“Scott's always been about one thing: saving his friends. He will do anything and everything to save the people he cares about. When there's no chance of winning, he keeps fighting. When all hope is lost, he finds another way and when he's beaten down he stands up again!”
~ Derek Hale
When Scott McCall’s heart stopped beating, his mother was half-way across town.
Melissa McCall’s phone was set to vibrate, as it always was during hospital shifts, and when she pulled it from her pocket it felt heavier than usual. Scott’s number showed up on her screen, but she knew.
In the way the world slowed around her, the way the air felt thicker, the way the nerve-endings in her fingers went numb then sparked alive in seconds. She held her breath, swiping the call live and putting the phone to her ear. Scott’s phone, but not his voice. Not a voice she knew would tell her he was okay. He would be okay.
A primal scream of denial began in the back of her mind. She clenched her teeth, keeping her mouth closed because no. Not this way. Not her boy. No.
She didn’t recall deciding to move; she was simply in motion. Crossing rooms, crossing intersections, crossing town.
Rounding the corner to the high school library, she smelled the blood first. So much of it. Splattered and pooled and soaking through his shirt and staining his face. The boy who’d called her—called her from Scott’s phone with his trembling voice—tried to hold her back, tried to tell her that it had been too long.
That Scott was gone.
That the life she’d carried within her, the baby she’d fed and soothed and protected, the child she’d watched and shielded and taught, the boy she had created…was dead.
As a nurse, she was trained to deal with trauma, with broken bones and damaged bodies, with blood and gore and lives ripped apart by the fragile failings of humanity. As the mother of a werewolf, she had learned to accept the possibility of the impossible. And she had witnessed Scott bring the impossible to life.
“He hasn’t had a pulse in over fifteen minutes…,” the boy—Mason—spoke with breathy disbelief as she knelt next to Scott, placing her joined hands over the ruin of her son’s chest. “You can’t just bring someone back, that’s….”
“He’s not someone.” Her arms burned with the weight of her resistance, with the force of her thrusts, demanding he return to her. “He’s my son. And he’s an Alpha. And he’s too strong to die like this!”
This wasn’t like last time. This wasn’t like pretending grief in the corridor of the hospital, the wail in her voice only partially an act. This wasn’t like seeing him pale and cold and still on a morgue tray, knowing he could be brought back, feeling his languishing heartbeat beneath her trembling fingers.
His chest was wet with his blood. His ribs gave willingly beneath her hands. His body was still except for her efforts.
“Come on!” She stared at his face, every line, every angle, so familiar. She stared at his eyes, so much like his father’s and yet nothing like them at all. “Open your eyes and look at me, okay?” Remembering his first cry, his first laugh, his first word. The first time she saw his eyes flash gold. The first time he showed her the Alpha red. “Come on. Breathe, baby. Breathe.”
Scott lay still. No tremor betrayed life. The gore of his chest caused her hands to slip.
The blood on his face stood out in stark contrast to the pale shade of his skin. A dark hand reached cautiously forward, hesitantly trying to bring her to her senses, to remind her that there were consequences to the life her son led. To the fact that he gave everything, willingly sacrificing to protect those he loved.
Sometimes, there was no coming back.
She paused. For one brief, terrifying moment she let reality lay like a shadow across her shoulders, thinking about those who’d been lost. Those she couldn’t save. Those he couldn’t protect.
Then she let her eyes rest on his face once more. His mouth, his eyes, the crooked jaw he’d inherited from his grandfather, the scar he’d gotten from skateboarding with Stiles. She remembered the weight of his tiny body in her arms on long nights filled with colic. The strangled fear that she choked down when he had his first asthma attack. His youthful defiance before his father finally left them. The need in his embrace when he grieved over the loss of his first love.
And Melissa fought back.
“He’s too strong to die like this!”
She balled her hands into a fist, slamming them against his damaged chest and shoved Death away from her boy.
“Come on. You can do this!” Slam. “You’re an Alpha. You’re an Alpha!” SLAM. “Come on, Scott. Roar!” SLAM. “Come on, Scott. ROAR.” SLAM!
The cry that curled up from within him turned his eyes red and lifted his head and shoulders from the ground, echoing through the library, through the school, out into the cursed town of Beacon Hills. It set Melissa back on her heels and sent Mason skittering away, covering his ears. The cry was indeed a roar, carrying with it the months of fear and uncertainty and pain—so much pain—that Scott had trapped within him, weighing him down, burying him in despair.
As the cry tapered, Scott sank back against the floor, eyes closed, fangs extended, gasping desperately for air.
Melissa cautiously snaked her hand to her son’s throat, avoiding the bloody mess that was his chest now that it visibly moved with breath, and rested her fingers against his pulse.
“That’s my boy.”
When Scott McCall’s heart started beating, his pack trembled.
Most were unaware of why—a shiver, a twitch, a stumble—but some recognized the sensation for what it was: an Alpha defying death.
Derek Hale had made a new home in the desert of New Mexico, living most of his days as a wolf, shifting to human only when survival called for it. There was no drama, no crippling guilt, no overwhelming responsibility in this form. He simply lived—alone, silent, but free.
Then Scott died.
And Derek unexpectedly fell—human and naked and trembling with confusion—to the earth, staring around him at the desert night, the super moon caressing him with light. It wasn’t until the sensation of life thrummed through him again that he realized what happened.
It was more a breath than a word. A memory. An acknowledgment that he had a purpose once more.
He’d secured a small cabin on the edge of a quiet town for when his human form required it. Returning there, he gathered what he needed and headed west before the sun had gained dominance of the sky once more.
Isaac Lahey knew how to blend into the shadows.
The easiest way to avoid a beating from his father was to not be seen in the first place. It wasn’t until Derek Hale changed his life with a bite—and Scott McCall showed him that friends were an asset, not a liability—that Isaac discovered how to use his natural ability to camouflage rather than be used by it.
Alone in a city that not only didn’t know him but didn’t care to, Isaac found comfort in anonymity. Chris Argent had helped him establish a safe haven and foothold in Paris. When Scott called for help, Chris hadn’t hesitated, and Isaac hadn’t stopped him. Things were different now; he no longer needed to be watched over, cared for.
He no longer needed the protection of a pack.
And then he felt the tug—as though everything solid beneath him had disappeared for a fraction of a second, leaving him momentarily weightless and spinning. His involuntary gasp for air sounded too loud in his ears and caught the attention of his companions. He waved them off, grabbed his phone and found an alcove. The short bristles of his beard—masking his eighteen years—rubbed against the glass face as he waited to hear the familiar voice.
“You need to get here.”
The older wolf didn’t let him finish, a growl humming low at the base of his words.
Isaac felt himself go cold, his pulse slowing, his heart tripping slightly against its steady rhythm. Scott was too strong—a true Alpha.
“I don’t know,” Derek bit off. “Just get here.”
Isaac was on the next plane to the States.
Malia Tate shivered as she waited for Braedon to organize her weapons.
“What is it?”
Malia shook her head. “Nothing.”
“Doesn’t look like nothing.” Braedon frowned, shoving a clip of bullets into the base of a handgun. “Looks like someone just walked over your grave.”
“How does that even make sense?” Malia looked at the hunter with derision. “Let’s just get this done.”
Kira Yukimura pulled her legs up on the front seat of her mother’s car, curling into a tight ball as though the position alone would ward off the chill that swept through her. His name was on her lips, almost demanding a voice, but she bit it back, keeping the ache that filled her body, settling in her bones, a secret.
Her mother—a kitsune for 900 years—would no longer understand the pull of a love as young and powerful as theirs. That piece of her had long ago turned to dust. She would be immune to any pleas that Kira might attempt.
Which was unfortunate, since Kira knew she had to return. The fox could wait. Would have to wait. Because she was almost certain that what she felt shimmer through her heart had been Scott’s call—his own plea—for his pack to return.
Lydia knew. She was the only one who’d felt his death screaming inside her. She’d felt his loss fill her with unimaginable emptiness. And she felt his call summoning her.
Pleading with her to hear him. To know what he needed.
And she was powerless to do anything but lay still and blink, Theo’s claws having effectively trapped her inside her own mind. Only her mother saw the tear that slipped from the corner of her eye as Lydia’s mind whispered Scott’s name.
Liam Dunbar felt nothing but helpless loss. Nothing but guilt. Sorrow. Regret.
As the Hellhound pulled Hayden’s lifeless body from his arms, he felt his gut clench, his heart stutter, a far-away cry shaking something inside him.
But it was ignored.
Because he knew he’d caused it.
Stiles Stilinski shuddered, his whole being feeling both drained of energy and charged by lightning at once. For a moment his vision wavered, tunneling to a pinpoint of perception before widening once more and allowing him to breathe, his trembling fingers intertwining with his father’s lax ones.
He wrote it off to adrenaline, to finding his wounded father just in time, to the rush of summoning the ambulance and getting to the hospital before he even knew if his father would live.
He wrote it off to weeks of stress and feeling as though he’d been walking on hot coals, not knowing who to trust. He wrote it off to the insanity that was simply living in Beacon Fucking Hills. He wrote it off to fear and exhaustion and weakness.
He didn’t let himself think about his best friend. He ignored the nagging voice that had said, “You can’t help Scott and save your dad’s life.”
He ignored the fact that by that statement alone, Scott needed him.
Because Scott hadn’t trusted him. Scott believed Theo over him. So screw him. And screw whatever cold feeling settled around his heart.
Scott would be fine.
Melissa couldn’t lift him.
He wasn’t a big kid but he was all muscle and there was only so far adrenaline would take her.
“Mason.” She grabbed the kid’s attention, remembering how he’d stayed with her as Hayden was dying, remembering how he’d tried so hard to be a good friend to Liam. “I need you one more time, okay? And then you can go home.”
Mason hadn’t torn his dark eyes from Scott’s face, the wheezing breaths slipping between Scott’s now-human lips arresting his attention. Melissa sympathized, but she also needed to get her very-wounded son out of this place right the hell now.
“Mason!” His head snapped around as her tone shifted from soft to commanding. “I need you to help me get him to the car. Can you do that?”
“He…he was dead. I checked him. I checked his pulse.”
Melissa reached across Scott and laid her hand on Mason’s shoulder, intimately familiar with the shock that set in after someone witnessed a traumatic event. Though, typically, it was after a loss of someone rather than what Mason had seen.
“I know, honey. You were amazing. I just need your help one more time.”
Mason swallowed, dark eyes flicking from her face to Scott’s.
“Is…he’s alive, right? I mean, that was just…well, kinda awesome, actually.”
“He’s alive, but he’s hurt—“
“Mom?” Scott’s voice ripped through the air, though it held no more strength than a tear.
“Hey,” Melissa, turned, crouching over her son and laying her hand against the side of his face. “I’m here.”
“Theo,” Scott managed, unable to keep his eyes open. There was something in his voice. Something desperate.
“He’s gone, sweetheart,” Melissa promised, rage unexpectedly shooting through her.
Scott didn’t respond and Melissa felt herself tremble with worry. She couldn’t call an ambulance; there was no way she could explain his surviving such wounds—and when he healed?
No, it was on her.
“Mason,” she grabbed the younger boy’s attention once more. “Will you help me?”
“Yeah. Yes,” Mason nodded rapidly, shifting to a crouch so that he could help Melissa lift Scott’s head and shoulders from the floor.
Once they got him upright, Scott came around enough to realize that he was being moved. He pushed weakly to his feet, then hung from their shoulders as they maneuvered around the wreckage of the library, through the empty building and to Melissa’s car. Mason helped her ease Scott into the backseat, then straightened, wiping the young wolf’s blood from his hands to his jeans.
“What about…I mean, where will you go?”
“I’ve got it from here,” Melissa promised. “Go find Liam. He’s going to need you.”
“Liam…Liam did this,” Mason whispered.
Melissa frowned, thinking of Scott’s choked, Theo.
“Liam needs a friend right now, Mason.” Melissa repeated. “Go find him. And,” she paused before sliding behind the wheel, “thank you.”
Mason nodded jerkily, watching as she drove away from the high school. She gave a brief thought to the mess that had been left behind—the amount of her son’s blood smeared on the floor and splattered across the stairs, chairs, and tables. But like so many other grisly scenes in and around Beacon Hills, Melissa was fairly certain this latest Unexplained Event would be somehow written off and filed away as had so many others.
Scott was quiet on the ride to their home. She wasn’t sure he was completely conscious until she opened the back door and once more laid her hand against his cheek.
He nodded, not opening his eyes, and rolled carefully to a seated position. Watching as he pressed his hands flat against the seat on either side of him, Melissa found herself wondering if he knew what had happened to him tonight.
The extent of it.
She reached for his arm, taking an involuntary breath as she felt the reassuring heat of his skin, the thrum of life beneath her fingers once more, and gently pulled him toward the open door. He managed to extricate himself from the car, leaning against the cool metal doorframe to gain his balance, and accepted her support as she drew his arm across her shoulder.
The stairs were tricky; when they finally reached his room and he sat propped up on his bed, Melissa took a breath.
“I need to clean you up,” she said.
“It’s fine,” Scott replied, his voice breathy, listless.
“It’s not,” she shook her head. “I don’t care if you’re a werewolf with…with healing abilities.” She heard her voice tremble, knew her heart had changed pace because he lifted his gaze slightly to meet hers. “You…you died tonight, honey. And I need to clean you up.”
The emptiness in his eyes twisted and turned and suddenly Melissa saw something she never wanted to see again: fear. In her son’s eyes. True, honest, unadulterated fear.
And the kicker was…it wasn’t for himself.
“Is…is Liam okay?”
Melissa sank down on the edge of his bed, covering her face with her hands.
“He’s fine,” she whispered. “He nearly killed you…but he’s fine.”
“It wasn’t Liam…it was…Theo,” Scott began, but couldn’t continue, his voice trapped as he swallowed whatever emotion choked him.
Melissa didn’t care if she ever heard that name again. That bastard had nearly taken her son from her. He deserved no mercy.
Without another word, she went to Scott’s bathroom, ignoring the evidence of teenaged boy scattered around her in the piles of dirty clothes, wet towels and—oh, God, were those condom wrappers in the trash? She grabbed clean towels, wet some cloths with hot water, and pulled a clean set of clothes from Scott’s dresser before she returned to his bed.
Scott sat unmoving, his brown eyes—her eyes—fixed on nothing, his expression tragic.
As the mother of the boy before her, Melissa wanted to wrap him in a blanket, and hold him tight enough that all his broken pieces fit back together.
As the mother of the werewolf—the leader she knew him to be—she resisted the urge to fix his spirit, knowing he had to have the strength to fix himself or he’d be lost forever.
As the nurse, she knew that even werewolf healing abilities needed help.
“C’mon,” she said quietly. “Off with what’s left of that shirt.”
He could barely lift his arms; she had to clamp down hard on the gut-wrenching reaction to seeing her son in pain. Uttering nonsensical, soothing words as she would to any patient as torn up as Scott, she eased him out of his shirt and helped him lie back against the pillows. As he closed his eyes, tight, breathing rapidly through both physical and emotional pain, she gently cleaned the blood from the horribly deep gashes and lacerations that littered his chest. She could see the gouge marks where claws had sunk in, perforating his heart, his lungs.
The fact that he lay breathing before her was not just remarkable in the supernatural sense, it was a miracle. She didn’t know what extent the power of being a True Alpha had over life and death, but she was fairly certain her son was not supposed to be lying here now, staring up at her with stricken, tear-filled eyes.
Which meant, he had a purpose.
Which meant, he would be hurt again.
Which meant, she could still lose him.
“I lost, Mom.” His voice was shredded, devoid of the life and light and energy that embodied the boy she’d raised.
“Every leader suffers loss,” she replied softly, easing a clean shirt over the large gauze bandaged she’d taped to his chest. “Sometimes…more than you think is bearable.”
“But this time,” his breath hitched and she laid a hand over the bandage, willing it to heal, “I lost everyone.”
When Scott was five years old, two life-changing things happened to him: he was diagnosed with asthma and he met Stiles Stilinski. One event established limits, the other opened doors. Since then, Melissa had both worried that at any moment her son would stop breathing and been reassured that no matter what he’d have someone on his side.
The two boys had been inseparable from day one, something their parents had observed with both amusement and relief. They were two sides of the same coin.
And tonight, broken and bleeding before her, when Scott said everyone, she heard Stiles.
“You’ll get them back. You have to.”
Scott looked at her again; his eyes were so young she caught her breath. He was an Alpha. Their leader. It was his job to face the evils of the world, to protect his pack.
But he was also her son. Her child. Her responsibility. And he was young and afraid and in pain. In so much pain. She may not be able to hear his heartbeat or smell his fear, but she felt his pain as keenly as if it were her own.
“Why would they come back?” The tears were at the edge of his voice.
She remembered his devastation when Stiles had been consumed by the nogitsune. The way he’d melted into her with grief when Alison had died.
“Because you’re their leader. And even when a leader thinks they have nothing left to give, there’s still one thing.” She reached out and gently brushed Scott’s dark hair from his forehead, watching as his heavy eyes closed beneath the caress. “Hope. Give them hope.”