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The Resistance

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Part 2

Stiles pulled his legs up over the sill, watching for toys as he lowered himself to the pink Power Ranger rug beneath the window. He dropped to the floor near-silently and held a hand out to help Cora in. She pointed over his shoulder and held up two fingers; he nodded and turned. The bedroom door was open to the hallway. A long rug that was wrinkled in the middle led into the hall, marking a blue-and-green path. Two kids stood with their backs to the wall, watching whatever was happening around the corner.

The little one turned and saw him, her eyes widening and going gold.

He put his finger to his lips and crouched so he didn’t look quite so intimidating. He gestured for her to come to him, but she shook her head and backed into her sister.

The older girl grabbed her arm and looked at him, her eyes raking over his vest and weapons; a wavering growl started in her throat.

“No, shh,” he breathed. He held out his hand and saw her nostrils twitch, saw the tension leave her shoulders as she smelled werewolf on him.

She leaned over her sister and whispered something, shoving her between the shoulders so she was closer to Stiles.

Stiles picked her up and turned, passing her off to Cora. He spun back for the other one, but she’d already darted across the opening in the hall to the next room. She was exposed in the light from the front room for a moment, making Stiles’s breath catch. The muffled sound of heavy boots on carpet followed her brief exposure, making him mouth a curse. He straightened up and pressed his back to the wall, waiting with bated breath. He glanced to his right and made eye contact with Cora; she nodded and leaned out the open window, murmuring something to Erica and Scott, who were waiting just below for the kids.

The human rounded the corner, heading for the room the little girl had gone into. Stiles grabbed his face and dragged him back, off his feet, and cut his throat. He jerked frantically, one boot slamming into the wall with a damning bang! Stiles muttered, “Fuck,” and tossed the dying man into the bathroom, closing the door on his wet gasps.

“Kids, get over here,” he hissed as the rest of the house started yelling.

“Get them out!” a woman snarled.

Something shattered, followed by, “We’ll get you all out,” from somewhere deeper in the house. It might’ve been Laura.

“No,” a man said. He came into the hall, blocking off the kids’ bedrooms. “Get my kids out,” he said, looking over at Stiles. “We’ll hold them off.”

Stiles swore again, bolting into the room the girl had gone into. He slapped the light on. “Come on, come on, to the back,” he said, urging the sleepy little ones out of their bunk beds.

One of the smaller boys started crying, and the older one didn’t look far off from tears himself. “My parents,” he said, but the oldest girl grabbed his arm.

“Come on, Travis,” she said firmly. “We’re going together.”

Stiles scooped up a toddler and the crying boy, herding the others out of the room in front of him. “Go to the room I came from,” he ordered, cringing when someone shouted. A shot made the boy in his arms start crying harder, pressing his face into his neck.

Cora took the toddler and passed her out the window to Scott, then the other kids. While she got them out, Stiles closed and locked the door one handed; someone kicked it.

“We have the legal right to remove any supernaturals from the premises!” they called, kicking the door again.

Stiles backed up, looking for something to block the door with.

“Stiles!” Cora snapped. “Just come on. All the kids are out, right?”

“Yeah, this is the last one,” he said, bouncing the crying boy a little. “Hey, you gotta let go so we can get outside, okay?”

“I want my dad!” he gasped, tightening his hold around Stiles’s neck.

Cora pried his arms away gently and bundled him out to Scott. “I grabbed some of their clothes for them,” she said when Stiles hesitated. “It’s the best we can do now. Laura’s already out. We can’t do anything for the parents,” she added. “They’re holding the hunters off, but if we don’t move now, they’ll get the kids, too.”

“Fuck. Fine.”

She nodded and swung herself out the window, landing with a soft thump in the sloped lawn.

Stiles flinched when the door splintered behind him, finally giving in, but he didn’t look back. He climbed out and slammed the window, ducking when he heard a shot; the glass shattered behind him. He followed Cora and Scott to the van, which was being guarded by Erica and Derek.

“Where’s Laura?” Stiles asked, hesitating.

“Right behind you!” she called. “Get in! Marisol, they might follow us, so—be fast.” She pushed Cora and Stiles into the van and yanked the doors shut behind them. “Fuck, that sucked. Move, Mar!” she yelled.

“I’m going!” she snapped, and floored it.

Stiles shook his head, pressing the heel of his hand to his temple. There were six kids on the floor of the van, huddled together and crying.

Scott sat down on the floor with them, hunkering down so he was level with the oldest girl. “My name is Scott,” he said softly. “We all work for the Pack. Do you know what that is?” he asked carefully.

She nodded. “Mom and Dad said we should trust you when you came for us. But they said they were coming with us.” Her chin wobbled. “They didn’t.”

“They wanted to,” Scott said very carefully. “But they wanted you to come with us even more than they wanted to come, so you did just what they wanted.”

Stiles sat next to the doors and looked at Erica over Scott’s head.

She nodded, pressing her lips together.

“We’re being followed,” Marisol called back. “Don’t panic, but also maybe brace yourselves!”

“What are your names?” Scott asked in a way that indicated he’d introduced everyone on the team already when Stiles wasn’t listening.

“I’m Ellie, that’s Travis, Paul, Anna and William are the twins, and the baby is Chloe.” Ellie looked at her siblings and visibly pulled herself together. “Where are we going?” she asked, turning to Scott.

“Right now, we’re going back to our bunker,” Scott said carefully. They’d learned not to say “somewhere safe” pretty quickly, as the media and government were calling the camps they were dragging the supernaturals to “safe towns” and it had an obviously negative effect on scared children. “But it might take a while to get there, because someone’s following us, and we can’t let them know where it is.”

Travis tightened his hand around Ellie’s. “Right now?” he asked.

Scott nodded. “Yes. We have food there, and beds, so you can sleep.”

“But where are we going after that?” Ellie pressed. “You said right now.”

“Your parents wanted us to take you to your alpha in Washington after you got some rest, so that’s probably what we’re going to do.”

“Without our parents?”

Scott hesitated, drawing back a bit. “Yes,” he said finally. “We have to get you safe before we can try to rescue them.”

Stiles leaned back while Scott talked to the kids. He wasn’t very good with them, so he tended to be a hindrance whenever it came to talking to them when they were scared.

Cora climbed over to the opposite end of the van so she could help Laura and Marisol navigate, mumbling an apology when she stepped on Erica’s foot.

“Hey, Erica, cover the kids,” Laura called over her shoulder; the van swerved violently to the left, making her swear.

“We aren’t cold!” Ellie protested.

“Good,” Erica said, reaching under her seat. “Because this isn’t to keep you warm.”

“What is it?” she asked, putting her arm around the toddler—Chloe?—to keep her from falling over.

“It’s called a ballistic blanket,” Scott explained. “It’ll protect you if someone shoots at us.”

“What about you?” William asked, knuckling tears out of his eyes.

“That’s why we have these vests. Let Erica cover you and I’ll answer all your questions.”

Derek nudged Stiles’s arm and handed him a bottle of water.

“Thanks.” He twisted the cap but forgot to drink until Derek nudged him again. He rolled the bottle between his hands when he was done. “We still being followed?” As he asked, the van jerked around a corner, then another one in the opposite direction. “Never mind.”

“Don’t talk to me,” Marisol grunted.

“He’s not.” Laura shoved Cora back into her seat when she got up. “No one’s talking to you.”

“We have protein bars,” Derek said, leaning over Scott’s shoulder. “Are you hungry?”

Ellie looked at her siblings. “No.”

Paul, the boy who’d been crying and who Stiles had carried, suddenly got up and crawled into Stiles’s lap. He froze, looking at Scott for help.

“Paul, come over here,” Ellie ordered. “Come by Travis and Anna.”

Paul curled up in Stiles’s lap, covering his face and shaking with sobs.

“It’s alright. Isn’t it, Stiles?” Scott asked pointedly.

“Uh, yeah, it’s…fine.” He dropped his hand gently on Paul’s back and patted awkwardly.

Scott tried very hard not to roll his eyes and only mostly succeeded.

“You, um, are you okay…Paul?” It was weird to address the kid by Paul; that seemed like such a grown-up name, and the tiny sniffling ball in his lap seemed too small to carry its weight.

“No!” He uncurled enough to throw his arms around his neck and sob unreservedly into his shoulder.

He looked at Erica, panicked, but she just held her hands up and shook her head.

Derek reached out and set his hand on Paul’s back, right above Stiles’s, rubbing small circles between his shoulders.

Since it seemed to be working—the sobs were quieting and he was relaxing little by little—Stiles kept still and quiet, lest he start him up again.

Scott was still answering Ellie’s questions long after the younger kids had drifted off into uneasy sleep. Most were just rephrased versions of the same five questions, namely if her and her siblings would be separated.

Stiles passed Paul down to Scott, who put him with his siblings under the ballistic blanket.

“You’re so awkward with kids,” Derek whispered, leaning his head against his shoulder. “How?”

“I don’t know what to do when they’re upset,” he whispered back. He put his arm around Derek’s shoulders. They were both trying not to think of what would become of the kids’ parents, about how things would’ve gone if they’d gotten there just an hour sooner. They’d learned quickly that just slowed them down, weighed them with guilt. Stiles put his head back and squeezed Derek’s shoulders, closing his eyes.

The garage was quiet when they arrived, as per usual recently. So many scared supernaturals had been brought in and back out that the usual productive racket of the garage had had to be cut back. All that noise and movement in a strange place with strange people had been understandably overwhelming to already scared supernaturals.

“Are you guys going to stay with us?” Ellie asked. She was holding the twins’ hands and Travis had Chloe hitched up on his hip. They all looked exhausted and scared.

Cora said, “Yes,” a little helplessly, and so the team trooped in with the kids.

The group—including Marisol, who William had gotten attached to for some reason—made their way to the cafeteria so the kids could be fed. On the way, Laura slipped off to check in with Talia or Ian.

Derek carried Paul, who didn’t want to go further than a couple feet from Stiles. He wasn’t sure why the child had gotten attached, especially since he truly hadn’t been all that comforting, but he would try, he guessed.

“I don’t like noodles,” Anna said firmly once she was sat at a table and given a tray. She pushed her tray away.

“We have chicken nuggets, too,” Scott said. “Do you want those?”

“No!” She crossed her arms and turned her face away; Chloe and William instantly followed her lead.

Paul had only just let go of Stiles’s shirt and Derek’s neck, allowing himself to be settled on the bench beside Travis. Hearing Anna’s raised voice made his eyes tear up again.

“Anna, eat the chicken nuggets,” Ellie said severely. “Paul, stop crying, it’s okay. Eat your dinner.”

Don’t throw your food, Chloe,” Travis said, taking his cues from Ellie.

Chloe smiled innocently and stuffed a handful of noodles in her mouth.

Stiles put his hands in his pockets, grimacing. He wanted nothing more than to slip away, but he wasn’t really supposed to leave yet.

Derek put an arm around his waist. “You want to eat, too?” he asked, running his nose along Stiles’s jaw.

“Not particularly. But you should, if you’re hungry.”

He shook his head.

The group was shuffled off to a free room once the kids were finished eating so they could sleep for a few hours. Cora volunteered to stay with them and everyone else was all too happy to take her up on it.

“I’m going to see if anyone needs anything,” Stiles said once they’d scattered.

“You should sleep,” Derek said lightly.

“Yeah, well, that’s not going to happen. Might as well be useful,” he muttered.

“We just pulled six kids out of the OWH’s maw. I think that’s pretty fucking useful,” Erica said.

“You’re so dramatic; OWH’s maw, what the fuck.” Stiles shook his head. “You won’t have any trouble sleeping, then.” He turned left out of the hall, heading toward the sign out desk.

Scott and Derek accompanied him, no doubt giving each other looks behind Stiles’s back. He was used to Derek doing stuff like that—he’d been hovering around Scott, Cora, and Stiles their entire lives, why stop now?—but having Scott participate was new. And annoying.

“Don’t you want to see your dad first?” Scott asked.

“He’s probably out already.” Stiles rolled his shoulders restlessly. “He’s always the first one out, so why wouldn’t he be today?”

“Yeah, I know. Mom’s right there with him. I wish she’d listen when Talia tells her she’s more help in the infirmary,” Scott sighed.

Stiles snorted. “We all just want to help. We know it sucks.”

“Yeah.” Scott shrugged and smiled tightly.

Even Derek got that resigned look sometimes, the one that made Stiles want to fight harder. The look that just accepted this whole shitty situation as life, as how things just were.

“I’m sorry,” Stiles said, frustrated and dragging his hands through his hair. “I wish I could—make it safe.”

Derek put his arm around his waist again and started kissing his neck, all slow and deliberate, until he relaxed.

Scott and Derek split off to the left when they got to the desk; Stiles went to the right. There was a stack of lists beside the sign out sheet, with names written at the top and cash taped to the bottom.

Isaac was perusing the lists when Stiles got there. “Hey,” he said with some surprise. “When did you get back?”

“Two hours ago.”

“Ah.” He didn’t ask how it’d gone. “I’m going to get Toya’s stuff in a minute.” He waved the list he’d picked up.

Stiles flipped through and found one he could handle. “Do you mind if I join you for Mr. Koh’s?”

Isaac smiled, relieved. “Yeah. Thanks,” he added, and Stiles didn’t ask why.

Going out alone was, at best, stressful, even for human. It was dangerous for supernaturals like Toya and Mr. Koh, so anything they needed from outside was written on a list for volunteers to get.

“Aren’t you tired?” Isaac asked as they were leaving. “You must’ve been up all night again…”

“I’m fine.”

He didn’t look convinced. “You missed it. While you were gone, Talia went and dragged Peter out of his lab. He hasn’t been sleeping either and they got into a huge fight in the hallway about it and she carried him to her office.” He looked briefly amused, most likely at the memory of Talia throwing her adult brother over her shoulder and putting him down for a nap. “He only just emerged again this morning.”

“That’s…great.”

Isaac nodded. “Your dad went out almost an hour ago for Stacy.”

Stiles smiled at him faintly. “Thanks.”

He nodded again and let the silence settle.

Stiles watched the people around them as they walked. He wondered how many of them were hunters, how many were doing exactly what he and Isaac were doing, how many were carefully walking that line in the middle without admitting or realizing that not choosing a side planted one foot firmly with the OWH. He’d given up trying not to judge. Too many supernaturals were dead for him to worry about his karma.

“We should go around the residential area,” Isaac said.

Stiles followed when he veered left. “Why?”

He swallowed. “Well, Prime News was broadcasting some stuff near us. The OWH was trying to remove a family of vampires and like two hundred humans showed up, linked arms, and haven’t let them through. They can’t legally hurt humans—yet—so they’re pretty pissed.” He looked around. “Jordan went.”

Stiles stumbled over his own feet. “What? He’s not-” he cut himself off. “Why?”

“Dr. Deaton said it was because he couldn’t help himself. Vampire family in danger. I guess it’s instinct or something.” He shrugged. “They’re testing the human line with silver anyway, so he should be fine, since it doesn’t…since he doesn’t really react to that.”

“I guess.”

“Plus, if the humans here are protecting the supernaturals, then we can focus on the others further east that need help,” Isaac said thoughtfully.

You aren’t going anywhere,” Stiles said sharply. Lately Isaac had been hinting about maybe going on rescues with a team and it was starting to make Stiles nervous. It was bad enough that Scott, Cora, and Derek were in the thick of things with him, and that he couldn’t stop John from going on munitions runs.

“I meant the…group…at large.” He put his hands in his pockets and hunched his shoulders. “But I could be a driver or something, you know?”

“No, I don’t know that. You’d have to be able to lose people, and drive well enough that we don’t crash, concentrate on the road when we’re under fire, and—forget it.” He sighed, because Isaac looked hurt. “We need everyone trained in medicine in the infirmary. Who will stitch me up when I fall?” he tried to joke.

Isaac shot him a flat look. “I just want to help.”

“You are helping. This-” he gestured at the store they were approaching- “is helping. Our friends and neighbors can’t go out themselves, so what happens when people like me are…out?”

“I guess.” He shrugged again. “It just sucks, being stuck here, waiting, while you guys are all gone.”

“Well…” Stiles knew he shouldn’t, knew this would ultimately come back to bite his ass, but… “If you’re really worried, you can always go to the tech lab, find whoever is monitoring our mission, and see how it’s going.”

He brightened. “That’s true.”

 

Stiles got everything on Mr. Koh’s list as quickly as possible. Shopping was usually hard for him anyway—so many people moving and talking at once made it hard to stay on task, and he tended to end up with things he didn’t need rather than what he’d gone for—and directly after a mission was even worse. They all looked threatening to him. He kept to the list he had, only splitting off to grab some stuff for Scott and Derek, fruits and things that weren’t priority and therefore weren’t provided by the Pack’s resources.

“I just have to grab some stuff for Mr. Koh’s nieces,” he said once Isaac was finished. “You can go ahead and pay.” He almost bumped into someone while crossing the haircare aisle. “Sorry,” he mumbled, stepping back. He hesitated when he saw her face; there was something familiar about it, even half shadowed by the brim of a ball cap.

She sniffed and smirked, a fang peeking out from behind her upper lip. She held a finger to her mouth and slipped away.

Apparently insane werewolf fugitives did their shopping at Wal-Mart, too. Stiles shook himself and kept moving. He knew the Pack had extended its hand to Brielle Banner more than once—to her pack before they’d been murdered, too—but it’d been ignored every time. He guessed she was doing okay on her own.

Isaac was waiting by the registers, reluctant to go outside on his own. He’d already made his purchases, so when he saw Stiles in line, he waved and found a bench to wait on.

“Having a party?” the cashier asked with a quick smile. She flicked her gaze toward Isaac and all of his bags.

“Yeah, just grabbing some last minute things.” He bounced on his toes, trying to dispel some of his nervous energy.

By the time they left, even Isaac was jittery with nerves, swinging his backpack by the straps before putting it over his shoulders.

“So are you going out again later?” he asked, turning his head to track the progress of two fully uniformed hunters.

“Probably not,” Stiles grumbled. “If I do, everyone’ll have a fit.”

“And…nothing else, either?” When he only shot him a puzzled look, Isaac muttered, “Any other missions?”

“Oh.” Stiles brushed the back of his hand over his temple. “I’ll have to go up north with the Atwood kids, but they need some rest first.”

Isaac frowned. “Why do you have to go?”

“Because they know me. Marisol has to go, too.” He shrugged and pushed his sleeves up. It was nearing that time of year when the mornings were still cool but as the day went on it turned hot and he regretted his hoodie immensely. “You know how it goes.”

“I just wish I could go with.”

“I know.” He bumped his elbow against Isaac’s side, meeting his gaze significantly. “When I get back, we can find something for you to do.” He lifted his brows. “You’ll have Scott and Cora.”

“Yeah, but then I feel guilty because obviously they want to go out, too, so I-”

“So you what?” The man who’d been following them for a few blocks stepped in front of them. He was big but not particularly fit, wearing a blue and white OWH hat. He probably wasn’t a proper hunter, just a groupie.

“Excuse me?” Stiles asked. “Rude.” He made a point of stepping around the man, but he shot an arm out, blocking his path.

“You’re talking about hiding people,” the man said fiercely. “Well, I got a civic duty to turn people in who’re hiding supernaturals and you sure sound like you are.” He sneered. “So you and your brother are coming with me.”

“Is that so?” Stiles shook his head. “Listen, dude, we’re human, and you have no legal right to lay hands on us, and that’s the only way we’d go with you.” He jerked his chin at Isaac to start walking.

The man grabbed Isaac’s arm when he did, jerking him back; Stiles kneed him in the balls.

When he crumpled forward, Stiles said, “Don’t put hands on people,” and shoved him all the way to the sidewalk. “Come on, Isaac, let’s go get lunch.”

Isaac nodded and started walking again, grinning.

It took them another two hours to get home; Stiles didn’t think they’d been followed, especially not by that idiot, but he didn’t want to risk it if he had any buddies hanging around.

 

Stiles spotted John almost as soon as he was signed back in. He passed Mr. Koh’s bags off to Thomas and mumbled a thanks before squeezing through the crowd to throw himself at his father.

“Oh, hey, kid.” He ran his hand over the back of his head. “I thought I saw Scott sorting stuff but everyone’s so busy, I wasn’t sure.” He leaned back a little to get a look at Stiles’s face. “Everything go okay?”

“We got the kids out,” Stiles mumbled. He sighed when John pulled him back in for a tighter hug.

“And I take it you haven’t slept yet.”

He sighed again. “Nope.”

“You should try. Maybe I should go with Marisol to Washington instead.”

Stiles shook his head. “I’m going. I’ll take a nap right now.” He straightened up and rubbed his cheek with the hand holding his grocery bag. “I’ll be fine.”

“Alright.” John didn’t look convinced. “Don’t push yourself. The less sleep you get, the less you’ll be able to do your job. Don’t try to tough it out.”

“I won’t. I’m going to my room right now.”

“Good. See you when you get back.”

Stiles didn’t particularly want to nap, but he knew John was right; if he was tired, he wouldn’t be able to think rationally when he needed to. He made himself go to his room, even though halfway there he realized he was starving and all he had were the strawberries and blueberries he’d gotten for Scott and Derek, respectively. He could eat on the way to Washington, he guessed, rounding the corner to his hall.

That turned out not to matter, though; Derek was waiting outside his door with a thermos and a couple bowls. “You’re still shit at taking care of yourself,” he said, stepping aside so Stiles could unlock the door.

“There are too many other people to take care of right now,” he mumbled.

Derek scoffed. “And what happens when you make yourself sick? You’ll leave the rest of us hanging,” he said before he could even try to answer.

“Okay.” He didn’t feel like arguing. “What’s in the thermos?”

“Soup,” Derek said suspiciously. “Go sit down. Not on the bed.”

Stiles snorted and redirected to his table. “You’re weird about that,” he pointed out, bending to unlace his boot. “The no-eating-in-bed thing? That’s weird.”

“With you, it’s just common sense. You end up wearing fifty percent of whatever you’re trying to eat,” Derek teased. He set the bowls down and poured soup into each. “Cora said the Atwoods are still sleeping, so you probably have a few hours. Danny got in contact with Alpha Velasquez and he’s ready.”

Stiles sighed. “Good.” He didn’t have anything else to do, so he ate the soup.

It was becoming tradition, the two of them eating at Stiles’s tiny table after a mission, just the two of them. It was the only time they could be alone together, usually. They managed, and they worked better together in the field now, but sometimes Stiles wondered if they were still together because of the situation or because they wanted to be. He knew how he felt, but he was too emotionally exhausted to press Derek for a conversation about feelings.

“Come on. We can watch Star Wars while you nap,” Derek said, setting the bowls in the miniscule sink.

Stiles eyed his bed with distaste. He’d spent so much time tossing and turning in it lately that the idea of getting into it now was unsavory.

Derek poked into the bags he’d set on his desk. “Did you get blueberries?” he asked, lifting the package.

Stiles smiled. “Yeah, they’re for you. I’m gonna nap on the couch.”

Derek turned the movie on and the lights off while Stiles arranged himself on the couch, climbing on by his feet once he was done. He rubbed Stiles’s ankle briskly and popped open the blueberries. “Thank you.”

Stiles smiled into his pillow and closed his eyes. This wasn’t so bad.

 

Lydia administered drugs to the children before they left, which sounded way worse than it was. The serum she’d developed to make supernaturals immune to silver only seemed to work on young werewolves and born vampires, so they used it when transporting them. It tended to make the kids nauseated and lethargic, but that could be passed off as car sickness, thankfully.

Stiles and Marisol would be posing as the Atwood kids’ parents. They’d all learned that it made things easier if they pretended to be a nuclear family from the start; plenty of supernaturals were doing it, too, to blend in public while they could.

“IDs please,” the state trooper at the state line said. They were checking every car as they traveled out of state. “And please roll down both windows.”

They complied wordlessly. It wasn’t too suspicious; it was 3am, after all.

“Where’re you headed?” the trooper asked.

“Washington,” Marisol replied. “My sister is going to watch the kids for a bit.” She smiled nervously. “Until things…settle.”

“That’s probably wise,” he said in a neutral tone.

His partner came to Stiles’s window. “Can you hold out your hand, please, Mr….Atwood?”

Stiles put his hand out the window, palm up.

The trooper rolled a stamp over his palm, shining his flashlight on it to watch for a reaction. “Alright, now the kids,” he said when the skin didn’t turn red.

“They’re sleeping,” Marisol said sternly.

“Ma’am, it’s the law,” the first trooper said.

“It’ll be quicker just to let them check, Mar,” Stiles said, projecting weariness into his voice. They’d done this so often that he could do his lines in his sleep.

“Fine. Don’t wake them,” she added, her voice sour and snippy.

“Could you step out of the van and open the door for us, sir?”

“Sure.” Stiles unbuckled and got out, moving slowly and keeping his shoulders relaxed. It wouldn’t do to look tense. He rolled the back door of the minivan they were using open, exposing Ellie, Travis, and Paul in their seats and booster seats. “The other three are further back,” he said wearily. “I can probably wake them up,” he said in a low voice, darting a quick, furtive glance at Marisol.

The trooper waved him off. “These three are fine, sir.” He slid a smirk toward Marisol. “It’s always the wives, you know.”

“Officer Mark,” the older trooper snapped.

He shrugged and rolled the stamp over Ellie’s arm first, then Travis and Paul’s. He respectfully kept the flashlight lowered at least, watching for any sign of reaction while his partner filled out the paperwork for them.

“Alright,” he said at last. “Thank you for your cooperating sir, ma’am.”

“Have a good night,” the other one said, ripping off their ticket. “Just keep that in your dash so it’s visible.”

“Thanks,” Marisol said, handing the green ticket to Stiles.

The papers declared “proof of humanity” to the state they were passing through. They changed the color of the papers daily so it was impossible to fabricate them correctly; they also put expiration dates in large black print across the top, so they couldn’t be reused at a later date.

“I hate them,” Stiles said under his breath once they were on the road again.

“We all do,” Marisol grumbled. “It’s always the wives,” she mocked in a falsetto that didn’t sound at all like the trooper. “You know why that is, fuckface?” she snarled viciously. “Because we knew we could use your misogyny to slip past you.”

“Shhh,” Stiles snickered as her voice rose. “You’ll wake them up.” He wiped his palm against his knee and grimaced when it left a silver streak on his jeans; it was just silver dust and some sort of gel the state was using to make the stamps for testing, but it was still annoying; it was all over everything, so he had to wash his clothes in the shower before he could take it to the laundry room so it didn't get on anyone else’s clothes.

“We should be back home by tomorrow night,” Marisol said. “Just one more day.”

Stiles snorted. “Yeah, and after a night’s sleep, we’ll be going right back out again.”

She shrugged. “That’s how it goes,” she agreed.

 

Stiles fell into his bed face first without bothering to turn on any lights or remove his shoes; a muffled grunt of surprise followed his flop, the bed shifting under him.

Derek rolled over. “Mm, you’re back early,” he murmured, dropping his hand on Stiles’s hip.

“Yeah. Drove fast.” His eyes slid shut when Derek’s mouth touched his. They kissed languidly, hands sliding over each other, unhurried and gentle. “Why’re you in my bed?” he mumbled as the thought occurred to him.

Derek pulled Stiles’s shirt over his head and tossed it away. “You gave me a key,” he reminded him, pressing their mouths together again. “I knew you’d be back today…” he trailed open-mouthed kisses down his neck.

“Uh-huh…?” Stiles let his head lull back, letting himself enjoy the sensation. He smiled when Derek’s hands slid down his sides, dipping just under the waistband of his jeans.

“Figured I’d wait here,” he murmured against his throat. He grabbed the back of Stiles’s leg and hitched it up over his hip. “Are you still wearing your shoes?” he wondered. He ran his hand down his calf to his ankle, where his boot started.

“I was tired. Keep kissing me.” He pulled him back, pressing their mouths together, but he kept fumbling with the laces of his boots, so Stiles fell back. “Go ahead,” he said, snorting.

Derek sat up and pulled Stiles’s leg into his lap so he could take his shoes off. “You’re as bad as Laura.” He dropped the boots to the floor with a thump. He slid his hands up to Stiles’s thighs, hooking his thumbs under the waistband of his jeans. “Want these off, too?”

“You’re in my bed. Of course I want my pants off.”

Derek rolled his eyes and yanked the jeans down, making him laugh breathlessly. “Don’t move,” he advised, tossing them over his shoulder. He pressed a quick, nipping kiss to the inside of Stiles’s thigh, making his way up to his hip and closing his teeth around the edge of his boxers and tugging. “Just lay back and relax, okay?”

“Why?” Stiles asked. He stretched out anyway, putting his hands behind his head.

Derek didn’t say anything; he just peeled Stiles’s boxers over his hips, down his thighs. “Missed you,” he said, rubbing his cheek against Stiles’s leg. “I think we should stay in bed all day, unless there’s an emergency.”

“Yeah,” he breathed. “That’s a good idea.” He pressed his head back against the pillow, flexing his hands on the sheets when Derek kissed his hips. “Would you get on with it?”

“Impatient,” Derek admonished. “Just relax.” He pressed his thumbs into Stiles’s thighs and leaned over him, smiling wickedly before closing his mouth around him.

 

Later in the evening, Talia called for all active teams to meet in the gym, since all classes had ended by five. Stiles, Derek, Scott, and Cora got there at the same time, meeting with Laura and Erica in the hallway before going in and trying to find a place to stand in the back.

Jessa waved and pushed her brother until there was space for them by the wall, smiling awkwardly.

Talia called everyone’s attention to her. “Thanks for coming,” she said. “Our head of tech, Danny Mahealani, has some important information to share with us.”

Danny smiled charmingly when all the attention turned to him. “I’m sure everyone remembers Miss Anderson going to the Idaho OWH facility to plant some bugs for us, and while the information up until now has been helpful, it hasn’t been beneficial enough to try to do the same thing at other facilities. Until this morning…Well, I received some information…” He shook his head. “Basically I heard them talking, did some digging, and found the location of some of the werewolf “safe towns”. I’m not sure where they’re keeping the vampires,” he said when Jessa started to speak. “Or the kitsune. I’m sorry. I’m going to keep looking.”

“This means we can start getting people out,” Talia said. “We can start sabotaging these camps, we can get video of what they’re doing and release it to the public.”

Stiles felt Scott go tense next to him—he truly knew Stiles too well—but that didn’t stop him from stepping forward. “When do we start?”

Talia’s face twitched with a quickly concealed grimace. “We’ll start making a plan immediately. Most teams will still be doing rescue,” she said cautiously. “We’d need humans to help us infiltrate these camps. We will have to do this carefully, so we don't expose ourselves.”

“Okay.” Stiles eased back; he could feel Scott glaring at him, but there wasn’t anything he could say. He wanted to help, and this was something he could do.

“We’ll share this news with the rest of the Pack shortly. We just wanted to let you all know first. Thank you.”

Stiles wondered how long it would be until someone suggested they just storm the place.

Chapter Text

Stiles didn’t know what to make of Kali, even after a few months. She was pacing her cell, making low threat noises in her throat, and occasionally leaping onto the steel mattress frame in the corner to try to rip it up from the floor. She hadn’t shifted fully the whole time she’d been there, even on the full moon. At most, she grew fangs and claws, eyes flashing wet-red as she howled in rage.

Stiles found that strange, since everyone else in quarantine was almost always shifted into something. But since Kali had been forced into…whatever this was, he guessed he couldn’t expect her to exhibit the same symptoms.

“Her pack is being cared for by Alpha Santos,” Peter said, stepping up beside him. “They’re relieved she’s alive,” he added, then sighed tiredly. “But I still don’t know how to help her.” He rubbed his face. “Don’t stay here too long.”

Stiles shook his head. “I won’t. How’s Heather?”

“She bit Vivian when she went to bring her food, but otherwise unchanged. She’s having a good day.” He patted Stiles’s shoulder absently and walked away to continue his research. They’d stopped even the pretense of working on weaponry in this lab, all projects passed to Lydia’s team.

Stiles moved down to Heather’s cell. She was human, or mostly human, scratching into her shoulders while she paced her room. She was mumbling to herself, like they all did when they were human. None of what they said ever made any sense.

“Is there a reason we still haven’t told anyone about this?” he wondered.

Adam, passing with a tray of dried wolfsbane, answered. “Talia thinks people will panic, thinking the OWH infiltrated the Pack.”

Stiles scowled. “Well, considering we still haven’t figured out what caused this…”

Adam grimaced. “Yeah,” he mumbled, and fled to whichever table he was taking the wolfsbane to.

He frowned. Did Adam know what caused this? He shrugged the thought off. If Adam knew, then Peter knew, and had already looked into it.

“Werewolf at the door!” Vivian called. “Looking for Stiles!”

He sighed. “Coming.”

Cora’s eyes were suspicious slits when he came out. “How come Derek’s allowed in?” she barked.

“Because Derek always wears protective gear. Are you willing to put on full body scrubs to come bug me?”

She sneered. “No.” She tried to look over his shoulder, but Vivian was already slamming the door. “Ugh, Peter’s lab techs are just like him. We’re leaving soon,” she added, looking at him.

“Right,” he said slowly. “Is that what you came to tell me?” he asked, exasperated. “Because I already knew that.”

“No.” She pinched his arm. “No, but Laura wants you to start getting ready now. We have to pack extra, since we’re going to Colorado straight after we get them out.”

“Ohh. Damn. Alright, thanks.”

“Why do you keep coming here?” Cora asked.

Across the lab, Lydia’s head popped up. She’d been working as much as Peter, trying to find safe ways to hide supernaturals in plain sight. She narrowed her eyes at Stiles, reminding him not to tell Cora what was really going on in Peter’s lab.

Stiles rolled his shoulders and scowled at Cora. “Because Heather is my friend, and she’s sick.”

She fidgeted with the edge of her shirt. “I just—whatever.” She shook her head. “I don’t want you or Derek to get hurt, or to hurt each other.”

“We won’t. We’re big kids, and we’ve got other kind of important stuff going on right now.”

She shot another suspicious look at the door behind him. “Okay. Let’s go, then. Laura wants us to be packed within an hour.”

Lydia shook her head at him, mouth pressed into a tight grimace.

He held up his hand. It wasn’t as if he’d told her what was going on, even though he thought they should.

“Are you coming or not?” Cora demanded, annoyed, from halfway across the lab.

 

They were being sent to an OWH facility to rescue a family of 3 kitsune in Nevada. It was sort of like their old rescue missions, except this time, they’d be taking them to Colorado to meet people who would take them home to Alpha Santos’s faction.

It was surprising to find Jordan set as their driver when he got to the garage.

“They have a hard time proving I’m not human,” he explained when he noticed Stiles looking skeptical. “And with everything the OWH has been doing, Alpha Hale thought a sniper might be good back up.” He shrugged and patted the side of the van.

“Right.” Stiles shrugged and stowed his bag under one of the bench seats. “If you say so. Hey, Isaac said you went to one of those protests the other day.”

Jordan looked uncomfortable. “It wasn’t really a—yeah, I went. While the humans were blocking the other humans, I got the vampires out and somewhere safe.” He rubbed the back of his neck. “I couldn’t just watch.”

Guilt made Stiles feel nauseous. “Yeah,” he mumbled. “I know.”

Scott reached around him to drop his bag into the van, draping himself over his back. “Stop moping,” he ordered. “You’re bringing us all down.”

Stiles shook himself. “Yeah, right.” He elbowed him. “Get off.”

Scott straightened up. “Here, eat something. We can get on the road in a minute,” he called over his shoulder.

“Okay,” Jordan replied. “Getting in. Load up!”

Laura climbed around them and checked her bag before she put it beside Stiles’s.

Erica poked Scott’s shoulder when she climbed in. “Who’s monitoring this mission?”

“I don’t know, ask Laura.” He shrugged when she pouted at him.

“It’s Boyd,” Cora said, cooing his name. “I asked who was monitoring and Foster said Boyd practically tripped over himself volunteering. I can’t imagine why.”

Erica elbowed her. “Whatever. Get in before you hurt yourself, princess.”

Cora stuck her tongue out, but dutifully climbed in.

Stiles felt better once they were on the road. He was starting to feel trapped in the bunker, so it made sense that action eased the weight off his chest.

“I wonder why they took the family to that facility instead of one of their camps.” He bounced his leg. “Does anyone know?”

Laura shook her head. “Mom’s best guess is that they were breaking into the facility for intel and they just locked them up there.”

“Huh.” He unwrapped the protein bar Scott had shoved into his hands, grimacing at the taste. He didn’t care how much chocolate or peanut butter they smeared on it, after about five of them, they tasted like saw dust.

“We’ll ask when we get them out,” Erica said. She was cleaning her nails with the tip of her favorite knife, something she could only do because she was a werewolf.

Stiles wouldn’t have dared that in a moving vehicle. One pothole and the blade would go right through his fingertip.

“Oh, Danny said there’s supposed to be pretty bad rainstorms all along our route to Nevada,” Cora said. “Lucky us.”

“Hey, we’re less likely to get stopped in the rain,” Stiles reminded her, tapping his foot against hers.

She scoffed. “Right, and you’ve done so many studies on this?”

“I’ve done extensive studies on it,” he lied, beaming at her. “People get grouchy when they’re stuck doing tedious, repetitive tasks, especially wet, stuck in the rain. Just like people are more likely to purchase lottery on sunny days. They feel lucky.”

She rolled her eyes. “You’re full of it.”

“Sure, but you believed it for a second.” He grinned, satisfied, and popped the rest of his protein bar in his mouth.

Scott snorted when Cora looked equally amused and furious. “Let’s not bicker the whole trip, children.” He elbowed her. “Just laugh, you know you want to.”

Stiles crossed his eyes at her for an extra push, smiling when a reluctant smirk curved her mouth.

“Don’t you get a headache when you do that?” Derek asked, poking Stiles’s forehead. “Stop.”

He stuck his tongue out. “Yes, Dad.” He looked at Laura. “You okay?”

“Fine,” she muttered. “I argued a little with Mom before we left, so I’m just preoccupied.”

“What about?” Cora asked, leaning her head on Laura’s shoulder.

She shook her head. “Nothing. I’ll tell you when we’ve completed this mission.”

“How are we going in?” Stiles asked. Talia had been uncharacteristically brief about what she wanted from them, specifically, and he had a couple questions.

“Quietly,” Laura replied. “This facility isn’t known to be combative, so if we can sneak in with Boyd’s help, that’d be ideal.”

“Quiet it is.” Stiles started fidgeting with his pants, the pockets and various zippers, until Derek slapped a gun in his hand. “Dude,” he said reproachfully.

“If you do that the whole drive, I’m going to throw you out the back on the highway.” He picked up his own gun. “It doesn’t hurt to make sure everything’s in working order.”

“Ugh, fine.” He pulled his legs up and crossed them so he could clean the gun. At least it was something to do with his hands, not that he’d admit it. “This is just busy work,” he complained. “You know these guns are clean as well as I do.”

Scott sighed and flopped across Erica’s lap, making her cut her fingertips and shriek.

Stiles ducked his head and laughed. At least he had them.

 

Jordan set up shop on top of the van when they reached the Nevada facility. He could see the doors they’d be going in and, hopefully, coming out of, and a few windows.

“Our information puts them in the basement,” Boyd said when they were connected. “They could be elsewhere right now, but if they were captured while looking for info, they’re likely just locked up until they can move them.”

“Right,” Laura murmured. “Jordan, can you see anything through the door we’re going in?”

“One guard, playing on his phone just inside. He’s got a pack of Mavericks in his shirt pocket, and he’s looking twitchy. I’d give it about five minutes before he goes out for a smoke.”

“We’ll go in when he does, then.” Laura jerked her head. “Cora, Stiles, go wait by the door. We’ll be close by.”

“You got it.”

They positioned themselves on either side of the door and waited, tense, until it opened. Jordan was only off by about a couple minutes; the guard was already flicking his lighter when he stepped outside.

Stiles waved at him, grinning, and when he turned toward him, Cora pounced, snapping his neck like a matchstick. Stiles caught the door. He peered in, but the hall appeared empty.

“Used to be an emergency exit,” Cora surmised, pointing at faded marks on the door where stickers used to be.

Stiles snorted. “Yeah, now if there’s an emergency in here, you die in here.”

“If they weren’t terrible, I’d care about that. Hall is clear,” Cora added.

The rest of the team came out of the shadows, passing them to flood the hall. Derek cupped a hand over the back of Stiles’s neck on his way in, so brief that no one noticed.

It was quiet inside, but this far west the facilities weren’t usually very active, so they weren’t worried about running into too much trouble. Laura found the door to the basement first and yanked it open with the grinding squeal of metal on metal. The stairwell was unlit and smelled damp, exposed pipes trailing along the ceiling.

“Stiles, come down with me; Erica, Derek, watch the doors, and Scott, Cora, flank us.”

The stairs were wide enough that two of them could go down at once, luckily. Taking a tumble wouldn’t achieve their goal to be quiet, so Stiles kept one hand on the wall, a knife in the other.

“Ugh, smells like blood,” Cora murmured. “Blood and dust. I hope they’re not…”

“They won’t be,” Scott breathed. “They’re okay.”

They all knew that could be very wrong, and they sped up, taking the stairs two at a time.

There was another door at the bottom, entirely made of silver. Laura wanted to kick it down, but Stiles only rolled his eyes and picked the lock.

“It wasn’t even a digital lock, calm down.” When he opened it, light flooded the stairwell, nearly blinding them.

The basement was full of boxes, crates, and scattered metal carts.

Laura stepped in, inhaling deeply. “Hana? Mark?” she called as loudly as she dared.

Stiles was turning before he even knew why, but it was still with a damning human slowness. He hit the ground and rolled with his assailant, a dark haired woman with glowing orange eyes and sharp teeth.

“Stop!” he ordered, firmly enough to shock her into freezing. “We’re from the Pack. We’re here to help you.”

Scott hauled her off him before she could respond and passed her to Cora so he could help Stiles up. “You okay?”

“Yeah, she didn’t really do anything.” He brushed off his pants. “Is she okay?”

“Let me find out.”

“Where’s your husband and daughter, Hana?” Laura asked.

Over the comm, Derek was talking to someone in a silky voice about how they’d been told to watch the door until the lock could be fixed.

“Show off,” Stiles muttered. He’d never been good at stealth or talking his way out of things. His face gave him away every time.

“Mark is over here. He’s sick, he can’t walk,” Hana gasped. “They haven’t let us out or given us water or anything—they haven’t been down here at all.”

“We have water in the car, and food,” Scott said soothingly.

Stiles and Laura ventured further into the basement, until they found a young woman crouched beside a man drenched in sweat and pale. Erica started flirting with someone upstairs, purring about recently transferring from the Idaho facility.

“He’s got a fever,” the woman said grimly. “He’d been sleeping a lot, too. I…” She put her hand over her mouth.

“He’ll be okay. Cora, carry him. Scott, don’t, you can treat him in the van.”

“The hall up here is clear,” Derek said quietly.

“Hana, Celestial, stay in the center of the group, near Cora. If anything happens, stay low.”

Hana nodded and wiped her face on her shirt.

Cora hefted Mark over her shoulder and took him to the middle of the room.

“Okay, go. Stiles, bring up the rear, Scott and I will lead the way. Erica, Derek, you’ll fall in from either side as we get up there.”

“Okay.”

Stiles made sure the silver door was closed and locked as they left—hopefully it would buy them time if they needed it.

Derek fell in on Cora’s right when they came up, Erica on her left.

“You guys are heading straight to Colorado from there,” Boyd said quietly.

“There are people outside the door you’re heading for,” Jordan reported. “I can get them now, but they might disperse on their own.”

Laura looked back at Mark, frowning. “Are they armed and do they look like they’re waiting for us?”

“They’re armed, but they’re just taking a break, not really doing much of anything.”

“Alright, don’t shoot them, that’ll draw too much attention. Toss a paralytic smoke bomb at them, tell us when they take effect. If anyone else comes out, shoot them.” Laura rubbed her knuckles over her forehead, and started walking again.

The facility was still quiet, with most of the staff on the upper floors or, apparently, out in the parking lot taking a break. Laura stopped them in the alcove around the door they came in, gesturing at them to wait.

“Someone’s coming,” Erica murmured, nodding down the hall to their left.

“Just one?”

She nodded as, over the comm, the sound of Jordan cracking multiple smoke bombs drowned out whatever he said.

“Take care of it. You okay, Jordan?”

He clicked his tongue softly.

Erica slipped off down the hall, so Stiles moved so he was filling half of the space she’d left.

“They’re all down, Laura,” Jordan murmured. “Parking lot is clear.”

Over the comm, someone gasped, then gurgled as Erica crushed their throat.

“Leave him there, Erica, we’re going.”

As they raced out of the building, someone shouted, “Hey!” and chased them, but he’d only made it a few feet out the door before he flew off his feet.

“Good shot, Jordan,” Cora panted.

Laura helped get Mark into the van, passing him up to Scott while everyone else clambered in beside them.

“Okay, you two sip these while I treat Mark,” Scott said, passing the women bottles of water.

Jordan climbed down into the driver’s seat and started taking his weapon apart and putting it in the case on the passenger seat.

“Get moving soon,” Laura said, climbing in last and slamming the doors.

“As soon as my hands are free,” Jordan snapped.

“He must’ve come in contact with digitalis at some point,” Scott said tersely. “Cora, get my kit from under the seat please. I have an antidote we give to kitsune,” he explained to Hana, who was watching anxiously. “Do you know how he could’ve gotten poisoned?”

Hana nodded. “We were in the lab together when they caught us. He must’ve inhaled it on accident in the struggle. We broke some things.”

Beside her, Celestial sniffled and wiped her face.

Scott pried open Mark’s mouth, dropping two capsules in and urging them down with water. “He’ll be okay,” he assured them. “He’s been fighting it this long, and now he’s getting treatment.”

“Fourteen hours to Colorado,” Jordan called, putting the van in motion. “Get comfortable.”

Laura passed out food to Hana and Celestial, and stretched out on her bench. “Wake me up when we stop for gas. Jordan, let us know when you need a break.”

“Sure.”

They all disconnected their comms after Boyd signed off, and turned their cameras off.

“You should get some sleep,” Derek told Hana quietly. “It’s a long drive, and you’ll need your rest.”

She finished her bottle of water and nodded. “Right,” she murmured, leaning her head back. She set her hand on Mark’s leg.

Stiles shifted in place, keeping his mouth shut through force of will. He wanted to question them about the information they’d gotten. Supposedly, they knew the locations some vampire safe camps, but it was protocol not to reveal that kind of info to anyone but your own faction’s Alpha. Stiles was finding those kind of rules more and more restrictive lately. They were necessary, to be sure, to keep everyone safe, but that didn’t make him resent them any less.

Erica poked his side. “You okay?”

He nodded. “Anxious to finish this.” The sooner they got the family back to Alpha Santos, the sooner she would share the info with the rest of the Pack.

She sighed. “Me too. Talia said she’s going to be changing things up soon.”

He straightened up. “In what way?”

“Dunno. Probably different kinds of missions. That’s what she said right before we started transporting supes, right?”

“Right,” he muttered. “What else could she want us to do, though?”

“Switch us back to transport maybe, or munitions runs. They need all hands on deck everywhere as far as I can tell.”

“Yeah, that’s probably it.” Stiles looked at Laura, whose eyes were firmly shut despite her entire body being tense, poised to leap into action. He had a feeling he knew what she and Talia had argued about before they left.

Chapter Text

Danny had taken to broadcasting the news in Peter’s lab, at the request of various members of Peter’s team. He didn’t approve—it caused a lot of distress and distraction—but he allowed it anyway. Stiles suspected someone had appealed to him directly about it.

“We haven’t made any progress since your last visit, Stiles,” Peter said irritably. “Shouldn’t you be sleeping? You just got back.”

“I can sleep later. I just wanted to check in.”

“You’d better get some sleep,” he said flatly. “Or my sister might remove you from your job and force you to,” he muttered, turning on his heel and stomping to a table at the far end of the lab.

Heather was human-ish in her cell, curled up and staring into space, gnawing absently on her forearm with sharp fangs.

There wasn’t anything for Stiles to help with here anymore. They were mostly doing bloodwork, trying to find similarities between Kali and Erin and the Pack members who’d turned.

“She’s been human for a couple days,” Adam said, approaching Stiles cautiously. “She hasn’t been lucid, exactly, but she’s stayed human.”

“Is that an improvement?” he asked dully. “Or is she getting worse?”

Adam shook his head. “Just a change, I think. We’ll have to see how the full moon affects her.”

“Right.”

Adam cleared his throat. “Did you…on your mission, the kitsune, did they…”

“They had the locations to one of the vampire camps, but they couldn’t tell us until they told Alpha Santos,” Stiles sighed. “Protocol.”

“But they knew them.”

“Yes.”

He sighed. “Good. Thank you.” He stepped away, awkwardly clutching his clipboard in front of him.

Stiles glanced back at Heather and sighed, knocking his knuckles lightly on the window. “Sorry, buddy,” he said quietly. He needed to leave before someone came looking for him, anyway.

As he walked away from the cells, someone turned the volume on the TV up, shushing everyone in the lab.

Stiles stopped beside Vivian and Paige’s table, staring at the report.

The anchor on screen cleared his throat and shuffled papers in front of him. “It is unclear right now whether the OWH hunters will be punished for their actions or if this, like so many events like it, will be shrugged off by authorities. The Montgomery family consisted of parents Elliot and Beth, and their son, Andrew, and their two daughters, Marie and Tabitha. They were vampires and were, until early this morning, living together in hiding from the OWH.”

The woman sitting next to him shook her head. “The OWH has claimed they were killed in self-defense, but there were no signs of struggle, as the family was staked in their beds, likely while they slept.” Her voice had the bite of impatience and grief all of the anchors on Prime News had taken when talking about the OWH and their actions.

The screen switched to a street view of a tiny house, where people in uniforms could be seen moving dark body bags out to vehicles.

Something smashed to Stiles’s right; when he looked, Vivian was staring down at her fist, which sparkled with the shards of what was once a cup, glass glittering across her work station.

She let out a shaky breath and shook the glass off into the sink. She brushed at the front of her lab coat and crossed the room. She stopped beside Adam, either unaware or unconcerned that the entire lab was watching. She kissed Adam’s cheek. “I’m sorry, brother,” she said softly.

“No, Vivian, don’t, we can-” he started, sounding choked.

She set her jacket on the table by his arm and left the lab in silence.

Peter watched her go. “If anyone else has to leave, do it now. Otherwise, we have work to do.” He didn’t look at anyone in particular before turning back to his own work.

Adam stared at the door where Vivian had left for a long moment. His eyes flickered once, and then he got back to work.

So even in the relative safety of the Pack, the OWH was tearing families apart.

Stiles scrubbed a hand down his face and left, as well. He was just taking up space there anyway.

He found Derek in the cafeteria, eating lunch with Scott and Cora.

“Where’s everyone else?” he asked, sitting beside Derek.

“Erica went to visit Boyd,” Cora reported obligingly. “Laura went to report to Mom.” She licked ketchup off her thumb. “Jordan’s watching the news.”

“Ah, damn.” Stiles tried to get up, but Derek dropped a hand on his thigh and squeezed.

“What?”

“A vampire family was murdered. They were airing it on Prime News. Uh, Vivian, from Peter’s lab, already took off because of it. She didn’t say where she was going, but I get the feeling that it wasn’t just to take a breather.”

“Do you think Jordan will, too?”

Stiles shrugged. “He ran off to protect a family of vampires a little while ago, didn’t he?”

“Well, yeah, but they were alive and there was something he could do to help them.” Cora frowned at her chicken nuggets. “If the Pack is going to retaliate, Mom will let us know.”

Scott nodded. “Right, that way we all know what to expect. Plus,” he lowered his voice, “it gives everyone hope.”

Stiles laughed mirthlessly. More than half the people in the bunker hadn’t set foot outside in months, more if you didn’t count perimeter guarding as an outing, which Stiles didn’t. There wasn’t much hope left here.

Derek leaned in and bit his jaw, a sharp, jarring nip that only barely felt affectionate.

“We’re helping,” Scott said. “We’re going to make it better.”

Stiles took a deep breath. “Yeah, you’re right.” He rolled his eyes when Scott pressed a hand to his chest and pretended to swoon. “Sorry. I just feel…responsible. It’s my…” He shook his head. “People like me out there. Murdering families.”

Cora kicked him under the table. “Shut-up,” she said impatiently. “Your pity party isn’t allowed while I’m trying to eat.” She flicked the edge of her tray. “Do you see Scott moping that he used to be human, just like the enemy? What about Isaac, who is still human? Should we blame him? No? Then quit being a baby.”

Stiles glowered at her, mostly because he couldn’t think of anything to say to that. Finally, he muttered, “Fine,” and stole a nugget from her tray.

“Want to get some practice in?” Derek asked, sweeping his thumb back and forth where it rested on Stiles’s leg. “We could spar, or go to the gun range. We could practice throwing knives.”

Stiles smiled. “Knives. We haven’t practiced those in forever.”

“Because it’s impractical,” Cora huffed. “Guns are quicker and more efficient.”

“What happens if you run out of bullets?” Stiles taunted. “What if your target is too far away to use your strength or claws?”

She rolled her eyes. “They only want us to know how to do it for super rare emergencies. Why do you think they don’t make us practice?”

“Because you’re lazy and you whine.”

“You’re wasting your time. Scott and I are going to get Erica to spar after lunch.”

Scott winced. “Actually, I was going to hang out with Kira for a little while. Good luck with sparring, though!” he added, grimacing.

“You all suck.”

 

The room used for knife throwing was bigger than the gun range, but only because it had two parts—the targets, similar to the shooting range, and the dummies, which were in a padded space wide enough for a whole team to practice in, should they want to. They rarely did after they’d passed their training.

The whole place smelled like sweat and metal and whatever weird combo materials the dummies were made of. It was one of Stiles’s favorite places in the bunker. Aside from Derek’s room, obviously.

They’d finished with target practice and moved to the dummy area when Erica joined them. “I thought you’d be sparring with Cora,” Derek said, idly flipping his knife.

Erica shrugged. “Haven’t done this in a while. Plus, I want to see you two try to out throw each other again.”

Stiles scowled. “It isn’t a competition.”

“Only because you lose.”

“He has an unfair advantage!” he snapped. “I’d win, too, if I were ambidextrous!” He could throw fine with his left hand, he just couldn’t aim quite as well with it like he could with his right. Derek was equally skilled with both hands which, while it made for fun bedroom games, also irked Stiles during knife-throwing practice.

“Don’t be such a baby,” Erica said. “Practice more and maybe you’ll get better.”

“What about you? You rarely ever practice.” He scowled at her.

“I’m a better shot than either of you,” she claimed, buffing her nails on her shirt.

“Yeah, with guns.” Stiles balanced his knife on two of his fingers, eyeing the dummy to his far left. “You haven’t practiced throwing knives since the team was first formed, don’t even pretend.”

Her mouth twisted. “I’m still better.”

“Prove it, then,” Derek said. He flipped his knife once more, catching the flat of the blade carefully and holding the handle out to her.

She scoffed. “I have my own,” she muttered, yanking it out of the sheath at her hip.

“Want to go at the same time?” Derek asked with faux sympathy. “That way you don’t completely embarrass yourself?”

“Just throw your damn knives!” Leah Wright shouted from her office. “We’ve got team training in two hours!”

Erica shrugged and adjusted her grip on her knife.

Stiles twisted on his heel and hurled his knife first, the blade sinking into the dummy’s chest.

“Please,” Erica snorted. “I can get a throat shot from there.”

“Sure,” Stiles said, waving his arms. “Then go ahead.”

 

It turned into a full practice session when Scott and Laura showed up, followed by Cora and a class of teenagers. Leah suggested they practice as a team to demonstrate how it was done while the kids watched, and Laura agreed.

“Do the targets move?” one of the boys asked, crossing his arms.

“No, but that’s for safety reasons. We don’t want to miss and hit anyone on accident, since everyone else will be moving, too.” Leah clapped her hands. “Okay, rules! Can’t hit the same target twice; it only counts as one hit if you do. Whoever gets the most kill shots wins, you only get four knives, so try to reuse them whenever possible.”

“How do you know if someone hits the same target twice if they have to take their knives out?”

“The knives have dye powder on them. They’ll leave a mark around the ‘wound’.” Leah pointed at Laura’s knife, which was coated in red dye powder.

“Any other questions?” Laura asked, rolling her shoulders back.

“Nope. On my whistle, you guys can start. Class, behind the window, please,” Leah called.

When she blew her whistle, they flew into motion. It felt good, like they’d time traveled back to basic training. He and Cora cut down the center and split in the middle without communicating a plan at all, Derek and Erica worked from the outside in, and Laura and Scott split behind Cora or Stiles. It was like a fast, violent group dance, only a misstep might get you stabbed. They moved together like they’d only just practiced yesterday, like they were reading each other’s minds, and Stiles loved it.

He hurled a knife and spun in one motion, yanking the blade of his last knife free before whirling to throw another. Derek stepped out of the way just in time as he threw his own, and as the last of Stiles’s knives slammed home, Leah’s whistle sounded again.

Panting, Stiles let himself relax, easing off the balls of his feet and onto his heels. He glanced at the teenagers behind the glass and grinned, elbowing Scott.

They all looked wide eyed and either afraid or amazed, it was hard to tell, staring at each of them in turn.

“It’s a tie,” Leah announced. “Derek, Cora, Erica, and Stiles hit the most. Stiles and Cora had the most kills, no surprise there, Derek, Laura, and Erica did the most damage, and Scott gets the award for most gruesome hit,” she added, hip checking a dummy with a yellow-dyed wound through its eye.

“Nice.” Stiles high fived him.

“Good job. Now all of you get out, I have a class to teach.”

Derek met Stiles’s gaze and grinned, flashing fangs and making him shiver.

“See you later,” he muttered to Scott, who looked like he might ask where Stiles was going until he caught sight of his expression.

They couldn’t get to either of their rooms fast enough, couldn’t keep their hands off each other long enough to make it, so Stiles picked the lock of an empty classroom with shaking hands while Derek mouthed at the back of his neck.

He dragged him into the room by the shirt, gasping, “Wait, wait,” when he tried kissing him again. “Lock the door back.” He backed away and grabbed a desk, bracing it against the door after Derek had locked it.

“Come here,” Derek growled, grabbing his hips and dragging him closer.

“Gets you hot when I’m fighting, huh?” Stiles panted, gripping his hair. “Noticed that a while ago. Weirdo.” He hooked a leg around his hips and ground their laps together, his head falling back at the sensation.

Derek moaned, biting at Stiles’s neck. “I like that you’re capable. S—fuck. Strong. Healthy. You look good when you’re confident in yourself.” He licked at his throat.

“Yeah?” He raked his nails gently across Derek’s scalp, making him shudder.

He pressed him back against a desk that scraped against the floor every time they twisted against each other. “Yes.” He licked his throat again, teeth grazing his pulse.

“You’re not so bad yourself.” Stiles let himself fall back across the desk, so Derek could fit their hips together, ripping a deep groan from his throat. “Keep doin’ that,” he sighed, his head hanging over the side of the desk. “Then we can eat and go for round two.”

Derek’s nails dug into his jeans, hitching his hips up, off the edge of the desk where they’d been braced. “Don’t fall,” he said, and ground their laps together so deliciously that Stiles’s eyes crossed.

 

Horrifyingly, they ran into Melissa as they were leaving the classroom. Stiles absolutely scrambled to hide behind Derek.

“I do not want to know,” she said when Derek tried to stutter out an excuse. “Just tell me there isn’t anything traumatizing in the twelve-year-old classroom.”

Stiles winced and peeked over Derek’s shoulder. “There isn’t. Everything was, um. Covered.”

“Good. Just…go to your rooms.”

“Yep. We’re going. Goodnight.”

“I’m sure,” she said dryly, hurrying past before they could react to that.

“It could have been worse,” Stiles decided, rubbing the back of his neck awkwardly.

How?” Derek demanded. He was red faced and standing awkwardly, hunched over a little like that might hide the mess of his jeans.

“Could’ve been one of your parents. Who can smell everything?” he prompted. He patted Derek’s arm when he looked sufficiently horrified. “It can always be worse.”

“Let’s go before another parent shows up,” he muttered, wrapping his fingers tight around Stiles’s.

 

They ate dinner in Stiles’s room after they showered, sitting on the floor in their underwear. Things were more efficient that way.

“Why do you have so many variations of pizza?” Derek asked, licking sauce from his thumb.

“Because pizza is good in any form and it’s nice to have a variety.” He bit into one of the pizza rolls, immediately burning the roof of his mouth and making his eyes water. “Plus,” he coughed, “it’s all in the same aisle in the grocery store.”

“Lazy.”

“Yep.” He nudged Derek’s knee with his foot. “Wanna watch a movie?”

“Yeah.” He rubbed his ankle briskly. “Whatever one you want.”

“I always pick. You pick.”

He rolled his eyes. “Don’t complain through the whole thing if I pick something you don’t want to watch then.”

Stiles rubbed his foot along his thigh. “I’m sure I’ll find something to do if I get bored.”

While Derek was choosing a movie, someone knocked on the door.

“No!” Stiles yelled. “Go away!”

Please!” Isaac called back.

“Hang on,” he huffed, grabbing some sweatpants. He tossed a second pair to Derek before pulling them on. He yanked the door open impatiently. “What? Hey, Ally,” he added, noticing her at Isaac’s shoulder.

“Can we watch a movie with you guys?” he asked, his eyes widening pleadingly. “We have popcorn and M&Ms.”

“Uh.” He glanced back at Derek, who was making a stack of movies he wanted to see, and up at Isaac again. He sighed. “Yeah, come on in.” He stepped aside and flashed a grin at Ally. “Don’t worry, I’ll put on a shirt before we start the movie.”

She grinned back. “This is fine with me.” She winked at him and caught up to Isaac, kissing his cheek.

Scott passed by the door before Stiles closed it. “Hey,” he said, smiling.

“Hey. Go get Kira. We’re watching movies in here. Might as well make it a party.”

Scott beamed. “Sure! Be right back.”

He returned with Kira and an armful of juice boxes, and behind them were Erica and Boyd, whose arms were full of sour gummy worms that Erica hoarded, and Twizzlers.

“What’re we watching?” Erica asked, chewing on one of the Twizzlers.

“A stack of horror movies,” Derek replied. “Starting with The Woman in Black.

“I’m gonna move the couch to make room,” Scott announced.

“Just push it up against the bed,” Stiles sighed.

Kira observed the group. “I’m gonna go get more popcorn.” She stepped over Isaac’s legs, taking the hand Ally offered to help her keep her balance. “Thanks. Don’t start the movie without me!”

“While she’s doing that, I’m gonna grab some blankets,” Erica said. “Maybe more pillows.”

Yes. I’ll help.” Ally followed her out.

After a second, Scott shook his head. “I’m getting my blankets and pillows, too, there’s no way Erica has enough.”

Derek put his arms around Stiles’s waist from behind, leaning his head on his shoulder. “Why is your room always the one where we get interrupted?”

“Because I rarely say no.” He snorted at himself. “And you just don’t answer your door.”

“Yeah, why would I? Look where it got us.”

“You love it,” he accused. “Don’t play.”

He bit down on the ball of his shoulder before claiming a spot on the floor, sprawling over Stiles’s comforter.

Once the snacks, pillows, and blankets were passed out, Stiles hit the lights and Derek started the movie. Stiles waited until Derek was settled comfortably on top of his blanket to crawl on top of him, making him grunt.

“You’re on my blanket,” he breathed, stretching out. He rested his chin on Derek’s shoulder so he could talk right into his ear. His feet touched the floor on either side of Derek’s.

“So?”

“So you’re in my spot.”

So?” He didn’t move, aside from flexing his shoulders and settling in.

Stiles decided that if Derek could live with it, so could he, and stayed exactly where he was.

“It’s different than the book,” Derek muttered midway through the movie, by which time Erica and Boyd were making out in the dark corner of the room, away from the group.

“You read the book?” Kira whispered. Scott had fallen asleep with his head in her lap already, and she’d been nodding off herself until Derek spoke.

“Yeah, it-”

Stiles pinched his ribs lightly. “Shhh, I’m watching.”

He turned his head, trying to glare, but he could only angle his head so far, and the side of his face wasn’t exactly intimidating.

“So are we,” Ally added, probably because Isaac wouldn’t.

“Later,” Kira said, ducking her head. “Sorry!”

“And you complain about me talking through movies,” Stiles grumbled.

 

Kira, Scott, and Isaac were all asleep by the time they started the second movie.

“Did you cut yourself?” Derek asked suddenly, startling him.

“What?” He stopped fiddling with the remote to look at him. “No. Why?”

“I smell blood…?” He looked at Ally, who shook her head.

They glanced carefully at where Erica and Boyd were making out and, sure enough, Boyd was mouthing at Erica’s throat while she stroked the back of his neck. When she caught them looking, a Cheshire smile stretched over her mouth.

“Ew,” Stiles muttered. “Can’t you do that in your own room?” he complained. “Don’t even try to say you’re not being gross, he could’ve bitten your wrist or something.”

She didn’t look bothered. “Hey, you’re the ones watching.”

Boyd sat up, swiping his tongue over the pinprick bites. “Sorry,” he said with a grin. “Got carried away.”

Erica stood. “Let’s go to my room,” she said, holding her hands out to him. “So we can finish up.” She laughed when they all collectively shuddered.

“Your hands,” Derek protested as Stiles reclaimed his spot on Derek’s back. “Why are they so cold?”

He stuck them under Derek’s stomach, making him jump. “It’s cold in here!”

He sighed heavily and flipped the blanket over both of them. “You’re always cold,” he grumbled.

Stiles rubbed his cheek against the back of his shoulder. “I know. You’re always warm. We make a good match.”

“You two are just as bad,” Ally griped, turning the volume up on the TV.

Chapter Text

Stiles convinced Derek to visit Heather with him the next day. It didn’t take much convincing, as Derek wanted to visit the patients, too. He talked to Peter in his office while Lydia and Stiles looked in on Jackson. He was shifted, prowling around his cell and occasionally crawling the walls.

Lydia took a long, slow breath. “Yesterday, he looked at me like he knew me.”

“Maybe they’re getting close.”

She didn’t look convinced.

Behind them, Paige gasped. “Is that Vivian?”

Stiles twisted around as someone turned the volume on the TV up, watching as a reporter explained the grainy video.

“The OWH is claiming this attack was Pack sanctioned, that the vampire was acting on the orders of Pack Alphas, when she killed the people working in the facility and herself.”

Adam made a guttural noise at that, flinching slightly as if he’d been struck.

“The video only shows part of her face, so she has not been identified. There’s no way to tell if she is affiliated with the Pack or not. The Pack has not commented on the attack.”

They played the video again, which Stiles then realized was a security video from outside of the OWH building. Since when were they using cameras? He frowned and leaned forward unconsciously, gripping the edge of the table he was next to. Beside him, Lydia hummed quietly.

Vivian’s bright copper hair was easily visible despite the low quality of the video. She was striding confidently across the parking lot. She killed two guards at the door in quick, blurred movements before she stepped inside. She crouched and chained the door from the inside, and started pulling things from her pockets.

“The video cuts out moments after that, due to the explosion,” the anchor said. “No other facilities were attacked, though precautions are being taken in an effort to minimize damage in the event of more attacks. Our experts believe this was a civilian acting alone, due to a personal grudge, rather than a sloppy attack from the Pack. One wonders why she chose that facility.”

“It was nearly empty at the time, containing the smallest staff the OWH employs. There were only ten people inside, not counting the unnamed vampire.”

Paige lowered the volume as they began discussing the possible reasons behind the attack, looking over at the woman sharing her table. They both looked wide eyed and stunned, but no one looked more shocked than Adam.

He cleared his throat.

“Adam, I’m so-” Paige began softly, stepping toward him.

He shook his head. “I should tell our mother and siblings. Excuse me.” He didn’t leave the lab right away, though; he stepped around tables and chairs and went to Peter’s office.

Derek stepped out as he went in, his face drawn. “Was it her?” he asked, setting a hand on Stiles’s waist.

“Yeah. She set a bomb.” He shifted closer and lowered his voice. “The video came from the OWH.”

Derek frowned. “They don’t have security cameras.”

“They did then.”

“So they can start ambushing us,” Paige said. “Videos like that make us look like terrorists. Can you imagine if it was a whole team?”

“We have plenty of videos about what they’ve done,” Stiles seethed.

“The Alphas plan to use them,” Lydia murmured. “They’re just waiting for the best opportunity.”

“Come on, it’s almost time to meet with Mom,” Derek mumbled.

Lydia nodded and looked back at Jackson, sighing quietly.

“Bye,” Stiles said, waving a little. He glanced toward Peter’s office, but the door was closed.

They made it to Talia’s office first, quickly followed by Scott, Cora, Erica, Laura, and, to Stiles’s surprise, Jordan and Marisol.

“Thank you for coming. I know it’s stressful, having your mission types change so often.”

“We’re good because we’re flexible,” Erica said with a quick, wicked grin.

Talia nodded. “Danny has an exact location for one of the werewolf camps, and your team is going to get them out,” she said simply. “It’s a more complicated mission than you’ve been assigned before, but I believe you’re fully capable of pulling it off. You will each have different but very specific tasks to complete.” She glanced at Laura briefly. “Erica or Derek will have to be taken in as a prisoner by Stiles, disguised as a hunter,” she said with the air of someone ripping off a band aid.

Stiles’s heart lurched with excitement; he twisted to grin at Scott automatically. They were finally doing something solid to right the wrongs.

Scott didn’t return his grin; he looked faintly green.

“Wait,” Cora said slowly, “so you’re sending just Stiles in?”

“And me,” Derek said impassively.

“He’s the only human on your team,” Talia pointed out. She didn’t wait for further questions. “Stiles will take Erica or Derek-”

Me,” Derek repeated, earning a sharp, red-eyed look from his mother. He managed to stubbornly hold her gaze for about thirty seconds before looking away.

That was pretty impressive. Stiles had only seen Laura do that before, though she’d lasted an entire minute.

“Stiles will take Derek in as a prisoner. Derek will get all of the other prisoners to a safe place and outside, Marisol and Stiles will set an explosive.”

“Yes.” Marisol grinned fiercely. “I’m trained in pyrotechnics,” she explained when they stared at her. “I’m more than a driver, dears.”

“Correct. Jordan will procure a means of transportation—a bus would be best, but a truck will work. Laura, Scott, Erica, and Cora will travel with the freed werewolves while Marisol and Jordan drive. You’ll go to the mountains and you four,” she gestured at Laura, Scott, Erica, and Cora, “will lead them, on foot, to the border of Canada.”

What?

“Humans are no longer being permitted into Canada unless they’ve been thoroughly vetted first, which I understand means unless they can prove ties to a supernatural family, they won’t be let in. A pack on that side of the border has volunteered to guide the ones we rescue to safety.”

“We’ll need a uniform for Stiles,” Erica said, eyeing him from the side. “A weapon of some kind that Derek can sneak in. Credentials for Stiles, too. And transport.” She glanced at Jordan.

“I can get a bus,” he said mysteriously.

“There’s a recruiting and training center in San Francisco,” Stiles recalled. “I can get a uniform from there.”

Erica snorted. “I can get you a uniform from there. Your stealth and recon skills are lacking.”

Derek’s brows drew down, a muscle in his jaw jumping.

“Stiles isn’t right for this mission.”

He whipped around, gaping at Laura of all people. “Why-” he started, betrayed.

She didn’t look at him. “He barely passed stealth training. He isn’t good at recon, he’s not good at pretending to be one of them, he can’t blend well, and he loses his temper in the face of injustice. Mom, he isn’t right for this mission.”

“Bullshit,” Erica snapped, making them all look at her. “Sorry, boss, but you’re wrong. He can rein it in when he needs to. You’re letting your emotions cloud your judgment. He’s good and he’s human.”

Stiles, who’d been struck silent as Laura listed all his shortcomings, didn’t realize they were waiting for him to speak until he felt Talia’s gaze fall on him. “I can do it,” he said firmly. He cut a quick look at Laura. “Just because I don’t like something doesn’t mean I can’t do it.”

“Alright. You’ll leave today. Do not go to the camp until you have everything you need.”

Tension simmered in the air as they left her office. Jordan and Marisol split off immediately to go gather supplies.

Laura shook her head. “I’m going to get ready. Erica, swing by the tech lab to get coordinates and surveillance info.”

Erica glared at her for a moment before suddenly losing all tension. “Sure.”

Stiles watched Scott and Cora slip away, giving him anxious looks over their shoulders.

“You shouldn’t be the one going in,” Derek said roughly. “You’re not good at stealth.”

“Well, you are,” Stiles replied without looking at him. “And apparently you’ll be there with me, so what’s there to worry about?”

“You blowing the mission because you can’t hold your temper.”

Stiles whirled on him. “Are you saying I can’t do my job?”

“This isn’t your job!” His nostrils flared with his sharp, angry breath. “You’re-”

“What, Derek? Incompetent? A grunt? What is it you want to say?”

“You’re human! You’re human and you’re terrible at being calm when you think something is wrong and you have no experience at blending in.”

“Yeah, Laura just told me that.” He swallowed. “You think I want to do this?”

“I think you’ve been restless and itching for a fight for months, and that as long as you think you’ll be in on the action, you’d agree to any mission, whether you were equipped for it or not.”

Stiles shoved him back a step, fury spurting up his throat like lava. “No. Do you think I want to be the one taking you to a camp full of imprisoned werewolves and leaving you there? Do you think I think this is a fucking game? Because I don’t. I know all ten-fucking-thousand ways this could go wrong but if you—or Erica—have to go then I’ll be damned if I let another human be the one taking you in or being responsible for getting you back out.” He clenched his hands into fists because they were shaking. “I’ll do my job, Derek, so you should focus on doing yours.” He turned on his heel, stomping away before he could say anything worse. He had to say goodbye to his dad anyway.

 

John wasn’t pleased about the mission either, but he didn’t express that displeasure by insulting Stiles, who appreciated his restraint.

“You know they only said those things because they don’t want you to get hurt,” he said slowly. “They care about you. Which is why teams are usually not made up of people with such personal connections,” he pointed out. “You all work well together because you know each other, but you also don’t tend to think with your heads when stuff like this comes up.”

Stiles threw his hands up. “Exactly! If they keep acting like this, they’re going to split us up!”

John lifted a single brow at him. “And you’re agreeing to this mission for purely professional reasons?”

He laughed mirthlessly. “Come on, Dad. Who here does any of this for purely professional reasons?”

“Good point,” he murmured.

“The difference is that the rest work around it.” Stiles yanked his hands through his hair, frustrated. “And now-” he choked, hands clenching in his hair. “Now I get to deliver Derek to one of the camps we’re trying to take down, gift-wrapped, like a goddamn housewarming present, oh my god.” He folded down over his knees, gasping against the denim. “But I can’t—can’t tell him I don’t want him to do it because that makes me a hypocrite, and—and that leaves the spot open for Erica, who I also don’t want in danger.”

“Derek is trained for situations like this. So are you, so is Erica.” John put his hand on the back of Stiles’s neck, squeezing gently. “You’ll get him right back out.”

He nodded, gulping a few breaths before straightening up. “You’re right.” He sighed gustily. “Right. I’ll see you in a few days, Dad. I love you.” He hugged him tight.

“Love you, too, kid.”

Stiles marched determinedly to Derek’s room, pounding on the door with the side of his fist. “Open up, Derek!” he shouted after a minute. “I know you’re in there!” He reached for his pocket, then hesitated. He could pick the lock, but, he realized with a sigh, disrespecting Derek’s right to privacy wasn’t going to get him anywhere. He turned and sat down, leaning his back against the door. “I don’t want to leave for a mission like this, while we’re angry, okay? So I’m gonna sit here until you come out.” He crossed his legs and settled in. Mostly he found sitting and doing nothing almost painful, but he was also stubborn. He’d endure the skin crawling agony of inactivity as long as he had to.

Thankfully, that was only a total of two minutes…which he counted. The door swung open at his back, toppling him over. Derek glared down at him. “What.

“Don’t what me in that Derek Hale tone of utter disdain.” Stiles rolled to his feet, frustrated. “You are—”

“Only letting you in because I can’t stand your anxiety seeping in here like a fucking miasma.”

“I’ll take it.” He stepped aside so Derek could shut the door. “Listen,” he said sharply. “We’re both freaked out, and I don’t want you hurt or in danger any more than you want that for me –right?”

Derek nodded stiffly, arms crossed so tightly over his chest that it seemed unlikely that they’d ever unwind again.

“It’s a shitty situation. But we have to trust each other to do this. I can do my job, I can get you back out but—I have to know. Do you trust me to?”

“It’s not me I’m –”

“Derek.” He held up his hands. “Answer the question.”

He shook his head and Stiles’s stomach dropped. “I trust you to get me out, but I don’t trust you to make sure you get back out.”

Stiles took a surprised step backwards. “I’ve always come back out, dude.”

“Yeah, but this time you can’t get out through force, and you’ll be leaving me behind. I know you well enough to know that goes against every one of your instincts. You’ll have to walk out like you belong there, among hunters.”

“I know,” he said. He took a deep breath. “It’ll be hard but that doesn’t mean I can’t do it.”

Derek studied him for a long moment. He didn’t say anything right away, but Stiles saw the way his muscles eased, the fierce, cold light in his eyes softening. “Alright. I trust you.”

He wasn’t sure why, but that was when the enormity of what he was going to have to do—to Derek—hit him. He shored up his resolve and grinned. “Great. And I trust you.” He put his hand on Derek’s arm. “We’ll protect each other. We always do.”

He nodded, sighing.

“We’d better get ready. Erica’s raring to go steal a uniform.”

Derek ducked in fast for a kiss that made Stiles wish they had more time because god, how he’d love to finish what they started.

 

They hit the road in an SUV, Marisol at the wheel. Erica was particularly excited, since the first task was hers. Stiles thought they could probably duplicate the uniforms and fabricate an identity for him with less fuss, but Talia was firm: he needed to impersonate someone already registered as an OWH member.

That wouldn’t be too hard; Stiles had been blessed with averages that would make it easy to find a match: brown hair paired with brown eyes and a wiry but still statistically average build, at least within the OWH community. It was his personality that tended to get him in trouble.

The recruiting center was crawling with activity; at the doors were excited people wearing OWH gear, and just across the street were protestors shouting facts and statistics about supernaturals, though one sign that caught Stiles’s attention in particular was obviously the best—“They’re People Too You Soulless Fucks” written in curly script and glittery pink, held by a tall man with a mildly murderous expression on his face. It was succinct and got the point across, anyway.

“Okay, when someone that fits leaves the building, I’m going to follow him to his car,” Erica said. “Then I’ll do my thing and be back before you know it.”

By which she meant killing the newly minted hunter and stashing the body somewhere that would buy them some time before he was reported dead or missing. It really was Erica’s thing, hers and Derek’s, what most of their training had been focused on: following a mark, talking and faking their way into anywhere, hiding the evidence of their actions.

Stiles didn’t have a talent for that, but what he and Cora lacked in finesse, they’d made up for in an unflinching ability to take an enemy life. Or, as their trainers had phrased it, the ability to compartmentalize in highly traumatic situations.

“Good. Jordan will meet us in Arizona with transport for the camp,” Laura said. “We’ll let Stiles use the SUV to take Derek to the camp, and the rest of us will wait at the bus.” She looked deeply displeased about that directive, but she didn’t change it.

“There’s my guy,” Erica breathed, and slithered out of the car.

“She’s good,” Marisol commented after a moment. “I’ve practically already lost her in the crowd.”

The man Erica was following sneered at the protestors as he passed, even going so far as spitting at one of them. A woman near the front jerked slightly when Erica passed, then regained her composure enough to hide the grin trying to overcome her face.

“That’s dangerous,” Scott said, looking at the woman.

“She’s surrounded by humans,” Cora said. “She’s well hidden.”

“She almost gave herself away.”

“Well, Erica’s a lot to handle,” she said fairly, making Scott chuckle weakly.

Erica followed the man out of sight, her gait loose and easy, head tipped back like she was enjoying the weather.

“Okay,” Laura sighed. “Now we wait.”

They stayed busy watching the people signing up to be trained as hunters, watching the newly trained ones come out holding their uniforms and beaming. They watched the protestors watch them, too. Some of them looked afraid, but most of them looked more determined than ever.

“I want to go out there,” Stiles sighed. He thought it looked freeing, being able to tell them exactly what he thought of their actions.

“Let the civilians do their job,” Marisol said. “Which is not giving the OWH a single damn moment of peace. That way we can focus on taking them down.”

“Nicely said.” Laura patted her shoulder and shot Stiles a stern look.

Derek shifted around, making him brace for a glare, but all he did was move until he could put his head on Stiles’s shoulder, closing his eyes.

Cora made a face and leaned forward to talk to Marisol.

Stiles leaned his cheek on top of Derek’s head, settling in for a wait. It could take hours for Erica to get the guy alone.

 

It was nearing sundown when she returned with a gym bag in hand, a hard gleam in her eye.

“Dude’s name is David Whitman, he’s twenty-six, and he is, as of today, a registered supernatural hunter for the OWH. I got all his gear and his uniform,” she said, tossing the bag to Stiles. “Plus his stupid little badge. He was really gross,” she added, shuddering. “I felt zero remorse putting him down.”

Stiles flipped open the badge they gave to the hunters. The picture was thankfully grainy, only clear enough to get his eyes—sort of—skin tone, and hair color. Stiles could match all of that easily.

“Alright. Let’s get on the road.” Laura climbed into the front seat.

“Before we get there, we need to set up,” Marisol said. “I’ll have to get to the back of the building, you and everyone else will have to be at the bus.”

“Shouldn’t I be with Marisol in case anyone needs medical attention?” Scott asked, looking anxious.

“No.” Laura took a slow breath. “No, you’ll have to be on the bus for the rescued ’wolves. There will be children there, Scott,” she said firmly before he could protest. “They’ll likely be dehydrated and malnourished. They’ll need you.”

“Okay.” He leaned back in his seat, chewing his lip with nerves.

“Everyone has a task to do,” Laura said. “Just stick to it and we’ll be okay.”

Chapter Text

Stiles’s hands were shaking so much he couldn’t tie the damn rope. He dropped his head on Derek’s chest, taking a deep breath. He relaxed when Derek kissed the back of his neck.

“Come on, finish it.” He brushed his nose over the edge of his jaw, down the side of his neck, where he mouthed at the skin a little. It was mostly to try to distract him, calm him down, but it didn’t really work.

“This sucks,” Stiles muttered. Sweat beaded at his temples, which he was glad he could blame on the heat.

“You wanted to do it.”

“Because I didn’t want anyone else to do this to you,” he snapped, fumbling with the knot again.

“Well, dragging it out is making it worse.”

“Shit.”

“Yeah.”

Stiles quickly finished tying the wolfsbane-coated rope around Derek’s wrists, then carefully clicked silver handcuffs just below the rope and peeled off his protective gloves. Derek’s skin started blistering immediately, making him cringe. He squeezed his fingers. “I’m sorry.”

Derek kissed him. “Now the hood.”

“Derek.” He couldn’t do it. He was going to puke all over Derek’s shoes.

“Stiles, it’s part of that dumb handbook. A brand new hunter is more likely to follow the rules step-by-step than anyone else.” He shrugged, looking unbothered.

He sighed deeply and pulled the hood out of the gym bag. “I hate this stupid uniform and their stupid handbook.” He adjusted the utility belt a little, because David Whitman apparently had a few pounds on Stiles and the pants threatened to slide off his hips if he didn’t keep the belt cinched tight.

“Time to go,” Derek prompted, wiggling his bound hands.

“Nine-oh-nine,” Stiles said. “Stay as far away from the east side of the building around nine, but try to get there once there’s a way out. Don’t take any of their crap,” he added fiercely. “I don’t care if it blows your cover.”

“Stiles,” he sighed. “I’ll be fine. I’m armed.”

“Yeah, I know.” He unfolded the hood, staring at it between his hands. “Let’s go then.” He pulled the hood down over Derek’s face and helped him scoot back. He had him in the cargo area of the SUV, since the handbook had instructed them to keep the werewolves restrained, blindfolded, and as far away from them as possible when transporting them. And, obviously, drugged. “You good?”

“Yeah, I’m fine.” Derek wiggled around and braced his back against the side of the SUV.

“Alright.” He slammed the door, stepping back for a moment and blinking hard at the dust covered license plate. He could do this. He had a job to do, horrific as that job was, and he would finish it.

Stiles shook his shoulders and jumped into the front seat, rolling his neck until he felt looser. Then he started driving. They were only just down the road from the camp, far enough away that nobody would notice that he hadn’t had Derek tied up in the first place, but close enough that Derek had commented on the scent of wolfsbane and ozone as soon as they’d gotten out of the SUV.

He had the window down as he drove, tapping his fingers anxiously against the side of the car. There were so many things that could go wrong, and he couldn’t help thinking of every one of them.

The man Erica killed could have been discovered and reported dead. That would instantly blow their cover, get him and Derek killed. Or they would realize he was an imposter either way and kill Derek because he couldn’t keep himself together.

They might decide not to keep Derek in the camp at all, and execute him as soon as Stiles left him there.

His stomach clenched, bile burning the back of his throat.

“Calm down,” Derek called, muffled by the hood. “You’re doing fine, but if you start freaking out, we’ll get caught.”

“I know. Shh, we’re getting close.” Stiles slapped his left hand on the wheel opposite his right, clenching until his knuckles turned white.

The camp had an electrified fence all around it, made of silver and topped with barbed wire, which was dusted in wolfsbane. There were guards walking the length of it, and some working the gate like a toll booth. They all had guns and combat gear, sweltering under the Arizona sun. Stiles saw several of them stopping to guzzle water or slather on more sunscreen. While Stiles was watching, one of the guards threw up his arms and stalked inside, like he’d given up.

Various kinds of vehicles dotted what looked like a parking lot to either side of the front of the building. Trucks, SUVs, sedans, in one case a minivan, dust covered from traveling and beat up in some cases. All sorts of people were getting out and dragging shackled werewolves out behind them. Come to collect their rewards, he guessed. One of them looked like a stereotypical soccer parent, dragging two young werewolves out of the back of her minivan while they huddled close to each other and sniffled.

Stiles swallowed dryly and inched up closer.

“ID,” the woman guarding the gate prompted.

He wordlessly held out the badge, his heart pounding so hard he thought it might just burst.

“What’s your business here, Mr. Whitman?”

“What else?” he scoffed. “I’ve got a wolf.” He jerked his thumb over his shoulder.

“Okay. This your first one?” She sounded painfully bored.

“Yes.” He stared straight ahead, watching the progress of the minivan woman and the two kids. He just bet she used that motherly vibe to grab the two of them. His teeth ground together so loudly he was surprised the gate woman didn’t hear them.

“Then you’ll want to walk it all the way in yourself,” she continued, not noticing. “Just drive over there and park. Is it still dosed up?”

“He’s still out of it, yeah.”

“Good. You can walk it in those doors for processing and your payment. Just follow the line.” She passed his badge back.

He pulled through the open gate and parked by another black SUV. He paused, taking a long, deep breath, just sitting there absorbing the pressure, unable to bang his head on the steering wheel like he longed to do. Then he jumped out, boots crunching the dry dirt underfoot, and went around to the back of the vehicle. He pulled Derek out by the arm. “Hear that?” he breathed without moving his mouth, fingers digging into the skin of his arm.

Derek responded by stumbling as they walked, adopting a slouch and shamble as Stiles dragged him along, as if he were heavily drugged.

Inside the building smelled like an uncomfortable mixture of cleaning chemicals and flowers; Derek coughed quietly while they went in. There was a disorganized line, though most of the others were holding numbers and didn’t seem to worry about lining up.

Stiles grabbed a number and shuffled off to the side. Some of the hunters were sitting in plastic chairs, but most of them were standing or talking to each other, showing off their catches.

A hunter wearing a plaid shirt over his uniform approached him. “Damn, he’s a big one, eh?” he asked, grinning. “Nice catch, but you get better pay for more than one. I got a family in my truck that’ll pay for my daughter’s textbooks.”

“I’ll remember that,” Stiles said, trying not to grind his teeth.

“But hey, you’re young, and that one—especially that one—isn’t so bad for your first catch!”

“Right.”

The hunter tilted his head, leaning closer. “He try to bite you?”

“What?” He tried not to jerk back, flexing his hand around Derek’s arm.

He gestured at his neck. “Scrapes.”

“Oh, right. Yeah, that was before I shot him up with the wolfsbane,” he lied wildly, and rolled his eyes, trying to force himself to seem at ease. “Lesson learned—do that part from a distance.” He held his breath, but that made the hunter laugh instead of look suspicious.

He clapped Stiles on the shoulder. “You’ll get the hang of it soon.” He looked around toward the front of the room. “Almost my turn. Finally, right?”

“Right.”

A brief scuffle broke out while they waited, drawing their attention to the far right of the room. An alpha scrabbled against the hunter holding him, fighting to get to the two crying kids in the grasp of another hunter—the one Stiles had seen going in. His fangs clamped hard on the arm of one of his captors, blood spattering the white tiles and gushing down his front. His eyes were red but glassy, face grayed from the wolfsbane that had been keeping him subdued, fighting on instinct to get to the children even while he was in danger and drugged himself.

Stiles’s legs tensed, bracing to run, but it was too late to do anything anyway.

The hunter he was biting swung a gun up, pressing the muzzle to his head, and shot him.

The kids howled.

“Damn shame,” the hunter in front of Stiles murmured.

He jerked his gaze to him, shocked, until he realized he was talking about the hunter.

“I’ll do it,” she spat, waving her buddies off. “I got it. I’ll do it outside.” She passed an envelope to one of them and limped outside, gripping her bleeding arm.

“Where’s she going?” Stiles asked quietly, because surely not.

“Jesus, kid, that was an alpha that bit her. She’s going to end it before she turns. The Organization hasn’t found a cure to the bite yet and damned if any of us want to end up as one of them.”

“Oh, right,” he said quickly, even though he wanted to be sick. These people weren’t sane. They couldn’t possibly think that death was better than being a werewolf.

But the hunter looked at Stiles like he couldn’t believe he was still alive, and, again, he didn’t seem suspicious, just sympathetic.

Stiles was glad when the room settled down again.

Annoyed people in white coats came out of a door he hadn’t noticed, gathering up the body of the werewolf, while the hunter demanded to know if he was still going to get paid. Someone else with a mop and bucket emerged, cleaning up the mess. Stiles watched as the scientists—they had to be scientists—dragged the body away. What could the prison camp possibly want with a dead werewolf? What were the scientists doing there anyway?

The kids were still whimpering, though their howling had been subdued when the woman struck the boy across the face.

Stiles looked around casually, like he was bored and his gaze was simply wandering, his hand flexing on Derek’s arm. There was a werewolf slumped at the feet of her captor, shackled to a small child, who wasn’t blindfolded. She was staring at Stiles, eyes streaming. When she caught him looking, she bared her fangs.

His number was called to a desk with a bored man wearing a tag that said Johnson.

“Name?”

“David Whitman,” he replied, fingers twitching against his leg.

“What is it?”

Stiles frowned. “A beta,” he said slowly, unsure.

Johnson just nodded. “Badge.”

He passed it over, watching interestedly as Johnson tapped things on his tablet, peering at the name and numbers on the card.

“Alright. We’ll put this in your record. Payment will clear in twenty-four hours to the account we have on file. Walk him back so you can get your gear back,” he added, looking at Derek’s bound hands.

“Okay.”

Johnson waved him past the table, so he tugged on Derek’s arm until he stumbled along beside him.

Behind the tables was a short hallway leading to a heavy, silver door. The hall itself was dimly lit, though Stiles couldn’t understand why. It wasn’t like werewolves couldn’t see in the near-dark. Stiles stepped into the hall, noticing a door to his left and one to his right. He glanced at the one to his right, the one Derek was closest to, wondering what they were hiding in there.

Someone passed as they walked; Stiles turned, automatically tracking the movement, and found himself face-to-face with Kate Argent. His heart must have done something because Derek’s arm went wire-taut under his hand. He dug his nails in.

She paused, meeting his gaze. She frowned a little. “Do I know you, doe-eyes?” she asked, the frown disappearing and a smile curling her mouth.

“Oh, no, ma’am,” he managed, thinking fast. He tucked his chin as fury raced through his veins. He remembered her smirking all through every one of her interviews and for some reason couldn’t think of anything else, every thought in his head draining and leaving his mind blank and red. “I’m just—just a big fan,” he said. He risked a peek up at her, hoping to come across as awestruck, but he didn’t think he managed; hatred was boiling in the pit of his stomach and he had no idea if he’d managed to disguise it.

“Mmhm.” She leaned closer, close enough that he was sure she’d notice that he was sweating, see the rage in his eyes. “Nice catch,” she purred, jerking her chin at Derek.

“Uh—thank—thank you,” he stammered, ducking his head again. He was half-amazed he wasn’t literally steaming from the ears. This was the woman—one of the women—behind camps like these for every one of the innocent supernaturals that Stiles’s family had been trying to rescue.

“You keep up the good work and maybe we’ll go on a hunt together some day.” She reached out and squeezed his arm, winking at him before going on her way.

Stiles’s hand twitched on Derek’s arm. He could get a headshot from here, before anyone knew he’d even pulled his gun.

He and Derek would be killed moments later, of course, and Kate was only one of many Argents. She was the face of the OWH, but she was just one head of the whole beast. A vicious, gross head that the world could do without, to be sure, but just one.

“Some other time,” he muttered, trying to refocus. His heart was still pounding, his hands going cold with anger. He took a deep breath and continued down the hall.

The room where he was to unshackle Derek was occupied with hunters untying their captures; most of them were unconscious or so beaten up that it didn’t matter whether they were tied up or not. The whole room stank of sweat and flowers, that faint tinge of dried blood making the whole thing even more nauseating.

Stiles chose a corner and started working on the rope first. “Nine-oh-nine,” he breathed. “East.”

Derek’s fingers twisted and squeezed his briefly.

He ripped the hood off last, skipping back a few steps like he was scared, even while his eyes swept over Derek’s face anxiously.

Derek sagged against the wall, eyes half-lidded and glowing. His hair stuck to his temples with sweat and he looked a little pale, but otherwise okay.

“You can just leave after you untie it,” a woman said. She smiled when he looked at her. “You looked a little confused.”

“Oh. Yeah. It’s my first one,” he said, trying to look grateful and relieved. Mostly he just wanted to knock her teeth down her throat. The meeting with Kate had made him lose his shaky grip on composure.

“We’ve all been there. Don’t linger, some of them can put up a good fight even drugged.”

Since none of the hunters were rushing out, Stiles didn’t either. He lingered in the front, trying to stay calm while the captured werewolves got dragged around. He talked to the hunter who’d talked to him in the first place, he asked why Kate Argent was there, though none of them knew and all of them were fascinated that he’d spoken to her and that she’d spoken to him directly. He asked about the scientists and he did not tell them exactly what he thought of them.

He lingered. He laughed at their stupid fucking jokes about werewolf-pelt rugs, he let some of them hit on him and congratulate him on his first catch, and he imagined each of their deaths in vivid, up-close detail. He could only hope they were still in the damn building when they blew it up.

Chapter Text

Stiles took the SUV out the way he came, waving at the guard at the gate as he left. His chest tightened the further he got away from the camp, the more distant the fence became in his rearview. He still had a few hours to wait until he had to meet Marisol, and the wait was going to kill him.

He’d left Derek behind, in a prison camp designed by people who wanted to kill him. He might be sick. He swallowed thickly as he drove, fumbling for the bottle of water sitting in the cup holder.

Stiles parked the SUV off the road a ways away from the camp, tapping his fingers on his leg. He left it running, because, though it was nearing dark, it was still hot outside, and he’d prefer not to pass out during this mission from heat. He watched the clock, bouncing his leg anxiously. The radio was all static, so he couldn’t distract himself like that.

He blew out a slow breath, staring in the direction of the camp. He prayed Derek was okay in there, that they weren’t doing anything too terrible to him.

 

He left the SUV at eight forty-five to meet Marisol by the eastern fence of the camp. It was full dark, thankfully, and since the uniform was black, he doubted they’d be able to see him anyway.

Marisol was huddled near the fence, a near-invisible shape on the ground. She looked up as he approached, tensing. “Oh, hey. Almost didn’t recognize you in that uniform.” She winked.

“Ugh.”

“How’d it go?”

He hunkered down next to her, dragging his fingers through the hard, dry dirt underfoot. “I wanted to open fire on all of them,” he said, staring at the camp, “but I made it out.”

“Fair enough.” Marisol looked back at the contraption in her lap, twisting some wires around each other. “It’s nearly done here.”

“’Kay.” He shifted his weight slightly. “The fence down?”

“Just this part.” She jerked her chin along a twenty foot length of the fence without looking away from her work. “Turns out Boyd taught Erica some stuff about this. If someone comes this way, you’ll need to put that uniform to use and make sure they don’t catch me.”

He looked around. “Will do, but I don’t think they’ll come this way.” He could see some guards walking around in the distance, but mostly it seemed like they were watching the vehicles.

“Keep an eye on them anyway,” Marisol muttered.

He kept an eye on them, listening for anyone approaching over the sound of her tinkering.

“There,” she said at last. “Five minutes to spare. This is set for nine-oh-nine,” she said. “Try to be at the SUV by then. Derek’s bringing the prisoners to us, then meeting you. Don’t worry until ten-oh-nine if he hasn’t made it to you by then.”

“Great,” he breathed, “thanks.”

“But he will. He’ll be fine.” She pulled something off her belt. “Cut the fence for me to get through, please.”

He took the wire cutters she was holding out and unfolded them. He cut a big enough space for her to slip through with the explosive in hand, and stood back to let her go. He waited, poised to leap if anyone spotted her, but she was nearly invisible, wearing all black and crouched close to the building.

He fidgeted with the cutters until she returned and gave them back to her.

“See you in a few days,” she whispered, patting his shoulder. “Wait in the car,” she added.

“I will. Good luck.”

“You too.” She waved and took off into the dark.

Stiles went in the opposite direction, jogging toward the SUV. He wasn’t out of shape, obviously with the workouts they did, but he hated running, especially by the time he made it to the car. He got in and situated himself so he could see the distant lights of the camp. The clock on the radio read 9:07.

At least Derek was armed; because the werewolves would be searched, they’d had to get creative to make sure he didn’t go in completely unarmed. Laura had broken a knife blade free of its handle in the end, and Derek, much to Scott’s horror and outrage, had cut open the skin of his leg. To Stiles it looked like he’d caused a lot of serious damage, due to all the blood and Scott’s shouting. After a moment of examination, though, he’d said that Derek should be fine when he took the blade back out and let his leg heal.

The back out part should have prepared Stiles but, alas, he was mid-question when Derek slid the blade into the wound sideways and let the skin heal up around it.

Stiles glanced at the clock again. Not long at all until the explosive went off. He would still have to wait, though. Once the explosive went off, Derek would have to lead all of the werewolves out, to where Marisol and the others were waiting in the bus.

He started jiggling his leg as the minute ticked by.

9:08 What if they’d caught Derek? Or found the explosive? What if they were killing the werewolves as soon they retrieved them from that back room?

Well, then Stiles had delivered Derek to his death and left him alone there.

Thinking the words made his stomach seize up, but he clenched his jaw, pressing his knuckles to his mouth.

9:09 The explosion rocked the SUV on its wheels, rattling the windows, deafening and bright. Stiles clapped his hands over his ears. He could only imagine how all of those werewolves felt after the blast.

He jiggled his legs, watched the blaze in the distance. He counted his fingers ten times over and checked the clock approximately every half minute. He thought he heard shouting and gun shots, triumphant howls and terrified screams, but he couldn’t tell which direction they came from or even if he hadn’t just imagined them.

9:15 Stiles dug the provisions out from under the middle row of seats and drank from the lukewarm water bottle, one slow sip at a time. He kept his gaze on the windows, skipping from each one so quickly he gave himself a headache. He couldn’t stop imagining Derek, maybe trapped or already dead, because he’d left him behind, alone, with no back-up.

He could have died in the blast. If he didn’t have a way to figure out the time, or if he couldn’t get away from the eastern wall quickly enough. He could be dead and Stiles wouldn’t even know. Or he could need help. Maybe he’d gotten stuck or pinned as the building collapsed. Maybe he was waiting for Stiles to realize something was wrong, hurt. Werewolf strength could only lift so much.

Stiles started shredding a tissue he found in the middle console. He wasn’t supposed to go back for Derek.

9:25 Stiles felt sick with guilt and worry. He knew it’d take a while to move the whole camp, but how long was a while? “Fuck,” he muttered, tearing a piece of his thumbnail off and making it bleed. He put it in his mouth, frustrated. There wasn’t anything for him to do until the hour mark. Then he had a choice to make, and he already knew the one he would make was going to get him in trouble. But Stiles had gone after Derek in Utah, and he’d go after him now. He’d take the punishment for it later.

9:44 He had his gun in his lap, tapping his foot and watching the clock. He felt like he was about to crawl out of his skin. Twenty-five more minutes and he was going to look for Derek. He didn’t care if there were still hunters alive in the building. He’d kill them all if he had to.

9:57 Stiles turned the SUV on, prepared to drive back to the camp once the clock hit 10:09. He almost didn’t want to wait, but…but. The reason the Pack was still effective was because people followed orders. The least he could do was wait until the time was up before disobeying. But, god, he didn’t want to. He wanted to see now, with his own eyes, if Derek was okay. He was going to combust, waiting like this.

10:07 He was swallowing back bile and tears. If Derek was gone or dead, it was his fault. He’d left him there with only a little knife blade to defend himself and he—

Something moved in the dark to Stiles’s right. He snapped to attention, gun raised. He was proud to find his hands steady. He rolled the window down without looking away, squinting into the darkness.

“Put your gun down,” Derek grumbled, standing up suddenly.

A wild, wet laugh burst from Stiles’s mouth, his arm going limp. He holstered the gun and unlocked the doors. Once Derek was in, he nearly crawled into his lap, patting him down and kissing all over his face. “What took you so long?” he demanded, punching his shoulder. “I was worried!”

“There were a lot of people, and some of the hunters survived. I couldn’t lead them to the bus until we got rid of the hunters.”

“What happened? What the hell are you wearing?” Stiles fell back into his own seat, getting a look at him.

He was wearing a bright white shirt and matching pants, though they were liberally covered in dirt, debris, and blood. He also had blood down the side of his face and all over his arms. He twisted to bare his teeth at Stiles. “They took our clothes.” He plucked at the rough, bleach white shirt stretched over his chest. “I think they put us in white so we’d be easy to spot if we escaped.” He lifted his foot a little, tilting his boot back and forth. “They took those away, too, but I went back for them while the building was collapsing.”

Stiles smacked his arm. “Idiot!

Derek shrugged. “The other werewolves had already figured us out by the time I started talking to them,” he said.

Stiles frowned. “How did they figure us out?”

“You smelled like rage, werewolf, and deceit the whole time you were in there. One of them said she couldn’t believe you made it back out without firing your gun. Start driving,” he added.

Stiles sighed and put the car in drive. “They’re all on the bus?” he asked, tapping his fingers along the wheel.

“Yes, heading on backroads to the mountains. They’ll be shifting when they’re far enough away.”

Stiles looked at the shirt Derek was wearing and got a sick jolt in his stomach. “Take them off.”

Derek lifted his brows. “They’re ugly, but-”

“Derek. Take them off.”

He sighed and pulled the shirt over his head, dropping it into Stiles’s lap.

He picked it up and felt along the edges.

Derek frowned. “What?”

“Trackers, Der. If they’re paying people for bringing you in, don’t think they’d want to keep you there?” He found, like he’d expected, a little bump in the collar. He pinched it between his fingers. “Here, crush it.” He held the shirt out to Derek. “We have to tell Laura and the group about-”

Derek shook his head. “They ditched the uniforms already. Erica and Scott managed to get everyone dark clothes for the drive while we were going inside.”

He shook the shirt at Derek. “Crush it. There’s probably one in the pants, too.”

“Nah.” Derek took the shirt and threw it out the window as they drove. He pulled the pants off next, and they followed the shirt. “Well, this is inconspicuous.”

Stiles tilted his head to look at him. “I can’t seem to find it in myself to mind.”

“You can pretend all you want, but I can smell how scared you were.”

Stiles tapped his fingers along the steering wheel. “How bad was it? After I left you?”

“Not too bad. They searched me and told me to change. Once the wall exploded, I only had to use the blade on two people. Most of them ran if they didn’t get hit with the explosion, at first. Then I only had to loop around a couple times to confuse them.”

“Good.” He sighed through his nose. “Why was Kate Argent there? Doesn’t she have better things to do, like lunch with the president or devouring souls?”

“I get the feeling their government support will only continue as long as they make it seem like they’re still trying to cure us,” Derek said delicately.

Stiles frowned, then slammed on the brakes. “She was there to run experiments on you?” he shouted.

Derek patted his leg. “Keep driving. I doubt she’d have been the one doing the experiments, and likely it wouldn’t have been on me yet.” He shook his head. “It’s to pacify the middle-grounders, Stiles. You know that.”

“I’m still mad about it.”

“Good. We should find some clothes for me.”

“After we get a room, I’ll run out and get you some clothes. We should have packed some spare clothes for you. Sorry.” He rubbed his forehead. “I should have thought of that.”

“Yeah, and then what would you have said if they’d have searched your car and wanted to know why you had spare clothes for your prisoner?” He shook his head. “I’m sure the hotel will have something we can get without you having to go out.”

The hotel they’d scoped out a day ago, four and a half hours away from the camp, did have a gift shop, where Stiles grabbed Derek some gray shorts, a ball cap, and a shirt. He rented a room with a single king bed, keeping the brim of his own black hat pulled low over his face. He was still wearing the hunter’s uniform, but it was best if he tried not to let the cameras get a glimpse of his face.

After Derek had his clothes on, they went in to their room, which was on the first floor near the emergency exit.

“I have to go hide the SUV somewhere,” Stiles whispered as Derek ventured into the room to turn the lights on. Instead of leaving, though, he just turned to stare at Derek.

Derek stared back, standing in the middle of the room, filthy with dirt and sweat and blood, wearing ill-fitting clothes and his own worn out boots.

“I thought I got you killed,” Stiles rasped.

Derek nodded but didn’t speak.

“I have to hide the SUV,” he repeated.

Derek nodded again.

Stiles ran at him; he didn’t look surprised. He just caught him, lifting him so he could wrap his legs around his waist. They kissed fiercely, Stiles’s hands reaching up to grab and twist in Derek’s hair, knocking the hat to the floor. They tripped back to the bed and scrambled over each other, mouths sliding, hands flying.

Derek bit down on the side of his neck, fingers fumbling with the various buckles of Stiles’s belt and pants.

Stiles was having more luck, ripping Derek’s shirt over his head, scraping his teeth down the center of his chest while he struggled.

“Sit back,” he growled, shoving Stiles’s shoulders.

He sat up and ripped the belt open himself, kicking his boots off and yanking at Derek’s at the same time. “Stay there,” he snarled when Derek tried to sit up.

He fell back on his elbows, looking surprised.

Stiles bounced off the bed and tore the rest of his clothes off, then the remainder of Derek’s. He climbed back on the bed, grabbing Derek’s face and kissing him just as hard as that first time. “Sorry,” he gasped. “I’m sorry I left you behind.”

“You didn’t,” Derek snapped, letting his head fall back when Stiles started mouthing down his neck. “You wouldn’t.” He rolled them over and pinned Stiles to the bed, straddling his hips. “Stop apologizing.”

“Yeah, you got it,” he panted.

 

Stiles eventually pried himself away to let Derek shower and to go hide the SUV. When he returned, he had two pizza boxes with him, dropping them on the table. Derek was sitting on the edge of the bed, hair dripping all over his shirt.

“We’re not eating that on the bed,” he declared, standing up. “You-”

“I know, I know, I get crumbs everywhere.” Stiles gestured at the table, flopping down on the seat facing the door.

Derek joined him. “I can take the first watch.”

Stiles snorted. “I won’t be able to sleep anyway. Might as well let me.”

He shrugged. “If that’s what you want, then.”

“It is.”

Stiles sat on the couch facing the door while Derek slept. He was keeping watch, but he also couldn’t help reliving the day. It had been fast, really, but each single moment stood out in his memory in high-def clarity. The faces of each hunter who’d spoken to him like a friend, bragging about the atrocities they’d committed, looped through his head and made him restless with pent up anger.

He shifted his weight in his seat, flicking his gaze to the muted television and trying to distract himself.

Derek got up suddenly and got on the couch, stretching out and pressing his face into Stiles’s hip. “You okay?” he whispered, once he was comfortable.

“Not really,” he replied. “Just letting myself think again, that’s all.”

“You feeling guilty isn’t doing anything,” Derek sighed. He rubbed his cheek against Stiles’s thigh, sleepy and content. “What’s the point?”

“I just…we saw them kill someone. Saw them dragging kids in there. I didn’t…I didn’t know what they would do to you.” He swallowed. “I just feel responsible,” he admitted quietly. “That’s all.” He stroked his fingers through Derek’s hair, making him relax further.

“I’m out now,” he murmured. “Dwelling on it isn’t going to help.” He turned his head a little to kiss Stiles’s wrist and then relaxed, apparently drifting to sleep right there.

“I know,” Stiles breathed. Dwelling just bogged them down with guilt and terror and helplessness. There was always another mission to focus on.

Chapter Text

Stiles and Derek got back to the bunker four days after the mission, as planned, followed by Jordan and Marisol a day and a half later. It took three more days for the rest of the team to return, though since they’d gone on foot to Canada, Stiles had expected it to take about that long.

They were in the gym, sparring to take their minds of things, when the rest returned.

It was Joseph, the leader of another team, who found out first and told them. “They’re still in the garage,” he added after telling them, stepping closer to help them up.

“Thank you,” Stiles said. He wiped his face on his shirt. “How much do you think Cora will yell if I go hug her before a shower?”

Derek smirked. “A lot, probably.”

“That decides it. Come on, we can shower later.” He held his hand out, wiggling his fingers until Derek took it.

Stiles grabbed Scott and Cora at the same time, squeezing them so tight that Scott started squirming. “You guys smell terrible!” he said cheerfully, letting them go.

They were dirty, sweaty and smudged and wearing ill-fitting clothes that didn’t belong to them.

Scott’s shirt had a lump on his left side, which Stiles realized after a second was caused by bandages.

“What happened? Were you spotted?” he barked, grabbing Scott’s wrist.

Cora slapped his shoulder. “No. We startled someone in the woods on the way home while he was hunting deer. He gave us clothes and bandages for Scott, that’s what took so long.”

“So long?” Stiles repeated dumbly.

“Well, yeah. We ran. We’d have been back a day sooner, maybe two if Scott wasn’t wounded.”

Stiles must’ve made a hurt noise, because Scott put his arm around his shoulders. “I’m fine now, dude, promise.”

“You still have bandages,” Stiles pointed out. “Shouldn’t you have healed by now?” He lifted the bottom of Scott’s shirt. “And the bandages are filthy! What’d he shoot you with?”

“A regular bullet. It’s just still open because I kept having to shift. And because the bullet’s still in there.”

What?!” Derek shouted at the same time Stiles did. “You should have gone to the infirmary immediately!” Derek continued alone.

The familiar sound of him scolding them eased Stiles’s nerves, at least enough for him to laugh. “Ah, Derek, I knew you’d be back.”

He shot Stiles a venomous look before guiding Scott out of the garage by the elbow.

“Mom’s going to want to talk to us, so we should shower and change before we go,” Laura said, nudging Erica.

“And eat,” Cora said, pressing her hands to her stomach. “I’m starving. Mom can wait a little longer.”

Laura looked irritated. “Fine. Just be quick.”

Erica paused to give Stiles a limp, exhausted hug before following them out; he walked behind the group until he could split off to go to the infirmary.

Scott was being tended by Isaac and Dr. Deaton while Derek held him down. Apparently removing the bullet was proving more difficult than they thought. Stiles winced when Scott whined, high and hurt, pressing his face against Derek’s arm.

“Got it,” Isaac grunted, dropping the bullet on a tray. “You can let him go,” he added. “Sorry, Scott, it was between your ribs and hard to get.”

Derek had already loosened his grip, Stiles knew, and was only still hanging on because Scott hadn’t let go yet.

“Isaac, why don’t you stay and monitor the wound, make sure it heals as it should,” Dr. Deaton said, patting his shoulder and walking away.

Isaac pressed the gauze pad to the wound to contain the blood while it healed.

“You okay, buddy?” Stiles asked hesitantly, putting his hand on Scott’s shoulder.

“Yeah, I’m good.” He let his head drop back. “Thanks,” he added, without specifying who he was thanking.

Stiles figured it was a little bit of all three of them.

“Did you guys talk to Talia yet?” he asked after a moment as his color returned.

“No. She suggested that unless it was an emergency, we wait until the rest of the team got here.”

Scott nodded and sat up.

Isaac pulled the gauze away. “There, better already. I’m glad you’re back, but I have to get back to work,” he said apologetically, patting Scott’s back.

“Did you guys run into any trouble?” he asked.

Derek shook his head. “No, we were right on schedule.”

“What about you? On the way, I mean. All those wolves…” Stiles trailed off, imagining it.

“It wasn’t so bad once we were in the mountains and everyone could shift. We just made sure everyone knew to follow Laura while Cora and I flanked the group and Erica brought up the rear. Some of the alphas had a trouble falling in line but Laura put them in their place pretty quick.”

“I bet,” Stiles snorted. Then he sighed. “Well, we better get over to her office before Laura hunts us down.”

Ugh,” Scott groaned. “We can eat first, I bet. She’s probably still showering.”

Cora was in the cafeteria when they got there, eating with Kira, who was filling her in on the news reports about their mission.

“They figured it was someone on the inside, but they haven’t said if the OWH has anyone in mind.” Kira jumped to her feet when she saw Scott, so Stiles and Derek joined Cora to give them a minute.

“Do you think they suspected you?” she asked Stiles.

He shrugged. “Probably, but no more than they did anyone else in there.”

“Kira said an Argent was there.” Cora sipped her apple juice. “Did you see which one?”

“Yeah,” he admitted. “I was going to tell your mom about it today. We ran into Kate Argent while I was taking Derek in.”

“You ran into—did you speak to her?” Cora sputtered, her eyes going wide.

“She spoke to me first.”

“It was like she recognized him,” Derek said, frowning thoughtfully. “At first, anyway. From what I heard.”

Cora choked on the tortilla chip she’d bitten. “She recognized him? How?” she rasped, taking the water Derek held out to her.

“It was more like she sort of remembered me from somewhere,” Stiles said uncomfortably. “She didn’t even seem to know from where.”

How?” she asked again.

“We ran into her last year,” Stiles reminded her. “In Utah, when we were on surveillance.”

“When you and Derek ran in against orders, you mean?” Cora snapped. “So you could’ve blown our cover now-”

“She didn’t know who I was,” Stiles insisted. “She just knew I looked familiar.”

“Yeah, but-”

“Hey,” Scott said sharply, “let’s save it for when we report to Talia.” He sat down between Stiles and Kira.

“Fine,” Cora muttered, turning to her food.

Stiles made a face at her, which she wasn’t supposed to see, but she flipped him off after he did it, so she must have.

Derek was scowling at the table.

Stiles nudged him. “What’s the matter?”

“Nothing,” he muttered. Then, after a moment, “Later.”

 

Marisol and Jordan were already in Talia’s office when they got there, so they only had to wait a few minutes for Erica and Laura.

“I’m very proud of you,” Talia said before anyone could speak. “You all did wonderfully.”

“Thank you,” Laura said, though her tone was so stiff Stiles wondered how the words got out of her mouth at all.

If Talia noticed, she didn’t show it. “I heard about Scott’s injury. Are you sure you weren’t followed?”

“Yes, we took precautions, which is what led to us being later than anticipated.” Laura rolled her shoulders. “The liberated wolves were received by the Douglas pack alpha on the border, and we came back the way we went.”

“Alright. Stiles, Derek? How’d your task go?” she asked.

“Stiles did very well,” Derek said immediately, casting him a quick glance. “He held it together and did his job.”

Stiles grinned. “Thanks.” He looked at Talia. “We ran into Kate Argent.”

“Yes, I’d heard she was there. Did anything happen?” Talia asked, her fingers going tense where they were clasped together on top of her desk.

“She seemed to recognize me, but not in any incriminating way,” he said quickly. “Like maybe she thought I looked familiar.”

Talia nodded. “I doubt she’s one to forget a face. That said, I’m sure if she’d realized where she recognized you from, she wouldn’t have let you leave. She’s not known for her subtlety.”

Stiles nodded. “That’s what I figured.”

“Is there anything else? That can’t wait for your individual reports, I mean,” she added.

“If we can get some help painting the bus, it can be reused,” Jordan said, stretching his legs out in front of him. “I already got rid of the plates and it’s well hidden for now.”

“I’m sure we can get someone to help paint it. I’ll let you know.”

“Then that’s all,” he said shrugging.

When everyone agreed they were alone, Talia nodded and said they could go. “I’ll see you tonight, kids,” she added.

“Full moon,” Scott muttered when Stiles hesitated.

“Ah.”

 

Most of the werewolves spent the night in the gym with their alphas on full moons, since the gym had the most open space and the windows let in moonlight. Stiles usually spent the night helping Lydia in her lab or hanging out with John, but he was on a munitions run, and Lydia was fairly busy lately, too, and easily annoyed by interruptions.

“Want to spar some more?” Derek asked, setting his hand on Stiles’s waist.

“Sure.”

The gym got busier as they crept toward evening, full of ’wolves sparring or working out to burn some energy. Even the younger kids were running around, wrestling in their half-shifts.

Stiles slammed into the mats and used his momentum to bounce back up, swinging hard and swearing when Derek blocked him. He twisted his arm and locked his hand around his wrist, turning and throwing Derek over his shoulder.

He was up faster than Stiles, turning and snapping a quick kick to his thigh.

“Fuck,” Stiles gasped, crumbling.

“He said the f-word,” one of the kids said.

“He’s a grown up, he’s allowed,” a parent muttered.

Derek leaned over him, apparently worried that he’d caused actual damage, and Stiles leaped up, knocking him off balance. They hit the mats tangled together, rolling over and over as they fought for dominance.

“Okay, break it up!” Finstock yelled suddenly. Freezing water dumped over them, making them both shout in surprise. “There are kids present, you two.”

“We were sparring!” Stiles protested. He wiped water out of his eyes so he could glare up at him. They did have a bit of an audience, he noticed, looking around.

Derek, pinned under him, just laid there, catching his breath and being absolutely no help. Bastard.

“You’ve taken up enough time, let someone else have a turn now,” Finstock ordered. “It’s just about time for the humans to clear out anyway. Out! Go take cold showers before John gets back!”

Stiles stood up, dripping and holding his hands out to Derek. “Fine. We’ll go.”

Derek shook water out of his hair, all over Stiles, making him sputter and leap back. He laughed at him.

“You’re not funny,” he muttered.

 

They went to Derek’s room to clean up, hoping to avoid further interruptions.

“Almost time to go to the gym,” Stiles observed, checking Derek’s bedside alarm clock. He stretched out sideways across the bed, letting his legs dangle over the edge. “Maybe I’ll just sleep in here. Keep the bed warm ’til you get back.”

Derek dropped on the bed beside him, looking at the side of his face. “Or,” he said, and stopped.

Stiles’s brows went up, but he didn’t turn. “Or?” he prompted. “I think I like the sound of that or.

“Or we could just stay in here for the full moon,” he finished. “Together. Burn off some energy on our own.”

Stiles rolled over to straddle him. “Hell yeah.”

Chapter Text

The night after the full moon, Jessa and her team had a pre-mission party in their hall. Everyone was tense but determined to act like they were enjoying themselves, so plenty of alcohol got passed around and slammed back. Stiles mingled with Jessa and her team, which was mostly comprised of her siblings.

“-we have three people qualified to use assault weapons. I keep telling Jessa to let me get trained, but she doesn’t think I should,” Mike, one of Jessa’s brothers, said. His brows furrowed. “Don’t you train people? You and Erica Reyes?”

“Only when someone is about to join an active team,” Stiles said. “Excuse me,” he added, slipping away. He was heading toward drunk, not quite there, but something was bothering him.

“Where are you going?” Scott asked, flinging an arm over his shoulders. He kissed his cheek. “Derek and Erica are doing shots. Kira thinks Derek is trying to out drink her. Stiles. We have to save him.”

Stiles frowned, distracted. “Derek’s trying to out drink Kira?” he asked uncertainly.

Scott laughed raucously. “No, Kira said Derek’s trying to out drink Erica!” A crowd near Jessa’s room cheered. Scott’s face fell. “Oh. I think Derek just lost.” He withdrew his arm from around Stiles and weaved through the crowd.

Stiles shrugged and turned around, heading for the end of the hall. He got waylaid by Jessa’s other sibling.

“Is Scott still dating Kira?” she asked loudly, swaying toward him.

He thought her name was Haley or something. “Yeah, he’s still dating Kira.”

“Oh.” She frowned. “Good for them. They’re cute together.” She patted his arm clumsily. “What about Isaac and Ally?”

“Yeah, still dating.”

Maybe-Haley hummed thoughtfully. “Okay. What about Ry? Is he dating anyone?”

Stiles frowned. “I’m…not sure.”

Yesss,” she hissed. “Good talk. Thanks.” She kissed his cheek sloppily and slipped through the crowd.

Stiles watched her go.

Ry, another team leader, hadn’t been drinking, and when she approached him, he gently redirected her to her sister.

Stiles shook his head and scanned the hall for Isaac. Ally was dancing with Lydia and Cora near an open door…and Isaac was leaning against the wall a few feet away, removed enough from the crowd that he seemed to be observing rather than participating in the party.

He had a beer between his hands, which looked like the same one he’d picked up when he first got there.

Stiles approached him and turned, leaning his shoulders against the wall beside him. “Hey.”

“Hey.”

“You okay?”

“Yeah,” he said slowly. “Why?”

“Because I’m pretty sure you haven’t taken a drink all night and you look miserable.”

He shrugged and shuffled his feet. “Dunno. Don’t want to turn into my dad, I guess. What if I do?”

Stiles’s heart clenched, aching for the boy who’d fled from his own home, seeking refuge with them from his own family. “You won’t.” He shook his head, struggling to find words. “You’re…you.”

Isaac laughed weakly, elbowing him. “You’re drunk.”

“Not very much.” He sighed, rubbing a hand over the back of his head. “You’re not a mean person. Like, in general. At your base.” He swept his hand across the air in front of his chest.

“That’s because I try so hard not to be like him. I’m scared if I don’t remind myself, I’m going to hear his voice coming out of my mouth, or see his hands on the ends of my arms, hurting people.” He leaned his head against Stiles’s shoulder, sighing exhaustedly. “Being him comes naturally; being me is harder.”

Stiles snorted and patted his leg, which was all he could reach without dislodging him accidentally. “Haven’t you seen any movies or TV shows? Being the good guy is always harder.”

Isaac sighed again and kept leaning against him, even though it had to be uncomfortable. He was quite a few inches taller than Stiles now. He let Stiles take his warm, mostly full beer after a minute.

Scott joined them. “Derek lost and Erica made him curtsy to her,” he said cheerfully. “Kira’s a good dancer,” he added, and sat down on the floor. He held his hand up until Isaac rolled his eyes and sat down next to him. “She’s showing Cora how she learned.”

“That’s nice,” Isaac said, rolling his eyes tolerantly.

“Yeah,” Scott yawned, “nice.” His head drooped onto Isaac’s shoulder, eyes flagging.

Stiles turned to scan the crowd for Derek.

He was across the crowd, nodding to whatever Ry was saying, his expression serious if you didn’t know what to look for. For all intents and purposes, he looked as if he was listening closely to whatever Ry was saying.

Stiles could tell he had no idea what Ry was talking about; his cheeks were flushed, eyes glassy and just slightly lit with panic as Ry got even more involved in the conversation. His brows were drawn in the middle in what might’ve been concentration, but was most likely confusion. Stiles’s chest felt overly full. He passed his drink to the first person who asked if he still wanted it and made his way through the people.

“Hey,” he said, grabbing his hand.

Derek gripped his fingers like a lifeline. “Hey.”

Ry nodded, smirking a little. “I’ll just leave you two to it, then.”

“Thank you,” Derek said sincerely. “Good talk.” He nodded seriously. When Ry was gone, he said, “I do not know what we were talking about. Do you think he noticed?”

“No, no, you played it off.” Stiles patted his chest. “No one could tell.”

“You could,” he accused quietly. “You always can.”

“Yeah, I know.” Stiles smiled at his drunk, slightly bewildered face, and felt over-full again. “Hey,” he said, “I love you.” And it was true—had always been true, really, only recently it’d changed, evolved into something bigger and infinitely more terrifying. He felt like saying the words out loud, admitting the truth of them to himself and Derek, was like jumping from the edge of a cliff without knowing where the bottom was. Right now he was freefalling with no way of knowing when he’d splat.

Derek smiled back at him. “I love you, too,” he said in the easy, uncomplicated way of either the very drunk or the very young.

“I know, big guy,” Stiles said, putting an arm around his waist to lead him away. “Let’s just hope you forget this by morning.” He couldn’t imagine the hideously awkward conversation that would ensue if he did remember. He cringed just thinking about Derek trying to fumble his way through gently telling Stiles that he liked him, but he wasn’t in love. Better all-around if Derek slept it off and forgot the whole conversation.

Stiles led Derek back to his room, mostly because he could watch a movie or something after he put Derek in bed.

Derek clung like a limpet as Stiles tried to put him under the covers. “Come with me,” he mumbled, tucking his face against Stiles’s neck.

“Nope. Bed time for you and Fringe for me.”

He started kissing Stiles’s shoulder, which he did not think he was aiming for. “Come to bed with me.”

“Ha! I’d love to, really, but there’s a sobriety imbalance here.” He observed the way Derek couldn’t quite focus on his face. “It wouldn’t be much fun,” he said consolingly.

“I’m offended.”

“That’s alright.” Stiles pulled the blankets back and gave Derek a little shove.

He toppled onto the bed, startled. He rolled toward the wall and grabbed Stiles’s favorite pillow, hugging it to his chest.

“Goodnight,” Stiles said, exhausted. He pulled the blanket over Derek’s shoulders.

“Night,” Derek muttered after a few seconds of sulking.

Stiles smiled and turned the light off on the way to the couch. He set the first disc up and pulled a throw blanket onto his lap, already dozing. He didn’t make it to the end of the first episode.

 

Stiles woke up pinned to the couch by what felt like a two hundred plus pound heating blanket. It turned out to be Derek, curled up on top of him and asleep.

Stiles grunted and turned his face into the couch, hoping to snatch a few more minutes of sleep.

“Are you awake?” Derek asked.

Stiles mumbled, “Sorta,” and kept his eyes closed.

Derek sat up, situating himself so he was sitting on Stiles’s lap. “Open your eyes.”

He sighed. “Why? ’m tired.”

He pinched his ribs lightly, making him jerk and hiss. “It’s important.”

Ah, crap, Stiles thought, and opened his eyes. “Are you sure? How important?”

Derek ignored that and framed Stiles’s face with his hands, staring into his eyes seriously. “I do love you. I didn’t forget I said that.”

“Oh. Well, that’s…good.”

“I wasn’t just saying it because I was drunk, and I’m not saying it now because I feel like I have to. I mean it.”

Stiles sighed. “I mean it, too,” he mumbled, turning his head to kiss Derek’s palm. “Now get off me, I gotta pee.”

“Okay. Then we can go get breakfast.”

“Deal.”

Cora, Erica, and Boyd were eating together when they got to the cafeteria, but none of the others were in sight.

Cora grinned when Derek asked where everyone was. “First of all, John’s back, Stiles,” she told him, so he nodded his thanks. “And Laura hooked up with Ry last night. They were the only sober ones at the party and left together. Scott and Kira are still sleeping, and Isaac took Ally back to his room, where the three of us watched a movie until Ally passed out on the couch.” She shrugged. “Isaac let me hang out until he went to sleep, then I took off.”

“Laura and Ry?” Stiles asked, pausing with a piece of toast halfway to his mouth. “Huh,” he said slowly. “Cool.”

Erica jiggled the table a little. “Talia wants to see us in an hour or so for our next mission, so they won’t get long to deal with the morning after, which I’m sure Laura will appreciate.”

“We have another mission already?” Stiles asked, leaning forward.

“Yeah, probably a rescue or something.”

“Nice.” Stiles switched the grape jelly on his tray for the strawberry on Derek’s, grinning when he only sighed.

“It’s got something to do with Santos’s faction,” Boyd said. He sipped from his mug. “She asked us to get in contact with them. The messages between factions are always coded, of course, so I don’t know what they said.”

“You could figure it out, though,” Erica said with some pride.

“Sure, I could, if I was trying to, but there’s no reason for me to try to read it.” He shrugged.

“I wonder what it is, though,” Stiles said, frowning. “How long has it been since any of the factions sent actual messages?”

“The Alphas communicate quite often,” Boyd said. “They just use various forms of communication and codes to keep the information safe.”

“It’s probably lucky that you don’t wear a suit,” Erica decided after a minute of gazing at him. “I wouldn’t be able to resist jumping you every time I go to the lab. Danny would have to kick us out.”

“He mostly already does,” Boyd pointed out.

“We’ve gotten much better!” she claimed, but she didn’t look sincere.

Derek nudged his second piece of toast onto Stiles’s plate, focusing his attention on his eggs.

That, Stiles decided, was surely a sign of love.

 

Talia apologized for calling them in so soon after they’d all gotten back. “And after the full moon, too, you all must be exhausted.”

“We’re good,” Laura said, sitting down across from Talia while the rest of the team fanned out around her.

“I’m sure you are,” Talia replied, making Laura flush and Cora snort. “Well, you won’t leave until tomorrow. You’ll be collaborating with a team from Alpha Santos’s faction. The plan is to enter and blow up a facility at the same time a large group of human allies holds a protest.”

Laura nodded slowly. “Why?”

“We decided that to make sure there are no more run-ins with Argents, the best time to raid a camp is during big events. Jordan will be going to South Dakota, where we’ve discovered a camp of vampires. He’ll be going with Ry’s team. While they’re doing that, you will be planting explosives in the facility. The press coverage and clean-up of that and the protest will have the Argents scrambling to put their sad faces in front of the cameras.”

“Which facility?” Scott asked.

Talia’s face grew tense. “We decided the best one is the one in Montana. Where they kept and tortured Derek when he was eight. And…” Her eyes flickered briefly. “And where Claudia Stilinski was killed.”

Stiles’s eyes widened. “Oh, wow,” he said with a forced laugh. He looked at Derek. “I didn’t know that that was in the same place. That’s weird.” He felt something in his chest tighten as ringing silence met his words. He looked from Derek’s tense, pale face, over to Scott, who looked as confused as he felt. Laura and Erica had both frozen, gaping between Derek and Talia like they knew something Stiles didn’t.

Cora shook her head, puzzled, when Stiles looked to her for help, so he finally had to look at Talia.

“What?” he finally croaked. “What’s going on?”

She sighed deeply. “I’m sorry, Stiles. John asked us not to tell you as you were growing up. I’d just assumed he’d told you when you were old enough to understand.”

“Old enough to understand what?” he demanded, his heart pounding.

She pinched the bridge of her nose, then dropped her hand to her desk and looked straight at him. “Claudia-”

“Your mom was killed because of me,” Derek blurted. He’d gotten to his feet, shaking and white. “She rescued me and because I slowed her down, they killed her.”

Stiles’s mouth hung open. There was a weird, rushing noise in his ears that he couldn’t identify, and his vision was sparkling around the edges. For a moment, all he could think was splat. He kept staring at Derek, who looked like he was bracing for a blow. “I don’t…” He couldn’t manage more, looking around for help.

Both Scott and Cora looked as stunned as he felt, and Laura and Erica looked guilty. They’d known, too, then.

“I’m sorry,” Derek mumbled, bolting from the office.

Stiles could hear him retching in the hall but couldn’t make his legs move.

“I’ll go,” Scott said when Laura half-rose. “You should stay.”

Talia continued, after a moment, to fill them in on the mission, but Stiles barely heard her.

His mother—he barely remembered her, really—had died saving Derek. Derek had known all this time and hadn’t thought to tell him. No, he realized abruptly. He’d actively hidden it. When Stiles had noticed his scars, when he’d asked about her. Derek had purposely hidden this from Stiles, even though he’d had multiple occasions to bring it up. Had had Stiles’s whole life to bring it up.

After Talia dismissed them, Stiles left first. He found Scott in the hall looking sad and confused. He jumped in his way when Stiles tried to pass.

“Wait! Just—hear him out, okay?” Scott said, holding his hands out. “He feels responsible, like it’s his fault.”

Stiles shook his head. “How could he-” his voice was raw, and broke before he could finish.

“Stiles,” Scott began, looking sincerely shocked. “He was a kid! What happened wasn’t his fault!”

Stiles shook his head and backed away, going the long way to their hall so he could find Derek. His room’s door was cracked, open just enough that Stiles could see a sliver of the room. He pushed the door open with a shaking hand.

Derek was on his couch, back to the door, head bent. His shoulders were knotted up. “I can tell you what happened,” he croaked. “The whole night, if you want. Everything.” He sounded congested, as if he’d been crying.

Stiles stepped in and shut the door behind him. He still couldn’t seem to find his voice, so he went to the couch and sat down.

Derek had a piece of black clothing crumbled in his lap, his hands buried in the folds of fabric. “When I was eight, um, I went outside with someone—I don’t even remember who—and they’d looked a way for a second and a woman grabbed me. She had wolfsbane on her hand and she covered my mouth…When I woke up, I was a white room.” He shrugged. “They knew—or guessed, at least—that I was with the Pack, so they thought if they tortured me, I’d tell them where to find the bunker.” He snorted, and Stiles knew why. Children in the Pack, at least when Stiles and Derek were kids, rarely knew how to find the bunker, let alone how to tell other people how to find it. None of them had learned directions until they were eighteen.

Stiles was only just realizing how horrifying that practice was. Sure, it was extremely rare that a child of the Pack got taken anyway, but that hadn’t helped Derek. The rules had changed recently, he knew—children were taught a fake address now, a decoy location that would hopefully keep them safe. Not that it mattered, Stiles reflected. Now all supernaturals were carted off to camps, no need to try to get information out of them.

“Yeah, I’m sure you know how that went,” Derek muttered. He cleared his throat. “When they realized I couldn’t tell them because I didn’t know, they started asking me other questions when I was too out of it to know not to answer.” He shrugged again. “I don’t remember what they asked or what I told them. Miss Claudia came in one day and made it stop hurting.” His face went red as he said it. “I mean, they’d been running electricity through me constantly at that point, so…She didn’t recognize me. My hair had gotten pretty long, and I’d lost weight, so I must’ve looked different.” He jerked his shoulders, squeezing the fabric between his fists. “She wasn’t even there to rescue me. It was purely coincidental that she found me at all. She, um. She gave me this to wear, because it was cold outside and I was only wearing shorts.” He held up the fabric he’d been clutching. It was the long, slim black hoodie that Derek had snatched out of Stiles’s hands months ago, looking like he’d seen a ghost.

That made sense now, at least. Stiles took it carefully, running his fingers over the sleeves.

“I meant to give it to your dad the day I got back, but I forgot, and after that I was just…scared,” he admitted quietly. “I was scared. I tried to make it up to you and her and your dad by watching out for you as much as I could.” He swallowed with difficulty. “I know that couldn’t even begin to compare…” He rubbed at his face, eyes shining like he might cry. “She gave me the files she’d grabbed and made me hide while she fought the guards that chased us. She was running to me when they shot her, um, in the back.” He scrubbed his hands over his face. “Um, then I went to the van where she told me it was. Or, well, it took me a while to get moving after she—after. Then the drivers brought me home and we told John.”

Stiles could imagine Derek as a child, huddled in the too-big hoodie, shaking and terrified, waiting for a safe moment to bolt.

“I’m so sorry, Stiles,” he said quietly, his voice shaking. “I’m so sorry. I couldn’t—I should have told you, but I didn’t want to admit that it was my fault. I didn’t want you to know it was my fault your mother was dead.”

Stiles got to his feet. He felt cold all over, and his hands were shaking again. He’d found his words, though. A lot of them. “How could you-” he began, and Derek flinched.

“I’m-” he started, raw, desperate.

“No. Stop. How could you even think I would blame you for this?” he demanded. His voice was overly loud, but not quite yelling. “How could you possibly believe that of me? That I would blame—a child, who’d been held captured and tortured—for that? You…” His voice lowered, softened, as his temper fizzled. “You must think very highly of me.”

Derek gasped, a soft, sharp inhalation. “No. Stiles, if she hadn’t have stopped for me, she would have made it out. They never would have known she was there if I hadn’t slowed her down.”

Stiles shook his head. “My dad didn’t tell me about this because he was protecting you. He didn’t blame you, and I don’t, either,” he said firmly. “But I’m pissed that you never told me this. I can’t—I have to go talk to Dad. I can’t even talk to you right now, because I want to yell. And you don’t deserve that. You were,” he took a deep breath, forcefully lowered his voice again, “wrong to hide this from me, but I know you had a reason….A stupid reason," he added through his teeth. “One you should talk to Doc Morrell or someone about, probably. Jesus, Der,” he muttered, covering his face.

“I’m sorry,” he said quietly.

“I know you are.” He looked at him, his red-rimmed eyes and pale face, the way he was meeting Stiles’s gaze like he was afraid of what he’d see but was looking anyway. Splat, he thought again. “I’m gonna go talk to Dad. I have a bone to pick with him.” And that, he knew, was going to be a more even fight.

“Alright.” Derek lifted a hand partially, then let it fall again, looking ashamed of himself.

Stiles reached out and squeezed his forearm, felt him relax a little as he did it. “We need to talk more, but it should be when we’re both calmer. Okay?”

He nodded. “I still have the knife she gave me.”

“Keep it. You knew her better than I did.”

He flinched, cringing and looking away.

Stiles hesitated, then ran his fingers along Derek’s arm. “I mean that. That wasn’t a shot, or anything. She’d want you to have it, I bet.”

He nodded again, his gaze on his arm where Stiles’s fingers rested.

 

John was pleasantly surprised to see Stiles, at least until he saw his face. “What happened?” he asked, grabbing his arms. “Are you okay?”

Stiles shrugged his hands off. “You never told me my mother died rescuing Derek,” he said. “Why?”

John straightened up, looking shocked. “Because the kid felt guilty enough as it is, anyone could see that,” he said slowly. “Do the details really matter, Stiles?” he asked tiredly.

“Yes, they do! I deserve to know how my mother died! And I can’t—why wouldn’t you just tell me?”

“When should I have done that, Stiles?” John demanded, firing up. “When you were too young to get it? When you were old enough to resent Derek, who was already traumatized by the whole thing? It was better to just let you know what you needed to know—that the OWH killed her on a mission.”

“Why does everyone act like I’m going to hate Derek for this? He was a kid. My mom died saving him—like any of us would have in that situation.”

“Because I hated him!” John yelled. “I hated him, and his family, and this whole damn place because they took her away from us!”

Stiles took a step back, shocked. “Dad, I-” But he didn’t know what to say. The people here, the Hales especially, were like family to them.

“I’ve dealt with it,” he snapped. He sighed and rubbed his face. “I have. I’ve had time to sort myself out and place the blame where it belonged.”

“So, what, you decided to skip that part of the process for me?”

“I wanted to make it easier. You were four years old, Stiles, you didn’t even understand, really, until a couple years later! Derek was in therapy for years, and the poor kid was hovering around you like a body guard, trying to make up for something that wasn’t his fault!” He sighed harshly, covering his mouth and just breathing for a second. “Maybe I made the wrong decision. I just wanted to make things easier on all of you. You were all just kids, and you had so much to deal with already.”

Stiles pulled his hands through his hair, frustrated. He took a couple deep breaths. “I don’t—I’m not mad at everyone about how she died,” he said at last. “I’m mad that it took almost twenty-one years for the truth to come out. I wasn’t even told. I found out from Talia, who thought I already knew.” Stiles scowled. “Derek, Laura, Erica, Talia—the whole family, then, they all knew, and they never said a fucking word. Derek, fine, I get it. Survivor’s guilt or something. Maybe Laura, protecting him. Everyone else?” He paced, angry and confused and hurt. “I just thought my family knew me better than this.”

John sighed. “It was a touchy subject. No matter what choice we made, someone was going to be hurt. I’m sorry it was you, son, I am. It seemed like an easier choice to protect Derek at the time. You barely remembered her, and he’d already been through a lot.”

Stiles sighed. “I understand,” he said finally. He blew out a harsh breath. “Fine. I understand, but I’m too mad to talk rationally about this right now. Okay?”

“Okay.” John nodded. “You take some time. When you’re ready, I’ll tell you whatever you want to know.”

Stiles nodded and swallowed back his temper enough to hug his father tight. “I love you. We’ll talk when I get back.”

John’s hands convulsed on his back, twisting tight in his t-shirt. “I love you, too.”

Chapter Text

Marisol drove them again. When asked, she said she’d been requesting to be their driver, which made Cora high-five her, thrilled.

The ride was extremely awkward, as Stiles was still too angry to speak full sentences to Laura, Erica, or Derek. He rode in front with Marisol most of the way, which made it a little easier. He climbed in back to sit with Scott once it started getting dark. They arrived in Montana just after three in the morning.

“Where are we supposed to meet them?” Laura asked, digging her fingers into the back of Marisol’s seat.

“On the road,” she said tersely. “A few miles from the facility. We’ll want to take a few to strategize, but we shouldn’t take too long. The protest starts at dawn. We want to do our thing just before it gets big, that way the news hits around the same time.”

“Right. Who’s the lead of that team again?”

“Sofia Balleseros. The team is made up of vampires, no humans, no wolves.” Marisol glanced at Laura in the mirror. “We should use Lydia’s smoke bombs, make a mess like Talia said.”

“I agree.” Laura took a breath. “Did you bring your mask, Stiles?” she asked carefully, turning her head.

“Yes.” He didn’t look at her, just focused on cleaning his gun. He heard her sigh.

Scott nudged him. “Switch?” he asked, holding out his own side arm.

“Sure.” He let Scott take the pieces of his own weapon to put together while he cleaned his.

“Have you met or spoken to Balleseros?” Laura asked.

Marisol shook her head. “No, I’ve only ever worked with teams from Ito’s faction and, obviously, Hale’s.” She tapped her fingers. “Jordan and Boyd vouched for her. They worked with her a few times, I think, before they transferred.”

Stiles finished cleaning Scott’s gun and gave it back. “Cora?”

“No, sorry.” She smiled apologetically at him. Her eyes looked tense around the corners, her mouth tight and grim.

She’d been just as surprised by the revelation as Stiles. He wondered what she thought of it all. He hadn’t had a chance to talk to her or Scott about the situation which, he realized, was a mistake. He’d have to do that when they went home. Talking it over with them would probably help him calm down enough to talk about it with Derek and John.

 

It was nearing four in the morning when the Balleseros team caught up to them. They stopped at an abandoned rest stop. There were signs all over the place giving directions to the new rest stop about five miles back.

They pulled in after Marisol had parked their van, finding a shadowy spot in the lot to stop. Laura got out and gestured at the others to stay inside. She crossed her arms and leaned against the side of the van, staring at the other team until their lead got out.

“Hale?” a woman called, jumping out of the van. She was wearing a black hoodie zipped to her throat, boots, and black cargo pants.

“Balleseros?” Laura replied. She didn’t move, but Stiles got the impression she’d tensed.

“That’s me. Come on, we should go inside. Don’t want any idiots on the road to decide this place is still open just because they saw people here.” She whistled softly. “I’m Sofia.”

“Laura,” she replied, knocking her knuckles on the side of the van. “Come on.”

Stiles climbed out behind Scott and in front of Cora, crossing his arms so his fingertips brushed the handles of his knives. He watched as the other team got out of their van, five figures ranging themselves on either side of Sofia.

“Alright, we’ll do introductions inside,” Sofia said impatiently, shoving one of the men by her shoulder. “Move it. Trace, leave the van, no one will notice it, there are no lights,” she snapped, prompting the driver to get out, jiggling keys in his palm.

The building was dusty and very likely moldy, but the windows were boarded up, so they could turn on a lantern in the middle of the main room. Marisol made a face at the garbage littering the floor, using her foot to move some crumpled magazines. Cigarette butts and empty lighters were scattered under the pages.

“Nice,” she muttered.

“I’m Sofia,” she said loudly. “This is our driver Trace, that’s Troy, Win, Selena, and Luis.” She gestured to each of them as she said their names.

While Laura introduced her team, Stiles looked around. It looked like people had been using it for a variety of things, but mostly smoking and drinking. Too bad. If the water was still running, it’d be a good place for someone to hunker down, out of the sun and prying eyes of OWH hunters everywhere. He dragged the toe of his boot through the dirt and dust littering the floor, tipping his head and squinting. Something like a glove—oh. He cringed and turned away.

“Hey.” Scott touched his elbow. “Stay with the group.”

“You think there are rats in here?” he asked, rubbing his hands against his thighs.

Scott snorted and tapped the side of his nose. “I know there are rats in here.”

“Oh. Ew.” Stiles looked at the floor, suddenly afraid of stepping on something alive. “What do you think?” he breathed, flicking his gaze toward the other team.

Scott shrugged and nodded. “Sofia’s kinda like Laura,” he said, just above a whisper.

Across the room, Sofia chuckled. “Okay, how about we compare directives? Yolanda told us we need to make a mess, so we figured the best way to do that is to set explosives on the top floor and all the way down. It’ll be loud, make a bigger mess than just the one, and it’ll give us a hell of a fire show.” She gestured at a brunette standing by the door they’d come in. “Win is our pyrotech.”

“The plan is to have them go off one by one,” Win said immediately, turning away from the door. “A couple minutes apart, top floor going first. The floor just above the lobby will be last, and hopefully we’ll be out by that time. The integrity of the building will be severely compromised by then.”

“So we’ll be at the bottom floor,” Laura said. “Make sure we can all get back out and keep their attention on us so you guys have time to work, right?”

“Right. My team is trained to work Win’s explosives, so spreading out is the best option.”

Laura nodded. “Dr. Lydia Martin sent a crateful of extra smoke bombs. She’s the one who created the ones distributed throughout the Pack,” she added with pride.

Sofia grinned. “We heard. That doesn’t affect your human?”

While Laura explained the masks, the teams mingled, losing their tension enough to start talking to each other. Stiles figured most of the plan was to make as much of a ruckus as possible as they were going in, so it was probably okay that they take a minute to talk.

“Luis will distract the gate guard while Selena makes sure it’s not electrified. We could pick it or go over it,” Sofia said with a negligent little shrug, “but it’ll be easier to make sure we can still get back out if we just bust it down. Troy and I will do that,” she added.

“Hey,” a thin, dark haired guy said, approaching Stiles. “Luis,” he added when Stiles stared blankly at him. “You and the driver are the only humans on the team?” His eyes gleamed briefly silver in the dark.

“Oh, heh. Yeah, we’re the only ones. We hold our own though.” He glanced over at Scott, who was talking with Cora and Troy, he thought.

“What do you do for the team?” Luis asked. “Medic?”

“No, my buddy Scott is the medic. Erica and Derek are on stealth,” he added pleasantly. “Laura’s lead.”

Luis nodded, his expression thoughtful. “You and the other girl are the killers, then,” he surmised.

“We have a talent for compartmentalizing.” He shrugged. “What about you?”

Luis grinned. “Stealth and misdirection. I have a nonthreatening appearance that works in my favor.”

Stiles bobbed his head.

“Our medic is Troy,” Luis continued. “So if you can’t get to Scott and you need help, he can fix you up.”

Stiles nodded again. He wasn’t in the mood to chat, though he understood the importance of it. Their lives were now dependent on trusting each other. He couldn’t make himself care about getting to know them or their jobs, though. It was stupid and dangerous, to be as distracted by personal problems before a mission. He rolled his shoulders and looked at Luis, who was smiling at him. “What’s Selena’s job?” he asked.

Luis’s smile widened.

 

It was edging toward dawn when they got on the road again. The Balleseros team drove fast, with two of them on modified, whisper-quiet motorcycles, flanking the vans to keep them together.

“See you guys,” Marisol whispered when they got to the place the vans and drivers would be staying. “Be safe.”

Cora waved at her and jumped out last, catching up to Stiles to get into position.

The two teams spread out; the facility was surrounded by a fence with one armed guard walking the gate. While they waited in the shadows, Luis approached the guard. He looked incredibly vulnerable, walking alone up the path. He was wearing a hoodie over his Kevlar vest, his hands open at his sides, his stride loose.

Stiles put his mask and goggles on, because they would be using the smoke bombs soon enough. Beside him, Cora had her gun out, practically vibrating with excitement. Derek, Stiles couldn’t help noticing, looked pale as he stared up at the building.

Stiles stepped between him and Scott, sliding his hand down and squeezing Derek’s fingers.

He let out a soft sigh and twisted his wrist, gripping back with a sweaty palm.

“What are you looking for?” the guard snapped, loud enough that they heard him clearly. “The road’s that way!”

“¿Qué?” Luis asked slowly, frowning. “¿Dónde está el camino?” He asked something else in rapid-fire Spanish that Stiles couldn’t follow but that made Cora giggle.

The guard sighed loudly and replied in Spanish that was flat and bored. He pointed to the road and muttered, “Damn Mexicans,” when Luis had turned away.

Selena dropped from on top of the fence directly behind him. “Actually, he’s Puerto Rican,” she said pleasantly, and snapped his neck.

“You’re such a smartass,” Luis whispered. “Troy, Sofia? Want to bust open the gates?” He and Selena stepped aside, well out of the way of the gate.

They could have scaled it or picked the lock—Sofia had been right about that—but since the plan was “storm the place and make a mess” basically, Sofia and Troy had split off and hotwired a large pick-up truck that could handle the job. The truck bounced into view a second after Luis and Selena had cleared the road.

Stiles snorted at the sight of it. He doubted they could’ve found a more obnoxious vehicle if they tried. There were spray painted flames along the sides, the wheels were enormous, and there was a large exhaust pipe sticking up behind the cab.

Sofia leaned out of the driver’s window and whistled, looking positively thrilled. “Ready?”

Luis saluted her and Selena gestured grandly at the gate, snickering when Luis elbowed her.

Sofia revved the engine and Troy, from the other side, let out a wild laugh, slapping the door. The truck shot forward, ramming into the gate. The feeble chain link popped open, tearing half the fence down with it.

A klaxon started blaring as soon as they hit. Sofia jumped out of the truck, leaving it running just inside the property while the rest rushed to meet them.

“Use the stairs, no elevators. Two to a floor, got it?” Sofia called.

“Yes, ma’am,” Troy replied, pulling his gun over in front of him.

“Make a mess,” Laura said when her team turned to face her.

Stiles, Laura, and Cora took the lead, guns drawn with the Balleseros team right behind them. They blocked the first wave of OWH guards that rushed to the stop them. Stiles met his first opponent with a wash of icy, familiar adrenaline in his veins; he felt his personal problems melt away as he fought. He blocked the first blow and ducked the second, knocking the gun from his opponent’s hand. He grabbed his wrist and twisted until he felt the bones grinding together, then snapped the bone over his thigh. While he screamed, Stiles grabbed his head and slammed his face into his knee.

He moved on to the next guard, grabbing the back of her vest as she rushed toward Scott. He yanked her off balance, throwing her to the ground. While she scrambled for her gun, he shot her in the head and left her body for the next one. He used his sidearm for the most part, until the magazine ran out and he couldn’t find time to reload. He reared back and kicked the man running at him, giving himself just enough space to yank his knives out of their sheaths.

The man rushed him again, so Stiles let him get in close, then cut his throat in one clean swipe. He twisted and slashed open another guard’s arm as that man went down.

She yelped and punched at his face, only managing to bash her knuckles against his mask; Stiles made a mental note to thank Lydia for making the masks so strong and plunged his knife into the side of the guard’s neck.

Across the lot, cracks and pops joined the cacophony of shouting and blaring alarms, red smoke billowing from where Erica was activating smoke bombs.

Stiles reached to check his goggles automatically and got tackled in his moment of distraction, his own knife slashing open his outer arm as he went down. He locked his legs around his attacker’s waist and twisted, slamming their shoulders into the pavement. He yanked his arm free and stabbed the guard in the throat, yanking it to the side until blood gushed out.

Cora grabbed Stiles’s upper arm and jerked him to his feet. “C’mon, we have to clear a path to the door for the B team,” she said, wisely omitting their last names.

They ran to the doors together, where Stiles had time to reload his gun while Cora yanked the door open. Stiles ran in, meeting the first hunter with a shot to the face. He shot the next in the thigh, then the head, and the next only got grazed before the Balleseros team was rushing in behind him.

“Stairs are this way,” he said, pinning a hunter to the floor with his boot and shooting her before she could get back up.

Luis winked at him as he ran past, ducking out of the way when a guard swung a silver baton at his head.

Stiles blocked the swing with his forearm and kicked the guard’s ankle, knocking her off balance just enough for him to thrust his gun under her chin and shoot. He shoved her body at the next hunter who ran at him; while he was finding his footing, Stiles shot him, too.

“Spread out!” Laura ordered over their comms. “Keep them busy! Don’t let anyone out, don’t let anyone get up the stairs!”

Derek and Erica split off together; Cora stuck with Laura, which left Scott with Stiles. That was fine with him.

The alarm was still blaring, even on the inside, and on top of the general shouting that accompanied the fights, people were screaming from the red smoke, which burned human eyes and throats.

Stiles wrenched back a hunter’s arm until she whimpered, slamming her wrist over his thigh until she dropped her weapon. When he loosened his grip, she reared up, punching him under the chin. He tripped over a body and hit the floor. Before she could kick him, he snapped up her gun and shot her in the thigh, then the face.

Scott kicked a gun toward him, grinning, and physically threw a hunter at a guard.

 

The door to the stairwell flew open much sooner than Stiles was expecting. “Round up!” Sofia yelled, sharp and clear over the discord of the fighting. “Two minutes!”

All around them, OWH employees echoed her in panic, twisting around to see who’d shouted, to see if it was one of their own. When they saw her, no white OWH insignia on her gear, there was a mad scramble toward the doors, shouting and shoving as they tried to get out.

“Scott, Cora, help me clear the doors!” Laura snapped. “Stiles, Erica and Derek went down the west hall, and they aren’t answering me! Comms might be busted,” she added. “Get their attention so we can clear out.”

Scott fought his way toward the doors, where the employees, hunters, guards, and even the scientists, were fighting to get out.

“One minute!” Sofia yelled.

Luis ran past her to help with the crowd, so Stiles ducked around a woman trying to shoot him and stabbed the back of her neck, twisting his knife sharply and leaving her to fall among the rest of the bodies.

“Be quick!” Sofia warned him.

Stiles was grappling with a man roughly the size of a refrigerator at the moment and couldn’t answer, as he was intent on getting his hands around Stiles’s neck. He let him, then slashed open his wrist from the inside; blood gushed over the side of his face and throat where it was exposed. He jerked free while the man was distracted and jammed one of his knives under his chin, the other sliding with practiced ease across his throat. Blood spattered Stiles’s goggles and forehead. The giant collapsed on him, nearly knocking him to the floor. He grunted and turned, dumping the body aside.

An explosion rocked the ground, his boots slipping and sliding over the blood slicked tiles underfoot. He looked up, heart hammering, and saw that the ceiling already had a crack in it.

A woman lurched into his path, slamming her gun across the side of his mask, knocking him off balance.

He shoved her as he tripped, throwing her aim off before she could shoot him. He caught himself on the wall and snapped a powerful kick at her thigh. He shoved himself back upright and grabbed her arm, yanking her in close and cutting her throat while she was still trying to bring her gun up to protect herself.

Her hand convulsed as she choked on her own blood; the bullet slammed into the tiles as another explosion shook the building. Plaster dust rained down on them.

He found the hall where Erica and Derek were fighting. A third blast knocked him to his knees, far too soon after the last. The power flickered, then went out. Emergency lights kicked on in time for him to see a boot swinging toward his face. He jerked his arms up to block his head automatically. The force slammed the hilts of his knives against his chin, and the blades pierced his attacker’s boot.

He howled in pain, jerking away and falling, clutching his foot.

Stiles yanked his knives free and straddled him, pinning his arms to his sides. He cut his throat messily while he was still screaming.

Stiles!” Laura shouted. “Someone tried to disable the explosives—they’re all going off too soon. We have to go!”

“Almost done!” he yelled back. He sheathed his knives and picked up a fallen gun.

Erica and Derek were only about thirty feet away; Erica was fighting two men and Derek was staring, frozen, through a window to a lab.

“Guys! Derek! Erica!” he called. “We have to go!”

Erica jerked her head back, slamming it into the nose of the man holding her, knocking his grip loose. She reached out and snapped the neck of the other man, then turned around and snatched the gun from the second man’s holster, ramming it against the side of his head and shooting before he could react. She spun and grabbed Derek’s arm, but he shook her off, muttering something Stiles couldn’t catch.

“Guys! Now—” Another explosion, louder and more powerful than the others, knocked Stiles to his knees again, making his ears ring as half the ceiling collapsed between himself and Derek and Erica. “Guys? Are you okay?” he called, grateful for the mask once again.

“Yeah!” Erica replied. “Derek, come on!

The dust settled enough that he could see them, still on their feet; Derek was still staring into that window. He gasped a little and said something, taking a halting step toward the window while Stiles was panicking. He’d lost count. How many of the bombs had already gone off? How many were left? How many until the biggest and most dangerous? Then Derek ran forward, toward the door of the lab he’d been staring at.

“Derek-!” The world seemed to end; everything was noise and white dust, a deep, distant ringing filling Stiles’s ears. The ceiling rained down, obscuring Stiles’s view of the other two. Someone grabbed his arm while the world was still shaking, yanking him back before a piece of the building could crush him, but he fought their grip. “No! Derek!” he screamed. “Erica!” His throat burned from the force of his shouts. “Let me go!” he snarled furiously, thrashing. “Guys!” he yelled. “Please!” His voice broke as he fought whoever was dragging him away. Tears filled his eyes, obscuring his vision. “Derek!” he cried, kicking hard against the floor to get away. The building creaked ominously over the ringing in his ears, and then something smacked the back of his head. The world went black and quiet. He didn’t even feel himself collapse.

Chapter Text

Stiles woke up with tubes under his nose, and one attached to the top of his hand with a needle, because people were terrible. He blinked blearily until his vision cleared. His body felt sore but also kind of floaty, like he was drugged. His gaze dropped to the IV in his hand.

“Hey! Your eyes are open!” a too-loud voice announced. Scott loomed over him suddenly, grinning. His eyes looked bloodshot, which made Stiles wonder how badly he was hurt. “Hey,” he said again, softer this time.

“Wha’happened?” Stiles asked. He was a little surprised to hear himself slurring pretty badly.

“You got hit on the head really hard,” Scott explained. “Doc Genesco had to use magic and a tiny bit of vamp blood to make sure you didn’t have brain damage.”

A brief flash of memory came to him, screaming and rumbling and then a solid thunk to the back of his head. “Oh. Ouch.”

“Yeah,” Scott breathed. He sniffed and cleared his throat. “You were down for a little while.” He looked around, just as Laura and Cora came through the privacy curtains.

“Hey,” Cora said with a shaky smile.

They were starting to freak him out a bit. Panicked, he wiggled his toes and fingers, taking stock of his limbs. It seemed like he had all of them, and could move them. What were they so upset about? “What happened?” he asked again, more clearly. “Are you guys okay?”

“Yes,” Laura said, shooting a stern look at Scott and Cora. “We’re fine. As for the mission…Sofia Balleseros went back for you when the building started to collapse; she carried you. Some debris hit your head, so when she came out, we thought you were dead.”

He remembered arms dragging him back from rubble; he frowned, because he could also remember fighting those arms. Why fight when the building was coming down? “I see,” he said slowly, though he didn’t, really. He tried to grin. “Where’s my loving boyfriend? And Erica?” he asked with rising indignation. “I expect the whole team to fawn over me until I’m better.”

Silent tears rolled from Cora’s eyes, making his heart start to thump. Scott didn’t look far behind in the tear department, but Laura’s face remained stoic.

“When Sofia saved you from being crushed, you were trying to get to Erica and Derek, who were on the far end of the hall that collapsed in the blast,” she said, monotone. “As the building began to fall, it was unfortunate but necessary to leave without going back for them.”

A monitor began beeping wildly to his left. “We left them behind?” he asked.

“We didn’t have a choice,” Cora gasped, wiping her cheeks. “We were too far away—we almost didn’t get you out.”

“They weren’t hurt in the blast! They were still alive—still on their feet, even! We have to go back,” Stiles decided. He whipped the blanket off his legs and struggled to sit up, gritting his teeth against the wave of dizziness.

Scott jumped forward and pushed gently on his shoulders. “We can’t, Stiles. It’s-”

“Yes we can. They’re okay—they’re waiting for us—get off me!” he snapped, shoving Scott’s hands away. Lights popped in his vision but he was determined and managed to get his feet on the floor. “We’re going back for them. I’m going back for them. We can’t just—just leave them,” he panted, struggling to stand up.

Scott put a hand on his chest. “Stiles. We can’t.”

“Stop saying that!” he yelled, shoving him away. “They aren’t just gone! We can’t just-”

Someone grabbed his arms from behind, holding him still. “Calm down, Stilinski,” Dr. Genesco said firmly. “You’re going to hurt yourself further.”

Let go! I’m leaving, I’m going to-” He bucked hard, freeing himself enough to knock the back of his hand hard across Dr. Genesco’s face. Momentarily freed, he lurched away from the bed, yanking whatever machines he was attached to with him. “I’m going to get them, we have to…get…them.” Holding his head up suddenly became the hardest thing he’d ever done. He stumbled, flinging a hand out to stop himself from falling, but Dr. Genesco had grabbed him, holding him up right. He twisted around with one last burst of strength to see Isaac injecting a sedative into his IV. “No, I—I have to—they…” His tongue felt thick and clumsy in his mouth, and his legs went boneless beneath him.

 

When Stiles woke up, his eyes felt gummy. He tried to reach up to wipe at them, but something around his wrist stopped him. He blinked and looked down. Black straps pinned his wrists and ankles to the bed, keeping him in place. He snorted in frustration, yanking futilely at his restraints. He looked around, furious, and saw John talking to Talia and Ian through an opening in the curtains drawn around his bed.

“Dad,” he called, irritated that his voice was barely more than a dry rasp. “Dad!

John turned, relief flooding his face. “Hey, kid.” He stepped around Ian and rushed to Stiles’s side. “How’re you feeling?”

“Tired. Pissed. Let me out of these things.”

“Ah….sorry, kiddo. Can’t until Dr. Genesco says you’re okay.”

Why not?” Stiles snapped. “I’m fine!”

John’s face went stern. “Because you could’ve hurt yourself, so you’re staying there as long as the doctor says you need to.”

“He’s just mad that I managed to hit him while I was drugged,” Stiles grumbled. He felt his lip tremble and bit down on it. “They have Derek and Erica, Dad,” he said quietly. “I was right there.” He blinked hard and stared straight ahead, focusing on the privacy curtains around his bed. “I could see them, and I could’ve gotten to them if I was faster.”

“Son, the building was falling apart. You can’t blame yourself.” John hesitated, then put his hand on Stiles’s shoulder. “From what I heard, you didn’t have much of a choice.”

“Because Balleseros dragged me out,” he said between his teeth. “I tried to get to them, but she grabbed me.”

“So that you weren’t killed,” he reminded him.

Talia and Ian joined them before Stiles could respond. “How’s your head?” Talia asked, smiling briefly.

“Fine. When can we go get them?” he asked bluntly.

“It’s very unlikely that they’re still in that building, or what’s left of it,” Talia said.

“Okay, so when can we start looking for them?”

“Each faction of the Pack has surveillance teams whose jobs are finding missing members.” She was speaking carefully, watching his face as each word hit home.

“So, what, we’re just not going to look for them?!” he exploded. “We’re just going to leave them, let them think we abandoned—?” He yanked on his restraints, furious that he had to do this laying down, that he couldn’t gesticulate as he normally would.

“You and your team can’t go looking for them,” Talia said firmly, while Ian poured him a cup of water he didn’t want. “There’s too much going on, and it’s too dangerous.” She took a deep breath. “The OWH has likely figured out they’re part of the Pack and will expect us to come after two of our own.”

“Which we aren’t doing because…?” he prompted impatiently.

John popped him gently over the head with the heel of his hand. “Because they’d know we were coming and take even more of us captive, boy.”

“Plus, we don’t even know where they are,” Ian said, bringing the cup to Stiles. “Can’t send a rescue team if we don’t know where to send it.”

“If we’d have been quicker, they’d still be in Montana!” Stiles snapped, then choked when Ian shoved a straw in his mouth. He glowered but drank, figuring it’d get him away faster.

“You’re not going to look for them,” Talia said. “That is a direct order.”

Stiles closed his mouth. Infuriatingly, tears flooded his eyes, hopelessness crushing his lungs. “I can’t just—we can’t—” He shook his head, fighting off the urge to scream. “I was only twenty feet from them,” he whispered. “I was right there.

“You wouldn’t have made it,” Talia said. She seemed to be coping the same way Laura was, by keeping eerily calm. Or maybe she was just that cold blooded. “They were too far away, and Derek was for some reason unwilling to move.”

“I could have—wait. What did you say?” Stiles’s gaze jumped to John, then Ian, and back to Talia, his heart clenching. “How did you know that? How could you have-”

“Your body cams,” John said quickly, before Stiles could panic further. “You were all wearing them. We watched yours to see if we could figure out what happened, why Derek wouldn’t move.”

Stiles choked, jerking hard as his stomach lurched.

Ian and Talia unbuckled his wrist restraints lightning quick, just in time for him to lean over the side of the bed and puke. His stomach seized until nothing was left and he was dry heaving and gasping in turns while John rubbed his back. He’d climbed onto the bed with him, half holding him, petting his hair while Talia unbuckled his other restraints.

He turned his face, pressing it into his father’s chest, breathing hard. “He—was thinking about—his time there—because of me,” he gasped, shaking so roughly that he could barely get the words out. “If-if I hadn’t have m-made such a big deal—but I barely spoke to him—I knew he was afraid—it’s my fault he wouldn’t move.”

John grabbed the back of his neck and shook him a little. “That’s bullshit and you know it.”

“I-”

“It wasn’t Derek’s fault with your mother and it’s not your fault now.”

“Dad, Erica and Derek are gone. Because I couldn’t get to them and because I was mad at Derek and he was too traumatized to be there but he didn’t tell anyone because instead of talking to him, I yelled at him!” Exhausted, he leaned more heavily against John, still shaking.

“You should watch the videos,” Talia said after a moment. “When Dr. Genesco releases you in the morning, Laura, Cora, and Scott will come get you, and you’ll all watch the videos. For the time being, Stiles, you’re effectively grounded, until Dr. Morell releases you for field work. The same goes for the other three,” she added sharply before he could protest. “I believe you’ll feel marginally better after seeing the videos,” she said. “Your team is waiting until you can join them before they watch.”

He nodded, swallowing thickly. “Okay.”

“Okay. I’ll send someone to clean this up,” she said, backing away.

Ian reached out and rubbed Stiles’s shoulder before he followed her.

John mercifully convinced Genesco to let Stiles get out of bed to use the bathroom and brush his teeth. Right after, though, he was sent back to bed.

Dr. Genesco said, “If you put up a fight again, we’ll sedate and strap you down again, and we’ll bring a bedpan.” So he was probably still mad about the busted nose that had long since healed.

Stiles got into bed. Now that he’d let out…all of that…he just wanted to sleep. He wanted to do nothing more than sleep ever again, actually, as long as he lived in a world where he’d been formally ordered not to look for his missing teammates.

“You don’t have to stay,” he whispered to John, who gave him a flat look.

“Cute. Get in bed. I’ll be right here.” He settled into his chair with a book in hand.

Stiles shrugged and climbed into bed, pulling the blanket into his lap. Thankfully, some efficient orderly had mopped up the sick, leaving behind a faint scent of lemons.

John, as promised, stayed while Stiles’s eyes drooped, while he curled down under his blanket and laid down, and he stayed when, even as exhausted as he was, Stiles couldn’t sleep. Memories slid around behind his eyes, slick and blurry like unfocused photos. He pressed his face into the pillow and tried to remember if he’d seen Erica move out of the way before the ceiling came down, or if Derek had been hit; he fell asleep trying.

 

John was still there in the morning, looking sleepy but pleased when Melissa declared Stiles fit enough to leave the infirmary. Dr. Genesco had left for some sleep a few hours before; Stiles guessed siccing Melissa on him was payback for the nose thing.

“Come back here when you’re done,” Melissa said sternly. “You’re not done being treated. We need to monitor you until the vamp blood is done doing its thing and is out of your system. It’s potent, remember.”

“I know,” he muttered, tugging on the clothes Scott had brought for him. He layered a hoodie over his t-shirt gratefully. His left arm had a line of stitches in it, from a gash that was healing very quickly, along with the bandage over the back of his hand from the IV.

“Alright then. You’re free to go.” She ruffled his hair and squeezed his upper arm before she walked away to see to her other patients.

“Want me to come with?” John asked, setting a hand on his shoulder.

Stiles shook his head. “No, I’m fine. Scott and Cora are waiting right in the hall.”

“Alright. Make sure you come back.”

He quirked a faint smile. “Why, you gonna hunt me down?”

“No. Mel will.”

He grimaced automatically. “Yeah, I know.”

Scott and Cora looked relieved to see him on his feet and not raving like a lunatic. Scott put his arm tentatively over his shoulders, smiling when Stiles leaned against him.

“How do you feel?” Cora asked, glancing at the side of his face.

“Slightly better than road kill,” he replied. “A building fell on me.”

She laughed wetly. “Just a piece of one.” She slid her arm around his waist so he was squished between them. It wasn’t such a bad place to be. “We didn’t watch the videos. We wanted to wait for you.”

“Thanks.”

Laura was waiting in the tech lab for them, standing next to Boyd, who looked as drawn and upset as Stiles was. He grimaced and wondered if he’d gotten to say goodbye before they left.

Danny beckoned all of them to his work station, which had the biggest screens. “Whose vest do you want to see first?” he asked quietly. He cast a fleeting glance at Stiles, brows furrowed with concern, but his gaze settled on Laura.

“Erica, Stiles, or Derek. Whoever’s feed cut out first,” she said. “We all know what happened on ours.”

“Alright. Shortest would be Stiles’s, his cam got damaged when Sofia was getting out of the building.” Danny turned and pulled up a video. He fast-forwarded until he reached Stiles running for the hallway.

He flinched a little when he caught sight of Erica and Derek down the long hallway, cringing as he heard himself panting. He heard Cora murmur, “Why isn’t he moving?” as they watched Erica fight and Stiles hit the floor when a blast rocked the ground.

Scott squeezed Stiles’s shoulders when they heard him shouting for them, and when Derek refused to move.

The video lasted even after Stiles was unconscious, blood from either his wounds or the enemy’s staining the lens of the camera. The video was jerky and hard to follow, facing the falling debris as Sofia ran from the building. He caught sight of the edge of his jaw as his head flopped onto his chest; he grimaced and looked away. Sofia said, “Oh, fuck,” and something smashed into the camera, ending the video.

Stiles lifted a hand to his chest, where the cam rested on his vest. The skin felt a little tender, but the vampire blood had obviously already been healing it. He tugged the collar of his shirt down and saw the edge of a fading bruise.

“I don’t understand,” Cora said blankly. She looked at Laura. “Why would he just stand there like that? While Stiles—the way he was screaming for—it was…horrible.” She looked over at Stiles, looking heartbroken. “How could anyone just ignore that?”

Stiles wanted to be embarrassed, but he couldn’t work up the energy.

“We’ll have to watch his video to find out.” Laura nodded at Danny.

Derek’s video was…strange. He was fighting fine—not like someone trapped in horrific memories—and even helped Erica until he turned toward that damn window. Movement from his camera stopped so abruptly that Stiles thought the video froze for a moment, until he heard his own voice call out. There was a glare on the glass that Derek was staring into, making it impossible to clearly see what he was looking at.

Stiles could make out counters littered with equipment and a table in the lab, movement of the scientists rushing around. When the camera—it was easier to think of it as the camera rather than Derek—moved closer to the glass, he could sort of make out more, a cell in the far corner, someone strapped to a table and covered with a sheet, thrashing wildly.

“I can’t see what he’s looking at,” Scott said when the first big explosion shook the video wildly.

“Me neither,” Cora mumbled.

“Looks like a prisoner,” Laura said. She cleared her throat. “It looks like he saw a captive and froze.”

“Derek!” Erica yelled on screen. “What are you doing?!” The camera jerked as she grabbed Derek’s arm, pulling him off balance.

He shook her off. “There’s someone…how?” he muttered, sounding dazed.

Guys!” Stiles’s voice yelled, raw, desperate. He hated hearing it. “Now!

The next explosion was bigger, the video shaking wildly as Derek struggled to stay on his feet. He gasped a little, just enough that the video’s audio caught it. “No,” he said, quiet and anguished. The camera jolted another step closer to the window.

The lab was partially obscured from the debris, so now they really couldn’t see what he was looking at.

Stiles gripped Scott’s hand so hard his muscles started shaking, but Scott didn’t seem to mind.

The video picked up his own voice, screaming for Erica and Derek as the last bomb went off, but the desperate yelling got quieter as Derek ran for the lab.

“Der, the building is coming down,” Erica said. “What are you doing?

Derek turned sharply, enough that they caught a flash of Erica in the video as he grabbed her, yanking her into the lab he’d run in, just as the rest of the hall collapsed, blocking them in.

“What the fuck, Derek?” Erica came back into view when Derek stepped back. She had a gash on her forehead. Boyd sucked in a sharp breath, but it was healing as they watched.

“She’s still alive,” he said breathlessly, and then a gunshot cracked out, the video cutting off immediately.

Stiles flinched. “Wh—that’s it?” he croaked. “Is he—was that—how do we—?” His breath hiccupped and he bowed forward, gaping uselessly like a fish out of water, unable to draw in air.

“Wait, wait, calm down,” Danny said swiftly. “Erica’s video goes a little longer, watch, he’s fine.”

Scott pulled Stiles up by the shoulders, straightening him up and forcing him to gasp in a lungful of air.

Danny sped through Erica’s video, too, through Derek dragging her to safety—he was so pale that he seemed to glow in the emergency lights—then let it play.

“She’s still alive,” Derek said breathlessly, his face lit with hope, and a gunshot cracked out. Derek stumbled as the bullet hit his vest.

Erica turned sharply and shot at their attacker, a hunter who’d apparently hidden in the lab for cover. “Are you—? And who—live?”

“Her cam got a little damaged, so the audio cuts out a couple times, but they’re both alive,” Danny said quietly.

“—understand how that’s—ssible,” Erica said. She followed as Derek started navigating the wreckage that blocked them off from the rest of the lab. “—be wrong, you know. Just be—” whatever else she said was lost, but the video kept going.

They saw Derek lose his footing and slice open his arm on a metal rod, saw Erica find a body in the rubble. The audio flickered back on enough for them to hear Derek shout, “Get down!” before the video cut out in a bright flash of light and a yelp.

Stiles was trembling. He couldn’t understand how Talia could see that video and decide not to send someone. They were clearly still alive! They were still in the building! Maybe still were, even now, waiting for help.

“Why—” Cora cleared her throat. “Why wouldn’t Mom let us go back for them?” she asked shakily. “They’re still alive! They’re okay!”

“Because that video is two days old now,” Laura replied stiffly. “They won’t be there anymore. If they made it out without being captured, they’ll follow protocol and should be here in a week.”

“What if they’re hurt?” Cora pressed. “That lab probably has tons of wolfsbane and silver in it! If she’d have let us go right away—”

“Protocol,” Laura said again, cutting her off. “We had a badly injured teammate. He took priority.”

Stiles’s stomach churned with guilt. He breathed deeply, afraid he might be sick again. He cleared his throat, thought he was okay, then thought, Nope.

Scott managed to swing him around and direct him toward a trash can before it came up. He rubbed his back until he’d finished gagging.

“Protocol also says that when something traumatic like this happens, we’re all grounded and to see one of the various bunker therapists until they release us for field work.” Laura glanced at Stiles, still hunched over the trash can, panting and sweating. “I believe that would be for the best.”

Cora shook her head, eyes gleaming with tears. “This is stupid. We should be going to get them, we shouldn’t-” She cut off, wiping impatiently at her face. “Is that all, Danny?” she barked, spinning to face him. “The whole video? That’s it?”

Danny replied, “Yes,” but something in his face was…off. It was there and gone again in a flash, so quick that Stiles wasn’t entirely sure he’d seen it at all.

He slumped back against Scott’s arm, exhausted. He was sweaty and gross, and his mouth tasted like death.

Scott rubbed his back briskly and helped him to his feet. “You should go back and get some rest and fluids,” he said quietly. “You’re dehydrated.”

Stiles nodded and let Scott put his arm around him, using gentle pressure to guide him away. He looked over his shoulder and found Boyd staring after him. They locked gazes and, after a second, he nodded.

Chapter Text

4 Weeks later

Stiles was leaner than he’d ever been. With his wounds fully healed and his team grounded, he had nothing to do but go to his sessions with Dr. Morell and work out. It turned out a body could subside on barely-suppressed rage and protein bars, even if it shouldn’t. He was stronger, too, taking down everyone he sparred with relative ease, even the supernaturals.

“Hey,” Laura called while he was sparring with Jessa. “Doc Morell just cleared you for field work.” She waited beside the mats while they untangled from each other. She, Cora, and Scott had been cleared a week and a half prior; they’d been waiting on him. “Jordan’s filling one of the spaces on the team. We’ve got a mission,” she added.

Stiles tapped out then. “Sorry, Jessa,” he said, but she just shrugged and beckoned one of her own teammates to finish up with. “What’s the mission?” he asked, stepping off the mats and wiping his face on his towel.

Laura sighed quietly. “Rescue and relocation of a kitsune family. They’ve been living on the outside but they got in contact with a Pack liaison requesting help. They think they’ve been discovered.”

Stiles nodded. He was disappointed, but he hadn’t expected to be sent on a high-risk mission right away anyway. At least they’d be back out there instead of stuck here, doing nothing. “Have-”

“None of the surveillance teams have found any sign of either of them,” Laura said tiredly before he could ask.

He scowled. “Maybe if our sur-”

“Stiles. Stop.” Laura stared him straight in the eye, her expression stern. “If you keep pushing, you’re going to get grounded again. I am already down two team mates. Don’t make it worse.”

Stiles opened his mouth to argue, but caught himself. If he got taken off field work again, it would take even longer to convince Talia that looking for Erica and Derek was necessary, not playing favorites. “Fine,” he muttered.

“Good. Come on, you should get your gear together now. We’re leaving in a couple hours.”

“Okay. I have to stop at the tech lab, too, so I’ll just catch up with you.”

She frowned. “Why?”

“My vest cam was damaged, remember?” he asked. “Danny told me to come get a new one before my next mission.”

“Oh, right. Well, okay. Scott will wait for you in the hall then. You guys can meet us in the garage.”

“Talia isn’t going to brief us first?”

“No. Dad told me the details, it’s pretty straight forward. Get the family, move them safely to Seattle, where one of our boats is waiting to take them to the Alaskan territory.”

“Right.” Stiles scooped up his water bottle. “Okay. I’ll meet you in the garage then.”

She nodded, but as he left, he could feel her eyes on his back.

Foster nodded to him when he got to the tech lab, spinning in her chair as she walked some trainees through their simulation over a comm system. She made a face and mouthed, ‘teenagers’ when he lifted his brows.

He stopped at Boyd’s desk before he went to get his new cam from Danny, who told him to try not to break this one. “Yeah, I doubt it’ll get broken on this mission. Rescue and relocation,” he added when Danny frowned.

“Right, well, still. This one is a little heavier duty anyway. Trying out some new gear, figured since you needed a new one, might as well give it to you to try. It should be harder to break. I don’t know if it’ll withstand everything, but it should put up a fight.”

“Thanks, Danny.”

“You’re welcome.” He hesitated, then said, “Well, good luck.” He looked at Stiles with a puzzled expression for a moment, but apparently decided not to say anything.

“Thanks.” He knocked on the edge of his desk and left the lab without looking back. It wasn’t that unusual. People were probably wondering if he was up for field work again. It didn’t matter, he decided. Didn’t matter what they thought, or anyone, really. He’d convinced Morell he was ready, so he would be.

 

Scott helped him get his gear packed. Most of it was in his footlocker where it was supposed to be, but his boots had gotten separated and his favorite knife was missing.

“Found one!” Scott yelled, yanking the left boot from under the couch. “Why was it under here?” he wondered, getting up and tossing it to Stiles.

“Dunno.” He set it on the bed. He looked around. “Aha. The other one’s over here,” he said, spotting it wedged between the nightstand and the bed.

“Any chance you’ll just use another knife?” Scott asked, huffing when he couldn’t find it.

“No.”

He sighed. “Didn’t think so. Okay…” He started searching between the couch cushions, sweeping his hands over and under them.

Stiles pulled his boots on while he thought, trying to remember the last time he’d used the knife. It really was his favorite, the handle worn smooth from years of use, the blade well sharpened and tended to meticulously. A phantom spray of blood on his cheek made him jolt, reminding him of the nightmare…to which he’d responded by… “Hey, check by the TV,” he suggested, wiping at his cheek even though he knew nothing was there.

Scott obliged, leaving the couch to go look beside and below the TV. He leaned down to the wooden stand under it and grunted, then emerged with the knife, looking bewildered. “Why…”

“I had a nightmare a couple weeks ago,” Stiles mumbled. “Didn’t bother to grab it.”

Scott frowned at the knife, brows furrowed deeply. “A couple…okay,” he said.

Stiles watched his face cycle through several emotions before landing on resignation. He let out a quiet sigh of relief. “I’ll take it,” he said, holding his hand out.

Scott hesitated before he handed it over. “Are you ready to go?” he asked, studying Stiles’s face.

“Yep,” he said, grabbing his utility belt and vest.

 

The Abe family lived in Idaho, so by the time they arrived, it was dark, deep into night. Marisol was driving for them and Jordan was sitting in Erica’s seat.

Stiles squeezed his hands into fists, reminding himself that he couldn’t think things like that, couldn’t let himself react.

But Jordan was in Erica’s seat, between Cora and Laura on the bench, talking to Cora about getting trained to use assault weapons.

Stiles swallowed and clenched his fists until his nails dug grooves into his palms.

“Okay, that’s their house. There’s only three of them. The father is human, mom and daughter are kitsune,” Marisol murmured. “And the house is being watched.”

“What?” Laura snapped. “By—where?” She crouched between the front seats, looking where Marisol indicated. She swore under her breath. “Alright, we aren’t meant to pick them up for another two hours. We’ll wait that long. If they’re still around, Stiles will go to their van and toss a smoke bomb in that open window, create a diversion, while the rest of us get the family to the van.” She glanced over her shoulder. “Everyone okay with that?”

“Yes,” Stiles replied, because she was talking to him. He would be okay with whatever they wanted him to be okay with.

“We’ll turn our cams on right before we go. Boyd will be monitoring,” she added. “We shouldn’t have much trouble until it’s time to cross into Washington.”

“Now we wait. You guys can chill. I’ll keep an eye on them,” Marisol added.

“I can help,” Jordan said. He climbed over Scott’s legs to get to the passenger seat.

Stiles watched him go, eyes narrowed.

Scott was looking at him when he dragged his attention away, a furrow dug into his forehead, but he didn’t say anything.

“Alright,” Laura said once the pick up time had come. “They’re clearly not sure if the Abes are supes or not, so they’re not leaving. Stiles, mask. Go around the front of our van, toss in two smoke bombs, and keep ’em distracted.”

“Got it.” He grabbed the smoke bombs from under the seat, shoving them into his pocket. He twisted his body cam on and tucked his comm in his ear.

“Go,” Laura said, shoving Cora between the shoulders.

Stiles pulled his mask on and jumped out, rounding the side of the van and crossing in front of it in full view of the OWH van. It was dark out, and he was wearing all black, but he knew they’d spotted him.

The passenger window rolled down, the muzzle of a gun poking out, and he lunged, cracking the smoke bombs and tossing them in. He ducked down and out of the way in case they shot at him. Thick purple smoke filled the windshield of their white, OWH-marked van. It rocked on its wheels as they panicked, fighting the effects.

Stiles glanced across the street; Laura was standing guard outside with Scott. Cora and Jordan had apparently gone in to get the family.

The back door of the van slammed open, making him jump. He raced around, but the people inside the van were unconscious. Heart pounding, he bolted around the other side.

A man stood in the street, centering himself to take aim; he blinked hard to fight the effects of the smoke. He was aiming at Laura, who was looking into the window, who was their team lead, who was Derek’s big sister, who had been like a sister to Stiles his whole life.

He didn’t remember deciding to move, plowing into the hunter’s side, tackling him to the street. A gunshot cracked out, the bullet striking the dirt at Laura’s feet. Stiles ripped the weapon from the hunter’s hands and threw it aside, punching him hard across the face when he tried to get up. He straddled him and hit him again, slamming his arm down and pinning it with his knee when he tried to fight back. He bared his teeth and punched him again.

Again.

Again.

Again.

You took them from us. You tried to take Laura. You took them. The words looped in Stiles’s brain, his vision running red as the hunter’s nose snapped under his knuckles, as blood ran from his mouth and nose and the split in his cheek where Stiles’s fist hit just right and broke skin.

Again.

Again.

He wasn’t fighting back, his head lulling lifelessly as Stiles hit him, but all he could see was Erica and Derek disappearing behind a pile of rubble, gone, unreachable, maybe dead now-

Scott grabbed him and threw him away from the hunter.

Stiles snarled, braced to leap to his feet and fight again, ready to go back and finish what he’d started, but Scott jumped in his path.

“No!” he snapped. “No! Stiles. Look at me. Stiles.”

It took a moment, a long one, for the adrenaline to ease, for him to look and see Scott’s face. His arms fell to his sides. “Is he dead?” he asked blankly.

“No,” Scott said, too quickly. He rubbed his forehead. “God, Stiles. You—you aren’t-”

“Don’t!” Stiles yanked on his hair, frustrated, near tears. He’d been so close, and now… “Boyd?” he asked quietly, fearing the worst.

“Yes,” he replied.

Damn it. Damn it, damn it, damn it.

Laura approached them. She looked at Stiles, her face cold and empty. “Scott, go get him some alcohol wipes.”

“Alright,” Scott murmured, stepping away.

Laura stared at Stiles.

He stared back. She looked strikingly like Derek, which Stiles hadn’t noticed before, really, not in any notable way. Their coloring and the structure of their faces, the way she managed to look mildly murderous when annoyed…it was arresting, to say the least.

“Boyd,” she said at last, “I’m sure that I heard you say Stiles’s cam wasn’t working properly.” Stiles’s eyes widened. “During the struggle. I could have sworn I heard you say you weren’t getting a video from his camera.”

Boyd was quiet a moment. “It seems there was an issue with the new design. It must have malfunctioned.”

“Alright. Thank you, Boyd. Disconnecting now.” Laura pulled her comm out and twisted her cam off. She reached out and did the same to Stiles’s. “Listen to me very carefully.”

Her voice was so low that he tensed.

“If you pull shit like this again, I won’t be able to cover for you—or even stomach covering for you.” She looked over at the hunter and wiped her mouth. “Get it together.”

“I-”

“No. I swear to god, Stilinski, you do this again, I’ll kick your ass and make sure you’re grounded for the foreseeable future.”

“You can’t-”

“Oh, yes, I can,” she snarled. “Don’t test me. This doesn’t happen again. Are we clear?”

“Yes,” he mumbled. “Clear.”

“Good. Now get in the van and clean yourself up. You and Marisol are going to be up front to deal with the border people if we have to.”

“Alright,” he murmured, subdued.

 

They had less trouble crossing the state lines now going through all sorts of backroads. The state police could only watch so many roads at once before they were stretched too thin to be so thorough.

The boat was ready when they reached the coast with the family. Stiles and Scott were made to wait in the van. Stiles didn’t argue.

“Stiles,” Scott said quietly, “you shouldn’t be on the field. You aren’t ready.”

Stiles stared out the windshield. “Dr. Morell thinks I am.”

“She wouldn’t if she saw that video of you. Will you…consider…taking a leave? You could train people-”

“Train my replacement, you mean? Or Derek’s? Since we’ve already replaced Erica.”

“We aren’t trying to replace anyone, Stiles, just shore up the gaps so we’re in top form.”

“It won’t happen again, Scott, I promise.”

Scott reached around and squeezed his shoulder. “Alright. If you think you can handle it.”

“I can.”

“Okay then.”

He could. He’d be fine, he’d get it together.

They were back to the bunker within two days of leaving. Cora and Scott went to sleep, Jordan went to get food, and Laura went to report to Talia. Stiles slipped off to Peter’s lab.

“Hey,” Adam said dully.

“Hello.” He stepped around the work stations, peering in at Jackson first, then Heather.

Heather was still in human-ish form, as she had been since the last time Stiles had seen her. She was in a bad mood, too, if the way she was destroying her bedframe was any indication. She attacked it with single minded focus, as if it’d wronged her in some way. It looked, he realized with a sick jolt, very familiar.

He chewed on his bottom lip, feeling nauseated. If that’s how he’d looked when he was fighting—attacking, he thought viciously, forcing himself to be honest—then he could understand why Scott and Laura had reacted the way they had.

He sighed, letting his forehead rest against the glass. He would do better. He’d have to keep it together, rein it in. He could do that.

Heather ripped a leg off the bedframe and hurled it against the glass, making him flinch.

He backed up, sighing, and wandered past the other windows.

Adam was by Sara’s cell, watching her watch the glass, as she was prone to do.

Stiles stopped beside him. “Are you in love with her?”

“Why would you ask that?” Adam asked, but there was barely any heat behind the question.

“Because,” Stiles sighed, “Derek was right. You take all of this very personally, like Lydia and me. And you hover by Sara the most.”

Adam’s shoulders sagged. “I’m not in love with her, asshole,” he muttered. “A guy doesn’t have to be in love to care about someone. She’s my best friend,” he added tiredly. “She put in a bite request to be changed, and she used to joke that she would be able to keep up with me then, and I—I encouraged her, because she’d been talking about it since we were kids. She—I went with her and when she changed, she…when she woke up from the change, she was like this. Different. I don’t—I don’t know what I did.” A tear tracked down his cheek, red and thick. He cleared his throat and used his shirt to wipe his face. “I apologize. I have to get back to work.” He stepped away, leaving Stiles facing the glass alone.

Sara shifted her sickly yellow gaze to Stiles, though she shouldn’t have been able to see him. She’d always acted as though she could, though. She smiled her weird, crazed smile and pressed her hand to the glass, claws scraping it gently.

“How are you?” Peter asked, stepping up beside him.

“Glued together,” Stiles replied.

It took him a minute, Stiles could tell. “You and Cora never did replace that mug, you know.”

“We made it better,” he said, trying to inject humor into his voice.

“You glued the handle on sideways,” Peter reminded him. Then, quietly, “Derek was the one who told me you guys broke it.”

Hearing that hurt, just a little, like a pinch to the heart. “I know. He was also the one who actually replaced it while Cora and I were gluing the old one.”

“True.”

Sara finally left the window and began pacing her cell, whispering to herself.

“I’m afraid of what they’re doing to them,” Stiles admitted under his breath. “I’m afraid they’re both still alive, and that they’re hurting them.”

“They’ll probably kill Erica,” Peter said coldly.

Stiles’s breath hitched. “How-how—why would you—?” Why would he tell Stiles that, why would he make him face the truth of the situation when he was only just holding himself together?

“Because it’s true. The OWH neither understands nor cares to understand how werewolves and their packs work. They will torture what information they can out of Erica but Derek—Derek will be made into an example.”

“W-what?” Stiles jerked around to face him.

His eyes were icy and distant, staring into Sara’s cell. “Once they realize who he is—not just Pack but the son of an Alpha to the Pack—they will torture him and they will make an example of him and they will try to use him against Talia but they will not kill him.”

Stiles felt like his shaky grasp on control was breaking apart. “He—but Erica is-”

“As much family to Talia as Derek is, but they don’t understand what pack is. They only understand family because that is something they themselves have experienced and to them Erica is nothing more than a soldier but Derek is a key,” Peter said, somehow both viciously and emotionlessly.

“Peter-”

“Just something to consider,” he said, abruptly losing his intensity. “I’ll see you later,” he added lightly, walking away and leaving Stiles to shake apart by himself.

What would they do to Derek? Was Erica already…it had been four weeks. Stiles couldn’t imagine the horrors they could’ve done to them in four weeks. Erica could already be dead, and Derek could be strung up, getting run through with electricity like he had been when he was a kid, questioned mercilessly.

Stiles wrapped his arms around himself, as if gripping tight enough would keep him from flying apart at the seams.

Chapter Text

The team was called for another mission two days later. Stiles swore to himself and Laura that he would be on his best behavior. Getting grounded again wouldn’t do anyone any good.

“What’s the mission, exactly?” Laura asked.

“Some hunters our surveillance team has been following are taking a group of six vampires to the camp we liberated a few weeks ago,” Ian said carefully. “We’re going to intercept them and rescue the vamps.”

“Is there a location?” she asked slowly, brows furrowed.

“Our surveillance team is tailing them, so you’ll meet with them and, well, stop the hunters.”

“Oh.” She looked at Marisol. “You up for that?”

“Yes.”

“Okay then. Where do we take the vamps?”

“Here, so they can regroup, figure out what they want to do next. They were gathered up separately,” Ian explained. “They aren’t related, and most of them didn’t even know each other before they were grabbed. It’s actually very lucky, because the hunter had to make multiple stops, which is how our surveillance team spotted them. They’re heading to South Dakota now. Foster will put you in contact with the surveillance team when you’re close enough.”

“Awesome. Very specific,” Laura muttered.

“When do we leave?” Scott asked.

“As soon as you’re packed.” Ian’s gaze flickered briefly to Stiles. “Marisol, just head toward South Dakota and Foster will keep you updated.”

“Perfect. I’m gonna get a van ready,” she said, standing up.

Laura stood, too. “Is that all?”

“Yes.”

“Okay. Let’s go. See you,” she added to Ian, who nodded at her.

Scott had to stop in the infirmary to make sure his kit was fully stocked, so Stiles and Cora walked together to their rooms.

“Why did you go to Peter’s lab the other day?” she asked, knocking their elbows together lightly.

Stiles tried not to get defensive, reminding himself that he and Cora were friends. “Just to visit,” he mumbled. “See how Heather was doing.”

“It’s strange that they’re still sick,” she said slowly. “I can’t believe Peter hasn’t figured out how to help them yet.”

Stiles hummed noncommittally. There wasn’t much to say that wasn’t giving away secrets he’d grudgingly promised to keep. “See you in a minute,” he mumbled, side stepping into his room. He could feel her staring after him, but he didn’t look back before shutting the door between them.

He looked at his messy bed and laughed a little, helplessly. He bet if he went into Derek’s room, the bed would be perfectly made, the rest of the room neat as a pin, and Erica’s would be in carefully controlled chaos, with her weapons on neat, proud display. Like fucking mini museums, both of them.

He scrubbed his hands over his face and grabbed his gear; he’d put it all away where it belonged last time, so all he had to do really was change into his cargo pants and black shirt, pull his boots on, and grab his utility belt and vest.

Marisol was pacing, agitated, when he reached the garage. She was snapping at whoever was on the other end of her comm, yanking at her hair every other step. “No, no you are not to engage, Hale said you are not to engage until this team gets there. Just follow,” she growled. She spotted Stiles and grimaced, waving him over to the van.

He shrugged and went around to the back doors, swinging his vest from his fingertip.

Jordan was already in the back, looking grim. “Stiles.”

He didn’t respond, looking over his shoulder and pathetically hoping Cora or Scott would show up to rescue him from this.

“We should talk,” Jordan said.

“No,” Stiles disagreed. “We probably shouldn’t.”

“Talia was going to put me on the team before Erica and Derek were taken,” Jordan said quickly.

Stiles hesitated, then sighed. “Okay.”

“It got delayed while you guys were grounded, but she decided to go ahead with it now. I’m not here to replace anyone.”

“Right. Got it.” Stiles nodded blindly; he thought he even threw a thumbs-up because this wasn’t awkward enough. “Did you talk to Scott or something?”

Jordan smiled awkwardly. “No. We just weren’t that far from the van.”

Stiles grimaced. “Oh. Awesome.” He couldn’t quite force an apology out, so he said, “It wasn’t about you personally.”

“Okay.” Jordan leaned back in his seat, satisfied.

Stiles jerked his shoulders and climbed in, too, still vaguely uncomfortable, but willing to ignore it if Jordan was.

 

Getting on the road proved difficult, as Foster was giving Marisol directions to a moving destination. The whole team was told in no uncertain terms to keep quiet and in the back. They’d caught up to and surpassed the hunter’s van by the next morning, near dawn. The surveillance team fell back and let them take the lead.

“Block the road,” Laura instructed. “Up there, where it’s clear and open. We’ll have to figure out how to stop them before they hit us.”

“I can shoot the driver,” Jordan offered.

“Yeah, then the van will lose control, captives might get hurt.” Laura shook her head. “We’ll take cover, Marisol and Stil-” She hesitated. “And Stiles will pose as hunters,” she said slowly. “Maybe with a flat tire or something.”

Stiles thought they were better off with Jordan’s plan—vampires were very difficult to kill—but he didn’t speak up.

Laura sighed harshly. “Try not to damage their van. We need it. There’s not enough room in ours to move us and six vampires.”

“Ahhh.” Jordan nodded. “I can wound the driver without busting the windshield.”

“Perfect, then.”

Laura, Scott, and Cora stood by the side of the van, blocking the road, while Jordan set up shop somewhere in the field to their left. Stiles stood with Marisol.

“My grandfather on my dad’s side was a police chief,” Stiles said.

Marisol frowned. “What?”

He shrugged. “I was thinking we could use those spikes they use in movies to stop cars during chases.”

She snorted. “Oh. Yeah. But then we’d have to change all the tires.”

“There’s a gas station four miles back. Fix-a-flat.”

She laughed outright then. “I’ll try to remember that for next time.”

The van rolled into view. Their driver had a moment to take in the roadblock, easing off the gas, but by then it was too late—Jordan shot and the driver jerked to the right. The van rocked as she slammed on the brakes.

And then three armed men jumped out of the van.

“Oh, shit,” Marisol said, which just about summed it up.

The rest of the team ran to hold them off, meeting them with equal ferocity.

Stiles darted around the group and to the other van.

The driver lifted a pistol in a shaking, bloody hand; he slapped it out of her hand, then yelped when she slashed the back of his arm with a knife.

“Fuck.” He grabbed her and slammed her head forward, banging it into the steering wheel twice. The honking over the sounds of gunshots and fighting was almost comical.

While she lolled dazedly, he hit the unlock button and dragged her out of the van, which started rolling forward immediately. Swearing, he hopped in and jammed his foot on the brake, making the van lurch to a stop. He put it in park and swiped the key for good measure. He jumped back outside and ran to the back.

The doors were locked, but he found the key on a separate ring attached to the driver’s belt.

The vampires flinched weakly when he threw the doors open. They were all shackled together with silver and drugged, if the size of their pupils was any indication.

“I’m from the Pack,” he said, aiming for soothing. “I’m going to have to get close to unlock your shackles. Don’t kill me, or my team is going to be very angry.” He stepped to the first vampire, a young woman who bared her teeth at him.

She stopped when he got closer. “Smell like wolf,” she slurred.

“You are Pack, then,” a man said quietly, further down.

“Yep. Gotta get you out of here quickly.” He tried keys until one popped the silver cuffs open. “We’ll head back to the bunker, get you guys some food—my buddy Boyd is partial to B-positive—though now that I think of it, he might’ve been fucking with me so he could laugh at me later. Be positive,” he snorted, grinning. He moved on to the next, a guy that didn’t look much older than him with shaggy brown hair reminiscent of Scott in his teenage days. He started unlocking his shackles as quickly as he could.

“Wait,” he said before Stiles could move along. “I—you should know, before they loaded me up, they injected me with something.” He looked baffled and scared.

“Probably a linden ash sedative,” Stiles said sympathetically. “It’s so they-”

“No,” he insisted. “I was already drugged when they did that. No one else got a second injection.” He looked at the others for confirmation, which they gave.

Stiles rubbed the back of his hand over his mouth. “Okay. Our medic will check you over, okay? For now I have to get everyone free.” He shifted to the next vampire.

The hunters were lined up on the side of the road when Stiles and the vampires got out of the van.

“Alright. Three over here, three in that van,” Laura instructed. “Jordan’s driving that one.”

“Laura, hang on.” Stiles gestured at the man who’d been hovering nervously at his shoulder. “He said they injected him with something after the sedative.”

She frowned. “Scott! Come here. We have to get going,” she said, agitated. “Scott will ride in that van, ask you some questions. You and you, go with them. You three are with me.”

Stiles shrugged. “Okay, then. What’s your name?” he asked the vampire.

“Brian Shaw,” he mumbled. “That’s Riley and Jeremy,” he added, pointing at the two joining them in the hijacked van.

“Okay. Get in. Jordan!” Stiles called.

He looked over, frowning.

“I’ve got the keys. Here.” He tossed them.

Jordan snatched them out of the air. “Thanks.”

Riley and Jeremy sat close together so that Scott had space to give Brian a quick exam.

“What happened?” he asked gently, checking his pupils’ responses.

“They gave me a second injection after the sedative,” Brian said. “They seemed surprised after? Like they thought something was supposed to happen instantly, and when it didn’t, they tried to stake me.”

“What?!” Stiles yelped, nearly toppling off his seat.

Brian nodded grimly. “They were, but the others…” He shot a tired, grateful smile at Riley and Jeremy. “They put up such a fight that they decided it was easier to just throw me in the back with the rest of them.”

Scott frowned, troubled. “None of them said what it was?”

Brian shook his head.

“You’ll have to be put under observation for a little bit at the bunker,” Scott said. “Just to make sure you don’t get sick or something.” He pulled a small notepad from his vest pocket. “Okay, I have some questions. Were you turned or born? How long ago?”

“Turned, um, like fifteen years ago. I would be like forty this year,” he added self-consciously.

Riley sighed quietly. “Once you hit triple digits, it gets easier,” she said sympathetically.

“Okay,” Scott said. “Anything else I might need to know?”

“I was diabetic before I was turned?” he offered awkwardly. “It’s never caused any problems before though.”

Scott shook his head. “It shouldn’t be a problem. I was asthmatic before I received the bite,” he offered conversationally. “I’m fine now. I’m sure whatever it was they gave you will be out of your system in a couple days,” he added.

Brian sighed. “I hope so.”

Scott bandaged the cut on Stiles’s arm after that; it wasn’t really deep, just enough to bleed, so all he needed was some Neosporin and gauze. When he finished, Stiles stepped over Jeremy’s legs and flopped into the passenger seat. He buckled in, frowning as he ran his fingers over the seatbelt. He felt like something was…missing.

“You okay?” Jordan asked cautiously.

Stiles nodded. “Yeah. I just feel like I’m forgetting something.”

“Well, you didn’t get in trouble this time,” he said lightly. “Everything went pretty smoothly. Maybe that’s why.”

Stiles grinned, putting his head down to hide it. He’d handled himself well this time, like Jordan said, kept it together. Maybe he could pull this off.

 

Laura and Scott escorted Brian to the infirmary for observation when they returned to the bunker; Stiles, Cora, and Jordan took the other five to the cafeteria to eat, and Marisol stayed behind to see what they could do with the extra van. They’d probably take it apart to check for tracking devices, then use the parts for repairs.

All in all, Stiles was feeling pretty pleased with himself, in control and held together—super glue. Take that, Peter, he thought gleefully—as he headed to his room later in the evening.

Cora and Jordan were taking care of the vampires, so he had some free time, which he was going to use productively. Maybe he’d go get some target practice, or do a supply run for someone.

He was smiling when he reached his room, cheered further when he saw the folder in his door’s mailbox. He grabbed it and flipped it open to the first page.

Training Request was written across the top of the thin packet, making him grin.

“Perfect,” he murmured. That was exactly what he needed to take his mind off things: someone to train for field work without thinking they were there to replace his own teammates. He skimmed over the info, gaze catching on ‘knife training’—doubly perfect, his specialty—until he found the name of his new student.

Isaac Lahey, 24

Chapter Text

Stiles’s brain went quiet. He didn’t hesitate. He shoved the file back into the box and turned on his heel, charging back the way he’d come. He hooked a left out of the hall instead of right. He didn’t know if he was going to find what he was looking for or not, but he was certainly going to look.

He found Isaac outside the infirmary, talking to Joseph about starting his training. Stiles’s vision was red around the edges; he was shaking all over and terror made his heart beat a rapid tattoo against his ribs. He grabbed Isaac by the elbow without saying a word and started dragging him away.

“Stiles—what—” he stammered, stumbling over his own feet behind him.

Stiles didn’t respond, had to keep moving or he was going to explode. He kept a tight grip on Isaac’s arm, gaze focused straight ahead and trying to see where he was going through the shaking.

 

The knife throwing room was empty when they got there. Stiles slapped the lights on and paused at the locker. He pried it open around the lock, flimsy as it was, and scooped out a little over a half dozen knives. He took them and Isaac to one of the throwing ranges.

“What’re you-” Isaac began, but he clamped his mouth shut when Stiles slapped the first knife on the counter, the sound echoing off the far walls.

He lined them up along the counter. “Throw one,” he said.

Isaac frowned, his gaze flicking down to the row of knives. He looked afraid of them.

Well, that just wouldn’t do. Stiles grabbed his wrist and twisted, turning his palm up. He slapped the handle of a knife in it. “Go on, throw it. That dummy’s roughly the size of an adult male. Throw it. Hit it.”

Isaac looked at the knife, then at the dummy. “But-”

“Throw the knife.”

“I can’t-”

“Throw the damn knife!” Stiles yelled, so furious he was practically frothing. “You want to be in the field, fine. Prove it.” He picked up a knife, turned on his heel, and threw it at the dummy. It slammed into the target, imbedding the blade in its chest and quivering in place. He whipped back toward Isaac, panting, and gestured sharply at the knives.

Isaac shook his head, inching back from him. His head was lowered and tilted, shoulders pulled in toward his chest. “I don’t know how-”

“That’s right, you don’t. You don’t know any of this and you could die, you could get captured, or you could get someone else killed or taken!” His throat closed then. He was breathing heavily, so amped up with the fear of losing someone else he cared about that he hadn’t noticed how pale Isaac was, how he’d turned his face away and down, like he was protecting himself from a blow. Stiles lifted a hand to drag through his hair and Isaac flinched, a barely-discernable twitch of movement that felt like a punch to the gut. Stiles dropped his hand, horror finally stirring under the raw fear.

Scott ran in then, panting like he’d sprinted the whole length of the bunker. He skidded to a halt at the sight of them and looked at Isaac, aghast. “Did you really apply for field work?”

Isaac nodded, keeping his mouth shut.

Scott looked upset. “Why?”

Isaac shot a quick, scared look at Stiles, which, since Stiles had just spent the last ten minutes terrorizing him, made sense. “I want to help,” he mumbled.

“Who’d they assign to train you?” he demanded, glancing at the knives dubiously. “You’re not ready for-” He looked at Stiles then. “What, really?”

“I’m going to decline,” Stiles said through his teeth. “I shouldn’t be training anyone right now. Clearly.”

Scott looked at the knife in the dummy, nose twitching. He looked back at Stiles. “Right.”

Stiles stepped back from the knives, putting more distance between himself and Isaac. Shame burned in his chest; he’d never understood people hurting or terrorizing people weaker than them, but he’d just done that himself. “Sorry” did not even begin to cover it, and it certainly wouldn’t make it better. “Scott, I’ll—see you,” he said hoarsely, and fled. He couldn’t bear to look at Isaac’s scared, pale face any longer.

Isaac had come to them when he was sixteen, underweight, tired, and afraid. He’d been living on the streets since running away from home. Scott had been the first to befriend him, being as innately kind as he was, and, eventually, Cora and Stiles had followed his footsteps.

It wasn’t exactly a secret that Isaac had run away from violence, which was likely why the Pack, a group of people fighting to defend those who needed defending, was appealing to him.

Stiles pressed the heels of his hands into his eyes. Scott and Isaac had become like brothers to him; he never wanted to see either of them hurt, especially by his own hand.

Disgusted with himself, Stiles left the training area and went to the kitchens, where they could always use extra hands. He’d give Isaac some space, time to collect himself, and he would apologize when he was calm enough to do that.

 

Stiles hid out in his room or the kitchen for a couple days. Boyd came by for a little while on Thursday, and, as he was leaving, Scott stopped by. He frowned at Boyd as he left, nodding when their gazes met.

“What were you guys doing?” Scott asked lightly. “I didn’t know you two hung out.”

Stiles shrugged. “We like to talk, you know, about…them.”

“Ah.” Scott waited until Stiles had stepped back to come inside.

“What’s up?” he asked, though he figured he knew.

“You should apologize to Isaac,” he said. “He told me what happened, and I know why you did it, but you need to apologize.”

Stiles jerked his shoulders up. “I know I do. I just wanted to give him some space. He was afraid of me,” he mumbled. “I thought it would be better to give him a few days.”

Scott shook his head. “You should do it before we go on our next mission.”

Stiles grimaced. “Don’t you think that’s too soon? I don’t want to crowd him.”

“You’re being a coward,” Scott accused, but gently. “You should tell him why you reacted that way, let him know you’re sorry, and that you won’t do it again. Everything else is up to him. If he forgives you, whether he needs more space—just respect whatever choice he makes.”

“Or I could just give him more space now,” Stiles said weakly.

Scott frowned at him. “Make him come to you, you mean. Don’t do that.”

Stiles sighed. “Alright. You’re right,” he said, though forcing it out felt like trying to move a cinderblock through his throat. “Just—I need some time, too. To make sure I—can…be calm. When I apologize.”

Scott nodded. “Okay then. That sounds reasonable.” He smiled grimly. “What sucks is normally you’d be the best person to train him.”

“Oh?” Stiles tried to smirk. “Why is that?”

“You’re human, like him, and you’re pretty good at what you do,” Scott joked, elbowing him lightly. “Plus, you’re—usually—patient with people.”

Stiles snorted. “Sure.” He sighed and flopped backwards over the couch, his legs dangling over the arm. He shut his eyes. “Why is everything so terrible, Scotty?”

Scott climbed onto the couch with him, squashing Stiles into the back of it with no regard for personal space. “Because people are terrible,” he said, patting him clumsily on the head.

Stiles laughed weakly, because he was one of those terrible people. “Yeah, that makes sense.”

Scott hummed.

They stayed like that for a while, dozing like kids at naptime, until Laura knocked loudly on the door, telling them to meet her in Rec Room A. Scott rolled off the couch and wiped his face on his shirt.

“So much for apologizing before the next mission,” he mumbled. “As soon as we get home. Okay?”

Stiles nodded, shaking feeling back into his right arm.

Cora, Jordan, Laura, and Kira were waiting for them in Rec Room A, along with Talia.

“Hey,” Scott said, leaning over to accept the kiss Kira offered. “What’s going on?”

“As I’m sure you know, Kira was an active field operative in Alpha Ito’s faction, and has been on leave since she was taken captive last year. She will be joining your team temporarily,” Talia said sharply, glancing at Stiles. “We have a mission and it needs to be taken care of quickly. Normally for something so close to home, we’d send a team from Santos or Ito’s faction so we don’t run the risk of becoming recognizable to locals, but time is important right now.” She lifted a remote to the TV. “This was broadcast live ten minutes ago.” She pressed a button and the screen came to life.

“—the OWH claims that the supernaturals escaped from a safe town where they were being kept from the general public for everyone’s safety, but local authorities find it hard to believe that they found their way here on their own in the state they’re in. The area has been closed off to contain the damage and to keep civilian injury to a minimum.”

The video was grainy and unsteady, but Stiles could see the subject, a female werewolf dressed in a white outfit like the one Derek had been dressed in at the camp in Arizona. She was chasing a stray dog, it looked like, snarling and rabid. The camera switched to a clearer video of a man, a vampire, fighting a woman with fiery orange eyes.

“Oh…shit,” Laura said brokenly. “They’ll kill them.”

Talia nodded grimly. “Lydia will provide tranquilizers. I think it’ll be best if Jordan shoots them while the rest of you distract them. The area will be blocked off but the police department here will be more sympathetic to our cause.”

“What, so we tell them?” Cora demanded.

“No,” Talia said. “Just go. If they give you trouble, tell them you’re there to remove the rabids. They probably won’t question it as long as they don’t have to face them on their own.”

“How are we transporting them? And to where?”

Talia rubbed her face. “We’ve got a large cargo van that’ll have to do, along with shackles, though they should remain sedated your entire ride. You’ll just have to bring them here. We’ll make it work,” she said when they hesitated. “No one else has any room left, so we’ll have to make it work. I’ll talk to Peter about modifying some rooms to make into makeshift cells.”

“Alright. Let’s go then,” Laura said. “You heard her. Time is of the essence.” She held the door open, motioning for them to follow her.

Scott smiled at Kira. “Welcome to the team.”

The van Marisol was waiting in for them was bigger than their usual, which was good; they’d need the space with three extra supes accompanying them on the way back. Kira seemed excited to get back out on the field. Stiles leaned his head on Cora’s shoulder, deciding to nap during the ride. It wouldn’t be too long to the city, anyway.

 

Marisol talked them through the road block though, as Talia had suspected, it wasn’t very difficult to do. The police force was ill equipped to deal with the rabids in any non-lethal way, so any offer of help was welcome, no matter who it came from.

“They’ve scattered,” Marisol. “That officer told me they were fighting each other for a while, but split up for some reason.”

“Alright. We’ll split up in groups of two, lead them to one place so Jordan can hit them with a tranq from his position.” Laura looked over the team, frowning. “Okay, Kira, you’re with me. Cora’s with Stiles, Scott, you’ll be at the van with Jordan. Jordan, pick your spot and we’ll lead the rabids to you.”

“Alright. Cams on?” he asked uncertainly, fingers hovering over the camera on his vest.

“Yes.” Laura twisted hers on. “If these three are like Kali Malik or Ennis Fletcher, it’ll be fairly hard to kill them, let alone on accident, but just to be clear: we want them alive.” She turned her comm on. “Danny is monitoring.”

“Got it.”

“Then let’s go.”

Cora led the way, following the scent of werewolf and adrenaline. She had her sidearm out, but Stiles left his in its holster. He was going to be playing the bait and he needed to be able to run with his hands free.

“It’s so creepy, how empty everything is,” Cora muttered. “I’ve never seen the city so empty.”

“Me neither,” Danny commented. “Laura, I saw something move to your left, step back.”

Stiles looked around, grimacing when he saw blood smeared on the building to his right. He really hoped the werewolf had just cut herself on something and that she hadn’t caught anything.

By the grimace twisting Cora’s face, he figured he was better off not knowing. “I hear her,” she mumbled. “She’s breaking or chewing on something across the street.”

Stiles followed her gaze past the empty sidewalk and deserted parking lot separating them from the werewolf. Despite the obvious differences, he couldn’t help being reminded of their encounter with Ennis Fletcher, the silence of the building, the eerie realization that they were alone in a place that should’ve been bustling with activity. At least, he reflected, there were no bodies this time.

“I’m set up,” Jordan said, “at the corner of First Avenue and Edgewood. Lead them here one at a time, and let me know who’s first.”

“I’ve got the kitsune on my ass, and we’re only a block away from you,” Laura panted. “Bringing her to you.”

“I’m ready.”

Cora winced when Laura swore, then yelped, snarls filling their comms. The werewolf lurched into view, blood dripping down her chin from whatever she’d chewed up. Her eyes were dull gold, locking on them in a very unsettling way.

Stiles suddenly understood how a rabbit felt right before it got eaten.

Cora’s hand curled around his wrist. “Don’t move,” she breathed. “Let her get closer.”

Closer? It’s not like she’s going to have trouble keeping up!” he hissed.

“She might decide to chase a pigeon if you’re too far away,” Cora mumbled. “Just wait until I tell you to go.”

“And what if she chases you?”

“Then you better get your gun out and navigate for me!” She tipped her head. “But at the moment, you’ve got her attention.”

Stiles swallowed, meeting the werewolf’s gaze. “Yeah, for lunch.”

Cora patted his arm. “At least you’ll get some cardio in.”

“Uh-huh.” He flinched when the werewolf charged toward them, but Cora held fast to his arm.

“Not yet,” she insisted, fingers flexing on his wrist. “One more second…now. Heading your way, Jordan,” she added as Stiles turned.

He bolted back the way they’d come, leaping over an overturned trash can and nearly falling flat on his face. His eyes widened with panic when he heard the werewolf crashing along behind him, her wet snarls far too close for comfort.

He pushed faster, thinking in the back of his mind that he probably should’ve gone on more jogs with Derek. Derek, were he there, probably wouldn’t have been out of breath yet, werewolf or not.

Stiles squeezed his eyes shut briefly and opened them in time to narrowly avoid running into a dumpster.

“Left, Stiles,” Cora called. “Left! Now!”

His boots skidded a little and he felt claws rake down his arm. “Fuck!” he gasped, bearing down and running faster, lengthening his stride in an effort to pull ahead. He nearly toppled over a crushed soda can, cursing litterers as he ran. He wanted to turn and defend himself but not only did he not stand a chance, he also wasn’t supposed to be stopping her himself.

Teeth snapped so close to his ear that he jumped, feeling them graze the skin, a steady stream of curses falling from his mouth and costing him breath.

“Stop talking so much!” Danny ordered. “You’re going to wind yourself!”

“Too—late,” he gasped. “Where the hell is First Ave?” he snapped, sucking in a breath.

“Turn right here,” Cora commanded. “You’ll go straight from there. Jordan’s ready for you. Keep running, we’ll tell you when she’s down.”

Stiles hadn’t stopped running, hadn’t slowed, because he could feel the werewolf’s breath on the back of his neck and absolutely had no desire to play chew toy.

“I can see her,” Jordan said. “Just a little further, Stiles.”

Stiles thought he might collapse in “a little further”, but he kept running, yelping when a clawed hand swiped at his already throbbing arm; warm blood started rolling down to his wrist. “Shoot her!” he yelled. “Shoot. Her!” Hysterical, adrenaline-fueled laughter bubbled from his lips, and then a shot rang out, the muffled thud of the dart hitting home filling him with relief. He ran a couple more yards, until the werewolf, with a wavering roar, collapsed to the street. Stiles bent over his knees, gasping.

“Did you just quote Jurassic Park?” Kira asked hesitantly.

“Stilinski’s back,” Laura said with grim satisfaction that Stiles couldn’t help feeling himself.

It was like the adrenaline and terror had broken through a wall. He still felt the fragile fragments of himself, scared for Derek, for Erica, for Isaac, guilty and crushed by what had happened. It was just buried by determination and purpose now. He suddenly remembered what he was capable of, what he’d done and what he’d been trained for, what he could do. It felt good.

“That’s great,” Danny said, “really. Now let’s get the vampire.”

Scott came out and grabbed the now-fully unconscious werewolf, moving her to the van with the kitsune. “Marisol’s putting the shackles on them,” he said when he saw Stiles watching him.

“I’m not being bait again,” Stiles said. “That was enough cardio for the human, thanks.”

Cora snorted. “Baby. Alright, I’ll be bait.”

“I found the vampire,” Kira said quietly. “I’m not sure what he’s doing.”

“We’ve got him,” Laura added. “Cora, Stiles, just get out of the way.”

“He’s eating something,” Kira said with quiet horror.

Stiles grimaced.

“I can be bait again,” Laura offered.

“No, it’s my turn,” Kira said. “I’m fine.”

Stiles met Cora by the van, leaving the street clear for them to lead the vampire into Jordan’s view.

“If you can’t stay ahead, let me know. I’ll get his attention.”

“Alright.” Kira banged on something, then sucked in a sharp breath.

Scott turned to Stiles, prodding the cuts on the back of his arm. He was obviously trying to distract himself, so Stiles let him. He pulled the sleeve of Stiles’s shirt away from the gashes.

Laura gave Kira directions while she ran, and Stiles tried not to hiss or swat at Scott while he wiped down the wounds with alcohol swabs.

Stiles was watching the street, so he saw Kira vault into sight, a scant two feet between her and the furious vampire, skipping forward awkwardly but effectively.

The vampire snarled and lunged forward, teeth snapping and scraping over her shoulder, thankfully not closing around it. Her vest took the brunt of the bite and she shot off to the left. The vampire followed, right into the path of Jordan’s shot.

The dart hit his neck. He growled and snapped his teeth, wheeling around to look for his attacker.

Kira bolted to the van. She leaned against the side, catching her breath. “Wow. That was harder than it looked.” She wiped her forehead and grinned.

“You did great,” Scott said, smiling back at her.

“All done?” Danny prompted. “You should get moving before anyone else shows up for them.”

Jordan jumped down from his perch, landing on his feet and already dismantling his gun. “Marisol, are they all secured?”

“Except the vampire,” she grunted. “Laura’s bringing him over.”

“You might need stitches,” Scott mumbled, carefully bandaging the gashes on Stiles’s arm.

“Ah, come on, Scotty. I’m fine. No stitches needed.”

“I’ll keep an eye on them for now,” Scott said, taping the gauze in place.

Laura hauled the vampire to the van, passing him over so that Marisol could shackle him in place.

“I’ve got extra sedatives, but they should be out until we get home.”

“Alpha Hale wants you to take an evasive route home, just in case you’re followed by OWH. She’s concerned they were waiting, expecting Pack to show up so they could follow you back to one of the bunkers.”

“Okay. Load up,” Laura ordered. “You good, Stiles?” she asked, gesturing at his arm.

“Yeah, I’m fine. Should’ve been faster,” he grumbled.

“You did pretty well. She’s a werewolf,” she added. “You out ran her for a bit. That’s impressive.”

He climbed into the van first.

The three rabids were chained together and to the floor of the van. Not a very comfortable way to travel, but safer if they woke up unexpectedly. Kira and Cora talked most of the time, comparing notes and teasing Stiles for his movie reference.

Stiles ignored them and helped Scott keep an eye on the rabids, and sedated them when they needed to be sedated.

Chapter Text

They got back to the bunker around four in the morning, groggy and stiff from being cooped up for so long.

“How long ago did you give them a sedative?” Peter asked, keeping his voice low and calm.

Another team was across the garage, helping some rescues out of their SUV.

“An hour,” Scott replied. “Did you figure out where you’re going to put them?” he asked, helping Adam load the vampire onto a stretcher.

“Talia and Lydia have worked something out for the time being. They plan to move Lydia’s projects to another space—possibly the old tech lab—and concentrate on giving these people the brunt of our attention and effort. I believe with Lydia’s help we may find a cure faster.”

Scott frowned at the unconscious werewolf Peter had strapped to a stretcher. “Do you think the OWH has a cure?”

“Sure,” Adam said in an uncharacteristically light tone. “A silver bullet to the face ought to do it.”

Scott grimaced at him. “Right.”

Stiles frowned at Adam, but didn’t say anything.

“Paige, Adam, moving now,” Peter ordered.

“I’ll go let Mom know we’re back,” Laura said, patting Stiles’s shoulder. “You guys go get some sleep.”

Scott walked with Kira back to her room, which was in the same hall as her parents room for the moment; Cora and Jordan mumbled about getting food from the kitchen, so Stiles had to shuffle back to his room alone. He hesitated at his door, then walked further, pausing at Derek’s door. He trailed his fingers over the doorknob.

He had a key, though he didn’t usually carry it with him; even without it, he could’ve gotten in, but there was no reason. Derek wasn’t there and going in, moping among his things, wasn’t going to bring him back or do Stiles any good. He tapped his fingers lightly on the door and backtracked to his own room. He dropped his gear beside his bed, stripped off his ripped, bloody shirt, and flopped into bed. He’d pry his boots off and shower when he woke up.

 

Four and a half hours later, Stiles met John by the desk, holding two lists and looking worn out. He smiled when he saw Stiles, though. “Hey, kid. You coming with?”

“Yep.”

John studied him, frowning a little. “Alright.” He handed over one of the lists. “We’ll go together.”

“Cool.” Stiles signed out, flashing a quick smile at the guy running the desk.

John caught his arm when he tried to turn. “What happened?” he asked tightly, looking at the bandages.

“I was too slow,” he replied, shrugging. “Scott said it doesn’t need stitches.”

John sighed. “Fine.” He gave Stiles a one-armed hug, ruffling his hair before he released him.

They walked side-by-side most of the way, talking casually about inconsequential things. Stiles spotted three hunters outside of a gas station, a group of OWH supporters smoking outside of a closed dive bar, and an armed man up ahead leaning against the bricks of a CVS.

“How many of those idiots outside Lucky Jim’s were hunters, do you think?” Stiles mused, glancing back at the group.

“Probably most of them, with the rest in training,” John grumbled. “The OWH is encouraging supporters to join up, and why not? All the bigotry, plus training, government support, and rewards for every person you take in.”

“I wouldn’t those things people,” the man leaning against CVS said, smirking at them as they neared him.

“Look, Dad, it’s Dopey. Where are the other six?” Stiles asked, looking around exaggeratedly.

John snorted, clapping him on the shoulder.

The man scowled. “You should think twice before back talking strangers in public. You never know who might follow you home.”

Stiles swore he felt the temperature drop about ten degrees as they stood there.

“Was that a threat, son?” John asked in a tone that suggested he might want to reevaluate his life choices in general and that statement in particular.

“Maybe it was, old man,” he sneered. “I suggest you keep walking.”

Stiles had to clench his teeth together to keep from laughing.

John stepped closer to the man, until he was well beyond the socially acceptable proximity. “I suggest you think twice before threatening strangers in public. You never know who might follow you home,” he added with a pleasant little smile.

“Get out of my-”

“No,” John said simply. “No more words. You don’t know how to use them.” He backed up and gestured at Stiles to start walking.

“Ah, Dad. I missed you,” Stiles teased, pretending to wipe a tear from the corner of his eye. “You know, you’re more menacing than anyone—back home. It’s great.”

John elbowed him lightly. “You do pretty well yourself. How long do you think he’ll follow us?” he mused.

“He was pretty insulted. He’ll probably follow us through Walmart, then we’ll alert the store about the shifty guy stealing DVDs.” He grinned when he heard a soft grunt behind them.

John laughed.

 

They made quick work of their lists, losing the guy in the crowd of Walmart shoppers. They took their time heading back, just in case he managed to find them again.

Stiles told John what had happened with Isaac, the story spilling out of him in a guilty rush.

He nodded when he’d finished, looking pained. “I did notice he seemed upset about something.”

Stiles winced. “Yeah, that—that would be my doing.” He swallowed thickly, rubbing his knuckles over his forehead. “I need to apologize to him,” he mumbled.

“That would be wise,” John said stoically.

“You can say what you’re really thinking,” Stiles sighed. “It can’t possibly make me feel any worse about it.”

“Alright.” John pushed the button for the crosswalk. “What I’m thinking is that you don’t need to be on the field. I know Dr. Morell released you,” he said before Stiles could protest. “And it’s up to her, but I know you, son. I know you’re afraid.”

Stiles gaped uselessly at him, trying and failing to protest.

“The job is scary, so a healthy dose of fear isn’t a bad thing, necessarily. But when you saw Isaac was going to be put in danger—like you all are, every time you go on a mission—your reaction wasn’t to warn or train him to deal with the danger, as you were warned and trained. That’s what worries me. You freaked out,” he said simply. “You got scared for someone you care about and reacted irrationally. That’s what I’m really thinking.”

Stiles waited until they were all the way across the street to speak. “I’m okay, Dad,” he said at last. “I overreacted because I don’t want Isaac—to be like Erica. I’m going to apologize and I’ll tell him that and let him know that, um, if he wants, I’ll stay away.”

“Good. Let him know he’s the one who makes that choice.” John squeezed the back of Stiles’s neck. “He worries about you guys when you’re gone.”

“I know,” Stiles grumbled. “I just wish he’d stay put, where it’s safe.”

John was quiet a moment. “You know, the night of that mission,” he didn’t need to specify, “he was in the tech lab. Melissa had sent him to get some sleep or food, because he was twitchy and jittery all night, but he went to Danny’s lab instead. He saw the building collapsing on you guys.”

Stiles squeezed his eyes shut, drowning in guilt. “I didn’t know he’d seen the videos.”

“He did. He made sure he was right there when you guys finally got back, too, and he made Dr. Genesco let him help treat you. He was scared you weren’t going to wake up. So were the rest of us,” John added, “but he’d seen the videos in real time and knew how long you’d been injured, how long it took you guys to get home.”

“Okay,” Stiles said through his teeth. “I get it. I’m terrible.”

“No, Stiles,” John said impatiently. “I’m telling you he joined active field work because he wants to help you guys, wants to make sure his family is safe. The exact same reason every other person joined the damn active teams.”

“Okay,” he sighed.

“So you apologize and you remember how hard it is for the rest of us, who have to stay behind, while you guys are gone.”

“I will.”

 

Stiles fully intended to find Isaac and apologize as soon as they returned to the bunker, but he got held up giving Toya her things, and then Stacy Ortiz asked for his help supervising a class in the shooting range, since he was there and qualified to help in the class.

“Ah…” he glanced over his shoulder guiltily. “Yeah, I can help.” Isaac was probably still sleeping or working at the moment anyway.

The class of teenagers, ready for the first of many shooting lessons, was waiting when Stiles and Stacy arrived. They’d been learning about guns, the parts, handling them, for months at this point, anxious to get to what they probably thought was the fun part. They watched with interest as Stacy took the room, Stiles standing just behind her shoulder and observing them.

“Partner up. Get your ear plugs and muffs,” Stacy ordered. “Doubling up is important. Supes get the blue ear muffs,” she added. “That’s important. Your hearing can get damaged in here.”

Stacy ran the class—she was range master for a reason—while Stiles walked among the students to check their stances, their grips and how they were handling themselves. A few of them were still flinching every time they took a shot, or jumping when someone else shot, but they were doing okay.

It took two hours, and then Angela showed up to take over assisting, so Stiles left. He stopped by the cafeteria, hoping Isaac would be there for lunch so he didn’t have to search for him. He wasn’t there, but Boyd was, sipping from a mug and talking with Ry.

“I was looking for you,” he said. “Can you help me out in my room?”

Ry, across the table, frowned into his mug, gaze darting between them.

“With what?” Stiles asked, flicking a glance at Ry.

“Hanging pictures,” Boyd said flatly. “Every time I try, they fall off the walls.”

“Oh. Sure.”

“Don’t be afraid to use double sided tape,” Ry said, lifting his mug in salute. “Or that Blu-Tack stuff that Toya uses to hang the menus.”

“Thanks,” Boyd said. “We’ll try it.”

 

Cora wanted to spar after he finished with Boyd, and Laura turned it into a team bonding exercise, dragging Jordan and Kira into it, and by the time that all finished, it was evening. Stiles couldn’t find Isaac any-freaking-where. He checked his room, Ally’s room, the infirmary, the cafeteria, and the tech lab, finally getting fed up and going to the desk.

“Hey,” he said to Danielle, who was running the desk. “Has Isaac Lahey been up here?”

She nodded, tapping the sign-out sheet. “He left a half hour ago on a supply run.”

Stiles’s heart skipped, and he took a deep, even breath. “Alone?” he asked carefully.

“Yep.” She frowned at him, noticing his expression. “He’s human, right? I thought-”

“No, he’s human, you’re right. I just need to speak to him. Thank you.” He backed away from the desk stiffly, like his joints had rusted. He couldn’t imagine what would prompt Isaac to leave alone, especially for something like a supply run. He pressed his knuckles into his mouth. His gaze traveled around, catching on the sorting area. He’d just help them sort supplies until he saw Isaac return, that was all. Then he would apologize to him and tell Scott to ask him what the fuck he was thinking, going out alone.

Scott joined him after an hour, his face tense and worried, but he didn’t say anything; he just started helping sort the supplies.

“Hey,” one of the women sorting beside Stiles said, “who’s that?” Her alarm and surprise was understandable; it was rare for anyone unrecognizable to come inside the bunker.

Stiles straightened up fast; he and Scott started running at the same time. Too much blood, he thought wildly. There’s too much blood.

Isaac’s arm was slung over the shoulders of a man Stiles didn’t know, beat up and soaked with blood; his face was swollen and cut, and he was unconscious, his feet dragging lifelessly behind him.

A young girl was with them, hovering on the man’s other side. Her face was pale and her eyes were teary, but she wasn’t crying.

“What happened?” Stiles snapped. “Who are you?”

“Andrew Reeves,” the man replied, letting Scott take Isaac and stretch him out on the floor.

He ripped open Isaac’s torn shirt and pulled his own hoodie off, bundling it up to press into the stab wound in his abdomen.

“Danielle, go get a doctor, tell them to bring a stretcher,” Stiles ordered. “What happened?” he asked again.

Isaac wasn’t moving and his breath sounded fluttery and weak.

“Stiles,” Scott barked. “Put your hands here, keep steady pressure.”

Stiles dropped to his knees instantly. Blood seeped through the hoodie, between Stiles’s fingers.

“Some hunters started harassing us on our way to CVS,” Reeves said in a tight voice. “We were walking past some bar and a whole group of them jumped us, surrounded us. They, ah, they had silver knives, but no wolfsbane or silver dust. Your friend—he stepped in to help, but they outnumbered us.”

Stiles wiped his mouth with the back of a shaking hand, his eyes locked on Isaac’s battered, swollen face, the blood sluggishly dripping from his mouth and nose.

“Stiles!” Scott snapped. “Keep the pressure, he’s still bleeding!” His voice was shaking, but his hands were steady, even when he found two more puncture wounds. “He’s—wait—” He looked up at Reeves, turning Isaac’s wrist to expose the wounds there. “Did you bite him?”

The man’s eyes flashed red. “I thought he would heal—at least the wounds from their fists, but he hasn’t yet.”

“He can’t die,” the little girl said fiercely. “He saved us. He can’t die.”

Dr. Deaton and some nurses arrived then, shoving them out of the way to lift Isaac onto the stretcher.

Scott ran with them to the infirmary, filling them in on his wounds on the fly.

Stiles stared blankly at the blood drying on his hands, smearing the cement at his feet, until he returned. There were blood stains on the knees of his jeans from kneeling next to Isaac, smears on his shirt from wiping his hands on it.

“I remember you,” Scott said to the man, making Stiles’s head snap up.

“You know him?”

He shook his head. “They were at a park—last year. They were on the slide. You guys saw us, too. I remember your scent.”

“We didn’t know you were Pack,” Andrew said. “Before he passed out, your friend gave us directions to this place.”

“What was the name of the bar?” Stiles asked, finally lifting his gaze from the blood on his hands.

Reeves frowned. “Look, kid, I know you’re probably tough, but there were a lot of them, and I’m an alpha and couldn’t take them. You-”

“What. Was. The. Name?”

He sighed. “It was Lucky Jim’s, on Hampshire Pike.”

Stiles nodded, stepping around him. “Scott will take you to the Alpha, get you set up,” he said, striding toward the exit.

“No, I won’t.” Scott matched him stride for stride.

“Why not?” Stiles growled. “If you try to talk me out of this, Scott-”

Scott grabbed his shoulder, meeting his gaze. “He’s my friend, too, Stiles,” he said quietly, and Stiles finally saw what was simmering in his eyes. The thing about Scott McCall was that he rarely became enraged or furious, so rare that it was almost unrecognizable when he was.

“Alright then.”

 

They went on foot to Lucky Jim’s, their fury fueling them so they made the ten minute walk in five. The bar wasn’t remotely busy when they got there; Stiles counted about fifteen men inside, not including the bartender. A loud, obnoxious country song about rebel flags poured out from behind the closed door. Every one of the men inside was wearing something with the OWH insignia on it.

“They’re bragging about stabbing him,” Scott muttered through his teeth. “Because fifteen on two is something to be proud of.”

“Lock the door when we go in,” Stiles said, and kicked the door open. “Hey,” he said brightly. “Heard you guys like picking on single parents and their kids.”

“So? You wanna end up like your buddy?” one of the men asked immediately, flicking the blade of his knife. “Dog humpers, the three of you, eh?”

There was a pool table to the right, abandoned cues lying across the green felt. Empty beer bottles lined the edge.

Behind Stiles, Scott quietly locked the door.

“Go play with someone your age, boys,” another one said. “Come back in a few years when you’re less wet behind the ears. Make it a real challenge.”

“You weren’t worried about a real challenge when you jumped my friend. I guess one lone man looked pretty threatening to a group of senior citizens like yourselves.”

That got them moving, standing up loudly and pulling out their knives. The bartender looked around and went to the back, apparently deciding he wanted no part in what was about to happen. That or he wanted to have it on camera that he wasn’t involved if Stiles and Scott ended up dead.

Stiles grinned fiercely. “Come on, fuckers, let’s dance.”

They rushed them as a group, but Stiles had faced more people at once than this. He snapped a kick at the closest man, hitting him in the chest and knocking him back into his buddies. He grabbed the next by the arm and twisted until he dropped his knife, shouting in pain.

He grunted and swung his foot forward in a sloppy kick, but Stiles caught him by the ankle, lifting until he toppled into another guy. He took a punch to the mouth that only infuriated him as the taste of his own blood hit his tongue. He could imagine these men with their mean eyes and whiskey breath bearing down on Isaac, scared but determined to do what was right.

One of the men rushed him. He shot his arm out, letting the man’s own momentum drive his punch home. When he sputtered, teetering backward with the force of the hit, Stiles grabbed his shoulder and drove his fist into his gut, making him bow forward, gagging. Stiles smiled grimly and dragged him by the shoulders, slamming his face into the edge of the pool table. He left him bleeding on the floor and turned; a knife skimmed over the top of his right arm, sharp enough to open the skin like a zipper had been drawn. He spun and swung with his left; the edge of a tooth broke the skin of his knuckles, blood bursting from the man’s mouth. He grabbed the back of his head and slammed his face down into his knee, leaving him to writhe on the floor with his buddy.

Someone grabbed him from behind, using one of the pool cues to pin his arms down and keep him pulled against their chest; another advanced on him, blade raised.

Stiles’s vision flashed red with rage, black around the edges until all he could see was the bully bearing down on him. Was this what they’d done to Isaac? Held him still while their buddies took turns stabbing him, punching on him? He reared back, using the man holding him to balance himself and kicked the outstretched arm of the man approaching him.

He swore and lost his grip on his knife; he darted in and backhanded Stiles across the face.

Stiles caught his hand and bit down hard, until he felt blood gush and he kept biting until the man got closer, trying to hit him again; he brought both of his legs up, braced them against his chest, and kicked as hard as he could.

The man flew backward, toppling into two others.

Stiles dropped his legs, braced, and threw his upper half forward, hard enough to knock the guy holding him off balance. The pool cue slammed up under his chin, clacking his teeth together painfully. He ripped it from the guys’ hands and flung it away. He wanted to wreck them with his bare hands.

Two of them rushed him at once; one of them was bleeding from a gash on his head, obviously the guy Stiles had thrown into the pool table. He grabbed Stiles’s shirt and lifted him onto his toes, and the other plowed his fist into his stomach.

He grunted and hunched forward, gagging; he twisted and kicked the guy holding him in the balls, then caught the second man’s fist before he could swing again. He squeezed and twisted sharply until the bones in his wrist started creaking under his palm. Before he could break it, someone ripped him away by the shoulders, flinging him into a table. It broke under his back, a leg jamming into his ribs and winding him.

Stiles leaped back to his feet and ran full tilt at the man who’d thrown him, ramming his shoulder into his gut and taking him down. The man’s hat went flying, arching comically through the air. Stiles scrambled up and punched him hard across the face, knocking his head to the side.

A foot swung back in his peripherals, giving him enough time to avoid a ratty sneaker to the face. It hit him on the thigh; he caught the leg and yanked, toppling its owner to the floor.

Stiles licked his lips and tasted blood again. His nostrils flared as he inhaled, swinging his head back and forth, searching. One man was creeping up behind Scott, knife raised sideways, prepared to slash. Stiles pulled one of his own knives out, took a breath, and threw.

The blade buried itself in the back of the man’s shoulder, making him cry out, drawing Scott’s attention to the danger.

Someone punched Stiles in his distraction, right across the face, sending him stumbling into the pool table. He pushed back up, ducked the next punch, and slammed one right hook into his opponent’s nose.

As he crumbled, another took his place, twirling a knife like he thought he was cool.

Stiles waited, completely still, until he flipped it in the air to strike; he shot his hand forward and hit his throat with the side of his hand. He snatched the knife while the man was choking and was turning, blade ready, acting purely on instinct, when Scott shouted, “Stiles!” reproachfully, making him falter. He growled in frustration and yanked the man forward, slamming his head into the pool table. He dropped the knife and smirked at the two getting unsteadily to their feet, glaring at him.

The bigger guy spat blood and charged, snorting like an angry bull.

Stiles let him get close, then darted to the side, grabbing his shoulders and shoving him to the floor, letting his momentum do the rest.

A hand clamped on his shoulder from behind and jerked him around; he used his forearm to knock his grip loose. He grabbed his arm and pulled until he turned, swearing and trying to break himself free. Stiles yanked his wrist up hard, until, with a sickening little pop!, his shoulder dislocated. Stiles planted his boot on his ass and pushed while he was howling.

Three others had gotten back up; two grabbed his arms and dragged him to the pool table, throwing him down on it.

He arched, cursing, as one of the balls dug into his back, but the two on his arms had him pinned pretty well.

The third man, the one missing a couple teeth from Stiles’s fist earlier, leaned over him. “You put up a better fight than your little boyfriend,” he sneered. “Little bitch. He had some moves, but, man, it was easy. Just stuck my knife right in. He didn’t protect his middle like you do. Got training, don’t’cha?” He slid the flat of his blade across Stiles’s cheek as he taunted him. “I bet you’re Pack, huh? Those monsters train you up to be their little bitch?”

Stiles’s upper lip lifted; he jerked his head away from the knife, ready to bite, tear, and claw him apart once he leaned just far enough back that Stiles could get his legs up.

“Don’t matter,” the man decided. “Everyone’ll know when I’m done with you.”

Stiles jerked hard against his captors, a purely instinctive reaction, but they bore down on him, leaning their entire weight on his arms and shoulders.

“What do you think, boys? ‘Pack Bitch’?” he asked, tapping each of Stiles’s cheeks with the tip of his knife. Pack, bitch; right, left. He dug the blade into the skin of Stiles’s right cheek, drawing blood.

Stiles grunted, clenching his teeth to keep from crying out. He could hear Scott fighting the other eight and didn’t want to distract him. He didn’t move, either, afraid that doing so would jerk the knife into his eye. He held his breath and rode out the pain until the man had finished carving the ‘P’ into his skin, and threw himself forward has hard as he could, biting down on the man’s nose and making him scream. His shoulders ached in protest, the left sliding awkwardly from its prior dislocation; the strange, unnatural movement caused the guy pinning that side down to flinch, loosening his grip slightly.

The man in front of him dropped his knife and jerked back, hands flying to the blood gushing from his nose.

Stiles pulled his legs up and ripped his left arm free, scooped up the knife, and drove it through the back of the man’s hand, pinning him to the table. He fumbled around and grabbed the ball that’d dug into his back and swung, bashing the final man across the head with it, toppling him to the floor. Then he jumped off the table, landing on his feet and facing the man who’d just tried to carve words* into his face.

They stared at each other for a second, both breathing hard and bleeding.

Stiles leaped; even with one arm not quite right, even hurt, he was still faster than the guy had any hope of being. They landed on the floor with a crash; Stiles pulled out his favorite knife and pressed the point of it under his chin, making him freeze.

“You ever cross my path again,” Stiles said, “I’m going to cut your eyes out and your fingers off.”

The man sneered at him. “You don’t have the balls.”

Stiles dug his knife into skin until he drew blood. “Listen to me: you nearly killed someone very important to me. You spend your time harassing innocent people and kids. I’m not mentally stable at the moment. There is literally one thing keeping me from wearing your blood home like a coat, and he’s over there, distracted by your buddies.”

Fear finally entered the man’s eyes.

“I have to say,” Stiles said thoughtfully, “if I find out my brother is dead, this…” He jerked his chin around at the destroyed bar, the guy’s fallen friends. “This is going to look like a toddler’s tantrum compared to what’s coming. So you better pray, and leave town for good measure.” Stiles got up, sheathing his knife. When he saw the man reaching for his ankle, he sighed and stomped down on his hand, breaking several bones, if the scream that ripped out of the man’s throat was any indication.

Scott was finished with his eight, and looked alarmed when he noticed Stiles. “Is—you—are—?” He gestured wordlessly at the side of his own face. He had lacerations on his neck and arms, from the silver blades, but none of the men had managed to pin him down like they’d done to Stiles.

“I’ll explain later. Let’s go.” He grimaced and grabbed at his left shoulder. “Any way you can check on my arm while we’re walking?”

“No. We’ll—stop.” Scott shrugged and unlocked the doors. “We can’t go home yet anyway. Protocol,” he breathed.

“Ah, shit. I forgot.”

“I figured.”

Scott ran into CVS and bought a sealed first aid kit, a roll of gauze and some medical tape, and a couple sweatshirts. He taped Stiles’s cheek up to hide the wound and made him wear one of the sweatshirts to cover the blood and other wounds. “Just until we get a room,” he said. “I can patch it up better when we’re there.”

They found a motel nearby—the Regent Inn—and checked in—or Stiles did. Scott waited by the doors and made a horrified face when Stiles told the clerk they were newlyweds. Stiles, personally, thought they made a hilarious image—covered in blood, bruised, exhausted, wearing cheap CVS sweatshirts, and, apparently, newlyweds.

“Okay, come here. You bled through the sleeve already,” Scott said, pulling Stiles into the bathroom.

Stiles hopped up onto the counter, cringing when his various injuries throbbed.

Scott pulled the gauze of first, wincing at the sight. “Fucker,” he breathed. “This—I’m sorry, Stiles, this is probably going to scar.”

Stiles turned his head so he could see his reflection, sucking his bottom lip between his teeth at the sight. The ‘P’ was crudely drawn, oozing blood as he watched. A drop trailed down the curve of his cheek, dripping off the edge of his jaw.

“I can stitch it when we get home if you want,” Scott said quietly. “It’ll still scar, but the shape won’t be as distinct.”

“No,” Stiles said. “Just—let’s just clean it and put Steri-Strips or something on it. It doesn’t matter,” he added when Scott still looked upset. “It’s just a scar. I have plenty.” Though he did wish it would stop throbbing; he could feel his eye tearing up reflexively.

While he was bandaging Stiles’s face, Scott asked, “What’re we going to do if Isaac doesn’t make it?” in a whisper.

Stiles’s hands convulsed, toppling the first aid kit to the floor. “Shit, sorry. I.” He cleared his throat. “I’m going to go back and gut them one by one,” he said, staring straight ahead.

“Vengeance won’t help anyone, Stiles,” he murmured. “And,” he added before Stiles could reply, “if you kill civilians or even hunters off duty, they’re going to ground you again, for a lot longer.” He bent to scoop up the first aid kit.

“It might be worth it.” Though it wasn’t, not really. Grounded meant he would never get a chance to look for Erica and Derek. “He can’t die, Scotty,” he said in a low, wavering voice. “We’re—you and me and Cora, we’re supposed to be the ones taking care of him. I didn’t even-” he felt his throat close.

Scott leaned back, concerned. “What?”

“I didn’t get to apologize for what I did. And so—so if he dies, that’s his last memory of me. We’re supposed to be family and that’s what I leave him with.”

“He’s not going to die,” Scott said firmly.

Stiles snorted wetly. “You just-”

“I don’t care what I just. I’m saying this now: Isaac’s going to be fine.” He plucked at the sweatshirt. “Take this off so I can treat your arm.”

Stiles sighed and pulled it over his head, flinching when it bumped his cheek.

Scott was slightly less gentle with the gash on his arm, either because he was annoyed or because it didn’t look as bad, nestled among other scars from previous injuries. When he finished—that one probably needed stitches, too—he checked Stiles’s shoulder and made a sling out of the stained sweatshirt he’d stripped off. “Just in case,” he said when Stiles frowned at him.

“Fine. Can we go home now?” he asked, sighing.

“We have to wait.”

“None of those dipshits are going to be able to follow us after all that.”

“Still, we’re better safe than sorry in this case. We’ll wait an hour or so, then head out.” Scott washed his hands in the sink, running soapy water over the slow-healing cuts on his arms.

“None of them stabbed you, right?” Stiles asked, watching him scrub.

“No, they mostly just grazed me. They were too slow and kept getting in each other’s way.”

“Lucky you,” Stiles muttered. He hopped down. “Are there any painkillers in there?”

“No, sorry. When we get home, we’ll go to the infirmary and get you checked out a little better.”

Stiles sighed, wincing as his cheek ached. The pain was spreading over his whole face, throbbing hotly like a bad tooth. He swallowed and crossed to the bed.

Scott watched him get situated with his uninjured left cheek pressed into a pillow, and then he climbed on the bed with him. He took his hand, drawing the pain away little by little.

“Thanks,” he sighed, letting his eyes close. “Are you okay?”

“Yes. I’m almost healed. You take a nap, and I’ll wake you up when we can head home, okay?”

“Okay.” Stiles pressed his lips together and tried to empty his brain. He didn’t know if he’d be able to sleep, but resting was better than pacing and stressing over Isaac.

Chapter Text

Ally was pale and tired looking when they found her sitting by Isaac’s bed. He was still unconscious and still badly wounded, not healing like Stiles had been hoping he would. She sat up when she noticed them coming.

“Hey,” she said. “Where did you go?” Her brows furrowed as she looked them over.

“We went to find out who did this,” Scott said diplomatically.

“We kicked their asses,” Stiles said, less so.

“He’s been unconscious since they got him in here,” she said, sighing quietly.

Scott frowned at him. “He should be turning and healing already,” he said, troubled.

“The alpha…guy that bit him—Andrew? He said they used silver knives. That’s why it’s taking so long,” Ally said. “He—I’m sure he’ll wake up soon.”

Stiles looked down at him, frustrated that there was nothing he could do to help.

“That guy—the alpha was here?” Stiles couldn’t quite make himself say Isaac’s alpha.

“Yeah, but Alpha Hale took him and his daughter to get some food and sleep.” Ally rubbed her face, one hand still resting against the back of Isaac’s.

Before anything else could be said, Melissa came to check on Isaac. When she noticed Stiles, her eyes flashed. “What did you two boneheads do?”

“Something stupid, probably,” Scott said.

“Stiles, go sit in that bed. I’ll deal with you when I’m done with Isaac. Boneheads,” she muttered again.

Stiles tapped the edge of Isaac’s bed and shrugged at Scott as he walked to the other bed. He watched Melissa check each of Isaac’s wounds, answering Ally and Scott’s questions with practiced calm. Once she’d finished, she grabbed a cart and pulled on fresh gloves to tend to Stiles.

“Alright, let’s see it.”

“Scott bandaged most of it.”

“Mmhm.” She started by disinfecting his hand, which was sore and swollen, but not nearly as bad as some of his wounds. “This could get badly infected,” she said sternly. “That’s from a tooth, right?”

“Ah…”

“Right.” She smeared stinging cream on it, making him hiss, and bandaged it. “You’d better just ice…your whole body. Got a bruise here,” she thumbed his jaw gently, “and under here.” Under his chin. “Plenty of others, too, I’m sure. Scott said your arm needed stitches.”

Stiles sighed and held it out.

Melissa peeled back the gauze and tape and decided yes, it needed stitches, and went to get what she needed for that. She tried to get him to let her stitch up his face, but admitted that it would take longer to do the stitching and would ultimately still leave it scarred.

“Well, just keep it covered then,” she said quietly. The sight of the wound, the shape and depth, had made fury flare in her eyes, so reminiscent of when he, Scott, and Cora had been caught playing with sharp medical instruments as kids that Stiles cowered—just a little. “Let me get a look at it in a few days.” She shook a bottle at him. “Take one tonight, one tomorrow night, and one the third night. If you need more, let me know, but I think you should switch to ibuprofen or acetaminophen after this. Got it, pal?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Good. Now get some ice packs from Nurse Faradei and get some rest.”

He pursed his lips.

She rolled her eyes. “Or pull up a chair, then,” she muttered. “He’s not going to wake up tonight. Too many silver-inflicted wounds.” She looked sad, but her voice was matter-of-fact.

Stiles shrugged. “Then it won’t hurt if I sit here.”

She sighed. “Alright.”

He hopped down and went to get the ice packs, then joined Scott and Ally’s vigil.

Ally fell asleep in the chair by Isaac’s bed around three in the morning. Near six, Andrew and his daughter came to visit.

“Hey,” he said quietly. “How is he?”

“Not healing yet,” Scott said. He frowned. “I saw you guys at a park nearby last year. Why haven’t you run yet?”

Andrew shook his head. “I wasn’t sure how. It’s just the two of us,” he added with a grimace. “The rest of our pack was taken and probably killed, if…” He flashed his red eyes. “Is any indication.”

The girl stepped around her father to approach the bed, frowning at Isaac’s slack face.

“I’ve wanted to get Jess out but I wasn’t sure how, or to where, or when. I assumed you were a really reckless pack and that you’d be taken in no time, which is why we avoided you. If I’d known you were Pack, I’d have asked for help.”

“We can get you to Canada,” Stiles said. “Or the Alaskan territory.”

Scott shot him a sharp, almost panicked look that he couldn’t read*.

Andrew shook his head. “I told Alpha Hale that I’d prefer to wait until Isaac wakes up, to make sure he’s okay.”

Stiles nodded and leaned back in his chair, satisfied.

 

Melissa called them all idiots, but also brought them breakfast when it came. She wasn’t quite so generous at lunch time; she chased all of them, even Ally, out. “Go. Go eat and shower. If I see any of you in here before four pm, you’re all getting banned.”

“Rude,” Stiles said, but he didn’t mean it. He could use some time to stretch his legs and get food. He supposed he should go see John, too, but he had to work up the energy for that. He knew John* would freak out and dealing with that on top of everything else sounded exhausting.

“C’mon, you need food,” Scott said, putting his arm around Stiles’s shoulders. “You coming to the cafeteria?” he asked, turning his head.

Ally glanced up at them. “No, I think I’ll eat in my room, maybe have a nap. Thanks,” she added with a smile. She looked around, listless, before splitting off to go to her room.

Scott sighed. “Now we have to tell Cora.”

Stiles jolted. “Ah crap. I forgot.”

“I know.” He sniffed audibly. “She’s probably in here getting lunch.”

And she was, sitting with Laura, Kira, Marisol, and Jordan. She leaped up when she saw them, alarmed; Laura’s jaw dropped.

“What happened?” Kira asked, her gaze catching on every bloody rip in Scott’s shirt.

Stiles winced. It was possible that they should’ve gone and changed first.

“Isaac was hurt,” Scott said. “By some humans, while he was doing a supply run. By about fifteen humans,” he added darkly.

Cora flushed with fury. “They-”

“Are probably still peeling themselves off the bar floor,” Stiles said with a fierce grin that hurt pretty much his whole face.

Laura’s nostrils flared. “Stiles-”

“I went, too,” Scott declared. “You didn’t see him, Laura. He was dying.”

Cora’s face went white. “What?”

“The werewolf he was helping bit him. He was hurt pretty badly—stabbed a couple times by silver knives—so he’s still unconscious, but Mom thinks he’ll be fine once he starts turning and heals.”

“Oh.”

Laura rubbed her face. “You guys went and tried to fight fifteen people?”

“Tried!” Stiles scoffed. “Succeeded. And won!”

“We didn’t kill anyone,” Scott said quietly. “We just…made sure they’d consider their actions more carefully in the future.”

“How badly are you hurt?” she asked, looking at Stiles. “Will you be able to come on the next mission?”

Scott held up his hand before Stiles could try to answer. “Depends on what it is and when,” he said. “I’d say next week, he’ll be good. He can’t wear his goggles or mask right now.” He gestured at the gauze taped to Stiles’s face.

“Fine. We’re not due for a mission for a while anyway, letting some other teams get some work.” Laura rubbed her face.

Stiles figured that was good enough and left them to get some food. By the time he got back, Scott was telling them exactly what’d happened.

“Bastards,” Cora muttered when he’d finished.

“They were all affiliated with the OWH in some way, right?” Jordan asked, eyes narrowed.

“Yep. Groupies or hunters,” Scott grumbled.

“They assumed we were Pack,” Stiles said, sitting beside Cora.

“Why do you say that?” Laura snapped.

“I-” Scott frowned at him. “Why do you think that?”

“The guy who did this…” He gestured at his cheek. “He was going to write ‘Pack Bitch’ on my face. I thought you heard him say that.” That descended the table into chaos.

Laura wanted to see it, almost climbing over Marisol’s lap to see, and Cora wanted to go kill someone. Jordan and Marisol stared in mute horror when Stiles peeled the gauze back.

“He carved-” Laura shook her head, teeth bared. “This is because of the Argents,” she hissed.

Stiles lifted his brows, surprised. “Eh…sure, in a roundabout way…”

She shook her head. “No. Kate Argent gave an interview yesterday. They’re ‘branding’ the supernaturals they capture. That way they can’t hide among humans. That’s what gave that bastard the idea, I bet.”

Stiles’s face throbbed. “I see.” So he should’ve just killed the guy while Scott was distracted. No, he thought, resigned. No. It’s Argent. It’s the OWH. It’s the whole damn system.

“It’s bullshit,” Laura said tiredly. “It’s just more bullshit on top of the other bullshit.”

The others went to visit Isaac after they ate; Scott and Stiles went to their rooms to shower and change. Stiles had to maneuver carefully to keep his stitches and face dry, so it mostly ended up with him holding his arm out, head tipped back, standing under the spray. He had a few spectacular bruises forming, which would need more icing before the day was done.

He went to visit John in the gym after getting dressed. He stood at the back of the room until John’s class finished. “Hey, Dad.”

“What did you get into now?” he asked, but he looked worried.

“Some trouble, obviously.” Stiles sighed and resigned himself to telling the story again. When he got to the face-writing part, John predictably wanted to see it. “You know, Melissa’s going to be so mad if she has to redo these bandages because everyone wants to gawk.”

John ignored this as he turned Stiles’s chin to get a better look. His face was blank, eyes cold and furious. “Where is he?” he asked. “The guy that did this. Where is he?”

“Nursing a broken hand, probably.” Stiles shrugged.

“Good.” John sighed, rubbing his face. “I’ll go look in on Isaac—and you—later. I’ve got another class in ten minutes. Just—jeeze, kid, just try not to get in any more trouble. Okay?”

“No problem. I won’t be going very far until Isaac wakes up anyway. No trouble to get into here.”

“Lies,” John muttered. “Go get some sleep or something, you look terrible.”

“Thanks, Dad. I can always count on you to lift my spirits.”

“My job is to make sure you’re healthy and alive. I’ll lift your spirits later.”

Stiles laughed and tipped forward, flinging his arms around his neck. “Love you, Dad,” he said into his shoulder.

John swept his hand up and down Stiles’s back. “Love you, too. You sure you’re okay?”

Stiles swallowed thickly. “Probably not,” he admitted. “But I will be soon.”

“Okay.” John kissed his cheek. “Now go get some sleep.”

Since he couldn’t go see Isaac for another couple hours or so, he figured he’d might as well actually get some sleep—or rest, at least, if sleep eluded him.

To his great surprise, Stiles fell asleep as soon as he landed on his bed. Apparently bar fights took a lot out of a guy. His dreams were jerky and blood spattered, featuring Erica, Derek, Scott, and Isaac, and Stiles couldn’t save a single one of them.

He sat up in bed, gasping hard. He swung his legs down, pressing his feet into the cold cement floor to ground himself in reality. His cheek throbbed hotly with his rapid pulse, spreading to each of his individual injuries until he was staring wide eyed into the dark. He could remember only flashes of his dream, blood and screams and fire. He squeezed his eyes shut, trying to remember despite knowing it would only hurt him to. He thought he’d heard Derek calling for help, Erica whispering that there was no way out.

Pounding at his door made him jump. He looked at his alarm clock incredulously, and found it was just past midnight. Who was banging like that?

“He’s awake!” Scott yelled through the door, and Stiles vaulted out of bed.

 

Isaac’s bed was propped up when they reached the infirmary. Ally was beaming while Dr. Genesco checked over his wounds.

“They’re all healing pretty normally now that your body has finished turning.” He checked Isaac’s temperature, his pupil responses, and his eyes, when they turned gold. “Looks good. You’ll have to stay until everything is healed so we can monitor for lingering internal injuries from the silver.” Dr. Genesco stepped back and tiredly waved everyone forward. “Don’t crowd him, and don’t stay too long. He still needs more rest,” he said sternly.

“Yes, sir,” Scott said, nodding.

Cora bolted forward first, throwing a hug around Isaac’s shoulders, carefully avoiding his wounds. Then she leaned back and punched his shoulder. “Why did you go out alone?!”

“I thought it would be quicker to just run out and back,” he said sheepishly. “It wasn’t.”

“Yeah, you think?” Cora stepped back, trying to disguise her sniffling, and let Scott and Stiles approach the bed.

“We’re glad you’re okay,” Scott said simply, before Isaac could ask about Stiles’s bruises. “We are just very glad you’re okay.”

“Thanks,” he said slowly. His gaze dropped to Stiles’s hand, catching on the bruised knuckles, the broken skin on one of them. “You didn’t,” he said, alarmed. He looked at Stiles’s face, horrified, taking in the bandage. “You didn’t.”

“Dude,” Scott said with a little smile. “We kicked their asses. No one messes with our family.”

Isaac laughed a little, and Cora punched Scott’s arm. “You make us sound like the mob.”

“Close enough.” Scott grinned shakily at Isaac. “Those guys are super lucky you’re alive, if the way Stiles was talking was any indication.”

“Oh, god, don’t tell Laura that,” Cora muttered.

Isaac ducked his head, smiling.

Stiles sighed. “Can I have a minute with Isaac alone, guys? It’s important.”

Scott looked pleased. “Sure.” He picked Cora up and threw her over his shoulder, making her shriek indignantly; Dr. Genesco shushed them all loudly.

“Ally can stay if you want, Isaac,” Stiles said quickly, grimacing as he realized he hadn’t asked if Isaac was okay being alone with him.

“It’s alright.” He shrugged, looking unconcerned.

Ally kissed his cheek before she left, following Cora and Scott into the hall.

Stiles inhaled deeply and crept closer to the bed, guilt making his steps short and barely effective. “I meant to say this earlier, but I was being a coward.” He wiped his palms on his sweats. “I’m sorry for how I treated you. I had no right to do that, scared or not. I was afraid for you, but that’s no excuse for my behavior. I want you to know that it will never happen again, and that, if you want, I’ll stay away from you.”

Isaac’s head jerked up. “No, don’t do that.” He rolled his eyes. “You just got hurt getting revenge for me.”

Stiles frowned. “That wasn’t—not—it wasn’t supposed to be a trade-off, like trying to make it up to you by getting back at them for you.”

“I know,” Isaac said.

“There wasn’t much thought behind it all, actually. More knee jerk,” Stiles admitted with a grimace.

“I know, Stiles,” Isaac said loudly. When Stiles just stared at him, finally silent, he said, “Most of the things you do are protective. You scared me in the knife room.” He nodded. “You’d never treated me like that, or spoken to me in that way. I accept your apology because I know why you did it and I know that when you say it won’t happen again, you mean it.”

Stiles sighed, shoulders slumping. “Thank you.” He tried to smile. “I promise I won’t terrorize you again if you still want me to help train you.”

“Can you help train werewolves?” Isaac asked, frowning.

Stiles smirked. “Yeah, I can help train werewolves.”

He looked interested.

 

Around six in the morning, Andrew and Jess returned to visit Isaac, pleasantly surprised to find him awake. Jess, before Andrew could catch her, leapt onto the bed to hug him.

“Thank you,” she said fiercely, squeezing his neck. “Thank you for helping us, even though you were human and got hurt.”

Isaac looked startled, but hugged her back. He also, Stiles noticed, sniffed at her and blinked in surprise, eyes glowing gold.

“Okay, Jess, come on, get down,” Andrew said, prying her off. “Isaac, I wanted to let you know that Jess and I are leaving soon.”

Isaac looked confused and a little hurt. “Oh.”

“I just wanted to ask if you wanted to come with.”

Stiles’s heart seemed to freeze in his chest. Go with? A quick look at Scott’s face said he’d already realized that Isaac’s alpha wasn’t a part of the Pack.

“Or,” Andrew said heavily, “you can stay here, bond with an alpha in the Pack. It shouldn’t take too long once we’re gone.”

Isaac sighed, relieved. “I want to stay. I appreciate what you did,” he added. “You biting me obviously saved my life. I want to stay so I can help more people now.”

Andrew smiled crookedly. “You saved our lives, too, so I’d call that even. I’m not surprised you’re staying…so, thank you.”

Isaac flushed, pleased and embarrassed.

Jess looked upset. “But-”

“No,” Andrew said quickly. “It’s his choice. Come on, kiddo, Alpha Hale wants us to be ready to go soon.”

 

Talia decided to take Isaac in as her own beta, since he was so close to the others anyway. She sent their team to the gym for some practice fighting until she could get there.

“I have to go help in Lydia’s lab,” Ally said as they headed toward the gym. “Sorry, but I promised. I’ll see you later, though.”

“Sure.” Isaac kissed her cheek, looking puzzled. “What’s that smell?” he asked as she left.

“She’s still upset,” Scott said wisely.

Stiles thought she was more angry than upset, and wondered if they should’ve invited her along to kick ass. She might’ve liked that. He shrugged. “Okay, who’s first?”

“I can spar with him first if you teach,” Scott suggested. “Until the others get here, if you want.”

“Sure.”

It only took five minutes for Stiles to spot the first problem they had to address. He crouched by Isaac where he’d fallen. “So, listen,” he said conversationally. “You’ve got to be able to get back up quickly in the field, or you’ll be shot, stabbed, or stepped on.”

Isaac sat up, frowning. “How do you get up so quickly? I’ve seen you sparring!” he scoffed. “You’re human, but you act like hitting the floor doesn’t hurt at all!”

“You’ve got to bounce,” Stiles said; he saw Scott nod vigorously out of the corner of his eye. “You can’t tense up when you’re about to fall. If you go limp, it hurts less, and you can bounce back up easier.”

“Become the ball,” Scott said sagely, and laughed.

“Try it,” Stiles suggested. “Remember: do not tense up as you’re going down.”

Isaac got up unsteadily, getting back into position for Scott to tackle him.

Stiles sighed when he hit the mats again, getting up quickly but stiffly, not quite able to leap back to it like he wanted.

“I don’t know how!” he snapped. “I can’t just—relax when I know I’m going to hit the floor!”

Stiles sighed and got up. “Let me show you.”

Scott said, “Absolutely not. You’re still injured.”

He snorted. “Dude, I was going to throw you.”

“Isaac can do that. Just like I’ve been throwing you,” he told him. “On the mats, and watch how I get back up.”

Isaac was so thrilled to have successfully thrown him that he missed it the first time; Stiles was too busy laughing at Scott’s frustrated face to tell him to try again.

The second try went better; Isaac clearly saw how Scott hit the floor and bounced back up like it was all one motion, fluid and practiced as if hitting the mats was just a part of his next move.

“I don’t see how I’m going to learn how to do that.” Isaac grimaced.

“Well, at least you’ve got an advantage. Werewolf,” Stiles added. “You won’t get tired as fast as I did when I was in training.”

Laura, Cora, and Kira joined them, followed by Jordan, John, and, finally, Talia and Ian.

“How am I supposed to…bond…with you?” he asked awkwardly when Talia mentioned it.

She smiled. “Oh, we’ll figure something out.” She kicked her shoes off and joined him on the mat.

Stiles remembered, once she started sparring with him, that she had been an active field operative before she was Alpha. He could tell she was being gentle with him, which made it scarier. On the bright side, it looked like Isaac would get plenty of practice learning how to fall.

Stiles left the werewolves to spar after a while, bored and basically useless while he was as bruised as he was. He made his way to Danny’s lab, and, to his surprise, found Ally there. “Hey,” he said. “What’re you up to?”

She looked upset, her eyes bloodshot and sunken. “Just—I heard about an interview and wanted to see it. You know, keep—keep myself up to date.” She wiped her cheek. “How’s Isaac doing?”

“Fine. He’s training with Talia right now.”

Ally nodded and asked, dully, “Want to watch?” She gestured at the screen someone must’ve set up for her.

“Yeah.” He wanted to see if Laura was right about the branding thing. His cheek burned with phantom pain.

Kate Argent was talking to someone in a lavishly decorated living room, wearing a red pants suit with her legs crossed, arm trailing along the back of the couch like a lounging cat. “Well, what we’re trying to do in the safe towns is cure this affliction. The work we’re doing takes time, and people want to see instant results that we just can’t give them.”

“Safe towns,” Stiles snorted. “More like prison camps.”

Ally flinched. “You went inside one, didn’t you?”

“Yeah.” Had left Derek inside and helped blow it up.

“What was it like? Were they—were they actually trying to cure—?”

“No,” he said shortly. “They’re pretending to cure what isn’t even a disease to gain public support. The more people that believe they’re trying to cure this, the more people will believe we’re deranged terrorists.”

On screen, the reporter asked, “And what of these branding reports?”

Kate flicked her hand dismissively. “Of course we have to have a way to keep track of the afflicted. If they leave, they’re clearly dangerous to the public, and we have to be able to get them back. It’s the only way to be safe with this issue,” she said firmly. “At least until we develop a cure.” She smiled slickly.

“They had children in chains,” Stiles said, quietly furious. His hand was on his face, he realized, covering the gauze like he could shield it from Kate’s slimy smile. “They shot a werewolf for trying to help them, and then carried his body off. They aren’t trying to cure anything.” When he looked at her, he found Ally looking mutely horrified and faintly green. Maybe she’d been in the bunker so long she’d forgotten how bad it was. He was happy to remind her.

Chapter Text

Between rescue and relocation missions and training Isaac, two weeks flashed by before Stiles knew it, falling into bed when he could, deadened by exhaustion. It was the exhaustion part that made his waking up, in full gear, tangled in his shower curtain, so frustrating. He was tired, but his nightmares had become more aggressive lately, and now was no exception. He collapsed onto the edge of the tub, gasping against his knees until the shakes wore off.

He made himself get up and leave the relative safety of the bathroom. His room was pitch dark, meaning he’d somehow gotten dressed and armed in the dark without injuring himself. He pulled his flashlight off his belt and used it to navigate to the lamp at his bedside.

He stripped everything off, grimacing as he found his lower most shirts damp with sweat. He put his weapons and gear in his footlocker, separated the irrevocably filthy from the passably wearable clothes, and found more three AM appropriate clothing, and went to shower. When he was dressed in comfortable sweats, showered and wide awake, he decided he couldn’t just sit here, twitching in the wake of his nightmare, and left.

Lydia’s lab only had three people in it, nightshift scientists observing experiments and monitoring computer-run tests. They waved limply at Stiles as he passed, and didn’t seem to notice that he didn’t wave back.

Only Peter and Adam were present in Peter’s lab. Adam was suspiciously disheveled, but Peter was in Sara’s cell, talking to her.

“What?” Stiles asked, because his tired brain couldn’t even come up with a guess.

Adam smiled tiredly. “We’ve found a way to make them lucid—only for about an hour, and—it’s not perfect, there are so many flaws, but we’re getting closer.” He gestured at Sara’s cell for Stiles to look.

He peered in, and saw Peter sitting across from Sara, nodding as she spoke. He made a gesture at the glass, and Adam went in. Stiles braced, but Sara’s face lit when she saw him.

She didn’t get up or try to go to him, but her mouth moved rapidly as she spoke.

Peter left them. “They’ve got twenty minutes left, if Sara lasts as long as Penny did.”

“What’s she saying?”

“That she remembers some of her time here, and she doesn’t want him to feel guilty.” Peter looked uncomfortable for a moment.

“What?” Stiles asked warily.

“This only works for a very little while. Too much of the serum gives them seizures. It affects the rabids the same,” he added thoughtfully. “I don’t know how that’s possible. Unless whatever happened to these,” he gestured at Sara and Jeff’s cells, closest to them, “occurred naturally, and the OWH somehow—on accident or on purpose—duplicated it, and therefore any cure we find will work for either.”

Stiles frowned, glancing toward Heather’s cell.

“She already had a dose,” Peter said. “We can give her more in six hours, but any sooner and she’ll seize.”

Stiles nodded. “Do you think they’ll get better?” he asked. “If you just…mix the right ingredients?”

“I think we can cure them,” Peter replied slowly. “What are you really asking?”

“You looked weird when you came out of Sara’s cell.”

Peter sighed. “Sara is pretending to be back to herself, but I believe it’s—I believe the fever…has had some lingering effect on her.”

“Like what?”

He shrugged, lifting his hands helplessly. “Madness? Who knows?”

Stiles glanced at the other cells. “Were the rest like that when you tested them?”

“No. Just Sara.”

He felt guilty for being relieved by that. “Maybe once she’s fully cured, it’ll go away.”

“Maybe.” Peter glanced at him. “How’re you doing?”

Stiles continued to stare into the cell. “Fine. The usual.” He shrugged. “It helps to talk to Boyd.” He could feel Peter’s focus sharpen.

“Really,” he replied. “Hmm.”

“Yeah. You know. About Erica and Derek,” he said casually. “It helps to talk about…them.”

Peter looked speculative, but all he said was, “I’m sure,” in a carefully neutral voice.

“I guess I’ll head back to my room. Or maybe the gym. I had a nightmare,” he admitted.

“I figured that’s why you were here.”

Stiles sighed, rubbing his face. He hissed as he grazed the still-tender cut on his cheek.

“Why didn’t you let anyone stitch that?”

“You’re more conversational in the middle of the night,” he said sourly.

Peter shrugged. “Just a question.”

Stiles didn’t have an answer for him. Part of the reason was simply how long it would take to get the stitches put in and then, eventually, taken back out, which would delay Stiles getting out on the field. A bandage was more easily covered by his mask and goggles. The other part was a mystery even to him, but he didn’t like the idea of turning the scar into a shapeless blob. He wasn’t sure why.

He left after a few minutes of tense silence. The halls were quiet, but the gym had a few early risers in it, training. He didn’t go in, as the thought of having to socialize made his skin itch. Resigned, he started back to his room, only to get stopped by a very exhausted-looking Ian.

“What’re you doing out of bed, kiddo?” he asked worriedly.

“Couldn’t sleep. Is something wrong?”

Ian shook his head. “No more than usual.” He scratched at his stubble-dusted cheek, yawning. “Would you mind getting the rest of your team to my office, though? I’ve got a mission for you by Peter’s request, and you’ll need to hit the road by eight AM at least.”

Peter’s request?” Stiles repeated, bewildered. He was just in there. Why hadn’t he said anything?

“Yes. It should be fairly nonviolent, but you know how these things can go.” He shrugged.

“Alright, yeah, I’ll get them.”

He smiled; a pang went through Stiles at the sight. He looked just like Derek when he smiled like that, all sleepy and soft. “Thank you. See you in a few minutes.” He patted Stiles’s shoulder and continued on his way.

Scott had to help pry Cora out of bed, but Laura popped up like she’d been waiting for him.

“I’ll go get Kira and Jordan,” she said. “Meet you at Dad’s office.”

“Okay.”

Cora grumbled loudly about being woken up while they shuffled her down the hall.

“Don’t be such a baby,” Scott chided gently. “At least we’ll have time to get breakfast before we go.” He glanced at Stiles. “Right?”

“Right.”

Cora sighed, letting her head droop onto Stiles’s shoulder. “I’d still rather have more sleep,” she sighed.

“Me, too,” Stiles muttered. Sleeping without waking up from a nightmare or in some random part of his room sounded like nirvana.

“Coffee for both of you,” Scott declared, squeezing them both around the shoulders.

Kira and Scott, chipper morning people they were, twittered at each other like excited birds while everyone else got settled in the office.

Stiles felt a little guilty for thinking of them like that, until they started kissing and decided to share a chair. What they didn’t know wouldn’t hurt them, in this case. He scowled at Ian’s desk.

“Okay,” Ian said, drawing their attention. “Peter came to your mother and me about this and, after some discussion, we’ve decided that we agree with him. He believes he can make a cure for the rabids if he could study whatever the OWH used to make them like this. So, your job is to go to one of the research facilities, find it, and bring it back. Danny and Foster worked most of the night and yesterday until they discovered a facility in Nebraska that has been making the mixture. They only know,” he added, sighing, “because surveillance teams have observed supernaturals being taken in and being escorted back out…rabid.” He grimaced. “They never back up any of the notes on it anywhere that Danny can get to, so he can’t get the recipe remotely.”

Stiles’s heart was pounding, and he could only hope that the rest of the team assumed it was his usually pre-mission adrenaline rush. “So it’ll mostly be scientists, right?”

Ian nodded. “Scientists and guards, very few, if any, hunters. They’ve got other things to do now,” he added. “You’ll leave at eight, so you better start getting ready now. Marisol has volunteered to be your driver again.”

“Perfect. See you guys in the garage at seven-fifty,” Laura said, jumping to her feet. “Be ready.”

While Laura went to shower and pack first, the rest went to get breakfast. Since the kitchen didn’t start serving breakfast until six, they made do with what they could find in the pantry, meticulously writing down everything they took on the clipboard by the doors.

Talia was by the doors talking to a team that had clearly just returned, leading them to a table to sit and give her their report when Stiles carried his armful to his own table.

Stiles sat beside Scott, jiggling his leg while he picked through the fruit cups he’d gathered.

“Dude,” Scott said when they were mostly finished eating, “are you okay?”

“Yes…” he said slowly. “Why?” He looked up to find Cora staring at him, too. “What?”

“You just seem sort of…off. You didn’t take any of my strawberries,” Scott added. “Or Cora’s toast.”

Stiles shrugged, then decided that telling a little bit of the truth might actually help. “I’m nervous. We haven’t gone to a facility since…you know. So I’m nervous.”

“Right. Of course.” Scott grimaced but, being Scott, he patted Stiles heartily on the shoulder. “It’ll be different this time. Everything will be fine.”

“I know.” Stiles scooped up the last of his soggy cereal and managed a wan smile. “Better get ready before Laura finds us.”

Since Stiles’s stuff was pretty much already set up to go, he had time to stop in the tech lab before going out to the garage.

Marisol was inspecting the van they’d be using, a frown on her face. “Hey,” she said when she noticed him. “You’re early.”

He was thrumming with excitement and practically jogging laps around the van, which was why he’d hoped to get there before the others could see him. “Yeah, my stuff was all put together and I’d already showered a couple hours ago.”

“You can set your stuff in the back, then. We aren’t leaving for another hour and a half.”

“Okay.” He situated his vest under his seat, along with his utility belt. He thought about sitting and waiting for the others, but decided he was too jittery to do that and got out to pace the garage.

“Stilinski! Sit down or get out! You’re being disruptive!” Chelsea, the manager of all things vehicle or garage related, looked deeply irritated.

“Sorry,” he started, wincing. “I’ll-”

“We’re supposed to keep it as quiet and calm as possible in here. You pacing like a caged cat is not calm and quiet.

He lifted his hands. “Okay, okay, I’m sorry.” He winced and shuffled over to Marisol for protection. He wasn’t afraid of Chelsea, per se, except that he totally was. She once threw a wrench at Ry’s head for bringing back a totaled SUV and telling her to “fix it up” in a day. She also once went toe-to-toe with Laura about the type of vehicle the team was taking for a mission and won. And survived. “Give me something to do,” he begged Marisol.

“Go say bye to your dad.”

“Except that.” He regretted it, but there was no way John would miss how excited Stiles was, and he would ask what was up. He’d know if Stiles lied, and that just wouldn’t work.

“Go sit in the van and count to a thousand, then,” she ordered. “Let me finish checking these. There’s a crossword book in the glovebox. Go do that.”

“Thanks, you’re the best.” He laughed when she grumbled that she knew it.

Stiles had finished three crosswords by the time the whole team was there and prepared to leave.

“It’s a twenty hour drive, not counting gas and bathroom stops,” Laura said. “More if there’s traffic. Marisol, Jordan, and Stiles will switch off driving, so try to sleep when you aren’t driving.” She sat beside Kira and Scott. “Everyone else, let them sleep.”

Cora poked at Stiles’s shoulder until he let her help with the crossword, and Marisol started the van.

 

The drive went mostly smoothly. The most exciting thing that happened was they got pulled over for a humanity check at some point near the Nebraska border while Jordan was driving. The police officer met Jordan’s gaze with a flash of ember-like eyes of his own. He wordlessly handed them a slip of green paper and went back to his squad car.

Holy shit,” Stiles gasped once they were driving again. “Was he like you?”

“Yep. Just hiding among humans instead of working with us.” Jordan shrugged. “Probably doing what he can during moments like these, making sure our people can get where they’re trying to.”

“I never understood—why doesn’t silver affect you guys?” Cora asked.

“Because we’re meant to protect vampires while they sleep. That would defeat the purpose, if we were harmed by things that harmed them.” He shrugged. “Witches aren’t affected by silver, either.”

Cora hummed thoughtfully. “Do you transform?”

“Cora, stop,” Laura snapped.

“Why? I’m not being rude, I don’t think. I just want to know.”

Jordan sighed quietly. “Yes, I do.” He smiled, flicking a glance in the rearview mirror. “Next full moon, I’ll join you guys in the gym and show you.”

“Nice. Thanks.” She leaned back, flopping halfway across Scott’s lap, half in Stiles’s.

“Dude.” Stiles shoved her feet off, but she immediately put them back.

“How long until we get there?” Scott asked, ignoring them.

“Three more hours.”

“We’ll have to wait until nightfall, though,” Laura said. “No use going in during their busiest hours.”

“What time then?”

“Just after midnight, preferably.” Laura yawned and nudged Scott’s leg with her boot. “Wanna pass out some fruit? I’m starving.”

“Sure.” He dumped Cora into Kira’s lap, making them both squawk indignantly; he reached under his seat and grabbed the box of provisions while they untangled themselves.

Cora huffed and scrambled across the van to sit beside Laura and Marisol. “Bully,” she muttered.

Scott smiled and tossed her an apple.

Stiles snagged an orange for himself, smirking when Scott told him to wait his turn.

The Nebraska facility bustled with activity when they arrived. Mostly it was filled with people dressed in casual work attire, as opposed to the geared up guards that led them into and out of the building. There were only a few windows, all on upper floors.

“Well, now we wait,” Laura sighed. “Get comfortable.”

“Do we know where to look once we go in?” Jordan asked.

She sighed. “No. We’ll have to split up and search.” She rubbed her forehead. “Stay in groups of two. It’ll be faster than all of us searching together.”

“Okay.” Cora swung her legs over Marisol’s; she didn’t seem to mind, just adjusted her position and leaned her head back.

 

Stiles was ready to vibrate out of his skin by the time Laura declared it late enough to head inside. He could see her point: business had slowed way down the later it got.

“Okay, Scott, split off with Cora, Kira, you’ll be with Stiles-” his heart leapt- “and Jordan, you’ll be with me. Connect comms now.”

“Everyone’s cams on, too?” Danny asked once they were connected.

Laura frowned. “I thought Boyd was monitoring.”

“Yeah, he wasn’t feeling well, so we sent him to the infirmary. Looked like silver sickness, and I didn’t want him to get worse. It’s just me tonight.”

Stiles’s heart was racing; he hoped it wasn’t noticeable, or, if it was, that it wasn’t doing anything out of the ordinary.

Kira twisted her cam on in the wrong direction; it wouldn’t get an audio feed, but as long as Stiles’s did, no one would notice.

He didn’t point out her mistake.

“Remember, we’re trying to get in and out with minimal notice,” Laura said. “That means you, Stilinski. Keep it together.”

He saluted her and grinned. “You got it.”

“Good. Search the labs,” she added to the whole team. “See you soon, Marisol.”

“Good luck!” she whispered.

There was only one guard on the door, playing a game on his phone while he leaned back against the wall.

Stiles waited until he turned toward the sound of Scott coming up on his right, then leaped forward, clapping a hand over his mouth, jamming his knife through the back of his neck, and twisting.

“Prop him against the wall. Less noticeable that way,” Laura said with a grimace.

Stiles wiped his knife on the guard’s pants before he sheathed it.

“Shit. Door’s locked.”

He rolled his eyes and unclipped a set of keys from the guard’s belt. “Try these,” he suggested.

Laura flicked his wrist and took them. Inside, she split them up: Stiles and Kira were sent to quietly search the second and third floors. “If you see anyone, try to deal with it quietly. Search the labs,” Laura added over the comm.

“We heard you the first six times,” Stiles said cheerfully, nodding at Kira to pick the first room to search.

“Keep it up, Stilinski,” Laura growled.

Kira picked an empty, darkened lab. The room was cold and dusty, holding only the barebones in terms of equipment. There was one very old computer shoved in a corner, not even plugged in.

“So, I guess this one isn’t what we’re looking for,” she muttered with a sheepish smile.

“Nope.” Stiles tilted his head, looking at the equipment. “This room’s too small. They’d need a place to hold the supernatural after injecting them, a place to inject them—they’d have to strap them down, too.”

“Right.” Kira frowned thoughtfully, following him back into the hall. “Why do they keep bothering to inject them here? Or in any labs at all, I guess.”

Stiles scowled. “Probably pretending to try out cures,” he muttered. “Then when they go batshit—‘oops, see, this is why we need a cure’.”

Kira grimaced in distaste. “Yeah, probably.”

They crept down the hall, relying on Kira’s superior hearing to warn them if someone was coming.

The lab in the middle of the hall—basically the central area of the second floor—was enormous. There was a cell off in the corner, tools laying neatly but obviously not in their designated spots on the counters. Bone saws, syringes, scalpels, scissors, chisels, bone cutters, a cautery all clean and lined up on a counter in the center. A bed with silver metal straps was in the middle of it all, with a rolling computer cart beside it.

“Looks promising,” Kira said.

“Yes,” Stiles agreed. He let her examine the laptop on the cart while he looked around. The lab, as Kira said, looked promising.

Kira sighed, frustrated. “Computer’s locked.”

“It probably won’t be on there anyway,” Danny said soothingly. “Check the cabinets. It’ll be a liquid; Peter said all the victims have injection scars.”

Kira obligingly started opening cabinets, so Stiles figured he’d better, too.

He found gloves, folded, heavy plastic aprons, face masks, and saline, but no other liquids.

“Maybe the next one,” Kira said with a sigh.

“Leave the door open,” Stiles suggested when they reentered the hall.

“Why?”

“So we don’t search it again.”

She frowned. “But I can-” she stopped, putting her hand on Stiles’s arm to keep him in place. Her eyes widened.

“How many?” he mouthed.

She bit her lip, held up two fingers, and pointed at the stairwell.

“What do they smell like? Any metal or guns?” he asked under his breath.

“Uh…flowers. Ink, sweat. Hand soap.” She looked confused. “Why?”

“They’re scientists, not guards. They’re probably not armed.” Stiles gestured at the door across the hall until Kira went in.

It turned out to be a supply closet, with a big mop bucket and jugs of cleaning supplies taking up most of the space, but they both managed to squeeze in.

Stiles turned to face Kira. “Tell me when they’re right outside,” he mouthed carefully.

She nodded, brows furrowed, so he turned back to the door.

He kept one hand on the knob, braced on the balls of his feet. He had to remind himself to breathe, to keep himself calm so Kira didn’t suspect anything. Anticipation had sweat rolling down the back of his neck; the weight and insulation of his gear didn’t make it any better.

“Now,” Kira breathed.

Stiles threw the door open, startling the two men in the hall. He had time to register that they were wearing white lab coats before he rammed his shoulder into the closest one, driving them into the lab he and Kira had just searched.

“Stiles, what-” Danny began, startled and confused.

Stiles shut and locked the lab door. “Kira, go find Scott or Laura, ’kay?” he said over the comm. “I have to do something.” He turned to observe the scientists, who were tangled in the stools that Stiles had flung them into. “I have a question for you,” he said pleasantly.

Stiles,” Danny began, sounding horrified. “Don’t do this. Get back on mission. You’re going to get in trouble.”

Stiles grinned at the two scientists.

“Fuck off!” one of the men seethed. “We aren’t going to tell you anything! Just kill us and get it over with!”

The other man looked alarmed by that, as if he, at least, was willing to be persuaded.

“Fine.” Stiles grabbed the scared-looking guy by the arm and jerked him to his feet. “You want to answer my question?” he asked, still in that overly pleasant voice.

“I-I don’t—” he swallowed, looking over Stiles’s shoulder. “I can’t-” he said weakly.

Stiles tsked. “Ooh, wrong answer. Come on.” He grabbed the other guy by the throat when he stood up. “Don’t.” He let him go to pull his gun out and point it at him. “You,” he shook the whimpering guy he was still holding onto, “go into that room. Yes, the one with the lock on this side and no windows. See how you like being locked in there.”

Once he’d scrambled in, Stiles called out, “Can you hear me?” When he responded with a shaky, “yes,” Stiles locked the door. He turned back to the second scientist, grinning even wider.

“Stiles,” Laura snarled. “Stop whatever you’re doing and get back on task.”

“I’m busy.”

“Don’t do this. This is not the way to find them,” Danny said. “You-”

There was a quiet click on the line. “Sorry, Danny,” Boyd said, loud and clear. “We have work to do.”

Boyd? But-” Another click, and Danny was kicked off Stiles’s comm.

“I’ve got your video feed, too. Strap him down,” Boyd ordered.

“You got it.” Stiles tucked his gun into its holster and launched himself forward, at the second scientist, whose name badge said ‘Ray’; he bolted when he saw him coming. Stiles caught his arm and dragged him toward the table. There was a brief struggle before he managed to get him strapped onto the bed.

“Should I sedate him now?” he asked, panting.

“No! Not yet. You need him to scream.”

“I…what?”

“You want the other guy to talk, right? He has to know you’re serious and not afraid to hurt them. You asked me how to do this, this is how. Get some protective gear on, it’s going to get messy.”

“You aren’t going to torture me?” Ray laughed from the bed, throwing his head back. “Wow. That’s almost a letdown. They just let little kids do ops in the Pack, huh?”

“How many supernaturals have you strapped in that table and experimented on, Ray?” Stiles asked conversationally, opening cabinets to find the masks he’d found earlier.

“Hundreds,” he spat. “Maybe thousands. Old and young. They all screamed.”

Stiles donned an apron, a mask, and some gloves. “What do I use for the first bit?”

“Do you think your own knife can cut through bone?” Boyd asked.

“Yes.”

“Do his ring finger. After he screams, use the anesthesia I gave you. It’s heavy enough that he won’t wake up. While it’s kicking in, we’ll get more tools.”

“Okay.”

Ray’s eyes were green, Stiles noticed, watching him with fury and terror as he approached. He had freckles and fair hair. “Fuck you,” he said, and Stiles noticed his front tooth was chipped.

Stiles grabbed his left hand and pinned it still, pulling his knife out.

The scream that ripped out of Ray’s throat was high and loud, piercing in its intensity. He thrashed and sobbed noisily while Stiles took the anesthesia out of the pouch on his belt.

“Inject it,” Boyd grunted. “Between…steps…you’re going to want to cauterize the wounds so he doesn’t bleed out.”

“Right,” Stiles muttered. After he’d administered the anesthesia, he set about finding the cautery while Ray squirmed and hurled insults at him. “Walk me through it.”

Boyd took a steadying breath. When he spoke, his voice was detached and clinical, like a recording. “Alright. Are you sure you want to do this?”

“Do you think the other guy will talk now?”

“OWH scientists are turned and then taken into camps themselves if they try to quit. I assume giving away company secrets will end worse than that for them.”

Stiles swallowed, staring down at the machinery he was holding. “Okay.”

“Okay. Get the bone saw. And maybe find some goggles.”

And then Stiles, with Boyd’s guidance, did monstrous, unspeakable things to the unconscious scientist on the table. Boyd was right. It was messy. Stiles would be having nightmares for years. Blood dripped from the edges of the table, despite the closed wounds, and Stiles was in it up to his elbows. He’d never felt less human than he did then, clutching a bone saw in one hand and a man’s guts with the other. There was blood on his face, warm through the mask covering his mouth and nose.

“Check his pulse,” Boyd ordered.

He did. “Still got him.” Somehow, somehow, that pulse was still beating under Ray’s skin. Boyd was good at giving directions, he guessed.

“Now get the other guy. Stiles,” he added sternly. “I have about four minutes before Alpha Hale finds me and either imprisons or exiles me for this. After that, I won’t be any help to you. Find them.”

“I will.”

“Get him,” Boyd ordered, and clicked off.

The comm went dead. Stiles peeled his gloves off carefully and pulled it out of his ear. He twisted his cam off next, lest Danny figure out how to get back into his feed. He didn’t need to see this. As far as Stiles was concerned, no one should ever see this. He draped the smock over the laptop cart delicately, taking care not to let his hands shake.

The second scientist tried to race by Stiles, who let him. As he ran, he slipped in the blood, landing on the slickened tiles hard. “What—what—Oh my—oh my god.” He puked, then, adding to the mess on the floor.

Stiles figured that was enough and advanced on him.

He scrambled to his feet with some difficulty. “Oh my god. You—what—you killed him and did—just—cut him up?”

“Nope.” Stiles grabbed his wrist and dragged him to the table, pressing his resistant hand to Ray’s neck.

“He’s—he’s still alive?” He turned and got sick again, gagging and retching. “What kind of—what—what kind of sicko-”

“I have-” Stiles began, but he kept gibbering about how he was still alive, despite what had been done to him. Impatient, Stiles pulled his gun out and shot Ray in the head. “There. Now he’s dead.” He grabbed the man—Tyler, his name badge said—by the back of his neck and dragged him forward, forcing his face closer to Ray’s exposed ribs. “Listen to me. I have questions. If you don’t answer or if you lie, we’re going to play Operation like Ray and I just did. Do you understand?”

Tyler nodded, eyes squeezed shut.

Stiles released him, letting him scramble back from the body. “Where do you guys send prisoners?”

“Wh-what? Safe towns.” He blinked sweat out of his eyes, terrified and confused.

“Tyler. Pack prisoners. Important prisoners.”

He shook his head. “I’m—I’m-”

“That bone saw still works. I’m out of anesthesia, though.”

“They’ll kill me,” he whimpered, covering his face and bending forward.

“If you don’t tell me,” Stiles said, monotone, “I’ll leave you alive.”

“Wh-” he looked at Ray’s body, horror and understanding washing over his sickly face. “You’re really sick, you know that?”

“That’s fine. I’m looking for two prisoners. Pack. A man and a woman.”

Tyler shook his head. “Supernatural prisoners are taken-”

“One of them is an Alpha’s son.”

Recognition lit his eyes, and he seemed to realize it, because he closed them and whispered, “Damn.”

“Tell me.”

“Tennessee,” he spat. “Argent has a big plan for him. Once they identify him to the press, that is.”

Stiles nodded. “Where in Tennessee?”

“They don’t tell us. Everything outside of our own projects is need-to-know.”

“Okay.”

Tyler nodded, then snatched the scalpel from the cart and ran at Stiles, holding it aloft like a knife.

Stiles shot him before he made it within three feet, which was probably his goal, to make sure Stiles didn’t leave him to his fate or decide to play in his innards. He looked around, committing the scene to memory as punishment. He knew what he’d done, had known what he was going to do when he and Boyd started planning this. The Pack had a zero-tolerance policy for this kind of thing, this kind of inhumane act. He walked out, knowing he would be walking out alone. Tennessee.