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The Three Little Hunters

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Stiles knows he’s dreaming.

He knows, but he… he can’t stop the fear that crawls up his throat, locking his elbows to his sides even as his hands shake.

Gerard’s voice echoes as he instructs, “Tell me what the oleander does, Stiles.”

He remembers this lesson.

His knees brush the table as he sits on a bench in his mom’s greenhouse, her garden spread before him. It’s one of the first times he’s ever been allowed near it without her by his side.

He feels Gerard’s hands on his shoulders, pressing down, holding him still as he starts to fidget.

“Tell me what the oleander does, Stiles,” Gerard repeats.

He swallows hard and points at the flower, mumbling, “Drowsiness, slowed heart rate, and shaking.”

“And the belladonna?”

“Blurred vision, confusion, hallucinations, and…” he licks his lips, trying to remember… “um… convulsions.”

“Good. Another name for it is…”

“Deadly nightshade.”

“Correct.” A pause. “The common name for the cicuta is?”

“Water hemlock.”

“Three more.”

“Snake weed, false parsley, and,” he swallows, “children’s bane.”

“The primary toxin is?”

“It’s…” He tries to remember. He saw something about it in one of the books his dad gave him but he can’t remember.

He’s too quiet for too long.

Gerard tuts and squats down next to him. “The primary toxin in cicuta is cicutoxin.”

Stiles nods. He knew that. He should have known that.

“Do you know what it does?”

“Causes seizures.”

“But the primary cause of death?”

He frowns, kicking one of his feet as he thinks. “Respiratory paralysis?”

Gerard’s voice is warm. “Very good.” His hand, when it comes down on Stiles’ shoulder, is gentle this time. “I want you to learn more about cicutoxin and tell me about it the next time I come visit.”

At the time, Stiles nodded meekly, desperate to please this oddly daunting man with the potential for violence in every line of his old body.

Now, he shakes his head. “No.”

The hand squeezes, pressing harder. “You will do as I say, Stiles.”

“No, I…” He shakes his head again, trying to push himself to his feet. “Let me go. I’m dreaming. This isn’t real.”

Gerard does, but only to pull him forcefully to his feet, hands balled in the front of Stiles’ shirt.

The dream shifts and he’s slightly older, a knife being forced into his hand by a grinning Kate.

“Come on, kiddo. You have to learn one way or another. Protect your sister’s legacy.”

He looks down at the knife then to the lamia in chains in front of him, hissing her fury as her slitted eyes flash.

“I… I can’t.”

“You can and you will,” Gerard informs him.

“Dad says,” he starts.

Kate cuts him off, her face made of strict lines as she snarls, “Your dad isn’t here.” She wraps his fingers around the knife and pulls him closer. “Now do it.”

He’d closed his eyes the first time.

Now, he dispatches the lamia quickly – mercifully – and stares at the pale blue blood spattered on his hands.

“Efficient,” Gerard sniffs. “Now for the next one.”

He inhales a shaky breath, forcing his hands to still, but when he turns to the next captive, it’s Scott in the chains, his big brown eyes wet with tears as he begs from behind a gag.

“No, I… I can’t, he’s my friend.”

“He’s is only an animal,” Gerard corrects him. “Now put him down.”

Stiles wouldn’t – he couldn’t – but he sees his hand rising up from the corner of his eye –

And as the knife descends, all he can see is Scott’s resigned face before he feels the heat of blood splash across his face, his friend’s eyes saying I always knew you were just like them.

-----

Allison finds him in the kitchen a few hours later, staring into the backyard as the sun starts to lighten the sky. She curls an arm around his waist and mashes her face into his shoulder. “Why you up?” she slurs sleepily.

“Bad dream.” He shifts his stance, holds her up as she leans on him. He admits lowly, “I’m scared, Ally.”

She hums, rubbing her cheek against his shirt. “Me too.”

It probably shouldn’t make him feel better, but it kind of does. They’ll get through this together, just like they always do, and hopefully everyone will make it out alive.

He pushes those thoughts away and sighs, wrapping an arm around her shoulders. “We can do this.”

“We can,” she agrees, leaning up and squinting at him. “Now make me French toast or I’ll eat your arm.”

He croaks a laugh, rolling his eyes, but he downs his coffee and moves toward the fridge anyway as his twin angrily slaps the coffee maker into submission.