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Road Trip

by P L Nunn

 

9

 

They were running on fumes by the time they reached Greenton. The Hummer was literally sputtering, on the verge of choking out by the times Stiles pulled into the first gas station off the Greenton exit.

Scott had never been so happy to get out of a vehicle in his life. For the better part of the last hundred miles, he'd felt like crawling out of his skin. Every sound, every scent, every feel, down to the way the material of his clothing rubbed against his skin had begun to eat away at the core of his self control. It had taken everything in him not to throw open the door and fling himself from the Hummer in the vain hope that if he did loose control, it wouldn't be within reach of Stiles.

And maybe Stiles had realized, because he'd started casting a lot of worried looks Scott's way those last miles, his knuckles popping now and then when he'd grip the wheel too tight as his nerves got the best of him.

But it hadn't stopped him talking. Which in and of itself had been more of a blessing than an irritation. Honestly, Scott had sat there most of the time, only hearing the sound of Stiles voice, the words blurring into a meaningless buzz in the background. A good thing, since sometimes the sound of Stiles' voice was a lot more calming that the actual words spewing from his mouth.

So he was out the door almost before the Hummer stopped, taking in great gulps of air, the world almost spinning in his relief to be free of confinement. If he had to drive another four or five straight hours anywhere in this condition, it was likely he would snap.

"You okay?" Stiles looked up from trying to locate the gas tank release.

"Yeah. I'm going to the bathroom." He didn't wait for a response, just turned and headed towards the side of the station. There were a few cars in the lot. A few at the pumps. A camper with a trio of kids screaming bloody murder just inside the open door. The sound of their shrieks made the skin on the back of his arms stand up. He could smell the scent of cooking meat from the fast food restaurant next to the gas station. The smell of urine and smoke from the bathrooms he was approaching. The heady aroma of gasoline wove through the other scents. Stiles claimed to love the smell of it. It had always used to make Scott a little light headed before he'd been turned. Now it just made him a little sick if he got too much of it on his hands or his clothing when he was filling a tank.

He took a breath, attempting to block it all out. Once actually in the gas station men's room, the smells got worse. More appallingly concentrated. He didn't usually have much of a gag reflex, but everything was hitting him like a hammer to the head and he had to stop inside the door and breath through his mouth a few seconds just to keep from choking.

The man that belonged to the kids and the camper - - Scott could smell them on him - - was finishing up at the sink. He cast Scott a glance, then a second longer, wary one, taking in the bloodstains and the ripped clothing. Scott figured he looked either like the victim of an ax murderer or the ax murderer himself. Considering the wolfsbane wondering around his bloodstream, he was probably leaning towards the latter.

He didn't even try and explain it away. Just stared at the guy until he paled, ducked his head and hurried past Scott and out of the restroom.

He made use of the urinals first, leaning there with a hand on dirty tile, experiencing a relief that was almost sexual while he emptied his bladder. Like he'd already figured out, everything was heightened.

When he'd finished, he went to the sink and looked at himself in the mirror, searching for the involuntary red that Stiles said he'd been flashing. But his eyes were just brown. Plain, ordinary brown.

He swallowed, and turned on the water, scrubbing the long dried bloodstains off his hands. It was caked under his nails. The cuffs of the stolen jacket were red with it. Even dried, the scent of it was overpowering. Maybe that had been part of the problem cooped up in the Hummer all those hours - - he hadn't been able to get the smell of blood out of his head. And he was covered in it. His own, the vanago's, the blood of the men he'd taken down.

He curled his hands around the cool porcelain of the sink, breathing deep, trying to curb the agitation. The bathroom door banged open and he started, an involuntary lengthening of nails, but it was only Stiles, bustling in with a gust of cold air, bright eyed and looking more energetic than he had any right to be. He gave Scott a faint nod of acknowledgement, before he made a beeline to the urinals.

"I called Allison and let her know we were here," he said over his shoulder. "They're not far out. We're gonna meet at the Denny's across the street. I don't know about you, but I'm starving."

Stiles was putting on a good front. It had to be a front, because the Hummer wasn't the only thing running on fumes. Scott was exhausted and he had werewolf metabolism to fall back on. Stiles had to be dead on his feet. Then again Stiles' ADHD was probably running on overdrive. In which case he'd be bouncing off walls up to the moment his body finally had enough and he crashed, hard and fast. Scott had witnessed the phenomenon too many times to count.

"How're you doing, wound wise?" Stiles finished up his business and joined Scott at the sinks.

It was a good question. The ribs hadn't fully knit. He could feel them every deep breath he took. The rest of him ached, but it was this dull, overall misery, not any one concentrated spot.

He tried to unzip the coat to see, but the zipper stalled in its track, mangled in three places, care of vanago claws. And inexplicably, it set him off, the simple little frustration of being stymied by the zipper of a jacket that wasn't even his. Blood rushed in his ears, vision tunneled, going red around the edges and for a few frenzied moments, he lost track of himself. Lost track of everything but a blind rage that howled in indignation over so much more than a wardrobe malfunction.

He came back to himself with water soaking his jeans, spraying from the twisted plumbing jutting out from the wall where the sink had used to be. The sink itself was across the bathroom, ripped off the wall and lying on the floor by the urinals. Stiles was against that wall himself, skin pale as snow, eyes wide and frightened.

Scott stared down at his claws, then at his reflection in the mirror. The wolf stared back. With an effort that was almost painful, he pulled it back. It was harder now, than it had been - - the exhaustion draining his strength. He met Stiles' eyes.

He opened his mouth and no coherent explanation immediately came to mind. "I'm sorry - - I don't know what - - I didn't mean to do that."

Stiles took a deep breath, shaking the tension out of his shoulders with a jerky rotation of his head. "I know."

He glanced at the sink, then back to Scott and commented wryly. "On the bright side, we've only got another - - oh, 10 to 14 hours - -of you spontaneously bursting out into homicidal fits, so yay for us."

Scott didn't think that was nearly as amusing as Stiles seemed to. With a distinct lack of self-preservation, Stiles moved right up to him, clapping a hand on his shoulder, jerking his head towards the door and urging Scott that way. "Let's get out of here before somebody comes in and nails us for destruction of property."

They walked back across the parking lot to the Hummer. The driver's side was in pretty good shape, but the passenger side was banged, scraped and dented, a gaping hole where the back seat window ought to be. The windshield had a huge radiating spider web of cracks from a shot that thankfully hadn't penetrated the glass. Basically, the vehicle looked like somebody had been playing demolition derby with a hundred thousand dollar toy.

"Its gonna break me, putting gas in this thing," Stiles complained, then he stopped, hand frozen in the midst of reaching for the nozzle of the gas pump.

There was a black SUV sitting across the parking lot, and a Hummer that looked like a twin to theirs, sans damage, rolling to a stop next to it. Men climbing out, slow and cautious, camouflage coats and knit hats, and eyes that were hard and focused. The smell of gunpowder. The scent of expensive cigars that Scott had become all too familiar with.

"C'mon," Scott clutched at Stiles' arm, backing away slowly, wanting distance and the safety of witnesses. There was a gas station convenience store full of people behind them, and a McDonalds bustling with a breakfast crowd just next door. Safe places where men on a covert mission might hesitate to try and gun down prey in full daylight.

Dupont stepped out of the passenger side of the other Hummer, a handgun held close to his side.

"If you try and run, I'll put a bullet in your friend's back," Dupont said it softly enough that the men standing next to him might not have heard. Scott did. "And there are other people here - - innocent bystanders - - that might find their way into the path of a bullet as well."

Scott stopped his backward retreat, fingers curled in Stiles' sleeve, blood pounding behind his eyes. The urge to bound past Stiles - - to cover the space between them and Dupont and rip the man's throat out was almost overpowering. And maybe part of that was the wolfsbane talking - - but maybe a little of it was just him, pushed beyond his limits and tired to death of this bastard threatening Stiles to get at him.

But as long as he had an iota of self-control, he wouldn't take the chance that he'd trigger a spray of gunfire that would take Stiles and anyone else unlucky enough to be caught in the line of fire down.

"Shit," Stiles was hissing, pulling at Scott's hand on his arm, not understanding why they weren't running like rabbits away from the hunters facing them down. "What are you doing?"

Scott couldn't think, pulse rushing fast and furious, anger and frustration urging the wolf to surge forward, and he couldn't afford that to happen here in the midst of all these people.

"Stand down, Dupont." The order came from behind them, sharp and loud and he'd been so focused on what was in front of them, he hadn't noticed what was behind.

Stiles spun, gaping, as Chris Argent strode past them, no visible weapon and no hesitation planting himself in the middle of the parking lot, between them and Dupont's small army. Scott cast a quick look over his shoulder. Zeroed in on Allison, all in black, moving to the fore of her father's SUV, the crossbow in her hand almost invisible against the black of her pants, unless you were really looking to see it. Her eyes were calm and collected, meeting his for a pair of frantic heartbeats before her gaze shifted past him to her father and the men her father was facing down. Noticing Isaac was almost an afterthought, as he moved around the other side of the Argent's vehicle, a cell phone in hand, backing Allison up.

Then he turned his attention back to the confrontation in play, as Dupont stepped forward, a few paces past the ranks of his men.

"Argent. It's been a long time."

"Not long enough," Argent said. "And if you weren't attempting plain murder, it would have been longer still."

Dupont's mouth thinned in a humorless smile. "Now you're the last person I would have expected to stand between a hunter and a wolf - - all things considered. I hear condolences are in order."

"You're not that kind of 'hunter'," Argent said flatly. "And you're targeting two boys - - one of whom is wholly human - - who have no blood on their hands."

"I have a few men who might beg to differ on that point."

"Yeah? Men who were trying to kill us, you crazy mother fucker," Stiles piped up, obviously feeling a surge of courage with a pair of Argents as backup. Then, very softy in an aside to Scott, "Did you actually off anybody?"

"I don't know." And he honestly wasn't entirely sure on that count. He hoped not.

"This is not your business, Argent." Dupont said, all the fake geniality draining from his face. "Back off."

"Unfortunately, these two are my business. And not just mine," Argent canted his head towards the gas station entrance, where a county sheriff's car was pulling into the lot. Not a Greenton county sheriff's car, but a one with a Beacon Hill's crest on the side.

"Crap," Stiles muttered, as if he thought his dad was going to come down on him for simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Sometimes Scott didn't comprehend all the mysterious ways Stiles' mind worked.

Sheriff Stilinski stepped out of the squad car, hand on his holstered side arm. He didn't even look their way, just moved around the front end of his car and moved to join Argent with the measured stride of a law enforcement official who wasn't a good two hundred and fifty miles out of his own jurisdiction.

"Gentlemen, you'd better have permits for every single one of those weapons. And if those are automatic firearms I'm seeing there, the California State Police will be especially interested when they get here."

Dupont lifted a brow, giving Argent a pointed look. "You've involved the law, Argent? Treading a thin line, aren't you?" But he slipped the gun into his coat pocket, holding up empty hands as he backed away.

"Far be it for me to tread on the territory of an Argent."

He cast a look past Argent and Sheriff Stilinski, at Scott. A pointed promise that made Scott curl his fists, nails biting into his palms. Then he and his men climbed back into their vehicles and retreated.

Stilinski and Argent didn't move until the two vehicles were a good ways down the road, then the sheriff spun on his heel and stalked towards Scott and Stiles.

"Are you hurt?"

Stiles got a hand on the side of his neck, his father peering critically into his eyes, trying to suss out the truth from his son's face, when he didn't always get it out of his mouth.

"Dad - - dad, I'm fine."

The sheriff kept looking for a moment, then blew out a tension filled breath. He cast a look at Scott.

"Scott? Are you okay?"

He nodded, curling and uncurling his fists.

Then Allison was there, the scent of her reaching him before she actually got up into his personal space, asking the same questions the sheriff had - - are you hurt? What happened? Is that blood?

Her hand was on his arm and he almost flinched from the touch, flinched from being surrounded by too many people of a sudden, even if half of them were pack. Stiles was talking a mile a minute, hands flying every which way as he related the story, which was good because Scott was grinding his jaw, trying to back down the desire to either bolt or snap at the bodies crowding him back up against the side of the Hummer.

He caught Isaac's stare, Isaac's faint, questioning cant of the head as Isaac picked up on Scott's wolf growling just under the surface of his human façade. Isaac wasn't always the first to catch on to the subtle things, but he was a wolf and he knew the danger signs when he caught scent of them. He caught Allison's arm, pulling her far enough away from Scott to give him an out. It could have been for her benefit, it could have been for Scott's - - either way, Scott was grateful. He slipped past her, to the rear of the Hummer and breathed deep.

He barely heard Stiles giving details. About the lodge, about the first attack, about the basement and the subsequent violence that had ensued there. Sheriff Stilinski grasped his son's arm and pulled up the sleeve of his shirt to see the neatly bandaged wound on his arm. Stiles squirmed under the attention, brushing it off as nothing. He'd bitch and complain and moan about the littlest nothing to Scott, but he hated admitting weakness to his dad.

Argent stabbed a finger at the below twenty members of their little gathering. "I want you four on the road headed home, now."

"What? What are you gonna do? Dad?" Stiles was shifting from foot to foot, staring between Argent and his father."

"Dupont crossed a line when he started hunting innocents," Argent said. "I don't intend to let him get away with it."

"California has strict regulations regarding assault weaponry," the sheriff said. "I've contacted a few buddies of mine in the state police and we're going to pay a visit to this lodge of Mr. Dupont's and see how many state laws he's in violation of."

"No shit? Really?"

"Go," Argent said.

"My Jeep's there," Stiles yelled, as Argent and his father were heading towards the squad car. "But I was thinking maybe I'd trade it for this Hummer - - you know, since they didn't seem to want it anymore - -"

"No!" The sheriff barked without turning back.

"Leave it." Argent added, before giving Allison a nod and a - - "Every hour on the hour until you get home."

"I will," she promised and Scott had to assume they meant phone calls.

"I don't like it," Stiles was casting longing looks at the Hummer, as they moved towards Allison's SUV. "Them going back up there when that bastard has a small army and monsters in the basement."

"We killed the monster," Scott said.

"You sure?" Stiles cast him a critical look. "Because I've seen you guys look dead as doornails and hop back up to life?"

"They have guns," Isaac commented.

"Yeah," Stiles snapped, giving him an evil eye that maybe had more to do with Stiles holding grudges on Scott's behalf than anything else. "And I had a gun. A really big gun, and a pissed off werewolf and the thing barely went down."

"That's why my dad is going," Allison cut him short, before he could get into a tirade. And there was only so much Stiles could find to argue with that point, since Chris Argent probably knew more about taking down monsters than all of them combined. A lot more.

"So we need to go," Allison said, but she was looking at him, a little concerned little furrow between her brows. "That's a lot of blood on your clothes, Scott. Are you sure, you're okay?"

He shrugged, stuffing hands his pockets to hide the white knuckled fists he was making, not sure he was capable of getting back inside a vehicle for another four hours and keeping hold of his sanity.

"I'm not driving all the way back home without something on my stomach," Stiles declared. "I'm so hungry I'm lightheaded. I think its low blood sugar and I need a fast food fix."

"I could eat a burger," Isaac shrugged, not concerned in the least, apparently, with sticking to any particular plan. Allison cast him a frown, then tossed one at Stiles, before she took a breath and buckled to the inevitable.

So they ended up walking across the grassy medium between the gas station and the neighboring McDonalds. Allison fell back to walk beside Scott and the scent of her hit him like a round house left out of nowhere. Subtle and female and her and he wished she'd go and walk beside Isaac, because the smell of her was making his thoughts scatter and he needed his thoughts focused and cohesive.

"I don't think you're okay," she said softly.

He swallowed, trying to focus on the scent of red meat and grease oozing from the restaurant they were approaching.

"I've been better," he admitted.

"Deaton caught us before we left. He sent this for you." Her hand came out of her pocket holding a pill bottle. There was no label, just a plain green bottle, like the ones Deaton used in his office.

He stared at it, then up at her.

"He said it was up to you, but he thought you'd need it."

He took it from her hand, his fingers brushing hers. The trill that went up his arm was electric, primal, mixing in his head with the heady scent of her. There was the faintest scent of Isaac on her - - more on her coat than her skin - - but it made his claws creep out. Made his vision turned a little red around the edges.

And oh, God, but he needed to get a grip if he was going to be stuck in a car with them for the rest of the morning. And the grip was in his hand, courtesy of Deaton.

He closed his fingers around it, shoved it in his pocket, hiding half extended claws from her.

Stiles and Isaac were already in line when they walked into the restaurant. Scott hung back, not needing to be stuck in a fast food checkout line in the midst of a dozen irritable morning commuters. He headed for a booth. He groaned when Allison followed him instead of joining Stiles and Isaac in line. She hesitated, as if she were considering sliding onto the bench beside him, as if they were still that couple, who crowded onto a bench together when there was a perfectly good seat across the table. But that wasn't who they were anymore and after a second, she sat down across from him.

"I'm sorry your road trip was ruined," she said, picking at the sleeve of her coat. "But at least you'll be able to have Christmas at home. Your mom will be happy."

Small talk. She wanted to engage him in small talk when it was all he could do to sit there and maintain the façade of humanity. He looked out the window, because the soft shine of her hair was unnervingly mesmerizing.

"Scott - -?" She reached across the table, her fingers grazing the back of his hand. Concerned about her friend. Her friend. When all he could think about with her scent in his nostrils and the feel of her skin on his skin, was sex. Hot and dirty. In the backseat of a car, a blanket in the woods, in her bed, on the floor beside it in a tangle of blankets and pillows, her nails raking his skin, her mouth driving him past the point of sanity - -

"So I got us egg McMuffins." A tray laden with wax paper wrapped breakfast sandwiches was plopped down onto the table a moment before Stiles scooted into the seat beside him.

Scott blinked, drawing in a long, trembling breath, afraid almost to look up at Allison in fear she might somehow sense the incredibly uncomfortable erection that was straining at his jeans. Thank God for the oversized jacket.

Isaac sat down next to Allison, another food-laden tray in hand. He and Stiles must have thought they were feeding an army. Regardless of the empty rumbling in his stomach, Scott didn't think he could deal with food. The soda though, he took, while Stiles and Isaac were tearing into the bounty. Allison nibbled on a McMuffin, staring at him with that furrow between her brow until he couldn't stand it any longer and pulled out the pill bottle.

"What's that?" Stiles turned Scott's hand so he could see the bottle. "Where'd you get that?"

"Deaton," Scott said.

Stiles looked between Scott and Allison, putting things together in his head.

"Okay. What is it exactly? I'm all for you popping something to take the edge off, but I've got a thing about knowing what medications go into my body."

"It's not your body," Isaac pointed out between mouthfuls of breakfast sandwich, earning a glare from Stiles.

"I trust Deaton," Scott shrugged and popped the cap.

There were six little white pills inside.

"He said to take them all," Allison said.

"Yeah, I don't know - -" Stiles was staring at the pills uncertainly.

Scott made the issue mute by popping the lot of them in his mouth and chasing them down with a long swig of soda. Done was done.

He got a look from Stiles for it, before Stiles shrugged and went back to his sandwich with a muttered. "Idiot. I guess it can't be worse than a needle full of wolfsbane."

"Or getting shot by your best friend. Twice," Scott muttered back.

"Stiles shot you?" Allison stared between them, wide-eyed.

"It was an accident," Stiles declared. "And you're walking around to complain about it, so shut up."

By the time Stiles and Isaac had finished off their respective trays of food, Scott was starting to feel a little numb. This wonderful buffer that dulled all his senses. He couldn't smell Allison, or the scent of cooking foods or too many bodies in the small space of the restaurant. Stiles was talking, but his words were mangled and seemed to be coming at him through layers and layers of insulation.

He figured out he was talking to him after the second or third time Stiles nudged him, then it took him a moment to focus on his face and his mouth enough to get the gist of the words coming out of it.

"Dude - - you okay?"

Scott just stared, not quite comprehending the question.

"He's wasted," Isaac commented.

"We should go. Now." That was Allison, pushing Isaac to scoot out from the bench.

He could walk. Barely. Directional control was becoming a problem. Stiles was on one side of him, Isaac on the other and still it was a swaying, meandering trip across the parking lot to the SUV.

"Oh - - crap - -" They were almost there when his legs gave out. Isaac's arm clamping around his waist kept him from crumpling on the pavement.

"What the hell did he give him?" Stiles was complaining.

But Scott didn't care. The edges folding in around his vision weren't red, they were white and soft. The lethargy in his body chased out the burning agitation of the wolfsbane, chased out the lingering aches and pains. He was half aware of Isaac bodily lifting him into the backseat of the SUV, and then he wasn't aware of anything at all.

And that was a good thing.


Scott was out like the proverbial light. Just dead to the world from whatever Deaton had slipped him via that little bottle of pills Allison had delivered for him. And yeah, maybe it was for the best, because Scott's hold on control had been slipping, but still, seeing him go down like that, had set Stiles' already frayed nerves on edge. Maybe he was just jumpy from twelve hours of running for his life - - maybe feeling just a little over protective having seen Scott take one too many injuries over that hectic time span. And most of those incurred trying to protect him. Which was sort of a kick to the balls of masculine pride - - but well, the deck had sort of been stacked against a normal, non-werewolfy, seventeen year old kid.

Allison beat him to the back seat, slipping in with Scott before he could get to the door, which left him scowling at Isaac, and Isaac fumbling to catch the keys Allison tossed him through the open window. To his credit, Isaac didn't look particularly upset over a girl he was maybe sorta making out with scrambling to the side of her ex. To be honest, Stiles was probably more annoyed. But it was hard to hold onto annoyance with people who'd up and hauled ass three hundred miles at the ass crack of morning when you called for help. It was more exhaustion and after the fact jitters that was making him surly.

He settled into the passenger seat as Isaac pulled out of the gas station parking lot, able to sit back and let himself relax for the first time in forever.

"You think they're gonna be okay?"

"Of course they are." Allison sounded as if there were no doubt, her confidence in her father unshakable. But then she hadn't been running around with guys with assault weapons and monsters on her trail all night. Stiles figured he had a right to be a little paranoid.

"They have a lot of guns."

"My dad has a lot of guns. And your dad has back up on the way. They'll be all right. Stop worrying. My father says Dupont's business relies on the expectation of privacy for his customers - - that he'll back off at the threat of exposure that a full on police raid to his compound will bring. He'll probably have cleared out before they even get there."

"Yeah? Your dad also said he was relentless and didn't give up hunts once he'd started."

He looked back at her when she didn't respond right away. She gave him a shrug and half a smile. "He doesn't normally hunt humans and my father says he generally leaves wolves to - - other hunters."

"Argent type hunters, you mean?" Isaac tossed over his shoulder.

"Yes."

"Except for when he doesn't."

Stiles chewed on his knuckle, tapping a foot nervously on the floorboard until Isaac turned an annoyed look his way and commented. "I could break that for you, if it's causing you problems."

Stiles glared back. "I'm nervous, okay. Some of us get nervous over life and death situations and my dad's out there. And what the hell did Deaton give Scott, anyway? Is he supposed to be this out of it?" He twisted over the back of his seat to look back at Scott. He was slumped against the door and Allison had taken a blanket and made a cushion between his head and the glass.

"Better knocked out than trying to rip our throats out," Isaac shrugged.

"Yeah? He was holding on pretty well." Stiles defended Scott's grip on humanity.

"I'm just saying. If it were me, I'd have torn you to shreds and still be going."

"You're not Scott."

"No," Isaac agreed.

"He's okay, Stiles." Allison said. She traced the edges of the slashes in Scott's jacket, frowning. There was a lot of dried blood staining the material.

"Those are from the vanago thing," Stiles informed her. "The second one by the way, that attacked us, in case I forgot to mention."

"You didn't," she said dryly, moving her hand to graze the half dozen or so bloody rips scattered across the thigh of Scott's jeans. She looked up at Stiles questioningly.

"Yeah, he did that to himself."

"Pain's the best way to bring yourself back from the edge," Isaac remarked with the tone of someone in the know. "Sometimes the only way."

There wasn't much he could think to say to that. He slouched deeper into his seat, staring at the side view mirror. There was just traffic. A lot of bland, unthreatening traffic.

The weariness rushed up without even the benefit of drugs and he closed his eyes, figuring he had a werewolf at the wheel and a hunter - - the good type of hunter - - in the back, so allowing himself a few minutes of dozing wouldn't be pushing his luck.

The clock on the dash read 8:40 when he shut his eyes - - when he opened them again - - it read 11:36 and they were creeping along, stuck behind what looked like a pretty long backup of traffic.

"How close are we to home?" He rotated his neck, trying to work out a kink three hours sleeping in a car seat had developed.

"If it weren't for this mess, about a half hour," Isaac had one hand on the wheel, the other idly scratching an itch behind his ear.

Stiles twisted in his seat and saw he wasn't the only one who'd been lulled asleep by the drive. Allison slumped against Scott, her head on his shoulder, as dead to the world as he was. Her hand lay strategically in a place, where, if Scott had been conscious, he'd have been pretty enthused about.

Stiles cast a glance at Isaac, who was humming sort of tunelessly along to some classic rock song on the radio, either not concerned, or oblivious to the fact. Oblivious to a lot of things, if Stiles were any judge and Stiles liked to think he was.

He drummed his fingers on the armrest, going over the pros and cons of getting his hands dirty with something that Scott was trying to pretend wasn't really eating at him. Scott would be appalled, of course - - but then Scott was presently sleeping the sleep of the heavily drugged - - so he didn't get a vote. And all the pussyfooting around the subject, and the heartfelt 'I just want her to be happy's' and 'it's not my business what she does' - - or who - - were starting to grate on Stiles' last nerve. At least he was honest with himself when he occasionally speculated about how awesome it would be if Aidan just happened to get flattened by a falling meteorite. Or a runaway train. Or accidentally fell into a giant, overgrown-werewolf-sized meat grinder. And he hadn't even done more than fantasize about dating Lydia.

"So are you and Allison doing it?"

"What?" Isaac cast him a wary look.

"You know bumping uglies, doing the horizontal tango, whatever the kids call it nowadays."

"Yeah, the kids don't call it that - - and what the hell business is it of yours?" Isaac said, low voiced, casting a look over his shoulder. A guilty look, Stiles was certain.

"Its not technically my business. It's kind of his - - and well, he's sorta my business - - and dating a friend's ex without clearing it is sort of a shitty thing to do."

"We're not dating. Exactly." Isaac got a thinking furrow between his brow.

"Yeah? Just macking on each other outside the school?"

"What? And I did ask. Sort of."

Stiles lifted a dubious brow.

"Dude, if you asked, you were real subtle about it and Scott's not so good at picking up on subtlety. Then again, you're not so big on subtlety yourself so I gotta wonder if either one of you knew what the hell the other was talking about."

Isaac cast him a glower, opened his mouth - - then shut it - - maybe not so sure himself anymore. He decided to turn back and watch the road instead.

"So - - he's upset?" Isaac finally ventured, eyes flicking up to the rear view mirror.

Stiles rolled his eyes. There was Scott's sort of obviousness - - which a lot of the times happened because Scott had an awful lot of things on his mind and didn't multi-task as well as he thought he did - -and then there was Isaac who just didn't seem to focus outside his own narrow band of awareness. Isaac tended to act on impulse; a lot more of the here and now mentality of the wolf, than most of the other wolves Stiles knew and he wasn't even born into it. Maybe it was just Isaac being sort of broken. Maybe Isaac hadn't even realized he might be causing pain to somebody Stiles really didn't think he wanted to cause pain to when he and Allison had started whatever it was they were doing. God knew Isaac had a weird sort of thing for Scott. Maybe it was his beta reacting to Scott's alpha even before Scott had become an alpha. Maybe it was just the abused kid in him responding to the real concern Scott had shown him. Who the hell knew? But the fact that he didn't think Scott might be a little bummed at the notion of Allison moving on with anyone - - much less a friend - - was ten kinds of clueless.

Scott and Stiles tended towards polar opposites in a lot of things. And grudges were one of the biggies. Scott was whole hell of a lot more forgiving than Stiles. A whole hell of a lot less likely to hold onto grudges and get pissy about them. But then that's what he had Stiles for. So Stiles was okay with giving Isaac a big dose of guilty conscience and letting him stew in it.

It was just a matter of contemplating the best way to inflict the most guilt on Isaac while having Scott the least amount of pissed off at him if word got back that Stiles had been fighting battles on his behalf that he didn't want fought.

"Is he upset? There was so much 'young love' in the air sophomore year I wanted to strangle him. He spent all summer and a good part of this year mooning over her. What do you think?"

Isaac was a worrier. It was in his nature and nothing Stiles could have actually spelled out could have come close to the things, left to his own devices, that Isaac might come up with in his own head.

Isaac glanced over his shoulder again, frowning. He sat there for a long while, tapping his thumb on the steering wheel, frown deepening while things brewed behind his eyes.

Stiles settled back into his seat, a little curl of satisfaction twitching at his lip from a job well done.


The traffic jam was due to construction work just before the Beacon Hills exit. It tacked an extra thirty minutes onto the trip, but as soon as they veered off onto the exit, it was smooth sailing, down the familiar roads of home. Stiles got a call from his dad, when they were almost to Scott's house, informing him that the Dupont Lodge had been abandoned when he, Argent and the eight state troopers that his dad had called to back them up, had arrived. The lodge had been locked up tight when they'd gotten there, and without a warrant, there was no going inside to ferret out possible stashes of the sort of weapons the state of California frowned upon the possession en masse of.

What they had found was Stiles' Jeep, a spattering of bullet holes in the corrugated wall of the garage it had been discovered in, and a few stray casings that had been missed in the no doubt hurried clean up by Dupont's men when they'd been clearing out. It wasn't much to go on to get a warrant, especially when the story the two principal witnesses might tell, should they be brought in to give a statement, would be viewed with considerable skepticism by any upstanding, right minded law official.

Allison was awake by the time they pulled into Scott's driveway. It being the middle of the day and there being at least one next door neighbor presently outside in process of putting up tacky holiday yard decorations, she and Stiles spent a few precious minutes discussing the most covert way of getting an unconscious Scott into the house without raising eyebrows.

Isaac got tired of their back and forth after about two minutes and just got out, hauled Scott over his shoulder fireman style and stomped towards the back door. Stiles and Allison hurriedly got out and scurried after him, Stiles taking the time to wave to the gaping next-door neighbor and say on the fly.

"It was the eggnog. He can't handle his booze. You know those holiday parties."

The neighbor kept staring and Stiles figured he'd cemented Scott's reputation as a teenaged alcoholic. He'd thank him for it later, he was sure.

Scott's mom opened the door before they got there, the sort of wide-eyed dismay on her face that you might expect upon seeing her kid being hauled towards the house like a sack of potatoes.

"Oh my God," she said. She waved Isaac in, trying to get her hands on Scott and ascertain the extent of his damage.

"What happened? Your father called and said the two of you were all right?" She took a moment to fix Stiles with a worried look.

"Its drugs," Stiles said and got an even wider-eyed look for his troubles.

"He's fine," Allison pushed past him. "Dr. Deaton thought it might be best if he were sedated until the wolfsbane worked its way out of his system."

"Wolfsbane!?!"

"Yeah," Stiles added. "He only got shot a couple of times, but they were through and throughs. The broken ribs and the slashes were taking longer - - but that's because he was concentrating on not killing me - - sooo he should be better now - - what with the drugs and all - -"

Stiles trailed off, the expression on her face suggesting their explanations weren't helping her mental state. But she was a professional when it came to dealing with life and death situations and she'd gotten to the point where a little werewolf drama only threw her off her game momentarily. She took a breath, stabbed a finger at the stairs leading to the second floor and took charge.

"Isaac, take him upstairs to his bedroom. Have either one of you called your fathers to let them know you're here safe?"

She was on Isaac's heels as she asked. Allison and Stiles trailed after.

"Yes ma'am," Allison said. "They know."

If Melissa McCall's expression had been rightfully concerned at the sight of an unconscious son, it got downright horrified when Isaac dumped him on the bed and she got a good look at all the blood on the front of his clothing.

"Oh my - -" she stopped mid exclamation and gave Stiles a look, as if he might be primarily responsible for the gore. "Your father said you'd run into trouble," she ground out. "But that you were both all right. That everything was fine. This does not look fine."

Her expression was a little frightening and generally Scott's mom didn't do intimidating well. The last time she'd given him that look, they'd been eleven and he'd broken Scott's nose when they'd been faux sword fighting with sticks and he'd gotten in an unexpectedly good hit. She hadn't let them see each other for a week and it had been hell.

"It looks worse than it is. Now. Not all that blood is his." He offered a little weakly, even though most of it probably was.

She clenched her fists, took a breath and waved him out of the way. She ran into as much trouble as Scott had, getting the zipper of the coat down in her efforts to see for herself just how much the wounds that had leaked all that blood had closed.

She cursed under her breath when it snagged, just the hint of a tremor in her hands giving away how very, very shaken she was.

"Can one of you get me a pair of scissors? The zipper's stuck - - "

Stiles was scrambling to Scott's desk for the requested scissors, when Isaac, who seemed pretty good at stepping up and solving problems when delicacy wasn't an issue, just leaned down and used a little werewolf strength to rip the jacket open. Which revealed a lot of blood covered skin, but not much in the way of wounds. Four hours of drug induced sleep had gone a long ways to allowing Scott to heal.

She splayed her hand on his chest, where there were the faintest traces of mostly healed gouges under the red of dried blood and sat there, breathing in relief, while Scott's chest rose and fell under her fingers with the steady rhythm of his own breath.

"Okay," she said, that little trace of hysteria that had been skirting the edge of her voice before banished now that she'd seen for herself that Scott's guts weren't spilling out. "Stiles, how much of the blood on your shirt is yours? Are you hurt?"

"Um," he held up the arm Jan Dupont had cut. If the shirt hadn't been dark, the blood would have been a lot more obvious. "Just a little slice. But it was stitched up."

"By who?"

"Actually, the bitch who cut me - -"

Melissa lifted a brow, but Stiles figured he'd related all the terrible stories to her that she was capable of hearing at the moment, so he just sort of shrugged and clamped a hand over the bandaged place on his arm.

"I'll take a look at it in a bit. For now, all of you go downstairs. Get something to eat. For God's sake, wash up a little, Stiles."

Which he did, in the washroom down the hall while Isaac and Allison retreated downstairs. The cut under the bandage throbbed a little, and the skin of his arm was warm to the touch. All he needed was some sort of infection or a case of tetanus from an unclean blade or god knew what sort of bacteria he might have picked up tromping through the woods all damned night. How unfair would it be if Scott got shot, stabbed, slashed ten ways to Sunday, bashed up to the point where bones broke and he healed without a hitch, while he got one little slice to the arm that led to some exotic, fatal blood infection that killed him slowly and gruesomely. He stood there, gripping the sink, staring at his bruised, scratched reflection in the mirror while dread scenarios of his painful demise whirled around inside his head.

His reflection stared back, lifting a dubious brow at the utter ridiculousness of working himself into a panic over the ramifications of a slice in the arm getting a little infected when he'd just escaped a bloodthirsty, supernatural monster bear from hell and a gaggle full of gun toting assholes out to literally murder him.

Get a grip, he suggested to himself. Because you're the luckiest bastard alive.

"Stiles?" Scott's mom stood in the half open doorway, her brown eyes fixed on the bloodstained bandage on his arm. She still had on scrubs, like she'd maybe been on her way to work when she'd gotten the call from his dad that the 'kids' had gotten themselves into trouble. It was one sort of strain to actually experience the 'trouble' in question, and another entirely to have to sit idly by, helpless to do anything but wait for a call. He'd been on both ends of that equation and neither one were pleasant to experience.

"Let me take a look at that," she peeled the bandage off, her hands steady and confident. He looked at it once, quickly, before his stomach fluttered and he looked away.

"It's a little infected. And its filthy," she said, turning on the tap and gently blotting the stitched up gash with warm, soapy water. He looked again, saw pink puffy edges of the slice around the little metallic staples, a little bit of oozing puss from one section and his stomach didn't just flutter, it lurched up into his throat and obstructed the flow of blood to his head. He had to sit down, or he was going to fall down, and he did so on the edge of the tub.

She gave him a look and a wry, tired smile. "Its not that bad. We'll get you an antibiotic and you'll be fine."

"Great. Thanks." He propped his wrist on the sink and his head on his arm while she smeared some ointment from the medicine cabinet on the wound and then rebandaged it.

"What happened?" she asked quietly, voice a little tense, like she really, deep down didn't want to know the grisly details.

"We were in the wrong place at the wrong time," he shrugged. "Really, really wrong time. We ran into this guy who hunts monsters and things sort of went to hell."

"Hunts - - monsters - - like Chris Argent?" She said the word monster like it left a bad taste in her mouth.

"No. Not like him. This guy - - he does it for the thrill. Or for money."

"And he was hunting you and Scott?" Her hands were very still on his arm.

"Well, mostly Scott. They were just gonna kill me, probably." Which maybe wasn't the best clarification for him to have made, because her eyes widened for a moment in dismay, before she drew a shuddery breath.

She patted his arm and said softly. "Okay. Okay, then."

But she had a look in her eyes that maybe hinted she was considering not letting Scott out of the house again. Maybe thinking about starting up a regiment of home schooling for the remainder of his high school years.

"We did okay, y'know? All things considered."

She let out a hiccup of a laugh, then waved him up, and out of the bathroom. "Go downstairs. Make a sandwich, you look like you need it."

 

 

 

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