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His head hurt. That lingering ache was the first awareness that managed to work its way through the muffling layer of blackness. Swimming up out of it was difficult, the progress towards consciousness sluggish. There was an itch in his side that went deeper than his skin. A half awareness of meaningless noise that gradually evolved into words his scrambled brain could comprehend.
Scott? Scotty? You awake? Don't move. Hear, me Scott? Don't move. Moving would be bad. Really, really bad.
Stiles' voice. Steady and coxing. Scott blinked, groaning, staring up at a ceiling dotted with old water stains and a long spidery crack in the plaster. His forearms and his hands flared with piercing little flashes of hurt, like wasps were repeatedly stinging him. He tried to shift his arms and the Stiles voice got shrill and insistent.
"Stop moving! Scott, stop moving!"
He swallowed, freezing, not understanding, but trusting that the hint of hysteria in Stiles' voice meant something.
"Stiles?" He felt a little shaky, everything trembly and weak. He knew the feeling; his body going to efforts and diverting all his energy into healing a major wound. He remembered, with a sickening lurch of his gut, looking down and seeing the wood she'd jammed into his side.
"You okay?" Stiles asked him, when he really ought to have been asking it of Stiles.
"I think?" He wasn't entirely sure of that answer. "You?"
Stiles must have doubted too, because he laughed, but it was strained. "Yeah, I 'm fanfuckingtastic. Listen, you need not to pull on the wire around your arms, okay?"
Carefully, Scott lifted his head, so he could see Stiles sitting across from him, back against the black bars of a wrought-iron headboard, at the other end of a queen sized bed. "Why?" He gingerly tried to move his fingers and something cut into the skin on the back of his hand. His breathing picked up a little, panicked. The blood smell was prevalent, but not all of it was his. There were little streaks of deep red against the pale skin of Stiles' throat, some of it dried, some of it fresher. The wire wound around his neck was the culprit, nasty looking twined steel with little razor edges.
"Oh - - God - -"
"Yeah, tell me. The other end of its attached to you - - so in the interest of keeping me from getting decapitated - - maybe avoid jerking your arms around."
"Where is she?" Her scent was everywhere, but he couldn't hear the sound of another living thing in the house.
"I don't know. Licking her wounds maybe. Looked like you got in some good hits before she kicked your ass."
Scott shut his eyes, a wash of self-recrimination surging through him. He'd had his chance and he'd fucked up. Because she'd begged him not to kill her and had stared up at him with fear in her eyes and he hadn't been able to make the hard choice.
"I'm sorry," he whispered. "I'm so sorry. I had her - - and I choked."
Stiles was silent a moment, before he sighed and said. "Dude, just tell me reinforcements are on the way."
He couldn't even tell him that. They might track him as far as the diner, but once he'd gotten into her car, his scent trail would have stopped. They might still manage to track them down, but four miles of road with a lot of houses scattered along it was a big space to cover. It wouldn't be soon. He didn't want to tell Stiles that, when the exhaustion was palpable in his eyes. But he couldn't lie. Not to Stiles, even if it were a kind lie, to ease his mind.
"Maybe - - but they won't be able to track me here - - not easily."
Stiles took a breath, lashes fluttering closed. "You came by yourself."
It wasn't a question.
"She said - - she said she'd kill you - -"
"Dude, I think she's gonna kill me anyway. She wants to bad. I don't know what she wants to do to you - -"
"I won't let her," he promised, clenching his fists as much as he was able with wire wrapped halfway up his hands. He felt the sting of razor wire cutting into his flesh, felt the wetness of new blood dribbling down his palms and that was okay, because the pain helped keep the mind-blanking panic at bay.
Whether Stiles believed him or not was debatable, but he got nudged in the hip by Stiles' sneaker. "Okay. So ideas? I'm coming up short."
Scott shut his eyes, drawing a spectacular blank.
"She's clever, but she's single-minded. If you think about it - - since she's been human, all she's been doing is hunting. Stalking you. Hunting down Troy Fischer after you ditched her at the party Saturday night - - hunting me when I pissed her off the day after - -"
"She killed Jan Dupont, too. And the girl from the lodge. And Mr. Klutsky."
Stiles stalled, taking that in, before adding to the list. "And the guy who owned this place. And that's just who we know about.
"Maybe she can't help it," Scott said softly. "It's the beast mentality. She was the vanago for a hundred years - - this thing that lived to kill - - you live with one mind-set for so long - - its gotta be hard to shake."
"That and maybe she was just a sociopath to begin with."
That bit of reasoning sent goose pimples rippling across his skin. It was all too sound. He'd been in the beast mind. He'd experienced that mind-set where all you saw was red and all you wanted to do was chase down prey and tear it to pieces - - but no tiniest shred of it had lingered once the beast receded. And whether you were a wolf or a man, if you could kill so easily when there was no moon madness to tear at your sanity - - that made you a different sort of beast altogether.
He heard the protesting squeak of door hinges at the back of the house. The faint creak of old floorboards under the weight of footfalls.
"She's back," he hissed at Stiles, who drew a shaky breath and stared with wide-eyed dread at the door.
She padded in, pausing in the door. She didn't smell of blood anymore. She'd changed clothes, washed the stain away. Mostly. There were still rings of it under her nails. His own were probably crusted with it.
She moved towards them and he tensed up, wanting to fall into a defensive position so bad it made his bones vibrate. But he dared not move, not with Stiles' life literally hanging on his ability to fight the impulse.
"Good. You finally wake. I was bored, waiting to play." She smiled a predator's smile, showing fangs. Stiles drew his knees up, breathing gone shallow and fast. Scared of her and rightfully so.
Asking her what she wanted was a mute point, when he could see the glint in her eyes of a predator stalking prey.
She put a knee on the edge of the bed and leaned over him, fingers with only the hint of clawtips reaching out and trailing across a trickle of blood on Stiles' throat.
Stiles just clenched his jaw, swallowing, as her nail scored his skin.
"Leave him alone," Scott growled it, and she glanced back, lifting a brow at the red in his eyes.
"Wolf could have been gone if he wanted badly enough." She sucked the blood off her fingertip before swinging a leg over and straddling Scott's hips. She leaned down then, teeth grazing the pounding pulse at his throat and purred. " What's one more prey? Stupid wolf."
"Yeah, and if he'd thought 'what's one more shape-shifting Russian skank', you'd be dead, so maybe take a page," Stiles said, the tremor in his voice outpacing the rancor. Scott shut his eyes, Willing Stiles to just be quiet. Praying she didn't turn around and slice Stiles' open out of simple aggravation. But she just laughed and bit down on his ear hard enough for teeth to pierce flesh and cartilage. He ground his teeth, trying to jerk his head away, but she caught his hair, holding him fast.
She licked the shell of his ear, breath hot against his temple and he shuddered.
"You not like?" She purred against the side of his mouth, fingers sliding under his shirt and trailing up his chest, claws light against his skin. "You liked the last time."
She rotated her hips for emphasis, grinding down.
"He didn't know you were a psychotic bitch last time. And he's not drunk." Stiles felt the need to fill the air with words Scott couldn't manage to get past his clenched teeth. There was blood in his mouth, but that was his own fault, fangs that had cropped up of their own accord having sliced his tongue.
Her eyes narrowed and the claws dug in. When she dragged them down, she left bloody gouges in their wake. He made a pain sound then, he couldn't help it, clenching his fists with the effort it took not to jerk away from it. From her. It felt like she'd sliced him open, but he couldn't see the extent of the damage. He could feel the sting of it though, and the blood trailing down his sides, the tingling pressure of his flesh trying to repair itself.
"God - - God - -" Stiles was saying, probably having a better vantage with which to see the damage.
She ignored him, which was probably a good thing, because her attention focused on Stiles would likely result in wounds that wouldn't miraculously heal. She slid back onto his thighs and leaned down to lap at the blood pooled in his navel and lick her way up the line of one still throbbing claw mark. She scraped her nails up the inseam of his jeans and even through denim it felt like skin was welting.
When she dug her nails in, he growled, arching up, half dislodging her. She growled back at him, lunging up, all the fine bone structure of her face shifting as her jaw elongated, her nose flattened and her brow thickened, but all he really saw were the teeth. All he felt were her claws, ripping down his side, and the pressure of her fangs sinking into the juncture of neck and shoulder.
He half heard Stiles screaming. He didn't move. He didn't dare move, not to fight her, not to try and shift out from under her knee pressing down between his legs, or her teeth one clench of her jaws away from tearing out half his throat.
He went very, very still, trying to let the tension bleed out of him along with the blood soaking the mattress beneath him. No matter how twisted she might have been as a human girl before the beast took over, she was reacting like a predator now.
"Sorry. Sorry - - I'm not fighting - - " he got that out on a choked whisper. Anything to defuse her. If defusing her were even possible.
But the pressure of the teeth let up. Her weight shifted, claws sliding across blood slick skin. Her knee slid down, painful pressure turning into a slide of her thigh between his legs, that probably had the exact opposite effect of what she was aiming for, because all he wanted to do was curl up and vomit.
"Do you think I'm pretty like this, wolf?" She nuzzled the throbbing puncture wounds at the edge of his neck. He didn't even know how to begin to answer that. Whether the cold truth that she was a horrifying monster would please her more than the lie she'd no doubt know he was telling if he told her yes. Either way, it was gong to result in more blood. His - - Stiles - - and he didn't know how to stop that either.
He shook his head, wetness that wasn't blood stinging the corners of his eyes.
"You twisted bitch - -" Stiles' didn't seem to have that problem. Nor any sense of self-preservation. "If this is your idea of foreplay, how the hell did you ply your trade when you were whoring it around the Russian Revolution? If you worked on your people skills maybe you could get a date without having to rely on booze or kidnapping or sexual assault."
Oh - - God, Scott groaned. Her eyes flashed and she was off him and crouching over Stiles."
"Stop," Scott screamed at her. Stiles couldn't talk, her claws digging into his throat through the wire. "Where's the challenge of hunting down prey when any human child could come in here and kill him when he can't even move to defend himself? How's it a hunt if he can't even run?"
She crouched there for a long moment, breath coming hard in her anger.
"Do you want to run, prey?" she finally hissed, teeth close to Stiles' face.
It took him a second to gather the breath to answer. He sounded too shaken to come up with anything more than a simple 'yes.'
She turned to look at Scott then, a grin splitting her elongated mouth. She was back on him then, her hand around his throat, claws not piercing flesh, just applying pressure that cut off his air.
She leaned down as he was suffocating and taunted. "You want a challenge, wolf? We make it a game. Stop me if you can, before I tear him open and rip out his heart."
The last thing he heard as she tightened her grip, was her laughing and Stiles muttering over and over. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.
Stiles was vacillating between the belief that Scott had just managed to goad the bitch into giving him a chance - - no matter how slim - - at escape, and the more depressing notion that he'd plunged him into deeper shit that he'd already been wading in.
He was trying to be optimistic, he really was, but it was hard seeing the bright side of things when you had razors cutting into your throat and the psychotic she-beast under whose power you found yourself couldn't decide whether she wanted to make out with your best friend or shred him into bloody strips. And she had a thing for Scott, which didn't leave a lot of hope for the poor guy she only looked at as prey.
Scott wasn't moving after she shifted off him, and for a moment, Stiles couldn't even see him breathing. Wolves were durable, but Stiles knew first hand how powerful she was, and what if she hadn't just choked him out - - what if she'd crushed his throat or broken his neck - - was that something wolves just bounced back from? That fear ate at him as she moved back towards him and fear for his own life sank its teeth in and made him cringe and squeeze his eyes shut as she snapped her teeth in his face.
But it was just a feint. Her playing with her food and she swung off the bed, padding around behind the headboard. With a click that sounded more like a pair of wire cutters than claws, the pressure on his neck let up. The wire was still twined around his throat, but she'd severed the length of it connecting him to Scott. That in and of itself was a major relief. If Scott did wake up - -please, please let him wake up - - he wouldn't be hobbled by the fear of hurting him.
She didn't waste time, just grabbed him under the arm and dragged him off the bed. He got a glimpse of the disaster area they'd made of the living room, but she wasn't taking him out front, but rather headed for the back of the house. Through a tiny, dingy kitchen and down a rickety back porch. The yard was overgrown, and not that much of it before the wood line began.
She raked her claws across his wrists, tearing skin and rope alike. He hissed, shaking his numb hands out, backing away from her warily as she let him go.
"Seriously - -you're just gonna run me down and kill me?" He was frankly amazed at how calm his voice sounded. Maybe it was shock. Maybe he was past that point of hysteria and into numb acceptance of a truly, horrendously shitty situation.
She canted her head. "I give you head start. But not a long one. Wolf won't be down long. Go."
The woods were the last place he wanted to be with her on his heels. He'd been there, done that, thank you and without a damned big gun in his hands and a desperate werewolf to keep her off his back, he'd rather not repeat the experience. Hell, even with those slight advantages, he'd rather not ever have to run from a crazed werebeast again. But as choices went, his were pretty damned limited.
"Run!" She lunged at him, snarling and he staggered away from her, heading for the tree line, which was where she wanted him. Which was her element.
Well fuck that. Fuck her. As soon as he hit the trees, he cut towards the house he'd seen across a half dead field of something. If he could get somebody to call the law, it would make her life more difficult. And his dad would know to show up with nothing less than an arsenal and more importantly his dad would know who else to pull in to deal with this.
He tried to pull at the wire around his neck, but it was too tight and he couldn't reach the part she'd twined at the back of his neck to loosen it up. That was the least of his problems. If she was on his trail already, he didn't know. He cast a frantic look over his shoulder, but it was just trees and he didn't possess the heightened senses to hear her or scent her if she was.
He hit the back yard of the neighboring house, running full tilt. The dog inhabiting it was already barking, pulling at its chain before he'd left the wood line. There was a woman hanging laundry on a line, raw boned and weathered, staring at him as he pelted onto her property.
"Call 911," he screamed at her, stumbling as he looked over his shoulder again, because he thought he'd heard something. She abandoned her basket, heading for the house before he was half way across the yard. The dog was losing its mind, frothing at the mouth, twisting at the end of its chain in a frenzy. Not focused on him. He turned again and he saw her at the edge of the woods, beast face and elongated, clawed hands gouging lines in the tree she crouched beside.
She sprang forward and he spun, sprinting for the house. He'd almost reached the porch when a man appeared, a shotgun in hand. A shotgun aimed at him.
"What the fuck - -?" the man started to demand, before he looked past Stiles and saw what was behind him. Then his jaw sagged and the gun muzzle halfway dropped in his surprise.
"Shoot her," Stiles screamed, barely slowing. He didn't care whose house he was invading in his desperation to get something more substantial than thin air between him and her. The man didn't try and stop him, and he barged in through a pair of sliding glass doors, past the woman, who stared at him with wide, furious eyes and started screaming for him to get out.
"Call the sheriff," he snapped at her. "Tell him 'Vanago'. Tell him that."
There was the sound of a gunshot outside. The snarling fury of the dog, before it was silenced.
No more gunshots and he cast a desperate glance at the woman. "Run. Hide," he hissed at her.
He'd brought this down upon them in his desperation and when he could think straight, he'd regret it. All he could focus on at the moment was flight. He grabbed the first thing in passing that looked like it might be used as a weapon, a short, wooden handled shovel, leaning against a pail with other gardening tools, and ran for the front door.
He burst out the door, bypassing the steps altogether and jumping onto the cracked cement of the sidewalk. It was a long way from house to road, a lot of nothing between it and him, but the road offered witnesses. The road had cars passing sporadically that might deter her or at the very least might stop for a desperate kid in the middle of the road.
Not as much traffic as he might have hoped, though. He didn't even know which road this was, or where the hell he was in the grand scheme of things. He should have thought to ask Scott while he'd had the chance.
He made the road and stood there, gasping for breath, feeling the warmth of blood trickling down his neck from where the wire bit into his skin. It had stopped hurting a while ago and he hoped that wasn't a bad sign.
There was a car heading towards him a good distance down the road. Too far a distance. He looked back around and saw her at the door of the house. She moved down the steps, easy pace, heading towards him. It was hard to tell from this distance, but it looked like she had fresh blood on her hands. Most certainly there was blood smearing her face. She grinned at him through it, reveling in her hunt.
He could stand here and wait for a car that might or might not even stop for him and even if it did, it might just give her a few new victims, or he could run again. There was nothing but damned woods across the road, but every step he put between him and her, was one more second he could put off the inevitable. Was one more second, maybe something miraculous could happen.
He chose to run.
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