The forest is really quiet tonight. The only sound seems to be the wind blowing through the trees, rustling leaves and whistling as it passes through some branches. There’s a crescent moon tonight, so the forest is pretty dark. No moonlight to guide the way, just instincts. Well, instincts and a lovely flashlight app that lets Stiles see far enough in front of him to avoid tripping or falling. If he’d actually planned to visit the preserve tonight, he’d have brought along a real flashlight. As it is, he’d been leaving the station, finally off work after a long mid-shift that ran late due to a domestic disturbance call, when Deaton called. The flashlight he keeps in Roscoe has dead batteries, which he’d found out when he parked at the edge of the preserve, so he’s just glad his phone is fully charged.
It seems pointless to be traipsing through the forest alone after midnight, and Stiles isn’t even really sure why he’s out here tonight. Deaton just told him he needed to check out the Nemeton, said his usual cryptic bullshit about an odd feeling in the air, and told Stiles to make sure there weren’t any disturbances in the force. Well, that last bit is actually all Stiles, but he’s convinced Deaton was totally thinking it. With Scott away at vet school and Lydia taking MIT by storm, it’s fallen on Stiles to sort of oversee this type of shit until both of his friends eventually return to Beacon Hills to help lead the pack. He knows they will, too, even if they’ve never said anything. There’s something about this place that’s just home to them, whether it’s supernatural calling or what.
And, really, he doesn’t mind having the responsibility of keeping things in order and making sure any possible threats are neutralized, even if he worries sometimes about coming across something a human with very minor magical skills can handle. Tonight, he could have probably got Jordan to come out with him, but he knows Jordan’s got to be at the station at six, so he hadn’t wanted to wake him up. There’s also Isaac, who came back to town five years ago and decided to stay, but Stiles doesn’t usually ask him for help unless it’s something dire because, well, he just doesn’t trust him really because he thinks Isaac still sort of blames him for Allison’s death even if Isaac’s told him he doesn’t. It’s probably Stiles’ own guilt making him think that, but whatever. He chose not to call Isaac or Jordan, and the rest of the pack isn’t available.
Malia and Braeden are in Ohio right now tracking some murdering creature or another. Stiles can never really keep up with what they’re after because they often get pulled into other jobs when they’re in the mood to hunt. The puppies in the pack are all away at college now, too, even if Liam comes back every weekend to check in because he’s got this paranoia about something attacking Stiles without any of them finding out until it’s too late. Like Scott wouldn’t know if Stiles missed his daily check in texts or the biweekly skype calls. Liam worries, though, so Stiles is just used to having a visitor most weekends now.
Derek left six years ago, and he really only comes back for brief visits, which Stiles can totally understand because this town hasn’t been good to him at all. He deserves to be happy, and, if staying away from Beacon Hills and all of them makes him happy, well, Stiles supports it. Still, he sort of misses having Derek around, especially on nights like this. Or, really, any night when he’s alone and able to think about ‘could have been’ regrets he might have regarding Derek and their relationship, such as it was. They do text, a lot, and there have even been non-awkward phone calls, but Derek still hasn’t mentioned ever coming home.
So, it’s basically him, Isaac, and Jordan keeping Beacon Hills safe from supernatural dangers these days while everyone else is off doing the college thing. He went straight to the academy and Isaac’s just taking some classes for the nursing program at the community college while working at the hospital. As Stiles steps over fall branches and almost trips on a damn rock, he realizes he could have called Chris to come along. He’s back in town again after spending a couple of weeks on the road doing hunter stuff he never shares with the rest of the class. Stiles doesn’t really push it because he oddly does trust Chris despite the Allison thing. Chris has proven that he does follow her code, even if it’s reluctantly sometimes, and he protects Scott’s pack like he’s a part of it. In most ways, he actually is pack, but he never acknowledges it. Stiles feels a little better knowing there’s someone he can call if he does come across something weird at the Nemeton.
When he reaches the infamous tree stump, he’s not surprised to see someone there. However, he is surprised to see more than one someone there, that’s for sure, since Deaton told him it’d be safe to come alone. He should have known better than to listen to Deaton. Thank God he’s still wearing his uniform and didn’t leave his gun in the Jeep. He’s also got some minor magic at his disposal, the stuff he’s managed to learn on his own with Satomi’s help since Deaton refuses to acknowledge he’s got a spark of some sort, much less giving him any training. There are two people standing by the Nemeton, both females, but he knows well enough that females can be deadly and dangerous and never underestimates them.
“I’ve had a call about a disturbance out here,” Stiles says, lying smoothly as he steps out of the trees and approaches the group. The skinny redhead standing by the Nemeton turns to look at him, blinking as he aims his phone’s flashlight on her. “What are you folks doing skulking around the woods? We don’t allow camping out here, you know? Maybe it’d be best if you two head somewhere else safer.”
“Who’d have called in a disturbance?” This isn’t the redhead. It’s a petite blonde that gives him Allison vibes, in a ‘scary could kill you without breaking a nail’ sort of way. Damn, he misses Allison so much. Pushing those thoughts away, he focuses. The blonde is older than he first thinks, probably in her mid to late 30s. “We’re in the middle of fucking nowhere, so I don’t believe you for a minute, Mr. Cop Guy. Who are you really?”
“He’s just a baby.” This is a guy speaking, and Stiles looks over to see there’s a third person he hadn’t even noticed before. He shines the light and blinks in surprise when he sees an eyepatch. The guy’s as old as the blonde, tall and lanky, not giving off the same ‘danger danger’ vibes as the blonde. Still, Stiles knows well enough that appearances can be deceiving. “Are you even really a cop? You don’t look like you’re out of high school yet, kid.”
“Guys, leave him alone. He’s just doing his job.” This time, it’s the redhead. She’s studying Stiles curiously when he flashes the light at her. There’s something about her that’s both creepy and mesmerizing. He feels drawn to her. No, not him. Something inside him. His magic is making his skin tingle. She’s probably as old as the others, but she doesn’t really look it. He just doesn’t figure One Eyed Willie and Feisty Blonde are the type to hang out in the preserve with someone that much younger than them.
“I’m twenty-three years old, and I work for the Beacon Hills Sheriff’s Department,” he tells them, giving One Eyed a look. “I’m not in high school and haven’t been for years. Now, I received a call, and I want to know what you three are doing lurking around this old stump in the middle of the night.”
“It’s not really the middle of the night, officer,” the blonde says. “It’s early morning, if we want to get technical. And we haven’t seen anyone at all since we parked our car, so I still want to know where this mysterious call came from.”
“Hot damn. I arrive late to the party and I miss the arrival of entertainment?” The voice is coming from behind him, and he sees the beam of a flashlight waver. “Man, that’s a fine ass you’ve got there, boy. Definitely fills out that uniform nicely.” There’s a wolf whistle before the woman keeps talking. “You really shouldn’t have arranged a stripper for us, B. I know you’re hard up after dealing with the single life for a couple of years now, but there’s a time and a place for indulging those urges. And this one is practically jailbait. Damn, I’m actually proud of you. It brings tears to my eyes. Way to take turning thirty-eight in stride, babe.”
Stiles turns around, feeling vastly outnumbered now because there’s no way he can handle four people, even if they’re humans, which he’s not entirely convinced of yet. He sees that it’s another petite woman holding the flashlight, and she’s gorgeous even if she’s as old as the others. For a moment, he wonders if she’s into cougaring before he mentally slaps himself and focuses. “How many more of you are there?” he asks, putting himself between them and the Nemeton.
“Ignore Faith. She always gets horny after sl—“ The blonde stops and frowns. “Well, she’s always horny and assumes everyone else is into casual sex with no boundaries. She’s harmless so your virtue is safe.”
“Some of us are into casual sex, though, so stop shaming, Buffy,” the redhead pipes up, winking at the brunette, who must be named Faith. That means the blonde is Buffy, which is not a name he’d associate with a tough seeming woman, more like a valley girl cheerleader type more concerned about her manicure than wandering around a forest at night. The redhead looks at Stiles and smiles. “It’s just us four right now. We left three others back at our hotel, but they don’t plan to come out here with us.”
“What exactly are you, hot stuff?” Faith asks, aiming her own flashlight at Stiles. She’s still eyeing him up like he’s dessert, but he knows it’s all an act because he’s been around hunters before. She and the blonde are definitely hunters of some kind. The redhead is giving off some vibe he can’t quite place, but it’s sort of making his magic thrum when she stares at him a certain way. And One Eyed Willie is just staying out of it, watching and waiting, probably ready to jump in if Stiles poses a danger to his friends.
“I’m a deputy.” Stiles narrows his eyes as he reaches back to touch the Nemeton. He doesn’t try to channel any of its power, yet, but he’s prepared to do it if needed. There are seven of these hunters in his town, vastly outnumbering his pack currently residing here, and he’s willing to do whatever it takes to keep his town safe.
“She means other than that,” the redhead says. Stiles glances at her, surprised to see she’s moved even closer to him. “She can sense it, even if she can’t identify it.” The redhead tilts her head curiously. “He’s got magic, but it feels untapped. He’s human, though. Just magically delicious like me.”
“Happy natural earth magical stuff or scary destroy the world magic?” One Eyed Willie asks, taking a step forward.
“I don’t know yet.” The redhead studies Stiles before she says, “I’m Willow. We aren’t a danger to you or this place, alright? You’re young enough that you probably haven’t heard of Sunnydale before, but we’re survivors from that hellmouth. We’re part of the watcher’s council, and we’ve come to Beacon Hills because we’ve received reports that a new hellmouth is trying to open up here via this stump. We want to access the situation, drain this thing of its power, and stay long enough to make sure any threats drawn here via this thing are handled.”
“It’s a Nemeton, not a thing.” Stiles believes her even if he doesn’t understand everything she’s said. He keeps one hand on the Nemeton and looks at them as he pushes a number on his phone. Chris sounds like he’s been sleeping when he answers. “Hey, do you know anything about a Sunnydale?”
“Seriously, Stiles? You wake me up at two in the morning to ask me about Sunnydale?” Chris is grumbling but whatever.
“It’s sort of important, old man.” Stiles clears his throat as the dude and Buffy have a whispered conversation while Willow keeps staring at him like she can read his mind and Faith just outright ogles him in a rather inappropriate way, especially when she aims the flashlight at his crotch and smacks her lips. She sort of reminds him of Erica, except Erica wasn’t so comfortable in her own skin when she died. Plus she was a total werewolf sex bomb but she was pretty chaste and sweet about wanting romance and to fall in love before having sex.
“Fuck. Okay. All I can remember without doing more research is that it was a town closer to Los Angeles that was plagued by supernatural chaos, and it actually got destroyed by a sinkhole of some kind back in like 2003. Not a natural sinkhole but something supernatural, I think.” Well, Stiles had only been a little kid then so that explains why he’s not familiar with it. “There were rumors around the hunting community about demons and a gateway to Hell, but I don’t remember ever getting confirmed data. There’s also a myth of a vampire slayer being involved, but no one I know has actually come across vampires before, so it’s likely just fictional.”
“Dude, you know there are vampires. We’ve got werewolves, wendigos, and trolls. There are definitely vampires, too. You just haven’t ever met one or, if you did, you just didn’t realize it,” Stiles mutters, knowing he’s going to find a damn vampire one day just to prove his theory to Chris and Derek both. No vampires his ass.
“Can I go back to sleep now?” Chris asks dryly. “Or do you need back-up?” His voice becomes sharp as he says, “Stiles, if you’ve gone off on your own again, so help me---“
“Nice chat, as always, Christopher. Everything’s fine here. Thanks for the help. Be sure to get your beauty sleep.” Stiles hangs up in the middle of Chris’ threats. He looks at the four people gathered around him and sighs. “So, my source confirms Sunnydale and stuff, but I still don’t know if I believe all this. You’re saying that Beacon Hills is a target for one of those hellmouth things, huh?”
“Yes, sorry.” Willow shrugs and wrinkles her nose. “But we’ve caught it in time, at least. We know various rituals and magic that can be used to close it before it fully opens. It’s not something that can be done overnight, but we’ll have it taken care of in a few weeks.”
“Until then, you’re stuck with us, pretty boy,” One Eyed Willie drawls, snorting when Stiles glares at him. “You’ve got spirit, kid. That’s good, especially if you’re mixed up with supernatural shit and a human. Magic or not.”
“Xander’s right. Being mixed up with this world and knowing what truly goes bump in the night isn’t the best kind of life for anyone,” Buffy tells him. She walks closer. “How long’s it been for you?”
“About seven years,” he admits. “Not magic, that’s pretty recent. One of the alphas from a neighboring pack is trying to help me figure out what kind of spark I’ve got, since the emissary for this area refuses to do anything but be a cryptic asshat most the time. But, anyway, seven years for supernatural stuff. Things have actually been relatively quiet around here in the last couple of years, though, so I don’t know how that fits into your budding hellmouth theory Also, it’s Stiles, not pretty boy or kid or whatever.”
“Pack? Like werewolves?” Willow looks at the others before focusing on him. “Are they, uh, nice werewolves? I mean, my first boyfriend was a werewolf, so nothing but love and acceptance from me in that regard, but they can be pretty evil and murdery sometimes, too.”
“My first girlfriend was a werecoyote,” Stiles tells her, actually making a fist so they can fistbump. Willow lets out an amused laugh before bumping his fist with hers. “Anyway, they’re all good. I mean, some rogue omegas and feral types sometimes wander in, but my pack keeps things pretty peaceful.”
“A werecoyote?” Faith whistles. “You must like it rough and wild. That’s good to know.” She winks at him before turning serious. “All flirting aside, there’s a chance the area has got quieter because the hellmouth is gaining power. That means all hell will break loose, literally, if it’s not stopped in time. Will your pack be willing to assist us so we can get this done faster?”
“I’ll speak with my alpha,” Stiles says, not mentioning that there are only three technical pack members in Beacon Hills right now not counting his dad and Chris. He might believe Willow because of the odd magical vibe but that doesn’t mean he trusts any of them really. He wants to do more research before giving them any information that could come back to put his pack in danger.
“You know, if we’re going to be here for a while, I can totally help you with your magic,” Willow offers. “I did it on my own at first and it’s all fun and games until you go uber dark and try to destroy the world due to your pain and grief.” She smiles wryly. “Since then, I’ve worked with a coven in England, and I’ve managed to get in touch with natural magic that uses the power I possess in much more beneficial ways.”
“Dark Willow was pretty scary,” Buffy agrees, making a face. “But you didn’t destroy the world, just filleted a murderer in a rather gross way, so it could have been worse.”
“You’re going to scare the kid,” Xander points out, grinning shamelessly when Stiles flashes the light at him. “He won’t want your help if he thinks he might end up going all dark.”
“I was possessed by a fox spirit over a thousand years old and forced to slaughter a lot of innocent people, so I think I can handle someone who wanted to end the world,” Stiles says dryly, arching a brow in challenge because, really, the whole kid thing is annoying. This dude’s not even forty yet.
“Okay then.” Willow blinks at him. “I think there might be a lot we can learn from our time in Beacon Hills. Possessions are definitely interesting.”
“All I really want to know is do you have vampires?” Faith asks curiously. “I’ve been semi-retired for years and doing boring administrative stuff and training new slayers, so it’s been a while since I’ve really had a good battle.”
“No vampires.” Stiles grins. “But they’re totally real, aren’t they? I knew it! I’ve been saying that since the start, but everyone tells me they’re not real. I mean, werewolves saying there’s no such thing as vampires is just stupid, it’s it? I can’t wait to tell the others that I’m right. Dude, can we go find one somewhere? I’d love to meet a vampire, even if you’ve got to kill it afterwards or whatever.”
“We know a guy,” Willow says. “I’m sure if we ask nicely, Spike will come to town for a visit so you can meet one. He’s a bit of an asshole, but he’s a good guy now. Sort of.”
“Seriously, Wills? Spike is the one you think of? Angel would be a much better introduction to vampires who aren’t on the Must Kill list,” Buffy mutters.
“Oh, I don’t know. I’d suggest Drusilla, if she’s finished up in Rio yet.” Xander shrugs when they look at him. “What? She’s reasonably sane now, and she’s definitely prettier to look at than those two souled pricks.”
“I’m equal opportunity when it comes to looking,” Stiles points out. “So I’m happy to meet whichever one is closest and willing to answer a ton of questions.”
“Make it Spike. That meeting? I’d love to witness,” Faith decides. “Alright, you’re going to speak with your alpha, which sounds pretty kinky I’ve got to admit, and you might start doing the whole Harry Potter thing with Willow in your down time, so that’s all cool. Shall we plan to meet again tomorrow? You can meet Dawn, who’s Buffy’s sister, Gunn, who is totally going to hate your spunkiness, and Andrew, our comic relief. That’s who is rounding out our little team unless we need to call in reinforcements.”
“And you’re Faith, the blonde is Buffy, One Eyed Willie is actually Xander, and the redhead is Willow?” Stiles points at each one.
“Goonies never say die!” Xander yells as he grabs a lantern off the ground and starts walking away. “It’s late, there’s nothing else we can do about this stump now that Willow’s fondled it, so I want to go sleep.”
“Give me your phone, Stiles.” Buffy is a demanding little thing, obviously used to being in charge, though it seems that maybe she and Faith both take control of stuff. Stiles arches a brow before reluctantly handing it over. She types in a new contact with her name and number before handing it back. She just gives him a judgmental look that would make Lydia proud. “Really? If we wanted to hurt you, you’d already be dead. You might be pretty but I’m not sure how bright you are, kid.” She winks at him before running off after Xander.
“Let me give you my number, too. I’d love to meet you to discuss your, uh, spark? I think that’s what you called it. I can definitely sense a lot of powerful magic in you, and it’s really exciting because you’ve got all this untapped potential, and I can totally help you tap that,” Willow says, putting her number in his phone. She suddenly groans when Faith starts laughing hysterically. “You know what I mean. I don’t want to tap that, like in you, but like in your magic. Not that you aren’t very attractive, albeit very young,” she stresses, giving Faith a pointed look, “but I lean more towards females on my bisexual spectrum instead of being in the middle.”
“That’s nice to know?” Stiles isn’t sure about how successful this group can be when they’re sort of into oversharing and sassy quips so much, but maybe it works for them? He’s definitely fond of sassy quips, at least. “I tend to be about three steps right of center, myself, though towards men instead of women,” he says, figuring it’s only fair since she just blurted out her own bisexual preferences.
“Are we really doing the TMI share?” Faith asks, flashing a wicked grin. “If so, I’ll just say this right here is my preference. Give me one of each and I’m ready to go.”
“Enough sex talk,” Willow mutters, smiling wryly. “I’d like to say it’s just a side effect of being around Faith, that sex usually comes up at some point, but, well, actually that’s true because I don’t think you’d have noticed the tap that comment and turned it all sexual, would you?”
“Well, probably so if I knew you better?” Stiles shrugs. “But not with a complete stranger offering to help me learn how to control my magic.”
“You two are boring.” Faith walks over and slaps Stiles’ on the ass. “Come on, pretty boy. Willow and I will escort you back to your car so you can give us a ride to our hotel. Buffy and Xander are probably already gone, and I’m not walking all those miles back in these heels.”
Stiles flashes his light on the heeled boots she’s wearing. “Yeah, sure. I can give you a ride.” When she starts to smirk, he snorts. “To your hotel,” he finishes, smiling sweetly while batting his eyelashes.
“I like you, kid. We might have to keep you,” she decides, punching his arm before starting to walk in front of them.
“Don’t worry. She likes to collect pretty strays, but she isn’t a danger to you or your pack,” Willow tells him, falling in step beside him as they walk back through the forest.
“I’m not worried. She uses the sex talk as a cover, but I can see her analyzing and observing beneath the brazenness,” he points out. “I used to know someone sort of like her, but she died years ago. It’s sort of nice being around someone who kind of reminds me of her.”
“Honestly? Faith uses it as a cover, but she’s also just pretty brazen and open about her desires and needs.” Willow laughs. “You’ll get used to her. Anyway, I wanted to use this little bit of time we have to tell you about some of the magic I know, to see if anything feels right to you in a way that might fit your own magic.”
She starts rambling, talking quickly and enthusiastically as Stiles listens. He wonders if Deaton knew this group was the one at the Nemeton, and that’s why he sent Stiles without back-up. It’s shady like Deaton, but maybe too helpful for his whole ‘staying out of things’ nonsense. All Stiles knows is that things are about to get a hell of a lot more lively in town, that’s for sure, and he’s going to be calling Derek as soon as he gets home to gloat about vampires being real. And to maybe see if he’s willing to come home for a bit to help with all this council hellmouth slaying stuff because, well, Stiles misses him, damn it, and it’d be nice having him around again. Pushing those thoughts out of his mind, for now, he focuses back on what Willow’s saying about nature and magic.