Title: Marine!Stiles (temp file name)
Author: Anthea Davis
Fandom: Teen Wolf
Word Count: ~10,000
Primary Pairings/Characters: Stiles Stilinski/Peter Hale/Christopher Argent
Content/Warnings: Canon level violence, language
Summary: Stiles returns to Beacon Hills, fresh from two tours in the Marines, ready to take up the mantle of Deputy in the Police Department. But what reception is he going to receive back in his hometown?
Beta: None. Just a casual spell check. No bitching.
There wasn’t anyone there to meet him at the airport. He hadn’t told anyone he was coming home. The Sheriff knew it was soon, but Stiles had never elaborated beyond that. He picked up his duffle and made his way to hire a car for the week. The two-hour drive out to Beacon Hills served to show some things don’t change. In the town itself, there were a few more difference, new coffee shop here, new twenty-four-hour gym there that he made a mental note to investigate later.
The hotel was at least newly renovated and had free Wi-Fi. The bed was ridiculously soft, and more than once through the night he contemplated camping out on the floor. The next morning found him out on the street at five in the morning for his run. Eight years of habit wasn’t going to break anytime soon.
An hour later he was back with a pamphlet and application form for the 24-hour gym. He dropped the completed form off on the way to his favourite Diner for breakfast. He wasn’t the least bit surprised by who he found there.
“I see that whole special heart healthy diet thing is working well then,” Stiles commented, sitting on the other side of the booth. In front of the Sheriff was a full continental breakfast.
“And I’ve been good all week. You can check with Melissa.” The Sheriff pointedly took another mouthful of real bacon.
“You know I will.” Stiles snorted. “And with Maeve too.”
The sheriff winced.
Stiles smirked in triumph. “Maybe you should join me for a run in the mornings?”
“I spend enough time on the treadmill as it is, thank you.” The Sheriff took another mouthful, chewed, and swallowed. “Are you home now?”
“Yeah, dad. I’m home now.” He leant back in the booth with a smile.
The Sheriff’s face transformed into a grin as he hastily stood up. “Come ‘ere.”
Stiles stood eagerly for the first bone crushing hug he had had from his father in years.
“Welcome back, son.” He sniffed back the tears only just.
“I missed you so much,” Stiles wasn’t faring much better.
“I’m so proud of you,” he tightened the hug one last time before moving to step back. “Have you submitted your application yet?”
“No. I was going to drop it off this morning after breakfast.”
“Stiles, is that you?” The elderly waitress, Maeve asked as she approached the table to take his order.
“Yeah, it’s me!” Stiles grinned.
“Didn’t you grow up in all the right places. You must be fending off all the girls and boys. Where have you been all this time?”
“Marines. Just finished my eight years. Thought it was time I came home and helped dad out.”
“Beacon Hills will be lucky to have you as one of her Deputies. Now, what can I get for you?”
“Your amazing waffles, please.”
“Extra strawberries and a chocolate shake?” Maeve finished from memory. “Coming right up.”
A few moments later the thick shake was delivered, and the two men sat in companionable silence. Stiles was halfway through his breakfast as the Sheriff pushed back his plate.
“Have you checked in with the pack yet?” The Sheriff asked between sips of coffee.
Stiles tried not to tense up at the question. Judging by his father’s expression, he had failed. “Not yet.”
“What about Scott?”
“A few months back.”
“Does he know you’re coming home?”
“When do you plan on telling them? Or are you going to wait for it to blow up in your face?”
Stiles sighed heavily and stared out the window, remaining silent.
“You never did tell me what it was that made you leave.” The Sheriff took a sip of his coffee.
“I know.” Stiles pushed away his half-eaten plate.
“I’m still here when you’re ready to tell me. Where are you staying?”
“Hotel out by Main.”
The Sheriff nodded. “You know you can-“
“Yeah. I know dad.”
“Any time Stiles. You’re my son. You’ll always be welcome.” He reached across and grasped Stiles shoulder in support. “Well, I’d better get going. I have a meeting to prepare for a new Deputy.”
“Yeah. I’ll be there soon.” Stiles smiled, but the earlier ease was gone. In its place was the Marine John hadn’t met before. He wasn’t sure how he felt about that.
Stiles was left to contemplate just what he was going to do. Well, he knew what he wanted to do – organise his human life and ignore the supernatural one for as long as possible. The fact that the two were intertwined was hampering that effort. The whole reason he was back in Beacon Hills was to help his dad and the Sheriff’s Station with the supernatural.
He just wasn’t looking forward to dealing with the pack. Things had been so weird Post-Nogitsune and then after the Dread Doctors that he had just bugged out. He wasn’t exactly proud of how he left, but he just hadn’t been able to do it anymore.
Not deal with betrayal, working with enemies turned allies. Not dealing with suddenly being useless. Not being trusted.
At least that second to last one was fixed now.
“Stiles, is that you?”
Stiles beamed as he was enveloped in the motherly hug from the woman who had run the Sheriff Station front desk for as long as Stiles could remember.
“It’s good to see you, Barb.”
“It’s good to have you back. And these papers are for you, I believe.” She smirked.
“Yeah, I’m joining up.”
“Beacon Hills will be lucky to have you, just so long as that trouble that always follows you doesn’t end up here.” Her serious demand was botched by the mischievous glint in her eye and the smirk that threatened.
“Me? I’m a paragon of innocence,” he mock-gasped.
“Hah! Maybe before you started walking. I know better. I’ve certainly known you long enough.”
Stiles took the offered clipboard and pen, quickly filled in the information, and handed it back with a copy of his discharge papers and his last scores on the firing range.
“All done? Just head on through to the Sheriff’s office then. I’m glad you’re back, love.” This time, it was a genuine smile that felt like a stab to the heart with guilt.
It was the right thing to do, he reminded himself.
Taking a deep breath, he smiled and pushed the guilt down. With a nod, he headed into the bowels of the station. Nothing much had changed here either, but it looked like they at least had newer computers.
The door was already open to the Sheriff’s office, so Stiles strode straight through and closed the door – ready for his interview.
“All done with the paperwork then?” The Sheriff asked with an easy smile.
“Yep. And I’ve got the other paperwork like you asked.”
“Great.” The Sheriff took the stack, leafed through it briefly and put it together with some more paperwork he had on his desk. “Ok, just need you to sign the contract and these forms for the gun and badge.”
Stiles’ eyes widened at the gun and badge that were placed on the desk.
“What happened to the interview? And I thought it took a few weeks for processing.” Stiles asked, confusion evident on his face.
“I’ve had these sitting on my desk waiting for when you got home. I pulled your Psych Eval. from the Core to get things through earlier. You can start today if you like.” The Sheriff sat back with a satisfied grin. It wasn’t often he could pull one over his son, he was going to savour this.
“Wow. So.. shit.”
“I know you did some time with the MP’s in the Core, but you’ll still need to do a probationary period for six months, and there will be some tests to prove competency. It’ll be good to get you back in the swing of a civilian population. Now, I don’t want to any arguments. I know what I’m doing. Your training officer is going to –“
Stiles was up and going for the service piece that was currently absent from his right hip, ready to defend from the man that had crashed through the door.
“Officer Hale. Good timing.” The sheriff’s tone was flat in annoyance.
The room was silent a moment as Stiles and Derek looked at each other, not knowing what to say.
“Take a seat, Derek. You might as well stay. As I was saying, Stiles. Your training officer will be Derek. He’s trained all my officers exceptionally over the last five years. I was going to have you meet after lunch, I guess we can move that up now. Parrish can cover your morning patrol, Derek.
“Spend the morning getting caught up and get the OHS new employee pack out of the way. I need you two to be able to work together. In the future, I’d like the both of you paired together as our lead supernatural officers with Parish and someone else as your secondary. We’ll look into it. Now scram you two. Stiles get that paperwork to Barb ASAP. Take the badge and gun with you. Uniform is in your locker. Number seventeen. I’ll talk to both of you later about this side project.”
“Sorry to interrupt, Sheriff,” Derek said in the ensuing silence.
“Forget about it, Derek. I think this time was an extenuating circumstance.” The Sheriff gave a wry smile. “Welcome to the team, Stiles.”
“Thanks, Sheriff.” Stiles mock saluted, gathering his paperwork up with this new Police badge and gun, and trooped out after Derek.
The werewolf led him over to an empty desk that faced another full yet tidy desk.
“You’ll… ah. You’ll be working across from me. So, you can leave the paperwork there for now. The top draw is a locked draw for your badge and gun.”
Stiles nodded, immediately stowing the gun and badge there for now before being led to the locker rooms. The key from the desk’s lock draw matched the locker, so he opened it to check out his new uniform.
“Change rooms are through there if you want to go put it on.” Derek leant against the door frame with a weird little frown Stiles hadn’t ever seen.
He shrugged it off and took the uniform to the next room. Derek followed to lean just inside the door. Once Stiles was safely inside the cubicle, Derek started talking.
“So. How long have you been back?”
“Flew in yesterday.”
“Oh. The Sheriff and Scott didn’t mention you were coming back.”
“They didn’t know.”
The silence was awkward as Stiles finished dressing. A few minutes later he left the cubicle with his bundled civvies under his arm.
“It suits you,” Derek said with a cough.
“Thanks,” Stiles smirked at himself in the mirror, it really did suit him.
“I didn’t know you wanted to be a cop.”
Stiles looked at Derek in time to watch his face do a weird grimace. “It’s always been the intention.” Stiles continued into the locker room again. “Was going to go the college route. Might still do some night classes anyway.”
“So why the marines then?” Derek pushed, but by the look on Stiles’ face, it was one question too far.
“Thought I’d look good in the fatigues.” The harsh, sarcastic grin had Derek looking away.
“So where are you sta-“
“So that paperwork. We should get that done, yeah?” Stiles didn’t give the werewolf a chance to say anything further, leaving the locker room for the bullpen.
He ploughed through the paperwork in under an hour, all the online courses and OHS completed, so the Sheriff gave them the go ahead to do Stiles’ first patrol.
The afternoon was quiet as Derek drove, travelling the streets of the upper suburbs, catching a speeder being the only highlight of the day.
By the time they were making their way back on the outskirts of the reserve, it was almost nightfall, and they were due to clock out in an hour. Derek suddenly putting the brakes on the thankfully deserted road had Stiles rolling his eyes at the thought of overtime on the first day.
“What is it?”
“Not too sure. Something big enough to roar, though.” Derek frowned, cocking his head to listen better.
In days gone by it would have been a fantastic opportunity for a dog joke.
“I knew I should have brought my utility belt,” Stiles grumbled. “I should have asked, has there been much recently?”
“Yeah.” Derek sighed, moving the car to pull over onto the shoulder. “It’s getting worse.”
“Worse enough for Dad to allocate four officers out of ten to the supernatural squad.” Stiles nodded to himself. “Bad enough. All right. We’re checking it out?”
“Yeah, Parrish doesn’t have a partner yet. And that definitely wasn’t Scott,” Derek undid his seatbelt and stepped out of the patrol car.
Stiles joined him, checking his weapon and the two spare clips in his belt, making a mental note to upgrade the baton to an iron core.
They entered the forest silently, keeping an ear out for any further clues to what it was and where it might be. They had walked for over fifteen minutes before Derek signalled in a particular direction. Stiles nodded his acknowledgement, raising and arming his gun just in case.
Another ten minutes and Derek had led them downwind of a quadrupedal beast that Stiles wasn’t sure would be in his Bestiary. Thanking any deity listening that he’d picked up an iPhone, he flicked it to silent and opened the camera app. He took a few quick photos hoping they might catch something in the gloom, or that some creative computer work might.
Derek wasn’t much help as his expression didn’t change from the focused intent as he watched the beast.
Heaving a silent sigh, Stiles started mentally cataloguing as much as he could. Blinking, he turned on his mage sight and viewed the scene again, trying to make as clear a mental picture as possible. Blinking again he returned his sight to normal, and he was ready to back off and do some research.
They were on the outskirts of the county, and the preserve itself stretched for miles before it hit another township. They should hopefully be safe for now.
Until a branch fell from a tree twenty feet behind them.
‘Just my fucking luck,’ Stiles groused internally.
Nobody moved as the beast stared them down, nostrils flaring as it tried to scent them. It was a tense few minutes before the beast spun on the spot, disappearing in a burst of flames.
The sounds of the forest gradually returned as Stiles and Derek relaxed. By silent agreement, they stepped forward into the clearing.
“Did that thing really just disappear into nothing?”
Derek grunted, squatting down to look at the scorch marks where it had been.
“Looks like a busy night, then.”
They made their way back to the car and back to the station, the sun fully set and the dusk waning to full night.
They passed Parrish on the way to the lockers and filled him in quickly. Stiles emailed the photos he had currently and cc’d the Sheriff in as well.
Derek was waiting in the locker room for him, Stiles raised an eyebrow in question at the werewolf’s presence.
“I was wondering where you were staying? I know you just got back into town. Are you at your dad’s?” Derek kept talking the longer Stiles didn’t say anything.
“I just figured if anything happened if I needed to come pick you up or something.”
“And let the pack know?” Stiles turned away to open his locker and retrieve his satchel.
“I wasn’t going to. It’s none of my business. I figured you’d want to talk to Scott yourself, anyway.”
Stiles snorted in derision. “Won’t he smell me on you?”
“I don’t know how he would, I’ve no plans on seeing him this week.” Derek defended.
Stiles hmphed to himself, filing the information away for thinking on later.
“I’m at the motel on Main for now, until I find somewhere.” Stiles finally answered.
“Not with your dad?” Derek frowned.
“No.” Stiles didn’t expand on it. “Here’s my number if you need to find me.”
Another minute later he had a text from Derek to give him his number. He saved it as SourWolf for old time’s sake.
“All right. Well. See you in the morning.” Stiles hitched his satchel over his shoulder and made his way ‘home’.
*what’s this about trouble on your first shift*
Stiles read the text and rolled his eyes.
*emailed the prelim report to you*
*going to see argent & his bestiary*
*he still @ same place?*
Back in the motel room, he gathered up his supply belt and hunter’s pack he had made while in the core. He strapped it around his leg and stuffed everything else in his satchel. Not having as many pockets were really going to mess with his organisation.
*same house last I heard. want me to come with*
He drove the rental car to the other side of town, mentally making a note to look at buying a new car. After he hooked up his laptop. After buying a new laptop. Stiles sighed.
Chris Argent still lived in the same apartment he had moved to after Victoria died. Stiles was surprised, considering the memories of Allison that must remain.
Or maybe he was just thinking about his own memories. Nightmares. They weren’t often, but they still popped up every now and then.
“Stiles?” Chris’ shock was evident as he opened the door and invited him in without question. “I didn’t realise you were back in town.”
“Only as of yesterday,” Stiles gave a cursory look to the sparse walls of the hallway, only three pictures were hung, and only one of them was a picture of Chris with Allison.
“And already a member of the Sheriff’s department?” Chris led him into the kitchen and motioned to a chair at the breakfast bar.
“Turns out dad’s pretty organised.” Stiles grinned, accepting the coffee mug he was handed.
“That he is. What can I help you with?”
“Some local suppliers to keep my kit up to date, but more immediately, I was wondering if I could check out your bestiary for something.”
“Interest or threat?” Chris left the room, walking back with his laptop from another room.
“Hopefully not a threat?” Stiles replied, shrugging at the other man’s raised eyebrow. “Derek and I saw something at the end of our patrol tonight. It’s not in the bestiary I have, but that is mostly middle eastern. Derek had no idea either, though I don’t suppose he would know anyway. I don’t see him as much of a lore keeper type.”
“Have you seen Deaton yet?”
“No. I don’t particularly want to either.” Stiles put in all the details he could and hit search. He was disappointed though not necessarily surprised when it didn’t return any results.
“Looks like a trip to Deaton’s may be in store then,” Chris frowned, it wasn’t often that his bestiary failed him.
“I’d prefer not to. It’s not like he would give us anything even if he did know anything.” Stiles managed to keep the growl from his voice through sheer force of will. Chris saw his expression anyway.
“Everything all right between the two of you?”
“Not really. The man’s a dickwad, too caught up in his True Alpha schtick he’s peddling to Scott to see the damage he’s doing to the Territory.”
“Finally, someone who takes my view of things.” The droll voice from the doorway could only belong to one man, and it made him want to roll his eyes.
“Peter. Nice to see you’re still a CreeperWolf.”
“Always, darling. Now, I know I have reason to have beef with our beloved vet, but yours sounds entirely too personal to be just concern for the Territory.” The wolf sashayed into the room, taking a seat next to him at the breakfast bar and helping himself to Stiles’ coffee.
“You knew I had the spark, didn’t you? That night you kidnapped me.” Stiles stared him down, hoping to finally get an answer.
“Of course, but you knew that. Ah. And Deaton should have known that.” Peter sneered, his fangs showing for a moment.
“And he got confirmation when I used the Mountain Ash, made it go further than it was supposed to. And then?”
“He did nothing,” Chris said grimly.
“Oh no, he encouraged Scott, Allison and me to sacrifice ourselves for the Nemeton.” Stiles spat. Both Chris and Peter’s frown’s deepened.
“And after that he still did nothing. He practically invited the Nogitsune in.” Chris growled.
“Bingo. You’ll be happy to hear the Marines have a dedicated supernatural branch that put me in contact with a teacher in the Middle East while I was over there. I’m much more prepared now.”
“Yes, it’s what woke me from my nap. I could smell the presence you have now. How it’s changed. I said you would be amazing.” Peter leered, a light in his eye.
“Keep me out of your scheming. I don’t want to get caught up in your shenanigans. I need to figure out what this is.” He pulled up the photo of the creature to show them.
Both men frowned again as they looked at the photo. Chris took the phone a moment, the tell-tale ding on the computer meant he had emailed to himself. Taking the phone back, he emailed the rest too as Chris fiddled on the computer.
In the meantime, Peter finished Stiles coffee and was now working on Chris’.
Eventually, Chris sat back, the image much cleaner now. “I have no idea what it is. I don’t think I’ve even heard of anything like this.”
“It appears we have homework tonight, Christopher.” Peter studied the picture.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to put you guys out or mess with your plans.” Stiles rubbed the back of his head.
“Nonsense, Stiles. You’re always welcome in Christopher and I’s plans, right Christopher?”
“We’re happy to help, Stiles.” Chris frowned at Peter, but there was also the barest hint of a blush too. Peter grinned unrepentantly.
“Have you eaten yet, Stiles?” Peter stood, casually brushing past both Stiles and Chris as he walked the long way around the breakfast bar into the kitchen.
“No, I was going to grab something after here on my way to see you if I had no luck with Chris.” Stiles shifted in his seat.
“How convenient that I was here then. You’ll stay for dinner.” Peter turned and began getting pots and pans out. “Christopher, would you mind getting my laptop so Stiles may start going through my bestiary?”
A minute later Stiles was ensconced on the lounge as he booted up Peter’s computer, making a concerted effort not to think about the fact that it seemed Chris and Peter were fucking if they weren’t actually in a relationship. He most definitely didn’t want to think about them together in case Peter smelt his body’s reaction to how very okay he was with that thought.
He would never live it down.
Where Chris’ computer had a massive database, most probably maintained over the years by the large Argent Clan, Peter’s was a giant index.
It was disheartening to see how many of the index entries led to books that were destroyed. He could only imagine what the Hale library must have looked like before the fire.
“I’ve recently reacquired that one if you wanted to have a look.”
Stiles jumped in his seat, barely saving the laptop from crashing on the ground.
“In came today, in fact.” Peter returned a minute later with a crate in hand, setting it down on the coffee table. He popped his claws a moment, cracking the lid off the crate before wandering back to the kitchen.
Chris watched him warily as he went before joining Stiles on the lounge.
Digging through the packing foam, inside a zip lock bag, they found the ancient looking tome. Opening the baggie, they could smell the mustiness that came with all aged books.
Stiles carefully opened the book and paged through to the indexed page. And there it was, in an artist’s replication, the strange beast with fire at its feet. Stiles quickly read through the details, eager for all information. In the end, he could only sit back in suspicion.
“It’s a summoned creature, not normally found on the earth plane. But is not a particularly dangerous one, just like any other wild animal.”
“Dinner’s ready.” Peter already had the table set and was just plating it all when Stiles fixed him with a glare.
“Did you summon it?” Stiles growled.
“Although I would have many reasons to summon such a creature for a variety of end results, no I did not. But I did see it in the Preserve over a week ago and so moved up my timetable on procuring that particular book.”
“Many reasons, huh. I can get that, actually. You don’t have much of a pack bond with Scott’s pack, do you?” Stiles sat down at the table.
“And neither does Derek,” Peter said shortly, cutting into his steak.
“That would mean Scott having to call on the both of you like a pack to help him deal with it as most of the pack are still scattered.” Chris deduced.
“But it wasn’t me. So, who else would want to get the pack back together?” Peter led on.
“And potentially before I get back into town. I got back a month earlier than I thought I might. Dad wasn’t expecting me for a bit. And Scott wouldn’t know otherwise either.” Stiles put his fork down in disgust.
“Dr Deaton.” Chris took a sip from his glass.
“Is the man insane? Wasn’t he supposed to be Talia’s Emissary? Has he always been like this?” Stiles groused, picking up his cutlery again, the food smelt and tasted amazing. ‘Damn you, Peter,’ Stiles thought.
“Deaton had been a very much hands-off Emissary in Talia’s reign. When our previous Emissary died unexpectedly, he left no apprentice to pick up the reigns. Talia found Deaton some weeks after the fact, and he agreed to move here and take up the role. However, bar myself, Talia and her husband, most were completely unaware we had an Emissary.”
“So did he actually ‘do’ anything for the pack?” Chris was getting deeply disturbed. If his thoughts were correct…
“I’m uncertain. I became aware of him during the talks with Deucalion and the other packs. I tried interrogating Talia then, but she either didn’t want to say or actually didn’t know much.”
“Okay, so what’s his end game? So far he’s got Scott eating from the palm of his hand. He’s purposefully been obtuse or just plain ignored both you and Derek. Even when the both of you were Alphas.”
“Control. Control of the Alpha and of a pack. Control of a territory. Control of the Nemeton.” Chris put his cutlery down.
“Please tell me you actually have information on the Nemeton,” Stiles pleaded, rubbing his face.
“Our family was considered the experts on such things, as rare as they are,” Peter smirked at Stiles relief.
“Thank the gods for that.”
“And they’re safely in storage at the moment, safe from the fire. They’re heirlooms at this point. I will collect some tonight so we can have the pleasure of your company for tomorrow night’s dinner.” Peter grinned when both Chris and Stiles rolled their eyes.
“And if I had plans?” Stiles challenged, kind of annoyed at the presumption, kind of not too, which he was not going to think about.
“Don’t be contrary. I know you don’t. So, we’ll see you at seven.”
Stiles didn’t fight it. The food really was that good. It’s been a long time since he’d had decent food, let alone food like this.
After dinner, he packed up his satchel again. Peter was standing at the breakfast bar, directly in his path to the door. Stiles went to walk around him, but a hand on his bicep stopped him.
“I’m very glad you’ve returned to us safe and sound from the Marines. I can see your time with them has done wonders. Welcome home, Stiles.” Peter said, the most heartfelt he had ever seen the werewolf be. And then he was leaning in to kiss Stiles on the temple before smirking again and sashaying back to the bowels of the apartment.
Chris chuckled as he waited for Stiles at the door, amused at the dumbstruck look on the younger man’s face.
“Was there anything you needed for your kit now?”
“What?” Confusion covered Stiles’ face.
“Your kit. What you use for your spark.” Chris leant back against the door.
“Ah, no. Just don’t want to be left without a supplier. And I didn’t want to rely on Deaton.” Stiles readjusted the strap on his satchel over his shoulder.
“Well, write a list for tomorrow, and I’ll make sure you don’t run out. And what Peter said, you’re welcome here anytime. I’m happy to see you home again too.” Chris smiled. Smiled a smile that had confused Stiles in his teenage years, and seemed to only reinforce those confusing feelings now.
“It’s ah, it’s good to be home.” Stiles smiled in return, hitching the satchel strap again. “Have a good night.”
“You too, Stiles. And remember, any time.”
The man finally moved off the door and let Stiles out into the night.
“How long have you been waiting?” Stiles asked, sliding into the passenger seat of the patrol car that was parked outside his hotel room.
“Not long,” Derek lied, putting the car in gear and leaving the car park.
“So only about forty-five minutes then?” That was when he had gotten back from the gym, and the werewolf hadn’t been there yet.
Derek just grunted, steering the way towards the station. Stiles just shook his head in amusement.
“Did you find anything out about that creature last night?” Stiles took his phone out to fiddle with as they drove.
“Peter wasn’t home, so I couldn’t ask him. His laptop wasn’t there either.”
“So, you just broke into his house and what? Checked anyway?” Stiles raised a sardonic eyebrow.
“He would do the exact same to you or me.” Derek defended, glancing at Stiles quickly for the first time that day.
“Right. I forgot I’ve been living in the real world for all those years, I forgot what was and wasn’t normal or socially acceptable in Beacon Hills. Never mind you’re a cop.” Stiles snorted, pulling up a Google search.
Derek ignored that statement, “What about you? Did your contacts find anything?”
“My contacts probably should have been your contacts, but whatever. Chris and Peter had a bit of trouble, but Peter found a reference and it looks like we have a match. But it’s going to be a bit more complicated than we thought.”
“Surprisingly enough, not really. Not normally at any rate. We should be able to send it back to wherever it came from relatively easy.” Stiles was glad for that, at least. It was something that he should be able to do on the weekend with only a few necessary implements.
“So, what’s the problem then?”
“Who summoned it. I’m not sure if you’ll follow my logic.” Stiles sighed as they pulled into the Station’s car park. “Nor think he’s as dangerous as I think he is.”
“So, it’s someone we know, someone male.” Derek deduced with a frown, putting the car in park and turning the engine off. “What makes you think its Deaton?”
“Wow, no need to worry why you’re a cop,” Stiles said, actually impressed that it had only taken the former alpha a minute or so to work it out.
Inside the Station, they briefly met up with Parrish who was on his way out after a ‘long and quiet night’. At their adjoining desks was another small pile of HR forms that needed to be completed, which wasn’t entirely all that surprising.
After that, he turned to his satchel and the cleaning kit he had brought from his own kit and started to clean his service piece for the day.
He was just holstering it again when the Sheriff arrived.
“Stilinski! My office,” his dad called, the smile on his face meant it was more social than anything else.
“Morning Sheriff,” Stiles stood at attention inside the office.
“Hey, kid. Good night? Everything alright with Argent?” the Sheriff slumped in his seat, taking out his tablet and setting it up on the desk to charge.
“Yeah, fine. Got a lead on what the creature is. Only problem now is we need to find out who summoned it. We’ve got leads on that as well.” Stiles reported.
“Damnit, Stiles. At ease. Permanently. Sit down.” The sheriff grumbled noticing the formal stance he remembered from his own days in the Forces. He reached for his coffee.
Stiles just smirked, sitting down.
“So, you’re going to be getting a visitor this morning.” The sheriff sighed after taking his first sip of coffee. When Stiles said nothing, he continued. “Scott was over last night, asking for a favour. He smelt it on me.”
Stiles’ face was blank but internally he was a mess of emotions. Anger being the most predominant.
“Yeah. He can come here if he wants.”
Even though the sheriff couldn’t see it, he knew this had to be hurting his son. “Want me to put you on patrol for the morning?”
“Only if we were rostered to. Don’t change things for me. Don’t want to be accused of nepotism on my second day.” Stiles smirked.
John could see it was forced but had no idea what he could do for his son.
“Alright. I’m here if you need me.”
Back at his desk, Stiles checked his email again. He was just finishing up when a coffee was placed beside him.
Derek said nothing, placing his own coffee down on his desk before turning his computer and starting his own paperwork.
“So, Peter worked out what it might have been last week apparently, and ordered in the book that his index indicated.”
Derek glowered at his coffee.
“And before you ask, no. I don’t think he had anything to do with it. I’ve emailed you the photos I took of the book. Let me know what you think.” Stiles leant back as Derek logged into the email. Ten minutes later Derek sat back from the terminal and fixed him with a look.
“Are you sure it wasn’t Peter? It seems like a very strange coincidence for it not to be him.”
“No, I’m inclined to believe him for now. He said he saw it early last week and in his own search had to reorder the book that arrived yesterday.” Stiles swung shortly from side to side in his chair, as much as his crossed legs on the corner of the desk allowed.
“Well,” Derek said, playing devil’s advocate, “We need to look for who summoned it then. You think it’s Dr Deaton.”
Stiles picked at the seam of the nearly empty cardboard cup. “Well, we worked it out that whoever summoned it had to have done it for a reason. It doesn’t actually pose much more of a threat than any other wild animal would. Either we’re dealing with someone who,” Stiles ticked off on his fingers, “was just seeing if they could summon it; someone who is testing the pack to see what they would do before escalating; or someone who has summoned it to draw the very much separated pack back together again before something or someone enters the Territory again.”
Derek was busy taking notes, eventually dividing the paper into four sections. In the third he still placed Peter’s name.
“You know this would be right up Peter’s alley, right?” Derek looked back at Stiles again.
“To draw the pack together, meaning you and him having to team up with Scott and whoever he can muster, giving whatever small tether of a pack-bond you have a boost, something to keep you both going for a bit longer,” Stiles said with an air of challenge.
“No, just for the shits and giggles,” Derek deadpanned.
“Wow, werewolf has jokes. I haven’t ruled him out, but I do think it’s unlikely. He didn’t protest hard enough.”
“Alright. So, Deaton. Convince me.” Derek challenged back
“When did you think I was coming back?”
“Not for another month or so,” Derek frowned in confusion.
“And you got that from dad, or Scott, right?”
“Well yeah,” Derek reached to throw his coffee cup away.
“So, Deaton would be under the same impression, right? Now, what do you know about Sparks?”
“Nothing. Apparently you’re one?”
“I am. They’re natural magic users. Normally they only appear when they’re needed. Normally they end up Emissaries to local supernatural packs and such. Deaton knew what I was, tested me even. And then left me hanging. After months of asking and demanding for help or information – nada.”
“So you think this is about you?” the sceptical face was back.
“I know it sounds narcissistic, but he epically dropped the ball. Like screw up the territory bad. It’s a lucky thing I left to join the Marines. Got the training and practice I needed to not be a danger or a trouble magnet.”
“So this is about the Emissary thing?”
“In the long term, I think.”
“Stiles!” The loud call came across the bullpen.
Scott made a grand entrance to the room, getting everyone’s attention when he shouted from the doorway. And then the Alpha was across the room and enveloping Stiles in a bearhug. “Dude, you look awesome!”
“Great to see you too, buddy,” Stiles said half-heartedly, awkwardly clapping Scott on the back.
“Dude! You got buff in the army,” Scott released him with a beaming grin.
“Marines.” Stiles corrected.
“How come you didn’t tell me you were back so early? I was gonna organise a party. We’ll just have one this weekend. I’ll get the pack together. It’ll be awesome.” Scott grinned. Grinned like he didn’t have a care in the world, but Stiles knew better. He was barely keeping the pack together. The alpha strength he should have been displaying was dramatically muted.
“That’s great buddy. Cheers. But I should probably get back to work,” Stiles gestured over his shoulder back to his desk.
“I’m sure the Sheriff would let you off for a bit. Come grab a shake with me. There’s so much we need to catch up,” Scott clapped a hand on Stiles’ shoulder to lead him out of the station.
“The Sheriff would mind very much, Mr McCall.” John stood in the doorway to his office, arms crossed over his chest. “He has a job to do. You’ve got two minutes before he needs to get back to it.”
“Of course, Sheriff.” Scott looked marginally chastised. He looked back to Stiles, “Come by tonight, we’ll order pizza and we can catch up then.”
“I can’t. I’ve got plans.”
“What? Already? Break ’em. We haven’t seen each other in years! I’m calling the Best Bro Clause.” Scott pushed.
“I’m sorry, dude. Maybe tomorrow night. But I’ve got something really important tonight. I can’t back out of it.”
“More important than your best friend that you’ve not seen in literal years?” Scott frowned, the kicked puppy look didn’t seem to be working though.
“I’ll be there tomorrow, dude. Promise. Your mum would kill me if she knew, you know that.”
“She still might anyway, for not telling us you were back,” Scott smirked and Stiles grimaced.
“I’ll be there, dude.”
“Time’s up, Mr McCall.” The Sheriff re-entered the bullpen and came to stand right in front of the Alpha.
“Of course, Sheriff, I was just leaving.” Scott barely kept from stuttering.
The Sheriff said nothing, raising his eyebrow when the werewolf continued to stand there.
“Right, um, see you later,” Scott called to the room in general as he turned and made his way out.
“That wasn’t awkward at all,” Derek commented from his desk.
“Yeah,” Stiles mumbled, sitting down at his own desk again.
“Did he always used to railroad you into things like that?” Derek tapped his pen on his notebook steadily.
“No, it was usually me doing the railroading.” Stiles cleared his throat, “Anyway.”
“Yeah, you were failing to explain how Dr Deaton was behind all this.” Derek prompted.
“Yeah, well, I think he was trying to reform the pack and restrengthen ties as much as he could so that when I returned it would be to a happy pack that wouldn’t want or need me, ensuring that the Territory and the Nemeton remained in his control.”
“You’re right. It is narcissistic of you.”
Stiles deflated a bit, disheartened at Derek’s dismissal.
“But we should go check it out anyway,” Derek stood up from hi desk, retrieving his gun from the drawer.
“Oh,” Stiles scrambled to his feet, narrowly avoiding landing on the floor. “Okay, awesome. Yeah, let’s do that.” Stiles eagerly got his own weapon out and bounded after the werewolf as he smirked his way out of the station.
“You didn’t really think that we would get anything from him, did you?” Stiles slid into the passenger seat.
“Not exactly, but that doesn’t prove or disprove anything.” Derek climbed into the driver’s side and started the patrol car. “Besides, what was with you two anyway?”
Stiles huffed, “Regardless of this creature thing, he doesn’t want me in the territory. Not and potentially become Scott’s emissary. Of that, I’m pretty sure. There was no way he could know what I was and not do anything if he had been a responsible emissary.”
Derek didn’t say anything. It was an uncomfortable thought to have that the vet was possibly that… callous?
“I’m sorry to harp on this, but I’m so sure that is what’s happening. I know it in my gut.” Stiles tapped idly on his leg as they drove back to the Station again.
“It’s not that I don’t believe you,” Derek said with a frown.
“It’s that I don’t have any proof either,” Stiles nodded to himself, looking out the passenger window.
“No, it’s not that.” Derek continued to frown, “It just means I have to examine things that are better left forgotten.”
“You mean the fire and everything that happened after that.” Stiles tried to say it gently, but there really was no way to lessen the blow.
Derek grunted his acknowledgement.
“I won’t bring it up again, but I will say this: couldn’t he have tried to teach us to work together, or to find our own answers, or just be generally unhelpful when it wasn’t a life and death matter?”
“A pleasure to see you this evening,” Peter held the door open for Stiles to enter. “Christopher, Stiles has arrived.” He called back through the house.
In the kitchen, Chris was at the breakfast bar with his laptop open to what looked like work-related spreadsheets. Peter followed behind him, a casual brush of shoulders as he returned to the kitchen and the meal he was preparing.
“Good day at work, Stiles?” Chris asked as he closed the laptop lid.
“Not bad,” Stiles dropped his bag off by the lounge and took a seat next to Chris. “Deaton knew nothing of course and said he would look into it.”
“You saw him today and didn’t take us with you?” Peter pouted from the stove.
Stiles laughed, “No sorry, I took Derek.”
“And how is my nephew?”
“You could see him yourself, you know. You’ve been reasonably sane for a few years now.” Stiles said pointedly.
“For what counts as reasonably sane,” Chris murmured.
“Derek hasn’t made any indication that that is something he would want,” Peter said with a snooty air.
“And you can’t make that first step?” Stiles argued.
“I’ll not go where I’m not welcome.”
Both Stiles and Chris snorted at that.
“Since when?” Chris stood up and made to set the table.
“It’s been a few years now, don’t you think it’s time you guys made up?” Stiles said softly.
“Have you seen Scott yet?” Peter said pointedly in return, still facing away from him. It was a low blow.
Chris looked at the two men with a frown, “What’s wrong with Scott?”
“Yes Stiles, what’s wrong with Scott?” Peter still hadn’t turned around.
Stiles should’ve known that Peter would retaliate. He sighed, “We’ve not had the best relationship since the Nogitsune and Theo.”
Chris flashed a glare at Peter, understanding.
“He came to the station today, acting like we were still teenagers and nothing was wrong.” Stiles kicked at the chair rungs with a frown.
“I hope you like pasta,” Peter said firmly, carrying a large pot over to the sink.
“Love pasta,” Stiles said with a grin.
“So what did Deaton have to say?” Chris picked up Stiles’ plate and his own, taking them over to the sink.
“He was useless, just as I thought. He’s going to look into it, apparently.” Stiles sat back, rubbing his stomach. “That was damn good. But he was surprised to see me.”
“Lends credence to our theory,” Peter leant back from the table to stretch.
“And what were Derek’s thoughts?” Chris came back, removing Peter’s plate and the last of their dishes to the kitchen.
“Reluctantly humouring me so far, though he’s moving to reluctant acceptance pretty quickly.”
“Reluctantly?” Chris sat back down again with a bottle of red wine and three glasses.
“Reluctantly, my nephew is coming to the realisation just how much he and the whole Hale Pack have been fucked over.” Peter sneered reaching for the bottle and opening it.
“Pretty much,” Stiles sighed, accepting the glass that was placed before him. “I can’t imagine it will be a good night for him.”
“It’s about damn time, though,” Peter took a sip of the wine.
“We can’t argue with that,” Chris said, playing with the stem of his wine glass. “He has a terrible habit of burying his head in the sand.”
“To be fair, he has dealt with a ridiculous amount of shit in his relatively short life,” Stiles defended the former Alpha.
“So have you,” Peter murmured, sending them all silent.
“It’s safe to say we’ve all led pretty fucked up lives,” Stiles finally took a sip of the wine. Or a gulp. Either way, it didn’t sit well going down.
“And we’ve all become fucked up in our own ways because of it,” Chris spread out in his chair, sending Stiles mind in a completely different direction.
Peter instantly perked up at the change in pheromones that were now filling the room, grin turning lascivious.
“But that would not have led the three of us here, enjoying a pleasant evening together.”
“That’s true,” Stiles huffed in amusement. “This really wasn’t where I thought I would be ten years ago, let alone fifteen.”
“Yes, your ten-year plan for Miss Martin. Look at you now, charming two older men,” Peter grinned at him, smirking when Stiles all but choked on the sip of wine he had just taken.
Chris just laughed, fetching a napkin for the young man.
“I hate you,” Stiles glared, moping himself up.
“No, you don’t darling,” Peter smirked, slouching back in the seat, smirk growing when Stiles blushed and looked away.
“Stop teasing him,” Chris admonished with a laugh.
“But it’s too much fun. And entirely too easy,” Peter affected a pout.
Stiles could only shake his head. “Derek’s slowly coming around, and Dad is already on board with our theory,” Stiles sat up straight, ignoring both men who were slouching in their seats on either side of him. There was nowhere safe to look.
“So what is our next course fo action?” Chris grinned at Stiles’ response to them. It was entirely too much fun.
“Dealing with the immediate issue of that creature. Preferably without Deaton or Scott’s knowledge. Planning for the long term solution of getting rid of Deaton out of the territory.” Stiles stood up and retrieved his satchel, pulling a notebook and pencil case and bringing them back to the table.
“And what do we plan to do with Scott in the long term?” Peter threw his head back and drained the glass of wine in such a way that he knew would affect Stiles.
Judging by Chris’ grin, it worked.
“That’s something we’re going to have to discuss,” Stiles eventually said, clearing his throat. “He never wanted to be a werewolf. I’m sure he still holds a grudge against you,” Stiles chanced a look at the werewolf and regretted it. “I’m not too sure what he’s done or achieved since becoming the fabled True Alpha.”
“Not a whole lot we’ve seen,” Chris commented.
“And Dad said he hasn’t done much either. It’s half the reason I’m back and partnered with Derek as a supernatural team. He still wants to get someone partnered with Parrish, and maybe one more team after that, so that there is always someone on duty in the know.”
“It’s not a bad idea to have actually.” Peter poured himself another glass, topping Stiles and Chris’ off as well.
“So Scott is useless unless there’s a fight which means there is little to no leadership in the pack. Who of the pack is still here in Beacon Hills anyway?” Stiles started writing notes in his notebook.
“Issac is still in France, he has no intention of returning to the U.S., same for Jackson in London.” Chris started listing off.
“Miss Martin I believe was waiting to see where you would land first, before making her decision,” Peter added.
“Liam, Hayden, Mason and Corey are finishing up University, but the rumours I’ve heard say that they aren’t interested in returning, and have been making inquiries to other packs across the country. Kira is also still finishing University, but I think she should be back this year.” Chris sipped his wine as he watched Stiles scribbled it all down.
“Ethan has been on the fringes here in Beacon Hills, he opened his own mechanic’s shop, but I’ve not seen or heard much from him. I don’t know if Scott does or not.”
Peter shrugged, not knowing either.
Stiles continued his notes. “Malia has a good thing going on in California at the moment, I’m not sure if she’s every going to come back either.” Stiles frowned, sitting up straight again and looking over the notes. “So really, here in the territory, it’s only you Derek and Scott that are werewolves with Ethan hanging on the fringes.”
“Not much of a pack at the moment,” Chris frowned at the list.
“Would Cora come back do you think, ever?” Stiles tapped his pen on the notebook as he thought.
“No, my niece made it clear she had no intentions of setting foot here again. She’s happy down in Mexico anyway.” Peter swirled the wine around in his glass.
“So there really isn’t much of a pack,” Stiles sighed. “What was Deaton planning to have happen then? There are way too many volatile personalities in this quasi-pack that nothing would ever be achieved, no matter the motivation.”
“It’s something Peter and I discussed after you left last night. It’s the only thing we can think of that we cannot account for and works against our leading theory.”
They continued to argue the point for the hour or so before Stiles looked at his watch and softly cursed. “I should really get going.”
He started packing up his scattered notes and notebook and pens, only now noticing there were three bottles on the table that were now empty. He stood up and was a little wobbly, but not too much. Thankfully it seemed to be Peter that had been putting the wine away, though the werewolf had topped off his glass several times throughout the night.
Once his satchel was packed he rifled through his kit bag at his thigh and pulled out a phial of something he had gotten the recipe for back in the Middle East. It had saved his arse several times when he had been a little too inebriated to be fit for active duty. It didn’t clear his system completely but gave it enough of a boost that he should be able to drive home safely.
He was sure he imagined it when Peter looked a little disappointed that he could drive.
“Thank you again for a great night.” Stiles eventually said, bags packed, ready to go.
Neither of the men had moved and seemed to just be watching him.
“You’re more than welcome, Stiles. Though it is a shame you must go.” Peter pouted from his reclining position.
“Well, I still have work in the morning. And I’m sure you guys want to go to bed or something,” Stiles blushed, hitching the strap of his satchel on his shoulder.
“You’re more than welcome to join us,” Peter stood up directly into his space. “We would be more than happy to have you there.”
Stiles coughed, taking a step back. Right into Chris. “Right. I’m sure.”
“Will you be joining us tomorrow night? We still have much to plan in regards to Scott,” Chris added, making Stiles frown in annoyance that they were ganging up on him.
“Sorry, I promised I would catch up with Scott tomorrow.”
“Then we can expect you Thursday night,” Peter said with finality. Once again, the werewolf leant in and kissed him on the temple. “Drive home safely and sleep well.”
He disappeared into another room leaving Chris to show Stiles out.
“You honestly don’t have to go,” Chris said as he followed Stiles to the front door.
“Yeah, I do.” Stiles sighed heavily, biting at his lip.
“You’re welcome here, any time.”
“Yeah, see, I’m hearing those words but I think you mean them differently than what normal people understand.”
Chris laughed, “Yeah, maybe we do.”
“And that’s why I’m going.” Stiles shrugged, frowning.
“We never wanted to make you uncomfortable, Stiles. I’ll tell Peter to tone it down.” Chris smiled bemusedly, but that only confused and irritated Stiles even more.
Stiles reached the door first this time, quickly opening it, and taking a step into the cool night air. Chris joined him outside, the door held open a crack.
“I’m sorry,” Stiles felt like he had made things awkward, but he still didn’t know what was supposed to be going on.
“Don’t be, Stiles. You have nothing to apologise for. We like having you in our space, that’s all. We’re both glad you’ve finally returned that we don’t want to miss any time you might want to spend with us.” The hunter nudged his shoulder as they both looked at the stars.
“But I don’t get why? Why now? I don’t get it.” Stiles growled, some of his irritation showing.
“Why wouldn’t we?”
Chris nudged his shoulder one more time before stepping back inside and closing the door.
Stiles woke up tired the next morning, not used to such late nights (especially when there was wine involved) when he started his day at five in the morning. He yawned his way through his stretches before heading out on his run. An hour later and he was arriving back at the motel to hydrate and pick up his bag for the gym.
“Oi!” Stiles turned around sharply, not expecting the irate voice this early in the morning. It was lucky he did as he barely missed the fist that would have connected with his head.
“What the fuck?” Stiles dropped his bag and ducked away.
“Your kind. They’re not welcome here. When this territory is mine, you’ll be shot or clawed the moment you set foot here!” The werewolf growled. The claws and sideburns gave it away.
“Your Territory? This is Hale and McCall Pack Territory. And correct me if I’m wrong, but you’re neither a Hale nor a member of the McCall pack. Especially to be staying here at this shit hole.” Stiles took the time talking to take a few steps further back and to take stock of what he had.
“Yeah, my territory. Two omegas and a weak as piss Alpha aren’t much competition. It’ll be mine come nightfall.” The alpha flashed his eyes and took a step closer to Stiles.
Stiles sighed. “I really can’t let you do that. This territory really doesn’t need some power-hungry dickhead like you messing things up.”
“I really don’t care what you think hunter. You’ll be dead soon anyway.”
“Not a hunter, but I’d love to see you try.”
And then it was on. It took all of Stiles training to keep up with the werewolf and keep him from landing any hits. He cursed himself for the timing as while his blood was already pumping from the run, so was exhaustion starting to set in.
It was a wonder none of the other tenants heard the noise as Stiles’ spark flung the alpha into the tree again in an attempt to get his satchel, his supplies, and mount a proper offensive. He saw an opening and took it, sending the alpha flying again as he dove for his bag. But the alpha was back quicker than he’d guessed, claws sliding down his back before he silently screamed his pain when teeth tore into his bicep.
Stiles didn’t think. Instead of the Rowan bat in his bag, he grabbed the handle of his knife and lashed out at the surprised wolf’s throat. The body landed with a thud and Stiles could see he was dead, the wound sluggishly seeping blood. Stiles sighed, not realizing he’d grabbed the enchanted blade with wolfsbane.
And then it hit him, a wave of energy that crackled up his spine, flared in his heart and the center where he had always drawn his spark from. He wouldn’t be able to touch that spark energy again after this.
“I know I said anytime, Stiles, but does it have to be this early in the morning?” Peter whined as he wiped his face tiredly. And then he took a breath. His eyes snapped open, and any trace of sleep disappeared as he took Stiles in.
“Christopher!” Peter called back inside the apartment as he drew Stiles in with a gentle hand at his elbow.
“What happened?” Peter asked quietly as he came back with a warm, damp cloth to clean Stiles up.
Chris entered then, fully clothed, and ready for battle with various weapons strapped to his waist and legs.
“Stiles, are you all right?””
“Not really, no.” Hysterical laughter bubbled up from nowhere as he wondered what he was panicked about more. “I’m going to need help with clean-up and body disposal.”
“Of course, where?”
“The motel I was staying at, outside near the front area. There’s a lot of blood. The body’s in the rental car out front.” Stiles quietly shook for a few moments before he looked back up at the two men.
“What happened?” Peter asked again.
“Alpha, might have been staying at the motel too. Called this territory his. Called me a hunter then attacked. He bit me.” Stiles ended on a whisper.
Chris heaved a heavy sigh before patting Stiles on the shoulder and left the room, phone already to his ear.
“I can feel myself already turning. My spark is gone,” Stiles all but whimpered.
“I said you’d make an amazing spark. But I knew you’d make an exceptional werewolf. I just wished it was something you had chosen, not something forced on you.”
“It’s not just that,” Stiles shivered. “I can feel the energy already. Alpha energy.”
“Well, that might complicate things a little,” Peter murmured mildly, still busy cleaning Stiles’ arms and hands of blood.
“Things are tenuous at best with me back here, I really didn’t need this as well,” he huffed, watching Peter walk away with the dirty cloth to rinse it out.
“But it is done now. So, we must make of it what we can.” The wolf returned with another clean cloth and a dish towel.
Stiles took them this time, wiping his hands and arms again of the last traces. And then he saw his shirt and huffed in defeat. He looked back to Peter to find the other wolf before him again, clean shirt outstretched.
“Thank you,” Stiles managed a weak smile as he pulled the shirt off and bundled it up. “Actually, do you mind if I grab a shower first?”
“Of course, there’s a towel in there already for you, and some pants, if you want to change those too.” The wolf turned away again and entered the kitchen, opening the fridge door, and peering inside. “Omelette okay?”
“Yeah, that would be awesome. Thanks.”
Stiles wandered to the hallway and set about finding the bathroom. He found what looked like a spare room, a study, and the master bedroom before finding the moderately sized bathroom. As Peter had said, the towel and pants were sitting on the edge of the bath.
Instead of stripping off and stepping into the shower, he could only sit on the edge of the bath and try to keep the panic attack at bay.