By the time another two weeks have rolled by, Stiles is starting to believe he’s never going to get anywhere with Kate. It’s not that she’s not telling him things – she’s dropped little pieces of information here and there that he’s been able to use to link the WLO to two other crimes. One of them was something they had never even suspected was murder.
But when it comes to the Hale house fire, he’s got nothing. And Peter isn’t the only problem with waiting. Now that the entire family knows, they’re all tense and prone to being overprotective. Sooner or later, his cover is going to be blown somehow. Even if that weren’t an issue, Kate herself is becoming a problem. Stiles doesn’t think he can keep up his besotted routine much longer without, well, acting on it. Kate has already touched him a few times in ways that should have been reported to the police, and in addition to making Stiles extremely uncomfortable, she’s going to keep trying to get more and more intimate with him. There’s only so far he’s willing to take that ruse. So far he’s been able to refuse by insisting that Derek will be able to tell – which is probably true – but he doesn’t think Kate will buy that excuse forever, not from a seventeen-year-old boy who’s supposed to be hopelessly infatuated with her.
It’s something that never quite leaves the back of his mind, but it’s not like he doesn’t have a million other things to do. Denmaking is time consuming, plus he has his summer reading, goofing off with Scott, and, of course, epic amounts of sex to have with Derek.
Once a week or so, he stays home during the day and grills a bunch of steak or ribs to bring over for the evening meal. This is always a huge hit, and everyone finds a way to be home no matter what else is going on. He’s just finished up and is wrapping the last batch in foil when the doorbell rings. He glances at his watch. It’s about five thirty. The Hales will be home by now, except maybe for Talia, whose work schedule is erratic. She was in court today, though, so he thinks she probably went straight home at five instead of working late. His father has already said he’s going to be late because of a string of car thefts, but he’ll come straight to the Hales when he’s done so he can eat there.
Stiles heads to the door thinking of all the things he wants to talk Derek into doing to him once they’re alone together. The pleasant bubble is burst when he opens the door and sees Kate standing there. “Hi, I, what?” he says, startled. “I didn’t know you were . . . you can’t be here, what if Derek finds out?”
Kate gives him that brilliant smile. She’s carrying what looks like a burlap sack with her. “I won’t stay long,” she says. “I just need you to do something for me.”
Alarm bells go off in Stiles’ brain. He looks at the sack and says, “Uh, okay. What?”
“It’s really simple,” she says, her teeth looking whiter than ever as she smiles at him. She reaches into the sack and lets a handful of fine black powder run through her fingers. “Do you know what this is?” she asks, and he shakes his head. “It’s called mountain ash. It can form a barrier that werewolves can’t cross.”
“Oh,” Stiles says. “Okay.”
“And all I need you to do, sweetie, is make a circle of it around the Hale house.”
“Uhm.” Stiles hesitates. “Why?”
“Because I said pretty please?” Kate says, and then laughs. He hates her laugh. He can always hear the cruel edge underneath. “Because it’s time, baby. They’re all at the house today. Waiting for you to bring your plate of goodies. All we need to do is trap them inside, and then we can take care of them. And that’s where you come in. They won’t think twice if they hear or smell you coming.”
“‘Take care of’ how?” Stiles asks, trying to sound like he’s just interested instead of terrified.
“Oh, honey,” she says, “the less you know, the better.”
“But I,” he says, and tries to shut up, because all he has to do is not do what Kate’s asking, and if he starts asking questions, he’ll only tip her off that he’s not on her side. He swallows back most of the protests and manages, “what about the kids?”
“They’ll be fine, don’t worry about them,” Kate says. “Just make a circle around the house. Then it’ll be over. And we can be together.”
“O-Okay.” Stiles meets her gaze. “You promise?”
“I promise, Stiles,” she says, and leans over to kiss him lightly on the mouth. “Call me when it’s finished.”
“Okay,” Stiles says again. He wants to ask her what she plans to do, wants to hear it from her own mouth so he can testify to it in court, but he doesn’t dare. They’ll just have to look for the physical evidence. Whatever she’s done to the house, he needs to get everyone out of it. So he just takes the bag of mountain ash from her and takes a few steps towards the Jeep.
“Oh, I almost forgot the most important part!” Kate says, and Stiles half-turns. She’s doing something on her phone. Then she holds it out to him so he can look at what’s on the screen.
It’s a picture of his father.
He doesn’t get it at first. Just a picture of his father, sitting at his desk, working. Then he realizes the angle is wrong. That to see his father through the window like that, you’d have to be across from the station, and high up, like on a roof. Kate thumbs to the next picture, which is the exact same shot, only to get the point across this time, he can see the crosshairs.
“Don’t screw it up, okay, honey?” Kate says, smiling brightly.
Stiles tries to swallow, but his throat has gone dry. “Kate, you . . . why would you . . .”
“Oh, it’s not that I don’t trust you,” Kate says. “It’s just that we literally cannot do this without you, so I figured, just in case you had second thoughts . . . a little incentive might not be a bad idea. So my associate there is just going to keep his rifle on the sheriff until I get word that it’s done. Or until the sheriff tries to leave his desk. That could be bad, I mean, if my guy thought someone had warned him and he was trying to leave.”
“But, Kate, no!” Stiles protests automatically. “He could leave his desk for any reason, he could get a call or want coffee or need to use the bathroom, for Christ’s sake – ”
“Then you’d better hurry up,” Kate says, leaning forward to say the words right into his ear.
Stiles keeps talking, trying to convince her. He gives her wounded puppy eyes. “Kate, you don’t have to do this.”
“Oh, sweetie,” Kate says. “It’s just a little insurance. And we won’t need you after this, so it doesn’t matter whether you like it or not. Oh, and I should probably point out that if I don’t text them every five minutes, they’re going to go ahead and take the shot.” She smiles at him. “Better safe than sorry, after all.”
Stiles stares at her. “What’s going to happen at the house?”
“That’s not something you need to worry about, Stiles,” Kate says. She taps a message into her phone. “Five minutes starts now.”
“Pity you won’t live that long,” a new voice says, and Peter just walks out of Stiles’ house like he’s been there all along. Stiles is too surprised to reply, and Kate jerks to one side, going for a weapon, but it’s too late. Peter has her by the wrist, and his other hand locks around her throat. His teeth sink into her shoulder and blood gushes everywhere.
Stiles can see the cold blue gleam in his eyes, and he chokes out, “Peter, wait! Wait, you can’t – my father – ”
Peter snarls at him, but his features are still human. “I’ve waited almost seven years,” he says, holding Kate easily despite how much she struggles.
“Kill me and the sheriff will die,” Kate gasps. “I’m the only one who can call them off.”
Peter’s hand tenses, but then, gradually, relaxes. He looks at Stiles and just shakes his head. Stiles realizes in that moment that Peter is right. Kate is a liar, through and through. Even if she agrees to call her men off to save her own life, she won’t. She’ll text them gibberish, or some pre-arranged code word that tells them to take the shot. Stiles lets out a deep breath and nods at Peter.
Moments later, he hears the crunch of bone as Peter’s hand closes around her throat.
He drops her to the ground, where her body shudders, feet kicking as if for purchase. “I would’ve preferred to have more time with you,” Peter murmurs, “but given the givens, I’ll have to make do with you choking desperately for air, the way my wife did.”
Stiles ignores him, because for one thing, creepy, and secondly, he has important business to take care of. He grabs Kate’s phone and pulls up the texts she had been exchanging with the sniper. As he had expected, it’s a series of random words, completely useless. There’s no pattern; if he tries to guess, it’s altogether too likely that he’ll get his father shot. He looks at the photo instead. Then he grabs his own phone and dials Derek.
It rings once, and then a mechanical voice says, “The call cannot be completed as dialed. If this is in error – ”
“Fuck,” Stiles bites out. He grabs Peter by the shoulder where the werewolf is kneeling, watching Kate’s body twitch and spasm with a placid expression on his face. “Peter, come on, I get that this is a big day for you, but we need to – ” His voice stutters to a halt as Peter looks up at him, blood staining his mouth and chin, eyes still shining that vivid blue. “My dad,” Stiles manages. “Peter. I need you.”
“All right,” Peter says, standing up.
“This photo – from the angle, it’s from the apartment building across the street. The roof. I need you – to go get this guy. Get my father, protect him. Can you do that?”
Peter’s eyes flash dangerously. “My family – ”
“I’ll go to the house. I can’t reach them, they must be jamming the cell phone signal. If she’s got people covering the house, they’ll be expecting to see me. If you show up – looking like that, no less – they might spring into action and we still don’t know what exactly Kate had planned.”
Peter stares at him. Seconds tick by, precious, valuable seconds.
“Uncle Peter,” Stiles says forcefully. “Trust me. Trust me with your family. I’m trusting you with mine.”
After a moment, Peter nods. He shifts, crouches, and then bounds away. Stiles wastes no time darting back into the house, grabbing his keys, and heading for the Jeep. He dials his father as he peels out of the driveway. He calls his desk phone – that will make it look like a work call. This, of course, causes his father to immediately say, “Why are you calling my work phone?”
“Okay, Dad, I need you to do something for me,” Stiles says, glancing at his watch. Three and a half minutes. “Do you have a file on your desk?”
“What? Of course I do, I have like eight files – ”
“Pick one up. Look at it. Whatever you do, don’t look anywhere else.”
“Stiles, are you okay?”
“Are you looking at the God damned file?”
There’s a clatter. “Yes.”
“Then I’m okay. Don’t look away. Don’t look out the window. There’s someone on the roof across from you with a sniper rifle.”
There’s a pause while Stiles prays. Then his father says, “Jesus. Who?”
“One of the WLO guys. Peter’s on his way to, to take care of it. He’s going to show up at your office looking like a serial killer. I need you to not arrest him, and I need you to not leave your desk before he shows up. He’ll protect you.”
“Where are you going?” his father asks.
“I have to get to the Hale house,” Stiles says. “Promise me you won’t leave your desk or look out your window. Promise me.”
“Jesus,” Tom says. “Okay. I promise. But if something’s wrong at the Hale house, shouldn’t I send – ”
“For fuck’s sake, no,” Stiles says. “If anyone besides me shows up, that’ll just trigger whatever Kate has set up. Trust me, dad. They’re expecting to see me. If anyone else shows up, it’ll be a disaster. I’ll call you as soon as I can.”
He hangs up without waiting to hear if his father says anything else. He needs to focus on driving. He breaks several traffic laws on his way, and his phone rings just as he’s pulling onto the road that leads onto the Hale family property. He looks at the time and sees that it’s been six minutes from Kate’s last text to her men. The number on the phone is Peter’s. He picks up with his heart in his throat. “Is he okay?”
“I’ve got him, he’s fine,” Peter says, as soothing as Peter ever is. “We’re heading to the house now.”
“No, Peter, don’t – ” Stiles says, but he’s already hung up. Stiles swears and forces himself to ease off the accelerator as he goes down the narrow access road. If he comes roaring up like a bat out of hell, it’ll clue people in – if anyone’s watching – that something is wrong. He’s still not sure if Kate would have anyone watching the house. Maybe she planned to do it herself – follow Stiles in her own car. It’s impossible to say.
He pulls up next to the house and grabs the sack of mountain ash. “Hey, it’s me,” he calls out, knowing that they can smell him, hear his heartbeat and the way it’s racing out of control. How could Kate have thought this would work? Maybe she had figured that if he wasn’t really bonded to Derek, they’d have no way of knowing something was wrong. “Give me a few minutes, I’m getting this stuff organized!”
“Okay!” he hears Cora call out from somewhere above him. She’s in her own room.
With shaking hands, he takes out handfuls of the mountain ash and starts slowly walking around the house. “I know you can hear me,” he says in a low voice, glancing at the house’s open windows. “Derek. I need everyone outside. Please. It’s Kate. Get everyone out, get the kids, get out now. Leave through the back, for God’s sake try to look normal.”
He keeps walking in slow, measured steps, letting handfuls of the mountain ash drop out but doing it badly so there are gaps every few feet. If anyone is watching, hopefully they won’t be able to tell. Just as he’s coming around the corner, Laura stumbles out the back with Sylvia under one arm and Tyler by the hand. “Stiles, what,” she says, and Stiles has to hold back tears, that if nothing else, the kids got out. They stare at each other in blank silence for a moment. Stiles flicks his gaze towards the woods. Laura follows it. Her eyes harden and start to shine gold.
“I, uh . . .” Stiles says, trying to play the part of someone who’s just been caught doing something terrible by a pack of werewolves. Then Cora slams her way out the back door, out of breath, and knocks into her sister. They nearly go sprawling. Jonathan is behind her, and grabs her by one arm to prevent her from taking a tumble. His gaze sharpens as well, and he turns his gaze towards the forest. Jonathan has the best sense of smell.
“How many?” Laura asks, under her breath.
“Two. No.” He scents the air again. “Three. But only one on this side of the house.”
“Where’s everyone else?” Stiles asks.
“They’re coming,” Jonathan says. “Talia wants to make sure everyone else is out. Aaron’s getting Derek. He was listening to music in his room, I don’t think he heard you.”
“Okay. I – ” Stiles gives up the ruse and just drops the bag of mountain ash. Every muscle in his body is twitching with relief. Aaron and Derek come out a moment later, and Derek just grabs Stiles around the waist and pulls him into a hug. Stiles doesn’t even try to stop him, pressing his cheek into Derek’s shoulder and hugging back as tight as he can. He was in time. Whatever Kate had planned, the snipers weren’t it, or there would be more of them, surrounding the house. That means that the house itself is the danger.
Talia steps out a few moments later. “I can’t find Peter – ”
“He’s not here,” Stiles says. “I was with him earlier; he went to get my dad. Kate wanted me to trap you all in the house. I’m not sure why, but I think we’d better – ”
That’s when the gunshots start. There are two in quick succession, and then a third. Stiles sees Jonathan stumble backwards. He sees Laura snarl, shift, and run towards the forest. Aaron does the same, and they’re not spreading out to look for the gunman; they know exactly where to go. “I’m okay,” Jonathan groans, using his body to shield the two children, and then there’s another sharp crack and Stiles finds himself thrown back against the house.
“Stiles!” Derek shouts, but Stiles doesn’t need to be told what’s happened. He knows he’s been shot, knows it from the way he’s stumbled back, from the sudden, crushing pain in his chest, from the way he suddenly can’t get in enough air to breathe.
“Get him inside!” Talia snaps, and then she’s in wolf form and headed for the trees.
“No,” Stiles chokes out, as Derek scoops him up. He knows why Talia said it, knows that the others can survive being shot even if he can’t. “No, we can’t,” he says, and then Derek is gently laying him down on the kitchen floor.
“You’re okay, you’re okay,” Derek says, although it’s clear from his tone that he’s close to hysterics. He grabs a dish towel and presses it against Stiles’ chest. It almost immediately soaks through with blood.
“Get – get out of here,” Stiles wheezes. He grasps at the towel, trying to convey his intent to hold onto it himself.
“I won’t leave you,” Derek says, shaking his head frantically.
“Derek, get out,” Stiles groans, and then there’s an odd hissing and – the sprinklers go off. It’s so incongruous that for a few moments, he wonders if he started hallucinating. Derek, too, looks confused. His head jerks around as the water starts to fall on them. Stiles stares at the hand that’s resting on the floor next to his head. It turns red and starts to blister almost immediately. “Derek,” he whispers. “Your hand.”
“Wolfsbane,” Derek groans. “In the water. She spiked the sprinkler system with it.”
Stiles opens his mouth to say something else, but he can’t. He doesn’t have the air. The shot hit him in the upper chest. His lung is almost certainly punctured. He can see the blood starting to pool around him now, despite Derek’s hand and the towel on his chest, which means that it went straight through and he has an exit wound in his back. In a way, he knows that’s good; it means the bullet didn’t bounce around. But it also means he’s losing blood twice as fast.
Nothing else matters to him because he can see Derek’s skin start to burn and peel away in layers, and he watches in horror as a drop of it runs down Derek’s cheek, leaving a trail of blood behind. He had told Kate about the sprinkler system. About how extensive and advanced it was, drawing on its own tank of water, even, in case something went wrong with the town water supply. He had meant to discourage her from setting more fires. Instead she had used it against them. “Derek, get out of here,” he manages to choke out.
“I’m not leaving you,” Derek grinds out between clenched teeth.
“Derek, the wolfsbane – it won’t hurt me – you need to – ” But Stiles knows that he’s wasting his breath, and he’s got precious little of that left. Derek won’t leave him now for the same reason he wouldn’t leave during the fire. Derek will choose pain for himself over risking Stiles’ life any day of the week. “Derek, please,” Stiles says. “I’ll be okay, I can – can hold the towel – ”
It’s not true and he knows it. His limbs are going numb; his vision is starting to go black around the edges. He’s losing too much blood too fast, and he’ll pass out within moments. Derek is lifting him up to get a towel underneath him, to try to stem the bleeding from his back, pressing down hard enough that Stiles lets out a scream of pure agony.
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” Derek whispers. The blisters on his skin are turning into sores, and he turns to one side to vomit up a noxious black substance.
Stiles coughs and tastes blood in his mouth. There’s so much he needs to say, but he can’t find the air to say any of it.
Then the back door bangs open again and someone has Derek around the waist. Stiles catches a brief flash of blue eyes. Peter. Derek fights him tooth and nail, but Peter snarls and drags Derek away from Stiles. Seconds later, Sheriff Stilinski is leaning over his son. “Hey, hey, how are you doing?” he asks gently, grabbing the towel. “Ambulance is on the way, Talia called us – ”
“I’m okay,” Stiles says. “Better now,” he adds, as Peter finally manages to haul Derek outdoors. He hears several people shouting and crying in alarm over his appearance. The wolfsbane is starting to sting a little, but it’s nothing he can’t handle.
“You’re going to be okay, you,” Tom says, wiping the tears off his cheeks. “Everything’s going to be fine.”
The world is starting to go dim now. “Dad?” Stiles whispers. “I’m scared.”
Tom swallows hard, his hand curling around Stiles’ as he holds the towel down to keep pressure on the wound. “You’re going to be fine,” he says again, and then Stiles’ eyes flutter shut and he goes still, the only movement left the little trickle of blood coming out of the corner of his mouth.
~ ~ ~ ~