Bobby didn't like this. Not one bit. He saw Jody's sedan pull up out of the corner of his eye and grimaced, jerking his head in her direction to make sure she followed him down the sidewalk. He heard her footsteps behind him as she caught up, but neither of them said a word until Bobby turned the corner to the side of the building.

"What did you find?" Jody asked.

Bobby shook his head. Not what he'd wanted to find. Who he'd wanted to find. When he'd arrived at the hardware store before Jody, he'd hoped to find the Chevelle waiting, Stiles inside, wasting time asking old Mr. Greene stupid questions. He hadn't been so lucky.

With a sigh, Bobby fished the phone out of his pocket, holding it out to Jody. "Jim Greene said he saw Stiles about an hour ago. Kid bought what was on my list and left with it. Stiles didn't park up front, so no one noticed if he drove away. Found this on the sidewalk over here. Screen's cracked. Looks like it was dropped or tossed. The text alert for my last few messages is on the lock screen, though. Stiles never saw it."

"He could've dropped it," Jody said.

Her voice sounded pinched, like her throat was swollen. She didn't believe it either. Bobby didn't want to look her in the face, see the emotion raking over her. He didn't voice his agreement, because it didn't exist.

"My Chevelle isn't here, but I found something else I recognized." Bobby kept moving. When they reached the end of the block, the narrow street cut off into a back lot. There was a truck parked there, a dull, matte green he'd seen earlier in the day. "The hunter I told you about? He was in that truck this morning. He's not here now."

"He took your car," Jody said, catching on. "He took Stiles in your car."

Bobby watched her as she all but ran forward, searching the truck over. The bastard hadn't locked it, and Bobby wagered it was probably stolen anyhow. If it wasn't, if Mitchell really didn't care if it was found or not…well, that's wasn't exactly a good sign as to his current mental state. Bobby cleared his throat, pulling Jody's attention from the truck.

"We don't know for sure," he tried to supply.

Jody's expression was pure annoyance. "Don't play that card with me, Bobby Singer. I'm in law enforcement." She hesitated, swallowing hard. "This, this type of work is my job."

"Not when it's your nephew." When she didn't reply, Bobby sighed. "Since you haven't called this in yet, I'm guessing you're not exactly planning to follow your own rule book. Mind me asking how you're going to play this?"

Jody took a step back from the truck, giving it a long stare. "I lost him, didn't I?" She blinked, and Bobby pretended not to notice the wetness in her eyes. "How am I supposed to tell my brother I lost his son, Bobby?"

"I'd suggest you don't," he answered, as honestly as he could.

She let out a laugh, but he could hear the sob underneath. "I should have told you, the moment I realized Stiles knew something about the supernatural."

Bobby reached out, squeezing her shoulder gently. He wasn't sure if he was doing it right. The gesture felt tense, awkward. She must not have minded, though, because she reached up across her chest, squeezing his hand once in return before letting go. Bobby let his arm drop away, hoping the sentiment had been clear enough. He wasn't very good at this whole comforting thing.

"You didn't know for sure," Bobby told her. "And even if you did, I should have never let the kid near my place. But instead of standing around, laying blame, I think we need to get our asses moving. Work the case, Sheriff. What do we do next?"

"We find Mitchell Roden." Jody took a shaky breath and straightened. "He's not from around here, but he has hunter contacts. You know how these guys travel, where they stay when they're on the move, right? Let's find this bastard then."


"If you keep this up, the damage to your nerves is going to be permanent. Eventually, your arms are going to dislocate. It'll happen even faster if you lose your balance. Don't you go passing out," Mitchell commented, sounding almost concerned.

"Don't pass out. Wise words," Stiles muttered. "Extremely helpful."

Mitchell didn't seem to hear him. "You won't heal. You're not like your friends."

Stiles tried and failed not to scream out when his arms raised another three inches, his knees wobbling at the movement. His feet were barely touching the ground, barely giving him the support he needed. He imagined what he must look like, bent forward, his arms twisted high. It was almost comical, certainly humiliating, but he couldn't bring himself to care.

"So," he said, voice trembling. "You're saying there's a chance of you not killing me. Because that's what I'm hearing."

Mitchell sighed. "That all depends on what you say next. Now tell me, what did your pack have planned for Bobby Singer?"

Stiles blinked, trying to clear his vision, but it was still blurred along the edges. He wasn't sure if it was because of the pain or because he couldn't seem to catch his breath, but he was certain he'd be blacking out soon. Not a good idea, as Mitchell had been so kind to tell him, but Stiles wasn't sure he'd be able to hold on, no matter the consequence.

"I'm not working with a pack." Stiles took a few shallow breaths, trying to wiggle his arms, find a way to loosen the ropes at his wrists, but it seemed impossible. He couldn't even feel anything past his shoulders to know if he was actually moving or not. "I didn't know Bobby was even a hunter, not for sure. Not until today."

"Where are they staying?"

Stiles stared at the floor, at the tips of Mitchell's boots. "Who?"

"The rest of the pack. Or did they send you on your own?" Mitchell asked. "It's a good plan, really, infiltrating a hunter's home. Using a human to get close. How far did they want you to take it? Were they going to have you train as a hunter? Learn our secrets?"

Stiles closed his eyes, feeling nauseous. "It doesn't matter what I say, does it? You're too nutballs to listen."

"Maybe Gerard was right to use you as a message for the wolves," Mitchell mused. "What do you think, Stiles? Think the mutts will learn not to play tricks if I send you back to them?"

Stiles could see the sharp steel edge as it reflected in the dim light sifting through the boarded window. It was a knife dangling loosely from Mitchell's fingertips. "Please…" Stiles bit his lip to keep from saying more. "My dad's going to kill you," he said. It wasn't a threat.

His body shook in anticipation, this blood thundering in his ears so loudly, he almost didn't hear it at first, the sound coming from outside. What he did notice was the sudden shift from Mitchell, the man quickly jumping back, behind Stiles.

"There they are, there they are," Mitchell whispered, sounding almost pleased.

Howls.

Stiles could hear them sounding from around the house. For a moment he thought he might be imagining the sound, because they couldn't be real. Scott was back in Beacon Hills. Safe. Derek, every werewolf Stiles knew was back home. There was no way they could know what was happening. No way anyone could. Jody was still at work. Bobby was probably ready to kick his butt for taking so long at the hardware store.

"They probably think I'm an idiot," Mitchell said, his voice manic. "I've been around, though. I know the tricks. Let's see them try and pass the mountain ash I put around this house."

Stiles' lip curled with a tired grin. "Whoever that is, I don't think they're here for me."

Stiles heard Mitchell moving behind him, going for a weapon, if he had a guess. A gun, because hunters loved their guns. Stiles felt his mouth going dry. What if he was wrong, what if those were friends out there? Even if they weren't, they were still people that were going to die thanks to the moron behind him.

"I'm going to throw up," he muttered.

He could imagine it, his aunt finding his body eventually, him hanging like this in the summer heat, head nearly dipped down in a puddle of his own vomit. His eyes stung at the thought that his dad would never understand why it happened.

Black was closing in around Stiles' vision, but at the center of the tunnel, he saw movement. A hallucination, he realized. Which, were you supposed to realize a hallucination was a hallucination so quickly, he wondered? He wanted to laugh, maybe cry a bit too, but definitely laugh at what his oxygen deprived brain was cooking up. Because there was a cat, strolling through the house like it owned the place. Big, fat, and orange, it trotted up to Stiles, leaving gray footprints behind it.

" 'Sat the mountain ash?" Stiles asked. He squinted. "I know that cat."

Mitchell didn't seem to hear him, or care what he said. His boot-steps were frantic, echoing from one side of the room to the other. The sound of a clip being loaded was all to familiar to Stiles, thanks to years of video games. When Mitchell's voice did return, he sounded giddy. A kid on Christmas morning.

"Don't worry, Stiles," Mitchell said. He placed a hand on Stiles' spine, patting his back once with his fingertips. Stiles could feel the handle of the knife against the man's palm. "If I get to spill their blood, I won't have to spill yours. That's a fair trade off for you, isn't…What is that cat do-?"

Mitchell's voice cut off with a wet sound, water gurgling up a pipe. Stiles felt the pipe burst, a spray across his back. It took him a second longer before his brain caught up. There wasn't a pipe in the room. That wasn't water.

A clatter sounded, then a heavy thud as the weapon's owner followed it to the floor. The rope at his wrists jerked slightly before suddenly releasing. Stiles' nose was an inch from a wooden plank when an arm scooped beneath, cradling him at his stomach and pulling him to the closest wall. He fell against it, his shoulder pressed to the peeling paint, and slid down to the floor.

"Don't look," a voice warned, before he could twist his head and see where Mitchell had fallen. "That fella made quite the mess."

Stiles' eyes widened. "Ms. Rose?"

The old woman smiled gently, despite the spray of red staining the front of her pastel yellow cardigan. "There, there, dear boy. You're with friends now."

A howl sounded from outside. The woman looked up at the sound, tutting to herself before the eyes behind her tinted glasses glowed red. She raised her chin, answering the call with a deep howl of her own. Stiles winced at the sound, and it shook him out of his stupor.

"That Rue, always the impatient one," Rose said.

"Holy crap." He shook his head. "You're…an alpha?"

"Honestly, child, quit acting as if it's a surprise," Rose chided. She reached behind him, bloody claws tearing at the rope around his wrists, then the one around his ankles. "If I were a lesser woman, I'd be offended by that tone."

"You had me move your furniture!"

Stiles' outrage turned on him as hot pain shot through his arms. He could feel them again, at least in an oh-god-are-they-on-fire way, as the blood rushed back into his limbs. Rose reached out, clasping his forearms, and black tendrils swam beneath her paper-thin skin.

"That should help for a bit," she said, "but I imagine your hands won't be good for much over the next few days. I suppose I'll have to wait about getting you to paint my birdfeeder. Maybe next week…" She frowned a moment before standing back up. Stiles didn't have the strength to follow the movement. He simply stared at her, the slight hunch to her back, the thin white curls on her head, the lines creasing her face. But she wasn't moving slow any more. There was strength in her limbs, power in her tiny stature.

"So, Rue and Dorothy?"

"Watching the perimeter," she chirped. "I had hoped to make proper introductions after you met the rest of my pack, but they all insisted we find out what type of young man you were first. Just because you're pack, doesn't mean you're good people, after all. I told them, though, I told them, 'If my Freckles likes him, he's fine by me.' We planned to throw you a luncheon to discuss our pack alliances as soon as you were finished working for that sweet Mr. Singer. Then of course, this ruffian had to appear and ruin it."

Freckles seemed to hear his name. He walked over to Stiles, rubbing his head against the teen's leg affectionately. Then he promptly lost interest and collapsed onto the floor to lick himself.

Stiles raised a brow. "You know Singer is a hunter, right?"

Rose waved a hand. "Of course he is. That's one of the reasons we chose to settle here. A decent hunter keeps away all the nasties, you know. He keeps the territory safe. We're too on in years to do it ourselves."

"Does he know?"

"About us? Oh heavens no. Dorothy bakes the dear man a cake every once in a while in thanks, but it's better not to speak of such things, isn't it? Peaceful werewolves have been hiding under hunters noses for years, you know. I fancy Mr. Singer probably doesn't even know much about true werewolves, just those wild breeds, off ripping and maiming, eating hearts." Rose's faint smile dimmed. "Though I suppose he might be somewhat suspicious of this mess I've made."

Stiles glanced the edge of the dead man's boots and tried not to look too closely at the rest of him. "I'm a decent liar," he offered.

Stiles almost said the wrong thing. He almost pointed out that she could have let Mitchell live, let Jody arrest his ass. But in doing so, Mitchell probably would have realized what Rose was, gotten word to other hunters. A bit of mercy later, Rose might have lost her pack, at the least, her home. Stiles didn't know what that said about his moral compass, that he was so quick to understand the reason why someone needed to be ripped apart. Scott wouldn't have liked it, the "mess" as Rose had put it, but Stiles had long since realized he didn't always see things the way Scott did, as much as he loved his bro. So he almost brought it up, but didn't, because he was in no position to question the person who'd just saved his life.

Which, about that:

"How'd you know I was in trouble?" Stiles asked. He straightened slightly. "You're the one who has been watching me…In the cemetery?"

Rose hummed to herself. "Well, it wouldn't do for you to get hurt on my watch, now would it. That's all we'd need, a rival wolf pack angry with us old gals. Now, you wouldn't think it, but my packmates love gossip. When one of them mentioned the Sheriff's nephew was coming in from Beacon Hills, well, my ears perked up. Your home, it's a special sort of place, always has been the talk of our kind, even back when I was a pup, so I simply had to meet you, see if there was any news of odd happens. Sure enough, as soon as you stepped through my door I smelled the pack on you."

"Pack?" Stiles asked. "I'm not really…I mean, my best friend is a werewolf, and he's been in my closet, but… You could smell that?"

"You don't live as long as I have without learning all the tricks," Rose said, tapping the tip of her nose with one finger. "I picked up on it right away, what the wolves you left behind had left behind on you. It's just common courtesy, looking after another pack's members when they cross into your territory. Nothing wrong with making allies, now is there?"


On his best day, Stiles wasn't great at waiting. This was definitely wasn't his best day, but he somehow managed the twenty minutes he had to spend outside, sitting on the dilapidated front porch of the old house. Despite the fact that the whole structure seemed to be leaning slightly, there was no way he was abandoning the slight shade to sit in Bobby's smelly Chevelle. And even if he'd been willing to grope Mitchell to find the keys, he wasn't sure his numb hands could turn the engine over, much less drive anywhere.

So waiting. Fun.

It was still bright and sunny outside, barely after noon, and that seemed strange to Stiles, that there was still so much of his day left.

The sound of tires crunching weren't exactly a surprise. The fact that it was an old van instead of a patrol car driving down the driveway was unexpected though. Rose had assured him that a "neighbor" was going to phone in a tip, say they saw Singer's old car drive into an abandoned house place and were worried someone might be breaking in. Stiles had been slightly afraid that the tip would be too vague for anyone to check out, that he'd have to go pat down Mitchell after all, test his ability to crack the hunter's cell phone password. It was probably Gerard. Lame ass.

Looked like it wasn't going to come to that though; he could see who was driving through the front window. He hadn't been sure if it would be them, if they'd even notice he was gone. The fact that they were together meant they'd figured out what had happened, or Bobby had.

Stiles had barely managed to stand when the old van rolled to a stop, and he took the steps slowly. His werewolf vicodin was wearing off fast. Thankfully, he didn't have to move another inch.

Jody was faster than he'd expected, out of the side of the van and on him in a second. She didn't say a word, just grabbed him by the upper arms, holding him steady, looking him over. Her eyes were red around the edges, and Stiles swallowed hard.

"I'm okay," Stiles said. "Really. I am."

"Shut up," Jody ordered. But she sounded like she was choking. "God, you scared me."

Yes, God, nice scare there, kudos, Stiles mentally sneered, but he couldn't manage to crack the joke aloud.

Without warning, Jody pulled him in, hugging him. He was taller than her, but for some reason, her hugs felt like his dad's. Stiles closed his eyes, wishing his weak arms had the ability to hug her back, even if it hurt a little. How could he care about hurting someone he'd only really known a week? He wasn't sure, but family was weird that way.

"I'm sorry," he whispered, against her shoulder.

"I sent you with a damned shopping list," Bobby griped from behind her. The hunter took a bit more time to get out of the van, but he arrived with revolver in hand, aimed toward the house. "Where's Mitchell?" he barked.

They'd put it together then, who'd taken him. It was going to be harder to spin a story, with Bobby there to recognize Mitchell, and see the claw marks across his corpse. Stiles shook his head when he realized they hadn't even asked him what had happened. This was not the way he'd imagined this going. So much for a cover up.

"He's so not a problem right now," Stiles said, grimacing. "Inside."

Bobby went through the door first. Jody ordered Stiles to stay put and followed after him. Stiles waited for something, anything, but he couldn't hear the two. They came out a few long minutes later, their expressions suspiciously unreadable.

Stiles raised his brow, the picture of innocence. "Wasn't me," he said, maybe a bit too quickly.


Sometimes there were perks to being related to the sheriff, any sheriff really. Stiles figured that out when they were giving their statements to a naive young deputy.

The story was this:

Mitchell Roden (previous warrants for trespassing, vandalism, and assault) was a disturbed man who'd been become fixated with Stiles Stilinski while living in Beacon Hills. He followed Stiles to Sioux Falls, stalking his prey until he saw a chance to abduct the teenager. Stiles was able to escape his captor and hide in the woods. Mitchell chased him, then doubled back when he was attacked by a wild animal. The creature followed him back into the house and killed him. Stiles waited for a rescue. He didn't see the animal attack. But it was probably a mountain lion.

Totally believable.


"Dad, I promise, everything is fine. I'm fine. I did see a doctor, Dad. You realize you can't actually stay on the phone with me until you get here , right? I will…We'll see you at the airport. Do you want to talk to Jody again?"

Jody waved her arms frantically, trying to stop him, but it was too late. The cell phone was already in her hands. Not for the first time that day. She glared at Stiles, then turned to speak to Noah in the hallway.

Bobby bit down a chuckle as Stiles plopped back down at the take-out covered dinner table, digging around for an egg roll in one of the bags. It was odd, how at home the kid seemed at Jody's place. Most people, Bobby knew, would be curled up in the fetal position after the day he'd had, but Stiles just look, well, hungry.

"Did you eat all the spicy mustard?" he asked.

"How long you think your pop's going to buy this story?" Bobby asked him.

"It's easier to believe in crazy people than werewolves ," Stiles said, shrugging. He sat down his food, glaring down at the stark bruises on his wrists. "I'm going to have to tell him eventually, aren't I?"

Bobby grunted in agreement. "Depends though. You turn away now, get as far from the supernatural as you can, maybe you won't."

Bobby didn't need an answer from the boy. He could see the look in his eye. The kid played it off, but he was trapped by the life already, whether he wanted to be or not.

While Stiles had enjoyed a visit to the ER, Bobby had made a call to Chris Argent and held out on info until the other hunter had finally admitted what Bobby had already guessed, that Stiles was involved in the supernatural. A friend of werewolves, in fact. Of all the stupid things to be… Argent had, somewhat begrudgingly, given Bobby a bit more information on the particular breed his family hunted. Bobby still didn't believe any sort of werewolf could control itself, but he also couldn't believe another hunter would lie about such a thing. Even so, control or not, dangerous was dangerous, and Bobby didn't like the thought of the kid sittin' in Algebra with a time bomb.

"Even if you do get away from it all, though," Bobby said, "I figure that it's still good to be prepared. And if you do stick around? Well, you've got a lot to learn, kid," Bobby mused. "I don't envy someone starting out."

Bobby snapped his mouth shut, not meaning to phrase it like the kid was going to end up in his line of work. He didn't want to plant any ideas, even if he'd been considering nudging the boy in that direction since they'd talked about Mitchell. He hadn't known Stiles all that long, but he knew hunting was all guts and research. Stiles seemed to be fit for it.

If Stiles realized what Bobby was implying, he ignored it.

"You know what I could learn from? Books." Stiles looked up through his lashes, the bruise on his face playing in his favor as he pouted slightly. "You have a few of those, don't you?"

Bobby rolled his eyes. "You want in my library? Then tell me who ripped Mitchell apart."

"I'm taking it to my grave," Stiles said, too pleased to be holding out. Bobby figured that giddy grin on his face might have something to do with the meds the doctors had given him for his shoulders.

"What do you want on your tombstone?" Bobby teased.

"Hardy-har-har." Stiles shook his head, amused. "Seriously, though, man, the one who caught up with Mitchell lives in your town. Has for a long time. If they were dangerous, you'd know about it, right? That's how you know how to hunt things, right? Because of the trail of bodies? Well, this one has only left a body behind, and that was to save me. They drop another? Then fine. I'll spill."

"I see your point," Bobby admitted, begrudgingly. "Doesn't mean I'll sleep any easier knowing there's a wolf pack under my nose."

"Don't be species-ist."

"Let me introduce you to a few vampires and ghouls, then you tell me about your supernatural pals, kid." Bobby took a swig from his beer and noticed Stiles had quieted. "What's that look for?"

Stiles glanced over his shoulder. Bobby realized he was looking for Jody, to see if she was back in the room. She wasn't.

"Aunt Jody found out about this stuff after her husband died, didn't she?"

Bobby swallowed hard. His drink tasted a bit bitter. "Put that together on your own?"

"I knew something supernatural had killed Sean. The story had too many red flags. Much like the one we just told my dad." Stiles sighed to himself and turned back to face Bobby. "What killed Sean Mills?"

"Not too long back, the dead rose out of their graves." Bobby didn't care much for this story. He downed the rest of his beer and wished for something harder. If he'd been at his own place instead of Jody's, he would have found it. "Jody found out then. It was all miracles and hugs until the dead started acting the part and snacking on their loved ones."

Stiles paled. "Owen."

"Yep." Bobby shook his head. "You still apt to learn?"

"Good to be prepared," Stiles replied, quietly. He looked up, this expression dark. "I want to know how to take care of the people I care about, Bobby. Protect them."

Bobby considered it a moment. "You still owe me a few days of work, don't ya?"

Stiles grinned. "I sure do. And I'm a crap mechanic."

"You sure are." Bobby sighed when Jody walked back into the room. She was going to kill him for this. "Guess I could use someone on phone duty," he finally offered.

Stiles' smile widened when Jody settled back down into her seat, giving the two of them a long look, as if she knew they were up to something.

"As long as," Stiles concluded, "I still have time to help the little old ladies around the neighborhood."


FIN


Story End Notes: Thank you for reading! Your support of this story has been wonderful. I know I left a few questions hanging (for an ending, it was more like a beginning, right?), but I have ideas for future stories in this universe. While it might be a few weeks before I get started on these ideas, I'm planning some one shots spread throughout the summer, then perhaps a sequel long-fic that picks up later. Any thoughts about this would be greatly appreciated.

For your convenience, since this site doesn't do a great job with grouping series, I will post any one-shots I write onto the end of this story. I will also make a teaser post when I start a sequel, so you can subscribe to this story if you want to know when these start. Of course, if you want to read other works of mine, feel free to subscribe to me.

Thanks again. XOXO