Chapter 1: Empty
Derek cocked the hammer of his pistol, stared down the cold metal length of the barrel. The creature on its knees in front of him didn't even flinch. Derek knew what he was supposed to do. He pressed the gun to the thing’s forehead. It didn't move, nothing changed, not even its steady shallow breaths.
They’d been chasing their prey for weeks, had driven a few of them into the woods outside town. The sun was going down, they were running out of time. He knew what he should do, but he didn’t know why he didn’t do it.
"What are you doing, Derek?!" Laura hissed. "Take the shot. The others are getting away!"
Brown eyes the color of dried and dying leaves watched him impassively. Derek’s chest began to tighten, there wasn’t enough air. There was nothing there in the depths of those eyes. It was like the creature believed it had nothing that Derek could take away.
It was wrong, it was all so wrong, those eyes on any living creature, like they had seen things that Derek couldn't even imagine. Horrors and pain that people read about, saw on television, but never really believed could exist, that there were monsters that could make those things real. Those empty eyes looked like they had seen all of that and more. Derek watched everyone he had ever loved except for his sister burn to death as his family home crumbled into ash, and he still wasn't prepared for what was hidden in the dull unblinking gaze that watched him. It was like the werewolf couldn't even muster up enough emotion to be indifferent, it was just empty.
"This gun is loaded with bullets that will kill you. You know that, right?"
His hands were beginning to shake, but that unnerving gaze never shifted. The werewolf leaned slightly back from the gun, removing its forehead from barrel. The muscles in Derek's arm tensed up, his finger twitched on the trigger but didn't pull it. Those broken brown eyes looked at him steadily as the werewolf opened its mouth and stuck it over the end of the barrel. It folded its arms behind its back, and just sat there.
Something in Derek broke.
The monster, it was just a teenager, maybe a couple years younger than him. It… the werewolf… he had short buzzed hair. He wasn't wearing a shirt, arms and ribs covered in bruises, blotchy purple and yellow masses. For them to even be there it meant they were fresh. The werewolf's healing power should have already cleared them away if they weren't. There were claw and bite marks all over pale skin, a latticework of suffering that Derek couldn't imagine having lived through.
He thought he saw scars. His throat constricted around the idea. How badly did you have to hurt a werewolf to leave it scarred? He had hunted them mercilessly for years and he didn't know. His arm started to burn, to shake harder. He looked down into the face of that… boy, that broken hurt and lost thing and he couldn't pull the trigger.
Those pale bloodless lips should have been smiling. Those eyes like the color of withered leaves should have been full of life, barely able to contain the energy and wonder of being young and thinking they would live forever. The kid should have been stretched out on green grass wondering who the first person he was ever going to fall in love with was, what his first kiss would be like. Those eyes told Derek that the boy thought he had done enough living already, that he didn't need to see what else the world had in store for him.
"They killed our whole family Derek, burned them alive. Hunted down and tore apart the ones who made it out of the flames. They're monsters. Every single one of them is a bloodthirsty raving beast. If it wasn't for them, we'd be sitting around our dinner table with our parents instead of hunting these things through the woods."
Laura was right beside him, her voice was a calm fury in his ear. Derek didn't turn to look, he couldn't meet the anger and pain he knew he would find in her face. He kept looking at the werewolf who was on his knees waiting for Derek to help him. To take away all that pain. All he had to do was pull the trigger.
He pulled the gun out of the werewolf’s mouth, released the hammer, and tucked it into the holster strapped under his arm. He couldn't do it. The look in those brown eyes changed, but it wasn't relief. It was fear, fear of having to take another breath, having to see what new pain tomorrow would bring.
It was all so wrong; the kid should have been laughing. He shouldn't have been on his knees silently begging Derek to kill him. What had happened to the world? How had it gotten so turned around?
"It's not supposed to be like this," he said softly. He wasn't sure if he was talking to Laura, to the werewolf on the ground, or to a god who would let something like this happen. He didn't know.
Derek reached down and wrapped his arms around the broken body on the ground in front of him, picked it up, didn't flinch at all when arms wrapped around his neck and legs wrapped around his waist. He felt the soft dark hair on the boy's head brush against his cheek, felt the small body trembling as hot tears spilled out of its eyes and down Derek's neck. The werewolf cried silently in his arms. It wasn't making any sounds at all, he couldn't even hear its breathing.
Derek turned away from his sister, putting his body between her and the werewolf he was clutching as he heard her cock her own gun. He covered the boy's head with his hand, stroked the hair soothingly while using his own body as a shield.
"What are you doing Derek?" Laura’s voice was too soft, too calm.
"The right thing," he told her as he walked back the way they had come, away from the pack of werewolves they were hunting.
The boy he was holding shook, tears fell silently from his face onto Derek's skin. He didn't know why, but that was the worst part, the kid had never made a sound. He never cried out for help, he never begged them to let him go. He had just watched them, silent.
It wasn't supposed to be like that, the world wasn't supposed to let something like that happen. He was going to fix it. He wasn't sure how, but he was going to find a way to make this kid laugh, he'd find a way to make him smile. If he could do that, then maybe the world wouldn't feel quite so backwards to him anymore.
Chapter 2: Broken
The werewolf Derek saved in the forest is more broken than he could have imagined.
The young werewolf stared at the hunter pacing nervously about the room. Indecision and a touch of fear leaked off the person’s skin, stung the werewolf’s nose. He huddled in on himself in the corner, the farthest spot he could get from the hunter.
They were in some sort of building, with few pieces of furniture for the werewolf to hide behind, but there were also few objects that could be hurled into his face. He kept his eyes on the floor, with the hunter’s boots barely at the edge of his vision. The air wasn’t warm or cold, but he was still shaking.
"What's your name?"
The werewolf stared back at the hunter, but kept his mouth closed. When he opened his mouth, bad things happened to him. The hunter seemed to get more agitated, acrid disappointment clouding the room. He didn't know what the hunter wanted. The werewolf hid his face between his knees and put his hands over his head, he didn't like getting hit in the face, better to take it on the arms and shoulders.
"I'm not going to hurt you," the hunter said. He edged closer and knelt down on the floor nearby. "I'm Derek."
Derek… he wondered what Derek wanted from him. He curled up tighter, trying to get his head further down, wanted to be as small as possible. The disappointment, the agitation, it spiked harder through the air and the werewolf tensed his body up, waited for whatever would come. He hadn’t done anything, but that didn’t matter. The pain would come.
"We're just going to stay here in the hotel for tonight. Tomorrow morning we're going to go to a town nearby. It's called Beacon Hills. Do you know anyone there?"
It sounded familiar but the werewolf wasn't sure why. He kept quiet. That's what he'd always been told to do. A couple of years ago, he'd said something when he wasn't supposed to. It had taken a long time for his mouth to heal from the burns. He hadn't said anything since that night.
"Can you even talk?"
The werewolf shivered, he didn't want to be burned again. Sometimes the pack would trick him like that. They would tell him to do something they had told him not to. He used to be stupid enough to fall for it.
He flinched when he felt the hand on his shoulder. He waited for the spiking pain he knew would follow. A simple dislocation? Compound fractures? He didn’t know what was coming, and it took everything he had to not wet himself in fear. The pack absolutely hated when he made more of a mess of himself.
The hand rubbed him soothingly, ran up over the fingers he was using to protect his head. The werewolf cringed.
"Don't take this the wrong way, guy, but you sort of smell. Maybe a shower will help you feel better. Then I'll get you some food."
The werewolf didn't move, but at the mention of food his stomach betrayed him by grumbling loudly. It had been a couple of days since he had any scraps from the rest of the pack. He was starving. He trembled when the man grabbed hold of his hands; he hated it when they broke his fingers. Those little bones were difficult to straighten out without making any noise.
"I'm not going to hurt you," Derek said, his heartbeat even and steady, "let's just get you cleaned up okay?"
How could the beat be even and steady? That would mean the hunter wasn’t lying. The werewolf let Derek pull him up to his feet. He followed obediently into the other small attached room.
He almost collapsed when he saw the mirror on the wall, only Derek managed to keep him from hitting the floor, but his legs weren’t capable of supporting him anymore. He couldn't stand the sight of himself. He didn't want to see the weak pathetic thing he knew would be reflected at him. After a bit of struggle, Derek managed to set him down on the toilet. Nauseating frustration tainted the clean smell of room, even when Derek took a few steps away.
"We just have the motel's complimentary bath products, but something tells me you aren't that picky."
The werewolf watched out of the corner of his eyes as Derek turned the water on. It had been a long time since he had been in a shower. When the pack wanted to clean him off they just sprayed him with a hose or threw him in a river. Well they did that when they were feeling especially kind anyway.
"OK," Derek said, gesturing towards the shower, "just get cleaned up, I'll put some clothes on the counter while you're in the shower, I'm sure I've got something that will fit you. Poorly, anyway."
The werewolf looked at the hunter’s feet, didn’t want to get to close to meeting Derek’s eyes and having it misunderstood as a challenge. He sat still, waited for what would come next. Derek shifted nervously. The werewolf closed his eyes again.
The werewolf tried to back away, when the smallest scent of anger began to bubble up under the frustration. He heard the hunter’s teeth grinding, knew that this was the moment he’d been waiting for. The werewolf put one arm out against the wall as he began to try to slide off the toilet seat to the floor, raised the other to shield his face. Cheekbones were even more painful to heal than finger bones.
No pain came. The werewolf carefully opened one eye. The hunter’s feet weren’t close to him. He sniffed the air, but it didn’t help him understand, whatever emotion was rolling off Derek, the werewolf didn’t recognize it, wasn’t sure what it meant.
"I can't believe I'm going to do this," Derek said, "Stand up, I'll help you take your clothes off and get you in the shower."
A sort of toxic relief settled over the werewolf, he finally understood what the hunter wanted. Derek moved over to start up the shower, the screech the metal rings made on the curtain rod made him remember some of the most awful noises that had been dragged from him in the past.
He needed to make this easy, the easier he made it, the faster it might be over. He climbed to his feet, stood up straight so that the hunter could more easily take whatever he wanted. He kept his eyes open, but on the floor. He was never allowed to close his eyes during this. He had to watch. Anything he did to disassociate himself from the process just prolonged it.
Derek moved forward and grasped the button on his pants, so the werewolf pulled his arms behind his back, crossed his wrists behind as he was supposed to. Without chains it was going to be difficult to keep them there, depending on how long this took. What was about to happen, well… it was better than being beaten… barely… sometimes… it all depended on how rough the hunter was going to be. The edges of the werewolf’s vision went out of focus, he struggled to stay standing upright and still. This couldn’t be worse than being used by one of the other members of his pack. He bit into his lip hard enough that he could taste the blood in his mouth, not because he was afraid, not because he was nervous, but because the hunter might like that taste the way his pack did.
Derek removed his clothes without hurting him, which left the werewolf unsure of what exactly he was supposed to do next. Derek didn’t speak, but his breathing was irregular. The only noise in the room was the pounding of the water against the floor of the shower. Derek snapped his fingers, and the werewolf understood.
He dropped to his knees in front Derek, reached out for the belt that would likely be fastened around his neck soon, after he got the hunter ready with his mouth. His hands didn’t even shake, he was used to this cadence, had lived it most of his life.
Derek made an odd noise and leapt away from him, banging into the door which crashed closed. The sound of the impact made the werewolf’s insides turn to ice, but he managed to not flinch away. He was never supposed to flinch away.
"No! No way! I'm not getting in the shower with you. You're getting in by yourself."
Derek’s voice was higher and sharper than the werewolf had heard before. He pulled his hands back before Derek could do anything to them, which was not what he was supposed to do, and his stomach flipped, bile rising in his throat as he realized the error he’d made.
"You need to get in the shower," Derek said.
He heard the door swing open, and shuffling steps as Derek started to move away. The werewolf understood. He disgusted the hunter. He needed to clean himself for Derek, to make it easier for the hunter to stomach touching him, taking him. If he was clean, then Derek might not hurt him as badly once he was finished using him. He got off his knees and stepped into the shower.
"Finally," Derek said, smelling relieved, "just get cleaned up. I'll put the clothes on the counter for you in a few minutes.”
He had been right, the human wanted him clean. The water felt wonderful on his skin. He didn't have any idea how long it had been for sure, to be allowed to have an experience like this.
The werewolf reached out to grab the small packaged bar of soap. He wanted to smell good for Derek, to be clean. If he smelled good, then Derek might not realize how disgusting he was. If he did that, then maybe he would get some food. If he made the hunter very happy, if he performed his best, then maybe Derek wouldn’t hurt him as badly.
The werewolf scrubbed. He scrubbed hard enough that his skin started to turn red. If he could just get all the bad things off himself, if he could scrape all that away, then maybe Derek would want to keep him. Derek might want him if he was clean, if he was appealing.
He was afraid to hope, but he couldn't help himself. It could only happen if he was clean though. When blood started mixing with the water in the bottom of the tub the werewolf knew he was on the right track. He just had to keep scrubbing the terrible parts of himself away, there was so much to get rid of. He hurried, blood running down his body as he scrubbed himself viciously. Derek had said he would be back in just a few minutes…
Chapter 3: Identity
Derek looks for clues regarding the identify of the werewolf he found.
"He's not going to hurt me, the kid's practically afraid of his own shadow," Derek said into his cell as he opened up his laptop. He was going to search for old news stories in the area about missing children to find clues as to the identity of the teenager in the bathroom.
"It's not a kid, Derek, it's a monster."
Derek frowned at the tone he heard in Laura's voice. Even through the electronic device he could feel the hatred. She decided to get her own room after Derek refused to abandon or murder the werewolf they’d found.
"He's been hurt, that much is clear, we don't even know if he's ever hurt anyone."
"If you were smart, you'd kill it and get rid of the body, but since you're just the muscle of our operation, do yourself a favor and chain it to the toilet. It wouldn't hurt to muzzle it either."
Derek knew she was trying to protect him, that's what she always did. She liked to tease him about the choices he made; he knew she didn't think he was stupid. Hell, two years ago, maybe even a year ago he would have just pulled the trigger without a second thought. There was something in the kid's eyes though, something he recognized in himself. It was beyond loneliness, it was the absence of hope. He remembered that fear, suffocating him after his family had been killed. If Laura hadn't been there for him, he could have turned out just like the werewolf had.
"I love you too," Derek said.
"You're so dumb," Laura told him, laughing as she hung up the phone.
Derek smiled to himself as he set his cell phone aside and opened up the browser on his computer. Predictably the internet at the motel they were in was horrible. At least it had free wireless.
He was good at research; he'd been doing it his whole adult life. Searching for clues and hints as to where packs of werewolves hunted. How hard could it be to find out who this guy was? He hoped that he wasn't a born werewolf. That would make the whole thing incredibly difficult. If he’d been bitten maybe there was a family out there looking for him.
Derek decided to start with the nearby town of Beacon Hills. He did a query searching for animal attacks. There were an alarming number of results. He tried to refine his search to look for deaths by animal attacks. That didn't help.
"What the hell?"
He clicked link after link, there were far too many attacks to be coincidence. How could a group of werewolves get away with so much? It didn't make any sense; the human authorities should have stepped in. He adjusted his search and added missing people into the mix. A headline caught his eye.
'Death of a Hero' was what was written at the top of the page.
Derek opened the webpage and read through it. Seven years ago, the local sheriff of Beacon Hills, a man named Noah Stilinski, had been found brutally torn apart. His son went missing, they had been camping in the Beacon Hills Preserve.
The article said that the local authorities thought it was a bear attack, possibly several bears based on the amount of blood and the state of the campsite. The town had elected a new Sheriff who had experience with animal attacks, a man named Chris Argent.
Derek's blood went cold when he clicked on a link that brought up a picture of the man. Chris Argent was a werewolf, Derek and his sister had fought with the man and his pack once before. Years ago, the first time they had gotten close to finding the wolves that killed their family. Part of him thought that the pack they had been hunting last night had been Argent werewolves, the brutality matched his previous experience with them.
The Argent family must have been using Chris's position in the community to route suspicion of their activities away from themselves. It was a vicious calculated move that Derek hated the man even more for. He closed the picture before the urge to throw his computer against the wall overtook him.
He went back to the article about the former sheriff. It turned out that the man's wife was still alive. She owned a bakery in the small town. Derek clicked on another link that brought up a picture of the woman. She had dark hair and beautiful brown eyes. She looked sad even though she was smiling as she handed a cookie to a small child clutching his father's hand. He wondered if she was thinking about her family when the picture was taken. He wondered if there was ever a single moment when she wasn't.
That article lead to another, and another after that each one referencing various movements by the local town to investigate the deaths and disappearances. Derek clicked through them feverishly until he found one about a young teenager who was tirelessly looking for his missing friend. There was a video clip attached to it. He opened it and turned the volume on his laptop up.
"We're here with a local high school junior by the name of Jackson Whittemore," a reporter said, "this young man has spent the last seven years searching for his missing friend." The woman with the microphone turned to regard a boy with blonde hair and pale blue eyes. He looked like a model, or at least, he probably would have if he ever smiled. "Jackson," she continued, "can you tell us about what you're doing?"
The young man looked directly into the camera as he held up a picture and leaned down to talk too loudly into the microphone.
"This is a kid I used to know," Jackson said, his voice sounded raw as he held up a picture of a young child, maybe nine or ten years old next to a blonde kid Derek assumed was Jackson as a child. The dark-haired boy had his eyes closed, caught in the middle of laughing in the picture. "Seven years ago, he was kidnapped when his father was murdered." The reporter looked nervously back at the camera, that's when Derek noticed it was a recording of a live news cast that had been taken several months ago.
"Mr. Whitmore, the police department's investigation found evidence of an animal attack, not a murder or kidnapping."
Jackson ignored her and held up a police sketch that was in his other hand, it was a rough rendering of a familiar looking boy who had shaggy hair. "This is what experts think he might look like now."
The reporter looked back at the camera, eyes wide with fear, like she knew something and was afraid to say more. Jackson looked directly into the camera.
"How many people are we going to let go missing before we stand up and fight back?" Jackson said, his voice tight with anger as he continued. "What if it's your kid next? What if it's your brother or sister? What if it was your parents who never came home?"
The reporter tried to lay a restraining hand on his shoulder, but he shrugged her off and lunged forward grabbing the camera and pulling it close to his face. "I'm going to find you Stiles, I know I saw you in the woods outside of town! Your mom wants you to come home. I'm going to find you!"
The video clip ended, they must have cut the live feed at the kid's outburst. He looked to see the name of the reporter for the event; her name was listed as Natalie Martin. Derek opened up his cell phone and made notes of the names of the blonde teenager in the video as well as the former sheriff and the reporter. He rewound the video to the artist's rendering of the shaggy haired boy. It's possible it could have been an estimation of what the werewolf in the shower would have looked like. If his hair had grown out rather than been shaved off.
The woman in the picture at the bakery had the same color hair and eyes as the werewolf. It was possible they could have been related. The sheriff's death and the taking of the son could have been part of the Argent's plan to set up shop in the town. Taking the boy seemed like an odd choice. Unless the Alpha of the pack had bitten him during the attack and the kid had lived.
Derek needed more information, he wondered if the kid would respond to the name 'Stiles'. That was such an odd thing for a parent to name their kid, but he shrugged it off. There were werewolves in the world, some of which liked to torture each other. He gave up on thinking the world made sense a long time ago.
He glanced back at the bathroom door. The shower was still going. The boy must have really wanted to clean up. He stood up from the bed and grabbed the pajama pants and t-shirt he had picked out. Derek knocked on the bathroom door and waited for a response. Nothing came. There was only the occasional creak of the bath tub as the weight of the occupant shifted back and forth.
"I'm coming in," he called out in warning before turning the door knob.
Derek walked over to the sink and set the clothes down. He looked up into the mirror and his mouth dropped open in horror. He could partially see the back wall of the shower where the curtain wasn’t drawn all the way to the wall. There was a hand pressed against the wall covered in blood. Derek was shocked, unable to move as he saw the other hand reach forward with claws extended. The kid was tearing long gashes in his flesh, blood dripped into the tub below. The sight was awful, Derek had seen blood and pain, but to watch those claws slice through flesh, to not hear any gasps or crying accompanying it, it was horrifying.
Derek spun around knocking the clothes off the sink and ripped the shower curtain out of the way. The kid stood there with filmy trails of blood streaking his body. Wounds were slowly healing all over him, long gouges in his stomach and legs, ragged strips of skin hung form his arms. The face was the worst though, there were long scratches from forehead to chin, almost right through the eyes. They were almost faded from the healing process, but the evidence was there. Derek stared in mute horror as the last bits of the wounds sealed themselves. Brown eyes opened and regarded him blankly.
"What are you doing?"
That was all Derek could think to say, he grabbed the werewolf's wrists to keep the claws from digging back into the soft skin that had just been torn open. The werewolf barely responded at all, just tilted its head and regarded him. That empty gaze was unwavering. Derek thought the werewolf was waiting for something. He wished he knew what it was, wished he knew what to say to make it better.
"Stiles?" Derek asked.
He didn't know what to expect, didn't how the werewolf would react, or even if it would react at all.
Chapter 4: Misunderstanding
Derek tries to get the werewolf cleaned up and out of the bathroom, but things do not go like he planned at all.
Derek let go of the werewolf’s wrist when his claws faded away. He sighed, frustrated that the teenager hadn’t reacted to the name. Was he right? Was this the same person that went missing from Beacon Hills?
The force of the shower caused water and blood to spray onto Derek as he tried to move the showerhead to finish rinsing off the werewolf. That was not going to be easy to get out of his clothes, but he wasn’t too concerned. He’d lost a lot of outfits to blood stains over the years. He turned the water off, glanced back at the mirror and grimaced at the ruddy fluid soaking his white t-shirt. That was a goner.
He looked at the werewolf, then pointed at the floor outside the shower. It sickened him how quickly the guy leapt to obey him, how eager to please the werewolf seemed. Derek grabbed a towel from the rack and wrapped it around the teenager’s waist. Even if the werewolf didn’t have any issues with nudity, it was definitely making Derek uncomfortable. He reached for another towel and wiped the remaining water and blood off of pale skin.
Derek gently dried the werewolf off, smiling to himself as he draped the towel over the guy’s head to get his hair. There was a wet drag of a tongue along his wrist from under the towel freezing him in place. The werewolf turned his head against Derek’s hand, gently rubbing his cheek back and forth across Derek’s fingers.
In a disturbing way it was like trying to dry off a puppy. The absurdity of it made him laugh. The werewolf froze at the noise, then slowly pulled the towel away so that he could see Derek. Brown eyes so large, maybe in shock or curiosity regarded him. He tried to shake it off, to ignore that as he continued drying the werewolf’s skin, he began to push back against Derek’s touch.
"Is your name Stiles?"
Derek looked into brown eyes that for the first time seemed to have something else swirling in the depths, kept up his gentle patting with the towel. The werewolf nodded almost imperceptibly. Derek grinned. He was getting somewhere. An almost nod and something other than a blank gaze, that was progress of a sort. He dropped the towel he was using and grabbed a fresh one from the rack. He wiped the last traces of blood and water he could find away from Stiles's chest.
"Turn around," Derek said as he reached out and put a gentle hand on the werewolf's shoulder, trying to direct him to spin in place. The wolf obeyed instantly, the submissive reaction almost obliterated the tiny amount of hope that Derek had started to feel. He gently wiped off the werewolf's back, there wasn't as much blood there, but Derek sucked in a breath when Stiles let his head lull forward. On the back of his neck there were scars, multiple crisscrossing bite and claw marks, Derek brushed them lightly with his fingers. Stiles trembled at the touch, body shaking, pulling up his arms to hug himself, or maybe protect his torso. Derek instantly regretted having done it, pulling his hand away.
How many times? How many times had someone dug their fangs or claws into Stiles’s neck for there to be scars? In a horrible chain reaction, Stiles suddenly crumped to the bathroom floor, his head against the tile, and folded his arms submissively behind his back.
Something twisted in Derek’s heart. That was so wrong, like Stiles was just kneeling there waiting for Derek to rape him on the floor. He blinked rapidly, trying to push away the terrible thoughts.
Stiles slowly turned his head, not removing it from the tile but twisting at an awkward angle to look at back at Derek. There was fear, no longer curiosity, no longer emptiness. He began to shake.
Derek took a step forward, began to kneel down and reach a hand out. The werewolf immediately rolled onto his back, towel coming lose. He kept his hands behind his back, shoulders straining with he effort. Stiles tilted his head back, exposing his throat up to Derek and closing his eyes.
Derek pulled his hand back as if he’d suddenly realized he was reaching towards an open flame. He was doing everything wrong. He grabbed the towel he’d been drying Stiles’s hair off with and tried to cover Stiles with it so he wasn’t laying there naked and vulnerable. After a few moments of hesitation when the shaking didn’t stop he tentatively reached his hand out again and stroked Stiles’s short hair. It took a few minutes, but finally the shaking stopped. Stiles opened his eyes, and second by second Derek watched as terror peeled back to reveal that curious gaze. Eventually the eyes fluttered closed again, and Stiles began to relax.
“Let’s get you into some clothes, okay?”
Stiles opened his eyes, then nodded. Derek smiled. Stiles tilted his head again as though he didn't fully understand what was happening. Derek got to his feet and offered a hand to help the werewolf up. Derek's smile faded as the werewolf's hand trembled as it reached for him. He gently took the offered hand and helped pull Stiles to his feet, turning his face away as the naked werewolf rose up out of the pile of bloody towels on the floor.
Derek flinched when Stiles leaned into his personal space and took a deep breath. He tried to ignore the effect that it seemed to have on the young werewolf. It was awkward trying to help a guy get dressed who kept sniffing at him, who was obviously… into whatever it was that Derek smelled like.
Even after he got Stiles into a pair of sweats, it didn't do much to hide the interest that Stiles seemed to have. Derek pulled a shirt over Stiles's head and walked him back into the main area of the hotel room. He gestured toward the bed, and Stiles moved quickly, spread himself out on his back and watched Derek through half closed eyes. Derek swallowed, his throat constricting.
Derek hated himself for not being able to look away. Stiles splayed out on the bed, looking at him and so obviously aroused. The werewolf's eyes started burning with amber light, he sniffed at the air. Derek's throat was dry, Stiles was reacting to what he was feeling. He turned away.
Derek grabbed a shirt that wasn't soaked with water and blood out of his bag, tried to ignore the rustling movement on the bed behind him as he pulled the one he was wearing up over his head and dropped the bloody wet ruins of it to the floor. Derek pulled the new shirt on but didn't turn to look at the bed.
"I'm going to go get you some food. Stay here, don't go outside, and don't answer the door."
There was no response except for the bedsprings squeaking, Stiles must have been shifting his weight on the bed. Derek didn't look. He hurried to the door, tried to ignore whatever was happening.
When he pulled it open he caught out of his peripheral vision the image of Stiles kneeling on the floor, clutching the shirt Derek had been wearing to his face, inhaling Derek's scent off the clothes.
He was half way down the block before he could get the image out of his head, running towards a gas station he knew was just a bit further ahead. He leaned against a telephone pole and tried to get his breathing under control. He stood, sucking air into his lungs for almost ten minutes.
It was when he heard the gunshot that he realized all the mistakes he had made on his way out. Derek hadn't made sure the door to his room was closed. He hadn't taken his phone with him. He hadn't told Laura he was leaving to get food. He had left a werewolf in his room, holding the shirt he had been wearing. A shirt that had been covered in blood held to the young werewolf's face.
Chapter 5: Rage
Laura finds Stiles clutching Derek's bloody shirt...
“Where is he?” Laura asked. She was drowning in her fear in rage, but kept her voice tightly controlled. These things were creatures of emotion and fury. She would never be that, never come anywhere close to being like them.
The werewolf didn’t even look at the wound in its arm. The bullet had passed through the muscle, a grazing shot that was only mean to frighten it. The thing couldn’t have cared less. It just sat there, holding the bloody shirt, her brother’s bloody shirt.
“Where is he?”
It didn’t make a sound, not even a whimper of pain. The flesh finished knitting itself back together. Maybe the thing wasn’t concerned by a normal bullet, but she had ways to make it concerned. She would force it to tell her what it had done to her brother.
She ejected the clip of her gun, caught it in her free hand. She dropped the clip of normal ammunition into her coat's pocket and pulled out a deadlier clip. One that was packed with aconitum laced bullets. Would it stay quiet with wolf’s bane coursing in its veins?
It sat blinking at her, face covered in blood. Derek’s blood. She was afraid to go towards the bathroom, to see what Derek’s body looked like. He hadn’t responded when she tried to call to check up on him, hadn’t responded when she called out his name as she approached the partially opened door.
Fear ate away at her, her eyes beginning to sting. She was alone now, truly alone, and it was this thing’s fault. She jammed the deadly clip into the gun, took a step forward and placed it against the monster’s forehead, the same thing Derek had done the night before. She didn’t have a lot of time; the police may have already been contacted after the first gunshot when off.
She would make it suffer though. When she heard it beg her to kill it, when she heard the voice of the thing that murdered the only person in the world she loved, she’d continue to let it suffer. Those empty brown eyes would show her real fear, real pain, and then she would finally kill it.
"He tried to help you…"
The werewolf didn’t react at all, just folded its arms behind its back again, still clutching Derek’s bloody shirt. Her blood boiled. She reached her free hand around behind him, got a hold on the shirt and tried to tear it out of the monster’s grasp.
The thing’s eyes lit with molten gold rage, its fangs extending as it soundlessly seethed. She yanked the shirt out its claws, the material ripping as it came free. It coiled in on itself quickly readying to lunge at her. She took a step back to ready herself.
Blazing amber eyes locked on the bloody material in her hands. She was repulsed by the thing, by the blood on it’s face, the dark intensity in that gaze. It had all been an act, playing at being a wounded and lost puppy. Derek fell for it hook, line, and sinker. Killing it quickly was not an option, she would watch it writhe in pain, would hear it beg for death, and then she would bury the last thing in the world that still made her human, her brother.
She pointed the gun at the creature's stomach. She knew it would take time for the aconite poison to spread to its heart. She pulled the trigger.
The shot was deafening in the enclosed space, the acrid scent of gunpowder clear even to her human senses as it lingered in the air. In the moment the gun went off she saw Derek as a child, his smiling face looking up at her asking if she would play a game with him. This thing had taken Derek away from her.
The werewolf looked down at its belly, watched the blood spread onto the shirt it was wearing, a shirt she had bought for her brother. It didn't make any noises as its claws disappeared and the yellow light faded from its eyes, leaving only a deep brown. It brought one of its hands to its stomach, silently wiped it through the blood that was pouring out of the wound.
Laura smiled in satisfaction as the first tremor of pain wracked the thing's body. It would probably be hours before the infection spread to its heart, but the agony of a gut wound was unbearable. She had seen too many allies disemboweled over the years; she knew what that pain looked like.
Her smile died when the werewolf looked up at her. It wasn't pain and fear written on its face. It was gratitude. It was thanking her for putting it out of its misery. It was doing it in complete silence and she wanted to tear its head off from its shoulders so that it couldn't look at her as though it wanted to smile but didn't remember how.
"You're going to die," Laura told the werewolf, "you're going to die and I'm going to watch."
It didn't react to her at all, just watched as it knelt on the ground with one hand over its bleeding stomach. She wanted it to cry, wanted it to cry the way Derek had cried in her arms when they watched their house burn down. Laura wanted that satisfaction, wanted to feel it. She watched it silently and swallowed against her own pain. She wanted to feel something other than hatred, fear, and loss. She wanted something more from life than that. Now she'd never get the chance.
Laura had wanted to watch Derek marry someone he loved, wanted to see the look in his eyes as someone walked down the aisle towards him. She wanted to see him happy with a family. She wanted him to start over and have a real life apart from hunting these creatures. Now she never would because this thing had killed him for trying to show it a little kindness. Tears finally broke free, slipped down her face.
The look in the creature's eyes changed again. What she saw in those brown depths chilled her spine. It was empathy, like it knew that she had come to the realization that she had lost everything. She closed her eyes against the sight, not wanting to find any kinship in the worthless monster on the floor that had killed her brother.
"Oh god… Laura," Derek's voice was barely audible, "what have you done?"
Laura opened her eyes and turned to see Derek in the door, the gun she had used to fill the werewolf's body with agony slipped out of her hand and clattered to the ground. Derek was alive. Derek looked horrified at what he saw in the room. more tears streamed down her face, her breathingchoppy and forced.
"Stiles," Derek asked, "are you ok?"
Laura laughed, the sound hollow. He had given it a name, like it was some sort of stray he had found. She watched as his face registered that blood was still pouring out of the creature's stomach.
"I thought it killed you," Laura said, her voice barely above a whisper, still raw and shaking from the pain she had felt tearing her life apart, "I thought you were gone… I used an aconite bullet because I wanted it to suffer…"
"Oh god…" Derek said. They were looking at each other, but they both turned towards the werewolf when they heard it collapse to the floor.
Chapter 6: Heartbeat
Stiles struggles to find something to focus on.
There was a voice far away trying to make its way through the darkness.
"Damn it, Stiles. Look at me!"
There was fire on the other side, he could feel the edges of it licking against his mind. Out of all the things he’d endured he hated being burned the most. Melted flesh did not recover quickly, left smoldering nerves in its wake. Fire was one of the few things he was still afraid of. Allison had made sure of that. When he had become desensitized and stopped reacting to her games she found a new way to make him squeal for her.
He refused to open his eyes, couldn't think, didn’t want to think. The fire was inside him now. It was coming through the veil of darkness, spreading from his belly through his blood incinerating everything in its path. He tried to retreat into the depths of his own mind. Tried to find all the little pieces he had managed to hide away from everyone else, the memories he had clung to because they were the only things that no one could take from him. It didn't help. Nothing helped. The pain didn't stop. He didn't think it was ever going to stop. It scorched away his self-control, left behind ashes where a combination of willpower and hopelessness used to be.
He couldn't keep it in anymore. He howled out his pain, a wordless, thoughtless, primal expression of agony. He had thought he wanted to die, thought that it would be an end to suffering. He had been so stupid. He was never going to be without suffering. It was inside him now, turning him inside out one nerve at a time.
"Oh my god, Derek. Make it stop! Derek make it stop making that noise!"
The female hunter’s voice came through the wall of darkness and flame. She said Derek. Was he there? Was he the one who called out his name, asking that he open his eyes? Stiles. It had been so long since he thought of himself in that context. He tried not to think of himself by the nicknames his pack used for him, but he also tried not to think of himself as Stiles, as that child from the past who had lost so much, endured so much.
"Laura," the other voice from behind the wall said, "get all of our stuff. We need to get out of here before the police come. If the gunshots didn't drawn attention this will. Get your shit together. For all we know his pack can hear him too."
Stiles choked, swallowed up the pain, and forced it down into his gut. If his pack had heard that they would be coming as soon as they finished laughing about it. He clawed his way out of the darkness, but the fire came with him, got more intense as he struggled back to full consciousness. He bit his lips hard enough that he felt blood start dripping down his chin. The pain didn't register. The fire moved up into his ribs as if trying to mock the attempt at distraction.
Stiles opened his eyes. Derek was leaning over him, tearing the shirt Stiles was wearing so that he could see the wound. The werewolf looked down at his own stomach. Each twisting black tendril he could see corresponded to a burrowing line of fire inside him.
"Stiles, you're going to be ok," Derek said.
The werewolf could hear the frantic heartbeat of the hunter, but he didn't know if it was a lie or not, couldn't focus on anything but the sound, the thumping of it, pumping blood through human veins. His mind latched on and wouldn't let go of the beat.
Thump. Thump. Thump.
"I know how to fix you, but you have to just endure it for a while longer okay?"
Thump. Thump. Thump.
Stiles looked at Derek and nodded. He was good at enduring pain. Sometimes he felt like he was made for that sole purpose. He didn’t make a noise as Derek picked him up and carried him outside.
Thump. Thump. Thump.
Laura pulled open the doors to the back of the van they were using and tossed two duffel bags into it. She didn't say anything as she walked past Derek and headed back to gather his stuff as well.
Thump. Thump. Thump.
Derek gently laid Stiles down in the back, cushioning his head with one of the bags Laura had thrown inside. Stiles tried to focus on anything but the debilitating darkness that was creeping in at the edges of his vision. It was coming back for him. He’d escaped it, but it was coming back. It was so close.
Thump. Thump. Thump.\
He noticed that the van was missing all its back seats. He felt a gentle pat on his cheek, something about the gesture was like pouring water over the flames in his stomach. He looked back at Derek, focused on his face.
Thump. Thump. Thump.
"Stay with me, Stiles. Hang on just a little longer,” Derek said.
Thump. Thump. Thump.
Derek’s voice was soothing, his heartbeat the focus Stiles used to keep the pain from pulling him under. He watched in detached interest as Derek pulled a clip of ammunition out of a hidden panel in the wall of the van.
Thump. Thump. Thump.
"This is going to hurt."
Thump. Thump. Thump.
Stiles would have laughed if he could remember how to make his throat form the noise. It couldn't possibly be any worse than what he was going through, what he had been through. Derek pulled apart one of the bullets that had been in the clip, poured the powder and whatever else was inside of it into his hand.
Thump. Thump. Thump.
Derek pulled a lighter out of his pocket and used it to ignite the substance, hissed out in pain as his flesh burned along with the powder. The stench of burning flesh filled Stiles's nostrils, making him nauseous. It didn't reek as bad as when it had been his lips and tongue being scorched but knowing that it was Derek's skin made it somehow worse.
Stiles had thought the pain couldn't get any more intense. The skip in Derek’s heartbeat made Stiles anxious even as he realized how wrong he was. Derek’s hand pressed against the wound. He must have thought he could burn out the fire in Stiles with more fire.
Thump. Thump. Thump. Thump. Thump. Thump.
He opened his mouth, he was going to say goodbye. He decided in that moment to speak for the first time in years as he felt the darkness closing on him. All that came out was a disgusting black fluid. He was going to try again but he was too tired. As he drifted off he was vaguely aware that the fire in his body had gone out, there was nothing but the steady beating of Derek's heart.
Thump. Thump. Thump.
"You're going to be fine," Derek said.
Thump. Thump. Thump.
For the first time in a long time Stiles thought that it might be true. The darkness came back, but this time there was no fire with it, just a steady beating drum lulling him to sleep.
Thump. Thump. Thump.
Chapter 7: Enemies
The Argent Pack arrives at the motel too late to find the Hales.
I feel sort of bad considering Allison's character arc in the series, but in my defense I didn't know she was going to die when I originally was plotting out the story. Also it was a prompt, please don't hate me if you love Allison and the Argent family.
"According to the guest sign in there were only two rooms rented out in the past week," Allison said. She stepped over the body of the clerk who had been working the front desk. "Rooms 110 and 111 were rented out earlier, a few hours after Aunt Kate escaped from the hunters in the woods."
Allison didn't even glance at the body of the man as she walked out of the office lobby to join her father just outside the door. The air was cool. She sniffed and pouted, all she could smell was gasoline. Normally that was enough to make her happy, not tonight though. Tonight, she was very upset at her aunt and even killing the man at the desk hadn't cheered her up.
"Don't worry, darling. We'll find your toy," her father Chris said. "Let's start with the rooms. We'll see if we can pick up their scents."
With Allison’s little puppy missing Kate was on the bottom of the hierarchy. Her aunt fidgeted next to the police cruiser, probably hoping not to draw attention to herself. Allison grinned to herself thinking of what she would do to punish Kate for losing her toy. Allison had loved him, loved him since her mother had given him to her when she was just a little girl. They had grown up together. She had trained him perfectly. She had just bought him a collar but never got to put it on him. Allison ran her hands over the spiked leather in her coat pocket. The spikes were on both sides of it, she'd had it custom made for him. He'd have looked adorable.
"Kate, you check 111. Allison, make sure she does it right. I'll check 110," Chris said.
She followed Kate as the older woman walked toward the hotel room. Allison stopped briefly to get another canister of gasoline from the open trunk of the cruiser, idly splashed it onto the motel in various places humming softly as she went. Kate hesitated outside the door to the room, sniffing the air to make sure the room was unoccupied.
Allison grinned when her aunt looked back at her and then the canister of gasoline; it was probably throwing off her senses. Allison didn't care. She tapped her foot impatiently waiting for Kate to open the door.
After a few moments Kate turned the handle to the room, it was locked. Allison sighed at her aunt and dropped the canister of gasoline, not caring that it landed on its side and started spreading its contents onto the sidewalk. She pushed Kate to the side.
Allison kicked the door open, her enhanced hearing heard the sound of a wire snapping but it was too late to do anything about it. She dropped to the ground in case there was a gun rigged to the other side of it. There was no gunshot, but a hissing in the air as white smoke started pouring from the room.
She tried to hold her breath, but she wasn't fast enough, the gas had gotten into her lungs. She coughed; it burned her eyes and her mouth. She felt hands wrap around her ankles and drag her out of the billowing cloud.
Allison retched, her nose and eyes, her ears, they were all swelling. It was wolfsbane. The fucking hunters had ground wolfsbane into some sort of powdered aerosol and set it to detonate. It would have been harmless to humans.
"Daddy!" she screamed.
Kate was trying to wipe at her face to get the stinging film off her, but she was just spreading it, making worse. She backhanded Kate, only mildly satisfied at the sound of the cheekbone cracking. Blood vessels in Allison’s eyes burst; tears of blood ran down her face.
"You're going to be fine, baby. Hold on," her father's worried voice was barely audible. She felt like she couldn't hear, wondered if there was more to that poisonous gas than she guessed. She felt her father pick her up, kick through the door to another room, maybe it was 112. All she could see was red.
She felt blood trickling from her ears and lips, it hurt. Her father dropped her into the bathtub of the room. He turned the shower on, tried to wipe the film off her skin with a cloth, it probably hurt him. Kate should have been the one caught in that blast; she should have kicked the door open and not waited for Allison to do it.
"Chris, I'm so sorry, I thought there was something on the other side, but I wasn't sure," Kate tried to explain.
"Shut up! Go search the rooms, find something useful and I'll think about not telling her mother," Chris said.
It was an empty promise. Allison had already decided to tell her mother, she was certain her father knew that. It took almost fifteen minutes for the burning to stop, another half hour for her skin to heal itself. She was not happy.
"I want Chocolate back, daddy," she was whining but that was the best way to motivate her father, "I miss him."
She wanted to see his dark brown eyes, wanted to look into those large and frightened depths. That always helped her feel better. She wished he would cry out more, ever since the night with the fire poker and charcoal he'd been too quiet. She loved how he smelled when he was afraid, loved the salty taste of the tears on his cheeks. She missed him terribly.
"We'll get him back I promise. He probably misses you," Chris said. "He was crying out for you earlier remember, honey?"
Allison did remember, it had sounded so delicious. He had sounded like he was in some extraordinary pain. It was a noise she'd never heard him make. She wanted to know how it was done, wanted to be the one to give it to him that pain again.
She stepped out of the shower and took the towel from her father's hands, they were red and blistered but the marks were already fading. Whatever had been in that smoke bomb was incredibly vile. She wondered if that's what they had used on Chocolate. She wanted some of her own.
"There's nothing here, Chris. Nothing useful,” Kate said as she came back into the room. She picked at her nails, looking down at the floor and not at Allison or her father.
Chris sighed. He whipped around suddenly claws wrapping around Kate's throat. Allison grinned as her father forced her aunt to her knees. When Kate started screaming Allison clapped her hands delightedly. She didn't know Kate could make such wonderful noises.
"First, you lose Allison's toy in the woods, second you let her get hurt. Now, you're telling me that you haven't found anything useful?"
Allison loved the cold rage in his voice. She wanted it to turn into burning anger; there was only one thing more adorable than her father lost in fury. She couldn't wait to tell her mother what Kate had done, couldn't wait to see what her mother would do. Allison was going to record it.
"I'm s-sorry," Kate struggled to gasp out. She cried out in terror when the tendons in her neck snapped under Chris’s grip.
"Daddy you have to stop. Until we get Chocolate back Kate's my only playmate," Allison said.
Her father released her aunt and stepped over her gasping body without a second glance. Allison stepped on Kate's wrist as she walked out, laughed at the sound of the bones cracking, at Kate's gasp of pain. She went back to the car and got a few more canisters of gasoline.
She smiled as Kate walked around her in a wide circle, clutching her hurt wrist to her chest on the way back to the car. Allison quickly forgot about Kate, lost herself in the joy of spreading the fluid around various parts of the motel. The Argents had already killed the few visitors and staff when they first arrived. She regretted that now. Sometimes she got too excited. She wished there were still some of them to play with.
Allison went back to her father's car to retrieve several road flares. Her aunt sat in the backseat looking at her hands for some reason. Allison ignored her and looked at her father. He was looking out into the woods. Her mother was coming.
She threw the road flares into the gasoline. She smiled as the motel started to burn. Allison loved to watch things burn, she wanted to watch the whole world burn. She sighed and pulled her phone out of her pocket, she looked longingly at the picture of a brown eyed boy. His eyes were empty, broken, barely alive. She missed him, she wanted to taste his blood slipping down his skin, wanted to smell the spicy fear that radiated off his body when she stroked him with her nails, with her claws, with her knives.
Tears started to fill her eyes. She was never going to see him again. She closed her eyes, let the pain of it claw its way towards her heart. Warm arms surrounded her from behind, her mother's scent enclosed protectively around her. She turned to face her mother.
"I miss him, mommy," Allison said, "and the people who took him hurt me."
She looked into her mother's eyes, was cheered up by the burning red anger that ignited in them. Her mother was savage and furious, a primal goddess of the hunt. Allison wanted to be like her when she grew up.
"Don't worry," Victoria said, "I'll find you something to play with until we get him back."
"Really?" Allison smiled and pulled up a picture on her phone, "Can you bring me this one? I see him in the woods all the time. We go to school together. He was Chocolate's friend, maybe I can get them to play together for me?"
"Whatever you want dear, I'll get him the next time he's in the woods. If he lives through the bite you can keep him," Victoria said.
Allison grinned. She hopped Jackson would survive the bite, she could have a light-haired and a dark-haired toy. She was so happy that she thought momentarily about not telling her mother about what Kate had done. She got into the front of the cruiser with her dad, her mother sat in the back with her aunt. The opportunity was just too much to pass up.
"Mommy, did daddy tell you about what Kate did at the hotel?" Allison asked.
She twisted around in her seat to look at the two women in the back seat, savored the rising tide of terror in the air. She couldn't wait to hear the screams start. She was so excited she almost forgot to hit record on her phone.
Chapter 8: Memories
Derek takes Stiles to a bakery in the town of Beacon Hills.
Stiles felt Derek's arms wrap around him, but he was too tired to react. He refused to open his eyes as Derek pulled him out of the van. He had no idea how long it had been since he'd passed out. He was starving and exhausted, but that wasn’t anything new. He'd fallen asleep listening to Derek's heartbeat. He hadn't ripped from sleep by nightmares or pain. He couldn't remember any other time that had happened.
"This is stupid Derek," Laura said. "We just got into town, it's 5am, and you want to try to find out if this lady really knows that thing you're carrying around?"
Stiles wondered what she was talking about. He had no idea where they were. He still wasn't strong enough to open his eyes.
"Laura just wait with the van," Derek said, "I know you're trying to watch out for me, but I can take care of myself. I can make my own decisions."
"Whatever. The bakery isn’t even open," Laura said.
Stiles flinched when the van door slammed closed. He turned his head into Derek's shoulder. The hunter was carrying him the same way he'd carried him out of the woods. Hands holding his legs; he was wrapped around the hunter's chest with his head buried in Derek's neck. He clutched Derek's shoulders, tried to go back to sleep. For some reason when Derek was holding him Stiles wasn't afraid. Derek's scent, his arms, the heat of his body, they all made Stiles feel something close to safe. Somehow Derek had saved him from the life he thought he was never going to escape.
Stiles drifted, barely reacted at all as Derek used the wall of the building they were in front of to steady them long enough that he could reach out to bang on the door with one hand. Stiles flinched at the sound instinctively, burrowed further into Derek's body to get away from it. Derek made a soothing noise even as he banged again.
"Hello?" Derek called out. His voice terribly loud in Stiles's sensitive ears. "Please, open up."
"We're closed. Come back in a few hours."
The words picked at Stiles's consciousness. A vague memory tried to claw its way to the surface of his mind. He thought it might have been someone singing. He couldn't hear the song though. There were too many screams, too many howls of pain in his memory drowning everything else out.
"I found this boy in the woods. He needs help," Derek said.
Stiles heard metal locks turning, shuddered when a chain rattled. He hated the chains his pack used to drag him around. Sometimes they played a game where they pushed him back and forth while he was hanging from a tree. They hadn't played that game in a long time. They’d gotten tired of it when he stopped crying, when he stopped begging as they tightened the chain around his neck. The sound of a door opening pulled him back from sinking into the abyss of his mind.
"In the woods? You found him in the woods?"
The words, the familiar song, he couldn't hear it. He strained his ears, but it eluded him. All he could hear was Allison’s cruel laughter.
"Yes," Derek said, "Please, can I bring him inside?"
"Of course. Set him down over at one of the tables along the wall. I'll get him some water. The bakery is half coffee shop and café these days."
Stiles listened harder, but it was no use. The song in his mind skittered just under the surface of the oily darkness, couldn’t break the surface. What was it?
Derek carried him through the threshold of the building. The warm aroma of baking bread filled his nostrils. It stirred something in his gut. It wasn't hunger. It was longing, of time being turned backwards. He tried to delve back into the oily water of his memories. There had been a time when he spent almost every moment of every day wrapped in that smell, of flour, sugar, butter, bread, cookies, cupcakes, and muffins. Their scent had been everywhere. That scent was here too, but also mixed with robust coffee, sweet cinnamon, and so many others. It was powerful, got inside his lungs and flushed out the smell of blood, charcoal, gasoline, and burning flesh.
Stiles couldn't open his eyes. He was still so tired, but he sucked in a deep breath. For the first time in years it felt like he was breathing fresh air. Derek set him down in a chair, but he didn't want to let the hunter go. He kept his arms coiled around Derek's neck.
"You're fine," Derek said soothingly, rubbing strong hands against the back of Stiles's head. "No one is going to hurt you here."
Surrounded by the smell of the bakery, lost in the pureness and the innocence of it made Stiles believe. He let Derek go. He sank deeper into the chair; let his head rest back against the wall behind him. This place was perfect. Stiles must have died in that hotel room, or in the back of the van, but Derek had somehow brought him to heaven, even though monsters had no place there. He knew he was breathing too quickly, too deeply, practically gasping. He couldn't get enough.
"Where in the woods did you find…"
The voice trailed off, it made Stiles sad. That voice was the most beautiful thing he'd ever heard. The voice made him feel good, wrapped his insides in warmth, banished the memories of twisting barbed wire running across his skin.
"Oh god, you… you found him. Stiles? Stiles? Baby?"
The voice called out for him. For him. She said his name. He hadn’t owned that name for so long, not until Derek had spoken it. But something in the woman’s voice, the way she said that name, it made him finally feel like it was his. Calloused hands brushed against his cheeks. He wanted to open his eyes, but he was afraid that if he did he'd wake up and he wouldn't really be in this wonderful place. He was afraid he'd wake up and he would be in pain, he’d be on fire, flayed, drowning, he’d be back in every other day of his life instead of this fantasy.
"Baby? Stiles baby? Are you ok? I've missed you so much."
Gentle hands ran over his head, brushed aside memories of claws digging into his scalp as his pack ran dull clippers through his hair.
"What's wrong with him? Is he hurt?"
Soft hair brushed against his face. It smelled like lavender and vanilla. Arms wrapped around his shoulders and pulled him into a hug that obliterated the memories of vicious clawed hands pulling his flesh from his bones.
"Baby open your eyes. Can you open your eyes for me, honey? I want to see those chocolate brown eyes."
Chocolate. She made it sound like the most wonderful thing in the world. The word spoken by the woman clinging to him cast away the memories of a young girl who lovingly called him that as she licked blood from wounds she opened on his chest with her claws and her knives.
He fell forward into the woman, started crying into her neck, wracking sobs tore through his body. Slowly and gently he wrapped his arms around her. He didn’t want to hurt her. He was a monster, and even though monsters weren’t supposed to be able to touch beautiful things without destroying them, he had to try. For her, for the chance to hug her, to have her hug him back, he had to try. He was terrified because somewhere deep down inside the tattered thing that passed for his soul he knew. He knew that if she pulled away from him he was going to die. Whatever force kept him animated, that kept him moving despite everything he’d been through would just gutter out.
She hugged him back tightly.
He had thought Derek felt safe, but when she wrapped her arms around him he finally remembered what safety really felt like. He cried pitifully into the woman's hair. He pushed himself out of the chair, sank to his knees and she followed him down to the ground, clinging to him just as tightly.
"You’re okay, baby. I'm going to take care of you now, okay? No one is ever going to hurt you again. No one."
She was making him a promise. He wanted to believe that promise, wanted it so bad that he opened his mouth, tried to speak, but all that came out was a pathetic broken noise. His throat constricted. He gasped and swallowed, tried to remember how to make his voice work. It had been years, so many years since he'd said a single word.
"You're okay, honey. You don't have to say anything. Holding you again is enough. Touching your hair, touching your skin again, that's all I've wanted for so long. Can you open your eyes for me?" The woman rubbed his head and back soothingly.
He leaned away from her, but kept his hands on her shoulders, gently squeezing the cotton of whatever she was wearing. It was so soft, not as soft as her hair but the feeling on his skin banished memories of his fingers clawing through dirt as members of his pack took their pleasure in his suffering.
There was a brief, feather light touch on his eyelids, then fingers moved down brush against his cheeks. Finally, he opened his eyes. His heart throbbed painfully in his chest.
Beautiful black hair surrounded the kindest face he'd ever seen. Rich, dark brown eyes full of life, hope, love and all the things that a person could ever want in their life stared back at him. The sight of the woman with the small patches of white flour on her skin, of her tears making those patches into white streaks running down her face eradicated the memory of a cruel sneering young girl. He opened his mouth again, choked on the sensation of air passing out of his lungs.
"You're okay, baby, you're okay. I love you," she said, "You don't have to say anything." She leaned forward and kissed his forehead.
He took a deep and rattling breath. He needed to open his mouth, needed to tell her he finally remembered who she was. He remembered the song. He knew her. He needed her to know that he wasn't empty anymore, needed to tell her that she'd taken out so many of the bad things inside of him just by still loving him. He needed her to know that her love had filled him up, kept him alive for years when he wanted to die. His throat was raw, his voice cracked, but he managed to speak a single word into the space between them.
Chapter 9: Plans
Derek makes a decision.
Derek felt like he was intruding on the moment taking place on the floor of the bakery. He was amazed that Stiles had finally spoken. He hadn't laughed, he hadn't smiled, but he had a start on getting back to a regular life. There was just one thing still standing in the kid's way. Derek was going to hunt every single one of the Argent werewolves down. He was going to do it for himself, for Laura, and for everyone in this town that they'd hurt.
He clenched his fist, ignoring the pain in his hand. Compared to what the Argents seemed to have inflicted on others, his burn wound from the gunpowder he's used to cure Stiles was nothing. Derek already knew where he was going to begin; he was going to start with the reporter Natalie Martin. She knew something. He intended to find out what.
Derek turned away from the mother clutching her son on the floor, glad he couldn't hear the words she whispered against the top of his head. That was something private, just for them. He knew that he should tell her about her son's condition, about him being a werewolf, but now wasn't the time. He needed sleep, needed to find the Argents and make sure that they couldn't track Stiles to the bakery. If they knew who he was then it was likely they would know where to look for him. He needed to convince Laura to help him while he tried to fortify their house or the bakery against werewolf incursion. That was going to be harder than slaughtering the pack of walking nightmares.
"N-no…" a ragged voice whispered as Derek turned to walk towards the door. "D-Derek…"
Derek heard the woman behind him gasp, but he kept walking. He couldn't believe the werewolf had called out his name, couldn't turn and look or he wouldn't be able to do what he needed to do. He ignored the sound of scuffing along the floor and hurried toward the door. He reached out with his unburned hand to turn the handle, but his other wrist was seized in a desperate grip.
"No," Stiles’s voice was so soft, almost a whisper. "Stay…"
Derek's mouth fell open, he couldn't pull his hand out of the werewolf’s grip. Pain rippled up his arm, not from the grip but from the burn, and then as if he’d never been burned at all, the pain disappeared. He turned his head to look down at Stiles. Black veins were pulsing visibly on the werewolf’s hands. Derek gasped, and so did Stiles’s mother. He had no idea what she must be thinking, had no idea really what he himself was thinking.
There was no choice now. He was going to have to explain. He was going to have to look in the woman’s eyes, tell her things he didn’t want to, things that no mother should have to hear. Derek didn’t know all the details, but he was going to have to do his best to explain what her son had become, and how he’d been treated.
"Stiles," Derek said. "Stop, you don't have to do that."
Stiles’s shoulders slumped a bit, one hand let go and fell to his side, but the other still clung to Derek, black veins trailing further up his arm. Stiles wasn’t even reacting to the pain he was taking though, like it didn’t even register compared to what he’d suffered in the past. Derek’s life was insane, there was a werewolf trying to comfort him, a hunter. The world really had become a backwards place in the past few days.
"What's happened to him?" the woman asked.
"It's a long story… uh.."
“Claudia,” the woman climbed to her feet and started to walk towards them.
Derek didn't know what to say. He tried gently to pull his arm free of Stiles's grip, away from the werewolf hurting itself to comfort him. Even with just one hand Stiles’s strength was immense.
"No," Stiles whispered leaning his head forward so it was resting against the back of Derek’s hand. "I… I'll… t-take care of… you t-too. Don't leave me…"
Derek closed his eyes at the halting words spilling out of the werewolf. It was too much. He should have never been taken from his family. Stiles’s voice was raw and broken, it must have been painful to talk after everything he'd gone through and he wanted to make sure Derek knew, with what little words he had, that he didn't want him to leave. Derek could have easily been the one on the floor. If things happened just a little bit differently maybe he'd have been a werewolf, alone, with nothing until a stranger showed up in his life. He stopped trying to pull away from Stiles, and looked up to meet Claudia’s eyes.
"Okay, Claudia, I've got a lot to tell you. You're not going to believe all of it," Derek said, "Before we get into it I've got to talk to my sister outside."
"Stiles, baby, come with momma, we'll get you some food while Derek goes outside for a few minutes. He's coming back.” Claudia locked determined brown eyes onto Derek. “Aren't you Derek?" she said it in a way that left Derek feeling like it wasn't a question.
"Yeah," Derek said, "I'm coming back."
Stiles finally released him, the black veins that had gone high enough that they disappeared under the short sleeves of the shirt Stiles was wearing faded away. Derek turned to look at Stiles as he got to his feet. There was more in those brown eyes than he'd ever seen before. He wasn't sure how he'd ever thought of them as withered or dying leaves. There was something building in the depths, he wasn't sure what it was, but he wanted to see. He wanted to see what those brown eyes would look like when they were lit up with a smile, wanted to hear what it would sound life if Stiles found a reason to laugh.
Stiles turned away after stroking Derek's hand a few more times with delicate brushes of his fingers. He turned and went to the outstretched arms of his mother. She wrapped him up, kissed his forehead and stroked his hair. Derek couldn't hear what she was saying to him anymore.
Derek walked out of the bakery and went to the driver side door of the van. Laura was tapping her hand against the door. She rolled down the window.
"You ready to get out of here?" Laura asked.
"Not yet," Derek said. He ignored how exhilarated Laura looked when she heard the tone of his voice. "We're not leaving until we've hunted down every one of the Argent werewolves in this town."
"That's my baby brother!" Laura grinned wickedly. "You got a plan already I take it?"
Derek smiled at his sister, he was glad they were getting back onto the same page. "Yeah. Hopefully it's good enough. I mean I’m just the brawn of this operation."
Laura poked him in the stomach and gave him a smile. He grinned back at her; it'd been awhile since he'd seen a genuine smile. It was a shame he was about to take it away. Laura seemed to sense the shift in his mood and grimaced.
"Crap," Laura muttered, "You want me to play good cop with someone to get information, don't you?"
"There's a reporter named Natalie Martin, she knows something and we need to find out what it is. There's something going on in this town and I think she's clued into it."
"What are you going to do while I'm weaseling information from the locals?" Laura asked.
"I'm going to try to explain to a mother what happened to her son. I'm going to rig some defenses up if I can or take them somewhere safe." Derek said, he ignored Laura opening her mouth and continued before she could interrupt him, "After that's done, I'm going to get some sleep so that I'm fully awake when I start hunting Argent werewolves."
Laura banged her hand on the steering wheel and let out a cheer. "Now you’re speaking my language, Derek. Go tuck in your lost puppy and get some sleep. I'll do the investigating. Tonight, we'll check out the woods in the area to see if we can catch ourselves any monsters."
Derek nodded, went around to the back of the van and pulled out one of the duffel bags of supplies. He hoped that one of the Argent werewolves would track them to the bakery. He wanted to give some payback. Even more than that though, he wasn't sure he could look into that woman's eyes and try to explain what happened to her son. If one of them showed up, he wouldn't have to, she'd see for herself.
Chapter 10: Trap
Laura receives a warning from an unexpected source.
Laura was nowhere near as proficient with research as Derek. She excelled in other areas, but it wasn't too difficult to figure out where Natalie Martin lived. People could be very stupid with social media. She parked the van down the street from the residence.
It was only 7am; she hoped the reporter hadn't already gone to work. Laura did a double check of her supplies in case she ran into trouble. She had two pistols, both loaded with aconite shells. She applied a wolfsbane oil extract over the skin of her hands and neck. If one of them tried to grab or bite her at least they'd suffer for it. Laura prided herself on having found so many ways to weaponize the plant.
For good measure she bound her long hair up, piling it atop her head and securing it with pins, no reason to provide an extra target for someone to grab onto. She tucked one of the flowers into her hair behind her ear, because blue was her favorite color, and because she liked to broadcast how much she knew.
Derek thought the idea was silly, he asked her if she planned on trying to trick one into going on a date. She laughed at the time but now she was starting to wonder about that comment. He was getting awfully friendly with a creature he'd just met.
Laura grabbed the fake detective identification out of her glove compartment. She wasn't dressed to be a cop or agent; private investigator would have to do. She glanced at it to remind herself of the name it had been created using.
She got out and went around the back of the van to grab a couple of the aerosol bombs from her duffel. They were her crowning achievement. She hadn’t gotten to use one in combat yet, but she'd planted one at the hotel. She tucked them into her jacket, made sure all her clothing was tight and nothing made an easy handhold.
Laura did not like to take risks. Werewolves were dangerous if they got close. She specialized in keeping them away. She’d considered carrying mountain ash with her to use as a barrier, however that would just delay the inevitable. It’s not like a circle would prevent one from throwing a brick into her face.
She walked quickly up the street, went up the driveway to the house and rang the doorbell. A few moments later a pretty young woman opened the door. The girl looked like a librarian, the kind of librarian men had fantasies about. She had strawberry blonde hair in a tight braid coiled against the back of her head and thin framed glasses. She wasn't wearing any makeup that Laura could see. She was dressed in a simple charcoal dress with a short black jacket.
"May I help you?" the girl asked.
Laura smiled; the young woman was utterly polite. "Good morning, is your mother home? I've got a couple of questions I'd like to ask her." She pulled her identification out and flashed it towards the teenager in the doorway. "I'm an investigator, my name is Janis Franklin."
The girl’s eyes darted for a moment to the blue flower in Laura's hair and then locked back onto her eyes. "My mother's not here," the girl said, "you don't look like an investigator."
"Have you met many investigators?"
"My mother is a reporter. Yes. I've met many investigators." The girl's tone was completely polite, but her eyes were calculating and bold. Laura liked her already.
"Do the boys at your school like the whole sexy librarian thing?" Laura asked. She hoped to throw the girl off balance.
"I don't know but it drives my girlfriend wild." A mischievous smile played across the girl's face for half a moment. "Have you seen Jurassic Park?"
The combination of statements left Laura a little off balance. That wasn't how it was supposed to work. She wasn't sure what the question had to do with anything. She shook her head to see where the little librarian was going with it.
"The scariest part of that movie to me is when the hunter realizes that the other velociraptors were a distraction, just a ruse for the older female one to catch the hunter in a trap." The girl's eyes flicked past Laura for a moment, swept from side to side. "It was terrifying that the hunter, someone who'd been trained to deal with them, wasn't sure how many there were and where they were." The girl looked Laura dead in the eyes, her outer shell cracked for a moment. Laura could see real fear down in the depths.
"I don't remember that part, I just remember that the people outsmarted the dinosaurs," Laura said. She was shaken by the hidden meaning of the girl's words. How did she know so much? Was she really implying that Laura was in danger?
"They didn't outsmart the dinosaurs, Janis. They fled. I have to get ready for school. My mother's a very busy woman and unless you have something… official, she probably wouldn't speak with you anyway." The girl closed the door in Laura's face.
A chill ran down Laura's spine. She calmly walked back to the van. Was the girl's banter a warning? She wondered how much the young woman knew about what was going on in the town. The hunter didn't know how many dinosaurs there were? Was that the key?
She started the van and began to drive. Laura checked all the mirrors and it wasn't long before she realized she was being followed by a white Prius. She laughed to herself. At least her stalkers were going green. The great thing about most werewolves was that they relied so much on their natural abilities, their overconfidence left them vulnerable. She wondered if the people in the car were werewolves or flunkies.
Laura couldn't take any chances. She didn't want to hurt any regular people. She also didn't want to jump to the wrong conclusions because of mini-librarian's warning. She took a winding path away from the house. It wasn't long before a pickup truck and a Ford Focus started following her as well.
That was one of the things that sucked about werewolves. They traveled in packs. If she was lucky there would only be three, one in each car. She pulled out her cell phone and resent a saved text message. A minute later she read Derek's reply. She clicked on the address in the message. She smiled as the female artificial voice issued from the speakers telling her to take a right in half a mile.
Realistically, based on the vehicles pursing her, there were at least three werewolves. That was very likely to be a huge chunk of the pack. If there were more than that in the three vehicles, they might end this conflict before it even started. She sang to herself, "C'mon baby, let the good times roll. C'mon baby, let me thrill your soul." She loved Janis Joplin, she loved hunting werewolves with her brother, the day was starting to look up.
Chapter 11: Numbers
Laura finds out there are far more werewolves in Beacon Hills than she expected.
Laura was glad she was wearing her seatbelt when a black sedan crossed over into the wrong lane and hit her van head on. For one sickening moment the only thing she could hear was shattering glass and bending metal. Pain exploded through her body as she slammed into the airbag.
That was another thing about werewolves; they could take a lot more risks than humans could with their bodies. She knew the other vehicles were stopping even though she couldn't hear anything through the ringing in her ears. She wasn't going to make it to the meeting point. She was going to have to face all the werewolves herself. She dropped her phone onto the floor of the van.
Laura disengaged the seatbelt and crawled over the seat to the passenger side door. Likely her assailants were planning on yanking her from the driver's side. She wasn't going to make it that easy. She pulled out her two pistols, spit blood onto the floor of the van and kicked the door open.
A roar filled her ears over the ringing in her head. She turned and unloaded three shots from each pistol into the creature's chest as it came around the vehicle at her. The Glock 22s she had each had fifteen rounds. Six shots down, twenty-four before she'd have to reload. She barely had time to enjoy the stupid beast's look of pain before it collapsed.
"Come on!" she yelled. "I've got a lot more ammo than I have time."
The crunch of metal on top of the van was enough warning for her to roll forward towards the shoulder of the road. Howls filled the air. She counted them off even as she came up and unloaded one shot from each pistol into the female werewolf that was on top of the van. It went down in a spray of blood almost as vibrant as the satisfaction she felt knowing that the aconite shells would end the monster even if she hadn't hit a vital organ. Twenty-two shots left and the howls made it seem like there were four more wolves.
Six. Six werewolves all for her. Derek was going to be so jealous. She took off and headed into the woods that lined the road. She'd been on her way out of town when the sedan crashed into her. She leapt down into a small creek and started running again. Not enough water to clear her scent but more than enough to warn her more animals were coming right behind.
She holstered one of her pistols and grabbed one of her aerosol bombs. She wouldn't use it unless she could hit at least two. It would be fun to watch one gasp and choke, but she liked to get her money's worth.
Laura risked a glance over her shoulder. A chill ran down her spine when she saw three werewolves close behind. Did that mean there was one circling? Perhaps there were more and the howling was meant to mask their numbers instead of announcing them. Wouldn't it be just her luck to encounter the whole damn pack?
She darted up over the edge of the creek. If they were herding her towards something she wasn't going to make it easy for them. She spun in place and tossed the smoke bomb. It detonated right in the middle of the three wolves, white gas billowing out.
She drew her second Glock again, turned in place ready to unleash more pain. She wasn't going to run anymore. Not until she killed the three that she could hear choking in the smoke. Whines of pain filled her ears and it was almost enough to drown out the nightmares she had of her family screaming as they were burned alive.
One werewolf stumbled forward out of the smoke, its skin a ruinous patchwork of blisters. It rushed forward, blind and weeping tears of blood. She regretted having to drop to twenty-one rounds of ammunition. The bullet went right through the thing's forehead. It should have suffered more. It got off easy.
Laura's instinct told her to roll to the side and it was the only thing that saved her as a dark shape rushed from the underbrush nearby trying to hamstring her. She came up and fired one round from each gun into the wolf's back. Nineteen shots left before she'd have to reload. Four wolves down. If the one had not tried to hamstring her she might be dead. That meant they were trying to take her alive. That gave her an advantage.
A second werewolf crawled out of the smoke, it whined pathetically. A bullet ended its cry. Eighteen shots left and five down. It was just too easy. She hadn't seen or heard the pack's Alpha yet though. Was it because the Alpha wasn't there or because it was biding its time? The smoke from her bomb cleared. The third werewolf that had been on the inside of the cloud never made it out. It died choking, lungs full of poisonous fumes. She grinned. That was the most satisfying kill she'd ever gotten. If she could choke the life out of every single one of the monsters who murdered her family with smoke and flame she'd almost be even.
Howls filled the air. So many that Laura's confidence faltered for a moment. How could there be so many? How many werewolves were in the Argent's pack? It was ridiculous. She laughed to herself hoping that it was the thrill of the combat and not the sickening onset of panic.
Twelve shots had been fired and one smoke bomb used. That bought her the lives of six werewolves. She had eighteen left and one more bomb. She couldn't wait to see if there was a discount today on savage beasts.
Creatures moved in the shadows where the trees were thickest. Games, she hated it when they played their little games. They thought they could confuse her, make her feel fear. She laughed and this time there was no hysteria, it was all glee. They wanted to take her alive? Fine, she'd take down as many of them as she could to make it easier for Derek to finish the damn things off. She'd soak the whole forest in their blood.
Two came out of the trees trying to circle her. Petty tactics by creatures that thought she wasn't used to being outnumbered and hunted by pack animals. She feinted her right pistol towards the faster moving one, the slower on the left fell for it, ate it up like the dumb beast it was. Two rounds dropped it to the ground, sixteen shots left and seven werewolves down. No one had told her it was Christmas.
The faster moving werewolf leapt towards her, hand stretching for her throat. She stepped sideways and brought her pistol down on its ear. The cracking sound was wonderful. If they’d been trying to kill her they wouldn't be taking so many stupid risks. She wondered what they were trying to gain. She crushed the werewolf's windpipe with her heel when it tumbled onto its back.
The creature let out a hideous gurgling noise, rolled over onto its stomach and tried to crawl away. She holstered her left pistol and drew a knife out of her boot. She dropped her knee onto its back. Laura holstered her right pistol and gripped the thing's shaggy hair in her hands.
"Smile little puppy," she whispered, her voice full of venom. "It's just a game, right?"
It tried to whine in protest, but she slit its throat without a shred of guilt. It deserved so much worse. All of them did. She stood up and waited for more. Sixteen shells just begging to spill their poison into werewolf bodies, she sheathed her knife and drew both pistols again.
Eight wolves down. The Alpha had to be the only one left. The part of her mind that should have been wondering when she'd be married and having children mourned for the loss of so many lives. She ignored it, that part of who she was had died in the house with her family. The protests were just echoes of its dying gasps.
The sound of someone clapping drew her attention. Laura was sickened that one of the creatures was getting some sort of amusement in its comrades' deaths. She couldn't wait to fill it full of poison too.
"I have to admit," a voice called out. "I didn't think you'd take out so many of us, even if those were just trash."
Laura spit in disgust. The voice belonged to a young man. What a sick and twisted world it was for there to be such a creature.
"Why don't you come out and say that to my face?" she called back.
"While you still have sixteen shots left? That'd be rather stupid wouldn't it?"
Laura couldn't see the speaker but started circling to try to get a clear shot. The thing knew how many bullets she had left. That meant that it was smart. It also meant that it had waited and watched as its allies died. She sometimes thought of hunting as a game but that was just not right.
"What's your name?" she called out.
"Tell me yours and I'll tell you mine," the voice responded. It came from a different location. It was moving too. Laura hated it when they were smart.
"Laura," she said. It didn't matter if it knew what her name was. It was going to be dead soon.
She kept moving trying to avoid stepping on anything that would give her exact location away. She gasped in shock when strong hands wrapped around her neck from behind. Laura sucked air into her lungs desperately when the creature's hands pulled back as if burned. She was glad she'd put the oil on her neck, it saved her life. She spun and leveled the pistols at the creature's chest. Adrenaline flooded her at having one of them so close; she unloaded six shots into it before stumbling away.
"Only ten shots left now, Laura." The voice was further away.
"You said you were going to tell me what your name was." Laura was stalling for time. If she was lucky Derek might be on his way, might have come across the wreck on his way to the location. She left her phone in the van. He'd be able to track her location with it. He was good at all that computer crap. She was getting tired. She needed backup.
"I know that you're stalling," the voice called out. "The funny thing is I'm stalling too. The only difference is that I already took care of any backup that might be coming for you. You should have kept the phone on you if you wanted someone to track it."
Laura ground her teeth. She wasn't expecting there to be a werewolf that smart. Perhaps he was the Alpha.
"Your backup isn't coming but the Argents should be here soon. The Alpha really wants to meet you. We're going to turn you Laura. We're going to turn you and keep you locked up. When the full moon comes we're going to feed your partner to you." The voice was getting further away.
Rage overcame Laura. She unloaded five shots into the surrounding forest hoping to get lucky. No scream of pain followed the staccato of the gunshots, only laughter.
"Five to go, when they're all gone I'm going to come out and play with you. You'll be whispering my name begging me for mercy when I'm done."
Laura hated the monster. "Why don't you come out now? I'll throw the guns down and you can take a swipe at me with your claws. Are you scared of a woman?"
Laughter filled the forest. "Oh yes, I am. You haven’t met Victoria or Allison. Anyone who met either of them would be afraid of women."
Laura holstered her pistols. She raised her arms up in challenge. "Come on then you little coward. Come and play with me."
There was a blur of movement. Before she could draw one of her guns she heard the loud crack of a discharging bullet. Pain blossomed in her leg. She went down hard on her hands and knees. The thing had shot her. She'd never seen one of them use a gun before.
A young man with dark skin and short black hair came out from behind a tree. He holstered his own pistol as he walked towards her. "The thing I find the most infuriating about humans, Laura, is that they think they're the only ones who know how to use tools."
Laura waited until he was within a few feet of her. "So, what's your name kid?"
"It's Danny, not that it matters anymore," he said. He reached into his pocket and pulled out her phone. The back panel had been torn open and she could see he'd gutted the electronics in it. "No one is coming to help you."
Laura grinned. While he was looking in his pocket she'd grabbed the trigger on the last bomb she had. "That's okay, seeing that stupid grin wiped off your face was worth getting shot."
"What?" he said, eyes widening in fear. Laura didn't have a chance to enjoy it for very long though. She detonated the bomb. It wasn't dangerous to her, but it stung like a bitch discharging against her body.
Chapter 12: Song
Stiles's mother finds out the truth about what Stiles is, and what happened to him.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
Stiles watched his mother silently. She’d listened as Derek explained what had happened as best he knew. Stiles hadn't been interested in filling in the details Derek hadn't figured out on his own. His mother had been calm, a steady wall as wave after wave of revelations crashed against her. She was so strong. She only reacted once, when Derek had started talking about what he thought Stiles had been through, she'd reached out and taken hold of Stiles’s hand.
Derek had been gone for about an hour. He'd promised Stiles that he'd return after he met up with his sister. Stiles knew that something was wrong though. Derek had smelled afraid when he read the message she'd sent him on the phone.
"I want to make you something to eat," Claudia said, cutting through his thoughts.
He didn't look away from her, hadn't been able to look away since Derek had left. His stomach rumbled loudly. She laughed, stood up and ruffled his short hair. He followed her as she walked around behind the counter. She clucked her tongue but didn't tell him to sit down. He didn't want to be away from her, didn't want to let her out of his sight. When he woke up, he wanted to keep all the memories of this dream.
She pulled out a variety of ingredients from the cooler. She'd said that the bakery was partially a café now. He sniffed at the food. She handed him a slice of turkey. He ate it so fast he wasn't even sure what it tasted like. His mother reached out, brushed a hand across his cheek. He turned his face into the touch, still awed by how good she smelled. She handed him a few more pieces of turkey. He ate them with just as much excitement as the first.
"I see your appetite is as big as ever." She laughed, patted his shoulder.
Stiles watched, enthralled as she crafted him an enormous sandwich. He didn't even know if he'd be able to put it in his mouth. He couldn't wait to try. There was bread, tomatoes, mustard, pickles, things he'd not eaten in years. He was practically drooling.
His mother began to hum, the tune of a song from his childhood, the song that had kept him alive. Tears began to stream down his face. His mother turned to look at him when he began to sniffle.
"Baby mine, don't you cry. Baby mine, dry your eyes," she sang. She drew him in, pulled his head to her chest. "Rest your head close to my heart, never to part, baby of mine."
Memories flooded through him, a baby elephant trying desperately to get to his mother. Unable to reach her son the mother elephant had stuck her trunk through the bars of the window, brushed her baby's head with it. It had been one of his favorite cartoons, a lifetime ago. Soft hands stroked his hair.
"Little one when you play, don't mind what you say. Let those eyes sparkle and shine. Never a tear, baby of mine." His mother's singing was beautiful. She clung to him desperately, crushing him against her body. He didn't care about the sandwich anymore. He just wanted to stay in her arms.
"If they knew sweet little you, they'd end up loving you too, all those people who scold you. What they'd give just for the chance to hold you." She paused, took a shaky breath. Tears slipped down her face.
"I l-love you," Stiles whispered, turned his head to hide his crying in the front of her apron. "I m-m-missed you…" He wrapped his arms tightly around her waist. His throat hurt, he still wasn't used to talking, wasn't sure he ever would be again.
She stroked his hair, rocked them gently back and forth. "From your head to your toes, you're not much goodness knows, but you're so precious to me, cute as can be, baby of mine."
The singing ended, but the memories were still there, still pushing aside all the bad things that happened to him. His mother started crying, full throated, raw, body shaking with the force of it. Stiles pulled back, tried to sooth her. He ran his hands over her hair. She buried her face against his shoulder.
"I thought I'd never see you again," she whispered, "I knew you weren't dead." Her fingers curled into the back of his shirt. "A mother always knows, knows when her baby is in danger. I didn't know what to do."
He kissed the side of her head, breathed in the lavender scent of her hair. He needed her to understand, needed her to know what was in his heart. He didn't have the words, didn't know how to make her see.
"Y-you kept me a-a-alive." Stiles tried to swallow, his throat constricted. "I-I just…" He squeezed his eyes closed. "N-n-need you…"
It wasn't enough, there was so much, so much she didn't know, didn't know what he'd been through. He never wanted her to know. He just wanted her to love him, to tell him it would be alright. He wanted her to make him sandwiches, and yell at him if he did something wrong. He wanted to watch cartoons with her, eat cookies she baked. He wanted her to sing to him some more, to pat him on the head. He wanted all the years back that had been stolen from him. He wanted another chance at growing up.
His mother pulled away, gripped the sides of his face so he would look into her eyes. He opened them, heart racing for a moment, terrified to see something other than her warm brown eyes looking at him.
"I'm never going to let you go, honey. Don't worry, I'm not going anywhere."
He blinked away tears. She laughed, wiped his face with a napkin from the counter then did the same for herself. He smiled at her. Her whole face lit up. Happiness rolled off her in waves, flooded his senses. He grinned, it made everything better. She made everything better.
Her hand slipped from his face, wrapped around the back of his head, slipped down over the scars on the back of his neck. His body vibrated for a moment, his grin slipped away. The scars on his neck, he couldn't think, couldn't breathe. Horror picked at the edges of his consciousness, tried to snake its way around his mind, crush it with looping coils of fear.
"Stiles? Stiles, honey, what's wrong?"
The scent of panic, of sudden fear flooded the bakery, tore away the smells of turkey, bread, and fresh vegetables. His mother's fear, the scent drove him wild, whipped at his mind. She was afraid. His mother was afraid.
He wasn't in the bakery anymore, he was in the deepest parts of his mind, the most terrible memories he couldn't shake away. It was worse now though, she was there with him, suffering with him. He remembered Allison pushing the hot coal into his mouth, only this time it wasn't him. Allison was doing it to his mother, he couldn't do anything. He was chained to the ground like a dog, unable to get close enough, choking himself trying to reach them.
He felt it roll over him, the wolf transformation. The fingers pulled away from his scars, the feral part of his mind wanted to flee, wanted to run away, didn't want to see the fear in his mother's eyes. The moment had come, it had been an accident, but he was going to lose her. She was going to see that he was a monster. He pulled away, dropped down to all fours. He was going to flee. He needed to get away from her before she saw what he really was.
The yell froze him in place. He almost tripped over his own hands and feet. He dipped his head, turned back and looked at his mother's shoes.
"I don't know what you think you're doing, but you're not going outside until you eat!"
The words, they were so inappropriate to the situation, didn't fit what was going on. He dropped from the crouch he was in to sit cross-legged on the floor, stunned by the command. He watched as her feet got closer. She dropped down onto the floor in front of him, arranging her dress and apron as she leaned against the counter. She placed a paper towel over his leg, set the sandwich down on it.
"I'm sorry," she said, "It was just the first thing that came to mind."
He looked up at her, she wasn't afraid, wasn't terrified of the wolf in him. She reached out, brushed one of her hands over the point of his ear. He glanced down at his hands, at the wicked claws sprouting from his fingers. She let go of his ear, held his hand. There was still no smell of fear.
"You can't scare me away. I love you, all of you," she said.
He glanced up at her, his golden eyes watching her brown ones. She let go of his hand, flicked him in the nose. He was startled for a moment. Then he did something he hadn't expected to do. He laughed. He laughed loudly. He laughed so hard his belly started to ache, for the first time in a long time it was aching because of something other than hunger or pain.
It took a few moments but soon his mother was laughing with him. He didn't realize that he'd changed back until his mother pushed a small bottle of chocolate milk into his hand. He looked at the bottle, looked at where his claws had been.
Stiles glanced at his mother. She had a small smile on her face. She winked at him. Suddenly, it didn't matter that he was a monster, didn't matter that he'd been tortured. All that mattered was that she still loved him, still wanted to take care of him. It was enough for him that she loved him despite all the bad things that came with him.
"I love you too, mom." He watched her, she watched him back. It was perfect.
"You still have to eat before you can go outside," she said.
Just in case it wasn't obvious and anyone needed to know, the song is from Dumbo. Yeah. Feel free to make fun of me, but that was my favorite movie as a kid.
Chapter 13: Visitor
An unexpected visitor threatens to destroy Stiles's newfound happiness.
Stiles fidgeted, leg bouncing and hands rubbing together. His mother was making notations on a piece of paper. He wanted to touch her more, wanted her to touch him more. He still couldn't believe he wasn't dreaming, wasn't dead.
"Stay here and rest. I'm going to put some things in order to close the bakery for a few days while we get this all figured out. Okay?" Claudia gathered up the notebook she'd been writing on. She ruffled his short hair with a gentle touch.
Stiles nodded. He didn't want to stay, but he would do as he was told. He tried to always do what he was told. He could be good. Stiles watched his mother head through a door at the back. He missed her already.
He glanced down at the empty plate in front of him, used his fingers to gather up the crumbs from the three sandwiches she'd made him. Stiles sighed happily, licked his fingers clean. He couldn't remember the last time he'd felt so full, so warm.
He closed his eyes and let the scents of the bakery sink into him. So much sugar in the air, so much love, there wasn't any other place like it. There was no blood, no gasoline. Everything was clean and fresh. He leaned forward, rested his chin on the table. The glass of water was so clear. There was no mud, no dirt. He wanted to splash it on his face. He wondered if he'd be able to take a bath later, even though he’d just taken a shower the night before. He found himself wanting things, hoping for things, and tried to keep the fear that it was all a mistake at bay.
The door at the front of the building rattled. He tilted his head at the sound. He thought it might have been Derek. He scrambled to his feet, nearly knocked the chair over in his rush to get to the door. He couldn't see through the curtains that covered the door. He was too excited to get Derek's scent back in the room. Derek and sugar together, there had never been anything so sweet.
He unhooked the chain, unlocked the deadbolt. The door opened easily, but the smile on his lips died when he saw who stood on the other side of the door. Allison grinned at him, clapped her hands in delight. Stiles took a step back, shook his head. It wasn't possible, she couldn't be there. The scents of the bakery had masked her approach, he hadn't been paying attention.
"Chocolate!" Allison squealed with delight as she stepped into the building. "I knew I'd find you here. Did you miss me, boy?"
Stiles opened his mouth. He wanted to scream for help, for Derek. Nothing came out. Just seeing her again stole all the words he'd fought so hard to get back. He was being punished, it was a game. She'd just let him go, gave him the illusion of freedom just so she could see him when he realized it had all been a dream.
Tears started to stream down his face, he sucked in a ragged breath. Allison stepped forward, seized him roughly by the ears. She pulled his head forward, ran her tongue along his cheeks. She always told him she loved the taste of his tears. He started to sink down to his knees. She didn't let him go easily, held him up until he felt like his ears were going to rip off. Her eyes lit up with amber light, she'd always loved it when he was on his knees.
"Good," Allison whispered, "I see you still remember your place." She reached around behind his head. Human fingernails brushed against the scars at the back of his neck.
Stiles’s head slammed into the tile floor of the bakery. He didn't even wince, she hadn't pushed him. He'd done it on instinct, so she wouldn't have to. She laughed. It was an ugly sound that tore open his guts, made it feel like his insides were boiling under the hideous fire from Laura's gun again.
Sharp nails sprouted against his neck, spiked through his skin. She'd partially shifted, familiar pain lanced through him. Familiar images seared his mind. She loved her trips down memory lane. Stiles opened his mouth, but no sound came out.
He saw her memories. They wrapped around his mind like a hideous spider's web. It started with the coal. That was one of her fondest. He could smell the burning flesh of his mouth, felt the exaltation she felt at watching the skin blister. He closed his eyes, but the images didn't stop.
Rusty spikes were driven into his palms, pinned him to the wooden floor. She must have been feeling sentimental. That's how she'd restrained him when she'd used him for her pleasure for the first time. She'd climbed on top of him, ridden him as he writhed in pain. She'd opened gouges in his chest with her nails, lapped at the blood as she sought her pleasure through his pain.
He heard her gasp, both with his ears and his mind. He knew what she must look like, lost in the sensation, head back as though she were howling out her pleasure. She would be lost in the memories too. If only Derek were there, he would have protected him. Allison would have been vulnerable, lost in the sensation.
He took a deep breath, already the moment of being Stiles was fading away. The soft scent of lavender and vanilla filled his lungs. He wanted to smile. He didn't know how long he'd be able to remember his mother's smell. Surely Allison's memories would wash them away.
"Get your claws out of my son, bitch!"
Stiles had never heard his mother swear before. He wondered why he would hallucinate her saying that. Normally he just thought of the song. Pain faded from his body abruptly, claws withdrew from his skin and took the memories of horror with them.
He sucked in a ragged breath. Lavender and vanilla so close. Stiles risked Allison's wrath by turning his head slightly. His mother's shoes were right next to him. He sat up. His mother was holding a shotgun. She was aiming it at Allison's head.
"What did you call me?" Allison's voice was like acid burning his ears. Her face was full of rage. She flexed her claws. "I'm going to chop you up, feed you to your son. I can't wait to hear what sounds you'll make for me."
Stiles's mother didn't waver. She simply pumped the shotgun, pushed it closer towards Allison's face. "Tell me," Claudia said, "how will you do that with no head?"
Allison laughed, it was just as high pitched and ugly as it always was. "That gun can't kill me. I'll tear your arms off before you can pull the trigger. You’re just a pathetic human."
Fury boiled through Stiles, a fire that for once he welcomed. Allison threatened his mother. His vision went red. He saw the moment Allison's claws twitched. Stiles leapt to his feet, put his body between his mother and Allison.
Claws dug into his stomach. Pain lanced through him. It was irrelevant. Pain like that he'd gotten used to when he was still a child. He reached out, got his fingers around Allison's throat. Her yellow eyes went wide, the light slowly faded as he began to crush her windpipe. He leaned forward, roared into her face. Allison had threatened his mother. He was going to rip her throat out with his teeth.
"C-chocolate," Allison choked out. She reached out with her other hand, sank her claws into his wrist.
It was nothing, she'd wound barbed wire around that arm when he was ten. She'd lead him around by it, even when he couldn't walk anymore. She had just yanked. The metal had gotten stuck in the bone. His skin had healed over it. She'd torn it off the next day.
"Stiles, baby?" His mother's voice was distant. He could barely hear it through the blood pounding in his ears. "Don't do this. Let me take care of it."
Allison dug her claws in deeper. He laughed in her face. Allison's eyes bulged out, he didn't know if it was shock that he could make the noise or because he was strangling her. He didn't care. The pain didn't matter. It was pathetic next to the lifetime of torment she'd given him.
"Stiles Stilinski!" Claudia said. "Let her go now! You are not a monster like her!"
Stiles blinked. He released his hold, glanced back at his mother, head tilted low in submission. He didn't want to make her angry. He wanted to be a good boy for her.
"I'll kill you both!" Allison gasped. "That shotgun can't kill me. I'll decorate my dollhouses with your eyes!"
The door opened again. Stiles was afraid to look, afraid to see the Alpha. He kept his head down even as he put his body between the door and his mother, pushed her back to try to make sure Allison couldn’t reach her either. He brought his arms up to shield his face, waited for the pain. He held his breath, afraid to catch the scent of Allison's mother.
"That gun won't kill you, but this one will."
Stiles glanced up, it was Derek. Derek had come back. Stiles took a deep breath, sucked in his scent. It was wonderful, made him light headed. Derek pointed the gun he’d once pointed at Stiles at Allison, not taking his eyes off her for a second.
"Give me your phone," Derek said.
"Why should I?" Allison asked.
Derek shifted the angle of the gun from her head, pointed at her knee and pulled the trigger. His expression didn’t change in the slightest. Stiles didn't even hear his heartbeat waver. Claudia mother gasped, took a step back. She got a hold on the back of his shirt of Stiles’s shirt. She tried to pull him away as Allison collapsed on the floor with a cry of pain.
"I'm going to call your father. If my sister is alive, we're going to make a trade tomorrow night," Derek said.
Allison looked up at him, venom in her eyes. "If the bitch is dead?"
Derek knelt, grabbed Allison's hair. He wrenched her head back. Her mouth fell open in shock. He placed the barrel of the gun in her mouth.
"If she's dead, then I'm going to see if I can make you scream as many times as Stiles did before the poison in these bullets makes its way to your heart." He pressed the gun further into her mouth. She made a gagging noise around the barrel. "If you don't, then I'll clear the poison from your system. Then we'll start all over to see how far we get."
Allison's eyes got wider. Stiles had never seen that look on Allison's face. Not even when he was crushing her windpipe. She was terrified of Derek, of what he promised to do to her. She must have known. Allison must have heard it too. Derek's heartbeat hadn't wavered. He'd meant every word he said. Allison slowly reached into her pocket, pulled out her phone and gave it to Derek.
"Mrs. Stilinski?" Derek didn't take his eyes off Allison as he addressed Stiles's mother. "I need you to go out to my car, get the duffle bag in the back. I've got some restraints."
"Are you going to kill her?" Stiles's mother asked.
"Yes. It might not be tomorrow though. I need to get my sister back. Once that's done, I'm not going to stop until all of them are dead. They killed my family." Derek leaned in closer to Allison. He pulled the gun out of her mouth, tucked the barrel under her chin.
Claudia stepped out from behind Stiles, moved up to Allison. "Are you one of the ones that hurt my son? Did you help kill my husband?"
Allison grinned. "I didn't kill him, I was too little then. Chocolate though, he's my masterpiece. I trained him perfectly. My mother gave him to me after he turned. He's my playmate, my property."
Stiles's mother leaned in closer to Allison too, looked her right in the eyes. "You had better hope that this man kills you before I get my hands on you. My husband taught me how to use this." She patted the shotgun. “Make no mistake, I didn’t keep Stiles from killing you because you deserve to live. I stopped him because he doesn’t deserve to be a killer. I’ll carry that for him.”
Stiles's mouth fell open. He couldn't believe what was happening. Derek and his mother had captured Allison. She was never going to be able to hurt him again. They'd done what they said they were going to do. They'd kept their promise.
Derek flipped open the phone, scrolled through the contact list and dialed a number.
"Chris Argent?" Derek asked. "I want to make a trade tomorrow night. My sister for your daughter. I'll send you the details later. Laura had better be perfectly healthy. If she is, you'll get your daughter back in one piece." Derek hung up the phone without waiting for a response.
Stiles covered his ears, in the far distance, beyond the range of human hearing a horrifying sound broke through the air, the Alpha's cry of rage.
"W-we h-have to g-go," Stiles stammered. "She's going t-to come. The A-Alpha is going to c-come."
Derek nodded at Stiles. "Mrs. Stilinski, I still need you to get my bag."
Claudia nodded at Derek, calmly walked out the front door. Stiles shook his head. They weren't afraid. They should have been, but they weren't. No fear smell came from the humans. He could smell it on Allison, could smell it on himself.
Derek reached out with the hand that wasn't holding the gun to Allison's chin, patted Stiles on the head. "Don't worry, Stiles. We're going to keep you safe."
Allison opened her mouth, seemingly unable to keep herself from making a threat. Derek didn't wait to hear what she was going to say, just slammed his pistol hard enough into her temple that she collapsed to the ground.
Claudia came back into the building with the duffle bag. Stiles watched them both in shock. Their heartbeats were so steady. He wondered if everything was going to work out after all.
Chapter 14: Solidarity
Derek, Claudia, and Stiles meet up with allies for the coming fight.
Derek was barely keeping it together. Laura was gone. He was alone. It was as if coming back to Beacon Hills had caused all his nightmares to become real. He had to stay strong, had to keep his game face on for just a little bit longer. He'd called in reinforcements, hunters in the area that he'd known since he was a child. Friends of Laura and his, people who had sheltered them. Once he got to them he could rest. Stiles and his mom would be safe. The girl, Allison Argent, she'd be under guard.
He'd gotten a message earlier saying the hunters had met up with a local resistance group. There were people in Beacon Hills who knew the truth. He wished he'd called for help sooner, but that's not the way he and Laura did things. They were a team. They only had each other, everyone else were just allies. Now Derek was alone.
He leaned his head against the door, watched the tops of buildings streak by as they made their way out of town. Mrs. Stilinski was driving. Stiles was in the passenger seat. Derek was in the back of the van with Allison. She'd been bound, gagged, and had a hood pulled over her head. They were using strongly scented cleaning products from the bakery to try to muddle her sense of smell. Derek hoped it was enough. He was too tired to fight anymore. He just needed to hold on a little longer. Derek's head fell forward. Just a little longer.
A tentative touch brushed along the back of his head. Derek glanced up. Brown eyes looked at him from above the passenger seat. Stiles was perched on his knees, clearly not wearing his seat belt. The werewolf had an arm stretched out shaking slightly. Derek gripped the young werewolf's hand. Stiles rose up on the seat further, a shy smile on his lips as he looked down at Derek sitting on the floor of the van.
Stiles's grip was firm. Derek hadn't expected that. Once they were touching all the trembling in Stiles's body seemed to fade away. It was simple, such a small gesture. Stiles was reaching out to him, trying to make a connection. Derek wasn't sure what it meant, but he was glad Stiles was making progress. Being reunited with his mother had changed him. That's what having a family did. It made people stronger. Derek was glad. He wanted to get his sister back because she made him stronger too.
"I-I-I'm going to help you," Stiles said. "W-we'll get her back." The werewolf tightened his grip on Derek's hand as he spoke. It was like he was trying to show Derek that even if his words were hesitant his intentions weren't.
It was amazing. Stiles was willing to face head on the people who had made his life a living hell. For some reason he was willing to put himself back in a position where he could be taken again. He'd risk giving up his freedom just to help Derek.
"No. You're going to stay somewhere safe." Derek wasn't going to let anything else happen to the young werewolf. He'd faced enough, seen too much already. Derek wasn't going to risk it.
"We're both going to help you," Claudia said. "You helped bring our family back together. We're not letting you trade yours away. That's not a price we're willing to pay."
Derek looked at the woman driving. He couldn't see her very well from the floor of the van, but there was something in the set of her jaw, the way she held her head with pride that told him it was no use arguing with her. Stiles squeezed his hand. Derek smiled.
He'd given Claudia directions to the safe house. Deaton had told him it'd been set up a few years ago and that no one used it very often. The Argents had caught the attention of other hunters. Deaton had been investigating it, had called in another family of hunters. Derek couldn't remember what their name was. Was it McConnor? He'd meet them soon enough. They had someone on the inside, someone who knew how the Argents did things. Derek didn't have time for a full briefing. He was too tired to think about it.
"Thanks," Derek said. It wasn't enough, but it was all he had in him. He let his head fall back against the door. He didn't let go of Stiles's hand though. For some reason the werewolf's tight grip was reassuring.
It was sort of funny, that he was drawing a bit of strength from a creature like the ones he'd spent his whole life hating. He glanced up at Stiles. The teenager's brown eyes were still focused on him. Derek wasn't sure what it meant, the look that was on Stiles's face. It made him feel good though, made him feel a little less alone.
They just sat there watching each other. Stiles's lips still turned up in a small smile. It was a good look on him. Derek hadn't been sure he'd ever see that type of expression on Stiles’s face. It suited him.
Stiles nodded at him. Derek didn't know what it meant either. Maybe it was an acknowledgement of the thanks he'd offered. Maybe it was just supposed to be reassurance that they would get his sister back. Maybe it was all those things. What mattered was that it was being offered. That it made Derek feel a little bit warmer inside.
"We're almost there," Claudia said. "Just a few more minutes."
"Good." Derek was ready to meet up with the rest of the hunters. He was ready to start planning. He was done feeling sorry for himself. He didn't have time to be weak. He needed to be strong. For Laura, for Stiles and his mother, Derek had to be strong for everyone. Once he had Laura back, then he could share the burden again.
Stiles's hand tightened around Derek's. They hadn't broken eye contact. Derek watched as hesitancy dropped away from Stiles's features, watched as it was replaced by determination. Derek was in awe of it, the core of iron will that had kept the werewolf alive and sane despite everything that had happened to him. Stiles was stronger than he'd thought, was probably stronger than anyone thought.
"It'll b-b-be okay," Stiles said. "We'll get her b-back." His eyes trailed away from Derek's face. They focused on the girl tied up in the back. The soft brown of his eyes melted away under a furious golden light. "They're not going to hurt anyone ever again."
Stiles's voice was strong and steady. Derek's mouth fell open. The amber fire in Stiles's eyes was powerful and radiant. Chains rattled, Derek turned to look at the female werewolf. He'd thought she was trying to escape, but he'd been wrong. She was shaking. There was no way she'd been able to see the promise that had been in Stiles's eyes, but she'd heard it in his voice. She was starting to realize that she hadn't raised the perfect toy. She'd forged something else, something that she knew she needed to be afraid of.
Derek smiled, squeezed Stiles's hand. They were going to get Laura back. They were going to do it together. The Argents were going to pay for what they'd done. He looked back at Stiles. The golden light in the boy's eyes hadn't dimmed. It seemed to be growing stronger. The Argents had no idea what was coming for them, what they'd unleashed.
"We're here," Claudia said.
Derek got his feet under him, gave Stiles's hand one last squeeze before letting it go. They had a job to do. They were going to do it right. He pulled open the side door of the van. The building they'd parked in front of was some sort of veterinarian's office.
A young man opened the door of the building. He was holding an assault rifle like he knew how to use it, like he'd played with real guns instead of toy soldiers while growing up. "Derek Hale?"
"That's me," Derek called out.
The guy walked out from the building to meet them, rifle still at the ready. Derek was surprised at how young he was. He had to be roughly the same age as Stiles.
"I'm Scott. Scott McCall." He pointed his rifle at the bound and struggling girl in the back of the van. "My dad said you've got a prisoner. Nice work."
"Aren't you a little young to be a hunter?" Derek asked.
Scott smiled at him, for just a second he looked incredibly innocent. "This is the only life I've ever known." He patted the rifle he was holding. "I'm pretty damn good at it too. My father's a little jealous of how good a shot I am."
Derek grinned. He liked the kid's confidence. "Let's get everyone inside."
Chapter 15: Decisions
Derek and the others discuss their plans.
Derek regarded the hunters assembled around the table. Scott and his father Rafael sat at the far end. Deaton sat opposite the reporter Natalie Martin. Stiles sat next to his mother, across from Derek. Natalie had mentioned her daughter Lydia had recently discovered the truth about the werewolves in the town after stumbling upon some of Natalie’s research. She wasn't sure who Lydia had told, but she assumed no one.
"The exchange will be tomorrow night," Derek said. "It will be on our terms at a location of our choosing."
Natalie leaned forward. "Do you really think that will matter? You have no idea how many of people in the town have been turned. They're not all sympathetic to the Argents, but they're afraid enough to fall in line."
Rafael frowned. Scott glanced from one adult to the next. Stiles watched Derek silently while Claudia and Deaton both watched Stiles. Derek shook his head. There was too much at stake to back out now.
"They're not going to make a move while we have their daughter." Derek hoped that familial ties were something the Argents cared about.
"We'll scout out some areas tonight on the woods outside of town," Scott said. "We can't meet them in the city or the preserve."
"Meeting them in the woods will give them the advantage, too many trees to block line of sight," Rafael said. "That's suicide."
"I think Scott's right," Claudia said. "I'm not a hunter like most of you, but if people in the town have been turned it's better to meet outside the city limits. Buildings can block line of sight just as effectively as trees. On top of that reinforcements would be easier to hide."
Derek considered Claudia. She reached out and patted Stiles's shoulder, a small smile played across her lips. Derek agreed with her assessment. He rubbed his knuckles against his eyes. He wanted the meeting to be over so he could rest.
Deaton stood up, leaned across the table and pointed at a location roughly twenty miles outside of town. "This is where we should meet them, neutral ground for both of our factions. It's also an empty field earmarked for new construction."
Scott leaned back in his chair and crossed his arms. "What do you think?" He nodded at Stiles.
Stiles shook his head and slipped down further in the chair. Derek wanted to run his hand over the young werewolf's head. He seemed on edge with so many weapons strewn about the makeshift base. Claudia tried to get him to drink some water from a bottle. He ducked his head and stared at the floor.
Derek sighed. "I agree with Deaton."
Both McCalls and the reporter nodded. Claudia tugged playfully on Stiles's ear until he started smiling and took the bottle of water. Derek thought he might have seen Rafael discreetly checking out the woman. Derek grinned. Rafael would have his hands full if he tried something.
"I'm going on patrol tonight," Derek said. "Let's break for—"
"No." Deaton stared Derek dead in the eyes and shook his head. "You are going to rest. You're not going to be any help if you're too tired to think straight."
Derek considered his response, but before he could say anything Claudia turned her brown eyes on him. Derek swallowed. That was a fight he wasn't willing to start. He nodded to her.
"I'm totally going," Scott said. "I even have a new device I want to test out."
"Speaking of new devices, my sister created a form of aerosol bomb out of a rare strand of wolfsbane. I've got a few canisters in my duffle bags." Derek walked around the table to retrieve his bag of weapons. "We've also got a fair number of the rarer aconite shells."
"Blue Monkshood?" Deaton stood and walked around to join Derek in going through the bags. "I'd love to investigate the gas bombs. It'll give me something to do while I guard the prisoner since both McCalls will be going out on patrol."
"Damn, I thought I'd be free of the old man." Scott punched his father in the arm.
"That'll happen when I'm dead." Mr. McCall tried to make it sound like a joke, but it fell flat.
"Don't say that," Scott crossed his arms, unconsciously mirroring Stiles's position down the table from him.
"I'll stay here tonight as well," Claudia said.
Derek smiled. No one was going to separate the mother from the son without a hell of a fight. Stiles looked up to watch Derek. He licked his lips nervously before giving him a small smile. Derek patted Stiles on the head as he walked back around the table.
Derek leaned through the back door to check on Allison. She was still hooded and chained up, locked within a cage carved from mountain ash. Deaton did not take chances with prisoners. He was well prepared.
Derek turned his head back in time to see Scott pulling some sort of electronic device from his backpack. It looked like a radio. The younger McCall had a huge grin on his face.
"So, this is my new thing. You know how we use flash bang grenades to mess with the werewolves' enhanced senses? Well this thing it so much more awesome than that." Scott flipped the dial before anyone could protest.
Stiles tipped over backwards in his seat. He didn't make any noise, but he covered his ears with his hands. He rolled out of the chair across the floor trying to get away from Scott. A high-pitched scream of pain shattered the silence. Allison's voice was wild with pain.
Scott flipped the device off. "I'm sorry. I didn't know…"
Deaton and both McCalls stared at Derek. Rafael reached for his rifle. He hadn't even gotten his hand on the gun before Claudia was pointing her shotgun at his head.
"Don't even think about it," she said.
Deaton didn’t so much get to his feet, as he… vibrated from one place to the other. He was holding a strange mask that must have been on his lap under the table, but he hadn’t put it on. That was a good sign. Derek wasn’t sure exactly what Deaton was, or what all his experiments entailed, but he’d become very strange since the last time Derek had seen him.
"Everyone calm down," Derek said. "Stiles is a werewolf, but he's not to be harmed."
Natalie scrambled to her feet and backed away from the young man on the floor. "You didn't think that was something worth mentioning? You brought one of them here? Is he a member of their pack?"
"He's my son. That's all that matters." Claudia regarded all the hunters in the room, neck stiff and head high.
"He was with the Argents,” Derek said. “My sister and I found him in the woods. He's under my protection." Derek walked slowly to Claudia and put his hand on the gun. "No one is going to hurt him."
"A good werewolf?" Scott's voice was soft. "That's awesome!" He dropped the radio onto the table and walked around to kneel next to Stiles on the ground. "Dude, you and I are going to be best friends. Sorry about the audio thing, no one said we had good werewolves."
Stiles cringed away from the young hunter, tried to get behind his mother. Claudia set the gun on the table. She pulled Stiles's into a hug, whispered something to him. Stiles winced at first, but eventually relaxed into her embrace. Scott stared at the floor, picked at a hole in the knee of his jeans.
"I'm sorry," Scott said. "I didn't mean to hurt him."
Claudia nodded at Scott. "He'll be fine. He's just been through a lot."
More than anyone else Derek knew how much of an understatement that was. He sighed, reached down and ran his fingers over Stiles's black hair.
"You're going to be fine. It was an accident."
The hunter in Derek couldn't help but admire Scott's device. If Stiles had reacted that strongly to it he wondered what a werewolf who wasn't so accustomed to pain might do. He'd never find out though, not if Stiles was nearby. It wasn't worth hurting him, no matter how many opposing werewolves he might bring down with it.
"I need to get back to work and check on my daughter," Natalie said. "I hope you know what you're doing." She glanced at Stiles.
"I highly suggest that be the last time you make a backhanded accusation at my son," Claudia said.
Rafael let out a low whistle. Natalie stiffened and walked out of the room. Deaton had begun inspecting the arsenal Derek and Laura had amassed over the years.
"I got to say you got a lot of courage, lady. I like that in a woman." Rafael winked at Claudia.
Scott groaned. "Dude, at this rate you and I aren't going to be best friends." He nudged Stiles and winked at him. "We're going to be brothers."
The werewolf gave Scott a lopsided grin. Claudia shook her head and pulled her son to his feet. Derek threw his hands up in the air. The world was going to hell and this was what he had to work with. He couldn't hold in a laugh as he walked into the room with cots set up to sleep on.
He didn't even take his boots off; he just dropped onto the one closest to the door. Sleep didn't come right away. He lingered on the edge. He wasn't sure how much time had passed when he shifted on the cot, his right arm falling off. His hand brushed up against soft cotton. Warm hands gripped his wrist and pulled it.
Derek's eyes opened, Stiles was sitting on the floor against his cot. He wrapped Derek's arm over his shoulder and nuzzled against it. Derek smiled. When Stiles's leaned his head back against the cot and took a deep breath, Derek shifted closer to the edge to brush his face against the back of Stiles's hair. It didn't take him long to fall asleep after that. The last thing he remembered was Stiles's fingers tracing over the scars on his hand.
Chapter 16: Lies
Jackson stumbles upon the aftermath of the battle between Laura and Danny.
Jackson swallowed against the bile rising in his throat. The forest was littered with bullet casings and bodies. Blood soaked the leaves that covered the ground. When he'd first seen the people lying motionless he'd thought they were unconscious, but as he'd gotten closer he realized the horrifying truth. There was a difference between seeing a person and seeing a body. He hadn't known that until he'd gotten close enough that he had to keep going forward.
The people hadn't been killed by animals. He wasn't even sure what could have killed some of them. There were blisters covering some of the bodies, like they'd run through steam so hot it boiled them alive. He gagged and stumbled away from the scene. Somewhere deep inside him he knew that this was a clue to what had happened to Stiles. He wasn't sure why, but it was a certainty that twisted in his guts like a knife.
There were things that most people weren't supposed to see, people who weren't soldiers, police officers, or doctors, things that regular people weren't prepared for. Some images could never be erased from memory. Jackson was certain that the sight of the bodies was going to haunt him until he died.
He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. If there were clues to what had happened to Stiles hidden somewhere in the massacre Jackson needed to find them. He didn't care how many nightmares would plague him if it helped lead him to his missing friend. Stiles wouldn't do any less for him. He turned back towards the nearest body, but a low moan tore through the silence and froze him in place. Sweat trickled down the back of his neck even though his breath curled in white puffs from his lips. He swung his flashlight in the direction of the sound. The single beam of light revealed nothing, the darkness at the edges seemed more ominous.
"Help, please, help me."
The words sounded like a desperate prayer from someone who had long ago given up hope on having it answered. Despair that was so hollow it left Jackson shaking from a different kind of chill than the air that bit his cheeks and hands laced the rasping voice.
"Is someone there?" Jackson wasn't sure exactly where the pleading was coming from, but no one deserved to be in that kind of pain. Nothing should make someone sound so agonized. He took a single step, then another, and before he knew it he was jogging across the brittle leaves and sticks that littered the forest floor. "Where are you?"
No answer came. Jackson was almost sure that he'd imagined the sound, or that it'd been made by the unhappy ghosts of the people who had been murdered. He closed his eyes and listened. There was no such thing as ghosts, the person who was calling for help was very much alive, and it was his responsibility to find them. A wet cough cut through the silence off to his left. Without thinking he turned and ran in that direction, flashlight sweeping wildly back and forth.
Jackson almost slipped as he came up to a steep decline. He pointed the flashlight down towards the bottom. At the very edges of the light Jackson saw a person crawling across the ground. For the first time in years hope blossomed in his chest. The person had black hair. He ran down the slope, almost lost his balance as he went. The tiny spark in him that prayed that it was his missing friend was extinguished when he saw how dark the person's skin was. Bitter disappointment picked its way through his insides, but he pushed it down. He needed to help the person. That was the most important thing, after that he could find out if they knew anything about Stiles.
Jackson hopped over a fallen branch, skidded to a stop, and dropped to his knees. "Hey, what happened? Are you okay?" Jackson wished he could take back the words as soon as he'd said them. Of course, the person wasn't okay.
"I'm great, now that someone's here to help."
The person rolled over onto his back, and Jackson barely resisted the urge to turn away. He knew the person on the ground, despite the boils that covered his skin and the blood that crusted his face. There was no way Jackson wouldn't recognize Danny. He's spent years watching him, jealous of how popular he was, how rich he was. Jackson sometimes wasn't sure if he wanted Danny or wanted to be Danny. He was the most popular kid in school, but more than that he was so supremely confidant. A lot of people thought he was a real dick, but Jackson thought there was something more below the surface.
"Jackson?" Danny's eyes opened, but there was no way he'd be able to see. There were no whites to his eyes, just a horrifying spider web of red and black. "Jackson, right?"
Jackson wanted to respond, but he couldn't make his lungs work. Blood stained Danny's clothes. It looked like it had poured out of his eyes, his ears, his nose, and even his mouth. He had no idea how Danny could even be conscious, or what could have happened to him in the first place. Danny made a snuffling noise, and then emitted a low whine of pain as blood started to trickle from his nostrils.
"What happened?" Jackson asked the question, but he wasn't sure he wanted to know the answer. He just wanted to keep Danny talking while he called for help. He pulled out his phone but cursed under his breath when he realized there was no signal.
"Poison... need water." Danny rolled back over onto his stomach. His hands churned up dirt as he dug them into the ground and tried to pull himself forward.
"I don't have any water." Jackson had never felt so powerless, not since he'd first been told that Stiles was missing, and the sheriff was dead. There had to be something he could do, but he wasn't very familiar with where he was in the woods. He'd been paying close attention to where he'd been going up until the point where he'd walked into the nightmarish scene of blood and death. "I can carry you back to the road. We can hitch a ride back into town."
"No," Danny coughed, a rattling sound that echoed through Jackson's chest. "Stream up ahead. Please."
"Okay, don't talk, I'll get you there. I'm sorry if this hurts." Jackson winced as he gripped Danny's arm and pulled him up. Lacrosse had been great exercise for Danny, his body was sinuous and heavy with muscle. He was the captain of the team, one more thing on the long list of things that Jackson envied him for. He wrapped Danny's arm over his shoulder and stumbled forward. He needed to get Danny to the water; maybe once they were there he'd have a signal and could call for help.
Danny had said he'd been poisoned, but he looked like a couple of the bodies he'd first come upon. He was lucky to be alive, even if maybe he didn't think so. Being in pain was better than being dead. Danny might have caught a glimpse of who had attacked him.
"Do you know who did this?"
Danny nodded. "There's something else. The person who did this to us, she kidnapped your friend. She and her brother have been torturing him for years for their own amusement."
Jackson nearly tripped, nearly dropped Danny to the ground. "Stiles? They have Stiles? Are you sure?"
Danny let out another cough. Blood trickled down from the sides of his mouth. He turned his sightless bloody gaze on Jackson, lips curling up at the very edges. "Yeah, they have him. Help me get to the river and wash the poison off my skin, and I'll help you get him back. The Argents will reward you too for helping them bring the monsters to justice."
Jackson didn't care about a reward, he cared about finding Stiles. Adrenaline surged through his body. After years he finally had a trail to follow. He'd help Danny, and Danny would help him. He'd get his friend back, and maybe make another in the process. For the first time in a long time Jackson felt the cocoon of loneliness that he'd been wrapped up in unraveling.
Chapter 17: Mystery
Stiles becomes suspicious that Derek is hiding something from him.
Stiles knew that Derek hadn’t gotten enough sleep, but other people were starting to move around. His mother came to check in on him, but when she saw how he was holding Derek’s arm over his shoulder she just smiled and quietly withdrew. Stiles hadn’t slept, that wasn’t really anything special. He’d gone a lot of nights without sleeping. He just wanted to make sure that no one bothered Derek.
The next person that came was the boy that was his age, Scott. He had a drink carrier in one hand, and a bag of food in the other. When he came around the corner, he stopped short, seeing Stiles sitting on the floor next to Derek’s cot.
“I’m going to talk really quiet, so as not to disturb your boyfriend, okay, dude?” It took Stiles a moment to realize that Scott was addressing him and doing it so quietly that no one else would be able to hear. “I think it’s awesome that there’s a werewolf on our side. Makes it seem like one day there might be an end to all this. If a werewolf and a hunter can fall in love, like anything is possible right?”
Fall in love? Stiles looked down at Derek’s hand, at the skin that had been damaged to cure Stiles of the poison bullet Laura had used. Was he in love? Could you fall in love with someone you just met? Derek shifted in his sleep, and Stiles couldn’t help but smile as Derek’s breath tickled the back of his neck.
“I have some food, and coffee too,” Scott whispered. “You can hear me, right? Nod if you want me to bring it over, blink twice if you want me to set it down here where I’m at, or like… I don’t know flip me the bird if you want me to leave you alone.”
Stiles smiled, then nodded. He didn’t want to let Derek go, but he would never turn down food. Plus, Scott seemed determined to be as quiet and as unobtrusive as possible, which was a sort of kindness that Stiles had forgotten existed.
A huge grin spread over Scott’s face, like they’d just shared some big secret. He took exaggerated steps but still managed to be almost completely silent. He knelt next to Stiles, setting down the drink carrier and the bag. Even with the distraction of the hamburgers and french fries Stiles noticed that Scott smelled nice, like he’d been around so many animals that they’d just seeped into his skin.
Scott held up a hand, fingers outstretched and a huge grin on his face. It reminded Stiles of a friend he’d had a lifetime ago, before everything was pain and blood. It was strange because the two of them couldn’t have been any more different. Jackson was pale, with blond hair, and ice blue eyes. In his memories Jackson smelled like cool winter mornings, crisp and energizing. Scott’s skin was dark, with hair and eyes that were the same color as Stiles’s, but they felt warmer. Stiles raised his hand that wasn’t holding Derek’s and splayed his fingers out too, just the way Scott had his.
Without making any sound, and so slow like he didn’t want to spook Stiles, Scott brought their hands together. Derek let out a soft sound, like the beginnings of a snore and Scott’s eyes got huge, like someone had caught him stealing food. Stiles grinned, because he could tell from Derek’s slow heart beat and steady breaths that he was still sound asleep.
“Okay,” Scott said, voice still quieter than a mouse. “I’m going to leave you two dudes to it. Sorry again about the noisemaker. I hope you can forgive me and we can be buddies one day, okay?”
Stiles nodded. “T-thanks,” he said, loud enough for Scott to hear, but quiet enough that he hoped it wouldn’t disturb Derek. He heard an immediate bump, skip, bump in Derek’s heart, but it smoothed out quickly.
Scott pivoted while maintaining his kneeling position, then used the same exaggerated but quiet movements to retreat the way he’d come. He almost lost his balance at one point and Stiles couldn’t help but laugh a bit. He heard the same bump, skip, bump in Derek’s heartbeat. Stiles didn’t want to turn his head to check and make sure he was alright, because Derek’s breath on the back of his hair and neck made him feel warm, warmer than he’d been in years.
“It’s going to be hard to eat if I only have one hand,” Derek said.
Stiles’s heart bump, skip, bumped at Derek’s voice. He let go of Derek’s arm, started to slide away from him but Derek curled his fingers into Stiles’s shirt, holding him in place. Stiles didn’t know what to do so he just froze. He couldn’t hear Derek’s heart because his own blood was thundering in his ears, and the air seemed so much harder to breath than it had been just a few moments before.
“I like the sound of your laugh,” Derek said. “I hope you find more reasons to do that.”
Derek’s breath didn’t feel warm on Stiles’s neck anymore, it felt hot, sent tingles running down his spine. Stiles leaned to the side, turned his head, and Derek moved his at the same time. Their mouths were so close together, Stiles couldn’t help but breathe in the air Derek breathed out.
“Y-your…” It was still hard to talk, but he needed to tell Derek.
“My what?” Derek asked.
“B-breath… smells bad,” Stiles said.
Derek turned his face away, buried it in the cot. “Really?”
Stiles could make out what Derek said even though he’d mumbled it. He nodded then realized Derek couldn’t see him. “Very,” he said, because it was something Derek should know. It wasn’t the worst thing Stiles had ever smelled, but after being focused on the food, and then Scott, it was sort of jarring. He regretted saying it though, because Derek pulled away and twisted on the cot to sit up.
“That’s brutal,” Derek said. “But you know you have bad morning, or I guess afternoon breath when the guy who doesn’t really talk tells you the hard truth. Can I at least eat before I go brush my teeth in shame?”
Stiles didn’t think he could ever tell someone that they couldn’t eat, so he stayed quiet. He picked up the bag and offered it to Derek. The hunter didn’t take it, he just stared at Stiles. Since Derek didn’t seem to want the food yet, he set it back down.
“You can sit up here with me,” Derek patted the spot next to him on the cot. “You don’t have to sit on the floor."
Stiles had difficultly looking up into Derek’s green eyes, but he did it anyway, locking gazes with him. The hunter had an intense gaze, never backing down from anyone or anything. It was a confidence that Stiles hadn’t ever felt, even before he’d been taken by the Argents.
Derek’s heart bump, skip, skip, bumped, and it made Stiles worry, like maybe there was something wrong with him. He got his feet up under himself, leaned forward and put his ear to Derek’s chest. He thought maybe he was hearing something wrong. The rhythm of Derek’s heart turned into a rapid pounding beat.
“A-are you okay?” Stiles asked.
“Ye—” Derek coughed, cleared his throat. “Yeah. I’m good.”
Stile’s heard the lie, even with the irregular rapid beat. It made him even more uneasy, like there was something wrong with Derek and he was trying to hide it so that Stiles wouldn’t worry. He pulled his head away from Derek’s chest and climbed to his feet. Stiles needed to figure out what was wrong, his own heartbeat went wild, and he knew that golden light was burning in his eyes.
Derek looked up at him, and it was so strange because Stiles was always the one looking up at Derek. The hunter wasn’t afraid, at least Stiles didn’t think so. But he didn’t know why Derek was just staring at him, mouth hanging open a little bit.
“What’s wrong?” Stiles asked, and his voice didn’t sound hesitant to his own ears. “Your heart is beating really fast.”
Derek blinked at him, opened his mouth like he was going to say something, but then closed it again. Stiles reached out, running his thumb over the base of Derek’s neck. His skin looked flushed, red creeping up towards his face.
“Are you sick?”
“N-no,” Derek said, then coughed to clear his throat. “I’m not sick.”
There was no lie in Derek’s rapidly beating heart. He didn’t understand why Derek wouldn’t tell him what was wrong. Maybe he just needed to eat. Stiles turned away from Derek, knelt to pick up the bag, then thrust it at Derek’s chest.
“Eat,” he said. It wasn’t a suggestion. He used the same tone of voice his mother used when she was serious.
Derek let out a sigh of relief, even though Stiles could still hear his heart hammering in his chest. Derek grabbed a burger out of the bag. Without looking back at Stiles, he quickly unwrapped it and started eating it like it was the first meal he’d had in days. Stiles nodded his head, fully intending to make sure Derek ate enough before he took anything out of the bag for himself.
Chapter 18: Preparation
No one listens to Derek.
“You’re not coming. It’s not a discussion,” Derek said.
All the equipment was ready. Derek had checked it several times, but he checked it again. Something felt off, and he knew that the exchange wasn’t going to go well.
“They took my son. They killed my husband. The only way you’re going to leave me behind is if you break both my legs,” Claudia said.
Her knuckles were white on the grip of her husband’s shotgun. He couldn’t imagine a single person raising a complaint in her bakery without quickly finding they’d made a mistake, and that everything was fine after all. Stiles was going to be in good hands if something happened to him. Not that he had a right to think about Stiles’s future, it was just that he deserved a chance at something now that he was away from the Argents.
“Your son needs you, Claudia. You can’t put yourself in harms way. You think he could handle losing you after just having gotten you back?”
“I know he needs me, that’s why I’m going with the two of you.”
Derek shook his head. Stiles coming with them was even less of a question than Claudia. It absolutely was not going to happen. Derek needed Stiles to be safe, couldn’t afford to worry about him while he was trying to save his sister.
“Stiles isn’t going either.”
Claudia laughed right in his face. Derek tried to interject but she just kept laughing. He tried scowling at her, but it just sent her even harder into fits.
“You think Stiles is going to let you leave him behind,” Claudia managed to get out between bouts of laughter. “I know you boys just met but tell me you aren’t that dumb.” She reached out, patted his cheek fondly. “You’re too pretty to be that dumb.”
Derek exhaled heavily through his nose, tried to wrap his dignity around him like a protective cloak. He was intimidating damnit. People didn’t laugh at him, especially bakery owners. Even if they were bakery owners holding shotguns.
Stiles came around the corner, holding a cheeseburger in each hand. There were bites missing out of both. He just walked right up to them and stood next to Derek. Too close, well inside acceptable personal space, so much so that every time he took a bite of the burger in his left hand his arm brushed up against Derek’s. Claudia just lifted an eyebrow at him as if her point had been proven.
“You’re not coming, Claudia,” Derek said.
Stiles nodded his agreement, but after his mother leveled the type of stare that sent boys who’d misbehaved running to the bedrooms in fear at him, he immediately looked at Derek and shook his head in disagreement. It looked like he had trouble swallowing the food in his mouth, so his cheeks were puffed out sort of like a chipmunk’s. That didn’t stop him from trying to take a bite of the burger in his right hand.
“We’re both coming,” Claudia said, gaze flicking between Derek and Stiles.
Derek looked at Stiles, but the werewolf just tried to shove both hamburgers into his mouth at the same time and looked at the floor. Derek sighed, trying to ignore the icy fear creeping through his stomach. He did not want to put either of them at risk, but he also wasn’t in a position to try and control their lives.
“I want to save my sister,” Derek said, not sure if he was apologizing or trying to explain.
Stiles stuffed the rest of one of the burgers into his mouth then reached over and grabbed one of Derek’s hands, gripping it tightly. That would have been cute except that he had ketchup or something on his hand, so it was sort of weird. Stiles didn’t seem to notice or care though.
“You’ll have a better chance of doing that if you have someone watching your back, letting you keep your focus where it needs to be.”
“I can’t ask you to do that,” Derek said, even though he tightened his grip around Stiles’s messy hand.
“What you can’t do honey…” Claudia paused to pat his cheek again, “is stop us from doing it. You think I’m going to let them take away someone my boy loves?”
“That’s why you need to—”
“I’m not talking about me, stupid.” Claudia turned to walk away without giving him the chance to respond.
Derek gaped at her as she retreated. He turned to look at Stiles, but the werewolf’s face was unreadable. There was mustard on his cheek. Derek wiped it away with his thumb, then stuck his thumb in his mouth. Stiles’s eyes lit up with golden light, freezing Derek in place. Most of the werewolves he’d seen had eyes that glowed a chilling blue. It was nothing like the warm amber of Stiles’s. He leaned forward, closing his eyes and—
“Preparations are complete.” Dr. Deaton’s clipped tone made Derek’s heart jump in surprise. “We should be leaving soon.”
Derek tried to step back, but Stiles didn’t let go of his hand. Since Stiles was significantly stronger than him all he managed to do was lose his balance. He’d have fallen, but Stiles reached out to catch and steady him. It was a reminder that the werewolf wasn’t nearly as fragile as Derek imagined him.
“Yeah,” Derek said, coughing to clear his throat.
Stiles leaned in, dipping his head and placing his ear against Derek’s chest again like he was checking his heart or lungs. Dr. Deaton raised an eyebrow at the two of them, but there was nothing Derek could do so he just shrugged.
“I see,” Deaton said. “The McCalls are finishing loading their truck. Mrs. Stilinski seemed to be taking things to your van. I assume that means she’ll be joining us.”
“Yes,” Derek said at the same time Stiles nodded his head.
“Is that wise?”
“Do you want to tell her she can’t come?”
Dr. Deaton didn’t answer. He just regarded Derek coolly. Stiles started growling, a low animal noise in the back of his throat. The doctor tilted his head at the werewolf, then withdrew without a word.
“What was that about?” Derek wasn’t really expecting an answer. Stiles still didn’t talk very often. Unless it was to comment on Derek’s hygiene apparently.
“Don’t trust him,” Stiles said. “He sounds strange.”
“What’s that supposed to mean? My family has known him a long time. I’ll admit that he’s definitely weirder than I remember, and that mask he carries with him creeps me out.”
Stiles didn’t answer, he just tilted his head to look up at Derek, eyes serious and grip on Derek’s hand tightening. He didn’t know what to make of that, and he didn’t have time to start second guessing the plan. They needed to get moving.
“Can I convince you not to come, to stay here with your mother where it’s safe.”
Stiles laughed in his face the same way his mother had. Derek exhaled forcefully through his nose again. He had thought he’d wanted to hear Stiles laugh more, but not at him.
Scott came into the room, skidded to a stop and immediately slapped his hand to his forehead. “Shit, sorry guys. I’m not sure if it’s that I have bad timing or you guys are just always doing your boyfriend thing.”
“We’re not bo—”
“Five minutes, my dudes, that’s probably all I can stall everyone for,” Scott said, turning on his heel and starting to walk away like he hadn’t even heard.
Scott didn’t stick around to listen. “Five minutes,” he called over his shoulder. “Just kiss him already, he wants you to.”
Derek looked at Stiles. Stiles tilted his head and looked at Derek, and it made Derek’s heart start beating faster. Stiles moved forward, and Derek thought he was going to put his head against his chest but instead he reached to grab Derek’s neck and pulled him down into a kiss.
The first thing Derek noticed was that Stiles still had a hamburger in the hand he’d put on his neck, which was… well frankly it was kind of gross. But the second thing he noticed was that he didn’t give a shit because he was being kissed. Stiles pulled away right when Derek’s brain kicked into gear and started to kiss him back. His heart was hammering in his chest so hard he thought he might actually have a medical condition after all.
“He was right,” Stiles said. Then a goofy grin spread across his face, and before Derek could say anything Stiles turned and walked away, shoving the remains of the hamburger he’d crushed against Derek’s neck into his mouth.
Derek stood alone in the room, ketchup or something on his hand, and he was pretty sure a pickle sliding down the back of his shirt, and he just didn’t really know how to process any of what had just happened.
Chapter 19: Secrets
Everyone has their own plans for how the exchange will go down.
Laura spit into Chris Argent’s face. Her only regret was that she hadn’t had the opportunity to offer the same insult to his wife. The best thing that had come out of being captured by the Argent pack was that she was now aware of who it was that killed her family. Victoria was the Alpha. That meant that she was the one who had given the order. Laura was going to enjoy killing her.
“Petty,” Chris said, but the calm in his voice was betrayed by the vibrant blue glow of his eyes. “I’m going to enjoy strangling you to death with your own entrails.”
Laura laughed. He could talk as much as he wanted, but she’d overheard the enraged shrieking of his wife. Derek had managed to capture the Argent’s daughter. He should be organizing a trap, using the girl as bait to lure them in then execute them. She knew that instead he would be organizing a trade. He was going to try to exchange the girl Allison for her.
“The only chance you have of accomplishing that is while I have these cuffs on, dog. So, you better do it before I get out of them. Otherwise, your family is never going to find all your pieces when I’m finished.”
“Is that supposed to intimidate me?” Chris laughed. “I’m not the kind of man to be unsettled by empty threats.”
“You’re not any kind of man,” Laura said through a smile she knew was showing too many teeth. “You’re just a rabid animal that’s going to be put down, right after I snap your daughter’s neck in front of you.”
The impact of his fist to her face was its own kind of victory. It looked like he could be unsettled by threats, especially the kind that weren’t empty. Derek may have softened up to some of the werewolves, might not have it in him to kill a teenage girl, but Laura wasn’t conflicted at all. She spit into his face again, but this time there was blood mixed in.
Chris grabbed her by the neck and lifted her off the floor, his elongating nails digging into her neck. “Do not test my patience.”
Laura refused to be cowed by him. She just kept smiling her bloody smile at him as he pulled a hood down over her head.
Allison struggled uselessly against the chains that bound her. They’d laced the inside of the hood over her head with powdered wolfsbane. It confused her senses and weakened her.
“I’m going to pluck your eyes out,” she raved, “I’m going to feed them to you along with your balls. You’re going to beg me for death, but I’m not going to be so generous. I’m going to train you like I did my favorite puppy.”
“Wow. You’re a real bitch.”
“How dare you talk to me like that! Who are you?” It wasn’t the hunter or woman she’d met in the bakery. It was someone new, she’d been unable to overhear their plans while she was a captive because they’d put some sort of headphones on her that played a constant grating static noise.
“My name’s Scott,” he said. “Not that it hasn’t been fun listening to you go full crazy, but I’m going to go ahead and gag you now. Sorry. I mean not really, but… well.”
She screamed in rage, tried to howl out to her family but she choked as he sprayed something onto the hood that even through the fabric made her cough and sneeze.
“Bad girl,” Scott said.
She would enjoy killing him. She had no idea what he looked like, or what he smelled like, but she’d memorized his voice, and she couldn’t wait to hear him begging her to let him die.
“Stay here,” Derek said. “The only target they’re going to have is me. If things go sideways then you can come out and—”
“Save you,” Stiles said, nodding eagerly.
“No,” he sighed. “You come out and try to grab my sister and escape with her.”
Stiles made a face like he’d just eaten something terrible. “Shot me.”
“Okay, that’s true, but you can be better than she was.”
Stiles eyed him dubiously. Derek lowered his head, reached out and put his hands on Stiles’s arms. “Please,” he begged. “I need you to do this for me. I’m trusting you to help me save someone I love.”
The werewolf reached out and brushed his fingers against Derek’s cheek, urged him to raise his head back up. Stiles’s eyes were full of golden fire and a promise. “Never hurt you,” Stiles said. “Save her.”
“We’re breaking into groups. Scott and his dad, Deaton and your mother, you and me.”
Stiles made a low animal growl at Deaton’s name.
“We don’t have any choice. There’s no time. Besides, I’m pretty sure your mother can handle anything.”
Stiles didn’t appear to be comforted by that, but he moved into position behind the shipping crates as he was supposed to. Derek moved out into the center of the room and waited. He’d done everything he could. Now he just had to wait.
Danny let out a sigh of relief as Jackson helped ease him onto the stool. They were in the underground laboratory that he’d lied and said the exchange would take place in. Jackson was looking at the bodies in the cylindrical tanks in nauseated horror.
“What is this place?” Jackson asked.
“You don’t want to know,” Danny replied, and it was probably the most honest thing he’d said in years. “Let me borrow your cell phone? I can check on the status of the exchange.”
Jackson handed him his phone. He was so trusting. It was going to be a shame what was likely going to happen to him. Danny tried not to look at the empty tank in the corner of the room as he dialed.
“I’ll be right back. Just wait here.”
Danny didn’t wait for a response as he stepped back out into the hall so Jackson wouldn’t overhear his conversation.
“Hello,” Deaton said as he answered his cell phone.
Claudia eyed him suspiciously. He was unnatural. The way he had moved when Scott’s sonic device revealed that Stiles was a werewolf was eerie. There was also some sort of strange nearly sub audible frequency almost like static that emanated from him. It was so subtle that she doubted that anyone else had noticed, except perhaps her son. Claudia had a very good ear for sounds, possibly because she’d been a singer her whole life or because—
“Doc, it’s me,” the voice on the other end of the line said. Claudia was able to make it out clearly despite the distance between her and the doctor.
“I see,” Deaton said. He glanced over at Claudia and then turned his back towards her. “You have something that requires my attention? I expected you to be working on the project we discussed.”
“Ran into a bit of trouble while securing the package for my other job. I didn’t get to pick your pet reptile up from your ex-girlfriend’s, but I was able to get some new material for your work.”
“Curious. I look forward to investigating. Please be sure to get my… pet, as soon as you can. She’s very rare, and very valuable.”
“No problem, doc. I sent some of my guys to go get her earlier. I’m here in the lab, they’re probably already on their way back by now. She’ll be here by the time you get finished.”
“Excellent.” Deaton disconnected the line and turned back to look at her.
Claudia was inspecting her gun, doing her best to give the impression that she hadn’t been able to overhear their conversation. Deaton had secrets. Claudia had her own secrets. Everyone in Beacon Hills had secrets. She wasn’t going to let Deaton’s endanger her family though.
She smiled at the doctor as she pumped the shotgun to make sure a shell was loaded.
Natalie was pushed roughly down onto her living room couch. The two men that had come to the door were minor members of the Argent pack. She did her best to keep her head down and stay out of the Argent’s way. You didn’t survive in Beacon Hills by making waves. The fact that they’d broken down her door to get inside meant that things were escalating far more rapidly than she expected.
“Where is she?”
Natalie didn’t know exactly where Allison was. Likely being prepared for transport to the exchange site. “I’m not sure where Allison is, but if you give me some time I can likely find out,” she said, trying to defuse the situation before it could get out of hand.
“Not the Argent bitch,” the other man said. “Where’s your daughter?”
“What do you want with my daughter?” If they were looking for Lydia, they had made a grave mistake in only sending two men.
One of the them backhanded her, and she tasted blood from where her lip had been split. That was… unfortunate. She wasn’t going to be able to keep the situation from spiraling out of control. A shadow moved across the ceiling right above them. Natalie caught a brief flash of her daughter’s yellow and orange eyes.
“I’m right here, boys,” Lydia said. Both men locked up in shock to see the girl hanging from the ceiling, scales rippling out across her body as she began to change. “You really shouldn’t have put your hands on my mother.”
Natalie dove over the couch and rolled towards her desk where she kept her gun, but she didn’t think she’d need it as the men started screaming in fear and pain.
Chapter 20: Scream
Derek and his allies confront the Argents.
Derek kept his breathing even. He had his pistol in hand, but it was resting at his side. It was loaded with aconite laced bullets. The exchange wasn’t going to go well, he knew that. That’s why they’d taken extra precautions. Hopefully the Argents wouldn’t realize what was going on until it was too late.
He reached out, placed one hand on the shoulder of the girl with the hood over her head and covered in powdered wolf’s bane that knelt on the floor in front of him. He heard steps approaching from the far side of the warehouse. It was time, the Argents had arrived. Laura had better be with them, alive. He placed his gun to the back of the girl’s head. Would they realize what was going on before everything was ready?
A formidable looking woman with short red hair stepped into the light in the center of the room. Victoria Argent based on Natalie Martin’s description. She was flanked by a man and a woman, likely Chris and Kate Argent. There was also a teenage girl of Asian heritage trailing behind them. Weirdly, she was holding a jar of fireflies.
“How dare you?” Victoria growled.
Derek didn’t even look at Victoria, or the strange Asian girl. His gaze was focused on Kate. She was holding Laura, one clawed hand around her neck. Laura had clearly been beaten, maybe even tortured. Her forehead was also bruised. Suspiciously though, as if she’d headbutted one or more of her captors. Probably more than once. Pride and fury welled up in Derek’s chest. Laura would spit in the face of a god if it stood in her way. The Argents were going to pay for everything they’d done.
“Give me my daughter, now.” Victoria’s eyes began to glow red. There was power there, remarkable even by the standards Alphas were judged by.
“Release Laura,” Derek countered, his voice steel. He would not break in front of his sister, would not show the monster any fear. They were monsters. Not because they were werewolves, but because they had done horrible things to the people of Beacon Hills, to Laura, to Stiles. Today they’d pay.
“This isn’t a negotiation you pathetic monkey,” Victoria growled. She looked at the girl kneeling on the floor. She sniffed tentatively at the air, and even though Derek didn’t think it was possible, her eyes got redder, more rage built in them. Was it because she realized?
“Release my daughter.”
Derek tried to keep his heartbeat steady. Chris tilted his head suspiciously. That wasn’t good. Derek needed to get this moving before it got out of hand.
“Shall I make them, mistress?”
The Asian girl turned the lid of the jar of fireflies partially, but not completely off. The hooded girl at Derek’s feet stiffened as though readying herself for something.
“Not yet, Kira,” Chris said. “Let my wife handle this for now.”
The girl nodded at Chris, and for a second Derek thought he saw some sort of black energy pulse through her eyes. Was she not also a werewolf? His side had a few trump cards ready too, but things were going sideways vary fast. Too many variables, especially if the Argents realized what was going on. He needed to try to slow things down.
“Release Laura fir—”
Victoria roared, and it felt like the earth shook. Derek staggered under the weight of it, and the girl on the floor trembled too. The Alpha’s voice took on a bestial commanding tone, clearly inhuman.
“Come out, toy.”
Derek wasn’t sure what that was supposed to mean until Stiles walked stiffly out from behind some of the boxes to the side. His movement was jerky, like he was being pulled by some puppeteer’s strings. Was she controlling him somehow? Was it because she’d turned him? Stiles’s neck was bent, his eyes on the floor.
“Let him go, or she dies,” Derek said, glancing down at the gun he had at the back of the kneeling girl’s head.
Victoria didn’t take her eyes off Stiles as he walked towards her. Didn’t even bother to glance over at Derek. “That’s not my daughter. Wearing Allison’s clothes, covering her in wolf’s bane. Pathetic. A mother always knows.”
Fuck. Things were about to get very bad. Very, very bad.
“Tell me where she is,” Victoria commanded Stiles.
“You don’t have to listen to her, Stiles. She doesn’t matter,” Derek said, trying to get his attention.
Fury practically rolled off Victoria as she stared at Stiles. “I made you. You are property. You think you can defy me?”
Stiles trembled under the force of it, but he didn’t speak. His fists clenched tightly at his sides. Derek’s heart skipped a beat as he watched Stiles struggle to break free. He didn’t know how exactly it happened, but he was falling for the young werewolf.
“No one owns you, Stiles. You’re not one of them.”
Derek needed Stiles to break out of her control. Not because he was afraid of Stiles giving away tactical secrets, that didn’t matter anymore. What mattered was that Stiles realized he was strong enough to stand on his own, that despite what they’d done to him he wasn’t broken, he wasn’t beaten, and he wasn’t dead. He was alive, they were together, and they belonged together. It didn’t matter what people thought about that, not Laura, not the Argents. Derek’s heart skipped another beat.
Stiles looked up at Victoria. His eyes glowed with amber light, but they were full of defiance. He looked away from the Alpha, towards Derek. “Bump skip bump,” he said, and he placed his hand over his heart. “Mine too.”
“I will make you talk you ungrateful wretch, and then I will give what’s left to my daughter.”
Victoria took a single step, and then in a blur of motion flew across the room towards Stiles, hands outstretched to seize him by the neck. She didn’t make it to him though. Somehow Claudia was there, having stepped out of the from behind some boxes and moved directly between Victoria and her son. Her face was unnaturally calm as she raised her shotgun and fired it directly into the onrushing Alpha’s stomach. Blood sprayed out, Victoria stopped, looking down.
“You think a shotgun can stop me, bitch?” Victoria’s body began to shift, muscles rippling and clothes tearing away. In the span of moments she became something other than human, an enormous rippling hybrid beast with russet fur.
Derek needed to do something but there was no way he was going to make it in time. Could he shoot her in the back? Would Kate rip Laura’s throat out if he tried?
“I didn’t think it would stop you in the sense that it would bring you down,” Claudia said calmly as she tossed the shotgun to the side. She faced the enormous creature in front of her with no fear at all. “That one was for my husband. And this, this one’s for me.”
Then she screamed.
Visible waves of some sort of energy rippled out from Claudia as she shrieked, slammed into the monstrous Victoria, and sent her flying backwards through the air to crash into a stack of shipping crates. Claudia stopped screaming and looked down at where Victoria had fallen to the floor. “You never should have touched my son, bitch.”
Then all hell broke loose.