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I Don't Need Protecting

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- Sunday, August 14th, 2011 -

Stiles is filled with nervous excitement as he drives to Derek's loft. Tonight is the pack's weekly meeting, during which any important or urgent news is shared—like something else threatening to kill them all—and then things usually turn into a more relaxed gathering. Stiles' favourites are always the evenings when the pack ends up gathered on and around the sofas with a bunch of pizzas and a couple of movies. He feels privileged to be a part of something so good, especially since it had just been him and Scott for years. Now Stiles has many friends, more than he really knows how to handle, but he wouldn't change a thing about it.

When he thinks back on how they all got here, it seems unbelievable.

From Stiles sticking his nose where it didn't belong, to Scott being bitten by Peter and both of them being thrust into the supernatural world. From Derek Hale returning to Beacon Hills, all frowns and growls and threats of bodily harm, to them teaming up with Chris and Allison Argent to take down Peter Hale. They were such a mess back then, and things weren't any better when Gerard Argent showed his ugly geriatric face. They were actually worse, because, with Derek biting Erica, Isaac and Boyd, there were more people to try to keep safe.

Scott's betrayal at the end of Gerard's reign of terror was a tough pill to swallow, both for Stiles and for Derek, but Stiles thinks that they're all in a good place now. Scott has finally accepted his place in the Hale pack, Erica and Boyd came back and apologised for leaving when things got tough, and Jackson is actually less of a douchebag now that he has more people around him to keep him in check.

Derek is also nicer, which was shocking at first and now leads to the second reason for Stiles' excitement about tonight.

Ever since middle school, he harboured a massive crush for the unattainable Lydia Martin. He would wax poetic about her to whoever would listen, which more often than not turned out to be his best friend Scott or his dad, the local sheriff. Sometimes Scott's mother, Melissa, would get an earful as well. Recently, however, Stiles' crush on Lydia has finally waned, only to be replaced by another.

Derek is why movie nights are Stiles' favourite pack meetings, solely because he usually ends up sitting next to him, feeling the heat of his body and smelling his natural manly musk. Several times Stiles has been tempted to lay his head on Derek's shoulder, maybe even nose into his neck to get more of his delectable scent, but he has wisely managed to catch himself every time he has got the urge so far. Things have been good between them lately—dare Stiles say they've even been great, Derek smiling grudgingly at his jokes and sharing meaningful glances with him—but Stiles doesn't want to risk that he is reading things wrong and end up with his throat ripped out, as Derek has promised to do in the past.

When Stiles arrives at his destination, the takes the freight elevator up and enters Derek's loft to find it already filled with his fellow pack members. He greets them all with a wave and his signature grin but freezes just past the threshold when he sees their grim expressions. Right away Stiles knows that this meeting won't end up being one of leisure.

"Oh God, who's gonna kill us all now?" he whines.

"No one," Derek answers gruffly, his arms crossed over his chest. Today he wears a pair of jeans and a dark-purple henley, black chest hair peeking out of the V-neck.

Tearing his eyes away from said hair, Stiles meets Derek's gaze. "Then what's with the faces?"

"We need to talk."

"Isn't that what we're doing right now?" Stiles jokes, trying to lighten the mood. He flinches when Derek yells at him.

"This is serious, Stiles!"

"O-okay, well…tell me what's going on then."

While he waits for a response, Stiles walks further into the loft and approaches the sofas. There is a space open between Scott and Erica. He moves to fill it, but Erica scoots sideways and blocks him.

Stiles frowns, feeling the first tendrils of dread creeping up his spine. "What the hell?"

"You don't belong here," Derek says finally, his voice monotone.

His heart beating fast in his chest, Stiles looks at Derek wide-eyed for several long seconds, until the silence is broken by Jackson coughing uncomfortably. "What do you mean I don't belong here?" he enquires worriedly. "I'm pack."

"No, Stiles. You're not."

This can't be happening, Stiles thinks. Why is this happening?

He scans the faces of the others. They all either look away from him or stare back with unreadable expressions.

"Leave," Derek orders, uncrossing his arms.

"No, but…I am pack. Right? Scott?" Stiles turns to his best friend for backup but is let down when Scott doesn't even acknowledge him.

"You're not pack, Stiles," Derek says menacingly, a thin ring of red appearing around his pupils. "You've never been pack. The only reason I let you to stick around this long was because you've been mildly useful, but now that we have Lydia, who can give the pack everything you have to offer while being a banshee to boot, that usefulness has run its course and it's time for you to leave." Derek stalks around the coffee table and gets up in Stiles' face, maintaining eye contact the entire time. "You'll never tell anyone about us. You'll go back to your ordinary life and leave us alone. You won't try and talk to anyone in the pack again, and if you do, I've already instructed them to ignore you and walk the other way. You're. Not. Pack. Now get out of here."

His eyes stinging, Stiles looks imploringly at Derek as a last-ditch effort to get him to reconsider, but Derek is unmoved. Picking up the last shred of dignity he has left, Stiles turns and walks with his head held high out of the loft. He manages to hold it together during the elevator ride and the walk to his Jeep, knowing that Derek and the betas will be able to hear him if he cracks now.

It isn't until he is behind the wheel of his Jeep and has driven a few blocks away that he pulls over to the side of the road and allows the tears to fall.

* * *

Back in the loft, Derek doesn't relax until the sound of Stiles' engine has faded into the distance, at which point he falls heavily in the seat Isaac moves aside to free up for him.

"Are you sure we made the right decision?" the beta asks his alpha, looking guilty.

"Yeah…that didn't feel right," Erica adds.

"It was what was best for him," Derek defends, running a hand down his face. He feels just as guilty as his betas—more so, probably, because he had to be the one to do it. "It's too dangerous to have him around right now."

Scott puts his head in his hands. Allison rubs his back consolingly when he takes a shuddering breath.

"Are they really that bad?" Lydia questions from next to Jackson.

"It's a pack made up entirely of alphas, Lydia," Derek answers patiently, unable to look away from the door. "There are a least five of them. Imagine facing off against five Peters, back when he was the alpha."

"Still…I feel awful."

"We all do, but it had to be done."

"The way he smelled when he left," Boyd says quietly. "It was so sad."

Derek knows what the taciturn beta means. Even now, the acrid stench of Stiles' heartbreak permeates the whole loft.

Erica sighs. "I just hope he forgives us when this is all over."

Lydia hums her agreement. "Derek especially."

Said alpha sits up and frowns at her. "Why me especially?"

"You really wanna go there?"

Derek tenses again when, under her knowing gaze, he comprehends what she meant. He had thought he was doing a good job of keeping his feelings for Stiles a secret, but apparently not. When Stiles had looked at him before striding out of the loft, as hurt and vulnerable as Derek has ever seen him, Derek almost gave in. He almost went back on everything he had just said and told Stiles that he could stay, that he was sorry and he hadn't meant any of it. But he couldn't let that happen.

You did the right thing, he tells himself. So why doesn't it feel like it?

* * *

- Monday, August 15th, 2011 -

Stiles doesn't want to get out of bed for school the next morning. He knows what the day will entail. It will be filled with him trying his hardest not to look at his ex-friends in class, them avoiding him in the halls and him eating by himself at lunch like the loser he has apparently always been to them. He'll be an outcast like he used to be, only this time it'll be worse because Scott won't be by his side.

When he hears his dad in the kitchen downstairs, Stiles reluctantly drags himself out of bed and meanders across the hall to the bathroom. He shuts the door with a soft click and then stares tiredly at his reflection in the mirror above the sink. He has huge dark bags under his eyes, which themselves are red and puffy because he spent most of the night crying instead of sleeping. He doesn't think it's just his imagination that his face also looks gaunt, his cheekbones more prominent than they were just yesterday, and his hair, which he'd been growing out after Lydia told him he should, is limp, lifeless and greasy.

In short: he looks just as shit as he feels. It will take herculean effort to hide all of this, effort he doesn't think he is capable of.

After stripping out of his Spider-Man pyjamas, Stiles stands beneath the shower spray and leans his forehead against the cool tiled wall. Finding the energy to do anything is, like he'd thought, nearly impossible, but somehow he manages to sloppily wash himself with some sandalwood shower gel and put some shampoo and conditioner in his hair. When the last of the suds have eddied down the drain and the water is clear, Stiles switches off the shower, steps out of the stall and quickly dries himself with one of the fluffy white towels that are hung up on the rail to his left.

"Stiles!" he hears his dad shout from downstairs. "Hurry up! You're gonna be late!"

"I don't care," Stiles mumbles as he walks back to his bedroom to get dressed.

He selects a pair of maroon chinos and a dark-grey sweater and then braces himself when he stands at the top of the stairs, backpack in hand. He doesn't want his dad to see how pathetic he is, so he knows he has to fake it.

"Time to put on the performance of a lifetime, Stiles. You can do this."

"Stiles!" the sheriff shouts again.

"I'm coming!" Stiles yells back, a bit more aggressively than he intended.

Calming himself, he descends the stairs, deposits his backpack in the foyer and joins his dad in the kitchen. The man wears his sheriff's uniform and drinks slowly from a cup of steaming coffee, some of which Stiles thinks he could really use. He offers his dad a rictus smile on his way to the coffee maker, hoping it will be at least somewhat convincing, enough that his dad won't try too hard to question him. After he has poured himself a cup of coffee, he takes out a pot of vanilla yoghurt from the fridge and a spoon from the cutlery drawer and sits at the island. As he eats his meagre breakfast, he can sense that his dad is watching him, but Stiles doesn't show that he knows.

Hell if he is going to be the one to initiate anything.

"You okay, son?" the sheriff asks after a minute, putting down his cup. "You look tired."

"Yeah, I'm fine. Just lost track of time last night and stayed up way too late reading. You know how it is."

The sheriff hums his acknowledgement, but Stiles can still see him watching him out of the corner of his eye. His dad is evidently not entirely convinced, but Stiles must have told a convincing enough lie to get him to consider that whatever is going on with his son isn't pressing. Stiles smiles at him again and eats another spoonful of yoghurt. He can't taste it.

"Well, I'm here if you need me," the sheriff says, clapping Stiles' shoulder on his way past. "I've gotta get to work. Don't be late for school."

"I won't," Stiles promises.

He keeps eating until he hears his dad exit the house, then he drops his spoon with a clatter and shoves the half-eaten yogurt pot away. He isn't really hungry.

Stiles can't put it off for much longer without arousing suspicion later on, so he gulps down his coffee, burning his tongue and throat in the process, and walks into the foyer to put on his shoes. Once that is done, he gathers all the nerve he has left, slings his backpack over his shoulder, and leaves for what is sure to be a long and awful day.

* * *

Stiles was wrong. 'Awful' doesn't even begin to cover how bad his day has been so far, and it isn't even lunch yet.

As soon as he walked into the main building by himself, people were staring at him. There was no way for him to know how his peers had already discovered that he had been ditched by all of his friends, but they had, and as he ventured through the halls to his locker, he could feel his face turning red as other students kept pointing and even giggling at him. He couldn't remember the last time he'd felt so humiliated, a feeling that wasn't help at all by the fact that several of his ex-friends were around to witness every second of it.

Erica, Boyd, Isaac, Allison and Scott were by Scott's locker, which is of course close to Stiles'. As soon as Stiles got near enough, all of the betas had looked at him and then swiftly turned their backs as if he was something disgusting they would rather avoid. And he knew they could hear what some of the others were saying about him, because he could hear it all clear as day even with his human senses. The fact that they did nothing to try to stop it shouldn't have surprised him—they did nothing to stop Derek from kicking him out of the pack, after all—but for some reason it did.

And it hurt. God, it hurt so much.

He'd hidden his face in his locker until the bell rang, and as soon as he left it, the books he'd had in his hands were knocked to the floor.

"Watch where you're going, loser!" the culprit had sneered at him. As he walked away, Stiles heard him gloating and cackling with some of his boorish friends.

When Stiles finished gathering his books, he looked up and saw Scott at the end of the hall. His erstwhile best friend had seemed torn, but because he left Stiles there to deal with it by himself, Stiles figured he was just imagining it. Maybe his peers were right. Maybe he really is disgusting, and Scott had finally realised it and ditched him now that he is settled into the Hale pack.

Now, as the lunch bell rings, Stiles hightails it out of English class, desperate not to be in the same room as even one of the pack. He hurries alone to the cafeteria and gets in line with his tray, very much aware of how he is still drawing the attention of some of the other students. He sticks out like a sore thumb, because everyone had very recently got used to always seeing him with at least one other member of the pack. Usually several.

Stiles keeps his eyes averted, staring at the kitchen behind the staff serving out lunch until he reaches the end of the line and can't avoid the crowd any longer. As soon as he faces them, he feels panic. There are even more pairs of eyes staring at him than he thought there would be, and as he searches for an empty table he is disheartened to find that there isn't one. There are at least three or four students eating at the emptiest ones, and it's this that causes Stiles to make his escape. His tray still in his hands, he tries to stop himself from running as he heads toward the doors, planning on eating his lunch in a bathroom stall like all the loners do in cliché teen movies.

Right before he leaves the cafeteria, he can't resist looking at the table usually occupied by the pack. They are all there, looking right back at him. Stiles' heart breaks just a little bit more when he notices that his seat isn't just empty but has been completely removed.

They don't need it, just like that don't need him.

* * *

Scott is beside himself with conflicting emotions. He wants to obey Derek, wants to trust that what they are doing to Stiles is the right thing and it will all work out in the end. But seeing Stiles struggle on his own made the wolf in him whimper with sadness, scratching and clawing to get out so that he could dash over to his best friend and hug him tight, tell him he didn't mean it and of course he needs him.

Of course he loves him.

The last straw is when Stiles has the guts to show up to lacrosse practice at the end of the day. Scott is shocked to see him there—he thought for sure he'd skip it, considering that four of the people who abandoned him are on the team. But no, Stiles is still determined to go on like everything is fine, displaying the inner strength that Scott has always admired.

When Coach Finstock begins putting them through their paces again, Scott, Isaac, Boyd and Jackson all do their best to stay away from Stiles, none of them wanting to make it any worse for him. A few of the other guys on the team aren't so kind.

When Stiles ends up with the ball and makes a run for the goal, Greenberg, the asshole, gives chase and tackles him unnecessarily hard.

Scott winces when Stiles hits the ground.

"Greenberg! What the hell was that?!" Finstock yells, reassuring Scott that he wasn't alone in noticing the rough treatment.

"I was just stopping him from scoring, Coach," Greenberg defends himself.

Finstock glares at him and then tells Stiles to walk it off.

Stiles takes that order and walks it all the way off the field, not listening to any of Finstock's ensuing shouts for him to come back.

Scott watches Stiles go and thinks that the salt in the air isn't just from sweat.

* * *

"We have to let him back in!" Scott screams at Derek after lacrosse practice has ended. He should be at the veterinary clinic for another shift with Deaton, but he had to make a detour to the loft first to try to talk some sense into his alpha.

"We can't, Scott," Derek says. He sits on his sofa with a book open in his lap.

"Yes we can!"

"This is what's best. When the Alpha Pack is gone, he can come back."

Derek picks up his book again like that's the end of it, which incenses Scott. He strides forward and knocks the book out of Derek's hands, just like he'd witnessed the bullies do to Stiles. The alpha's head snaps up, his nostrils flared and his eyes flashing red, but Scott doesn't back down. He may be a part of Derek's pack now, but that doesn't mean he has to take things lying down if he doesn't have to.

"Leave it alone, Scott," Derek says menacingly.

"No, I'll never leave it alone! And you shouldn't either!" Scott rebukes.

"Why not?"

"Stiles is never going to forgive us if we don't start grovelling right now. You didn't see how he was today, Derek."

This breaks through the bearded man's anger, his eyes returning to their human hazel colour. "What're you talking about?"

"He looked…destroyed," Scott explains, his voice quiet and wounded. "I haven't seen him like that since his mom died, and those jackasses didn't help."

Derek perks up, alert. "Jackasses?"

Scott feels hope blooming in his chest, thinking that he is actually getting through to his alpha. "Yeah, the bullies who picked on Stiles today because he was by himself," he apprises. "There were a few of them, pushing him around and calling him names and stuff. That kind of thing happened now and then when it was just me and him, but it died down after we started hanging out with the rest of the pack. Strength in numbers, I guess. But now it's worse. You know teenagers can be cruel—hell, I've done some shit I'm not proud of—but never like this."

"It'll blow over in a few days," Derek excuses, but he doesn't fool Scott. Now that he is looking closely, he can tell that the alpha is perturbed.

"And if it doesn't?"

Derek sighs. "Look, I ordered you to stay away from him for a reason, and I'm not going to take it back. But…I can give you guys a second order."

Scott waits for whatever solution Derek thinks he has found.

"I don't want you guys to get into trouble, but if you see someone picking on Stiles again, get them to back off."

"That's it?" Scott asks incredulously.

"That's the best I can do."

"Bullshit!"

"Careful, Scott," Derek warns, his eyes red again. "Don't push me."

The beta glares at his alpha and then storms out of the loft. Fuck Derek, he thinks as he climbs onto his bike. And fuck his orders.

He reaches a decision. As soon as he has finished up at the clinic, he is going to go to Stiles' house and throw himself at his feet. He knows that Derek is wrong, and Scott should never have allowed last night to go the way it went. He just prays that he can make up for the pack's mistake before it's too late.

* * *

Stiles is exhausted when he gets home. It's good that his dad is still at work, because he wouldn't be able to put on a half-decent act for him like he had that morning. He briefly considers doing the exact opposite, telling his dad everything that happened last night and today, but he pushes the thought aside. He isn't some kid who needs his daddy to tell the other children to stop picking on him.

Ordinarily, Stiles would be hanging out with the pack right now, maybe going to see a movie. Hell, he'd even take Lydia dragging him on a shopping trip.

But nope, it's just little ol' him.

With a weary sigh, Stiles trudges upstairs and enters his bedroom. A nap is in order, but he only makes it halfway across the room before he is stopped by a sound.

"Look what the wolves hung out to dry," says a voice, startling him.

Stiles whirls toward the voice with a hand clutched to his chest and gapes when he sees a woman standing in the corner by the window. She has long dark hair, a pretty face, and is maybe in her late twenties or early thirties. On her toned body she wears a white tank top, which looks unusually bright against her caramel skin, and a pair of tight jeans. She is barefoot, and it's this choice that leads Stiles to deduce that she is a werewolf. Her toenails are claws which clack against the hardwood floor as she begins advancing on him with a sinister grin.

"W-who are you?" Stiles asks tremulously, backing away.

"My name's Kali. Your alpha should really keep a tighter leash on you."

When his back hits the wall, Stiles fights to prevent himself trembling and meets Kali's gaze when she comes to a stop a couple of feet from him. At the mention of Derek, he narrows his eyes, his stupid heart still belonging to the man even after yesterday.

"What do you want with Derek?" he demands, his tone accusatory.

"Don't worry your pretty little head about it."

"Why are you here?"

Kali's sinister grin becomes amused. "Really? You haven't figured it out yet?"

Stiles stays silent.

"Fine, I'll tell you. It's not like it matters if you know, because you're not going to be able to warn anyone."

In a flash, Kali punches clean through the wall right next to Stiles' head, leaving a gaping hole. Out of fear, Stiles falls violently on his ass—a mistake, as it gives the werewolf even more power over him.

Her eyes red now, Kali crouches in front of him and cups his cheek almost affectionately. "Here's what's going to happen next: I'm going to knock you out, take you somewhere far away from here where your band of mutts will never be able to track you, and then me and a few of my fellow alphas are going to have a whole lot of fun with you. You're going to help us destroy your pack. If you refuse to talk, we'll make you." At this, she digs her claws into his cheek, piercing skin. "Understand?"

Stiles doesn't respond, but it doesn't matter. Kali only grins again, then fists her hand in his hair and bashes his head against the wall.

Everything goes black.

Chapter Text

- Monday, August 15th, 2011 -

When he has finally been allowed to leave work at the veterinary clinic, Scott pushes his way out of the back entrance and immediately walks over to his bike to unlock it. Everything seems to glow beneath the rays of the setting sun, but Scott barely notices, doesn't have time to stop and admire something as mundane as a sunset. There'll be plenty more in his lifetime, but what he can't be sure there will be plenty more of are times spent with his best friend. He could have already lost him forever with his continued thoughtlessness, but he prays to whichever deity will listen that it won't be too late to make amends for yet another shitty thing he has done.

Scott's desire to get to Stiles makes him a bit more careless than he ordinarily would be, to the point where he almost knocks his bike over as he climbs onto it, his military jacket catching on the right handlebar. He stops, takes a breath and tries again, this time finding success. He rides quickly, tearing out of the parking lot and down the roads separating the clinic and Stiles' house.

Five minutes later, after weaving in and out of the other cars that are still on the roads, he reaches his destination. The sheriff's cruiser is gone, but Stiles' Jeep is in the driveway. Scott thinks that of course it is, because where would Stiles think of going when all of his friends have thrown him aside like the assholes they all apparently are? He parks his bike next to the large blue vehicle, walks around to the wall with Stiles' bedroom window and deftly climbs up to it. It's open, so he slides inside and looks around the room for Stiles.

But Stiles isn't there.

Scott frowns and uses his ears to locate his friend, but he can't hear another heartbeat in the whole house. In fact, he can't hear anything in the house at all, apart from the occasional creaking of pipes and a tap dripping slowly in the kitchen sink downstairs.

Switching senses to his nose, Scott takes a careful sniff of the air in Stiles' bedroom, really picking apart the scents, and recoils when he is hit with a very unpleasant concoction of old come and abject terror. The first scent isn't unexpected—Stiles is a teenage boy, after all, and jerking off is perfectly normal—but the second…Scott doesn't know why that would be here if everything was alright.

What could have happened to cause a smell like that?

Scott pulls his phone out of the back pocket of his jeans and is about to send a group text to the other members of the pack, asking them all if they have heard from or seen Stiles since school ended. It's as he is typing that he sees it out of the corner of his eye.

He has been in his best friend's bedroom enough times to basically have everything in it memorised almost as well as the contents of his own. His visits have been less frequent recently, what with Allison and all the supernatural shenanigans that have been going on, but looking up, Scott is sure he would have noticed if there was a hole in the wall the last time he was here.

Instead of asking if anyone knows where Stiles is, Scott dials Derek.

"What?!" is the alpha's short opening, clearly still miffed about their confrontation earlier.

"I think something bad's happened to Stiles," Scott says, getting straight to the point because he's still pissed at Derek, too.

"What?" Derek repeats, his voice quieter this time.

"I'm in his bedroom and he's not here." Scott apprises his alpha of the scent of fear and the hole in the wall.

"You're still there?" Derek enquires, the sounds of rustling in the background.

"Yes."

"Wait for me."

Derek hangs up before Scott can respond. "Asshole…" he mutters. With a sigh, he sits on the edge of Stiles' bed and makes some more calls.

* * *

When Stiles wakes up, the first thing that registers is his splitting headache. It feels like someone is digging through the back of his skull with a tiny jackhammer. With a groan he opens his eyes, but his vision is too blurry to make out much of anything. Initially he doesn't remember the events that lead to him being in such a state, but then, when the blurriness begins to clear and he starts to take in his surroundings, it all comes back to him:

His friends abandoning him.

His hellish day at school.

Returning home to find that alpha woman waiting to ambush him in his bedroom.

Her promise that he will help her bring down the Hale pack.

What was her name again? Stiles ruminates on it for a long time. It began with a K, he recalls that much. Shaking his head, he stops trying to think of it and refocuses.

The room he is in is spacious and dirty. The ground is concrete and the walls metal, and there are blacked-out windows high up on two parallel walls, between which run huge metal beams with rusty chains hanging from them. An old warehouse. Most striking of all is the table on which Stiles lies. Also made of metal, Stiles' wrists and ankles are secured to each corner with leather restraints similar to those he has seen in mental asylums in movies and on TV. A quick few tugs against them proves futile, so he ceases and conserves his energy.

Lastly, when he looks down the length of his body, Stiles sees that he has been stripped of his sweater and feels violated. The woman—Kali, that was her name!—must have removed it while he was unconscious.

A small mercy—a very small one—is that she hadn't taken the clothes from his bottom half as well.

A few minutes later, Stiles hears something outside; a car engine. He tenses up, holds his breath and listens intently as the car comes closer, tyres crunching over loose gravel, and then the sound of it shuts off and he hears several doors open and slam closed. So there is more than one person. Kali had said that there were five of them, all alphas like her, so this shouldn't come as a surprise to him. It doesn't, not really, but only because he is too busy internally freaking out about what Kali and her friends are going to do to him once they enter the warehouse.

Stiles contemplates feigning sleep, just like he used to do when he was a kid and his parents would check to make sure he wasn't staying up past his bedtime. But he knows it would be as futile as struggling against his bonds. Thanks to their enhanced senses, the alphas would be able to tell that he is awake no matter how good his acting is.

There is nothing for it but to hide his fright and meet whatever they dish out with as much strength as he is capable of.

"Oh, look who's awake!" Kali says delightedly as she steps inside the warehouse, still barefoot.

"Damn, I was hoping I'd have to wake him up myself," says another person who comes in behind her. A huge brute of a man, he wears a white tank top, jeans and scuffed black trainers. Stiles is for a moment reminded of Derek, mainly because he has seen the bearded man dressed similarly in the past, but that is where the similarities end. Unlike Derek's, this man's muscles are so big they are ugly instead of attractive, and his light-brown hair is buzzed short like Stiles' used to be.

Three more people follow. Two are boys who look around Stiles' age. They're twins, one in a red T-shirt and the other in green. Despite their age, Stiles can see the menace in their eyes and is certain that they can be just as vicious as Kali and the older male alpha.

Last to come into the warehouse is another man. At first, with the others standing in the way, Stiles can only hear the clacking of something plastic hitting the concrete, but then the fifth and final alpha walks around to stand in front of the rest. He has shaggy brown hair and black glasses covering his eyes. He is smaller than the man behind him but is still muscular and looks plenty threatening, even with the white cane in his hand. Stiles frowns at this oddity. He has never heard of something like this before.

A blind werewolf.

Even stranger, it's evident from the way the alphas have positioned themselves that the blind one is in charge. Even from his place on the table, Stiles can feel the power emanating from him. It's stronger than all of the others, making goosebumps break out across his exposed skin. He clenches his jaw when the blind man comes closer and stops right next to the table.

"Pleasure to meet you, Mr. Stilinski," he says, his voice deep and raspy.

"Wish I could say the same, whoever you are," Stiles retorts. He thinks he'll get hit for it, but the alpha just chuckles.

"I'm Deucalion, but you can call me Duke. We won't be seeing much of each other—"

"I doubt you'll be seeing much of anything," Stiles snarks, the words slipping out before he can stop them. Apparently fear makes his already weak filter all but nonexistent.

He would feel terrible about making a joke at a disabled person's expense, but as said disabled person currently has him tied half-naked to a table and probably plans on having other, even more awful things done to him, he doesn't really give a crap.

"Show some respect!" Kali screeches, storming forward with her top lip curled back in a snarl. She stops when Deucalion holds up his hand.

"That's enough, Kali," he says, his voice calm but injected with authority.

"But—"

"I said that's enough."

The female alpha growls at Stiles but backs off again. It's all Stiles needs to see to have confirmed to him that the blind alpha is serious business. He didn't even have to raise his voice to get Kali, an obvious loose cannon, to obey.

"You've got quite the mouth on you, Mr. Stilinski," Deucalion observes, turning back to Stiles. "I like it, but I wonder if that'll still be the case afterwards."

Stiles gulps. "After what?" he dares to ask.

Deucalion just smirks and moves on. "This is Ennis," he says, walking back over to the tall, obscenely muscular alpha. "And these two," Deucalion continues, standing between the twins with his free hand on one of their shoulders, "are Aiden and Ethan, the newest additions to our little pack here. They're quite special, as I'm sure you'll discover eventually. As I said before, you and I won't be seeing much of each other in the coming days, but I have every faith that my friends here will keep you from getting lonely."

Releasing the twin's shoulder, Deucalion smirks at Stiles, no doubt able to hear his heart beating a mile a minute. "We've been watching you for a while now, learning your patterns, what makes you tick. We need to know everything we can for when it's time to make our move."

"I'm flattered, but I'm a more of a one-person-at-a-time kinda guy and none of you are really my type. Plus, stalking? So not sexy, dude."

"I thought you had a thing for alpha werewolves?" one of the twins sneers.

Stiles keeps his face impassive. "What?"

The other twin speaks next: "We've been watching, remember? You're not subtle."

Deucalion's smirk widens into a grin. "As has just been demonstrated, we've managed to learn quite a lot so far, but unfortunately there are some things we can't know just by observing you and your pack. That's where you come in. We took you because you're just human and therefore the weakest target and the easiest to break. You're going to tell us everything you know. If you cooperate, then I'll order the others to kill you all quickly. Make this more difficult than it has to be and, well…"

With that ominous sentence left purposefully unfinished, one of the twins—Aiden, Stiles thinks—takes Deucalion's arm and escorts him outside, leaving Stiles with Ethan, Kali and Ennis.

"What to do first?" Kali wonders aloud. She leisurely circles the table, scraping a clawed index finger around the edge of it as she goes.

"You mean what do we ask him first," Ethan corrects her.

Kali bares her fangs at him, her red eyes gleaming with sick excitement. "No. I don't."

The younger alpha frowns. "I thought we were supposed to interrogate him."

"We will."

Kali walks another circle around the table before coming to a stop above Stiles' head, meaning that he can't keep all three werewolves in his sight at once.

"You thinkin' what I'm thinkin'?" Ennis asks her, taking up a position by Stiles' feet.

The female alpha nods. "I think so."

"Is someone gonna let me in on this or what?" Stiles complains, still somehow maintaining his unaffected facade. Despite his question, he would be willing to bet his own life and the lives of his dad and all of the Hale pack that he already knows what Kali and Ennis are conspiring to do to him, and he can't help when tremors of fear rack through his whole body.

"Duke said we had to get answers out of you," Kali says, running her fingers through Stiles' hair. Her claws cut into his scalp. "But he didn't really specify how, and he didn't say we had to try our hardest right away."

"Which means," Ennis takes over, "that we can have some fun with you first."

Ethan's expression is disapproving but he doesn't try to stop the other two werewolves, choosing instead to walk away from the table and sit down against one of the metal walls so that he isn't a direct part of what will surely be Stiles' torture. He is apparently the least sadistic of these fuckers, information that the human makes sure to remember. It could come in handy later down the line, if he actually gets a chance to make use of it.

"Where should we start?" Kali asks Ennis, looking like she will begin salivating at any moment.

"Dealer's choice."

Kali is pleased by this response. "How sweet of you."

Stiles glances between their faces, still on the hunt for useful information while he remains coherent, and notes how they stare at each other. There is a relationship between Kali and Ennis, he is sure—lust at the very least, but maybe a sick sort of love too. If psychopaths can fall in love. Stiles doesn't know.

He is shocked out of his thoughts when Kali's hand appears in his line of sight. She reaches over his head and presses the claw of her index finger to the bottom of his chest, in the small dip created by his barely developed pecs. Next, his vision is obscured by the curtain of her dark hair as she brings her mouth to his ear and whispers to him. "I wonder what your pack will think of you when they see you again before they die. With how bloodthirsty my Ennis can be, and how much it gets me going too to see him in action, will you even look like yourself?"

Still blind to everything but Kali's coconut-smelling hair, Stiles jolts atop the table when he feels one of Ennis' claws on the sole of his right foot.

"You ready?" Ennis asks his fellow alpha.

"You bet," Kali replies, finally raising her head to watch their work with glee.

For a few awful seconds they do nothing to him. Stiles is suspended in anticipation, which he guesses is a part of their game.

But then, as one, they cut into him deep, and he can't stop himself from screaming.

* * *

Derek is panicked as he runs through the last hundred metres of trees that the Stilinskis' backyard backs onto, sweat beading on his brow and the underarms of his grey tank top darkening. Scott's phone call plays on a loop in his head, along with countless scenarios of what Stiles could be going through this very second if Scott was right, each more horrible than the last. He could have taken his Camaro, but it was quicker to go on foot, putting his all into it so that by the time the trees finally break and he races around the side of the building to Stiles' window, he is out of breath; a rarity for him.

As he climbs through the window, Derek thinks back to the many times he has done so in the past.

At first, it was to make Stiles do what he wanted, carrying out research and gathering other info for him, which usually meant shoving him around. He regrets how rough he'd been with the boy back then, pushing him into walls—likely bruising up his back something fierce—and threatening to do worse things if he didn't do as he was told. Stiles had never shown he was hurt by Derek's less-than-gentle touches and mouthed off to him insouciantly every step of the way, even if it riled the werewolf up even more. Derek supposes now that such bravery was commendable, if stupid.

Then, after being forced to rely on each other in many life-or-death situations, Derek's visits changed. If he had to pick a single incident that lead to his opinion of Stiles improving, he would pick the time Stiles held his paralysed body above water when they were both trapped for hours in a pool by the kanima. He made an effort to be less hostile following that. He wouldn't say he was exactly friendly, but things were better, and Derek no longer used violence to get his way. Stiles was willing to help him by then, no questions asked.

Derek had grudgingly been grateful—not that he ever thanked Stiles for his help.

Then, before the Alpha Pack became a threat, his visits had even started to turn into pleasant affairs, and as he touches his feet down on Stiles' bedroom floor, the memory of the brightness of the boy's smile the last time he'd come here unannounced almost overwhelms him. It was like looking into the sun. The fact that Stiles was actually happy to see him was dangerous—Derek didn't want to get hurt again by whatever inexorable force was drawing them closer, and he didn't want Stiles to get hurt because of him either. But now, as he stares at the hole in the wall Scott had described to him and breathes in the lingering scent of Stiles' fear and something foreign, he knows his caution was pointless.

Stiles got hurt because of him anyway.

"What do you think?" Scott asks him, getting up from where he sits on Stiles' bed.

"I don't know," Derek says quietly, looking away from the wall. He inhales deeply through his nose, trying to pick the foreign scent out of the others. "Someone else was definitely here."

"Really? How can you tell?"

"By using my nose, Scott," Derek snaps, his temper short.

The beta glares at him but doesn't bite back. "Do you recognise them?"

"No. They were another werewolf, though."

"An alpha?" Scott asks, eyes wide with fear as he comes to the same conclusion as Derek.

"I'd say it's likely."

"I told you we shouldn't have kicked him out!"

Derek bows his head, already feeling like every inch the failure he is. Will he ever be good at this? He wonders how the hell his mother and Laura did it. They'd made it look so damn easy, and here Derek is fucking everything up seemingly at every turn. It's no wonder his mother had always planned on Laura taking over for her and not Derek.

"You were right," he admits, loath as he is to do it.

Someone else enters the window then, and Derek spins around to see Erica a few feet away. Boyd climbs in after her.

"Don't feel too bad," Erica says, displaying a softness that isn't common coming from her. "I doubt it would've helped if we hadn't."

Scott rolls his eyes. "Oh please. It's totally his fault."

"We all did it, Scott," Erica reminds him, more forceful now. "Yes, it was Derek's idea, but we all went along with it and we have just as much blame for that. But like I said, I think Stiles would've been taken anyway."

"How d'you figure that?"

"Think about it, idiot! Stiles would've been by himself at some point, even if it wasn't today. Hell, he'd have been on his own later on tonight, so whoever took him could've just waited until he was asleep to do it. The only thing us all kicking him out of the pack did was probably make him believe that we won't try to find him. Which we will. Right?" She directs this last part at Derek, her gaze hard.

"Right," Derek agrees. He'll tear the whole state apart if that's what it takes.

"What about his dad?" Boyd speaks up, reminding Derek of his presence.

"Yeah…we'll need to tell him something, since I doubt we'll be able to find Stiles in the next few hours," Erica adds. "They'd be smarter than that."

It's Derek who sits down on Stiles' bed this time. "We tell him the truth."

"Are you sure that's a good idea? I mean, Stiles wanted his dad left out of this—"

"What else can we tell him, Erica?"

"I don't know! Maybe we can just say that Stiles is staying at one of our houses or something, for a few nights if we have to. Maybe there's some big project we have to do for school."

"That could work," Scott murmurs.

"Well we'd better decide soon, because I think I hear the sheriff coming home," Boyd interjects, his eyes on the window.

Derek concentrates and, sure enough, he is able to pick out the rumble of the sheriff's cruiser getting closer. He briefly closes his eyes to block everything else out while he comes to a decision. "We tell him the truth," he says after a moment, opening his eyes again. He looks at Scott. "Call your mom. It'll help to have her here when we tell Stiles' dad. You two," he says to Erica and Boyd, "call everyone Scott hasn't already called, and I'll get in touch with Deaton and Chris. We're going to use all the resources we have to get Stiles back."

"I already called everyone else," Scott apprises as he walks toward the door. "The only ones I couldn't reach were Lydia and Allison."

"Boyd, try them again," Derek orders.

The laconic beta already has his phone pressed to his ear. "On it."

While he does that, Derek tries to think of the best way to tell the sheriff. Total honesty is a must. He just hopes he won't end up with a bullet between his eyes when Stiles' dad finds out what he did.

Chapter Text

- Monday, August 15th, 2011 -

When the Alpha Pack finally leaves Stiles alone, he is in unbearable pain. What Kali and Ennis did to him made what Gerard Argent put him through seem like child's play. It hurts just to breathe, the many cuts Kali had made in his chest being disturbed by the expansion of his lungs. His throat isn't much better off with how much he had screamed himself hoarse. He didn't want to, hadn't wanted to give the alphas the satisfaction of hearing him scream, but he just couldn't stop it.

Before they left, they untied Stiles from the table. Through the pain he was surprised that they would just leave him like that, but then he'd heard them speak:

"Aren't you worried he'll escape?" Ethan had asked Kali, as confused as Stiles.

The female alpha laughed. "God, no."

"This is just another part of the game," Ennis added.

Ethan frowned on his way out of the warehouse. "I don't get it."

"Let him think he has a chance." Ennis strode ahead and opened the door. "It'll make it even sweeter when he realises there's no way he's getting out of this. There's nothing better than giving someone hope and then taking it away again to watch the despair set in when they accept their fate."

Kali put her arm around Ethan's shoulders. "You'll learn that soon enough, newbie."

That was the last thing Stiles heard before the doors were slammed shut.

Now, he still lies on the table and tries with all his might to push through the pain and just sit up so he can get a proper look at himself. He opens his mouth to cry out when he manages to get his body to cooperate, but all that comes out is a choked sound because he has already screamed himself raw. He shakes all over as he closes his eyes tight and breathes purposefully in and out to get a handle on things again. It isn't easy, but eventually his breath comes normally and he is able to concentrate on something else but the overwhelming pain. When he opens his eyes and looks down at his body, he almost wishes he hadn't bothered.

Kali definitely achieved what she said. He is unrecognisable.

His torso looks like it's been through a shredder. Hundreds of cuts litter his skin, some shallow and some deeper and still bleeding sluggishly. Almost none of his pale skin is visible, painted red with his own blood instead. No wonder he hurts so much. Shock makes him retreat into the back of his mind. It's safer there, feels like everything he is feeling and seeing is happening to someone else. It allows him to take stock of things without panicking again.

Still looking at the cuts, Stiles picks out a word carved into his sternum:

BITCH

It seems especially cruel, even by the alphas' standards. He'll have it for the rest of his life. He wonders when they made it, and who. He stares and stares at it, picking apart the crude lettering until a memory comes back to him, hazy because of the pain he was in at the time. He'd heard Ennis speaking about him while he cut the slur into him, specifically about his place within the Hale Pack.

"I bet they keep you around as the pack bitch, don't they?" the musclebound alpha had taunted him.

"I'd say it's likely," Kali chimed in. "Why else would they? He's got nothing else to offer."

"True. If I didn't already know where you've been, I might be tempted to take your ass for a spin myself. But there's no way I'm sticking my dick in there."

They'd laughed and that is all Stiles can recall. He sniffles, wipes the tears he didn't know he'd cried from his cheeks and stops his examination, unable to take any more. He looks blearily around the warehouse instead. It's dark outside now, and the interior is lit mainly by the few dusty bulbs hanging from the high ceiling that aren't broken or simply gone completely. The table on which he sits is positioned right beneath the brightest of these lights, something that Stiles doesn't think is a coincidence. The alphas must have chosen to put it here so that he would be able to clearly see the damage they had done to him.

Moving slowly, Stiles shifts closer to the side of the table and swings his legs over the edge. He tries to stand up, but right away his legs fail him when sharp pain emanates from the soles of his feet, reminding him of where Ennis had started his torture. On the dirty ground now, Stiles whimpers when he looks at his feet and sees that they are in a similar state to his torso. Walking is going to be next to impossible, but he doesn't have the strength in his arms to drag himself toward the exit and there is no way he is staying where he is. Even though what Kali and Ennis had said makes it clear to him that his chances of actually escaping are slim to none, he has to try. He can't give up.

"Move, Stiles," he whispers to himself. "You can do this."

The small pep talk works. He is so sick of everyone thinking of him as weak. The Alpha Pack. The Hale Pack, who were supposed to be his friends.

"You're not weak. You're not. You're gonna show them all how fucking wrong they are."

The idea of sticking it to his ex-friends, especially Derek, has Stiles reaching for the edge of the table to pull himself back up. Like everything else has been so far, it's tricky and requires herculean effort, but he achieves his goal and remains standing, even when the pain from his feet makes his legs shake violently. He stands there for a few extra seconds, just to make sure he won't fall right back down with the first step he takes. Once he is ready, he lifts his right foot, gently puts it forward and does the same with his left before the pain can affect him.

Every step is like he is walking over hot coals, his soles burning and making him wince. He grits his teeth and bears it until he reaches the corner of the table, which is where the real test of his mettle will begin.

Without anything to support himself with, Stiles has to move slower, pausing in between each step to balance himself. He keeps his eyes locked on the exit. He doesn't let himself think about what the hell he will do if he actually reaches it and gets outside. He has no idea where the alphas have brought him, whether he is even still in Beacon Hills. It stands to reason that he would be close, because the whole point of the Alpha Pack taking him was to use him to get to the Hale Pack and they wouldn't go too far away from their true targets. But they wouldn't want to be too close either, lest they be caught before they can pull off whatever dastardly plan they have cooked up.

When Stiles reaches the wall after God knows how long, the exit is just a few feet to his left. He is sweating all over with the effort it took just to get here. He looks behind himself and sees through the dim lights that he has left a trail of bloody footprints and smears in his wake. The floor would have probably been disgusting when this warehouse was still in use, but now that it has been abandoned for what has presumably been years, Stiles doesn't want to think about how dirty it is and how that dirt has now got into the wounds on his feet.

He just hopes whatever infection he has no doubt given himself won't set in until he is out of here. But as his luck has been going so far, it seems highly unlikely.

Guess I'll have to be quick, he thinks.

Stiles makes himself move again, sliding along the wall toward the exit. He can feel the air from outside and shivers. It's cold but it feels so good against his overheated skin, so he limps faster and grins triumphantly when he finally reaches his goal and finds that the doors aren't locked. They open right up for him and he ventures out into an alleyway with another warehouse right in front of him. Looking side to side, Stiles discerns that he is in an entire complex of them that, from his position in between two towering walls, seems to go on endlessly. He is dismayed by this discovery but doesn't let it break him. All the cutting didn't break him, so this won't either.

He keeps going.

* * *

John Stilinski arrives homes and is glad to see his son's Jeep parked in the driveway. He has been thinking about Stiles' behaviour that morning all day long. It distracted him from the work he should have been spending all of his concentration on, but he just couldn't get his son's glum mood out of his head, wondering what on earth caused it. Stiles was obviously trying to put on a front for his benefit, pretending that he was fine, but John saw right through it and knew that something was seriously wrong. But he had to get down to the station and Stiles had to go to school, so he couldn't really delve into it like he wanted to.

Well, as he gets out of his cruiser and walks up to the front door, he thinks that he is about to change that.

When he walks inside, John doesn't expect Scott to come down the stairs to meet him. One of his theories had been that Stiles might have had a falling out with his best friend, but either that wasn't the case or they have already patched things up. Either way, John smiles warmly at Scott and asks him if Stiles is up in his bedroom.

"Uhh…no, he isn't," the teenager says. He sounds nervous.

John hangs up his gun holster and frowns. "Where is he then? Out getting junk food or something?"

Scott shakes his head, and John starts to get a very bad feeling, his well-attuned instincts coming through for him. "What's going on?"

A few seconds later he hears more people on the stairs and watches as Erica Reyes and Vernon Boyd join them on the ground floor. Their appearance makes him even more confused, but that is nothing compared to when Derek Hale brings up the rear, looking absolutely terrified and doing an even worse job of hiding it than Stiles had hid his sadness that morning.

"What are you doing in my house?" John asks him, on guard. He knew that Stiles was somehow involved with Derek Hale but was never able to get proper answers out of him. As such, even though he feels sorry for everything the young man has been through, he doesn't trust Derek at all.

"Why don't we all go sit down?" Scott suggests, pointing to the living room. He leads the way and Erica, Boyd and Derek all follow him, so John has no choice but to follow as well.

"Somebody speak right now and tell me what's going on," he demands, staying on his feet while the teenagers fill the sofa.

Derek remains standing as well.

"Stiles is missing," Scott says seriously, and John feels like someone has dumped a bucket of ice water over him.

"What?"

"This is going to be tough to understand, Sheriff, but…none of us have been telling you the full truth for some time now," Derek takes over, not quite meeting John's eye.

"I figured that out for myself, thank you, Hale. I'm waiting. Tell me what Scott meant when he said Stiles is missing."

"I think we should start at the beginning."

"By all means."

John waits on bated breath. He keeps his face stern but deep down he is pleased to finally be told what the hell has been going on in his son's life for the past few months. It's been a long time since he has felt included, since they were close and there were no secrets between them. He has sorely missed those times. He still loves Stiles more than anything in this world and nothing will ever change that, but it has been incredibly hard to feel pushed out and like his son no longer trusts him enough to let him in. And it wasn't the typical teenage behaviour he was anticipating as Stiles grew older, when all teenagers start to distance themselves from their parents because it's seen as uncool to be too close to them or they want more independence. John could always tell it was more than that, and to finally be close to answers, even if they're not from Stiles himself, is exciting.

"I guess I'll just rip the Band-Aid off," Derek says. He takes a deep breath, looks directly into John's eyes this time and says, "We're werewolves."

John blinks dumbly, not comprehending. "Excuse me?" He can't believe Derek would waste his time with this crap.

"It's the truth, Sheriff. Watch."

In the next couple of seconds, Derek Hale's entire face changes. John recoils as it happens, as Derek's eyebrows disappear, his brow gets heavier, coarse hair grows down the sides of his face and, most striking of all, his hazel eyes glow red. The younger man makes a sound like an animal growling and bares teeth that are no longer human but sharp and deadly-looking before everything changes back to how it had been a few moments ago.

"H-how?" John stammers, wishing he had his gun on him still.

"I don't know how. My family have always been werewolves, for generations and generations," Derek responds.

If there is one thing that John is good at, it's compartmentalising. So he does it now, shoving all of his disbelief and fear into another part of his brain to deal with later. Right now Stiles is still his main priority, and he needs more answers.

"Tell me everything."

* * *

"Let me get this straight."

Having just finished relaying to Stiles' dad everything that happened with Peter and Gerard Argent, Derek waits patiently as the older man comes to grips with it all. He knows it's a lot to swallow. He just hopes the sheriff will move on from it quickly so they can all go out and start the search for Stiles, who he so foolishly cast out to protect him. Having Melissa McCall here with them would have really helped, but according to Scott she was swamped at the hospital when he called her and couldn't get away to assist with easing the sheriff into this new scary world.

"The Argents, who are werewolf hunters, murdered your family—Kate Argent, specifically—just because you were werewolves."

"That's correct," Derek confirms, uncomfortable with the topic but pushing through it.

"And she did it by…seducing you."

Derek clenches his jaw, self-loathing washing over him as it always does when he thinks about how he didn't see Kate's true intentions before it was too late. "Yes."

"Then, earlier this year, your Uncle Peter murdered Laura Hale to get her alpha power so that he could get revenge."

"Yes."

This goes on for a while, Stiles' dad restating everything he has just been told to make sure he has it all right and then adding it into the order of events he thought he knew before today. When they finally reach the end of the debacle with Gerard Argent and move on to the Alpha Pack's looming threat, Derek's nerves return all over again because the easy part is over. With all of his betas also showing the sheriff their beta faces, the sheriff now believes what he has been told, and now Derek will have to tell him what he did to his son.

"Okay…it's crazy, but I think I understand all of that," John says slowly, gripping the armrests of his armchair. "But that doesn't explain where Stiles is now."

"We believe he was taken by the Alpha Pack," Derek says carefully.

"Why was no one protecting him?"

Derek averts his gaze. "I thought we were."

John glares at him. "Well you were apparently doing a crappy job of it, because I don't see him in this room, do I?"

"No…"

"What was this 'protection' you were giving him?"

When Derek stays silent, John gets out of his chair and walks over to where Derek has stayed standing next to the sofa on which Erica, Boyd and Scott sit. He moves close so that there are barely a few inches separating their faces and Derek has no choice but to look him in the eye. "What did you do?"

"I…"

"Tell me what you did to my son!"

"I made everyone break off all contact with him. I thought the Alpha Pack wouldn't come after him if he wasn't associated with us anymore."

John stares at him. "Well that explains some things."

"It does?"

"Yes. It explains how down in the dumps Stiles seemed this morning. And it was all because of you."

Derek flinches. John speaks nothing but the truth.

"If I didn't need you to get him back, I'd kill you right now. The hell with my job." John looks at Derek like he is nothing more than a piece of shit on the sole of his shoe and then backs away again, retaking his seat in his armchair. "But I do need you, so I won't do anything to you. But this isn't over. When we have Stiles back—and you'd better pray it's when and not if—you and I are going to be talking again. Maybe I'll even go to Chris Argent and get some of those special bullets you said he has."

All Derek can do is nod. He would deserve nothing less.

"Right, now that that's settled, how do we find my son?"

Chapter Text

- Monday, August 15th, 2011 -

Stiles isn't sure how much longer his body can hold out. He has lost a lot of blood, and his feet are killing him with every step he takes through the complex of warehouses.

Like he'd thought when he first got out of the one the Alpha Pack stowed him in, the complex seems endless. He turns corner after corner without seeing even a sign of the end. Maybe he is so delirious that he is getting turned around, but he doesn't think so. If he accidentally doubled back on himself, he would see the trail of bloody footprints he is still leaving in his wake. That hasn't happened yet, so it must just be that wherever he is really is as big as it seems. How a place like this became abandoned is a question he doesn't have the answer to, nor has he got any closer to figuring out where it is. Surely he would have heard something about it over the years were it near Beacon Hills.

As Stiles forces himself to keep going, pushing his body nearer and nearer its breaking point, he becomes convinced that the Alpha Pack has taken him further away from his hometown than he had first theorised, which will make getting back a bitch. It will also make any rescue efforts that are being launched that much more difficult. Whether or not his pack—his ex-pack, he reminds himself—will be a part of that effort is yet one more thing he doesn't know, but surely his dad will raise the alarms when he gets home and finds that his son isn't there.

At least his dad will still care enough about him to look for him.

When Stiles reaches the end of yet another alleyway and walks out into a four-way intersection between warehouses, he is close to giving up.

"Oh come on…" he says, resting his hands on his knees and bowing his head. "This is ridiculous."

"I agree."

Startling violently, Stiles must reopen several of the cuts on his body in his haste to turn in the direction from which the voice came. He squints through the darkness and feels fear suffuse through his entire being when he sees a silhouette approaching. All he can make out is that whoever this person is, they are smaller than any of the members of the Alpha Pack, at least those he has encountered thus far. Kali had said there were only five of them, and with Ennis, Ethan, Aiden and Deucalion, he has met all five. But for all Stiles knows, Kali could have been lying. He wouldn't put it past her. It would actually be the least bad thing she has done to him so far, telling one simple lie. That bitch.

As the silhouette comes closer still, more details become apparent.

The stranger is distinctly feminine, as was their voice. She has long straight hair and skinny limbs, and the heels she wears clack across the concrete ground.

"You don't need to be scared of me, Mieczysław," the female says, her voice silky smooth.

Stiles frowns at being addressed by his real name, which is something he thought only his dad and Scott knew. "Who are you?" he asks her.

The woman keeps walking, and when she exits the alleyway and enters the intersection with Stiles, enough light shines down on her from the moon above their heads that Stiles can see her face. He doesn't recognise her, but her skin is olive-toned and soft. Her face looks youthful, but her eyes are filled with an intelligence that only comes with age and experience, meaning she must be older than she looks. When she doesn't speak again, Stiles repeats his question.

"My name is Marin Morrell," the woman finally responds, stepping closer still.

Stiles steps back in time with her. "What the hell do you want?" he spits, pain making his temper short. Her name doesn't ring any bells.

"I'm here to help you."

"Yeah, right."

"I understand why you are wary of me, but I'm telling you the truth."

"Oh yeah? Then how'd you find me if you're not working with them?"

Marin Morrell keeps advancing. "You're right, I do work with them—Deucalion, specifically. But it isn't my job to hurt you."

Stiles' heart drops when his back hits the wall of a warehouse. "Then what is your job?"

"To heal you."

Stiles scoffs.

"Come with me, Mieczysław."

"I'm not going anywhere with you! You're a trick!"

"I assure you I'm not. I ordinarily wouldn't even interfere with something like this, but due to the wounds Kali and Ennis have already inflicted upon you, Deucalion saw fit to call me in to mitigate the damage."

Stiles expels a sharp breath through his nose, processing this. "Why?"

Marin Morrell's expression becomes pained. "Because he did not wish for you to be hurt this badly this early. Kali and Ennis got…overzealous…and have been suitably reprimanded."

"Well that makes me feel so much better."

"If you truly want to remain in this state, then by all means. You can barely stand, so even I could probably force you. But I'd rather not. I want for you to trust me."

"That's never gonna happen. You work for them."

Morrell sighs as if greatly disappointed. She looks briefly down at the ground as if thinking hard about something, and when she looks back up at Stiles her eyes are no longer as gentle as they had been but determined instead. Stiles is immediately on-guard and wishes he could back away further from her, but there is nowhere else to go when Morrell finally closes the remaining distance between them and grabs his arm. Her grip is shockingly strong for a woman of such small stature.

"Let go of me!" Stiles yells, trying to free himself. But like she said, he is too weak.

"Stop struggling, Mieczysław. You'll only injure yourself further and create even more work for me."

"What a fucking shame that would be!"

Morrell sighs again and continues dragging him onward. From the blood he can see on the floor, she is taking him right back the way he'd come.

After a minute, Stiles does finally give up fighting her. It isn't doing him any good. All it does is make him feel woozy, like he'll throw up at any moment, so he goes lax in her hold and allows himself to be brought back inside the warehouse with the table the Alpha Pack had tied him to. Morrell directs him to lie down on it again, and Stiles considers refusing for all of two seconds before acquiescing. He's just so tired all of a sudden.

"You've worn yourself out," Morrell comments, appearing above him with a large black leather bag in hand.

"No shit…"

"Let's get this done."

Stiles could worry about what is inside the bag, but his vision is blurring around the edges and he can barely focus on anything.

Just as Morrell opens the bag, he falls unconscious.

* * *

"Right, now that that's settled, how do we find my son?"

The sheriff's question is met with silence at first. None of the betas seem to know how to answer it, not wanting to upset the man any further. It falls to Derek, which, as he finally sits down, he supposes it should.

"We'll try to track him," he says, sitting forward with his elbows on his knees.

"How?"

"By using our senses. Our sense of smell, mainly. As werewolves, it's incredibly strong."

"Right…werewolf noses."

Derek is about to speak again when he hears a car pull up outside. He looks through the window over his shoulder and spots Chris Argent's black vehicle now next to the sheriff's cruiser, meaning that reinforcements have finally arrived. Derek swallows tightly, anxiety coursing through his veins like it does anytime he has an interaction with any member of that cursed family. At least now the worst offenders are dealt with and the relationship between them has been slowly getting better, to the point where Derek is actually reasonably comfortable having Allison as part of his pack. He wonders if all of that progress is about to go out the window when Chris finds out the part he played in Stiles being taken by the Alpha Pack.

"They're here," he says, getting to his feet again. Sitting down when Chris enters would make him feel more vulnerable.

"Who?"

"Someone who'll hopefully be able to help us find Stiles."

When the doorbell rings, the sheriff is out of the room in a flash to answer it. Derek hears the two men exchange stilted pleasantries at the door and then the sheriff is back. Chris follows behind him, a bag in his hand that smells potently of wolfsbane. He is dressed in dark jeans and a tight black T-shirt, perfect for blending into the night.

"Quite a mess, Derek," are the first words the hunter speaks to him.

Derek refrains from snapping back. It won't get them anywhere. "I'm aware."

Chris' ice-blue eyes pierce through Derek, giving him the impression that he can see right into his core, picking him apart. "Well…no use placing blame now, I guess," the older man says.

Derek hears Scott grumble under his breath, "Not so sure about that…" He doesn't acknowledge him

"Anyway, let's get down to business, shall we?" Chris suggests, turning to the sheriff. "Each second we waste on this is another second your son could be going through something terrible. We want to find him quickly."

Stiles' dad clenches his jaw. "Agreed."

"They've got you up to speed on everything, right?"

"Right."

"Great. We can skip that."

Chris dumps the bag in his hand onto the coffee table and opens it. From it he extracts a black handgun, the model and make of which is lost on Derek. He doesn't really know firearms at all, has never had the need. Recognition is clear on the sheriff's face, though, and he takes it when Chris holds the grip out to him.

"It's filled with wolfsbane bullets," the hunter says, pulling out some extra clips of ammunition. "The breed used is strong enough to slow any werewolf down, even an alpha."

There is a second in which the sheriff glances at Derek and Derek thinks that he is about to have the gun aimed at him. He tenses, prepared to leap out of the way, but the sheriff's eyes leave him again and he looks back down at the gun in his hand, examining it closely. Derek exhales slowly and tries to slow his racing heart, but it takes him too long. He can feel his betas' eyes on him and knows they can hear it rabbiting in his chest, but he ignores them and is glad when the perfect distraction presents itself in the form of the rest of his pack arriving at the house. Isaac is first, then Lydia shows up with Jackson and Allison.

"Sorry we didn't get here sooner," the huntress says, sitting down next to Scott. "We were at the movies."

"That's fine," Chris assures his daughter. "You're here now."

"So what's the plan? Is Stiles really missing?"

"You think we'd all be gathered here if he wasn't?" Erica points out impatiently.

Allison shrugs but concedes the point.

"The plan is that the werewolves are all going to go out and try to track Stiles' scent," Chris announces, taking control. Derek lets him, not trusting himself to be in charge right now. "If you have success, contact the rest of us before pursuing the trail."

"And us?" the sheriff enquires.

"You should go with Derek," Chris says.

The sheriff glances at said alpha again, his expression grim. "Fine."

Great, Derek thinks.

"Meanwhile, I'll be in touch with some of my contacts, see if anyone's heard anything that might give us a clue as to where the Alpha Pack is keeping Stiles. The Argent name may have been dragged through the mud by my sister and my dad, but it still carries some stock in hunting circles and I doubt the Hale Pack is the first they've screwed with. There should be some sort of trail somewhere."

"Sounds good to me," Stiles' dad assents. He retrieves and puts on his gun holster and then replaces his usual gun with the one Chris gave him.

"Everyone ready?" Chris asks the group at large.

"Yeah."

"I guess."

"As I'll ever be."

Derek is proud of his pack's willingness to help out, especially on a school night, but he says nothing as they all file out of the house.

"Come on, Hale!" Sheriff Stilinski barks at him from the foyer.

Taking a deep breath to gather his resolve, Derek follows Stiles' dad outside and over to his cruiser. It's going to be a long night.

* * *

Four hours later, Derek has never felt more like dirt as he trudges after the sheriff back up the front path to his house. The time they'd spent looking for Stiles was uncomfortable and tiring, with so much going unsaid between them. The silence had spoken louder than any words could, though, and Derek could feel how much Stiles' dad dislikes and resents him for his son being taken. He could see the accusation in his eyes every time he spoke, the words always clipped.

Twenty minutes ago they'd both reluctantly decided to call it a night and had told the betas to get some rest too. It wouldn't do Stiles any good if, whenever they find him, they are too weak and exhausted to defend themselves against the Alpha Pack. None of them had liked it, and Derek understood why, but the sheriff managed to convince them that it was for the best. That it wasn't Derek the pack were listening to should have made the alpha feel terrible, because it made it clear that Stiles being taken right under his nose made them all lose faith in his capabilities as the leader. But it was what it was, and Derek couldn't say he blamed them.

Besides, this was about Stiles, not him, so he'd just have to suck it the fuck up.

"What the hell?"

Derek looks up from the ground at the sheriff's bewildered words. He steps up behind the other man to find out what caused them.

Lying on the doorstep is a white envelope with John's name written on it in block letters. There could be a perfectly innocent explanation for its appearance, but something tells Derek that the contents of the envelope won't lead to anything good.

John picks up the envelope but doesn't open it right away. He shares a look with Derek which communicates that he is having the same misgivings as him and then unlocks and opens the door. Once they are inside and in the living room, Derek takes the envelope from the sheriff and sniffs it for any scents. Right away he smells the earthiness that is a part of every werewolf's scent and knows that the Alpha Pack is responsible. He feels the envelope and at first thinks there is nothing inside, but then at one corner he feels something small, flat and hard.

"Open it," Stiles' dad orders him, sitting down in his armchair, his hands curled around the armrests so tightly that his knuckles are white.

Derek uses a claw to cut into the envelope like a letter opener, then he tips the flat object out onto his palm.

"What is it?"

"It's an SD card," Derek replies, holding it up for the sheriff to see.

"Do I even want to know what's on it?"

"Your guess is as good as mine, but I'd say probably not."

"We need to see it anyway."

"Agreed."

Since the betas should all be in bed by now, Derek sits patiently on the sofa while John calls Chris and tells him about this most recent development. The wait for the hunter to arrive is agonising, but soon Derek has Stiles' MacBook open in front of him on the coffee table and John and Chris sit down either side of him as he inserts the SD card into the slot on the left side of the machine. When the drive shows up in the Finder window, Derek cautiously clicks on it and is taken to a folder containing several photographs and one .mp4 video file.

From all the pale-pink skin and shiny red in the thumbnails, Derek can guess what the subject of all of them is.

"Ready?" he asks the two older men.

"Yes," Chris confirms.

"As I'll ever be," is John's response, his voice full of fear.

Derek highlights the first photograph and presses the spacebar so that it fills the screen. His stomach turns.

"Fuck…" Chris whispers next to him. Derek shares the sentiment.

The photograph is of Stiles, as he'd suspected. The teenager is bare from the waist up and tied down to a metal table in some sort of huge, dimly lit room. The background is too dark for Derek to spot any identifying characteristics that might give him a clue as to Stiles' location when the photograph was taken, but he isn't really looking hard. He is too busy staring at what has been done to the boy he cast aside like yesterday's rubbish. He almost can't comprehend it, the amount of cuts that litter the entirety of Stiles' naked torso. The cuts all blend together into a patchwork of horrors, and Derek can't even see Stiles' face. He isn't sure he wants to know the expression that must have been on it after this.

"My baby boy," John croaks, tears in his eyes.

When Derek doesn't move on to the next photograph after several more seconds, Chris takes over. He picks the MacBook up and rests it over his knees, far enough away that, if he leans back against the back of the sofa, Derek can still clearly see the screen.

The next photographs are all similar, and it isn't until Chris reaches the last one before the video that Derek picks out the word that has been carved into Stiles' sternum. He feels like he really might throw up now, and apparently John is of much the same mind. The sheriff leaps up from the sofa and rushes into the kitchen, and a second later Derek hears the sound of him retching into the kitchen sink because he couldn't hold on long enough to make it upstairs to the bathroom.

While the sheriff is out of the room, Chris plays the video. The camera is trained on Stiles on the table. A dark-haired woman stands on the opposite side, her eyes as red as the blood on Stiles' body.

"Hello, Mr. Stilinski," another person says from behind the camera. A man. He sounds like he is reading from a script, and from the way the shot shakes slightly, he is holding the camera in his hand, probably a small, cheap thing. "As you can see, we have your son. I guess that Derek Hale has told you the truth by now and he is probably with you as you watch this."

Derek is watching the video with Chris Argent and not Stiles' dad, but close enough, Derek supposes.

"We don't have any demands. No ransom or anything. We just want you to know."

The woman shares a significant look with the man behind the camera and then shifts into her beta form. She dances her claws over Stiles' chest for a moment and then, with a single finger, she drags it down the very centre, leaving a fresh, deep cut in her wake.

Stiles' scream chills Derek to his very bones.

"We'll be in touch again soon."

With those parting words, the video ends, and Derek is left staring at a black screen.