|You Are the Moon
Author: Tarafina PM
When Chloe Sullivan's childhood best friend returns to Beacon Hills, she's thrown into a mystery she can't help but unravel, involving murder, werewolves, and a crisis of conscience on whether to keep her and her brother Stiles safe from a distance or help out a man she's falling in love with, despite how dark the rabbit hole gets.Rated: Fiction M - English - Chloe S. & Derek H. - Chapters: 2 - Words: 19,787 - Reviews: 16 - Favs: 21 - Follows: 36 - Updated: 12-04-12 - Published: 10-07-12 - id: 8590286
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Title: You Are The Moon (That Breaks The Night For Which I Have to Howl)
Category: Smallville/Teen Wolf
Ship: Chloe Sullivan/Derek Hale
Timeline: Follows the entire first season, often rewriting full scenes from each episode (possibly whole episodes) to better understand the plot and for those who haven't seen the show.
Spoiler(s): Wolf Moon (1x01)
Word Count: 9,637
Summary: When Chloe Sullivan's childhood best friend Derek Hale returns to Beacon Hills, she's thrown into a mystery she can't help but unravel, involving murder, werewolves, and a crisis of conscience on whether to keep her and her brother Stiles safe from a distance or help out a man she's falling in love with, despite how dark the rabbit hole gets.
You Are The Moon (That Breaks The Night For Which I Have to Howl)
Nearly being run-over by a narcissistic teenager who shouldn't have the keys to a brand new Porsche was not exactly the 'good morning' Chloe was looking forward to. But there the Whittemore kid was, giving her that wide-eyed 'well, are you going to get out of my way?' look as he waved his hands.
Chloe tipped her head, glaring at him, and pointed at the walk sign that very obviously gave her the go-ahead. "I don't care if your dad's a big shot attorney, Jackson. You nearly run me over at a cross walk again and I'll have your face plastered on every newspaper in the state," she called out, before flicking her sunglasses over her eyes and continuing across the street.
Huffing, he tapped his fingers against the steering wheel and then, like a spoiled child, spun the wheels out as he raced off impatiently.
Chloe had to wonder what he was doing out of bed this early in the morning considering the first day of school wasn't until tomorrow; something she knew well because when she'd dropped by the Stilinski house her brother had still been fast asleep and muttering about sweet Lydia under his breath, all while drooling the pillow he was hugging tight, dopey smile in place. She loved her brother, but his taste in girls left something to be desired. Nothing against Lydia, but Chloe figured that after this long, if she wasn't seeing what a catch Stiles was, then she didn't deserve him. Maybe she was biased, seeing as he was her brother and all, but he deserved better.
She paused outside a diner, eyes catching on the telephone pole marked with a missing sign; one of her own, in fact. Two weeks ago, Laura Hale had blown back into town and come knocking at her door at the paper…
"Well, look at you…" came a voice from the doorway.
Chloe looked up, her brow furrowed, and paused, head quirked as she set eyes on a familiar face. With an abrupt, surprised laugh, she stood from her desk, pushing her notes away, along with a file folder of pictures. "Laura Hale," she said, shaking her head as she circled the desk. "What brings you back to Beacon Hills?" she wondered.
"I could ask you the same thing…" She walked into the office and knocked her knuckle back against a framed commendation for journalistic fortitude. "Last I remember, Derek was saying you got an internship at the Daily Planet and all your investigative dreams were coming true…" She raised an eyebrow. "That was the point in moving with your dad, right? So you'd be in Metropolis?"
She shrugged, her lips pursed in a vague smile. "I was twelve; dad wanted to pack up and chase a job opportunity and Stiles was an annoying five year old… Seemed like a good idea at the time."
"And yet here you are…" She threw her hands up. "Don't get me wrong… I think editor for the Beacon Hills Tribune—" she said with dramatic flair, "is a pretty big feat, especially at only 23, but…" She clucked her tongue. "Not the same as The DP, right?"
Chloe hugged her arms around her waist. "Yeah, well…" Her face fell. "Things changed when mom died…" Her throat tightened and she cast her eyes away. "I came back for Stiles and… Just made sense to stay after that."
"Ah, dead parents, now that I get," Laura agreed with a sardonic snort. She walked further into the office, casting an admiring eye around, before taking a seat on the edge of Chloe's busy desk.
"So, not that I'm not enjoying the reunion," Chloe said, leaning her hip against the desk, just in front of Laura. "But what brings you to my neck of the woods? Last I saw of you or Derek was after the funeral…" she said softly, gaze dropping for a moment. "Six years is a long time."
"Yeah, well… Not long enough." She sighed; turning her head, she looked thoughtfully over some of the pictures still scattered on the desk. "You're investigating the weird animal attack in the woods, right?" she asked, brows furrowed. "There was a spiral marking on the side of a deer; I saw the paper online…"
Chloe half-smiled. "I knew the online newspaper would be a hit," she boasted, before circling back around and taking a seat at her desk. "And yeah, I am." She spread the photos out a little more. "It was weird… and you know how I like weird things."
Laura's brows hiked, mouth tilting with amusement. "Well you were Derek's best friend for twelve long, torturous years, so you must like 'em weird…"
She snorted. "Spoken like a true little sister." She paused a moment, idly playing with the corner of a photo before she asked, "Do you see him often?"
Slowly, Laura looked up from the deer photo she'd been staring at. "Derek?" She nodded. "He's always been a lone wolf…" she said wryly, but sobered as she added, "Especially after the fire…" Sighing, she shook her head. "We stuck together the first few years, after… everything. But then I grew up, went my own way and so did he…" Her jaw ticked. "He wasn't the same, y'know? After…"
Chloe stared at her a moment. "Were you?"
She smiled to herself. "You always did like asking the hard questions." She rose from the desk, tucking her hands in the pockets of her jacket. Licking her lips, she shrugged her shoulders high. "Who would be after their whole family was burned alive, right?" She turned her head, long dark hair spilling over her shoulder as she eyed Chloe. "Anyway, Dr. Phil moment over…" She half-smiled. "I need your help with something."
Leaning back in her chair, she raised an eyebrow. "Why do I get the feeling this has something to do with the mysterious animal attacks?"
"You aren't editor for nothing." She put her hands on her hips as she turned to face her. "The deer... You didn't put in the article where they found it, or when."
"And your sudden fascination with Beacon Hills wildlife would be because…?"
Her lips twitched. "Call it a favor for an old friend and just don't ask…"
"Ah, one of those…" She laughed. "You know, asking when I'm not supposed to is basically my shtick."
"I guess I'm leaning a little heavily on the 'we grew up together' angle, huh?"
Chloe shook her head. "Hey, if it was anybody but a Hale asking, I might be a less little understanding…" She shrugged. "But I spent a good portion of my childhood at your house. In fact, I remember your pigtails phase pretty vividly."
"Ugh, I burned the metal images, don't bring them back up," she complained.
She laughed, but nodded. "Look, what I have is yours… I owe you and Derek that much."
Laura offered a soft smile. "He misses you, y'know?" She walked back toward her, nodding. "He doesn't bring up Beacon Hills much, but when he does and it's not depressing family stuff, he talks about you."
"Well, I was pretty unforgettable, even if I did only visit over break the last few years…"
"It was better than nothing." She shook her head. "Family's family, right?"
"Yeah…" She stared down at the pictures in front of her. "Well look, the deer was actually found in a clearing not far from your old house," she said, pushing the photo back toward Laura. "I brought it over to Doc Deaton, the local vet, and he said whatever was used to carve the symbol wasn't your average tool…" She frowned. "In fact, he said it had the same jagged edging that a claw or nail of another animal…" Her eyebrows hiked. "So you can imagine it hasn't exactly been the easiest case to crack." She grinned. "But those are usually the fun ones."
Laura nodded, staring down at the photo. "It was by my old house?" She hummed. "And the day, do you remember when it happened?"
"Yes, actually." She leaned forward in her seat and shuffled a few papers. "I remember it stood out because the police thought it was some ritualistic, nut-job thing…" She held up a photo-copied police report. "Full moon." Her eyes flashed. "Attracts the weirdoes every time."
Laura reached for the report and nodded, muttering under her breath, "You have no idea…"
Chloe frowned, sipping her almond mocha and licking a dab of whip from her top lip, as she stared with narrowed eyes at the paper.
The police had tried to remind her that Laura had blown out of town unexpectedly, so it wouldn't be surprising if she left the same way, but Chloe was trusting her gut on this one. Laura had come back to Beacon Hills for a reason, and it all revolved around the deer. Unfortunately, a week later, after picking apart Chloe's brain for clues and better understanding, she'd disappeared. Chloe asked around town but nobody had seen her, in fact most didn't know she was even back.
She'd made up the missing posters to no avail. And her internet search for anything Laura or Derek Hale related came up on the empty side, except for the extensive coverage of the house fire six years prior. She shivered at the thought and pulled back, turning on her heel and continuing on her way to work, but her mind was elsewhere.
For most of Chloe's childhood, she'd lived with her mom. Her parents had married young, in part because Moira was pregnant with her, and split up when Chloe was five, going their separate ways but on amicable enough terms that Gabe took her on weekends. Growing up in Beacon Hills was not the kind of excitement Chloe wanted out of life; she dreamed of big, loud, bustling cities, and instead she was stuck with Sheriff's and creepy forest landscapes. That didn't stop her imagination from taking on a life of its own, however, and it wasn't long before she was putting her creativity into writing and investigation.
When she met Derek, she was writing an exposé on whether or not their kindergarten teacher was stealing supplies from the school. She wrote it in blue crayon. He told her he knew when people were lying, that it was a trick he'd figured out, and she dragged him along with her while she grilled the teacher. Not only did they find out their teacher was stealing supplies, but she also occasionally stole food from kids' lunches. The principal hadn't taken them seriously at first; who would when they had a couple of five year olds telling them a kindergarten teacher had a kleptomania problem? But Chloe was persistent and Derek, even if he did always slump in his chair, sighing, telling her he wanted to go outside and run, never really left her side.
They made a good duo. Chloe would do the digging, find the mystery and usually solve it mid-way of getting caught, often in awkward, sometimes dangerous ways. And Derek was the stealthy lie-detector that usually just rolled his eyes and helped her get out of whatever sticky situation she happened to be in at the time. For seven years, that's what their friendship consisted of; well, that and running through the woods surrounding his house, climbing trees, and generally skirting the rules of conformity.
Chloe met Derek when her parents were divorcing. He was there when her mom remarried the Sheriff when she was eight, and when baby Stiles showed up a year later. He was her excuse whenever she ran out the door when the words 'change your brother's diaper' came up and her alibi every time she broke in somewhere she shouldn't because of a lead. Because yes, at double-digits she learned breaking and entering would happen and she had a reputation around town for being too curious for her own good. Derek though, he was loyal, and he always had an excuse or a story to cover for her, even when she hadn't warned him ahead of time.
For seven years, they were inseparable, attached at the hip and usually in trouble. And then her dad told her he had a job opportunity in Metropolis, and suddenly those big ideas of living in a city and writing for a big-name newspaper one day didn't seem so far away. Chloe was twelve years old and tired of getting the 'responsibility' talk from her mom and step-dad. She wanted freedom and in her eyes, that meant big city life.
If she was being honest, she might've tried to convince everyone involved that Derek should come with her. Can't blame a girl for trying. He was her best friend, after all. But he stayed, family loyalty and all that (plus, obviously, his parents weren't about to let him leave on a whim) and she visited every summer and spring break. For the most part, they stayed in touch. Phone calls, email, texting; it was a technology age and there was no excuse not to stay in touch. While Derek wasn't what anybody would call tech-savvy, he made an effort to always call her or return her emails.
Things changed when they were seventeen. Derek met newcomer to Beacon Hills, Kate Argent, and suddenly his world was all about her.
Chloe tried not to be jealous; he was a hormonal boy with a hot girlfriend, what did she, a childhood best friend he probably didn't even recognize was a girl, have on that? And besides, since her dad had traded in city for country living in Smallville (how much of a gyp was that, too?), she was a little busy solving the mystery of which monster of the week had come to kill, maim, and destroy. But she went down, as usual, to visit her family, catch up with her brother, and reunite with her best friend. Only now her best friend had a shadow in the shape of a sarcastic, critical, snide Kate Argent. And Chloe tried to play nice and retract the claws, but it was clear after a couple weeks that Chloe/Derek time was more like Chloe playing third wheel to Derek/Kate time, so she cut her losses and decided to leave early for her internship with the Daily Planet.
Sometimes she regretted that, since the following year, the last time she would see Derek, was at the funeral for his family.
She'd investigated it since she got back; since her mother got sick and she'd come home to Beacon Hills, leaving her dead-in-the-water career of journalism in the dust. She held her mother's chilled hand as her life drained away, day by day, until she simply wasn't there anymore. And after the funeral, she had a choice to make. Go back to Metropolis and pick up life as it had been, or start from scratch in her hometown…
True, Beacon Hills hadn't been what she wanted as a kid. But now that she'd had a taste of city life, and what a taste it was, she thought she could do with something a little more down to earth. So she put in a résumé at the Tribune and scaled the ladder faster than anyone else, putting her in an editor's position when the former editor basically handed the reigns over as long as he could keep his wage until early retirement. With Chloe's revamping, newspaper sales were up and the online version was doing wonderfully. She'd moved out of the Stilinski guest room to get her own apartment above an antique book store and she set down roots.
More importantly, she got to work on her relationship with her brother. It wasn't easy maintaining family when they only saw each other on holidays, but over the last two years, they'd found their footing. It helped that Stiles was a sarcastic and smart teenager that reminded her of a less foolhardy version of herself. While she always followed the dangerous path, he saw it for what it was and avoided it when possible. Which wasn't to say he didn't get into his own kind of trouble; he'd always been fascinated with his dad's job and what each call-to-arms meant, usually showing up to crime scenes, Scott McCall in tow, before most of the department got there.
Curiosity, she guessed, ran in the family.
When she reached the newspaper office, the front door was held open with a wedge. She smiled as she spotted the gold lettering on the window, proudly stating the paper's name. They ran a small outfit of only ten staff, set up in an office on the main strip; the small town charm was more welcoming than cheesy, although she imagined some city folk might balk at it.
Walking through the door, she was hit with the smell of ink and paper; she breathed in deeply and felt a shiver of appreciation run down her back.
Gloria smiled at her in greeting, waving a hand before pointing at the phone balanced under her ear to show she couldn't talk.
Chloe raised her Styrofoam coffee cup in hello and continued through a second door leading in to where desks sat pressed together, computers on top, files and stacks of notes lining each.
Much of her staff was busy, which she liked to see, it meant something was always happening. She made her way back to her own private office, always feeling a swell of pride in her chest over seeing her name on the door, and walked inside, closing it with a flick of her foot. She dropped her jacket over a chair and circled around to take a seat behind her desk, letting out a sigh as she turned on her computer.
It was going to be a long, busy day, and she was looking forward to it.
She paused, however, as she reached for the notes she'd made on an article she'd been investigating personally, when she noticed something out of the corner of her eye.
It was one of the Missing posters she'd put up, recopied, only something was on the back of it.
When she grabbed it, turning it over, her eyes widened, and she stared at a photo copied picture of the deer with the symbol carved into its side.
Teeth grinding, she stood from her chair and moved to her door, swinging it open and popping her head out. "Anybody see somebody in my office?" she asked, casting her eyes around. "Anyone at all?"
Her staff paused, looked around at each other, and then shook their heads, offering up negative replies, assurances they'd keep an eye out, and apologies.
Humming, she walked back into her office, brow furrowed, and looked over the page once more.
Either someone was toying with her, or somebody was giving her a clue.
She was betting on the second one.
Plucking it from her desk, she made her way over to her Wall, digging out a pin and using it to add to the mismatched pile of information she'd collected on the deer, Laura, and her disappearance. Hands on her hips, she took a step back, and blew out a sigh as she looked at a whole lot of dead ends. Eyes narrowed, she backed up until she was sitting on the edge of her desk.
The Wall was a trick she'd picked up from her step-dad. Between eight and twelve, she couldn't count how many hours she'd spent in the police station, taking up space at John's desk, behind which was whatever case he'd been working on, pieced together bit by bit for him to find the culprit. Sometimes she'd tried to figure it out before him, usually when she was supposed to be doing her homework or occasionally on timeout for being caught doing something she shouldn't. She smiled as she remembered how he'd turned on the lights and siren the first time he'd shown up to find it was her trespassing on someone's property and 'took her in'. His scare tactics really hadn't worked, but she appreciated the dedicated dad routine all the same.
John Stilinksi was a wonderful step-father and an even better Sheriff, which was why she'd picked up a few helpful tips along the way. The Wall had eventually morphed into a Wall of Weird while in Smallville, adapting again in Metropolis, and later returning to its roots when she got back to Beacon Hills. It helped too, that having that tie at the Sheriff's office meant she often got a quote or at least a head's up on what was going on. Of course, it also meant keeping a lid on certain information until they wanted it brought to light and while Chloe had always been a firm believer in 'the world deserves to know,' she also recognized that there was a time to speak and a time to shut up. As long as she got to share it eventually, she curbed her natural impatience.
Eventually, the rest of her workload intervened, and she was forced to put the mystery of Laura and the surprise desk delivery on the backburner. She had another article due and a lot of others to read over before giving the go-ahead for print. Not to mention, she liked to organize and edit much of the online newspaper herself. While she had a guy who was basically hired to run it, she still jumped in whenever she felt like and fiddled or rearranged things to her liking.
Lois liked to tell her it was tension; that she was wound up too tight and working too hard and what she needed was to go out and have a little fun. "Let loose, cuz! Meet a cute boy and tie him to your bed for a weekend," she'd often write, or a variation of, in their weekly emails. But Chloe didn't have time for boys; in fact, she thought she had enough boys in her life as it was.
The phone call was right on time. She smiled, leaning back in her chair, muscles protesting as she realized just how many hours she'd spent bent over her keyboard or thumbing through notes. She grabbed the phone off its cradle and sighed, "That time already?"
Stiles snorted. "Do I need to send you another link to how being a workaholic lifestyle leads to an early heart attack? Because I have them saved, you know… It's not good, not healthy, and between you and dad, I'm running a little thin here, okay? Think of me, Chloe. Cut back on work because of me."
She laughed. "Touching, really." She rolled her eyes and glanced at the clock. "Did you make dinner or are we meeting up?"
"What do you think?" he asked, amused.
Smiling, she nodded. "Okay. I'll pick something up from Rosie's and meet you over at the station."
"Something healthy," he demanded.
"Fine, but when John complains that he wanted real and not rabbit food, it's all on you…" she warned, grabbing up her jacket and purse before leaning back to save her file and shut off the monitor. While she'd be meeting her family for dinner, and even with Stiles plea in the back of her mind, she knew she'd be coming back to continue working awhile longer.
"Duly noted," he sighed.
"Don't worry, we know it's only because you care…"
"Care, don't want to be orphaned, same difference," he snarked.
Hooking her bag over her shoulder, she left her office, closing the door and locking it behind her. The delivery earlier had her a little on edge and she cast her eyes around her empty bullpen before crossing through to the second door leading into the front area. She flicked off the lights and locked that door too before saying into the phone, "So? You excited for school to start tomorrow?"
"Excited to get back to the hierarchy that has me and Scott riding so low on the totem pole that we're practically non-existent? Hah, yeah, totally. Cannot wait. I might even hire a skywriter to exclaim my pure, unadulterated love of high school for all to see."
"Your cynicism is showing, Sti…" As she walked down the sidewalk, she swung her keys on her finger. "What's the big deal anyway? You're on the lacrosse team, you're smarter than the average kid, and you've got a best friend to share in all the highs and lows… Is it really that terrible?"
"What? Yes. Of course it's that terrible. Don't—Don't sugarcoat it, all right? Sitting on the bench is not the same as being on the lacrosse team. And did I mention that we're non-existent? I mean, you'd think after all these years, people would remember a charming face like mine, but half of them don't get my name right… It sucks. On the scale of—of okay to complete suckdom, I'm riding the tail and it is not a good place to be, okay?"
Chloe bit her lip at his dramatics and stepped inside the diner, the bell jangling over her head. "All right, it sucks. The whole world might as well swallow you whole… I'll hold a service, pretty girls will weep, and people will finally remember your name with the reverence it was owed."
He snorted. "Thanks. Your understanding and sympathy has fully restored my faith in mankind… womankind… Uh, people."
"Great, that leaves me open to solve world hunger and bring about world peace."
"Sure, but not until after dinner."
Chuckling, she leaned her hip against the cashier's counter, smiling at the patient lady behind the counter. "All right. You talk John into sitting down for some grub, I'll provide the food… I'll see you in…" She quirked an eyebrow at the waitress. "Twenty?" She got a nod and reiterated, "Twenty minutes."
She could hear her brother moving the phone from one ear to another, the background noise changing, and the sound of his jeep door slamming. "Sure. See you then."
After hanging up, she clasped her hands on the countertop. "Apparently we're going as healthy as you can make it tonight, Jessa."
"On it, Chlo," she assured with a wink, before turning around and walking toward the kitchen, calling as she went, "We got a triple order of the healthy stuff, Phil. Sheriff Stilinki's daughter's in for pick-up."
"You got it. Three rabbit meals comin' up," Phil returned.
Jessa gave her a thumbs up and Chloe nodded at her in thanks before moving to take a seat at the serving bar, where a few sliced and half-eaten pies were sitting on glass-covered pedestals. She admired the pumpkin for a moment and smiled; she loved fall. And sure, August had only just ended and there was a few weeks before the season changed, but she could already smell the spices, feel the cool breeze, and see the leaves changing color; purely on whimsy since it was still warm California weather all around.
Dropping her bag into the stool next to her, Chloe took a seat and drummed her hands on the countertop. She tugged out her phone to check her messages, answered a few and saved the longer ones for later. It was a few minutes before she felt it; that hair standing on the back of her neck sensation that someone was watching her. Brows furrowed, she turned her eyes to one side and just listened; as if she thought she could hear a change behind her. She played it off like she wasn't looking for anything in particular; stretching her arms back and twisting her head side to side to relieve a kink before casting her eyes around the room, looking for anybody who might stand out.
She saw the Lahey kid in the back row, head in hand, shoulders hunched, nursing a glass of coffee while he appeared to be wasting time.
She frowned to herself, thinking back, not for the first time, to the disturbance reports she'd seen in John's office; noise reports and concerned neighbors suggesting something odd might be going on at the Lahey house.
Suddenly, Isaac looked up, and she realized that she was giving him the same standing-neck-hair feeling she'd just had. But she let Isaac see it was her, imagining that the eerie feeling wouldn't help what already looked like a constant paranoia that stuck close to him. She offered a half-smile and a wave that he slowly, uncertainly, returned, before directing his eyes back down and focusing on his coffee.
She looked away, checking out the other patrons, but it was just one of the teachers from the high school, reading a folded up newspaper, and the man who ran the tool shop a block over. Neither of them were paying her any attention, and neither were the two waitresses; one of which was bent over a few college-age text books while the other was playing Temple Run on her iPhone. Which meant whoever was watching her… wasn't in the diner.
She turned in her seat, brow furrowed, and started looking out the large windows. It was dark out, so only the street lamps managed to light up the street outside.
She paused when she saw two bright blue spots; she wanted to call them eyes, but she'd never seen that shade before and eyes didn't glow like that. She took a step off her stool, curiosity itching for her to sate it, when suddenly a bell dinged, and the cook called out, "Three rabbit specials; have at 'em."
Jumping slightly, Chloe's head whirled toward the sound and she blinked a few times as Jessa moved to grab her brown-bagged order and walk it over to the pay counter. Chloe turned back to see if the blue spots were still there but the window was dark and empty. She dug her wallet from her purse and paid before hugging the bag under her arm and walking out. She looked both ways, searching for any signs of what she'd seen, before finally turning to start toward the station.
It wasn't a far trek, but with the tingling at the back of her neck, it felt like ages. She kept turning, head swiveling side to side, searching out whoever was following her, watching her, but she couldn't see anything. Cars drove past, people moved down the streets, to and from working late or going out to the restaurants, but for the most part, many people were at home. It was the last night before school started back up, which meant a lot of people who'd been sleeping in were going to have to get up bright and early come tomorrow.
Chloe saw the station ahead and breathed a sigh of relief; she hurried her steps and crossed the gravel road, filled with lined up police cars and a transport van. She walked up the cement walkway to the front door and swung it open, wiping her feet on the welcome mat before looking back through the glass door, searching the road, lit up with bluish hue of the street and lawn lamps.
She turned her head and smiled at Carla, who was running the front desk. "Hey. Stiles here yet?"
She pointed a pen toward the hall. "In the back with your dad; he pulled in ten minutes ago."
"Great. Thanks." She walked through and made her way past a few waiting people and passing familiar officers as she went. Being the sheriff's step-daughter (even if everyone seemed to forget the 'step'part) had its perks and Chloe had quickly made friendly with the other staff at the department, learning their names and a little about their home lives.
"Hey Bill, how's the wife?"
"Still pregnant and impatient," he replied, nodding at her as she passed.
"Half your fault," she teased.
"Trust me, she never lets me forget."
She chuckled to herself as she turned the corner. The door to the sheriff's office was open and Chloe walked in on the middle of a conversation, leaning against the jamb.
"And all I'm saying is it wouldn't the worst thing to show up to school with my own siren on my jeep… I mean how cool would that look?"
John gave him a patented look of exasperation and Chloe took it as her cue to interrupt. She knocked her knuckles on the door as she walked inside. "I bring food and news from the outside world," she said, moving to drop the bag on John's busy desk before taking a seat next to her brother.
"Is the news something along the lines of 'this is a joke, I have real food in a different bag?'" John wondered, frowning as he unloaded grilled chicken sandwiches on whole wheat bread with side green salads.
She grinned at him before reaching across and plucking up one of the salads. "What do you think?" she asked, winking as she leaned back in her chair.
"I think my children are in a conspiracy to keep me from enjoying one of the last few joys I have in life…" he sighed, but unwrapped his sandwich all the same.
"If food is all you have left then dad, I'm sorry, but you need a hobby like, yesterday," Stiles told him, brows hiked as he gathered his food into his lap. He waved a hand encouragingly. "Maybe pick up fishing or golfing or—or macramé or something."
"Macramé?" Chloe repeated on a snort.
"What? I think he'd be great at it." He gave her the wide-eyed, hiding a grin look, and she shook her head, rolling her eyes.
"I don't even know what this macramé thing is…" John told them, before taking a large bite of his sandwich. "Is it like that cross-stitch stuff your grandmother used to make?" he wondered, eyebrow quirked.
"Wow, weird mental image," Stiles muttered.
Chloe tipped her head thoughtfully. "I imagined 'Home Is Where Your Gun Is…'"
He shrugged, nodding. "That could work."
John sighed at them before digging into his bag to search out the dressing for his salad. "So? How was work?" he asked, looking at Chloe.
"Actually, that what I wanted to talk to you about," she said, picking at her salad. "I think somebody left me a message."
He frowned. "What kind of message?"
"I think it's related to the deer and Laura's missing case… I think they're telling me they're connected and I'm on to something…"
"Chloe," he sighed, resting his arms on the desk. "I know Laura was a friend of yours… But you have to remember, Beacon Hills holds a lot of bad memories for her. It's not surprising that she wouldn't stay around."
"No, what's surprising is that she came back," Chloe argued. "Look, I know Laura. It doesn't matter that she was only back in town a week or that I hadn't seen her in six years… I know her. And she was in deep with something; she knew something… She was just piecing it together when something went sideways!"
Stiles was watching her intently, brow furrowed. "What are the chances that something did happen?" Before his dad could say anything, he waved a hand, "No, but you said it yourself… You thought the deer killing thing was like, a ritualistic thing… So what if Laura Hale stumbled onto something and…" He sighed. "The stakes went from killing animals to killing people."
"That's a big leap," John said, looking between them meaningfully. "Laura probably just left town and, as impolite as it might be, didn't say goodbye."
Chloe shook her head, but before she could argue it further, a call came in over the radio and, together, Chloe and Stiles turned their heads, staring at it as it spat out familiar numbers before explaining.
Chloe went ice-cold.
"We've got half a body in the woods. All units respond. Reported by two joggers; repeat, half a body in the woods."
She could actually see as John seemed to slump with the knowledge, his eyes falling closed a moment. When he opened them, he was staring at her.
"I'm going with you," she declared.
"Chloe…" He held up a hand as he stood from his desk. "If this is what we think it is… If it is Laura Hale…" He stared at her searchingly. "How sure are you that you want to see her like that?"
She swallowed tightly and stared up at him, before her resolve strengthened. "I'm going with you." Standing, she tossed her food back in the bag. "I won't bury my head in the sand. Laura was a friend… and if they're calling in all the units, that means you guys are doing a ground search… One more flashlight can only help."
He let out a long breath, but nodded at her understandingly.
Stiles perked up in his chair but they both turned toward him, saying firmly and in-tune with one another, "No."
Deflated, he sat back in his chair and frowned. "Not fair…" he complained.
John frowned. "You've got school in the morning… Why don't you head home? Finish dinner?" He offered a half-smirk and said, "I'll pick something up on my way back."
Stiles threw his hands up. "You try and save a man from an early grave…"
"It's appreciated," he returned, amused. "Now go home, Stiles."
Saluting his father, he grabbed up the bag of wasted food and started for the door. "I would've been a big help!" he called back.
"We'll remember that," Chloe assured.
John got his things together and shrugged on his jacket. He checked his gun was holstered and dug out a spare flashlight before raising an eyebrow at her. "You're sure about this…?" He paused, eyes darting away before he told her candidly, "If it is Laura, then she went missing a week ago, that's a long time for something to happen… She's been out in the woods, where any number of animals could have…" he trailed off.
Chloe swallowed tightly, but nodded. "I know. Which is why I want to find her as soon as possible…" She buttoned up her own jacket and followed him out. "I don't know how I'm going to find Derek… Or even how I'll tell him."
"Don't get ahead of yourself," John reminded, staring down at her as he walked at her side. "It might not be Laura," he tried to reassure, reaching over to pat her shoulder.
Chloe wished she could be optimistic, but she knew as soon as the call came in who the body was that had been found.
She drove shot-gun with John out to the meeting site at the Beacon Hills preserve. Every officer from the local department and, after John made a few calls and talked to the local mayor, they agreed the State police should be called in too. They worked out a search party plan which mostly consisted of combing the woods in a line, flashlights up, leaving no log unturned. Chloe stuck close to John, in part because it was too easy to get lost and also because, as he put it, "We don't know who's out here… If somebody was killed, then somebody killed them… And we don't know where they are."
It was raining; a light but constant drizzle that soaked her hair and jeans quickly, making her skin chilled. They had dogs out, barking and snapping and pulling at their partners as they rushed through the trees, sniffing at the bed of the forest. The moon was large and bright enough that it lit up large portions of forest bed when they reached a parting of the branches above. "Of all the places to die, creepy forest isn't on my top favorites," Chloe muttered.
"You have favorite places you'd like to die?" John asked, brow furrowed.
"Sure." She shrugged, her eyes wide. "Old and comfortable in bed comes to mind."
He turned his eyes away in thought before nodding. "Good point." He frowned. "But that you have to think about it worries me…" He eyed her. "Don't let this cloud your judgement, Chloe. You're young and this kind of thing, it's not as common as you might think."
She grinned up at him. "I appreciate the soft, stay innocent speech, but I'm a reporter… I know all too much about murder statistics, remember?" As she walked off past him, she could hear him sigh regretfully, and she smiled to herself. He was a good man and she loved that he wished he could erase the worst of what she knew about the world. But she wasn't a little kid and even when she was, she was looking for mystery and scandal everywhere around her.
John caught up to her and they were both distracted when they heard the barking and yapping grow louder; they hurried their steps.
"Stay right there!" an officer shouted, waving his flashlight.
She felt John's arm move back to cover her for a moment as he tried to assess the danger ahead before she heard him sigh.
"Hang on, hang on," he called out, before moving forward.
Chloe realized what it was and shook her head, moving to stand at John's side as they stared down at a wide-eyed Stiles, laying on the ground, pushing up from the ground and dusting the mud off from his jeans while eyeing the German Shepherd warily.
"This little delinquent belongs to me," John told the officer, watching as his son managed to stand upright.
Blinking his eyes against the harsh glow of the flashlight that apparently momentarily blinded him, he offered a nonchalant face, putting his arms down. "Dad, how're ya doin'?"
"Exactly what part of 'go home' did you not understand?"
"Uh, well…" He scratched at his neck. "Home is a subjective word, right? I—I mean you could have meant home to my natural habitat… And didn't we all once live in the woods? I mean—"
"Stop," John ordered.
He nodded. "Stopping."
John cast his eyes around. "Where's your usual partner in crime?"
"Depends on the crime. I mean, Chloe only looks innocent." He motioned to her. "One could say she's the reason I have such an insatiable curiosity."
Chloe rolled her eyes. "Don't blame me. I would've trained you to sleuth better."
He pursed his lips at her.
"Your other partner in crime," John said, getting the conversation back on track.
Stiles feigned ignorance, his eyes narrowed, and his voice raising an octave as he said, "Who? Scott?" He waved a hand and gave a breathy laugh. "Sc-Scott's home." He sniffed. "He said he wanted to get a good night's sleep for first day back at school tomorrow." He shook his head and blew out a sigh. "Just me, in the woods… alone."
Not believing him, John raised his flashlight up and cast it around the trees, searching out a familiar figure.
Chloe tipped her head as she saw something move, quickly ducking behind a tree. She glanced at her brother, who shook his head subtly, his eyes widened in emphasis.
"Scott! You out there?" John shouted. He brought his flashlight back around, staring skeptically. "Scott?"
There was no answer but the rain bouncing.
John lowered his flashlight and looked to his son, who was still staring at Chloe.
Sighing, John passed his flashlight to his other hand and sighed. "Well young man," he said, walking toward him, "I'm gonna walk you back to your car—" He grabbed him by the neck of his shirt and tugged him along. "—and then you and I are gonna have a conversation about what 'go home' means… exactly."
Chloe snorted. "If it hasn't sunk in yet, it never will." She turned her head back to look over the woods. "I'm gonna stay, keep looking."
John paused, unsure.
She smiled. "Really, it's okay. We've got local and state police everywhere; you really think I'm in danger?"
He tipped his head and raised a brow at her, mouth tilted. "I think you and danger are too synonymous too often."
She grinned. "Weren't you about to punish Stiles?"
"Hey!" her brother complained.
She waved at them before turning on her heel and starting back toward the woods, whistling under her breath. When she was sure John and Stiles were out of hearing range, she called out, "Well? Scott? You out there?" She rubbed her hands together before lifting them up and blowing warm air into them. "Look, I'd offer you a ride home but John drove me in… You need to get out of here though, and preferably without alerting the others…"
She got no reply and shrugged to herself, hoping her little brother's best friend managed to get home without getting caught.
Chloe continued through the forest, flashlight bouncing around, highlighting fallen trees and muddy, leave-covered ground.
As a child, she'd spent hours out here. Derek loved the woods; not surprising since his parents owned a house out in the thick of them. When they weren't chasing down Chloe's latest mystery, they were out here. Truth be told, while she'd always thought city life was where she wanted to be, she constantly missed the fresh smell of trees and damp earth when she was gone. Every spring and summer when she came back, her and Derek would go for a hike and she'd tell herself it would be enough to keep her going until the next time she visited, but it was bittersweet.
She wondered if Laura took comfort in dying in the woods; in a place so close to her childhood home. She plucked a wet leaf as she passed and twirled the step between her fingers before casting her eyes around. It was almost too dark, but slivers of moon beams reached through to guide her along. It was beautiful in an eerie way and she liked it a lot more during the day, when she could see the moss climbing the trees and critters skittering all around. When the trees were tall companions rather than looming adversaries.
She snorted to herself as she realized she was getting too deep into her mind and getting poetic over her surroundings. It probably wouldn't be any more beautiful in the daylight when she started to see it as the place Laura died in. And, if she was really in two places, was possibly murdered, violently.
She heard rustling then and turned her head before hopping up onto a log, stuck between two large trees. She was surprised when a herd of deer went racing by, trampling everything in their path. She leaned back against a tree, her eyes wide as they moved so fast they were bumping into each other, some even falling, skidding in the mud, before letting out a cry and hurrying to get up. Her heart hammered; she didn't imagine they'd be running unless there was danger on their tails.
When they passed by her, she hopped down, brow furrowed, and decided that maybe staying with the group was a better idea. She made her way back in the direction she'd come and searched for flashlight beams between the trees. She heard howling in the distance but chalked it up to the dogs; she hoped they caught the scent of whatever was out there.
She quickened her steps, but her heart was still racing as her mind, far too imaginative for its own good, started coming up with ideas about what could be out there, and possibly hungry. There was rustling all around her and the ground still seemed to still tremble with the deer hooves stampeding through the forest.
She felt the sensation at the back of her neck once more and whirled, searching the area, but all she saw were reflective animal eyes in the dark.
She turned back quickly, heart lurching in her chest, but laughed at herself as she saw John waiting, standing not far from her. "They found it," he told her, his expression drawn.
Her heart thumped.
"It's the bottom half though," he said, cringing at his own wording.
"That's going to make ID'ing it a little difficult," she sighed, hopping a tree root and moving to walk at his side as they started back toward the meeting place, which she realized was farther than expected thanks to her wandering.
"Difficult but hopefully not impossible," he agreed.
"So what happens now?" she wondered. "Do we keep looking for the matching set or do we pack up until daylight?"
He shook his head. "We're calling it in for the night. Given the location, they're thinking this was what the jogger's found…"
Her gaze wandered. "Which means the other half could be anywhere..."
"They searched the vicinity and came up empty. We'll send another, smaller party out tomorrow, but for tonight, we're bringing in what we found and doing what we can."
She nodded, chewing her lip. "But you think…"
He turned to look at her. "I won't know for sure until the coroner looks the body over, but yes… I believe it's Laura Hale."
Her eyes closed and she took a deep breath, feeling the prick of tears at her eyes. She raised a shaking hand and rubbed between her brows. "Derek," was all she said, a breathless whisper of sorrow.
"I'm sorry, kid," John said, hugging an arm around her shoulders.
It offered a brief comfort; he only ever called her kid during moments where he thought she needed guidance or comfort and the arm around her was the kind of support she'd missed during her teen years. Don't get her wrong, she loved her dad, but Gabe was a workaholic who, sadly, spent more time at Luthorcorp than he did with her. She got it and she adapted, but coming back to Beacon Hills and to John Stilinski, who was a lot more of a hands-on parenting figure only reminded her that maybe she should have stuck around instead of chasing big, empty dreams with her dad. Still, she'd learned a lot when she away and she thought it helped her grow both as a writer and as a person.
She nodded up at him and leaned into his side as he guided her back in silence.
She was close enough to see them loading the half-filled body bag into one of the vans; John kept her moving, opening the passenger side door for her to climb in. She hugged her arms around herself and stared out the window at the passing scenery as he drove her back to her apartment. Shifting into park, he turned to look at her. "You're sure you don't want to stay back at the house tonight?" he wondered, staring searchingly.
She nodded. "Thanks, but I think I'd rather curl up in bed with Alibi… Besides," She offered a grin, "Stiles is going to be all over the place tomorrow morning; I'd rather avoid it."
He snorted, eyebrows hiked as he tipped his head agreeably. "Five bucks says he forgets to set his alarm."
"Ten says he almost leaves the house without pants."
With a laugh, he held a hand out for her to shake on it and she met it halfway.
She pushed the door open then and pulled her bag with her, leaning down to say, "Thanks, John… I know I didn't really do anything, but… It felt right, to be there."
He nodded, offering a sad, knowing smile. "Night Chloe."
She waved back at him before she made her way toward the red brick building, walking down the dark alley to the stairs that led up to her side-entrance. The rain had made the brick walls, cement ground, and wood stairs slick. She climbed them quickly, holding tight to the banister, and dug out her keys to let herself inside.
She looked over her shoulder once before pushing her door in and walking inside, flipping the light on as she went. She dropped her bag to the table next to the door and toed off her shoes. Closing and locking the door, both the handle and deadbolt, she shrugged off her jacket and hung it up on a hook. She clicked her tongue to call out her cat, but wasn't surprised when she didn't get a reply right away. He was a grump who lived life on his terms and if he wanted to be cuddled, he usually did it when she was least expecting it.
Chloe started undressing immediately; her clothes were soaked through and clinging to her skin uncomfortably. She tossed her shirt and bra into the laundry hamper as she stepped into her bedroom before shimmying out of her jeans and stripping down her underwear to add to the pile. A hot shower was just what she needed since it felt like every inch of her body was rigid with tension.
Laura was dead.
She wondered briefly, rather pointlessly, how many Missing posters she had to take down.
Standing under the hot spray of the water, she scrubbed her fingers through her hair and tried not to think about the body bag, folded over for easier lifting. She tried not to think about Laura and how lighthearted and friendly she'd been when she blew back into town and came knocking on Chloe's door. How they'd gone out for dinner or lunch every day she'd been back, trading bittersweet stories and memories from childhood. She tried not to add Laura to her mental list of people she'd known and died, which was already far too long to begin with. She failed and the tears burned before they melted into the stream of hot water sluicing down her face.
When she climbed out of the shower, she was exhausted. Mentally and physically, she just wanted to climb into bed and not move for a few days. Curl up in bed and mourn awhile before getting down to business on tracking Derek's whereabouts.
She toweled off and dragged on a pair of cotton shorts and a mismatched tank top before brushing her teeth and throwing her wet hair up into a messy bun. She was walking back through the living room, stomach grumbling for a dinner that went to waste, when she nearly tripped over Alibi; her cat weaved in and out of her feet, tail swooshing against her legs as he meowed demandingly.
"Hey you," she said, reaching down to grab him up and hug him to her chest. His fur was soft and warm and he lay comfortably in the crook of her arm even as his face showed a perma-frown. She brought him with her into the kitchen, where she checked the fridge and cupboards for something to eat before settling on a box of leftover Chinese. She gave it a sniff to make sure it was still good, decided it was, and carried it back to the couch with her. Plopping down in a corner seat, she eyed the stack of books on her end table before shaking her head. If she started reading she wasn't going to get to sleep any time soon; what she needed was something to wind her down.
Al curled up in her lap, tale still swishing, and nuzzled her thigh, getting comfortable, one of his legs stretched out, paw against her shirt, nails hooked in the fabric lightly.
Chloe ate cold chow mein and tried to focus on something, anything else. She thought about Stiles and his first day; he was starting grade ten and he was a mix of cynicism and hope, going from 'I will convince Lydia Martin to fall in love with me this year' to 'I suck and my life sucks and everybody sucks' in two seconds flat.
Eventually though, her thoughts kept circling back; to Laura and the deer and the way she was apparently killed. It wasn't every day that a body was found in halves and she was sure that meant something. But what? What could a deer have to do with it? She remembered Stiles' suggestion; ritualistic in nature, somebody trying to shut her up. It seemed extreme though.
The knock at her door jarred her and she gave an involuntary gasp, startling in her seat enough that Al tumbled out, hissing at her.
She rolled her eyes and frowned at him. "Take it easy," she muttered, before climbing off the couch and starting for the door. She checked the time and frowned; it was late, which meant the number of people who would come calling was small. The knock came again and she snorted. "I swear to God if that's you, Stiles, wanting to know about what was found or what I saw—" She unlocked the door and swung it open, but stopped short, her eyes wide, when she was met not with her little brother, but with her long-lost best friend. "Derek?"
He offered a vague half-smile. "Chloe," he said, giving a slow nod.
Her eyes burned suddenly, blurring with tears, and without giving it much thought, she threw herself into his arms. He barely stumbled, catching her easily, and she hugged him tight as her throat clenched. She gripped her arms around him and ducked her head, face pressed to his shoulder. He smelled like trees, leather, and rain. She smiled and let out a heavy breath. His arms were banded around her waist, holding her desperately close, and she felt, for a moment, like no time had passed at all.
She squeezed her eyes and revelled in that, because she knew when she opened them that she'd be reminded that, in fact, six years had passed… and half of his sister's body was in a bag being transported to the local coroner.
She squeezed her eyes shut so tightly it hurt, but reality had a way of getting in regardless.
[Next: Part II.]