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After the initial shock faded away, Scott looked into Stiles' face and tried to reconcile his memories of his best friend with those of the creature in front of him. He couldn't believe that the kid with whom he grew up wasn't normal---or human. He couldn't believe that his friend and confidante was so dangerous, but those fangs and claws didn't mean he was innocent or safe.

Above all else, like a cherry on an already very scary sundae, he couldn't believe that Stiles lied to him. They were supposed to be best friends, Scott risked his life following Derek around town, and Stiles repaid his efforts by lying about his true nature.

Stiles was… not human. Hell, he looked like something out of a monster movie.

Scott looked away from Stiles as Kate moved. She put her hand on Scott's shoulder and let it trail along his back in a comforting touch when she walked past him and around Allison. He inhaled deeply, soaking up the support of the gesture, and looked around the room.

There were weapons---guns and knives, mostly---and chains. Some of those chains were holding Stiles to a fence of some kind; wires trailed from Stiles to a large box with dials. Stiles' wallet and phone were on a table next to a file folder. A cooler and a duffel bag were next to a chair. Wherever they were---and Scott had no idea because they were in the middle of the woods as far as he knew---it looked like Kate was ready for whatever was about to happen.

"Wh-What are you doing to him?" Allison asked. "Is that gonna kill him?"

Kate groaned. "Ohh, come on, kiddo. Don't get all ethical on me now," she complained.

Scott has to clear his throat with a cough and swallow twice before he could ask his own question.

"What is he?"

Kate looked at him from over her shoulder, flashing a grin in his direction, before she continued moving around the spotlight and towards Stiles.

"Shapeshifter, lycan, werewolf," Kate replied, each word making Scott's heart skip a beat. "To me, he's just another dumb animal."

Scott wasn't sure how he felt about that. He may have doubted that Stiles' priorities were in the appropriate order---and he may be reeling from the depth and length of the lies between them---but Stiles never seemed like just an animal. His mind worked. He could think, feel, laugh, grieve…

But… werewolves.

He watched as Kate walked up to Stiles and put her hand on the patch where the wires connected to Stiles' body. She did something, judging by the way Stiles slumped a little in his chains, and then she patted her hand on the top of his head.

"Little puppy," she cooed.

Stiles snarled, earning a snort of laughter from Kate.

"Come here, both of you," Kate instructed.

Scott shuffled forward. He took Allison's hand; she was shaking. In an attempt to reassure her that he'd (try to) protect her, always, he leaned his body into hers as they walked around the spotlight and towards Kate and Stiles.

Before she spoke again, Kate brushed her fingers over Stiles' forehead bump and continued along his face as if she were playing Connect the Dots with his freckles and moles. She reached his mouth after a few brief lines; without hesitation, she stroked his elongated fangs.

"See these right here? These are canines---also known as fangs," she explained. "Made for the tasting and rending of flesh. Not something you'd find on cute little leaf-eating herbivores, is it?"

She wasn't painting a pretty picture of Stiles' nature. Scott looked up into Stiles' face; he was glaring at Kate, more angry than Scott had ever seen him before. He remembered what Stiles had said, about Kate being dangerous and crazy, and he wondered if his anger was based in fear because Kate protected people from creatures like Stiles. Whatever the motivation, Stiles was pissed off on a level Scott had never before witnessed.

"They hurt people?" Scott asked. "The mountain lion attacks?"

"Well, one of them is attacking people," Kate said. "It might be him, or Derek, or someone else entirely."

"Hale's a werewolf, too?" Scott asked. "I knew he was bad news!"

Kate chuckled. "Scott, sweetie, his whole family were animals. Some are bitten, yes, but some are born, too. Why do you think they were put down?"

Stiles growled.

"Oh, look at you, little puppy," Kate cooed, parting Stiles' cheek. "Adorable, but not so fierce. I've tangoed with scarier beasts than you."

"How can you---this is a joke to you?" Allison asked.

"Sweetheart, there are werewolves running around in the world," Kate said as she fiddled with the patch and wires again. Scott saw Stiles' muscles tense; he didn't know what it meant. She stepped away from Stiles, pulling Allison and Scott with her. "Everything's a joke to me. How else do you think I stay sane?"

"It wasn't Stiles," Allison insisted, trembling against Scott. "The animal attacks and the high school---"

"There's three of them in town right now, as far as we know," Kate interrupted. "Derek's still here, lurking around. These two are called betas. And then there's the alpha. The alpha's the pack leader. Bigger, stronger, nastier… those are the real ugly motherfuckers. That's who we're here to hunt."

"We?"

Kate smiled at her. "Didn't you wonder why your parents came back to Beacon Hills? We haven't been here since the Hale Pack was ruined."

"But…"

"There were signs and then there were dead bodies," Kate said, with a shrug. "And as hunters, it's our job to protect people by ridding the world of---"

"But, Stiles isn't a monster!" Allison insisted.

"Allison, baby, you clearly aren't seeing what I'm seeing," Kate murmured. "Because this," she said, gesturing behind her to Stiles. "This is a monster. Not a person like you, me, and Scottie here. And he's going to give up the other monsters so we can do our jobs."

Allison looked away from Kate and closed her eyes. Scott wasn't sure what was going on with her. He was struggling to fit Stiles' true identity into his view of his friend, yes, but he knew Stiles was not human; while he wasn't sure that Stiles was a monster, it was clear that he was something else. There was no conflict in his mind on that subject. Never in Scott's wildest dreams had he imagined that werewolves could be real; everything he knew from popular culture painted werewolves as monsters, though, so Scott's memories of all the time he and Stiles spent together were becoming suspect the more Scott stared at Stiles and listened to Kate tell him the truth of the world. Apparently, Allison was having trouble reconciling the truth with her own feelings and thoughts. He didn't know how to help her with that.

Kate squeezed Allison's shoulder and turned back to Stiles. She walked up to him, her hands on her hips; she seemed relaxed and unfazed by his animalistic face. Scott wasn't sure he could have been so calm. He wanted to shout at Stiles and demand the truth from him. He wanted to vent his hurt feelings. He wanted an apology and an explanation that would show him that Stiles was still his Stiles.

Allison's fingers pulsed in his, pulling him from his thoughts. When he looked at her, her eyes were wide and her eyebrows were raised.

He tilted his head and mouthed What? at her.

She gestured towards Stiles, her eyebrows still raised.

He didn't understand. Did she want to talk about how he felt about Stiles? He fully intended to---later---because he knew Allison was the only person who could understand. But, he didn't want to say anything in front of Kate. He wasn't an Argent; he didn't want to show any discomfort or indecision or anything else that could lead to his exclusion from future discussions or discoveries.

When he shook his head, Allison frowned and pulled her hand out of his.

Was Allison mad at him?

Scott looked away from her and tried to put his thoughts in order. Catching movement out of the corner of his eye, he turned and saw Kate sticking a needle in Stiles' neck and injecting something into him.

"What's that?" Scott asked.

Kate withdrew the syringe and watched Stiles. His eyes flared a bright gold and his lip curled; then, his eyelids fluttered shut and his body sagged in its bonds.

"Just something to make him sleep while I show you guys out of here," Kate said. "I don't want him to try to howl for his pack before I'm ready."

Allison's eyes were shiny, full of tears. Scott looked from Kate to Stiles. He didn't know much about holding a werewolf as a prisoner; Kate was the expert out of the three of them. If she thought drugging Stiles was necessary, Scott wasn't going to protest her methods.

But, it shouldn't be a problem to check…

"It won't hurt him, right?" he asked.

Kate sighed and rolled her eyes. "You two are big ol' bleeding hearts, huh?" she asked, putting the empty syringe on the table. "It's just a special drug we use to keep them doped up until they're ready to talk."

"Talk?" Allison echoed.

She nodded. "That's all he has to do," she said. "He talks, tells us who his alpha is, and we go after him."

"And then you'll release him?" Allison asked.

"Why would we keep him locked up if he gives us the information we want?" Kate replied.

Allison narrowed her eyes but she remained silent.

Undaunted by her niece's behaviour, Kate motioned towards the door. "C'mon, I'll walk you out," she said. "Other hunters will be coming back soon to keep watch and you two aren't supposed to be here."

"Why not?" Scott asked.

"Well, you're not exactly hunters, yet, are you?" Kate said. She smiled. "We usually don't let the kids join in. Chris is all about following the rules, and in our clan, parents decide when their kids get to learn the truth."

They walked out of the room and Kate pulled the door shut behind them.

"When were they gonna tell me?" Allison asked.

Kate shrugged. "They still haven't decided if they're gonna tell you," she admitted.

"Why?"

"Let's just say if you react badly when you find out… not good," Kate said.

"What do you mean, 'not good?'"

Kate shrugged again. "They don't think that you can handle it. They look at you and they see this frightened little girl who's gonna run crying in the corner when she finds out the truth," she explained. "Me? What I see? Natural talent. I see it in you and I see it in Scott. You two could be a great team. That's why I brought you here and told you the truth."

"What are we supposed to do now?" Allison asked.

Kate smiled and squeezed her arm. "Go to school, do your homework, and both of you go to the formal and win king and queen if that's still something kids do," she replied. "Be normal teenagers who don't know anything and trust me to get everything ready for the next part."

"What's the next part?" Scott asked.

"You two are gonna help me catch the second beta," Kate said.

Scott whirled around and looked at Kate. "We are?"

"Yeah, Scottie," Kate said, nodding and pushing her hair out of her face with her free hand. "And by doing that, you'll help me set a trap for the alpha---the big bad."

Scott always wanted to be a hero---and protect people. He hoped Kate's plan would give him a shot at both of those goals.

#####

When Derek arrived at the station and couldn't hear or smell Stiles anywhere nearby, unease crept up his spine in a cold wave of sensation. Stiles was supposed to be there---and he wasn't. He worked past his fears and forced himself to go to the door; he could tell the Sheriff wasn't there, either, so he told himself there was a good chance they just went home. There could be a perfectly good reason for them to not be at the station. Derek could be overreacting.

But, then he went inside and asked the deputy at the desk if the Sheriff was around. Deputy Graeme---or Tara, as she insisted he address her---told him the Sheriff received a call that his son had been involved in a car crash.

The fearful unease quickly turned into full-blown panic after that exchange.

He asked Tara if Stiles was injured. She told him that Stiles hadn't been found at the scene---and asked him to keep an eye out for Stiles as he went about his business, in case he was wandering around with a serious injury.

His pack was hurt. Stiles was in trouble.

Derek barely managed to thank Tara for her time before forcing himself out of the station. He couldn't roar or howl or even shift; his entire body felt tight and airless, close to snapping into a million pieces at the slightest provocation. He remembered feeling that way after the fire, in the woods surrounding Stonehaven. Laura would try to force him to talk to her and the guilt and pain and fear paralysed him; even breathing was difficult to do in front of her, when she tried to use their weak pack bond to get him to confess his feelings to her.

The only thing that had helped him, then, was running with Clay. Elena spent more time with Laura, and Nick seemed to sense that he was too talkative when Derek was too fragile. Clay was silent, relying on his instincts to guide them through the woods; even though Derek felt like his own instincts were too damaged, he could use his enough to determine what Clay intended. Those runs had been some of his most peaceful moments in the time immediately after the loss of most of his family.

So, not knowing what else to do, Derek ran. The run to the accident, or the run along the route he assumed Stiles would take leaving the station for home, was less restorative and more like a blur to get him to the next terrifying moment in his evening. He could barely breathe past his fear; his mind wasn't registering much beyond that feeling.

When he saw the flashing lights, he rushed onto the accident scene and veered towards John. The man looked like he aged ten years since their awkward morning encounter. His face was pale, his brow was furrowed; there was a trace of tears on his cheeks.

"Sir? What happened?"

John's eyes widened when he realised Derek was in front of him. Before anything else could be said or done, John pulled Derek into a hug.

"Oh, thank god, I thought they might have gotten both of you," John breathed. Derek wasn't sure what to do with that gesture and the thought behind it, but he did his best to return the hug before John patted his back and pulled away. "He was with me, but I sent him home. Jackson wasn't around anymore---I sent a deputy out to look for people hanging around. I… oh, god. Can you sense something? See or smell something I can't?"

Derek put his hand on John's shoulder. "I'll try," he said.

John gave him a watery smile. "That… thank you," he whispered.

With strength he didn't know he had, Derek pushed past his fear and looked at the vehicles. Stiles' jeep should never look like that, crumpled and abandoned, he decided as he ignored the weird looks the deputies were giving him and the Sheriff. John needed his help, Stiles needed both of them, and Derek wasn't going to let anyone chase him from his goal of finding some sort of clue that would tell them where Stiles was being taken.

He leaned towards Stiles' rolled-down, driver's side window. He could smell the sour notes of anxiety, the half-eaten stick of pepperoni that was hidden in the glove compartment, and the scent of burnt spice that Derek had come to associate with Scott. None of those scents were particularly surprising---or helpful. He opened the door and caught the scent of blood; he found an almost invisible smear on the edge of the door, like someone either scraped themselves or Stiles against the metal in their hasty retreat.

"Blood," Derek said.

John made a quiet choking sound.

"Sorry---it's just a little. But it looks fresh," he explained. "Could be Stiles, could be whoever grabbed him."

Deputy Tyhurst snorted. "Maybe they took each other to the hospital---or maybe he got distracted by a bumblebee."

Derek narrowed his eyes. When the deputy glared back at him, Derek focused his senses on him. There was no telltale sign of wolfsbane in the man's pockets or on the man's skin, but hatred was written all over him through his body language. His shoulders and arms were tense, his jaw was clenched, and his face was turning redder the longer Derek glared at him. If he weren't a hunter, he'd turn out to be a hunter sympathiser; Derek would bet his life on that.

When they found Stiles, Derek would have to mention that to John. They'd have to decide what to do about Deputy Tyhurst.

"Jim, why don't you call Graeme out to assist?" John suggested. "You should go back to the station, anyway, and get caught up on your reports."

"But---"

The other deputy, someone Derek didn't recognise, pulled Tyhurst aside and said, "It's his son. Don't say stupid things."

As Tyhurst stomped away, Derek looked at John for an explanation. He shrugged. "I might be out of my mind with worry, but I can still spot trouble," he said. "You two have history?"

Derek shook his head. "Nope. I've only ever seen him at the station…"

"But?"

"Just something about the way he looks at me," Derek said. "Reminds me of…"

"People who disapprove of you, fundamentally?" John asked.

"Something like that."

Derek moved around Stiles' jeep and looked at the other vehicle. It was a newer vehicle, but it looked like it had been customised. He wasn't an expert, but he thought could see panels on the door that were designed to hold things---like weapons.

"It came back to a company," John said. "We don't have much on them yet. Airgead Assembly Incorporated."

"Argent," Derek said. "You won't find anything, probably. It's a company owned by a company owned by a subsidiary of another company---"

"How do you figure?" John asked.

"It's Gaelic for 'silver.' They don't like to abandon their brand."

John cursed quietly. Then, he said, "Explains the custom work, then. The frame is heavier than it should be for this vehicle… it was meant to be---"

"A battering ram," Derek supplied.

After a nod, John rubbed a hand over his head. "Why would they take him?"

"To be bait for the alpha---or for me," Derek replied. "Chris might only want to get Peter… but Kate… she'll try to take us all down."

"Anything in the car?"

Derek leaned inside the open door and inhaled deeply. Past the scent of wolfsbane, there was gunpowder; those smells were expected in a hunter's vehicle. Another deep breath and he caught a scent that he remembered all too well. Kate's arousal was faint, but there. Derek's stomach tightened in shame and pain at the memories it provoked.

When his mouth flooded with seemingly cold saliva, though, he knew he only had a few seconds to vacate the crime scene before his stomach expelled whatever remained of its contents. He rushed past John, to a couple bushes on the side of the road, and barely managed to bury his face in their leaves before his guts heaved.

"Is he---what did he see---"

"I got it, Deputy," John murmured. "Just sit tight and wait for the tow trucks, okay?"

Derek heard John making a phone call, giving an apology but saying it was important that whoever he'd called be available---just in case---and then Derek's stomach clenched again. Kate stole Stiles from them. Derek bit back a whine; he never wanted Stiles to get mixed up in his problems, but he failed to protect his packmate from ending up in Kate's clutches as if he'd barely tried at all.

"Here."

After opening his eyes, he saw a bottle of water. He followed the hand holding it until he reached John's face.

"Sorry," Derek croaked.

"No need to apologise, son," he said, his voice soft. "Drink this. I have Doctor Mahealani on the line if you---"

"I need to track them… somehow. Not talk about my feelings."

John nodded. "Well, just… look, how about you talk to the doc, and then you and I will go to the station," he suggested. "Stiles said something about people out near the old house, right? I think it's time we get everything on the record. They're forcing our hand. Let's get ready to push back before we start running off in different directions."

As much as Derek wanted to start looking for Stiles, he understood John's point and knew what he was trying to do. John was an officer of the law, following a code of conduct; he may have wanted to charge full steam ahead, but he was doing his job to try to catch some of these hunters in a way that would mean they'd be punished. Derek knew Stiles would want John to do his job, too.

Derek just wanted to save Stiles.

He took the bottle of water and drank from it. He rinsed his mouth out, twice, spitting the water into the same bushes that hid his moment of weakness. Then, with a small nod for John, he took the phone offered to him.

"Tell your people to send it to the best mechanic in town when they're finished processing it," Derek said. "I'll pay for the repairs---for the crash and for anything else they think needs fixing. Anything. He'll need it road-ready when we get him back."

With a parting squeeze to Derek's shoulder, John nodded and headed back to his deputy to relay the message.

#####

Allison tightened her hands on the steering wheel as she drove down the dark service road; it was all she could do to keep them from shaking. Only a few minutes had passed since Kate sent them away from her underground prison---that's what it was, no matter what else anyone called that weird, underground place---and she was having trouble stiffening her spine and acting unaffected.

"So… werewolves are real," Scott said.

Allison gave him a sideways look as she continued to drive towards town. "You said that already," she muttered.

Scott snorted. "Yeah, I'm working through some---well, look, it's a lot to process," he said.

His response would have made her turn and gawk at him, except for the fact that she needed to keep her eyes on the road. Scott sounded awfully casual for a person who just found their best friend, firstly, was a werewolf and, secondly, was chained up, drugged, and held prisoner by someone who was not a law enforcement officer. Allison has assumed it was shock that kept Scott quiet, when they were with Kate; but, seeing and hearing Scott after they started driving back towards town, Allison wasn't so sure it was shock that Scott was feeling.

"I don't think you're focusing on the right thing," Allison said.

He turned his head and looked at her. "What do you mean?"

"Are you serious?" Allison asked. "I know it's a shock---I'm shocked, too---but your best friend is chained up and probably hurt and you haven't said anything about him. You didn't jump to his defense or… or anything! You… oh, god, I can't believe my family hurts people."

Allison sucked in a breath that fluttered in her chest. Her family hurt people. Her father, her mother, her aunt… they hurt people like Stiles, who had been friendly and generous and so supportive of her relationship with Scott, even though it was one of the root causes of their friendship problems. Besides that fact, hunting werewolves probably wasn't a salaried vocation, so they hurt (or worse) people for free---for fun or for sport. Her eyes started to fill with tears at the thought of those people she loved so much doing such terrible things.

"Your family protects people," Scott said. "They're like… heroes."

"You call what Kate is doing to Stiles protecting people?" Allison asked.

Scott sighed. "Well… maybe? I mean, he's a werewolf. Derek Hale's a werewolf and he's not a good person. Maybe Stiles… he lied about being different. Maybe… maybe he lied about more than that."

"You honestly believe that? You said you've known him for years," she protested. "You think it was all a lie?"

"I… I don't know," he admitted. "But those claws and teeth? Those aren't safe, Allison! Maybe your parents and Kate are right to hunt and catch werewolves. Kate said they're monsters, didn't she?"

"I don't think it's that simple."

"He's not human---that's pretty simple."

Allison frowned. "How can you say that?" she asked. "He's your best friend!"

"How can you say that? He's been lying to me this whole time!"

She pressed her lips together and chose not to respond. Scott's feelings were hurt; Allison understood he could be lashing out because he felt betrayed. But, she had a difficult time reconciling Scott's opinion with the person she'd grown to care about, both romantically and emotionally, so quickly.

Scott put his hand on her thigh, just above her knee, and gave her flesh a gentle squeeze. "They do this dangerous job… they protect people. Why would they lie about that?" he asked.

As she contemplated the possibilities, Allison shuddered. "I… I don't know. I don't know anything about anything," she muttered.

It was difficult to put her thoughts in order. She loved her family, as weird as they'd always seemed to her, and she thought they loved her in return. She couldn't turn her back on them; she didn't think she could join them in their crusade, either, though, if it meant what Kate suggested it meant.

And then, Allison remembered Stiles talking about the feud between the Hales and the Argents. At the time, it hadn't made much sense, but in her current context, she realised there was probably a lot of bad blood between the two families, with one a group of werewolves and the other a group of hunters. She should have demanded that Stiles explain himself; she should have asked her parents about it, too. She mentally cursed herself for not getting all the information she needed to understand what was happening around her.

The more she thought about Stiles, werewolves, and her family, something Stiles said to her surfaced from her memory.

"Well, to be a part of this world… but not able to tell or show anyone who you really are. Always looking over your shoulder, so no one figures out you're different. Can you imagine what scientists would do with people or creatures that were that different?"

As tears spilled out over her cheeks, Allison wiped at her face. She left Stiles there, alone with Kate, and she had no idea what her aunt and the other hunters would do to him.

What sort of person did that make her?

"Uh, Ally?"

Allison blinked through her tears and realised that a set of flashing lights were following her. One of the Sheriff's---oh, god, Stiles's father's---deputies was after them. It was probably a speeding infraction, but there was a chance they knew that she knew about Stiles and her family and wanted to question her---

She pulled over slowly. Once stopped, Allison caught sight of two figures exiting the car. She thought that was a little excessive for a speeding violation and her mind started whirring at the possibilities.

Scott squeezed her leg again. "Deep breath," he whispered. "It's just a speed trap."

When she saw Sheriff Stilinski approaching, in the reflection of her side view mirror, Allison didn't feel so confident that was the case.

"Oh, god," she whispered.

Scott craned his neck, looking out the back of the car. He hummed thoughtfully. "Just… just play it cool," he suggested. "We don't know anything. Remember what Kate said? Act normal."

"Easy for you to say," Allison muttered as she pushed the button for her window and wiped her cheeks of her tears.

Sheriff Stilinski leaned down to make eye contact. "Allison… Argent, right?" he asked. She nodded. He glanced past her to Scott. "And Scott. Hello. You two all right?"

Allison nodded. Scott leaned forward and said, "Hi, Sheriff. We're okay. Just… didn't expect to be pulled over."

Sheriff Stilinski's eyebrows lifted.

"Yeah," Allison chimed in, trying to sound normal. "Sorry I was going so fast. I didn't realise..."

"That you were going seventy-five in a twenty-five? A construction zone?" John asked. "Where were you two in such a hurry to go---or to leave?"

Because Allison was trying so hard to keep Stiles from her thoughts, he kept popping up in her mind's eye. She could see him, hanging from those chains, every time she made eye contact with the Sheriff. Tears kept blurring her vision, no matter how many times she blinked.

"Oh, god. Uh, I'm not crying to get out of the ticket," Allison said, wiping her cheeks again. "I, um, I don't want you to think I'm like this---"

"She worries," Scott supplied, taking her hand in his. She flinched; he squeezed her fingers. "We were talking, sir, and she just… lost track."

"Must've been some conversation," the Sheriff said. He crouched down a little lower and looked into Allison's eyes. "Are you okay, Allison? If there's something I can do to help…"

She exhaled shakily and pulled her hand out of Scott's hold. Then, she shook her head.

"I'm usually better than this," she said. "Write me the ticket, okay? I… please. You should write me a ticket, okay?"

The Sheriff sighed. "I… I don't see how that's gonna make you feel any better---"

"I'm okay," Allison insisted. "I'm not usually---this isn't me," she continued. She paused and reevaluated what she'd said. With a shake of her head, she said. "I mean, obviously, this is me, but---"

"I understand," Sheriff Stilinski interrupted. He spared her a kind look before he glanced back towards his vehicle; he nodded and turned his attention back to Allison and Scott. "Say, you two haven't seen Stiles around tonight, have you?"

Allison felt as if her heart stopped beating.

"S-Stiles?" She echoed. "No… I don't… at school, I think, but not since. Scott?"

Whatever calm Scott had possessed earlier seemed to have evaporated under the Sheriff's curious gaze. He shook his head, stammered, and tried to say he saw Stiles in one of their classes, before moving on and asking why Sheriff Stilinski was curious about that.

The Sheriff pulled out his carbon-papered pad of tickets and started filling out one of the pages. He asked for Allison's license, vehicle registration, and insurance card, and then started adding her information to the form.

"Stiles was driving home tonight and a large SUV ran him off the road," Sheriff Stilinski said. "There was blood and signs of a struggle at the scene… but no Stiles."

"And you're giving out speeding tickets instead of looking for him?" Scott asked.

The cold look Sheriff Stilinski leveled in Scott's direction made Allison's insides quiver. Even Scott seemed cowed by it, judging from the way he hung his head.

"No, Scott, I was following a lead when you two sped past," he replied. "Have either of you seen him recently?"

Scott started talking about seeing him at school, but Allison just shook her head. She'd always thought she was a good person, but she couldn't believe that anymore. Stiles was at her aunt's mercy, hurt and bound, and she was lying to the police and to his father to protect her family who had a hobby where hurting people was expected because she didn't know what to do.

But, all Stiles had to do was tell Kate about the… the alpha. He'd do that, and then surely Kate would let him go.

Right?

Sheriff Stilinski tore off a copy of the ticket and passed it to Allison. "Next time, drive more carefully through here, all right?" he said. "And if you see Stiles or hear anyone talking about where he might be, you can call me at the station or at home---anytime."

Allison folded the ticket and placed it in the centre console. She managed a nod, but it was a jerky gesture.

"Yeah---yes, of course," she said.

"I'll keep a lookout for him," Scott added.

The Sheriff nodded and looked at them both. He seemed to be studying them; he couldn't know about Allison's family, or that they'd seen Stiles, but she felt like he was silently evaluating both of them. She had to steel herself against the impulse to shift or do anything else that could indicate guilt and arouse suspicion. She just had to stay calm and then she could go somewhere and think.

"I hope he's okay," she said, meaning every word.

Sheriff Stilinski nodded. "So do I," he replied. "Because God help the people who took him if he isn't."

At his final words, Allison shivered.

He tapped the hood of her car with one hand before he walked away. While he retreated to his vehicle, the other person with him remained outside and behind her car. They inched back, from what Allison could see, but between the light rain and darkness, she couldn't tell what direction they were facing or what they intended to do.

"C'mon, let's get out of here," Scott whispered. "We should go get ice cream or something and watch a movie. Mom's not working, but she won't mind if we hang ou---"

"Are you kidding me right now?" Allison hissed.

"Kate said we should act normal. So we don't tip anyone off. We're not supposed to know anything, remember?"

She frowned. "Stiles' dad---we just lied to Stiles' dad… the Sheriff."

"For all we know, he's a werewolf monster, too," Scott said. "What if he claws us? Who knows what he'd do---you heard him. Kate won't kill Stiles. She said she won't."

"No, just chain him up and drug him," Allison muttered.

"She's keeping us all safe," he insisted. "Let's just get back home and figure out what to do from there, okay?"

Without a better suggestion, she decided they should at least put some distance between them and the Sheriff. Allison frowned and put her car into driving gear. She looked in her mirrors; the figure was still behind them, between the two vehicles. It didn't matter, though, because there was no way their whispered conversation could be heard over two car engines and the weather. Sheriff Stilinski could have suspicions, even if it were unlikely that he did, but he couldn't know anything for certain.

#####

When Stiles came back to a sense of fuzzy awareness, the despair of knowing Scott abandoned him struck before his fear could return. Kate was in the room---still or again---but that didn't matter because the guy he'd thought of as family, for years, had left without saying anything in his defense.

His heart hurt.

He tried to take comfort in the fact that Derek and his dad wouldn't stop until they found out what happened to him. He hated that they'd be the ones to find his body, but he knew they'd speak for him and do their best to find some sort of justice for him.

"Well, cutie pie, when I saw you at the school, I had no idea we'd end up here," Kate said. She smirked as she sauntered up to him. "Not disappointed, though. Not at all."

Stiles wondered if she'd still be so pleased if he puked on her.

He tracked her through his golden haze, following her in spirit as she picked up his phone. It had buzzed earlier---probably with a text or call from his father or Derek---and he hoped Kate didn't have the foresight to power it down and prevent anyone from eventually tracking his location. Kate reading his text messages and voicemail transcriptions was the absolute least of his worries in that moment.

She couldn't unlock the screen, but she could read what was there in his notifications.

"'Kiddo, you hang tight,'" she said. Then, she paused, glanced at the chains securing him to the fence, and smirked, "'We're doing everything we can to find you.' That's sweet."

She put his phone down after two attempts at his password. Stiles almost snorted---because ciufcia (or what his mother used to call him when he spent hours flitting, jumping, and running around her---and when she wasn't calling him Mischief) combined with S12# was an easy guess, surely---but he reined in the reaction and forced himself to stay quiet and to remain watchful.

"'Stiles' can't be your real name," she murmured, almost to herself.

After tapping the table a couple times with her nails, she picked up his wallet and started thumbing through the cards. He knew she'd found his full name on something when she chuckled under her breath.

"I bet you got picked on a lot as a kid. How do you even pronounce that?" Kate said, holding up his driver's license before turning her attention to the rest of the contents of his wallet. "Hmmm. No weird membership or frequent shopper cards, no rolling papers… not even a condom in here. Pretty boring, kid."

He could've said something. He had a gadzillion snide (and/or insulting) remarks on the tip of his tongue, but he didn't want to give her the satisfaction of realising how shaken he was and he definitely didn't want to piss her off---which was an entirely likely possibility. He knew his mouth was a weapon and it could get him into trouble; he'd taken beatings from Jackson and other jerk-jocks because of things he'd said in the heat of the moment. He had no desire to stir Kate up so much that she felt like punishing him.

She was eventually going to torture him. Stiles did not want to rush that eventuality.

If he'd been in a normal kidnapping situation, trying to humanise himself all the while looking for a way to escape would have been his priority. His father taught him that much. But, since he wasn't in a normal kidnapping situation, Stiles wanted to keep his mouth shut and make the experience as boring for Kate as he possibly could. She got off on torturing people; he didn't want to make it more fun for her.

"Guess that's part of the ruse, huh?" Kate said. "Be as boring as possible to cover up how much of an animal you are?"

Stiles stared at her, trying to keep his face blank and free of any emotion.

"When did the alpha turn you?" Kate asked.

Stiles blinked.

"Who is the alpha?"

He blinked again.

Kate smirked. "I can do this all night, sweetheart," she said. "You might think you're protecting your pack, but that alpha's bad news, and you and Derek won't stand in my way.

"Hell, you won't even be standing at all by the time I'm finished in this town."

Stiles had assumed, before, that she'd been lying to Scott and Allison; with Kate's recent statement, he knew, for certain, she hadn't told them all her plans. If he and Derek couldn't put a stop to Kate's machinations, they would eventually be dead at her hands.

In Stiles' case, eventually wouldn't be too long a time period if he couldn't get out of his current predicament.

She picked up a knife from the table. As she toyed with its edge and point, Stiles felt an alarming amount of relief. If she were skipping straight to knives, there was a very good chance she wasn't interested in the sexual sort of physical abuse. His guts, which had been tied in knots since realising his predicament, unclenched slightly. The idea of her touching him made his stomach roil and his heart flutter. Avoiding that torment was his goal.

When her phone started buzzing, she cursed under her breath. Stiles watched her look from her phone to the knife and back again; he hoped it would be someone she couldn't ignore, like her brother or her niece, but he was disappointed when Kate put the phone down on the table and tightened her grip on the blade's handle.

"Let's test out your healing abilities," she said. "I don't like getting my hands dirty when there are loyal people around willing to do it for me, but I feel like making an exception for you, cutie pie."

Stiles wasn't an expert in being a prisoner or being tortured. He never wanted to be either of those things, but he hadn't had a choice with the first and he knew that no amount of begging would protect him from becoming the second. Kate would enjoy the begging and pleading, anyway. She'd get to enjoy his tears---because he knew he couldn't control that response to pain---but he'd try as hard as he could to keep her from enjoying any other reaction he might be able to give.

#####

Neither of them said much after returning home from the station and their cursory search of back roads in and out of Beacon Hills. John couldn't explain Derek's silence, but his was laden with desperation, fear, and shock. The story Derek had told him wasn't new---he'd heard it before, when he asked Derek to tell him what happened in an unofficial capacity---but those facts combined with the possibility that something similar could be happening to his son and the knowledge that Derek heard Allison and Scott lie (as well as mention seeing Stiles) were a combination that had him worried for his physical and mental health.

John went to the bathroom to wash his face; Derek started making coffee. When John returned to the kitchen, he could see determination in the set of Derek's shoulders. He took a guess and decided to try to dissuade Derek from his plan.

"You can't follow them around all day and night," John said.

"Wanna bet?" Derek shot back, his eyebrows raised up in challenge.

John snorted. "Look. I want to storm the Argent stronghold and arrest them all, but that's not going to help us find Stiles," he said. "And I want to shake some sense into Scott---god, I can't believe he would leave Stiles wherever Kate has him---but I can't go to their homes and ask them any questions in an official capacity without their guardians present."

"I could."

"I know. But, what will happen when Argent finds out you interrogated his daughter?"

Derek growled. "They're a lead. I need to do something."

On a whim, John plucked his phone from his pocket. He found Melissa's number in his list of contacts and dialed the number before he could think too much about it. If he were lucky, she'd be home and awake.

"John! How are you holding up? Any news?"

She answered on the first ring. John ducked his head and prepared his answer---the unofficial version, since he trusted her and their friendship.

"Not great," he said. "There's been no sign of him. No leads on the car that crashed into his jeep, either."

Melissa made a quiet sound of sympathy. "You'll find him," she declared. "Is there anything I can do?"

"I… look, I feel silly asking this, but… can you talk to Scott?"

"Scott? Why?"

John met Derek's curious gaze and held it as he talked. "I… a witness, I guess? I mean, they didn't come forward officially---they seemed a little unreliable anyway---so it's not much for me to go on, but she---they, I mean, they said they saw Stiles."

Derek nodded his approval.

"The time puts the encounter after the accident. They said they thought they saw Scott in the area," John continued. "They seemed… distraught. Or maybe this person is just looking for attention. I saw Scott earlier and he didn't say anything---so I don't know. But, at this point, almost anything is being taken seriously, and---"

"Of course, yes, I'll ask him," Melissa agreed. "Maybe they crossed paths after you spoke with him and he didn't realise Stiles was hurt---head trauma isn't always visible if you don't notice the signs. I'll ask him when he gets home and call you back?"

John sighed. "Thanks, Melissa. I owe you."

She snorted. "Hardly. We're in this together. Call me anytime if there's something you need, you got it?"

"Yeah… yeah. I got it. Thank you," he said, before ending the call. He looked at Derek. "How'd I do?"

"That's a good seed to sow, the unknown witness," Derek replied. "Maybe Scott will think it's Allison. She certainly seemed more upset than Scott did."

John nodded as he leaned back against the counter. "I'm assuming---because I don't have all the information---Scott's mad because now he knows Stiles was lying to him. Kid's always been a little hot-headed," he said. "I don't think that justifies him leaving Stiles with Kate, but it's the only thing that makes sense to me right now."

"Allison's your best bet," Derek agreed.

"If no new leads come tonight, I'll track her down at school," John said. "I could call Jackson, Scott, and maybe a couple of Stiles' other classmates to the office, too, make it look like I'm simply trying to figure out where he'd go or if he's been having trouble with anyone. Wouldn't look unusual, shouldn't tip off her parents that I'm targeting her."

When the coffee pot was full, Derek turned his attention to pouring them both a mug. John didn't normally like drinking coffee so late, but he knew he wouldn't be able to sleep with Stiles in Kate Argent's clutches, and he knew Derek would be trying to figure out his next course of action. He would stay up, avoid the demons that he was struggling to keep at bay, and help Derek. He was already thinking about pulling out some maps of the community and trying to pinpoint possible locations the Argents would use. He could sleep when they brought Stiles home.

"How much do you know about their operation?" John asked.

Derek shrugged. "Not as much as I'd like and more than I'd like."

He passed John a mug of coffee, black with one spoonful of sugar. Stiles would have complained about that sweetener; John hoped he'd get to hear Stiles complain about his habits again.

"Where would she keep him?" John asked. "In general, I mean."

"Some place isolated, hard to get to, so no one can accidentally walk in and find her," Derek replied, without hesitation. "If her family is supporting her actions, I'd say their basement. But, the way Scott said they had to act normal… I don't know."

"When do they train their kids?"

Derek shrugged. "Kate… she was in her twenties when she came after me. She'd been hunting for at least a few years. Mom once said it depended on the family," he said. "Allison never smells the way her parents do, like wolfsbane and gunpowder, so I don't think Chris and Victoria have started with her."

"You think Kate's accelerating her schedule?"

"Kate likes going after minors. Less suspicious, easier to trick---I think. Wouldn't shock me if she thinks using Allison and Scott would help her," Derek muttered. He sipped from his own coffee. "Easier to mold two new hunters. She'd get more resistance from experienced hunters who try to follow their ridiculous code."

John nodded, letting Derek's opinions settle in his thoughts. He knew gangs often relied on younger members---they were less likely to do serious time for many crimes, and they were more likely to want to prove themselves---and he could imagine the same was true of hunters. Younger members had less physical damage and less experience; a dangerous mission could appeal to their sense of heroism and they had fewer bad habits to break when being trained for the job. He could see it---he didn't like it, but he could see it happening.

He set down his mug and went to his office. Once there, he rummaged around until he found the maps they used when there'd been flooding the previous year. Stiles had helped him label a lot of places that served as landmarks---"The water's rising between The Coffee Clutch and Miss Emma's Emporium, Dad"---and he remembered they'd marked off a lot of isolated industrial buildings to serve as storage and emergency muster points. When he returned to the kitchen, he discovered that Derek had gone upstairs and found Stiles' laptop; Derek had already opened it and was searching for something with a narrowed-eyed expression on his face.

"Stiles helped me label this map---might help us figure out some places to start looking," John said.

"I'm trying to find Stiles' password so I can get into the research he did on Kate," Derek added.

John smiled, despite the seriousness of the situation. He said, "There's a document on his desktop. Should be… it looks like it's a link, from the icon. And the name says it's his mother's obituary. Claudia Jean Celej Stilinski---"

"Oh. Found it," Derek interjected as he clicked on the trackpad. He glanced at John. "Are you supposed to know about that?"

"It was something he insisted I know about," John admitted. "After Claudia died… he worried. About everything. It made no sense to me, but after we started fixing things between us, he told me he didn't want me not to be able to access his online life if something happened and I needed that information."

"Have you ever…"

"Used it to spy on him?" John asked. Derek nodded. After a shake of his head, John continued talking. "Even when you two were hiding the werewolf stuff… never occurred to me to look. I like getting my information from him, directly."

Derek nodded again. "He hated not telling you," he admitted. "He's scared you'll get hurt, getting involved---but he's happy you know. Relieved."

"Sounds like Stiles," John agreed. "I'm happy I know, too. No matter what, I'll never have no regrets about knowing this truth."

After they shared a solemn look, Derek turned his attention back to the laptop. John turned his to the map. When he found the location where Stiles' accident occurred, he circled the area with a marker he swiped from his office.

"When we got there, the cars were still warm…" he muttered, mostly to himself. "No sign of them…"

"A second vehicle," Derek said.

"Registered to the same company, maybe," John suggested.

"Or a rental," Derek added. "If Kate told Allison behind Chris' back, makes sense she'd bring her own help."

John wrote a few notes about the vehicle in his notebook, hoping to enlist Tara's help in tracking it down, and then he looked at the neighbourhood as a whole. The houses were too close together and there was far too much traffic. He already knew Stiles wouldn't be found in the area. Kate has been hunting for a while; she wouldn't make a rookie mistake that could get her caught easily.

He widened his gaze to the map as a whole. He saw the place where they'd caught up to Scott and Allison, on the outskirts of the Preserve. There wasn't much out there. The old abandoned distillery, the Hale House, a couple of ranger stations, and a couple small homes were all that they could have been leaving. The only reason John and Derek were out there was because Derek wanted to try to find the hunters' scent so they could track them, after their official conversation, but the rain had put a stop to their attempt. Allison has seemed upset, like she'd had a shock and still needed time to recover; John wondered if they'd come from one of those places.

The houses were occupied, and the ranger stations were used regularly… but the abandoned distillery was a possibility. Derek's childhood home was a possibility, too.

But, John couldn't eliminate the possibility that they were simply holding Stiles in a remote area of the Preserve or in a structure beyond the forest (or in another county).

There was too much he didn't know.

Derek's growl shook him from his thoughts. John looked up at him, eyebrows raised in question.

"Kate's Instagram account," Derek said.

He turned the laptop around to show John the screen. Aside from some jargon John didn't understand, he saw a photo of what passed as hunting gear: a crossbow and its arrows, a rifle, a box of ammunition, and a couple of knives. The caption---Getting ready to catch the big beastie #hunterlife---made John wince.

How was she able to post such things on a public forum and not arouse suspicion?

"I want that link," he said. "I want to try to connect her location and activities to other crimes."

Derek nodded.

He set the laptop aside and watched as John circled areas on the map. He drew around the buildings in the Preserve; he marked areas closer to town that he knew to be industrial and abandoned. Derek followed along, asking questions when John marked buildings with which he wasn't familiar and helping John in ruling out certain locations.

They'd come up with a shorter list of places to search for hunter activity---and for signs of Stiles---when Derek stiffened and stood up. John didn't know what was wrong, but he knew there was something.

"Get your gun," Derek whispered.

He tilted his head as if listening, and then twitched as if he'd been slapped.

"Hunters?" John asked.

"Peter."

John thought about voicing his displeasure, but he elected to remain silent and arm himself as efficiently as possible. They moved together as they walked to the front of the house, Derek in front and John only slightly behind him.

When Derek opened the door, Peter was wearing a scowl and a smirk, somehow, at the same time.

"Lose something?" he asked.

"What do you know about it?" Derek asked in reply.

"Just that he's missing. I can't feel him, so I assume he's in a mountain ash circle… hunters, so predictable," Peter said.

"Kate has him."

Peter's eyes widened in surprise. "Well. She always did like her boy toys young, didn't she, Derek?"

John put his hand on Derek's back, just over his shoulder blade. "You knew?" John asked, struggling to keep his voice even and quiet. "And, what, couldn't figure out how to work her abusing your nephew to your advantage?"

Peter's smirk grew into a wide grin. "Can't rape the willing, can you?" he inquired. "I could smell you, the first time you laid eyes on her."

Derek snarled. "You have no idea---what I wanted or what happened---"

"I think I have some idea of that," Peter protested, still grinning. "Now. Where is she holding him?"

John didn't say anything about Stiles. Peter thought he could treat his own flesh and blood so poorly, and John suspected he would treat Stiles even worse. As much as he wanted to rescue Stiles, Peter could not be an option in his salvation. Peter could kill him; Peter could take advantage, claiming obligation. Peter could do anything he wanted and John would not let him near his son because of that.

He and Derek would find Stiles. John believed that with all his heart.

"Leave," John said. "We don't want or need you here."

"Sounds like you do need me here. You're missing a son and Derek's missing a pack member," Peter insisted. "I can help."

"Then, go out and prove that you're looking out for your beta," Derek said, the growl John wished he could express lingering in his voice. "Convince us that you care about your pack---that you aren't a conniving, self-serving---"

John barely had time to register Peter moving before Derek was falling to his knees. He dropped, too, one hand going to his service weapon and the other wrapping around Derek's chest. Blood was seeping through the shirt Derek was wearing; John needed to access his damage, but he also needed to protect them both from Peter.

Peter was already backing away from the front door, though.

"You will both fall in line when I bring back my beta," Peter said as he held up his clawed hand, covered in Derek's blood. "Obey me as alpha---or die. Same goes for the brat."

As soon as Peter got into his car, John pulled Derek further into the house and slammed shut the door. Without thinking, he grabbed a scarf from the coat rack, something neither Stilinski wore often, and pressed it into Derek's stomach.

"Hold that there," he instructed. "I'm going to go put some mountai---"

"Go," Derek croaked.

John worked as quickly as he could, spreading the powder across the threshold of every door and window on the ground floor. He wouldn't feel safe until he did the same on the second floor, but he'd already taken too long and Derek needed his help. He couldn't let Derek die; the other werewolf was his only hope of finding Stiles, and the two werewolves together were his only hope of protecting Beacon Hills.

He washed his hands and grabbed the first aid kit and towels from the bathroom. When he came back to the foyer, he saw that Derek managed to push or pull himself further away from the door but was still lying down on the floor.

"Just need to put something on it to soak up the blood," Derek instructed. "It will take longer to heal---an alpha did it---but it should…"

"Let me clean it first," John said. "We'll bandage it as best as we can, and then I'll help you move somewhere."

At Derek's nod, John lowered himself to a kneeling position and got to work. He pulled the shirt tatters away from the wound, causing more bleeding, and then he cut the shirt with the safety blade in the kit. While warm water would have been better, John didn't want to waste time; he dampened one towel and did his best to clean the area before pressing a dry towel to Derek's abdomen. He worked as quickly as he could, and he enlisted Derek's help in securing the towel as he did his best to wrap a stretchy bandage around it and Derek's torso. Then, he cut the remnants of Derek's shirt away and washed his hands with another towel and the last of the water.

"Thanks," Derek whispered.

"You're welcome," John replied, not knowing what else to say. "Let's get you into bed, okay? Then I'll do the windows upstairs. I'll stay awake for a while and work, and check on your injury, too, so you just have to rest."

Derek nodded. The next step in John's plan was a struggle, trying to get Derek upright, but eventually they managed it and they were able to get Derek on the bed in the room that John started to think of as belonging to Derek. He brought a bottle of water and a bottle of juice, hoping the calories and fluids would help Derek heal, and he sat with him for a few minutes.

"I'm sorry Peter did that to you," John said.

"Family's complicated."

John snorted. "Yeah, no kidding."

"He might find Stiles before we can," Derek added.

"We'll deal with that if it happens," John said, patting Derek's knee. "In the meantime, you heal and then we keep looking for him."

Derek nodded and closed his eyes. "You should go put mountain ash on the other windows," he said in a hoarse voice. "I'll be okay."

"You shout if you need something---anything," John stipulated.

When Derek nodded again, John stood up and left the room. He didn't want to leave Derek---he didn't like leaving someone he considered family when they were hurt---but he knew the mountain ash was important to keeping Peter out of the house for at least the rest of the night.

He stopped back at Derek's room when he finished the job. Derek was asleep, or he seemed to be sleeping, so John checked the towel for signs of more bleeding. It seemed to be fine, no blood soaking through the fabric, but what made John pause was the sight of still-damp tear tracks down both of Derek's cheeks.

He didn't understand why the world had decided to be so unkind to that boy. First Kate and the fire, then Laura's death, and then Kate and Peter asserting their power… it seemed like Derek couldn't get a break.

John vowed that, once they found Stiles, he would try harder to make Derek feel like part of the family---and he would try to understand Derek's desire for a larger pack. He wanted to be a positive contributor in Derek's life, instead of another antagonist.

But, first, they had to find Stiles.

#####

Allison flinched.

She flinched.

Chris reached out to pull her into a morning hug and she flinched.

He'd been ready to assume that she'd slept poorly and wasn't in the mood to be touched. They weren't a snuggly sort of family. He and Victoria were never particularly into demonstrative physical contact; Kate and Gerard would bite out the throat of anyone who tried to hug them without proper warning. Despite their collective prickly nature, Allison was the most likely to accept affection and Chris embraced that because it made him feel like a normal person and a regular sort of father.

Something in her eyes when she flinched away from him looked a lot like guilt and fear. He didn't like that at all.

The other thing he didn't like was Kate's recent disappearing act. He'd hoped to talk to her about Allison's behaviour, but Kate has gone missing.

That wasn't unusual. She preferred to work alone. Chris hated that trend of hers---because he worried about her safety as well as the safety of anyone in the area (he knew, from experience, that she could forget about collateral damage when focused on a target)---and tried to force contact when she was hunting to keep tabs on her activities. But, if she wasn't answering her phone, there was little Chris could do to get an update from her.

So, he channeled his worries and frustrations into tracking down Jackson Whittemore to see if he were showing signs of changing from those scratches. The full moon wasn't for another week or so---he'd have to check the precise date when he wasn't driving---which would give him time to determine if the kid was going to change into a rabid werewolf. There were always signs, and the ramp up to the moon's fullest stage would no doubt bring some of those to the surface to Jackson's behaviour.

He drove to the Whittemore house in time to see Jackson driving away, heading towards the downtown area instead of the high school. There was still an hour before classes were set to start; Chris wasn't sure what to make of his early departure. Cautiously, he followed, paying attention to their surroundings in an attempt to guess what Jackson's destination would be.

Chris was surprised to see Jackson park outside of The Beacon Hotel and march inside. He parked, too, trying to come up with an excuse to explain his exploring the hotel for his quarry, but the sight of a man (who was roughly Chris' age) dragging Jackson back outside made him pause and reevaluate his plan.

They were having a heated conversation. The man seemed angry; Jackson seemed frustrated. He watched them huff and puff at each other. His lip reading skills were weak, but Chris thought he caught words like missing, hate, and Stilinski. That last word was particularly unsettling because Chris didn't understand the context of mentioning the Sheriff's family name with those other two words. Was the Sheriff missing? Had he been the victim of a hate crime? Were they criminals and hated the Sheriff on principle? He needed more information.

Knowing he should get closer to them, Chris exited his vehicle and decided to walk towards the small garden or park area on the other side of the hotel and the two people he was watching. He steered clear of both of them, as much as he could, so he could only eavesdrop as he sauntered past them. He hoped, by carrying an (empty) travel mug and (yesterday's) newspaper, that he looked like he was just out for a stroll.

"I don't care who you have to talk to," the man said. "You find out who last saw him and where he was going when he was taken---"

Jackson snorted. "Just start over. I'm a better bet than him."

"Is that why you let him get kidnapped?"

Chris frowned as he walked into the seating area of the park, reaching for his phone once he'd stopped next to a bench. Someone had been kidnapped? He didn't hear anything about that over breakfast---but he'd also been more concerned about Kate and Allison that morning, so the local news hadn't been a priority. He typed a few keywords into his browser search and nearly dropped his phone.

Sheriff Stilinski addresses son's kidnapper in press conference last night; calls for community volunteers to search rural areas

Who abducted Stiles Stilinski? Why would they have taken him? Was it a mundane crime---or was there a supernatural component to it?

Could Kate…

But, why? Stiles wasn't on their radar. His hostile response to Chris' questions was odd, but Scott had made it seem like Stiles was an odd boy. He'd certainly seemed normal when Chris talked to him---aside from his attitude.

No, Kate was probably holed up in the Preserve, tracking Hale. She wouldn't have kidnapped a teenager; she wouldn't try to extract information from a teenager.

Although…

Scott did talk about Stiles' supposed friendship with Hale. And if Kate thought he would have inside information about where Derek lived or with whom Derek spent his time, then Chris could believe that she'd try to question him. If Stiles acted with her the way he had acted with Chris, Chris could see Kate reacting badly. She'd interpret his attitude as hostile, instead of uncomfortable; she had a short fuse, she always lashed out when someone was being difficult. He had a few scars from their interactions as children that proved she had a quick temper.

Fuck, he hoped Kate wasn't responsible for kidnapping the Sheriff's son.

He lifted his head and saw Jackson's companion watching him. When they made eye contact, Chris steeled himself against flinching; he was out enjoying the morning as far as the strange man knew, he had nothing to hide. He smiled and nodded before bringing his mug up to his lips.

The smirk with which the stranger replied was weirdly familiar. Chris couldn't place it, but he knew he'd seen that expression on that face at some point in his life.

If he were another hunter, that would explain why Chris thought his smile was familiar.

But, Chris knew he could be a supernatural being, too.

Chris decided to play dumb and stay away until he figured out how that man was familiar to him.

He sent Jackson away after a few more minutes; then, he went in the opposite direction, back into the hotel. Chris waited for a few minutes and then he dialed Kate's number.

When it went to voicemail, Chris sighed and said, "Kate, call me back now. We have a complication and I need to know what you're up to."

He ended the call and looked around. Tyhurst had been working the night before, so he may know what was happening with the Stilinski kid; he decided to go pay the deputy a visit and bring himself up-to-date so he could plot his next move.

#####

After he asked his questions, Boyd gave him a long, stern look and turned on his heel.

"Fuck!"

Danny nudged Jackson as he came up from behind him. Jackson would've cursed some more, but he was already on his way to alienating Lydia; he didn't want to alienate Danny, too.

"Language," Danny playfully chided. When he looked at Jackson, his expression turned serious. "What's wrong?"

He could keep quiet. He could lie about bombing a pop quiz or missing a homework assignment. But, Danny never lied to him---and he'd been lying for long enough that he already felt a little guilty about it. If anyone would understand a difficult situation, it would be Danny. Jackson would just have to figure out a way to make him believe that people could be better than human.

If he did it successfully, maybe Danny would want to join him.

"I'm supposed to figure out where Stilinski's hiding," he said.

Danny's eyes narrowed. "Interesting choice of words."

"You think he was, what, kidnapped?"

There was no way. Stilinski ran. Anyone who thought Stilinski had been abducted wasn't thinking clearly. For a person with magical powers, he was useless. He probably figured out the man with the claws was in town and decided to flee. He said there were dangerous people in Beacon Hills, but he was hardly a fighter; he would've hidden and run away from his problems, like he did with almost everything else.

"What did you do?" Danny asked.

Jackson frowned. "Why do you assume it's my fault?"

Danny looked around the hallway. There were a lot of people around them, but no one was paying attention to their activities. Jackson was ready to tell him what was happening, but Danny dragged him towards a restroom before he could say anything. When they confirmed that it was empty, Danny locked the door by shoving the doorstop wedges underneath it.

"Spill. Everything," he insisted

So, Jackson did. He told him about the scratches, the angry feelings that weren't his, and how those feelings faded a bit when he met the man in the parking lot. He told him about the man's claws and fangs and glowing red eyes. He told him about being ordered to follow Stilinski and discovering Stilinski was different, too, and he finished talking with the warning Stilinski had given him before going into the Sheriff's Department.

When he fell silent, he expected Danny to have his side---not that there were really sides, but he still expected Danny to have his back.

He didn't expect Danny to pinch the bridge of his nose and exhale noisily.

"You're my best friend, I love you, but you're an absolute idiot," Danny said.

"You don't know what you're talking about!" Jackson snarled. "This guy is gonna help me---"

"He's more likely to kill you," Danny interrupted. "You have no idea what you barged into."

Jackson scowled. "Then why don't you enlighten me?"

Danny started talking about werewolves, packs, and hunters. It sounded ridiculous, but Jackson couldn't brush it all off as myth because he'd seen the guy's claws and fangs. When Danny explained about a feud and a fire that killed almost a whole family, Jackson struggled to focus because he didn't understand how it applied to him. All that mattered was figuring out how to get those powers for himself; something that happened almost a decade ago didn't concern him.

"So, the guy is a werewolf," Jackson said. "And he can turn me into one."

"That's all you got from that, huh?"

"If he's so powerful, why does he need me, huh? Clearly he thinks I'm worth---"

"Nothing---to him," Danny interjected. "Stiles is his priority right now, no matter how much Stiles wishes he isn't."

"Stilinski? Why?"

Danny rolled his eyes. "The hunters have him, Jackson! They want to kill the guy with the claws---the alpha---and they think Stiles knows who he is," he explained. "They will do anything to get that information from him. Anything!"

"So, he gives them the information, and they let him go. Big deal. The guy with the claws---or the alpha, whatever that means---"

"I told you what it means!"

"---he's tough, he can probably take 'em," Jackson finished. "And then everyone's problem is solved."

Jackson pulled out his phone, fully intending to text his future benefactor, but Danny snatched the device out of his hands.

"No, you are not getting him involved," Danny said. "He killed people! If you'd used your head… god, Jackson. This guy, he's completely insane. If you'd gone to the good guys after meeting him---"

"The hunters?" Jackson asked.

With a shake of his head, Danny said, "Hardly. The Argents are worse. I mean the pack that should inherit the territory."

Jackson crossed his arms over his chest. "How would I have known who to go to?" he demanded.

"He told you to follow Stiles, right? Probably a good place to start," Danny said. "If you'd helped, the pack would've helped you in return. Instead, you let Stiles get taken by---"

"So what? It's Stilinski. No big."

Danny's shoulders slumped as he shook his head. "First, he's a human being you put in a crazy dangerous situation because you're too busy looking out for yourself," he said. "Second, he's probably going to be the pack's second-in-command if he survives this."

Not liking the way Danny was looking at him, Jackson shook his head and then kept his head turned slightly so he didn't have to meet his best friend's sad gaze.

"I don't need a pack," he muttered.

"Good, because you're probably never going to get one after this," Danny said.

He put the stolen phone back into Jackson's hand. "Here. Call the bad guy," he said. "Do whatever you want. You always do."

As he unstopped the door, it swung open. Scott stood there, eyes wide. Danny snorted, shook his head, and walked out of the bathroom.

Jackson wanted to wallow---he hated when Danny was mad at him, because it always felt worse than anger from anyone else---but he also saw an opportunity. He hadn't been able to question Scott yet.

"Bad break-up?" Scott asked, gesturing behind him.

"Could ask you the same thing," Jackson replied. "Where's Stilinski?"

Scott's eyes widened and he took two steps back, away from Jackson and toward the door.

"What do you mean?" Scott asked. "Missing, last I heard."

Jackson smirked. "Riiight. And that's why you look like you've seen a ghost."

"I'm worried about him!"

Jackson snorted. "I'm surprised you even noticed he's missing, you're always so wrapped up in Allison," he said. "But that face isn't worry---it's fear. Tell me what you know."

Instead of saying anything, Scott turned and fled the bathroom. Jackson let out a shout of frustration and he kicked the garbage can. No one was willing to tell him anything useful!

He texted the man with the claws---Hunters have him. No idea where. Scott McCall knows something, but he won't tell me. I'll try again.---and tries to ignore the squirmy feelings in his stomach as he pocketed his device. Danny didn't understand, even though Jackson had tried to explain it; he hoped he would get a chance to explain it again, in a better way, after he got his prize.

#####

"Oh, come on," Lydia purred. "This is better than math class, isn't it?"

Allison's smile was lacking in wattage, but it was a start. She'd been all doom and gloom since she walked into homeroom that morning; Lydia thought that cutting classes and going shopping for formal dresses would fix that. She was rarely wrong, so she was left wondering what data she was missing.

She would need to figure out Allison's mood and the reason for it. There were too many weird things happening in Beacon Hills; she would not entertain any more weirdness, especially in her personal life.

"Scott asked you, right?" Lydia asked.

"I, uh, I asked him," Allison replied.

Lydia smiled. That was predictable---Scott was kind of an idiot---but she was also glad Allison took charge of the situation. Girls should never have to wait for a guy to offer them what they want; they were perfectly capable of going after what they want without assistance from anyone with a penis. She was pleased with Allison's attitude

"That boy doesn't know how good he has it," Lydia declared as she looped her arm around Allison's and guided her through the only decent department store in the county. "Let's go find a dress that will remind him how lucky he is."

When Allison smiled, the expression was still pretty weak. Lydia didn't push; she knew it was better to ask questions when her target (or friend) was distracted.

"Come on," she said, gesturing towards the escalator that would take them to formal wear. "We need to look our best at this dance. We hardly have any decent events here, but this is close and we should celebrate."

"Should we?" Allison asked. "I mean, with the… attacks, and Stiles---"

"Feels wrong?" Lydia suggested.

At Allison's nod, Lydia made a sympathetic sound---mostly because it was expected. She was worried. A student went missing; obviously she was worried. But, she was more concerned about why Stiles was the one to vanish. He was clever, but annoying; he was good-looking, but he wasn't particularly stunning (to her, anyway), either.

(He was a curious person. For reasons she could not understand, he seemed to play some sort of act of being attracted to her. He pretended to moon after her; he called out fake endearments in her direction. But, when they were in class or when they interacted, he never showed any signs of physical attraction. She would have assumed he was gay if he showed any honest sign of desire for another guy; in an absence of proof, she'd been forced to table her very minor investigation into Stiles' charade. She could always resume it when she uncovered another clue.)

There were other things over which she could puzzle, though. She'd brushed off Stiles' recent weird behaviour as personality quirks, but when he and Scott stopped speaking and when he made comments about Allison's family and other supposed dangers in the community---but not the mysterious Derek Hale, he was very clear about that---Lydia was forced to admit (to herself) that something strange was happening and that Stiles knew what that was. She tried to watch him, but he was very careful; apart from a few minute displays of fear and aggression, he seemed like his usual self.

Except, he wasn't---she knew something was fundamentally different with him---and, if he survived whatever was happening, he wouldn't be ever again.

Missing children and teenagers were rare in Beacon County. Occasionally, someone ran away from home, but the last time someone had been abducted was in 2004, because of a divorce-gone-wrong. What happened to Stiles was far more criminal, judging by the Sheriff's tone of voice on the radio news report last night. His vehicle had been struck by an armoured vehicle and he had been taken from the scene of that accident; those were the facts that were delivered in a hollow, solemn voice that Lydia had only ever heard the Sheriff use at his wife's funeral. Whatever Jackson and Scott thought, Stiles would not run away from home and his father knew that as a fact. He'd been taken---either as a way to get revenge for something his father did in his job or as a preferred victim type, and Lydia wasn't sure which was the more terrifying option.

Unlike Erica and Vernon, who'd both seemed unsettled and worried during class, she kept her feelings to herself. She wasn't expected to care about Stiles; she hadn't expected to care about Stiles, either, but she did. She remembered the microexpression of fear she saw on Stiles' face at Allison's mention of her family; she remembered how freaked out Stiles had acted when they'd been at the school that weird, scary night. Upon confronting him in the hallway before class, one day, she'd received confirmation that there was something she didn't know. She made a plan to return to their conversation, in one way or another, but then Jackson started acting weird and...

...Stiles had been kidnapped.

As someone of above-average intelligence, it was easy to let her fascination with the situation override her concern. It was easy to look at events with a critical and seemingly unfeeling eye. It was easy to not care what others thought about how she acted and felt.

But, Allison seemed to be trying to conceal that she was genuinely upset.

Were she and Stiles close? Lydia doubted they were, with the way Scott acted like a revolving door---casting out Stiles as he welcomed in Allison. They may have talked a little bit, in that polite friend-of-a-friend way some people demonstrated, but Lydia had never seen anything in their actions to suggest they were becoming anything other than acquaintances.

Was Scott upset? He should be. His best friend---the one person who stuck by him and his idiocy---was missing. But, Lydia had seen him horsing around with some of the other lacrosse players, and he didn't seem worried or upset. He could be a world-class actor; that could be the explanation for his actions.

But.

But, but, but.

She put on her best sympathetic face and leaned in close to Allison. "I think… I think it's terrible, what happened---what's happening, I mean," she said. "But, I also think, maybe, we need a bit of a break from the terrible and weird stuff."

Allison exhaled and nodded. "Yeah… maybe," she agreed.

They stepped onto the escalator. Allison was looking around, but Lydia was looking straight ahead as she tried to figure out her next move. Somehow, Allison's family was connected to Stiles; his fear had told her that. But her observational skills could not tell her why or how they were connected. Maybe Allison had seen him last night; maybe she and Scott had been doing something they shouldn't have been doing, and that's when they saw Stiles. Lydia would need to phrase her questions carefully to figure out that connection---especially if Allison and Scott could get in trouble with their parents (the predictable, dull explanation) for announcing their activities.

"So, let's find you a dress that'll make Scott's heart stop," Lydia murmured.

With a nod, Allison stepped off the escalator at Lydia's side. She steered them towards the racks of fancier dresses, ignoring anything that was too long or too short. She tried to maneuver Allison towards a series of lighter dresses, but Allison seemed focused on a grouping of black dresses. Lydia humoured her, content to let her work through all possible options before Lydia found the best two to suit her friend. Black was for mourning, and she didn't think Allison should be doing that. She should be stunning; she should be knocking off Scott's socks and making him thank his lucky stars that she even acknowledges his presence in her life.

They tried on a few dresses. Lydia picked hers quickly, but Allison was floundering. Lydia could hear her mumbling under her breath, to herself; no amount of straining could help Lydia figure out whatever was bothering Allison.

She knocked on the door to Allison's changing room.

"Allison? Everything okay in there?" Lydia asked.

"Y-yeah," she replied. "Just trying on the silver dress."

"Well? Open the door and let me see," Lydia insisted.

When Allison finally opened the door to her changing room, she had tears in her eyes. She looked around Lydia, first, as if checking for other people, and then she smoothed her hands over the dress' ruching and ruffles as she met Lydia's assessing gaze.

"It's perfect," Allison said.

"It is. So why do you look like you're about to go to pieces over it?" Lydia asked.

"I… I don't think I should go, I---"

Allison broke off, covering her mouth with a shaky hand. Lydia wasn't sure why Allison was so upset; unless she was directly involved in all the weirdness, and feeling guilty about it, she shouldn't be that affected by recent events.

"Is this… about Stiles?" she asked, in a quiet voice.

"Omigod, stop saying his name!" Allison exclaimed. "I don't know where he is!"

She realised what she said; her eyes widened, and her face lost all of its colour. Before Lydia could say anything, she fled back into the isolation of her changing room.

"Well, I certainly can't leave that alone," Lydia muttered to herself.

Exercising remarkable patience, Lydia gave Allison two full minutes before trying the door knob and opening the door. When she peeled inside the small chamber, Allison was sitting on the stool in the corner of the room, with both of her hands covering her face; it looked like she was crying, considering the way her shoulders were shaking. Lydia frowned. Allison wasn't a killer or kidnapper---neither was Scott, although Lydia admitted she didn't know him very well---and she wasn't the type of person to bully or harass another classmate, either. She couldn't have masterminded the whole thing, but she knew something. The way she was acting, guilty or full of remorse, told Lydia that much.

She crouched down in front of Allison, putting one of her hands on Allison's arm in what she hoped would be seen as a comforting gesture.

"What's going on?" Lydia asked.

"I can't talk about it," Allison muttered, wiping her cheeks.

"Well… you look like you need to," Lydia murmured. "I don't think I've ever seen you so upset."

"Well, you don't know me that well!" Allison snarked back at her. "I haven't been here that long! How could you possibly know what I'm like?!"

Lydia arched an eyebrow. Allison's face crumpled again.

"God, I'm sorry, Lydia," she whispered. "This week… it's just… too much."

"Is there anything you can talk about?" Lydia prompted. She squeezed Allison's arm. "It might help."

"I'm not supposed to talk about… any of it," Allison admitted. She sighed and resumed wiping her cheeks and eyes. "Promise you won't tell anyone?"

Lydia frowned. "If you're in danger, no. But, if that's not the case, I don't see why I can't keep this between us," she said.

That was enough for Allison, because she nodded. "I'm okay, I think. I mean, no one's after me or anything. But… have you ever thought you knew the people you love---like really, really well---and then something happens and you realise you never knew them at all?"

Lydia rolled her eyes. "Duh. My parents are in the middle of the worst divorce ever."

Allison's smile was watery and weak when it appeared, but the fact that she could smile---even a little---and make eye contact gave Lydia hope that she could pull all necessary information out of her. Lydia smiled, too, in an attempt to be encouraging.

"I… my parents, my family… they're… not who I thought they are," Allison continued. "I mean, I always knew they were a little odd, but what family isn't weird, y'know?"

"Yeah," Lydia agreed. "People, in general, are weird."

Nodding, Allison smoothed her hands down over the dress, playing with one of the ruffles over her hip. "Yeah, I guess," she agreed. "I mean, that sure explains Jackson."

Lydia snorted. "Tell me about it. Boy's got more issues than National Geographic."

"Well, I might be joining him in that endeavour. I… Kate told me---showed me---the truth about my family, and… it's just… it scares me," Allison whispered.

"Is this about why Stiles lied when he said he trusted you about your family?" Lydia asked. "At school, after that night?"

Allison's face fell as she nodded. She blinked rapidly, her eyes filling with tears again.

"It this about the thing with the Hales?" Lydia asked.

Allison nodded again.

"Are you safe?"

"I… I think so," Allison whispered.

Lydia adjusted her position so she was sitting, giving her knees a break. She used the time to ponder over what she knew about Allison's family. They were involved in weapons sales; they worked with police and military training groups, but as far as she knew they didn't support unregulated militias or cults or any other group that could jeopardise their livelihood by breaking the law. She knew Allison had serious game in archery, only because Allison admitted it over manicures one afternoon when Lydia asked about the callouses on her fingers. Her mother, Victoria, made every hair on the back of Lydia's neck stand on its end; Lydia assumed this was because she recognised Victoria as competition of the strong female variety, but Allison's confessions were making her reconsider that. Chris seemed aloof, but kind, and Kate… well, Lydia had only met her once and she wasn't sure what she thought of Kate. There had been too much conflicting evidence for Lydia to come up with a solid first impression.

"And now… you aren't sure how you fit in with them?" Lydia asked.

Allison nodded as she closed her eyes and drew in a deep breath. She seemed fragile, as if she were barely holding it together. Her body was nearly vibrating with negative emotions or energy; Lydia knew she couldn't ask the direct questions she wanted to ask because Allison was far too upset to probe much deeper than she already had.

"I don't know what you're going through, because I don't know specifics, but I do know something about feeling at odds with my parents," Lydia said. "I'm a loyal sort of person. I value trust and honesty. My dad… does not. When I learned the truth about him, it rocked my world. I didn't know how someone so sleazy could be my parent.

"But… I slowly realised that he's still my father, even if I don't like him very much right now. We have had happier times. And I don't need to be like him in order to be his daughter. I can still learn from him, and I can try to be there in case he needs me, but he doesn't get to dictate who I am or who I'll become. I'm my own person---not a chip off the old block."

Something in her words helped Allison. Lydia could see that in the way Allison's shoulders relaxed. She reached up and took her hand, giving her fingers a little squeeze.

"I could… learn from them, but do good, with those skills and lessons," Allison whispered.

"Yeah," Lydia murmured. "You're your own person. You get to decide what's right and wrong for you---not your family."

After a nod, Allison wiped her face with her free hand. She inhaled slowly and exhaled noisily. Then, she smiled.

"Thanks."

"I'm your friend, Allison. You don't need to thank me," she said.

Allison shook her head. "No, I do," she insisted. "You really helped."

"Then, how about you let me continue to help? My dad will buy our dresses, courtesy of his guilt-sponsored Visa, and then we'll go get smoothies and walk around a park," Lydia suggested.

"That sounds… really good," Allison agreed.

Lydia beamed at her before she stood up and exited the changing room. Once she was alone again, she gathered up her dress---the one she would be wearing at the formal when (not if) Jackson decided to get a grip and accompany her---and pondered over what she knew and guessed so far into her investigation of weirdness.

If whatever the upsetting truth was pertained to Stiles and Kate Argent, and then to Chris and Victoria; it sounded like Stiles was seriously outnumbered. Maybe he looked into the fire, after meeting Derek, and discovered something? It was a possibility with dangerous connotations. What would mass murderers do to keep a secret?

She knew she promised Allison that she wouldn't say anything unless Allison were in danger; however, if the adult Argents had something to do with Stiles' disappearance, Allison's whole world was in danger of collapsing in on itself. She could go to Stiles' father and tell him she overheard things, to point him in the appropriate direction, and there was a very good chance Allison would never learn it was her who tipped off the Sheriff.

#####

"It seems like something is bothering you."

Clenching his hands around the broom handle, Scott looked up to see Deaton watching him from the doorway. His boss was hard to read on a good day, always watching him with his sharp eyes, set in a calm face, with easy body language; from experience, he learned that he should be ready for anything from being reprimanded to discussing the weather to being praised. Demeanor was not an indicator of mood or intention with Doctor Deaton.

"Do you want to talk about it?" he asked.

"I… I don't know," Scott admitted.

"You must be upset about your friend," Deaton continued talking. "He hasn't been found yet?"

With a shake of his head, Scott swallowed against his mixed feelings. He was so angry at Stiles, and so scared of him and Derek and the rest of their kind. Werewolves were real! The more Allison tried to talk about her feelings, the more angry and fearful Scott felt. He didn't understand how she could think what her family did was wrong. They protected humans from monsters; they did their best to keep them a secret, so others could live their lives without worrying about being eaten or ripped to shreds.

But, at the same time, he was struggling to wrap his head around the idea that Stiles would kill anyone. Kate made it sound like a foregone conclusion if he hadn't already. But, after the initial shock and rage faded, Scott couldn't see it happening so easily. Stiles used to watch Lilo and Stitch when he was upset or in a bad mood. He would cry (or turn his head away from Scott) when Stitch admitted he's lost---and then again when he was reunited with his family. Would a monster cry for a little cartoon alien?

"Is there something you'd like to discuss?" Deaton asked.

Scott frowned. "I don't know how to talk about, without sounding crazy," he admitted.

Nodding, Deaton stepped into the supply room. He steered clear of the pile into which Scott had been sweeping debris and settled back against a pallet loaded with bags of animal food. Once he settled, he smiled at Scott.

"I can imagine a lot of things feel that way, especially as a teenager," Deaton said. "Is this about Stiles?"

"Uh… sort of," Scott replied. "I just… before all this happened, he… I thought he was hanging out with bad people. We kept fighting about it. And then, it turns out, maybe I don't know him as well as I thought I did. I don't know how I feel."

"You think he had this series of unfortunate events coming to him?"

Scott bowed his head. "Maybe," he whispered.

"I'm surprised at you, Scott," Deaton commented.

He sighed. He'd already heard similar things from Allison and his mother. The Sheriff had spoken to Melissa, filling her head with the notion that Scott knew where Stiles had gone; it was only the fact that he'd been somewhere unfamiliar in the middle of the woods that gave him the ability to look her in the eye and deny that he knew where Stiles was located. But, it had spooked him, that the Sheriff could know Scott was involved, even tangentially; it made him wonder if the Sheriff was a werewolf, too. And Allison still hadn't forgiven him for siding with Kate and for not defending Stiles. Scott wasn't sure if he'd ever get out of that doghouse---and he wasn't even sure why there was a doghouse, because Allison was not thinking clearly if she was taking a werewolf's side over that of her family.

"If you were worried about Stiles, why didn't you try to be there for him?" Deaton asked.

"I tried to find proof that Hale was a bad influence---"

"And did that have the desired result?"

Scott shook his head. "No, just made him mad," he admitted.

"I would have thought you'd realise you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar," Deaton said. "When Stiles proved resistant to your first attempt, why didn't you change tactics?"

"And… be nice?" he asked. At Deaton's nod, Scott sighed and shrugged. "I don't know. I was just… mad. So was Stiles. And now… looking back, how do I know he or Hale wouldn't have kicked my ass or hurt me or worse for trying to get involved?"

"Surely you don't believe that," Deaton replied. "After everything you and Stiles have been through, why would he turn on you?"

"I… he's not the person I thought he is."

Deaton arched an eyebrow. "Is anyone? Ever?"

Scott snorted. "Good point, I guess."

"A weapon is only as dangerous as the person wielding it," Deaton continued. "Stiles has never struck me as a dangerous person. Curious and stubborn, but never dangerous."

He'd been about to resume sweeping, but at his employer's words, he looked up and frowned. "He can be vicious… but it's usually with words," he conceded. "But… maybe I'm wrong about him."

"Well, that's for you to decide," Deaton said. "If it will help, what do you think he'd do if your roles were reversed?"

That question made Scott's heart hurt. If he were the monster, Stiles would have tried to help him---he knew that---if he'd trusted Stiles enough to tell him the truth. Stiles clearly hadn't ever trusted him enough to tell him the truth; he struggled to separate that from the hypothetical situation Deaton proposed. The more he thought about it, the surer he was that Stiles would have stuck by his side and helped him stay safe.

He certainly failed that friendship test.

"Scott, you can still fix things between you and Stiles," Deaton said. "It sounds like---if he's in as much trouble as you think---he needs you, not to act as the police or an investigator, but to act as a guide."

"Huh?"

Deaton smiled. "If someone is going down a dark path, their best hope is a friend who is willing to walk that path with them," he said. "Someone with a brightness inside of them---the spark of belief."

"I don't get it."

"If you accompany your friend down a path you deem to be dangerous, but one he seems forced to follow, perhaps you can bring both of you back into the light," Deaton explained.

"What if I'm not strong enough?" Scott asked. "I'm only human."

Deaton tilted his head. "You don't know how strong you are---or how strong you could become---until you are offered the opportunity and tested," he replied.

Before he pushed away from the heavy bags of food, Deaton straightened his body and smiled.

"I have faith that you'll figure it out," Deaton said. "Maybe you should leave early today, stop by and see the Sheriff… ask if there's something you can do to help."

Scott nodded, but he wasn't sure about how welcome he'd be.

#####

After a long conversation with his dad, Danny drove to the Stilinski house. He'd been feeling drawn there since Stiles disappeared; he wanted to be useful, he wanted to help the people who could calm the currents of magical energy swirling around their community. His family historically avoided taking sides---they stayed quiet, under the radar, and refrained from acting as emissaries or support to any supernatural clan---but, with disaster threatening to rein down on his hometown again in less than a decade, Danny knew he couldn't sit on the sidelines and watch.

His father, Kahale, had been surprisingly understanding.

"I'm beginning to think we do more harm than good by being passive. I am not comfortable with you facing down hunters or getting in the middle of a turf war, but I trust your judgement and I will support your choice. If you need help, you make sure you tell me… got it?"

His grandparents wouldn't immediately approve, but they were off on some sort of retreat on a remote island with no cell service, so he knew it would be a while before he had to present his case to their family's elders. And, even then, he wasn't worried. His father had his back, his mother would understand, and Danny knew he was doing the right thing. They'd eventually see his perspective; they'd trust his instincts. He was still learning, but the one thing he knew was to trust his gut. His grandparents always told him to do that first, because the rest would follow; a strong belief was the most important ingredient in any action he could take with his abilities.

When he parked his car along the curb outside of Stiles' house, he smiled when he saw Erica and Boyd walking up behind him. Stiles had found good people in both of them, he thought; they'd been calm and sensible throughout the ordeal at the school and they'd been determined to stand by Stiles when Scott started giving him more grief than usual. Them showing up at the house---even if it were only to offer emotional support---was another sign that they were loyal and accepting people.

If they joined the pack, they'd be good for both Stiles and Derek.

"Hey, guys," Danny said as he climbed out of his car. "How are you holding up?"

Erica shrugged. "Worried," she said. "Has there been any news?"

He held up his laptop bag, packed with all his hacking gear. "Not yet, but I'm hoping to help with that," he replied.

Boyd's eyebrows climbed up his forehead. "Can't the cops do that?"

"Not without a warrant," Danny replied.

"You know what's going on," Erica said, no questioning inflection in her voice. "You know. Like Stiles. And you know who could be responsible."

"I… yeah. Sort of."

Erica nodded. "Good."

They walked up to the front door together. The Sheriff's car wasn't in the driveway, but that was hardly surprising. He'd be at the station for a while, trying to find a legitimate lead to help them rescue Stiles. But, Danny has a feeling Derek would be at the house---since his father told him that was where Derek had been living lately, in an attempt to stay off the Argents' radar---so he walked up to the door and knocked.

"Derek? It's Danny. Kahale's son. If you're here, I want to come in and help hack Kate's or Stiles' phone," he said in a low voice. "Erica and Boyd are here, too. They want to be useful. I think we need the help. Stiles trusts them."

"Is there a secret speaker?" Erica asked.

Danny smiled and shook his head. "Nah, he's just got really good hearing."

After a few minutes, the door opened. Derek was standing in front of them, shirtless, bandages across his stomach, and it was only the seriousness of the situation that kept Danny's eyes from roving too much.

"You're the one Stiles talked about," Derek said. "You helped him in the parking lot… after practice."

Danny nodded. "Yeah."

"You can track their phones?"

"I can try. I have some software that should help," he replied. "If Stiles left his account information here, I might be able to access the camera. I have some information, too, but it's better if the Sheriff is here for that, so he can add some of it to the case."

Derek looked from him to Erica and Boyd. "And you two?"

"I can't sit at home or go to the dance, pretending like nothing's wrong," Erica replied. "I can't do much---"

"But we can drive around searching abandoned places, if that's where you think Stiles is being held," Boyd interrupted.

"And we can make calls, too, if you need someone to do that," Erica added. "Or cook or… anything, okay? He protected us. We're not useless. We want to help him, too."

Danny vouched for them with another nod. After a long pause, Derek stepped back and pointed down at the threshold. Mountain ash formed an effective barrier against werewolves---not hunters---so Danny immediately knew they'd received a visit from the alpha.

"Don't break that line, guys," he told Erica and Boyd.

"That stuff… you used it at the school," Boyd said.

"Yeah," Danny replied. "Keeps some people out."

"Like… superstition?" Erica asked. "I'd like some of that for my bedroom door, please."

They walked into the house and closed the door behind them. Danny smiled at Boyd and Erica before he followed Derek into the kitchen.

"Set up here," Derek said. "I'll go get Stiles' passwords. He left them on his laptop. I've been digging through what he already found on Kate, trying to find something that might help. The Sheriff started a map of possible locations---"

"Bring me that, too," Danny suggested. "I can get Boyd and Erica searching traffic and wireless security cameras in those areas."

Derek nodded and headed out of the room. Deciding to use his time wisely, Danny started unloading his gear---two laptops and all the necessary peripherals---and talking to Erica and Boyd almost simultaneously.

"You're going to hear some things that sound… unusual," he said. "If it all freaks you out, it's perfectly normal. No one will blame you if you can't handle it. Also, a lot of what we do and talk about shouldn't become public---"

"We're here for Stiles," Erica interrupted. "We don't care if you're all criminals or weirdos. He's our friend."

"And we already figured out this town isn't normal," Boyd said. "Unusual things have always happened here."

Taking them at their word, and hoping that talk of werewolves and hunters wouldn't be too weird for them, Danny smiled and turned his attention to setting up his equipment. His powers were aligned with the elements, but as in tune with electricity as he could be, he couldn't use it to force his way through electronic equipment. To do any technological snooping, he needed the appropriate tools---and those, thankfully, he had in spades. His run-in with the law at thirteen hadn't been too much of a deterrent; he learned to be smarter and better in order to avoid getting caught.

"This one's for you guys," Danny said, opening up the laptop in question and plugging in a flash drive that contained the code he needed. "I'll show you what to do once I get the network secure."

By the time he had both laptops up and running, Derek was back in the room. He'd put on a t-shirt, covering his injuries, and he was carrying Stiles' laptop and a large roll of what was probably a map. Danny took charge, directing Derek to the seat on the other side of his and taking the map to tape to the wall.

"We were working on this last night when Peter showed up," Derek said, putting his hand on his stomach.

"I'm sorry," Danny said. "For your sister. And you. What he's doing… it's wrong."

Derek nodded.

Danny gestured towards the map. "What are we looking at?" he asked. "Get me up to speed and then we can get searching."

In a quiet voice, Derek started by pointing to the area from where Stiles had been taken and then continued by mentioning where they'd run into Allison and Scott---where he heard them talking about seeing Stiles both chained up and drugged. Danny sighed and nodded, disappointed in both of them for abandoning a human being to Kate Argent's clutches.

He understood the fear of the unknown (or the supernatural), but he could not wrap his head around the reluctance to act decently when another living being was being hurt.

"Setting aside how gross Scott and Allison are for leaving Stiles with Kate, did you get any information on the company that owned the vehicle that crashed into Stiles' jeep?" Danny asked.

"Airgead Assembly... Incorporated," Derek replied. "I know 'airgead' is Gaelic for 'silver,' but that's hardly something the Sheriff can take to a judge."

"No, but maybe I can find something later," Danny said, thinking about the last time he tried searching for connections between shell companies. It was frustrating work when a business was hidden or protected effectively, and Danny hoped he wouldn't have to try it again. "For now, let's focus on Stiles. She wouldn't keep him in an area where there are people. She doesn't want witnesses and she probably doesn't want her brother to find her."

"You don't think he's in on it?"

"From what I could tell from my research, he was never with her when she was doing her… solo missions," Danny said. "And he wasn't here when the fire happened---"

"They lived---"

"He was out of town," Danny interrupted. "I checked."

Derek snorted. "Bet he was still thrilled, though," he muttered.

"Well, we'll see how thrilled he'll be when we take our evidence to him. After Kate's been arrested for kidnapping---and for arson and murder," Danny murmured. "I'm here to see this through. She's caused nothing but devastation and imbalance here."

He beckoned Erica over to the map and pointed out some roads and addresses they should try. She and Boyd settled into work, so Danny decided to do the same. After he got the account information from Derek, off of Stiles' laptop, he logged into his spy software and started trying to access Stiles' phone.

The log-in worked, but the screen was dark, telling him the camera was covered.

Derek cursed and growled, but Danny was undaunted---both by his lack of total success and Derek's attitude.

"We just need to get someone to pick it up," Danny said. "It's on, so she didn't throw it out of the car and let it smash on the road. It's either in their second vehicle or tossed nearby… or it's with them but under something. He has his location services off, so I don't think I can find him that way---not right away, anyway---but maybe his ringer is on. If I send a text, maybe someone will check it."

"Why does he have the find-my-phone thing off?" Erica asked.

"They'd used it on Scott's phone when… when he got involved in… the weirdness," Derek replied. "After he found out Scott was spying on him, he was worried Scott---or someone worse---might try tracking him that way."

Erica seemed to accept that. As she turned back to help Boyd, as he navigated through the system Danny had built to check local cameras running on certain types of network, Danny pulled out his cell phone. He started to type a text message to Stiles, but stopped when the front door opened and Sheriff Stilinski entered the house. Danny braced himself for having to explain what he was doing---what they were all doing, really---and he prepared to recount his encounter with Jackson.

Sheriff Stilinski seemed shocked to see them all gathered together, but he adapted quickly. When Danny finished explaining what they were doing, he smiled and thanked them.

"I can't use any of this, but right now, I just want him back," he said. He patted Danny's shoulder. "How can I help?"

"I was about to text Stiles, to see if someone will hear and move his phone, but there's actually something I want to tell you," Danny said. "Jackson… I think he's working for the alpha. He was asking people---"

"Oh, that's what that was about?" Erica asked.

"He talked to you?" Sheriff Stilinski asked her.

She nodded. "Yeah, if we heard from Stiles, where he likes to go when he's laying low. He wouldn't take no for an answer."

The Sheriff sighed as Danny proceeded to mention Jackson's belief that Peter would turn him if he helped Peter, first to watch Stiles and then to find him after his abduction. He tried to explain Jackson's actions, or what he assumed was the driving behaviour behind them, but he couldn't support what Jackson had done over the last few days. As close as they were, and as much as he loved his friend, he couldn't agree with the callousness Jackson had demonstrated.

"That lines up with what Stiles told me, before he was taken," the Sheriff said. "He was following Stiles, and Stiles said he could smell Kate following Jackson."

He rubbed a hand over his face. "Derek, you told them about the speeding ticket?"

"Yes," Derek replied.

"All right. Lydia Martin came to see me before I left," he said, leaning back against the nearby counter and cabinets. "She said Allison is having some sort of crisis, and that she freaked out about her family---after Lydia mentioned Stiles. She's been curious for a while. Turns out Stiles had an interesting reaction to something Allison said about her aunt. Lydia noticed, Allison didn't---"

"Lydia's scary smart," Danny interjected. "That would be a fun puzzle for her to solve."

Sheriff Stilinski nodded. "That's what I thought, too," he agreed. "Nothing I can work with, but witness testimony can help when building a case."

"And that lines up with what I overheard in their car," Derek added. "Scott was angry and Allison seemed upset about learning the truth about her family."

Danny could tell Erica was curious, but he credited both her and Boyd for having the sense to stay quiet. They were going to find out the truth---he knew Stiles trusted them and assumed he was waiting for Derek to give his approval for informing them---but they weren't rushing it. Maybe they sensed it wasn't the time, maybe they didn't care that much; Danny wasn't sure why they weren't asking any questions although he appreciated their acceptance of the situation.

"Are you assuming Scott and Allison were leaving the area where Stiles is being kept?" Boyd asked.

Derek nodded.

Boyd gestured towards the laptop in front of him. "The closest camera are the ranger webcams, then. Did you know they have cameras located throughout the Preserve?"

"The community college maintains them. They're not usually active unless they're doing a population study on local wildlife," Sheriff Stilinski said. "We get a notice when they're on."

Boyd nodded. "Well, I turned them on with Danny's software. Can't give us previous information, but if there's activity nearby…"

"Good, good. Let me know if you see something," Sheriff Stilinski replied. He turned to Danny. "You wanna send that text now?"

Danny nodded and picked up his phone. "Anything in particular I should send?" he asked. "I wanna just going to send something bland, but if---"

"Położenie, with a question mark," Sheriff Stilinski said. "It's Polish for… position or situation, I think. Claudia was the one who was fluent---because of her grandfather. She put me to shame in that department, but she used to have these crime drama books, reading from them out loud to us. Stiles might remember the word. Will you get audio from the phone? If he understands, he might tell us something."

"I can lip read," Boyd admitted. "Might not be perfect, but I'm usually pretty good."

"Alicia had hearing issues, didn't she?" Sheriff Stilinski asked, his tone of voice considerably more gentle. "She taught you?"

Boyd looked down as he nodded. "Yeah. I learned to sign, but that was like a game for us. I'd wear earplugs and we'd guess what people were saying. I usually lost."

Erica leaned into him, comforting him through touch. It took Danny a few minutes to put it all together. He'd forgotten about Boyd's younger sister; she went missing years ago, when they were all considerably younger. He winced, feeling guilt at not being more sensitive, but he hoped that participating in finding Stiles would help Boyd in some way.

"All right. Let's do it."

The Sheriff coached Danny through spelling the word he thought he should text. Danny thought it was smart; it told Stiles more than just the request for information. If Stiles were thinking clearly, it would tell him that Danny was with his father and Derek and that they were working together; Danny hoped it would give him encouragement to hang on and keep fighting, too.

For a few minutes, nothing happened. Danny watched the feed, checking to make sure his computer was recording the screen, and he almost jumped out of his seat when the phone showed signs of movement. Both frames in his software lit up with images; Kate's face was in the front camera and the ground and a table were in the back camera.

Sheriff Stilinski gasped and Derek growled.

"Another message of support, cutie pie," Kate said, her voice distorted over the speaker. "From Danny. Not English… don't you kids speak normally? Ugh."

"Show me my son," the Sheriff whispered, over and over, as if it were a mantra.

His prayer was answered, but Danny didn't think that it was particularly helpful. At the first sign of Stiles on the front camera, manacled to a chunk of iron fencing, Derek snarled and Sheriff Stilinski cried out in distress.

Danny struggled to remain calm so he could assess Stiles' situation. He had blood on his skin, but the wounds were mostly healed; some mottling suggested there were deep bruises still trying to repair themselves. His eyes were glazed, struggling to focus, as if he were still drugged or as if he'd suffered a couple blows to the head. A substance that looked like bile or vomit was on his chin and chest. He was not in great shape.

But, as Stiles' eyes skimmed his phone's screen, his gaze sharpened. Danny smirked. He was still aware and present. Their plan would work.

"C'mon, Stiles, give us something," Danny whispered.

As they waited, the Sheriff recovered from his shock and pain and was able to start making notes about what he could see beyond Stiles and on the ground: dirt floor, but cement in some areas; plant life coming in through windows and through the ceiling; water damage on dark walls; poor and portable lighting; the make and model of another smartphone. Derek tried to focus on sounds. It was difficult, through the speaker, but he picked up the noise of someone else shuffling around, the electricity zapping into Stiles' body, and water dripping from a pipe into a puddle.

They knew Stiles was underground, in a basement-type structure that didn't have power or working water and that was rundown enough to show signs of abandonment and age. That information helped Boyd scratch a few locations off of their list of possibilities.

"Maybe this Danny is your boyfriend, hmm? And that's why you don't want to play with me," Kate said. "What if I let Benny here play with you? Think he could convince you to tell us what you know?"

Derek growled, low and furious.

Sheriff Stilinski put a hand on Derek's shoulder. "Easy. We got a name," he murmured. "Benny. I'll call Tara. She'll do the search for me, no questions asked."

"Get her to check with the list Laura made, the whole list," Derek suggested. "Then you don't need to explain it. As if Stiles was investigating the fire… and he got in over his head."

"Good thinking, son."

"'Benny' could be short for Benjamin, Benedict, Bennett, Benson, Bentley, or Reuben," Erica suggested.

Danny nodded. "It's a lot of names, but she probably doesn't work with a lot of people… probably has a small group she trusts to back her up---and a lot of them have been dying lately."

Sheriff Stilinski managed a small smile. "Are you all cops?"

"You can't turn on the TV without stumbling onto an episode of CSI or Law and Order," Danny replied.

"We're impressionable youths," Erica quipped.

The Sheriff chuckled and reached for his phone. He called Deputy Graeme, telling her what he wanted her to do and asking her to keep it to herself. Danny kept his gaze on his laptop screen; the cameras were still again, the back one covered by the table and the front one showing nothing but shadows on the ceiling, but he didn't want to abandon Stiles. Derek seemed to be doing the same thing, although Danny assumed he was also listening.

"I can't believe you're such an idiot," Stiles croaked, his voice weak and rough from what Danny hopes was disuse instead of any of the other possibilities. "Returning to the scene of your crimes and trying to protect your merry band of firebugs. But you haven't figured it out. It's not Derek, the timeline doesn't sync up---and it's not his style. But it is someone you tried to destroy. And you haven't put it together. Instead, you rushed into the trap like a big, dumb prey animal."

Danny winced when something struck Stiles and forced his air and a grunt out of him.

"Who is it, cutie pie?"

"No clue, psycho bitch. But the Hales aren't the only family you ruined. Could be Jacob's mother. Could be those people you tried to poison in Fresno. It's not like you're discreet---even I could trace your path of destruction. Anyone could've figured out how to lure you here."

"Bennett, go check our files and figure out what the Lindon and Roderick packs are up to," Kate instructed.

They listened as Bennett---and now they knew his name---argued with Kate. He seemed unsure or uncomfortable with the accusations Stiles made; Kate became angry, bullying him into action and taking out some of her frustrations on Stiles once they were alone.

Danny tried to tune it out so that he could focus on his next task---finding Kate's phone number---but from the growls, it sounded like Derek couldn't do the same.

Sheriff Stilinski seemed to be in a similar position. He was pale, gripping Derek's shoulder with a tight hand, and his closed eyes twitched every time a sound of violence reached his ears.

Boyd was at the map, studying it closely. He was crossing out areas that were too heavily populated, and circling areas that could be worth searching.

"How could she just hurt him?" Erica asked.

"She doesn't think he's human," Danny replied as he worked, searching through the information on Stiles' laptop and comparing it to his own research. "And she's basically nuts. So."

"And Scott and Allison know she has him?"

Danny looked up at her. Erica's face was more pale than it usually was; her eyes were wide and her breathing seemed shallow. He nodded.

"That is so messed up," she whispered.

Derek lifted his head and looked at her. "Erica, right?" he asked. At her nod, he said, "Are you feeling okay?"

"I…"

She started to answer, but she stopped---as if she were seriously evaluating her health. Her eyes grew even larger in her pale face.

"I'm about to… oh, shit," she muttered. She swallowed and winced. "Don't freak out. There's a card in my pocket---"

Danny watched in shock as Erica started lurching and as Derek leapt out of his chair. He caught her before she fell, easing her to the floor and positioning her shaking body on her side without restraining her too much. He kept a hand between her head and the floor, not holding her in place but acting as a cushion over the linoleum tiles.

"John, I need a blanket or something, and she might need something to change into---I have sweats in my room she can have," Derek said. When the Sheriff hurried away, he turned his attention to the others. "Danny? Boyd? Do either of you know how often she has seizures?"

"Rarely, if she remembers to take her medication," Boyd replied. "I've never seen her have one---but I know she had them at school before."

Derek nodded and kept watch over her. When Sheriff Stilinski returned with the blanket, Derek instructed him to guide it over her waist and legs. The clothes were left on the counter, ready to be taken if she needed to change.

"Should I call an ambulance?" Sheriff Stilinski asked.

Derek looked at the clock on the microwave. "It's only been a couple minutes," he said. "If it lasts longer than five, or if she doesn't wake up… yes. But, if she comes out of it soon and seems mostly okay, we should follow her lead."

"How…"

"Jeremy studied a lot of emergency medicine, to help his pack," Derek explained. "I had some time and there were a lot of books."

When Erica stopped shaking, she groaned and curled into Derek's knees. He seemed unsure of himself, but he reached down and started smoothing his fingers through her hair with his other hand. Danny caught sight of a darkening of Derek's skin, over his veins and nerves, and knew Derek was trying to take some of her pain. He smiled; she was in good hands.

"You're okay," Derek said in a low voice. "Just rest."

It took some time before Erica seemed more responsive. She seemed startled when she sat up and saw the blanket draped over her lap, but she smiled at Derek and thanked him for his consideration.

"H-how long?" she asked.

"About four minutes," Derek replied. "How are you feeling?"

"Better than I usually do," she admitted.

"Do you want us to call anyone?" Sheriff Stilinski asked.

She shook her head. "No, I'm okay. Or I will be soon," she said. "I might lie down for a bit, but I can still help watch the cameras for signs of Stiles or Bennett or whoever else we're looking for."

"Erica---"

She cut him off and kept talking. "I have a seizure once a month---at least. If they're in the safe zone, I just make a note of it in my journal and tell my neurologist when I see her next."

Danny could tell Sheriff Stilinski wanted to protest, but he sighed and nodded.

"Just take it easy, okay?" he suggested. "I put some of Derek's sweats on the counter, so take your time and go clean up if you want. There's a bathroom on the other side of the laundry room."

Erica nodded.

When the Sheriff moved away from them, she looked at Derek and studied him through narrowed eyes.

"How did you know?" she asked.

"Just… a feeling," he said. He cracked a small smile as he gestured to his nose and ears. "Super senses."

"You're a superhero," Erica murmured as she leaned into him. "Thank you."

Danny smiled as he turned his focus back to his work. Erica and Boyd could benefit from the pack, and the pack could benefit from them. He hoped they stuck around after they rescued Stiles and gained Derek's trust. They could be assets in Derek's attempt to rebuild and stabilise the territory.

#####

Lurking outside of Stiles' house didn't tell him anything useful. Some of his friends were there, but they weren't doing anything useful; Peter recognised their scents from the school and the test of loyalty that Stiles failed. They didn't know anything about hunters and werewolves, so he didn't linger. There was no point.

He'd hoped he'd catch the Sheriff and Derek making plans, but he seemed to only catch them babysitting. His nephew had become such a disappointment, and he wasn't surprised by the Sheriff's behaviour. He'd never thought much of John Stilinski, before the fire; when he woke up and learned Kate Argent was still alive, he realised the depths of the Sheriff's ineptitude.

His only useful ally was Jackson Whittemore, it seemed. He hadn't seriously considered the information that Scott knew where Stiles was being held, but after he made his way to the McCall residence, he realised Jackson could be right.

When he was alone, his mother disappearing into another room to hem a pair of pants for him, Scott called Allison and confirmed that he was picking her up in an hour. They had a weird conversation, asking about Kate and if she knew when they'd get to go somewhere together, the three of them, but Peter missed the location because a backfiring car engine distracted his focus. Whatever Allison said frustrated Scott, judging by the scent of burning Peter could detect, but they still made up enough for them to end the call with sweet nothings.

Ah, young love.

Jackson's information seemed to be accurate. Scott was close to Allison, and they were both involved in something with Kate. Nothing good ever came from being involved with Kate.

He snarled. When he learned that Derek was seeing Kate, he waited; he'd wanted to use that information as effectively as he could. He'd hoped he could have blackmailed the Argents into leaving Beacon Hills and then convinced Talia that he should be the next Hale alpha with his actions; but before he'd been ready to pounce, Kate acted more quickly than he'd anticipated.

He would get his revenge.

Following Scott would be his best bet, Peter decided. If Kate had Stiles---which was the most likely option---and she was trying to train and mould the next generation of hunters, tracking Scott until he crossed paths with Kate could bring him to Stiles and put him in a position to kill the hunter.

Saving Stiles would guarantee the beta's support. Derek would follow Stiles. From there, Peter could rebuild the pack and reclaim the land.

No one would ever again mess with the Hale Pack and live to tell about it.

#####

If the punk-ass werewolf kid puked on her again, she was just going to kill him and take her chances with Derek leading her to the alpha. He might want to gut her, but he wouldn't vomit if she tried to enjoy his chained-up body.

Gross.

What sort of teenage boy would throw up at the hunt of a little fun?

She didn't understand---but she didn't care to, either.

With her captive drugged again, she snatched up her phone and instructed Georgie, Bennett's replacement for the night shift, to keep an eye on the perimeter for any sign of other werewolves. He nodded like a good soldier and headed outside to keep watch.

Unlike Bennett, Georgie never asked questions.

Her phone's screen revealed a series of voicemails from Chris. Kate sighed and started playing them in chronological order.

"Kate, I know you like to work alone, but tell me where you're set up. It's not a great idea to go after an alpha without backup."

She rolled her eyes and deleted the message.

"Kate, call me back now. We have a complication and I need to know what you're up to."

Curious about the complication, but not enough to call him back, Kate deleted that message, too.

"Please tell me you weren't dumb enough to abduct or hurt the Sheriff's son. Call me back, Kate."

Kate frowned and looked back at the kid hanging in her chains. He was the Sheriff's kid? That certainly provided a reason for his being able to dig into her past. It also explained why the Sheriff hadn't been doing much to put a stop to the killings; he was a werewolf sympathiser.

She skipped to the next and final message.

"Hey. It's me. I'm getting tired of leaving messages. I wanna know where you are. Call me. Now."

Kate sighed and pocketed her phone. She had no desire to listen to Chris' righteous lecture---and she knew he had one planned. Follow the code, blah, blah, blah. He was so predictable and boring and ineffective. It never surprised her when their father turned to her when he had a dangerous mission with a large target. She had no qualms or weaknesses; she was the better hunter of the two of them. Chris cared too much about children---children who would grow up to become killers. Kate knew, like Gerard did, that it was more effective to kill them before they learned how to fight and kill. Killing an alpha left disorganised and dangerous omegas in the wake of their destruction; wiping out the whole pack ensured a job well done.

If only the kid would tell her something useful…

She didn't understand. He had been bitten, at some point, so he had seen the alpha. But, he insisted he had no idea who it was.

She would just have to find a way to persuade him.

Maybe more pain would do the trick. She looked at the table where her knives were situated. They hadn't been effective, but she hadn't tried them with wolfsbane or mountain ash yet.

She slid her back into her jacket pocket and felt a lighter tucked in its corner.

"Mmm, might be time to light him up," she murmured as she let her eyes roam over her captive's skinny frame.

It had been a long time since she last played with fire. The more she thought about it, the more it felt like a good, strong move in the direction that could take her to answers about the alpha's identity.