Stories IndexFiction IndexCatalogue and CommisionsArt GalleriesSend feedbackNext

 

Vendetta

by P L Nunn

 

1

 

VENDETTA

 

Preface

 

For a hundred years there had been nothing but instinct and blind fury and the unquenchable thirst for blood and fear and pain. That was all it had known, the rage of an unnatural beast, animal impulse, animal urges that fed upon the last vestiges of the soul of the thing it had once been. There had been no past, no future, no anything but the here and the now - - a slave to its primal nature. To hunt and to kill. To taste the warm blood of prey in its mouth. To rend flesh and break bone and revel in the death squeals of its victims.

Then the bullet had ripped through its eye, bored a path through the soft grey matter of its brain and torn out the back of its skull and something changed. In the healing, some integral part of itself that had been so long subsumed by the beast, flickered to life. As it lay, flesh and bone reknitting, in the cage the Man had shoved it into, an awareness keener and more precise than it had known in time uncounted began to creep upon it.

Time began to have meaning. The beast had only known the here and the now, but the keener intelligence lurking beneath, had fleeting recollections of past. Recollections of violence and blood in this shape and the one before this - - and it savored them. It had always been a night stalker, lurking at the outskirts of transient human society. Taking prey and stirring legend in a land crueler and more barren by far than this place the Man had taken it to.

The Man. The giver of pain. And the beast hadn't understood. The beast had only cringed after a while in hard taught submission, as the man created new ways to break it to his will. To bend the instinct of a beast with an unquenchable thirst for the kill and use it for his own ends. To feed his own need for the giving of pain and suffering. The beast hadn't understood at the time, what the glint in the man's eye as he tormented it meant. But it knew now. It understood the joy that came with the infliction of agony. Shared appreciation did not make it hate him any less.

It had hunted for him. And brought down prey after prey. Until the wolf and the prey the wolf protected had brought it down instead. The taste of the wolf's blood was still in its mouth, vibrant and rich. When it licked its wounds - - inflicted upon it by the wolf and the bullets of the prey - - the wolf's blood was mingled with its own in its fur. A taste to be savored. When it sank its teeth into his flesh again, the blood would spurt hot and vital on its tongue. But it wouldn't kill him. Not right away. The beast would have, but the thing the beast had been - - the thing awakening again - - found its interest pricked.

The wolf had survived against it, when it had taken down packs of wolves before. And this one had only had one weak human prey to back it up. And this wolf had done it a favor that neither he nor the Man had realized. His claws had raked the hateful collar the Man had sealed around its neck. The collar that released poison into its veins when the Man chose to administer discipline. The toxins had been leaking with slow persistence out of the treacherous band, one drop at a time. And when they were gone, the Man would lose his edge.

The beast never would have understood that distinction. All the beast would have comprehended was the pain. The beast had cared very little about vengeance, the concept beyond its primal understanding. The emerging intellect behind it savored the notion.

And as missing pieces of it began to fall back into place, one more scrap of self-awareness began to take shape.

She. It was She. And she had slept a hundred years, imprisoned behind the façade and the mentality of a beast. Seething hatred and resentment boiled to the fore, as integral a part of her then as it was now. The beast had run with it, understanding rage, but she - - she embraced it.

 


 

 

First day back from winter break and the halls of Beacon Hills High School were filled with kids who'd rather be anywhere but school. Two weeks reprieve from the hollowed halls of pre-higher education was simply not enough time to enjoy the passing of one year and the introduction of another. Not to mention the lazy fall of snow that had started sometime around first period and had progressed throughout the day, dusting the ground outside with a layer of pristine white. The first snowfall of the year. The first in a handful of years. Beacon Hills was far enough North in the interior of the state that they consistently got cold weather - - sometimes downright frigid temperatures - - but snow was sporadic.

Predictably, every student near a window stared mournfully outside, more mesmerized by far, in the fall of crystallized ice than they were with whatever subject their frustrated teachers were attempting to drill into their heads.

Scott McCall could have done without, having had more than his fair share of snow during the first part of winter break. Even so, he occasionally cast long, hazy looks out the window along with the rest of the class. But that was more from absolute boredom than any particular longing to go outside and tromp around in the winter wonderland into which the school grounds had been transformed.

Mrs. Thacker was about 100 years old and spoke like she was fighting off an attack of mutated chewing gum, slowly and laboriously drawing out each word. Pair that with a lecture regarding the American Industrial Revolution, which she'd likely experienced first hand - - and half the class was ready to kill themselves to simply end the torture.

He glanced across the row of desks to Stiles, who was industriously scribbling away in his notebook. He'd done a pretty nice rendering of a large breasted, sword wielding Amazonian warrior, but then he'd been working on it for most of class.

"Dream date?" Scott leaned a little across the row to inquire softly, even though it was doubtful Ms. Thacker would hear unless they were actually shouting at each other.

Stiles glanced up from his work with a smirk and tilted the masterpiece up so Scott could get a better look. She was sort of hot. Stiles had a knack for drawing boobs, garnered from long hours of reading comics and playing video games featuring curvaceous heroines. The blood dripping off her sword and the severed head in her hand was a little disturbing.

"Nice," Scott admitted.

"Damn right."

Stiles bent back over his notebook and Scott sighed, slouching a little deeper in his desk, listening to the rhythmic tick tock of the clock. It was more than the boredom of class that had him on edge.

Ten days. It had been ten days of waiting for the other shoe to fall - - waiting for an attack from a man Chris Argent said didn't easily give up hunts once he'd begun them. A man Argent had claimed was a ruthless, brutal bastard - - as if Scott didn't know first hand - - and it hadn't happened.

Nothing had happened. Those first few days of expecting it had had him jumping at shadows. Nerves so taut strung that he'd had to put a concerted effort into not popping claw every time someone came up behind him or caught him unawares.

He'd texted Stiles pretty constantly those first few days, when he wasn't around to keep an eye on. He couldn't help it. He wasn't the only one that had evaded Dupont's hunt. And Stiles, who had already been bouncing off walls with anxiety, whose imagination for the macabre needed no fuel whatsoever, fed off Scott's case of nerves and went just slightly insane.

Part of that probably also had to do with the lack of vehicular transportation. Being paranoid and stranded at home with nothing but time on his hands and an internet that gave him access to any number of disturbing informational sources had sent him into a fit of Adderall fueled mania. Suffice to say Scott had spent a lot of time over Stiles' house or vice versa during the last week of winter break, both for his own peace of mind as well as Stiles'.

But break passed and nothing out of the ordinary happened. And it was exhausting, constantly worrying over threat that never came. Constantly listening for that sound that was out of place, or scenting after the waft of gunpowder or the distinctive smell of a certain cigar was starting to make him just a little crazy, so there was nothing to do but ease up and let himself relax.

Stiles wasn't entirely following suit. He tended to hold onto his obsessions a lot longer than Scott, but he was getting better.

When the bell rang Stiles was out of his seat and stalking towards the door before Scott had stuffed his books into his backpack. Scott caught up with him at Lydia's locker. Stiles was in the process of badgering her for the umpteenth time since they'd gotten back from their little road trip and subsequent horror movie adventure, regarding any premonitions she might have experienced concerning the state of his continued existence.

As far as Scott knew, she'd stopped responding to his texts about three days ago. Stiles had been bitching about her lack of responses to him since.

"Any dreams the last few nights? Do you see me dying anytime soon? How about Scott? Do you get the feeling of any of us dying from anything bullet related?"

"I'm thinking about shooting you, myself. Does that count?" She gave him a faint, humorless smile.

He glared at her, exasperated, until she finally stomped a foot and snapped. "I'm not a magic 8 ball for death. And as much as I might like to have the ability, its not a switch I can turn off an on. And even if I could, can we just assume that maybe - - just maybe, there's nothing for me to sense? Maybe we'll actually have a semester free of death and mutilation."

Stiles swung his gaze to Scott for backup. But honestly, Scott was rather hoping Lydia's take on things might prove true.

"She might be right. We're due some good luck."

"Yeah and maybe I'll hit the lottery and pigs will fly out of my ass and you'll get a 4.0 GPA. Any other fantasies you want to promote?"

"Not particularly," he said tightly, meeting Stiles' glower with a glare of his own.

Lydia rolled her eyes, then glanced past them, her smile turning marginally predatory as one of the Twins approached down the hall. Up close he could distinguish between the two from their scent. Half a hallway away in the midst of dozens of kids, he had to assume it was Aidan from the fact that Lydia assumed it was Aidan.

"As interesting as your preoccupation with your own death is, I've got a free period to make use of." Lydia handed her books off to Aidan.

He gave her a half smile, half leer. Stiles' eyes got narrower.

Aidan sort of ignored Stiles altogether, but he gave Scott a nod of acknowledgement. Free of Deucalion's influence, the twins chose to be here. But they maintained a certain distance. Deaton said that what Deucalion had done wasn't natural. That alphas by nature, when they weren't competing for territory, or assembling for rare gatherings, gave each other space. That the instinct to assert power - - to try each other was too strong. Scott didn't feel it. But then, he wasn't a born wolf, or a conventional alpha, so maybe there was a difference.

Maybe the impulse wasn't so strong with the twins either, since they'd been omega's before they'd become alphas. Maybe there was a difference because they hadn't been quite the same since the Darach had almost killed them - - as if that near death experience had drained something from them. Maybe survival instinct was just stronger with them than the instinct to lead. But not always. Aidan sometimes gave him the occasional look, like he was contemplating testing him, before he'd shake it off and go about his business.

Stiles stood there, visibly fuming while Lydia flounced off with Aidan. It was hard to say which element of that encounter had pissed him off more; Lydia's failure to give proper death premonitions or her insinuations that free period was going to be used for more than studying. But then Stiles was more than capable of griping about multiple things at once, so maybe both.

"Would you just try and relax? Just a little?" Scott clapped a hand on his shoulder and steered him away from the lockers.

Stiles continued to simmer for at least half the hall, before he finally took a breath and relented. "Its just the not knowing that gets to me, y'know?"

"Yeah." Scott most certainly did.

"It makes me crazy."

"I've noticed."

Stiles cast him a look. "The fact that you're so chill just sort of makes me want to slap you around a little."

"I promise you, I wasn't chill. You know I wasn't. But I got better. I mean there's a point where you have to stop tearing yourself up. If something happens, it happens. And if it does, I'll deal with it. There's not much else I can do."

"I like to be proactive."

"How?"

Stiles sniffed, not having an answer to that.

They headed their separate ways then, Scott to geometry and Stiles to pre-calculus, the last classes of the day, before they had to head outside for the first mandatory after school meeting for pre-season lacrosse. He looked forward to it. It was a distraction from things no normal seventeen year old ought to be dealing with, and a good one. And hopefully the world wouldn't conspire this season to complicate his life to the point where he couldn't concentrate on the game.

It would be good for Stiles too, if he could manage to make first line this season. He needed the distraction as badly as Scott did.

They met up after class, finding each other in the mass migration of students heading for lockers or the exits. Apparently Stiles had been thinking about the upcoming pre-season pow wow as well, because he was off the impending death by big game hunter tirade and onto fretting over the state of his lacrosse skills. They hadn't gotten in a lot of practice during off-season. There'd been a lot of distractions.

He lost track a little of what Stiles was saying when he saw Allison weeding her way through the crowded hallway towards them. The jacket and the bulky layered sweaters she had on did nothing to detract from how long her legs looked in skinny jeans and knee high boots. If he ever looked at her and didn't appreciate how good she looked, he 'd probably be one breath away from dead.

"Scott. I want to talk to you." There was something in the tone of her voice and the way she was holding herself that triggered alarms.

He stopped, Stiles lingering beside him, as she marched up.

"Hey, Alli - -"

"What did you say to Isaac?" She cut him off mid-greeting.

"Umm - - what?"

"All week long I could barely get him to talk to me - - and finally when I pin him down, do you know what he says?"

"Uhh - -"

He was peripherally aware of Stiles easing away from him and migrating into the crowd of exiting students, but most of his attention was on Allison's angry brown eyes and the finger she was presently using to stab at his chest. She was pissed off at him for some bewildering reason and it was ridiculous that half his mental resources were focused on the very potent scent of honey and sunflowers wafting from her hair.

"He said that maybe he and I ought to 'back off a little' because you're having problems with him 'doing' your ex. That's what he said."

Scott blinked past the scent of her hair and stared at her in surprise. "He said I said that? Allison, I didn't. I wouldn't."

He floundered, trying to recall if maybe he had done something that day he'd been hyped on wolfsbane, but most of it was hazy and indistinct in his memory.

"If I needed someone to chase off my dates, I've got my father," she said, low, calm voice. But then when Allison got angry, she went cool and calm. Her indignation was contained, evident by the stillness of her body, by the cold intensity of her eyes. Frankly, it was scary as hell when it was directed at him.

She took a step forward and he sort of instinctively took half a one back. "He listens to you and you had no right."

"I know - - " The finger on his chest had morphed into five, the feel of her fingertips burning through his shirt.

"I'm trying, Scott. I'm really trying - -" she said, and the cool in her voice broke a little. Her breathing did. She closed her hand, making a sudden fist, as if she'd only just realized where her fingers had been.

"Trying to do what?" He felt like he was missing some integral part of the conversation.

She opened her mouth, shut it, a furrow crinkling her brow, before she shook her head and took that step backwards that allowed Scott to breathe again.

"It doesn't matter," she mumbled, suddenly sounding as confused as he felt. "Okay. Okay - - I believe you."

And she left him there, just like that, back against the lockers, feeling like he'd been blindsided by a 5'8 Mack truck. It took him a moment to get his bearings. A moment to get his brain functioning again enough to figure out that if there was blame to place for overstepping boundaries, just whose sneakers to lay it at.

Stiles.

He caught up with him halfway to the athletics field behind the main building. It didn't matter to Coach that the ground was covered in a layer of white, nor that snow was still drifting down. The whole first semester, he'd been itching to get back to Lacrosse and pre-season was finally here. He'd have had them out on the field for his pre-season pep talk if there'd been tornados and floods of biblical proportions bearing down on them.

"You prick," Scott accused, as they were tromping through snow along with the rest of the old team and the new hopefuls. "Allison just tore my head off. And it's your fault."

Stiles tossed him an offended look. "How is it my fault that Allison bitch slapped you?"

"Because you said something to Isaac and Isaac said something to her and now she thinks I'm the asshole, when really, the asshole is you." Scott got out in one belabored breath.

"Really? Really?" Stiles waved a hand at the world in general. "The person who stands up for you when you're too much of a wuss to do it yourself - - the person who always has your back is the asshole?"

Scott glared at that flagrant attempt to guilt him into retreat.

"Yes," he hissed, lowering his voice as they caught up with the mingling crowd of feet stomping, shivering kids on the field. "What did you say?"

"I didn't say anything." Stiles declared, then, after a moment or two of consideration amended. "Well, not much of anything. I left it up to him to figure out on his own."

"God." Scott glanced over his shoulder at the last stragglers making their way across the field, one of which was Isaac. He'd been really, really distracted the last week of winter break, but now that he thought about it, Isaac had been a little more 'twitchy' than usual. A little more on edge. Not avoiding him - - actually staying pretty damned close - - just not doing a lot of talking. Not making a lot of eye contact. Scott had just figured he was waiting for that other shoe along with the rest of them.

When maybe it had been something else entirely.

One part of him, the part that had wanted to put his teeth to Isaac's throat during the full moon, was very much okay with Isaac feeling a healthy dose of insecurity. The other part, the part that considered Isaac a friend, the part that felt the need to look out for a kid that had been beaten down and broken before he'd become a wolf, needed to make this right. The two parts combined were going out of their way to make his life more complicated than it already was.

He cast one more annoyed look at Stiles, and headed back to intercept Isaac, no earthly idea what he was going to say.

"Hey, Isaac, can I talk to you a minute?"

Isaac shrugged, falling back and letting the other boys walk ahead.

Scott took a breath and plunged in. "Listen, whatever Stiles said to you," he cast a look over his shoulder to where Stiles was pretending he wasn't paying them any attention. "Ignore it. If you and Allison have a thing - - it doesn't matter if I'm okay with it. Its her call."

It sort of felt like he was plunging a blade into his own heart with the words. Stupid, stubborn heart that just couldn't make itself stop feeling feelings for her. Maybe he was that stalkery guy that couldn't get over his ex.

Isaac hunched his shoulders a little, staring at him, blue eyes wary. "Are you okay with it?"

That was not the question to ask him when Allison practically biting his head off in the hall had made his blood rush and his palms sweat. And he could have dealt with it so much better, if her heart hadn't been pounding so hard by the time she'd fled, that he practically hadn't needed werewolf hearing to notice it. He could lie outright, just to put Isaac's mind at rest, since that's what Allison seemed to want - - but then, he wasn't feeling that degree of altruism. Not with this.

"No. But like I said, it doesn't matter what I think."

"We haven't done it," Isaac blurted, then shrugged awkwardly and said with Isaac's usual talent for bluntness. "Not that I don't want to - - it's sort of hard not to want to, because Allison's really, really hot."

Which was again, not what Scott wanted to hear, but his head whirled with the implications of the information, because he'd really thought they were.

"Seriously? So are we talking first base? Second? What?" Scott had no idea when Stiles had moved in, werewolf hearing not nearly so good when he was busy digging holes in his own head that he might not easily be able to get out of.

He cast Stiles a warning look. Isaac stuck his hands in his pockets and glowered, no happier than Scott was to be having this conversation at all, Scott was sure.

He was never so happy to hear the shrill bleat of Coach Finstock's whistle. He stood there, barely listening as Coach paced before the gathered group, envisioning grand things, almost manic in his over caffeinated enthusiasm for the upcoming season.

"So, I call you on being a dick and you run right to your girlfriend and complain?" Stiles whispered across Scott to Isaac.

Isaac glowered back. "Shut up. And I didn't."

"Yeah, right." Stiles snorted. "And is she? You guys refer to yourselves as boyfriend/girlfriend yet? Or is it a just friends fooling around sort of thing?"

"I'm gonna just smash my fist into your face sort of thing," Isaac growled.

"Oh really? Right here? Right now?"

Scott wanted to smash his fist into both their faces. Between the two of them - - between the two of them and Allison - - he was starting to feel slightly homicidal.

"McCall!" Coach screamed at him and he started, blinking in surprise at Finstock's red face and slightly fanatical stare.

"Yeah, coach?"

"Are you even listening? Are you too busy day dreaming about ponies and easy bake ovens to give this team the attention it deserves?"

"Uh - -no, coach."

"That's good. Because we lost a third of our first line to graduation. And when Jackson decided to take a tour of Europe," coach made a face and emphasized the word with air quotations. "He left a big hole to be filled. Are you ready to go from co-captain to just captain, McCall? Are you man enough to fill Jackson's hole?"

"Ummm - - yes?" He heard Stiles choking a little at his side.

Coach just pumped a fist, oblivious to the words that came out of his own mouth and went on.

"Tryouts are next week and just because you made the team last year doesn't mean someone better won't come along this year and knock you out of your spot." He eyed several of the old team members meaningfully. "Do you guys want to be shown up by a bunch of freshmen? Can you imagine that humiliation? You'll be pariahs in your own school if some pimple-faced freshman kicks your ass on the field. And if some of you morons don't know what that means - - then look it up! So I expect you all to bring your best game to try-outs and make me proud."

There was more along that vein. More stomping and fist shaking and wild-eyed sports analogies that didn't always have anything to do with sports - - but then Coach sometimes got distracted with the passion of his own tirades.

When Coach finally let them go, they migrated off the field in clumps. Isaac sort of drifted towards Danny and a few other of the old players, likely taking any excuse not to continue the painfully uncomfortable conversation they'd been having. Of course it wasn't like they could avoid each other successfully, what with living under the same roof and all. Just the idea of all the awkwardness likely to crop up was enough to make Scott cringe inwardly.

"This could get awkward," Stiles remarked, apparently precisely tuned in to whatever wavelength Scott's brain was currently working on. "Because of him living in your house and all."

"It won't get awkward." He ground out. "I won't let it get awkward."

"How are you gonna stop it? With your Gandhi-like powers of harmony and peace? What if he brings her over for a make out session? You're gonna start shredding furniture."

Scott whipped an irritated look at him. "He's not bringing her over for a make out session."

"Right, because her dad is so cool with her dating werewolves that her place is the best option. How'd that work out for you so far as uninterrupted quality time went?"

"Would you shut up?" Stiles was systematically working his last nerve. And now he had him thinking about just how much uninterrupted quality time he and Allison had managed to find at her house, even when she'd had both parents around to kill their buzz. It was depressing.

"Hey, at least she's got a type. Personally I don't get lycanthropy as a turn on, but to each his own."

"Oh my God - - you're finding your own way home. I'm already late for work." He stalked off, visions of Stiles trudging home through five miles of snow making him very happy at the moment.

"What? You're stranding me?"

"Call your dad. Ride the bus. I don't care."

"You suck," Stiles yelled after him, then clarified. "Balls. Big, hairy balls."

 

 

 

Stories IndexFiction IndexCatalogue and CommisionsArt GalleriesSend feedbackNext