Growing up, Kate’s favorite story was one polished by dozen generations of Argents. It always started the same, with her mother caressing her hair and kissing the middle of her forehead before whispering.
Be careful, little girl.
Don’t go causing troubles in Beacon Hills, because the Hales live there, little girl.
Be careful of their fangs and claws, little girl.
They are of the oldest blood, little girl, wild things roaming the forest on four legs.
Be careful of wild magic, little girl, of a land alive and untamable by men.
Be careful, little girl, because their power comes from the bones of hundreds protectors and thousands beaten foes buried in the ground.
Keep away from Beacon Hills, little girl, or the Hales will destroy you.
And Kate, still a little girl, listened and dreamed of being the one turning legends to ashes.
The first time she sees him, it’s at the back of an old dusty coffee house.
She recognises immediately the shy smiling face from the picture a trusted contact gave her.
The young wolf, the shy wolf, the broken wolf. She has always loved playing with obedient pets.
She comes inside with a smile, not addressing more than a distracted nod to the man behind the counter.
Her eyes are only focused on the prey. He’s not bad looking, if a bit too gangly for her tastes. Clear eyes, dark hair, the tentative but present aura of strength betraying so often werewolves. A boy with cropped hair and a loud voice is practically yelling at him some story, making the wolf snort.
She keeps staring for a few minutes, enjoying the adrenaline from the hunt dancing in her veins, the excitation of a project worthy of her talents. The Hale family.
She marches towards them with a predatory smile, deciding to bump “accidentally” in one of their drinks. Playing the horrified culprit panicking over her mistake is ridiculously efficient.
She has only taken three steps when she’s stopped by a violent crash behind her.
She turns, frowning. The barista is looking right at her, shards of a broken mug glinting all over his counter.
“You should leave,” he announces, crossing his arms.
“We don’t seem to have any coffee left.” His voice is flat, the smile curving around it hard.
“This is a coffee house. It’s four in the afternoon,” she blinks at him, bewildered.
“I know. This is a tragic loss of money for me. But I can only blame myself. Old age what can you do?”
The man is in his late fourties at best. She smirks at him nastily.
“There is a bag of coffee beans right here,” she indicates with a delicate finger, articulating each word voluntarily as if speaking to a child.
Frustratingly, the man keeps his calm, only turning lazily his torso towards the huge bag overflowing with coffee beans. When he turns back to her his smile is huge and full of teeth.
“Indeed, there is! Sadly, it’s only ornamental. So, I’m afraid you’ll have to leave right now.” The lie is transparent enough to be meant as an insult.
She closes on him, anger boiling swiftly and ready to suffocate him with his beloved coffee beans. The man seems to read her intentions well enough but only beams, flexing his huge biceps. She doesn’t need more than his posture to know he is ex-army, but the tattoo and haircut still help. The smile is different. The smile means confidence and training. It means danger.
In the background of the coffee shop, the conversation dies.
“George? Everything is ok?”
The voice is soft, too soft to belong to the excited kid.
“No problems Derek.This lady was just leaving. Go back to your homework before your mom breaks my legs for letting you get distracted,” George, the barista, answers ruefully.
Kate snarls at him silently but he keeps smirking at her placidly. She can’t make a scene if she wants to keep a low profile. She knows it. The man knows it.
She backs off harshly, softening the gesture with a fake giggle and a light apology. She can feel the kids relaxing behind her and start talking again.
She leaves without another word, the barista’s eyes following her every steps.
Once outside, she slouches against a wall and lights up a cigarette angrily. She inhales slowly, soothing her raw nerves and letting her think more clearly about this change of plans.
The coffee shop is closing in a few hours. It will be easy to bump into him on the street, maybe even feign an injury of some sort. She smiles and retreats into a dark alley with a good view of the shop’s door. She settles in for a long wait.
Closure time comes and they don’t come out. She stays, still, in the shadows.
When they finally appear, the sun has set for more than an hour. She hears the annoying kid ranting and she gracefully straightens up. She comes closer from the Main Street on cat’s feet, wary of being seen before the perfect moment for a collision.
But instead of coming closer, the voices go away, and a careful glance shows them crossing the street and getting inside a small red car.
The barista is behind the wheel, batting away their thanks with a laugh and threatening to buckle their seatbelts for them if they don’t do it faster. The kids obey, jostling each other in the cramped space.
When she manages to tear her eyes from the laughing wolf, the driver is staring right at her. Again. He smiles, small and sinister, and waves at her with the tips of his fingers.
Before deliberately locking the car’s doors.
The next time, she mostly follows the loud voice on instincts. She finds the kid easily, skinny and wrapped in plaid and still too enthusiastic for his own good. He’s running backwards, eyes scanning the sky and mouth half open in concentration. His weird course stops in a surprised squeak when he goes tumbling head over heels. A few feet away, a Frisbee lands silently on the ground.
Then Hale is there, worried but smiling. He grips the kid by the back of his shirt and puts him back on his feet with only one hand, not even pretending to struggle with his weight.
Kate looks at the display of effortless strength and shivers, anticipation and disgust curling inside her. He’ll make the loveliest pet. She has always wanted a purebred.
The wolf is laughing openly now, removing blades of grass from short hair with delicate fingers. The other kid is batting at him, false affront betrayed by his inelegant snorts.
Kate fluffs her hair, lower her jeans and licks her lips. No need for an elaborate plan. She’ll give them back their toy, and use it to start a conversation. Teenage boys are always easy to draw in.
She’s only nearing the lawn when something comes crashing into her temple, hard enough to make her lose her balance. She vacillates on her heels and a panicked woman’s voice invades her space.
“I’m so sorry! We were playing with the kids and somehow we lost control of the ball. Are you ok?”
Kate recognizes her offensively pink shirt and her long blond hair tied in a high ponytail. She’s one of the soccer moms she passed on the way on the playground, in the middle of a swarm of kids. Far away from here.
Behind her, Kate can see two children looking at them with huge confused eyes. Still on the playground.
Kate stares at the soccer mom. The woman’s voice sounds worried. Her face looks worried. Her words are worried.
Her grip on Kate’s arm is too firm to be anything close to worry.
“You must see a doctor, this could have given you a concussion,” the soccer mom continues to fret.
“I’m ok,” Kate grits between her teeth, eyes landing quickly on the ball at her feet.
It’s big and light and full of air, with cartoon octopuses all over it. Hardly a dangerous weapon. Hardly something that could hit someone that hard from that distance. More so when kicked by a child.
“No no, it’s important,” the woman insists. Kate goes to throw her off sharply but the woman yells at a second mom jogging towards them.
“LISA? Can you watch the kids? I need to bring her to the hospital to be sure everything is ok!”
Lisa stops and nods hesitantly, casting a wary glance in their direction before going back to the children.
Kate has no time to protest before the woman starts dragging her toward her car, hand still clamped tight around Kate’s arm. The yelling has attracted the attention of half the people in the park, their stupid eyes watching them with avid curiosity. She capitulates and climbs inside the car without protestation.
“I’m Linda Sullivan, by the way. And you are Kate Argent, isn’t it?” the apparently named Linda asks distractedly, looking at the back of the car to drive out of her parking space.
Kate stops breathing.
“How do you know my name?” she asks suspiciously. The woman is not a wolf, of that Kate is certain. Doesn’t mean she can’t be dangerous.
The woman laughs loudly.
“Oh you know, this is a small place. When George told us that a new interesting person was in town, we wanted to know all the gossips. And you know how it is: informations have a way to fly faster than light in this kind of town. No offence taken, I hope?” Her tone is light and self-depreciating but there is something lurking in it. Knowledge and threat. Steel hidden inside false sweetness.
Kate keeps silent for the end of the trip, hand clutched on the door’s handle.
Sitting on a cold metal table in one of the exam rooms of the hospital, she submits to the hurried nurse taking her vitals, shining a bright light in her eyes and asking her all types of inane questions.
For some reason, she decides to take a blood sample.
The nurse sighs and smiles at Kate with an apology each times she misses the vein.
She misses a lot.
It takes her a week after that to cross the boy’s path again.
The annoying other kid is still there and both of them are mowing the lawn of a little white house. Hale is very focused, working methodically in parallel strips. His friend is running in circles around a rose bush like a rabbit on cocaine.
She goes to them quickly, no patience left for a suave approach. When they notice her and stop their engines, she forces a smile.
“I am so sorry to bother you, but I am new here and completely lost,” she shakes her head, rolling her shoulders to get rid of any trace of frustration and to slip in character. They approach and she looks up at the wolf from under her lashes. Hale is smiling reassuringly, visibly eager to help. His friend is frowning.
“I know you,” he says, tilting his head to the side as if trying to look at her from a different angle.
“I have a very common face,” she laughs, waving him off. The kid frowns again but keeps silent.
“How can we help you, Madam?” asks the wolf, achingly polite and earnest. God. He is going to be so much fun.
“Oh, please, call me Kate. Madam makes me feel so old. And I’m looking for the post office? Somebody already gave me directions but I must have gone the wrong way anyway. I am really bad at this,” she sighs, broadcasting vulnerability.
Derek chuckles, “Yes, the town is kind of tricky sometimes. Stiles used to get lost all the time a few years back.”
The other kid, the infamous Stiles apparently, yelps in outrage.
“I did not! I was exploring the world! You my friend are mixing up absence of spatial awareness and pure enjoyment of life. This is sad. You make me sad.”
“You literally ended up in the next town while trying to go buy some bread. You have lived there you whole life Stiles. How do you not understand something has gone wrong after walking forty-five minutes looking for the bakery?” Hale’s voice is fond and teasing, but Stiles squints at him suspiciously.
“Who told you that? You were not supposed to know that. Was it my dad? Laura’s muffins make him weak. Also, I was just looking for some fresh air, thank you very much. This was and will stay my official statement,” he sniffs, nose high in the air.
“Of course you were Stiles.”
Kate clears her throat, trying to bring the conversation back to her, but the noise is covered by a door slamming violently. They all turn toward the house and the old lady crossing the lawn with rapid little steps.
“Boys? Is something wrong? My friends are coming in a few hours and I can’t wait to see Maddy’s face. She loves making fun of my garden,” she grumbles, coming closer quickly despite her crooked silhouette. “Completely unrelated, but it would appear that I completely failed at making the right quantity of cookies, and there are way too many in my kitchen right now. They are invading every surface it’s awful. Maybe after you are done here, you could help a poor old lady and eat the excess?”
The teenagers brighten and Stiles jumps so suddenly toward his lawnmower that he almost faceplants in the grass. He straightens up and keeps running with all the grace of a fawn missing two legs. Hale steps back, eager to follow, but sends an hesitant look at Kate.
“Kate was looking for the post office Wendy,” he starts, obviously torn. The old lady waves a hand in the air just under his nose, interrupting him.
“I’ve lived in this town before your parents were even born little one. I think I can point someone in the right direction. Go do something about Stiles before he tries to mow down the doormat in his enthusiasm, would you?”
Derek immediately turns back to Stiles with a worried glance and leaves with only a distracted goodbye to Kate.
Kate grunts, pissed off.
“Oh dear, you should be careful. Beauty can only hide an ugly soul for so long.”
The woman is staring right at her, small and knobby and smelling obnoxiously like violet.
“Don’t look so shocked would you? I may be an old bat, but I’ve met many people like you. A pretty face is not enough to deceive me after all these years. I know rotten eyes when I see them, and yours, darling, are the most putrid I’ve seen in a long while.”
Kate’s fury turns cold brutally, lethal. She steps up, towering over the frail broken body.
“What did you just say to me?” Kate hisses, fingers clenched around her belt. She has a gun in the back of her pants, and there is nothing she would love more than to leave the insane granny bleeding on the ground. The old lady rolls her eyes.
“Do you really think you can intimidate me kid? What are you going to do? Hurt me, in front of all these witnesses? In front of the young Hale, that you seem so intent in meeting? What do you think they do to people that hurt old ladies in this place? When I was so nice to you, and moved my poor tired carcass to help you find your way?” The old Wendy is calm, staring at her with pity. Kate’s hands spasm but she succeeds in keeping them away from her gun. The woman nods.
“That’s what I thought. Now, finding the post office is easy. You just have to drive one hour, following the east road. There is a lovely town there, where you will find the nicest post office you’ll ever see. Also, really affordable houses. You should seriously think of buying there. You are not so young anymore and I’m sure you will love the place. A lot of coyotes there, you should feel right at home.”
She’s waiting in her car three days later, waiting for the kids to exit the high school. She passes time furiously doing her nails, swearing about the fucking town and its inhabitants.
A rasp on her window makes her jump and she opens the window to a young policeman with freckles all over his face and crazy red hair.
Apparently, the front wheels of her car are parked on a forbidden space. She goes ballistic, turning on him like a snake and almost jumps on him through the window. The cop smiles and shakes his head sadly.
She gets detained at the station all day.
Her car gets towed.
When she goes to the impound lot the next day, she’s frantic. She throws the paid tickets on the counter, ready to burn the whole city to ashes and be done with it.
The man behind the desk looks at her, at his registers, back at her. He winces, badly faking embarrassment.
“The car was to be destroyed immediately. Surely some stupid paperwork mistake. You should see with the station’s insurance. I’m sure the problem will be taken care of swiftly!” He smiles at her encouragingly, one of his front tooth missing and eyes dancing with mirth.
She gets detained at the station all day. Again.
She jumps out of the bus with a snarl when she sees the two stupid kids climbing a tree to reach a fucking cat.
She charges towards them with the subtlety of an enraged bull.
The gardener and his “malfunctioning garden hose” is the last straw.
She’s not stupid enough to try to capture and restrain a werewolf in the middle of the town. Trying to extract him from the Hale pack is akin to suicide.
But the other kid. Stiles. Stiles is human, and so, so easy to track.
She follows him into the woods, the kid gallivanting between the trees like a brain damaged red riding hood.
He is almost disappointingly easy to neutralize, skinny and surprised and flapping his arms every way. The butt of her gun hits his temple with a pleasing noise and he crumples. She watches him slumps to the ground with satisfaction.
She is loving this new plan more and more.
It doesn’t take long for Derek Hale to erupt snarling in the clearing.
He is disfigured, the monster inside him evident all over his face. His eyes are shining a sickly yellow and they immediately focus on the boy passed out all over her knees. He attacks fangs first with a savage howl.
She tsks at him making the butcher knife glint in the dim light against the kid’s jugular. The werewolf turns sharply midair, landing heavily on the ground. He pants, fury and fear battling visibly inside him.
Kate licks her lips like a satisfied snake testing the air. This is what she was waiting for. The helplessness and terror turning monsters from fairytales into distorted puppies. She caresses the unconscious boy’s head, savoring the frustrated snarls and whines flowing off the werewolf.
She opens her mouth only to close it after spying movements at the clearing’s border.
The Sheriff approaches evenly, his gun pointed in her direction. His movements exude calm and competence but his eyes are hard and his knuckles white. The deputy at his side isn’t human, the monster seeming that much grotesque in uniform. She smells the wind, smells blood and unsheathed her claws with a feral growl.
Kate shakes her head sadly. Typical wolf. So confident that claws are faster than bullets. She loves nothing more than to teach them wrong.
“What is happening there?” asks the Sheriff, gun unwavering. Kate pushes the knife tighter against the kid’s throat, making any surprising movement from anyone an obvious terrible idea. Blood trickles along the blade.
Derek roars, eyes blazing. The next instant the ugly beta shifted werewolf turns into an enormous beast. The wolf is huge, black hair bristling all over his spine and immense fangs on display. His paws are the size of her head, and Kate shivers, delighted.
Yes, Derek Hale is a prey worthy of her talents.
They all stay frozen for long seconds, sizing each other up. Kate stays poised over the kid, simply waiting for the minutes to tick before the activation of the wolfsbane bombs all over the place.
Scared wolves always forget to use their brains like the animals they are. Good hunters have long learned to exploit it. And she’s the best of them all.
On the ground, Stiles starts moving. She doesn’t look down, even when he starts talking drowsily.
The sheriff nods his head tightly and suddenly Kate understands better the man’s reluctance to shoot her. It’s so much more difficult to play the odds when it’s somebody you love suffering the consequences of a failure. People always makes stupid decision for a loved one.
“Laura?...Derek? What the f…” The kid’s voice trails off when his adam’s apple scratches against the blade. “Ho.”
“I’m sorry kid, but you are my bait and insurance. Should one of these three move in a way I don’t like, and you’ll have a nice little smile all over your throat to remember me by. Well. For a few seconds at least.”
“Okay. You are creepy, I knew it. Derek, didn't I tell you that the old lady with too much leather was bad news? Am I always right or am I always right?”
The wolf bites the air sharply before whining pitifully.
“Buddy, use your words” Stiles chides gently, shaking his head and almost slashing his own throat. Kate rolls her eyes.
“Do you ever shut up?”
“Good question. No. And being taken hostage is apparently not helping the whole jabbering when stressed thing. Who knew?” the kid babbles. He stays silent for a few blessed seconds, clearly fighting his own mouth. “Soooo. How is this supposed to go down? Because my friends here have eighty-three teeth between them that they seem keen to burry somewhere in your person. Eighty-four if Derek has healed the one he broke trying to eat rocks last week. Which is proof that you can be a big bad wolf and still be really stupid when bets are involved. Also, let’s not forget my dad’s awesome teeth, even if, let’s be honest, they are less scary overall. But he has a gun, which is just as cool” the kid prattles. He turns his eyes on her, very carefully not moving his head, “You, on the other hand, have an armful of Stilinski. Which is awe inspiring, I give you that, but could hinder slightly your abilities to handle firearms. Not to be offensive, but your plan kind of suck.”
Kate smiles at him and let the knife play higher on his neck, blade sliding just under his jaw.
“Really? Please continue. Let’s see how long my patience will hold”
The kid squints at her, contemplating before sighing.
“There is a trap somewhere here isn’t it? God, you look like the kind of crazy that would booby-trap the entire place with wolfsbane. That's not good.”
He sighs again, deeply. The wolves are still snarling in the background and the Sheriff is creeping closer one step at a time. The kid’s voice comes back, soft as a feather.
“You know what? That was a really stupid plan.”
She only has time to see his eyes flashing, gold swirling deep in his irises like trapped sunlight.
Then the world explodes inside her brain.
Be careful, little girl.
Don’t go causing troubles in Beacon Hills, because the Hales live there, little girl.
Keep away from Beacon Hills, little girl, or the Hales will destroy you.
The witnesses take turns at the bar, unending lane of almost familiar faces.
They all paint the same picture of a predator, following a kid for weeks, trying to approach him again and again and again.
Their voices break when they call it premeditation. Their hands shake when they admit their inability to stop her. Their faces crumple when they describe a kid overflowing with life and desperately trying to escape the killer hunting him in his home town. Someone in the jury sniffles when the boy describes the knife cutting slowly in his skin, thin and vulnerable, the bandage vulgar against the slender arch of his throat.
One by one, in front of the jury, the public and the press, they methodically carve the tale of Kate Argent.
They never pronounce the name Hale.
The courtroom is small, made smaller by the sheer number of people crammed inside. Many of them are from the Hale family, calm and beautiful and powerful and monstrous.
In her little box, Kate jerks forward, tugs at her handcuffs. She screams promises of a pyre bigger than this damned town, of the beast in their blood, the monster in their bones turning to ashes.
They all know.
But her accusers only shake their head, sighing, disregarding her as child babbling about fairytales.
Psychotic, they whisper gravely.
A middle aged wolf smirks at Kate, with just a hint of fangs and the gnarled old Wendy batts him on the shoulder sharply. The wolf laughs at her and throws an arm around her frail shoulders. The gardener and Lisa, one of the mothers from the park, are bent over a werewolf blinded by the years. The barista, hand in hand with a Hale, catches Kate’s gaze and smiles placidly. The redhead and the werewolf cops are guarding the entrance, whispering comments like naughty kids. The sheriff looks at them and smiles wanly, face tired and leaning on the pretty nurse that once failed to take Kate’s blood. There are other, less known faces. A bus driver. A baker. Teachers. Parents.
The jury ends its deliberation and its reentrance cuts into the noises instantly. Following them is the judge, in a severe traditional black robe and with long blond hair tied in a bun low on her neck.
Her name is judge Linda Sullivan.
She opens her mouth. Kate doesn’t need to hear the verdict.
Her blood is older than all the present humans’ combined, puny cockroaches to the purity of her lineage.
And they all smile at her, these powerless humans surrounded by monsters.
Each one of them is a tooth of the most inescapable trap ever created.
In the middle of it, Derek is vibrating in fury and disgust, back straight and head held high, arms wrapped around Stiles.
Stiles is coiled around him tightly, too clever not to understand who was the intended victim in this room all along.
He stares right at her, victorious smirk on his lips, spark swirling in his eyes, right hand curled protectively over the wolf’s heart.
He was the perfect bait.
The tales woven by generations of supernatural creatures also talk of the Hales. But theirs are not caution tales.
They will kiss their children's foreheads before whispering: Remember, little one.
Remember the Hales, little one, old blood allowing beast and humanity to run along, side by side in one body.
Remember Beacon Hills, little one, where humans and creatures grow up saving and loving each other.
Remember Beacon Hills, little one, where their bones go interwoven into the earth.
Remember the wild magic, little one, the stories of a land that loved its people so much it stood on two legs to walk amongst them.
Remember the wild magic, little one, and learn to see it shines in the eyes of its sparks, shielding humans and creatures alike.
And if you are lost one day, little one, remember Beacon Hills.
If you are alone, little one, remember to run to Beacon Hills as fast as your paws can carry you. Run to its wild wolves and its powerful sparks and its fierce humans.
Because remember, little one.
Beacon Hills always protects its own.