Chris couldn’t believe he was reduced to this. He was a hunter and arms dealer for fuck’s sake, not a security guard.
But he hadn’t really hunted since he had felt his wrist burn with the unexpected appearance of his soul mark. Once it happened, a few days after he turned twenty-two, he had to change a lot of things to accommodate his partner and his wolfen nature. Other hunters didn’t trust him anymore and he wasn’t stupid enough to go on his own.
And arms dealing had gotten more and more complicated as the state of California piled law after law on guns in recent years. He still did it, but it was more complicated than ever, and it was making him less money. A lot less.
So, now he moonlighted in private security. Which meant he babysat rich clients who treated him more like a maid than the person keeping them alive or watched the houses of people too paranoid to trust the police.
Peter, his partner and soulmate, didn’t like it. He hated it in fact. Said he made enough money for both of them and that it was too dangerous. Like hunting monsters in the dark of the woods wasn’t.
Peter really did make plenty of money. He was a hot shot lawyer, one of the best. He was such a big deal that by the time he was thirty, he had his own practice in San Francisco. He was smart, he was ruthless, and he was wonderful.
But Chris didn’t want to stay at home and live off Peter’s money. He wasn’t meant to stay still. And life without a little danger was like hunting bunnies in a field. No fun and not worth even doing.
Chris sighed as he made another loop around the rock quarry he was patrolling, jogging a little to try to warm up as the cold air blew through his coat. He was thankful for his backpack that at least kept part of him warm. California was temperate his ass. It sucked in February. It had been below freezing for three days and raining the whole time and tonight wasn’t any better. He could see the rain misting over the glass of his flashlight and stopped to wipe it off before continuing his job around the property.
This wasn’t a bad job. Paid was decent, and there were no annoying clients. At least he could move and not sit in a car and watch a building the whole day. It was just nut-freezing cold and boring as fuck.
He had been hired because people had been trespassing after dark and damaging the equipment some sort of protest. But the culprits had been caught nearly two weeks ago, on a rather exciting night for Chris if he did say so himself, and since then, it had been dead. He was on contract for the next week though, and he was going to finish it.
If Chis wasn’t a trained hunter, he never would have noticed the small noise coming from the edge of the quarry. It was towards the edge of the property, one of the abandoned pits that hadn’t been used in ages.
The sound itself was nothing unusually. It was quiet, just a couple of rocks shifting and falling down the ravine into the pooling water below. It happened all the time. But, the sound had a pattern and something about it alerted his hunting instincts. He went to check it out.
Chis flipped off his flashlight a long way off, deciding to go with stealth instead of intimidation. He creeped silently closer to the edge until he could just make out the shape of a person sitting there by the light of the offices nearly a half a mile away.
The figure didn’t move as he got closer. It just sat, legs dangling over the edge, watching the rain.
It had to be a druggie, or at least some homeless guy being stupid. Due to a zoning technicality, the quarry was officially in town, but it not in a nice neighborhood. Chris saw plenty of poor souls strung out when he drove through it to get to work, enough to recognize the hopeless slouch.
Chis silently pulled his pistol out of its holster, double checking that the safely was on. He wanted to scare the guy, not kill him.
He was directly behind him when he spoke.
“Don’t move, or I’ll shoot.”
The figure moved immediately, though sluggishly, putting both hands up.
“That would kind of save me a step” the figure, a man by the sound of it, joked, sounding horse and drained.
Chis wasn’t in a joking mood.
“Scoot back from the edge and turn around. Slowly.”
The figure complied, never once taking his hands down. As he turned and face Chris, Chris took one hand off his gun to bring up his flashlight, turning it on so he could see the man.
Chris winced as he looked at the man because it wasn’t a man. Not really. It was kid, sixteen or seventeen by the look of it. He looked bad, gaunt and pale, with a dark bruise framing his left eye.
They stood for a moment, watching each other, before the figure moved. He unzipped his dirty hoodie and dropped it to the ground. He then lifted his shirt showing off visible ribs and more bruises.
“There.” He said as he turned. “I’m unarmed. Now can I please sit down? I’m tired.”
He did look tired. The poor kid was swaying where he stood. Chris nodded his approval and the kid plopped back down on the edge of the quarry, facing the pit once again.
Chris didn’t quite know what to do. This didn’t seem like a security guard issue. This seemed like a Child Protective Services issue.
“What’s your name?” he asked, dropping his gun down but not putting it away. He flipped his light off and moved to the side of the kid so he could at least see his face by the low light as they talked.
The kid hesitated a little too long before answering. Chris didn’t have to be a werewolf to hear it was a lie.
“Well Sam, what are you doing here?”
The kid stared out ahead blankly. Chris shifted from foot to foot, trying to stay warm never taking his eyes off him. He wondered how the kid wasn’t freezing in the thin t-shirt he wore that was getting soaked.
“I come out here on new moons.” Chris instinctively glanced at the sky, but any moon that might have been was covered in clouds. “When I can.”
“Where’s your home? Nearby?”
“Not the city then. Where?”
Sam didn’t answer. He seemed to be having a hard time focusing on the conversation. He picked up a small rock and rolled it around in his hand before tossing it over the edge. It took a minute before the soft sound of a splash could be heard.
“You look like your country.” The kid finally answered. “I bet you spend all your free time out in the woods hunting poor little rabbits.”
“I’ve been known to. But I’ve never killed just for fun.” At least that part was true. He followed the Code, always had and always would. “How about you? Did you grow up in the woods?”
Sam didn’t answer. He just sat; head cocked to the side, looking out across the pit with dull eyes.
Chris tried again.
“How old are you? Sam, how old are you?” The kid looked young, but that could be because he was thin, way too thin and pale.
He was probably on drugs. That would his gaunt expression and difficulty concentrating. Chris wanted to think it was drugs, it would make everything so much easier. But, something about the kid made him afraid there was more to it than that.
“What month is it?”
God, the kid was really messed up if he didn’t even know what month it was.
The silence dragged on between them as it continued to rain. Chris was getting wetter and uncomfortable though he would never show it. The kid didn’t seem bothered by it either. He didn’t put his hoodie back on and although he was shivering, he didn’t do anything to try to warm himself up.
“Sam, I think we need to call someone.”
The kid smiled faintly. “You can’t call Child Services. They can’t help you. If it’s February, then I’m nineteen. I’m nineteen.” The kid’s face went strangely blank and he scooted a little closer to the edge.
Chris tensed at the movement. He was starting to feel like this was less a trespassing and more a last rite situation. He didn’t like it.
He took a careful step closer. If he was fast, he could grab the kid before he when over. Maybe.
“Maybe there is someone else I can call” he started, but Sam was already shaking his head.
“The police in this city are good. They can help you get clean, get you whatever you need.”
Sam visible flinched at the mention of cops.
“Or not the police, if you have problems with them. There are social workers for adults too.”
The kid started scratching nervously at his wrist. His hands were large and thin. The motion of it was distracting.
“I don’t have problems with the police. I used to want to be a cop.”
Chris looked at him, really looked. Behind the emptiness, the kid looked familiar somehow, something about those huge soft brown eyes. It was bugging him.
“Then what happened?”
“They came for me. They made me their omega.”
It was Chris’s turn to flinch. Whatever this kid was, it wasn’t a werewolf. He couldn’t be an omega. Besides, omegas had been hunted to extinction. There weren’t any now, his family had made sure of it. If any wolves ever went rouge, they were taken care of.
“There’s no such thing as omegas. Not anymore.”
Sam looked him in the eye for the first time. A flash of something lit up his face and changed his expression from blank to calculating. “Interesting you said there is no such thing, not what are they.”
Shit. Kid was smart. Even strung out, he was clever.
“Sam, whatever is going on I can help.”
The kid fidgeted, getting comfortable on the rocks. He wrapped an arm around his chest like it hurt and used the other one to brace himself up.
Chris put his gun back in his holster. This kid couldn’t hurt him, even if he wanted to. He was prey, plain and simple.
Chris fumbled in his pocket before bringing out a power bar he had packed for a midnight snack.
“Here” he said before thinking twice about tossing it to the kid. Instead he sat down on the ground beside him, not so close as to make him jumpy but close.
“Thanks.” Sam flashed him a brilliant, honest smile. Chris couldn’t help but grin back as the kid tore into it.
“Go slow. You’ll make yourself sick.”
And that bugged him, the fact that Sam was so used to being hungry that he knew eating too fast was dangerous. He watched the kid eat out of the corner of his eye, trying not to stare. He had the potential to be beautiful. He had a certain energy about him. Even while he was scarfing down a power bar in the rain dead tired and clearly at the end of his rope, he was entrancing.
Then it hit him. Soft Bambi eyes peering around a corner while the Sheriff did business, an apology for the kid being there. Something about his mother passing.
The same kid, older, tagging along on police calls a child should never be on, the same excuse given as before, the whole thing making Talia grit her teeth in worry and anger, because no child should be doing their homework in the back of a police car while his father arrested drunks.
The kid as a teen, his face plastered on posters as the townspeople searched the woods.
“Shit. You’re Sheriff’s Stilinski’s kid. From out in Beacon Hills.”
Stiles grinned, all teeth and no warmth.
“Jesus Christ.” Chris ran a cold hand over his forehead. “You’ve been missing for years. He insisted you were kidnapped but the case was ruled a runaway. Sam, we have to call your dad.”
He had seen the Sheriff right after. He was been part of the volunteers that had combed the woods looking for the teen even though there was no proof he was out there. The Sheriff had been a mess, frantic with worry.
And time hadn’t been kind to the lawman. He still did his job, but every time Chris had business at the jail, he seemed a little emptier. People said he wouldn’t last long, that the next election would be end of him.
“Just four. And don’t call him. I’m not staying, and I won’t come here again. I don’t want you to get his hopes up.”
“Sam” That wasn’t right. That wasn’t the kid’s name. “That’s not your name. What’s your real name?”
“My real name in an unpronounceable mess. They used to call me Stiles.”
Used to. Chris was in over his head.
“Stiles, I can get you home. I promise, whatever you are wrapped up in, I can get you home.”
“Mr. Argent.” Of course, the kid knew his name. He had probably known all along. He had spent a decent amount of time at the station and he and Peter were well known in town, the whole Hale family was. “You really can’t.”
Somewhere behind them was the sound of falling rock. Both men whipped around preparing for a fight. Chris brought up his light and found the shattered boulder quickly and let himself relax.
Rocks fell here a lot. Happened all the time. It really wasn’t a safe place. They needed to leave. Get Stiles someplace warm and safe. Quickly.
He glanced as Stiles to say as much but when he caught a look at the kids face, the words dried up. The kid was clearly terrified. His face was white, and the shivering had turned to full on shaking. He was biting down on his lip hard enough to draw blood.
“Stiles?” Chris cautiously put out a hand but before he could touch, the kid was scooting back. He was right on the edge of the pit.
“No! Don’t touch me. Don’t you touch me.”
“Okay.” Chris left his hand up but stopped moving forward. “It was just some rocks. Nothing to worry about, it happens all the time here.”
“They found me.” Stiles was looking around frantically, hearing nothing Chris had said. “Oh God. They found me.”
“Who found you?”
Stiles’ eyes fixed on the pit in front of them and Chris’s stomach dropped.
“Stiles.” Chris’s voice was desperate. “Don’t.”
The kid looked at him square in the eyes. The brown eyes were flat and dead like the decision was already made.
Time slowed down like it did right before a kill. He was too far away to make the grab. He had been trying to give the kid his space and now it would be the death of him.
He had to try. Chris put the flashlight down, shoving in his pocket without taking the time to turn it off. He would need both hands if he was going to do this. The movement illuminated Stiles’ wrist where he had been scratching it raw. There was a mark on it, a mark that hadn’t been there before.
A crushing feeling came over him and Chris’s breathe caught. The mark was familiar. It appeared to be a circle with an arrow running through it. If Chris could see it closer, he knew he would see three stars of gold in on the top the arrow. It was unusual for a soul mark to be so detailed or to have any color. Most were simple and black.
Chris knew exactly what Stiles’ looked like though. Because he had one exactly like it that was currently burning on his wrist. Burning in anticipation of claiming one’s soul mate. Waiting on the first skin to skin contact that would seal the bond.
For months, Chris would replay the following moments in his mind every night as he laid in bed and tried to fall asleep next to the warm body beside him, hands clutching for the one that was missing. He would try to figure out how he could be so careless.
He was so focused on the mark he didn’t see Stiles muscles tense in preparation. He didn’t see the determined set of his jaw or how he closed his eyes.
He only saw the movement as the kid went to throw himself off the edge.
Chris had excellent reflexes that he worked hard to hone. Comparable to Peter’s, as he frequently reminded the wolf. Even without seeing the signs, even feet away, he still should have been able to catch the kid’s arm.
As Stiles moved, so did Chris. But he slipped in the wet rock. Despite all his years of training, he fucking slipped. His fingers grazed Stiles’ cold skin instead of gripping it. His own mark seared, and he heard a gasp. He saw fear in those Bambi eyes as Stiles went over the edge.