Stiles’ bare feet squelched in the mud. Water flowed between his toes as he ran. The moon just barely disappeared behind the trees on the horizon, as it faded from his vision the yellow in his eyes went with it. The horse’s hooves were getting louder, closer, behind him.
His knees shook. Every breath was a labored pain. He heard the gunshot before he felt it, before the blood seeped out of his naked chest. A pain spread through him. He crumbled like a stack of cards. The mud was cold as his cheek planted into it. His breath hitched as he lay there, the final warmth ebbing from his body.
The points of his teeth receded and dulled. His nails, digging into the flesh of his palm went blunt. Blood slicked his fingers, some his own, some animal. He closed his eyes and stiffened his shoulders and braced for what was coming.
“Stiles?” the voice was distant but familiar.
A rough hand grabbed his shoulder and forced him onto his back.
He wheezed and gathered the last of his fading energy to force his lips apart.
“Hi Chris,” he said, opening his glazed eyes. Through the dark clouding his vision he could just make out the blurry features of Chris’s face. As the realization washed over him the color drained from his face.
“You,” Chris said as he dropped to his knees.
Chris shrugged off his shirt. He ripped it into strips and pressed them against Stiles’ wound.
Stiles cringed as pain surged through him.
“Why didn’t you tell me?”
“I tried to warn you.”
“You’ve been - Hundreds, Stiles.”
“Livestock. Just livestock.”
Chris pressed on the cloth and he was shocked back into reality by the white hot throb of pain. He didn’t have the energy to scream, so a pained gasp took its place.
With one hand Chris kept the cloth pressed to the bullet hole, and with the other he lifted Stiles’ head and held him tight by the nape.
“Peoples – those are people’s livelihoods. I had – we couldn’t –“
“I’m sorry,” Stiles said. “Better than their own lives.”
“Fuck you,” said Chris. “When were you going to tell me?”
“That I sprout fur and the town wants me dead?” His smile flickered into something almost genuine. “That I killed your bull, and your cow, and eviscerated entire barns because I couldn’t help it?” His tongue grew heavier the more he talked.
“We could have worked this out,” Chris said. He tied pressed the cloth down on Stiles’s chest. “I could have helped you.”
“This – this is the best –“
“Best for who?”
“Shoot me again if you have too. It might make you feel better?”
“God, I wish I could.”
Chris’s hand squeezed his nape. His thumb brushed over his cheek, wiping away something wet – either tears or mud.
“What will I say when your father comes?”
Stiles took a haggard breath.
“I think he knows.”
“He’ll never get over you.”
“I’m glad you're going, you deceitful little fucker,” Chris spat as he stared down into Stiles’ eyes, one hand pressed to his wound.
“I love you.”
“I love you too. I’ll never forgive you.”
“You should go,” Stiles said. “Get – get my dad and- and-,”
“He won’t make it.”
“I know but – but he should see my body before it – before it turns into that thing again.”
Chris was quiet for a few moments. His hands slowly let up on the cloth pressed to Stiles’ chest. The blood had leaked through and stained his fingertips.
“Alright,” said Chris. He leaned over. His breath was warm, the stench of cigarette smoke heavy on his clothes.
Stiles’ eyelashes fluttered as Chris pressed his lips to his temple. He was so warm.
“Goodbye, Stiles,” Chris muttered into his ear.
“Goodbye,” Stiles breathed, voice hitching.
Chris stood up. He gave a long, lingering look that Stiles only barely saw through his waterlogged eyelashes.
Stiles lay there silently as Chris turned and walked away.
As his footsteps faded off into the distance Stiles lifted his head. When he couldn’t hear hooves any longer he sat up and peeled the bloody cloth from his side. The would had already closed.
A bush nearby rustled.
“I know that was hard,” a grimly callous voice said.
“Fuck you,” Stiles said. He clutched the remains of Chris’s shirt tight for a second, then dropped it into the mud.
“It’s for the best.”
“Best for who?”
Peter leaned against a nearby tree, arms crossed over his chest. The blood from his hands left grisly streaks on his forearms. A few droplets still lay on his lips. At least he hadn’t shown up in his damn preacher’s vestments.
For a moment Peter’s eyes glowed red.
“All of us. Your father, Chris, they won’t chase us anymore. They don’t need to worry why you never come home. They’ll have their piece of mind.”
“Yeah because this is just a fan-fucking-tastic end to things, isn’t it?” Stiles spat. He picked himself up. “You know I had a good life here?”
Peter offered a hand.
Stiles smacked it away. He winced as he righted himself. The bullet stung, but in a couple of hours even the little metal bits would be forced out. Maybe he’d keep it, if only as a reminder.
“Things aren’t ever as good as you think they are. He would have tired of you.”
“When he comes back and sees I’m gone – “
“He won’t want to find you. He’s too good for that.”
“And what’s he gonna say when the town preacher’s gone too?”
“He never liked me.”
“God, I wonder why!”
“Stop raising your voice.”
Stiles narrowed his eye. “I really, really hate you.”
“Well, there’s still time to change your mind. Go back to being a feral wolf. Slaughter all the sheep you like until they stop being enough for you. Then kill your father, Chris, and everyone else you never – “
“Oh, don’t act like I’m the predator here.” Stiles wiped his claws with a flick and threw the cloth down. “You’re the one pretending to be holy when all you do is spread your fucking disease.”
“Now is not the time,” Peter’s eyes flashed red. Something in Stiles recoiled. "We need to get going.”
Stiles cast a look back at the town. The sun was just beginning to peak over the church Peter once tended to. The blues and purples of dawn gave way to pink and orange skies. He closed his eyes and when he opened them again the world was bathed in Amber. His hands-now-paws hit the ground, claws digging into the open earth.
Ahead of him Peter had already changed, his inky form slipping between the trees. After a moment Stiles followed him, becoming invisible beneath the foliage. The wet earth felt like blood beneath his paws.