me.”

“I don’t want to judge, but it sounds like Scott is the only one who doesn’t know about this.”  Jordan stared at his friend curiously. “Is this you trying to get even, or…something else.”

“Well, yeah, and Scott’s shiny new pack.”  Stiles slumped into the seat next to the deputy.  Admittedly the way he had left them out of the loop was kind of weird.  Stiles didn’t have anything against them on a personal level, but he felt like he was on a different path maybe than Scott and his pack.  He wasn’t even sure where this knowledge was coming from exactly. It was just something he felt.

“Ah.”  Jordan nodded.  He couldn’t really blame Stiles for his feelings.  Things seemed to be awkward between Stiles and the others, and he wasn’t sure how they could be fixed.  Lydia wasn’t sure they could be fixed, and she knew the players a lot better than he did.

*

Stiles looked at the counter-top carefully.  There was a weird scorch mark marring the surface.  It looked like someone had placed a pot directly from the burner onto the counter and the heat had warped the surface.  Stiles would like to tell his father that was precisely what had happened, but he wasn’t entirely sure how the mark had gotten there.  He did know it wasn’t from cooking.

He looked at his palm, the same one he had been leaning against the counter when reading Scott’s text message.

His hand wasn’t burned, but he did remember feeling a heat just under the skin.

Maybe he could cover the scorch mark, and his dad wouldn’t notice?

He heard his doorbell go off before he could make a decision one way or another.  He looked at the scorch-mark dubiously and covered it up with a nearby dishtowel before moving towards the front door.

“Hey.”  He said, somewhat surprised when Lydia pushed her way inside.

“Hey.  You’re not answering your phone.”

“I responded to your text message.”  Stiles protested.

“No, you acknowledged that you hadn’t died since we last spoke.  That doesn’t count.”

Stiles sighed as he followed her into the kitchen with her bag of groceries.  “What do you really want?”

“My mother told me that you submitted a request for final exam testing.”  Lydia turned to face him.

“We talked about this, Lyds.”  Stiles stared at her equally seriously.  “I know you submitted a request weeks ago, so don’t act like I’m alone on this one.”

“No, but your reasons are different than mine.”  Lydia pressed.

Stiles blew out a breath.  “They are, but you know I talked to my dad about it after last year, so it’s not like it’s the first time it’s come up, either.”

“True, but you agreed with your dad then that you should finish out school with Scott.”

“Yeah, then.  Things are different now.”  Stiles let his eyes move to the dish towel covering up this morning’s weirdness and then looked back to Lydia.  “It was Dad’s suggestion actually.”

She thought about that for a second, but then decided it didn’t matter whose idea it was.  “Is this about Donovan and what happened with Theo? You and Scott seemed okay before we left school.”

Stiles snorted.  “I’m not sure if okay is right.  We were better, but, not the same.”

“And?”  She pushed.

“He came by yesterday.  He’s heard from Theo.” He turned to face the window towards the back of the house.  “Theo wants to stay.”

“And Scott is going to let him.”  She sighed. “Scott is just…”

“Yeah, I know, I get it, but I’m not that person.  The one who lets all the bad shit just float away like it never happened.”

“Nor should you.”

“My dad gave me this.”  He handed over the fabric wrapped bundle.  

Lydia took the bundle and carefully unwrapped it.  Once she saw what was inside she re-wrapped it and handed it back, raising an eyebrow.  “Okay. You talk to your dad. It looks like there’s some stuff that he wants to tell you.  Maybe it’s stuff you should hear.”

Stiles looked at her and listened to what she wasn’t saying as much as what she was saying. “Yeah, okay.  But, after, I’ll still want to get out, even if it’s not forever, for a little while anyway.”

Lydia nodded kissed him on the cheek and let herself out of his house.

Stiles was left with the groceries she left behind.  He laughed softly and decided to make dinner. If his dad had something serious to talk about, it was probably best over good food.  Maybe he’d dig out his mother’s Kopytka recipe.

*

“You know we adopted you because your mom couldn’t have children.”  Noah said with some difficulty, “But did you know why?”

Stiles blinked at his father.  There was a lot about his mother he didn’t know, didn’t understand.  He knew she was magical, but as a kid, that knowledge was vague in the way you just know your parents can do anything.  But now, with both the wisdom and experience time can bring, he’s not sure where the magic came from. Was it like Deaton’s often useless Druidic knowledge?  Stiles didn’t think so. She had far more in common with the hedge witch who had come to the Preserve wanting cuttings from some of the older trees for some potions.  Or perhaps, she had been like some of the people Peter dealt with; powerful, but ambiguous, like him.

Either way, as a child it was hard to see these things.  As a child, Stiles had known only his mother, and what she may have said to him, as confusing as it may have been to a young child, he would understand when he was older. She said that sometimes, it was annoying as a kid, now it made him smile. Thinking about her now, the way she sometimes spoke, as if she was from another time.  Her death had been the most confusing thing of all. The healers at the clinic she went to couldn’t really explain her sudden illness and decline. His father had once had her examined at the hospital, and they had tried to diagnose her with frontotemporal dementia, which didn’t correctly fit the symptoms either. Knowing what he did now, he occasionally wondered if there had been something paranormal at work, but for the most part, tried not to think about it.  He was young when she died and any impressions he may have had of that time were naturally colored by youth and fear. His father hadn’t made any of it any easier with his refusal to talk about his mother at all. Yet, here he was, bringing her up. There had to be a reason.

“I just thought she couldn’t…that happens sometimes.”  Stiles shrugged uncomfortably.

Noah sighed heavily.  “I didn’t want to have this conversation with you yet, I thought, maybe when you were older, but you were always an old soul.  Claudia said that was why she chose you. When we moved here, and things settled down for a time, we thought everything would be fine.

“Settled down?”  Stiles asked. He wanted to ask what he meant by being chosen but thought that could maybe wait.

“Oh sure, there were issues, there always are, but Beacon Hills was always a haven for the most part.  The Nemeton made things feel welcome, but it was mostly downworlders, so we didn’t have much trouble. Hunters didn’t usually venture here.  The Hale pack was strong, and they protected the preserve and the surrounding areas.

“Then the Summit came.” Noah turned away from his son and looked out the back window, where Claudia used to grow her herbs.  “There were a lot of werewolves here, outside packs.”

“Is that when Ennis lost his pack mate to Hunters, and he tried to replace him with Paige?”  Stiles asked in what was the most understated telling of events as Stiles could make it.

“You know about that?”  Noah was surprised. That had happened so long ago and considering how fractured the Hales were these days he didn’t think they’d bring up ancient history like that.

Stiles shrugged a little uncomfortably.  “Peter mentioned it. He also told me about how different Deucalion was back then, about what happened to him.”

“Considering how angry you’ve been over the deal Scott made with him, I didn’t think it would matter.”  Noah pointed out.

“It doesn’t, but it made some other things more clear.  Scott also told me he got an interesting story from around that time from Gerard Argent.”

“Ah, and you put two and two together and figured out what really happened.”  Noah sighed again. “It was a crazy time. There were too many hunters here. They were mostly looking for shifters but, Claudia thought something got into her garden.  She thought maybe she was poisoned.” He looked out there again and could almost picture her trying to find what had been making her sick, making her hallucinate.

“Are you saying she was…murdered?”  Stiles wasn’t sure what he had been expecting, but it hadn’t been this.  “I don’t…I don’t understand.”

“I know, son.  Claudia wanted to explain, about her, about you, when you were older, but then she got sick and then she was gone, and I just…I wasn’t equipped to deal with it.  I wasn’t ready to let you go either, so I let myself believe that we could live life with them, like the mundanes. My denial worked…for a while, until…” He looked back at Stiles.

“Until I insisted Scott and I go looking for that body in the woods.”  Stiles looked back at the bag his father had handed him, that he’s been carrying around with him like a leaden weight.  “So, all this supernatural stuff was not new to you?”

“No, where we come from, we call it the shadow world.”  Noah stared at his son and wondered how different things were going to be for him from now on.

“The shadow world,” Stiles repeated.

“We met when I was attending Columbia, you know.”  Noah smiled in memory. “I was late returning from class and ended up in this out of the way little shop.  Her mentor directed me to her, and well…”

“I applied to Columbia,” Stiles said quietly.

“I know, son.  I found a program you might be interested in.”

“A program?” Stiles asked hesitantly.  He hoped his father wasn’t about to suggest Supernatural rehab because that was not on.

“Yeah.  It’s attached to the university, but more of a side program.”  He handed Stiles some computer printouts.

Stiles read through them quickly.  “New York is pretty far away.”

He looked away for a moment, imagining his house without Stiles frenetic energy.  “You’re right, but it isn’t permanent, and this program is only three months. It will give you enough time to see if you like it, and…” He smiled at his son,  “I bet you’ll love New York.”

 

“Uh, I haven’t exactly packed my bags yet,”  Stiles said, though to be fair he had been thinking along those lines ever since he had decided to graduate early.  He knew he couldn’t stay in Beacon Hills.

“I’ve had a Fire message sent to New York, to Claudia’s mentor. Someone will be ready to teach you when you get there.”

Stiles blinked.  Fire message? He wasn’t sure if he was ready for all his suppositions about his father to be upended in one fell swoop.

“In the meantime, we have a friend out in Beacon County who can get you started on all the things we should have already been teaching you.  I’m sorry about that, but…I’m not ready to step back into that world, not yet. Raiya will have to do.”

Stiles nodded.  He could understand, sort of.  Just talking about his mom was painful.  He still was unclear about a lot of stuff though.  “What, uh…what exactly do I need to know?”

Noah looked pointedly at Stiles’ hands.  Stiles followed his gaze, and his eyes widened at the slight glow to them.  He had felt the heat under his skin. These days that was normal, but to actually see it, that was new.

“You need to get control over that.  Your mother, once she started to get sick, she knew she wouldn’t be around to teach you how to control your powers, so she bound them, tightly.  I never felt any flicker from you…until.”

“Until…”  Stiles prodded.

“The Nogitsune.  I think it released whatever Claudia did.  Now, whatever protections were in place are now unraveling, and if you don’t learn to control your magic…well, it won’t be good for anyone.  You’ll be better off with a tutor.”

*

Stiles entered the shop a little warily.  He’d never really done the magic shop thing.  Mostly he’d done his research online. He thought that, for the most part, magic shops were probably about seventy percent New-Age Wicca or Pagan interest and twenty-seven percent left-over hippie establishments.  Finding the remaining three percent that was more than just Pagan faith and free love would be more miss than hit, so he hadn’t wasted his time.

This, though, did appear to be the real thing.  Sure, it had a little bit of the type of stuff that would appeal to those that were more curious that true practitioners, but he could also see things that might not mean much to the casual observer.

His dad said he needed a tutor though, and he believed him.  Weird things had been happening since the nogitsune. He’d tried to ignore it.  He’d wanted to pretend it wasn’t real, but now that he knew part of the truth, part of where he came from, he couldn’t ignore the reality anymore.

“As I live and breathe.”

Stiles stilled at the soft words of the woman coming out of the back room, staring at him.  She wasn’t much taller than him with dark hair, and darker eyes, long braids that fell past her waist.

“Let me have a look at you.”

Stiles turned around, unsure if the woman was actually addressing him or not.”

“Yes, you Mischiew.  You have her energy.

Stiles blinked.  Not only because this sprite of a woman knew his name, but because she had pronounced it correctly, the way his mother used to, with the same accented inflections she had used.  Still, he wasn’t sure how he could share his mother’s energy. They weren’t technically related after all.

“Raiya?”  Stiles asked quietly.  He didn’t think she could be anyone else really, but he felt he should ask.

The woman nodded.  “Mischiew, you are here to learn our people’s ways, yes?”

“My father said you knew my mother.  That you might be able to help me.”

“This world has many dangers.  Beacon Hills, especially.” Raiya nodded somberly.  “I cannot teach you, your father should have known this too, yes?  Our magic is too different, but I can send you to someone who can.”

“Uh, yeah.  He mentioned that I might have to go to New York.  I applied to Columbia University.”

“Good, Good.  Magnus is there.  He taught Claudia many years ago.  He should be able to help.

She pulled him through the hanging beads and towards a rickety old bookshelf in the back.  “First you must read.”

Stiles followed her into the back of the shop and stared at the overflowing bookshelves.  “Uh, where should I start?”

Raiya smiled at him fondly.  “At the beginning of course.”  She led him further into the back and pushed him towards an area with a small table low to the ground.  “The bottom shelf there has the oldest texts on the history of our people, where we came from. You will need to understand the basics here first.”

Stiles looked to where she pointed and got to work.

*

“Theo thinks you did something to his car,”  Scott said without preamble.

“Does he?”  Stiles honestly wouldn’t be surprised if he had done something to his car.  That day outside the supermarket, his anger had been intense, and Theo’s smug smirk hadn’t helped.  “I don’t really care what Theo thinks.”

“Why can’t you just get along?””  Scott pressed. “You’re suspicious of everyone.”

“Someone has to be.”  Stiles sighed. “I won’t work with him.  You’re the one who rolled out the welcome mat, you deal with him.”

“I didn’t invite him back into town,”  Scott said in frustration.

“No,”  Stiles said evenly. “However, now that he’s here you’re letting him stay.”

Scott stared at Stiles for a long minute before shaking his head.  “I can’t just kick people out of town.”

Stiles wasn’t sure what to say to that.  First, there was the fact that Scott and Derek had done exactly that with Deucalion after that whole mess with Jennifer Blake A.K.A. Julia Baccari. Then there was the fact that Scott was the Alpha of this territory, in theory.  He could, in fact, keep people out if they represented a threat.

Theo Raeken was nothing but threat.

“This is your territory,”  Stiles said pointedly. He wasn’t going to get into the whole Deucalion thing.  Considering Scott had more recently invited him back.

“What do you want from me?” Scott asked in frustration.

“Nothing,”  Stiles answered wearily.  This was not the first time in the last few weeks they had discussed Beacon Hills and the people currently in the territory, whether in the pack or not.

Scott stared at him again before huffing at him and turning around to walk away.

Stiles stared after his retreating back feeling decidedly apathetic about this latest disagreement.  There was a time when Stiles would have run after Scott, or maybe Scott would have never walked away like that.

He continued staring, his eyes not focusing on anything so much as he was listening to Scott’s retreat. He heard the front door shut, and the sound of his bike starting up.

“That sounded rough.”

Stiles looked up at his father as he leaned against archway between the kitchen and the living room.  “Yeah.”

“I didn’t hear you tell him you were leaving.” Noah pointed out unnecessarily.

“What would be the point? He would argue, maybe try to change my mind.”

“Unsuccessfully,” Noah observed.

“Yes.”  Stiles agreed. “He wouldn’t understand.”

“Probably not.”  Noah agreed. Scott had changed in the past few years.  He had grown from the angry boy who felt his life was irrevocably ruined. Even so, he still clung to his ideas and hadn’t entirely forgiven the people he felt had led him down his current path.  Noah knew his son had changed as well but in different ways.

“Have you spoken to Raiya?”  Noah, as much to change the subject as because he was interested in the answer.

Stiles nodded.  “She’s given me some books to read and is teaching me to meditate.”

*

“Lydia’s here,”  Noah said as he poked his head inside Stiles bedroom doorway.

“Okay.  I’m ready.”  Stiles looked around once more to make sure he didn’t forget anything.

“You know, I can still send you anything you forget.  And you aren’t leaving forever.” Noah said softly.

“I know.”  Stiles sighed. He grabbed his bag and walked out of his room.

“What do you want me to tell anyone who asks where you’ve gone?”  Noah asked as he followed his son down the stairs.

“You mean Scott?”  Stiles shrugged uncomfortably.  “The truth, I guess. I’ve left Beacon Hills for a while.  You can tell him I got early admission for college in New York.”  He sighed as he turned and hugged his father. “New York is a big place with a lot of schools.  Don’t tell him what school. I don’t think he’ll come looking for a bit, in any case. He might call a few times when I don’t come back to school with the rest of them, but he’s going to be pretty busy with his new pack.”

“And you don’t think he’s going to think you’re a part of that?”  Noah squeezed back.

“We don’t really see eye to eye anymore. I had some pretty harsh words for him over that whole Deucalion/Gerard Argent deal he made.  And we’ve argued more than once about Theo. I washed my hands of the whole business.”

Noah nodded.  “Fair enough.” He walked down the stairs behind Stiles and nodded at Lydia.  “You guys be careful on the drive, and call me when you get there.”

*

Lydia looked across at Stiles.  “I’m not sure if I’m coming back.”

“What about your mom?”  Stiles asked quietly.

Lydia shrugged.  “It’s hard for her.  This supernatural stuff.  It was hard for her to put me in Eichen House, but she thought she was doing the right thing, but, I think she’d rather not think about it at all.  I think she was glad that I decided to graduate early and go away to college. She’d like to think I’m off doing normal things.”

“Okay, but we’re going to New York, where, I’m told, lots of paranormal things live.  We won’t be alone.”

Lydia grinned.  “I’ll leave that out of my update emails.”

Stiles grinned back.  “So, Parish.”

“No.  We are not having this conversation.”  Lydia shook her head. “So, tell me about this power of yours.”

Stiles shrugged uncomfortably.  “Well, the books I read said I’m a warlock, which apparently means I’m half demon.  Weird.”

“So All warlocks are half-demons.”  Lydia mused.

“Not just warlocks.  According to the history books, Raiya gave me to read, the paranormal world, which is actually called the ShadowWorld, is made up of what they call Downworlders, who are part Demon, Warlocks included, but also Vampires, Werewolves, Seelie.  I assume maybe Banshees would be included in there somewhere.”

“What about hunters?”  Lydia asked suspiciously.

Stiles snorted.  “Yeah, that’s a whole other thing.  Apparently, there’s a whole society, half Nephilim, called Shadowhunters.  Supposedly they are supposed to protect humans from the Downworld species, but Raiya left me with the impression that they’re very prejudice against Downworlders in general.”

“So, not too different from Werewolf hunters then,”  Lydia said wryly.

“Nope.”  Stiles looked out his window, remembering his run-ins with Argents.  “Raiya told me there was a war a few decades back and there’s still bad blood.”

“Lovely,”  Lydia said.  She took a deep breath.  “Jackson has been living in New York for a year.”

“He has.”  Stiles agreed.  He knew where she was going but wasn’t really sure what to tell her.

“Did he mention anything about this to you?”

“Not really.  I mean Jacks mentioned he joined a new pack, and he told me that New York was full of Paranormal energy and I would love it there, but it’s a big city, so I kind of figured that would be the case, so I didn’t give it much thought.  He didn’t talk about having hunter problems, but if he’s part of a pack and has been following the rules, then he should stay off of their radar.”

“So, we’re ready for this, right?”  Lydia whispered.

*

Lydia looked at the club with a frown.  “Here? You’re sure?”

Stiles looked down at the note he’d made on his phone.  “Yep, this looks like the place.”

“Pandemonium?”  Lydia asked skeptically as she watched the sign blinking.  “Cute.”

“You think that’s some sort of not-so-subtle sign?”  Stiles asked, watching the word ‘Demon’ blink on and off through the rest of the word.  “Like supernaturals welcome here?”

Lydia sighed.  “Let’s go in.” She walked forward, grabbing Stiles arm.

Stiles followed her inside and blinked at the inside.  “Um, this is not at all like Jungle.” He whispered watching the crowd.  He stepped closer to his friend. “This place is wild.”

“It’s also about seventy percent supernatural.”  She said quietly, that weird other sense pinging wildly.

“Yeah, Raiya mentioned this area of New York is pretty heavily populated with Downworlders.”

There were people everywhere.  Even Stiles could tell there were more than a few paranormal types, but it didn’t make him feel on edge.  He felt his shoulders relax a little. He knew what Raiya had said, but hearing it and seeing it were two entirely different things.

Lydia’s gaze swiveled along the club’s patron’s, filtering out various people as insignificant, her eyes flickered past a man seated on a couch with strange cat-eyes before falling on another being. This one had a shimmer to him, different from the man on the couch. Her other senses told her that the man with the cat-like eyes was like Stiles, a Warlock. The man with the shimmering power was something else though. His hair was long, and he stood with a poise she hadn’t seen in the supernaturals she had met so far.

My liege would speak with you

Lydia heard the words inside her head, but they didn’t seem intrusive. She merely nodded to the man before turning back to Stiles, and the world seemed to come back into focus.

“You alright?” He asked her softly.

“Yeah. I think…there’s a lot we can learn here.”

Stiles turned back towards the man with the cat-eyes. “I hope so.”

“Let’s get a drink.”  Lydia pulled him towards the bar.  He followed her blindly, but his eyes were trained on the dance floor.

Most people he focused on had a similar kind of energy, but not.  It was weird to feel this energy from so many different people. He could sense this flow of energy from over half the room, but each person had a different…resonance.  It was kind of disconcerting. Back in Beacon Hills, he had just started to register this energy, and only Lydia and Jordan had it, but then he hadn’t been around Scott or his pack since he first started noticing the difference.  Raiya had told him that some Warlocks could read Aural Energy, but he hadn’t really understood what she meant at the time.

Now though he could probably pick out the Paranormals from the Mundanes easily enough.

His eyes caught on a man seated on a couch halfway across the room.  He was very…sparkly. But that wasn’t what drew his attention. His energy was slightly different than others in the room.  It was strong, stronger than anything else in the place, and it seemed…older somehow. He wasn’t sure if that was an accurate interpretation or not.

The man lifted his head and looked right at him, his eyes shifting in the lights of the club.  It was almost like when Scott or Derek had flashed their Alpha eyes, but not exactly. It caused him to shiver, though he wasn’t sure why.

“Stiles?”  Lydia nudged him in concern.

The man shifted his gaze to her and stared as though he was looking right through her.  It was kind of unsettling.

*

Stiles found himself alone in a room with the man with the cat eyes.  He wasn’t exactly sure how that had happened. One minute he was on the edge of the dancefloor…observing.  The next…here.

“You’re Claudia’s son?”  The man asked, an amused twist to his lips as though he was asking a question he already knew the answer to.

Stiles stared for a second.  “You knew my mom?”

“Sure thing, Sugarplum.”

Stiles blinked at the response. “Okay.”

“Raiya tells me you want training.”

Stiles nodded rapidly, still not sure what to think of this warlock.  That much he knew, this man was a Warlock, an old one, well at least older than most of the people he brushed up against out in the club.  Not that he had a lot of experience for comparison.

“Excellent.  We’ll begin now.  Come with me.”

*

Stiles stepped out of Magnus’ makeshift office.  He had just finished Magnus’ idea of meditation and focus exercises, which was a lot different than what Raiya had taught him back in California.

However, Magnus had a point that you couldn’t always find a peaceful spot to find your zen, you needed to make do with what was available and learn to adapt.

Without the club filled with people, it echoed oddly with the sound of staff moving around with the daily work to prepare for the next night’s business.  Stiles looked around the large room, the flash and glitter of the club had been dulled by the daytime business, but it was still an interesting atmosphere.

Stiles leaned against the door to the office and found his eyes focused on the bar.  This was the third week he had come into the bar during the day for training, and only the second time he’d seen Peter.  It wasn’t really a surprise to see Peter, not completely.

Stiles had known, before coming to New York, that there was a thriving paranormal community.  He’d also understood that there was more than one pack nearby. With so many universities in New York, not to mention the actual population that called New York City home, it was bound to be filled with packs, clans, covens and other assorted groups.  Both his father and Raiya had confirmed as much.

Magnus was on good terms with the local Alphas, as it was part of his duties as the High Warlock.  He had especially good things to say about one of the packs in the city. Jackson’s vague rumblings seemed to agree.  So, it wasn’t exactly a surprise to see Peter Hale.

New York was just the kind of place Stiles expected to see Peter.  It had a weird combination of city life, and his teachers told him nature was close at hand as well.  It was the perfect combination of nature and decadence.

Stiles was honest with himself when he realized he didn’t hold any animosity towards Peter for the things that had happened.  Not even the Deadpool. Especially the Deadpool. Peter hadn’t even been aware of what he was doing when Meredith had taken his impotent fury and run with it.  Stiles could hardly blame Peter for the results.

Still, the warlock was hesitant to approach the wolf.  He really had hoped to make New York a fresh start, but it wasn’t exactly working out that way.

Derek and Jackson were both here, though they stayed away.  Derek was finishing his Masters in Architectural Design at Pratt.  Jackson was trying to get his general courses settled so that he could attend Mount Sinai Medical School as soon as could be managed.  He always had been an overachiever. Both of them were just finding their footing in a real, stable pack.

Stiles wasn’t sure where Peter stood, as far as the pack structure was concerned, and he wasn’t sure he wanted to delve into all that.  He didn’t want to broach the subject of his uncle with Derek, and Jackson’s only previous contact with Peter had been the night when he went from Kanima to Wolf, plus whatever he may have heard about him from Lydia, and who knows how that had come about?

He could ask Magnus.  They clearly knew each other.  Aside from the fact that Peter was here, working in Magnus’ club, behind the bar no less, he’d seen them interact the first time he’d seen Peter here.  They were definitely on friendly terms.

But no, if he questioned Magnus, the older Warlock would involve himself in Stiles personal matters, and Magnus did that enough without Stiles drawing attention to something potentially juicy.

*

“You know I was pleasantly surprised to see you here, in New York of all places.”

Stiles centered himself and focused, feeling the energy discharge around him before he opened his eyes and looked at the werewolf leaning against the door to his practice room.  “Why is that?”

“Well, I was afraid Scott would have gotten you killed.”

Stiles’ eyes flashed at him in irritation.

“Temper, temper,”  Magnus called over.  He popped in. “Start again.”  He turned to Peter, “And you, flirt when he’s finished.”

*

Stiles set the tray of sandwiches down on the bar with a sigh.

“That’s a long face.”  Peter leaned over the bar with a raised brow.  He pushed a bottle of water towards the young warlock.

“Danny just called.”

“How are things in good old Beacon Hills?”  Peter really didn’t care, to be honest, but Stiles was upset, so he’d put forth some effort, at least until he could distract him with something else.

Stiles snorted.  “Same crap, different day.  Danny says Scott’s started actively looking for me.”

“You’ve been gone for nearly three months,”  Peter stated the obvious.

Stiles shrugged.  “I think he was hoping I would come back or, I don’t know, call or something…”

“You changing your number wasn’t a clue?” Peter questioned. When Stiles ignored him he continued, “And now that you haven’t?”

“He knows I’m still in contact with Lydia.  He wants to see if Danny can trace our emails, or phone calls, as Danny did when we were looking for you.”

“Will Danny do that?”  Peter asked sharply. It didn’t matter that Stiles wasn’t hiding.  His location in New York was not a secret. Still, as far as Peter was concerned, a betrayal was a betrayal.

“No.  Danny has never been a member of Scott’s pack.  Neither is Lydia, not anymore, regardless of what Scott may think.  But, Scott will only be put off by Danny’s delaying tactics for so long.  He has a new pack now.”

“Pups.”  Peter scoffed.  “Pups who aren’t even real wolves.”

Stiles nodded.  “True, but because they’re young, they are more likely to know their way around technology than say, Derek.”  He smirked slightly.

“Fair point.”  Peter allowed. His nephew was not exactly technologically inclined, though he was getting better, now that he was on his own, and had to rely on it more regularly.  “So, we’re expecting a visit from Scott then?” Peter asked.

“Well, not here.”  Stiles waved an arm around the interior of the bar.  Pandemonium wouldn’t open for another five hours and was pretty sparse.  “The warding Magnus has around the place precludes any kind of tracking, mundane or magical, but I bet he’ll find me somewhere else.  The library, or central park, or who knows…”

“Your apartment is equally warded.”  Peter pointed out.

“Yes, and Magnus’ place too.  He could track me to school, but unless he has an extremely narrow band tracker, finding me once, there might be difficult.”

“Let’s send him to Luke,”  Peter said cheerfully.

“Let’s not,”  Stiles said dryly.  “The last thing I want is some sort of weird confrontation between Jacks and Scott. I’d prefer if Scott came to say whatever he needs to get off his chest and go again without ever knowing there are any other wolves here.”

“I’m sure that Druid has told him we have a thriving community, lovies.”  Magnus interrupted.

Stiles sighed.  “Yes, I’m sure he has, but Deaton is always as vague as humanly possible.  So, if he’s told Scott anything, he would just tell him that things in New York are hazardous, either to prevent Scott from coming at all or to try and get Scott to convince me to come home, depending on what his agenda is.  Deaton wouldn’t have mentioned anything specific if he even knows about Peter and Jacks, or the Pack here, he definitely wouldn’t have said so, especially if he wants me to stay here.”

Magnus hummed, his eyes glowing for a second.  “You’re probably right. I doubt very much he wants you back in the Hills.  No. He probably tried to talk your baby Alpha out of coming altogether.” He turned to his old friend.  “Glowbaby is right; you should stay away. If he sees you, he won’t leave. He’ll think Stiles is in all sorts of danger here with you.”

Peter rolled his eyes.  “Fine. I’ll stay away from the worst decision I ever made.  Just, keep him out of here.”

“Sure thing, sweetcheeks.”  Stiles grinned before turning to Magnus.  “Lesson time?”

Peter groaned.  Stiles and Magnus together were a menace.  Good thing he had work to do.

*

It was two weeks later when Scott finally tracked Stiles down.  He was in his favorite whole-in-the-wall library. It was one of the places Magnus had sent him to for his more arcane research.  However it was a public library, and didn’t have the kind of protections on it that Magnus employed, or that Stiles was learning to utilize.

“Stiles! Where have you been?”  Scott looked startled as if he hadn’t come there specifically looking for Stiles.  Of course, locating Stiles in a city the size of New York once he had arrived couldn’t have been easy, even with someone other than Danny doing the tracing for him and Dr. Deaton giving him a list of places to try.

Stiles looked up from the table he was working at.  He wasn’t surprised to see Scott, not really. Danny had warned him that Scott had asked him to do a little digging.  He had known that Danny’s false trails would only last for so long. Eventually, he would go elsewhere for help.

“My dad didn’t tell you?”  Stiles asked. He had assumed His dad was going to tell everyone what they’d talked about and that Scott was just searching to satisfy his own need to know or to actually talk to him since he’d changed his cell number after two days, not wanting to keep ignoring specific calls.

“He didn’t say anything.  Just that you’d gone away to clear your head for a while.”  Scott frowned. “So where have you been?”

“Here mostly, studying,” Stiles answered.  Morningside Heights library was useful for general studies, but they didn’t open until ten.  For his more esoteric studies, his tutor had hooked him up with a few more underground resources.

“What are you doing here?”  The werewolf smiled a little awkwardly before focusing on his old friend.

“Researching,”  Stiles said vaguely. He had known it was only a matter of time before Scott tracked him down in New York.  He wasn’t exactly hiding. And while New York and California aren’t exactly just a bike ride away from one another, Stiles still vividly recalled that ill-fated trip to Mexico.  Scott didn’t seem to think boundaries applied to him.

Scott looked around at the books Stiles had spread out around him.  From his vantage point, he couldn’t really tell what the subject matter was, but some of them looked pretty old, and he wasn’t even sure if they were in English.  “What are you researching?”

“Family history,”  Stiles said softly.  He closed the book in front of him, and Scott caught a glimpse of a hand-drawn symbol before the book was moved out of sight.  The first lesson he’d been taught was that he needed to learn what demon sired him. Immortality was great and all, but you never knew when you might run into the Greater Demon that made up your family tree.  Stiles was also learning all about his mother. What kind of Warlock she had been. She had lived for a long time before his father had met her in college.

“Your dad did say you’ve been working.”  Scott said cautiously, interrupting Stiles research.  Scott wasn’t sure whether to bring this up or not. The sheriff hadn’t exactly been as free with the information as he once would have been.  Scott had thought, at first that maybe the Sheriff was tired of the supernatural influencing his life, but he had heard that Chris Argent still visited regularly, so Sheriff Stilinski’s hesitation was due to something else.

“Yes.  At a shop near Bay Ridge.”  Stiles agreed.

“Doc Deaton said Bay Ridge is full of dangerous people,”  Scott said cautiously.

Stiles snorted.  “If by dangerous people you mean, it’s populated by shifters, vampires, Seelie, warlocks, and on occasion one or two demonic types, then I suppose he might be right.”

Scott’s eyes widened.  “Is that wise?”

“Scott?  You’re a werewolf dating a kitsune?  What’s the big deal?”

“I just don’t think it’s a good idea for you to be involved in the supernatural anymore.  When your dad told me you left Beacon Hills, I thought you were making a clean break.”

When Stiles just stared at him, he continued, “I hadn’t seen you around Beacon Hills in a while.”  Scott says with a touch of hurt in his voice, looking from the books Stiles is carrying then to Stiles face briefly then away again uncomfortably.   “You didn’t tell me you were leaving.”

“I hadn’t been around, you or the pack.  I didn’t see the point. We weren’t seeing eye to eye before I left,”  Stiles answered evenly. Before he left Beacon Hills, he hadn’t exactly been actively avoiding Scott, but he hadn’t gone out of his way to contact him either, not since that unpleasant conversation anyway.  He hadn’t gone to any place he knew Scott was likely to be. Without school and lacrosse, and regular visits to each other’s houses they didn’t frequent the same places, apparently.

Scott frowned as he looked at the books Stiles was clutching once more.

Stiles knew they looked old, and they probably smelled old and musty, and to a werewolf’s nose, they might smell like magic besides, but he was not going to ask, at least he was not going to ask Scott because that would be starting a conversation better left ignored for the moment.

“You’re in New York, Scott.  Clearly, you found me.” Stiles said instead, choosing to answer his earlier question.  “I’ve been mostly, to school, home, tutoring.” He wasn’t sure if he was avoiding mentioning anything more specific on purpose or if he just didn’t want to explain himself.

“Dr. Deaton said your dad came by to see him last week,”  Scott said suddenly finally looking him in the eye.

“Did he?”  Stiles shrugged.  “He’s the sheriff.  Sometimes he has questions.”

“He was asking about…Mountain Ash.”  Scott whispered the last as if afraid someone would overhear.

Stiles looked around the empty aisle.  The library wasn’t crowded this time of day.  This was a niche library, which really only had access to certain types of information. The young apprentices usually came first thing in the morning, or maybe really late at night, after Pandemonium had cleared out for the night, but at this time, it was usually just Stiles and what passed for the librarian, a strange old Seelie who fancied herself a guardian of Information.

“Okay?  And?” Stiles asked leadingly.  “Did the Doc give him what he asked for?”  Stiles knew he didn’t because his dad had called him irritated and he had to listen to him bitch for thirty minutes, and then he had to call Raiya so she could order extra for Stiles to have her ship to his dad’s house.  He was going to owe her some favor for that. Thanks, Doctor Deaton, for nothing.

Scott just stared at him for a second in bewilderment.  “Stiles! He asked for Mountain Ash! What does he need Mountain Ash for?”

“After what’s been going on in Beacon Hills for the past couple of years? I couldn’t guess what he might need Mountain Ash for, could you?” Stiles’ voice was desert dry.  “Don’t worry, he’s not going to line the whole building with it, like the Animal Clinic. As you know, he’s got some deputies who couldn’t get to work if that was the case.”  Stiles shrugged again as if that wasn’t a concern.

Scott blinked.  “Your dad has werewolves working for him? He’s still working with Parish?”  He asked abruptly. “After he stole all those bodies, and turned over your jeep, and everything?”

Stiles stared at him, a little surprised himself.  How could Scott not know that Jordan Parish was still his dad’s best deputy?  Finding out about his Hell-hound thing didn’t change that. Granted, there were some concerns when certain paranormal related deaths happened, but they seemed to be working everything out.  Beacon Hills was Scott’s territory, was it not? Wasn’t he supposed to be aware of the goings-on of the supernatural within it?

“Yes.  Parish is still employed.”  That’s all he would say about that at any rate.  He knew there was some tie between the Nemeton and Parish, and that as long as it was active the way it was now, the Hell Hound was sort of bound there, but if Scott didn’t know that already, he wasn’t going to enlighten him.  Stiles thought maybe there might be others in the department too, but he wasn’t going to out them to Scott. He was not sure where Deaton stood on the paranormal scale of things in Beacon Hills, but he did know the Veterinarian never lifted a finger to help unless he was pushed into it.  Plus, Scott’s view of things always seemed to be in black and white, and though Allison was gone, he was still connected to the Argents.

“I don’t understand,”  Scott said, face all scrunched up, and voice all confused.  “Why is your dad even involved in any of this? I thought after that close call he wanted to stay out of it.  I thought you did, too. Wasn’t that why you and Lydia left school?”

“No…”  Stiles took a long look at Scott.  He wasn’t really sure where he even got that idea.  True he had just skipped out and not talked to Scott about why, maybe that had been a bad move on his part, but he wanted to preserve what was left of their friendship, if possible, and not rehash the whole Donovan thing all over again.  “I never said I wanted out. Lydia wanted out of Beacon Hills, true, but she can’t exactly escape the paranormal, now can she? As for me, I told you before that I wanted to know what was coming before it came and slaughtered us all.” Stiles said quietly.  “But you kept wanting to wait until something became a threat.” Stiles sighed, remembering the argument they had had before he’d left Beacon Hills and quit answering Scott’s calls.

“I thought we would deal with whatever came, together, as a pack,”  Scott said quietly. “But you stopped answering my calls then you just…vanished.”

“You wanted to wait for whatever was coming to get there before you’re willing to act.  I was tired of waiting. I wanted to know if the thing that’s coming has an army at its back, or just wants to reconnect with old allies.”  Stiles sighed. This conversation was going nowhere, and he was late. He really couldn’t afford to be late again.

“Why risk a confrontation when it isn’t necessary?”  Scott said. “Not everything wants to kill you.”

“Not everything wants to kiss you either.  Forewarned is forearmed, Scott. You don’t have to use the weapon just because you’re carrying it.”

“When are coming back to Beacon Hills?”  Scott asked, hoping to change the subject. He couldn’t believe he had to track Stiles down all the way across the country.

“I’m not sure.”  Stiles held up the books in his arms.  “I have a lot to learn here still, plus I’m looking into an apprenticeship.”  Okay, that wasn’t strictly honest. The magic studies were more full time than extracurricular, and the apprenticeship with Magnus was a given, but that was downworlder business, and werewolf or not, it was none of Scotts.

Scott frowned.  “In New York?

Stiles sighed. “I found an old mentor of my Mom’s here.  He’s agreed to take me on as an apprentice like he did for her.”  Stiles really hoped Scott didn’t ask what he was apprenticing in.

Scott looked really serious for a moment, not sure what to say, then he stared at the books for a long minute.  “Those look like magic books.”

“That’s because they are.”  Stiles saw the frown Scott was continuing to wear.  “We always have a choice, Scott,” He said. Stiles stepped back and moved over to his table and began putting his things away.  “It doesn’t matter anymore.”

“What do you mean?”  Scott asked in confusion, not understanding what was being said.

Stiles sighed.  “Look, Scott, for the longest time you didn’t want anything to do with the supernatural.  You wanted a normal life? Great, that was your choice. But, Scott, it was never mine. This,” He motioned towards the books, “this is my choice.  You don’t have to like it, you don’t have to approve of it, but it is my choice, and I’ve made it.”

Scott stared at Stiles in confusion for several long minutes.  He wasn’t sure Stiles was right. Stiles wasn’t a werewolf. He never had to worry about his family or any danger he might bring.  Stiles could walk away from this craziness at any time. Though to be fair, there had been plenty of risk to both Stiles and his father.  He just assumed with him leaving town, that meant he was leaving the crazy behind too.

“You’re leaving?”  Scott asked when it appeared Stiles was just going to walk away without saying anything else. “But…”

“No.  You’re leaving.” He shoved his last book into his bag and looked back at Scott.  “I’m running late for a tutoring session.” He looked at Scott, sighing, “Go back to Beacon Hills, go back to your pack.  I’m where I need to be right now.” Stiles turned away and walked out of the library leaving Scott even more confused.

Scott looked around the quiet room, wondering what had just happened and if he had just missed something important and realized that things really had changed if Stiles could just walk away from the pack and Beacon Hills like that.

*

“Okay, so what have you learned so far?”  Magnus leaned back against the wall and watched the young warlock.

“I’m immune to fire,” Stiles said quietly looking at his hands.

“Right. You have an affinity with fire.  Claudia was gifted with Earth magic. But don’t limit yourself.  There’s a lot you can do with potions and spells that can enhance what you can do on your own.”

“My, uh…immunity.  Can I share it?” Stiles asked hesitantly. Looking up at Magnus cautiously.

Magnus sighed.  “Wolves are not solitary creatures, you know.  They live in packs. They hunt together; they live together.”

“O-kay.” Stiles drew out, not sure where his mentor was going.

“They do, however, take mating rather seriously, just like in the wild.”  Magnus took a step closer to his young protege, “Warlocks, we don’t live life like that.  We’re immortal. We can’t afford to.”

“What exactly are you telling me?”  Stiles whispered.

“Be very careful.  You can mate with a werewolf.  I’m not telling you it can’t be done, but you will outlive him, and when that day comes…”

“I’ll want to die with him,”  Stiles whispered.

“Yes,”  Magnus admitted, knowing he was in the same boat, but unwilling to stop the trainwreck and climbing aboard anyway.

“And my immunity to fire?”

“Your abilities are your own.  Peter won’t be able to share your magic any more than you’ll be able to shift.”

*

“Tell me what you know about this…Guardian.”  Magnus said as he mixed the poultice.

Stiles added the lotus flowers and watched as they melted into the mixture.  “He came to Beacon Hills a couple of years ago, joined the Sheriff’s department.  My dad really liked him; he was…earnest.” Stiles paused. “Lydia said something once about him feeling drawn to Beacon Hills.  I’m not sure if that was about the Nemeton, or about what happened last year.”

Stiles smiled slightly, thinking about Jordan.  “He seemed pretty normal until all that drama with the dead pool.”

“What happened?”

Stiles sighed.  “Assassins. Lots of them.”  He shook his head. “That was sort of Peter’s doing, but, not really.”

Magnus raised an eyebrow.  “In English, Buttercup?”

“You know about the six years Peter spent in a coma?”  Stiles asked. When Magnus nodded, Stiles continued. “There was a Banshee in the hospital with him for some of that time.”

“Not the one you brought here?”  Magnus asked sharply.

“No, this was another girl, one whose power had gotten out of control.  Meredith. Wires got crossed between her powers and his need for vengeance.”

Magnus sucked in a breath.  He had known Peter for a lot of years; he could imagine how something like that could go horribly wrong.

“Yeah.”  Stiles sighed again, this time blowing on his mixture and it turned pale green.  “Anyway, there was a Deadpool on all supernatural creatures, so we had all sorts of assassins crawling out of the muck trying to kill everyone in town.  Parish’s name was on one of the lists Lydia deciphered. Some other deputy tried to set him on fire.”

“Which, naturally, he walked away from,” Magnus smirked in that way Stiles was getting used to.

“Naturally.”  Stiles smiled. “He didn’t know what it meant for a while.  Lydia eventually figured it out. She’s good like that.”

“He didn’t come with you and Lydia,” Magnus said quietly.  “Can I take that to mean he recognizes that he needs to protect Beacon Hills and the Nemeton?”

“I haven’t spoken to him about it, but that was the vibe I got from Lyds.”

*

Lydia woke up screaming.  It wasn’t that different from many of the nights she’d had in Beacon Hills, except now she had an anchor, well technically she had two, but her lessons with the Unseelie were teaching her to tap into not only her own power but theirs as well.

It was because of those lessons that her screaming didn’t last long, and she was able to decipher meaning from the visions she was getting, even though they were still vague at best.

She climbed out of bed and reached for the phone.  Stiles would not be happy. Peter probably wouldn’t either, but his happiness was not her concern.

*

“You want to return to Beacon Hills?”

Stiles looked up at his mentor.  He had his serious face on, despite all the sparkle.  “I can’t afford not to. Regardless of my feelings about what went on there, and how I left things, my dad lives there. It’s my home.  I can’t just abandon it.”

“You want to take Peter with you,”  Magnus stated. Not commenting on Stiles words, or what he really meant.

“Not exactly.”  Stiles sighed. “I’m just aware enough that I can’t stop him from coming with me.”

“Right.”  Magnus nodded and spun around for a moment, his colorful energy following him around the room for a minute.  “There are a couple of things. If Peter goes down there, we should keep his presence to everyone else a secret, at least for a while.”

“Well, the only person Lydia would probably tell is Parish, and it’s probably too late to derail that train.” Stiles pointed out. “That vision was pretty bad.”

“Of course not, pumpkin, but I’m sure you and Peter can handle her little hound once you’re in town, just let your dad know not to tell anyone you’re coming ahead of time.  Does he know yet?”

Stiles shook his head.  “No, I didn’t want it getting around, so I wasn’t going to let him know until we arrived.”

“Perfect. We can talk to Derek and Luke after you’ve left and make sure it’s understood not to make any waves until after he’s heard from you?  Is Derek going to cause an issue?”

Stiles thought about it a bit.  “Not exactly. He’ll be upset, that his mother’s legacy has turned into this, and…” he looked at Magnus and then away, not wanting to voice the biggest issue aloud, as he wasn’t sure how much Magnus really knew about the intricate inner workings of familial werewolf packs and ancestral legacies.

“…he might fear what has to happen next?”  Magnus said softly.

Stiles’ shoulders slumped slightly.  “Yeah. He won’t want to be the one chosen for that burden, but he would do it if it were the only choice.”

Magnus nodded.  “He won’t have to though, will he?  That’s another reason Peter is insisting on going, and why he doesn’t want Derek anywhere near Beacon Hills right now.”

Stiles sighed.  “Yes.”

“You know, once this happens, the two of you will be tied to Beacon Hills for the next decade?  Traveling will need to be carefully considered and will require at least one of you to stay behind.”

“We’ll make it work,”  Stiles said with a sigh.

“I guess my travel will have to increase now.  Your training is not nearly complete.”

Stiles smiled.  “Bring Alec. He needs to learn to unwind.”

*

They went to the Nemeton first, before even stopping at the house.  Lydia’s vision had disturbed Stiles as well. He wanted to see how it was fairing.

“I’m not sure,”  Stiles admitted, hands touching the bark of the ancient tree.  He was much more attuned to fire, as a rule, but if he focused he could read Earth Energy.

“Has anyone been here, that you can detect?” Peter asked, his own supernatural senses searching the surrounding forest.

“Just Parish, I think,”  Stiles answered as he stepped away and let his awareness draw back.

“You don’t sound sure.”  Peter quirked an eyebrow.  Stiles had become quite adept at wielding his Warlock abilities while they had been in New York.

“I feel Druidic energy, but it’s vague at best.”

“Deaton or Morell?  Or someone else?” Peter had never been overly trustful of Druids, though to be fair he’d never been excessively trustful of anyone.  And that was before the fire.

“Morell, I believe, but I think she may have just been checking on things.  Her touch is subtle, not invasive, but it’s different than what I remember from Deaton and my encounters with him.”

Peter nodded.  “Maybe once she recognized the Hound and his presence, she let it go.”

“Hmm.”  Stiles looked around once more, brow furrowed.  “But no wolves, present company excepted. I sense no Chimera either.  Strange. I would have thought Scott or his Betas would have added this place to their patrols.”

As loathe as he was to absolve Scott for any perceived misstep, Peter wondered if there might not be a more reasonable excuse.  “It’s possible they can no longer locate it. Scott’s connection to this place has faded, and the others didn’t locate it themselves, but were brought here.”

“I found it.”  Stiles pointed out, reminding Peter that Scott’s connection to this place originated in the same event as Stiles.

“The Nemeton is rooted in Magic and Nature, and you my dear, are Magic.  Though Earth is not your element, you can still sense the power here.”

Stiles nodded and then sighed.  “The Nemeton is not why we’re here though.  Let’s go see my father. I want to know what he’s heard if anything before I go looking for Scott.”

Peter smirked at the subtle reminder that Stiles didn’t want Scott to know about Peter until it was absolutely necessary.  Pity. He relished the idea of a fight.

*

Noah Stilinski opened the door, not entirely surprised to see Peter Hale accompanying his son.  Stiles texted him a few hours ago that he would be returning home, but not why or that he would be with anyone.  Still, he could read between the lines of the conversations he’d had with Stiles over the months he’d been gone. He also got the feeling that something in those discussions had drawn Stiles’ attention, though he wasn’t sure what.

Their frequent contact had involved everything from the Sheriff’s department to how Natalie Martin was dealing with Lydia’s absence, to what was going on with Chris Argent.  Noah had felt that Stiles needed to be aware of that situation; he didn’t want his son blindsided. Noah was also cognizant that Melissa and Scott McCall had been absent from their discussions.  He wasn’t sure what exactly that was about. He had known things had been tense between Stiles and Scott before he left, and he honestly didn’t know if that situation had been resolved or not.

Melissa had told him Scott had a friend looking into where Stiles had gone when Noah wouldn’t give him any specific information.  He had found out Stiles was in New York and went to talk to him, but the fact that Stiles hadn’t mentioned anything about the visit told Noah more about how that had gone than anything Melissa had said.

Stiles hugged his father hard before stepping back and nodding towards his companion.  Peter quirked his lips in a sardonic smile. “Sheriff.”

“Peter.”  He nodded before focusing once more on his son.  He looked good. A little less tense than when he left, and his eyes were a touch brighter as well.  He assumed that was an effect of the magic. Claudia always had magical energy brimming through her as well.

“Sorry to spring this on you but we were sort of hoping to sneak in.”  Stiles grinned.

“How’d that work out?” Noah asked.

Stiles shrugged.  “You tell me. Who knows we’re here?”

“No one, that I’ve heard.”  He paused. “Chris is out of town, but he probably would have called if he heard you were returning.”

Stiles reached over and grasped Peter’s wrist before he could say anything. Peter tensed for a moment and then relaxed.  “When is he due back?”

Noah shrugged. “Hard to say.  A few weeks probably.”

Peter relaxed further, and Stiles nodded.  “We might miss him then.”

Noah stared at Peter as he said, “That’s probably for the best.”

Stiles nodded in agreement but didn’t comment.

“So, why are you here?”  Noah moved further into the house and took a seat on the old, worn, comfortable couch.  “When you told me you were returning, you neglected to tell me why.”

“I did, didn’t I?”  Stiles grinned slightly, “I can’t just be here to visit?”

“You could,” Noah allowed before pinning his son with patented look #47, “But you’re not.”

“Something you said last week worried me, combined with something Lydia has been feeling.”

Noah blinked. “Lydia has a sense of Beacon Hills, all the way across the country?”

Stiles shrugged and turned to Peter, eyebrow raised.

“She’s connected to elements here, so she’s still attuned to forces at work,”  Peter said vaguely.

Elements?  Noah smiled.  He wasn’t sure if the werewolf was referring to her mother, the Nemeton, or Jordan Parish, but he figured it didn’t matter.  “What exactly troubled you?”

“You mentioned Chris had a run in a few weeks ago, some forest Sprites?”  Stiles asked, keeping his grip on Peter. He still wasn’t wholly calm when Argents were mentioned, though he had improved.

“Yeah, but they weren’t in Beacon County.  They were in Culver, nearly an hour away.” Noah remembered Chris mentioning it because it was a weird encounter.  Sprites don’t usually interact with humans, but these ones seemed a little freaked out and had drawn more attention to themselves than was typical.

“You mentioned they seemed…tense, afraid,”  Stiles said.

“That’s what Chris thought, though he admitted that he didn’t have much experience with Sprites to draw on.”

“Sprites are only afraid of two things,”  Peter stated, trying to get to the point. “Unseelie and Retzkavo demons.”

Stiles turned to glare at Peter before looking back at his father.  “Unseelie wouldn’t come within a hundred and fifty miles of a Nemeton.  Its energy isn’t compatible with their magic.”

“Okay.  So you’re saying this demon thing is scaring the Sprites?”  Noah was becoming more inured to the chaos of Beacon Hills, but he didn’t quite have a handle on it yet.  It wasn’t the same as it had been years ago. So many things had changed, and it wasn’t the same as the world he had come from either. Things operated differently here, in this nexus of ley lines and telluric currents, where the Nemeton was the center of everything.

“We tracked some suspicious movements of Sprites, and a  few other similar creatures and Lydia provided some further information, and we believe the Retzkavo is either here or headed here.”

“I’m assuming this isn’t the kind of demon that makes balloon animals and party streamers?”

“No, and it’s primary prey are shifters.”

“Like wolves?”  Noah asked, understanding where the concern was coming from.

“And other types. Feline, Avian, Coyote, Rodents, you get the idea.”  Stiles shrugged, “I’m not sure if they would attack the other types of Chimera, like Corey, but the ones that are part shifter are definitely at risk.  I don’t think Kitsune are in danger, as they don’t technically shift into a fox, but actual fox shifters are in danger.”

“Still, most of Scott’s pack is at risk.”  Noah watched Stiles and Peter for a moment.  “Is Scott aware of the danger?”

Stiles shrugged again.  “I don’t know. It depends on how seriously he’s taking the whole ‘Alpha of the Territory’ thing.”

“Meaning?”

Peter and Stiles exchanged a speaking look before Stiles answered.  “When I talked to him last, he didn’t seem to be in tune with his responsibilities.  I’m not sure if he’s just burying his head in the sand and wishing that all the trouble is over, or if he’s only concerned with his little circle of his supernatural universe.”

“He may know of their proximity,” Peter offered, “But may not know of the danger they pose.”

The sheriff shook his head.  “Mason is pretty competent, from all reports.  If Scott is aware of the demon, then Mason has worked out the threat.  You did leave them with a copy of the bestiary you and Lydia compiled.”

Stiles nodded.  He had come to the same conclusion.

“But you don’t think that Scott will take it seriously,”  Noah observed Stiles. There was definitely something his son wasn’t saying.

“When he came to New York, we disagreed.”  Stiles frowned, remembering.

“What about?”

“Lots of things.”

“Peter?”  Noah guessed looking at how Stiles was still holding onto Peter slightly, though the topic had moved away from Chris Argent.

“No.  Scott doesn’t know Peter is in New York.”  Stiles admitted. “We mostly argued about the way I left, the way we both had changed, the aggressive way I tend to go after problems, while he wants to wait and see if it can be reasoned with.”

“Ah.”  Noah looked at his son shrewdly, “and this isn’t the kind of threat that can be reasoned with, so you’re afraid that Scott won’t deal with it properly.”

“He’s afraid Scott won’t deal with it at all,”  Peter said lazily as if the outcome didn’t affect him.

“What are you going to do?”  Noah didn’t want to see this difference of opinion pull them farther apart, but he was pragmatic enough to know that sometimes people change dramatically, and there is no bridging those gaps.  Both Scott and Stiles had changed over the last few years. Unfortunately, they had turned in different directions.

“We’re going to talk to Parish first.  He should have some sense of the danger.  Then, I’ll decide what I want to do. Probably talk to Scott, and see where he’s at in this.”

“You don’t think Scott has already talked to Jordan about it?”  Noah asked. He and Jordan Parish were friendly, as the younger man still worked for him, but with Stiles gone, he hadn’t had a lot of supernatural interaction lately.  Most of what he knew these days came from Chris. He saw Scott semi-regularly, but the Alpha tended to avoid talk of the supernatural like he thought that with Stiles gone, the sheriff had retreated to his normal human existence.

“I know he hasn’t,”  Stiles hesitated a second.  “When I saw Scott, he seemed surprised that Parish was still in town, which is weird because he can’t exactly leave, with an active Nemeton to patrol.  He also seemed surprised that Parish was still working for you.”

“So, Scott is definitely not consulting with Parish.”

*

Stiles stood in the hall outside Parish’s apartment for a moment, trying to get a feel for the energy of the building.  This was a different place from where the deputy had lived before. It felt more…intense. Stiles didn’t let his senses stray too far, but if he had to guess, he’d imagine that more than just Parish was of the paranormal variety.

That would probably also explain the rune carvings etched into various places around the building.

Suddenly the door opened, and Deputy Jordan Parish was standing in front of him, looking not much different than the first time he had met him, except he was in casual clothes, and not his deputy’s uniform.

Stiles raised an eyebrow at the bewildered look on his face as he looked out into the hall.

“Um…for a minute I thought the building was on fire,”  Parish said awkwardly.

“You’re fireproof,”  Stiles pointed out, amused.

“Yeah, but half of the residents of the building aren’t.”  Parish took one more look into the hall before opening the door wider to let Stiles in.

Stiles didn’t comment on how only half of the residents weren’t fireproof and moved forward.  As Stiles walked past him into the apartment, Parish focused on him more keenly as their proximity narrowed.

“Oh, it’s you,”  Parish said, surprised.

“What’s me?”  Stiles asked, still finding Parish’s confusion amusing.

“The fire.  I thought it was a threat, but it’s…you’re the fire.”

Stiles nodded and looked down at his hands.  “Yeah, sorry about that. The more control I get of my power, the less I can pass as human, at least around anything even remotely other.”

Parish nodded as if he understood.  “So, back in Beacon Hills? Is this a family visit, or should I be worried?”

“Have you sensed anything weird lately?” Stiles asked, ignoring the question.

“Beacon Hills is nothing but weird, Stiles.  You know that.” He smiled briefly. “But nothing out of the ordinary.”  He paused a second, “I did get called to the Beacon Hills border last week, but the bodies were…not complete, and it was hard to say what happened.”

“What kind of body?”  Stiles asked, not happy with this news, but not surprised either.

Parish shrugged.  “Hard to say. Looked like whatever it was lost the fight, however.”  He observed the younger man carefully, wondering if this was expected news, or something new.”

“But supernatural?”  Stiles pressed.

“Definitely.  I don’t get drawn to mortal death like I do for supernaturals.”

*

Stiles ran into Scott half a block from Parish’s building.  It looked like he was doing a patrol. Stiles wondered if he knew Parish, and several other supernaturals lived not far from where he was patrolling but didn’t mention it.

“So…”  Scott stared at his old friend for a long time.  “You’re back?”

“For a visit.”  Stiles agreed.

“Staying with your dad?”  Scott sounded as if he wasn’t sure how their friendship had turned into this mess of awkward conversation.

“Yeah.”  Stiles nodded.  He wasn’t actually sure if that was true.  With Peter along, it might be better to stay elsewhere, but he couldn’t exactly explain that to Scott.

“You should stop by and see my mom,”  Scott mentioned.

“I will.”  Stiles hesitated a second before just getting on with it.  “Listen, my dad was filling me in last night about what’s been going on around here., and he said something that concerned me.  I wasn’t sure if you had heard about it or not.”

“What?”  Scott asked.  There wasn’t anything in his posture that had changed, but Stiles definitely got a sense of wariness and defensiveness in his aura now.

“He told me there have been a few incidents on the outskirts of town.” Stiles paused.  “Do you patrol out that far?” He was cautious how he asked because of this new tension in Scott, he wasn’t sure what would set him off.

Scott frowned.  “Not really. Liam and Hayden stay between the Hospital and the School.  Sometimes Corey will venture into other areas, but his senses are different because he’s not a wolf.  And…Theo goes where he thinks we need eyes.”

Stiles nodded because he was afraid that was the case.  “These incidents involve Sprites and Pixies. It didn’t sound like a good scene, and it reminded me of something I read in training.”

“You’re studying Sprites and Pixies in training?”  Scott seemed skeptical.

“In my apprenticeship, yes.”  Stiles tried to make it clear that that topic was not up for discussion, but he wasn’t sure how strong his own aura presence was, especially when dealing with someone who wasn’t accustomed to picking up such non-verbal cues.

“Okay.”  Scott nodded, a little hesitantly.  “What do you think is going on, then?”  Scott asked, his voice sounding both confused and slightly stiff like he wasn’t sure where this was going but was pretty sure he wouldn’t like it.

“There’s a kind of demon, called a Retzkavo, that is particularly violent towards wolves.”  He got right out with it.

“And what about the Sprites lead you to this demon?”  Scott asked suspiciously.

“Sprites don’t like Retzkavo, and they don’t react that way towards anything else aside from Unseelie, so I assume it’s the Retzkavo causing the distress.”

“And why can’t it be the Unseelie?”  Scott asked bordering on confrontational.

Stiles just stared at him.  “It’s not Unseelie. Take my word for that.”

Scott continued to stare at him, so Stiles sighed.  “Can’t you trust me? You used to trust me.”

“You used to have my back,”  Scott admitted, though he sounded more petulant than angry.

“The Retzkavo are dangerous, especially to wolves, so you should be careful.”  Stiles continued, not remotely interested in re-hashing their previous arguments.

“Just wolves?”  Scott finally asked, and his tone sounded strange.

Stiles wasn’t sure if he was reluctant to discuss this, or if he was testing, or perhaps fishing for more information.  “No, anything with the ability to shift forms to an animal of some type. Even a partial shift would probably be sufficient.”  Stiles added the last because he knew most wolves didn’t gain the ability to turn into an actual wolf until they reached a certain level of understanding and cohesion with their more primal instincts, but Retzkavo hunted them regardless.

“So, others in my pack, aside from Liam and I are also at risk?”  Scott pressed.

“Yes.  Malia, if she’s around, definitely.  Probably Theo and Hayden as well, though they aren’t simply shifters.”  Stiles knew that Malia hadn’t returned to Beacon Hills. Peter kept an unobtrusive eye on her, and she was still on walkabout.  Stiles doubted she would return to Beacon Hills. With Stiles and Peter both gone, she didn’t have much connecting her to this place anymore.

Scott stared at him for a long minute.  “Maybe you can talk to Mason, tell him what you know.”

Stiles could still feel an off tension coming from Scott and wasn’t sure exactly what he was aiming for here.  He didn’t begrudge Scott his pack. He was glad he had finally stopped fighting what he was if he had in fact done that.   Still, Stiles wasn’t a part of that equation anymore. “Alright.” He nodded, agreeing so he could at least give the right information to the only one left who was able to research things.  With him, Peter and Lydia gone, Beacon Hills was minus a lot of information gathering sources.

*

“How’d your meeting with the little Alpha go?”  Peter asked as soon as Stiles had returned. He could smell Scott and mild aggression.

“I don’t know.  It was weird. Scott was weird.  He seemed on edge, sort of. I’m not sure if it was because of how we left things in New York, or something else.”

“Did he know about the Retzkavo?”  Peter asked, thinking about what may have rattled the young Alpha.  It was hard to guess without having seen his behavior for himself.

“I doubt it.  He didn’t say one way or the other if he knew about the threat or any threat, but he did ask about it.  He asked if it was just wolves, but then he wanted to challenge me on my assertion that it was the Retzkavo and not Unseelie, so…”  Stiles sighed. “There was just something off about the way he asked.”

“How so?”

“I’m not sure, but he seemed like he was fishing for information, without commenting on whether or not the information was news to him.  Perhaps he was just testing the waters.” Stiles wasn’t sure though. “He did admit that none of his pack patrol the outskirts of town.”

Peter wasn’t surprised, but was more concerned, at the moment, with whatever Stiles wasn’t quite saying.  “Do you think he sees you as an outsider now?” Peter asked, mildly surprised by the idea. Scott had always seemed to rely on Stiles and what he brought to the Pack, but perhaps with Stiles absence, he was feeling abandoned.  Though Stiles had technically left for school, it was clear from Scott’s visit that he thought it was more than just that.

“I don’t know.  Maybe. He’s got some weird idea that I left because I wanted out of the supernatural shenanigans and that I wanted to keep my dad out of it too.  Which sort of explains how he and my dad don’t really share Intel anymore.” He sighed again. “I don’t know what he’s thinking, but his aura was off like he was uncomfortable, but I’m not sure why.”

“His aura?”  Peter asked. Stiles had always been incredibly perceptive about people and whether they were trustworthy or dangerous, though he didn’t always know why he felt that way.

Stiles shrugged.  “It’s this weird sense I have around people.  Magnus thought it might be an unconscious Aura-sense.  He said that some warlocks with an affinity with the elements, in particular, develop it.  It has something to do with focusing on nature and the energies tied to the different elements.”

Peter nodded.  That made sense, and if anyone would understand it, it was Magnus.  “Okay, did Scott say anything useful?”

Stiles glared for a minute, but it was for show.  “He suggested I speak with Mason and give him whatever information I have.”

Peter smirked.  “Well, that would impart the urgency, but it doesn’t mean Scott will listen.”

“I will talk to Mason.  But whether Scott sees the truth of things or not, I want to see what we can find on our own.”

Peter nodded because of course, Stiles would want to investigate things himself.  “I heard back from my source regarding the recent activity in the area.”

“And?”  Stiles wasn’t sure what he wanted to hear.  That things were going on he didn’t know about, or that everything had been fine in his absence.

“The Retzkavo will probably be within the borders in 72-96 hours.  However, that is not the only thing that concerns me.” Peter paused, looking at Stiles, his lips twisted in irritation.  “Devon told me that there have been several recent incidents and that some members of the community have had to band together to deal with them.”

“Meaning that Scott isn’t dealing with them,”  Stiles stated.

“Mrs. Steardice doesn’t believe he is patrolling the area properly or that he is taking his position as the Alpha of this territory properly.”

“This surprises you?”  Stiles shook his head. “Scott admitted he didn’t patrol the outskirts.  He said that Hayden and Liam stick close to the School and Hospital. As the Sheriff’s department is near the hospital, they probably keep an eye on their as well.”

“All places personally relevant to Hayden and Liam,”  Peter observed. “And the others?”

Stiles snorted.  “He didn’t seem to know specifically where Theo went, just ‘where he’s needed’ whatever that means.  Corey does go other places, though Scott didn’t say where, but he’s not a shifter, and his talents are not in the realm of enhanced senses so he may not pick up on something one of the others would.”

Stiles looked at Peter, at the scowl on his face and agreed this was an issue.  “Derek mentioned he’d spoken to Scott a few times before he left town, about what being Alpha of beacon Hills meant, what responsibilities were inherent in the title, aside from the Pack itself.”

“Yes, I spoke to Derek about it myself before we left, wanting to know what exactly had been explained to Scott.”  Peter agreed.

“So, it’s not ignorance then.”  Stiles huffed. “His focus is too narrow, I think.  He takes his pack seriously, and their safety and needs but…”

“He sees Beacon Hills as his territory, but doesn’t fully comprehend what that means.”  Peter watched the unhappiness settle on Stiles and wanted to make this better somehow. “I know I wasn’t the best example, as focused as I was on vengeance, nor was Derek, to be frank, but we both remember what it was like when Talia was alive. And my mother before her.”

Stiles nodded.  He understood, intellectually, that Scott didn’t have a frame of reference for his position.  Derek may have talked to him, but their relationship was always riddled with confusion, aggression, and animosity.  Scott had never actually seen an Alpha in command of their territory before. The only Alpha’s he had encountered, aside from Derek and Peter, were the Alpha Pack, and they were not exactly role models.  Scott had met Satomi, but the situation with the Deadpool wasn’t exactly ideal.

“We’re going to have to deal with this situation before we leave, it’s becoming necessary,”  Stiles stated, firming his resolve. Even though he lived in New York now, Beacon Hills was his home.  “Three to four days, huh? What will its first move be?”

“If it’s typical, it will want to watch, analyze the prey to determine the best time and place to attack.”  Peter thought about it. “Retzkavo are hard to track, even with advanced senses. Scott’s pack may not notice it’s reconnaissance.”

“Even an Alpha?  Scott?” Stiles asked, curiously.  He’d studied many different types of demons in his studies with Magnus, but Retzkavo didn’t mess with Magical folk, not Nephilim, and wouldn’t hunt a pack so close to either.  Therefore, they weren’t common in New York, which was host to several packs, as well as a host of other Magicals. The New York Institute was also quite aggressive to demons, regardless of their species.

“You and Parish would have better luck tracking it down, I think,”  Peter admitted.

“It can’t be tracked with heightened senses, but with magic, you mean?”

“Exactly.”  Peter smiled at Stiles in that way he sometimes had.

“Okay,”  Stiles thought for a moment.  “I’ll go talk to Mason first, then I’ll meet you at Parish’s.”

“You want me to meet with the Hell Hound?”  Peter asked in surprise.

“Yes.  I want your input, and Jordan is not one we need to hide your presence from.  Besides, ” he grinned a little at Peter, “I need to keep an eye on you. You too could be targeted.”

“You don’t think the Hell Hound is going to think it’s weird you’re dragging along an Alpha wolf that is clearly not connected to this place or the resident pack?”  Peter hated to admit that his connection to Beacon Hills was like an echo of what it once was.

“Lydia has probably already told him you came with me.”  Stiles shrugged. The territory issues were for another day.

“True.”  Peter acknowledged.  “I admit her personal life confuses me.”

Stiles smirked. “Why because she has two different Supernatural lovers, on two different coasts?  That should amuse you, not confuse you.”

Peter frowned a second before laughing.  “It’s not the lovers, but the relationships themselves.”

Stiles raised an eyebrow in inquiry.  While Peter came up in conversation with Lydia often enough, he and Peter had rarely talked about her unless it was essential to the discussion itself.

“When Lydia helped Jackson regain himself enough to allow Derek and I to push the transformation between Kanima and Wolf, I was under the impression that their relationship was likened to Mates…”

“And then Jackson left and she got into that ill-fated fling with Aidan.”  Stiles nodded. “She was hurt. It was true that his parents were pushing that move to London, but he didn’t resist as hard as he could have.”

Peter snorted.  “No, but he made his way to New York and found a place in Luke’s pack.”

“True, and that had as much to do with Derek and you than anything else.”  Stiles pointed out.

“And after Aidan died, she found herself drawn to the Hell Hound, which given their similar connection to death is not hard to comprehend.”  Peter admitted, “But both her connection to Jackson and to Parish seem more than idle, and yet…”

“It will eventually work out, I think,”  Stiles commented, reaching out towards Peter and touching his face, a finger running along the bridge of his nose and smiling at his puzzled frown.

“You think she’ll eventually settle?  With Jackson or Parish?” Peter stepped a little closer, feeling the heat emanating from Stiles, and letting it wash over him in comfort.  He had grown used to the increased temperature, warmer than even normal Wolf-hot.

“Both,”  Stiles answered and placed a kiss on the older man’s lips, stopping any further questions.

*

Stiles decided to skip the big chain grocery store and go to the small locally owned market a little farther away. All the produce was fresh from local farms on the outskirts of the county, and it was always a veritable fountain of information. Assuming one ran into the right people.

“Mischiew Stilinski.” A raspy voice announced as he rounded the corner between the corn and the Cabbage.

Stiles looked up and smiled. “Ms. W.”

“I was just telling my grandson how long it had been since you had been home.” Ms. Wikhershins smiled at him. “The neighborhood is just not the same without you around.” She watched him like a shark. “I do hope you and your young man can stop by soon.”

“We’ll see what we can do.” Stiles nodded.

Ms. Wikhershins nodded and smiled at him again, satisfied and passed him.

He watched her go for a moment before turning towards the produce and picking a few things he wanted to cook that he knew his dad would complain about but still eat.

“Stiles.”

Stiles looked up and found Toby Saltford, who worked at the library across town standing next to him, examining the bananas. “Toby.”

“There are Brownies in aisle four,” Toby said, lifting a bag of bananas.

Stiles stared at him for a second, not sure what he meant, because bananas and brownies didn’t really compute for a second, and what did aisle four have to do with it? But then he realized that he was telling him there were Brownies in Aisle four and the bananas were irrelevant. “Thanks,” Stiles said moving towards the aforementioned aisle, which incidentally was not the baking aisle.

There was indeed a couple of Brownies in Aisle Four. They were about three feet tall and very excitable. As soon as they saw him, they ran up to circle him and started speaking rapidly at him in what he assumed was their native tongue. He held up a hand to halt them because while he had learned some neat tricks under Magnus’ tutelage, universal translation was not one of them.

One of them stopped and began to speak in a halting form of English, separated by stops and starts as if unsure if the words were correct. They wanted to know if their queen may speak on behalf of renewing a treaty.

This put Stiles in something of a quandary.

As far as Stiles knew, all treaties with the territory were either made with Talia Hale or the Alpha’s before her, also Hale’s. The treaties were made with Hale territory, with the implication that the territory would be held by a Hale. Should that not be the case, then the treaty was no longer valid. If the Brownie queen renewed her agreement, was she going to accept an alpha who wasn’t a Hale?

*

“Okay. So, we may have another issue.” Stiles said as he brought the groceries into the house.”

The Sheriff looked up from his files, debating whether that was a conversation starter or a rhetorical statement.

As usual, Stiles continued without any input from him. “I went to the market on the corner of Elm and Filherst, and ran into some people.”

“That’s where you get the best gossip.” The sheriff nodded.

“Yeah, and some brownies approached me.” Stiles started pulling out food and putting it away.

“I take it you don’t mean the little girls that grow up to be Girl Scouts.” Noah said as he eyed the overabundance of vegetables he wouldn’t eat once Stiles had returned to New York.

Stiles paused what he was doing to give his father a look he was sure he picked up from Derek but didn’t comment.

“So…what did these brownies want?” The sheriff prods.

“Oh, yeah…apparently, they had a treaty with Ophelia Hale. It’s time to renew it, So they want me to speak on their behalf…to the Hale Alpha.”

The sheriff froze for a second. There were a couple of questions here. He was going to start with the easy one first. “Why you?”

“Well, these types of arrangements are usually made between emissaries and whoever the magical races choose to be their intermediaries,” Stiles said in an offhand way, which still left a huge question.

“Okay, but…why you? You’re not really a part of Scott’s pack anymore, so you’re not his emissary, right?”

“Nope.” Stiles focused all his attention on his groceries for a second, knowing his father wasn’t just going to leave it there.

“And…there is no Hale Alpha anymore, at least not here, So…will they make the treaty with the McCall pack instead?”

Stiles sighed. “No. Well, maybe, but probably not. It’s complicated.”

“Uncomplicated it.” The sheriff really wished this Supernatural life came with a manual.

“Okay, so the brownies might make a treaty with the McCall pack except for two things. It’s dependent on both the acceptance of the land and the trust of the people. Hale territory has been Hale territory for generations. The land recognizes Hales through blood, magic and energy. It’s not going to have that same history with a new pack on the land. Second, the locals don’t have a lot of trust in Scott’s pack. He’s not really taking care of the territory, not the way Talia used to, not the way her ancestors did. The local’s here notice things like that, they don’t trust him to keep to his word on a new bargain.”

The sheriff stared at Stiles for a long moment, not sure what he was supposed to say to that exactly. “You don’t seem surprised.” He finally said. Because while Stiles seemed tired, and a little wary of what he was saying, he didn’t seem shocked by what he was telling him.”

“Peter and I have talked about it before. We knew it was a possibility.” Stiles admitted.

“Do you have a solution?” The sheriff asked, wondering what they might have come up with because his son and Peter Hale were nothing if not planners.

“We have, but…it’s not something we can undertake lightly. It will affect everyone. Us, the territory, Scott’s pack…the future. We’re being cautious.” Stiles told him, and while it wasn’t the complete truth, it wasn’t exactly a lie either.

The sheriff blew out a deep breath and just nodded, knowing he’d have to trust Stiles to make this decision on his own. He was an adult now, and perfectly capable of these kinds of decisions himself.

*

Stiles knocked on the front door of the quiet house and waited.  For a minute he thought it was going to be a waste because no one was home, but then he heard a noise and realized someone was on their way downstairs.

Mason opened the door and stared in surprise for a long minute before he stepped back and allowed Stiles to enter.

“You look surprised to see me,”  Stiles noted.

“Yeah, uh…Scott said you left, but he was kind of vague about why.  And your dad said you were in New York, for uh…school.”

Stiles ran a hand through his hair and sighed.  “I did go to New York for school, but it’s a little more complicated than that.  Scott and I have a…difference of opinion…”

Mason stared at him for a long minute.  “About Theo Raeken?”

Stiles really didn’t want to get into any pack conflict right now.  It was so far from what he’d come here for. “Scott didn’t tell you about the Retzkavo problem?”

“A Retzkavo?  Here in Beacon Hills?  That’s…not good. We have Scott, and Liam, and Hayden, and Satomi’s pack.”  Mason rushed over to a desk set over in the corner of the living room.

Stiles had to smile a little bit at his frantic energy.  “So, you know about Retzkavo?”

“Well, in general.  Corey’s been helping me collect information.  Some of it is kind of vague, but still helpful.  But…” He hesitated and turned towards Stiles.

“Yes?”  Stiles asked.

“There are some people here, I think they might have information, but they won’t share it with me.”  Mason frowned when Stiles’ shoulders slumped slightly. “Is it because I’m human?”

“Not exactly.”  Stiles hesitated.  This was a very fine line he walked, but he supposed if Mason was going to continue to be involved in the supernatural he should figure out how far he wanted to tread into these waters.  “You have to understand, Mason, the supernatural world is complicated. The rules that govern it are filled with packs, and clans far older than human memory. Territories that are handed down for generations, where blood relations maintain control and partnership of the lands through those blood connections.  Information is passed down from generation to generation, parent to child, for hundreds of years until the land itself knows the feel of their power.

“When someone new comes in, completely unrelated to the old power, the land resists, the community resists.  The new power may not have ill intent, and they may be trying to protect the community, but without the generations of knowledge and strength, they won’t be welcome.”

Mason stared at him for a long moment.  He understood the idea, in principle, but wasn’t sure how this equated to him being blacklisted, so to speak, by magicals in the local area.  “Um…so what does that mean…in relation to me?”

Stiles smiled a little sadly.  “Scott’s pack represents the new power, in essence, the interloper here in Beacon Hills, and any information you gather is for him and his pack.  The Supernaturals here won’t share anything with you they don’t think Scott should have.”

Mason frowned.  That sort of made sense, in a way that didn’t, unless the rift between Scott and Stiles was a lot bigger than he had been told. “But you were a part of Scott’s pack.”

“Yes, I was,”  Stiles admitted.

“So, you would have had the same restrictions on you, wouldn’t you?  How did you get access to whatever this information is?”

Stiles thought about that for a second.  The most straightforward answer would be to admit that he wasn’t bound by the same restrictions as he himself wasn’t human, but he really wasn’t ready for that information to get back to Scott.  There would be time enough for that revelation during the upcoming issues revolving around the Hale land. The truth was that his access to such intimate private knowledge was his for the taking long before he knew about his own magical heritage, and long before Scott was an alpha.

“Actually, I began collecting such information, and creating my own bestiary, though I just called it a grimoire then, during the beginning.  At that time we didn’t know who the Alpha was, but the pack I was helping was the Hales. This is their land, and their territory for many, many generations, so any information I asked for was granted to me based on the fact I was doing it on behalf of the surviving Hales.”

“But not anymore,”  Mason stated with certainty.

“The Hales no longer live in Beacon County, or anywhere in California, it’s true, but I am in touch with all three surviving Hales, so any magical knowledge I possess is still at their disposal.”

Stiles watched Mason for a moment longer then shook his head.  “The Retzkavo will be here in three or four days, according to my source.  Scott suggested you and I compare notes so we could figure out the best options.”

Mason blinked.  “Scott knows you’re here, now?  He didn’t say anything when we met yesterday.”

“No, I gathered as much,”  Stiles smirked.

“I’ve read about them, but I’ve never actually encountered one, so I’m not sure how helpful I’ll be.”

“Okay.  I’m going to meet some people I know in town.  Afterward, I’ll contact you, and we can maybe meet to discuss what’s next.  You can bring Corey, but no one else.”

Mason nodded.  “Thank you.”

*

“Are you sure we’re equipped to find this thing?” Deputy Jordan Parrish asked, looking through the foliage of the preserve.

“Peter tells me that we can track it with magic.” Stiles closed his eyes and let his warlock senses drift the way Magnus had taught him.

“And if we find it?’ Parrish asked.

“When.” Stiles corrected, sharpening his senses gradually. He could almost feel the energy in the preserve, and which parts were natural. He only needed to focus a little more on the parts that were not.

“Okay, when we find it, what then?’ Parrish asked.

“There.” Stiles opened his eyes. “Let’s go. That way.”

Stiles focused his aural vision for a second.

Parish stopped and watched, not sure precisely what Stiles was looking at or waiting for. Suddenly he felt it. Another presence. A sense of something not entirely human. Parish wasn’t sure how he knew or what it was, exactly. Only that it didn’t belong here and that it was dangerous.

“Stiles,” He called out a warning.

“I know,” Stiles whispered back. He waved a hand in acknowledgment and snapped his fingers, and something shimmered into place in front of Parish.

The deputy reached a hand out cautiously and found an invisible barrier. It was similar to the barriers formed by Mountain Ash, but not as restrictive. Parish could feel the give in this wall of energy. He knew if he pressed hard enough he could push through, that Stiles was only trying to keep him back, either for safety or to buy himself some time.

Parish hesitated for a moment and then decided to give Stiles what he wanted. Time.

Stiles watched the Retzkavo move through the bushes.  It was moving as quickly as it could, given that it was hindered by the damage it had sustained to its side when one of the trees had collapsed unexpectedly during a sudden lightning strike.

*

The Retzkavo stopped shuffling without warning, it’s four heightened senses stilling in the dark, as it’s breathing took a sharp inhale before quieting.  The scent rising off its hide was sharp and bitter, but the demon twitched its ears, searching for sound, it’s snout, trying to find the scent that lay beyond the smell of earth and foliage.  When it caught what it thought it was looking for, every nerve in its body seized.

Stiles grinned from his perch above the demon.  The scent of fear was noticeable to him now. It was really too bad that Peter had to miss out on this little chase.  He so loved to run the quarry to ground.

“You’re a little out of your way,”  Stiles said from his perch.

The Retzkavo sent his senses out again.  He swallowed heavily at what he found. “Fire Mage.”

“Do you know where you are?”  Stiles jumped from his tree and landed a foot away from the demon.

“Beacon Hills.  I was told it was unprotected.”  The Retzkavo whispered.

“Wrong.”  Stiles reached out with his fingers, calling his fire forth.  He felt the heat dance along his skin as he traced his hands along the Retzkavo’s tender hide.  Scalp, shoulder, spine, chest, and finally along his snout. Everywhere Stiles touch, flame erupted. “This place has always been protected.”

Stiles stepped back and clapped his hands once, and the air started to crackle with electricity.  “You’re not wrong about one thing. I am a Fire Mage. But I also have a pretty good affinity with Air.”  He winked just as the lightning struck.

*

Stiles and Parish had just met back up with Peter, back from a meeting of his own, and were about halfway back to Parish’s apartment when they had the unfortunate luck to run into the McCall pack.

“What are you doing here?” Scott asked, focused soley on Peter, his voice near growling by the end, and his eyes flashing red in confrontation.

Peter had more restraint and just raised an eyebrow at Scott before turning to look at Stiles. His expression saying “Well dear, what now?” more than any words could.

Scott saw the looks between the two and shifted his scowl to Stiles. “What is he doing here, Stiles?” The emphasis on the pronoun wasn’t lost on the Warlock.

Stiles sighed. “He came home with me to see my dad.” That was partially true anyway.

“And him?” Scott asked motioning towards the deputy who had moved from behind Stiles to stand next to him.

Stiles looked at Jordan Parish for a moment and thought about how Scott might see him. He didn’t much look like a Sheriff’s deputy right this second, wearing casual clothes as he was. Dark jeans and a sweater as he’d been when Stiles found him at home that night, and his eyes had a gold sheen to them that told anyone who bothered to look that the Hell Hound was close to the surface.

“He was helping me track the Retzkavo,” Stiles said simply. And it had been true. Stiles had used Jordan’s connection to the Nemeton to focus his own energy. He probably could have used his own sense of the place, but he’d been away for a few months, and his powers had spent more time getting accustomed to the land elsewhere. He’d have to spend more time meditating in Beacon Hills than he had so far to reconnect himself completely.

“Did you find it?” Mason asked before Scott could get too sidetracked.

Stiles looked away from his old friend and smiled slightly at Mason. “We did. It won’t be hunting anyone anymore.”

Mason stared at Stiles for a moment, startled at the ease with which he said that, and what it probably meant but then he nodded, realizing that if everything he had read about Retzkavo was true, there wasn’t any other option.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Liam asked. He was expecting to have to fight after everything Mason had tried to warn them about.

“It means,” A new voice drawled with a smirk, “That it’s dead. Isn’t that right, Stiles?”

Stiles’ eyes narrowed as Theo stepped further into the group as Scott shook his head.

“No. Tell me he’s wrong, Stiles. Tell me you didn’t let Peter kill that creature. It hadn’t even attacked anyone yet.”

“I didn’t let Peter kill that creature,” Stiles said deadpan. “Point of fact, that creature did attack. It attacked lots of people. Just because it hadn’t yet attacked anyone in what you consider your borders doesn’t absolve it of all the deaths before it reached the outskirts of the territory.”

Scott blinked at him, confused. “So, did Peter kill it, or not?’

Peter smirked, entirely too entertained. “Not.”

Scott’s shoulder’s relaxed.

“I did,” Stiles admitted.

Scott just stared at him for a long moment before slumping in defeat. “It didn’t have to happen this way.

“Yes, Scott. It did.”

*

“I don’t know you anymore.”  Scott stared at Stiles like he was lookng at a stranger.

“Maybe that’s true.”  Stiles agreed.

“I think it’s time you left.”  Scott said after a moment.

Stiles raised an eyebrow.  “Excuse me?”

Theo smirked from behind Scott’s shoulder but Stiles ignored him, focused on Scott.

“You’re always telling me that I need to make a stand and be an Alpha, well I am.  This is my territory, adn you need to leave. All of you.” He looked from Stiles to Parish and then to Peter and flashed his eyes again.

Peter scowled, but remained calm.

Scott was surprised.  He clearly was expecting a more aggressive response, but he shook it off and snarled.  “I am the Alpha here!” He growled, his eyes flashing crimson once more.

Stiles stilled at the show of bradavo. He had a flashback of Derek saying something similar, and he wasn’t sure if Scott even realized how he sounded. He could feel Peter take a step closer to him and knew that this had the chance to degrade into a fight.

“Do you even know what that means?” Stiles finally asked.

Scott frowned, but his eyes didn’t change. “I’m the Alpha, this is my territory.”

Stiles nodded. “Okay. And what does it mean to be an Alpha with your own territory? What are you supposed to do? What are your responsibilities? What are your rights? What are the rules for controlling a territory? What are your borders? How often do you patrol it? Do you have a system set up to listen to issues from the community here? Do you have a system set up for outsiders to approach you? What happens when rules are broken? Do you have treaties with outside packs or other supernatural groups? What about supernatural groups living inside the territory?” Stiles paused for breath and was about to continue when he saw the confused look on Scott’s face.

“What?’ Scott said.

“We patrol!” Liam shouted from where he stood behind his Alpha.

“You…patrol.” Peter finally spoke up, shaking off his own irritation when he realized how ill-prepared they were. “How often and how far?”

“That’s none of your business!” Hayden exclaimed, backing up her boyfriend.

Peter narrowed his eyes. “Actually, it is my business. My family has claimed this land for longer than humans have settled here. Some things share this territory with us that have been here even longer. I have received several…dissatisfied grievances about the current status quo.”

“What does that mean?” Corey asked, confused.

Stiles sighed. He touched Peter’s wrist, firmly. Peter looked at him once, his own eyes flashing red briefly before nodding and letting Stiles handle these children. “It means, that for generations, the Hales had treaties with many different people. Not just other packs, but different species. There are clans, tribes, circles, covens…Pixies, brownies, fae, vampires, I could go on. They had an understanding with the land itself through blood and magic. Things that your pack cannot claim.”

“We can make new treaties,” Scott said stubbornly.

“You can try.” Stiles nodded and then he took a step back. “Let’s try that.”

Stiles could see Mason shoot a confused look at him from behind Scott but didn’t comment. Scott frowned and his shoulders relaxed slightly, though he was still tense, and his aura hadn’t shifted at all.

“So, you’re going to let us handle this?” Scott pressed. “You’ll leave, go back to New York? Both of You?’ Scott scowled at Peter at the last. “What about Parish?”

Stiles ignored the scowl and answered the first question. “You can try to handle this.” He paused, eyes going over Scott’s pack with his bright eyes. “We’re not going anywhere just yet, but we won’t interfere…for now.  As for Parish, He is the Guardian of the Nemeton. He stays here.”

Stiles held Peter’s wrist tightly with one hand and reached into the source of his magic and drew power out to form a portal. “Jordan,” He said softly, and once he was sure the deputy had completedthe trip through the portal altered the destination and stepped through quickly, dragging Peter with him, not looking back to Scott, and sealing the portal just behind him.

“That was a flashy exit.” Peter drawled once they were back in his father’s living room.  

Stiles scowled. He knew it was. Stiles never used portals. He really sort of hated them. He preferred to travel through fire, but he couldn’t bring Peter that way, so it wasn’t always convenient. But this trip seemed to have way too many uncomfortable conversations masquerading as confrontations.

“So, that was amusing.” Peter smiled in that sly way he had. “Backing off like that.”

Stiles shrugged. “I didn’t see the point in demanding we do things our way. Scott is nothing if not stubborn. He won’t understand the way the locals see things until he has to be faced with their…unhappiness.”

Peter nodded. Stiles was right. Most of the locals had made their opinions known to them in the week they’ve been back in Beacon Hills. Some of the more benevolent species were more wary of Peter, given his history in the town, but he was a Hale, and the territory had welcomed him home, in a way that all the Supernaturals in the territory could recognize, down to the marrow of their bones.

Technically, they didn’t even have to go through all this drama with Scott and his pack. He was a Hale, back in Hale territory, and he had been recognized as such by the land. Furthermore, he was an Alpha, even if his pack was made up of only two, it counted. A small ritual, with Peter stating his intention to abide by Hale treaty, in honor and deed, would be sufficient. There would be nothing Scott could do about it.

But…

Stiles didn’t want to go that way, and Peter tried to do things Stiles’ way when he could.

*

Scott watched Stiles disappear in shock. What just happened? He wasn’t even sure what he had just seen.

“I told you he did something to my car,” Theo said with a smirk.

Scott blinked. Theo had told him that his tires had melted…melted and that no way had happened naturally. He had thought it was weird it had happened right as Stiles had left the grocery store. The True Alpha had felt Theo’s claim was ridiculous because how could Stiles do something like that? Even if they had grown apart, and Stiles had changed, he wasn’t capable of melting someone’s tires, was he?

Scott turned away from that thought and focused on a problem he could deal with. “Mason, do you know anything about what Stiles was talking about? About these locals, the tribes or clans or whatever?”

Mason nodded. “I know a couple of them. Mrs. Steardice seems to be some sort of spokesperson for them, but I think Clara Willis is, uh…” he paused not sure how to phrase it correctly.

“Not as scary?” Corey offered because he had been with Mason once when he’d run into Mrs. Steardice at the florist when they’d gone to pick up some cuttings for his mother’s garden and the old woman had scared Corey half to death with her staring and her odd questions.

“Uh, yeah,” Mason admitted.

Scott tried to think of who Mrs. Steardice was. The name sounded vaguely familiar, but he didn’t know everyone in town. He wasn’t naturally loquacious like Stiles and didn’t generally make friends with everyone he met. Most of the townsfolk he knew were people he’d met either from Doctor Deaton’s clinic or from the Hospital. He thought she was an older woman, tall and thin with a narrow face, but he didn’t remember anything particular about her.

He did know Clara Willis though. “The librarian?” He asked just to clarify because that couldn’t be right. She’d been the librarian since he was little. “Are you sure she knows anything about…well you know?” He waved his arm around, trying to elaborate his point of their weird supernatural life.

Mason frowned. “I’m sure. She’s been very nice to me, pointed out some helpful books, though she did tell me she couldn’t help me any further than that. I wasn’t sure why until…well until yesterday, but now I understand.”

Scott frowned again, part in confusion and partly because he felt like he was missing something important. “Why?” He asked, and he put a threat of the Alpha in the question.

Mason heard the command in the tone and felt Corey tense beside him but held firm. He wasn’t a wolf, and even if he had been, he wasn’t one of Scott’s Betas. “Perhaps you should just go and talk to her yourself.” He paused. “Any request for treaty should come from your Emissary, but…”

Scott looked around. “I don’t have one.”

“No, you don’t.” Mason agreed. “You could ask Doctor Deaton, I suppose.” Mason winced as he offered that option. He honestly wasn’t sure if he wanted Scott to take him up on that or not. He knew though that if Scott approached anyone with Deaton at his side, no treatise would be made. Mason supposed Deaton knew that as well. It would be interesting to see what happened next.

Scott hesitated. He was unsure. On the one hand, Deaton had left the life of an Emissary behind, on the other, he really could use some advice. “It’s late. We’ll meet tomorrow at my house and decide what to do then.” He said decisively. Maybe then he would have time to talk to his mom and Deaton and figure out the best way to approach Ms. Willis.

*

Scott left the clinic feeling more confused than when he had arrived. Doctor Deaton didn’t offer to come with him, nor did he give him much advice. Deaton did confirm that emissaries were the traditional peacemakers between a pack and pretty much anyone else. However, Deaton hadn’t offered to act as Scott’s emissary, and he hadn’t given him much advice except to tell him to be cautious because the people in town had lived here longer than humans, and any agreements they made were serious. Deaton warned him not to enter into anything lightly. If he promised something he couldn’t deliver on, there would be dire consequences, for everyone.

Deaton had implied that while Emissaries were traditionally magical, that wasn’t always the case. He wondered if that meant that someone in his pack could be his emissary. Not everyone was a shifter. Mason was human, and Corey was…well whatever he was, and then there was Kira she was a Kitsune, but she didn’t actually change into a fox, he didn’t think. Once upon a time, Stiles would have been his first choice, no question, but, he just wasn’t sure of him anymore.

Stiles had killed something…again. It was like Donovan all over again. Maybe Theo was right about Stiles being a different person. Perhaps he had changed after the Nogitsune, too much to come back. He was friendly with Peter now, and…what was going on with Deputy Parish?

He would have to trust Mason’s research and hope they could make some new arrangements with the locals. It shouldn’t be that difficult. They had the towns best interest and were undoubtedly a better option than Peter Hale, and Derek hadn’t done any better. He could do this.

*

“Who will they go to see first?” Noah asked over dinner that night.

“Clara Willis,” Stiles said immediately. “Mason mentioned he’d gotten some information but was told clearly that he was being shut out.”

Peter chuckled. “Only a half-fey would be both kind enough to aid him in his research and cruel enough to tell him there was more to learn but he couldn’t have access to that knowledge.”

Stiles shrugged. “She couldn’t tell secrets that weren’t hers to barter.”

“True enough.” Peter agreed.

Noah thought about the librarian who had been at the Library as long as he and Claudia had lived in town and remembered the way Claudia and the other woman had sometimes interacted, in strange silent, speaking looks. Claudia had always been a tad more reluctant to leave their world behind than he had. She had still used her magic in a hundred tiny ways. Whereas, he was perfectly content to leave it all behind. He’d given up on his people’s beliefs, their rules, and ridiculous prejudices, and had only been left with the one thing that stuck: Protect those who needed it.

He’d become a cop because he understood the idea of protecting people from evil, or maybe just misunderstood people. It had made sense. Despite his upbringing, he couldn’t look at his wife or his son and think of them as anything other than the gifts they were, and that, more than anything else, told him he could never go home again. Besides, it had been nearly twenty years since he’d used a Stele.

“Clara Willis won’t talk to Scott unless he uses the proper forms and brings the right gift,” Noah said suddenly.

Stiles looked over at his father, surprised he had said anything, but then recognized the look in his eye as one he sometimes got when he was thinking about the past. “No. But, Mason has access to a fair amount of information. I am not trying to cripple them, dad.”

Noah stared at his son for a long moment and then nodded. “No, I guess you aren’t. But you aren’t helping them either.”

Stiles shook his head before he answered. “I tried that. Now I’m trying something else.”

“If Clara passes him, she’ll take him to Kenslie Brewer. If not, Mrs. Steardice, probably.” Peter offered. “Either way, they aren’t in any physical danger.”

Noah sighed. “No, if that were the case, they would be taken straight to the Val Press place.” He stood up. “Alright. I’ll let you handle this, for now.”

Peter watched the sheriff climb the stairs before turning to Stiles. “He doesn’t seem too happy.”

Stiles shrugged. “This whole situation has brought back a lot of memories of mom, and well his family, I think. He’ll be okay.”

*

Stiles had been right. Mason had collected a fair amount of information. Some he copied from Stiles and Lydia’s bestiary, and some from his own research. Other information he had traded with Brett from Satomi’s pack, now that he wasn’t trying to kill Liam every time they saw each other.

Some of the information was generalized in nature and didn’t really help with making a first overture with whatever Clara Willis was, and that was another issue. He wasn’t even sure of her species. He figured her for some sort of fey, or sprite, or maybe she was a half-breed of some kind. The trouble was Fey was actually something of a misnomer, and it was used as a sort of umbrella type for dozens of different species that had some similarities but weren’t really the same thing.

He had narrowed it down to five or six species based on the geography, her age, and the fact that she passed for human. He didn’t want to guess her actual age, but going on the fact that she hadn’t aged at all in Melissa McCall’s memory, he was using that as a starting point. Luckily three of the five in his small pool had very similar introduction rituals, so he was hoping it was one of those three.

He made the welcome soup himself and brought it to Scott’s house and told him that the two of them would have to take it to her while it was still hot. Since Scott didn’t have an Emissary, and he had made the Soup, he was acting in that capacity, which seemed to make the most sense, primarily as he wasn’t a Wolf or Chimera.

When they arrived at the library, Clara was just placing a tablecloth over one of the round tables in the front of the room, where the kids sometimes did their homework after school. Clearly, she had been expecting them.

She smiled at the two boys. “Alpha McCall. Scholar Hewitt. Welcome.”

Scott blinked at her, out of his element and confused about what to do next. Mason placed the soup on the table and began putting some in a bowl for her, as ritual demanded.  Scott stood behind him and watched, clearly out of his element in this situation.

“I bring this offering of our land so you may taste of the richness of its people and know the truth of who we are,”  Mason said the customary words as he offered her the soup.

Clara smiled softly at him and peered into the bowl.  She sniffed delicately and took a spoon to taste it. Her eyes widened slightly at the richness and the varied flavor.  She tasted something odd though. Her eyes moved to Mason. “This is an old family recipe.”

Mason froze for a second and then nodded.  “Yes.”

Clara seemed to stare into his eyes for a long moment before nodding to herself.  “You have Mischiew’s bestiary. Very well, you may sit. I will listen.”

Scott had no idea what just happened but saw the way Mason relaxed and realized they had passed some sort of test, so let himself feel a little bit of relief as well.

*

Noah opened the door to find Scott standing on the porch looking nervous.  It had been a long time since Scott had been to their house, and even longer since he’d looked so out of place.

“Is, uh…Stiles here?”  Scott asked.

“Yeah.  They’re in the kitchen.  You want to come in?” Noah raised an eyebrow.

Scott looked like he was going to come inside but then shook his head.  “Can he come outside?”

Noah nodded.  “Hold on.” He closed the door and moved towards the kitchen.  Stiles was leaning against the doorway waiting.

“He doesn’t want to come in, does he?”  Stiles asked, motioning towards where Peter leaned against the sink behind him.  Noah shook his head. Stiles sighed and moved past his father and to the front door.

He found Scott on the porch, looking awkward.  “Hey. You want to go for a walk?”

Scott nodded, looking relieved, probably glad whatever he came to say wouldn’t be overheard.

They walked in silence towards the old park they used to visit when they were kids.  Neither one of them said anything until they reached the park’s borders.

“Mason and I went to see the librarian.”  Scott began.

“Clara.”  Stiles nodded.  “How did that go?”

“Um…I’m not sure, exactly,”  Scott admitted.

Stiles smiled wryly.  “What happened?”

“Mason made some weird smelling soup and said some words that sounded formal, and the librarian tasted the soup.  She said something about the soup being some family recipe, and then I thought everything was going to be fine because Mason sat and seemed to relax.”

Stiles smiled slightly. He had given Mason a copy of his and Lydia’s Bestiary, which included a section on negotiation rituals, including proper gifts, and several recipes his mother had left behind that she had acquired over the years.  He hadn’t told Mason where to look to prepare for what would be needed, but he had a feeling that the kid would figure it out. It looked like he had been right.

“Okay.  So Clara spoke to you.  That’s good.” Stiles took a seat on a park bench and waited for Scott to join him.

“I thought so, but when she looked at me, she was…I don’t know.  She didn’t look happy. She didn’t look anything like the lady that read us stories as kids.  She looked like she was waiting for me to mess up or tell her something. I just, I didn’t know what I was supposed to do.”

Stiles sighed.  “Scott, you are the Alpha here.  You told me so the other day, and you’ve been throwing out the title like you know what it means, but do you?  Being Alpha is about more than leading your pack. It’s more than watching the small areas that you frequent, the small area of town between School and the hospital and the Sheriff’s department.  This territory is vast and filled with more supernatural entities than human. Every one of those people has a voice. If they have an issue, they need to bring that issue to your attention. You need to be approachable.  You need to be able to address their concerns.”

Scott looked away, not wanting to think about what Stiles was saying.  That was…a lot. It was one thing to be an Alpha, which was something he hadn’t really asked for, it just sort of happened.  It was something else to be responsible for so many people. It was hard enough with Liam and Hayden and Corey and Theo. He had been worried enough about how he would handle everything when he went off to college, and now he had to think about people in town that he hadn’t even realized were a concern?

He had always depended on Stiles to explain things to him, to be the one to help him figure everything out, but now they were just so far apart, he just didn’t know how they could ever bridge that gap anymore.  Was Stiles even a part of his pack? It didn’t feel like he was. He used to sense an odd connection to him, but now, there was nothing.

“I don’t understand what’s happened here, Stiles.” Scott looked across at the old park where they used to play. It was dusk, and the park was empty, but he remembered years ago, how it had been just the two of them.

“What’s to understand, Scott?” Stiles looked away from the merry-go-round and towards the swings. He realized Scott had moved away from what had happened with Clara and was talking about their friendship now.  “Sometimes people grow apart.”

“When we started senior year, you didn’t want that to be us.” Scott reminded softly.

“Yeah, well, when we started senior year, I was trying to fit into the person I was before, and now I realize that Stiles doesn’t exist anymore.”

“But everything has changed. Everyone is gone. You, Derek, Lydia, even Jackson is gone. No one from the beginning is here.”

“You forgot Allison.” Stiles reminded softly, never one to shy away from the truth.

Scott stilled but nodded. “Allison.”

“Derek was never meant to stay. He came back to Beacon Hills to find out what happened to Laura, and he stayed because we needed help. You needed help. But in the end, this place has meant nothing but heartache for him. You had to know that he wouldn’t stay here, not forever. And did you really expect Lydia or Jackson to stay in Beacon Hills after high school?  Jackson has found a place in another pack. He’s doing what he needs to do. And Lydia? She had a rough time here when her powers were activated. The time away has given her perspective. She’s learning what she needs to learn.”

“And what about you?” Scott asked cautiously. He wasn’t sure what he had thought, honestly. He wasn’t sure what he wanted Stiles to tell him either.

“I’ve been learning what I need to learn too.  In the end, I will go where I am meant to be.” Stiles shrugged.

Scott blinked at him. “What does that mean? Are you going back to New York, or are you staying here?”

Stiles shrugged. “I don’t know. That hasn’t been decided yet.” Stiles kept his eyes on Scott.  “You understand what will happen if your pack can’t make a treaty with the locals, don’t you?”

“The pack won’t be accepted, and…the territory will be open for someone to come in and try to take it,”  Scott said roughly. He didn’t want to see that happen, but he was really nervous about meeting the other locals after the meeting with Clara Willis.

Stiles stared at him for a long moment.  “You have to know that Peter and I will not allow that to happen.”

Scott jerked like just the sound of Peter’s name, and the fierceness of Stiles’ voice brought the seriousness of the situation crashing down on him.  He looked up and just nodded, realizing that it was true.

*

Scott looked down at the crystal bowl on the kitchen table in dismay. Mason had just finished wrapping something that smelled horrible, and was still moving in some kind of container with a weird liquid and holes in the top, he assumed for air. The bowl seemed innocuous enough, but it had strange symbols drawn on it, and if Scott stared at it too long, he started to feel a little dizzy, and his head started to throb. When he asked Mason where it came from Mason had just told him not to ask.

Mason finished wrapping the bowl in plain brown paper and then put both items in a box with an open top. “You ready?” He asked.

“Um…who are we going to see again?” Scott was kind of nervous. He had thought the librarian lady would have been easy. He had known her his whole life, even if he didn’t know her that well. She had always seemed friendly to him before. But last night’s meeting was a completely different version of the woman, and he wasn’t sure what to expect tonight. Especially considering he had never met Mrs. Brewer, nor did he know anything about her.

“Kenslie Brewer. She’s the matriarch of a Sleuth that lives out past the preserve. They have held a treaty with the Hales longer than anyone else. Several generations back there was even a marriage or two between them.” Mason observed the Alpha as he told him what he knew about the family without revealing anything that would freak Scott out and cause some sort of incident.

“A sleuth?” Scott asked, knowing the word was familiar, but not exactly where he had heard it outside of detective references.

“It’s a group of bears,” Mason says. “Kenslie is a Black Bear shifter.”

“Uh..she’s a bear?” Scott asked in surprise. “Like an actual bear?”

“You didn’t think wolves and coyotes were it, did you?” Mason asked, and he wasn’t sure how Scott could have thought the world was so narrow, especially after the Deadpool and all the different type of Chimera’s came out of the woodwork. And after Stiles had made a point of telling them how many different supernatural species lived in Beacon Hills.

“I guess I never really thought about it.” Scott shrugged, uncomfortable.

“Well, you should start, because if Stiles is right, you’re going to need to deal with them from now on.”

Scott wasn’t sure how he felt about that either. “Come on, let’s get this over with.”

Mason wasn’t sure that was the best attitude to have, but he picked up the box carefully and followed the Alpha out of his house.

*

Kenslie Brewer was not what Scott was expecting. To be honest, he wasn’t sure what to expect, but when the idea of a bear came to mind, an actual bear, his mind skittered away from what that might mean regarding a human form. But this woman, not at all what he had imagined.

She was no taller than five feet, but Scott thought she might actually be an inch or two shorter. It was hard to tell. She was sitting in an old, time-worn rocking chair, with half a skein of yarn and one-third of a blanket draped over her lap. She looked to be in her fifties, but he had learned in the past couple of years that it was sometimes hard to judge ages, especially when dealing with the supernatural.

The woman who’d let them into the house looked to be about twenty, but she held herself with a calm sort of grace that made Scott think of his own mother, so he thought maybe she might be older too. Once she’d brought them into the sitting room, she’d quietly disappeared.

There was no offer of refreshments, nor were they offered a seat, so Scott stood, feeling awkward. He was taking his cues from Mason because the younger boy had seemed comfortable with Ms. Willis the night before and not surprised by her line of questioning, nor by her curt manner. He had seemed relieved when she informed them they would be meeting with Kenslie Brewer tonight, which made Scott wonder what the alternative had been.

“Don’t just stand there, boy. You! You’re not doing anything useful, come here and hold your hands out.”

Scott blinked and moved before he realized he was doing it. It was kind of disturbing because he’d never obeyed his mom so quickly.

“No, not like that. Straight out in front. Like you’re hanging spaghetti.” She squinted up at him. “You don’t look Italian though so I suppose you don’t have much experience with that, do you?”

“Uh, no ma’am. My mom’s Mexican and my best friend is Polish. So I know something about Tamales and Kopytka, but mostly I just stood around and waited for the food to be done.”

The woman snorted as she repositioned his arms to her liking. “At least you’re honest.” She began winding some yarn around his positioned hands, and when she had enough of the yarn wrapped around his hands and arms she looked up at him, her eyes were dark, and in the dim light of the room, they looked almost black.

“Mischiew’s Kopytka is nothing short of a religious experience, so I don’t blame you. That recipe has been around for three hundred years, but Claudia never made it the way he does. Their magic was different, you see. She was a deft hand with the herbals, and potions…no one could make them better, especially if they called for natural ingredients. But young Mischiew, he’s something else. He’s heat and fire, and air and darkness, but most of all, he’s zrozumienie. He knows us.

Scott was a little confused. He wasn’t sure exactly what she was talking about. But he knew better than to interrupt and ask questions.

The woman stared at him for a long time before her focus turned to Mason. “You have brought the sacred bowl. Come closer. Let me see what else you have brought.”

Mason brought the box closer and set it down carefully on the small table to the woman’s left. She looked inside as he lifted his offerings. He took out the bowl first and unwrapped it so she could see the engraved markings. Then he began to take out the more perishable prize.

She sniffed as he unwrapped the fish. “Stone Loach. Really?”

He handed her the container of fish carefully and waited for her to examine them.

“These are lovely.” She looked up at Mason, and her dark eyes were definitely smiling.

“Okay. You may sit and explain to me how you expect to maintain this territory when you’ve done such a horrible job so far.”

*

Peter was browsing for a good white wine to go with whatever Stiles had been cooking all afternoon and had narrowed it down to two variations of Gewurtztraminer. When he felt a presence behind him. He turned and smiled.

“Stella.” He gave the old woman a brief hug before turning back to the wine. “What do you think?”

“What is Mischiew cooking?” She asked.

“Bigos. He’s been cooking for days, really.” Peter offered.

“A pinot would be better than either of those.” She offered. She stared at the wolf for a moment. “Clara told me that she sent the McCall boy to Kenslie.” She shook her head as if she couldn’t understand the reasoning.

“The human he has in his pack is good at research,” Peter admitted.

The woman tsked and eyed Peter again. “And you, Peter Hale, how do you feel about the young Alpha? Were you not the one to make him a wolf? Should you not feel some responsibility for his actions, failure or success?”

“A mistake was made,” Peter admitted. “I was…not myself.”

Stella Steardice laughed. “So true. I’ve always liked you, Peter. You are not afraid to get your hands dirty and do what needs to be done. Neither is Mischiew. That is the kind of Alpha this territory needs.” She paused and waited for him to say something. When he didn’t, she continued, “Scott McCall is young, and he means well, I am sure, but I have watched him, and the Alpha of a pack he may be, but a territory is something else, something he is not yet ready for.”

“Are you willing to renew the treatise?” Peter asked carefully.

The old woman pursed her lips. “That all depends on who the Alpha is that claims this territory, doesn’t it?” She patted him on the shoulder and reached past him to a bottle of wine. “Try this one.”

Peter took the wine and watched the witch walk away, wondering what would happen when Scott met with her. She was a crafty old bird, and he wasn’t sure any preparation Mason could make beforehand could prepare him.

*

Scott was sitting at the kitchen table staring into space when Melissa came downstairs, her hair up, and her scrubs clean in a way they only were before a shift.

“Why the long face?” She asked quietly, ruffling his hair a bit as she passed him to go into the kitchen.

“I think Stiles was right,” Scott admitted.

Melissa paused with her coffee cup in front of the pot. “Okay.” That in and of itself wasn’t necessarily an unusual statement. Stiles was frequently right about a lot of things over the years, but in recent months she had noticed that her son didn’t seem to talk about him as much, and though she was still friendly with the Sheriff, he didn’t bring up his son either. She knew he’d been accepted into an early admittance program at some out of state school, but it wasn’t until recently that she’d learned that the school was in New York. She wasn’t sure what Stiles was right about, and why it had her son looking so down. “What is it exactly that he was right about?” She asked, pouring her coffee and coming to sit at the table.

“He basically told me I was a lousy Alpha.”

“What?” Melissa looked surprised.

“Well, not exactly. It’s just, there’s more to it than just being responsible for Liam and Hayden and everyone else.” He sighed.

“Like what?” His mother asked softly.

“With the Hales gone, I was the only Alpha in the territory, and that made me responsible for Beacon Hills, in a…supernatural sort of way.”

“Responsible how?” Melissa asked cautiously. She thought him being responsible for the pack was enough responsibility at his age. She wasn’t sure how she’d like him taking on any more responsibility.

“There are others here…other groups. I met this lady who’s a Bear shifter, and Ms. Willis at the library is some sort of…I don’t even know what. Mason thinks she’s some sort of Fey, whatever that is. But, I met with both of them in the past few days, and the meetings were…weird, mom. I don’t know. They were nice, but…disappointed, I guess. Mrs. Brewer said that they were concerned about the safety of the territory. That without a strong Alpha to speak for the people, bad things could happen. Ms. Willis told me that some of the stuff that had happened already was basically because there wasn’t a strong Alpha maintaining the territory.”

Melissa sighed. “That sounds serious but Scott, that can’t be your responsibility. That sounds like a full-time job, and you’ll be going off to college before too long.”

“I know, mom.” Scott’s shoulder’s slumped and was about to continue when the doorbell rang. He startled. It was a little early for guests. Maybe it was Stiles. He ran to the door and opened it, hoping his friend had some advice for him, despite the way things had been between them recently.

It wasn’t Stiles. Instead, an older woman stood on his porch. She was tall and thin. There was something vaguely familiar about her, but he wasn’t sure where he knew her from. Maybe he had seen her around town. “Can I help you?”

“You can let me in, Alpha. I would speak with you.”

Scott blinked. The woman didn’t seem like anything other than a regular old lady, but considering his encounters with Clara Willis and Kenslie Brewer, perhaps he should be more cautious. He stepped back and allowed her inside.

She passed him and entered the dining room, where Melissa was still sitting. “Mrs. McCall.”

Melissa stood up in surprise, “Mrs. Steardice. What a surprise. Would you like something to drink? Coffee perhaps?”

Mrs. Steardice smiled. “No thank you. I prefer tea, but I have an appointment in a little while. I just wanted to see the young Alpha for myself, now that he’s met with Clara and Kenslie.”

Melissa looked surprised and wasn’t sure what to say for a moment but then nodded. “He was just telling me about that.”

“Mom?” Scott asked, bewildered. “You know each other?”

“Scott, this is Stella Steardice. She owns the store where we get the special ingredients for your grandmother’s recipes.” Melissa introduced.

“Isn’t that the store where Stiles buys the weird cheese?” Scott asked.

The woman laughed. “Oscypek. I suppose from your point of view it might be considered weird.” She motioned towards the table. “Come. We have much to discuss.”

*

Stiles was still asleep, head half buried under blankets and Peter’s wolf-warmth. Peter was awake, thinking about what was going to happen next. What would most likely happen next? Nothing was written in stone, but Stella had been pretty clear. She didn’t think Scott could handle the responsibility. Unless he said something amazing during their face-to-face, he doubted she would change her opinion. The odds of Scott saying something amazing? Not high.

Stiles started to move in his sleep, and Peter pulled him closer, so he didn’t lose the warmth. Ever since the Nogitsune, Stiles hated being cold. If left on his own, his own power would heat him up, but Peter was still a little wary around fire, so Stiles tried to be mindful of using his power when they were together. Peter appreciated the care even if he would never say so.

Stiles phone started vibrating on the end table. Peter picked it up to prevent it from waking Stiles. He hadn’t been sleeping well since they returned. He looked at the screen.

Incoming Call: Coven Queen

Peter swiped right and put in Stiles password and answered the phone. “Stella.”

“Peter.” The voice on the other end sounded unsurprised to hear his voice. “We’ve made a decision. We’d like you and Mischiew to come to our meeting place to discuss what needs to happen next.”

Peter paused. “Will Alpha McCall be there?”

“No.” Stella sighed. “He is a sweet…child. Let him be that for as long as the world allows.”

“I understand,” Peter said carefully. He did understand. “Sunset?”

“Please. We have much to discuss before the oaths can be taken.” With that, there was a click, and the line was disconnected.

Peter sighed and set the phone down.

“Does Scott know yet?” Stiles asked quietly moving to sit up a little bit.

“I don’t know, sweetheart. She didn’t tell me how their meeting went, only that he wouldn’t be there tonight.”

“Hmm.” Stiles leaned against Peters naked chest. “Maybe I can talk to him before tonight. It might clarify things.”

“If you think that will help.” Peter shrugged. Scott wasn’t his concern.

*

Stiles knocked on the McCall house feeling like so much had changed in such a short time. It seemed like not that long ago he was letting himself into Scott’s house and dragging him into some sort of trouble. But so much had changed, and he wasn’t sure they could ever get that old friendship back. They were too different.

Scott’s mom opened the door and smiled softly at him. She pulled him inside and hugged him tightly. “Look at you. You’re letting your hair grow out.”

He smiled at her. “It getting a little longer than I like, but yeah.” He was about to say Peter liked it like that but decided that was better left unsaid. “Is Scott around?”

“He’s upstairs. He’s been a little stressed since Mrs. Steardice was here yesterday.” Melissa looked at him carefully.

Stiles blew out a breath. “She came here? Wow. Okay then.” He started moving towards the stairs.

“Stiles?” Melissa called out as he was halfway up the stairs.

The warlock paused and turned around.

“Everythings going to be okay, right?” She was looking at him thoughtfully, needing his reassurance, which was odd considering their disparate ages.

Stiles nodded once. “I think so.” He turned and climbed up the stairs. When he reached Scott’s bedroom, he knocked once and entered.

Scott was sitting on his bed, waiting for him. Stiles wasn’t surprised. Scott must have heard him arrive. “Hey.”

“Hey.” Stiles took a seat in his desk chair. “I heard you spoke with Stella Steardice yesterday.”

Scott nodded. “She’s kind of…intense.”

Stiles choked off a laugh. “Yeah, she is that.”

“How long have you known her?” Scott asked, a frown on his face.

“My whole life, I think. I don’t remember not knowing her. She used to come over for tea and makowiec with my mom when I was little. Now, I think they were talking about Coven business and community…stuff, but back then, I just knew her as a friend of my moms.”

“Coven business?” Scott asked in confusion. “Mrs. Steardice is a witch.” He said. That much he had figured out from his talk with her, but he wasn’t sure what Stiles’ mom had to do with witchcraft and covens.

“Yes, and my mom was a warlock. Not exactly the same thing, but they worked together nonetheless.” Stiles shrugged. He didn’t really want to get into his mother’s past. That was still his mother’s past. “Mrs. Steardice told Peter that you had spoken to both Clara and Kenslie. How did that go?” He asked, trying to move this along.

Scott winced a little. “I don’t know. It was weird. Mason seemed to know what to bring, but when it came down to the actual meeting, they were pretty upfront about what was expected from the Alpha of the territory and how they hadn’t seen proper representation since Talia died. They were honest, and said that they didn’t blame me, or Derek really, but that neither of us were prepared for the responsibility, and it was a responsibility.”

Stiles nodded. “Did they tell you what’s expected of the Alpha, and the oaths that must be taken, with the land itself?”

Scott shook his head and looked a little haunted. “They didn’t, but Mrs. Steardice was very clear about that part. That the Alpha and his or her Emissary had to make a sort of promise to the land itself, and the territory would judge whether they were honest and true. They would be tested, their faith in each other and the land. If they passed, then there would be a sort of tether between them and the territory.”

Stiles nodded. “The tether is powerful magic. It draws on both the Alpha spark, the Emissaries magic, and the power of the land itself to maintain it. Because of that, it takes a long time to settle. During the settling period, the Alpha or Emissary must remain within the territory, preferably both.”

“Mrs. Steardice told me that if I were the Alpha of this territory, then I wouldn’t be able to go away to school,” Scott admitted.

“No. UC Davis is outside the Territory borders. You would have to postpone college, or change schools, or go online.” Stiles stated.

“Is that what you’re going to do?” Scott asked pointedly.

“Yes.” Stiles didn’t even pretend to misunderstand. “I took a leave from my program to come here, and I’ll have to look into online programs for some of the coursework.”

“Stiles…Beacon Hills is my home, but…I’m not ready for the kind of responsibility that is expected here. I can barely manage to keep Liam and Hayden in check.”

Stiles stood up and reached out to squeeze Scott’s shoulder. “It’s okay. I get it. This is a big deal. You shouldn’t have to handle it.”

“But…your the same age as me, and you’re just going to what…give up your freedom for what exactly?” Scott was confused.

“My situation is different. My path is not uncertain. Whether I was in New York or here, my road was intertwined with Peter’s, and he was always destined to return home.”

Scott snorted. “I don’t understand that. He’s a killer.”

“So am I.” Stiles pointed out. “I killed Donavan, in self-defense. I killed the Retzkavo, in the protection of this territory. Regardless, I still killed, and I would do it again, for defense, for protection. I am not ashamed. Do I wish I didn’t have to? Maybe, but the truth is, there is always going to be something out there willing or eager to invade and do you harm. You can’t always negotiate with it, nor should you always try.”

Scott shook his head in denial. “I can’t believe that. I won’t.”

Stiles smiled sadly. “And that’s the difference between you and me, And that’s the reason why you can never be the Alpha of a Territory like Beacon Hills.” He squeezed Scott’s shoulder one more time. “Goodbye, Scott.”

*

Noah Stilinski drank his coffee and watched his son and son-in-law, he thought wryly inside his own head, as they moved around the living room restlessly.

“Okay, both of you, come here and sit down. What has you so nervous?” He watched as they both froze, exchanged a glance before moving slowly towards the kitchen table.

“We have a meeting tonight,” Stiles admitted. “With Stella Steardice, and probably Kenslie and Clara as well.”

Noah raised an eyebrow. “And? You’ve known all three of them for years.” He turned to Peter. “You as well. If I recall, Stella is the one who is always asking about that ‘nice Hale boy.’ For the longest time, I thought she meant Derek until she mentioned the love of old books and how you soaked up new knowledge like a sponge, and how you were fascinated with magic even though you couldn’t perform any yourself.”

Peter smiled wryly. “Knowledge is power.” He said softly.

Noah snorted because that was a typical Peter response. “So, this meeting?”

Stiles sighed. “They’ve made a decision about the territory, and it’s not Scott.”

Noah digested this and turned to look at Peter. “That’s good, right? The territory’s been in your family for generations. Unless…they’re going outside…”

Peter shook his head. “I don’t think so. They’ve asked Stiles and me to meet with them, but traditionally there’s a trial between the Alpha and the Emissary, and between them and the land. I’m just a little concerned about that.”

Stiles reached out and wrapped his hand around Peter’s wrist. “Whatever it is, you know I would never hurt you.”

Peter sighed. “I know, but your fire…”

“My fire knows you. It would never hurt you. It is me. Okay?” Stiles looked into his eyes.

Peter stared and watched as Stiles’ eyes flashed golden and he knew that Stiles believed everything he said and Peter had to believe it too, so he nodded.

“Is this test dangerous?” Noah asked with concern.

Stiles turned away from Peter to look at his dad. “No one really knows. Each test is unique to those undergoing it, and it’s personal, so no one ever talks about it.”

“Great,” Noah says. “Well, good luck, I guess.” He stood up and got ready to head to work. “I will be seeing you both when I come in tomorrow morning.” He phrased it like an order, and they both nodded.

The sheriff left and Stiles and Peter spent the last hour in relative silence before it was time to leave, each lost in their own thoughts.

*

Stiles drove, and they arrived at the meeting place just as the sun was going down. Just as they suspected, Stella was there along with Clara Willis and Kenslie Brewer. All three women were standing near an altar Stella’s coven used, but as the coven wasn’t in attendance, the altar was empty at the moment, safe for four candles, which would probably be used during the oaths, if they passed the trials.

“Boys, punctual as always.” Stella cried out.

Kenslie laughed. She was wearing a knit cap that was slightly lopsided. Stiles wasn’t sure if it was the way it was sitting on her head or if it had been knit crooked. Some of her grandkids were just learning the art, but she wore their finished products with pride nonetheless.

“Mischiew, Peter, Come here.” Clara began. “Stand in this circle, and the first test will begin.” She showed them to a circular area drawn in the dirt. “Once inside, I warn you, protection magic will be blocked. This is about trust. Trust in your power, and trust in each other.”

Stiles nodded. He knew as much. This test was all about the trust between the Alpha and the Emissary so that they could run the pack, and the Territory together. As soon as they stepped inside and Clara had closed the circle, Stiles felt this muffling sensation, like someone had placed a blanket over part of him. But he still had access to his power. However, he no longer had control. If felt like someone else was driving the ship. He looked up at Peter, locked eyes with him and tried to warn him, but his mouth wouldn’t move. He felt the heat building up beneath his skin, and hoped Peter had heard what he had said earlier because that belief was about to be tested.

Peter’s fingers were clutching Stiles biceps, and he felt the build-up of Stiles fire, he felt the way it coalesced under his skin. His eyes locked with his Warlock and saw the look in Stiles’ amber gaze. Peter’s flashed red for a second, but then he relaxed. Stiles had said his fire was him, that his fire would know Peter. He had to believe in that. He closed his eyes for a second and let go.

The fire burst from Stiles skin like living flame. Peter had never been so close to Stiles when this had happened before, so he had no frame of reference, but it didn’t burn like he’d feared. It didn’t scald him or burn his clothes. Instead, it encased him in living flame as well, as though he was an extension of Stiles. For a moment the two of them stood still, breathing together in the stillness of the night, flames flickering around them.

Then the Earth started to move beneath their feet. Peter thought it was an earthquake at first. Not unusual in California, but they didn’t have them a lot. But then he noticed that the shifting earth seemed to be localized. The Earth rumbled under their feet, and an opening in the ground beneath them began to form. Stiles’ eyes widened in fear, but Peter gripped him harder. This was the second part of the test. He knew it was. They had passed the test of each other, and now the territory was asking for that same faith.

The chasm beneath them opened wider still, and they were grabbed by some unseen force and swallowed by the Earth. Peter’s first instinct was to hold his breath, but after a moment he realized that this was Hale land. Hales had lived and died on this land for generations. Hale blood was soaked into this earth. He relaxed and released his death grip on Stiles, hoping to transmit some silent message.

Stiles was terrified when the Earth swallowed him and Peter whole for about thirty seconds. Then he remembered his mother. Her affinity had been Earth, and she could do wondrous things with plants and grow beautiful vegetables. Anything his mother loved that much couldn’t be scary. He relaxed, tried to breath normally, believe that there was oxygen, that he wasn’t being suffocated, and…it worked because he could breathe.

He felt Peter’s fingers relax their grip and realized he must have had a similar realization.

Soon, the two of them were surrounded by air again, and the three women were eyeing them expectantly.

“The territory finds you worthy,” Stella said seriously. Clara broke the circle, and they stepped out gingerly.

It was full dark now, but they weren’t sure exactly how much time had passed.

“Are you prepared to make your oath now, Alpha Hale?” Kenslie Brewer asked.

Peter cleared his throat, still expecting the phantom feeling of dirt around him. “Yes.”

Clara grabbed the four candles and placed them at each of the four points and lit them silently.

Peter knelt in the dirt and thrust his hands deep into the soil, awaiting the words of the oath. Stiles followed suit beside him.

“Do you, Alpha Peter Ian Hale, accept responsibility for this territory, and all that entails until such time as you pass your Alpha duties on to another?”

“I will,” Peter promised, his fingers carrying his word down through the Earth,

“And do you, Mischiew Iwo Stilinski, accept the responsibility as Emissary to this territory, forsaking all previous allegiances, and promise your magic, for good or ill, to the protection of this land, and all within its borders?”

“I will,” Stiles promised, he too carried the weight of his promise through the Earth.

After a moment the Earth rumbled.

“Oath accepted.” Clara intoned, and the candles blew out, thrusting the clearing into darkness.

*

“Okay, so let me get this straight.”  Lydia was saying over the cell phone line. “You killed the demon, got into another fight with Scott about killing things that are trying to kill you. Then what, decided it was a good idea to let him flounder his way around dealing with a 200-year-old witch, a 150-year-old fey half-breed, and a 300-year old Sleuth matriarch.  Am I getting this right?”

Stiles had her on speaker phone so not only was Stiles getting her outrage, but his dad and Peter were too.  “Uh, yeah.”

“Okay.  I’ll give you a pass on the whole demon thing because you went down there to kill the damn thing, and we both know Scott would never have done anything about that, so, moving on.  What made you think it was a good idea to leave him twisting in the wind with the Ancient triad of scary there in Beacon Hills?”

Peter snorted, and Noah held in a cough.  He turned to Peter. “Is it just me,” he whispered, “ or is she getting more caustic?”

“It’s the influence of her Unseelie teacher.”  Peter supplied.

Noah nodded.  He’d had a few run-ins with Unseelie in the old days, so he could just imagine.

Stiles ignored the byplay going on behind him.  “Scott wasn’t going to listen to anything I said at that point.  He kept insisting he was the Alpha, he could make new treaties. So, I figured I’d let him try, and he could see what he would be up against.”

Lydia grunted.  “And now you and Peter are stuck in Beacon Hills for the foreseeable future.”

“Pretty Much,”  Stiles admitted.

“Alright.  I will get Jackson to help with packing up your stuff, and Magnus to deactivate the wards.  Can Magnus handle Peter’s place?”

Stiles turned to look at Peter.  Peter nodded. “Yes. We’ll send him a fire message tonight to let him know what’s going on.”

“Fine.”  Lydia sighed.  “I’ll let you know when I’m ready to come back.  Can you or Magnus arrange a portal trip? I don’t want to be gone long.”

Stiles thought it was more accurate that she didn’t want to be in Beacon Hills long enough to warrant a visit to her mom.  He did wonder how she and Parish managed, but that was none of his business.

“We’ll manage.”  He said. Hopefully, Magnus would handle it.  He hated portals.

He heard Lydia sigh over the line and then she said, “Take me off speaker.”  He picked up the phone and took it off speaker while moving upstairs, even though he knew Peter could still listen in if he wanted to.

“Okay.”  He said into the phone.

“Was this the only option?”  She asked softly.

“It was the best option.”  He answered.

“I’m worried.”  She said.

“Banshee worry?”  He asked.

“Best friend worry.”

Stiles relaxed.  Lydia had never really forgiven Peter, though she didn’t exactly hold a grudge, she just didn’t trust easily.  “I’m fine. I’ll be fine. You don’t need to worry.”

“Okay.  Just…while you’re looking out for Beacon Hills, make sure to look out for yourself too.”  She whispered.

He wasn’t sure what to say to that, but she disconnected before he couldn’t think of anything appropriate.

He sat down on the bed and thought about everything that had happened in the past few days.  Too much crazy, but he felt right about where they were now.

Peter stepped into the room.  “Everything good?”

Stiles smiled and held out a hand.  “Everythings great. And soon, we’ll make it perfect.  Together.”

Peter came willingly and placed a soft kiss on Stiles’ lips.  “Together.” He murmured.

*

The end.

 

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8 Comments:

  1. i love it cannot wait for more

  2. You’ve built an interesting universe here… I do like how Scott had to learn he was in over his head… he never had to face reality the way Stiles did.

    Lovely story! Thanks for sharing!

  3. Great Story

  4. This was awesome! Thanks for writing and posting!

  5. Greywolf the Wanderer

    very cool, I really enjoyed this!!

  6. I think the thing I liked about this the most was it’s emphasis on choices. We can choose what path we take, but once we make that choice, we have another choice about standing by said choice.

    And sometimes the choice is that you have to walk away.

  7. This is a superb take on canon, loved it, thank you

  8. This was wonderful, happy sigh.

Don't be an asshole!

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