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You Keep on Thinking You Can Save Me

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The pack first learned about Jackson when Danny stumbled through the forest and nearly collapsed on the Hale house porch after his escape. Then they learned, as soon as he could catch his breath, that Peter was responsible for their friend’s disappearance. It seemed only like it was maybe minutes after that when Derek let out a heart-rending roar and it was chaos from then on.

Despite not knowing the werewolves all that well, Lydia could tell that they were all very much on edge for the last two days. They’d closed ranks after Derek went after Stiles (at least that was the current theory). She took vindictive pleasure in the fact that Peter had been all but ousted from their ranks (although apparently without Derek there, it wasn’t ‘official’ or whatever the term was for wolf packs). Not that Peter being on his own made him any less dangerous- it probably sped up whatever plans he had in motion and that sent a chill down her spine even more than the more immediate threats.

The werewolves of Beacon Hill had never shown much ability to prevent Peter from doing exactly what he wanted.

Lydia had tried to get them to pay attention but they were all running around like half-rabid guard dogs. Scott patrolled around Allison’s house (of course). Erica was bouncing between checking in on the Sheriff or Mrs. McCall as far as she was aware. Danny found an excuse for Isaac to stay over at his house (granted the Mahealani’s were among the most relaxed and welcoming people she’d ever met so it certainly didn’t surprise her) and Boyd was shadowing her when he wasn’t helping Scott.

When Boyd called, she immediately slipped outside to meet him in her backyard, ignoring the way her heart fluttered. It was adrenaline and simply a physiological response to a stressful situation with an attractive male in her age range. That was all. She couldn’t gain anything by it. Still, Lydia let out a breath she didn’t know she was holding when Boyd stepped out from the shadowy arch.

She smiled as she greeted him, smoothing out the edge of her skirt absently. “How is everyone?”

Boyd seemed to relax when he laid eyes on her, his big shoulders smoothing out as he lifted his head, breathing in. “We still don’t know. Scott’s pretty torn up over Deaton and pissed off that Derek left like that. He’s been dealing with the hunters the most of any of us, I guess because of Allison so they don’t get antsy.”

She pursed her lips, tilting her head to the side as she watched Boyd’s face. She was surprised that he really did seem settled with that. “It doesn’t bother you?”

His lip twitched up at the corner. “Do I like it? Hell no. Scott thinks they’ll help us more now that Deaton’s... dead. He was human. We need all the help we can get- Erica and I, we ran into Talbot’s pack first. You don’t know what they’re like.” He shivered and shoved his hands in his pockets despite the heat, making Lydia wish for once she was better at comforting people. She had no idea what to say... and that made her feel powerless.

“Derek may have his issues- hell his issues have issues, but Talbot’s insane and he doesn’t care about anything except power,” Boyd went on, voice a little less rough.

“He wouldn’t be the first werewolf,” Lydia murmured, knowing that he didn’t want to really acknowledge the moment of fear for what it was. “The enemy of my enemy is my friend. I can understand that, I’ve lived by it actually, but being up close and personal with people who have trained specifically to hunt you down and have special ways of killing you seems... desperate.”

“We are,” Boyd agreed simply. He watched her face for a long moment, tracing it with his eyes. It made her feel... exposed somehow. Boyd was nothing like Jackson or the myriad of other boys she’d made dance to her tune. He wouldn’t fall for it if she tried to play with him, she was all but certain.

“You don’t have to stay. I’d leave,” She goaded, narrowing her eyes at him, disliking how out of control she felt under his steady gaze.

“You’re not,” he pointed out, calmly. “You don’t have to be concerned for us or help out Allison. There’s no gain for you.”

“That’s what you think,” Lydia lifted her chin, for all that it helped with her petiteness. “I have ruthlessly determined that, regardless of my own personal wants and desires, this town isn’t going to stop being a magnet to creepy, crawly things and if that’s true, I have to make certain I get whatever passes for an early warning. Forewarned is forearmed. And head off any stupid decisions that I can that would make this an even worse mess than it already is. This is pragmatism, nothing more.”

He actually laughed at that, making her huff. “Sorry, I just think you’re really cute when you’re trying to be tough.”

“Trying being the operative word,” a female voice butted in, causing Lydia to stiffen up. She glanced over at the entrance to her backyard to find Erica lounging against it, all tits and too tight jeans. That deserved nothing less than a scoff from the redhead, planting a hand on her hip.

“Trying too hard is definitely more your forte than mine,” Lydia smiled, narrowing hazel eyes. She felt a vindictive pleasure when Erica seemed to drop her smirk for a second. Although the flash of gold in her eyes probably should’ve told Lydia to stop while she was ahead.

The blonde stepped in closer, glancing up at Boyd for a moment. “I don’t know. You do seem to be trying really hard to get yourself a new dick to ride-”

“Erica!” Boyd stepped in, shooting her a stern look as he physically put himself between the two girls. “That’s enough. Why are you here?”

Lydia opened her mouth- she wasn’t in some wolf pack and she certainly wasn’t Boyd’s girlfriend but he anticipated her, holding up his hand even as he continued to look down at Erica patiently. Snapping her teeth shut, Lydia seethed even as emotions seemed to flicker over the blonde’s face. She was scared and lashing out, that much was obvious and she considered Lydia a threat to her status as queen bee. As well she should. If Lydia had been turned, she knew she would’ve had all this ridiculousness sorted out much, much sooner and running Derek’s pack herself (well, she’d let him think he was still running it of course, it was always so much easier to be the power behind the man in front).

Boyd narrowed his eyes as Erica gave him a tight lipped speaking look, flicking her dark eyes towards Lydia.

“Oh for- are you that petty?” She sneered.

“Not petty, wondering why we’re trusting you at all. You didn’t even tell anyone about your pretty boy being held by Peter,” Erica retorted, baring her teeth in a semblance of a smile.

That stung, sharp under her ribs but Lydia wasn’t the type to let the hits show. “Really? Are you that stupid? And which one of us attempted to kill the other again?”

“I was trying to doing Beacon Hills a favor,” Erica smirked before Boyd yanked her away from the redhead.

“You were trying to be queen bee and you turned yourself into a literal bitch instead,” Lydia couldn’t help but mutter under her breath, startled when Boyd shot her a long suffering look over his shoulder. She’d forgotten about the hearing- still her point was made even as Boyd escorted Erica out of the redhead’s hearing.

They spoke in low, urgent tones- Erica explaining something as she stepped in closer to Boyd. Lydia had always been good at reading body language- it helped to tell her who needed to be taught a lesson again about why she ruled Beacon Hills High- but despite what she expected, Erica wasn’t pawing at Boyd. She was definitely in his space, closer than a friend would be- her hand resting casually on the crook of his elbow while Boyd twisted his body towards hers.

Were they dating? Screwing around? That would explain some of Erica’s cattiness. What it didn’t explain was the fact it was making Lydia uncomfortable. She didn’t like the idea of Boyd being wrapped up in that peroxide blonde’s bad french tips and it made no sense. When he glanced back at her with a regretful expression, she turned away.

“Looks like it’s just you and me now,” Erica’s voice startled the redhead, revealing that Boyd had disappeared.

“Are you trying to intimidate me?” She arched a brow, crossing her arms over her chest. Erica smirked, ruby red lips a little too shiny and a little too reminiscent of blood for her peace of mind. Waving that off, Lydia moved back towards her house. “Where did he go?”

“Pack business.”

“Well that’s specific.”

“You’re not pack so that’s all you get,” Erica shrugged nonchalantly, smoothly moving to step between Lydia and the french door that led back inside. “But that does give us a chance at girl talk.”

Lydia snorted, rolling her eyes. “In what universe would I ever want to engage in ‘girl talk’,” she airquoted, a truly bitchy smirk on her lips. “-with someone like you?”

Erica’s face seemed to... ripple for a moment. Some emotion that Lydia couldn’t quite catch flashed there but was gone before she could react. Then she was being shoved up against the wall, pushed up on her toes. “Because someone like me wants to find out if your insides are as pretty as party decorations. And the only reason I’m not is because Boyd asked me not to. So, why don’t you tell me exactly what is going on between the two of you and we’ll handle this just between us girls. Kay?”

Lydia really wished she had some of that strange purple dust from her birthday party. She never liked to think about that time in her life, more nightmare than real life, but that would be very, very useful at the moment. Reaching up, she grabbed at Erica’s clawed hand pressing her thumb hard into her throat. “There’s nothing to tell.”

“There’s nothing you want to tell,” Erica replied immediately, stepping back to let Lydia drop back down. She leaned back against the wall and watched her with dark, heavily lined eyes. “You want him.”

Her hands fluttered up to her neck but Lydia threw back her shoulders, heart still beating wildly in her chest. “If I wanted Boyd, I would have him, simple as that.”

Erica laughed, actually laughed at her, brown eyes mocking. “Bullshit. Boyd is a guy you can’t use your tricks on. He’s smarter than that and he doesn’t like head games. The minute you start is when he’d lose interest.”

“I’ve dealt with many, many boys who said the same thing. Still fell for it,” Lydia shot back, sounding petulant even to her own ears. Then she waved a hand, narrowing her eyes at the blonde. “Why are we even discussing this right now?”

Erica shrugged, slipping into the empty Martin house. Lydia’s mother extended her vacation with Jean Michele another week- which made it simple for the werewolves to hang out, but rather easy for anyone else to get at her. Then again it never mattered who was there when Peter slipped into her mind, using her, driving her mad.

“Huh, your house has changed,” Erica pointed out, running her fingers over the mantel of the living room, coming away dust free. “Used to be in blues.”

“What? It hasn’t been decorated like that since-” She paused, brows knit together.

Erica’s lips twitched, expression bitter and weary. “Since... the last time I was invited over? Since your friends made me cry from the horrible, nasty things they called me? Since you didn’t say a fucking thing to stop them? Since you stopped being a decent human being and decided to be Queen Lydia Martin?”

Lydia locked her jaw, refusing to look at the blonde girl- although she could picture twelve year old Erica quite clearly enough in her mind. She’d been a little chubby, a little quiet, but always with a bite to her. Erica hadn’t been quiet out of fear or nerves but because she didn’t say anything she didn’t want to. Lydia had admired that, admired the kind of surety she’d had. Okay, so she’d known that Erica was white trash and her daddy wasn’t as talented as Peter Martin at hiding his skirt-chasing but she’d liked Erica’s company. Once.

“Is that what you came here for? An apology?” She demanded, tightening her fingers in her lap.

“Nah, I’d rather have the chance to see you crash and burn,” Erica smiled slowly. “I’d like to see you find out what it’s like to have nothing and no one. And yeah, I’d like to see it sooner rather than later. Wanna play more truth or dare?” she mocked.

Lydia pressed her lips together to keep from pointing out that it had already happened to her. She no longer had a boyfriend and didn’t trust the people she called friends. And she certainly did not trust this girl, with her severe issues, to protect her from another werewolf, especially one that was more powerful than she was. Lydia would do as she always did however, she knew how to put on a confident front better than Erica did.

“We’ll just have to see what happens, won’t we?” she smiled, turning to head to the kitchen. Lydia wasn’t much of a cook but she needed to eat something before she got back to her prep work. She certainly wasn’t about to let any supernatural weirdness affect her college career before it even got off the ground. So she pulled out the makings of a salad and put on the espresso machine, letting her brain work through a few more proofs that she wanted to assemble, hands chopping and slicing apples and fresh strawberries, dark arugula with the spinach and a little bit of goat cheese.

When she turned to put away the extra food, Lydia was understandably shocked to find Ms. Morrell standing in the doorway of her kitchen. Where the hell was Erica?!

“Um, hello Ms. Morell, how did you get in?” she asked sweetly, willing her heart to slow down. Lydia prided herself on being able to think on her feet but Ms. Morrell’s cool assessment of her left the redhead wary. Still she smiled when the older woman did, reflexively.

“It’s good to see you, Lydia. I’m glad that you’re not letting certain elements of Beacon Hills ruin your summer vacation. You do seem to be doing better than the last time we had a chance to really talk,” Ms. Morell pointed out, dark eyes intent. She stepped slowly into the kitchen and Lydia found herself taking a step back. She still had the salad held between her and the older woman but it didn’t make her feel any safer.

“I really am fine. Better than fine,” Lydia declared airly, waving a delicate hand at the air. Although she hadn’t expected to talk to Morell- she didn’t expect anything but shrieking and running from a monster really- but when opportunity presents itself, the smart take advantage of it. Derek wasn’t anyone to her, or his pack but Lydia knew that to be left out of the loop of this kind of stuff was still dangerous for her. If Morell was involved with Talbot, she needed to know- even if she was having a maddeningly inane conversation at the moment. “I’ve got the rest of the summer to enjoy shopping and sunbathing.”

“And studying hard for the SAT’s if you haven’t already completed several practice runs,” Ms. Morell smirked knowingly, eyes flicking to the nearby table where Lydia’s books had been spread out. The redhead started when the espresso machine went off behind her.

“Would you like a cup?” She found herself offering, surprised when Morell accepted it. The older woman watched her like a hawk as Lydia sipped delicately at her flavored coffee while Ms. Morell had hers black. Lydia’s heart thumped loudly in her chest and she was grateful that the woman across from her wasn’t a werewolf and didn’t know that Lydia knew what she’d done to Boyd- or attempted to. But what did Ms. Morell know? “Why are you here?”

Ms. Morell set her coffee down, clasping long, delicate looking fingers together over her knees. “For you. You’re a remarkable young woman- you’ve held up admirably given the circumstances. Being left out of things. Being shoved to the side, ignored until they all realized how vital you were. How vital you are.” Lydia’s heart was still pounding in her chest but it was nice to hear someone acknowledge it.

“It was stressful but I bounce back beautifully,” She admitted, voice a little hoarse and also quite neatly ignoring the Oxycontin she’d taken more than a few times to deal with her nightmares. Maybe more than a few times- it wasn’t like her mother was going to notice one way or another. “How did you know?”

Ms. Morell sat quietly sipping at her coffee and let Lydia compose herself again. “It’s my job to know. I’m not here as your guidance counselor, Lydia. I’m here talking to you about this because I am concerned. I see so much potential in you.”

“I know, I know, I’m far more intelligent than I let people see-” Lydia waved that spiel off, affecting rolling her eyes. Did they honestly think she didn’t consider every angle? Every outcome? Being the social queen of Beacon Hills High was far more beneficial than it chafed. But then again, if Morell thought she was insecure, able to be molded to her liking... well that was more information at her disposal than before. Whatever Allison or Stiles or even Jackson thought, Lydia wasn’t going to be a victim again and the best way to prevent that was to armor herself with knowledge.

“You are but that’s not what I was referring to,” Morell sipped her coffee. “Your keen mind is just the start of the power you can tap into. You’ve seen it. You don’t have to be weak or afraid. You can protect yourself, you can know yourself.”

Lydia’s brows puckered and she considered. Peter had used her to take advantage of... magic. Energy, whatever it was that didn’t sound like a ridiculous line from those insufferably boring tv shows about vampires or whatever. Magic was energy and science knew how to quantify energy. It could mold it, make it adhere to rules and predict it. Lydia liked it when things adhered to the rules of the universe. “What is your job? You never answered me.”

Morell’s lips curled up in amusement and she nodded her head, relenting. “It’s less a job and more of a calling as far as I’m concerned.”

“Are you a witch?” Lydia’s heart was pounding and she wondered if Morell would simply lie to her. She could. Lydia was alone in the house- Morell had done something to Erica or the blonde had simply left. Either way, Lydia had only her wits to keep her from being hurt.

“That’s one term. Sometimes we’re called shaman or healers. People who aren’t exactly strictly one or the other,” Morell replied, leaning forward from her more collected pose. “Or perhaps we’re just extraordinary in a different way. We have something that we can use to better the world around us. Make it bend to our will rather than follow along like sheep.”

Lydia smirked, “I can do that without suffering through an abysmal but no doubt slimming wardrobe of blacks and witch hats, thanks but n-” She stopped when Morell lunged forward, capturing her wrist in a tight grip.

“Would you like me to show you?” Morell stood up, yanking on Lydia’s arm to make sure she followed, annoying the younger woman.

“You know, I don’t think that this really applies to me. I didn’t even ask to be involved with all this nonsense in the fir-”

“Quiet,” Morell ordered, ignoring the offended look she received. She led Lydia out into the backyard, making the redhead arch her brows, unimpressed. Ms. Morell was pulling something out of her pocket, what looked like a small bag of some sort, smelling strongly of herbs and something like ozone. She lit it on fire, making it spark blue.

“That’s just it- you did ask. You asked when you involved yourself with Jackson. With the Argents. With Scott and his associates. These webs, these connections of your life, they can be used against you.”

Lydia opened her mouth to retort when she stopped, hairs pricking on the back of her neck. Slowly trudging from the shadows at the edge of the lawn was a man- no, it was a werewolf. She could see him snarling, gnashing intimidatingly large teeth and glaring out of unnatural blue eyes and he was dragging Erica’s unconscious body. When he stepped into the light she realized there was something wrong with him- he had only patches of fur on his body, the rest was skin or scales... it was Jackson. Somehow he was between the kanima and a werewolf and she couldn’t contain her gasp.

“This one here- your ex, your love, he is an animal that you can manipulate even more than you had been,” Morell circled around behind Jackson’s back, a proprietary hand dragging across his shoulders. “He is a tool to be used. The Alpha pack, they didn’t believe that Jackson was no longer a threat. They may have a point. He’s a threat if we make him one.”

Lydia wasn’t used to feeling so out of her depth. She had always been able to cut through unnecessary information and distractions and laser into the heart of any problem and thereby come up with a solution. She couldn’t here. She was lost- knowing that she couldn’t trust Morell but could she trust Derek and his... pack? Erica was on the ground unconscious and there was no one else here to help her.

“I... what do you want from me?” She asked, hesitant in a way that was unlike her.

“You don’t have to be vulnerable,” Morell offered up, almost gently, like she wasn’t going completely around the bend. She guided Lydia’s hand towards Jackson, his body oddly tensed up. “You can harness the spark in you- all it takes is putting your mind to work. I can teach you how- like right now, I can use the power you have inside of you to make him never be able to hurt you- that connection you forged with him is still strong. And eventually, with my help, no one else will be able to.”

Lydia licked her lips, eyes flicking from Jackson to Morell’s unnervingly steady gaze. “And what happens if I don’t let you use me?”

She glanced at the monstrous form Jackson was trapped in and then inclined her head slightly. “Then I give you a headstart. My hex won’t hold him forever and when he’s free he’ll kill us both.”

Chapter Text

Over the course of the last year and a half (nearly two years), Stiles had frequently thought ‘how is this my life’. Half the time he’d been a little exasperated but mostly amused, the other half was like this... full of mind-numbing fear and the certainty that he wouldn’t ever seen his dad again. The only solace he could take from anything was that at least he’d stopped lying to his dad about werewolves. Given that he had been kidnapped and driven across state lines (they headed north as best he could tell, though his sense of direction was never the most accurate and they’d smacked him every time he tried to get a look around when they stopped for gas) he doubted that it was much help.

Now he was in the middle of an unfamiliar woods being frog-marched somewhere else. As terrifying and violent as Talbot and his pack were, Stiles found the swats and slashes of their claws they used to force him along sobering. It grounded him, gave him that much more incentive to focus on the here and now and not devolve into a panic. He had to keep his thoughts away from Derek and Scott and the rest of his Pack because if he let himself think too much about them, about his family, he would want to break down. He couldn’t afford that.

He also couldn’t afford to think about what happened to Deaton either. It wasn’t right. All he’d ever done was help them. He tried to teach them and maybe do a little course correcting and he always kinda thought of him as their Gandalf. Or Obi-Wan. It’d be really nice if he got to come back like them too. At least so Stiles could tell him how sorry he was for being a screw up and getting him killed.

Stumbling over a root, Stiles went crashing face first into the dirt and stayed there.

“Get up meat,” Ian grabbed Stiles by the back of his neck, claws biting into the skin and leaving little rivulets to run down into his sweat-soaked shirt. He must smell awesome.

“Yanking me around isn’t really going to make my body work any better, fuckwit,” Stiles snapped, frustrated, hurting and exhausted. “I’m a human, huuuuuuuman. We need rest and food!”

Ian of course did not appreciate this fact and decided that it would be better to ignore it and lunge for Stiles again. He just smirked and spread his hands as if to say ‘come at me bro’ (not because he was feeling particularly badass but because hey, if he was being gnawed on he didn’t have to walk/stumble/run anymore). Unfortunately for him, Sofie decided to step in, grabbing up Ian by his bright red hair and yanking him down to her level.

“Talbot wants the meat breathing,” she reminded him sharply, throwing Stiles a contemptuous glance. “We have a little time.”

“Goodie! Who brought trail rations?” Stiles suggested brightly. He got a low snarl but they did nothing, choosing to ignore him.

Shrugging, Stiles settled himself into the hollow of a tree and stretched out his legs. Suicides had helped give him stamina, true, but he had been running and stumbling along for at least 6 hours. The time in the car was a little less certain, since he’d been knocked out entirely for part of it, but he’d guess it was at least 2 days since he’d been at Deaton’s office. It felt much longer than that and he wasn’t sure how much longer he had to keep going.

He hadn’t mapped out the entire of the Hale territory but he figured it was pretty big considering that up until Peter started eating people, they hadn’t really encountered anything of the supernatural side- or at least the Hale family had taken care of it before it was noticed by the town. Not to mention that no one before the Alpha pack had really attempted to stake out Beacon Hills even after the fire. With Talbot’s pack being larger, his territory could be vast even if Stiles got it in his head to run. That wasn’t even taking into account the whole supersniffer part of his charming kidnappers.

It was better- focusing on these details. To consider what Laura might have had to do when she was made into the Alpha. Stiles could focus on werewolf politics and territory disputes- it was like a really hairy game of Risk, right?- because it was something he could distance himself from. Stiles knew how to ignore information he really didn’t want to deal with. He’d made an art of it in the last eight years of his life.

But if he stopped... if he let himself face the fact he wasn’t likely to live much beyond a week it would make him shatter. He wasn’t a hero, wasn’t trained for this, hadn’t signed up for it... not really. He wasn’t ready to lay down and die and be at peace. Stiles was a kid. He wanted to go to his fucking senior prom, as stupid as it was likely to be. He wanted to fall in love and be loved in return, no matter what he might bemoan about dying a virgin, that’s what really mattered. He wanted to go to college and go to stupid college parties and marathon old sci-fi shows with other dumb twenty year olds before they figured out what they were going to do with their lives.

He wanted to have a full life. He didn’t regret getting involved with werewolves, not really. He could no more abandon Scott than he could’ve cut off his right arm. And the pack, his friends, they were just as important now. They belonged to him, he was supposed to look out for them. He felt like a failure now, if he let himself think too long. So he didn’t.

He thought about pack dynamics and anything Derek had ever told him about how to approach (or not approach) a wolf). He thought about the conversations he’d had with Deaton (but not too much about the man himself). He thought about everything his dad had ever taught him about protecting himself. He planned for escape, just in case of a miracle.

Hey, werewolves were real (and kidnapping him) anything could happen right?

“Up. You’ve had enough rest,” Ian snapped, shoving at Stiles until he stumbled to his feet.

“Do you have something against transportation? Like dune buggies? Four wheelers? Scooters? Anything?” he bemoaned- although he already had a hunch why. Tire tracks were probably not as easy to cover up as footprints, though he hadn’t seen them attempt that yet.

“Move!”

“Moving! Jeez.”

********

There was a huge difference between okay and not okay.

Okay was being functional. It was telling everyone you were okay and even if you weren’t, you still managed to seem normal. You could work through your pain. It was knowing that you were emotionally stunted because you had sex with a woman who tricked you so she could burn your house down with your family inside it but you were still standing. You were still breathing past the pain. It might have defined you in some ways but it wasn’t everything you fixated on anymore, not every second of the day anyway.

Then there was not okay, and not okay was pretty much what Derek Hale had become.

Not Okay was tearing through a forest because you couldn’t find a trail or a scent. It was finding your mentor and the man who was always looking out for you in pieces in his own territory, his own safety zone. It was smelling the blood of your fake mate and finding out the hard way that your brain and your senses had claimed him as such a long time ago. It was smelling that same blood and losing your goddamned mind.

For hours it seemed the forest was a battlefield. Howling, screaming when howling wasn’t enough, howling again when screaming was too much. Gut-wrenching roars when he grew tired of flip flopping between weak and weaker because of his emotions. Anger always won out but it never stayed for too long, especially when Derek had to finally accept it was always what happened. He always put the people he cared about in danger.

For a few moments he actually started laughing. He fell to his knees and chuckled. He hadn’t even realized at that time that Stiles meant as much as he did. Imagine that. He could get people hurt without even acknowledging their importance to his life, to his heart.

And then the laughter was gone and the anger was returning. The tears weren’t allowed. They had no place, not yet, and hopefully not ever. He took off in a dead run. For once in what seemed like forever and a day, Derek Hale might’ve had a decent enough plan to run with.

**********

While Erica had been sent off to switch out with Boyd at Lydia’s place, the rest of their pack had decided to seek out Allison again for help. Partly because they couldn’t buy anymore time to prevent the Sheriff from finding out and partly because they had no choice. Scott had taken the brunt of that conversation and it had been rather terrifying for everyone. The Sheriff was ready to tear apart the northwest of the United States to get his son back. It was obvious that the only thing that had prevented him from actually doing it was the fact that he had no leads to go on and it was too dangerous for police to try to track werewolves.

Hence the meeting with the hunters. Scott was the one out in front again, his expression pained in a way that made Allison ache to go back to when the worst thing that could happen to them was getting caught skipping school. She felt badly that this was all falling on him. Scott was a good person and he wouldn’t turn his back on Stiles, not ever, but this was a lot to deal with.

“I’m glad you came to me and I am sorry about Dr. Deaton,” Allison acknowledged when they finished explaining about Talbot’s attack, looking as if she truly meant it. There was something in her body language that said she needed the opportunity to do something good, something clearly in the right rather than in a murky gray area between morality and pragmatism.

“Talbot’s always been a loose cannon,” Mickie acknowledged, lips pressed into a firm line. “I’m not surprised he’s gone off like this. I think he might be devolving into a berserker.”

Danny’s brows furrowed and he held up a hand, almost like he was back in school. “Uh, sort of new to this thing... what’s a berserker? I’m hoping it doesn’t mean what I think it does...?”

Taneva stepped in to answer him from her position near the outside of their group. “A werewolf that has gone mad. They’re not functioning in harmony. High emotions can do it. Physical torture.” There was a starkness to her words that had Isaac tensing up next to Scott and even making him wonder if Taneva knew exactly what pushed a werewolf to that point. They were among people that would kill them without hesitation.

“They’re incapable of making rational decisions and are a threat to their pack and everyone around ‘em. Talbot’s unusual because he’s an Alpha,” Mickie acknowledged, placing her hands on the table spread out across the map they’d brought out when he’d first been mentioned, her fingers unconsciously skimming over the area highlighted as his territory. “Alpha werewolves have more’n just the obvious benefits to bein’ what they are. In order to make a pack strong, they bite or recruit from Omegas to increase their power. They breed too but that ain’t good enough for some, not quick enough. But packs ain’t meant to be bigger’n ten or fifteen wolves at most. There’s a breakdown that happens- one Alpha can’t devote enough time or attention to more wolves’n that, not to mention the feedback loop of their powers.”

Scott frowned hard but Isaac cocked his head. “So, they want more power but it’s like jacking in too many appliances into an outlet- sooner or later you’re going to blow the circuit.”

Mickie nodded. “Good enough an explanation as any. Talbot’s pack, at last estimate, was twenty five or thirty fully grown wolves and at least six pups.”

“He’ll also have Lycaon’s pack now to draw from,” Taneva pointed out, her dark fingers brushing at the edge of a map. Her dark eyes fixed unwaveringly on Scott. “You said that there was much blood in Alan’s clinic and it smelled of the Alpha.”

“Yeah,” he nodded, swallowing, though he was a little surprised to hear her refer to Deaton by his first name. The thought pushed itself away because he couldn’t really focus on the fact his boss, his mentor, was dead. It hurt too much and made him that much more worried about Stiles.

“A pack that big with Talbot as a leader ain’t gonna lead to anythin’ good. We’ll help you,” Mickie stated firmly. The room tensed for a moment but Scott nodded his head in return, his shoulders relaxing slightly with the words. He wasn’t sure if they would let them hang on their own. “Is Talbot’s pack still in lower Oregon?” she turned slightly to Cavalero, arching her brows.

“As far as we last scouted yes,” he nodded, with only a slight glance of mistrust towards Isaac and Scott.

“Lycaon’s pack will be drawn there as well when he heads back to his territory,” Teneva pointed out a section of Oregon that butted up against California not too far from Beacon Hills, if you didn’t count the miles upon miles of forest.

Allison frowned, chewing on her bottom lip thoughtfully. “We’ll need a few days, two maybe to get together and go after them. Are you sure about Jackson?” She glanced at Danny with sympathy in her eyes.

“I just know that something came after him,” He admitted, looking a little bit overwhelmed and she didn’t blame him. “I guess it was more of the werewolves-” he paused as if he just had to at the very thought. “Peter was the one that grabbed us first.”

“Did he side with Talbot?” Isaac asked quietly, glancing up at Scott.

Running a hand through his dark curls, he shrugged, clearly frustrated with the problems that were stacking up higher and higher. “I don’t know. I guess it makes sense? Derek knows him best.”

“Well Derek’s not here,” Allison pointed out sharply. She pursed her lips, dark eyes flicking over the map on the table. “I don’t think we need to focus on that right now. I’m sorry, but we have bigger problems than Peter Hale.”

Danny seemed a little shocked by her cold assessment of the situation but Scott and Isaac’s heads popped up in unison. They moved towards the door without speaking but they didn’t manage to get there before it was kicked open by Boyd of all people.

“Wha-”

“More hunters, get out!” Boyd snarled around his fangs and as if to prove his point, gunfire erupted behind him. He grunted with the impact of some but charged forward, catching up with his pack and pushed them towards the back of the house.

Pandemonium reigned. The hunters inside the house called out, clearly surprised at being attacked- or at the very least caught in the crossfire. Scott reached out to Allison but she was ducking out of the way of the spray of bullets like everyone else, rolling behind a couch and taking sight with her sniper rifle setup. Mickie was nearby, demanding to know who the fuck was on out there- which Taneva was apparently taken care of, slipping out of a broken window to drop into the bushes. Isaac tugged Scott away from the chaos, follow after Boyd who had barreled straight through the house.

Danny seemed torn between following and staying where he was behind the sofa. That was all Scott saw before more hunters came into the front door and he had to drop down to his hands and feet to run for his life.

Chapter Text

Melissa McCall normally enjoyed having quiet evenings when she was on a long shift. It meant less paperwork and less stress overall, which she greatly appreciated. She savored all the calm she could get now because it was so rare. So far they’d only had a few light cases to get situated; a young security guard who patrolled the power stations ended up with a good sized knot on the back of his head, and older woman with what might have developed into full-blown pneumonia if they hadn’t caught it in time.

She had just settled back into her station from a coffee run when the call light went off. With a sigh she glanced at Bernie. The older woman had been frowning at her cell phone, the screen displaying ‘no signal’ and apparently making it difficult for Bernie to text her daughter the difference between baking soda and baking powder.

“You want me to go?” She offered, reaching to turn off the switch. “It’s room 205.”

“No,” Melissa’s brows went up. “I’ve got it. See if you can’t get a hold of his daughter, though. Mr. Argent is apparently awake now.” She smiled as Bernie grabbed up the handset to call.

“Huh, guess the phone lines are actually dead,” she muttered and Melissa frowned back at her, pausing in her brisk walk down the hallway. That seemed rather strange that they couldn’t get any phone calls. If that kept up for very long, they might have a busy evening after all.

Still Melissa was more concerned with Chris Argent. She felt a bit protective of the man since she’d watched Allison leave him in the hospital’s care. The girl had seen too much hardship in her life and in such a short period that Melissa couldn’t help but want to make sure that Mr. Argent got the best care to speed up his recovery. The doctors had been somewhat puzzled as to why his coma had continued to progress while his body seemed hale otherwise. Apparently he’d just needed a little more time to bring himself out, that was all.

“Mr. Argent? I’m Melissa, your nurse,” she greeted him. “I see you’re feeling well enough to get around but that’s probably not a good idea.”

Chris was sitting on the edge of the bed, frowning heavily. Given the lines around his eyes and mouth, it was a familiar expression and Melissa felt her own smile falter a little. “What day is it?” he rasped. “How long-?”

“June 16th, you’ve been out for 10 days. The doctor in residence will be in within the hour to check you over,” She moved briskly through checking his blood pressure and pulse rate satisfied that he was showing signs he was in overall good health. When she went to check his temperature, he grabbed her wrist in a tight hold and she frowned.

“I... Allison. Is she alright?” He seemed to remember himself and let his fingers slip off of her and Melissa softened.

“She’s doing good-”

“- I’d say better than good really.” A familiar voice mused from the doorway, the hallway lights silhouetting his body and leaving his face in shadow. It took her a moment to recognize him- Peter, the drug rep who’d vanished. “She’s on the right path to become Daddy’s little killing machine. Your father would be proud. Well... he would be if he wasn’t dead.”

“Melissa, get back,” Chris was standing, yanking her behind his body. His eyes darted around as if he was looking for something. She didn’t think it was an exit, considering how hard his face had gotten.

“What’s going on-” She demanded. “You can’t be here!”

Peter turned and she realized, smarting, that it was the first he’d really recognized her. “Ah Melissa,” his lips curled up in a smile but rather than give her butterflies like it had before, it made her stomach churn. “I apologize for never getting back to you about that coffee. I was utterly buried under family obligations.”

Before she could blink, Peter was across the room and had slammed Chris against the wall, knocking over the tray stand and the recliner. He lifted him off the ground by his throat and claws were piercing into his skin.

“Oh my god, you’re one of them,” Melissa exclaimed, covering her mouth in horror.

“It’s true, but it was hardly something I could divulge on our first date,” Peter shrugged a shoulder and turned back to Chris who was red-faced and clearly having trouble breathing. Peter’s face morphed almost exactly like she’d seen her own son’s do, teeth gleaming white and sharp. “Now then... I had thought to simply leave town after all this fell apart. I am not one for throwing myself against impossible odds heroically. But then I remembered you. And this... this I can do.”

He ripped down the middle of Chris’ hospital gown, leaving him exposed from his collar to his hip on his left side. Digging his claws into the muscle above his heart, Peter began to carve jagged bloody gouges in the shape of a spiral. Chris gritted his teeth around sounds of pain but that just made it easier to hear the crashing patient alarm go off behind them. Melissa found a hospital tray in her hands; Peter barely began to turn when she slammed it against the side of his head as hard as she could. It snapped into pieces, Peter’s brow inching upward in surprise.

“My fondness for you only goes so far, my dear-” he started but Chris grabbed Peter’s head and slammed his head into the bridge of Peter’s nose, forcing him to drop the hunter. Chris sprawled for a moment, trying to get to his feet. Melissa grabbed an arm to haul him out of the room.

“I am never going on a date again,” she promised to God, heart hammering in her chest.

“Hurry, you have to get me out of here. I can’t deal with him like this,” he gestured to the ruined remains of his gown that was hanging onto his body by a thread and a prayer, blood leaking sluggishly from Peter’s handiwork. Before she could tell him where he could shove his attitude a roar echoed through the tiled hallway they were limping down.

*******

Just outside of Beacon Hills Memorial, a man stood, feet spread wide and hands clasped behind his back. The op was taking longer than he’d initially planned but they hadn’t expected the werewolves to separate. Not that it mattered- one way or another, they’d be taken down.

“Progress,” he barked into his headset.

“Unable to locate the rogue Omega or Argent. We suspect that Argent became aware of the Omega and has gone to ground. We are doing a room by room sweep of each floor. Building should be secured in fifteen. ”

Nodding his head in satisfaction, Frank James relaxed. “I am moving out to the Argent house. Join the team at the police station when you are done here. I want the town locked down within four hours.”

**********

Stiles had probably watched a few too many dystopian action flicks but he really had expected something a little more.... dramatic when they reached their apparent destination.

“Uh... so where are the hippies? This is totally an old hippie commune. See, that’s where they grew weed. Maybe you guys should take up gardening as stress relief. I bet it would improve your general disposition in life. Hippies don’t usually want to bite people’s faces off, especially when they’re high as kites,” he pointed out, taking in the spread of cabins that spoke of 60’s era communes or campgrounds.

Some werewolves peered out from doorways and windows and he noted that they didn’t seem nearly as aggressive as his ‘buddies’, Ian and Sofie. No one would meet his eyes though and that wasn’t a reassuring sign. “Can werewolves even get high? Maybe from a special kind of wolfsbane. We should experiment and find out.”

“I really hope the first thing Talbot lets us do to you is tear out your fucking tongue,” Sofie snarled, fingers wrapping around his jaw, digging in hard enough to make his lips puff out.

“Talbot isn’t stupid-”

“That’s debatable,” Stiles shot out, pulling his jaw out of Sofie’s grip. Ian was now making menacing advances towards him, and not the kind that you could say ‘gee, thanks but I’m werewolf-married already’. Working his jaw, he went on. “You think this isn’t stupid? You all just kidnapped an Alpha’s mate. You don’t think that’s gonna piss him off? Or tell other packs you have absolutely no fucking sense? You are beyond stupid, you’re suicidal.”

“He knows you’re not Hale’s bitch,” Ian sneered, showing off wide, white teeth. “But Hale actually cares about meat like you so... you’re not gonna die. Yet.”

Sofie leaned on Ian’s shoulder, flexing out her claws in a showy display. “But that doesn’t mean you’re not going to bleed.”

“Seriously with the bad minion dialogue? I’ve heard better than this on Call of Duty livechat. Though I guess you are dumber than that, you butt-sniffing throwback. Did your mom get lost in the zoo one drunk night?” he asked, breathless, crabwalking backwards. He was perversely glad that his hair wasn’t long enough to grab when Sofie’s nails scraped across his scalp, unable to get a hold.

“You’ve got a mouth on you considering you’ve got nothing and no one here.” Fingers wrapped around the back of his neck in a mockery of comfort before she bent down to whisper in his ear. “When we’re done, we’re going back to your podunk town, find your family and friends and make’em squeal like the little piggies they are.”

She seemed surprised when Stiles smiled at her- right before he jabbed a finger into her eye socket, making her scream in surprise.

That had not been smart- Stiles knew it, wasn’t sure why he’d done that except he’d never been good at backing down when he could fight back. Relatively speaking of course- he certainly wasn’t about to do much about the first blow to his head, however unsurprising it was.

“Huh, guess wolves can squeal like little piggies too.” His mouth had always gotten him in trouble and he might not have been Flash or anybody but he’d always managed to get away from any truly terrible beatings. Stiles knew that he was going to get another punch to the face because there was nowhere he could run to. He couldn’t help but remember Gerard’s cruel face when he beat on him.

There was the usual bad villain dialogue, threats and sneering commentary on his manhood. Ha, joke was on them, Stiles had no problem whatsoever dropping into a little ball of protectiveness. He wasn’t a brave guy- he whimpered, tears leaking out of his eyes as kick after kick met his ribs. He wasn’t sure if they were trying to break them or they were just fucking with him- either way it hurt to like, exist.

He was on the edge of passing out when he heard a slight scuffle.

“He’s going to asphyxiate. If you keep it up, you will kill him.” Stiles attempted to roll onto his side- his body viciously declared that a ‘no go’. But hey, his head was still somewhat under his power, lolling it to the side to peer blearily at the woman who saved him (or who possibly wanted to prolong the torture, he was in a hippie camp full of evil werewolves after all). He was surprised to see that someone that looked old enough to be his grandma was holding off Ian’s buddies with just a look and a hand raised to warn them back. Granted there was something about her that said it would be even more gruesome if you went against her.

“I’mma pass out now, talk amongst yourselves,” he slurred, closing his eyes, going limp.

“You’ve never been one to care about humans, Sylvia.” Morell had arrived soon after Stiles had gone off on his ill-advised bravado. He was a very intelligent boy normally so it was a shame to see him choose such a reckless path. Still, that wasn’t as interesting as the older female who’d stepped in.

Sylvia stopped and glanced back at her, gaze raking down the younger woman slowly before she met her eyes again- and snorted. There was no mistaking the disdain a born werewolf could muster for people outside of their kind.

“What I care about is nothing of your concern, witch. You of all people should know that killing Sparks is a dangerous thing and I don’t want my pack at risk because of rabid mongrels.”

“Your pack is at risk because of the actions of your Alpha,” Olivia countered. “If he had done as he should have and settled the situation in Beacon Hills, then Talbot would not be taking his place.” Sylvia’s eyes flared blue as she stepped in closer, breath tickling Olivia’s cheek. “If you think you can control Talbot and make him as docile as a dog on a leash, you’re a fool. This will end and it will end bloody.”

“Perhaps, but it remains to be seen whose.”

Sylvia snorted and glanced down at Stiles’ skinny body. “Bring the boy- clean him up.”

Whatever Sylvia was doing, it wasn’t going to work. Olivia knew that and getting unduly upset at the old female wasn’t going to chance anything. Olivia sought to center herself, taking several deep breaths, and attempted to ignore the redhead girl glaring at her.

“Guess making a deal with a deranged werewolf isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be,” Lydia’s voice was mocking, arms crossed over her chest. Still, Olivia could see the strain, the way she’d gone pale when she’d seen Stiles’ limp body picked up and tossed carelessly over Ian’s shoulder. She’d also noted how the girl kept glancing over at Jackson when she thought Olivia was unaware. The concern there was obvious and she couldn’t blame her.

Jackson was... not as expected. He seemed to exist in a state trapped between werewolf and kanima; thick tufts of hair sprouted along his jaw and forearms, running down from the center of his hairline all the way down to the small of his back. His face was distorted, not a proper muzzle nor the slitted nose of his kanima form. Where he was not furred, he possessed deep, murky green scales that were molting continually. Pink, irritated skin showed briefly when they did, before the scales began to grow anew.

“I did what was necessary,” Olivia finally replied, pulling her gaze off Jackson. “I have everything under control. Talbot is- adjusting to the new situation as anyone would. Lycaon should not have acted as he did.”

“But he did!” Lydia hissed, eyes bright. “You’re not in control, Morell. You think you are, but you’re not. Talbot is going to kill you and me and everyone else. Why don’t you see that?!”

With no one’s eyes on him, Jackson’s eyes flickered blue, guttering for a moment before dying out.

Olivia shook her head, reaching to give Lydia a squeeze of her shoulder. “I see more than they do. I will make this situation correct. Wouldn’t it be so much better if all the wolves were under the control of one Alpha?” She mused in a thoughtful tone. Yes. Yes that would fix everything, wouldn’t it? No more territory disputes, no more jostling of position that dragged humans into the middle of it. “That is what’s needed. And when Hale comes for his mate, everything will be in place,” Olivia gave a relieved sigh. She could see her path so clearly now. This was what the Tulaa wanted and Olivia was the only one who could put it to right.

Chapter Text

Regardless of what Derek’s little pack of misfits and simpletons thought, Peter was not cruel without reason. His reasons were, of course, nothing that they could understand but that was the problem when you were dealing in morality amidst children. It wasn’t simple vengeance against the Argents that drove him, it was the need to systematically destroy everything they were. Accomplishing that, putting to rest the centuries-old feud required more than Derek was willing to give up. Fortunately for his nephew, Peter had nothing else left to give up anymore. The pack of children saw things so simply and they didn’t understand what this life required of them.

What was simple, almost cathartic, was the feeling of his claws slipping into flesh and pulling back again, red and sticky. Before the fire Peter had never hurt anything bigger than a stag, had never raised his hand in anger. He’d believed in talking out problems- mostly because he tended to win arguments with his brother (although never with his own wife). But it was so easy to see a human as prey- even hunters had such dull senses.

Regrettably, he’d left a trail behind him and unfinished business with Argent but the pull was getting too strong. His connection to Lydia was something he did not like to focus on nor advertise. As always, there was a price to resurrection. It had been necessary at the time- there weren’t too many ways to escape Charon and he’d been quite careful to let everyone believe that Lydia was nothing to him now.

Lydia was a bright, dear thing but distressingly vulnerable and if she fell, Peter would fall too, and he was far from done with his third chance at life.

Bending at the knee, he plucked a small scale from the dirt, half hidden by leaves and rocks. It was deep green and smelled of desperation and rage. Where his connection to Miss Martin was stretched thin, other means had presented themselves to allow him to find her.

*******

Allison had only met her mother’s brother twice in her memory. Uncle Frank looked much the same as the last time- she’d been twelve and they had stayed the summer back east with him and his family. He was still wide and muscular but with more gray in his hair. He still dressed like he was waiting for inspection, neat as a pin, and commanded any space he entered.

He’d taken over the Argent house within minutes of his arrival, ordering Mickie, Taneva and Danny to be locked in a room to wait for his questioning- and Allison could tell that wasn’t going to be pleasant. The only acknowledgement of her Frank gave was to interrogate her about weapons, supplies and the hunters she was in charge of. He didn’t even ask her about the Hale pack except to verify a few points- whether or not there were two survivors of the fire. She was surprised when he called her into the basement where his hunters had put Mickie and the others.

“It’s been a long time, Taylor. Thought you were running with Kate,” Frank greeted. Mickie didn’t flinch or move from where she was seated on a box, strong shoulders bare since they’d taken her weapons and her jacket (possibly for fear she had a hidden lining inside of it). Taneva was equally unarmed, leaning against the wall closest to her partner.

“You did?” Allison found herself asking. She hadn’t thought that Mickie would want to do things like... like Kate had.

“Two years ago and brief at that. I don’t get off on what I do,” she explained bluntly.

Frank barked a harsh laugh and nodded his head. “I was all for her being benched after the fire, surprised it took Gerard so long to do it. I guess it’s easy to be blinded to your family’s faults,” he shrugged a massive shoulder. Mickie met Allison’s eyes for a moment before she returned them to Frank.

“Is there a reason you have us down here then?”

“Yup.” He leaned over her, pushing his face into hers. “The hunters here told me what you were planning. I don’t blame Allie here, she’s still a child, but you? I’m ashamed of you Michaela. You know you can’t form pacts with rabid animals. They can’t understand us. They don’t see themselves for the monsters they are. It’s our duty to make towns like Beacon Hills safe and you end up feeding the lambs to the wolves yourself? That’s unacceptable.”

“We were doing it because our friend was kidnapped,” Allison found herself saying, voice trembling slightly. “He’s a human boy, he’s not a werewolf.”

Frank clucked his tongue, shaking his head. “Seems like a punishment he deserves for consorting with beasts.”

Danny made a noise of protest but Taneva slipped away from her position at the wall to step into Frank’s space. His hand flashed to the holster on his hip but she made no move to stop him. “The girl is right. But she is not telling you everything.”

“Taneva, don’t,” Mickie barked out. Frank made a gesture with his fingers and the older hunter was gagged.

“What don’t I know?”

“Hale wishes to take the boy as his mate.” Frank’s opinion of that was obvious from his face but she pressed on, her voice cool and clipped as it always was. “You know he was in a dispute with Lycaon and other Alphas- Lycaon is dead and Hale is going after the other Alpha who took his mate. Rowe Talbot... a name you know, I think.”

Frank inhaled sharply but the look on his face frightened Allison. It was hungry. “I haven’t been able to go after that sonofabitch in seven years. Huh,” his eyes narrowed at her. “Why tell me this when your boss clearly didn’t want me to know?”

Taneva shrugged carelessly. “She is not my boss. And Deaton was my brother’s lover. I would see his murderer suffer.”

“I can’t believe you, you say you want to help people, protect them, but all I see is that you’re more worried about killing someone,” Danny burst out suddenly, startling Allison and making her look away in shame. Her head jerked right back around when he let out a pained grunt. One of the hunters had suckerpunched him in the stomach and he was crumpled on the floor.

“Uncle Frank, he’s right. We should be worried about Stiles,” she ventured as he moved up the stairs, already making plans.

“We’ll clean up the mess here first and foremost, get Beacon Hills secured and set up as HQ,” he said to his second. “That should take us eight hours at most. When that is finished we’ll take the coordinates laid out and plan a strike on Talbot’s territory. Make sure that the supplies here are adequate and if not, go on a run. We will be running into heavy resistance so stock up on the Monkshood landmines, we’ll do it like we did here, spike them around the territory to corral them into one area.”

“Allison.” Frank waited until she met his gaze. “There’s only one thing you need to concern yourself with- either lead, follow or get out of the way. Decide.”

*************

Hours later, Allison was still wrestling with his words. Uncle Frank was not someone she felt comfortable with- he was excited about hunting down werewolves, not a thought to their missing friends. But if half the stories he’d told her about Talbot and his pack were true , it was hardly a loss. Actually it would be a relief to know that they couldn’t hurt anyone anymore. That was what being a hunter was about, wasn’t it?

“I’ve got some sandwiches and water for them,” she told the guard in front of the basement. She wasn’t sure if anyone else would think to feed them and frankly she wanted a chance to talk to Mickie again and reassure Danny that he was going to be able to go home. Eventually.

It was disconcerting to see the men that had followed her dad and even her for a short time easily turn their allegiance to Frank. She had recognized that they weren’t really thrilled to be working with Scott and the pack but at the time, they needed all the help they could get. She didn’t trust Derek but there were worst things out there than his pack.

“I have food,” she called out as she descended the steps. Danny gave a wan smile, reaching out to accept it when Allison held out the plate with the small stack of sandwiches. He didn’t immediately start to eat however, turning the sandwich around in his tan fingers, plucking at the crust.

“You know, I thought that being Jackson’s friend was the most trying thing I’d have to deal with ever,” he mused, some of his natural aplomb shaken by everything that had gone on. “This is worse and I still can’t help but worry about him more. I don’t know if he’s alive and I’m stuck here... because of your family.”

She lifted her chin up at the softly worded reprimand. “You’re safer here anyways Danny. Let us worry about Jackson.”

“Don’t fool yourself, kid,” Mickie snorted. Her long legs were set akimbo, posture relaxed but her gaze followed Allison closely. “Frank’s a ‘shoot’em all and let God sort’em out’ man, through and through.”

Handing Taneva her sandwich and bottled water, Allison tipped her head to the side. “You and Uncle Frank have history?”

She ignored the leading question and sat forward, elbows resting on her knees. “Who all did you call in when your Pop got hospitalized?”

“I tried Singer, Whistler and King- got some static, no real lead there-”

“Singer’s dead. But the other two... huh.” The wrinkles around her eyes bunched up tightly, making her look older. Her lips thinned out in a bitter smirk, unforgiving. “Doesn’t matter now. You called in James.”

Allison frowned, trying to judge what Mickie was implying with the words, but nodded slowly. “Yes I did. Not at first but then, after Everett was found... I had to. His father had to know. Why does it matter? He can help get Stiles back.”

“He’s not going to.” Taneva replied when Mickie didn’t. “If he lives, it will be no thanks to Frank James.”

“You don’t know that-”

“Yes I do.” Mickie’s voice cracked across Allison like a whip. “My husband and children were slaughtered by an omega, not that I knew what she was at the time. To me she was some lost kid that needed a hand.” For the first time Allison noticed that Mickie had a pair of rings hanging on a chain around her neck. “James had driven her crazy experimentin’ with some combo of silver and wolfsbane. He let ‘er loose to see how long it’d take to hunt her down.” The disgust on her face was very apparent. “When I confronted his sorry ass, he told me it was my fault for harboring her. So don’t tell me that James is gonna get your friend back,” She went, harshly. “And don’t lie to yourself either, you’re not stupid, Allison.”

“Then what am I supposed to do?” She demanded, anger clotting her throat again. “Everywhere I turn I have people telling me about the horrible things my family have done or will do. Or they tell me about what the horrible things that have been done to them. Which monster am I supposed to fight, Mickie? Which one?! Derek Hale killed my mother! There is not a day that goes by that I don’t hate him for it.”

“You don’t think there’s a day that goes by that Hale don’t remember the fact your aunt burned his family alive?” She shot right back, unrelenting. “But then again... it’d be easy, wouldn’t it?” She sat back, shrugging her shoulders as if she didn’t care either way.

“He's the last Hale. It'd be over, right? Hundreds of years of feudin’ and fightin’ done. You'd be done. All that pain and sorrow, killing Hale would fix it. That's how it works right?” Mickie’s brows arched, eyes refusing to let Allison look away. “You hurt the thing that hurts you. So kill ‘im. And then his pack. And their friends. It’s not that hard once you’ve done it a few times.”

Allison worked her jaw silently, disliking the stark words. It didn’t have to be that way. It didn’t. But she’d been certain of what she was doing when she had attacked the kanima, Gerard approving and guiding her. She had been terrified once to be that cold, that deadly but now... now she wasn’t sure if she was cold enough.

“I can’t stop now,” she admitted. “I see my family get hurt over and over again... am I just supposed to turn my back?”

“Nope,” Mickie stood up and walked over to Allison, a hand planted warmly on her shoulder. “The only thing that helps makin’ damn sure that other people don't feel the same thing you do is stopping the monsters. Don’t matter if they come with fangs or guns. This is a job, not a religious calling or a vendetta, Allison. Do it for the right reasons or don’t do it at all.”

‘We hunt those that hunt us’,” she murmured, thinking of the medallion her father had been wearing. That didn’t mean to hunt the werewolves simply for existing. Her father believed in a Code, he believed in a sense of justice. They could build from there. Maybe... maybe find new ways to interact.

Allison’s mind flashed to Scott’s determined face when they’d been putting her grandfather’s monstrous remains to rest. If there was anyone who could make this work- make her want to make it work... Scott had done amazing things with his abilities and forged his own path, separate from the tangled history of the Hales and the Argents. She wanted to make her own path too. She needed to do it.

***************

“Are they still there?” Scott was certain his heart was going to beat out of his chest. Apparently there was a limit to what his werewolf body could do and stepping on some sort of weird wolfsbane landmine was apparently at the upper limit of it. Maybe wasn’t even on the list itself, given how woozy and sick he felt still. Isaac wasn’t doing much better either; he’d ended up with three arrows hitting him on his legs and torso. He’d only had time to take out two before the explosion, leaving him with the one still bleeding sluggishly.

“No, I think we finally lost them,” the other boy gulped air and then yanked out the broken off arrow from his lower calf. Blood welled out of the wound sluggishly and he clamped a hand over it.

“Boyd will be back. He’s looking for Erica,” Scott reassured Isaac, leaning into the taller boy when he pressed closer, almost draped over Scott’s shoulders. It was comforting, making Scott feel like they could just curl up and sleep forever at this point. But he forced himself into a more alert position- barely a moment too soon.

“Boyd found Erica. Or, actually I found him,” Erica whispered at them, smirking as she appeared nearby their hiding spot. She looked a little worse for the wear but not as badly as when the Argents grabbed her. Behind her were Vanessa and Dom of all people. “C’mon. We can get back to the subway car from here and figure out how to get the fuck out of here.”

They managed to avoid any of the hunters on their way to the abandoned depot. Scott wasn’t sure if they’d already checked it or not but at least they had a little bit of time. He shot the other wolves a bit of a curious look. “Not that I’m mad but... what are you doing here?”

“What do you think?” Dom snorted, rolling his eyes. He was leaning against the wall of the car, trying to seem detached. Weirdly he kept shooting glances towards Erica and frowning.

“We came across Erica being attacked by... something. It smelled sort of like a wolf but... wrong. Very wrong,” Vanessa explained, ignoring her twin. “I thought it might be what attacked Lycaon.”

“It wasn’t. Talbot attacked him and then Morell showed up at Lydia’s with that monster and I think... I think it was Jackson,” Erica shook her head, crossing her arms over her chest. Boyd squeezed her shoulder gently, murmuring into her hair low enough that even the other wolves couldn’t hear him. She relaxed slightly, not noticing Dom’s eyes on the scene.

“Does that mean he’s the kanima again?” Isaac piped up, brows knit together. Scott didn’t blame him, it was hard enough the first time to subdue him.

“I don’t know. I mean, I thought he was fixed,” he admitted. What if he wasn’t? Did that mean there really was no other way to stop him but to... kill him?

“Morell’s the real problem, she ganked Lydia and I’m pretty sure she’s fucking crazy,” Erica piped up.

“But we don’t know where she went or why she’s even doing this,” Boyd pointed out and then frowned. “Wait...” He rubbed at his temples, like he was trying to work out a headache. “I remember! She- she’s working with Talbot! She spelled me to forget it but... she was the one that got the Alphas to give me over to the hunters. She was trying to get him to... I don’t know, take over?”

Vanessa’s eyes flashed bright red. “It won’t work. We’ll stop it from happening.”

Dom nodded his agreement, his eyes golden as he paced. “We’ll get our pack in on this too.”

“Wait isn’t your pack like, two other wolves?” Erica arched her brows and smirked when Dom flushed, glaring. She merely smooched in his direction, daring him to start something.

“Maybe we are small but Lycaon is our father and we still have family in our old pack. We’re doing this whether you like it or not.” Vanessa pointed out, though she was chiefly appealing to Scott, her eyes heavy on his face. He felt badly for her, he really did but if they hadn’t come to Beacon Hills in the first place, this mess wouldn’t have happened.

“You can’t blame us for being a little surprised. You were just about ready to kill us like, two days ago,” he pointed out.

“And your hunter girlfriend is so much less of a threat of doing the same thing?”

“Hey!”

Dom stepped in between them, his back to Vanessa as she huffed. He went on, jaw tight. “Lycaon is not dead. I would know if my father was dead. We are going after Talbot, with or without you.”

Chapter Text

Stiles had been gone for two days. The worse thing to John was that he didn’t notice for an entire day. He could blame his job, blame the hours but it was his fault at the end of it. Stiles was missing and hurt and John hadn’t done a damn thing to stop it from happening. He was angry at this... strange world, full of werewolves and hunters and just weird things that threatened his child but he was mostly angry at himself for not stopping Stiles. He regretted the conversation they’d had not barely a week ago.

John couldn’t lose anyone else. He just couldn’t.

He tried to do his job but then again, John had always fallen back on his badge when he didn’t know how to cope. That was what happened when Sonya died. It made him a fine officer, got him all the way to Sheriff but that didn’t stop the fact he barely knew how to talk to his own kid. Didn’t notice what had been going on under his nose.

The ALE radio beeped to life, startling him out of his spiral of self-recrimination. It was used for emergency situations primarily, and with the phone lines still being down, it wasn’t surprising that a call was coming through.

“John? It’s Melissa.”

He sat up straighter at the waver in her voice. Melissa had been a good friend to him for years and she wasn’t one to fly off the handle (a needed skill when you dealt with Stiles or Stiles’n’Scott for any length of time). “What’s wrong?”

“I um... I’m not entirely sure but Mr. Argent thinks you’re in danger.”

“Argent? I thought he was in a coma?”

“He was. He’s not anymore. We were attacked at the hospital by Peter- a werewolf. I’m still confused but he’s adamant that you-” the line cut out as the entire building went black.

*****

It had been difficult convincing her Uncle Frank to let her leave the house, but Allison had managed it, especially after she overheard the fact her father was no longer at Beacon Hills Memorial. Her heart jumped up in her throat, terrified that something might have happened to him. Frank allowed her to go back to the hospital to check to see if she could find her father’s trail easier than his hunters could. Talking him into letting Danny come along was not as easy however.

Eventually Allison admitted that she was seeing Danny to get over her ex, whom she felt betrayed by when she found out he was a werewolf. The look on Danny’s face as she blurted out the ‘truth’ was rather priceless but he was quick to take her hand and squeeze it gently.

“Didn’t think I’d ever be anyone’s beard,” he muttered in her ear and she could’ve sworn Taneva snorted before she hustled them to the SUV.

Her uncle wasn’t a stupid man however; he sent them out with three hunters, none of whom were loyal to her. Fortunately they were more experienced tracking and hunting werewolves, not teenagers. She herded Danny through the halls of the hospital, through the morgue and then back up through the service exit. It wasn’t elegant or subtle but they really didn’t have time for that.

“I know you’ll probably want to go home-”

“But it’s not safe,” Danny concluded, giving a philosophical shrug. “Heard it and I think I’ve just decided to embrace the madness of the moment. Werewolves kidnapping people? Sure. Paramilitary-trained madmen invading? Just an average night in Beacon Hills.”

Allison squeezed his hand. “I’m really sorry.”

Continuing on their way to seek out Scott and the others, she hoped that no one had been caught (or worse) by her Uncle’s hunters. Allison was certain she could evade their ‘bodyguards’ for a good twenty minutes but more than that.... well, she better hope that they found her friends long before then.

She knew that they wouldn’t go to the Hale house, the hunters had already claimed that for a base of operation close to the Preserve. So that left her with the train depot as the most likely place they’d retreated to. Unfortunately for Allison’s intuition, it didn’t cover for being body-checked into a concrete wall. She pulled the knife out of her holster but her arm was slammed against the wall as well, knocking the weapon from her hand.

The female werewolf’s grip on her upper arm was painful, making that spark of anger and defiance flare up in Allison but she kept her cool, assessing her attacker.

“I have to admire your audacity to appear alone,” she pointed out, Alpha red eyes making Allison work her throat, fingers twitching for the knife on the ground. “But it won’t save you.”

“Vanessa wait!” Scott skidded to a stop a few feet away. His eyes were on Allison’s face, filled with trepidation, as if he wasn’t certain he could trust her reasoning for being there. It hurt. “Let her talk. What’s going on? Why are there suddenly a ton of hunters here?”

“I um... I called them here,” she replied. Isaac’s eyes narrowed, glowing gold when he came up behind Scott. Boyd, Erica and the other boy behind them didn’t look any more understanding. Allison truly understood what it felt like to be cornered prey at that moment and she hated it. “I had no choice. I was alone when my gran- when the draugr was running wild. I couldn’t do it on my own.”

“You didn’t have to. You could’ve come to us,” Scott pointed out.

“And do you remember what happened when I did? My cousin was mutilated and left on my front lawn,” she snapped out. This wasn’t the conversation she had wanted to have, it wasn’t, but the words tumbled out anyway, bitter as bile.

“Guys? Guys!” Danny called out, holding up his hands for peace. “I think we can save that for when crazy people aren’t trying to kill us all, okay?”

She took a deep breath and nodded. Giving Vanessa a look, she waited until the older woman backed off, letting Allison step away from the wall. “There’s more going on than you know. The hunters here, they don’t care who you are or if you’ve helped us or anything. If they see you, they will kill you. They’re good at this,” Allison warned urgently, eyes pleading with Scott to understand. “I don’t have any control over them, they outnumber my hunters and some of those didn’t like how I was handling things in the first place. Worse, Uncle Frank’s men are the ones that are responsible for the power blackouts, the phone lines and... I overheard them planning to take out the police station. Incapacitate it.”

“Damn,” Boyd of all people hissed out. “This isn’t good.”

“No shit,” The male werewolf behind Erica muttered. “But it’s not like we can help it.”

“Actually, I probably can,” Danny pointed out. He blinked when they all turned to look at him. “If they haven’t hard cut the power and just overridden the commands on the system I could get in myself and fix it probably. And I can probably fuck up their comm equipment too.”

“That’s great. I can go to the police station with Danny while you-”

“Hold up. Why the hell are we even trusting her right now?” Erica demanded, holding up a hand before pointing a finger at her. “She calls in her psycho hunter family and what, we take a pass on that? Or what about when she hunted me and Boyd down like dogs. Don’t you have anything to say about it?” She turned her ire directly on Allison. “About the fact Boyd has been tortured by not one but two members of your family now? Why not go for the full set,” Erica snapped, eyes flashing.

“Erica,” Scott warned, placing a hand on her shoulder, stepping between them.

She pushed him off, smacking his hand off with her own, showing off claws. “No, this was your idea. Derek doesn’t even want hunters involved.”

“It doesn’t matter what he wants-”

“Yes it does! He’s our Alpha, you should respect that at least a little!”

“Then he shouldn’t do something like run off for Stiles on his own!”

“At least he cares-”

“You don’t think I want to?! Stiles has been my best friend all my life! I would die to save him!” Scott got bass in his voice like he almost never did. Everyone went quiet though Allison could see that Vanessa was looking approvingly on him and she frowned, stomach tensing up.

Now was not the time to be distracted by imagined jealousies though. Allison spoke quietly but firmly, “We have a lot of people to help out. Uncle Frank is going to be gunning for Derek now that he knows he’s heading straight for Stiles and Talbot.”

Scott nodded, rubbing his hand over his forehead. “Okay, look to save people we have to split up. I have to go after Stiles’ dad. He’ll kill me if I don’t,” Scott pointed out, glancing around. “Who wants to go-”

“I will,” Isaac offered immediately, giving a hesitant nod. “I like the Sheriff.”

“Dom and Erica should go for Derek to warn him, they’re the most likely to get by the patrols. I will go and make sure the hunters there are more concerned with the large Alpha than checking to see if a few betas slipped out,” Vanessa declared. She paused on her way out of the depot, next to Scott. And then suddenly she was pressing a firm kiss to his mouth, hands grasping his jaw to hold him still. When she pulled away, Scott was clearly a little dazed.

“So, I think that we can go now,” Isaac snapped, grabbing the brunet’s arm to haul him off towards the police station.

Allison was surprised that Boyd was still standing there, next to Danny, watching her with that steady gaze he had. Measuring her maybe. “You’re with me?”

“Seems like it.”

“...you want to keep an eye on me, don’t you,” she couldn’t blame him as she started back up the stairs.

Boyd said nothing, keeping up with her easily with his long strides. He didn’t trust her but he wasn’t attacking her- that was progress, she guessed. Catching up, she offered up a soft, “I should thank you.”

“Don’t. We have a long, long way to go.”

******

Stiles woke up wishing that he hadn’t. His whole body ached and he was reminded, quite painfully, that he wasn’t the kind of guy who could take a beating and walk it off. He ached, his whole body ached and his head was threatening to break off in protest. What the hell possessed him to mouth off to werewolves anyways?

Although, come to think of it, why wasn’t he dead?

Maybe his life had suddenly taken a turn for the wonderful and fairies had come in the middle of the night to rescue him from the clutches of evil as he was their long lost prince who totally was awesome and everyone loved. And they brought him a pony too because what the hell, if he was going to have hysterical delusions, he might as well go for broke.

“Are you done muttering to yourself?”

Stiles flailed and nearly fell off the bed- well, more like cot. He tried to scramble back on but his body was still hurting and it took him an embarrassing long time to get off the wooden floor of the very bare cabin and in an upright position. He vaguely recognized his company- mostly the cool voice and the sharp gray eyes.

“Hm, you are so very human,” she observed, glancing over his body. He could see her a bit better now- tall but with that softness that tended to come when you got old.

“Yeah well, born that way baby,” he replied, rolling his eyes. “Lemme guess, you’re one of those werewolves. Look, I’m not a hunter, I’m not trying to hurt anyone and frankly if you want to terrorize the bunny population of... wherever we are, more power to you. I just wanna go home.”

“So do I. And to do that, it seems we may have to work together. Sylvia Savakis, I am Lycaon’s mate,” she introduced herself. He had to admit, she was very regal and he could easily see how she could match with Lycaon, though he seemed a lot less straightforward than Sylvia was.

“Wait, I thought Lycaon was... I think Talbot-” he swallowed hard. The memory of that- blood gushing everywhere, from Lycaon, from Deaton and then being chased through the clinic was still potent enough to make his heart beat out of synch.

Sylvia’s eyes narrowed and she considered her words carefully. “Lycaon is not dead. Yet.”

Stiles sat back and made a noise in his throat, flicking his eyes over her thoughtfully. She had a good poker face but not that good. “You’re in here cuz you think I can help you. Because you’re not really into being one big happy bitey family with Talbot’s pack.”

Her jaw twitched but she inclined her head. “That’s not quite how I would put it but... we cannot fight him. Our children are being corralled off by Talbot’s betas and we are only allowed to see them one at a time. For all Talbot is mad, he knows that much.”

“Right then so, exactly what do you want me to do about it?” Stiles asked, waving a hand around vaguely. “Look, I get it, totally, but did you miss out the part where I’ve been kidnapped? That usually implied that the kidnappers are stronger or more deadly than the kidnappee, me, by the way.”

“You are a Spark of course. Have you not been trained?” Sylvia seemed startled and maybe a little put out at the idea.

“Uh, well, it’s kind of more of a learn as you go-”

Outside there was a roar that, against all odds, Stiles actually recognized. He was up on his feet and dashing out of the cabin before he could stop and think about it.

Derek was being held in place by four betas at least, including Ian from before. Who now was sporting a bloody nose and a pissed off face. Stiles’ heart had jumped in his throat seeing Derek struggle, dark brows crashed over his nose, baring his fangs. He was torn between sheer relief at seeing the Alpha and insane worry.

“You stupid asshole!” Well that cleared up that, he was going to go with yelling instead. “What are you doing here?! Are you that self-sacrificing? What, did you miss not getting beat up for five seconds and just couldn’t wait for them to find you?! I can’t believe you sometimes!” He shouted, stomping closer and closer until some beta snatched him up by his collar, making Stiles’ legs kick and flail uselessly.

Beyond Derek, next to Morell was Lydia, staring at him like he’d grown a second head. But for once in his life, Stiles Stilinski was not focused on the pretty redhead at all. Instead he was caught in a glaring contest with his idiotic Alpha who should not be allowed to be nobly stupid ever.

I’m stupid?” It was almost comical how four betas were having to struggle to keep Derek from taking a few steps closer to Stiles - and failing miserably at holding him at bay. “Psychotic wolf comes attacking Deaton at his office and you didn’t run... why?”

Stiles aimed a kick in the air, as if he hadn’t been held by the beta, he’d actually kick Derek in the shins. “You don’t think I did? Oh excuse me, I forgot to mention how much I frigging love to get kidnapped, I think it makes us so much closer, snuggy bear!” He sneered, sarcastically.

“This is not the time for jokes.” He frowned. “And this is not the time for you to get holier-than-thou with me about what I do and don’t do. Did you think I’d be okay just sitting around, waiting for my golden engraved invitation to come have a conjugal visit in Wolf Prison here?!”

“Oh yeah, you keep thinking that you’re getting any from me, dumbass, just keep it up!” Stiles retorted, much to the surprise of the betas around them. Clearly Talbot’s pack was not used to such.... mouthy mates, much less human ones. “I just thought that maybe, just maybe, you’d actually use your head and I don’t know, have a plan for rescuing me!”

Derek’s lips formed one of his trademark fake smiles, the kind that housed all his sarcasm and sass for the world to see. In this case it was all for Stiles, the dumbass who refused to do anything he should. “Oh yeah, I have all kinds of plans,” he assured him without actually assuring him of anything other than aha, nope.

“Do you know how easy all those plans are to carry out without a pack? When your Uncle is... when... ugh.” When he tossed his hands towards Stiles in frustration, he flung a beta onto his face and left the other three to scramble and retain their hold.

“Oh yeah, really convinc-” Apparently the beta holding up Stiles had had enough of the sniping and cuffed him upside the head, clawed fingers raking across an already bruised cheek. Stiles was sent stumbling on his feet, further away from Derek.

All frivolous arguments were gone the instant Stiles was touched. A worried expression turned to a furrowed brow and a snarl. Derek’s eyes went alpha red and narrowed in the offending beta’s direction. “Don’t ever do that again.”

Stiles was about to make a retort about the fact he didn’t need anyone to defend his honor, thanks, when Talbot himself snatched him up. Now Stiles really was more afraid than angry or frustrated (or worried, but seriously that one was on the backburner). Talbot was crazy and he was big, very big. His hand wrapped tightly around his face and neck, holding him silent.

“Huh, thought you woulda taught your mate better,” Talbot mused with a smarmy grin, claws digging into Stiles’ face, pricking at the skin. “Alphas can’t not answer a threat against their mate. It’s instinct- or so I’ve heard.” Stiles made an angry noise, trying to flail and possibly actually hit Talbot inspite of his own precarious position. “I was counting on it. See, I need you, Hale.”

“I need you to let Stiles go, but apparently no one’s getting what they need tonight.” He really shouldn’t have ran his mouth, but it was the only viable plan he had left; distract everyone from the human who couldn’t heal as fast as he could.

Talbot chuckled, apparently amused by Derek’s bravado. “You’re the last piece I need to become an Alpha no one can ever challenge again. I’ll be... I’ll be invincible. Wolves will flock to me, to become one pack, under me. And then we’ll take back everything. We’ll show these little humans why they used to fear the woods.”

He clutched Stiles tighter to him and smirked with rows and rows of sharp teeth. “And as long as I have him, I have you.” He shoved Stiles into the waiting arms of his betas, yanking the younger man out of Derek’s sight.

Chapter Text

Chris Argent had wanted be a wood carver when he was younger. It was a thought that had floated into his mind as he sat knelt on the rooftop next to the power station with Allison, watching Danny and Boyd through his scope as they moved quickly to the main building. Kate had mocked him for relentless when they were children, telling him it was an old man hobby. But Chris had always appreciated the time and care it took to turn a block of wood into a piece of art or a tool, something more than it once had been.

He wasn’t blind to the irony that his father had done much the same with him and Kate, and then himself with Allison. Chris had warred with himself over it- but the skills and knowledge he’d passed down had allowed her to find him when Frank and his cohorts had not. All without alerting anyone to their movements through Beacon Hills. He was proud of her for that. Still, he must have been staring too long at her when Allison moved closer.

“I hope they can get the power up without running into anyone. I’d feel better knowing how many hunters are inside,” she murmured. When that didn’t get a response, she cocked her head. “Dad?”

She looked less wild-eyed than she had in the last few months, but her sadness had turned into a weary acceptance. There was now a sense of duty that weighed too heavily on too-young shoulders. Chris felt more guilt and remorse settle on his conscience, ducking his head to peer through the scope again.

“I... it’s nothing. I just wanted to know if you felt confident in your... friends.” He nodded to Boyd leaning over Danny’s shoulder. The boy was attempting to pull the power back up, arms covered up to his elbows in the brightly colored cables spilling out of the outlet box. Boyd didn’t spare him a look for the comment, despite Chris knew that the werewolf could hear him despite the distance. He had to give him credit for poise under fire.

Allison wasn’t satisfied with that answer, dropping the tip of her weapon in exasperation. “That’s not what you were going to say. I don’t want to keep having this conversation where I have to beg you not to treat me like a little girl in need of protection.”

“It’s not that,” Chris sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose. “I can see very clearly that you’re handling this all far better than I wanted.”

She frowned, brushing dark waves from her face and the uncertainty lingering there made her look like his little girl and less like the hunter she’d become. “I thought that this is who I was supposed to be. What I’ve been training for all my life. I thought you and mom-” her voice hitching prompted him to reach out to pull her head against his shoulder.

“No,” Chris declared without hesitation. “We might’ve gone too far in the other direction, maybe, when we decided to give you as normal life as possible but I don’t regret it much. Your mom and I grew up in ways you shouldn’t have had to. We didn’t want that for you. We still don’t. But being an Argent, knowing about this part of life, carries a responsibility that we can’t walk away from.” He curled his arms tighter around her shoulders, wishing that a hug was all it still took to right his little girl’s world again.

Below them, a scuffle broke out but Boyd slammed one of the hunters into the ground, knocking him out completely. Before Chris could line up his shot, the second hunter was pinned to a wall by several arrows. Allison smiled confidently, an excited light in her eyes.

“Power station secured,” she gave Danny a wave and he was typing away on his pad, alerting the rest of the pack.

*******

“Danny says they’ve got the power station up and running-” Isaac murmured, glancing up as the lights on their block began to flick back on.

Scott grinned. “Way to go, Allison.”

“Yeah, because she had so much to do with fixing that,” Isaac muttered, shifting from his crouched position. They were in an alleyway across the street from the police station. “How many can you see?”

Scott ignored the comment about Allison- he was certain she had done something awesome- and shook his head. “I can’t tell. I think- I mean, I don’t see anyone moving around, can you?”

“No.”

This was reminding Scott a little too much of when the kanima slaughtered so many people and he shifted uncomfortably. “We should go in. I can’t sit here anymore,” he decided, running towards the building, ignoring Isaac’s hiss behind him. He didn’t charge up the front steps, he wasn’t dumb, he moved to the window by the Sheriff’s office.

Jumping onto the wall opposite of the office, Scott used it to launch himself at the open window. He scrambled onto the sill. A large hand was grabbing him by the throat and slamming him face first down on the floor before he could react. A knee pressed sharply to the center of his back while his arms were forced up at an awkward angle. He was immobilized, he couldn’t fight back-

Then he breathed in and gave a choked gasp. “Sheriff?!”

The body above him paused, grip slacking on Scott’s wrists. Then he was being turned over, a hand still bracing Scott while the other had a gun aimed at him. The Sheriff’s gun quickly moved to Isaac’s entrance at the windowsill. His teeth were bared briefly but then he was just as confused as Scott had been, peering between his packmate and the sheriff.

“Let me guess- you’re Luke Skywalker and you’re here to rescue me?” The Sheriff arched his brow, offering a hand to help Scott up off the ground. He definitely didn’t look like he needed rescuing at all.

“Uh....yeah?”

“John? A couple of them are waking up, did you want- Oh. Hi sweetie!” Melissa McCall walked into the office, straightening up and immediately moving to hug her flabbergasted son. His brain was still stuck on the fact someone his dad’s age had completely knocked him on his ass without batting an eyelash.

“Mom?! What-? How-?!

“Oh, did you think those ‘take back the night’ self-defense courses were for fun?” she asked, amused. She looked a little disheveled, dark curls escaping her bun, but otherwise just fine. Shaking her head, she turned back to the Sheriff. “Actually John did most of the hard work. Seems he still remembers a few things from his kickboxing days.” She laughed when the Sheriff actually smirked. “Officer Shaffer is reviewing the footage, but he isn’t sure he’ll be able to up the resolution.”

“Danny probably could,” Isaac piped up, still crouched in the windowsill. “I can text him.”

“You do that, and you-” the Sheriff snatched up Scott by his collar. “You’re going to explain to me who those yahoos are that think they can waltz into my town and hurt my people.”

“Actually, I’m the one you’ll want to be speaking to, Sheriff,” Chris Argent announced from the doorway and Scott had never before been so relieved to see the older man in his life.

******

Of all the things that torture could bring to mind, strange that it was his last conversation with Peter.

Humans can be so... vulnerable.

A metal pipe to the side of the face that sent blood flying from his mouth and his head lolling to the side caused him to take a trip down memory lane as it were. It was easier to hang on to the words they’d spoke than it was to focus on blocking out pain or think about what they were doing to Stiles.

“Are you paying attention, Hale?” He didn’t know the beta and didn’t feel too obliged to give him one iota of his gaze. That was probably why the pipe was shoved hard into the center of his stomach.

He coughed, clearing the blood that rose from his stomach and threatened to lodge in his throat if he didn’t spit it out or swallow it down... and then he laughed. “M’sorry, did you say something?” It was the weakest attempt he’d had in awhile at defiance but it was all he could give. Even giving that was making the knot in his gut tighten.

Consciousness was sent packing when the pipe swung against his temple. He didn’t even feel his head hit the floor or the pain of the initial swing. It was just dark, a dark that swallowed him up and shoved him right into the middle of the conversation he’d been thinking on just moments before.

“I remember when Laura used to tell me about the Trojan War.” Peter’s expression had been priceless when he opted to cut through an hour’s worth of silence with such a strange topic. “I was five, maybe six, when she first told me about it. All those men hiding in a wooden horse, waiting to strike.”

“Did I miss the moment when our current plight over your kidnapped mate turned into a history lesson?” Peter had his moments and this, Derek had hoped, would be one of them.

“I just think the concept was a good one, one that people don’t always utilize even though it proved so effective.”

“Considering the source material has been so often retold, I doubt anyone would easily fall for that kind of tactic.” Peter steepled his fingers together and pressed them against his lips. “Then again, if the delivery system was something more subtle and even more underestimated, I suppose any wolf would fall for it.”

“Even old werewolves,” Derek added.

A nod was offered before Peter stood up and moved to the long unused fireplace. “Old werewolves have lived long lives and seen many things,” he shrugged. “I’m rather certain the cheating tactics of a young pup, alpha or not, wouldn’t go unnoticed.”

“It’s amazing,” Derek said, eyes looking up and meeting Peter’s, “how easy it is to trick an old werewolf, even one not in their right mind.”

“I know that very well, a lesson learned,” Peter agreed.

A lesson learned...

“You don’t learn, do you?” A swift boot to the side jarred him from the peace of unconsciousness. “Stupid wolf... how did you even earn the rank of Alpha?”

Derek, not one to change a tactic when it was working, gave another short laugh before offering a response that he knew would earn him another trip to the land of Lights Out. “Why don’t you ask your mom?”

Chapter Text

Stiles had been told. Oh he’d been told. But had he listened? Oh no. Because sure there were things he was prepared to accept- the existence of werewolves for one- but there were other things that just made no damn sense.

Like the fact he felt phantom pains- jabs against his stomach, burning hot slices across his skin that should’ve resulted in blood but didn’t. He felt everything and he knew that he felt it because Derek did. He wanted to make it stop but had no way to do so, he could only react to the stupid bond he had. It wasn’t in his nature to sit back when his friends were in pain so it made it all the worst to be stuck in the stupid cabin unable to do anything at all.

And then it was over with and Stiles choked on air, blinking his vision back into sight. “And now we’re unconscious. Great. Don’t die, dumbass,” he muttered, lifting a shaking hand to his mouth to swallow back the fear, the knot of worry that was making him want to claw off his own skin.

He didn’t know how long he lay out on the floor of the dusty cabin, too tired and too sore to get up when the door opened. He found the ability to move when as some weird creature stalked inside, pushing himself up off the ground on shaky arms. The creature had a clawed hand gripping Lydia’s arm. Protective feelings welled up in him and he stumbled closer.

The creature snarled, showing off sharp, needle-like teeth and Lydia called out, “Stiles don’t! It’s Jackson!”

Before he could speak, Ms. Morell slipped inside the cabin. She gestured for Jackson to drop Lydia on the cot Stiles had passed out on. Figures this would be the kind of situation he’d finally get Lydia Martin on ‘his bed’.

“Ah Mr. Stilinski, it is good to see you in one piece. Unexpected, but good,” she greeted him.

“Yeah well, Talbot didn’t think I made such a good chewtoy. How about you?” he sniped.

She paused, tilting her head slightly. Morell looked a lot less composed than he was used to seeing her. Still the last time he’d seen her was when she’d walked into Deaton’s clinic and didn’t bat an eyelash when he was killed. So Stiles? ...Not really caring if she was ‘okay’. “I am doing quite well. I am aiding the Tulaa in righting the balance here. It’s unfortunate that-”

“That what? You have collateral damage? I mean, that’s what Deaton was to you, right? Or me or Lydia?” He snapped out.

“It can be difficult for some people to look at the larger picture,” Morell replied, sounding serene but she kept rubbing her hands against each other as if she was trying to scrub something off of them. She didn’t appear to be aware of it. “It’s not that I wanted this, you see. It’s not about my needs and wants. I do what is necessary. You know that sacrifices must be made to bring out the most peaceful outcome. Certainly there will be blood spilt, but in the long run there will be so much less spilled this way.”

“Understanding a thing and being in support of it are such vastly different concepts that I wonder how you ever made it to where you are now,” Lydia pointed out, eyes livid but her tone almost bored.

“Yeah you know what I believe? Not betraying my friends,” Stiles huffed, waving a hand through the air. “Deaton was your colleague- or friend or fuckbuddy, I dunno! But he trusted you and that’s why you’re wrong. If you actually thought what you’re doing is right you wouldn’t have hidden it from him or gotten him killed to keep him from-”

Morell’s hand smacked across Stiles face, leaving a red imprint in her wake. She was shaking, fingers curled up into claws. “You stupid, foolish child. You don’t know anything! But you’ll see. You’ll see what the Tulaa has guided me to accomplish. I will bring about peace, not sit at the sidelines and try to spoon-feed knowledge to creatures that are hardly more than animals! Someone must be the ripple in the pond, why not me?”

With another scorching look, Morell whirled out of the cabin, leaving Stiles whistling low. “That’s full on Kubrick crazy you know,” he said, glancing at Lydia.

She arched a brow, perched on the edge of the lone bed in the room. “I’ve been with her for days.”

“Yikes.” Stiles spared a moment to wonder what he could do to comfort her, to ask.... well he wasn’t sure what, but to help her somehow. Well first things first- the first duty of a prisoner and all that. He could help out Lydia a helluva lot more if they weren’t surrounded by bloodthirsty creatures of the night. He peered at their sentry- at Jackson- pondering.

Weirdly enough he seemed less snakey now that Morell was gone. He almost had a nose and- ew- he was shedding, scales and fur collecting at his bare feet. That had to mean something. Jackson hadn’t done that when he had been the kanima; it was clear he wasn’t totally back to that yet. Still, they could use his help and that meant getting him back to his normal douchetacular self.

Sitting down next to Lydia, he nudged her shoulder, pitching his voice low, “Can’t you do the Beauty and the Beast thing again? Or I could get a car. I don’t mind running him down,” he offered.

“Stiles,” Lydia snapped and it was the twisted up look on her face that made him shut up, guilty as hell. It was obvious that she would have done something already if she could.

He kept quiet for several moments- like five even- before he tried again. “I mean it was kind of unreal that it worked at all, I mean, that was some fairy tale-”

Stiles!” Lydia scorched him with a look that had him shutting up fast. “It won’t work. Do you think that I haven’t come up with everything that I could’ve done before you got here? I may be a little bit behind the learning curve with this sort of thing but I am hardly without my natural intelligence.” She gave him a look and stood up, moving towards Jackson.

Stiles made an aborted gesture to pull her back, worried that Jackson would lunge or something. He didn’t, though he did turn towards her as she stepped up close. She took a deep breath before reaching out to touch his chest.

“Jackson I.... I hate this. I hate seeing you like this,” she murmured, dropping her gaze to look at her fingers resting on scales across a broad chest, the heartbeat steady underneath. “You’re not this monster. Please Jackson, please don’t do this again. Please I can’t-” She stopped, blinking back her tears and she stepped away from him.

Her body language changed- her shoulders pulled back and she lifted her chin defiantly. “You know what? No. I do not beg. Not you, Jackson Whittemore! Not anyone!” She jabbed a finger at him, ignoring the noise Stiles made behind her. Her eyes locked with Jackson’s own reptilian ones. “If you want to hide in your head like a child, fine! Do you even have any idea why I finally accepted your pursuit of me?”

Stepping away, she gave him an insincere smile. She turned her back on him, unconcerned. “It wasn’t your looks, there were other boys, older boys that were just as attractive. It definitely wasn’t your money, I have plenty of my own and you are so, so obvious about the way you spend it, it’s sort of embarrassing,” she shook her head at the thought, not noticing the tension in Jackson’s body, the way the scant fur on his shoulders was raising.

“It wasn’t the fact you were the lacrosse captain, though that was nice to lord over everyone else,” she admitted. Turning, she planted her hands on her hips, as tiny and as fierce as either of the boys had always known her to be. “I needed someone who was at least as driven as me. Do you remember that, Jackson? We were going places together, we had everything and then you had to go and screw it up! I did love you, but I don’t anymore.”

Lydia paused, eyes unfocused, lost in thought. The smug condescension fell away from her face and something older and maybe a little bittersweet took its place. “You’re not my Jackson. You’re pathetic. The Jackson I knew, the one I wanted, wouldn’t just roll over and accept someone else beating him. That Jackson would try harder, would be better than this disgusting, ugly, weak shell. But you’re too much of a scared little boy to do what you’re capable of. I always knew you’d let me down.”

Stiles gaped at her, stunned. “I don’t know if I feel sorry for him or want to worship at your feet right now.”

Lydia shot him a look that said she didn’t know if he was making a joke or being really weird. Either that or wondering why there was even a choice.

**********

Erica snorted to herself, shaking her head. “Way to go dumbass, she’ll really want you now,” she muttered, moving back further as the wind shifted. It wasn’t that hard to spy on the cabin where Stiles and Lydia had been corralled if you were familiar with the terrain. And she was lucky enough to have with her someone who was.

“Forget that, did they say anything useful?” Dom asked, fidgeting impatiently, his claws extending into the soft dirt. He was clearly very nervous and it irritated her.

“Calm your tits already, you’re ruining my mood.” Erica turned over to smirk up at the older boy. He was kind of cute, if not really her type. Fun to wind up though- he got so worked up she couldn’t help herself. “I mean, a girl likes to play peeping tom sometimes.”

What?” Dom’s dumbfounded face was a thing of beauty, especially when it turned into a scowl. “I don’t give a damn what the two humans are... getting up to! I just want to know what the patrols are like!”

Flashing her teeth at him, Erica stretched out, crossing her feet at the ankles. “You really think they’re fucking right now? Wow, talk about a one track mind.”

“Erica-”

“There’s just Jackson with them at the moment, but heard a trio that seems like they swing by every ten minutes maybe less really. If it was just Jackson or just the patrols, we probably could handle it, but both?” She sighed, feeling badly for Stiles. He had to be going stir-crazy from being cooped up.

Dom shifted beside her and huffed through his nose. “Alright so we can’t get there. Doesn’t mean we can’t do anything while we’re here,” he offered, clearly as raring for action as she was.

“This is a stakeout not an undercover mission, but if you really want to-”

“I meant,” he continued, gritting his teeth. His ears were burning as Erica was stifling her giggles. “We can get in contact with Lycaon’s pack, see who is still alive and get more information from them directly.”

Erica tilted her head to peer out from their hiding spot at the edge of the grounds. “Who did you have in mind? You know your dad is going to be even harder to get to,” she pointed out, making no attempt to soften her words. She also pushed aside the worry that she could only find traces of Derek’s scent rather than the Alpha himself.

“Yes, but I could get to my mother,” he countered. “She’ll be in charge of whoever is still loyal to our pack and she’ll be looking after the children.”

Erica’s expression softened for a moment and then become even more determined. “No kid should be around shit like this,” she nodded her head in agreement.

Dom opened his mouth to say something but stopped. Erica was a girl that he simply could not figure out and he wasn’t sure it had anything to do with her being a bitten werewolf. Whatever it was, it had to wait for less dire circumstances. “Talbot probably is keeping them with his own offspring, down closer to the main lodge. It’ll be risky,” he warned.

“Sounds fun,” Erica countered, eyes flashing gold. “C’mon, show a girl a good time for once in your life.”

******

Being captured was actually really boring for a lot of the time, or so Stiles discovered. Sure, the pants-shitting terror parts were sucky too but being unable to get away from a tiny little cabin while his friends were in trouble and doing god-knows-what out there made him want to climb the walls. Worse was knowing that the more time that passed, the less likely any of them were going to make it out alive. Derek was somewhere in the camp, being hurt (although not right that very second as Stiles was still able to pace) but otherwise there wasn’t anyone else.

Scott might be able to make it, but would it be in time? Would any of them be able to get out of this? They had barely been able to scrape by during their previous episodes of trying-not-to-die and now they had so many more enemies... Stiles was having trouble seeing the light at the end of the tunnel as anything more than an oncoming train.

“Stop pacing, Stiles,” Lydia called out to him, sounding weary. Hell, it was probably close to two or three in the morning but neither of them were sleeping. She had bags under her eyes and her hair was definitely not out of the approved list of ‘must-have hairstyles’ in those girl magazines.

She was still the prettiest girl Stiles had ever met though.

Flopping onto the bed next to her, he stared at his hands, picking at his nails. “Um, there’s something I’ve waited forever to say to you and since it’s not looking good on the rescue front...”

Taking a deep breath, Stiles just let out what he’d been rehearsing in his head for years. “I fell in love with you when I was nine years old, Lydia Martin. You’re one of the most beautiful, amazing people I’ve ever met in my life. I don’t think there’s anyone out there who can be as vulnerable and as terrifying as you can be,” Stiles rambled out, shifting a little and wincing from the way it made his ribs protest.

“Um... thank you,” she replied quietly, rubbing at her eyes. “I... I like you, Stiles. More than I ever expected to but...”

“But you’re never going to fall in love with me,” his smile was knowing, a little sad but not as hurt as she expected. She gave him a hesitant smile in return. “Nah, I totally get it. I have a tendency to fall for people way out of my league.”

“Stiles?” She waited until he glanced up at her before she smacked him upside the head. “Don’t pull that crap with me! I’m not some unattainable creature. I’m a person and while I like you, we’d never fit as a couple. You would let me mold you into someone you’re not.” She held up a hand before he could make a comment to deny it or make some ridiculous joke.

“And I can’t believe I’m saying this, considering the state of your wardrobe, but that wouldn’t be a good thing. That’s why I won’t date you, not because you’re a loser. Because well... you’re not. I thought you were for a long time but... no one can be as brave and resourceful as you are and be a loser. It’s not possible. You’re a good person and you deserve to be with someone that matches you, not turns you into someone else.”

“Yeah? I never thought of it that way.”

“Clearly. You should’ve come to me, I would’ve had you sorted ages ago. Also a new wardrobe- you need all the help you can get.”

“Hey! T-shirts are fashionable.”

“Not the ones you wear.” She sniffed, but her lips were quirking up at the corner. He should’ve known better than to let that lull him into a false sense of security.

She waited until he was almost asleep when she spoke up. “So... you mentioned people out of your league. Not just me. And not just girls.”

Stiles groaned and covered his head. “Nope. Not having this conversation.”

“Why not? You’re not going anywhere and there’s nothing else for me to focus on but you. It’s inevitable that I will break you down and find out what I want so why not save yourself the trouble?”

“To preserve my dignity?”

She gave a delicate little snort that he couldn’t help but still find endearing and waved her hand. “Stiles, please.”

“Gaaaah! I take it back, you’re not mostly evil, you’re all evil,” he grumbled and scrubbed his head with his hands. He went quiet longer than either of them were used to him being but she was right. “I just... I didn’t expect it to happen. At all. I mean, I never hated him or anything but I considered leaving him for dead once- which I didn’t totally mean but okay...yeah I did. And there are still times he drives me up the wall with the way he has to go about things in the most bullheaded way possible. Like, literally he can’t ever pick the easy or safe path, oh noooo! Can’t do that!” He scoffed and chewed his lip, swallowing back more twisted worry churning in his gut.

“But then he’s... he’s thoughtful. Interesting. And I just... I want to figure him out. Like I want to figure out everything I come across but worse, I think. Because I know that if I keep digging at him, it’ll hurt him a lot and I don’t want that at all. I... I want to help him all the time because if I’m helping him I guess... I guess maybe someday he’ll be happy.”

“Sounds like you’ve spent a lot of time with him.”

“Way too much probably. Maybe it’s Stockholm Syndrome. It’s got to be for him anyways.”

“What do you mean?” Her eyes were thoughtful, assessing despite how tired she was.

“This is going to sound insane.”

“Stiles, I’ve been kidnapped by a pack of werewolves, a crazy woman on a crusade for balance in the ‘Force’ and my ex-boyfriend, who is a killer lizard creature. Again.”

“Point. So... um... I think it’s just me reading too much into this fake relationship we’ve had to deal with because of stupid reasons I’m not going into because you’d think we’re all dumb. I mean, werewolves like to touch. And they like to make you smell like them so they touch you and it’s kind of hard to give other werewolves the impression someone’s your mate if they jump every time you touch them so touching them a lot would be like... the opposite of aversion therapy. Is there a term for that?”

“Denial.”

******

“I was thinking it had been too quiet down here.” Derek wasn’t entirely sure whether he was down or up if he was being honest. The cell had no windows and when they had dragged him in he’d been too argumentative to take in his surroundings. He’d been making mistake after mistake on this particular rescue mission but the one mistake he refused to make was breaking under the pressure of torture. They’d just sent in bigger and bigger betas with even bigger sticks and longer, thicker chains. Apparently he was doing such a good job of not breaking that they had to send in the big guns.

“That spunk might’ve gotten you places before, boy, but it’ll only get you dead here.” Talbot seemed less than stable on a good day and at that particular moment, the manic gleam in his eye wasn’t the most reassuring thing to be staring into. He circled around Derek, examining him from head to toe.

Derek kept his eyes locked on him. “If you were to kill me now, your pack would only listen to you out of fear-”

Talbot moved too fast and then his claws were inside Derek’s stomach. “Did I ask for your opinion?”

Derek did his best to muffle the groan that was trying to come through gritted teeth. “S’probably why you’re barely hanging onto your pack as it is.” The hand twisting around in his guts made it too difficult to focus on speaking.

At those words Talbot withdrew his hand and wiggled his fingers, admiring the sight of Derek’s blood as it trickled down his forearm. “Says you.”

Breathing was difficult, way more difficult than Derek wanted it to be. “Says your people who giving off the I’m plotting against my alpha vibe.” A few more breaths managed a grin complete with blood stained teeth. “Aren’t you strong enough that you feel your own people’s dissension in your ranks?”

Another swing of his fist, a second pass with claws and Derek’s face jerked from one direction to the next. “You’re in no position to argue, are you, whelp?”

Derek steeled himself for a third blow and was surprised when it didn’t come. “I know what you’re doing.” The words were out before he could think otherwise. “A real Alpha would have honor. He’d make sure the challenger was taken care of and well-tended to before the contest... but not you.”

“Save it,” Talbot growled.

Derek tried to ignore the manic look in Talbot’s eyes and shut his damn mouth, but he couldn’t. “You’re scared I might win,” he grinned.

“I am not scared of anything, bitch,” Talbot’s teeth were bared in a mockery of a grin. “You know why? Because I lived. I’ve always lived. I was Bitten and left for dead but I came back and I slaughtered that wolf. I’m the strongest there is and I’ll show all the werewolves in this fucking country- in this world- that I am the only Alpha!”

“So you’re throwing a tantrum and making sure everyone else knows it? Nice. And here I thought you had some noble cause...” He let his words trail off. After all, he was only talking for the sake of talking. Talbot was too far gone to hear reason and he wouldn’t kill Derek before the contest. If he was out to soften him up enough to seal his victory, that would happen regardless of what Derek did or didn’t say.

Talbot moved to the table of items that the betas had used against Derek, picking up the one knife they hadn’t. “It took me forever to find a silver knife like the one that uppity whore of your sister had,” he ran the knife over the scar on his face. “She should’ve taken my offer when she had the chance. Bitch woulda bred strong and true.”

Derek couldn’t stop the growl that pushed out his fangs, couldn’t stop his eyes from glowing red. He jerked at the chains without thinking and if he’d been any more enraged, he probably would have pulled his hands from his wrist just to get at Talbot with his teeth. “If you’re done posturing... do what you came to do so I don’t have to listen to you anymore.”

The older wolf turned and grinned, letting the knife twirl through his fingers. “Where’s the fun in that?” He drew the knife down Derek’s chest and carving through the flesh. Then he stepped back, grinning at his own handiwork for a moment before he moved towards him again to drag the blade through one gash to make another.

“Stick around, Hale,” Talbot said as he patted Derek’s cheek, grinning delightedly as, with every stroke of the knife, Derek’s composure failed. “You’ve got a starring role tonight.”

******

Stiles’ chest was on fire and he couldn’t catch his breath. It felt like there was a red hot poker that he couldn’t get out no matter how he clawed at his skin. He was dimly aware of Lydia’s voice, shouting at him as well as hands trying desperately to get him to stop digging his fingers into his skin.

Those hands were replaced by another set- larger and more gnarled, and with them, they brought a feeling of the pain being drawn out from him. He could breathe then, taking large gulps of air as he registered Sylvia’s grim face hovering over him. She wasn’t there for a happy little chat he could already tell.

“The ceremony is tonight.”

“What ceremony?” Lydia demanded, a hand pressed against Stiles’ shoulder. Aww, she did care.

“The new moon ceremony. Talbot will face off against Lycaon and Derek in their alpha wolf forms. It’s a fight to the death, to cement his place as the new leader of the packs,” she explained. There was a tremble to her fingers as she clutched them in her lap and Stiles remembered that Lycaon was her mate- probably had been for years and years.

“Can you kill him?” Sylvia’s voice was as remote as ever.

“Uh, Talbot?” Stiles blinked, confused by the blunt demand.

She was giving him nothing, no emotion, just an eerie calm as she repeated herself. “Can you kill Hale when the time comes.”

“Whoa, whoa, whoa! Derek- not the bad guy here. Seriously, what is up with people wanting to kill him all the time?!” Stiles huffed, running his hands haphazardly over his head and scowling. He wanted to pace, wanted to find Derek and reassure him that for once, someone in his life was going to look out for him first, not anyone else.

“Be still,” she snapped, grabbing Stiles’ arm and shoving him against the wall. Lydia made a noise, like she wanted to stop her, but stayed in place. Sylvia’s voice was lower, more urgent, betraying her stoic facade. “Hale is the only option we have to save many, many lives tonight. No one else can match Talbot. Hale's form is nearly pure and Talbot will want to test himself against him.”

“What do you mean pure? Like, pedigree?”

Sylvia's expression made Stiles blanch and scoot back- which wasn’t very far because of the wall he was shoved into. "I mean, beyond his heritage, Hale has finally come into his power as an Alpha. His pack is in harmony and it reflects in his form. The more an Alpha is in tune with his pack and their needs, the closer to the wolf they become."

Stiles thought back to Peter's monstrous, ugly form and began to see why it was so important to Derek to have a pack that wasn't fighting all the time.

"When Talbot faces off against him, he will expect the pack to see him as the strongest and their power will join his- but that will only happen if he wins." Sylvia’s eyes weren’t letting Stiles look away, she wanted him to accept something but he wasn’t following yet. He didn’t want to.

"So we'll just be on Team Derek. I can totally do that," he spread his hands, swallowing nervously, glancing at Lydia for support. He knew it wasn’t that simple but desperately grasping onto vain hope was about all he had left.

She shook her head. "If he can kill Talbot and take his power, it will drive Hale insane. No Alpha has ever had a pack that large. Which is why I am asking you- can you kill him?”

"I-" His heart jammed up in his throat and all Stiles could see in his mind was the first time he'd thought Derek had died in front of the school with Peter's monstrous fist plunged into his chest. His eyes untracking and body so still.

"You are the only one who can, Stiles. No wolf could step in at that point, only a human. You are his mate and a Spark. There is no one else.” She was hoarse, desperate and he understood. He really did. There were a lot of lives on the line and the needs of the many outweighed the needs of the few and fuck Star Trek, fuck werewolves, fuck everyone-

"No. No. I can't-"

"Then say goodbye to her,” She jabbed at Lydia, vicious and unrelenting, “- and everyone you knew because they will die."

Chapter Text

Scrambling over a thickly gnarled root, Allison knew she had to go faster. Vanessa was right behind her and Allison wondered if it was her imagination making up the hot breath or if the werewolf was close enough to nip at her heels. The female Alpha was young, strong and hell-bent on catching the hunter. Pushing herself harder, Allison half-wished that one of the hobbies she’d taken up was long distance running.

Bursting through the trees, she scrambled for the walkie-talkie she carried. It fumbled out of her hand, tumbling to the dirt. There was a harsh snarl behind her and the very primitive part of her brained screamed to get away from the apex predator right now. Diving for the radio, she felt her hair stir when the Alpha sailed over her head to land heavily, scrambling to follow after Allison’s slighter form.

“This is Allison Argent, respond, I am being pursued by the Alpha,” she barked into the comm unit.

She darted across the lacrosse field, hearing the dirt being torn up but she refused to look back as she pelted for the parking lot. The closer she could get to civilization the better, considering the amount of hunters Uncle Frank had spread out.

All but smacking into the fencing, she fumbled for the gate, kicking away the cinder block that was propping it open for her. Whirling once she was through, she slapped it shut. The fence wouldn’t stand up to much pressure but she had to buy each and every moment she could. She clicked the lock in place just as the Alpha slammed into the fence, making it groan in protest. She roared her displeasure- Allison didn’t stick around to watch her figure out how to get around the barrier.

Sprinting through the parking lot, she was grateful that there were still some cars parked, obstacles that the Alpha would either have to go over or through to follow after her. The scream of metal told her the Alpha was through the fencing and she put on another burst of speed, trying to increase the distance. She could hear the scrape of claws on concrete as she turned towards the heart of town.

-Respond again. This is Frank James, what the hell are you doin’, girl?!

“I broke away to look for the Alpha myself. I found him,” she explained breathlessly, a stitch in her side. “He’s following me down Main Street!”

There was a crunching sound nearby as the Alpha launched herself from the top of a car to swipe at her. Allison dove into a roll, knees and elbows protected from getting scraped by her clothes, if not the aches and bruises that were going to show up. “Shit,” she gasped, eyes flicking around. She had to hold out, just a little longer-

A hail of arrows and bullets flew close- too close- and she heard a yipe as at least some of them impacted. With that Allison burst out of the cover and darted for the police station. She had two, maybe three blocks to get there and make sure that the hunters stayed hot on her heels.

Her walkie-talkie was buzzing with rapid-fire information being passed along.

Confirmed Alpha sighting, moving to engage!

Corner it and wait for me!” Allison recognized her uncle’s voice over the radio. She didn’t have a lot of time, she could hear tires squealing as more hunters showed up. They were trying to flank the Alpha, cut her off from Allison.

Before she could change directions to get away from the hunters, a police car careened from the small side road by the station and hurtled into her path. She threw herself out of its way, rolling into a nearby car’s backend. She was surprised to see Vanessa shooting past her and circle back towards the car.

Danny tumbled out of the driver’s seat when the Alpha landed heavily on the roof, denting it. He got to his feet and broke for her, hauling her up on her feet again. “C’mon!”

Her legs couldn’t take much more, but she had no choice. Danny pulled her through the front doors of the police station, both of them stumbling to the ground once they made it inside. It was lucky that they did as the Alpha crashing through the doors behind them, sending a cascade of glass around her.

*********

John scrubbed his hands over his face, uncertain what he could do to help and angry at how helpless he was. There were people trying to kill his son, kill his son’s friends and take over his town because werewolves. He felt like grabbing everything he could out of the armory and dealing with them permanently. But he couldn’t do that, not when he had to deal with the problems in Beacon Hills first.

“She’ll be here soon, Sheriff,” Argent rumbled quietly to his left. They were crouched down behind the large circulation desk at the front of the building. They’d formed a quick plan hinging on Allison who was out there by herself. It didn’t sit well with anyone but it was what they had.

Inside the station they’d jury-rigged the generators. They didn’t have lights- which would work in their favor as they were familiar with the building (some of them from working there and others from apparently previous assaults). The cameras were up as well as the electronic locks. It was the best they could do at short notice and John was half convinced it wasn’t going to work.

Before he could say anything, Allison and Danny- when had he snuck out?- were blowing through the doors with a fully shifted werewolf right on their heels. John was momentarily too stunned to react. “Scott can’t do that, can he?” he asked.

“Later Sheriff!”

It was only moments later that the first crop of hunters barreled in after them, making both John and Argent duck back behind their respect cover. The hunters didn’t even register anything but the Alpha wolf, yelling orders at each other as they flew into the back of the building. They were waiting, waiting for-

“The hell did it go?! Spread out!”

John grasped his riot gear mask to yank over his face while pulling the pins on the smoke grenades to toss into their midst. The smoke filled up the room rather quickly- John got down on the floor to crawl towards the nearest hunter, pressing his stun gun against the man’s lower calf. Argent had his own methods from what John could hear.

He found Danny first, shoving him towards his office where he could barricaded himself inside if necessary. Spotting Allison, he move to help her and a naked young woman. John threw a blanket over... Vanessa?

“Was Frank in there?” Argent was urgent but his voice was muffled by his gas mask.

“I’m not sure,” Allison coughed, shaking her head as she wiped at her eyes. “Did Scott and everyone make it out of town okay?”

“As far as we know. Danny sent the last text about an hour ago,” John assured her.

“I should go make sure Mickie and Taneva are alright,” She coughed again but headed out the door without a backwards glance.

*******

“I’m not killing Derek.”

“I know.”

“I’m not opposed to killing people. I mean, not like, Jason Voorhees type of running amok although he’d love the atmosphere here-”

“True.”

“-wait, really? I wouldn’t take you to be a horror movie buff.”

“Visceral, vicarious fantasies about getting rid of people that annoy me with their rampant stupidity. Also- Jared Padalecki.”

“...Moving on!” Stiles shook his head, trying to find where he’d left off- “I’m just saying, there has to be another option that they’re not seeing. That’s the problem with werewolves you know. Tunnel vision. Everything is so dramatic with the teeth and the claws and the backflipping over stairs and the moon. Seriously. A voyeuristic dick-measuring moon ceremony. I mean what the fuck?”

“They could benefit from a more matriarchal society. After all, every single insane Alpha we’ve encountered has been male,” Lydia pointed out, examining the state of her nails with a disappointed glare.

“I...okay, yeah that’s actually a good point,” Stiles paused in his pacing, glaring at Jackson’s silent form in the corner. “What are you looking at, you overgrown salamander?”-

The hours were ticking by. Stiles was getting more and more jittery and snappish. It was clear from how he was bouncing from topic to topic in record time. He’d never been that bad in school, not even during midterms.

Lydia opened her mouth, to distract or berate him, but then her face turned completely terrified. Gasping, her eyes jerked immediately to the doorway. Jackson was snarling too even as Lydia desperately told herself it was just a hallucination. The one she had for months that she’d never told a soul about. Except he wasn’t like he was then- he was the monster that had attacked her in the middle of a field. Taller and older than her, with a wicked look in his eyes- he was not the charming boy who had resided in her head. But he was both wasn’t he? A creature that had manipulated her like a favorite doll, touched lovingly but ultimately discarded.

“No,” she murmured, unable to get her voice loud enough to scream like she really wanted to.

“Is that anyway to greet your rescuer?” Peter murmured, looking disappointed. “I’d think you’d be much more grateful.”

“I sincerely doubt you’re here for any reason but to save your own skin,” Lydia snapped just as Jackson lunged. Peter seemed bored as he grabbed up the younger werewolf by the throat and used his own momentum against him, tossing him into the corner.

“Why are you here, you should be going after Derek, there’s a ceremony-” Stiles snapped out, then paused. “You know what’s going to happen, don’t you.”

Peter spread his hands, side-stepping gracefully as Jackson blundered through another charge. “Guilty as charged. I had some notion when the Alphas originally showed up but I had hoped that merely giving them Jackson would suffice.”

Stiles glared but Lydia was the one who spoke up. “You think I still have some connection to you. You don’t want to risk anyone finding out about it.” She was certain of it, much as it made bile rise in her throat.

“Indeed,” Peter held out his hand. “Otherwise I wouldn’t be here. I will not die as long as you don’t and vice versa. A small price, a little resurrection and nearly limitless immortality.”

“There’s no such thing as immortality, Voldemort,” Stiles snapped, though he kept glancing over at Lydia in worry. Her lips had thinned out, face a mask of disdain.

“In essence, no. In practice?....” Peter smirked. “Lydia is not a Spark like you are, Stiles. I took the essence of what would have made her a werewolf. She could’ve been a beautiful one but I had more need of it and she was a perfect vessel to store myself inside. She still is.”

“Then you’re still vulnerable,” she piped up, expression a little bit manic, eyes wide. “If Talbot wins as you clearly expect him to, there’s nothing to say he can’t kill me and you easily. Morell can’t control him now.”

“You see my point,” Peter stepped up closer, placing her small hand between both of his. His expression was surprisingly tender. “I will take you with me tonight when the rest of them are caught up in the ceremony. I am protecting you, my dear.”

“Not very well.”

“What?” Stiles was not the only one confused, given Peter’s face.

“Think about it- Talbot’s power is vast but he’s clearly not equipped to handle it. You’ve already been an Alpha before. Sharing that kind of power between us, through the bond we have... it would be easy and you’d have the command and respect of dozens of werewolves. That would be quite the coup.” Lydia tilted her head, an inviting, almost playful smirk on her lips. She slipped her hand out of his.

“It is risky. And Derek wouldn’t like it,” Peter replied, cautious but there was a gleam in his eyes, ambitious and hungry.

“I can’t believe you, siding with-” Stiles’ mouth was abruptly pinched shut by vicious tiny fingers.

“Shut up and do exactly what I tell you to do, Stiles,” Lydia ordered, eyes wide and trying to communicate something to him that he wasn’t getting. He worked his mouth regardless, making her curl up a lip at the feeling.

“While I appreciate you taking charge,” Morell announced, stepping into the cabin, her hands hidden inside her jacket. She was smiling again, making Stiles wish that he wasn’t alone in this. “This is not what the Tulaa wants, Lydia.”

“Uh, I don’t think anyone here really ca-” Stiles started but Morell was pulling her hand out of her jacket, flinging gray dust at Peter. He reared back very quickly but some hit him, making him stumble. Stiles spotted the older woman going for Lydia and he tried to get in the way. She just grabbed his arm and twisted him around completely with it, jammed up against his back. Before he could process that, she shoved him to the ground and continued on towards Lydia.

“This is for your own good. Sometimes people need to be controlled until they learn,” she assured her, pulling out a crude looking leather collar with a pouch that smelled very strongly of herbs. Morell reached out for Lydia, face set in a frozen little smile. Lydia was having none of that, backing out of reach, which prompted Morell to drop the pretense and simply lunge for the younger woman. Grabbing up a hunk of red locks, she pulled Lydia in close.

Clawed fingers wrapped around Morell’s throat and abruptly yanked- slicing through neatly and spraying Lydia with blood. She gasped but Stiles could only stare as Jackson knelt at Morell’s convulsing, collapsed body. Her eyes were still open.

“I can trust you can handle this, my dear?” Peter grinned, smearing the wolfsbane off his face. His eyes were glowing blue and he broke for the exit.

“Peter!” Lydia shrieked, though she didn’t take her eyes off of Jackson’ crouched form, barely two feet from where she stood. His claws were still dripping blood and his eyes were blank- nothing seemed left there of the boy they knew.

Stiles was honestly frozen, torn between staying to confront Jackson and following Peter. He had to choose between helping Lydia or preventing Peter from murdering Derek. He couldn’t win, no matter what he picked- someone was going to lose and could die... and it would be his fault.

Closing his eyes for a moment, Stiles made his decision. He darted outside, away from Lydia and Jackson and Morell’s lifeless body. He didn’t have to be a werewolf to guess where Peter was headed- there was a crowd of werewolves near the center of the campgrounds. None of them seemed concerned about him being there as he squeezed through, desperately trying to spot Peter.

He skidded to a stop just as Talbot, Lycaon and Derek emerged into a circle in the middle of the campgrounds.

Chapter Text

In the entire time he’d been kidnapped, Stiles had never seen so many werewolves. They crowded around Talbot and the other two Alphas, at least thirty of them, though it was hard enough to get a good view of anything as he scrambled and bumped his way through, much less an accurate headcount. The werewolves were not impressed by his pushy moves, barely giving him a second glare.

For as scary and ugly as Talbot was to look at, he was way more compelling than Stiles’ skinny behind-

Oh for fuck’s sake. Talbot was fucking grandstanding and they were eating that shit up. Apparently werewolves responded well to that half-feral thing Talbot projected with his densely-packed, muscular body and scarred face. Maybe it called to their instincts, letting them get beyond the politics of human interaction, be simple in their actions, blah, blah, blah.

At least Derek didn’t look any more impressed than Stiles felt as he slowly tried to worm his way forward without catching the bad sort of attention he was definitely not looking for. See? He could be subtle. Totally subtle. It probably helped that no werewolf there thought he could hurt a kitten much less threaten their Alpha.

Derek was shoved next to Lycaon on the ground and it looked like both of them were cuffed.

Jeez, Talbot was still talking? The words sort of flowed over Stiles without sinking in. It was all ‘bullshit, bullshit, reference to the Inquisition-’ Huh, he didn’t think werewolves were in Spain. Then- ‘something, something, something about uniting under a true leader that could bring them in the light of the moon-’

Seriously. Werewolves.

‘Something else vaguely racist towards his own kind’ what the fuck and he tuned out the rest. It was standard Psychotic Despot Speech speech: Werewolf Edition.

He still couldn’t spot Peter anywhere and that was making his nerves stand on edge. He knew he couldn’t take on the older man one on one but he needed to be able to call out a warning or something! Stiles couldn't think, there was an increasing aggressive sort of growling from the crowd of betas. Probably because of whatever Big Finish Talbot was building up to, he couldn't really catch much beyond the rousing 'kill all humans' crowd-pleaser. The betas all, like freaking Stepford Wives, tilted their heads back and howled. It grew louder and louder when the Alpha raised his arms, looking like a demented motivational life coach ('you too can kill all the things!').

Though the howling threatened to drown out everything else, Talbot moved to the kneeling form of Lycaon, redirecting Stiles’ attention back to the ‘stage’. Stiles had thought the Alpha an old man before but it was apparent how much vitality he’d lost. He looked bruised and at the end of his rope and Stiles hated the wolves in the crowd jeering at his state- like they’d be the picture of masculine prowess when they’d been beat on for days on end.

Grasping his white hair in one hand, Talbot pulled back until Lycaon exposed his throat. “Your pack is now my pack.”

“No, it is not.”

Stiles’ head whipped around at the familiar voice- Sylvia was launching herself at Talbot while his packmates were fending off their own attacks by the remnants of Lycaon’s own. Snarls and screams filled the air very quickly as the mass of wolves broke out into an all out brawl. Stiles was glad they were busy with each other- in that it was fucking horrifying watching blood and teeth and body parts going flying through the air, but it meant that he could get to Derek.

Slipping on blood, he struggled to get to the center of the chaos, wincing as a roar filled the air. Distracted, Stiles was knocked onto his face by an attacker. He kicked back automatically but he only got a vaguely familiar laugh in reply. Claws shredded through his shirt all the way into the meat of his back. Stiles could feel blood welling up, hot and sticky but just as suddenly as it started, it stopped.

Yanked up off the ground, Stiles had never in his life been more grateful to see Erica in his life. Her hand was still around his attacker’s throat. Stiles recognized him- Ian, one of his oh-so-friendly kidnappers.

It also registered that Dom was the one who had him by the scruff of his neck. He let go to allow Erica to drag Stiles into a quick, crushing hug. The other boy flicked his gaze back once he when move a little further away from their reunion, ready to push back any wolves that set their sights on their trio. “What’s going on?!”

“We got out the kids, it was how Talbot was controlling them ‘til now,” she explained, examining Stiles’ face with her clawed hands. “We can get you out of here-”

“No! I have to find Peter or Derek- Peter’s going to try to become Alpha by killing Talbot.” His eyes flicked over the chaos but it was too hard to distinguish between the fangs and the glowy eyes of doom. Not to mention a good two-thirds of Lycaon’s pack were dark haired and well-built too.

“Stiles, it’s not safe here for you-” Erica warned, kicked her booted foot squarely into the back of a nearby wolf, toppling him over so Dom could pounce on him.

“No fucking kidding but- Jackson!” He exclaimed, stunned to see the other boy- and he looked nearly human? His jaw was jutted out, showing off thick fangs and his brows had gone wherever werewolf eyebrows go, but he looked a lot less like Frankenstein’s do-over now. “Oh shit, shit, Jackson’s loose and he might be crazy, you have to go find Lydia!”

Erica curled up her lip. “Why do I have to rescue Miss Princess?”

“Erica!” Stiles snapped- he would’ve said more but out of the corner of his eye a massive fucking.... wolf thing was howling at the sky. “....ohshitohshitohshit- we’re gonna die,” he breathed out. Talbot barely looked like a wolf anymore. His jaw was malformed, drooling everywhere. His breath sawed in and out of his massive snout and the look in his red eyes was complete and total mindless rage. And it was focused on- Derek!

Stiles started running towards Talbot before he truly realized it, jumping over fallen bodies and around flailing limbs. He didn’t know exactly what he was going to do against Talbot but hey, some of the most badass rescues were last-minute daring heroics, rights?

He choose to ignore the fact that he was probably the Wash in the Whedon-verse of his life. They even shared terrible first names-

Talbot crashed bodily into Derek, hurling the much smaller male into the trunk of an ancient tree, breaking it nearly in half. Weakened from the impact Derek's Alpha form, the tree shuddered, creaking ominously. Nearby werewolves scattered away from the behemoth as it crashed down into one of the cabins- Stiles' heart jerked, uncertain if that was the cabin Lydia was inside. Garbled screams said some of the werewolves hadn't been quick enough to get out of range- and the crown clipped Talbot in the head (rather satisfyingly).

Unfortunately, not even the impact of a big ass tree was going to do much to slow him down now. Talbot was at least the size of an elephant if not bigger, and had the strength to back it up. His massive paw smacked into a nearby wolf- one of his own, and it was apparent Talbot was on no one’s side but his own anymore. He trampled over anything that got in his way, snapping his jaws.

Derek’s Alpha form was not doing much to protect him from the damage he was receiving. His whole body hurt like hell, but he couldn’t afford to move slowly. He shook off the pain with barely enough time to block another attack. Talbot’s moves were frantic and unplanned. He was pure instinct and far too much power to focus any of the attacks. Talbot’s crazed mental state was giving Derek only the slightest advantage- he telegraphed his attacks blatantly, allowing him a chance to dodge if he could and block when he could not. It was the only saving grace Derek could find as he was pushed back further and further, paws scraping and digging into the dirt underneath him.

The downside to this tactic was that no footholds were gained. Even if Talbot barely missed taking out a chunk of his hide, it still sent Derek stumbling on his hind legs to regain traction. He wasn’t even able to dodge the next attack, teeth sinking into his shoulder and tearing out a chunk. Talbot might not have been in his right mind but he was far too powerful. Derek growled and lunged away from another attack already feeling fatigue setting in, his shoulder dripping blood and making Talbot more frenzied at the smell. He wasn’t going to be able to dodge much longer.

Then there was a loud roar and a blonde blur hurtled towards Talbot, allowing Derek to sway back onto his feet. Erica attempted to attack his flank, but he was faster than she thought he was. She only managed a glancing blow before Talbot twisted his bulk around, snapping his teeth around her middle. Blood welled up but even as she screamed, she clawed for his eyes.

“Stiles, stop!” He was yanked back by Lydia of all people, wrapping her fingers in his shirt to get a grip on him. The shirt made sticky, wet noises where it pulled away from the wounds on his back. “You have to let Derek win! It’s the only way!”

“Are you crazy?! He’ll go insane!” he snapped, unable to take his eyes off Derek. His wolf was so much smaller, definitely Bruce Banner to Talbot’s Hulked out form.

Did that make him Rick Jones?

...Jesus, his brain.

“No he won’t! Trust me, Stiles!” Lydia’s voice cut through his babbling brain, forcing him around to face her instead.

He smacked her hands off, angry. “Trust you?! You just betrayed us to fucking Peter!”

“Use your brain, Stilinski! Why would I do that after what he did to me?!”

“I- don’t know!” He yelled, anxiety demanding that he do something or curl up in a ball and cry.

“Let Derek kill him-” They both winced as Erica went sailing through the air to land with a hurt whine. She didn’t get back up again, merely lay there when Dom bolted to her side to pick her up and carry her away.

“If he even can!” Stiles snapped, wondering if either of them was going to survive this- he was aching all over, and not just from the wounds on his back, blood making his shirt stick unpleasantly to his skin. Lydia took a breath and took his hand, making him look at her instead.

It was hard to focus; there was too much going on. The wolves were still fighting amongst themselves and he could hear the sound of flesh ripping and agonized screams. Y’know the stuff of nightmares and astronomical therapy bills should he even get out of this alive in the first place.

“I need to get closer,” he pulled away from Lydia but had to duck as a form leaped over him. Jerking his head up, Stiles was surprised to see Peter suddenly entered the fight. Dread made his stomach tie up in knots as he watched the older man launch himself onto Talbot’s back to dig his claws into the meat of his neck. He raked downwards, along his spine and then jumped to the ground. Landing next to Derek, he cracked his fingers.

“Shall we?” He grinned.

Derek knew there was no time to pause, let alone ponder the possible repercussions of working alongside Peter, so he did the only thing he could. “Let’s.”

While a decent brawler, Peter had a decided preference for sneaking up behind and wearing down a larger opponent’s defense. It wasn’t a bad strategy but it did force Derek to continue to be the main focus of Talbot’s attentions. The younger Hale was wary such tactics but they were just going to have to make do.

Derek could feel a shift, the slight movements of another wolf on the edges of the fray, a packmate- Jackson. They were barely hanging in the fight as it was and had no time for extra interlopers, especially ones that might not be on their side. He shook his head and reclaimed his resolve; surprise attack impending or not, he had to stay focused on Talbot.

Peter went directly for Talbot’s head, claws extended towards his glowing red eyes. Derek didn't have a chance to wonder why he'd telegraphed it so obviously before Talbot threw Peter into the ruins of the nearby cabin, crashing into the remains of the tree. Talbot pounded towards Derek, no slowing down in sight, and Derek barely had time to dash to the side and out of his way. It seemed the fighting only made Talbot faster, more powerful, the exact opposite of Derek’s current tiring state. The monstrosity had already turned on his heel, swiping a clawed paw towards him.

Spotting his opportunity, Jackson tackled Talbot, knocking his massive paw off course from Derek’s head. It wasn’t clear how much of that, if any, was actually intentional. Jackson was nearly covered in blood- but he wasn’t attacking just anyone. He ignored Derek and Peter to focus his attention on clamping Talbot’s massive jaws shut with his arms.

Peter abruptly pushed himself off the ground. He’d been faking! He was going after Derek now-

Stiles was moving, picking up a fallen branch on the way. He knew it wouldn’t do much to slow Peter down but he couldn’t let this happen.

The decision was ripped away from him. Letting go of Talbot, Jackson played himself squarely between the two wolves and took the blow meant for Derek. Peter’s claws were sunk in deep in his chest. Jackson grasped weakly at the older wolf, stubbornly trying to snap at his face.

Next to him Lydia made a broken noise but her fingers sunk punishingly hard into his shoulder. “We don’t have any more time! The most basic connection we have as people is blood. Do you understand?”

“Really, Yoda riddles now?” he snapped. Peter had shoved Jackson’s body to the ground while Derek moved in closer to Talbot. It was purely by luck that Talbot’s paw swiped across Peter’s side, knocking him further away.

Derek took his chance and tore into his throat. Blood poured out of the gaping hole where his larynx used to be, his head flopping around like a puppet severed from its strings.

Blood, Stiles.” She held up the silver knife. “You and I both know what magic can do with a such a connection.”

She was making with the words and he knew they meant something but his brain- there was no sense-making at all. Derek was alone against two rabid wolves now and Jackson was dead or dying in the grass not ten feet from them-

“Stiles, focus!” Lydia reached out, offering her hand after she sliced across it with the knife- and it clicked. He understood what she was getting at. He could feel the power building up in Derek, wanting an escape, and they were going to give it one. He grabbed the knife and sliced across his own palm.

“My blood,” He slapped their hands together. “Your blood!”

Immediately their palms emitted a red glow that was growing steadily brighter and brighter. He could feel the connection open up, not just between him and Derek but now him and Lydia and from her to Peter. Stiles knew that this was beyond stupidly dangerous- neither he nor Lydia were trained. They could all die but this was their only chance.

Gritting his teeth, Stiles yanked at the center of Derek’s overloaded core, pulling it through his body. His senses expanded and he could feel twenty- no, thirty- no, more wolves. Their emotions, their physical states, he knew them all because they were all in his head, crowding him out and their screams made him want to claw off his own ears-

Wait, that was his voice making those awful noises. And then it was joined by Lydia’s as the power ripped through her too, sending them both to the ground. Hot, wet fluid dripped down his face- his eyes or nose, Stiles had no clue, but it was black. He couldn’t breathe for the taste of it in his mouth- like ashes and bile and his vision was going dark at the edges-

There was a scream and then everything stopped.

Chapter Text

It had been a long, long night but ultimately a successful one as far as the Sheriff was concerned. He had a jail filled to the brim with ‘homegrown terrorists’/militiamen wannabes with only property damage to show for it, no fatalities. For Beacon Hills these days that was remarkable, if not outright miraculous.

Sighing, he grabbed a cup of station coffee- black and bitter, maybe a little burnt as he’d grown used to over the years. He headed towards the interrogation room where Frank James waited. James, brother to the late Victoria Argent, was the ringleader of the pack of hunters in his jail. Lord Almighty, save him from crusaders. Stepping inside, he set down a thick manilla folder and seated himself across from the older man.

“You have been advised of your rights. My name is John Stilinski, I’m the sheriff in these parts,” he greeted, flicking his eyes down to the paperwork in front of him, despite knowing what it said. “I assume you have an excellent explanation for why you and- fourteen men assaulted my police station.”

“There was a wolf that was threatening this town. A pack of them in fact. My men and I were called in, as we often are, to exterminate the vile creatures that infest and destroy the homes and lives of good Christian folk.”

“So, you were here on a hunt then? Without any permits or any paperwork from the state of California,” John emphasized, sitting back slightly in his chair. James had a very intense gaze, not wavering from John’s face for a moment.

“Yes. We’re hunters,” he rumbled out, shifting and making the cuffs attaching him to the desk rattle. “It’s our callin’, regardless of what your laws say. That wolf was more dangerous than you realize, Sheriff.”

“Hence why you were chasing a wolf with semi-automatics, none of which were registered or legal, in full assault gear. Because it was dangerous.” John didn’t bother pointing out that ‘his’ laws were the laws of the country. This nutcase wasn’t operating in the same plane of reality anyways.

“Disdain all ya like, Sheriff,” Frank leaned forward, baring his teeth. “I and my men are right in the eyes of God and we know what evil looks like. You can hide your head in the sand, pretend that there aren’t animals livin’ among ya, actin’ like they’re people.”

John shook his head. That was enough crazy talk, he’d guess. “Alright then. You’ll be charged with breaking and entering, multiple counts of assaulting an officer of the law, possession of illegal firearms, illegal weapons discharge- basically, I am going to pin every goddamn thing I can on you, James, until you are buried under charges. More over, wolves are an endangered species and you’ll be answering for that too. Assuming there was an actual wolf involved as none was seen on any of the footage that was recorded last night.”

“There was a wolf!” James banged on the table with his cuffed wrists, getting John’s attention. The look in his eyes was infuriated that someone was daring to question him. “It was a werewolf, a loup garou!” He was actually frothing at the mouth. “It hunts in the night, it seduces your children, right under your noses! You’ll be begging us to stop them! I won’t be the only one who comes to this town, Sheriff! You can count on that!”

John stood up, ignoring the impotent rage as he turned off the camera. Moving to the door, he allowed Allison to come in and sit down. She clasped her hands on the table and lifted her chin, Frank snapping his jaw shut in wary surprise.

“I have spoken to the other hunter families, Uncle Frank,” she began, voice firm but not strident. “They recognize my claim to this territory, since it should’ve been mine when my mother died,” she declared, expression as steady as her voice.

“They’re idiots then. You ain’t got the first clue what you’re doing.”

She ignored his reply, carrying on with her speech. “I am declaring to you as I have done so to them and will do to every hunter that crosses into my territory: This is neutral ground,” She enunciated each word like she was flinging barbs into his face.

Sitting back a little, she continued. “I have established an alliance with the local pack and law enforcement,” she gave a nod to the sheriff before flicking her gaze back to the older man. “We will all live and let others live here. No one is to hunt anything or anyone without approaching one of our three groups. We will decide together who and what gets asylum. We’re doing it different here from now on.”

“If you or anyone disapproves, you are free to leave by whatever means are necessary.” Standing up, Allison lifted her head proudly. “The Argents are no longer hunters, Uncle Frank. We are protectors.”

Without waiting for a response, she turned and left.

**********

“How much longer?” Scott wasn’t much of a tracker and they’d had to give up Danny’s poor car at the edge of the trail, hours ago. Boyd and Isaac were better than he was, but not by a heck of a lot. They were all still new to being supernatural creatures after all.

“I can’t tell,” Isaac shook his head, raking a hand through his sweat-damp curly hair. “I can feel Derek, but it’s faint.” He frowned, looking worried as he lifted his head again to sniff at the air. Scott had to admit, it did look as silly as Stiles’ thought but it was the best way to orient yourself.

“Guys!” Boyd called out from further up the trail. He grinned brightly as Erica threw herself on his back, her long hair tumbling over his shoulder.

Sparing a grin for Isaac and Danny, Scott ran towards the pair. “You’re alive! You’re okay!”

“Fuck yeah we are!” Erica laughed, rubbing her face against Boyd’s cheek but releasing him quickly to latch onto Isaac, Scott and even Danny in turn. Danny seemed rather bemused by the treatment.

“Did you ever find Jackson?” he prompted, a hopeful expression in his dark eyes.

Erica flinched, glancing down. “Um... c’mon. There’s a lot to talk about it.”

“Erica,” Isaac reached out, voice soft, but she shook her head. Scott frowned as Danny’s whole being dimmed and curled in on itself.

“What?”

“Scott, don’t,” Boyd clamped a hand on his shoulder and pulled him along with the rest of them.

The campgrounds really weren’t that far away and there were still a lot of betas running around. There had definitely been a huge fight there, not only by the state of the ground but the number of bodies being lined up to be buried. Scott couldn’t believe it- there were at least twenty bodies laid out, or... most of bodies.

Half of those were being carefully wrapped in wolfsbane, the smell potent even from the distance he was at. The wolves wrapping them up were wearing gloves and being careful but he could see how much it affected them. They were burying their families.

Danny made a noise beside him and headed towards the scene without a glance towards anyone else and Scott realized what Erica hadn’t said before. And if Jackson had-

Scott went pale. “Stiles?!” he called out, tumbling over roots and rocks, nearly bounding to the center of the complex as he called out for his best friend. “Stiles? Where’s Stiles? Have you seen-”

Derek didn’t even bother putting up a hand or offer a sympathetic word when he stepped out of a nearby cabin. “Shut up, Scott. Everyone’s worn out.”

Scott pulled up short, surprised by the command, Isaac nearly running into his back. However the surprise didn’t last long and his head lowered, a familiar stubborn expression settling on his face. “Excuse me? I’m not shutting up! Look at all this! There’s dead bodies everywhere!”

Derek rolled his neck, popping what little discomfort he could out. “Yes, Scott, dead bodies everywhere and Stiles is not one of them, so shut the fuck up.” The words were exhausted, not angry, and his eyes were worn out and he seemed frayed around the edges.

“You should have found another way.”

“Sorry I didn’t get everyone to wait around until you arrived with your grand life-saving plans. The plans that, you know, you use people to achieve your goals.” He growled then and his eyes went red. “I’m real familiar with your version of saving the day, Scott, and since you weren’t here to find the proper way to use me, we had to improvise.”

Scott curled up a lip, his own gold eyes flashing but Isaac stepped up to squeeze his shoulder. “What did happen, Derek?” he asked, quiet but urging the older man to explain wordlessly.

“Talbot was a ‘mutant psycho-wolf’ and it took Peter, Jackson and I to finally get him taken down.” The laugh that followed was weak and defeated, the final nail in the family coffin, for what it was worth. “Then Peter did what Peter does and he’s dead, too.”

“Stiles and Lydia did...” He sighed and rubbed the back of his neck. “I don’t know what the hell they did. Made a connection between them? They were the ones that dealt with Peter. The Alpha power that was overwhelming me- they... I think they siphoned it from me to him using themselves for conduits.”

“How could you let him do that?” Scott demanded. “He could’ve gotten killed trying to save you! Stiles is worth more than that!”

“Don’t you think I know that?” Derek rolled his eyes and shook his head, turning from Scott. The argument was pointless. The whole discussion was pointless. The victory wasn’t clean and it never was when Derek had to be involved. Stiles could’ve gotten himself killed; Scott didn’t need to remind him of that. “Don’t you have some angsting over Allison to do somewhere else?”

“I don’t think you know anything about who Stiles is,” he got right back into Derek’s face, refusing to let the older male get away. “He’s loyal and once he’s your- friend, he’ll do anything for you. He’ll do stupid things like sacrifice himself because he thinks he supposed to and you keep getting him involved in things that’ll get him killed someday!”

He didn’t move away and definitely didn’t back down, not from Scott, the most unthinking asshole of his entire pack. “Tell me something I don’t know, McCall.”

“Guys, maybe we should wait to talk about this later,” Isaac muttered, looking very uncomfortable, shifting on his heels.

“Yes,” Derek agreed, fingers stretching out deliberately from a clenched fist. He took a breath. “Let’s.”

Dom trotted up at that point, glancing between the other wolves, clearly sensing the simmering hostility. “We tracked them as far as we could but they’re in the wind now.” He nodded to Derek, much more subdued and respectful than when they first met.

“What are you talking about?” Scott butted in, still upset at Derek and the situation in general.

“Talbot’s pack, or what was left of it,” Dom explained, glancing beyond Scott briefly to see who else was with him. “We killed as many as we could, but some of them still escaped. Where’s Vanessa? I thought she was coming with you.”

Scott shook his head. “She stayed behind so we could get out of Beacon Hills to come help you guys.”

“We were too late,” Danny spoke up finally. He had been there, kneeling in the grass next to a body, unnoticed. Scott made a choking noise when it occurred on him that it was Jackson’s body. He opened his mouth to ask but subsided (for once) when Derek shot him a quelling glance.

 

“What matters is Talbot’s dead.” He was so very tired of talking and he wasn’t managing to find the magic phrase to make the talking stop. “If we can start wrapping this up, we’ve got some personal matters to tend to and pack to take care of.”

An older woman stepped forward from the pack of wolves. She nodded to Derek, respectfully. “Lycaon would have been proud to have called you ally, Hale. As would I.”

Derek nodded in return. “What’ll happen to your pack now, Sylvia?”

“We have no Alpha,” Sylvia glanced behind at her pack. They were a mix of adults and children, some of whom were very young. “We lost twelve in the fight, leaving many of our children without their parents. Some, like myself, will join my daughter’s pack and strengthen it. Others will take the opportunity to find new packs as they must.”

“That’s kind of sad,” Isaac murmured. Erica nodded her head, her gaze fixed on several children huddled together, looking very lost in the midst of everything.

“It is our way. A pack can survive but it must be led by someone willing to sacrifice themselves to see them live,” she pointed out, glancing at Derek with approval. “Your pack will survive, as will your mate.”

“We can spare a van for you to take back to Beacon Hills, should you need it,” Sylvia offered. “I think you are all very eager to return home.”

“Thank you,” Derek said, realizing that, even having won the fight with Talbot, the road ahead wasn’t going to be any easier. Jackson’s body was still to receive burial rites, to be burned and presented to Danny, his closest friend. Danny was going to need support from the pack to keep moving forward but he had a feeling Danny was tougher than any of them gave him credit for. Lydia would probably rather chew her own hand off than take a hand from the pack, but it would have to be offered just the same.

He turned to his pack and took the appropriate time to offer assurance through touch, embrace, handshake... Boyd he gave an acknowledging nod to before clasping at his forearm. Erica had been by his side almost nonstop since the attack and she was content to harass and hug in equal measure while Derek gently wrapped his hand around the back of Isaac’s neck. Giving a little squeeze, he could feel tension in his body release, leaving ever so slightly into Derek’s body before he stepped away. Even Danny he brushed his fingers over his nearest shoulder, though he didn’t know the boy. He had helped out his pack and that deserved no less.

Scott was a different matter entirely but even for him a nod and a brief clasp of his hand on Scott’s shoulder was offered. It seemed to be enough and left him with only one more situation to tend to.

While the rest of his pack got the transportation ready for the long ride home, he stepped into the nearby cabin to gather up Stiles to carry to the van. No one else was touching him.

******

Nearly four days after the new moon and the fight against Talbot, they made it back home to Beacon Hills. It was a long journey with the amount of people they had, even spread across two vehicles but it worked out with a minimum of drama.

Lydia woke before Stiles did, startling everyone in the van badly enough that Boyd nearly ran off the road. She was so relieved that everything had worked out that she burst into tears- which made them take even longer still to get going. Boyd switched up with Scott so he could settle in next to Lydia.

He had only grumbled briefly about it (drawing straws was totally 6th grade) but it was very clear that Derek wasn’t going to be driving while Stiles was out cold.

They were only two hours out from Beacon Hills when Stiles finally woke up. “...z’t Jefferson Starship? Wh’s listenin’ t’old man music?”

“AAAGH!” Scott yelped and swerved abruptly, heart jammed up in his throat. “Dude!

Derek’s hands were immediately on either side of Stiles’ face, checking for whatever he thought he should be checking for. The list was extensive; odd pupil dilation, pale color, possibly even recognition in his eyes that he had no desire to keep being so closely connected to Derek after almost paying a heavy price for it. “... that’s all you have to say?”

“S’fine, ever’thing’s good,” Stiles blinked slowly, patting at Derek’s hand. He gave another huge yawn, listing to the side. It seemed like he was drifting off when his eyes popped open again.

“Hey, hey, this could be our song,” Stiles gave Derek a bleary smile, tugging on the grip he had on his hand. “I'm so glad I found you, I'm not gonna lose you, whatever it takes I will stay here with you...” he crooned, half off-key, trailing off as he fell back asleep.

To that, Derek laughed and let his hand smooth against the top of Stiles’ head with his free hand. “Shut up, Stiles.”

It was a good song though. Stiles had at least gotten that part right.

*****

Getting back home was not the problem for the pack- dealing with the fallout left behind in Beacon Hills was. Melissa and the Sheriff were both very pleased to see them and extremely angry. They hugged and yelled at everyone in alternating bursts- which clearly was foreign to some of the pack due to their family backgrounds.

Everyone ended up at the Stilinski house when it was all said and done, filling it with more people than it had seen in years. Stiles and Lydia were still clearly recovering from their ordeal, only briefly acknowledging the fact they were home before they were out again.

While Melissa finished checking up on Stiles after she’d seen to Lydia, John snagged a hold of Derek, preventing him from joining his pack downstairs.

“Derek, a word.” It definitely wasn’t a request when he stepped out of his son’s room. “What the hell happened? I heard about the fight with... Talbot?... but I just...” John clearly couldn’t articulate what he wanted to know.

Derek didn’t like the feeling of being cornered, but he also didn’t like the idea of hurting a good man... or his mate’s father. Jesus, everything was getting complicated, wasn’t it? “Then you heard the gist of it,” he offered without truly explaining.

“The gist? The gist of it. That’s my son in there, after apparently doing magic rituals! I was stuck here, fighting off some psycho with automatics while my son was nearly killed!” John shouted then eased back when Derek gave him a hunted, distraught look. He sighed, dropping his shoulders. “You’re all just a bunch of kids. It’s not right, fully grown men trying to murder you all, acting like they get to judge without any...” He shook his head, trailing off.

“I’m not a kid.” Again he was stuck hearing the obvious truth to the situation, all the things he’d already been telling himself, and having to come up with some sort of response out of... politeness? Hah. Derek and politeness really weren’t great bedfellows, were they?

John shook his head, pressing his lips together, and then gave a soft, weary laugh. “You’re twenty-three, Derek, that makes you a kid to me. You’re trying to take care of a bunch of teenagers, barely older than them yourself, trying to look out for them when even their own families barely seem to know or care that’s something wrong! That’s not right. It’s too much for one person.”

“I’m their Alpha.” Another no-brainer answer but it was the only one he really had to offer up. “Look, I don’t really have anything to add to what you’re saying. It’s what I keep telling myself but I can’t keep thinking that way if I’m going to take care of them. Hence, being the Alpha. I don’t get the luxury of letting the adults handle it because to the pack? That’s my job.”

John’s eyes lingered on Derek’s tight jaw and hunted, bright eyes. He shook his head and stepped closer, stopping when Derek made a noise that sounded rather like a growl. “I don’t rightly care what Alpha means, son. I care about what happens to the people in my town. That includes you and your... pack. I know we got started off on the wrong foot but I’ve seen what you’re doing, what you’re willing to do to protect yours. I respect that. And I respect the fact you don’t want to lose anyone else.”

“Having a pack is more than protecting people. It’s about family.” His words didn’t do so great of a job of hiding the hint of regret in his voice. “I can’t lose another one, and since I’m the Alpha, it’s my job to protect them.”

“My pack means more to me than I really know how to say. I need them just as much as they need me.” He crossed his arms over his chest, awaiting the inevitable buts that normally followed.

“I can understand that,” John replied. “But you have to realize that Melissa and I, we’re parents, we will fight for our children, our family, just like we did these last few days. That includes all of you.” He pinned Derek with his blue eyes, watching the young man shift uncomfortably. “We’re in this too now.”

“And you have to understand while that makes you pack, and they may be your kids, I’m still the Alpha and I’ll still be making decisions that they will ultimately follow over anything you or Melissa have to say.” He softened then, eyes still locked. “But... I’m not going to make them do things that will cause them harm if that can be avoided. I don’t know how else to explain this... I’m sorry.”

John didn’t let his eyes leave Derek’s face for a long time. He was a smart man and he could see how much Derek was anxious to see Stiles, to make sure he was recovering well. With a nod of his head, he opened the door to Stiles’ bedroom and let him inside.

“Dad?” Stiles yawned, glancing between Derek and John, clearly just woken up from a fitful sleep but already wary and tensed up. Melissa gave him a quick kiss to his forehead and stepped out of the room.

John sighed, releasing Derek’s gaze and moving over to his son. “Glad to see you up and moving around. You’re really working on making me completely gray-headed, aren’t you.”

“Ladies dig a silver fox.”

He dragged Stiles up into a hug, holding him as close as he could until Stiles started to squirm. Then he glanced up at Derek and abruptly yanked him into the hug as well. “You’re both staying here tonight, no arguing. You need sleep.” He’d stand watch if he had to. Whatever was necessary. He’d made a promise to Derek and he meant to see that through to the bitter end.

Derek froze, eventually letting his arms hug John back. “Alright,” he agreed. “But I don’t want to borrow any of Stiles’ clothes. They don’t fit.”

John arched a brow, clearly asking how Derek knew that and why he had been wearing Stiles’ clothing. Stiles elbowed Derek but ended up wincing in pain. “You’ll be fine ‘til the morning, right,” he pointed out.

“Yeah. Your pack is still downstairs, they can stay too,” John added, figuring that the kids would feel safer in the house all together after everything they’d been through. He might not have any food left over given what he’d seen Boyd and Isaac doing to his refrigerator but that was a small price to pay for peace of mind. “I’ll see if I can’t scrounge up enough blankets and sleeping bags for everyone.”

Stiles scratched the back of his head where he had a bit of a bump as he peered up at Derek from under his lashes. Without the adrenaline and the life or death situations or evil werewolves breathing down their necks... well, this could get kind of awkward. “So.... um... aren’t you glad I didn’t saddle you with forty new betas? I should get a gold star for that. Besides the whole, untested, impromptu magic circuit of doom,” he added, wincing. Yeah, Derek was probably going to smack him. Maybe he’d wait until he was less bruised.

Derek sighed and shut his eyes. “Shut up, Stiles.” He put his hand on the top of Stiles’ head and gently insisted he bow it down so he could better inspect the tingle of pain he felt when Stiles scratched back there. Fingertips traced the bump, smoothed along a few scratches that hadn’t quite healed. “Where else?”

Huh. That did feel better, weirdly enough and Stiles considered. “You know, telling me to shut up and then asking me a question is like, counterproductive. Which, is pretty much your M.O. but I just thought I should point that out. Being the helpful sort of m-” Not mate. That was only for pretend and no longer applied. “Man. Man-person I am.”

“You...” It occurred to Derek that the cover wasn’t necessary anymore but it was something he had opted not to focus on. “Alright.”

He frowned as he watched Stiles’ hands fidget and watched him look at anything and everything except him. Was it really his place to point out that bonds didn’t work on a flippant on/off method? Did it matter? “Bonds aren’t so easy to break once they’re formed but maybe there’s ways if you’re interested. I wouldn’t blame you; the past few weeks have been a lot to ask anyone to go through.”

Stiles blinked, a little confused. “Uh... are you... are you saying you don’t want me to be in your pack anymore?” His heart slammed in his chest and twisted. Working his jaw, Stiles’ nostrils flared in offense.

Derek rolled his eyes. “You were giving off vibes like you are done with this nonsense and now you are giving off vibes that you are rejected and hurt.” He dropped his forehead against Stiles’ and sighed.

I’m giving off vibes?! You’re being obtuse even when you actually talk,” he grumbled, trying not to be reassured by the touching. Derek was being Derek and therefore he should... he should be... something else at the moment but talking about bonds. What could you do with them?

“Just tell me where else you are hurt, asshole.” He didn’t move his head and didn’t open his eyes.

“Did we ever have a honeymoon period?” Stiles wondered idly, letting his nose maybe brush against Derek’s cheekbone. “Alright bossy, here.” He pulled back to yank his shirt up and revealed the long, healing claw marks on his back, bruises littered generously as well. “Don’t I look gorgeous?”

He couldn’t deliver a witty retort. He couldn’t bring his gaze up to Stiles’. All he could do was push down the rage that someone had done that to what was his. Derek swallowed and took a breath before his hands reached out and smoothed along bruises and marred flesh not quite healed as it should. “Did the wolf that did this die? If they didn’t, I’m going to kill them.”

“Whoa, whoa dude,” Stiles twisted and grabbed at Derek’s neck and pressed his palm there, letting their heartbeats calm down. “You’ve done enough of that for now. Seriously. I don’t know who’s dead and who’s not of Talbot’s pack but right now the important part is that your pack is safe. We’re safe, Derek,” he assured him.

“This is not okay.” He’d meant for those words to be more stressed, more angered, but Stiles had definitely been picking up calming techniques when Derek wasn’t paying attention. “I am not okay with this. Or this.” His hand smoothed down a particularly large bruise - most likely multiple bruises that gave the illusion of one large one, but Derek didn’t really care about the logistics of how it formed at that moment. “I’m not okay with any of this.”

He skipped the whole I demand satisfaction for this bullshit speech when the thought of saying it aloud seemed far too similar to something Peter would have said. “Not okay,” he whispered as he moved away from Stiles’ hand and stood up, opting to pace. Hands locked behind his head because occupying them was better than breaking something... like a wall.

That of course, drew Stiles to him. Stiles who never backed off when he could press forward. “You don’t have to be okay with it. But I’m alive, Derek. Look at me,” He grabbed at the Alpha again, standing in front of him, all lanky limbs and steely eyes. “I’m not going anywhere. You’ll have to chase my skinny ass out of town and even then I’ll just get Erica to make your life hell until you invite me back.” He paused, tilting his head, and then sighed. “It was sucky; watching Deaton die, being kidnapped, feeling every single freakin’ punch you felt while getting tortured- that is some bullhonky right there, I so did not sign up to be anyone’s martyr by proxy - but I didn’t have a choice. I had to do it to... to protect you.”

There hadn’t been a choice even when Sylvia asked him. Stiles wasn’t prepared to let Derek go.

“Everyone who protects me dies.”

“Um, excuse me, did I suddenly become a ghost? Or a zombie? Zombie would be cooler I guess, except for the decay and rot,” he arched his brows, pursing his lips. “I’ve protected your werewolfy ass more times than I can count and I’m still here. I’m still going to do it and you’re just going to have to deal with it.” And Stiles found that he really meant it. He wanted to be the one who watched Derek’s back more than almost anything. Derek was someone he felt fiercely for and - oh shit. This was not the time to let that run around in his head.

“You don’t know what you’re thinking.” Everyone died eventually. His parents did - and oh wasn’t that the thing he’d never fully get past? His sister did. They hadn’t protecting him, but because of him Peter and Jackson were dead, too.

And then there was Stiles. Motormouth Stilinski who was more battered than he needed to be, insisting he was going to always save them and thinking- “Sometimes that particular emotion isn’t enough to justify someone purposely getting themselves thrown into harm’s way.”

“And which one is that?” Stiles asked. They hadn’t moved away from each other, he noticed. They were much closer than they probably should be to have this conversation but he wasn’t giving ground if Derek wasn’t.

“Which one do you think I’m talking about?” Duh. If the conversation hadn’t been so serious, he would’ve rolled his eyes right then and there.

“If you’re not saying it, I’m not saying it,” Stiles retorted. Maturely of course.

“The minute you say it, you...” What? Breathe life into it? The argument was ridiculous, so much so that Derek knew he was going to have to do better than that. “You have to...” Embrace the fact that you mean it even if you don’t say it? That the pushing people away routine is just as harmful as if you invited them into your life? “Goddamn it, Stiles, you aren’t.... you just...”

Siles grinned, big and bright and triumphant. “Hey, your fault. You mated me.” He threw his arms around Derek’s neck and his fingers carded through his hair, smugly certain he wouldn’t be thrown off.

“This is serious,” Derek warned, those arms already smoothing ruffled fur and threatening to take the wind out of his sails. “You can’t just go declaring... you just can’t go doing that, especially when I have this wonderful track record of getting people killed.”

Stiles nodded his head very seriously. “Mmmhmm. I completely understand. You are a tragic, tragic Byronic hero. I make a terrible Bronte heroine but I’ll do my best to make sure you have your moments of solitude to look gloomily out on the moors. We’ll have to go find some though cuz I don’t think there are any in California,” he mused, fingers now purposefully tracing over Derek’s ear.

Derek’s hands grabbed Stiles’ face and forced eye contact. “I can’t lose you.” It was the closest thing to a declaration of love Stiles was ever going to get.

“Then stop pushing me away, dumbass,” Stiles murmured and leaned in to kiss him, full on the mouth. No Alphas around to watch, no weird tension where they both pretended that it wasn’t there. Stiles was declaring the tension known and taken care of. Right then and there.

Nothing shifted gears faster than having full acceptance and lips on lips. Derek’s thumb smoothed down against Stiles’ jaw and gently insisted the kiss be deepened, tongues exploring without the necessity of packs’ approval for the efforts. When that wasn’t enough, he pulled Stiles’ bottom lip briefly between his teeth before letting his mouth explore the outline of Stiles’ jaw. Hunger necessitated it return but those lingering, nagging thoughts came back long enough to pull them away.

When he pulled back, he felt like he needed to catch his breath. His eyes silently searched Stiles’ face for any sign of remorse or second guessing. Derek’s own head tilted a bit to the side when he found none. For a guy whose facial expressions and body language often gave off millions of messages at once, it was odd to find such simple clarity.

It was definitely a first.

Stiles smiled, a content little thing. “No analyzing. Nope.” he declared, leaning up to press a succession of small, sucking kisses to Derek’s mouth. He ought to feel way, way more nervous than he was. And maybe part of his brain was screaming to know exactly what he thought he was doing, and he was going to screw up any second now but so far.... all he wanted to do was keep kissing Derek.

So he did. Every time Derek looked like he was trying to think or talk- Stiles was there. He was getting good at waiting until Derek opened his mouth to say something- likely to scold him or something else really boring- and yup, there was Stiles. Like a kissing ninja with tongue and teeth. See, werewolves were not the only ones who got to use their teeth on lips.

And that was definitely hot.

“I like these kind of arguments way better than our old ones,” he snickered, pausing to catch his breath.

For a brief moment, Derek’s shoulders relaxed. They lowered as he sighed, his eyes demanding Stiles stop long enough for him to finish a thought. That mischievous grin on Stiles’ face was all but guaranteeing there’d be no thinking, no warnings, no omens that would be heeded. This left Derek with only one possible path.

“Fuck it.” If ever a moment of mouths crashing together had been so epic, it was that moment. It was as if everything had been on a steady build since that stupid call had first been made to play mates, finally reaching that precipice where it was fall away from the charade or fall together into the figurative oblivion.

Stiles was, at least for the moment, quite sure of what he wanted and was insisting as much with his tongue. Far be it from Derek to deny him anything, not after he’d given so much oh so selflessly.

Derek paused long enough to look down at him with an exasperated expression. “You have a screwed up idea of what’s best for you,” he sighed.

“No one ever said I was right in the head. Guess that makes us a pair,” he agreed, sliding his hands up and down Derek’s side, petting him, pushing up his shirt until it was gone entirely. There was something of reassurance for Stiles there- after all, he hadn’t been the one fighting a crazed Alpha werewolf to the death. But however that memory might hang out in his nightmares, Derek was here safe and whole. Arching against him, Stiles gave a soft groan when their bodies collided.

His hands spanned across Derek’s shoulders, attempting to find purchase but finding nothing but muscles. So many muscles and warm skin and yup, definitely a teenaged boy because hey, naked skin was awesome.

Derek lowered his head, pressing his smile against Stiles’ neck before paying appropriate attention to the area. “Then what a pair we make,” he said softly as he let a hand slide under Stiles’ shirt. “This isn’t allowed.”

He moved back and crouched over Stiles’ long enough to sit him down on the bed and pull the shirt over his head. “Better,” he decreed when the material hit the far corner of the room. “I still think you’re being a dumbass. Far better people to be offering yourself up to in this town. Maybe even the next town over.”

The thought threatened a jealous streak that was to be rivaled by no other. “You’d never be able to introduce them to me,” he warned. “I’d probably kill them, too.”

Stiles laughed. He couldn’t help himself, covering his face briefly. “Are you trying to talk me out of keeping you or not? I can’t tell. Although threatening to kill people that might sleep with me is not romantic. It really isn’t. Keep your werewolfy ideas to yourself,” he declared, pulling Derek back down until they were lying face to face, pressing their bodies tightly together. “I’m a one werewolf kind of dude. A one person kind of dude so either we dance around each other for the next six or sixty years, or however long it takes you to get your head on straight, or... blowjobs? I vote for blowjobs personally.”

“Alright.” Derek had come to realize that the fastest way to throw off Stiles was to agree with him. So when he started moving his mouth down Stiles’ chest, he was doing his best not to smile against skin when Stiles did a bit of his patented arm flailing. He looked up with the waistband of Stiles’s sweats between his teeth with the most innocent and clueless expression he could muster. “I thought you said blowjobs.”

“Uh....yuh.” Stiles’ mouth was refusing to stay closed. This was... taking some getting used to. Derek with his face close to Stiles’ dick. It was totally understandable why he needed a second to just make sure he wasn’t unconscious or dead or hallucinating. “I mean yeah, definitely. Man, I should suggest blowjobs more often when I wanna win an argument.”

“Always something to keep in mind.” And he tugged just so on the sweats so that they slid out from under Stiles’ ass and moved away from his body in a swift series of motions. Sweats? What sweats? There were sweatpants there? Never. “No guarantee that’ll always work, though.”

He wrapped his mouth around Stiles before any further protest could be made.

He made a little gasp but that was hardly the same thing. Stiles barely had the presence of mind to remember that there were other people in the house and he probably should keep his mouth on a low volume. Sucking his bottom lip past his teeth, Stiles whimpered softly as Derek moved over him, digging his fingers into his bed to keep from grabbing anything else. “Fuuuucck,” he hissed out.

“Shhhh.” Derek couldn’t help but laugh. Just a little. “Sheriff a few doors down the hall and all. I’d rather not get shot.”

It was definitely a sight, watching Stiles’ composure unravel underneath his touch. A tongue was an amazing thing, as were a skilled set of lips, especially when they were focused on one of the most sensitive areas of the male body. When it seemed Stiles would rip a hole in the sheets with his grip, Derek slipped a hand upwards and locked fingers with those doing a fine job of damaging bed linens.

Stiles whined as his grip was wrenched from the sheets and in retaliation wrapped his legs around Derek’s shoulders. It was his fault for... for... for being ridiculous. Yes. That was right. Derek had kept all this to himself and then busted out with such attention to Stiles now? Oh Alpha-boy had a lot of time to make up for. Like Stiles’ entire life of being picked last by everyone.

Panting and red-faced (oh he was sexy, wasn’t he?), Stiles squirmed. He was so close and fighting it, fighting Derek, was like trying to fight the pull of the moon or the tide. It just wasn’t happening.

A part of him wanted to draw it all out, but Stiles was doing a bang up job of torturing himself, wasn’t he? Instead of being mean about it, Derek picked up the pace just enough, let go of Stiles’ hand to grip his hip just enough, and held onto as much spasming Stiles as he could. It was hard to laud a guy for retaining low volume levels with your mouth full but it was a worthy effort. He rewarded Stiles instead with a trail of kisses against his thighs and one last trace of his tongue along a spent cock still doing a fine job of twitching even with Stiles himself far too spent to flail anymore.

Stiles sucked in air because if he didn’t, he’d die. Derek had killed him. With his mouth. Not his teeth like he promised- and nowhere near his throat he noticed- but dead all the same. So he laid there, basking in the floating goodness of being dead of sexy before he reared up.

“My turn!” Still flushed down to his chest, he shoved at Derek, catching him off guard enough to get him on his back. That apparently was the wrong thing to do- Stiles stopped abruptly, hissing sharply through his teeth. He went white with pain shooting across his back. Kind of a serious mood killer for him, in spite of desperately wanting otherwise.

“I think this is where we are done for the night.” He was off his back and already rolling Stiles onto his side, laying hands as carefully as he could on the long claw marks, the veins on his arm going black. “I can’t even get this part right,” he laughed and tried to stop laughing because inappropriate much. “I’m sorry. Is that helping? You should really rest, Stiles.”

He grumbled in response. “Figures. I finally get the chance for sex with a serious hottie and my body craps out on me in the middle of it. My life.”

“There’ll be plenty of other times,” Derek said, putting a kiss at the tip of one of the scratches. “Unless there’s more alphas coming, but I think there’s a limit on those. There should be time for you to heal. And then time for sex.”

“Sure, make me do all the hard work first. I will be having sex, you mark that shit down.”

“Of course, cupcake.”

“Shut up, Derek.”

Chapter Text

Stiles woke up much more comfortable than he ever expected to after participating in a magic werewolf ritual. He was a little overly warm what with the blast furnace pressed up against his back. Huh. That seemed kind of odd but he couldn’t focus his brain on why that was.

Yawning, he stretched out slowly, feeling the furnace shift behind him, making him realize abruptly there was a hand on his stomach- his bare stomach-and splayed wide. His eyes flew open and he suddenly remembered how he’d gotten to be half-naked with Derek spooning him in his bedroom. He must’ve made a noise of some sort because Derek brushed his nose against the back of his ear.

“So. You’re awake. I’m awake. After sleeping in bed. The same one. Obviously, of course, and it was fine. Not to say that last night was just fine- no, I mean it was wonderful, stupendous, world-changing even. If it wasn’t so early and I wasn’t being cuddled to death I could probably come up with more adjectives,” he babbled at a breakneck pace, unable to stop himself. “Not that there’s anything wrong with cuddling. I mean, I’m not surprised you’re a stealth cuddler. I think that was the first thing I imagined you to be- like your kryptonite was definitely cuddling. You crave it, but it kills you. How tragic, right?” He was babbling so much Stiles couldn’t even follow the line of thought on that one, the only thing he could concentrate on was Derek’s breath on his neck. He bit down on his lip, recalling how it felt when Derek had more than just breath there, but teeth and tongue.

“You wake up running your mouth, too.” Derek pushed on Stiles’ stomach just enough to plaster him flat against his chest while his tongue traced the line where his spine was hiding underneath the flesh. His teeth might’ve grazed the skin a bit as well, but his brain was in a foggy sort of autopilot and he gave no fucks about correcting it.

“Holy god!” Well if Stiles didn’t have morning wood before he certainly did now. “And you’re... a frisky morning person apparently.” He blushed but he couldn’t deny the shiver that went down his spine not only due to the teeth on his skin (which with werewolves should be more of a concern than a kink but Stiles’ body was a rebel like that), but also because Derek was plastered against him head to toe. “Letting the old dog off the leash? Want to bury your bone? How about wait, wait, I can think of more-” he twisted up his mouth, trying to find anything to distract from the sheer amount of sex dripping off of Derek.

“Shut up, Stiles.” It was the running mantra, really. It used to be the only thing he could think of when he grew weary of Stiles’ motormouth. He was beginning to imagine all the ways he could shut him up and it was becoming more of a sign of hello, Stilinski, how about you find something else to use all that energy on?

“Tch. Predictable,” Stiles goaded.

“Really, we’re judging me on a scorecard?” Well that was a challenge he accepted and he casually let his hand slip down into Stiles’ boxers. “How’s that rate on the scorecard?”

That was a high oh... 10 billion. He tried to say so but all that came out was a really embarrassing noise. Shimmying his hips, Stiles trying to press against those wandering fingers. “Hn um... well the judges’ tepid welcome is definitely warming up. Mr. Hale possesses such skills they definitely want to see more,” Stiles gasped, turning his head and nuzzling against Derek’s jaw encouragingly.

“Really.” Derek sucked on his earlobe, teeth pressing down around it as his fingers wrapped around his length. He even allowed some hip motions because if there was one truth about Stiles that was consistent it was his inability to not stay still. “I always aim to impress.”

“Fuuuuuck,” the word was exhaled against Derek’s jaw, gusty as his clenched up his fingers once they’d grabbed at shoulder. “Impressed! Very, very- mmmph fuck... Derek...”

“I doubt you’re ready for that.

He gave a hysterical laugh, dropping his head back. “Are ‘we’ going to protect my virtue or ravage me? Make up your mind, totally getting mixed signals here,” Stiles gave a very clear grind back against his hips just in case Derek needed a hint which was the preferred choice.

“I doubt... fucking Christ, really.” He let his breath fall against Stiles’ ear as his other hand under the pillow knotted up the material that housed all the important stuff inside the actual mattress.

“Mmm fuck me instead, he’s busy,” Stiles twisted his hips, bravado pushing forward past his nerves. He fell into a really dirty rhythm with Derek, panting and eager for more friction- on his cock, on his body in general.

Sacrilegious and a motormouth. It was a great combination. It was even greater with this need he had to grind against Stiles in every filthy way possible. Derek tried to come up with something verbal and it wasn’t working. No, language wasn’t coming but he was pretty sure if Stiles kept that up he was going to definitely be. His fingers worked in a solid rhythm, upping the ante when it seemed like Stiles was getting more control or any kind of upper hand.

Stiles kind of wanted to make fun of the fact that Derek was unable to make anything other than low growling noises against his shoulder but, really he had no leg to stand on. Well, actually he had one now and Derek had his hand all over it, touching him anywhere he damn well pleased.

“Derek, Derek, please, c’mon, pleeease.” It was a soft mantra that ended with a pained, greedy hiss between his teeth. He reached down to grab at Derek’s wrist to make him give him something- anything- to work with.

Shifting a little under Derek’s gaze, Stiles’ nerves pricked at him and reminding him that watching a lot of porn did not actually grant knowledge of how to do anything in the real world (arguably it might make him worse and that was a terrible thought to have right now). “So, fair warning, as you probably already know with your stupid super sniffer, I have not actually had any hands-on knowledge. Well, I’ve had hands-on knowledge of myself- quite a lot- and let me tell you, A+ on the whole.... you,” even as he chattered, Stiles moved to push Derek onto his back. His hands made idle patterns over Derek’s hips and thighs, fascinated. “That was great. But I will not be great because I always mess up when things are important.”

Derek sat up long enough to pull Stiles’ face back up to his. “You’ll do fine, or you won’t,” he smiled. “Relax. It’s not like the fate of the world rests on your ability to give head.”

“You suck at motivational speaking,” he pouted. “And you never know. I could be called upon to give oral to some evil god to save the world from complete annihilation.”

“I’d kill him,” he shrugged. “World saved.”

“And it would have nothing to do at all with you being possessive of my still hypothetical oral skills.”

Derek rested back on one elbow and let his fingers smooth against Stiles’ chin. “Relax,” he offered. “I’m not going to laugh. You never laugh at someone when they have your dick in their mouth.”

“Oh ye of little faith. You’d be surprised at the kind of laughs I’ve managed in my life,” Stiles pointed out. But he was game for returning the favor, just like he promised. Granted, he was sort of taking the scenic route to get there- mouthing down Derek’s chest and marveling at the intake of breath whenever his mouth ran across a sensitive spot. Who could blame him though? Derek seemed like the kind of person who didn’t want to admit they liked to be touched- which made Stiles want to do it even more.

He nosed his way across his pecs, teeth softly biting against his ribs before moving across the flat plane of his stomach. He wanted to make a comment about how Derek’s abs should probably be put up in an art museum. No, really. No one else needed to see them but Stiles. (This was a futile thought as Derek was basically allergic to shirts).

“You know how you don’t like people touching you? Keep that shit up with a Stiles-exempt clause,” he declared, meeting Derek’s eyes with his own, dark and hot. Stiles hadn’t ever really considered himself territorial... must probably from hanging around with all the werewolves. Nosing his way back to a sharp hipbone, he bit down and wished he could leave a mark.

His fingers were helping Derek get rid of those pesky boxers.

Derek arched up just enough to help with the clothing removal but that was it. His head was effectively spinning from all the tiny, tiny sensations Stiles was leaving in his wake. The way chapped yet soft lips pressed against this patch of skin, the way teeth grazed against a different part. The way Stiles’ fingers worked along every contour of his body, even against the deep scar on his chest; they were all intricate pieces of a bigger story Stiles was telling him.

“I never said-” and he never would again if Stiles’ mouth continued to move against the tiny crevices of skin that led to not very travelled paths. “... fuck.”

“Stop talking, we’re busy right now,” Stiles declared, taking a moment to really look down at Derek. He bit his lip, swallowing hard.

Derek let out a breath of a laugh. “Are you fucking serious?” He laughed again as he tilted his head up enough to look down at him. “You just told me to shut up like you don’t run your mouth at all goddamned times.”

Stiles whapped him on the hip. “With good reason! Someone around here has to keep everyone abreast- heh. Breast,” he laughed and squeezed at Derek’s pec because, well, he was a teenaged boy and he couldn’t keep out of trouble to save his own hide. “Besides, you loooooove my talking. My talking gets you hot!”

Derek groaned as he let his head hit the pillow. “No, Stiles,” he laughed. “Just … no.”

“Derek, don’t deny our love!” Stiles laughed, stifling himself so he wouldn’t wake up anyone in the house. Leaning over the older male, he smooched at his face, pecking at his lips and chin and nose, refusing to let Derek escape the affection. He slowed down as he kissed Derek’s mouth again, lingering to peck there over and over until they were trading actual kisses. Longer and more thrilling, Stiles gave up a happy little huff as he settled on top of Derek.

Laughter had been foreign to him for a long time and without Stiles, it probably still would be. “You are a dumbass, Stiles. You know that, right?”

He let his hands smooth up Stiles’ back, careful of his healing injuries. His fingers slid against Stiles’ cheeks as Derek pulled his mouth closer to his own. It was amazing just how quickly Stiles could threaten a serious moment and then bring it back around full circle. Unfortunately, Derek knew if he said those things that it would go straight to Stiles’ head and he wouldn’t quit talking for a good five to six hours.

Instead of gushing praise, he let their foreheads touch, nose grazing against Stiles’. “Now shut up, Stiles, and get back to work,” Derek said, a slow grin curling up his lips.

“Fight an Alpha to the death and suddenly you think you can just boss around me huh?” He tsk’ed, though he was quick to shimmy down Derek’s body. He felt like he should be more nervous but at this point, facing off against so much death and almost losing everything... sucking Derek’s dick didn’t seem exactly as intimidating as it used to.

The scent was what Derek noticed first before the sound of bare feet padding up the stairs. “Stiles,” he whispered, voice drawn out in a moan.

The footsteps were getting to the top of the stairs. He had options, of course. He could let Stiles continue and just let Scott get an eyeful if he opened the door (which would have sent Stiles running to apologize, Derek was sure). He could also wait for the knock at the door if Scott was the knocking type (which was going to interrupt the festivities anyway). Or he could be a nice guy (which never paid off) and gently ease the inexpert mouth off his cock with a groan and a sigh.

“Hey-!”

“Someone’s coming.” He pulled sheets up, covering everything below the waist, more out of consideration for whatever Stiles might have deemed appropriate than what he felt he should be doing. Honestly, Derek couldn’t have cared less about what Scott saw or Scott thought. People who went around interrupting sex got what they deserved.

“Stiles- GAAAAH!”

DUDE! Knock much?!”

Derek groaned and fell back against the pillow in exasperation. “Get over yourself, McCall.”

***********

Scott speed-walked out of the Stilinski house, disturbed, ignoring the call of Isaac’s voice behind him. That... that was nothing he ever expected to see. Okay, so, yeah he got that Stiles was playing Derek’s mate so he wouldn’t get killed but... there wasn’t any reason to anymore. The Alpha pack was gone and they were all safe at home. There was no need to be doing any of that.

It wasn’t right. Stiles didn’t know what the wolf instincts made you feel like when you were around your mate... But what if Stiles did? Would he... would he want that? Would he want Derek? He knew that Stiles wasn’t just kidding every time he bugged Danny or complained about not being pretty enough for other dudes. Stiles was covering up the fact he wanted that too. He might’ve always been in love with Lydia but that sure didn’t stop him from wanting other kinds of attention too.

“Aaaaagh,” he moaned, covering his face with his hands and flopped back into the dewy grass.

“You okay, dude?” Isaac asked, clearly having followed him outside. His hair was stuck up in random curls all over his head, showing that he was just as tired as the rest of them.

“No! Stiles- Derek-!”

“Yes?” Isaac cocked his head.

“They were-” Scott made a vague gesture with his hands. He wasn’t even sure what he was trying to say with them.

“Yes?”

“It was supposed to be pretend!”

Isaac snorted and rolled his eyes. “Dude, no one believed that. If it wasn’t always that way, it definitely changed pretty quick.”

Scott curled up a lip and made a face. “I don’t get it. I mean, Derek is a jerk.”

“So’s Stiles.”

“No he’s-” Scott paused and considered. “Okay, yeah he can be, but he has a point to it and he means well.”

“You could say the same thing about Derek too,” Isaac pointed out and sat down next to Scott. “Not everyone falls in love the same, you know.” He was looking at his hands, lashes hiding his eyes. “Some people fall in love at first sight and then some people have to get to know a person and find out that the reason they can’t stop fighting is because they don’t want the other person to stop sticking around. And some people... they fall in love with people that have become their friends, someone they trust and like and feel comfortable with.”

Scott nodded his head thoughtfully, considering Isaac’s words. “But Derek and Stiles weren’t friends, not really.”

Isaac opened his mouth and then stopped. “Want to go for a run before everyone else wakes up?” he asked, though Scott got the feeling that wasn’t what he’d started to say.

Still he smiled. “Yeah, that sounds good.”

They ended up running out to the Preserve where they could really let loose without worrying about being seen.

They chased and chased for hours, knocking into each other and bounding away. If they had tails they would have been wagging. As it was, it was probably the happiest Scott had been in weeks and weeks. He also didn’t have to worry about anything- not about hunters or Alpha packs or his friend maybe having a thing for Derek or... anything but being both parts of himself for once. It wasn’t just that- it was also the freedom of knowing he didn’t have to worry about being careful with the bigger teen. They were on equal footing, able to run as fast, jump as far, track each other’s scents.

Sure, they weren’t exactly the same- Isaac was taller and more powerful physically, but Scott was smarter, more capable of thinking on the fly. He laughed as he tumbled Isaac onto his back again, not far from the Hale house.

This time was a little different. Instead of bucking him off, Isaac arched his back, letting his shirt ride up to expose his belly to Scott. Then he leaned up, quickly, to bite at Scott’s jaw. It wasn’t an angry gesture- on the contrary it was... inviting.

It dawned on Scott, just as his wolf responded to the display by leaning in and biting down on Isaac’s neck, that it was meant to offer something to Scott. Offer Isaac- whose eyes were completely gold, pulse wild under Scott’s teeth.

He snapped back abruptly, shocked. “Oh! I- um- I didn’t-”

Isaac sat up, cocking his head. There was such a yearning expression there that Scott couldn’t fail to see it. And it made his stomach twist up horribly when it was replaced by resignation and disappointment. “Isaac-”

“I should go.” And just like that, he was off, bounding away faster than Scott could catch him...if he even wanted to try. He swallowed hard and buried his head in his hands.

******

Back at the Stilinski house there had been a little bit of drama as well, though it was mostly centered on the Sheriff discovering the fact Derek had never made it downstairs to sleep in the night.

Lydia didn’t particularly care to overhear that particularly awkward conversation so she slipped outside herself. She was only a little surprised to find Danny on the porch, the small tin that housed Jackson’s ashes by his knees.

She wasn’t really good at this. At comfort and the whole... empathy thing. But she found herself asking inane, obvious questions anyways. “Are you okay?”

“No. I’m not,” Danny glanced up at her. He had terrible circles under his eyes though he didn’t look like he’d been crying exactly. “Jackson’s dead and no one will know why. They’ll think he ran away and... and I don’t know how to process that. What happened?"

Lydia sat down next to him, deliberately taking her time rearranging her borrowed sleeping shirt around her knees. Huh, not even a month ago she’d’ve never been caught dead so under-dressed in company. Instead of dwelling on that, she took a breath. "Are you sure you want to know?"

"No... I mean,” He paused, examining long fingers with a frown. “Part of me does because he's Jackson- was- and in all the years I've known him, he still surprises me."

Lydia understood that all too well; the ups and downs of Jackson Whittemore, she could write novels and never fully get to the heart of him. "He died saving people, if that helps."

"To be honest? I'm not sure it does. I don't know what I'm feeling,” Danny shook his head, a bitter smile on his face. “I already mourned him once, you know? When they took him away in a body bag from the lacrosse field. He was my best friend and then he showed up, out of the blue climbing in my window like nothing fucking happened! I wanted to wring his neck!”

She huffed a soft, knowing laugh, though it really wasn’t funny at all. Danny joined her with his own deeper one but their smiles quickly fell away. “...But I didn't. And now.... he’s really gone."

They lapsed into silence and shared grief, listening to the world still going on, still turning around despite what had happened to them. That was the real tragedy.

"I think I loved him." Danny said after a long silence.

"I know."

"I think... I think he loved me too, in his own special-" He paused, trying to find the words.

"Jackson-y way?" She offered.

"Yeah." He paused, swallowing as he stared out at nothing. "I'm not sure if that makes it better or worse."

Lydia said nothing, simply leaning into his side until he pressed his cheek against her soft hair. How long they sat there, lost in their own thoughts, neither knew.

"Lydia?" Boyd stepped outside, hands shoved deep in his pockets. His expression was mild but those close to him knew there was concern there.

"Boyd's driving me home so I can be there when my mother gets back into town," She explained, standing and brushing herself off. "If you want company..."

"No I-" Danny stopped and then gave a soft smile. "Actually? That'd be really nice right about now."

*******

All in all, things could have been worse- y’know, like actually having to thwart the apocalypse during sweeps week worse. They still had to figure out how to explain Jackson- that was a mess, thanks Peter- and deal with recurring nightmares for probably the rest of their lives but hey, they did still have those. Lives.

Peering up at the Hale house, Stiles idly pondered what it would take to get Derek to move into an apartment in town. Someplace big enough for him and Isaac at least, if not always Erica and Boyd (though knowing them, they’d crash often too). Train stations and warehouse were fine for super heroes but in the real world, waaay less comfy and way more tetanus-prone.

He shifted gingerly on the front porch- it could really go at any moment- and watched Dom and Vanessa say their goodbyes to Scott and Derek. Erica was leaning up against their car like the cover of an 80’s Joan Jett album.

“We’ll be heading out now,” Vanessa was saying to Derek but she was clearly looking at Scott. “Thank you for helping my family.”

Derek shrugged, not quite sure what he’d done beyond what anyone else would’ve done in the same situation. “You helped mine, there’s no debt here.”

She nodded her head, satisfied with that, then glanced beyond to Erica. “Even so, I think your beta wants to talk to you.”

Erica curled up her lip like she wanted to say something smart-assed to the other woman but merely flashed a smile at Derek. Stepping away from the car, she climbed the porch, hands shoved in her pockets. “So... I’m going to head out with them. Not like- forever or anything. But... they could use some help. Y’know, with the kids.”

Stiles smirked, hooking his chin over her shoulder. “And it doesn’t hurt that Dom’s around, right?”

She scoffed out a laugh, shoving at his face. “He wishes I was all up in that.” She hauled him back in and scrubbed a hand over his head, making him wince slightly but it felt good too. Like they weren’t saying goodbye.

Still, the smile on her face dimmed and she shot Derek something of an anxious look. “I um... I’m not leaving-leaving, you know? This is my pack, I just- I need to do this.... okay?” She was wavering between asking permission and telling Derek what she was doing.

Derek nodded. “We’ve all got some growing to do,” he offered. “Don’t stay gone too long, though.”

Only a few feet away, Vanessa had stepped up to Scott. Giving him a soft smile, she hooked her dark hair behind her ear. “Are you sure?”

“Yes. I’m flattered, really I am but... this is my home,” Scott explained gently, giving her a small smile. “You have a bigger pack now, you don’t need me.”

“Maybe not, but I want you with me.” She reached out to push a curl off his forehead, but pulled back. “But I know you’re still in love with the hunter. That’s okay. I can wait. You and I, we have more in common than she ever will. One day, she’ll turn back to her roots.”

Scott shook his head. “I don’t believe that. I love her and I trust her.” He didn’t pull back when she leaned in to kiss him.

Stiles frowned a little but Scott had to make his own choices and live with them. He bumped shoulders with Erica and smiled. “You better text me all the time.”

“Dude, you know it,” she grinned, pulling him into another tight hug. Stepping off the porch, she joined up with Dom and Vanessa at their rental car. She bumped hips- hard- with Dom and tossed them all a wave. “Later, bitches!”

“Hey!” Stiles called out suddenly. “What was with the symbol?”

“Symbol? What symbol?” Vanessa frowned when Stiles pointed at the spray-painted mark on the front door, faded now. “We didn’t have a symbol.”

“That, I’m afraid, would be my doing.” They all whirled around to face a man- though with the growls ratcheting up around him, Stiles was pretty freaking positive he was a werewolf. Tall, blond, leather? Yup, werewolf. Also- given the flash of the red peepers, Alpha werewolf.

“And you are?” Derek demanded in that charming way of his. Stiles stepped up to his shoulder but didn’t say anything.

“An old friend of Peter’s actually.” The werewolf touched the side of his prominent sharp nose, hiding his smile. He was way too at ease with himself and the pack flanking him. “I must say, you are surprising, Mr. Hale. I truly did not expect you to emerge from your confrontation relatively unscathed.”

“So glad to impress you. Now, who are you.”

A slow smirk curled up the man’s mouth, not quite sinister but definitely nowhere in the realms of comforting. “You may call me Deucalion.”

The End