The letter was heavy – although Stiles knew that it wasn't because of the writing inside, but the weight of the paper. It was so thick you could almost call it card, black, heavily embossed with his name and address in block white print. It was sitting on the kitchen table when he went down for breakfast, propped up against the carton of milk, just in case he'd miss it. Doubtful. He'd seen a similar letter before – his father had it framed in the living room beside his letters of graduation from the Academy. People who came into their house always took the time to read it, like it was a habit, or law.
Walk in, read the letter, smile – talk as normal. He really hadn't expected to ever own one himself. He hadn't even applied.
Stiles didn't want to be picked. He knew he wasn't the only one either, but parents insisted. It would set you up for life. Doubtful you'd even get into a good college unless you had a recommendation from an Other.
The radio was turned down low, but Stiles could still hear the announcer talking in the bright, overly happy voice of someone who was paid to be a morning person. "Today is the day! Have you got your letter? Call in, and tell the world!"
Stiles got his letter. He didn't even need to open it, because you never got anything if you weren't chosen. The Others just ignored you. He'd spent most of his life being ignored – he wasn't going to be all that concerned if the Others had just left him alone.
"You've never been so quiet in your life, son." His dad said, giving him an odd look. "This is the best thing that'll happen to you for years!" Of course his dad wouldn't understand. As far as his father was concerned, this was the biggest thing that would happen to Stiles.
"No!" He said, managing to sound happy. "I just wasn't expecting it!" If his voice was pitched a little higher than normal, his dad didn't notice – or he put it down to excitement.
"I know!" He grinned, looking at the letter with pride in his eyes. "I knew you'd be picked, of course." He said, puffing up. "Son of the Sherriff, and with me being picked all those years ago…" He paused, face clouding over for a moment, before he smiled brightly. "Best thing to happen to me."
That was what worried Stiles. Everyone who was picked said the same thing. Best thing. Best thing… but they were forbidden to mention what happened, what they did… anything. Sometimes people came back different, or not at all. His father had never once told him what he'd gone through. 'Best thing' was all he got whenever he asked. But sometimes, sometimes his face would darken, and his eyes would become hard – and Stiles was terrified of the house in the woods.
The draw though, of course, was that you'd be bitten. The Others, the Packs – if the Alpha bit you, you could become like them – become an Other too… and who didn't want a chance at that?
They said the ones that didn't come back were bitten. You had a 50/50 chance of becoming Other, but Stiles never saw that as much of an option – 50% chance of death? No thanks. You got better odds with Russian Roulette.
"I'm gonna go and… and tell Scott!" Stiles said, leaving the letter on the table. "And… and pack my stuff too, I guess."
"I made up a bag for you." His dad said, pointing to the door. "Everything you'll need they'll have – so I just put a few things, to remind you of home."
The bag was tiny – just a backpack. He took more to school. "Awesome!" He grinned, turning away so his dad wouldn't see the expression on his face. A tiny bag like that was all he got? He'd be gone… at least 6 months. The Hale pack never sent anyone back before the 6months. The longest had been about 10 years – and all he got was this tiny bag?
Stiles bolted up the stairs and pulled out his phone. They said that the Others monitored the phone calls, but Stiles wasn't so sure – unless they were really a lot more paranoid than he'd given them credit for. People still watched what they were saying though. Just in case. It only rang once.
"Dude!" Scott laughed. "I dodged it! We're gonna have the best summer ever – we can use our savings and maybe go to the beach and-"
"I got a letter." He cut in, desperate to shut Scott up.
"But you told me you didn't apply!"
"I didn't!" He said. "I think my dad might have sent one in."
"Oh." Scott said, voice sounding as downcast as his expression probably was. "That's… That's great, dude! You got picked!" He said, voice too happy, too excited to be real. "Best thing!"
"Yeah." Stiles agreed, tonelessly. "Best Thing."
He was standing at the bottom of the drive, beside the post-box with its brightly painted number on the side, when the bus drove up. It wasn't like the old beat-up school buses, this one was sleek, black – tinted windows and very, very modern. It looked more like a train that a bus.
The driver was wearing black, and he nodded to Stiles as he stepped up into the air conditioned vehicle. His dad was at the front door, watching – the whole street was standing at their doors too. Waving and congratulating him, like he was the hero of the hour. He waved to his dad before the doors shut, saw him wave back – smiling.
"Danny?" Stiles said, looking at the other people in the bus for the first time. Danny was grinning, sitting beside… oh god… Jackson. Who was looking at him like he had rabies.
"Stilinski? They picked you?" He guffawed. "I didn't think they'd be scraping the bottom of the barrel this year."
"Yeah, well, you're here." Stiles retorted.
"Sit down." The driver said, in a voice Stiles was pretty sure was meant to be obeyed. He had the smallest bag, slung over his shoulder. Jackson had a set of cases – Stiles wondered if things had changed since his dad's time.
He sat down by a blond haired boy he'd seen around school.
"I'm Stiles." He said with what he hoped was a friendly smile. "Stilinski."
"Isaac Lahey." He said, softly. He had a black eye and a pretty frail look about him – frailer than Stiles at least – even though he was taller. He didn't even have a bag with him, by the looks of things. Pretty, Stiles thought, really pretty. So Was Danny, and – although it caused him physical pain to even think it – so was Jackson. The big guy at the back looked pretty buff too. There was a blond girl sitting on the back seat – and that was it. The bus didn't stop again. So it was just going to be the 6 of them. Stiles sighed, looking over Isaac and out of the window. He really wished his dad had told him what to expect, because his mind was full of some pretty sinister thoughts as they left the town and drove deeper into the forests. There was a wide gate that swung open as the bus approached, and the small brightly polished brass plate clearly said:
Hale Pack Territory.
Balls. Stiles thought, swallowing deeply. There was no way this was how he wanted to spend the next 6 months. No matter what everyone said – there was no escaping the truth. You were chosen to serve. You spent 6 month or longer – depending on how much they liked you – as an unpaid servant. You did what you were told.
And Stiles really wasn't good at doing what he was told. At all.
The house was massive, of course – although it was well after dark before they arrived. Lights shining through the many windows. Stiles quickly worked out there would be about 100 windows, if not more. Someone was going to have to clean those. He hoped it wouldn't be him – he liked to have his feet firmly on the ground, less chance of him falling to his death.
Of course, the bus didn't stop at the front of the house. That was for guests, not… whatever they were. Staff? Servants? It pulled up at the back of the massive building and stopped.
"Right, out." The driver said, opening the doors. Stiles was the nearest, so he grabbed his bag and stepped down, catching his foot on the step and almost faceplanting on the gravel.
"Nice first impression, Stilinski." Jackson said, pushing Isaac out of the way and hitting the ground with both feet like the unfairly well balanced person he was. Stiles glared, heart thumping too loudly in his chest to come up with a reply. The driver lifted the cases that the others had brought, and put them on the gravel where they stood before closing the doors and driving off, tires crunching on the gravel.
It was dark, although the lights from inside the house (mansion? Stiles wondered. It really should be a mansion) meant that they were pretty well illuminated. There was no movement though – and after a few minutes of waiting, Stiles started getting antsy.
"You think they knew we're here?" He asked Isaac, who just nodded, eyes fixed on the door. "I mean, with those senses they probably know, right?" He added, more for his own benefit that a real question. "You think they'll have like… other people here? Or do you think we'll be the only huma-"
"Shut up, Stilinski." Jackson snapped. "Just stop talking." He said, as the door opened and a man, tall – dark haired stepped out, a clipboard. He didn't look 'Other' but then… Stiles had never actually seen one in person. They were all over TV and magazines, but it wasn't like you saw them in the street – or going to school.
"Whittemore, Jackson?" He said, not looking up from his board.
"Stilinski…ahem…" He paused, looking up and frowning at him before referring to his clipboard.
"Stiles." He said, "Just call me Stiles."
"Stilinski, Stiles." He finished, looking them over critically. "You will follow me, in silence. Leave the cases." He added, before turning around and walking back into the house. Isaac was the first to move, the rest trailing behind. The house was warmer than he expected, with wood panelling and deep carpeting. Stiles thought it looked like old money. Which of course, it was.
The corridor had a few twists and turns, Stiles was already lost when the man stopped at the end, opening the door that was there and stepping through into the room.
Barracks. It was the first word that Stiles thought of and it fitted the place perfectly. There were 6 beds in a row, with 6 chests at the bottom. One door – leading to bathrooms, or shower rooms he figured. That was it. Not even a bookcase.
"You will find your clothes in the lockers. You will shower, dress and be ready to leave here within 30 minutes." The man said, before turning and walking out, the door closing with an almost silent click.
"This is it?" The girl called Erica said, looking about. "This is the best thing to happen to us?"
"I think we should just do what we are told." Isaac murmured. "I don't think it would be a good idea to start… badly."
Stiles agreed. Stiles agreed very, very strongly.
Communal showering, all well and good for the guys, but Erica looked pissed as all hell. The boys turned their backs to try and give her some privacy, but Jackson made them all feel awkward with his comments about dropping the soap. By the end of their (very quick) shower, Stiles wanted to punch him, and by the look on Erica's face when She'd stormed out wrapped in a towel, he wasn't the only one.
She dried herself in the toilet stall, while the rest of them quickly rubbed down with the rough grey towels. The clothes in the footlockers were identical. Black cargo trousers with a few zipped pockets, white t-shirts and black button up shirts. Black underwear, black socks, black soft soled training shoes. Everything fit. Stiles was expecting Erica to have something different, but she walked out of the shower room dressed just like them.
They had picked beds. Stiles was nearest the door – probably the one right in the way of the draft, and then Isaac, Erica, Boyd, Danny and (of course) Jackson got the best bed – the once near the window and the radiator. Danny had tried to make him give it to Erica, but then Jackson had started bitching about how that was sexist, and when he started arguing... it was just easier to give him what he wanted.
So they were sitting on the edges of the beds they had picked, and waited. They had to wait – there wasn't anything else to do.
There was a beeping – a high pitched three tone beep that got your attention without even being that loud, as the man with the clipboard walked back in to their room.
"Good. Follow me. Silence in this part of the house."
They filed out, Jackson, furthest away from the door still managed to be the first out – elbowing Stiles out of the way. He didn't really mind. Trailing at the back of the group gave him a little time to look about him, time to think. They walked through the house again, this time going to different way. The furnishings were elaborate, expensive and well looked after. They didn't see any other people.
"The family will see you now." The man said, gesturing to an open door. "Speak only when spoken to."
They filed in, Jackson at the head and Stiles bringing up the rear – into what must have been some kind of office, or study. Dark wood and green leather, it reeked of money, class and privilege, but Stiles didn't really notice anything else, because they were there. The Others. The 'Were.
The Hale Pack of Beacon Hills.
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