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A Spotter's Guide to the North American Werewolf Hunter

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            James Sullivan was living a nightmare. An absolute nightmare. He was being punished for his many and varied (minor) sins. He thought he’d been good...enough, but clearly he was wrong. If you didn’t admit to....masturbation at confession and if you missed a few weeks of (every week of) mass, you were punished. Plain and simple. That had to be it. Maybe he could get a re-do? Find the nearest priest and tell him about all the little things he hadn’t thought to admit whenever the hel-heck he’d last been to confession. Bless me, father, for I have sinned, but seriously, not enough to deserve this. Because without a little divine good will? He was screw- fu- things were really going to be bad for him, okay? And he was going to get killed by his gangly, hunter roommate before he even graduated college.

            He’d been careful. He really, really had. When he’d got his Berkeley roommate assignment, he’d looked the kid up.

            Gościsław Stilinski.

            Age 19

            Son of John (Sheriff) and Claudia (Deceased) Stilinski

            No Facebook (Weird, but not unheard of)

            No arrest record (James’ dad was a lawyer, okay? And he wasn’t above using the perks of his dad’s job to look people up)

            One restraining order (Bit of a red flag, but it was withdrawn within a year)

            Born and raised in Beacon Hills (Major red flag)

            Even James’ tiny Maine pack had heard of Beacon Hills, a town whose pack and hunters are so fu-fricking irresponsible that they’d almost exposed the Big Secret like 5 times in the last year alone. They’d had the F.B.I. there, for Chr-Pete’s sake.

            Still, James had rationalized, there must be plenty of nice, non-hunter, human kids in the town. He was just worried about moving so far from his pack. Stilinski was an unusual name. If there were a hunter family with that surname, he’d have probably been warned about it. Besides, he’d spoken with Gościsław (“Ugh, no. Just no. Call me Stiles.”) on the phone and he’d seemed perfectly.....well, not pleasant, but also, importantly, not hunter...ish.

            How wrong he’d been.

            Looking back on it now, James really, truly wishes he’d listened to his instincts. When had they ever let him down before?

Clue Number 1: Peppermint

            It starts on move-in day.

            No-Seriously-Call-Me-Stiles had arrived a few hours before James and had boxes scattered all over their room.

            This in and of itself was not a problem.

            What was a problem was that Stiles smelled like peppermint.

            Stiles’ boxes smelled like peppermint.

            James had yet to have the opportunity to check, but he would bet his carefully annotated The Sibley Guide to Birds that the guy’s cellphone smelled like peppermint.

            Normal people did not cover their belongings in peppermint.

            James was fairly certain of this.

            Stiles jumped up and began waving his arms as he entered.

            “Oh! Hey! Hi! You must be James. Ohmygod, I’m so glad you’re here.”

            Steady heart beat: True, James thought to himself.

            “I have no idea where to put anything” Stiles continued, “and I didn’t really want to just start claiming shit before you got here because that’s like, totally not cool. I mean what if you don’t like the heat? Or the sun? I’m not going to put you by the window if you’re some sort of heat hating freak. Not that cold isn’t awesome too. I just don’t know what you like, but I was getting kind tired of just staring at the wall, you know. I mean, they’re great walls and everything, but white? Eh. Only does so much for me. I’m more of a red guy.” True “You know like ey....um.....flowers and.....stuff?”

            James stood, exhausted from his six hour flight, with his duffle bag on one shoulder and his laptop on the other.

            He stared.

            He blinked.

            He sneezed.

            Werewolves and peppermint? Not a great combination.

            “Ohmygod. Do you have allergies or asthma or something? My best bro did when we were kids and oh man like perfume could set him off and I know this place smells and everything but it’s just this guy I know back home thought, among other things, that it’d be funny to dose everything I own and make it smell and—”

            True

            Well, okay. Maybe James was just being paranoid again. Upside? His roommate probably wasn’t a hunter. Downside? Stiles didn’t seem to ever stop talking.

           

Clue Number 2: The Shirt

            James hated college. He hated all the stupid orientation bonding games. He hated the beds. He hated that nothing smelled right and he couldn’t really feel his pack. He hate hate hated his roommate and the stupid frat parties that he’d come stumbling back from and his stupid charming shower singing and his stupid laugh and his fu-friking scent getting all over everything. Was it really so much to ask that he keep his clothes on *his* side of the room? No. James did not think that was asking too much. It would help his sanity no end if he didn’t keep accidentally grabbing Stiles’ shirts in the morning. Stiles was not nor would he ever be pack. He didn’t want to smell like the kid.

            Exhibit A of Things that Should Not be on His Side of the Room: The shirt he’d just pulled over his head.

            Did it smell faintly of his mom and the detergent she used and sand and the ocean?

            No, it smelled like Stiles and peppermint and.

            Wolf’s bane.

            That.....that was definitely wolf’s bane.

            On Stiles’ shirt.

            But that didn’t necessarily mean anything.....even coupled with the peppermint. Lots of people plant wolf’s bane or a derivative in their gardens, James reasoned. He was worrying too much. Ever since those PEI hunters had come through last May, he’d been jumpy. Not every human was a hunter. Maybe Stiles’ family had a garden.....that Stiles liked to.......roll in. There was no way he’d still be able to smell it under the peppermint unless it had been covered in the cursed flower. James was fu-fricked. That’s all there was to it. He was royally and completely fricked.

 

Clue Number 3: The Calendar

            The calendar in and of itself wasn’t that strange. It was the kind of throw away, promotional calendar that nature charities send to guilt trip old hippies into donating. The problem was that this one just happened to be a wolf calendar. With the full moons marked. And all magically significant dates marked. And the wolves’ eyes colored blue, gold, and red. Completely normal, right?

 

Clue Number 4: Folsom Prison Blues

            Tap

            James buried his head further into his copy of Burke. He had fifty pages to finish by tomorrow and half a chem report to write and there was another mandatory hall meeting tonight. He did not have time to listen to Stiles’ incessant fidgeting.

            Taptaptap....ta...p

            “Can you just-STOP,” James exploded. Stiles eyes jerked over to him from where he’d been staring into space. He had the decency to look contrite.

            “Sorry, man,” He laugh and scratched the back of his neck, “Hey, you know, I feel like we barely know each other.”

            Yes, true, James thought, because I’ve tried to keep it that way.

            He gave half a shrug, “We know each other well enough. It’s not like we have to be friends to share a room.”

            “Ouch, dude. We should totally be friends. Ok, how about this. Alternating questions? That’s always worked well for me before.”

            Yeah, probably at fu-fri- at hunter camp, James thought bitterly.

            “Plea-se,” Stiles said, eyes wide and pleading, “Just for like, ten minutes. You need a break anyway. You’re making me tired just watching you.”

            James huffed out a breath, “Fine. Ten minutes. No more.”

            Stiles pumped his fist in the air grinning, “Yes! Alright, I’ll go first. Man, I have so many questions. You’re from the East Coast, right? Any brother or sisters or super important cousins who are like bff honorary siblings or anything back home?”

            “Twin brothers, a sister, and, um,” James smiled, “A lot of cousins. We’re really close.”

            “Older or younger?”

            “My sister is a few years younger and my brothers are a year older. They’re awful,” James scowled. Fu-fricking Sam and his as-jer-loser friends. He had yet to forgive them for last Christmas, “What about you?”

            “I’m an only child, but my best friend Scott has been like a brother forever, and,” His smile was quiet, nothing like the brilliant one James was use to, “I’ve got this group of people who are kinda like family, you know? We’ve been through a lot together.”

            “Friends from school?”

            “Yeah, um, I guess you could say that? I mean, we’re friends now. It didn’t start out that way.”

            James frowned, that was....mostly true. Weird.

            “So, um,” Stiles laughed nervously, “Strengths? Weaknesses? Allergies? Man I need to know about allergies because I just found out there’s a kitchenette downstairs and I am going to do so much cooking.”

            “No allergies worth mentioning,” He answered. Weird. Stiles was weird.

            “Oh, awesome. Because let me tell you, if you were like allergic to chocolate or something, we’d have a problem. But that’s ridiculous because who is even allergic to chocolate? Not people. That’s like a furry person problem.”

            He stiffened, “Yeah,” He said carefully, “That would be weird.”

            “Ha ha, yeah. Um,” Stiles paused, “So. Any hobbies?”

            “I do a little birding,” James hedged. That should be safe enough, even if Stiles was a hunter. Better than, why yes, every full moon I like to go running out in the woods and chase rabbits.

            “Ok, cool. That explains,” Stiles pointed at James’ shelf, “The ol’ binoculars. I mean, I assume. You mean watching, right? Not hunting. Not that there’s anything wrong with hunting birds”

            Oddly specific

            “Birds are great.”

            True

            “I love birds.”

            True

            “But hunting them would still be fine.”

            True

            “I mean, just don’t shoot any one in the face, ha ha.”

            James raised an eyebrow.

            “Sorry,” Stiles apologized, “That was a terrible, out of date Cheney joke. I don’t, like, think you’re going to kill someone or something.”

            True

            “You’ve never shot anyone, right? Right. I mean, why would you? I’ve never shot anyone!”

            Lie?!

            “Or killed anyone.”

            Holy mother of fu-fricking the hel- Jes-LIE. That was a lie. His roommate had killed someone and there was nothing in his record, even his sealed record, which meant he had gotten away with it which meant his ROOMMATE WAS A HUNTER OHGO-gosh.

            “Why would I have killed someone?” Stiles continued to ramble, “That would be super weird and illegal and...I’m just going to shut up. Um.”

            “I....should get back to my homework,” He tried to keep his face as calm as possible. He needed to call his parents. He needed to change rooms. He....needed to stay calm. Stiles didn’t suspect yet and James was going to keep it that way.

            “Oh, yeah, okay. Well, this has been...fun,” Stiles deflating.

 

Clue Number 5 and 6: Midnight Rendezvous and the Mysterious Box

            “Yeah, so, um, I’ve got this buddy who needs help with the project on nocturnal, um, animals and I’m just going to go help her out with it. Um. Yeah. Later!” Stiles slammed the door on the way out and yelled a quick sorry! As he ran down the stairs.

            This was the sixth night and the second week Stiles had been out late helping his friend with her mysterious project. He’d first started disappearing in the middle of the night two weeks ago three days after a hive of pixies had moved into the quad. He’d come back the third day covered in glitter and pale, glowing blood claiming he’d been at a club. The pixies had been gone the next day. James had been disappointed. Most of their jokes seemed harmless enough and they kept down the number of Frisbees hitting innocent people on their way to class. Plus, well, he’d still been secretly hoping that Stiles was just a run of the mill ax murder or had accidentally kill someone in a car crash or something similarly mundane.

            There remained the chance that Stiles had just happened to be attacked by the pixies the night they disappeared. A very, very small chance, but stranger things had happened. He needed proof. Solid proof. Which was why he was currently digging through the boxes under Stiles’ bed. So far, all he’d found was: a snack stash, porn (magazines? Really? He had traveled back to the 80s without noticing?), a *cough* toy box, and a box of keepsakes including a photo of a laughing woman and a little boy. He’d put that one back carefully. There had to be something here.

            Ah-HA!

            Locked, wooden truck, pushed to the back corner? Not suspicious at all, Mr. Stilinski. It looked like it had a simple combination lock. Thank go-gosh for locksmith cousins.

            Click.

            And he was in. James hesitated and chewed on his thumbnail. Should he actually be doing this? Everyone was entitled to some measure of privacy and.....maybe Stiles was actually at a club? And even if he was a hunter, there were good hunters, right? Maybe he’d just make Stiles angry by going through his stuff. Ohgosh. What if he could tell? Stiles seemed happy go lucky enough but.....there was a glint in his eye when he came back to the room late, alright? James was pretty sure he wasn’t imaging that. He had no interest in his life turning into, what was it? That Tarantino flick where the one guy cuts off the other’s ear and sings. Stiles probably sings while he hunts. Fu-frick.

            James rocked back on his heels and took a deep breath. Ok. He’d already gone this far. Might as well take the final leap. He needed proof. He flicked the cover open and.....Ok. Not concrete proof, but was it just his imagination or did that space look suspiciously gun shaped? There were four layers, like a toolbox. The top was mostly empty except for an empty box and what he assumed were cleaning tools and....a whetstone? The next level held a mishmash of objects: string, a selection of chalk, salt, candles, and some raw pieces of metal. The next held several long objects wrapped in a range of serious looking fabric. He picked one up and gently pulled it open: A silver knife, carved with runes. He carefully replaced it and didn’t open the others. He could smell copper, bronze, and steel. He could guess what he’d find. His hands shook as he lifted up the last layer. The bottom space was filled with film canisters, plastic bags, and pouches all labeled with Stiles’ messy handwriting. He carefully opened the Venomous Tentacula and sniffed. Foxglove. Well, he’d wanted proof. Now what did he do—

            He jolted back from the box as a familiar set of footsteps made their way down the hall. Stiles was early. James franticly put everything back in place, clicked the lock on, and shoved the box under the bed. He was on the other side of the room in his bed before Stiles reached the door.

            The lock clicked and Stiles stepped into their room. He smelled like blood, wolf, and mistletoe. James curled his blankets around him a little tighter and tried to even out his breathing.

 

Clue Number 7: The Silver Girl

            James had taken to spending as much time in the library and, coincidentally, away from his room, as possible. Since the Great Discovery, he’d found his eyes constantly drifting to the corner of Stiles’ bed that hid his Box of Murder. He’d spoken to residential services, but they only processed room changes between semesters. His options were to wait it out or move off campus. An apartment would be fan-fu-fricking-tastic, if he wasn’t broke. His work study position in the dish room was only enough to cover his books and a little spending money. He couldn’t exactly ask his parents for help. The Portland, ME forestry and hospitality business was not nearly as glamorous or lucrative as the movies made it seem. No, moving out was not an option. He’d just have to wait the remaining two months and try not to attract attention.

            Anyway, he liked the library. The long, open spaces, spiral staircases, and marble made him feel like he was in some sacred hall of knowledge. His ability to smell the residual traces of years worth of couples’ utterly inappropriate coitus in the back corners of the stacks did nothing to dispel this image from his mind. He was in the North Reading Room working his way through a syllogistic logic problem when a muffled, familiar laugh broke his concentration. No. No no no. This was not happening. The library was suppose to be his sanctuary. And now-

            “James! Hey!” Stiles came bounding up and dropped in the chair opposite him. A brunette slid into the chair next to him. She seemed normal enough, like a hundred other interchangeable college freshmen. She smelled like lavender and, well, frankly, human. Most humans smelled pretty much like human. Stiles motioned to her, “James, Allison. Allison, James.”

            She beamed and gave him a little wave as she pulled out her computer, “Nice to meet you!”

            Alright, so Stiles had some nice, normal, frankly adorable friends. That didn’t mean he wasn’t a hunter. James nodded to her, “Um, yeah. Nice to meet you too.”

            “She’s the one with the project,” Stiles helpfully supplied. Allison shot him a look.

            James furrowed his eyebrows, “Project....?”

            “The one at night?” Stiles continued, paying no attention to his friend, “With the, um, animals?”

            Allison’s smile got a little tighter, “It’s for a bio class I’m taking. We’re comparing night time and day time activities of the local wildlife.”

            Stiles grinned, “Allison was afraid to go out by herself at night. She thought the big bad wolf might get her or something.”

            “Really, Stiles?” Allison glared at him, “Sorry about him. We’ll let you get back to your studying. We have work to do too, right Stiles?”

            “Oh, yeah, sorry dude.”

            James blinked at them, “Um, okay.”

            It ended up being...surprisingly peaceful. Maybe they weren’t sneaking out to go hunting. Maybe Stiles was just dating this girl and they were hiding it for some reason. There was still the box but, well, there was a Wiccan club on campus. James didn’t actually know what Stiles did with his time. It could be for that. That’s all it was. He worried too much. James knew he’d always worried too much. He let his body relax for the first time in what felt like days. He was glad he hadn’t been able to change roommates now. He was loath to admit it, but he could do worse than Stiles. Messes and potential mass murdering aside, Stiles was a tolerable roommate. Imagine if his roommate brought girls back to their room. The smell of sex was frankly horrible. He’d never get any work done.

            After an hour of relatively (could his roommate ever actually sit still?) peaceful studying, James stretched and hit print on his assignment. As he pushed back his chair with a soft creak, Allison stood up too.

            “Oh,” She laughed surprised, “Printer?”

            James nodded, “Do you want me to pick up your paper?”

            “Oh, no. I mean, if you don’t mind?” She asked sweetly, pushing a strand of hair behind her ears. Go-gosh, Stiles and her really should just admit they were dating. They’d probably win cutest couple on campus.

            “Sure, it’s no problem.”

            “Thanks! It’ll come up as Argent French 2.”

            James cocked his head, “You had to write a paper on silver for your French class?”

            Allison laughed again, “No, it’s my last name. Allison Argent. I put my name on all my files. It makes it easier to find in the printer queue.”

            James nodded numbly, his heart rate climbing back to that healthy pounding level he’d maintained for the last few days. Argent. Argent. Argent. Allison Argent. That explained it. Stilinski wasn’t some obscure hunting family he’d never heard of. Stiles was a hunter because he was dating a girl. woman. young lady. who was a member of the scariest hunter family in the country. Stiles had probably helped with the infamous Beacon Hills fire.

            Fu-Frick. Dam-darndarndarndarndarnit. Big trouble. He was in big fricking trouble.

 

Clue Number 8: The Call

            James Sullivan was not going to take this lying down. His father’s side had survived civil wars and the great famine and kept The Secret hidden the whole time. His mother’s side were harden old Yankees who had built this country, right from the very start. He came from a long line of fighters and he wasn’t going to shame his family name by letting some upstart, teenage hunter ki...ki...*he swallowed* hurt him. He was a survivor. His people endured. That’s how it worked.

            As soon as he’d gotten back to his room after meeting Allison, he’d taken to the internet and found the cheapest functional spy equipment available. By the end of the night, he had two wireless cameras and a tracking device on the way to his mailbox. It used up most of the cash in his account, but he was willing to forgo a coffee or two for a little peace of mind. He needed to know if and when Stiles and that girl figured out his secret. The first camera and the tracking device were easy enough to place. The camera went in James’ bookcase pointing at Stiles’ bed. The tracking device went in Stiles’ shoe. The last camera was for the Stiles’ car. It took him a while to figure out how to plant it, but ultimately went with an excuse about needing a ride to the mall. Stiles had accepted it readily enough. He excitedly said something about bro bonding time. Ha! As if he could ever have any fraternal feelings for this...monster.

            He finally got his chance to watch the recordings the Friday night after he planted the cameras. Stiles was out at some Hawaiian themed party, probably drinking and, and carousing. After all, what were legal drinking ages when you’d killed a man. James had feigned a cold and stayed in. He settled into his chair with a cup of nice, soothing white tea in hand. He opened up the file and took a deep breath. Ok. Making his ancestors proud. Being the badass Yankee he’d be raised to be. His hands were not shaking. Why would they shake?

            He hit play.

            And waited.

            And waited.

            And waited.

            Three hours and three teas later he was beginning to doubt himself again. Stiles seemed to mostly communicate through text, so there was very little of value on the audio. And the times Stiles did speak out loud? So far he’d been treated to a painful rendition of Independent Woman, one side of a conversation with Stiles’ dad about his terrible Latin professor and the importance of a balanced meal, and commentary during a Farscape marathon. He was getting ready to give up when Stiles picked up his phone again.

            “Hey Der-bear,” Stiles grinned into the phone.

            He laughed, “Yeah, yeah. Things are going fine. Just partying it up, college style.”

            His smile dropped a little, “Did she? Well, yeah, okay, maybe we’ve dealt with a few little problems, but it’s not like we went looking for trouble, okay?”

            This sounded promising.

            He rolled his eyes, “Yeah, yeah. I know. You’re very scary. Look. It was just a few little pixies and a some red caps and...” Stiles’ voice trailed off.

            Bingo.

            “Okay, okay. Fine. Maybe one tiyanak. But we handled it, like the badasses we are. My Box of Awesome has yet to let me down. I mean I ran the stock list by Peter and Deaton and my own research and Chris--.......Allison’s dad?......Yes, we are on a first name basis as a matter of fact. We are bffs with macramé bracelets and everything.......Look, I know you don’t like him but......yeah, yeah. What about you guys? Staying alive without me?.....You mean a gwyllion? Seriously? Please tell me one of you took notes. I expect a full report when I get back. You can never have too much intel, Sourwolf....Yeah, yeah. What about our usual furry problem? Everything go smoothly with the omega? Peter killed anyone yet?.....alright, alright. Tell me next time.....AND TELL ISSAC THAT HE’S A BOYFRIEND DISTRACTING JERK.”

            Stiles laughed once more and hung up with a saccharine, “Bu-bye sweetie~”

            James had his proof. There was no way in hel-heck to misinterpret that conversation. Now he just need to decide what to do with it.

 

Clue number 9: The body

            The surf broke gently on the shore with a quiet hush as the sun slowly came up on the horizon. James was already happily tucked in his blind by the marsh. He was bundled up tightly in a warm blanket, hot chocolate in hand, and spotting scope in position. Today, He’d even remembered his nose plugs this time to stop the scent of death that inevitably filled the mob’s favorite marsh. This was only the forth birding trip he’d managed since school started. He’d been to this place twice already, but, well, he liked it. It was a good place to pause and think. It was late in the season, but James had come more as an escape from the hell that was college and its resident hunter pair than to check anything off his spotting list. He needed some time to breath and plan. He was just turning his scope towards a bar-tailed godwit when he heard it. No, him.

            “Ohmygod, why do they have to be so heavy?”

            No. No, he was imagining things. That’s all it was, it had to be—

            “We could have just burned it, Stiles,” Said an amused voice.

            Argent, he remembered. It was that Argent girl Stiles had introduced him to in the library.

            “No, no. We could not have and I will tell you why,” Stiles replied, “Because we live in a city now and people tend to notice when you have a burning pier of flesh in your backyard in cities. They notice and they call the cops.”

            James froze. They were here to dump a body. If they found him.....if they found him they’d......He tried to slow his breathing. They couldn’t find him. If he just stayed still, they wouldn’t notice him. Everything would be fine.

            Allison sighed, “People notice bodies in swamps too, Stiles. We should have just broken in the crematorium.”

            “First, it is not a swamp, it’s a marsh. Second, I have it on good authority that this is where the city’s more organized ruffians dump their hits.”

            “Good authority?” She said with an incredulous tone.

            “I know a guy, from a bar,” He paused, “Fine, okay. I met this vampire, who told me he has like four sites around the cities he hits up every few weeks for bodies. I guess old human blood is still better than rats and raccoons. Anne Rice lied to us, Allison. Can you believe it?”

            “I’m shocked,” Allison replied, now amused, “Stiles.....does Derek know you’re making friends with vampires?”

            “What Derek doesn’t know can’t hurt either of us,” Stiles sang back.

            “Stiles....” She sighed, “Just be careful, okay? He’d blame himself if something happened to you.”

            Stiles’ voice was suddenly tired, “Yeah, I know Allie, I’ll watch my back.”

            There was a heavy, damp thunk. James still couldn’t get a good line of sight to where they were walking, but he had a pretty fuc-freaking good idea of what they’d just dropped.

            “Should we bury them?”

            “I think we can just leave them. It didn’t sound like Garry was digging his bodies up or anything.”

            The squelching sound of their steps retreated into the distance. James continued to sit in his blind, completely still, for ten minutes after they left. When he was sure they were gone, he let out a quiet whimper and started shaking. This wasn’t happening. This wasn’t happening. This couldn’t happen. Not to him. Not to him. Nottohim. Nottohimnottohimnottohim. By the time he was in enough control to pack up his things, the sun was already high in the sky and the more exceptional birds had fled to shade.

 

Clue number 10: The final piece of the puzzle

            Stiles had been more tense than normal the last few days. He came back to the room each night reeking of adrenalin and dirt. A line of mountain ash had appeared in their window (inconvenient) and James had started smelling another wolf around campus (worrisome). He’d started keeping an eye on the local sections of the papers. There were three cases of hikers kept disappearing in the preserves. Were they falling prey to Stiles’ quarry or were they Stiles’ victims? He need to find out.

            James checked himself over one last time. Sturdy running pants? Check. Charged cellphone (with complete list of emergency services on speed dial)? Check. Badas-awesome werewolf powers? Check and check. Stiles had started heading into the preserve half an hour ago. James watched the little red dot blink for a few more seconds on his phone before strapping on his bike helmet and letting out a breath. Ok. He was going to go save someone’s life. Wow.

            Yeah.

            Right.

            He could do this.

            He peddled at full speed on the way over. His parents had always taught him to restrain his strength in public, but, well, it was night and this was important. He was going to be the hero. He was going to save someone. He could do this. James let out a shaky breath. He could do this. He could do this. Hecoulddothishecoulddothishecould-

            Breath.

            When James arrived he shifted to his beta form, check the dot on his phone one more time, and took off into the park. As he got closer he could smell blood and gun smoke and that other wolf that’d been around campus. Oh no. What if he was too late? He shouldn’t have waited so long. He shouldn’t have.

            He pushed over the final hill and—

            Fuck.

            He’d been right.

            And he was too late.

            Stiles was just swinging up, standing over a body. His arm was drenched in blood and he still held a knife. The other wolf had turned when James had arrived. He was young, but-red eyes-an alpha. He was shifted, looked strong, but he was wounded. And now his back was to Stiles. Who was walking towards them. WHOWASWALKINGTOWARD THEM WITH A KNIFE.

            James ran forward, claws out. He tried to dodge around the other wolf, but the man slammed into him, forced him to the ground, and held him pinned.

            “Oh Jesus. No, no,” He pleaded, “What are you doing? He’s a hunter! He’s going to kill us! You have to let me up! You have to-”

            The alpha growled low and flashed his eyes. Even over the adrenaline and whateverthehell else his system was producing instinct kicked in and he shifted back. Look! No claws! His body seemed to say. No threat here!

            “Name,” The alpha snapped.

            James just whimpered.

            “Name!” The alpha repeated, like there weren’t more important things to deal with. Like there wasn’t a fucking hunter walking towards him. Had Stiles done something to the wolf? James had seen the herbs in his box. Maybe he’d put a spell on-OhGod he was here.

            Stiles peered over the alpha’s shoulder. He looked equal parts...shaken and confused? James paused in his attempts to twist free.

            “Um, James? Um, ha ha. Fancy meeting you here? This isn’t what it looks like”Lie “Me and my, um, buddy”Lie “Here are just filming a movie. For class? Really good special effects, huh? Ha ha?” Lie lie lie.

            The alpha looked away from James, “You know him?”

            “Yeah, he’s my roommate, dude,” Stiles pushed at the alpha’s shoulder, “Come on, let the squishy human up.”

            “He’s a wolf, Stiles,” The alpha growled. And really, a small incredulous part of James’ brain thought, growled? Was this guy some kind of caveman? Who the hel-heck growled anymore? Did this guy think they were actual wolves?

            “What?” Stiles squeaked. James was impressed by his dedication to character. The guy was standing there clutching a knife, dripping blood, and still playing the part of the painfully awkward 19 year old. “No way. I would have noticed! Come on, let him up.”

            The alpha raises a skeptical eyebrow at Stiles, but released James none the less.

            “I totally would.....have...noticed,” James could see the gears turning, “Oh. Huh. Is that why you got so pissed about the clothes thing? I was invading your territory or something?”

            James has had enough. He is not a fu-fricking wild animal. His territory? What the hel-heck. “No, you complete...moron! That’s just basic cleanliness! Clean clothes in the dresser! Dirty clothes go in the hamper or or or a laundry bag! Which they gave us when we got here, so I know you have one. What? Were you raised by savages?”

            James stood, furiously, indignantly, dusting himself off. Stiles stared at him with his mouth hanging slightly open. Are you trying to catch flies, like that? A voice sing-songed in his head. Go-gosh. He was going to be murdered by the most....uncouth hunter this side of the divide. Shouldn’t there be a higher class of serial killer in the city?

            “Wow, see if I ever share my frankly delicious baked goods with you ag-“ A horrified expression passed across Stiles’ face, “Ohmygod. Derek. Derek! He’s a werewolf.”

            The alpha-Derek?- rolled his eyes, “Yes, Stiles. He’s a werewolf.”

            “No no. You don’t understand. Derek, I fed him chocolate. I made chocolate chip cookies before I left. And he ate some and-”

            The alpha shifted nervously from foot to foot.

            “-now he’s going to die and it’s going to be all my fault because I poisoned him and it’s going to start a pack war.”

            “Um,” Said the ever-so-eloquent alpha.

            “Oh. My. God.” Stiles paused in his rant and his eyes widened, “You made that up! You totally made that up! Why the hell would you make that up?”

            “Because I’m allergic,” Derek growled sotto-voce.

            “And what? You just wanted the rest of the pack to suffer with you?”

            Derek shrugged, “I thought they’d figure it out.”

            Lie. Wow. Really?

            “You are such a dick!” Stiles said throwing his hands up, “Do you know what Scott’s face looked like every brownie day in high school? He looked like he wanted to cry, Derek. Do you know what an upset Scott looks like? Because I do. I almost fed him a brownie a few times. Even though I thought it would kill him.”

            James stood there baffled. Was this a trick? Were they....bickering to put him at his ease? Make him drop his guard before they killed him? Stiles had said something about a pack war. And that was wrong. Why would—

            “I can’t believe you,” Stiles voice rose to an ugly pitch, “This is chocolate, we’re talking about, Derek! It’s serious-“

            “Would you just shut. Up,” James shouted, “If you’re going to kill me, just kill me. Go-gosh.”

            Two pairs of eyes snapped back to him: The alpha’s dangerous and Stiles’ puppy dog hurt.

            “We’re not going to kill you. Why would we....I mean, I know we’re not bros, but I thought....” He trailed off and looked down at the knife, “Oh. Um. This really isn’t what it looks like. Well, ok, it is. Would it help if I said we had a really good reason? That guy was a tiyanak. Really nasty, trust me. But we aren’t going to hurt you. Why would we hurt you? You seem like a cool....wolf.”

            “Because you’re a hunter! That’s what hunters do!”

            “Dude. I’m not a hunter.”

            .....True. How the hel-heck was that true?

            “Look. I may occasionally assist in......arbitrating with, ok, maybe sometimes extreme prejudice, but I’m not a hunter. That guy tried to get Allison the other day. She’s pack and I protect my pack.”

            And now, finally, finally there was a dangerous glint in Stiles’ eye. More importantly, all of that had been true. Stiles had a pack. He was a human and part of a pack. That......could actually explain....almost everything.

            “What about the peppermint?”

            The intensity in Stiles’ eyes vanished and was replaced by embarrassment. The alpha next to him folded his arms and glowered.

            “Oh, um, well, you see,” He scratched the back of his neck, “Derek and I had a fight right before I left. He kept insisting that it wouldn’t be safe for me to go by myself and I pointed out that Allison would be here and she’s a complete bamf so I’d be fine and- anyway, so I covered all my stuff in peppermint so that I wouldn’t smell like him anymore. I figured it’d piss him off enough and keep ooky spooky people from knowing I’m wise to their game.”

            “And the Argent girl? I know about the Argents.”

            “No, you don’t. You know rumors,” Stiles’ voice hardened again, “The nasty, hide under the bed Argents are dead. Allison and her dad are good people. They mostly quit hunting a few years ago. They don’t actively look for trouble anymore. Besides, Allison’s pack.”

            “Pack,” James said doubtfully, “And which pack would that be?”

            Stiles grinned and held out a hand, “Stiles Stilinski. Mage in training, researcher, and long-term serious boyfriend of Derek Hale, Hale pack alpha. Nice to meet you.”

            James smiled faintly. So not a hunter then. His mom was going to kill him.

 

Epilogue:

            James was right. His mom wasn’t terribly pleased that her baby-boy had neglected to tell the family he was living with a hunter. Suspected hunter. High ranking member of a major pack. Whatever. Semantics. She only found out because he had to reassure her that, yes, he had somewhere to go for Thanksgiving. And no, she didn’t need to waste a couple hundred bucks flying him home because, for Pete sake, he was coming home for Christmas. But then that had meant explaining that he was spending the holiday with a friend (you made a friend, honey? Oh that’s wonderful news!). And then that had lead to explaining why no really he didn’t need to worry about accidentally letting his furry side show during the customary post-gorging nap (Ugh. That happened one time.). And that.....well, that had lead to his mother wasting good money to fly out to “Check this Hale pack out. My god, I’ve heard stories. They use to be so nice and respectable. If you think I’m going to let you run around with them before I give their alpha a piece of my mind you don’t know your mother very well, mister.”

            And that, well that had lead to James sitting in the reconstructed Hale house, listening to Derek explain to his mother how his pack had become so....sad. Pathetic? That might be going a little far, but, really, who the hel-heck even ended up with a kanima anymore? There was a screening process for potential new wolves for a reason. Had Derek really not had them fill out the questionnaire and not gotten a background check? James was unimpressed. His mother, on the other hand, well, it wasn’t that she was any more impressed, but she was sympathetic and, more importantly, she did enjoy a project.

            It had been about three months now and his mother had made two more trips out to train Derek. The Hale pack was footing the bill, thank go-goodness. Derek said it was only fair in exchange for James’ mother’s help (dam-darn right). The pack.....well, James was surprised, but they were actually making good progress. For a man born to be a beta, Derek was adapting well to running a pack. And Stiles, ever since that, um, unfortunate night that James preferred to forget about, Stiles had been following both James and his mother around peppering them with questions. It was....good. It was nice to have a pack around and, now that he wasn’t terrified of the man, Stiles had actually grown on James. Not that they were friends or anything. But he did enjoy the.....companionship. James had to begrudgingly admit maybe he wasn’t being punished after all. He was still going to keep up attendance at mass, just in case. Maybe. Probably. When he could.