She hears rumors of a wolf-man, living in the shadow of a mountain overlooking a town, and she smiles.
"Where are you going?"
She kisses her father's cheek as she leaves, bow in hand. "Hunting."
"Call if you need help, Allison. Don't bite off more than you can chew."
"Oh no. That's their job."
It takes her two days to reach the "mountain." Personally, she would call it a hill. But it's covered in forest, prime territory for the wolves she hunts, so she passes right through the town and up into the trees.
She follows the river up the slope, knowing a den is most likely to want running water nearby.
The hill levels a bit, allowing the river to pool before continuing its rush down the mountain, and there is where she finds it.
The wolf-man has his back to her, and he is calmly sitting on a stone a few feet into the pool as if it were a fisherman's pier. His pole is securely grasped in one paw, and a basket of fish is strung across his back like her quiver. To her shock, he's wearing clothes, as he was like her.
"Are you hear to fish?" he calls out, breaking the quiet of the forest.
She scrambles for her bow, but it's unstrung and she's fumbling. All she has is her knife while he has-
"Widow Benson is expecting me in half an hour, so once I catch one more fish I'll leave you the stane." He turns, a friendly, close-lipped smile on his wolfish face before it turns to surprise. The wolf bleeds out of his physique, and he looks wholly human as he takes in the sight of her, dressed for battle. "I guess you're not from town. Sorry, I assumed you were one of Mary Anne's boys. I can leave now, if you like. One more fish won't make that much difference to Widow Benson, though I don't know how you'll catch fish with arrows."
His line jerks, and his attention is pulled from her as he works to reel the fish in. Catch in hand, he stands and turns back to see her, bow strung and arrow aimed at him.
"I see. Are you an Argent?"
Her fingers should let go; she should end him.
"If you are, you would've gone to the town first." He slowly steps into the water, making his way to the shore. "You would've talked to everyone there, investigated as to whether they lived in fear or not. You would have talked to the librarian, the blacksmith, to the sheriff, too. And you would have learned Beacon Hills is in no danger." His deft fingers untied the basket from his shoulders, and he set it in the grass. "So I have to assume you're on your own."
He meets her eyes with his, dark and kind, accepting. "So if you are going to shoot me, take the fish downhill to the sheriff. He knows who needs it. And I wouldn't tell them what you did. The sheriff helped raise me."
Her fingers slip and the arrow flies, only he moves so fast he's out of its path and catching it by the time her hand has shot to her mouth in horror.
He smiles, carefree with victory, and waves the arrow at her before he vanishes into the woods with, "Fantastic. Now I don't have to walk back up the hill."
She hears a teasing "thank you!" before the silence of the forest settles around her, and her hand finally leaves her lips to settle at her side.
"The, uh, fisherman said to bring this down to you, that you knew where it needs to go."
The sheriff eyes her, before taking the basket off her hands. It was heavier than she thought it would be, and dragging it down had taken a thirty minutes to get halfway before she thought to tie it to her back as he had done.
"Any reason why he wouldn't bring it himself?"
"Pond business? I don't know. I try not to talk to strange men in the forest."
"Nah," a new voice added, the sheriff's son reading in a paper filled corner. "Much safer just to shoot at them."
"Son, don't be rude. Now, you do have a license to hunt, right?"
She fumbles for her papers, but managed to hand them over without dropping anything.
"Argent. Don't see that name a lot. Anything in particular you're looking to catch?"
Her excuses dry up in her throat as the fisher-wolf walks in the door, looking human with that near-perfect jawline, as if he belonged there.
The sheriff's son scrambles to his feet. "Scott! Is there-"
"Nope," he replies, and the simple word is all it takes to calm the other young man. He turns his smile on Allison herself. "There's nothing to worry about."
"Oh god you're an Alpha." It slips out before she can stop herself. The sheriff's gaze hardens as she takes a step back. "And he's in your pack; they all are. I have to-"
The sheriff's hand on her wrist, around the silver bracelet her mother gave her, stops her from running. "Breathe. Please, take a seat. Scott, please start some tea. Stiles, clean your mess up or find Lydia. You, young lady, are going to take some words back to your parents or handlers or whoever about sending young persons out after rumors all on their own."
"They didn't send me. I went out on my own initiative."
"Even better," the sheriff replies, in a tone that implies that it really isn't. He takes the cup of steeping tea from the fisher – Scott – with the same hand with which he grabbed her bracelet, and it's unharmed. So he, at least, is human. Allison has no idea what she's stumbled upon.
"You've got that right," snorts the Stiles from his corner as he organizes paper, and Allison realizes she spoke aloud.
"I don't blame you for what you did. Scott probably finds it funny." The man in question gives her a thumbs up as he hands her a cup of mint tea. "We know we're unique here. It's a long story starting with the megalomaniac brother of our librarian, but don't worry, we all took care of him. I'd actually like to tell you, if you're interested. We've had a few bear sightings in the area, and I could use an experienced tracker to get some solid numbers on if this a threat or just someone lost in that post-hibernation haze."
Scott offers her a plate of biscuits, and she takes one out of habit.
"You don't have to decide now, and obviously you'd want to let your family know what you are up to should you join in."
"I'll join. I came out to protect a town, so I'll do so."
The sheriff nods. "Excellent. Scott, take her to get a room at the inn. Make sure Boyle gives her a good rate. She is, after all, your new partner. Then, tomorrow, show her the trails."
Scott pulls out a badge from his pocket. "I'm only here to save up for vet school."
"And there's plenty of work to do before you go. So go do it."
There's that smile again as Scott shows her to the small inn and negotiates a very generous rate. It's not until Allison is lying in her room, rucksack scattered about, that she can see it clearly.
His smile lights up his whole being like the sun, and he looks at her as if she is the most precious thing in the world, as if she is the golden sun.
This is so much more dangerous than she thought.