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Twirling 'Round with this Familiar Parable Part II

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Derek never expected Boyd or Erica to contact him after they left. They'd washed their hands of his pack and they'd washed their hands of him. But the fact that neither had called Isaac and the alpha pack was in town, made Derek concerned to say the least.

And then they left a lock of Erica's hair at the house. Derek hadn't been staying there for quite some time, since he needed an actual address to take custody of Isaac, but he liked to check on the place every day or two. Derek had no illusions – the alpha pack had to know where he was living – yet they chose to leave the message at the old house. That act itself was part of the message.

Just like Derek had failed to protect his family, he was now failing to protect his pack.

The only hope Derek took away from the situation was the fact that the hair smelled clean. It smelled like Erica, but it smelled clean, and nothing like death or decay. She was still alive and the alpha pack was daring Derek to find her, and presumably, Boyd.

"Scott could help us," Isaac said for about the thousandth time. "Why can't we contact him? I know you're pissed about-"

"I'm not angry with Scott," Derek snapped, and despite his manner, it was the truth. "He made his allegiances clear. He's not in our pack, he doesn't need to know. We don't need his help."

Isaac snorted and stormed off, but he came back five minutes later, ready to cooperate. Peter called them both idiots under his breath.

The police questioned Isaac about Boyd and Erica, since he'd been seen with them at school, but Isaac must have said all the right things, because he was back at Derek's hotel room before dark. Derek never got called in, which he chalked up to Isaac's ability to hide the truth and the sheriff department's drastic lack of staff.

Derek got Jackson through his first full moon, and maybe it was because he'd already been changing unconsciously for several months, but he took to being a werewolf like a fish to water. It took him less than ten minutes to find his anchor and control the shift. Derek wasn't surprised when Jackson's father sent him to London. It was probably better he be out of the hunters' reach, given everything he'd done while under someone else's control. Hunters rarely cared about motive or intent when they decided someone was their prey.

A few weeks into summer, Stiles caught up with Derek and Isaac when they stopped for food at a burger place. Stiles sat down at their table, next to Isaac and diagonal from Derek, and slapped down a piece of paper. It was one of the fliers Erica's mother had made. "What is this? Is this just some sort of wolfy Romeo and Juliet sort of situation, or should I be justifiably concerned that no one has heard from either Erica or Boyd in three weeks?"

For a moment, Derek thought Isaac was going to tell Stiles the truth, but then he looked to Derek. He would follow Derek's lead, which was gratifying.

Derek took his time studying Stiles, thinking about exactly how much to tell him. Derek had seen how surprised he was when Scott's plan against Gerard came to fruition. Either Stiles was a very good actor, or he hadn't known about the plan. And he always acted like werewolves were the same as people, just with different complications, and Derek liked that about him.

Scott wasn't part of Derek's pack, and Stiles wasn't either. But, Stiles had sought him out. Maybe just out of the desire to be like his father, play cop, solve the mystery, be the hero, and maybe just because he was concerned. The fact that Stiles' motive could be muddled and twofold and impure made Derek more willing to trust him. It was single-minded people who'd ruined Derek's life. Even if Scott's one goal was protecting as many people as possible, he was still so focused on that goal that it honestly scared Derek. When you only had one goal, it was a lot easier to lose sight of everything else and a lot easier to inflict collateral damage. No one knew this better after the last few months than Derek.

Derek pointed a finger at Stiles and insisted, "Scott can't know about this. You tell him what I'm about to tell you and he's going to get himself killed."

Stiles took a deep breath and looked off into the distance for a moment. Isaac gave Derek an assessing look, like he'd done something surprising. Couldn't Derek be concerned about Scott without anyone questioning him? Stiles blew out a loud breath and met Derek's eyes as he nodded. "What Scotty doesn't know can't hurt him."

"That's not exactly true, though," Isaac said, but Derek cut him off with a gesture.

"We'll tell Scott when he needs to know, but no earlier." Derek turned the flier around so he could read it. He sighed. "They've been taken hostage."

"What?" Stiles asked loudly, drawing the attention of the people around them. Luckily, Stiles noticed this and toned himself down to an angry whisper. "By who? Who would take a couple of werewolves hostage? Don't they know what a colossally bad idea that is? No, we have to tell Scott. I mean-"

"No," Derek insisted, clapping his hand over the one Stiles had on the table to get his attention. "No. The people who took them are a pack of alphas. You remember how difficult it was to take down Peter? Any one of them makes that look like child's play. They are not to be fucked around with, okay?"

Stiles pulled his hand away and rubbed at it with the other one. "Okay, I get it. Alphas big and scary, I'm just a little peon, got it. Now what are you doing about this?" He jabbed a finger at the flier.

"We've been searching the city," Isaac said, looking to Derek before he continued speaking. Derek nodded. "We're trying to figure out where Boyd and Erica are being held. Once we know that, we can come up with a rescue plan."

"And I don't want Scott finding out and going after them half-cocked," Derek added.

"You really think that little of him?" Stiles scoffed, but when Derek raised an eyebrow at him, Stiles actually shrugged in acquiescence. "So, where do we start?"

"We start by finishing our fries," Isaac said, which made Derek smirk and Stiles gape. "Fries are a very important part of the process."

For the next few weeks, it felt like a puzzle piece had slotted into place. Stiles came up with zoning maps and blueprints and a systematic search plan, while Derek, Isaac, and Peter (who was still weak), followed through on the plan.

Peter had to rest fairly frequently, so more often than not, it was just Stiles, Isaac, and Derek. Derek had never encountered the phenomenon before, but he began to understand why common sense said that three people couldn't have a close, platonic relationship. As Derek's respect for and trust of Stiles grew, his bond with Isaac began to feel stronger as well. But Derek knew he couldn't trust his feelings. Especially not around people who were not only much younger than him, but were also relying on his guidance and leadership. He was not going to exploit that trust for temporary gratification. Derek would never become like the people he hated most in the world.

~*~

Stiles got this feeling sometimes that Scott knew Stiles wasn't telling him the whole truth. Scott never mentioned it, though. He never asked where Stiles was going or where he'd been. Scott stayed in a lot, he read, he worked out. Stiles joined his brother in these things fairly often, but he couldn't stay in the house all summer. It was a thing that was physically impossible for him to do.

Stiles had a feeling Scott knew this about him, but Scott didn't say anything. He didn't mention the fact that during all the previous summers, he and Stiles had been practically joined at the hip, and this summer they just weren't. If Stiles smelled like Derek's new place, Scott never mentioned it. Neither did Stiles.

Maybe Scott wanted to stay out of things as much as Derek wanted to keep him in the dark. He'd always complained about being a werewolf and wanting to be normal. Maybe he was taking the summer to pretend it was true. In front of Scott, that's what Stiles did - he pretended there was no such thing as monsters. As far as Stiles could tell, Mima hadn't told Dad, either.

One day, fresh off a disappointing few hours of searching, Stiles came home to find Mima alone in the house. "Your father took Scott to the bookstore to get his summer reading. He was eager to get a jump on it this year."

"Yeah, that sounds about right," Stiles said, taking one of the Chips Ahoy from the cookie jar and stuffing all of it in his mouth. "He really wants to get his grades up after this last semester."

Mima looked down at her coffee cup and tapped the ceramic with her wedding ring. It was a nervous habit, so Stiles knew it was his duty to pull up a chair and ask, "What's wrong?"

Mima frowned and shrugged. "Oh, you know."

"Scott's a werewolf and Dad doesn't know about it?" Stiles grinned. "Dude, I have been there!"

"I should have told him right after... But you both had to go to the hospital and I just-"

"We're both totally fine," Stiles insisted. "Dad's got the hardest head I've ever seen."

Laughing, Mima nodded in agreement and took another sip of her coffee. "It takes more than a little supernatural lizard venom to slow you down, doesn't it, monkey-boy?"

"Mi-maa!" Stiles groaned. "Don't call me that!"

Mima put her hand on Stiles' face, pushing him playfully and laughing.

The air between them calmed and after a moment, Stiles asked, "So why didn't you tell him?"

"I don't know," Mima said with another sigh. "At first I didn't believe it myself. And then more and more time passed and I felt worse and worse for keeping it from him. Now I almost don't want him to know."

"Yeah. I know what you mean." Stiles grabbed another cookie. "I've known for six months and lying to him at this point is like a reflex. Automatic."

"I don't like it," Mima said, pushing her mug away and grabbing for one of the cookies. "I don't like lying to your father about everything. I'm afraid of what this is going to do to us." She shoved a cookie in her mouth.

"No, you guys are good!" Stiles insisted. "I mean you made it through..." He swallowed nervously. "You made it through what happened to Mom. You can get through something as stupid as this."

Mima laughed sadly. "Yeah, because this is totally the same thing."

"Well, maybe not exactly the same thing," Stiles allowed. "But still rough. And I bet Dad finds out eventually. He has a knack for finding things out."

"Yeah, you're probably right." Taking one last, deep sigh, Mima put her mug in the sink and pulled Stiles down until she could place a kiss on his cheek. "Keep yourself and your brother out of trouble, okay, kiddo?"

"Yeah, okay, Mima." Stiles ran his hand down Mima's arm as she walked away. "It's gonna be great. You'll see!"

~*~

Soon after breaking up with Scott, when the dust settled, Allison finally saw how wrong she had been. She'd been blinded by pain and anger and fear, and had given into the urge for revenge. When her Dad suggested they leave the country, Allison jumped at the chance.

She lost herself in the new everything that France had to offer, though she turned down the one romantic overture she received. It happened when she and her Dad split up for a few hours and Allison spent her time munching on a treat from the bakery (the name of which she couldn't pronounce) and wandering the streets. "Pardon, Mademoiselle?"

Allison looked down from the bridge she'd been studying to see a pair of boys about her age smiling at her. One had dark hair and the other reddish blonde. They were holding hands. "Oh, je ne parle pas. I'm American."

"Beautiful American woman," the redhead said with a little bow. "I'm Jean, this is Alex. We're pleased to make your acquaintance!"

Allison let herself fantasize for a second what her life could be like if she were someone else, if she didn't have the specter of her mother's death at werewolf hands clawing at her psyche. Allison nodded politely. "I'm sorry. I can't..."

She walked away, knowing it was a once in a lifetime opportunity. But Allison knew herself, and she knew she wasn't ready to even think about what had happened with Scott. There was no way she'd be ready for the real deal (or something like it) anytime soon.

Knowing that, Allison decided, once and for all, that this year was going to be about her and making sure she was okay being by herself. That was how you grew a stable relationship, wasn't it? Be okay with yourself, then be okay as part of a couple, then be okay as a triad. That's how it always went in the movies, anyway.

~*~

"Do you," Peter asked, striding into Derek's loft like he owned the place, "have any idea what you're up against?"

Derek rolled his eyes. "I'm aware of what the alpha pack is, Peter."

"No, you know stories," Peter insisted. "You know stories that were told to you to scare you into doing your chores. You never heard the truth."

Getting fed up with Peter's bullshit, Derek crossed his arms over his chest. "And just what is the truth? Or is that too much to ask, coming from you?"

Peter laughed humorlessly. "That's right, Derek. Keep making jokes. It's a wonder you're still here to begin with."

Uneasy in his skin, Derek huffed and took a step toward Peter. "That's what I don't understand. They took two of us and then nothing. It's been almost three months. We've scoured the city looking for Boyd and Erica, and we haven't been attacked once. Are we even sure they're still here?"

"They won't leave without getting what they want," Peter insisted, circling around Derek, his boot heels clacking against the wood floor. "And I very much doubt they wanted two cut-rate betas. No, they're going to use Erica and ... Boyd, was it?" Peter sneered. "The alphas are going to use them against you somehow."

"Wow. That's just...extremely helpful, Peter. Thank you," Derek said, his voice thick with sarcasm and frustration. "I want to talk about when we find them. What sort of muscle are we talking about here?"

Peter tilted his head and winced, like he was imagining the fighting to come. "With an alpha, it's more about the brains and the will than the brawn." He poked one of Derek's biceps. "Maybe that's your problem, Derek. Too much brawn, not enough brain."

Derek slapped Peter's hand away, but there wasn't any intent to harm. Peter could barely run anymore, and Derek was fairly certain his senses of smell and hearing were almost human. Of course, weakness didn't mean Peter was telling the truth, but he could have been.

"Whatever they're up to, they're giving us time," Derek pointed out. "So let's use this time to come up with a plan. You said it's more brains than brawn? Let's go after the brains of the operation. Cut off the head, the body falls with it."

Peter stared at Derek for a moment, his face blank. Then he smirked. "Maybe you're not as hopeless as I feared, Nephew. But don't forget the lesson of the hydra. You cut off one of its heads-"

"And two more take its place, I know." Derek huffed. "But we don't know if this alpha pack is a hydra or not, and we have to do something."

"Well, what about, 'If you can't beat 'em, join 'em'?" Peter swiped his finger across Derek's desk and frowned at the dust he picked up. "I mean, you'll probably have to do something distasteful to prove your loyalty, but it's better than being dead, isn't it?"

Derek had heard far too much about the alpha pack to ever be comfortable joining them, so he knew it wasn't a real possibility. Nevertheless, he told Peter, "If they ask for good faith, I'll give them your head. How does that sound?"

Peter tutted with a smirk. "Let's hope it doesn't come to that. After all, I'm the only family you have left."

Derek's stomach dropped whenever Peter mentioned that fact, but he reigned in the urge to lash out at Peter for deliberately baiting him like this. Instead, Derek rolled his eyes and turned his back on Peter, acknowledging him as harmless. Peter scoffed and walked away, probably to crawl back into whatever hole he kept as his hiding place these days.

Derek still wasn't sure how to approach the alpha pack, or even if he should. If he ran, would they follow, or would they stay and hurt everyone Derek had so much as talked to? The thought made Derek give up his dream of running away in favor of digging in his heels instead. This might not have been a fight he could win, but it wasn't a fight he was walking away from. Not yet.

~*~

Jen had wanted to move to Beacon Hills near the beginning of the summer, but she couldn't get out of her previous lease and she couldn't afford to pay double rent for more than a week. So, she stayed in Hartford until her lease was up, then sold her furniture and put the rest of her belongings in a shipping container bound for the West Coast. Her car went with the other belongings, so when Jen flew into San Francisco, she rented a car and drove to Beacon Hills from there.

She wanted to spend a day or two exploring San Francisco, but for one, she didn't have enough money for a motel; and for two, that evening was the only time for the next week that Jen's new landlord could meet to give her the keys.

"Family vacation," the woman said when Jen arrived at her office, road weary and bone tired. The woman, Mrs. Perkins, who had obviously-dyed-blonde, frizzy hair and reading glasses attached to a chain which made them rest on her expansive bosom, pointed to a framed picture on her desk. The picture showed Mrs. Perkins and three dogs. Corgis, Jen thought. "I'm taking my babies up into the mountains!"

"Oh, um," Jen said, drawing the keys across Mrs. Perkin's desk and into her lap. "That sounds fun!"

Giving Jen a look, Mrs. Perkins said, "It would have been fun this morning. Now we have to run into weekend traffic on the drive."

Offering a quiet, "Sorry," Jen slipped the keys into her pocket, took the papers Mrs. Perkins shoved at her, and stood up. "I'll see you around?"

"Not for the next week, you won't." Mrs. Perkins gave Jen an obviously fake smile. "Goodbye, dear!"

"Bye."

It took Jen five minutes to get the key to work, during which she alternately believed that she either had the wrong apartment, or Mrs. Perkins had deliberately given her the wrong key out of spite. When she finally did get the door open, Jen fell into the apartment, bruising her knee and scraping up her palm as she fell. "Well if that isn't an omen..."

Sighing, she took a look around. It was bigger than her apartment in Hartford had been, but not by much. However, the sunlight streaming in through the west-facing window made the whole apartment look cheerful, even if it was disconcertingly empty. But, the fridge was cold and the faucets and toilet all worked, so Jen was happy.

She drove into the city and bought herself a camping cot, a sleeping bag, and a lantern. She didn't want to buy any real furniture until she got her first paycheck, and the rest of her things weren't arriving for another week, besides. It was an adventure!

Jen's next stop was the grocery store, even though it was almost eight o'clock at night and pretty dark out. She was used to summer daylight lasting longer since she'd always lived so far north, but it was so dark now that Jen seriously considered starving until daybreak. But she was a strong, independant woman. She'd taken the leap and moved across country. She could brave a dark parking lot and go buy her own fucking groceries.

The grocery store was fairly normal (Jen was still expecting Beacon Hills to be creepier than it appeared), and Jen wandered around without really picking out much. It wasn't like her dishes had arrived yet, so there was a limited selection she could actually use. She did run into a bit of a line at the deli counter. The lone clerk appeared to be about eighty years old, deaf, and so slow-moving that Jen was almost sure she could watch her nails grow faster than this.

The big man in front of Jen kept shifting his weight from foot to foot like he was getting impatient and when he turned to look toward the door, Jen had to consciously keep her jaw from dropping. He was that good looking, with his high cheekbones and his dark, close-cropped beard. Jen stared at the back of his head for a long moment, wondering if she'd ever seen ears that cute on a full grown man.

Eventually, the line moved up and the person ahead of the man started placing their order. Jen sighed and decided that she should probably decide exactly how much potato salad she was capable of eating in the next week before it was her turn. The man in front of Jen turned around and gave her a small, sympathetic smile, like he knew how much it sucked to be waiting in line. The smile made him look much younger than Jen had first guessed and almost distracted her from the absolutely outrageous amount of muscle he was hiding under his jacket.

Jen's first instinct was to let the man be, but Jen's therapist in Hartford had been on her to make sure she kept reaching out to people and built a good support network in her new town. Leaning forward, she said quietly, "Hey, do you come here a lot? Like, have you tried the potato salad?" The potato salad? Really, Jen?

Quirking a cute sort of half smile, like he wasn't used to smiling at all, the man shook his head. "Can't say that I have."

"Darn. I was planning on buying a pound of it and I wanted to know how much trouble I was getting myself into. You think I should go for the macaroni salad instead?"

"I don't really eat mayonnaise," he said, wrinkling his nose. It was so adorable an expression on a big, strong guy, Jen felt like she was going to explode.

Jen pointed to the man's (probably) rock-hard abs and said, "No, of course you don't. Let me guess," she eyed the man up and down, putting on her best literary analysis mode, and then looked over at the menu. "Hmm, fruit salad and the turkey and avocado sandwich?"

The man snorted and shook his head. "Five pounds of buffalo wings and a carton of potato wedges."

"Seriously?" Jen looked the man up and down again. "That is totally not fair!"

"It's not just for me," he said, turning his head to one side so he could watch the customer in front of him ask for another packet of deli meat. "My … uh, cousin lives with me. He's sixteen. And his friend is coming over, so..."

"Ah, I know what you mean," Jen said. She leaned forward and whispered conspiratorially, "I teach high school."

The man stooped down a little so he could look Jen right in the eye and said, "I'm so sorry."

Jen laughed and covered her mouth when it turned into an unattractive snort. She was still trying to figure out how to follow his joke without sounding lame, when suddenly it was the man's turn to yell to the clerk what he wanted. When he had his things, he turned around and gave Jen an awkward salute. And then he was gone.

Jen was still staring after him when the clerk cried, "What do you want, honey?" She decided to go for the pound of potato salad, and bought a few buffalo wings, just to see how they tasted.

~*~

Over the summer, in between taking orders for Derek and scouring the streets of Beacon Hills, Isaac thought a lot about Scott. Mostly he thought about the moment when it was clear to Isaac that Scott cared about him as a person. Isaac had never really had that before.

And god, he wanted it so bad. Isaac dreamed about going over to Scott's house and ringing the door until he answered. Then Isaac would pull Scott into the deepest, most wonderful kiss known to man. Knowing the way things went when Isaac applied himself to a situation, he was bound to mess it up somehow if he actually went through with it. So he didn't.

One night, Isaac was out walking the streets of one of the warehouse districts and thinking about how perfect Scott's smile was when he caught a whiff of Boyd's scent.

Having been as close to Boyd as two bodies could get, Isaac recognized the scent instantly. It wasn't fresh, but it was the closest they'd gotten since Boyd and Erica had run away. Isaac tracked the smell carefully, sniffing the scent through the ins and outs of the various buildings around them. It led him to a laundry service truck.

An as-good-as empty laundry service truck.

There were no heartbeats inside the truck, so Boyd couldn't be in there unless he was … But, no. The scent was too faded and what little metallic blood smell Isaac could pick up smelled old. The clothes themselves smelled old, like Boyd had worn them for several days straight, and they got saturated with his sweat.

Isaac broke the lock on the truck door easily enough and sniffed his way to the bag with Boyd's clothes in it. The tag on the bag had a return delivery address, and it was three blocks away.

Hands shaking, Isaac pulled his phone out of his pocket so he could call Derek. But the screen showed he had no signal. Isaac grunted in frustration. He knew he should wait until Derek could get there, but with every breath he got more and more angry at whoever had dared take his packmate.

Isaac saw red.

Without another breath wasted on inaction, Isaac started running toward the address. He found it quickly and rounded the building.

The next thing he knew, a girl was helping him run away from the twin alphas behind them. Isaac had no idea what had just happened or who the girl was, but he could tell not cooperating with her would be worse than going with the flow.

The girl saved Isaac from the alphas, but he still didn't know where Boyd was. And yet, Isaac had the feeling that he'd been close, if only he could remember what he'd been doing before he was running with the girl.

~*~

Stiles had been wrestling with this feeling all summer that something bad was coming, but he didn't know what to do with it. Of course something bad was coming. A freaking pack of alphas was leaving symbols on Derek's door and kidnapping wolves and maybe even the girl who'd rescued Isaac. Something bad was already happening.

But Stiles had the feeling it was going to get worse, especially now that Scott knew what was going on. It felt like this pressure in his gut and behind his eyes and Stiles kept pushing it away, kept telling himself that he didn't believe in it (because Deaton had said belief was important, right?) but it didn't go away.

Sitting in English class, reading the first few pages of Heart of Darkness, it only started to feel worse. Something was very, very wrong and it wasn't just the deer that had dive-bombed Lydia's car. It was something bigger than that. Like a ringing in his ears that got louder with every passing breath.

Looking down at the floor to try and calm himself, try and stave off what felt like the beginning of an anxiety attack, Stiles noticed the bandage on Lydia's ankle. It turned out that her dog, her fluffy little sweetheart of a dog, had bit her. The deer went crazy, Lydia's dog went crazy, the world felt like a thunderstorm waiting to happen.

When the first crow ran into the classroom window, Stiles jumped, thinking it had been thunder. But the blackness of the sky wasn't a rainstorm. It was hundreds of crows, headed straight for them. Stiles watched in horror as the new English teacher (who Stiles had decided right off the bat that he loved to death), walked toward the windows like she was in a daze.

He wanted to call out to her, to tell everyone that something bad was definitely happening, but somehow Stiles couldn't. He couldn't open his big mouth and tell everyone to get the fuck out of there. It felt almost like he was rooted in place, in that trance with Ms. Blake and helpless as the birds came at them. Yeah, this was starting to feel more and more like a panic attack.

And then one of the birds hit the window hard enough to break it and the trance was broken as well. Ms. Blake shouted at everyone to get down, and Stiles' first reaction was to throw himself over Lydia. There was no way Lydia freaking Martin was getting killed by a murder of crows. Not if Stiles could help it.

When the dust cleared and Lydia pushed him away (with a little bit of a stink-eye, so how's that for gratitude in the face of Stiles' heroic actions), Stiles didn't know what to do with himself. Ms. Blake, shaking, asked if everyone was okay. The teacher from next door, who must have heard the racket, took one look at the devastated classroom and announced loudly that he was calling the cops.

Stiles wished he wouldn't. Sure, the cops would make the other students feel better, but it wouldn't keep his Dad away from what was obviously supernatural bullshit at work. Yes, Mima was involved with everything now and that had worked out okay, but Stiles couldn't face the idea of telling his Dad about werewolves. It was a secret he didn't need to know.

It was a secret Ms. Blake didn't need to know either, from the look of her. Sitting there with that dazed expression and a feather stuck in her messed-up hair, she looked so lost. She'd been so cool at the beginning of class, and so brave protecting her students, and now, in the aftermath, Stiles knew how she felt. Something insane had just gone down and without a framework to deal with it, your brain tried to come up with anything to fill the gaps.

Feeling like maybe he could help her, maybe snap her back into the present, Stiles approached his teacher. She was pretty, in an older woman sort of way, and his heart beat a little faster being this close to her, but that didn't stop Stiles from reaching forward and pulling the feather out of her hair. Ms. Blake startled and looked up at him, so Stiles showed her the feather in explanation.

"Thanks," she said softly, rubbing one arm with the opposite hand - a self-comforting gesture according to Dad's interrogation manuals.

"Yeah, no problem."

Stiles was about to leave and give Ms. Blake some space when she laughed sadly. "This place, Beacon Hills, really is different, isn't it?"

Stiles couldn't help but chuckle. "Ms. Blake, you have no idea."

They shared a smile and then Ms. Blake took her turn to get checked out by the paramedics, so Stiles went back to his phone, texting Scott and trying to figure out what was happening.

~*~

As he left Derek's old place, arm still sore and brain full, Scott looked over at his brother. He had a feeling that Stiles had known more about the alpha pack than he let on. In fact, everything seemed to slot into place. Stiles had been helping Derek over the summer and they'd both left Scott out of it.

Scott wanted to feel hurt or angry, but mostly he felt sad that his brief respite from all things werewolf was now over. Now that he knew there was a threat, that Boyd and Erica hadn't just run away, he had to do something about it. Not knowing had actually been nice and Scott couldn't resent his brother for giving that to him.

The only thing Scott felt sad about was that he hadn't been able to spend much time with Isaac over the summer, and now Isaac was healing massive wounds caused by an alpha pack Scott hadn't even known about. But he was in Derek's care and that was fine, wasn't it? Derek was Isaac's alpha, was the guy he'd been living with since the custody papers went through (which Scott had overheard Dad talking about). Isaac was fine without Scott. Allison was fine without Scott.

And Scott was fine without them. He'd actually done his summer reading, he'd finished all the extra credit and summer school he needed to finish so the school would let him move up to junior year, and except for Stiles' random disappearances, things were really good at home. So, Scott was fine. He had been fine.

But now he had to think about Isaac dealing with just Derek (and probably Stiles) as his support system and the thought made Scott cringe. He loved Stiles dearly, but despite everything he'd been through, he wasn't very good at empathy unless he took the time to slow down and focus on what other people might be feeling. And Derek was probably the least empathetic person Scott had ever met. What if Isaac needed him and Scott just wasn't there because of a decision the three of them had made to keep him out of the loop?

Scott started to get angry, but then he reminded himself he was supposed to be a better Scott this year. A better person. And a better person took the high road, right? He let bygones be bygones and faced the issues of the present, not the past. (One of his mom's self-help books may have gotten mixed in with Scott's summer reading. Maybe. Okay, yeah, it had. Okay, it was Scott's book, which he bought with his own money. But it had been helpful, okay?)

Riding in the car next to Stiles, Scott ran his hand over his new tattoo again. It did feel like an open wound, like the holes in his heart that Scott wanted to fill with people but knew he had to fill with his own self-confidence first. Scott spotted Stiles frowning at the tattoo again, which made him laugh. "You really hate it that much?"

"No!" Stiles insisted. "No, I love it, buddy. I just … like, why two bands? Why not three? What does two even mean?"

Scott shrugged. "It just kind of came to me. I guess there's two sides of a coin, two sides of me."

"Huh." Stiles watched the road for a long moment and Scott smiled. It wasn't always that he thought about something his brother hadn't. Scott had to savor the moment while he could.

~*~

Lydia hadn't lost time in months, and now it was happening again. The nightmares had never really gone away, but they weren't as real as the ones Peter had sent her, and they made sense in the context of her life, as it were. But she hadn't lost time since Peter had been resurrected.

So showing up at the public pool instead of at the pharmacy took a big toll on Lydia's wellbeing. It was about a thousand times worse than getting rammed into by a homicidal deer because she woke up with blood on her hands and a dead body she couldn't explain. And an extra hour had passed that Lydia couldn't account for.

She cleaned her hands thoroughly before calling the cops, scrubbing her skin in the chlorinated pool water and washing the blood away. At least it was fresh and not dried on. Dried blood was just so difficult to get out of every nook and cranny of skin. Not to mention how unhygienic it could be. She didn't know the dead boy. She didn't know where he'd been.

So she called 911, thinking it would be worse not to report it and accidentally leave some evidence behind, and then she called the one person she thought could help. Allison didn't have any pull with law enforcement, Scott would probably be suspicious of Lydia, and Jackson was gone. Who else could she call but Stiles?

And she wanted Stiles to come for her. She couldn't explain it, but his presence was almost comforting. Grounding. Stiles was someone Lydia could always come back to, and she liked that about him. Of course, she also felt bad about it because it was obvious how much he adored her and she just did not feel any sort of attraction for him. The way he yelled at her made Lydia question her good sense in calling him in the first place, but she still felt much calmer with him there than not.

Lydia didn't know what it meant, but she knew she didn't like it. She needed to be her own person, not someone who needed other people to tell her she was okay, to tell her she wasn't crazy for losing time. To tell her it wasn't her fault.

Maybe Lydia just really liked the way Stiles could look at her and see someone infallible and completely innocent, when others couldn't. Maybe she liked the fact that when Stiles called her pretty, Lydia was one hundred percent sure he meant it.

~*~

Isaac let Deaton wrap him in a thick blanket and he let Derek drive him back to the loft and help him into new clothes. Even though it was the end of the summer, Isaac felt chilled to the bone and wrapped a scarf around his neck. Derek tucked Isaac into bed like Isaac was a child and went back out to the main room of the loft to make a plan with Stiles, Peter, and Scott. Because Scott knew everything now. Scott was back into the swing of things.

And all Isaac could do was lay on his bed and shiver. It was the full moon tonight. Isaac felt the pull of it, the rise of energy and bloodlust in his veins. Automatically, he reached out for his anchor, and found that memories of his father didn't feel as solid as they used to.

The lingering cold on his skin helped keep Isaac from shifting right away, but how long could that last? He'd warm up and without an anchor, he'd be worse than useless to Derek, and Boyd and Erica. He'd be a liability.

Isaac couldn't remember much about what had happened when he'd been taken. He remembered the vault door. He remembered holding Boyd close and crying with him about Erica. He remembered someone else. He remembered holding onto one memory to get him through it - one image.

Scott's smile.

Isaac pictured it again. Scott's smile, the way Scott's hand felt against Isaac's shoulder, the way Scott cared about him. Thinking about these things, Isaac shook off some of the remaining chill and anchored himself to his humanity, to the part of himself that was in love with Scott McCall.

It worked. Isaac was in control.

He made it out to the main area just as Stiles got the call that Boyd and the other werewolf – Cora Hale, Stiles said – had gone feral and had escaped. Feeling more like an asset and less like a liability now that his new anchor was in place, Isaac went with Peter to go help find them.

As Peter drove, Isaac felt a sharp pulling in his gut. It wasn't painful, but it was intense and it made Isaac gasp. From the driver's seat, Peter asked, "Woke up on the wrong side of the ice bath this morning?"

Isaac glared at Peter, but before he could describe what was happening, the feeling passed. He shook his head. "It's nothing. It's over now. I'm fine."

"You're not fine," Peter scoffed, but he didn't say another word about it.

After a short conversation with Derek, Peter was sent away and Derek and Isaac followed Scott and Chris Argent. Isaac let his curiosity get the best of him when he asked about Cora, but Derek shut him down without a word.

Isaac had to learn how to do that. Just glare people into submission. He suspected he didn't have the eyebrows necessary to pull it off.

~*~

After Allison heard the truth, she wished she hadn't pushed the issue. She wished she didn't believe Scott. But she did. Why would Scott lie to her, after all? The lie to protect her she could understand, but Allison knew Scott. She knew him. And she just could not believe that he'd lie like this to hurt her.

Gerard breaking the code was one thing. Allison barely knew him and once she'd gained some clarity, she could see that he'd always been a zealot. What Allison didn't want to believe was that her parents had been zealots as well. Well, her Dad had never deviated from the code, as far as Allison knew. But for her mother to try to kill Scott just because Allison was dating him? That went beyond what Allison could call a simple overreaction. Her mother's action had been rooted in hate.

And as rough as that fact was to confront, Allison knew she couldn't hate her mother. Her actions had been evil and unconscionable, but Allison couldn't lose sight of the woman who had been there for her through thick and thin for seventeen years. She wouldn't.

She also wouldn't do as her father wanted and stay out of things now. They were back in Beacon Hills and things hadn't returned to normal. That was an Argent's job, wasn't it? To keep an eye on the supernatural and stop problems before they affected the innocent people around them? Well, Boyd and that other werewolf were two giant dangers to the innocent people of Beacon Hills and Allison couldn't let their presence slide without doing something to help.

After all, an Argent never let her feelings get the better of her. Not when she had a Code to uphold.

~*~

Jen wasn't quite sure how, but she'd managed to fall asleep while eating dinner and somehow sleepwalk to bed, still wearing her clothes. Well, except for one of her shoes, which was missing, and Jen looked everywhere for it when she woke up in the middle of the night, but she couldn't find it.

It was ten to three in the morning when Jen took a shower and put her pajamas on, only to find that as soon as she laid in bed, thoughts of all the quizzes she needed to grade before morning plagued her. She could not fall back asleep.

So, Jen did what anyone would do. She got dressed, made herself a thermos full of coffee, and went to work. Two and a half hours before sunrise.

Okay, so maybe she'd been having a lot of these drifting off and waking up somewhere else episodes lately, but Jen didn't really want to mention them to her therapist. He'd want to change her medication or get her to take sick leave or something, and Jen didn't want to abandon her kids two weeks into the school year. She was just starting to find a rhythm with them, homicidal crows notwithstanding. Jen couldn't stand the thought of undoing all that work now and foisting her kids off on some substitute she didn't know.

And, yes, it bothered Jen a little that she'd been a part of the faculty for almost three weeks and most of the other teachers didn't know her name. Except for Bobby Finstock, who seriously creeped Jen out, none of the teachers had made a point of making Jen feel welcome. It wasn't exactly the fresh start she'd been dreaming about, but damn it, she was going to make it work.

If that meant arriving at work before the janitor and picking open one of the door locks, well then so be it. It wasn't like the damage would be noticed with what the rest of the school was going through. There wasn't much of a library to speak of - most of the books had been moved into those supply cupboards which weren't infested with mold because of plumbing damage caused by god knows what. And so most of the office supplies? Had been moved to the basement. It was an area where Adrian Harris told Jen they used to store old desks and broken lamps and that sort of thing, but now it housed all the office supplies that weren't crammed around the school receptionist's desk.

And go figure, in order to finish putting covers over her students' papers so she could hand them back without the other students seeing the grades, Jen needed more of the construction paper she'd started with. She couldn't exactly give half of the students brightly colored paper and the other half plain printer paper. Teenagers were neurotic enough without the mindtrip that would cause.

On her way down into the basement, Jen tried to tell herself it was no big deal. Adults weren't afraid of the dark. They bucked up and went down into the scary basement in search of construction paper because children were counting on them to do so.

Everything was fine - for the first two minutes. Jen found the paper she needed and was headed out of the storage space when a growl just ahead stopped her in her tracks. She had to be imagining the sound, right? It was just the boiler coming online for the morning. It had to be.

Another growl and a glowing set of yellow eyes in the darkness made Jen shriek with fear. This wasn't just the boiler. There was something out there in the darkness. A monster of some kind. Jen's hands trembled and she stood stock still as not one, but two monstrous forms prowled into the light and toward her.

This was it. Jen was about to die, just like all the other unlucky citizens of Beacon Hills. The sense of the macabre which had drawn her to this town was suddenly looking like much more of a liability than an asset.

But then another figure pushed the monsters away from Jen, practically screaming at them, and the surprise of it shocked Jen into action. She knew that there was no way she could get past them and out of the basement. There was no way she could fight. The only thing to do, the reflexive thing to do, was to hide and wait for it to pass.

Jen listened to the growls and the wet, smacking, thunking sounds of violence and barely breathed. Her lungs burned and her head went light, but she didn't dare make any more noise than she had to. She was just a mild-mannered teacher who on one occasion, one, had sworn at a student. Jen knew she didn't deserve to die. But that was the thing about monsters, wasn't it? It wasn't necessarily the bad guys they went after.

The sounds seemed to go on forever as Jen hunched, shaking and hiding behind the shelving. But then, the light from the windows near the ceiling grew steadily brighter and the sounds faded. The sun had come up and chased the monsters away. Jen still didn't feel like she could move. Her muscles had been locked for so long, and her breath was still uneven, her heart in her throat.

Other sounds replaced the growls and the fighting. The door at the foot of the stairs creaked open. Footfalls fell across the floor. Soft voices murmured. And then a set of feet made their way toward Jen carefully, almost tentatively. Those feet weren't those of a monster, but those of a man, and Jen hazarded to peek around the shelf.

It was the man from the grocery store, except he was covered in wounds and blood and he looked so weary that Jen's heart went out to him. She knew that whatever had happened with the monsters, this man was involved, and that meant that she shouldn't trust him. But he gave her those soft, caring eyes and held out his bloody hand and Jen was reaching for him before she knew what she was doing.

Wordlessly, he led her out of the basement and back to her classroom. Several times, Jen started to ask him what had happened, or even what his name was, but before she could work up the courage, he tilted his head like he was hearing something she couldn't. He turned to Jen and opened his mouth before closing it again, like he had no idea what to say to her either. Finally he just patted her awkwardly on the arm and strode away.

Jen gathered her things, walked out to her car, and cried for about twenty minutes before calling in sick and driving home.

~*~

Waking up slowly, Boyd found himself on a bed next to Cora. If not for the way the bed smelled like Isaac, Boyd would have wondered if they were still in the vault and escaping had been some sort of mad dream. When a figure leaned over him, Boyd flinched. Then his eyes focused and he saw it was Isaac.

"Hey," Isaac said. Boyd noticed he was wearing a sweater and a scarf, even though it was the middle of summer. "Feelin' okay?"

Boyd reached forward and rubbed the fabric of Isaac's scarf between his fingers. Nope. It didn't feel like a dream. Pushing himself up onto his elbows, Boyd said, "Well, not all bloodlusty anymore, so that has to be good."

"Good." Isaac leaned back and sat on a chair next to the bed. He picked at his hands for a moment before asking, "So, was I there with you? In the vault?"

Nodding, Boyd asked, "You don't remember?" Boyd remembered Ennis throwing Isaac in with him and Cora, Erica still dying in Cora's arms.

"No. They- they did something to my memory. Erased it. How did I get out?"

Boyd takes a good look at Isaac as he sits up and throws his legs over the edge of the bed. As best he can tell, Isaac's telling the truth. Boyd thinks maybe Isaac's always told him the truth, unlike a lot of people in his life. Even Erica told him they'd always be together. Though, was it a lie if you meant it at the time?

Sighing, Boyd thought about how much to tell Isaac. Should Isaac know about how terrified he and Erica were when they were first taken? How days dragged into weeks and none of their escape attempts seemed to do any good? About how Cora had been thrown into the vault with them and about how it had taken Boyd and Erica nearly ten days before they started to trust her and work with her?

Should he tell Isaac about how hurt Erica had been when Isaac pulled away from them? About how his decision to stick by Derek instead of by her and Boyd was what pushed her over the edge into agreeing with Boyd's plan to skip town? About how they'd both used Cora as a sort of crutch to get over Isaac and about how Boyd had lost his two first loves within the same three months? About how Boyd loved Cora now, but it just wasn't the same as the way he'd felt about Isaac?

Boyd settled on a simple explanation. "I don't really know. They took you out for a shower and you never came back. I thought you were dead."

Behind Boyd, Cora stirred, and he turned back to look at her. Her hair was matted with blood from a wound that had already healed and Boyd found himself grateful that Cora wasn't blonde. Otherwise the blood might have reminded Boyd of the way Erica looked while she was dying, while she was bleeding out from the wounds Kali had inflicted on her.

Cora sat up and put her hand on Boyd's arm. It was a simple touch, but those simple touches that said, "I'm here, I'm with you," were what kept Boyd sane during three months without the moon. "Mornin'."

"Early afternoon, actually," Isaac said with a wry smile. Boyd sort of hated that smile, but he'd also sort of missed it so much he felt like grabbing Isaac close. "So, I guess you're Derek's sister?"

Cora gave Isaac an unimpressed frown as she scooted to the edge of the bed, so she could sit next to Boyd. "We've met before."

"He doesn't remember how he got out," Boyd said, folding Cora's hand in his. Maybe being out of the vault, being back with his pack, should have made Boyd feel safer. It didn't.

"All I remember is this girl who helped me." Isaac frowned and looked past Boyd, like he was trying to remember something. "She didn't even tell me her name."

Cora squeezed Boyd's hand, like she did when she was worried about something, but her face looked just as blank as before. Before Boyd could ask her what was wrong, he heard the footsteps from downstairs (Boyd had assumed they were Derek's) were coming up the staircase.

Derek appeared at the doorway and he just looked at the two of them for a moment, like he wasn't sure they were actually here. Like he'd assumed they were dead and finding out they weren't had totally rocked his world off its axis.

When he finally spoke, Derek told Boyd, "I buried Erica this morning. I can show you where."

The sudden mention of her made the loss fresh in Boyd's mind and brought tears to his eyes. Boyd jutted out his chin, squeezed Cora's hand, and told Derek, "I'd like that."

"Why don't you let Isaac show you the new place? I'd like to talk with my sister."

Boyd started to get up, but Cora held his hand tightly and pulled him back. "I want him here. I don't know you anymore, Derek. But I know Boyd. We've spent the last three months together. I trust him."

The implication of "I don't trust you" was so heavy in the air that Boyd cringed. Maybe he and Erica had told Cora a lot about Derek, and not all of it good. She seemed particularly upset by the way he'd targeted them for The Bite.

"Fine." Derek said, his jaw muscles bulging as he clenched them. Derek gave Isaac a look, but he didn't shoo Isaac away. Turning back to Cora, Derek asked, "Where have you been the last six years?"

"With Aunt Janet," Cora replied. "Where have you been?"

"Aunt Janet's alive?" Boyd thought Derek looked far more surprised that Boyd had ever seen from him. "Why didn't she ever visit Peter? They always told us we were the only visitors."

"There were hunters everywhere when we left Beacon Hills. It didn't seem safe to come back," Cora explained, dropping Boyd's hand and standing up to face Derek, even though she was quite a bit shorter. "Boyd told me Laura survived the hunters?"

"She and I went to New York," Derek said, sighing and leaning back against the wall. Boyd watched Cora's posture relax as well and let out a breath he hadn't known he was holding. It had been a habit before he was turned - watching a conversation and getting invested in the outcome even though it had nothing to do with him. Boyd hadn't been able to shake the habit since becoming a werewolf, either. "We didn't … we didn't know who Mom's contacts were. We didn't know who to call. We always assumed if no one ever visited Peter, that meant everyone was really gone."

"Well, we weren't. And we could have used you guys." Cora blinked rapidly, like she was about to cry. Boyd moved closer and put his arm around her shoulders. "Do you know how hard it was having to watch everyone burn, and then having to go get used to another pack? Another alpha? When I heard you were alive, that you were the alpha, I thought maybe everything would be okay again."

"I'm sorry I'm such a disappointment." Derek said, and Boyd could tell that he meant it. The attitude was so different from the Derek Boyd knew, from the cocky son of a bitch who'd given Boyd the bite. In his surprise, Boyd looked over at Isaac, silently asking him what the hell was going on. Isaac shrugged and nodded, like he knew what Boyd was thinking. Later, Boyd would ask Isaac what exactly had happened during Boyd's absence.

Then Derek asked, "Did anyone else survive?"

Cora took a breath, but she hesitated for the briefest second before answering. Boyd thought that anyone who knew Cora wouldn't have noticed it. "Just Jan's baby. His name is Lucas Peter."

Derek chuckled sadly. "After his dads. Don't-" Derek tilted his head and listened for a moment. "Don't tell Peter about his son. He's not the same man we knew."

"Wait, isn't Peter dead?" Boyd asked, looking back and forth between Isaac and Derek. "Last I heard, Derek killed him and became the alpha."

Isaac slung his arm over Boyd's shoulders and said, "My friend, do I have some stories to tell you..."

~*~

If Kali thought driving a pipe through Derek's torso would cause the worst pain he'd ever experienced, she was wrong. After enough damage, shock sort of set in and made everything numb. Derek wished there was such a thing as the shock response for emotional pain. If there was, his body had never been kind enough to provide it.

Having a pipe through his chest wasn't comfortable by any means, and even though he was an alpha, he could still die by bleeding out. That's how Peter had been killed, after all.

Mostly, Derek was worried about Cora. She'd been held captive by the alpha pack for a long time – how long she wouldn't say, but long enough for Erica's scent to be embedded in her skin. To see her back in their clutches, to know that he hadn't done enough to protect her, that hurt worse than being impaled.

Part of Derek actually wanted to egg her on, to goad Kali into finally putting Derek out of his misery. His survival instinct was too strong to let him take the easy way out. He tried to give up, over and over again, but his body just kept fighting to stay alive.

He deserved death, though. He'd over reached and grown greedy with power when he'd decided to make betas. Laura never needed any betas other than him. She hadn't wanted them, because she didn't know who to trust.

The person she should have been suspicious of was with her day in and day out. Derek tried to tell Laura a million times that he'd shown Kate and Liz how to get into the house and out again undetected. He was the reason everyone was dead.

And yet, miraculously, Cora was alive. She was alive and shaking in Ennis' hands and Derek had to fight for her. There were no other options. He had to listen to Deucalion's speech and time his move right and fight the alphas with every last breath.

But when they let him go, Derek's body wouldn't cooperate. It wouldn't let him go on a suicide mission to fight back with a gaping wound in his chest. It barely let him breathe.

Cora rushed to Derek's side when Ennis let her go, pressing one of Derek's towels to the gaping wound. "What do I do?" She asked, just as the pain flooded back in. "How do I help?"

Derek knew she couldn't help him. He had to focus and do this on his own. She could however, "Hold my hand."

"What?"

Struggling to pull air into his collapsing lung, Derek grabbed Cora's hand in his. "Just...okay?"

"Yeah," she replied, giving his palm a tight squeeze. "Yeah, okay."

Derek could see it now. Cora would get hurt because of him. Everyone got hurt because of him. He'd paid a visit to the teacher, Jennifer, and for an instant, he'd let himself be charmed by her, be drawn to her.

The last time Derek had felt a connection like this with someone, they'd burned his house down. Derek expected that Jennifer didn't have such dark motives, but if he let her near him, she'd get hurt just the same. Look at what had happened to Erica. Derek had let himself be charmed by the girl trapped inside her illness. He'd given her the bite.

He'd as good as killed her himself. Peter could talk all he wanted about making new betas, like they weren't irreplaceable people with dreams and souls. Derek knew he couldn't do it again. He couldn't give anyone else the bite. He didn't want to. Even if it led to his downfall. Derek would fight to the last breath – he couldn't will himself to give up – but he wasn't going to bring anyone else into his life. Not now. Not ever.

Cora held Derek's hand for the whole two hours it took him to heal. When it was done, Derek petted Cora's hair and pulled her into a tight hug. "Thank you."

Sounding more than a little skeptical, and yet vulnerable, she said, "Oh, yeah, okay. Sure. You're welcome."

Derek thought that maybe there was more to her reply than he could see or hear at the moment, but he didn't want to speculate on what that might be. He'd found his sister and Derek was going to enjoy her company until he either convinced her to abandon him, or he got her killed.