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Red tinged her vision. The red of fury and of blood and of killing madness. She possessed the self-control to wait, standing with her claws biting into the wood of the closed door, while the wolf retreated. Waited until the sound of the engine started and the vehicle pulled away from the front of the house, heading those few doors down to the wolf's home, before she screamed.
Spurned. Humiliated by a wolf too young to know his own potential and his sharp-tongued, infuriating prey. She screamed again, an incoherent roar and swept her claws across door and jamb and wall, leaving deep gouges in her wake. Her vision narrowed, beast focused, as she tore through this cluttered room in her frustration. Her bones lengthened, thickening, bending at odd angles to accommodate the specter of the beast. Beast thoughts filled her head. Single minded and narrow compared to the thoughts of a human woman. Glass and wood and the stuffing of furniture padding littered the floor, but the destruction of inanimate objects brought no satisfaction. Blood and pain and fear were the things she craved.
There was prey here, cowering in that fear she so savored, locked in a room in his very own home. A decrepit old man, that she'd thought might be of use in this game she'd played. But she was tired of the game. Tired of dancing around her prey when he was too naïve to engage, predator to predator. She had no more use for pawns.
So she went into the back bedroom and bared her teeth in an elongated grin at the old man, before she painted the walls with his blood. His screams were pitiful, choked things and he put up no contest at all. No satisfaction from the kill. No challenge. She could get that, if she went to the wolf's house now. He'd put up a fight to protect the things he loved and she'd make him watch while she eviscerated them.
She closed her eyes, savoring that image. Licked one long, black-nailed claw free of blood, before frowning. But then that would be the end of it and she'd have to kill him out of hand, because he'd fight her to the death in his grief. Even though the haze of the beast mind, she remembered his mindless rage when he'd thought she'd killed his prey in the barn.
The beast might relish a fast, bloody kill, but the human - - the human female spurned - - had more complicated desires. She didn't want him dead, she wanted him baring his throat to her and begging for lives he valued more than his own. She wanted to ride him while she made him bleed. To lick the blood off his skin and inhale the scent of his fear and his arousal. The memory of the taste of his mouth and the feel of his body under hers was a heady thing.
She'd slaughter his pack, for a wolf without a pack was easier to control. She'd bring him trophies of the kills. All but the one who'd escaped her time and again, that the wolf valued above the others. That one she would save for last, for so many reasons. Not least among them, leverage.
But first she needed a new haven. This place, with its already cooling corpse, was no longer safe for her. But she had another. It always paid to have another hole in which to retreat and the little house far off the highway that had belonged to the man from the diner, would serve her purposes well.
So she gathered her things, the shiny new clothes and the plastic cards that allowed her the getting of them, locked the doors behind her, shutting in the already decaying corpse of the old man, and she went to prepare, before she began to hunt in earnest.
Stiles overslept. He woke to the sound of the clock radio spewing some mindless pop rock train wreck and his dad yelling at him from the bedroom door.
"Damnit, Stiles, I thought you were up a half hour ago. Get your butt into gear or you're going to be late."
His dad had the look of a man who'd overslept himself. He'd worked a double shift last night, dealing with the whole man-killing 'bear' still roaming the woods of Beacon Hills thing and come in late enough that the light of first dawn had been peeping over the horizon when he pulled into the drive. Stiles knew, since he'd stayed up waiting for him. There'd been no help for it, no chance at relaxing until his dad was home safe and sound. The few times Stiles had talked to him on the phone he'd been either out helping coordinating and containing the various resources at his disposal or dealing with the aftermath of the eighteen year old victim. State park rangers, county game control, and the various overeager civilians that considered themselves 'hunters' that came out in droves to volunteer their services, when the victim in question was one of their own local boys. If any of them had had any idea of what was really lurking out there, they'd all have run for the hills.
The people in the know, the people who had a chance of actually making a dent with this thing, were being more circumspect in their hunting. Neither the Argent's nor Derek seemed to think the vanago was randomly roaming the woods. It was smart enough, was the unilateral conclusion, that it was covering its tracks. But if it had a target, and that target was Scott, then the smart thing to do was to cover him.
Which had resulted in Derek lurking around Scott's neighborhood all night, and Argent doing who knew what, because he wasn't spilling and according to Scott, Allison had only let slip that her dad was on it. None of which had done much for the state of Scott's nerves and Stiles had heard it clear as day in his voice every time they'd talked on the phone last night - - which had been a lot - - neither one of them much for peaceful sleep.
He made it to school literally as the first bell was ringing. He noticed Scott's bike as he was sprinting for the school. It had two helmets instead of the one, which meant Isaac had been feeling guard doggish and had opted to ride to school with Scott this morning. Which any other day might slightly have annoyed Stiles, on that not so buried level where he kept his jealous insecurities - - but right now, two wolves instead of one made better odds if something large and terrible happened to make an appearance. He pelted down the hall and skidded into first period about thirty seconds after the second bell sounded. He stopped, putting on a nonchalant look as every head in the room turned his way, then sauntered towards his seat like it was no big deal.
Scott gave him an under the brows nod, from where he was slouched in his seat. He wasn't showing the purple circles under the eyes that Stiles was sporting - - yet another enviable werewolf perk - - but Stiles could see the exhaustion in his eyes. He had to wonder if Scott had slept at all. Probably not, as worried as he'd been.
Stiles leaned over as he was stowing his bag and shot Scott a questioning look.
Scott shrugged minutely. Which Stiles took to mean that everything was okay enough for him to be here, sitting miserably in school. The teacher, walking down the row, handing out what appeared to be a pop quiz, kept him from leaning over and talking.
As soon as class let out he pounced on Scott with the demand for details. Absolutely nothing had happened in the general vicinity of Scott's house last night. Derek hadn't picked up anything. Scott and Isaac hadn't. Which left a lot of people frustrated and tired and on serious edge. Waiting for the shit to hit the fan was almost as bad as the actual splat when it happened. Derek was keeping an eye on Scott's mom while Scott was in class, which was probably the only reason Scott had come to school at all, freaked out as he was over the notion of the thing having been lurking around his house.
Allison and Lydia converged on them while Scott was giving him the lowdown at Scott's locker. Isaac, leaning against a locker next to Scott's gave Allison a slight nod. She acknowledged it with a faint nod of her own, before saying in a hushed voice and a glance at Stiles. "So your dad got my dad in to see the corpse - -"
"Troy Fischer," Scott said softly, giving the corpse a name.
Allison flinched a little, maybe more comfortable without that added bit of humanization. And Stiles had to admit it was easier dealing with a flood of bodies when you didn't put names to them. Easier to distance yourself from the horror, which he was okay with. The horror was close enough as it was. Scott sometimes got stubbornly resistant to the easy route.
"Troy Fischer," Allison gave it to him, fingers tightening on the strap of the duffle bag sized purse she had on her shoulder. "He's not sure it's the same thing that ripped up the bodies in the barn."
All of them stood there, staring at her in bafflement.
Stiles demanded. "What the hell else could it be?"
Allison held up a hand. "He said the wounds weren't as deep. The claws weren't as long. He doesn't think the thing that did it was nearly as big."
"So some different murderous thing is following Scott around?" Isaac asked dubiously.
And Stiles had to agree - - the possibility of another supernatural beast roaming around trailing Scott, simply flabbergasting. Scott wasn't saying anything, standing there with his hand on his open locker door, just absorbing it.
"I'm not finished," Allison said giving both Isaac and Stiles a look to shut them up. "He said other than that, the type of wounds, the way the thing tore the body up - - that was the same. That other than the depth of the wounds and the size of the claws that made them - - the damage was almost identical."
They stood there, staring at her, all of them trying to wrap their heads around that. It was Lydia who finally said. "So maybe it is the same killer, with a different weapon."
"It's not using a weapon. Its claws and teeth," Isaac pointed out, flexing his own hand.
"Claws and teeth are weapons." Stiles wrinkled his brows, because sometimes the wolves forgot just how dangerous they could be. "Still - - how?"
"Why is everyone assuming this thing - - this vanago - - can't change its form like you guys do?" Lydia asked.
"Because it never did. I mean, if it could have, it would have before now, right?" The initial burst of confidence Stiles started with, began to falter as uncertainty set it. He met Scott's eyes. "Dupont didn't say it was a werebear, right? He just said it was cursed to roam as a beast."
"That's what he said," Scott concurred, but the way his voice sounded, he was mirroring Stiles' uncertainty.
The bell rang and kids started to scatter towards classes around them.
"We'll talk about this at lunch," Allison promised, heading off. Scott gave Stiles one more worried look before heading off himself, Isaac trailing in his wake. Which left Stiles heading the same way as Lydia towards his next class.
"Why didn't you go to that party Saturday night?" Stiles asked. "Not that I'm not glad you didn't, everything considered."
"I don't know." She took a breath, then looked up and said softly, a vaguely guilty look in her eyes. "I had a bad feeling. I thought - - I thought it was just because Troy and his little clique have been sort of dickish since - - since - -"
"Since you stopped being one of the 'mean girls' and started hanging with us?" Stiles filled in the blanks.
Lydia sniffed, lifting her chin. "I was never one of the 'mean girls'."
Stiles wasn't entirely sure that was an accurate assessment, but then, he'd never much cared about her nice to bitch ratio, even before he'd been on her radar. "But now you think it was because you sensed something was going to happen there?"
"Maybe," she admitted, stopping out side her class and looking up at him miserably. "How am I supposed to differentiate between normal, everyday bad feelings and the ones that portent something terrible happening?"
"I don't know." There was no how to guide for Banshee's on the Internet. Nothing and no one - - even their various experts on the supernatural - - that had a clue how Lydia's radar worked.
"Yeah, well, I'm having a bad feeling about going to gym class today, but I think that's more because I hate gym class than there's going to a massacre during badminton."
She pouted and he grinned. He had to, because the instant image of Lydia in gym clothes and disgusted that she had to be, popped into his mind.
It didn't make for a lot of concentration when it came to sitting in class. Stiles had no earthly idea what any of his teachers had been going on about for the first three periods. He did draw a couple of what he thought were pretty good renditions of the vanago, in various snarly, coming at you with death in its eyes poses. The doodling got progressively bloodier and more morbid the longer the day wore on. When the lunch bell rang, it was like a mini break from the tension.
He had hit his locker and was headed towards the lunchroom when Scott's hot stalker sashayed up to him in the hall. He felt sort of bad for pushing Scott into going out with her in the first place. The girl was seriously single minded, and despite Stiles belief that Scott needed to get over Allison and get back out there, Scott had enough problems to deal with without adding a nut job to the list. So if somebody had to take the bullet and let her down hard - - she obviously wasn't taking subtle - - or not so subtle hints - - Stiles was willing to make the sacrifice.
"I talk to you," she said.
He gave her a wary look and stood there waiting. "Yeah? Okay. If it's about Scott, what I said yesterday holds true. He's just too damn nice for his own good sometimes and doesn't like to hurt people's feelings.
She lifted a brow, moving past him. "So you do it for him?"
"If I have to." He shrugged, drawn in her wake almost against his will. It was a pretty nice view from behind. She had on a pair of skin tight, low rise jeans today and a little vest that bared a good deal of skin between them.
"He hurt feelings fine on his own when he left party other night." She veered into the doorway of the girl's locker room, glancing over her shoulder at him.
"Yeah, well, he was drunk off his ass. He probably doesn't remember half that night anyway." He edged into the entrance. "Listen, I gotta go to lunch. Just back off - - he's got a lot of shit on his plate right now."
"I hear people speak of horrible thing that happened at party that night. This true?" She moved deeper into the locker room, the heels of her boots echoing on the tile floor. The lockers were empty, no gym classes during lunch.
Stiles sighed. It was like she only heard what she wanted to hear. Typical.
"Yeah. Somebody got killed. Read about it in the paper."
She turned to look at him, canting her head. "I heard it was a bear."
He snorted. "That's what they say - -"
"This is the girl's locker room," Ms. Redman, the girl's gym teacher stomped up from the interior of the locker room, a basket of equipment in her hands.
"Sorry," he was happy enough to use her accusation as an excuse to cut this awkward conversation short.
Zlata's eyes narrowed and she half turned as Ms Redman marched up. Stiles didn't even really see her move - - just Ms. Redman stop in her tracks, mouth opening in surprise - - the basket of badminton birdies falling from her hands, scattering at the floor at her sneakers. He looked back up, his own mouth open, at the spreading stain of red soaking down the front of Ms. Redman's white polo shirt. Blood spewed from the ragged, gaping slash at her throat. He could see the stained white of vertebrae through the chunks of missing flesh. She crumpled, knees hitting the tiles, before toppling backwards, her own blood pooling around her.
Stiles looked at Zlata. At her bland expression, at the hand at her side, at nails as long as his whole hand, fingertip to wrist, the tips of which were red with fresh blood. And he got it. Light a light bulb buzzing to life in his head, illuminating puzzle pieces he hadn't even been paying attention to, he got it. A Polish transfer student - - who Lydia insisted had a Russian accent - - who happened to show up right when a Russian werebeast who used to be a Russian girl, was on the loose. A transfer student who had developed an instant, obsessive interest in Scott - - like she was hunting him. And if the hunting ended up with her trying to make out with him at some random party, well that was just a really bizarre twist to a bizarre situation. All of which made Stiles head swirl more than it was already swirling as the conglomeration of facts zipped through his mind at light speed, before fear and self-preservation took control.
He lunged towards the door and the hall, but she was there, faster than he could follow, clawed fingers biting into his shoulder and hurling him backwards, into the locker room. He hit a storage locker and rebounded, scrambling to keep his feet, ignoring the pain in shoulder and back and pelting into an aisle between lockers. Granted, he wasn't as familiar with the girl's locker as the boy's but there would be an entrance to the gym back there somewhere.
God, they'd been so damned blind. It had been right there and he hadn't been looking. Because she was pretty. Because he'd been amused as hell at Scott stumbling over himself trying to talk himself out of being interested in a girl who'd obviously been interested in him. Isaac hadn't liked her from the get go. Scott hadn't understood why she'd made him uncomfortable, but she had. Well, it seemed pretty clear now. Point to remember if he survived this: don't ever discount wolves when they got weird, goose-pimply bad feelings about things. Animal instinct apparently rocked.
"Where you going?" she called, her voice echoing in the empty locker room. "You don't want to play with me?" He couldn't tell where she was. He put his back to a locker, trying to hear.
He dug for his phone, frantically punching up Scott's number.
She came at him from over the facing lockers. Just leaped across them like she had springs in her legs and swiped the phone out of his hands. He yelped, blood welling where her claws had scored the back of one wrist and hand. She slammed a palm into the locker next to his head when he tried to dart that way and growled at him, baring teeth a hell of a lot longer than Scott's. The whole of her face was elongated, jaw lengthened, thickened, brows shifted into overhanging ridges, everything about her denser, thicker, vibrating with muscle.
Her eyes glowed amber and they were the same eyes he'd looked into before, in that damned slaughterhouse of a barn, in the cage in Dupont's basement at the lodge, chasing him and Scott through snow covered woods. The eyes of the vanago as it was contemplating ripping him into tiny shreds.
She put her claws on his throat and he shut his eyes, pressing back against the locker, heart pounding so fast it felt like it would burst out of his chest. He didn't want to die. He really didn't want to die and he was one twitch of her claws away from bleeding his life out on the floor, just like poor Ms. Redman.
"Please - - don't - -" he got it out in a breathless sob. "You don't have to do this."
She canted her head. One claw dug into the skin under his jaw, piercing flesh. He felt the warmth of blood trickling down his neck and shuddered. It would be humiliating if he peed himself before she even delivered the killing blow. But then, nobody would be able to tell the difference once he was dead, because nobody died neatly. Corpses were messy. Oh, God, corpses were really messy and he didn't want his dad to have to see that. Or Scott. Or Lydia. There was warmth on his cheeks that wasn't blood and crying was marginally less embarrassing than pissing his pants in terror.
"I do," she said and tightened her grip. But she didn't rip his throat out. She yanked him forward and slammed him back into the metal lockers hard enough to knock the breath out of him and make him see stars. Then a second time and his head hit and the stars disappeared, washed away by blackness.
The last thing he thought as he was sucked down, the explosive pain in his skull receding with consciousness was 'Oh, fuck, not again.'
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