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Vendetta

by P L Nunn

 

Chapter 8

 

Scott's world narrowed to this focused band of red-rimmed vision, all his peripheral awareness eaten up by pain and shock and animal instinct. He crouched there, breath coming too fast, too hard. Claws digging gouges in the hard dirt of the floor, the scent of the beast filling his nostrils, the ghost images of it still flickering in his mind's eye. He wasn't sure it was gone. He wasn't sure the pain wouldn't rush back upon him, unexpected and shred him from the inside out.

Something came at him from behind and he snarled, launching into attack, tearing flesh and cloth with his claws before an arm wrapped around his neck, hauling him backwards. He clawed at that in a frenzy of animal panic, until it tightened, cutting into his air, and words were barked into his ear.

Then she moved towards him, large eyes and pale worried face, soothing voice saying the same thing over and over until he realized it was his name.

"Scott. Scott. It's okay. You're okay, Scott." Allison, getting closer to him than any sane person should have when all he could see was red. The smell of her overpowering the scent of the beast and the scent of the blood. The scent of her bringing sanity back in bits and pieces. She laid hands on him, her fingers soft and gentle, the faintest scrape of calluses on the pads of the fingers she used to draw a bowstring.

He let out a shuddery breath that verged on a sob.

"He's okay," her eyes flicked past him to the owner of the arm around his neck. Derek. And Scott didn't know where he'd come from or why he was here and couldn't find it in himself to really care. Derek slowly loosened his hold, not as trusting as Allison. More aware maybe, of just how badly Scott was teetering on the edge.

Isaac hovered behind her, clutching his arm. His sleeve was ripped and bloody. Scott had maybe done that. The source of the blood on his hands was indistinguishable. Allison, Isaac, Derek - - the only one missing was - -

"Stiles?" He recalled in a flash of disjointed imagery Stiles taking a glancing blow from the vanago. He saw him, sprawled against the flat back tire of the old tractor. And the only thing he could think was how long those claws were when they'd been swiping at him. The damage they could do to a human body that didn't have the benefit of supernatural healing, was horrifyingly evident in the scattered remains of Dupont's men.

"God - -" He twisted out from under Derek's hand and headed that way.

He skidded to his knees in the dirt next to him, trying to hear a pulse, but stymied by the overpowering thud of his own heartbeat drowning out the finer points of his hearing. He half heard Allison warning not to move him, in case he was injured, was half aware of her hovering behind him, but things were going in and out of clarity a little and had been for a long time.

He felt for a pulse the old fashioned way, growling in purely human frustration at the manacles that made doing anything difficult. But it was there, steady under his fingertips. He sagged, hands sliding down, clutching at the edge of Stiles' jacket. He dropped his head, shoulders shaking. Everything shaking. It was difficult distinguishing between the lingering tremors of real pain from the acid still dispersing in his bloodstream, and the ghostly echoes of past experiences of the same.

He squeezed his eyes shut and rocked, digging fingers into the cloth of Stiles' jacket.

"Dude, what the hell is up with that collar?" Stiles' voice, wavery and a little disjointed, as if he were having trouble stringing words together. Scott looked up, and Stiles blinked at him, a little unfocused.

He laughed, this miserable aborted sound that tasted like blood and pressed the top of his head against Stiles' shoulder.

Stiles lifted a hand to the back of his neck, above the collar and said with soft ferocity. "The bastard's dead."

Allison sank down, close to his back, her hand on his side. He flinched a little at the touch. He couldn't help it.

"Scott," she said softly. "My father's coming. And Stiles' father with his men. We need to get out of here. That thing is out there. My dad will know how to kill it if we can find it."

She sounded so sure. He didn't share her optimism. He'd already thought it dead once. He lifted his head, meeting Stiles' eyes. Stiles knew how much damage they'd done to the thing before.

"C'mon." Derek had less patience. He hauled them both up. Stiles wavered, putting a hand against the tractor as his balance deserted him. Lifting the other to the back of his head and bringing it back with blood on his fingers.

"Oh, that can't be good." He sounded a more than a little dazed. Scott stared at the red on his fingers, less than focused himself, until Derek caught his arm and tried to get the manacles off him.

It took Derek and Isaac both to get the things off. Once free, he ripped the collar off himself, flinging it across the barn with enough force that it embedded itself into the wall. His neck felt raw where it had been, but maybe that was just ghost memory, too.

Allison got them moving, her crossbow in one hand, the other latching hold of his hand, tugging to urge him into motion. He cast a passing glance at Dupont's corpse as they passed. The horrific mess the beast had made of him littered the ground around his body. Stiles made a gagging sound and staggered a little into him. Then the stagger turned into a knee giving out and Scott got an arm around him before he crumpled.

He should have known something was wrong from the silence. Stiles was never this quiet for this long. Especially not when nerves were in play. Stiles was muttering now, 'fuck, fuck, oh - -fuck - -' in soft little panting gasps, his eyes out of focus, his fingers grasping at Scott's shoulder.

"What's wrong? Stiles - - what's wrong?"

"Ah - - God, I'm gonna puke - -"

"He might be concussed," Allison said.

"Just come on. There's somebody coming," Derek growled, getting under Stiles' other arm and moving them along whether Stiles was ready to go or not.

"If I do puke, I'm aiming for you," Stiles mumbled at Derek.

Outside the barn, cold, fresh air diluted the concentrated stench of blood and death. He didn't know where he was. An old house, a dark field and darker woods beyond it.

"There's a car missing," Allison remarked, as she paced outside the barn in front of them. Isaac was ranging a little further to their right, eyes scanning the dark line of woods.

"It went that way - - I think," he said. Then. "It wasn't the only one. Somebody else ran that way, too."

One of Dupont's men maybe, who had escaped the massacre and run for the forest. If the vanago was on his trail, he was a dead man. Scott couldn't find it in himself to care. He just wanted out of here. He wanted his people out of here and safe. He wanted Stiles to be okay. He wanted to find someplace dark and private to curl into knot until the screams in his head quieted down.

There was a truck, a big, dark SUV coming down the dirt road leading alongside the woods towards the house. Not a sheriff's vehicle for sure. They all tensed, until Allison said, 'that's my dad,' and walked a few paces down the drive waiting for the vehicle.

It rolled to a stop and Chris Argent got out. There were two other guys with him, all of them armed to the teeth. Allison's branch of the family wasn't in the werewolf hunting business anymore - - at least not random, innocent wolves - - but her dad still had resources. Contacts, she had told him once, that would back them if they needed.

"There are bodies in the barn. Julian Dupont is one of them." Allison was giving her father a quick, concise rundown. "The thing that attacked Scott and Stiles up north did it. It got away. It's injured. Isaac says it went that way."

"It won't be injured for long," her father said.

"I put a lot of bolts into it. So maybe long enough, if we can track it down."

"As long as it's bleeding, we can track it," Derek said and Isaac moved closer, nodding in silent agreement.

Scott's gut clenched. He didn't want them tracking it. He didn't want them anywhere near it. Let Argent deal with it from a distance if he could. Let the thing run until it crossed the state line. And took how many innocent victims on its way? It reveled in the kill. He'd seen it in its eyes. It wouldn't be a bloodless flight, even if it ran and continued to run. There would be casualties - - bodies left in its wake. His fault for not killing it permanently in the first place.

He squeezed his eyes shut, feeling its teeth at his throat - -remembering that moment when he knew he was about to die. Not the only moment that thought had crossed his mind today. Had it just been a day? He didn't know. Everything spinning out of control. Going dark around the edges.

"Scott - - Scott - -let go - -" Stiles' voice got to him. He realized his grip on Stiles' wrist was grinding bones. He let him go, let Derek take his weight, staggering a step away. His heart felt like it was beating against his rib cage in a bid for escape.

"I'm sorry. Sorry," he whispered it.

"We need to get them out of here," Allison said, staring at him, worried. "We need to get Stiles to the ER."

"Take the truck," Argent said. "We'll track the vanago."

"'m okay," Stiles protested, sounding a little slurred.

"Shut up," Derek suggested. Then to Argent. "I'll go with you. It may take more than bullets."

Argent gave him a grim look, little enough love lost for Derek. "I have very effective bullets - -but point taken."

"Blew its brains out - - and it got back up - -" Stiles chimed in. "How do you get up when there's brain chunks on the ground?"

Derek hauled him to the SUV and shoved him into the backseat. Stiles sort of toppled over and lay there, palms pressed over his eyes.

"I'll go with Derek," Isaac said.

"No," Scott almost growled it. He didn't want Isaac facing that thing. He didn't want any of them facing it, but Isaac wasn't the fighter Derek was. Isaac's aggression tended to be blind and impulsive and occasionally awkward, and that didn't make for high odds of survival against something like the vanago. And he couldn't simultaneously worry about Isaac and Stiles - - not now.

Isaac blinked at him, not getting it, his blood still up, ready to keep on hunting, even though he had no idea how deadly the thing out there was. Even wounded.

"Okay, I'll go, too." Scott didn't have a choice, even though his knees felt weak and everything was wavering just a little around the edges.

"No," Allison said sharply.

"No," Isaac echoed, both of them adamant on that count.

"Don't be an idiot," Derek had had enough. "Out of all that blood in there, a lot of its yours. Flesh heals. Blood takes longer. Just go to the ER with Stiles." He jerked his head at Isaac, maybe understanding where Scott's difficulties lay. "You too."

Isaac nodded, a little wary. A little worried furrow between his brows.

"We're wasting time," Argent said, motioning to his men. "If any of you are here when the sheriff arrives, there's only so much he can do to keep you out of it with this many bodies involved. Now go!"


 

Somewhere along the way to the hospital, Scott lost time. He half recalled getting into the back seat of the SUV with Stiles, but the ride there was one big blank. Like his mind had been someplace his body couldn't get.

They must have called his mom, because she was pacing outside the ER entrance when Allison pulled up. She just looked at him, swallowed back whatever was on the tip of her tongue and turned to Stiles, who was still in the back, taking his face and looking into his eyes.

"Stiles? How many fingers?" She held up two.

He stared at her hand, before shutting his eyes and groaning. "Trick question, right?"

"What day is it?"

"Another trick question," he muttered. "It's night."

"Has he lost consciousness?"

"Just the once," Allison supplied the answer to that. "But he took a really hard hit. He's nauseous and faint headed."

"Okay. We're gonna get you inside and get a head CT." She waved to an orderly loitering outside the emergency room doors. "Don't think I didn't see that cigarette, Doug. I need some help over here."

Allison and Isaac were hovering, edging between him and the orderly, and it took him a second to realize it was because of the blood. Blood on his skin, blood soaking his jeans to the point that they were stiff with it.

"Do you want to go home?" Allison asked.

"No." He wasn't leaving until he knew Stiles was okay. Worrying about Stiles gave him something to focus on other than the gibbering chaos at the back of his mind.

"Okay," she said, and went and rummaged in the back of the SUV and pulled out an old army jacket that smelled of her father. "Put this on. It'll cover up some of the - -" she trailed off, staring into his eyes, distraught.

Blood. Cover up the blood.

He shrugged into the jacket, avoiding her gaze, avoiding that look in Allison's eyes that he could barely deal with when he wasn't on the verge of crumbling into a thousand scattered bits and pieces. She could wreck him on a good day with a smile and a look that meant nothing to her anymore - - and today wasn't a good day.

He started in and his mom stopped him, a hand on his chest. He could feel her hand trembling through the contact, could hear the frantic beat of her pulse. "How much of this blood is yours?"

He didn't want to tell her. He wouldn't burden her with the knowledge. They didn't both need nightmares keeping them up at night. "Just a little, mom."

She stared up at him, dark eyes liquid with pain that he'd caused her. Looking at her was almost as hard as looking at Allison.

"Sorry, mom. Sorry. I screwed up." He didn't know what else to say and he must have, somewhere along the way for this to have gotten so terribly out of hand.

She let out a breath and hugged him like she was trying to squeeze all the air out of his lungs. "Its not your fault, baby," she said against his shoulder.

He heard the catch in her voice and it was like a hammer blow to the chest, stealing all his breath. All his intention. He stared over her head at the blank wall beside the hospital doors, trying to gather up the shreds of his self-control. Trying not to break in the ER driveway. She was making it really hard.

Then she pulled away, her hand still on the lapel of his borrowed jacket, gathering her own wits. "Okay. Okay. You can't go through the ER looking like this - - you need to get cleaned up and put something on that doesn't look like you've been bathing in blood."

"Stiles - -"

"Stiles is in good hands. No arguments. You come with me."

She led them all through a side entrance, down a service hallway lined with idle equipment and unused gurneys and wheelchairs. Part of the old wing that didn't get a lot of use now. They passed a single janitor that gave them a bored look, but not much more, busy listening to his earbuds and pushing a cart of supplies.

There was an empty room with a shower that she directed him to while Isaac and Allison loitered outside in the hall, Allison talking softly on her cell with her father. Scott could have taken the effort and listened to what they were saying - - but he didn't really want to know. Not now.

"Shower." His mom directed, as if he might not have picked up on what he was supposed to do. "I'll get you some scrubs to put on."

She gave him a little push when he stalled, a jerk of her head towards the shower stall, before pulling the door closed behind her on her way out.

He stood there a moment, lost. Just him in a sterile hospital bathroom with a florescent bulb on the verge of going out, buzzing overhead. He caught his reflection in the mirror and almost didn't recognize it. Blood smeared on his face. His skin stained with it between the lapels of the jacket. Crusting down his stomach where it had welled, over and over while Dupont carved into his flesh.

He shuddered, looking away. Shed the jacket and with a sudden fit of revulsion, tore at his jeans. He couldn't get them off fast enough, kicking them and equally blood soaked boxers away. Stepping into the shower and cutting the water on, not even caring that it was cold. He scrubbed at the blood and it swirled around his feet, pink residue disappearing down the drain. Even free of it, he wasn't clean enough, he could still feel the slither of Dupont's hands on his skin. The stench of the man's breath against his neck and the soap wouldn't wash it away.

He slid down the wall, sat there with the water sluicing down on his head, fingers clutching at his hair, trying to breath. But there was water stinging his eyes, water running down his throat and it tasted like blood. And it smelled like blood and he couldn't shake it from his mind. He pressed his forehead against his knees and ground his teeth to keep from screaming.

"Scott? Are you okay?"

Soft voice at the door. Allison. He drew in a shaky, wet breath, wondering if maybe he'd been screaming after all. He grabbed hold of the bar on the shower wall and pulled himself up. Cut off the water and stood there, trying to regather focus.

"Fine. I'm fine." He could hear her breath, the beat of her heart on the other side of the door, the faint sound of her fingers curling on the wood. There was a pair of blue hospital scrubs on the bench inside the bathroom door. He hadn't heard anyone come in and place them there, which was disconcerting in and of itself.

When he came out, she was leaning against the foot of the bed. Just her. No sign of his mom or Isaac. His expression must have asked, because she answered without a verbal prompt.

"Your mom went to check on Stiles. Isaac has an issue with hospitals. He's outside, probably pacing a groove in the cement." She attempted a smile, but it faltered. "You were in there a long time."

He swallowed, not even knowing how to begin explaining that. Not wanting to.

"There was a lot of blood," he said helplessly.

"Are you okay?"

"Yeah. I think I'm gonna have to toss the jeans - -"

He broke off. She lowered her head, staring at him from under her lashes, jaw working.

"You always do this," she said softly. "Try to protect everybody but yourself."

She stepped up to him, hesitantly touching fingertips to his chest, not meeting his eyes. He shut his eyes, wishing she'd back up and give him space to breathe.

"You need to stop. You need to - -" she stopped abruptly, tangling the front of his scrubs in her fist, swallowing hard.

"Pain makes us stronger," she said, as though it were something she'd been reciting to herself. "You don't get to shoulder it all. All you do when you try to protect people from pain is make them weaker for it."

He didn't know what to say to that. Maybe he was just emotionally wrecked, maybe she was a little as well, because it almost sounded like accusation.

"Hey."

He started at the sound of his mom's voice from the doorway. Allison stepped back from him, chin up, eyes shielded.

His mom stared between the two of them for a beat, then said. "So the results of the CT are in and so far there's nothing serious. But he does have a concussion and brain trauma is tricky, so we're keeping him at least overnight for observation. I called his dad, by the way, which none of you thought to do."

"Oh," Allison said, sounding guilty at the slip.

"He can't come in right now, because apparently he's dealing with something horrible. Bloodbath and mutilated bodies were two of the terms he used. Does that have something to do with what happened to you?"

He nodded mutely. She put a hand to her mouth, trying to comprehend things she only had the barest understanding of.

"Can I see him?" He wanted her mind off him and onto Stiles.

"You can, but he's not going to be much for conversation. The brain needs to slow down and rest to heal and I'm not sure Stiles' brain is capable of slowing down - - so I made sure he got a sedative."

"I'm going to go find Isaac," Allison said, forcing a fleeting smile for his mom, but not looking him in the eye.

His mom urged him out into the hall after her. She kept casting worried glances up at him, that he kept trying to ignore. It was way past normal visiting hours and if his mom hadn't been with him, the on duty nurses would have chased him off. She stopped, talking softly with them at the station. He didn't need her to find Stiles' room. Even with all the smells of antiseptic and sickness, he could pick up that scent.

Dark room, two beds, but one of them was empty. Stiles was in the other. Even breathing. Steady heart beat. Still and quiet. The only times Stiles was ever still and quiet was when he was asleep. Even when he was awake and not actually talking there was an energy that radiated off him in waves. He had a bruise that Scott hadn't noticed before on his face, but other than that, he looked peaceful.

There was a long, vinyl covered window seat, looking out over the scenic rooftop of the lower wing. He sat down, his back to the sill, letting himself uncoil in the dark of the room to the sound of Stiles' even breathing. He lifted a hand, touching his neck, half expecting blisters and welts in the place where the collar had been. He could still feel the sting of it in bright little flashes of tactile memory. He clenched his fist, shuddering, and leaned his head against the cold glass of the window.

Derek had said it took time for blood to replenish and that felt about right, because he was wasted. Just drained. It rushed up on him now that there was nothing to keep the adrenalin flowing. No imminent threat lurking outside the door. Just the sound of his mom's voice, distinguishable from the others outside in the hall, the curious music of a hospital at night. The comforting sound of Stiles at rest.

He didn't want to shut his eyes in fear of the things lurking just below the layer of consciousness, things he could barely keep at bay tonight even fully conscious. But then what he wanted and what he'd gotten lately had been entirely separate things.

 

 

 

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