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The only thing they accomplished by calling Scott's mom was to totally freak her out. No matter how carefully you phrased it, being called up and asked if she happened to know where her son was, when he was damned well supposed to be at school, had in fact been on his way to school the last she'd seen him, did not a happy mom make.
Deaton, likewise hadn't heard from Scott. Which pretty much exhausted the 'simple explanation' scenario that Allison had proposed. Of course Stiles had known it wouldn't pan out. He felt it in his gut, that queasy feeling that came hand in hand with dire shit either about to, or already having hit the fan.
So they headed to Scott's house, skipping school the least of their concerns, in the hopes of retracing his route and maybe lucking out and having Isaac pick up his scent.
Lydia stayed at school, just in case he did show up and proved them all guilty of way too active, way too morbid imaginations. They took Stiles' Jeep and started tracing the path he knew Scott would have taken, going slow enough, trying to spot anything along the way, trying to give Isaac the best chance possible of picking up the trace of a trail.
They'd gotten out to the long stretch of Rt. 17 with nothing but forest lining road, when Isaac told Stiles to stop.
"I lost it," he said, frowning. "I had it - - but it stopped somewhere along here."
Stiles pulled off to the side of the road and they got out, walking back along the gravely roadside, until Isaac stopped in his tracks, head up, nostrils flaring as he picked up things Stiles and Allison couldn't hope to perceive.
"Here. He was right here and his scent just stops."
"What do you mean stops?" Stiles demanded. "How does it just stop? Try harder."
Isaac cast him a sullen look. "I am trying. He was on a bike. I can track him on a bike. Maybe he wasn't on the bike anymore."
"If it were me," Allison said softly, staring into the forest beyond the thirty yards or so of thicket off the side of the road. "And I were hunting him - - if I were looking to set up an ambush along his route to school. This is the place I'd choose to do it."
They both stared at her, at her quiet, calm assessment of the mental workings of the professional hunter. And she was right. There was nothing but trees for as far as the eye could see in either direction. A nice private place for a kidnapping or a killing.
The queasiness in Stiles' gut churned up a notch. He tasted a little bile at the back of his throat. He made himself breathe, spent a few precious seconds concentrating on simply drawing air into his lungs to keep the raving panic at bay.
"What if he's already dead?" he had to voice it. It would be naïve of them not to consider it. And it was so very possible, if it was Dupont finally come to finish up his failed hunt.
"Then we hunt down the people that did it and we kill them." Isaac growled.
"He's not dead." Allison said. She fixed the both of them with determined brown eyes and repeated it. "He is not dead."
Isaac just stared at her, clenching and unclenching his fists. The claws were out. Stiles felt a wash of camaraderie towards Isaac for those shared nerves when Allison with her hunter face on, cool and determined and too Goddamned calm, made him feel like a panicky girl.
"Yeah, well - - if we don't find him - - it might not be too long before he is."
They searched about the area, him and Allison checking the roadside and the tall grass between it and the trees, while Isaac ventured into the woods themselves, searching for any trace of a scent. Cars passed sporadically, curious faces peering out windows at a couple of teenagers scouring the roadside. None of them warranted his notice, until the tan squad car with the Beacon Hills sheriff department logo on its side slowed to a stop behind his Jeep.
Then he looked up and groaned, as his dad got out and beckoned with a strident jerk of his hand. Stiles looked at Allison a few dozen feet away and they both started heading towards the road, Stiles already formulating his perfectly good excuse why he wasn't in school.
"I've got Melissa McCall calling me in a panic, because you called her in a panic worried about Scott not showing up for school."
"Or answering his phone. Or his texts." Stiles pointed out that other pertinent fact.
"Stiles, from what she says, its been barely been four hours. Don't you think you're jumping the gun a little? Teenagers have been known to skip school on occasion. Case in point - - you two."
"Dad," Stiles threw out his arms in frustration. "He didn't just get a wild hair and decide to cut all his classes and sever communication with the world halfway to school. Something happened!"
"He's right, Sheriff Stilinski," Allison added her voice to Stiles. "After what happened during break, he would have let someone know - - "
"Unless he couldn't." Stiles finished up.
His dad opened his mouth to maybe argue the other side of that point, then stopped, staring past them towards the woods. Stiles spun on his heel. Isaac was trudging out of the trees, pushing a motorbike. Scott's bike.
Stiles had known. He'd damn well known, but this confirmation that something terrible had happened made his stomach plummet.
Allison whispered. "That's Scott's bike."
"Crap," his dad said.
"You think he just left his bike in the woods, too, while he was skipping class?" Stiles wasn't feeling charitable. He was feeling vaguely sick and desperate and those two combined had him way into the red on the testiness scale.
His dad took a breath, turning things over in his head. Knowing things now that he hadn't three months ago. Things that didn't necessarily make his job easier and damn sure made it pricklier. It wasn't like he could go into the station and start explaining the missing seventeen year old in question was a werewolf who'd gotten on the bad side of a hunter who specialized in supernatural game.
"All right. I'm putting out an APB. The three of you - - take his bike back to his house and wait for me there."
She lay quiet and still, biding her time.
She knew the scents of the Man's soldiers, and she would track them one and all and rip them to pieces. None would escape her rage once she rid herself of the bonds the Man had placed upon her. The Man and the bitch that smelled like him, she would tear open and feed upon their organs. She had spent days, while the awareness of self crept back to her like the whisper of a long dead shade, dwelling on nothing save the vengeance she would reap.
But now her attention had shifted and the Man and his minions were only peripheral presences in her awareness, all her senses trained on the Wolf.
The thud of his frantic heartbeat. The soft rasp of breath. The occasional sound of pain, the growl of effort as he tested the limits of his restraints and failed. The scent of his blood when he bled afterwards. He reeked of it. Blood and fear and desperation. A young wolf, without the test of time to harden him against the harsh reality of pain and death.
The Man would take him and he would break him, because that was his way. Because the Man had been bested at the hunt and the man held grudges.
But the Man was not the only hunter bested by a fledgling wolf, not the only predator that savored his grudges.
The Wolf was hers.
She lay down, inhaling the scent of him - - and waited.
"Tell me why you think its Dupont?"
Had been the first thing Sheriff Stilinski had asked when they gathered in Scott's kitchen. Isaac had ridden the bike home after Allison had hot wired it for him - - a burgeoning habit that she hoped they didn't have to repeat again. There were other things that smacked of deja vu - - chief among them the desperate fear that someone she loved was simply gone and that nothing she could do could save his life.
And she hated that feeling of helplessness. It was the stuff of her nightmares.
"The guy followed us halfway across the state - - he's a psychopath - - he's holding a grudge - - Allison's dad says he never gives up on a hunt - - I've got a feeling." Stiles flung out his hands for added emphasis. He was practically vibrating, a virtual melting pot of nerves.
His dad stared at him long and hard, before turning his gaze to Allison. "Do you have a feeling, too?"
"It doesn't matter if I have a feeling." She said quietly, adding another brick to the internal dam blocking the flow of those debilitating emotions that made her want to find a corner and cry. When she'd seen Isaac with that bike and she'd known Stiles was right, it was like the world had stopped, nothing registering inside her head for a few precious seconds but an all-consuming wave of fear. Stiles had ranted half the way to Scott's house, because that's what he did when he was afraid, while she'd sat there, silent in her own terror and started the construction of that wall. "What matters is Scott's gone and somebody dumped his bike in the woods to cover it up. Stiles' is right about Julian Dupont. My father says relentless isn't a word that does him justice and he has more than just a failed hunt to be angry about. You and my father brought the attention of the law down upon him and for a man that operates in the shadows that was inconvenient."
Stiles sniffed at the understatement. Isaac leaned against the refrigerator, brows drawn, this look in his eyes that boded well for no one. It wouldn't take much and he'd explode and she didn't know if she could stop him. Scott could have.
"I've got every deputy in the county on the lookout for Scott. I'll put out a bolo with Dupont's description. Allison, you need to call your father. He has contacts in the world this man operates in that I don't."
She took a breath, nodding. She should have done it already, but she'd been too busy staving off the emotion that wanted to cripple her.
She was digging for her phone when Melissa McCall got home. She should have known someone was on their way in from the way Isaac had canted his head, hearing something the rest of the hadn't. And from the hunched shoulders, and the miserable look on his face before the car had even pulled into the drive, it could have only been Scott's mother.
She burst into the kitchen and stopped, clutching her bag, staring at them all wide eyed and pale, taking in the fact that there were less of them than there should have been and stating the obvious.
"You haven't found him."
Sheriff Stilinski stepped forward when the boys were conspicuously silent. "Not yet. I've got my deputies looking."
"Is it the man that had them before? The Hunter?" she asked softly.
"Yes," Stiles finally found his voice and got a sharp look from his father for the effort.
"We don't know, yet."
"We do know. I know," Stiles said.
"Stiles!" His father pointed a finger this time. "We have a theory. We don't have the facts to back it up."
"His bike's outside," she said.
And for a moment, none of them could think up the words to respond to that, when her face was already crumbling with desperation.
"We found it in the woods," Allison spoke up and filled the silence men and boys weren't willing to. "That's were Isaac lost his scent. I think its Dupont, too. I think we need to find him quickly or we won't find him at all."
Melissa took a deep breath, maybe having her own rituals for forcing calm in desperate situations. She dealt with life and death every day, after all and that was not a calling suited for a woman prone to hysteria.
"Okay," she said, nodding, but her hands were shaking ever so slightly. "Thank you, for that."
"Melissa," Sheriff Stilinski said. "I'm going to take the alert statewide. He's a minor, and they're right, this man Dupont has resources. We'll do everything within our power - -"
"John," she cut him off, and Allison figured first names were the least of the formalities practiced when you'd been tied up together for the better part of two days. "Don't give me the official spiel. I don't want platitudes. I just want my son. Find my son."
The light coming in through the slats in the barn wall had started to fade when they came for him. A handful of Dupont's men that came and stood outside the cage with faint looks of amusement on their faces, before they triggered the current that ran through the bars and took Scott down. The beast in the neighboring cage snarled, pacing with the click of claws against metal. He could hear it through the thudding of his heart and the ringing in his ears.
They dragged him out, trusting the electricity to have incapacitated him long enough for them to do whatever it was they had in mind. Not counting on the desperate rush of adrenalin that fed strength to quivering muscles.
He threw his weight against one and sent the man tumbling, ripped his arm out of the grip of the other and lunged with a snarl and flash of teeth that sent the man scrambling backwards, fumbling for the stun baton that hung at his belt.
Scott wasn't looking for a fight. He was looking for a way out. He got all of six steps before acid flooded his veins and he went down screaming.
The men came back then, while he was writhing in the dirt and took their petty vengeance, hitting him with the business ends of their stun batons until any semblance of control he had over his muscles evaporated on a red tinged wave of convulsion.
The smell of blood was overpowering, the taste of it was, flooding his mouth where he'd bitten through his tongue. Dupont's scent got past even that. Scent he could count on when even vision failed.
A body crouched down next to him and he knew it was Dupont.
"Do you know I was eight years old when I killed my first wolf? Not your kind of wolf, of course - - that would come later - -but a rangy tundra beast just north of the Ukraine. One of my father's hunting expeditions. I believe there was a Soviet premier in attendance - - my father was popular with the Russians. And Russians do have a taste for killing wolves."
He pushed Scott onto his back and leaned down over him until his vision cleared enough for him to focus. "I know a Soviet secretary General that would kill to get his hands on you. Quite literally. An excellent customer despite certain - - perversions."
Scott drew in a shuddery breath, shivering with the fading vestiges of his body plunging into shock and recovering. He wasn't entirely sure how much more he could take of this before the healing began to falter.
Dupont looked at his wristwatch and smiled. "I imagine my sister has started a hunt of her own now. She's quite the talented marksman."
Scott shut his eyes, curling his fists that had gone half numb behind him. Nails bit into his palms, a stab of honest pain. Pleading for a life - - any life - - with this man was a waste of breath. Better to find his moment and tear out his throat. He didn't know when murder had become such an easy solution to swallow. Maybe around the time the acid burning through his blood stream had started eating away at his sanity a little shred at a time while this man casually talked about killing people he loved.
"I may have to take out Argent as well. He's not a man to take lightly. His girl as well, if she's taken up the family trade. The last thing anyone needs is an Argent with a score to settle."
Scott did lunge then, the pain meaning nothing, full wolf from one second to the next. The only thing that kept him from sinking his teeth into Dupont's flesh were his men, loitering around them, catching hold of his jacket, his hair and hauling him backwards. They shocked him with stun batons before the ones with a grip on him had released their hold and took at least two of them down with him.
"Don't touch her," he gasped, when he could draw in enough air to get the words out.
Dupont pushed himself to his feet, brushing off the straw and the dirt from his clothing. "Ah. She's the reason Chris Argent finds himself allied with a wolf. Have you fucked his little girl? Are generations of Argents turning in their graves at the sheer irony?"
Dupont laughed, seemingly genuinely amused.
"Fuck you - -" Scott ground out, twisting at the manacles.
"Now that's disrespectful and I don't tolerate disrespect from beasts."
He triggered the collar, and Scott stopped trying the metal around his wrists in favor of screaming and curling in a knot on the ground.
There was the clink of chain and when his vision cleared he saw Dupont standing there with a coiled length of it in his hands.
"I think it's about time you and I established a few ground rules about the hierarchy of our relationship in terms a wolf can understand." He jerked his head to his men and casually ordered. "String him up."
It started raining around five, which made an already miserable grey day even grayer and more miserable. It also meant any trace of a scent a wolf with a keen nose might have picked up was as good as lost.
They kept looking anyway. Trying all those places with meaning, because they had no idea where else to look. Beacon Hills was a sprawling town and the surrounding county was massive, with miles and miles of thickly forested woodland. Even with a thousand people searching, without a starting point, they were shooting in the dark.
The alternative was to sit at home and slowly loose their minds, which was no alternative at all. Stiles' dad had pulled in every off duty deputy on his staff and had them scouring the roads. The twins were out prowling the east side of the county, and both Deacon and Chris Argent were exhausting what resources they had. And so far nothing.
Stiles and Isaac and Allison had been searching on their own, but come nine o'clock when the January day had already faded to dark they met back up on school grounds to compare failures. It was so frustrating Stiles wanted to scream. He did internally, pacing back and forth in front of the empty bleachers where Allison and Isaac sat.
"So what do we do? What the hell do we do now? What if it's too late, already?"
"We don't give up," Allison said adamantly, huddling against the very fine mist in her black pea coat. Her hair was lank with moisture, long strands of it clinging to the pale, pale skin of her face. They were all wet and miserable and tired. "We never give up."
Isaac just stared into the darkness across the field, eyes hidden in shadow, like he was extending all of his senses, even now.
Stiles wished he had her determined hope, or Isaac's sharpened senses, because devoid of both of them, he felt lost. Worst-case scenario was always his go to expectation and he'd had a long time today to imagine terrible things. He needed someone to calmly and patiently talk him down from the ledge of his own making, but Isaac was walking his own thin line and Allison didn't have the patience to focus on anything but the problem at hand. And neither one of them was Scott who would have understood and who would have taken the time to help find the flaws in Stiles' logic.
Allison's phone rang and she dug it out of her coat pocket. Stiles stopped his pacing and stared while she carried out a brief conversation that consisted mostly of 'okay's and all right's'.
"That was my dad," she said when she'd hung up. "He's got feelers out and he's hopeful some of them will get back to him soon. He wants to talk with Gerard and he wants me to be there."
"He thinks Gerard will know something?" Stiles asked, feeling a little stab of hope. A miserable source to place any sort of trust in, but beggars couldn't very well be choosers. And Gerard knew things - - a great many things - - if you could untangle the truths from the lies.
She rose, picking up the small black crossbow that she'd had on the bench between herself and Isaac. "Gerard knows Dupont. So maybe. We'll find out."
"You want us to come?" Isaac asked.
"No. I think it'll be more productive if its just me and dad. I'll call you when I'm done."
They walked her across the field to the parking lot where her car sat next to Stiles' jeep. Stiles paced back towards the field after she'd driven off, not wanting to leave yet - -nowhere to really go but home and once he returned there it would be like giving up.
"I don't know what to do," he said it more to himself than Isaac.
"Like she said. We keep looking."
There was a little stone culvert than ran behind the field, with a fenced off half round drainage pipe. The concrete was covered in spray painted proclamations, most of them a romantic nature. There weren't a lot of serious taggers in the suburbs of Beacon Hills.
"We missed tryouts today," Stiles kicked a clump of soggy earth into the culvert and watched the steady stream of water running along the bottom carry it towards the drainage pipe.
"Yeah," Isaac stood staring towards the distant line of trees beyond the lacrosse field.
"Coach was pretty adamant about attending tryouts. You think we lost our chance at first line?"
"Not me and Scott. Coach isn't stupid." Isaac said it as if it weren't an insult.
Stiles narrowed his eyes, something snitty on the tip of tongue.
He felt the sting of impact, before he registered the sound of the shot. It spun him to one side, and for a second he thought someone had flung a rock out of the shadows, before Isaac tackled him to the ground. The crack of the second shot, he heard. The grunt of pain as Isaac maybe took a hit, but stayed crouched there over him regardless, fangs out and eyes glowing yellow. Another crack and dirt went up by his shoulder and then something slammed into the both of them, carrying them over the edge and down into the cover of the drainage ditch.
They hit concrete, and predictably Stiles ended up on the bottom of the tangle, half submerged in cold water. Isaac got jerked off of him, and he got yanked up by a fist in his jacket collar.
He blinked up in shock at the grim visage of Derek Hale. Stubbled face, hard eyes, jaw set in a grim line of annoyance. In other words, his usual expression. No one in Beacon Hills had seen hide or hair of him since he'd left close to four months ago with his sister. A dozen questions quivered at the tip of Stiles' tongue and none of them took precedent over cowering when a shot cracked off the lip of the culvert over his head, showering them with bits of concrete.
"You. Stay." Derek stabbed a finger at Stiles. Then one at Isaac. "You. There are maybe two to the west. Three more to the east. You take the west. Go."
Then he was out of the culvert in one bound and Isaac gone in another without a goddamned word of explanation. Stiles sat there, feet in the water, gasping after breath. His shoulder throbbed like maybe a whole colony of wasps had decided to zap him in the same exact spot. Gingerly he lifted a hand and felt under his coat. The shoulder of his shirt was wet. Warm wet. And when he pressed his fingers to his flesh, the throbbing went viral.
He grimaced, leaning over his knees as the ache started radiating outwards.
He'd been shot. He'd actually been shot. The notion of it became just a little surreal. His vision spun in a wave of lightheadedness, but that might have been more from sheer panic than the result of the wound. The bullet wound. Then another shot rang out, and another and survival instinct let him shake it off. He scrambled towards the drainage pipe and pressed his back to the chain link, sinking down as low as he could. He clutched the shoulder despite the pain, visions of bleeding out dancing through his head. What if it had bounced off a bone and ricocheted down into his body and he was bleeding internally and didn't even know it. Would you feel something like that or would it be just one big numb? He should know that. Why didn't he know that? Lydia would know. He should call and ask.
He'd been shot. He'd been shot. That bounced around inside his skull like the repetitive chorus of a department store jingle. And why had he been shot? Well the answer to that was painfully clear. Scott hadn't been the only one to escape Dupont's hunt. He'd just been the one Dupont wanted the most.
He didn't even realize the shots had stopped - - that the night had gone silent and had been silent for some time, until a man he'd never seen before staggered to his knees at the top of the culvert with Derek close on his heels. A man in dark, camouflage clothing and an empty holster at his armpit. The guy tried to get to his feet, but a kick to the back of his legs sent him down with a grimace of pain.
Stiles pushed himself up and used the chain link at the mouth of the culvert to pull himself up the curved slope. Isaac was loping back across the field, minus any captured gunmen.
"God, is this the guy who was shooting at me?" Stiles gasped when he'd made it to the top.
"The one capable of still talking." Derek said shortly, before yanking the man up with a clawed hand curled around the back of his neck. Nails bit into flesh, making blood dribble down.
"I know you work for Dupont." Stiles forgot his pain and the stunning development of being shot and lunged down to grab hold of the man's shirt. "Where is he? Where's Scott?"
The guy glared up, a sneer on his face. When he slipped a hand into his boot and pulled out the gun hidden there, Stiles didn't see the move. He barely saw the arm coming up with the muzzle of the weapon aimed at his chest before Isaac cried out and Derek stepped in and with one sharp motion, snapped the man's neck like so much dry kindling.
And that was that. The guy just dropped dead at Stiles' feet and seeing it and hearing the sound of bone snapping, close up made him stand there in shock a beat, bile rising up in his throat.
"Well that's just great," he finally managed to mutter. "Just fantastic. You couldn't wait till he answered my question."
Derek stood there a second, brows faintly drawn as if he weren't quite sure he were hearing the complaint correctly. "Would you rather I had let him shoot you?"
"Again. Shoot me again." Stiles reminded everyone at large, then. "Where the hell did you come from?"
"I called him." Isaac shrugged, staring down at the body. "This morning, when you were in the middle of your second or third freak out."
Stiles opened his mouth. Shut it, too many things whirling around inside his head at the moment to form a single cohesive sentence. He took a breath and addressed the first one to get past the logjam. "I had a pretty good fucking reason to freak out. Scott's missing and I just got fucking shot. Oh my God, I'm shot."
Derek grabbed his arm and with no consideration whatsoever for the state of his wounds, yanked the collar of jacket and shirt away from his shoulder to actually see the damage. All Stiles could see from his angle was the blood stained mess of his jacket.
"Oh my God, is it bad? How bad is it?"
"It grazed you," Derek announced shortly, letting him go. "It's nothing."
Stiles gaped in indignation. "Oh, right and your medical degree came from where. Werewolf MU?"
Derek ignored his frenzy, gaze going to the body on the ground, then flicking up to shift between Isaac and Stiles.
"Shut up, and tell me what happened?"
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