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Dead Cinch

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9:36 PM, Beacon Hills

 

It all sounds a little too convenient, so much that Derek wonders for a brief minute if he should trust Stiles' word. There are no signs of lying that he can detect, through. And he's seen a picture on Parrish's desk of the beautiful, redhaired girl that's been in pictures at both Stiles' and his friend's house.

There's an outdated paper map of Beacon Hills attached to the wall just outside of the Sheriff's office. Derek locates the High School first, because that's the point he's started from tonight. Stiles quickly points at a few other places. “The hospital. Scott's house – my house. And we're here.” Then he moves his finger to tap along the edge on the opposite side of Beacon Hills. It's a little redundant, as he knows Derek is a familiar with the town, but at least he's quick about it. “This is the neighborhood of the successful and the wealthy – it's not very big, as you can see. Parrish has a small apartment at the very edge of it, here. This is Lydia's house.”

A little further into the preserve, almost directly behind Lydia's house, is the clearing on which the Hale house used to stand. There's nothing there now, only a list of names and a small triskelion etched into a small memorial stone. Laura wanted it that way.

“And here,” Stiles shows at an unmarked spot on the left, all the way into the preserve. “Here's the Umbrella building. It's an old map, so it's not marked but I promise, it's there.”

Derek trusts him. After all, it's the same spot Deaton pointed on their newer map at the HQ before they've started the mission.

“And also, because the streets are much clearer than I expected, I think we should take this,” Stiles opens his hand to show a set of car keys in it, “and see how far it gets us. It's for the prisoner transporter van, I saw it, it's still in the parking lot. It's bulky, good for running over zombies.”

“Vans aren't very stable, so perhaps we should avoid running over things,” Derek suggests. Vans had a tendency to roll over easily.

“Well, it's the only car in the parking lot, so... We'll take it?”

They will.

There's nothing left to do at the station, so Stiles unlocks the back door with one of the many keys he's wearing around his neck. There are only two zombies stumbling around in the closed off parking lot in the back. Both turn when the light from the hall spills into the night and over them. Their telltale uniforms are bloody and ripped and Derek... gets an idea.

“Let that backpack down. It's your turn.”

Stiles looks at him with mouth wide open in shock. “Wh – what?”

Derek takes the backpack off him. “Come on. We need you to be able to do this, if you hesitate at the crucial moment later on, it'll kill us both.”

Stiles fumbles with his belt as the zombies get closer. “But with the gun, right?”

“Yes, Stiles, take out the gun,” Derek says with a quick eye roll. Because it would make sense to send out an untrained kid against a flesh-eating monster with a knife. “Are you a good shot?”

Stiles snorts, “From this distance?” and he's right, they're so close now only a blind person would miss them, but his hands are unstable again. There's no time to talk him down. Derek takes out the small revolver, just in case it goes wrong.

“Shoot,” he orders. The gunshot goes off without hesitation. The zombie slumps to the ground, a gaping hole in its head. “Now the other one.”

Stiles blinks a few times like he hasn't dared to do it before, then aims for the other zombie. This time the distance is longer, but the thing also neatly falls down, a matching hole in its head. Derek can't say for sure that Stiles has good aim just from that, but it's not bad. He really does know how to handle a gun, he hasn't panicked. He's even checking how many bullets he's got left.

It's better than Derek has dared to hope.

“You drive,” he says when Stiles holsters the weapon. “I want my hands free, just in case.”

They have to drive through a wired fence with the van. Stiles manages to hit his head against the window as the van shakes and sways, but he's grinning a little crazily as he steps on the gas once they get to the street.

Taking the van is the best idea they've had. The streets are mostly empty, so it's not even two minutes later that Stiles says, “There it is, the yellow building.”

When they stop, the few zombies turn and head towards them. Derek says, “I'll go in on my own. You drive around the block, so they wouldn't swarm us.”

“Heh.” Stiles restarts the engine. “You trust me not to leave you here.”

“Only because sooner or later you'll have to get out of the van.”

“Very funny,” Stiles says, narrows his eyes. “How will you know which apartment is Parrish's?”

Derek has hoped that finding out about Laura and his connection to Beacon Hills will hold Stiles and his questions off a little longer. No such luck. He rolls his eyes, “The mailboxes?”

“Hmm,” Stiles answers, eyes still squinting in mock suspicion. He shoos Derek away with his hand.

When the van starts moving again, now with lights on, the zombies stagger after it.

Inside the building, Derek stops to look at the row of mailboxes, but mostly it's enough to let his nose guide him. He's picked up Parrish's scent at the station. The building isn't empty - the now familiar stink of decay and illness taints the air in the hallways, but it's faint.

When an empty-eyed old lady in a floral nightgown stumbles toward him on the stairway, he doesn't bother with any weapons. Claws sinking into the rotting flesh isn't the best feeling, but this way he can be sure he's snapped the spinal cord.

Parish's apartment is empty. Derek's been pretty sure it would be, but he's broken the lock to check. There is no body or the zombie version of Parrish inside, either. Ideally, Derek would go through the building, floor by floor, make absolutely sure – but the time is running out. He'll have to go on hoping that Parrish locked the door behind him on his way to somewhere away from there.

Stiles isn't back yet. Derek can hear the motor of the van two streets over. There are no zombies anywhere on the street, they've all followed the van they couldn't keep up with, but a few are stumbling out from the building after him. Derek doesn't want to kill them if he doesn't have to. It's a useless endeavor, they'll all be dead in a few hours anyway and he hates the noises they make, the way their bodies sound when they're breaking.

Derek adjusts the rifle he's wearing and climbs onto one of the stone gate pillars. It's pretty tall. The sound of the approaching van is getting louder, but he still takes a moment to breathe in deeply, settled against the lamp attached to the top, and reach out for his Alpha. She's near, it feels like, but he can't find her. It's like something heavy stomped on their connection and he can't see what's on the other side of it.

But the connection is still there. She's alive.

Stiles arrives, peering anxiously at the building behind Derek. He's stopped in the middle of the street, and the window Derek has opened earlier is still rolled down. Smiling a little to himself, Derek leaps easily to the top of the van and slides down and through the open window into the passenger seat, holding the rifle in one hand.

Stiles is staring with mouth open and heart thundering and okay, Derek can admit it. He's curious to see what Stiles will come up with in the end. Whether he'll get it right or wrong, and once he gets it right, will he freak out and run.

Derek could get very invested in making sure he doesn't.

“You almost gave me a heart attack,” Stiles says, and then, once he figures out that his tone is not nearly enough to get his point across, he raises it to a shrill, “I thought I'm done in, I thought you'll eat me!”

“Not right now,” Derek says without thinking. To distract Stiles from that god-awful line, he orders, “Lydia's.”

“That's... I can't even think – I didn't even see you – and the jumping and – and... Was there...”

“Drive, Stiles.”

Stiles' hand goes for the transmission, but he's still staring. “But...”

Derek points at the street stretching empty in front of them, “Drive!” Once the van is moving, he decides to put Stiles out of his misery by picking a question to answer himself. “Parrish isn't up there. In any form. The door was locked, so I'm thinking he's probably left while it still didn't look quite so bad.”

“That's good, I guess. Batman.” Just for the record, Derek has expected more and he turns toward Stiles with raised eyebrows to communicate that. “Don't even give me the eyebrows, man, that was a very Batman entrance and you know it. I think I literally saw him do that exact move in a movie. Like, you only needed the cape. That's Lydia's house.”

That's a sudden change of direction of that babble. “What?”

“Told you they lived close by. And you're not leaving me behind this time.”

Lydia's house is barely even visible from where they've stopped. It's nestled deep into the shadows of the forest almost surrounding it, without a light on. The iron gate is closed and no movement or sound in the huge landscaped yard tugs on Derek's senses.

While he's observing, Stiles is already out of the van. “I'm gonna assume you can just jump over it, but it'll take me a minute with all this on me, okay? I know a good spot, though.”

Derek inspects the gate. There's a padlock keeping it securely closed. It's old fashioned, sturdy. He pulls his hand through the bars and presses into the padlock with his palm until it bands out of shape and gives in. The gate opens and Derek walks inside.

“Oh my God,” Stiles says behind him, somewhat weakly. He takes a deep breath, closes the gate behind him as well as it's possible and continues, “So is there anyone in the house?”

“No zombies, at any rate.”

“How do you know that?” Stiles says, mostly to himself. They are quickly advancing toward the house.

Derek decides to indulge him, a little. “Because they stink to high heaven, Stiles.”

“Well, yeah, when they're zombies for hours and you come nearby, but I can't smell the entirety of Lydia's house – or the police station, at that – from the street. I'm not a dog.”

“I'm not a dog, either,” Derek says. “In case that was your next brilliant theory.”

“You're something, though.”

Derek smiles a little, not allowing Stiles to see. “There are no people inside, either.”

“Yeah, I thought there might not be. Lydia's dad doesn't live here at all, and her mom is in – somewhere in Europe, I'm pretty sure. Since Lydia left for college, they're so rarely home, they're not even paying that woman to come and dust occasionally.”

Stiles gestures toward Derek and then toward the locked front door to the house. Derek takes it as 'break the lock, Derek' and does just that. “Why do you still want inside? I'm telling you, there's no one in there.”

“Ah, but this is my one chance to go through Lydia's things guilt-free.” He winks, but when Derek stops with his hand on the door, waiting for the real answer, he adds, “It's for you, actually. She's probably out of Beacon Hills already, this is our best chance to find out what happened and why she'd lie about seeing Laura on the night she disappeared.”

He's got a point. Derek's been so focused on getting to Umbrella and Lydia in person, it hasn't occurred to him that Lydia's house might contain a clue of some sort.

Stiles goes for the stairs immediately. He only reaches for the lights once they're inside a green and white room at the end of a long hallway. Derek inhales slowly, allowing his nose to linger on the scents, but if his sister has ever been here at all, it hasn't been recently. Even though there's only one stack of books visible on the desk, the room smells more like a library than anything else.

They go through Lydia's desk together, more or less. They don't talk about it, but Derek checks some of the things Stiles has already looked over, because they're probably not searching for the same things. Stiles does it with things Derek's already been through, too. There's nothing, though. Not even a picture of Laura, which he has been half expecting since Stiles thinks they knew - know - each other well.

“What's that?”

Derek looks at the notebook in his hands, unsure of what Stiles means. “I don't know. It was among the books on the desk.”

“Yeah, I know, just – turn back...” Stiles takes the notebook from Derek and leafs through it. A series of mathematical formulas written in a neat, large handwriting, decorate the last page. “This doesn't make any sense.”

Derek looks at them closer. He's not an expert on the subject or anything, but he's familiar with a few of the formulas listed. They make perfect sense.

But Stiles goes through the notebook again. There are only about three pages of unsolved problems at the beginning of it. The rest is all empty pages.

“No, really, it doesn't make any sense at all,” Stiles says, taking Derek's silence for disagreement. “Lydia, she's a math genius. Eons in front of everyone else you've ever met. This is ridiculously below her level.” He bites his lip, bending even closer over the writing. “Even I can solve these, easily. Why would she make this?”

Derek is losing his patience with the conversation. “I don't know. Maybe she's tutoring someone? Let's go, the time is ticking.”

Stiles looks at him, glances again at the disrupted desk. “Yeah, there's nothing here. I should have known she's too smart to leave evidence laying around.”

Before he follows Derek out, though, he takes one of the scattered pens and brings it along with the notebook.

“You drive this time, okay?” Stiles says before getting into the passenger's seat. The street is empty, no zombies have been close enough to be attracted by the sound of the van when they've arrived. Derek takes the driver's place. Stiles' backpack is pressing against his knee, so he moves it. It ends up a makeshift desk for Stiles to do the problems in Lydia's notebook on.

Derek doesn't think it means anything, but he's not complaining. It's keeping Stiles busy, calmer than he's been at any point thus far.

There's a good stretch of the preserve they have to drive through to reach Umbrella. That will be forever lost after tonight, too. Derek learned to follow the moon among these trees, and how to hold onto humanity. Lost his virginity just off the road, in his car. His family was protected by and protected this land for generations. It's bad enough most of them are gone, everything they stood for will soon be gone, too.

“Weird or not? The solution to each of these problems is a single digit.”

“I don't know,” Derek says, grateful for the distraction.

“Yeah, me neither. It's probably nothing.”

The gates of the Umbrella complex aren't like those to Lydia's house. It's a wide and tall plane of heavy steel, blended into an even taller wall. There's no way to get Stiles over it.

“There, just a little further.” At Derek's questioning look, Stiles shrugs, “It's worth a try.”

Derek isn't sure what he's up to, but he can see what he's pointing. It's a control panel. He stops the van so he can reach that thing without getting out. Before he can even try, Stiles leans over Derek and the dark screens come to life under his fingers.

“I knew it! What are the odds Lydia's notebook has eight problems with a single digit solution and that the password has eight spaces?” Stiles turns his blinding, smug smile on Derek. He's a little distracting this close up.

But okay, maybe he's onto something.

“The order, though...” Stiles murmurs, looking back at the notebook. He puts in a series of numbers into the empty spaces. The panel blinks red at him. “That'd have been too easy, right.”

A few attempts later, the panel flashes blue and Stiles doesn't even try to contain his shout of triumph. Underneath his voice, the computerized voice announces:

system override sequence activated. identify yourself.

“Stiles Stilinski,” Stiles manages, eyes wide and awed.

The panel blinks again, rotates something too quick to follow and shows them a digital file. There's Stiles' picture and the name Stilinski with a first name that Derek's not completely sure how you'd pronounce.

What's going on? Why is he in the system?

voice identification confirmed

Stiles chokes down a gleeful laugh to say, “Open the main gate.”

The gate makes little sound sliding sideways, even to a werewolf's ears. As they drive themselves inside, Stiles is laughing freely. “I can't believe she did that. Why did she do that? How did she... No, I won't go there. Being inexplicably better and smarter than anyone else is a part of her charm.”

Derek considers his question carefully. “You didn't know she put your name into the security system?”

“No.” Not a lie. “God, she didn't just put my name in there. That was a picture of me she took a few weeks ago with her phone, when I came to visit her here. She must have – she needed a sample of my voice – probably recorded that with her phone or something – and I don't know, maybe she put in my fingerprints, too. But why? Why do that? It'd cost her much more than her internship if anyone found out and I have no business here.”

The building in front of them is a huge windowless mass, impersonal as only these modern constructions can be. Even the entrance is a barely recognizable shape on the exterior.

“Maybe she was afraid something like this would happen,” Derek says, because Stiles is right. You don't do things like that for no reason. “It has happened before, with Umbrella.”

“But what she's expecting me to do? I'm only here because you found me before I managed to get myself eaten.”

Derek isn't too sure about that. The misguided attempt at forging a two-pronged spear from two mismatched knifes and a mop handle to the side, Stiles has proven himself resourceful and fairly competent.

But Derek doesn't know what Lydia's expecting of him, so he shrugs. If they find Lydia in here, they'll ask.

Stiles activates a panel similar to the first one, located on the wall next to the entrance. It reacts to him without requiring the code again. He opens the door.

Derek doesn't even have to walk through them for the familiar, overwhelming presence to flow into his head, into his very bones. He's so lightheaded with comfort and warmth that comes from the undisturbed connection to his Alpha, he stumbles forward. Stiles' hand fearfully wraps around his arm, but he's not going to fall.

“Derek? What's wrong?”

He shakes his head clear, swallows. “Laura. It's Laura. She's inside.”

 

 

 

10:32 PM, Beacon Hills

 

 

“How... do you know that?”

There'll be no answer, Stiles can tell. Derek is wide-eyed, hopeful. He's leading the way through the well-illuminated hallway. The pace he's setting is almost too much for Stiles to follow and he's getting  out of breath quickly.

The place is empty. Hallways are eerily quiet, so his and Derek's footsteps come back in an echo, and are loud enough to make Stiles cringe.

On the wall to their right, a long smudge of red is spoiling the pristine environment. It looks like someone's kept to the wall, holding themselves up with bloody hands.

Derek tilts his head a little, observing the trail. He says, “Blood.”

“Oh, you think?” Stiles snaps at him, rattled.

“Human blood,” Derek adds. “Clean. No trace of disease.”

Stiles follows when he starts walking again, thinking about how Derek's given up on pretending he's normal. Stiles hasn't done anything to earn trust like that. He's sort of dependent on Derek, yes, but that's not loyalty. And Derek doesn't have to drag him along any longer. So why this change? Does Derek expect him not to survive after all? Maybe he means to leave Stiles behind soon, leave him to die in Beacon Hills? That's why he's not bothering to hide. The blown-apart-by-a-nuclear-bomb can tell no secrets.

Stiles shakes his head, tries to clear it out of the ugly thoughts. Derek has done nothing but help him. It's not fair to think that.

The hallway splits in two and Derek stops, frowning.

“Where is she?”

“I can't... There are dogs in here. Monkeys? Chemicals. I can't tell. We'll go down here, first.”

 “Derek?” Stiles calls to stop him. It doesn't work, so he raises his voice, “Derek!”

“What?” Are his eyes glowing? Shit, they are. Somehow, they... okay, maybe not. Stiles swallows to clear his throat.

“Look, Laura's been missing for a year now...”

She's here.” Derek's voice is tighter than a growl.

“I believe you! I do! But, we're assuming she's here against her will, right?” This is hard to say, but he has to. Just in case Derek's on some level refusing to think about it. “In that case, she's probably on one of the underground levels. One of quite a few underground levels. Where the labs are.”

“You're trying to tell me, what? They're using her for experiments?”

No, they're using her to cook them lunch. “What else? Why else would she be here at all, alive? She is a journalist, right? She came to Beacon Hills to write a story. As exciting as this little place in the middle of nowhere is, what would there be for an affirmed, big-town journalist to want to write about here?”

“Umbrella.”

“Yeah, politically and financially most influential corporation in the world, the one everyone knows actually profits the most from, among other things, genetic experimentation and viral weaponry. Tell me honestly, is your sister, you know? Like you?” Derek nods without hesitation. “Tell me a corporation like this one wouldn't drag her into the lowest basement and perform the most painful of experiments on someone like her? Someone like you?”

The thought is chilling. Stiles can think all the nasty thoughts, but the truth is, he's gotten attached to Derek. He doesn't want him cut apart, body parts preserved in jars.

“You think they knew,” Derek concludes slowly.

“Maybe. Or maybe she just got in too deep snooping, they grabbed her before she could tell anyone what she found out and the, um, the special abilities were like a big fat bonus for these guys. My point is, if she's here, she's somewhere downstairs, hidden away where only the chosen employees have access. So before we go to look, can we first go to Lydia's office?” Derek seems to be thinking about it, and Stiles presses. “There's a computer there I may be able to use with this access code to find out exactly where Laura is, so we don't wander.”

“You don't know that,” Derk says tightly. “And why does Lydia have an office? I thought she was an intern?”

“She doesn't, really. But I know in which one she's been spending most of her time.”

“Fine,” Derek decades with a reluctant scowl. “But we have to hurry.”

Relieved, Stiles starts running instantly, “Over here.”

They have to climb two sets of stairs, because where would Lydia Martin settle but at the top? Derek lets Stiles lead, just a step or two, which means that the coast is clear, as far as he can sense. The lines of offices they pass on their way are closed shut. Some are still lit, but not many.

Out of breath, Stiles stops in front of R&D Director's, Harris', office. It's lit, but he doesn't see anyone inside for a second. Then from behind the huge desk in the back of the room, a familiar head peeks out. Stiles wonders if it's unmanly if he cries out of sheer relief and feels his face do something that's probably manic grinning.

Lydia climbs to her feet with some difficulty. Her face is twisted in a smile, but it looks pained. On her side, there's a bloodstain – an angry red smear on the pale blue fabric.

“Fuck,” Stiles hisses, the relief gone before the wave of a new fear.

“She's okay,” Derek says, close by. “You see how she's holding herself? She wouldn't be able to stand like that is it was anything more than a flesh wound. Calm down.”

Lydia frowns at him, just on the other side of the glass now. The makeup she's been wearing is smeared, making her sharp green eyes stand out. She gestures at something to her left, mouth forming words.

“Can you hear her?” Stiles asks Derek.

“Soundproofed. Quality work. But I don't have to hear her. She wants you to open the door.”

Stiles blinks, looks around. There's no doorknob, but there's a panel where Lydia gestured at. He touches the screen, and it lights up, ready to listen to the command. He orders the computer to open the door and pushes through as soon as there's enough space for him.

Lydia's warm and familiar in his arms and she's squeezing him back with one arm.

“Who else is here?”

Stiles looks back at Derek, started. “What?”

“There is someone else in here,” Derek says, Melissa's revolver ready in hand.

Stiles looks down at Lydia. She sniffs, like she's fighting off a cold, and retreats. “It's just Jordan and me. We got in a little – brawl – with Harris and his security and lost. He's behind the desk.”

Derek and Stiles both move to check. Jordan Parrish really is there. He looks up at them, but his eyes are a little glassy and absent.

“Well, congratulations, Derek,” Stiles says, looking at all the blood with an unsettled stomach. “You found your guy.”

Derek gets on his knees next to Parrish. “Give me my first aid kit.”

Your first...?” Stiles touches around the belt. It takes a few seconds until he manages to find the right one. Derek in the meantime pushes away Jordan's clothes. The wound in his shoulder is wrapped, but it looks like a hasty, sloppy job.

“I didn't have much to work with,” Lydia says in a small voice.

Derek glances at her over Stiles' shoulder. “You stopped the bleeding.”

She nods, and Derek starts unwrapping Jordan's wound.

Stiles turns away from the sight of it, to Lydia. “Have you seen my father tonight, by any chance?”

She looks at him with a disapproving twist of her lips. “Why am I not surprised? Yes, Stiles, your dad came to see me and I sent him out in a chopper.”

She says it so plainly, but it's hard to trust her. “And he went? Willingly?”

“Willingly might be an overstatement, but I made sure he did. I like your dad quite a lot, Stiles, you know this. I wouldn't let him roam Beacon Hill on a night like this if I could do anything to prevent it. He is going to be mad at me, but I lied to him. I told him I was sure beyond a shadow of a doubt that you got out of town."

“But you knew I wasn't.”

“I heard from Scott, before this fiasco with Harris. He is so angry with you, you have no idea, and worried out of his mind. I told the Sheriff you were with him and Mellisa. He got a little suspicious, so I made a comment or two on how good it would look on National television if Umbrella could claim they saved the head of the local police force. Harris had him practically dragged away up to the helipad after that - fortunately, he confronted me and Parrish afterward, so your dad didn't see this happen.”

Stiles wants to believe her, but she's just admitted lying to his dad in a very similar situation to this one. Like he could hear what was going on in his head, Derek looks up at them, “She's telling the truth.”

Even as the tight belt squeezing Stiles' chest eases, Lydia's eyebrows raise. She cocks her head toward Derek, looking at Stiles.

“Lydia, that's Derek Hale. Laura's brother.” Her face doesn't change, but her hand spasms. Maybe she never got to see his picture, no matter how close she was with Laura. Stiles keeps talking, since no one is joining in, “His company sent him to Beacon Hills to retrieve Parrish, actually, so I convinced him to let me tag along. He's a very, uh, efficient bodyguard.”

Lydia lifts her hand to pat the bulletproof vest Stiles has somehow forgotten he's wearing. She murmurs, “Generous, too.”

“He'll be fine, but we should get him to see a doctor soon,” Derek announces. He stands up, and props Jordan until he's on his feet, if not too stable.

“'M fine,” Parrish mumbles, leaning heavily on the desk. “Let's go.”

“Do you know a way out?” Lydia looks between Stiles and Derek. “Because everyone else evacuated already.”

It hasn't occurred to Stiles until that moment, but... “They left you here?”

“They found me out. I've been so careful, but once the virus leaked... Well, I had to try, even though I wasn't ready yet.”

Lydia's looking steadily at Derek as she's talking. “Try what?” Derek prompts her, but his voice is soft, like he knows the answer already.

Lydia smiles sadly, and Stiles answers for her, “You got in here looking for Laura, didn't you? You changed your major and took on twice as many classes this last year just so you could gather enough credit to get an internship at Umbrella so you'd be able to find Laura? How did you know she was here?”

“Because she told me she was planning to sneak in. I waited in her motel room for hours, and when it became clear she wouldn't be coming back...” Lydia gives sorrowful smile to Stiles. “Well, judging by some photos your dad had with him today, I was apparently too upset to drive carefully.”

“You never drive carefully,” he answers with a sad smile of his own.

“You know where she is, though?” Derek demands.

“Yes. But I was busted before I could go look. It's well above my clearance level.”

“Yeah, speaking of which... When did you put me into the system? And I almost didn't even go to your house, why would you leave me the code as a set of mathematical problems, God, Lydia, do you know how lucky we are I actually took it with me?”

She waves her hand dismissively, “Please, I left you that code in exactly fourteen different places and ways. Three of which are in your own house, actually, two at the station. You were bound to stumble across at least one. And anyway, I had Denny put Scott in, too. Just in case.”

“Wouldn't it have been easier to, you know, just tell me? Tell us.”

She twists her mouth again. “I didn't for the same reason I never told your dad I knew where Laura went that night – I didn't want any of you to have anything to do with this place. It's too dangerous. The code, well, the code was the last resort. I had hoped it would never come to that. And now that you used it here, this long after the evacuation, you won't be able to use it anywhere else.”

“Um, why would I want to?”

“She wasn't writing an article,” Derek cuts in, realization sharpening his voice. “And while you were here, looking for Laura, you meant to also finish what she'd started. She was trying to expose them.”

Lydia nods. Parrish snorts, like this is funny. He seems more awake, watching them. “Well, aren't we all. But see,” he points at Derek's insignia, but he's talking to Lydia, “told you my company won't leave me here. Especially when I told them I had evidence now.”

His company?

“You mean, I have the evidence,” Lydia says with a smile, palming a string around her neck.

Stiles looks at them, smiling at each other like old friends. He thinks he gets it. Lydia got the internship to find Laura, Parrish hit on Lydia so he'd have an excuse to visit her occasionally and snoop. She wasn't allowed to admit anyone in the labs, likely wasn't allowed very deep in herself, but Umbrella made sure they at least looked clean on the surface, so visits for lunch occasionally weren't strange. She probably figured out what he was up to and pretended to be just interested enough to let him near. It certainly explained their strange in-between relationship. He'll have to ask later if he's right, but for now...

“Well, you have the evidence, Derek has a way out...”

“Let's go get Laura and get out of here,” Derek finishes almost to the word what Stiles has meant to say, but with a lot more authority.

Parrish starts to move first, like he has to prove that he can. Lydia tosses her hair and leads the way out of the office.

Derek takes Stiles by the elbow to keep him from following after her, “I was serious. She was telling the truth about your father.”

Stiles sighs. “I think the question 'how do you know that?' should just go without me actually asking it by now, don't you agree?”

“Why do you think I ever trusted your very convenient story about how our paths just happen to overlap? I can hear a lie in a person's heartbeat. She was telling the truth.”

Derek leaves Stiles to gape after him. And wonder if there's anything Derek could say at this point that he won't just believe, no matter how fantastical it sounds.

Whatever clearance Lydia had has been revoked. She needs Stiles to open the doors for her, give orders to the computer. But she has a very clear vision of where they're going, so they smoothly send Parrish in one of the elevators to the roof, where the helipad is. They take the other elevator and descend into the depths of the building.

Lydia leads them down a hallway and into a room, through the heaviest set of double doors Stiles has seen in his life. It's dark inside, only the echo gives out a sense of how large the space is.

“We're getting close,” Derek breathes. Lydia doesn't look much steadier, herself.

Stiles orders the lights on. The room is huge, much bigger than he's been expecting. The celling to floor containers take up half of the space, and tangles of pipes and cables cover most of the floor and the walls.

“The number is 215,” Lydia says. “I guess the number of the container?”

Are they really keeping Laura in one of these? Stiles looks carefully at the closes one. It's black and large, made out of some sort of metal, but there are no windows. It's inhuman.

Derek's already walking between them, looking up where the numbers are clearly visible. Stiles and Lydia quickly follow his lead. There doesn't seem to be any order to how they've lined up the containers, there's one marked '7' right next to the one marked '83' – it's like it's deliberately random.

No, Stiles sees how Lydia is starting to move with purpose. There's a sequence, a pattern, he just can't figure it out. Lydia's got it, so he gives up on looking and just follows her. Twenty seconds later, she stops in front of the right container, pale and shaky in the radiant brightness of the artificial light.

Stiles calls, “Derek? We found it.”

Derek takes a shortcut over the pipes, straight to them. “Open it.”

Stiles looks at Lydia. The truth is, they have no idea what they'll find in there. Laura, sure, but is she still herself? Is she infected with the virus?

“Lydia...” Stiles says. She looks at her hands, nods. Derek doesn't even seem to notice her retreat all the way behind them.

Stiles finds the panel on Laura's container and it reacts to him. He's been half hoping already it wouldn't, but it swiftly obeys his order to open the container 215. A heavy metal door slides sideways. It's dark inside.

“Laura?” Derek calls, voice garbled and rough. Stiles unclasps the holster on his belt, takes out the gun. Just in case. “Laura!”

There's only silence. Derek moves forward, carefully, to check inside. Before he reaches the door, a sound comes from the container, like a roar – no, like a howl, but too piecing, and pained. It's terrible, but Derek reacts to it much worse than Stiles – he takes a quick, stumbling step backward and falls down on his ass. Dad's rifle clatters on the floor next to him.

Scared by that more than the sound itself, Stiles points the handgun at the gaping door.

It doesn't do him any good. It happens too quickly for him to take aim and shoot – one second, a dark shadow stirs inside the container, the next second it's jumping on Derek. He reacts faster than Stiles can even think right then, meets the figure with his feet and kicks it off over his head. It's powerful enough to throw it so far toward the opposite wall, Stiles can't even see where it landed.

But he's seen enough of it to know that it's not Derek's sister. It cannot possibly be.

Lydia grabs the rifle off the floor, says, “Derek, get up.” He looks like he's in shock, so she raises her voice, “Derek, we'll die if you don't get up right now.”

He finally does. Lydia and him are facing the side Derek has sent that creature to, and Stiles stands back to back with them so nothing would surprise them from behind. “That's not Laura, though.”

He doesn't mean it as a question, but it comes out as one. Derek answers, “It is.”

Fuck. It's – she's not even remotely human. There's something reptilian in the way she's moved, but her skin is covered in patches of fur. Stiles hasn't managed a good look, but he knows she's also almost twice Derek's size.

“Guys...”

“We know, Stiles,” Lydia cuts him off, her voice furious. He doesn't think it's with him.

He finishes anyway, “We have to get out of here.”

That terrible sound comes again, like Laura's heard him and is protesting. Derek makes a sound of his own, a terrible, broken whimper Stiles has never heard in his life anyone produce.

And neither one of them is moving, so he has to. He's the one with the least emotional attachment here, he should lead them out of here. He silently pulls on Derek's arm, Lydia's shoulder, directs them toward the door that's too fucking far away, just in case Laura is listening from her shadowed corner. They're following slowly, reluctantly. They'll never make it like this.

“Oh my God, guys, seriously,” Stiles hisses, frustrated beyond belief with their unwillingness to get out of there, “that's not Laura!”

“Yes, it is,” Derek says. Stiles thinks he's meant it to be menacing, but with the way his eyes jump over the room, the desperate sorrow - it's just broken. “I can see it – I can feel it. It's her.” He's formed a fist against his chest, like trying to grab the feeling inside of it.

“Not anymore,” Stiles whispers.

They're facing each other in the middle of the room like the argument is more important than the threat looming in shadows. Derek says, frowning, but with eyes finally meeting Stiles', “She's got to be somewhere in there.”

“If she is,” Stiles says, with more deliberation than he can afford, “then she'll let us go.”

“You want me to leave my sister behind.”

I want to live, Stiles thinks. He wants all three of them to live.

But he says, “I want to have this discussion on the other side of the door.” If they can get there.

Derek looks away from him for a moment, stares into a far away spot over Stiles' shoulder. He nods. “Okay. I'll make sure you're safe first.”

That is not what Stiles has wanted to hear, because it can mean just about anything and it doesn't sound good at all. First? Then what comes second? But it gets Derek to start moving toward the door, so he doesn't bring it up.

Laura doesn't let them go. She howls her disjoint, shrill howl again – and that's what it is, Stiles realizes. He has just enough time to have that thought, and to repeat it in his head - it's a howl - before Derek is stepping in front of the charging Laura. Something about him changes, Stiles can't see his face. He can see his hands, though, fingernails long and sharp all of the sudden and... Stiles is not surprised at all.

Lydia pulls him toward the door, and he moves backward with her, watching.

Laura's come down on Derek slashing at his throat, intent on the killing blow. Derek evades, but he can't seem to force himself to try and hit her. Instead, he rolls under her kicks and blows. His face has changed, too, his teeth look like a deadly weapon – but he's not using it. All he's doing is leading Laura away from Lydia and Stiles.

They're at the door when Laura's determination finally pays off. She's managed to get Derek on his back and it's just his desperate grip on her neck that's keeping her from killing him.

“Here,” Lydia says, pushing his dad's rifle into his hands. Stiles takes it, aims. He's a fairly good shot, as long as he doesn't have anything to distract him. It bites into his arms as he fires. The first bullet hits Laura's head squarely, so he shoots again, going for maximum damage.

She doesn't let go, but at least Derek is actually struggling against her now. His kicks don't seem to hurt her, she doesn't react to his claws sinking into her flesh.

Stiles shrugs off the backpack.

“What are you doing?” Lydia demands, even as he digs up the flare gun from it.

“Stay here,” Stiles tells her.

“And where are you going?” she's protesting, but the time is running out, he can't answer.

He's never shot from a flare gun, so has to get closer to be sure he'll hit his target. It seems like the rifle shots have given Derek an edge, because even though Laura is attacking even more viciously, she's too angered to be efficient. Finally close enough, Stiles fires the flare gun at her head, praying.

It's more blinding than he's expected it to be, because he's an idiot. Everything is red and white, he can't see – but it only takes a second before he feels hands grabbing him, pulling him along. He's running, Derek urging him, half blind and eyes burning, but toward safety.

“Close the door, Stiles,” Lydia orders him. He leans over the panel and repeats the command when Derek hisses and shifts again into that dangerous, clawed formed. The doors are closing fast but Laura is faster.

Stiles is staring at her, feeling helpless, as she reaches the door. A gunshot goes off at the last second. Laura flinches with one of her eyes now just a hole and it's enough for the door to slide shut between them. Stiles turns to see Lydia holding the rifle she's obviously recharged. Her whole body is shaking.

Derek takes the weapon away from her, gently.

Stiles wants to spit at him, demands if he still wants to have that discussion, take his sister along. But both Lydia and Derek look so heartbroken, with the rifle between them and Derek's clothes soaked in his sister's blood, he can't. He just can't. Not right now.

The door bangs under the weight Laura throws at it from the inside. You can see a large dent from their side. Stiles starts moving first toward the elevators, without a word. Two sets of steps follow him, as the door give out another yielding sound under Laura's attacks.

The elevator doesn't seem to be moving fast enough. When they're finally up on the roof, in the crisp cold, Stiles feels like he hasn't been breathing up until then.

“I was starting to worry,” Parrish says when he sees them. Lydia turns to him, hides her face into his shoulder.

“The transmitter?” Derek asks him. His voice is unrecognizable, wavering.

Stiles takes it out, gives it over. Derek presses the button. The signal is sent.

Lydia is crying openly now, her whole figure shaking. Stiles wonders if he should offer condolences to Derek, say something comforting. His mouth usually gets him in trouble, though, he's not the best judge of when to say what.

Instead he leans on the door that lead back into the building, imitating Derek's position. The door is small, their shoulders are touching. Derek doesn't say anything and he doesn't move away.

Now all that's left is to wait for their way out.

***

 

 

 

11:05AM, 150 miles outside of Beacon Hills

two days later

 

 

Derek only bothers to read Erica's last message in which she tells him – apparently for the hundredth time – that he needs to come in to work. He gets out of his running clothes, showers, dresses and goes to the headquarters.

The first twenty-four hours after leaving Beacon Hills, he's spent alone. This previous night, though, Erica, Boyd and Issac came knocking, finally back in town. They needed to grieve, and to adapt to the shift in power. They lost Laura, this time completely. They lost their Alpha.

This morning, they've left Derek's apartment, feeling rebalanced, if not any happier.

And while the pack feels relief to be able to function in a proper hierarchy again, Derek can't help but despise the hot feeling of that extra spark that makes him the Alpha now. It's too restorative to allow him to mourn his sister properly, but he'll always associate the power it's got him with her death. It's a confusing mix of emotions.

He walks onto what appears to be a meeting, in the central room. It's only Deaton and Erica, sitting across from Lydia and Stiles, but they all look serious and determined.

Erica gets out of her chair to hug him quickly. It's more scent sharing than an offer of comfort, because they've only seen each other several hours ago, but he appreciates it anyway.

“Oh, that's not fair,” Stiles says loudly. “You should have told me you had a girlfriend before I got so attached, Derek, what were you thinking?”

Derek moves to stand behind him, and puts a hand on his and Lydia's shoulders. “She's not my girlfriend,” he says, though he knows Stiles hasn't been serious.

“I think she disagrees,” Stiles mutters. He can't possibly know that the reason Erica's frowning like that is because Derek is scenting two random humans now. Apparently, a dark, Alpha-ridden corner of his brain has decided to take them in as his own. The instinct to make the pack larger is harder to suppress than Laura made it look.

Lydia, at least, seems to understand what's going on, because she lifts her hand and gently rubs Derek's knuckles for a moment. It's an easy, natural acceptance. She's been Laura's, before, even if Derek never got to sense a glimpse of that bond.

His hand lingers a few moments longer on Stiles' shoulder before he takes the seat next to him.

“What's up?”

“Plotting against evil, monster-making intercontinental corporations,” Stiles says, voice lighter now. “Unfortunately, there's a difference in opinions. On everything. So we need you to be the tie-breaker.”

Derek doesn't feel particularly competent to make important decisions. Give him something to claw at, and he'll do his part gladly. But that's not an option any longer.

“Okay,” he agrees, waits for them to fill him in.

“We can't decide what to do with the info I've gathered,” Lydia says. She pushes a flash drive across the table toward him. “This one is yours – we all have one and a made a few extras, as well. Just in case.”

“I believe,” Deaton says, “that we should wait until we have more. Though what's on that drive is more than anyone else has ever gathered on Umbrella, I am not so sure it's something they are not capable of covering up.”

“It doesn't help they blew up Beacon Hills and all material evidence of what's on the drive,” Stiles adds. “If they do manage to cover it up, it might become completely unusable later on.”

“There won't be a later on to think about if we don't go public with it,” Erica argues. “There are hundreds of Umbrella or Umbrella-connected research facilities around the world and while we're talking about this, they'll blow up another town.”

“There's also the threat of a worldwide pandemic,” Lydia says. “This was incredibly hard to get. I don't see how we'll manage to get more quickly enough.”

Derek asks, “But you have an idea of how to get more?”

Everyone looks at her. They haven't addressed it before. Lydia glances quickly at Stiles before she pulls her face into a fake expression of indifference. “Yes. I do.”

“Why do I get the feeling I won't like this?” Stiles mutters.

She ignores him. “The clearance I had Denny give Stiles is gone now, since he used it after the evacuation and will be marked as a loss in their systems. It's a shame, since it was for all Umbrella facilities on the continent. But, luckily, it wasn't the only clearance we forged.”

“You want to send Scott in to infiltrate Umbrella,” Stiles says, voice tight with rage. “Lydia, he'll never get an internship there, less alone soon enough for it to be relevant to this discussion.”

“I was thinking a job in maintenance, actually,” Lydia says. “It could be more efficient, since people rarely pay attention to where a janitor is allowed to go – everything needs cleaning, even labs.”

Derek can hear his teeth grind when Stiles forces out, “I don't want him involved.”

“He's getting involved as we speak – he spent the whole day yesterday at the protests, and you know how he gets. He will be in the middle of the anti-Umbrella campaign in no time. He's drawing a target on his chest.”

“Instead he should walk around with the target we put there.”

“I think we should ask him. Give him a way to make an actual difference.”

“Is his mother alright, too?” Derek cuts into the argument that's getting too heated. They both nod. “When you ask him, make sure she's there, too. In case Scott wants to do it, she needs to be ready to run if things go bad.”

Stiles doesn't argue with this. “Either way, surely we won't put all our hopes into Scott.”

“No,” Deaton answers. “In fact, now that Derek is here, it's time to tell you. Two years ago, when I sent Parrish to infiltrate Umbrella in Beacon Hills, I sent someone else in as well. To the facilities station not too far outside Lyon, France.”

“Have they succeeded?” Lydia wants to know.

“Yes. Marin Morell is working as a psychologist for them at the moment.”

“God knows the employees there need some therapy,” Stiles mutters to himself again.

Deaton ignores him. “The communication I had with her was much more limited than the one I had with Agent Parrish.”

“Had?” Lydia sharply asks.

“Alas, I have been unable to make contact with her in the last two weeks. We have the appointed time set, a call once a week, and she's missed both. The situation isn't promising.”

“But we have to check, right?” Stiles demands. “You're not gonna leave this chick out there on her own, will you?”

“No, Mr Stilinski, I won't. I wouldn't even if she wasn't my own sister.”

“You sent your sister in?”

“And therefore I understand perfectly the conflict you're feeling about putting someone you care about in the same position. But I assure you, the situation is serious enough to require of us to make such decisions. Though I wish anything but harm to him, I do hope your friend agrees to work with us, since it is probably the best plan we've got.”

Stiffly, Stiles nods. Then he asks, “How come you're ready to put all the resources of your company into this? What did Umbrella do to you?”

“That's irrelevant. I formed this company solely for the purpose of fighting back against Umbrella, and all the resources of the company exist for that purpose alone.”

“And now we're also your little soldiers.”

Deaton says mildly, “As we agreed, in exchange for your help, I am willing to help look for your father, Mr. Stilinski. Using the resources of the company, of course.”

“Wait, your father is missing?” Derek demands.

“I know he's alive – or at least, I know he safely got out of Beacon Hills,” Stiles is rubbing his neck, worried frown looking uncharacteristically grim on him. “There's footage of Harris and him landing, talking briefly to the press. But he hasn't been seen since.”

“Lydia, will you contact your friend Scott, if Mr. Stilinski is done protesting?” Deaton asks. She nods, gets up to leave the room. Stiles doesn't say anything, but unhappiness radiates from him. “Once we set that in motion, we will start planning the best approach to locate your father and rescue him. In the meantime, Derek, I need you to organize and lead a mission to France.”

“When do I leave?”

“Today, if at all possible.”

 

*

Three hours later, Derek is changing in the locker room, getting ready to leave. The company's plane is set to take off in half an hour. They lost some of their best soldiers in Beacon Hills, so Derek's first mission when he gets to Europe is to hire help. Fortunately, Deaton hasn't been only using his business for mission directly connected to fighting Umbrella, he's been making money, too.

“A werewolf, heh.”

Hand still inside the locker, Derek smiles. “Took you long enough.”

“Honestly, it would have taken me longer,” Stiles admits, walking up closer, “if the sideburns didn't make an appearance. But between that, and the claws and the glowing eyes, well. Though I should have known, I guess. In some cultures, people leave just born children out in the woods when they're born with such imposing eyebrows. They think it'll grow up to be a werewolf.”

It's a not very widespread piece of werewolf lore, a practice long-forgotten even in the Slavic communities that used to do that, so Derek raises an eyebrow at him.

Stiles rubs his neck with an abashed smile, “Sorry. The internet. Anyway, you'll be gone for weeks, so I just wanted to...”

Derek zips the backpack he's taking along. They are not going to fly in full equipment across the ocean. When he straightens back up, the pack over his shoulder, Stiles still hasn't finished his thought, “Yes?”

“Um, I don't know. Thank you? Wish you luck?”

He stinks of nervousness like he thinks Derek may do something terrible to him if he actually tries. So Derek says, “Okay.”

Stiles immediately steps into his personal space. Derek lifts his hands until he can feel the threadbare fabric of Stiles' red hoodie under his palms, just in time to keep Stiles from retreating completely after a very quick, very light kiss.

“Luck?” Derek raises his eyebrows. “You're expecting that little peck to keep me alive throughout the zombie apocalypse?”

The nervousness lessens, and Stiles' scent swells with too many emotions to keep track of. “The next few weeks of it, anyway. Then you'll come back?”

There's a hot imprint of a palm on his hip that urges Derek to give all sorts of promises, but the truth is that all he can do is try. He wants to take with him that need to pull through for someone, though, so he stops waiting for Stiles to kiss him again and leans in himself.

There's no time to do this right now, the plane is leaving soon, yet Derek still takes a few minutes. He doesn't remember when was the last time he kissed someone who knew about him, or even just someone who hinted they'd be willing to wait for him to come back.

It's more sweet than heated, and it has to end. Stiles murmurs, hand on Derek's neck, “Well that's more than I thought you'd let me get away with.”

And that's just ridiculous, with all the things Derek is hoping Stiles will let him get away with when he comes back. He says quietly, “Stay safe,” and forces his hands to let go.

Erica is leaning on the lockers on the far end of the room, a smirk that says that she gets it now transforming her face.

“It's time?” Derek asks her.

“Hey, I wasn't gonna interrupt. It was a good show.”

“A show you didn't buy a ticket for,” Stiles says, narrowing eyes on her, shoulders defensive.

“I kind of feel like ruining all his fun, though, so yeah. It's time to go.”

Both of them seem to be joking, but it's just a little on the edge. Might be the remains of their disagreement about what to do with Lydia's info, or maybe Erica is feeling a little overprotective. Derek will have to talk to her about it and put a stop to it while it's early.

Lydia is waiting in the hallway, in front of the elevators. She allows Derek to put a hand on her shoulder again, says with a small smile, “Scott agreed. Deaton is preparing some basic training for him. Maybe you guys will even get a chance to meet him if you come back quickly.”

Derek nods, walks into the elevator behind Erica.

Only three days ago, Derek lived in such ignorance. He knew nothing about Laura, about Umbrella. Now he has to prevent more outbreaks like the one that caused the destruction of Beacon Hills. Has a pack to take care of. And there's Stiles, too - there's plenty to fight for.

So Derek smiles at Lydia and Stiles, back in the hallway, and says, “See you soon.”

The door closes to shield their answering smiles.

 

end