Chapter 1: Way Leads to Way
Stiles has been missing for a little more than a week when Chris Argent shows up at Derek's. The betas have been looking for days but every time Erica or Isaac thought they found a scent, it was either old or wolfsbane covered it up so thickly that there's no trail to follow.
Scott is spending most of his time with the Sheriff. He's no Stiles, which fuck, is the problem, but the FBI got called when they realized that this was an actual kidnapping. So someone has to at least try and misdirect them away from the actual problem so Derek can try to get his– To get Stiles back.
Derek can't dwell on what Stiles is to him, hasn’t had the chance to become. If he does he won't be able to think. Right now, Derek's ability to keep a clear head is the only thing holding the pack together.
With Stiles missing, Lydia and Allison are on research duty. Boyd is terrifying the shit out of the locals looking for something, anything. Aside from Stiles' blood on the broken glass left in the window and scraps of duct tape on the floor there's nothing left to go on. Nothing but a dribble of Stile's blood out in the grass spelling out Hale pack.
Derek got there first, heard Stiles muffled shouts and elevated heartbeat across town. By the time he arrived, Stiles was gone. Wolfsbane coated over everything so thick he could barely breathe. The scent of the blood in the grass was the only thing that cut through it and was so far their only clue. It was also one of the many things they couldn’t share with Stiles' father and the feds.
Seventy-two hours is the maximum time standard with an expected result of survival in a case like this. Every time Scott checks in which, seems like it's every fifteen minutes but is really every few hours, he brings this grim fact up. Scott then demands to be handed over to Allison, who murmurs to him about how it's okay when Scott tells her about how scared Stiles' dad is, tells her how scared he is and starts to cry like the innocent boy he's managed to hold onto. Derek pretends he can't hear any of this but he does and it cuts through him like a silver knife.
What Derek can't bring himself to tell Scott is that he happens to know that the timeline is different with supernatural situations. He could be dead already, he could be bait in a trap for him and the pack, or he could be a long-term prey being held by something older and nastier than they can think of, the sort of thing that'd be in the back of the Argents' bestiary.
If that's the case, Derek hopes to God that Stiles is just dead. Creatures like that tend to make their victims linger for months or years as a mix of food and plaything. Stiles is the best of them and Derek wants- He just- He deserves better than that. Even Kate would've deserved better than that.
Derek is actually grateful when Chris shows up. He thinks it might just be to drag Allison home by the hair but to feel this tense and scared over something other than the idea of what's happening to Stiles, so far out of his reach. "What the hell do you want, hunter?" Derek growls, fury pouring out of his throat.
Allison is pack. His wife is technically one of Derek's betas now, even if she ran off to wherever hunters go to get purged or die or whatever. At this point the man is almost an ally but Derek's loosing the thread. This is the best he can manage.
"I want you to know what we found." He throws a phone at Derek. "The Ezüstells have an ogre."
Bull. Fucking. Shit. Derek can't help the rush of cold that floods his veins but he doesn’t let it show. He just rolls his eyes. "When you say they have I'm assuming you mean dead in a trailer hooked to the back of one of their trucks, heading off to the taxidermist or something."
"No." Chris' pale blue eyes spark in the low light of the refurbished house he grew up in that's become his den. "They've had it in chains up in a cave in their northwest territory since the late eighties." He clears his throat. "They've been using it to punish particularly nasty violators of the code over the last twenty five years. " Chris swallows and it’s a horrible clicking sound. Coupled with the steady honest beat of his heart Derek feels ill."Apparently they've given it enough- enough prey over the years to keep it actually happy."
"They have an ogre." Derek repeats. "An actual fucking ogre. Are you hunters out of your goddamn minds?"
"The Ezüstells are not my people, Derek. The non-humans living from Seattle northwards are out of our jurisdiction. Argents believe in limits, even for those that break the code. We wouldn't give any living creature to an ogre. Even my father wouldn't have approved this and you know it."
Derek stares at Chris Argent, imagining what a real ogre must be like. Between eight and ten feet tall, ugly with skin thicker than most Kevlar, they're one of the few other beings that Derek knows for a fact exist. Or at least they used to. They were hunted by both weres and hunters alike almost to extinction for a reason. Their love of humanoid flesh is infamous, as is their cruelty and instinct deep perversion. They took the people they captured apart one piece at a time over long years, only venturing out of their caves when their living meat finally died.
Derek remembers a story that one of his older cousins from a pack in Virginia told him one summer growing up. Four hundred years ago, before they came to America, the Hale pack found an ogre in one of the caves of northern Scotland. It took the entire pack to bring the ogre down and took out a quarter of the pack before they killed it.
According to the story, when the battle was over, the alpha and his lieutenants found a woman in the back of the cavern, curled up in a filthy blanket caked in her own blood. She had been missing both legs, one at the ankle and the other above the knee, her left arm at the shoulder, half her scalp, an eye and both ears. Derek's cousin had told him about her mutilated and bleeding breasts and stomach with loving detail that had kept Derek up with nightmares for weeks.
The story said that she'd been the prisoner of the ogre. At his hands she'd been raped, toyed with, and eaten one bite at a time over the course of nearly five years. The alpha of the pack had offered her the bite to heal her wounds. Women like her had no place in the human world then, but packs made room for their wounded if they were willing to contribute in some way. She'd have been cared for, protected, her one strong hand and one good eye with wolf senses would make up for her other losses within the pack.
In the story, the woman had instead cried and begged for death and the alpha had agreed. When he changed into his wolf form, the ogre's captive had pet the alpha between the ears with her one good hand until he ripped her throat out, unafraid. Because, Derek's cousin had said, what was so scary about a sweet little wolf after so long trapped in that kind of nightmare?
Derek asked his dad about the story when his cousins went back east. "It's just a story right is it?" He'd asked and his father had grit his teeth so hard his jaw twitched.
"Sometimes people have to make hard choices for themselves," his father had said. "Sometimes you have to do the harder thing and let them." Derek couldn't help but notice how that wasn't a no. How his father had never once implied that it wasn't the gospel truth.
"Derek," His father and squeezed the back of his neck. "On the rare chance that you ever see an ogre, run. Run far, run fast, and don’t stop until you're with your with your pack. Then tell them what you saw, where, and let your alpha decide what to do."
Derek's father had been so completely devoid of humor, so different from his usual laughing smiling self. Derek hadn't had time to learn much about the other things that existed in the supernatural realm with his kind, but ogres were never a joke. They were always a real threat, like the risk of a stranger attacking you in an alley or a plane crash.
"What their connection to you is doesn’t really matter because the Ezüstells have one. Alive."
"Somewhere in the wild lands between Seattle and Vancouver." Chris licks his lips and his heartbeat speeds up. Not in a lie, just in anxiety, fear and shame. "I don’t know if you're old enough to know this, but your mother killed their leader Brigit in fair contest in '85."
Derek raises an eyebrow at him asking "and your point is?"
"And it's not unreasonable to assume that her husband Heinreich found out one of her line is still alive. He may have figured a mate for a mate plus interest is fair vengeance for what he's lost over these last decades."
Derek doesn't buckle. His knees don't give out. He doesn't sway or faint. He does the more dignified thing and vomits on Chris Argent's combat boots. It's not his shining moment but Stiles. Oh, God, Stiles.
Chris puts a hand on his shoulder, steadying him. "We're with you on this one, Hale. Don't get used to it but this? This is wrong. For anyone or anything."
Derek nods and sags into the steadying grip. He closes his eyes and just breathes for a few minutes. He needs to be a person, terrified and desperate, for just a second before he goes back to being the alpha. Chris gives his shoulder a squeeze and understands.
Chapter 2: It Went Many Years, but at Last Came a Knock
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
Derek rallies the troops, sparse as they are. If he thought it would be at all possible, he'd call the fucking Marines in with their tanks. When everyone is gathered together, there's the pack – four betas and himself, Lydia with her immunities and Allison with her bow and her skill – and a solid three dozen hunters led by Chris Argent. This many hunters in one place makes his skin crawl but he'll bear it. He'll bear anything if they can actually get Stiles back intact.
Which is how he ends up in the passenger seat of Chris Argent's black SUV with Lydia's feet pressing into the back of his seat. Erica and Isaac are curled together in the backseat towards the driver's side. In the back are enough supernatural and military ready weapons to break into a bunker.
The rest of his pack are in another car. The distribution is the safest way to make sure none of the betas are at too great a risk from the hunter's. Allison is Chris's second with Gerard and Victoria gone, so her traveling with Scott and Boyd is the best they can do even though the split makes Derek nervous.
The other cars with the rest of the Argents don’t make up a caravan because the entire family are basically Navy SEALs. They know better. So even with his wolf senses Derek has no idea where they went and how they're all going to get to Seattle.
"Does anyone else see a flaw in this plan?" Lydia demands, jiggling the back of his chair. He will not rip her leg off but he wants to. "I mean what, we just wander around in the thousands of acres of woods between Washington state and Canada and hope we find a fairytale monster? I know you guys are all sniffy magic but they've used shit tons of wolfsbane so far. What makes you think their territory wouldn’t be full of it?"
"We're not going to wander the woods," Chris replies. "You are all going to stay in downtown Seattle while Allison, a couple of my people, and I go out to the Ezüstells compound and find out what's going on."
"If you think I'm not going with you for that you're out of your mind," Derek warns. He trusts Allison. He wants to trust Chris but he has very little faith in the plan as a whole.
"Compound," Lydia says. "Compound like…the Koresh Compound?" She leans forward between the passenger and driver's seat so she can better stare at Chris. "Did a freaking hunter cult steal Stiles?"
There is a long silence in the car where there's nothing but the sounds of people breathing and the hum of road noises. Then Chris clears his throat. "Sort of."
The hunters who thought keeping an ogre as a crime deterrent are also basically a crazy cult. Derek bangs his head on the window. It helps center him on what matters: Stiles. The pain in his head distracts from the nonphysical ache at the idea of what could be happening to his- to Stiles right now.
"Why didn’t you tell us about a crazy hunter cult?" Lydia demands, poking Chris in the shoulder. "I know you're very secretive but if they're into stealing normal humans that’s something we should know about, don’t you think?"
Chris ignores the question. "You should all rest. We've got a long drive."
Chris and the rest of the pack meet up at a McDonalds, and he lays out the plan. Scott, being the stupid, stubborn, loyal puppy that he is, refuses to stay behind. Chris gives him a look that could kill at twenty paces, and Derek suspects he restrains himself from back-handing Scott for being an impulsive idiot because of a combination of his daughter loving him and Stiles being his best friend. He grudgingly agrees on the condition that Scott and Derek don’t get closer than fifty feet to the compound. That’s fine by Derek; he doesn’t need to get closer to see and hear what these nutjobs have to say.
The trip into Bumfuck, Washington takes forever but that's because Derek and Scott have to run. The hunters traded Chris' car for one of theirs and it was off having the werewolf detailed out of it. Derek can manage and so can Scott but even for them, it's one hell of a run. They stop half a dozen times but it doesn’t matter. They're sweat drenched and panting when they reach the final stop before entering the compound.
"How's your climbing?" Chris asks.
"Mediocre?" Scott offers.
"Ignore him. It's fine."
"Get as high as you can while staying hidden. Focus on my voice." Or Allison's, he doesn’t say, but everyone knows that’s who Scott will be listening for. "If you can figure out how, take notes. Text back to Lydia and your pack. Just, be ready."
Derek climbs the way he used to when he was a cub with his sisters, fast and high as he can. This used to be fun. Now it's just another place for the wind to cut through his bones and remind him how cold everything seems to be without Stiles' smart mouth around to warm things up. Scott follows him into the canopy, clumsy and awkward, and settles beside him on a thick branch.
"Do you think this will work?" he asks, sounding desperate and young.
"I don’t know," Derek admits. He's too tired to lie.
They watch Allison and Chris drive through the compound and come to a stop in front of the second house. A man with dark hair and dark eyes about ten years older than Chris emerges.
"Heinrich," Chris says with a nod and the man shakes his head and laughs.
"Please, Chris, none of that. Hank, you remember. Hank. And you can call me Uncle Hank," he says, pulling Allison into a hug. "I haven’t seen you since you since you were ten."
"Oh," Allison goes stiff in the embrace. "Hi."
He lets her go and steps back to study her. "Look at you," the man says, talking her face in both hands. "You are the spitting image of Vicky." He taps her chin. "That is a Ezustell jawline if I ever saw one. Honestly, Vicky looked just like you when she was eighteen."
"You knew my mom when she was eighteen?"
"Come on, Allison, you really don’t remember your Uncle Hank?" He tilts his head and sighs. "Honestly Chris, don’t you own a single photo album? Jesus. My Brigit and your mother were sisters."
"Shit," Scott hisses.
"Yeah," Derek echoes. Those are pretty much his sentiments exactly.
If Allison's stunned expression is anything to go by, she thirds that opinion. "Oh. Um, yeah. Oh yeah, I remember now." Derek can't hear her heartbeat but he can tell she's lying.
Hank seems too pleased to see her to notice. He grins at her. Scott actually growls. Derek shushes him but he doesn't blame him when Hank gives her jaw a teasing tap. "That's my girl."
"Hank," Chris says, pulling her away. "We've lost a rogue alpha from California. Last sighting had him feral and headed north. Every piece of intel we have says that his human mate's been taken. We think that's what he's after."
Hank crosses his arms over his chest and stares Chris down. "So what are you doing here, Christopher? Washington isn't your territory. Neither is Oregon, Idaho or British Columbia for that matter."
"No it's not but this wolf is ours. It's attacked my people, which makes it my problem. The alpha's a Hale. Last I heard your people had a blood feud with one of them."
"I did, then that cute little sister of yours burned the pack and most of their puppies to ashes. Good work, Lord rest Katie's sweet soul. It's a shame what happened to her and I'm sorry for your loss but what matters here is that the mangy bitch that killed my Brigit burned up like a marshmallow." He smacks his hand together as if dusting them off. "Feud settled."
Derek feels his claw dig into the flesh of the tree. His teeth cut his lip and he tastes a few drops of blood before his healing kicks in. A hand is wrapped around his wrist and when he looks down, he's shocked to find Scott attached to it.
"Ignore him," Scott says. "He took Stiles. We already know he's a bastard so. He's wrong about your mom and your family. Just ignore him, okay Derek? Ignore him so we can get Stiles back."
Scott is begging. His hand is covered in dark fur and his full strength is pressed into the grip on Derek's wrist. Through the gold gleam in his eyes, Derek can see the teenager who wants his friend back laid bare. It's like seeing him naked. It's awful, made even worse by the fact that Derek knows that he's looked the same since the day he found Stiles blood in the grass outside his window.
Derek nods and forces his attention back to the conversation in the compound. Chris is pissed. Good. He should be. Someone on the ground should be at least half as angry as Derek, and Allison still looks a little too overwhelmed to work up the fury Hank deserves. "You really expect me to believe that?" Chris demands.
Hank shrugs, turning to go inside. "I don’t give a shit what you believe."
"If you took the last Hale's mate you're within your rights," Chris says. "A blood debt is a blood debt and you didn't collect yours. I can understand why you'd want to now. His mate for your wife. Justice."
"No," Hank snarls. "Justice would be wiping every last one of those pathetic whimpering dogs off the face of the planet. This is just something to take the edge of."
"I don't care what it is. I just need to know where the mate is so I can be there to take Hale down when he finds his mate." Chris gives Hank the same stare that has made Derek run for safety and set Scott cowering behind Allison. "Because whether the mate is dead or alive, you know Hale will find him, Hank. We both know it's just a matter of time."
"Of course he will," Hank agrees. "That’s the point."
Spoilers through S2E8 with SUPER VAGUE REFERENCES TO S2E9. Anything after that is completely Jossed.
Chapter 3: I Thought of the Door With No Lock to Lock
Scott's nails break the skin and Derek's chest tightens. He's right then. This is whole fucking mess is just about hurting him and someone figured out that hurting Stiles is the best way to do that.
"Are you out of your mind?" Chris demands. "You're purposely baiting an Alpha with its mate in your own backyard? You want him to come here?"
Hank grins. "He won't come to the compound. He'll go into the mountains after his mate, if he can get that much of a lead on the boy. Even if Hale can find Stone Foot, it won't make a difference. By the time he gets there he'll be lucky if there's more than bones left."
"Stone Foot?" Allison asks, all curiosity and innocence. "Is that a place?"
"You cannot have babied her like this," Hank demands. "If Vicky hadn't gotten bitten -"
"But she did. She's the eldest Argent woman so you're going to answer her questions. She's in training and a woman of her status needs to know."
"Stone Foot is an ogre, kiddo," Hank says almost proudly. "They tend to be found in Europe but sometimes you find one whose ancestors wandered over on the landbridge."
Allison gives him a frown at that. "Ogres. Seriously?" Scott makes a little sound in his throat of approval as she gets her feet back under her. She's better like this, her strength and her anger and intelligence fully online and as good a weapon as claws. "You have to be kidding me, Uncle Hank. There's no way that's a thing."
He gives her a smirk that is more feral than Derek has ever been, even with prey between his teeth. "Of course it can. They're one of my favorites. Hard as hell to kill and probably the nastiest things you can find in the northern hemisphere. I mean sure, head into South America and you get fucking werepanthers and the snakes the Inca left to punish the transgressors but here? Ogres are the way to go if you can get them. They're the Spanish Inquisition and Gitmo in one big ugly package."
"Oh," Allison says in a small, distressed voice. Then she clears her throat and tires again. "Oh. That's not really…standard operating procedure is it?"
"Allison, sweetie," Hank says gently, "I know that your family has its Code. No children, no one without proof, and not unless they cause direct harm, right?"
"Yeah but we don't torture them." She flicks her eyes over to the trees. Derek knows she's looking at him, or where she thought he was, and remembering the chains, the battery Kate strapped to him. She looks back at Hank and gives a shrug that most people would probably think is casual. "Not usually."
"Your people are supposed to have rules about children too," Chris adds. "What happened to that? The boy's not even eighteen and you're going to throw him to a living torture chamber?"
Derek can see Hank wave that off with a dismissive hand. "The Hale alpha is the last person who can pay for your Aunt Brigit's murder. The boy we took? He's old enough to have made the choice to give his loyalty and his holes to a dog abomination. That makes him an adult in my book."
The only reason Derek doesn't come out of the tree and descend down into the compound to rip the man's throat out right here, right now, is Scott. He could break the grip but the feeling of his arm being jerked back is enough to shock him back to himself.
Then Stiles stops him. Stiles who isn't his mate the way Hank is talking about. They've come close dozens of times since Stiles finally got tired of being shoved around. He had wall-slammed Derek for once, following the move with a kiss that Derek can still feel even now. There had been time to stake his claim, leave a mating mark, finish what they'd started every single time they'd fallen into bed together.
But he hadn't. He'd been waiting for…something. Stiles to graduate? To be an adult? To be sure? He didn’t know anymore. None of it matters now anyway.
"Hank," Chris snaps. "Not in front of my daughter."
"She can take it. She's going to be one of our generals so she needs to learn," Hank spits back. "What happened here isn't like your mom, sweetie. He's not a victim. This kid is a werewolf's mate. He made a decision to be that monster's bitch." Hank shrugs. "The boy made the choice to lie down with a dog. Now he's got to deal with the fleas."
"So that makes it okay to hurt him?" Allison asks. "He's a human."
"No. He's pack. He gave up his human rights the moment he picked their kind over ours. What happens to him now is just the universe balancing out." He gives Chris a nasty smile. "One bite at a time."
Allison is probably scared and she has every right to be. She's pack too. She and Scott have been as good as mated since they first started dating. Neither Argent flinches but Scott does.
"And what do you think will happen if Hale finds his mate in pieces like he did his sister?" Chris demands. "Because Kate didn’t make it out of that alive, Hank, and neither did Hale's uncle."
Hank shrugs. "Casualties of war."
"A war you're starting. Hale cared about my sister and his uncle both at one point in his life and they both died ugly. He doesn’t give a damn about you. How do you think this is going to end for you?"
Easy, Derek thinks. They took his mate. They hurt his mate. So he is going to make them all bleed. Hank doesn’t seem to get that important detail though.
"I think we're going to get a dead alpha and a human traitor who will keep Stone Foot entertained until the next time one of the area packs acts up and provides our guest with a new toy."
"Where is he?"
"Stone Foot. I want to be waiting outside when Hale finds the trail. He's going to, and the last thing I need is another bloodbath when he realizes he can't get his mate back. We need to get him before he can track you."
"We can handle it." He waves at the compound. "The walls are concrete on the outside but everything is built and lined with mountain ash wood, salt, holy oil and water, mistletoe. We've been loaded for bear since before you met Vicky."
Even from far away, Derek can see the gleam of fanatical surety in Hank's eyes. He recognizes it now. Kate had it, and Gerard, and Jackson when he was under the master's thrall, before his family took him out of Beacon Hills. It is so much colder than the air cutting through the trees.
"You never did know when enough was enough."
"The fact that you think it's still safe to live in the suburbs proves that you're nothing next to Katie or Vicky. The Raupyas, the Serebros, the Asimis, and the Yinses built their bases decades ago. The Argents should have a stronghold of their own."
"You cannot believe that bullshit about some sort of werewolf war."
"One day they're going to get tired of being hunted and unify against us."
Chris rolls his eyes. "Fine. You get ready for the Rapture while I deal with the wild beasts plague. Just tell me where to go."
"The dog's going to get torn to bits without your help but if you want to that's your business. Leave my niece with us though. You're not dragging her into a pointless fight."
"Don't," Scott whispers. "Don't do it, Allison. Get out of there."
Chris wraps his arm tightly around his daughter. "Allison's going to stay in Seattle."
"That's your option, Chris. We protect Vicky's girl while you go be stupid or you don’t get to be stupid at all."
Chris looks down at Allison. His jaw ticks but it's clear he's waiting for her to decide for herself. "Sounds like fun," she says with a sunny smile plastered on over gritted teeth. Derek loves her for it.
"Your funeral," Hank says with a shrug. "You got a piece of paper? It ain't exactly on the map."
Derek can't read what's being written down but it doesn't matter. It's a lead. They can start now, finally. It doesn’t remove any of the fear or the stress but for the first time since these bastards took Stiles, he can breathe.
Chapter 4: I Hold with Those Who Favor Fire
What Hank gives them is a set of latitudinal and longitudinal coordinates in freaking minutes and seconds. Five wolves and nearly thirty hunters crammed into one small hotel is claustrophobic but Chris has the map and the GPS and Derek, well, he's the Alpha.
Yeah. That's why he's at the center of this. Not because the most important person in his world is being tortured, and partially eaten, right now.
"Best I can tell it’s a solid ten miles off the last marked road here." Chris says tapping the map in a patch of undeveloped mountains. "Unless there's a larger path not on the map we're going to have to go in on foot."
"We can't do that," Derek protests. "We can't bring the power we'd need on foot."
One of the hunters snorts. "Obviously you've never seen a handheld rocket launcher."
"I have," Erica says and the room turns to stare at her. "What? I watch Buffy. She used one of those to blow up the Judge. It was awesome. You think that'll be enough?"
"We brought four," The hunter says, grinning at her. "And a backpack full of grenades."
Erica smiles back, slow and sexy and if Derek were closer, he would smack the back of her head. They don’t have time for her to flirt. Especially not with an Argent, Jesus.
"You can't use grenades," Derek hisses. "Stiles is with the ogre wherever the Ezüstells are keeping it. How exactly are we supposed to get him out if we blow him up?"
"Derek-?" Chris begins but Derek shakes his head.
"You know to kill them, don't you? You do, right?" He sounds young to his own ears, like the little boy demanding that his father tell him that it's all a story, a lie.
"Last time anyone in our family saw one was in France just after Waterloo so I don’t know what would be effective now." Chris admits. "But the books all say the same things. The only weaknesses are the eyes, the soft spot under the jaw, inside the mouth, maybe the groin."
"Yeah," Derek croaks. "Exactly. Wolves go for those spots with teeth because that’s it. Those are our only ins with an ogre. Everywhere else is impervious. The whole point of the cars was to have something big to hit him with so that one of us," he waves a hand at himself and his pack, "can try and get in a killing blow. Even then it’s a fucking stretch. It can just wait until we get tired and pick us off one at a fucking time."
"A bullet through the eye is as good as a knife or claw." The grenade happy hunter points out.
"Is it? Are you sure? If it was your girlfriend? Your mom? Would you be sure?"
Grenade Guy goes quiet.
The room is eerily silent. That many people in that small a space should never be so still. In the end, it's no surprise that Chris is the one who breaks the silence. "We go in on foot then. Any of you who don't want to go can stay here but everyone else, we take precision weapons we can carry and hope for the best."
"Or die trying," Scott says, meaning every word.
"Or die trying," Derek agrees.
"Why am I here?" Lydia asks.
"You care about Stiles." Scott says and she rolls her eyes. Yeah, okay. She does but it's obvious that she isn't buying what his puppy eyes are selling.
"You're here because on top of being pack, your immunity comes from your access to magic," Derek says. He figured that out when the whole mess with Peter nearly ruined everything. "Whatever they're using to hold the ogre in, there's no way it's just simple metal or rock. We may need you to open whatever it is that's keeping Stone Foot in if it's keeping us out."
"You're Dawn," Erica declares, pleased. "Mixed with Willow with Cordelia's fashion sense."
Lydia gives her cold stare. "What are you talking about?"
"From Buffy? Only the greatest horror show of all time? No?" She sighs and slumps back. "You guys are seriously the worst supernatural beings and hunters ever. I'm disowning all of you."
Derek winces. In that moment she sounds so much like Stiles he feels like it's almost as if he's speaking through her. Fuck. Fucking fuck.
Stiles spews random facts and references all the time which is simultaneously one of his most endearing and annoying quirks. Derek doesn’t get half of them. Okay, if he's honest, more than half and Derek's no idiot. He's actually pretty smart.
Even after the fire, Derek was once the kind of person who had a future. He earned graduated summa cum laude from Brooklyn College with a BS in biology when he and Laura were still in New York. Even so the kind of stuff Stiles tends to ramble on about is beyond him. Derek thinks it's probably because Stiles is too fucking brilliant by a mile.
Sometimes, if they're in bed, quiet and curled up with no one to hear them, Derek will ask him to slow down, explain what he means. When he does, Stiles lights up and launches into detail. His head is usually resting on one Derek's shoulders so his hands can wave freely through the air safely away from either of their faces.
In a lot of ways moments like that were better than the sex. Those were times when he actually learned about Stiles, where he shared his own curiosity and amusement and let Stiles know him. Times passed together like that made a mate more than base sex. Derek never said I love you. Not ever. But occasionally, when Stiles was sleeping, but Derek would toy with his long nimble fingers and think it.
The stillness of the room gives Derek enough time to actually think what he's been pushing down: he should have said I love you, at least once in the months since he started actually feeling it. Stiles wanted to hear the words. He could smell the desire for them as easily as the physical lust. He also knows that Stiles felt that couldn't put it out there himself. He was only a teenager after all and one with crippling insecurities he used his babbling and cutting humor to cover.
It's not as if Derek could blame him. Their relationship wasn't hidden but it wasn't established either. They were who they were as pack with the addition of sex. He hadn't done anything to indicate they were more outside of bed and Derek knows he's not the most expressive person on earth either. Everyone knew that but there were so many times he could have, should have said something, done something.
If he'd told Stiles he loved him, he could have explained about mating. He could've finished the bond they'd inadvertently started in those deep fucks and quiet moments, made the bite, staked his claim; maybe he'd know more. His parents always said that mated pairs had a sixth sense about each other. Maybe it was psychic? Maybe it was like a werewolf sex GPS?
He doesn’t know. All the adults had been gone before he had the chance to ask. He can't let Stiles be gone before he gets the chance to find out. It's unacceptable. It is impossible – a thing that cannot happen in a universe that currently exists.
Boyd, ever practical Boyd, is the first to speak up. "So, when do we leave?"
"Tomorrow," Chris declares, monarchical in tone like the Queen of fucking England.
Derek explodes out of his chair because enough is enough. He is not taking orders and risks assessments from goddamn hunters when it comes to his friend, his Stiles, his goddamn mate. "Do you know what that thing could do to him in a night?"
"Do you know what it can do to us if we're not rested?" Chris shoots back. "Go the fuck to sleep. Take a sleeping pill, have a drink, smoke a joint, do that dog pile thing you wolves do. I don’t care. But you need to rest. All of us do. Being at the top of our game is literally the only chance we have to win." A muscle in his jaw ticks. The smell of anger rolls off Chris in waves and Derek can hear his heartbeat speed up to match. "And we need to win because Hank has Allison. If we don’t come back, they'll integrate her and they don’t treat the matriarchy the same way we do."
"How do they treat their matriarchy then?" Lydia asks.
Fear adds to the mix of smells and disgust. It's putrid but familiar. Derek knows that it's been rolling off him in waves for days now. "Did you ever watch those Animal Planet shows about lionesses, how their prides are structured?" Chris asks her.
Lydia's lips form a perfect O shape that would've done things to Stile's brain and cock that Derek would've taken shameless advantage of. If he were here. If he weren’t remembering that NatGeo special Stiles turned on after sex once that talked all about how lionesses worked as a unit to do all the hunting and childrearing around one, typically lazy male lion who fucked them all.
Isaac actually shudders. "Dude, gross."
"Yeah," Grenade Guy agrees. "If anything it should be the other way around. Packs are for wolves."
"So what," Boyd demands, "You think we're all Derek's harem or some shit?"
"I was just saying-"
"Yeah I know what you're saying," Boyd shoots back.
"Shut up all of you," Derek snaps. "You aren't helping. You know what would help? Figuring out how we're going to get my mate out of an ogre's cave without getting him killed. So let's do that." He may be panting. He may have just called Stiles his mate, out loud for the first time ever. He can't be sure. His world is too busy spinning out from under his feet.
"I was thinking," Chris says in a tone as icy as the blue of his eyes, "That if violence doesn’t work – we could offer Stone Foot a trade."
That brings even Derek up short because wow. Just… wow. He hadn't even considered that option. Tearing the smug bastard's throat out with his human teeth and licking up the blood sure but not that. He's surprised how much he likes the idea.
Grenade Guy clears his throat. Apparently he's someone important enough to have an opinion. "Chris, I don't know-"
"My brother-in-law wants to keep Allison."Chris says. He casts his eyes to Scott for confirmation of this. The two of them don't like each other. They will never like each other but they both love Allison more than anything on earth and know it. So when Scott nods in agreement, Chris takes it as wrote.
"He cast a teenager to a creature that likes to eat its prey alive over months and years by nature, and he did it out of a sense of perverse pleasure. He's trying to steal my only child. So I intend to walk out of this shit fest alive, with all of you, Allison and Stiles. So if brute force doesn’t work, if it comes down to trading Heinrich Ezüstell for Stiles Stilinski, then yes," he folds his arms over his chest, "I will absolutely do it. Any objections?"
Derek doesn't wait to hear what the humans or hell, even his pack has to say. He doesn't fucking care about any of their opinions on this. They don't matter. "No. I'm in."
"Derek-" Scott starts but Chris is talking over him.
"Anyone one else want to say something? No? Good. Go get some sleep, everyone, real sleep. We've got a late check out because I want everyone to be actually rested and I expect everyone to eat in the morning - especially the wolves. Then and only then do we let slip the dogs of war." His glare manages to encompass the entire room somehow, even the people standing behind him. "Am I clear?"
Everyone in the room in the room nods. Then Isaac climbs to his feet, crosses to Derek, grabs him by the wrist in a soft human grip and drags him towards the door. Derek will never say so out loud, but of all of the betas he's made, Isaac is his favorite. There is so much of his own pain reflected in the eyes of his broken pup. Taking care of him has helped Derek, made them both stronger in ways they both understand but don't discuss.
It's because he's spent so long working to heal Isaac's ingrained fears and heart-deep wounds that Derek doesn't snap or jerk away. He just lets himself be led out. He doesn't need to look back to know his pack are behind him.
Chapter 5: To the Forest Edge You Came
Whoo! After MUCH delay - an update! Something to hold you guys over while I work on the next NYC Derek and Tried and Tested series. Thanks to nev_longbottom for the beta. Love your face my darling. ♥
In which we finally (almost) meet Stone Foot. Hope you enjoy.
Isaac pulls Derek’s key out of his pocket and shepherds him into the hotel room. Derek is barely paying attention.The rest of the pack follows, Lydia stopping to lock the door behind them. Chris had gotten Derek his own space, a suite with a king in the center which Isaac pushes Derek onto before dropping onto the floor to one side of the bed.
That sort of thing has come to mean please run your fingers through my hair but Derek can't. He doesn’t think he has any feelings left beyond fear, anger, and the aching screaming need for Stiles to be safe and with him.
"Isaac," Derek sighs, rubbing his face with his hands because no. He was wrong. Now that they've stopped, he has realized that is too tired for this. He doesn’t have the energy to be the caretaker. Not right now. "I can't-"
"Derek, shut the fuck up," Erica snaps, pushing him back on the bed. A moment later she's straddling his waist. Instinct screams at him to push her away, buck her off and shove her like he did that first time she tried to kiss him to get her hands off his fly. No one but Stiles should touch him like this. It's wrong, wrong like silver in the bloodstream, wrong like a wolf with no pack, wrong.
He's a second from flipping over just to get her off of him when he realizes that Isaac is working on his bootlaces at the same time, tugging off first one shoe, then the other. When Isaac’s done, Erica hops off him, dragging his jeans down and off over his socked feet. Isaac drags those off too while Boyd pushes him up to sit as Derek melts into his pack's care.
Lydia just stands by the door, arms folded over her chest. "So, I saw a porn that started like this once. Should I pull out my iPhone? Because when we get Stiles back, he's going to want to see this and then jerk off to it."
Boyd yanks off his jacket and shirt with far less care. He didn’t realize he felt so filthy and exhausted, until he's curled up on the bed in nothing but his boxers with Erica and Isaac, and Boyd sitting on the edge.
Boyd clears his throat to get Scott's attention. "Hey Scott grab something clean out of the bag will you?"
"No, seriously. Is 'strip the hotass werewolf naked' a pack activity?” Lydia asks. “If so, I'm not kidding, sign me up."
Scott sighs as he comes out holding a black t-shirt and a pair of sweatpants Derek's had since he was a freshman in college. "This is a pack thing."
Boyd catches the clothes Scott throws him and hands them over. Derek draws up enough of himself to get dressed before he curls back into his pack because right now, there's nothing else he can do. Boyd stays at the foot of the bed because the man is not a cuddler, wolf or no wolf.
"We're stronger together," Erica almost growls, pulling Derek's head against her stomach. It's shockingly nonsexual and oh, fuck, it reminds him of Laura. He presses his face into her stomach and breathes in the smell of family-female-pack as she scrapes her fingers through his hair. He forgets, sometimes, what it was like to have a sister taking care of him.
Isaac's face is pressed into his side and then the bed dips. Scott's there too, curling against his other side. It'd be weird if things were different. Any other day, any other time. Now though, they are pure pack and Scott is one of his betas. Piled together like this, the soothing energy from his pack is already slowing his heartbeat to a resting rhythm, making his brain feel like it could slide into sleep if people would just shut the fuck up.
"If the alpha is weak and tired then we'll be weak and tired. We make each other more powerful together," Scot explains to Lydia who is still across the room.
"Yeah," Erica agrees. "We help so he can save Stiles. Shut the hell up and go back to your room or help."
"And by help you mean join the puppy pile."
"I'm no puppy," Erica says and it sounds like a challenge. "Bitch."
"Whatever," Lydia sighs. Then there's the distinct sound of high heels hitting dry wall. The bed dips again and he feels a soft, smooth hand wrap around his ankle, perfectly manicured nails stroking overskin. "I think it's going to be okay," she declares, scooting around until she's pressed closer to Boyd. "Also you? Can totally drape that arm around me. Yes. Like that. God what do you do to work out? Lift cars?"
Boyd laughs and Derek rubs his face against Erica's shirt. She runs her fingers through his hair again, long steady strokes. He doesn't hear the rest of the conversation.
He's asleep moments later, dreaming of being a child in the woods around their house with his sister. They hunt nebulous mammalian creatures the size of train cars and when Derek drags one back home with his teeth, Stiles is waiting with Derek’s dad. His father is a burned out husk and Stiles is so covered in blood he looks like Carrie at the prom. Both of them are shaking their heads at him.
"You know better than to go after larger prey on your own, Derek," His father says, one armed draped around Stiles shoulder like it belongs there, like the ash falling from his skin and into the blood on Stiles is normal. "Destroying everything once wasn't enough for you?" There's a roar in the dream so loud it shakes the ground beneath him and wakes up with a start to find the rest of his pack already awake.
Scott's hand is on his shoulder and he looks worried. "Are you okay? I was going to give you another minute but you were moaning in your sleep and I thought-" he shakes his head. "We're heading out. Chris says there's food in the cars. You ready?"
"Shower," Derek groans. He doesn’t really need one. He'll be filthy after a few hours in the woods but the hot water helps wash away the horror of the dream. He dresses without modesty because this is his pack. They have seen him gutted, they've seen him dying, they've seen him in full wolf form. Going from a towel to jeans, a Henley and a black leather jacket is nothing. He feels ready though, when all is said and done. Not to win, but at least to fight.
The drive out is interminable. Even with the early start they don’t get to the turn off the main road in the national forest until after two in the afternoon. Then it’s the pack and two dozen of the hunters on foot with a battalion of weapons. Derek wonders if maybe he should've just joined the army after high school. It would've been like a pack and he wouldn't be here, wouldn't care about Stiles, wouldn't have put him in danger, wouldn't be working with hunters, wouldn't be trekking fifteen miles into thick woods towards a cave with a fucking ogre inside.
Strangely though, about a mile out from their destination, Scott's phone goes off. It's just the standard Sprint ringtone but it sends birds flying out of the trees and brings everyone to an abrupt halt as Scott fumbles in his pockets for it.
"You brought your phone?" Boyd drawls.
Scott shrugs. "I thought, I don’t know, we might need it."
"We're in the middle of nowhere, Scott. There are no cell phone towers for miles."
He holds up his phone and hits answer. "But I got a call anyway. Hello?" He puts the phone to his ear then jerks it away an inch or so as a voice rumbles out. He stares at the group and swallows hard "Um, hold please?" He holds out the phone to Derek. "I think this is for you."
Derek snatches the phone from Scott hand with a little too much violence and presses it to his ear. "Who is this?"
"Mm," Comes a wholly unhuman voice over the line. "I think a much better question would be for me to ask who is this? Is this the little dog who stakes the claim of lifemate on my little jester of a meal?"
All the blood in Derek's veins freeze. "Yes. I'm Derek Hale, alpha of the Hale wolf pack."
"Good. And do you know who I am, little dog?"
"Stone Foot. You're Stone Foot the ogre who's going to die if you don’t give my mate back."
There's a chuckle that sounds like death and thunder. "That's what the human hunters call me, little dog, so it is what I will answer to. My little jester said you would come for him and now I can smell you. Are you close? Do not lie. Not if you want your mate alive when you find me."
"Then I suggest that you tread carefully, little dog. I know you bring your pack and more of the human hunters. I suggest you leave all the humans you do not call pack behind when you come. My little jester has told me of your status as pack packmaster. As a fellow creature of darkness, I respect the ways of your kind and accept that they will join you. However, I will not abide those closed-minded violent humans in my home. The repercussions will not be pleasant and that would be a waste. I like my little jester's humor. It would be a shame for him to lose his tongue so soon."
Derek doesn't know exactly how to wrap his mind around this new development – about how a fucking ogre learned to use a phone, about how his accented English is so crisp and sharp yet a hint with some other language undercutting every word. It sounds strange but not exactly foreign; a native American dialect maybe? He is courteous and polite and he speaks with all the propriety of a professor. It's scarier than what Derek as imagining. He charges on because Stiles is still alive. That's what matters here. "Are those your terms?"
There's another of those revolting laughs. "Oh no, little dog. These are merely the conditions of approach. The rest we will discuss when we meet. It is so rare for me to receive guests these days. One learns to cherish company when one is so long without. I look forward to seeing you soon."
The line goes dead in Derek's hand, leaving him staring down at the phone. Shell-shocked doesn’t begin to cover it. The entire hunting party is staring at him but of course, its Chris who speaks first.
"I take it he knows we're coming?"
"Yeah. Yeah he knows. Jesus, he talks like something out of a fucking period drama." He drops his hand from his ear so he can stare down at Scott's phone. "He says I can only bring pack."
'I'm coming," Chris says in a tone that brooks no argument.
"You're not pack," Scott says. As always, he feels compelled to point out the obvious. Erica snorts.
"So do what you need to do make me pack." His lips are set in a thin line, so tight that his mouth is almost white. This isnt something he wants, even a little. Being part of a wolf pack is anathema to an argent. Victoria killed herself rather than be turned. Being scent marked by the pack is less severe but no less of a stain.
Now, his grim determination doesn't waver as Derek stares him down. Derek doesn't have words for that. This is the brother of the woman who destroyed his whole world yet here he is, ready to compromise the foundation of his beliefs to helpf save Stiles. Derek is quiet by nature but in this moment, staring into those cold blue eyes, he finds he simply cannot find words.
"It's not that simple." Isaac this time. Derek will be proud of him for speaking up. Later. If they live through this. "Lydia got bitten and she's only pack because of time, exposure and emotion. It's not--"
"Do what you need to do." Chris repeats. "You're insane if you think I'm letting a bunch of children face an ogre alone. Pack or no pack."
Derek looks up from the phone finally and gives Chris a long stare. He nods. "Hold out your hand. Don’t worry, we're not going to bite." He isn't surprised when without an instant's hesitation, Chris does.