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There wasn't a whole lot to tell Derek that Stiles couldn't sum up in a few concise words that ran along the lines of: Crazy ass hunter with a score to settle over the fact that he and Scott had had the audacity not to roll over and die for him.
It was maybe the shortest explanation of a miserable situation that Stiles had ever given in his life. But then he was distracted and he hurt. And though he was relieved that Derek was here, because they could use every set of claws they could get, he wasn't sure how much help he was going to be unless they actually found something to rip into.
"Have you tried calling to him?" Derek asked, while all three of them were standing out in the mist, wet and cold with a dead body at their feet. And yes, he'd seen dead bodies before - - too many dead bodies - - and they still never failed to make him want to crawl out his skin. It was worse when you actually saw the death in progress. Alive one minute, dead the next. And how many teenagers could claim they'd experienced that more than once? It must have been a damned exclusive club and he wished he could revoke his membership.
"Do you think we're idiots?" Stiles scoffed, brandishing his phone. "I've called. I've texted. He's not answering. I can try again if you like listening to voice mail."
"I mean, calling to him?" Derek fixed Isaac with his stare, ignoring Stiles.
Isaac opened his mouth. Shut it with a snap and shook his head, looking abashed. "I didn't think - - no."
Stiles stared between the two and then he got it. "Wolf calls. You mean wolf calls?"
"Yes," Derek confirmed.
"You've got a pretty good range with that, right? That might work, if he can answer. If he can't answer - - it's a waste of time. What sort of range?"
Derek drew his brows, at that breathless collection of words.
"Miles," he answered.
"Okay, then lets do that,"
"Us," Derek corrected. "Not you. You'll just slow us down."
"The hell. You're not ditching me."
"You're bleeding." Derek jerked his chin towards the broadening stain of red under Stiles' jacket. "Go home. Take care of it."
Derek started walking towards the parking lot, Isaac on his heels. Stiles stood there a moment stewing in indignant offense before following. Arguing with Derek was like arguing with a block of stone. Worse, because the stone blocks didn't have the tendency to get violent when you pushed them to the limits of their patience.
"So where's Cora?"
Derek cast him a glower over his shoulder.
"Nevada? Wasn't that where the pack was that she was hanging out with before she came back here?"
Derek didn't feel the need to confirm or deny that information.
"Why didn't she come with you? Did you two piss each other off, already? I can see that, since you both have such effervescent personalities."
He got another, darker look for that perfectly accurate observation. Derek's car was in the parking lot not far from Stiles' Jeep. It looked about as dirty and mud spattered as the Jeep. Derek would have had to have started back pretty soon after Isaac called him to have gotten here when he did, driving all the way from Nevada.
"What happened?" Stiles followed them to the car and pressed the issue.
"I didn't like her pack. They didn't like me. She had issues. She'll get over them. Go home. Stay there." That was almost a growl. And Stiles had to figure there was more to that half assed explanation than Derek was spilling. That and he was worried. He wasn't an alpha anymore, but the young wolves he'd left in Beacon Hills were still pack and Derek might be all about the tough love, but he went to the mat for pack.
"Call me if you hear anything," he directed that at Isaac, since he didn't trust Derek to do it. "I mean anything."
Isaac nodded before he slid into the passenger seat of the car.
Which left Stiles standing alone in a darkened parking lot with a throbbing bullet wound in his shoulder and a dead body across the field. He ought to call his dad. But then, if his dad knew he'd had somebody shooting at him - - and hitting him - - he'd have him locked in a cell somewhere until the danger was over. Which might be never if his luck ran the way it usually did. Someone would eventually discover the body and report it. Whether there were more in the woods, he hadn't thought to inquire of Derek or Isaac.
Derek and Isaac who had left him here, alone in a dark, deserted parking lot, after just getting shot. He cast a nervous look at the line of black trees surrounding the field and imagined creeping snipers coming back for a second try. He fumbled for his keys and got into the Jeep.
Home was out of the question for multiple reasons. If his dad was there, he'd freak out - -if he wasn't - - well, Stiles wasn't eager to be sitting alone at home with a bunch of psychotic hunters out to kill him.
His first choice of safe haven was currently unavailable - - having God knew what being done to him - - so he started the Jeep and headed towards the next best thing.
Lydia answered the door after the fourth or fifth time he rang the bell. He stood there, wet and muddy on her stoop, trying to think up something to say when there were so many things crowding his mind. 'Hey. I got shot,' seemed to be a poor opening gambit. Or maybe it was a really good one and he was just too tired to take advantage of a sure thing when it shot him in the shoulder.
"Did you find him?" she asked with the tone of someone who was expecting the worse and he supposed that maybe he had on the sort of expression that hinted at grief and despair.
"Not yet. Umm - - Can I come in?"
She blinked, then stepped back, clear invitation. "You've been looking all day?"
"Pretty much. My dad's got everybody out. Allison's dad is looking. The wolves are looking - -Derek's back by the way. Still nothing. I just needed someplace - - " his voice gave out on him and for a moment he had to shut his eyes, things welling up that adrenalin and purpose had held at bay most of the day.
"Is that blood?" She broke him out of it and he blinked, lifting a hand reflexively to his shoulder.
"I got shot." He laughed a little hysterically and had to shut his eyes again to nip it in the bud.
"Really? And you mention this as an afterthought?"
"No. Its right up in the forethought category - -"
She caught his hand and pulled him towards the kitchen. He let her push him towards a kitchen stool and slouched there, while she pulled out a first aid box from under the counter.
"They dumped his bike in the woods," he said numbly.
"I know. Allison told me." She helped him shrug out of his jacket. Moving the left arm hurt like a bitch.
"Shirt," she said, and he hesitated, feeling this weird little catch of breathless modesty. As many fantasies as he'd had about getting naked with Lydia - - this scenario, with him bloody and dirty and exhausted, hadn't figured in.
"Stiles," she dipped her head to give him a wry look. "You don't have anything I haven't seen before and I'm not asking you to strip down."
"Right. Thanks for that," he muttered, and let her help him with the shirt. He sat there sucking on inside of his cheek while she wet a rag and started messing with his shoulder.
"Derek said it just grazed me. Did it? How bad is it?" He twisted his head trying to see, not trusting Derek not to have underestimated the severity of the wound.
"Would you stop moving around? Let me clean the blood away so I can see. You probably should have gone to the emergency room and had an actual medical professional look at this."
"Yeah, well, they report gunshot wounds and I'm not ready for my dad to go ballistic and lock me down until they catch this guy."
"You don't have supernatural healing abilities, so maybe staying out of the line of fire is a good thing. He was right. It's not that deep. It just scored you. The blood makes it look worse than it is."
She held up fingers that were red with it - - and stopped, frozen, eyes glued to the stain on her hands. There were droplets of it, crimson against the pristine white marble of the island countertop.
"I know," he mumbled. "I got blood all over - -" he started to apologize and hesitated, something about the detached look in her eyes setting off warning signs. "Lydia?
He might not have spoken at all for all the attention she paid him. All her focus was on the red coating her fingers.
She canted her head, then without a word moved past him, idly sweeping up a set of keys on the far counter as she walked towards the door that presumably lead to the garage.
He sat there for a split second in shock; realization starting to set in that what he was seeing was her in the midst of a death trance. Or whatever the hell it was that sent her into the fugue like states she experienced when she inevitably ended up sniffing out something horrible.
"Oh - - God - -" He snatched up his shirt and his jacket and went after her.
She was already in her car, and he only managed to get the passenger door open and slip in next to her by the skin of his teeth. The car was moving before his foot left the ground.
He sat there, afraid to say anything in fear of snapping her out of it. Ever since break, he'd been pestering her about the slightest hint of some sort of death related premonition. Now he was scared to death dwelling on the grim possibilities of whatever it was that was drawing out her inner wailing woman. Without fail, when she when she went on once of these little jaunts, there was usually a body waiting for her.
He prayed that body wasn't Scott's.
There was a certain point, Scott had thought, where individual pains would stop having meaning. That when the agony kept coming, wave after wave with no room for recovery between the bouts, that it would all blend into one big, overwhelming miasma of hurt.
He found that wasn't quite the case. Individual pain mattered. The slice of a knife through the skin was no less distinguishable than the burn of acid bleeding into his bloodstream, or the jolt of electricity to the balls. The only thing that started to melt into insignificance was time. The only thing that kept him from folding in upon himself, shattering into a thousand screaming pieces - - was the rage that kept boiling up, indignant and miserable and grief stricken, every time Dupont would lean in and whisper sweet nothings in his ear.
They'd shocked him into oblivion and stripped him of his jacket and his shirt, refastened his hands in front of him and hauled him up like a side of beef ready for the carving. The ground under him was soaked with blood from where Dupont had already started the process.
For a while they had an audience; the skulking figures of Dupont's men waiting in the shadows of the barn, casually observing their employer at work. The girl who had lured him into ambush appeared once, as seemingly unconcerned with the atrocities Dupont was carrying out as the rest of them. She stayed for a while, carrying on a hushed conversation with one of the men, before she wondered out. Soon after, Dupont ordered the rest of them from the barn, as if the things he were doing had become too personal a matter for the eye of the casual observer.
And if he'd wanted anything - - asked anything that Scott could have answered - - could have given him - - he would have. Only Dupont wanted nothing from him save his pain - - and that he took without any cooperation from Scott at all. And he couldn't understand the look in Dupont's eyes, the palpable sense of lust that seeped from the man's very pores at the slow destruction of another living thing. Oh, he understood the fact that the bastard was getting off on it - - he just couldn't wrap his mind around how a psyche could become so utterly warped.
The edge of the knife sliced low across his stomach. The same spot it had already scored. Just deep enough to cut through skin and muscle, but not so deep that his guts might spill out. Dupont had pointed out this kindness. He was considerate in explaining the anatomy of his methods.
It hurt no less this time, than it had the last, and Scott shuddered convulsively, choking back a cry of pain. His skin twitched as much from Dupont's fingers tracing the edges of the already closing wound as from the wound itself. The hand slid up his stomach to rest on the center of his chest, palm cool and repulsive against his overheated skin. The other hand brought the tip of the knife to the hollow at the base of his neck, just below the collar. It pierced skin and he shut his eyes, grinding his teeth in his efforts to fight back the wail that wanted to burst free. He couldn't stop the tremors, though. The debilitating quaking of muscles that came with prolonged trauma.
"Do you know," Dupont said casually, as he drew the blade down, splitting skin in its wake. "That since I took over my father's trade - - I've never failed in a hunt? Oh, it may have taken years to find the trail of some prey - - the female vanago, for instance - - but once the hunt began, I'd never had prey elude me."
The knife stopped just above Scott's navel and Dupont stood there, watching the blood trickle down to join the migration southward from the first wound. He circled behind, while the flesh was still knitting.
Breath came hard, lodging in his throat. He went alternately cold and hot, light headed and faint to painfully clear awareness of what was being perpetrated upon him. The wounds healed, but the body still reacted violently to the infliction.
"Th-that's why you're doing th-this?" He found his voice, between labored breaths. It came out hoarse and weak, his throat raw from either prolonged screaming or the last shot of acid from the collar. It hardly mattered which. "Because we wounded your pride?"
Dupont's laugh had nothing of humor in it. He stepped in close to Scott's back, hand moving down the line of his spine, as if he were tracing out the next line of attack. His breath was warm against his ear when he whispered.
"You're an Alpha, boy and you don't understand the value of pride?"
Dupont slid his hand across his hip, fingers slipping inside the blood soaked waistband of his jeans. If he could have flinched away, he would have, but there was nowhere to go.
"You embarrassed me in front of men to whom reputation is everything. I lost face and I promise you, before I sell you to the highest bidder and help him hunt you down and kill you, I will take what you cost me out of your flesh."
"Oh for God's sake, Julian get your hands out of his pants and your mind back on business. If you've got a hard on for this wolf, take care of it somewhere where his pack isn't likely to track us down and cost us more than we've already lost because of two boys."
Jan Dupont stalked out of the shadows and her brother hissed, withdrawing his hand, then driving the knife into Scott's side in a pique of annoyance. Scott choked on a scream, twisting where he hung with the knife still lodged above his hip while Dupont stepped towards his sister.
Through the red clouding his vision, Scott saw blood on her jaw. A set of shallow slices from the corner of her jaw to her shoulder. Claw marks. Isaac, he thought. If she'd gone after Stiles, Isaac might have been with him. And if he'd gotten close enough to get in a strike - -
But then, if he'd gotten that close and she was here, able to walk away, maybe he hadn't been able to. And if he had been with Stiles - - maybe Stiles hadn't been able to walk away either. Flashes of terrible imagery bombarded him in time with the throb of a heart that was valiantly trying to pump blood through his veins. A lot less blood than what he'd had. And flesh knitted, but he wasn't so sure that his body could create blood out of thin air. The knife in his side wasn't helping, blood seeping out, thick and warm, down his side, soaking his jeans, the wound unable to heal because of the blade. The pain was this screeching hornets nest that radiated out from the point of entry.
Grey crowded in amongst the red of his vision, the world tipping out from under him, sickening blood flavored bile rising in his throat, dribbling out his mouth as internal bleeding as well as external, began to take its toll.
"We've got a problem," Jan said. "Least of all your toy bleeding out."
Dupont glanced back, lifted a brow, and casually yanked the blade out. He wiped the dark blood off on the thigh of Scott's jeans before sliding it into the sheath at his belt.
"I take it from the bloody memento on your face that your hunting expedition ran into a snag?"
"You might say that." Her eyes were glacial. "I lost two men. And this little hick town's crawling with more law than I would have given it credit for. There's an all points bulletin out with your description attached, by the way. And wolves. His pack, I would assume. We need to leave here while we can leave. You've had enough time to play, Julian. Once we're across the border with a destination in mind, you can devote all the time you want to your little games."
"You have no sense of adventure, my dear," Dupont waved a negligent hand. "But I concede to your good sense."
"I've arranged for plane - -" she said and her voice was fading in and out of Scott's hearing, eaten up by the rush of the blood in his ears.
"What's got her so upset?" Dupont's curious voice, and after a moment, Scott realized he was speaking about the beast in the cage. The vanago was growling, its claws clacking on the metal of its cage as it paced.
Then he heard the sound that had likely set it off. The distant howl of a wolf. He squeezed his eyes shut at the overwhelming sense of hope that rushed in at the sound. The sound of succor. The sound that meant he wasn't alone.
He threw back his head and answered it, the vanago in its cage roaring a challenge to his call. Then Dupont triggered the collar and the agony of fire burning through his veins turned the howl into a scream.
Allison was on her way home from seeing her grandfather, when she got the call from Stiles.
Gerard had been next to useless. Oh, he knew the Dupont family well enough, had even taught a few things about hunting beasts of a supernatural flavor to the current Dupont's father, but the only thing they'd accomplished by going to visit the old man, had been to shake Allison's control to the core. He had stories to tell and none of them were anything but horrific.
"Which one does he have?" the old man had asked, a glint of amusement in his eyes, as if they'd brought him a story to brighten the dull, painful hours of his day. Then, he'd answered his own question. "It's Scott, isn't it? Any other wolf he'd kill out of hand - - but a true Alpha - - now that would catch his attention." And how Gerard had known about Scott's change in werewolf status she didn't know. It wasn't like she or her father were giving him regular updates. If they could avoid it, they didn't see him at all.
"If you know something that will help us, tell us," her father had said. "Otherwise, we've got better things to do."
"If Dupont has him for long - - he'll wish he were dead. That I can tell you. The man's an artist when it comes to breaking beasts." Gerard had laughed, little droplets of black spittle dotting his lips.
"He's not a beast," Allison had growled, her calm slipping in the face of Gerard's casual disparagement. "You're the monster. A man who hunts innocent people is the monster."
"There are no innocent people. No innocent wolves for damn sure."
And that was how it had gone, until his rancor had driven her away with goose bumps on her arms and a chill in her heart. Stiles telling her that Lydia was in the midst of a death trance was simply icing on the cake. He'd stayed on the phone with her, giving whispered directions, taking her along a route that she knew and knew well. A road into the wooded backcountry of the county. She saw the lights of Lydia's car off the side of the road, parked haphazardly, not that far from the spot Allison usually parked when she wanted that private run, or that time alone to hone her skills.
She grabbed a quiver and a black compound crossbow from the trunk, then headed down the trail where she knew in her gut she'd find them. And she did, maybe a quarter of a mile down the trail, Stiles quietly talking to Lydia, who stood there, with her hands over her mouth, breathing hard and fast.
"Guys?" she called softly, and Stiles started, looking over Lydia's shoulder towards her.
Lydia turned and even in the faint glow of the flashlight that Stiles had pointed at the ground, her face was pale, her eyes wide and distraught.
"What happened?" Allison asked, striding up to them. "What did you see?"
"I don't know," Lydia whispered, looking between Allison and Stiles desperately. "I didn't have a 'vision'. It doesn't work that way. I don't even remember driving here. It's just - - " She shuddered suddenly, as if she'd been hit with a arctic blast. "Blood. There's blood everywhere. And death."
"Scott?" Stiles' voice was a choked whisper.
Lydia shook her head, lifting one trembling hand to her mouth, eyes wide in dawning horror. "I don't know. I just feel - - so much death."
She lifted a trembling hand, pointed, down the trail and whispered. "Blood soaked into rotting wood and dirt and straw."
"Wood and straw?" Something hovered on the tip of Allison's memory.
A snowy day. Herself with a bow in hand, walking a trail she usually ran. She saw the girl in the snow in her mind's eye. Saw the shape of a huge, old barn behind her, weathered and grey, the farmhouse across from it in not much better shape. A project. Strangers in an old place that didn't welcome guests.
"I know where that is," she whispered and she was sure of it. As sure as she was that if Scott were dead, she'd aim for the hearts of the people responsible and she wouldn't hesitate pulling the trigger.
Stiles jerked his attention from Lydia to her. "Where? What the hell?"
"Go back to the car, Lydia," Allison said, calmly checking the bolts already loaded into the crossbow. "Call my dad. Tell him where we are.
"I don't know where we are," Lydia said, miserably.
"Tell him the place where I run. Tell him the old farmhouse, before you get to the quarry."
Lydia nodded. "Be careful. I don't know what it is, but the death I sense - - it's hungry."
"Well, that's just fantastic," Stiles muttered.
"You should go with her," Allison said. "You're not trained to deal with this."
He gave her a look full of incredulous offense. "This is the second time tonight I've been told how useless I am. And you know what - - fuck you all. You think you know where Scott is, you lead the way."
She swallowed, staring back at him. At the stubborn determination in his eyes. And that counted. Unshakable resolve was a weapon in its own right.
She started through the woods with him in her wake, following a trail she'd run dozens of times in the light of day. And it was quiet. Weirdly, ominously quiet. None of the night sounds she might have expected, not even the chirping of crickets.
"How far?" he asked.
"Not far - - there." She veered off the trail, cutting towards the clearing with its broad field of untended grass. She crouched in the shelter of the thin, young trees at the edge of the wood and Stiles skidded to his knees in wet mulch beside her.
She didn't answer, staring towards the silhouette of the old house and the barn. A light burned in a window of the house, and there was a faint glow coming from the man-sized portal in the big barn door. There were more cars there than there had been the last time. A pair of SUV's, a big flat bed truck with a canvas cover, a dark sedan and a grey sports car. The girl had said her uncle was an artist who liked his privacy. This was a lot of company for a solitary man.
A lot of potential threats for one girl with a crossbow and an unarmed boy to deal with. She should wait for her father, who would come with weapons more capable of dealing with the sort of artillery Julian Dupont was likely to possess. She had to be smart and she had to be stealthy, because the two of them getting themselves killed wouldn't help Scott at all.
The howl of a wolf pierced the unnatural silence of the wood. No natural four legged wolf, because there were none here, but a layman couldn't have distinguished between the calls.
Then there was another, closer, but that one was an aborted cry, cut short. And then the bass roar of something else entirely, that echoed across the field from the dilapidated barn.
She exchanged a look with Stiles, who was wide-eyed and pale. His hand reached out and gripped her arm, fingers biting into her flesh.
"Holy fucking shit," he hissed, sounding about as shaken as she'd ever heard him.
"What?" She whispered back.
"That second one was not a wolf,"
"It didn't sound like one," she agreed.
"I've heard it before," he said, voice going low and urgent. "When it was fucking hunting me."
She opened her mouth to question him further, and that's when the screams started. And the sound of gunfire. When the first tiny, dark figure of a man slammed out of the barn door, only to get halfway across the threshold and be yanked backwards like a puppet on the string of a particularly malicious puppeteer.
That's when Lydia's prediction of blood and the hungry death that sought it, started to come true.
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