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Road Trip

by P L Nunn

 

7

 

Stiles slammed his fist into the door of the room they'd shoved him into. A small, windowless room on the first floor. A storage room that doubled as a break room for the staff maybe, because it had a cot and a few shelves filled with cleaning supplies. He pounded the door again, hurling hollow threats. No one on the other side bothered to respond. If there was even anyone on the other side to hear. He pressed his ear to the door, but plain old human hearing wasn't so good at picking up little things like heartbeats or the soft whisper of breath. If somebody was standing guard outside, he couldn't tell.

He hissed through his teeth in frustration and hit it one more time, adding in a kick for good measure. The door was unimpressed with his show of bravado. A faint wash of dizziness assaulted him - - blood loss, panic, one too many slaps against the side of the head - who knew. The wood of the door was cool against his forehead when he leaned against it, breathing. Just breathing and trying to calm the rush of chaotic thoughts that wanted to send him into a tailspin of panic.

He needed to think. He didn't have super human strength or speed or ferocity. What he did have was an agile mind and a good imagination and if he could just fight past his body wanting to crumple into a ball on the floor, he could try and figure out a way out of this. A way that didn't involve him getting his throat sliced out of hand and Scott getting gunned down like an animal and the both of them ending up in shallow graves somewhere. That image skittered across his mind way too vividly and he had shut his eyes and ordered it away.

He slid down the door to the floor and sprawled there, head spinning. The orange juice Jan Dupont had tossed at him was still clenched in his hand. He twisted the cap off and took a long swig, figuring it couldn't hurt. He finished it off and sat there, going over his options. He was outnumbered and out gunned, in the middle of nowhere, fifty miles from anything resembling civilization with no phone and nobody that would start to miss him and Scott for at least a week. His dad knew him well enough to figure he'd forget to check in like he'd promised. Then again, if his dad tried to call and couldn't get through, after a few days he might start to worry. Please let him start to worry.

Stiles fished his cell out of his pocket on the off chance that it had miraculously decided to pick up a signal again. It hadn't. And they probably knew it hadn't, which was why they hadn't bothered to relieve him of it. He shoved it back into his pocket, then hesitated, thinking what else they hadn't relieved him of. His pocketknife.

With a surge of excitement, he dug it out. It wasn't that big of a blade, good enough to dig bullets out of werewolves, but not much of a weapon when it came to taking on guys with guns and bowie knives. But it was something. And sitting there holding the little three inch knife in his hands made him feel a trickle of confidence.

He wasn't sure if he could follow through if it came to plunging a blade into somebody's flesh - - but he liked to think if it came down to his life - - to Scott's life - - that he'd rise to the occasion. Of course that was presupposing that he got the chance to do something other than rot in this room.

"Think. Think," he ordered himself. But wanting to come up with a brilliant plan and actually coming up with one, were two distinctly different things. He slammed the back of his head against the door a few times in frustration, clenching his fist around the knife.

He sat there a long blank moment, feeling helpless, hopeless. That fear he'd been trying to ignore, trying not to let creep up and overwhelm him that there was no way out of this, rearing its ugly head. That Scott was dead and he was dead and any bit of miraculous good luck karma had stored up for them had been long depleted. God knew he'd used his fair share and then some, having survived this long since the wolves had come back to town.

He took a shuddery breath, rolling his head to the side, staring at the cracked paint on the doorjamb and the hinges.

The hinges. The bottom one of which had a pin that had worked itself a little ways up out of the bracket. He looked back at the knife blade in his hand. He let out a desperate exhalation of air, snared by the grip of sudden inspiration.

 


 

Scott found waking up harder this time than it had been the last. It felt like he was in a cocoon, insulated from the world, sound, scent, touch all distant, hazy things. When he did open his eyes, vision wavered, like he was seeing everything through a filter of rippling water. The ground was moving under him and it took a while for him to come to the realization that it wasn't the ground, it was him, being dragged. Two men on either side of him, hauling him across ground. He thought at first it went pitch black in places, but no - - that was just him, drifting in and out of consciousness. Head too heavy to hold upright, limbs too leaden to struggle against the holds they had on him.

There was no pain. Just lethargy. Like he'd been drugged. It occurred to him, in a moment of fleeting clarity, that maybe he had. And the flicker of panic over that possibility gave him enough of an adrenalin rush to lift his head, to focus his vision as the cold air of night hit him.

Trees. Trees and snow. The trees grey silhouettes in a darkness that was eerily illuminated by the glow of a moon one night past full. They threw him down and he hit the ground and lay there, cold eating into his back, vision of that moon going in and out of focus.

"Are you sure about this, Dupont?" Someone asked.

There were feet. The movement of bodies. The scent of gun oils and tobacco and the stringent smell of cologne covering human sweat.

"He doesn't look like a monster."

"He doesn't, does he? But we can change that."

A face came into view, blocking his view of the moon, pale hair, faint line of a jagged scar. A hand grasping his jaw, fingers clenching hurtfully, forcing him to focus.

"Listen to me, Scott. The midazolam won't keep you down for long. Your metabolism should kick it out of your system in twenty or thirty minutes and I'll give you that long, before I come after you. Do you understand?"

He didn't want to understand. Didn't want to comprehend the mindset of the sort of men who hunted others for sport. But he did. It wasn't like it was the first time he'd stared into the eyes of another human being who possessed no compunction whatsoever to putting a bullet in his head.

He nodded and Dupont smiled, then looked over his shoulder. The pair of old men from the lodge stood there, dressed in heavy coats and hats, with rifles strapped to their shoulders. Worried looking old men, who had to wonder what sort of hunt Dupont was taking them on. Please God, let them be men who might just balk at plain murder.

Dupont drew his attention back, a syringe in his hand. He held it up and the moonlight glinted off the faint lilac colored liquid contained within.

"If you've never seen a werewolf, gentlemen, you're about to get a treat." Then he plunged the needle into Scott's neck, right into the big vein.

It was like a liquid jolt of fire hitting his bloodstream. He arched off the ground, muscles contracting, head exploding with a throbbing rush of blood and pain and vertigo. He screamed and it came out a growling cry of animalistic pain. The transformation rushed up at him, forced upon him by the torrent of acid in his veins. He had no more control over it than he'd had when he was newly changed and at the mercy of the full moon.

He writhed, the pain eating at him from the inside, the wolfsbane - - it had to be wolfsbane - - pumping through his veins, turning everything red around the edges. Between the various mixture of drugs in his system rational thought ebbed and irrational surged, animal instinct pushing human reasoning to the background. Pain induced adrenalin trumped the sedative trying to keep him down. Claws dug into the hard December earth, fangs gnashed, biting his own tongue, flooding his mouth with blood. He rolled to his knees, away from Dupont, snarling.

The men scattered backwards from him, exclaiming softly, all except for Dupont, who casually stood, one hand on his side arm, staring down.

"Wolfsbane," he explained to his hunting party. "A particularly rare variety that draws out the beast, without fatally poisoning it. I'm told it's not particularly pleasant for them to endure. But then it makes for a better hunt if the prey is desperate."

He smiled and all Scott could think about was lunging up and tearing out his throat. He could hear the rush of blood under thin skin. Could hear the rush of all their pulses, all their frantic heartbeats. Could smell the fear, the excitement, the lust in the air. If his limbs had been anything but watery and weak he might have done it and to hell with the blood on his hands. Blood on his hands. Blood. He couldn't hold onto anything but instinct and pain, everything else bleeding out of him in red tinged madness.

"You've got ten minutes," Dupont said. He pulled the gun and aimed it at Scott's head. "The next time I shoot you, it will be in the head. And even an alpha doesn't heal from a few well-placed bullets in the brain. I'd run, if I were you."

 


It took Stiles fifteen minutes to pry the first pin out of the hinge. The second one, longer, the end cap so old it was rusted on to the pin. But he got it loose. By the time he got the last one, he was sweating and he'd torn a nail half off in his attempts to twist the last one free. He stood there, with his ear to the door, straining to hear if there was movement in the hall outside. The last thing he needed was to have gone to all this trouble, only to work the door loose and walk right into some goon with a gun. Hell, a girl with an espresso machine would raise enough of an alarm to royally fuck up his plans. Not that his plans were particularly well formulated or thought out. At the moment, his main focus was pretty much getting out of this room, finding Scott and getting the hell out of here. All of which sounded fantastic in theory, but which the practice of might prove bothersome.

There was nothing but dead silence through the door. If there was a guard out there, he wasn't moving, or he was asleep. Stiles watch read 2:17 so chances were, anyone not actively involved in kidnapping and or the hunting down of werewolves, was most likely snugly in bed. He took a breath and slipped the knife in between the door and the jamb, prying it out from separated hinges. Almost it didn't want to give, and for a moment he stood there, cursing, thinking he'd done it all for nothing, then something shifted and it gave way.

He eased it inwards just enough to get a view of the hall outside. Nothing. Encouraged he slid outside, carefully setting the door back in place in his wake. It was only a few doors down from the kitchen to the end of the hall and the entrance to the basement. Monsters in cages that way lay, and he really, really didn't want to venture back down that dark passage. But on the other hand, if that's where Dupont kept his 'game', then maybe Scott might still be there. And as much as his heart hammered in his chest at the notion of not just finding a way out and running like hell - - he couldn't leave Scott.

Clutching his little knife in hand, he gathered courage and edged down the hall. He stopped with his back to the wall by the kitchen doorway, listening for the sounds of anyone inside. Again. There was nothing. There was nothing between him and the basement door then. The lock Scott had mangled gave way and he preyed that they'd been a little too busy to reset the alarm systems he and Scott had tripped the first time they'd gone down.

Sneakers were excellent for cat footing it down a passageway hacked out of sheer rock. He stopped a couple of times, listening for the sound of habitation, but the place was silent as a tomb. Like he imagined it would be if he were encased in a box and buried under six feet of insulating earth. And really, he needed to stop with the morbid death scenarios, because they weren't helping his concentration.

When he reached the chamber where the three enclosures were, it was back to one lone light bulb that didn't come close to illuminating the corners or the depths of the cages. It was empty. Just a few fresh bloodstains on the floor. Scott's blood in the center of it, and a spattering trail of his own leading back down the passage.

The passage on the opposite side of the room was unlit and led who the hell knew where. Maybe another way out, since guys had appeared from it when Dupont had surprised them earlier. He let out a breath of pent up tension, moving out to the center of the floor where Scott had fallen. Crouching down and lying fingertips in blood that hadn't entirely dried, it occurred to him, with this grip like an iron fist around his heart, that what if Scott were already dead? What if that bullet had hit some crazy, vulnerable spot, had lodged in some pesky bone again and all that miraculous werewolf healing of his hadn't been enough to spit it back out.

Oh, God. God - - he was back on the morbid track and he couldn't help it. Because not thinking the worst was the delusional part - - since any rational assumption - - when you saw your best friend get shot dead center in the chest and go down with a blossoming hole in the center of his body - - was that he wasn't getting back up.

"Not helping, so stop it." He berated himself for the pessimism, even though pessimism seemed a very reasonable response for this situation. He stood, throwing out his arms in a moment of frustration, and something growled, deep in the shadows of the middle cage.

"Crap," he whispered, and took a cautious step backwards.

It was like retreat triggered some primal instinct to attack, for the thing in the cage exploded in a sudden snarling rage, rushing out of the gloom and hurling itself against the bars of the cage.

Stiles yelped - - there was no helping it - - and scrambled backwards.

"Holy shit." He pressed his back to the wall, while the thing in the cage rattled the bars and growled in impotent fury at him.

Okay then, the thing had serious issues with him. The sort of issues that might result in it tearing through bars as thick as his wrist and promptly eating him. So the rational thing to do was get up and get the hell out of there before that unfortunate scenario came to pass.

He made it to the mouth of the passage leading back when he saw the approach of men on their way down it. He cursed under his breath and flung himself back against the wall. For a panicked second, he floundered, caught between an abomination and a hard place. The far passage was the only option. He sprinted across the chamber while the thing in the cage was roaring and rattling bars. There was a door about twenty feet down and if it was locked, he was screwed.

For once, luck was with him. It was unlocked and he slipped through, closing it behind him. Another rough-hewn passage and he took it at a sprint. And Thank God this warren, like any good rabbit hole, had more than one entrance. There were stairs eventually, leading up to a hatch. He fumbled with a slide bolt and shoved one side open, bursting out into the night. He took a breathless second to take stock of his surroundings. Trees, trees and more tress, although he doubted he could be that far from the lodge. In the woods just outside it probably.

In the snowy, miserably cold woods. The breath clouded up before his face, a wonderful testament to just how cold. And him without a jacket. Without a working cell phone. Without any clue where Scott was, or even if Scott were still alive. And the place was rife with guys with guns. Oh, and lest he forget there was a supernatural hunter/killer beast that didn't seem to like the way he smelled, losing its mind in the basement.

Fantastic. Life couldn't get better.

He needed just a little bit of an advantage, other than a pocketknife. He needed not to be running through the woods like an idiot. The garage. If he could get to the garage, maybe he could find something there more helpful than a tiny little pocketknife. Maybe he could even find a working phone or better yet the keys to a vehicle that wasn't bashed to hell.

 


Scott ran. Blind flight through the forest. A staggering, desperate course at first, the sedative still dampening his strength, clogging his head. But each step lessened the effect, each breath and the strength flooded back. His head was another matter. The midazolam had nothing to do with the red around the edges of his vision or the overwhelming impact of sound, scent, sheer primal instinct that rushed in, latching hold of human rational and shredding it with razor sharp teeth. That was all wolf, surging to the surface at the behest of the wolfsbane, while the other part of him sank down, writhing in the grip of the poison, barely cognizant.

So he ran. The cold was a distant discomfort that the wolf in him ignored and the human was too remote to complain of. Trees and rocks and snow that went on forever. Darkness that shifted from moonlit grey to deeper black as the clouds moved en masse across the waning moon.

He paused in a patch of utter pitch, back against the cold rock of a gully, his own breath, his own heartbeat rushing in his ears. What was he doing? Where was he going? Vital questions and he couldn't quite wrap his mind around them. The here and now being more important when the wolf took over than the things that might come after.

Think. Think. Think. He snarled, digging fingers in his hair, the more evolved part of him desperately fighting to breach the surface. If he ran like an animal, they'd kill him like one. He needed to stop and reason and think. But it was like swimming through tar, red tinged, thick tar that wanted to suck him down. He crouched, clawing at his scalp, sucking in desperate gulps of air.

He knew this feeling. He knew it - - that mindless primal urge to run wild, to rend, to tear, to hunt - - but never this strong. Never so overpowering after those first few full moons, that he hadn't been able to stomp it down and take control of it. Find an anchor, that struggling part of him cried in desperation. Find something to latch onto to fight back the drug and hold the wolf at bay.

Allison. Allison. Her smile, her laugh. The scent of her hair. Her white, white neck tilted back, Isaac's lips at the sensitive juncture between jaw and jugular. Isaac's hands on her breasts, pressing into petal soft flesh. Her big brown eyes staring at him, while Isaac bent over her. Her nails tearing out his insides, ripping him to shreds. Her impassive face, her hunter's face staring down while he bled and he didn't understand why.

He screamed, a ragged cry of frustration/fury/pain and launched himself into motion.

And a bullet took him in the side. He heard the crack of the gun as the metal tore through his flesh, the echo of the shot reverberating through the trees, masking the direction from which it had been fired. The impact knocked him off his feet, and he rolled with it, coming up out of the fall on all fours, taking a precious second to shake off the burning pain, before he pushed himself up and darted into the darkest part of the shadows. Another shot and this time he was paying attention, and hurled himself off his current path and the bullet whizzed harmlessly by.

Lights flared in front of him, blinding him with their intensity after so long in the dark. He threw up a hand, nothing but white spots where vision ought to be and did the unexpected. Did what no wolf, overwhelmed by animal instinct would have - -he launched himself towards the light instead of away, deviating from the path they were trying to drive him. Relied on instinct alone to hurl himself into their midst, coming down on the hood of an open topped Jeep. His other senses were so heightened, he didn't need plain vision to know where they were. Scent and hearing and instinct were more than enough to tear into them. He ripped a gun out of a hand, and shoved the wielder out of the vehicle with enough force to send him hurtling into the trees. Slashed his claws across the chest of another, rending cloth and flesh, and the man screamed, scrambling backwards, over the seats, fear and sweat and blood, the smell of urine as he peed himself in sheer terror. The beast in him reacted, the fear driving the last tendrils of rationality out of his head and all he wanted to do was rend and tear.

The only thing that kept him from ripping out the man's throat was a bullet slamming through his arm and the roar of an approaching engine. More shots whizzed through the darkness around him, ricocheting off the side of the vehicle he crouched upon. He took off, running full out into the night. Not in the direction they wanted him to run. But back the way he'd come. In the direction of the lodge that they were not so subtly trying to drive him away from.


Stiles had no sense of direction. It was a painful thing to admit, but Stiles liked to think he could be brutally honest with himself when the need arose. And right now, in the middle of a forest with a lot of trees and a lot of snow and the clouds covering any semblance of stars that might give someone who had read a thing or two about charting direction from heavenly objects, a clue as to where they were - - he was lost.

The only thing he could figure, after tromping through the woods, freezing his ass off, was that he must have headed in the wrong direction when he'd taken off from the hatch. Instead of heading back towards the lodge and the garage, he must have headed deeper into the wilderness. A wilderness that might go on for miles and miles and miles without break. The people after him might not even need to track him down, if he got lost in the snowy Northern California wilds and subsequently starved or froze to death.

With his luck, probably both.

He stomped his feet, pausing to blow warm breath into his cupped hands. His toes felt numb. The skin of his face did, and he'd seen pictures of people with noses that had to be amputated because of frostbite. He pressed his newly warmed palm over his own, very much wishing not to be among that number, and kept walking. Then stopped, frozen in his tracks when the sound of distant gunshots rippled through the forest.

It was too dark to see much of anything, but he peered into the woods regardless, not sure which direction the shots had come from. He stood there, heartbeat racing, thinking the only reasonable thing. That if they were shooting and they weren't shooting at him, then they were shooting at Scott. Which brought on a whole rush of conflicting emotions, because on the one hand they were shooting at Scott, but on the other - - Scott was alive to be shot at. Dread and elation sort of waged a tug of war in his chest.

Then came the dilemma of should he head towards the gunshots or away from them, like any reasonable person.

He stood there at odds with himself, until common sense got trumped by whatever the hell screwed up character flaw it was that made him sometimes run towards trouble instead of screaming in the other direction. Maybe Scott was contagious.

"Aw, fuck - -" he threw out his hands, rolling his eyes at his own stupidity and started off in the direction he thought the gunshots had come from.

Of course he had no idea where he was going. Once the sound of them had faded, that whole problem of all the trees looking exactly alike, and going on forever came back to bite him in the ass. He came to a rocky incline and little stream that looked at least hip deep and decided walking around in wet jeans in the snow would not be to his benefit, and turned back up the slope.

Which was about the time the hairs on the back of his neck, arms and pretty much every other surface of his body stood up at attention. That shivery feeling of not being alone. Not just not alone, but not alone with something dangerous. And really, he'd been face to face with enough dangerous things that he ought to have a degree in it.

He hissed through his teeth and spun around, trying to spy something in the shadows. And there, the glint of red in the darkness, the low growl of a predator - -

He dug in his pocket for the Swiss army knife, fumbling to get the blade out. Then stood there, gaping, when Scott slunk out of the shadows like a wraith. A wolfed out Scott, granted, but still the likely the welcomest thing he'd ever seen.

"Oh my God, you scared the shit out of - -"

"Run - - now," Scott cut him off, low voiced and growley like he was having trouble with his words. Eyes full on neon red, claw tipped hands curling. There was blood on the fingers of the right one. Blood smearing his left side, that had run down and soaked the waist of his jeans, blood on his arm, though there were no visible wounds left.

"What? Why?" He started forward and Scott hissed through very impressive canines.

"Stiles - - Go. I can't - - I can't stop - - I can't - - think - -"

And he got it. Sort of got it. It wasn't the first time he'd seen bloodlust in Scott's eyes. Not the first time he'd seen the very real desire to tear his throat out cross Scott's face. It never got old and it never got anything less than terrifying. Only it had been a long time since he'd seen Scott lose control. If Scott was good at anything, it was at maintaining that grip on his wild side, of leashing in the casual ferocity that most of the wolves Stiles' knew could barely contain just walking around in their human forms. And it wasn't even a full moon. Which meant something was wrong. Seriously wrong.

"Oh - - fuck me - -" He took a step backwards, hands held up placatingly before him. As if you could placate a werewolf who'd lost his hold on sanity. Mostly what you could do was run in those cases.

"Scott, dude - - you need to get a grip - - "

Scott slid forward, the easy, rolling gait of something stalking something else. And Stile knew in his bones that if he actually did what Scott had suggested and turned tail and ran, Scott would be on him before he could take ten steps. He wouldn't be able to help himself.

"Scott - - you don't want to eat me. You'd never forgive yourself if you ate me. What happened to you? What's making you wolf out like this?"

Get him talking. Get him thinking, because Scott in full predator mode didn't carry on conversations with his prey. He just stalked it. Which Stiles knew, very, very well.

For a moment, while Scott was circling him, Stiles figured he wasn't willing or able to respond, then he clenched his hands into fists and growled. "Wolfsbane - - he injected - - some sort of - - wolfsbane - - "

"Oh - - God. That's not good. So what are we gonna do about this, huh? Because we're sort of in a situation here, y'know? And I'm not talking about you killing me - -I'm talking them killing us and I'd really like to avoid that. Well, avoid both -- and whoa - - whoa - -"

Scott lunged towards him and Stiles scrambled backwards, feet tangling in a root hidden under the snow and toppling ass backwards. He gripped the little knife in a shaking hand like it would be a deterrent to Scott when he was on the equivalent of some sort of werewolf speed.

But Scott skidded to a stop a foot from him, crouching, one hand on the ground, claws making gouges in the snow, head down, shoulders shaking, gnashing his teeth hard enough that Stiles could actually hear it.

"Scott - - buddy - - you need to just breathe - - " Stiles demonstrated by taking a deep, shaky breath of his own. "Concentrate on the good stuff - - think about - I dunno, Allison - -?"

Scott let out a miserable sound, and Stiles backpedaled from that idea, figuring maybe Allison wasn't such a good starting point at the moment for Scott to find his inner peace.

"Or your mom? Or how awesome this trip woulda been if we hadn't gotten hijacked into crazy town? Oh fuck Scott - - think about something other than ripping me to shreds, okay?"

Scott threw his head back, eyes red as blood, and Stiles thought - - oh fuck - - a moment before Scott surged forward, clawed hand ripping the pocketknife out of his numb fingers.

And plunged the blade into his thigh. And again, and again, like he was trying to tenderize meat. Knelt there, his blood spattering the snow, mutilating himself while Stiles stared in horror.

He let out low, tormented growl and bent over his knees, trembling.

"Scott- -?" Stiles eased up, moving slow, reaching out a hesitant hand and touching Scott's shoulder. Amazingly enough, his skin was hot to the touch. Like he was burning up on the inside. Or like his already enhanced metabolism had gone into overdrive. Scott flinched from the touch, breathing going rough and fast. Stiles clenched his jaw and gingerly took the blood-covered knife from his hand.

"You're okay. You're okay. You are okay, right?"

Finally, Scott looked up, skin as pale as you might expect from someone who'd just finished stabbing themselves repeatedly, but the wolf had faded down to fangs and claws and his eyes were sane. Pain filled, with just a glint of red still, but sane.

Scott nodded, and grimaced, flinching down as if in pain. Which well - - duh - - the leg of his jeans was soaked with blood from no less than a dozen or so stabs. But then, those wounds had probably already started healing.

"The wolfsbane?" Stiles took an educated guess.

"Yeah."

"Hurts?"

Scott let out a miserable laugh. "Its like my bloods on fire. I can barely - - think."

Stiles stared, aghast.

"It's getting better."

"You still having the urge to kill me?" Stiles ventured, because it would be nice to know.

Scott looked up at him wretchedly. "A little - - sorry."

Stiles let out a gust of breath. "Well that's just great."

Scott sat up suddenly, staring back the way he'd come.

"What?"

"They're coming." Scott hissed, and hauled him up faster than Stiles' cold numbed legs wanted to go.

They ran along the bank of the stream for a few dozen yards, before Scott growled low in his throat and shoved Stiles bodily into a snow-covered mass of bramble. He sprawled there, tangled in vines, covered in clumps of snow and did what any self-respecting prey would and froze.

Scott had disappeared, but he could hear the footfalls of men clomping through the snow at a fast clip. Two guys, barely discernable shapes in a darkness that was beginning to fade into the grey of very early morning. They both had guns. Big guns.

Stiles held his breath, willing himself to blend in with the background. And they paused, dead opposite of where he lay, staring at the ground, staring at the snow that he and Scott had disturbed in their passage.

One of them started to turn, scanning the ground and suddenly Scott was on them. Coming out of whatever shadow he'd found, faster than Stiles could follow, catching the barrel of one hastily raised rifle and slamming it with enough force to shatter bone, back into the face of the man who wielded it.

He was on the other one before the first one started to crumple. A shot was fired, and if it hit Scott he didn't flinch, just ripped into the guy with a roundhouse swipe of his claws, shredding jacket, shredding flesh beneath. The guy screamed and went down and Scott went down with him, snarling, full on wolf again, blood on his claws, blood in the air.

"Scott, stop!" Stile screamed at him. He scrambled up, fighting his way out of the bramble, doing the absolute stupidest thing he could have possibly done and going for a crazed werewolf, trying to drag him of the guy who was leaking blood into the snow under him. And honestly he could have given less of a fuck about the gun-toting bastard on the ground - - but Scott would have to live with himself once he had his head back on straight and committing straight up murder would tear him up.

Scott spun on him, half crouched over the man on the ground, half tensed to lunge at the friend who was trying pull him off him.

Stiles held up his hands and jerked his head towards the stream bank they'd been following. "C'mon. We've gotta go. Now, Scott!"

Scott took a breath, stared down at his blood covered hands, then back up at Stiles. He nodded, rising.

"Wait a sec." Stiles crouched by the first guy Scott had taken down and started working at the fastenings of his jacket. He pulled it off his unconscious form and tossed it at Scott. If the other one hadn't had his shredded by werewolf claws, he'd have scavenged that too. He was cold as shit, but at least he had on a couple of layers of shirts. He did take the gloves though, and shoved them on his own half numb hands. It was better than nothing.

He hesitated, then grabbed the rifle off the ground. The thing looked military grade, complete with an extended clip.

Scott looked at him like he was picking up a live snake or something. Or like he thought Stiles might accidentally shoot out an eye. Just no faith. Absolutely no faith at all.

"I can shoot a gun," he claimed defensively. Then added in an undertone. "No guarantee I hit what I'm aiming at - - but how hard can it be?"

Scott started moving without comment, and Stiles shouldered the rifle and stomped after.

"We need to get back to the lodge. To the garage, because I don't know about you, but there's only so long I'm gonna be able to keep ahead of these guys on foot."

"Okay," Scott sounded numb. He was back to only half wolf again, but he kept twitching every now and then, and his eyes kept flickering between deep brown and blood red and it was freaking Stiles out a little.

"So you have any idea which direction that might be?"

Scott stopped, so Stiles stopped with him and waited while he got his bearings, scenting the air or whatever, trying to get a directional clue.

Finally he jerked his head to the left and they started off that way. They stopped every once and while, when Scott sensed something, and just laid low and waited until whatever it was passed beyond his hearing or his scent, before moving again.

Stiles hadn't realized how far he'd run in the wrong direction, until he had to walk the distance back. It took them thirty minutes to reach the edge of the woods around the lodge grounds. By then the sky was rose hewed and pale over the treetops, the shadows no longer so deep, the darkness watered down to the point that it no longer offered protection.

They stayed within the shelter of the woods, following the edge of it until they saw the garage. It sat there, dark and innocuous and hopefully abandoned, if Dupont had all his guys out combing the woods for them.

Easy enough to circle behind and cross the distance between forest and building undetected. Then it was only a matter of circling around and finding a door.

It should have been a piece of cake. Would have been if they could have just gotten into the garage unseen. Whether it was just bad luck - - the latest in a string of monumental ill fortune - - or if Dupont was just that good at his tracking - - their forward momentum was stalled when a bullet tore into the corrugated tin of the garage front. Stiles yelped, staring wide eyed into the sudden flare of headlights heading towards them from the direction of the lodge.

Gogogogo, Scott was screaming in his ear, latching hold of his arm and hauling him back towards the edge of the building, even as more gunshots riddled the side of the garage around them. And Stiles got past the immobilizing shock of actually being shot at and ran, the two of them planting their backs against the shielding wall when they reached the back of the building and debating the wisdom of making the hundred yard dash across barren field to reach the shelter of the forest.

"You first." Scott shoved him, apparently deciding. "I've got your back."

"What? How?" Stiles started to argue that point until Scott shoved him into motion and then it was run or stand there like a target. It occurred to him while he was pelting across that open space, that the only way Scott had to have his back was to get between him and any bullets aimed for it. And that was just a shitty method of covering him and he didn't like it one bit.

Miraculously enough they made it to the edge of the woods, Scott practically treading on his heels, without Scott having to take a bullet in the back for him.

Almost they kept running, but Dupont's voice, amplified over speakers, stalled them.

"There's only so long you can run, boys."

They exchanged looks, catching their breaths, backs against flanking pines at the edge of the wood. Stiles snuck a glance around his, and saw the lights of a truck, maybe five hundred yards out, just sitting there idling. There were a few men out there beside it, and a guy he figured was Dupont standing in the driver's side door.

"I'm impressed, Scott," the loudspeaker blared. "You should be beyond reason, frothing at the mouth, more of a danger to your friend than we are. And yet, you've managed to resist the effects of the wolfsbane. Not only impressive, but curious."

Stiles made a motion towards the depths of the wood and mouthed, go now? But Scott canted his head, a furrow between his brows, like he was onto something that Stiles couldn't discern.

"Since you've made my game more interesting than I expected," Dupont was going on. "Let me add a new dimension to yours. A new player to the game."

"Oh - - god," Scott breathed, an appalled look crossing his face.

"What? " Stiles hissed, and twisted to look around the tree again.

They were doing something at the back of the truck, guys climbing over a huge box fastened onto the flatbed.

"Run." Scott started moving, pulling him by the sleeve to get him moving along with him.

"What the hell?" Stiles complained, stumbling along in Scott's wake, looking over his shoulder in consternation.

"The vanago. He's setting the vanago loose on us."

 

 

 

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