Unobstructed Views – Chapters 4-6

Please see the main story page for summary, cast page, warnings, and links to additional chapters.


All story art by ChestnutNOLA


Chapter Four

Noah walked into the diner where Stephanie Morris was waiting in a booth in a deserted section of the restaurant.

She shook his hand before he slid into his seat. “Noah.”

“Steph.” He took a sip of the coffee waiting for him then accepted the phone she held out, flipping through the pictures from the Argents’ basement. It was a struggle to stay even slightly detached. These were clearly photos taken by her and not part of the actual evidence array. Her focus on a couple things wouldn’t have triggered him before he’d had his conversation with Derek, but now he had a suspicion.

He slid the phone back across the table. “Why do I think you know more about what’s going here?” Her focus on the aconite was a big clue. Not that Noah knew for sure that wolfsbane was truly deadly to werewolves, but the clues sure fit.

Her eyes narrowed, and she watched him closely for several seconds. Then she huffed. “How long have you known?”

“About ninety minutes.”

She blinked a few times. “You’re taking it remarkably well.”

“I can only focus on the problems in front of me. I’ll deal with my incredulity and panic some other time.”

“What convinced you? If you don’t mind me asking?”

“Someone got furry and flashed their eyes at me?”

“Well, that wasn’t what I expected. I guess someone came to the hospital because the department has kept track of your movements.” It wasn’t a surprise that Parrish and Tara would coordinate to make sure everyone knew where he was.

“A whole pack, you could say.”

“And everything is all right?” she asked eyes narrowed.

“Is there a reason it shouldn’t be?”

She pursed her lips. “Let’s stop tap dancing, shall we? I have wolves in my department. They’re good people and don’t deserve the persecution they get. Are you going to be okay being sheriff in a town with a budding wolf pack in it?”

“Steph, I left that wolf pack guarding my son. I think I’m doing fine.”

Stephanie relaxed back into the booth. “Good. Now, what can I do to help?”

“I’d like some information. A less biased source who can tell me what to expect in the coming days. And even how not to overstep because I have no idea what to do with any werewolf much less something called an alpha.”

She nodded. “If you want the insider perspective, I’ll ask my deputy if you can talk to him directly.” She picked up her phone and shot off a quick message. “But, in the interim, do you have any specific questions?”

“I didn’t want to ask Derek but some more information about the Hale pack and the hunter community in general? They sound like a bunch of vigilantes.” They actually sounded more like terrorists.

“Some are, but others secure large territories with the help of the local packs. The Argents and groups like the Calaveras draw people who just want an excuse to kill. Bunch of xenophobic, murderous assholes if you ask me.”

“Seems about the right descriptor.”

“It’s a whole hidden world, Noah, that can be difficult for law enforcement people like us to get our heads around. It has its own system of justice that I don’t always like, but I do see the need for it.”

“Can you elaborate?”

“For instance, most wolves just want to be left in peace. They live happy, productive lives and are part of the community. But there are rogue elements who cause problems. Granted, some of those rogue elements are rogue because hunters have decimated their ranks and set them on a path of revenge, but setting that aside for now… Wolves aren’t any better or worse than humans about having a criminal element, but the criminal element when it comes to wolves isn’t something conventional law enforcement can handle.

“How do you humanely imprison someone who can lift a damn bus and is impervious to most bullets? This other, harsher system of justice is all we have. The hunters and the packs are supposed to work together to keep the checks and balances, but when hunters get out of control, well, you get what happened to the Hales and what’s been happening in Beacon Hills lately.”

Noah thought through several issues. “Stiles told the other kids that hunters abuse the fact that wolves have to hide to keep them from seeking help.”

“I’d agree. But it’s all a mind game. Laura Hale could have gone to the police after the fire with what she knew about Kate Argent. Instead, she let years of indoctrination keep her from leveraging the police to get justice for her family and prevent Kate Argent from killing again.”

Noah drummed his fingers on the counter. “Did you suspect what was going on in Beacon Hills was supernaturally related?”

“Certainly. I was fairly sure of it after your deputies were all killed. But one of the things we don’t do is read in people who can’t handle it.”

“And you thought I couldn’t handle it?”

“I didn’t know. I had no way of guessing how you’d react. I’d heard Chris Argent was in town, and he’s the one with the reputation for walking the right path in that family. I’d assumed he’d get things back under control. It wasn’t until the station was attacked that I realized how badly he’d failed.”

Noah rubbed his hands over his face, wishing there was some way to assign blame for what happened to his deputies. “From what I understand, the station was more a human kid who was in control of a supernatural monster of some kind. I didn’t get all the details out of the kids yet.”

“That kind of thing is what wolves and hunters are supposed to work together to protect people from. But the Argents can’t keep their eye on the ball long enough to get anything done apparently.” Her phone chimed, and she scanned it. “Lucas is on his way. He can help you with any wolf-related questions while I get back to the station.”

“What are you planning to do with the Argents?”

Stephanie shrugged one shoulder. “Not sure yet. I’d like your input because, from what little they’ve said, it’s clear that they’re throwing Argent senior under the bus on the whole deal.”

“The story I got from Reyes and Boyd paints a bit of a different picture. Chris Argent may not have known what was going on, but Allison did. I’ll grant that her grandfather manipulated her, but she’s the one who coordinated the hunt for the two kids and shot them with arrows. She’s the one that tried to stab the Lahey kid to death tonight.”

“Jesus.” Stephanie shook her head. “The girl had seemed upset when they first arrived at the house, but she’s been pretty cold the rest of the time. They sure do train ‘em to be psychopaths young in that world.”

“What about Scott?”

“He’s a handful and half. He always been that self-righteous?”

Noah blinked, not expecting that. “Not really. Actually, that doesn’t sound like Scott at all.”

“He’s not part of a pack,” a deep voice came from behind Noah. He turned to find Deputy Lucas King standing there in the classic cop pose with his hand resting on the butt of his gun. “Sheriff Stilinski.”

“Deputy King. Thank you for meeting with me.”

Stephanie slid out of the booth. “We’ll talk more later, Noah. I need to get back to the station to continue coordinating the search for Gerard and his roving band of murderers.”

Lucas took the seat Stephanie had vacated. “How can I help you, Sheriff?”

“Just Noah is fine when we’re not at work.”

Lucas inclined his head and offered the same.

“What was that you said about Scott?”

“Kid’s bordering on being an omega. He’s got no pack ties and is overly fixated on that girl of his.” Lucas’ sneer made his opinion of Scott’s choice quite clear. “He’s so out of touch with his wolf that he didn’t recognize a wolf from an unfamiliar pack standing in the room with him. In fact, there were two of us. He’s fixating on that girl to keep him stable, and it’s a recipe for disaster.”

“Tell me more about the omega thing—Derek only briefly mentioned omegas, so I don’t know much—and what can we do about helping Scott.”

Noah listened to the explanation of omegas and how they were usually handled with growing dread. He’d have to do something to get through to Scott. And he’d probably have to start by getting through to Melissa.

After Lucas had wound down about the omega issue, Noah asked, “Is having Peter Hale around going to make things harder when it comes to dealing with Scott?”

Lucas frowned. “Peter is back? Thought he was dead.”

“Derek said something about him getting better…?” He still wasn’t sure how someone got better from being dead. No doubt if Stiles were here he’d joke about him being only mostly dead.

“Peter was always wily like that.” Lucas’ smile looked fond.

“You know him?”

“Sure.” He hesitated. “In fact, members of our pack used to be in the Hale Pack.”

Noah blinked several times. “I… What?”

“Look, my pack in Sweetland is small—though not as small as the current Hale pack. We fly under the radar, but we took in several pack members that Laura abandoned.”

“Hmm.” Noah cocked his head to the side. “You sound disapproving.”

“I am. Laura Hale was a shit alpha.”

“She was a scared kid.”

“That may be so, but she was also an alpha wolf responsible for her pack. The minute she inherited the power from her mother, she also inherited the bonds of all the living pack members. It’s hard to explain to a human what it’s like to be connected to others at such a primal level, but it’s more than a family. It’s everything to a wolf. And when Laura inherited that power, she took her brother and left. And she didn’t just leave, she actively snapped the pack bonds. She left her uncle wounded and suffering and without a pack.

“Because as much as the other pack members cared for Peter, they couldn’t forge pack bonds with him without an alpha. They couldn’t help him the way an alpha could. And she culled him from the herd like a wounded gazelle. So I have zero respect for Laura Hale, and the werewolf in me doesn’t care that she was a scared kid.”

“You make it sound…deliberate. Leaving Peter here, I mean.”

“Oh, I think it was. I figure she thought her uncle was going to die anyway, so she’d leave him as a distraction for any hunter who came to finish the job. Then she took the family member she cared about and ran.”

“You make her sound…”

“Like a monster?”

“Yeah.” Noah shifted uncomfortably.

“From a werewolf’s perspective, she was. If I try to be objective, I can admit that they’re not meant to be alphas that young. They don’t have the life experience to temper the sheer amount of power they have. And Laura reacted to that influx of power by being ruthless in a way I would never have expected of a born wolf. She left her uncle as hunter bait, which was evident because she left him in Beacon Hills under his legal name, and then she broke ties with the five or six living pack members, none of whom were Hales by blood.

“To compound her sins, in my eyes, when those same pack members wanted to take Peter away from Beacon Hills to bring him into another pack, she refused. She even refused them access to him. Refused to let them come to the hospital and at least ease his suffering so he wasn’t locked in torment.”

Lucas’ glare was intense. “To werewolves, Laura Hale is everything an alpha shouldn’t be. In fact, New York was one of the few places she could even live with any degree of safety. There are a few big cities that fall under no single pack’s territory. While several packs live there, no one has a say over who goes or stays. No other wolf pack would want an alpha like her in their territory, and she’d be at high risk for being challenged if she tried to carve out her own. She was perceived to either be cruel or unstable because of her actions after the fire.”

“Because she got her power too young?” Noah prompted to make sure he understood.

“That made her rash, but her cruelty? I don’t know how to account for that. It was like she blamed Peter.”

“What about Derek? He’s about the same age now as when Laura got her alpha powers, right?”

“Yes, and Derek is going to struggle with balancing the power in him. But he’s struggling to build a pack and doesn’t seem overly controlling from what we’ve heard. Could be he was always a softer touch than Laura. Or maybe he’s just been through too much. I can’t really say for sure.”

Noah drummed his fingers on the table. “How does Derek tolerate having Peter around?”

“The wolf in Derek doesn’t blame Peter for killing Laura. No wolf would. Bad alphas are challenged all the time and, if the challenger wins, the alpha usually dies. That’s life as a wolf. Derek knows that. And he knows Laura was a bad alpha to Peter. Now, I don’t doubt he mourns his sister, so it’s going to put him in conflict, but werewolf life can be harsh at times, and pack challenges aren’t a new thing to him.”

“So the human side of him mourns his sister, but the wolf side of him is okay with it?”

“It’s not quite that divided. It’s more like warring impulses. He knows Laura deserved whatever Peter did—not that I truly believe Peter knew what he was doing—but Derek loved his sister. Even though he knows she failed as an alpha and the challenge was a result, he’ll still miss her.”

“Is that how a challenge usually goes? Attacking someone in the woods?”

“That’s usually considered bad form. Challenges can be sudden in certain circumstances, but it’s supposed to be direct and pretty aboveboard. That said, most of us think Peter was out of his mind and lashed out. But even if he knew it was Laura, I don’t personally have a problem with him going after her that way, and neither does my alpha. As they say, she brought that shit on herself.”

“Okay, I guess that’s a fair perspective. I think.” Noah scratched his head. “I’m really still learning here. So, what can I expect from the Hale pack?”

“In what sense?”

“My son mumbled something about how he was adopting them, and I have a feeling it’s going to be Stilinskis’ Home for Wayward Wolves from this day forth.”

Lucas’ eyebrows were doing something complicated.

“How do I help without stepping on the alpha’s grumpy, uncommunicative toes?”

“Huh.” Lucas looked like he was reassessing Noah. “There are only three true ranks in most packs. Alpha and alpha mate—and the two are considered one though the alpha has the ultimate say. Then there’s the second and third in the pack. The second is usually the more diplomatic while the third is the enforcer. Technically the ranks are close to equal, but second has slight precedence since they’d be in charge if the alpha pair were absent. There’s also the emissary, but if they’re part of the pack and not adjacent to it, the ranking can be a little complicated, creating a possible addition to the leadership depending on how the emissary slots into the pack.”

“Okay.” It didn’t really answer his question, but he figured Lucas was leading up to something.

“Beyond that, there’s the unofficial rank of the pack elders. Sometimes it’s the prior alphas who have passed on their power, and sometimes it’s just those with more life experience. If Derek truly accepts you into his pack, you’d probably be in the role of Elder even though that’s typically people much older than you. But, on the other hand, the pack is quite young…”

“Accepts me into his pack?” Noah echoed.

Lucas looked amused. “If he lets you close, it’s because he considers you pack.”

“Humans can be pack?”

“Of course. Peter’s wife was human. Usually, humans come in through marriage or are born into the pack as humans, but sometimes it’s someone who becomes close to the pack for other reasons.”

“Like my son?”

The complicated eyebrow thing was happening again.

“Okay, what?”

“Rumor is that your son might have some magical ability. Not sure if that’s true, but a lot of the other rumors about Beacon Hills have panned out.”

“Magic,” Noah repeated dryly then he rubbed his forehead. “Magic?”

“Sorry to be the bearer of bad tidings. Though it might not be that bad.”

He started adding to his mental list of things he needed to get up to speed on. Immediately. “And that has what to do with Stiles being pack?”

“Hale might be starting to think of Stiles more in that emissary role, who can be either part of a pack or more pack-adjacent. Druids tend to be pack-adjacent rather than pack, but I personally think letting a druid be your emissary is fucking stupid.”

“And why is that?”

“Because the role of an emissary, regardless of their other duties, is ultimately to protect the pack, but druids have oaths about preserving balance. Mind you, it’s preserving their idea of balance. So what happens when those things come into conflict?”

“I honestly have no idea,” Noah said tiredly, feeling so far in over his head.

“You get the Hale fire.”

Noah blinked. “Come again?”

“The pack emissary was a druid. Did he not put adequate wards on the Hale house and property because he figured the pack was too strong? That if something happened, it was meant to? Did he also abandon Peter because he felt that Peter’s suffering was somehow part of the balance? Did he not council Laura better for the same reason?”

Noah held up a hand to stop the flow of words. “I get what you’re saying. Their oath to this idea of balance is inherently in conflict with doing what’s best for the pack.”

“Yes, but they are the most common type of benevolent magic user, so many packs wind up with them by default because there is no other option.”

Noah took a moment to think and prioritize what he needed to know next. “Tell me what you think I need to know, and I’m wondering if your pack alpha would be willing to advise Derek if need be?”

“I think people are going to want to see a little more from the Hale pack before they put themselves out there. And, as I said, my pack has stayed off the radar of any hunter families. Drawing the attention of the Argents would be a factor in my alpha’s decision.”

“From what I heard, there may not be much of the Argents left. I know you haven’t found Gerard but, according to Derek, he’s somewhere dripping black goo and dying a slow death.”

Lucas stared. “Derek bit Gerard?”

“Not voluntarily, but yes.”

“Come again?” Lucas looked somewhere between appalled and disgusted.

Noah laid out what Derek had told him about Scott’s plan and the outcome.

Lucas swallowed heavily. “That’s…horrifying. I thought maybe you could bring Scott around and get him to integrate with the Hale pack, but I don’t know if that’s possible. I know my alpha would never forgive that sort of betrayal.” Lucas went on to explain how a werewolf considers the bite a gift. That forcing Derek to bite Gerard, thereby making Gerard Derek’s beta, was an obscene violation of the bonds of pack. The more Noah heard, the more it was like hearing about a rape. It made him want to go back to the hospital and give Derek a hug and then go smack Scott.

They talked for a good hour, Noah asking as many questions as he could think of about how to navigate this world and how to work within a wolf pack before Lucas got up to return to the station.

“By the way, Peter Hale is outside. He’s been listening for quite a while.”

Noah’s brows shot up. “Is that right? Well, you should come in, Peter.” He shook his head, adding “figure out privacy issues” to his list of things to do. He couldn’t believe he now had to factor in werewolf hearing.

Lucas slid Noah a card. “That’s my cell number. Unless my alpha shuts me down, call any time. But keep it between you and me until he has a chance to weigh in on how much he wants to risk being involved with what’s going on here.”

Noah nodded, appreciating the gesture, though he was more than a little frustrated by the whole “cover my own ass” mentality that was so pervasive amongst the people in this world. On the one hand, he understood why, but it didn’t make it less frustrating. He had this impending sense of just how much more complicated his life was about to become.

About a minute later, Peter Hale, healed and apparently newly alive, slid in across from Noah. “Sheriff.”

“Mr. Hale.”

“It seems you’ve had quite the eye-opening day.”

Noah snorted. “Aren’t you just the master of understatement.” He folded his hands in front of him. “How much of an issue do I need to have when it comes to you?”

Peter raised one brow. “Do you want to have an issue with me?”

“Don’t play games with me, Peter. I remember you when you were a teenager.” Noah had just joined the sheriff’s department when Peter was a freshman in high school. “Just be straight with me and let’s see where that gets us.”

“I’m not threat to Derek’s pack.”

“I actually didn’t think you were. It sounded like there was a fair bit of insanity when you came out of the coma.”

“More than I thought there was.”

“Explain,” he ordered.

“At the time, I would have denied being insane. All I cared about was revenge, and I thought I was mentally sound. My plans all made sense to me.”

“Including revenge against your niece?” Noah knew it was barbed to refer to the familial tie, but he wanted to see how Peter reacted.

“Any fondness I once held for my niece was burned to ash in a very literal way. An alpha’s betrayal… I can’t even explain it to you. It certainly far outweighs any fond memories I had. In fact, those fond memories make the betrayal cut deeper.”

“Fair enough. But just because you’re mad at someone it doesn’t necessarily follow that you’ll kill them.”

“No, and if she’d done anything to avenge our family—my wife, my child—I might regret her death. But she hid for six years. She left me to rot, abandoned her pack, and ran away.”

“She was a kid.”

“She was an alpha,” Peter snapped. “Being a young captain in the Army leading your first real battle doesn’t make you less responsible for those under your command.” He took a deep breath. “While I don’t explicitly remember her or the events of her death, I don’t regret it. We’re not built to regret the loss of a bad alpha. I’m a born wolf, and an alpha that fails their pack is nothing to protect or regret.”

“And what about Derek? By his own admission, he sees himself as failing.”

“Derek is trying. Something Laura never bothered with. From what I’ve seen, he’s struggling, but I lay the blame as much on his mother as anything. She was remarkably short-sighted about training only Laura to be an alpha, for all the good that did. Our parents taught all three of us to be potential alphas because life is unpredictable, and you never know what might happen. But Talia decided that of her five children, only Laura would be instructed and most of her training would come after college.

“So Derek never had even the basic foundational training that Talia gave Laura, neither did Mark, who was older. The lack of training has made Derek ill-prepared to handle a pack. Particularly a pack of teenagers.”

“But if you’ve been given that training, you can pass it on to him, no?” Noah pressed, needing to sound out where Peter fit in and how he could help…or harm.

“I don’t think it would be well received. Derek may understand why I killed Laura but it doesn’t lessen his grief. And I don’t begrudge him his ire.”

“Really?”

Peter glanced away and swallowed. “Derek grieves for his sister, and it’s perhaps convenient for him to forget that I lost my daughter. Laura owed my daughter more than six years in hiding. There are times it’s hard for me not to be…angry at Derek’s grief even if I understand it intellectually.”

Noah nodded, not wanting to press further. “Okay, for now we’ll table the issue of you training Derek to be an alpha.” He wondered if Derek would accept it if Noah was acting as an intermediary of sorts. “You said you didn’t perceive yourself as insane at the time…?”

“Everything I did seemed logical to me. The only thing I ever regretted before I died is biting Scott that night in the woods. I do wish I’d run across Stiles instead.”

Noah glared. “Telling me you wished you mauled my son is in no way a good thing.”

“Even in my insanity, I considered the bite a gift, Sheriff. Stiles would make a magnificent werewolf, so I’ll never see it as anything but a compliment when I say that I wished I’d bitten him instead. But he doesn’t wish to be a wolf.”

“How do you know that?”

“I offered. It was in one of my more lucid moments. I knew I needed more pack members, and Stiles was the strongest of the lot. Clever and resourceful and so strong that I knew I had no chance of securing a pack bond with him if he were unwilling. So I asked him, and he declined.”

“And you left it at that?”

“Basically.”

“You know I’ll get the whole story out of my son, correct?”

“Of that, I have no doubt.”

“All right. Moving on.” Noah sighed. “You said that, at the time, your actions seemed reasonable to you. Why do you now think you were insane?

“Because after I was resurrected, I didn’t even understand some of my actions. I had never considered that there might be some actual physical damage that hadn’t healed. Or perhaps it was that the alpha power without a pack made me crazed. Whatever it was, when I woke healed, I was…different. My thoughts are clear again.”

“And how do you feel about the Argents now?”

“Oh, I wish their line was wiped off the face of the Earth, but I also recognize that there are innocents amongst them and that nothing good can come from waging a bloody war with hunters. As long as dear Kate and Gerard are dealt with and they leave us alone, I’m satisfied. I do believe your son has the right of things in that it’s time to use the legal system against the rogue hunters. After all, they don’t seem to think the law applies to them.”

Noah pressed his lips into a thin line, biting back what he wanted to say about Peter talking about Stiles. “So we come back to you and the pack. Where do you fit in?”

“Wherever Derek will let me. Though…” He looked away, peering out the window as if the dark parking lot was the most fascinating thing in the world. “I didn’t know some of our old pack was in Sweetland. I hadn’t tried to find them because I’d assumed they’d abandoned me as thoroughly as Laura did.”

Noah could easily hear the sting of betrayal and the hurt Peter struggled with.

“I may reach out if the alpha is amenable.” He looked back to meet Noah’s gaze. “Please ask Lucas for me, will you?”

“Of course. But if you’re going to be around, we’ve got to figure things out, so I’d like a way to contact you and to know where you’re staying.”

“I’d planned to stay with my nephew, but he hasn’t shed his affinity for hair shirts as yet.”

“Meaning?”

“He’s been living either in the shell of our burned out home or in this abandoned subway car.”

Noah felt a nauseating horror. “Well, that’s going to stop.”

“I appreciate your intervention on that matter. That said, if you’re determined to mold those children into a pack, I rather think I’d be out of place. I’ll need to get keys from a safe deposit box, but I have a condo in town that I can have opened.”

“Is it your intention to cut yourself off from the pack?”

“My intention? No, but it may be inevitable that my presence is too fraught with tension. And, ultimately, it’s up to Derek.”

“Just keep in touch—with both of us. Let’s see how things evolve in the coming days.”

Peter inclined his head in what Noah hoped was agreement.


 

Chapter Five

Noah entered the station, fielding questions about Stiles from his deputies. Stephanie was out in the field still coordinating with the SWAT team to chase down Gerard’s men, not to mention Gerard himself. Lucas was also nowhere around.

Tara shot him an apprehensive look when he approached. “How’s Stiles?”

“In the hospital at least until tomorrow.”

“Bad?”

“Mostly bruises and cracked ribs, but one of his broken ribs is a worry. And with three broken ribs, he’s not breathing well.”

Tara whistled lowly. “If we find Gerard Argent, I’m gonna have a hard time not kicking his ass.”

Noah silently agreed, except he planned to put a wolfsbane-laced bullet right between Gerard’s eyes. He added “get wolfsbane bullets” to his ever-growing to-do list.

“Am I looking the other way while you talk to the two Argents in holding?” she asked tentatively.

“No. I’d never ask that of you. If I want to talk to Argent, I’ll do it with Sheriff Morris around so that it’s aboveboard.”

“Thank you, sir. I appreciate that you’d never ask me to compromise myself that way. Though, in this case, I’d do it.”

“We don’t need people crossing any more lines, Tara,” he assured. “Just keep doing the good job you always do.”

“Yes, sir.”

“I’m actually here to see Scott and probably spring him so he can go home.”

“His mother arrived. I wasn’t sure what to do with either of them, so they’re together in your office.”

Noah sighed. He certainly needed to talk to Melissa, but he hadn’t planned to do it right now and not with Scott present. As soon as he opened his door, he found them both on their feet, and it looked like Melissa was holding Scott back.

“You have to let Allison go,” Scott insisted.

Noah shot Scott an unimpressed look but ignored the remark as he rounded his desk and took a seat. “Sit down,” he ordered.

Scott looked mulish, but Melissa managed to get Scott into his seat.

“Noah,” Mel began.

He held up a hand. “I’d like to hear in Scott’s words what happened tonight. Last time I saw you, Scott, you were headed out with the Lahey kid to look for Stiles. Tell me about the night from there.”

Scott opened and closed his mouth several times and then flailed through an explanation about getting lost in the warehouse district and the Argents coming to find him because they’re good people and couldn’t have done anything wrong. And why was their house being searched?

“You know I don’t believe any of that, right?”

Scott blinked at him. “It’s the truth.”

“It really isn’t, Scott.”

“You know,” Melissa said softly.

“I do now, yes. When did you find out, Mel?”

She looked away. “The night here at the station.”

“And why didn’t you tell me?” It had to be a shitty time to find out her son was a werewolf, but how was that an excuse to keep this from him?

She met his gaze. “I was scared, Noah. For myself and for my son.”

“And that’s one of the things I’m having a problem with through all this. Everyone was busy covering their own ass and pursuing their own agenda, and my kid got caught in the crossfire. But as much as I’d love to just care about that, I don’t have the luxury. I’m the sheriff of this county and a responsible adult. So I have to set my personal feelings about what happened to Stiles aside—as much as I humanly can—and focus on the whole picture.”

Mel looked tense and worried. “What happened to Stiles?”

“I told you he’s fine, Mom. Chris said he saw Stiles leaving the Argent place with Erica and Boyd.”

Mel’s head whipped around so fast that Noah was surprised she didn’t sprain something. “You didn’t say anything about Erica and Boyd, and you certainly didn’t say the three of them were at the Argent house! Dammit, Scott!”

“He’s fine,” Scott insisted. “Mr. Argent said so.”

“He’s not fine,” Noah snapped. “He’s in the hospital for at least the night and they’ll only let him go if he’s breathing better.”

“What happened, Noah?”

“Gerard beat the shit out of my son as a message to you, Scott. He broke three of his ribs, and gave him so many minor injuries that I can’t count them.” Scott looked skeptical, and Noah was instantly done with Scott not believing anyone who wasn’t Chris Argent. They’d barely started talking, but he could see how irrational Scott was being.

Noah sent a text to Tara, asking her to come in and show Scott the evidentiary photos.

It was only a matter of a few seconds before Tara brought in the digital camera used at the crime scene. “They’ve already been uploaded, but I haven’t secured the memory card yet. Figure better to just look at them here rather than access the case file right now.”

He nodded and she stepped between Scott and Melissa and began going through the photos. Noah didn’t need to see them again—it would do nothing to help him hold on to his temper.

“Oh my god, Stiles baby, look what that man did to you.” Mel sounded like she was near tears. She looked up at Noah. “That one fracture on the right. Is it displaced?”

“Not now, but the doctor says it’s a near thing.”

Scott looked pale as he sat down in his seat, and Tara quietly slipped back out of the office. “Chris said he was fine.”

“And how would Chris know?” Noah gritted out.

Scott’s gaze snapped up to meet Noah’s. “What do you mean?”

“He walked into the torture basement he allowed his father to set up and found three teenagers who had been abducted by members of his own family. Stiles had already figured out how to get them all loose. All Chris did was not get in their way when they left.”

“But…that’s good, right?”

“No, Scott,” Melissa said softly, “it’s not good. It’s not as bad as it could be in the sense that he didn’t try to keep them there and cover it all up, but he didn’t help. He didn’t call the police or an ambulance. And if Stiles had taken one more hit to that rib low on the right, he could have died, bled out from a liver puncture. So, no, it’s not particularly noble that Chris didn’t get in their way. He should have done more. Because no matter what, those were three scared kids.”

“You don’t understand, Mom.”

“I think it’s you who doesn’t understand, Scott,” Noah interjected. “You need to stop defending the Argents. Chris probably won’t face any legal repercussions, though it’s debatable because of the damn armory the department seized from his house. Including weapons that aren’t legal for even a weapons dealer to own. And even if he didn’t participate in what Gerard did in the basement, it’s still Chris’ house!”

“They didn’t have a choice!”

“He’s an adult. He had a choice,” Noah snapped. “As for Allison—”

“She didn’t do anything.”

“Hunting her sixteen-year-old classmates down in the woods and shooting them full of arrows is nothing? Helping her grandfather string them up in the basement and hook them up to generators so they’re getting too much electrical current to shift and free themselves is nothing?”

“She was upset about her mom…”

“Scott Andrew McCall!” Melissa sound horrified and a bit enraged. “What in the world is wrong with you? I don’t care what happened to her mother, that doesn’t give her a license to torture people!”

“Werewolves heal. Boyd and Erica are okay—”

“That’s not the point. Oh my god.” Mel buried her face in her hands. “What has happened to you?”

Scott looked to Noah. “It’s not like they can tell anyone that though, right? Allison can’t get in trouble when there’s no evidence.”

“Scott!” Mel was staring at her son like she didn’t even know him. Noah could relate to the feeling.

“There’s no evidence of the arrows or the electrical torture she carried out on Erica and Boyd. There’s no evidence of the ring daggers she repeatedly stabbed into Isaac. That’s all true,” Noah said dryly. “We can’t charge her with attempted murder and assault even though I would dearly love to.”

“Allison isn’t like that! She was just upset.”

“Right. Your justification for Allison trying to murder three of her classmates is that she was sad about her mom and she blamed Derek for her death.”

“Well, it was kind of Derek’s fault.”

“No, it wasn’t,” Noah snapped out so sharply that Scott jerked. “Derek was saving your life after Victoria Argent tried to murder you, and Victoria was bitten in the confusion. You know that. You chose not to share it with Allison.”

“I didn’t want her to think poorly of her mom,” Scott said weakly.

Mel looked appalled. “Scott,” she breathed, “what did you do?”

“She has every reason to think poorly of her mom.” Noah forced himself not to yell. “Because her mom had such deeply entrenched bigotry against people like you that she’d rather die than stay with her family and live as a werewolf. If I were Allison, I’d be furious at my mother for making such a selfish choice.”

“You don’t understand.”

“Scott, almost everyone understands except you. You seem to think Allison’s bloody, murderous rampage was justified. But it’s not. No matter the reason. Because, by your logic, I can go into holding and shoot your girlfriend for what happened to my son at the hands of her grandfather.”

“That’s not… No! That’s not the same.”

“It’s exactly the same, Scott,” Melissa said, sounding more than a little weary and lost. “Where did this hypocrisy come from? Why are you so obsessed with that girl?”

“I love her, Mom.” Scott’s tone was pleading.

“You love a killer? How comforting. It’s a mother’s dream.”

“She’s not—”

“She is!” Melissa yelled. “She sounds like a psychopath. She tried to kill kids younger than you. I know the Reyes girl is one of the youngest in your year and Allison is a year older than you. She’s almost a legal adult, and I don’t care how sad she was about her mom, she doesn’t get to torture people! And you not telling her the truth… Where the hell did I go wrong with you?”

Scott bristled. “Mom, you don’t get it.”

“You’re damn right I don’t!”

“Is Allison your anchor?” Noah interrupted.

Scott blinked a few times. “Yeah. She said in the car that she needs time and we can’t be together right now, but I can wait for her.”

“Scott,” Noah said carefully, “there’s concern that you’re becoming an omega. That your stability as a wolf is dependent upon your anchor. It’s why you’re so fixated on her despite all the evidence that she’s not in a good place, that what she did is wrong. It’s why you defend her even against the indefensible, because you have no pack ties to stabilize you when your anchor has betrayed you.”

“What does that mean, Noah?” Mel whispered.

“According to a source from another pack, Scott could become increasingly unstable and even become more, um, animal than human.” He did not want to say feral. “Which is very dangerous, Mel.”

“That wouldn’t happen to me.” Scott’s confidence was appalling considering everything that had happened.

“Is that right?”

Melissa stared at Scott, obviously seeing that Scott was slipping down the slope already. “How do we fix it?”

“He needs to be in a pack.”

“Then you’ll join Derek’s pack,” Melissa said emphatically.

“Derek is not my alpha,” Scott nearly yelled.

“No, he’s not, and I don’t think he can be,” Noah said quickly. “But tell me this, Scott, what has Derek Hale done to you that’s so awful?”

Scott proceeded to unload a mountain of garbage, and the core of it was that Derek had killed Peter, preventing Scott from doing it himself and thereby becoming human again.

Noah rubbed his hand over his face again, wondering how Scott could be so damn clueless not to mention the raging hypocrisy. “I know next to nothing about werewolves, Scott, but even I know that sounds stupid. But if it were true, you’d murder a man to go back to being human?”

“He’s not a man,” Scott snapped.

“Yeah, he is. Peter Hale is perhaps one of the biggest victims of the Argent family. A man who lost his wife and little girl in a fire set by a family of serial killers. Then he lost his whole pack while he suffered in agony for six years. He wasn’t in a true coma. He was aware. And, yes, he was deranged and hurt people, including you, but he’s not actually culpable for his actions.”

“You’re excusing him?” Scott yelled indignantly.

“The law would excuse him, Scott. If we could run this sort of crap through conventional legal channels, he’d easily qualify for diminished capacity if not outright not guilty by reason of insanity. It’s not an excuse, it’s a damn reason. But you, a teenager who has always been morally upright as far as I know, were prepared to murder someone on the remote chance that it might reverse a condition that had cured your asthma and made you a star lacrosse player?”

“But Allison’s family would accept me if I wasn’t a werewolf,” Scott said imploringly.

Noah shook his head. Scott was already deeply irrational. He met Mel’s horrified gaze.

“We have to get him into Derek’s pack, Noah. He can’t go on like this.”

“I can’t ask Derek to do that. Not after what Scott did to him tonight. I’ve got it on very good authority that the stunt Scott pulled with Gerard is, for a werewolf, on par with rape.”

“What in the world happened?” Mel asked, sounding more than a little bewildered.

Scott himself ran through the events of the evening, getting upset when Mel just continued to look appalled. “Don’t you see? Gerard was threatening you, Mom. I had to do something.”

“You could have asked, Scotty,” she said softly. “You could have, should have, obtained Derek’s permission. But what’s done is done, and I can see why Derek wouldn’t want you anywhere near his pack. I wouldn’t either in his shoes.” She looked back to Noah. “I need help figuring out what to do but, right now, I’m taking him home. The story from our end is that Scott was looking for Stiles in the warehouse district when the two Argents found him because they were worried about how Gerard was oddly fixated on Scott. Scott doesn’t know why Gerard was fixated on him or what he wanted because he never saw Gerard. And that’s the end of it.”

“All right, Mel. I’ll be in touch when I’ve made some calls.”

“I don’t need a pack,” Scott insisted.

“Get up, Scott. We’re going home and you are so grounded, young man. You are not going to see that girl, and you are going to do nothing but your homework.”

“Mom! You can’t keep me from Allison if she wants to see me.”

“It seems like she already said she doesn’t want to see you. Now, get up! We’re going home. I need some sleep before we talk again because, right now, I don’t know what to say to get anything through your stubborn skull.”

Mel herded Scott toward the door, ignoring his complaints. She paused at the door and looked back at Noah. “I’m sorry I didn’t tell you myself. I let myself be… Actually, it doesn’t matter why. I should have told you.”

He just nodded, doubting they’d ever be as close again because he fundamentally didn’t feel like he could trust her. Also, Noah wondered if Scott was going to have to leave Beacon Hills, and he wasn’t sure if Mel would stay if her son was gone.

– – – –

Noah made it back to the hospital at three in the morning, carrying a duffle with enough clothes for everyone and a bag of sandwiches. Between his own clothes for Derek and Boyd, and Stiles’ clothes for Erica and Isaac, they had everyone covered.

He’d somewhat reluctantly reached out to the Reyes and Boyd families. Now that he was in the know about werewolves, he’d been carefully vague about the details. He’d said that Erica and Boyd were witnesses to something and had given a statement to the police before deciding to keep an injured classmate company at the hospital. The Reyes family had asked a few questions, but had seemed content to let it go, while Boyd’s grandmother had just made some “hmm” noises and then hung up. It was disheartening to say the least.

Derek had definitely sought out loners, kids who needed family support because they weren’t getting it at home. Noah felt some stirring of judgment about that, but he tried to remind himself that he didn’t really understand the impulses of a werewolf and why Derek had made his decisions. He supposed the up side was that at least it was a more constructive approach to dealing with all that “alpha power” than ambushing people in the woods the way crazy coma-Peter had.

Although, he thought Derek biting Jackson was just fucking stupid. It sounded like that was more Jackson’s fault that Derek’s, however. Noah made another entry on his ever-growing mental to-do list to deal with the fallout from Jackson’s “miraculous” resurrection. He’d have to get a statement from Jackson and then do something about getting that stupid restraining order lifted.

When he got to the fourth floor, Deputy Mills was alert and attentive, having relieved Parrish an hour before. Noah nodded to him then slipped into the room to find Derek between the door and a room full of sleeping teens.

Noah dug around in the duffle and pulled out the first set of clothes—sweats and a T-shirt—along with a toothbrush. He gestured toward the bathroom and whispered. “I’ll take guard duty for a while. Go shower.”

Derek looked like he was going to protest, though Noah had no idea what was objectionable about being clean. “Go. Nothing is going to happen, and we don’t need anyone looking too closely at you or Isaac in the light of day. There’s dried blood on both of you.”

Derek’s shoulders slumped, and he suddenly looked painfully young and tired. “Stiles woke an hour ago. I took the pain directly from that break on the right side.” He grimaced. “It’s bad. He’s still getting some drugs to cover the rest of his injuries, but we’ll keep taking the pain from his ribs until he can breathe easily.”

“Thank you, Derek. I mean that with all sincerity.”

“It’s the least I can do.”

“It seems like a lot to me. Now go get in the shower.”

When the bathroom door closed behind Derek, Noah realized Erica was awake. She was curled up on the bed watching him. He moved closer and sat in the bedside recliner. “Hey. You okay?”

“You really don’t care about what we are?”

“Teenagers? I’m quite experienced with those. I’ve got a Stiles after all.”

Her lips twitched, and she played with a loose thread on the edge of the blanket. “You’re all right, Mr. S. Stiles talks about you like you’re somewhere between a superhero and a titan. But I think you’re just a good dad.”

Noah swallowed. “I haven’t always been a great dad, but I love my kid more than anything in this world.”

“He’s a good person even if he’s a snarky little shit.” She grinned and it was full of mischief. “I guess he takes after you.”

“Ha ha. Go to sleep, young lady.”

Her fingers curled into the blanket, making a fist. “I thought maybe I could shower when Derek is done. Did you…?”

“I brought you something. I figured Stiles’ clothes would be preferable to hospital gowns and scrubs.”

“Yeah, plus they smell like him.”

Noah arched a brow. “Is that important?”

“Scent is important to us, and Stiles is pack. It’s calming to be surrounded the scent of the pack. I’m probably going to steal his pillowcases on the regular, but don’t tell him, okay?”

“Sure thing. We’ll keep it between us.” He filed the tidbit about scent away as he patted the back of her hand. He pulled out a pile of clothes and basic toiletries, setting them on her bed before he went to sit by Stiles. He absently noted when she darted into the bathroom as soon Derek came out.

With absolutely no strain whatsoever, Derek grabbed the recliner on the opposite side of Stiles’ bed and lifted it over the bed to set it closer to Noah. “Erica mentioned scent?”

Noah had no idea where that was going. “Yeah. It’ll take me a bit to catch up on all this new stuff.”

Derek hesitated. “You smell like Peter and a wolf I’m not familiar with.”

“Ah.” So smell was very sensitive. “A friend hooked me up with a wolf from another town to try to help me understand the situation here. And then Peter dropped by the diner, and we had a discussion.”

“He didn’t threaten or hurt you, right?”

Noah watched Derek closely for several seconds, wondering about all the baggage Derek was carrying around. “No, Peter was fine. I don’t think he knows where he fits, and I doubt you do either. He’s going to keep in touch but try to stay out of your way for a while until you sort out how you feel.”

“How I feel,” Derek repeated tonelessly.

“You’ve been through a lot, and you need to give yourself some space.”

Derek looked away. “I’m not sure the betas will ever really trust him.”

“Well, from what I’ve heard, this group doesn’t even know him. Except maybe for Stiles. So if they can’t trust him, the question would be why?”

Derek just stared at his hands.

“Take some time, Derek, to figure out what you want. I’m going to help. We’re going to help because Stiles is a force of nature when he decides something. It’s all going to work out.”

Derek looked at Noah briefly then his gaze flicked to Stiles. “Yeah, maybe it will.”

– – – –

Noah startled awake, feeling Stiles’ hand tighten painfully around Noah’s. He met Stiles’ pain-filled gaze.

“God, that hurts,” Stiles croaked.

Before Noah could react, Derek was there, hand hovering over Stiles’ ribs. “On skin is better.”

“Just do it,” Stiles said on a gasp, obviously trying to breathe around the pain.

Derek pushed up Stiles’ shirt enough to get to the near-black bruising, which was looking worse as time passed. He barely touched Stiles before black lines were racing up his arm. It was still so astonishing that, even though he’d seen it before, it jarred Noah with the reminder of how much the world had suddenly changed.

“Better.” Stiles eyes fluttered shut. “Thanks.” The grip on Noah’s hand loosened.

“I shouldn’t take all the pain,” Derek said softly.

“I know, Der. ‘s okay.”

“Should the pain returning have hit him that abruptly?” Noah asked Derek.

“He slept through the pain drain wearing off, but they’re supposed to be keeping him on a low dose of morphine.” He gestured to the IV bag. “It’s out.”

Noah rubbed his hand over his face. “Right. I’ll be back.”

“Sor‑”

“Not your fault, Derek,” Noah cut him off. “Just keep an eye on him, and I’ll be back.”

It was the matter of a couple conversations to find out that someone had called in sick and so the ward was short staffed. Stiles had gotten missed in the chaos because only one nurse was authorized to enter the room. The shift supervisor promised to be along shortly to fix Stiles’ IV, and Noah got her added to the access list.

He returned to the room and found Derek and Stiles whispering softly. All the others still seemed to be asleep. The two stopped talking and watched Noah, but it didn’t seem like they were trying to hide anything. Derek looked confused. It seemed like confused and grumpy were his default settings.

Stiles smiled faintly. “Hey, Dad.”

Noah sat next to Stiles’ bed again and took his hand. “Hey, kid.” He tried to smile, but it probably didn’t come off very well. “You scared the hell out of me.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be sorry that a megalomaniac hurt you.”

Derek drifted away, moving back to the recliner next to the cot Lahey was passed out on, giving them the illusion of privacy.

“But be sorry that I didn’t tell you I knew he was a megalomaniac?”

“Yeah, that.” He reached out and rubbed over Stiles’ head, getting a faint pleased sound. It had always relaxed Stiles when he was a kid. “I wish… I’m sorry you didn’t feel like you could tell me.” Noah felt like he’d failed in some way that Stiles felt he had to keep so much a secret.

Stiles eyes filled with tears, but he quickly blinked them away. “I just didn’t want anything to happen to you.”

“Ah, hell, kiddo, you think I don’t feel the same way?”

“I’m sorry.” Stiles looked so tired and beat down.

“We’ll talk it out and then hug it out. It’ll all be fine, I promise.”

“Why does it always make sense at the time, but then you can’t figure out what the hell you were thinking?”

“Hmm.” He continued stroking Stiles head, willing to let him sleep if he needed it or talk as much as he wanted. “Tell me about when it stopped seeming like a good idea.”

“Erica and Boyd.”

“When you were all in the basement?” The pictures of the implements would never not haunt him.

“Yeah. They were so scared. I mean, they ran from Derek, but it wasn’t Derek they didn’t want, you know?” he whispered, eyes closed, seemingly just free associating. “Derek is like a work in progress, but he means well, and I think we all know that. Well, not Scott, but he’s kind of stubborn. I actually never knew he was that stubborn.”

“Erica and Boyd were scared,” Noah gently redirected Stiles back on topic.

Stiles frowned for a second but then his expression relaxed. “Right. They were running because they didn’t sign up for hunters, you know? They didn’t sign up to be hunted like animals. They didn’t want to be scared to walk down the street—they just wanted to be safe.” Stiles opened his eyes, looking more than a little bleary. “Shouldn’t they be able to feel safe?”

“Of course. You all deserve to feel safe.”

“Right. Exactly my thought.” His eyes drifted shut again. “Hunters seem to make all the rules, Dad, and it’s not fair. They make it so werewolves are scared and think they can’t ask for help, but I was lying there on the floor, looking at them and I wondered why we had to let them get away with it. They’re using our fear against us.”

“You a werewolf now, kid?” Noah said lightly.

“Would it matter?” Stiles was now staring at him more intently.

“Of course not, Stiles. Now, if you told me you were a vampire, we might have to have an adjustment phase where you ease me into it.”

The eyes fluttered shut again. “I know. You hate vampires.”

“They’re creepy.”

“Right. No vampires. Check. I’ll make sure I’m not a vampire.” His brow furrowed. “But I think I might be magic.”

“I’m sure you are.”

“You’re humoring me.”

“No, you’re your mother’s son, so hearing that you might be magical seems right.”

Stiles’ hand clenched around Noah’s again, and he sniffled. “I miss her.”

“Yeah, me too.” Every damn day. Noah wiped one escaped tear off Stiles’ cheekbone. “You serious about adopting a wolf pack?”

“Did I say that?”

“Yeah, you did.”

“Oh. Well, I planned to ease you into the idea.”

“Uh huh.”

“Is it okay?”

“Yeah, kid, it’s okay.”

“Good. Cause we’re going to be a family.”

Noah leaned forward and pressed a kiss to Stiles’ forehead. “Go to sleep, Little Mischief, your family will be here when you wake up.”


 

Chapter Six

Even with werewolf pain drain and the pain killers the hospital had given him before discharge, Stiles was really feeling it by the time Derek helped him onto the couch.

“You need me to…” Derek waved in the general direction of Stiles’ ribs, looking uncomfortable.

Stiles grunted an affirmative and sighed in relief when Derek’s hand slid under his shirt and the pain suddenly faded. He didn’t even care about all the other aches and pains, it was just such a relief to be able to breathe without feeling like he was breathing into broken glass or something.

He opened his eyes and realized the whole pack were standing around looking awkward. “God, you guys, just get comfortable. Sit, sprawl, grab a Coke. Whatever shakes your tree.”

Erica and Boyd immediately took seats on the couch, being careful when they sat down to keep from jarring Stiles too much.

Isaac shifted from foot to foot. “Are we really staying here?”

Stiles peered up at him. He was pretty sure he remembered everything from last night, but things were kind of hazy in places and fragmented. He wasn’t even sure if some of the memories were actual memories or just dreams.

“If you want,” Stiles said. “Until we figure out a pack house or something. We have a full basement, and it’d be pretty easy to set up beds down there. There’s the guest bedroom for Derek. We can make it work. Band together, strength in numbers, and all that jazz.” He made some half-hearted jazz hands.

He and his dad had talked some more this morning about how serious Stiles was about moving in the whole pack. Stiles was very serious because he was so over this bullshit—they needed to be in sync. He figured solidarity was key. He eyed Isaac. “I’m not trying to make anyone do anything, but I just don’t think what we’ve been so far doing has worked very well.”

“And you think getting your dad involved was the right choice?” There was something a little confrontational in Isaac’s tone, but he mostly seemed insecure. Derek growled a little, and Isaac flinched.

“Okay, everyone chill.” Stiles touched the back of Derek’s leg without thinking about why he did it, but Derek seemed to calm down even though they’d never been really touchy with each other—outside of life and death or intimidation circumstances anyway.

Before Stiles could reply, his dad returned from his office where he’d been checking in with the station. “Yes, it was the right choice.” His dad sprawled in the recliner. “Sit down, Isaac. You look like you’re about to rabbit.”

Isaac decided to perch on the arm of the couch next to Boyd, which was farthest away from Stiles’ dad, leaving Derek the other armchair.

His father rubbed his hands over his face, looking more than a little tired. “You kids have all dealt with too much on your own and, yes, I’m including you in that Derek. It’s going to take time to figure this out, but we can’t do that if everyone keeps trying to leave.

“My source says building pack bonds is important, yes?” His dad looked to Derek, getting nothing but a nod. “And Stiles tells me you guys haven’t really got a home base.” Another even more reluctant nod. “Well, then, it seems obvious that building your connection to each other in a safe space is important. So, with your alpha’s permission, everyone will stay here, and Derek and I will talk about next steps at another time.”

Derek was silent for a long time, but nodded. “I agreed to stay at least for a couple weeks to help with Stiles’ pain.”

Stiles huffed. “And I appreciate that, but secondary issue, dude. Pain medication is a thing. I don’t want you guys here as a morphine substitute. We need to fix this shit before it destroys all of us and probably takes part of the town along for the ride.”

“Don’t call me ‘dude,’” Derek said softly, and it sounded more rote than real protest.

“Language,” his dad chastised him, though he figured his dad had given it up as a lost cause. “But Stiles is right. This isn’t just about his injuries—but I don’t want to downplay how grateful I am that you all can control his pain to such a degree that he won’t become addicted to pain pills and he’ll be able to breathe well enough to keep from getting pneumonia.”

“We want to help,” Erica said earnestly.

“Stiles didn’t give up on us,” Boyd added.

Stiles felt a little twinge of guilt because he had more than given up on most of Derek’s pack because he’d been so focused on Scott. “So let’s figure what we need and make a shopping list.”

“I’ve got plenty of money,” Derek quickly assured Noah.

His dad smiled faintly. “I leave it to your discretion, Derek. Do what you need to do to take care of your pack. Stiles knows how far you can push changes around here. Actually, you might be reining him in.”

“Thanks, Dad,” Stiles said earnestly.

“Ultimately, what happens with the pack is up to Derek,” his dad added, “but my preference is that you all stay in the house today and opt for delivery for whatever you need. We’re still trying to track down Gerard and his hunter buddies. Deputies will be coming by at regular intervals to make sure everything is secure.” He pinned Stiles with a look. “I don’t say this lightly, Son, but you know where I keep my rifles, and I know you worked out where the key is. If you need to protect yourself, don’t hesitate.” He gave everyone a quick, reassuring look. “I don’t think they’re going to come after you here, but I have to concede that this isn’t my area of expertise.”

“You really let Stiles handle a gun?” Erica asked, sounding impressed.

Stiles gave a little huff of indignation.

“Stiles is a crack shot,” his dad answered immediately. “He’s not fond of using guns, but I’ve made sure he knows how.” He turned his attention to Derek. “Is that okay?”

Stiles was kind of impressed at how quickly his dad had adapted to the whole alpha thing. Because there were two opposing alpha forces going on. Derek was the alpha of the pack, but Noah Stilinski was effectively the alpha of their house—not to mention the town. It could have been a cluster fuck, but so far it wasn’t. He really needed to get some time alone to talk to his father. Aside from being afraid for his dad’s safety, he’d been thinking all along that his dad couldn’t handle this, but that certainly didn’t seem to be the case. He felt like he owed his old man an apology for underestimating him.

“We’ll stay here, Sheriff,” Derek assured.

“Noah,” his dad corrected.

“Noah.” Derek cleared his throat. “We’ll stay here and figure out what we need to do.”

“Have you heard from Scott, Dad?”

“Not since last night, but let’s talk about that later.”

Derek tensed. “You need to see Scott?”

“Oh yeah,” Stiles said fervently. “I seriously need to give him a piece of my mind. I’d say I want to know what the fuck his was thinking, but I’m pretty sure he wasn’t thinking, so venting my spleen is the only consolation I have in this situation.”

“You really don’t think it was a good idea? Ends justify the means and all?” Derek asked hesitantly. “It did stop Gerard, probably killed him.”

“Hell no, I don’t think it was okay. Because there was no fucking reason not to get your permission. If he was willing to tell Deaton, he had no reason not to tell you.”

“I’d give you hell about your language, but I happen to think it’s appropriate in this instance,” his father said. “That was not an acceptable plan for Scott to implement without your permission, Derek. And, really, it was completely unnecessary anyway, which he might have figured out if he’d talked to anyone else.”

Stiles cocked his head, trying to see what his father was seeing. “Oh?”

“If Deaton and Scott had figured out that Gerard was dying and wanted to get Derek to give him the bite, why didn’t they just tell Chris that? Supposedly Argent the younger follows this code, right?”

Derek opened his mouth and then snapped it shut.

“Yeah,” Stiles agreed, “Scott should have given Chris the opportunity to clean up his own mess.”

Derek shot him a look but didn’t say anything.

Stiles continued on. “And he sure as hell should have told Allison the truth about what happened the night her mom was bit. Letting Derek shoulder the blame was bullshit.”

His dad shot him a look. “I’m giving you a pass on all the swearing because you’re hurt, and I figure your filter is at an all-time low, but I have my limits.”

“Message received and understood, Pops.”

“Right.” His father shook his head. “But Stiles is absolutely right. Scott caused a lot of problems for you guys because he was trying to protect Allison and even more problems by not getting your permission for his dumb-ass plan.”

“Language,” Stiles chided with a grin, getting a huff of laughter from his dad.

“The point is that Scott isn’t showing the maturity necessary to be trusted with big decisions right now.”

Stiles frowned. “What does that mean?”

“Just a problem I’m working on, kiddo, don’t worry about it yet.”

“Well, that’s not ominous.”

Derek looked at Noah and softly said, “He’s said no to being in my pack repeatedly, but I’ll give him one more shot if you ask me to.”

That broke Stiles’ heart a little bit.

“I’m not going to ask you that, Derek,” his father quickly replied. “And I don’t think it would be good for you.”

Derek nodded, looking about as grumpy as ever, but Stiles thought he could see the relief. As much as Stiles would have loved for everyone to wind up in the same pack and have all these issues get sorted out, the shit Scott had pulled had serious consequences. The fact that Scott was too much of a moron to appreciate those consequences didn’t lessen their impact on anyone else.

Sometimes, you were forgiven for the stupid shit you pull when you were a kid and it didn’t follow you through your whole life but, other times, your dumb-ass decisions haunted you forever. The best he could hope for was that Scott’s life wouldn’t be ruined by his choices of the last few weeks. As mad as Stiles was at Scott—and he was plenty mad—he hated the idea of Scott ending up an omega or, worse, going feral and having to be killed. The thought made something unpleasant roil in his stomach.

Most of the pack looked at him, but no one said anything.

“I’ll only be at the station for a bit, but if you need me to pick up anything on the way home, text me, okay?”

“Sure, Dad.”

His father stopped next to him and rubbed his hand over Stiles’ hair, and then he dropped a kiss on the top of his head. He’d normally wave away that kind of touchy-feely stuff in front of others but, right now, it just felt good. His dad squeezed Derek’s shoulder, and then he was gone.

As soon as the front door was closed and locked, Derek asked, “You okay?”

“Why do you ask?”

“Chemosignals. You smelled sad.”

“Just me hoping that Scott hasn’t irrevocably fucked up his life.” When Derek tensed, Stiles shook his head. “Scott isn’t actually your responsibility, and it’s not your fault, so don’t take on, okay? I can support you guys and still feel bad for Scott even while I want to kick his ass. All of these things can co-exist in the wild, elusive Stiles.”

Derek snorted. “Right. You’re multifaceted.”

“Hey! I have facets. Many of them in fact! I’m like a damn diamond!”

“Sparkly?” Erica piped up.

He threw a throw pillow at her.

– – – –

Noah entered the station, one of the rare times he wasn’t in uniform. Most of the people from Sweetland were gone, though he could see Sheriff Morris at his desk through the open door to his office. There were two people from Sweetland and two from Yuba City still working with the Beacon Hills deputies to try to catch more of Argent’s men. They’d arrested two so far, but there were at least two more out there. And Gerard, of course.

“How’s Stiles?” Tara asked immediately.

“He’s doing okay. Or as well as he can be. Some of his friends are looking after him. I wouldn’t be surprised if he tried to talk them into a Call of Duty marathon, but he’ll quickly discover how still he isn’t when he’s playing video games.”

She smiled faintly. “It was hard…seeing him like that.”

Noah rubbed the back of his neck, reliving several rough moments from last night. “Yeah. One of the hardest moments of my life.”

She squeezed his arm. “So what did you need?”

“I told Sheriff Morris I’d be stopping by. Need to sort out when I’m taking control of my station again.”

“I dunno. She could stay a bit,” Tara said with a grin. “She doesn’t put up with any crap from Curtis.”

“Hey! I don’t put up with any crap from Curtis.”

“You keep telling yourself that, but he’s worn you down. She’s not inured yet. Besides, I think he’s scared to death of her.”

“Really?” Curtis was easily double Stephanie’s size and nothing much seemed to affect him.

“Oh yeah. Thought he was going to piss himself when she was lecturing him about the state of his uniform.”

Noah chuckled. “Well, maybe I’ll ask for some pointers or get her to give him an extra lecture before she leaves.” Curtis could be a good deputy, but he was a damn slob. Drove Noah absolutely crazy.

He talked to Tara for a minute more and then checked in with his other deputies. Parrish was in even though it was supposed to be his day off. He defended his decision to pull an extra shift, and Noah decided to let it go, appreciating his efforts considering that Parrish was new to the department.

Stephanie was waiting for him with a cup of coffee.

“Thanks.”

She rounded the desk and they both sat in the visitor chairs. He appreciated her attempt to put them on a more equal footing in his own office. It would have been weird to talk to her from across the desk while she was seated in his chair.

She pulled an evidence bag out of a backpack by the chair. “We found Mr. Boyd and Ms. Reyes’ cell phones in one of the cabinets in the basement. We processed them for evidence already, and they can have them back.”

He took the bag and slipped it all into his jacket pocket.

Then Stephanie pulled out a metal speaker-looking thing from her bag and set it on the desk. She flipped a switch. “Now we can really talk.”

“What’s that?”

“Does a couple things. Werewolves can’t hear around it. I use it carefully since it hurts their ears, but my guys are out now, so it’s safe in that regard.” She sipped her coffee. “The other thing it does is distort audio if anyone is trying to use a recording device or has a parabolic mic trained this direction.”

“You think my office is bugged?” he asked incredulously.

“It wasn’t. I had the whole station checked just in case—we did find a couple, and it’s unlikely we’ll ever determine who planted them.”

Noah’s jaw clenched.

“But the parabolic mic is still a possible issue, and we noticed some new hunters in town. It’s becoming more urgent to get Chris Argent out of here so he can go deal with it and get them out of this county. Preferably the whole territory.”

Noah nearly made a fist around the coffee cup, which would have been a painful mess. He set it on the desk until he could be sure his temper was under control. “There’s not much we can charge him on?”

“Maybe, though I do think he’s actually trying to follow the hunter’s code, so I wonder if it serves to bog him down in legal issues that might go nowhere when he needs to be handling the hunters in town.”

Noah frowned, staring at the wall for a long time.

“Look, Noah, I know it doesn’t sit well, and it took me a long time to figure out how to balance my duty as sheriff, my commitment to the law, with this…shadow world that has its own rules. All I can do is use my best judgment and hope it’s enough to protect as many people as possible. What I know for sure is that ethical hunters need to be out there, and I try to smooth the way for them as much as possible because, ultimately, they help with public safety. Same as me helping to protect peaceful werewolves. They’re a better aid to public safety than hunters when it comes to other supernatural threats.”

He sighed. “I feel really out of my depth here.”

“Every cop I know who found out about this has been where you are. I’ll get you in touch with some of the others. We get together when we can and compare notes about what’s going on in our various jurisdictions.”

“That’d be good.” He wasn’t even sure what else to say on the subject. It was like taking a sidestep into the Twilight Zone.

“If you’re okay with releasing Chris, I think we should do that first and then you and I have an informal chat with him to get your questions answered and concerns addressed.”

“Well, I definitely want to talk to him,” Noah said darkly.

“And so I’m going to be there.”

He glared at her a little. “I’m not going to hurt him.”

She shot him a look. “And there’s no question of it being aboveboard if I’m present, so suck it up, Sheriff.”

Snorting in amusement, he saluted her. “Yes, ma’am.”

“The more pressing issue is that we have…detained Gerard Argent.”

He stared. “The general wisdom from our furry contingent is that he’d be dead by now.”

“Well, he’s most assuredly not dead. I’m not even sure what he is. But he’s leaking black goo from nearly every available orifice.”

“Ugh.” Noah shuddered and recoiled at the visual she was painting.

“We caught him when we got those two goons of his last night. They were going to make contact with him, no doubt take him to safety. We arrested them first and then Lucas was able to track him by scent. We didn’t officially arrest him because…”

“Leaking inexplicable black goo just about covers the reason why.” He shuddered.

“We’re going to dial back the manhunt some with the supposition that he made it out of town, but I’m not sure how to proceed.”

“What’s the typical course of action?”

“I can’t say it’s really come up. When the supernatural world breaks the law, either the supernatural beings or hunters deal with it. When hunters break the law, we deal with it in the legal system. I have no idea what to do with a partial werewolf, law-breaking, code-breaking hunter.”

“Can we get some werewolf perspective on the matter?”

“You mean Hale?”

“No,” he said slowly, thinking it through. “I’d rather leave Derek out of it. Once everything is settled, I’ll let him know what happened to Gerard, but he’s been victimized by Gerard enough.”

“He may prefer to deal with Gerard, but I agree that getting another viewpoint is probably a good idea. I’ll ask Lucas to reach out to his alpha for suggestions. If his alpha thinks we should involve Mr. Hale, well then…”

“I’d consider that a reputable source, and then I’ll go talk to Derek,” Noah agreed.

“Noah…” Stephanie sighed. “The only answer may be a quiet execution and then cremate the man.”

Noah winced.

“We can try locking him up, but I think the black goo thing would come under scrutiny, and even if it didn’t, it’d be considered a medical issue and he’d be a prison hospital. And nothing that leaves him alive negates his influence and the resources he can call upon. To the hunter community, he could make out to be a victim rather than the cause of his own problem. He could trigger a war with the supernatural world, and the civilians we’re responsible for will get caught in the crossfire.”

Noah rubbed the back of his head. “I’m not sure I’m the right person to make that call. It feels too personal because I have no problem with him being executed.”

“Well, most werewolves are going to agree with you.” She stared at him for a long time. “All right, because of your personal involvement, and because werewolves aren’t exactly unbiased when it comes to Gerard Argent, I’m going to step in and make the decision once I’ve heard all available options.”

“As much as I’m not okay with this vigilante justice system, I recognize we don’t have much choice, and I’ll support you in whatever you decide,” Noah confirmed.

“If he dies, the story from our end will be that he’s still wanted. The hunters and supernatural community will be left to assume he’s dead from bite rejection. It has to be made clear to the hunters that Gerard sought the bite to cure his cancer. We can’t afford reprisals coming down on this area because one of their more revered hunters is dead.”

Noah sighed. “Which means we need Chris Argent more than ever because who else is going to convince them of that?”

“Unfortunately.” She shot him a sympathetic look. “I wish we could just throw the book at the entire family and be done with them. I’m so sorry, Noah.”

“This is hardly your fault, but I appreciate the sympathy. We’ll get through it.”

“Let me go handle Chris and then we can meet back in here.”

“What about Allison?” he pressed before she could leave.

“Well, I think that needs to be part of our conversation with Chris. If I’m going to recommend that the DA not charge her, I want some assurances from him that her shenanigans are at an end. I’m sure he’s going to try to explain it away as grief and make us think it was understandable, but I’m not buying. She stops hunting and gets her head on straight. And then gets some damn counseling.”

“How in the world does someone get therapy for stuff like this?”

“There are psychologists in the know about this whole thing. Most of them tend to council supernatural creatures or victims of them. I’d say those that are out there think poorly of most hunters, but that doesn’t mean we can’t scare up someone for Allison Argent to talk to about her werewolf woes.”

He snorted, oddly amused for some reason. “I get that she was grieving for her mother, but her reaction was…unacceptable.”

“If she’d gone after Derek alone, considering that Scott hadn’t told her the whole truth, then I’d be more understanding of her position—based on Gerard’s manipulations and the general hunter mindset to kill anything with bigger teeth than them. But going after three teenagers? Kids she sees in school every day that she damn well knew had nothing to do with her mom? That’s completely unacceptable. I’d throw the book at her for the Reyes and Boyd kidnapping if I thought we could get it to stick, and I wouldn’t care what Chris Argent wanted.”

“And you don’t think it would stick?”

“Oh, I think the DA would press charges based on the evidence we have, but I don’t know that it’d hold up in court considering the actual injuries she inflicted can’t be brought up, and everything Gerard did to her would be considered. They’d lay the whole thing at his feet and, after all, she’s just an impressionable little girl.” She said the last in a derisive tone, conveying exactly what she thought of Allison’s likely defense tactic.

“You know… Hmm…” She tapped her lip, looking thoughtful. “I think I’ll arrange for some unofficial community service that she has to serve under me. If that girl is going to be redeemed into a decent human being, I think she needs to get a different view of things. See what hunters do to those who don’t deserve it.”

He half wanted to press and find out what she was talking about, but he also wasn’t really sure he wanted to know yet. He already had way too much to sort out in his mind.

– – – –

Chris Argent entered the office, looking wary, with Stephanie bringing up the rear and locking the door behind them.

“Sheriff Stilinski,” Argent acknowledged. “Sheriff Morris informed me that the DA had decided not to press any charges. So my meeting with you is a courtesy because Sheriff Morris requested it.”

Noah arched a brow at what seemed like blatant posturing. “And you know that we haven’t decided whether or not to charge your daughter, so you can drop the act and sit down or keep going and see where it gets you.”

Argent glared. “She’d never be convicted of anything.”

“That’s debatable since two of the hunters who assisted her in abducting her classmates are in custody and might just roll over on her as a ringleader. But whether she’s convicted or not, a trial is a very real possibility, and something I’d think she wouldn’t want to have hanging over her head and tarnishing her future prospects since she’d be a legal adult by the time anything made it to court. So you can sit down and talk or you can keep on. Because I’m about a second from being so done with your whole family.”

Stephanie cleared her throat but didn’t say anything.

Argent looked angry. “I understand why you’re upset, Sheriff, but I had nothing to do with what happened to your son, and I let him go.”

Noah shot to his feet. “How noble of you, Argent! You’re a damn saint for letting three traumatized teenagers walk out your front door after your father and daughter tortured them. Stiles spent the night in the damn hospital. The ribs your father broke nearly wound up in his damn liver!

“The right thing would have been to call the police. Or at least a damn ambulance. Something as simple as a stumble or a bump into a wall as he walked out of your torture house could have resulted in him bleeding out. Don’t pretend like you did the right thing just because you didn’t hurt him personally!”

Argent’s expression was complicated. “I didn’t know he was injured that badly.”

“Injured enough that he can’t go back to school to finish the year out for risk of typical teenage rowdiness giving him a lacerated liver or a punctured lung!”

Argent swallowed and sank into one of the chairs. “None of this is what I wanted,” he whispered.

Noah was breathing heavily and he took a moment to get himself back under control before re-taking his seat. “I actually believe you. My guess is that you moved here hoping to be out from under your father’s thumb, not knowing you’d moved right into the hotbed of murder your own sister had created.”

Argent stared at him for several long moments. “You know everything, don’t you?”

“You mean about your family’s real line of work?” At Argent’s nod, Noah confirmed. “I do now. You had to know Stiles was going to come clean once this took such a violent turn. I did not know when I called Sheriff Morris and had warrants issued for your family’s arrests.”

“I—” he shook his head. “You know, I keep telling myself that I didn’t know what they were doing. That I didn’t know how much they broke the code. But, deep down, I knew. Not the degree to which they were doing it, but I managed to justify it in my mind somehow.”

“Somehow?” Noah repeated incredulously. “That’s not a mystery. You justified it by allowing yourself to believe that werewolves were truly less than you. That they deserved less compassion. That they aren’t entitled to justice. Because if you saw them as being equal to humans, you never would have been able to justify your family’s behavior.”

Argent seemed to consider that for a long time. “Maybe that’s true. I want to say it isn’t, but I just don’t know any more. Since Stiles told me, I’ve been reeling under the knowledge that my wife was so obsessed with killing Scott, who basically hadn’t done anything, that she didn’t stay after the bigger threat—the kanima. I’m not sure Stiles is wrong when he laid the responsibility for the deaths of all those deputies on Victoria’s shoulders.”

Noah reared back like he’d been slapped. He hadn’t had time to put all that together. Stiles had to have been sitting on that knowledge, the pain of it, for days. It took him a minute to reply. “Your family’s hatred of werewolves is so great that it’s just collateral damage when innocent people die.”

“I don’t want it to be that way.”

“Your code was explained to me.”

“We hunt those who hunt us,” Argent recited.

“But it doesn’t seem like that’s true, now does it?” Noah prodded. “You guys just hunt. Doesn’t matter if they came after you or not because, as I hear it, it’s damn rare for werewolves to actually go after hunters because they’re so terrified of the reprisals—not only against them but against everyone they’ve ever known. Maybe some of you are good, but a lot of you are just in the business of killing.”

Noah leaned forward, keeping eye contact with Argent. “If you really want me to think you’re different, that you’re in it for the right reasons, how about you start protecting those who can’t protect themselves. How about you be more concerned with innocent lives, no matter their species, than werewolf versus human. You’re supposed to be a help—maybe an unknown help, but help nevertheless—to law enforcement. Instead, you’re a damn burden.”

“It’s not like I can change it on my own.”

“You can change a part of it. You can set a better example,” Noah shot back. “You’re in charge now with your father gone. If he’s not already dead from bite rejection, I’m sure he soon will be, and we’ll eventually find the damn body.”

“Technically, Allison would be in charge. The Argents are a matriarchal hunting family.”

“Yeah, well, that’s not going to fly.”

“She was grieving.”

Noah glared. “Do not even go there. By your fucked up logic, I can go kill your daughter for what happened to my son.”

“She had nothing to do with what happened to—” he cut himself off and winced.

“Right. Just like Lahey, Reyes, and Boyd had absolutely nothing to do with what happened to your wife. Stop thinking of them as being different from you! They’re just kids. Just like your daughter. Only they’re mostly younger than her. Reyes by almost two years.”

Argent full-on flinched. “Where do we go from here?”

Noah was really too pissed for this, so he shook his head and indicated for Stephanie to take over.

Stephanie leaned forward. “We’ve had other hunters come into town. We’ve got two of the hunters we know were involved in abducting Stiles in custody, and I’d like to get the other two. But I have nothing on these new hunters other than to keep stopping them and checking their weapons’ permits. I want you to get back out there and take charge. If they’re yours, get them under control. If they’re not, tell them to get out of your territory.”

Argent nodded. “I can do that. If they’re Argent hunters, they would have probably been called by my father to aid him when he slipped away from the warehouse.”

“And if you father calls you for aid?” Stephanie pressed.

“You mean, if your assumption of his death is inaccurate?”

“I’ve never heard of anyone surviving bite rejection,” Stephanie said gravely. “But it’s concerning that he hasn’t been spotted. If he’s some outlier and he did manage to survive, it’s reasonable to assume he’s going to come to other Argents—maybe his son—for aid. And my question remains. What are you going to do?”

“I don’t know,” Argent admitted. “Right now, I’m furious with him. He would have killed my daughter to ensure Scott cooperated in forcing Derek to give him the bite. Aside from that, he actually bartered Allison to Scott like she was to be traded!” He paused and took a breath. “Right now, I’d be happy enough to shoot him but, from a practical perspective, he has a lot of friends in the hunter community and has built up a lot of loyalty. It might not go down well for me or Allison if we deny him aid.”

Noah rolled his eyes. He was so done with everyone covering their own ass.

Morris looked displeased. “Let me put it to you this way, Mr. Argent, if you offer aid of any sort to Gerard Argent rather than calling the police to come pick him up, I’m going to make it my life’s mission to find something to charge you with. And I’ll find something to pin on your daughter too. And, believe me, I know all about some hunter tactics on the East Coast where law enforcement officers who were in the know about hunters suddenly and inexplicably had deadly accidents. There’s a whole coalition of senior law enforcement and judicial people in Northern California who are in the know, and we keep each other informed so we know exactly where all your skeletons are buried. We’ll know exactly who to go after if one of our own gets hurt.”

“I would never condone going after someone in law enforcement,” Argent ground out.

“Excuse me if it’s going to take me some time to believe that. In the meantime, I’ll be taking precautions.” Morris spent a few minutes laying out exactly what she expected from Argent over the next day, week, and month.

“And when will my daughter be released?”

“I want to talk to her first,” Noah interjected. “And Sheriff Morris wants her to agree to community service in Sweetland. It’d be voluntary since there are no charges, but that girl needs to get her head on straight.”

Argent glared at him. “You’re a fine one to point fingers at my child.”

“Hey!” Noah snapped. “The only thing you can fault Stiles for is not telling me the truth so I could arrest your whole crazy family sooner! The only reason that crap with Whittemore got so damn out of hand is because you failed to do your damn job, leaving a group of teenagers to feel like they had no choice but to take on a literal monster by themselves! So shove your sanctimonious bullshit!”

“Okay, I think that’s enough,” Stephanie said softly. “Mr. Argent, I’m going to escort your daughter in here where you and she can have a private conversation. Noah and I will wait in the breakroom while the two of you make your decisions.”

Noah shoved back his chair and left, nearly stomping out of the office. He tossed his cold coffee and poured another cup, drinking it too quickly as he tried to get his temper under control. He shot off a request to Derek to send him a picture of Stiles’ ribs. He wanted something recent with all the damn color that had come up overnight.

His people all left him alone, no doubt recognizing that he was in a foul mood and he needed a minute. By the time Stephanie joined him, he wasn’t seeing red any longer.

“You cooled down a bit?” she asked as she sipped her coffee.

“I’m back down to a simmer.” He jerked his head toward the office. “Sorry for losing it.”

“Nothing to apologize for. I figured I’d count the whole things as a win if we got out of there without you punching him.”

He snorted. “Your bar was me not committing battery?”

“You’re a good man, Noah, but you’re a father, and someone hurt your son. Forgetting yourself wouldn’t be unheard of, though it wouldn’t exactly have served us in this situation. So while I would have understood, I’d have still lectured you until your ears bled.”

Outright laughing now, he considered how she always talked like she was everyone’s mother, but he was pretty sure Stephanie was a couple of years his junior. “Save your mad lecturing skills for Curtis because he needs it desperately, and I’d really appreciate your efforts there.”

She made a disgusted sound. “That boy…good god almighty. I’ve seen drunk frat boys the morning after who were tidier.”

“Isn’t that the truth.” He took a breath. “I have just one thing to say to her, and then I’ll abide by whatever agreement you make with the Argents.”

They waited in tense but fairly companionable silence until the door to the office opened and Argent nodded to them.

As soon as the door was closed, the office feeling a bit crowded with all of them in there, Noah assessed Allison Argent. She seemed subdued and wary, but she also struck him as oddly fragile. Then he reminded himself that Matt Daehler had been a traumatized kid at one point too. He hoped it wasn’t too late for Allison, but he couldn’t afford to cut her any slack. He handed her his phone, the picture of Stiles’ ribs—colorful in black, blues, and purples—already on the screen.

She sucked in a breath.

“Stiles could have died,” Noah said softly. “One more hit and he could have bled to death internally in your basement. By your logic, I’d get to kill you and your father for what your grandfather did. You rationalize your actions against your classmates, against teenagers, because they’re werewolves, but the only monstrous actions were your family’s. I’m going to abide by whatever agreement Sheriff Morris and the district attorney come to, but you don’t want to find yourself on my radar. And stay away from the Hale pack.” He took his phone and pocketed it.

He looked to Chris Argent. “You two do what you’re supposed to do and we’ll have no issue. Trust me, you do not want to upset the status quo here.”

Argent nodded, and Noah turned around and left.


Chapters 1-3 | Main Page | Chapters 7-9

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