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by P L Nunn


Chapter 9


Allison hadn't meant to say that to him. Not when he had that bruised look in his eyes and that faint tremor that kept making his hands shake. But her control had been strung so taut today that it felt frayed around the edges. And she'd been scared. And fear, when it stayed with you for hours and hours, took its toll on simple things like tact and the keeping of truths close to your heart.

And he'd triggered it. That one last denial that he was anything but fine, just to keep her from worrying had ripped open things that weren't even close to healing inside her. That attempt to divert her from the fact that he'd been barely holding it together had just broken something open inside her.

And it had been truth what she'd said. Long held truth, and he did do it all the time. Tried to protect people from pain, whether they needed to be protected or not. Like with her mother. She'd gone all summer, thinking her mother an innocent victim. All summer trying to get past the murderous rage her grandfather had so skillfully kindled. Hating Derek Hale, hating werewolves in general for a while, Scott included - - because somehow they all must have been culpable. When really - - they hadn't been culpable at all. Not Derek, no matter how much she tensed up still when she saw him - - not Isaac or Derek's other less than fortunate pack mates - - certainly not Scott - - who'd been trying to save a life when her mother had tried to take his. And yeah, she resented him for that omission. For putting her before himself. For treating her like a fragile little girl who couldn't handle the truth, when she'd needed the truth more than anything. And maybe she had been that naïve girl when she'd met him. But she wasn't anymore.

Maybe that's why Isaac was such easy company. He didn't underestimate her. He didn't think she needed his protection. And maybe that was because he'd learned the hard way just how well she could take care for herself.

But Scott was getting better. Better at acknowledging her for what she was capable of. Better at trusting her to carry her own weight, even if she didn't have claws and supernatural strength and speed. And maybe, like it was in Isaac's nature to go with the flow and let the chips fall where they might, it was in Scott's to shoulder the burdens of his own little slice of the world. Which wasn't a terrible thing. She loved that about him. That unshakable sense of duty that he'd developed somewhere along the way.

What drove her crazy with frustration was when he let it work to his own detriment.

Isaac was coming around the corner of the Emergency wing when she came out, like he'd been making the circuit of the hospital.

"How is he?"

She knew he wasn't asking about Stiles.

"He says he's okay." She wasn't willing to go into her Scott-related peeves.

"He's not," Isaac said, as if there were no question.

"Probably not." She agreed. "Stiles is okay, too. They're keeping him over night."

Isaac stuffed hands in his pockets and looked up at the hospital with furrow browed intensity. "I don't like hospitals. They smell like death. He ought to go home."

Again, it wasn't Stiles he was talking about.

"Lydia's here."

"Yeah?" She'd called her on the way here to let her know that her death premonition hadn't included any of their own.

"She's inside. They wouldn't let her past the waiting room in the ER."

"Okay. I'm going to go find her. Are you staying out here?"

He nodded, leaning up against the hood of somebody else's car.

She walked into the public ER entrance. At past eleven on a weekday night, it was sluggish. Only a few people waiting in the hard backed chairs of the waiting room and none of them seeming in need of medical care. Lydia was at the admissions desk, arguing with the nurse behind the counter.

"All I'm asking for is a little actual helpful information," Lydia was saying, waving a hand at the room in general. "Its not like you've got people screaming for your attention."

The steely-eyed nurse looked up from her paperwork and replied deadpan. "Just one. I'll let you know something when I know something."

"Lydia," Allison moved up beside her. "He's okay. They're both okay."

Lydia took a breath, eyes flickering closed for a moment, before she looked back at Allison with faintly annoyed green eyes. "Where have you been? Isaac is about as helpful as the plague."

"With Scott. Stiles has a concussion, but they're not worried that it's anything serious. They're keeping him overnight just to be safe, though."

"Hmm, At least someone seems to be in the loop." Lydia cast a derisive look at the nurse, who ignored her. "Can we see him?"

"Visiting hours start at 9 am." The nurse helpfully pointed out.

Lydia narrowed her eyes. The nurse narrowed hers back. Allison latched hold of Lydia's arm and pulled her away from the counter.

"I know I'm next to useless in a fight," Lydia complained as they headed towards the glass doors. "But I'm really starting to hate being the last person to know what's going on."

Allison cast her a wan smile. "You're sort of the first person on the scene a lot of times."

Lydia waved a hand, sniffing dismissively. "Oh, I'm not saying I want to be anywhere near blood being shed - - I'm just pointing out that I'd like to not have to wait two hours before I know whether my friends are all in one piece or not."

"I'm sorry. I should have - - I've just been - - distracted. It's been a crazy night."

"Hmm. I guess it does put things in perspective."

"What do you mean?"

Lydia shrugged. "You leave the guy you're currently doing whatever it is that you're doing with, waiting outside, because you can't stand to leave the side of the one you dumped last year."

Allison opened her mouth. Shut it a little indignantly, before replying. "Scott was kidnapped and possibly tortured, so I think a little concern was warranted."

"I'm just saying."

"Yeah? Well what about the girl who's dating one guy and so worried about another one that she practically gets into a brawl with the nurse who won't let her see him?"

"Oh please." Lydia rolled her eyes. "I don't do brawls. And I'm not dating anyone. And Stiles is a friend. Just a friend who I'm justifiably concerned about."

"Well, Scott's mine."

Lydia lifted a brow.

"Friend." Allison ground her teeth and clarified, glancing across the parking lot at Isaac and hoping his attention was firmly elsewhere, because the last thing she needed was him picking up on this conversation.

"Well then." Lydia smiled tightly. "Now that we've got that cleared up, you can tell me what happened in a little more detail than you managed to squeeze into a ninety second phone call."


Stiles woke up with a headache. The sort of epic, throbbing headache that transcended sleep and chased you right into unconsciousness. The sun coming in through the window wasn't helping.

He lay there a moment, wallowing in his misery, before it occurred to him that the bed was sort of hard and the room was sort of awful - - as hospital rooms tended to be - - and that he wasn't alone. Scott was sprawled in the window seat nook, one of those thin hospital blankets thrown over him, dead to the world.

Stiles shut his eyes, blowing out a breath, relief welling up. They were okay. They were all okay and for a while there, he'd really doubted. A nurse came in, looking way too energetic for what the clock on the wall claimed was 8 o'clock in the morning. She gave him a look that suggested she was surprised to see him up, tossed another look towards Scott and started doing efficient, nurse-type things. Like taking his vitals and asking how he was feeling this morning. Still dizzy? Nauseous? Headache?

She seemed genuinely disinterested at his answers and promised Tylenol with breakfast, before she marched off to perform the same procedure with the next patient.

Scott hadn't stirred throughout the duration of her visit. But then Scott, despite the fact that he could hear a tack drop a block away, tended to be a deep sleeper. And Scott had had a pretty grueling day yesterday. A miserable, terrible day, if what little Stiles had seen while all hell was breaking loose in that barn was any indication.

"Hey, Scott," he called softly. Scott didn't move, so he went a little louder. "Scotty, wake up!"

That did it. Scott started, jerking up in a panic, blinking with distinct disorientation. There was a flash of red in his eyes that, if the nurse had still been in the room, would have just been lovely for her to behold.

"Dude, calm down. It's just me."

Scott stared at him, breath coming shallow and fast, before he dropped his head onto his hands, forcibly slowing it down.

"Asshole," he muttered.

"Sorry," Stiles admitted, figuring rude awakenings were probably not the best way to go with Scott right now.

"You okay?"

"My head's pounding like a frackin' marching band's running practice trials inside my skull - - but hey, I'm alive. How about you?"

Scott shrugged, the sheerest hint of evasion in his eyes and that spoke just volumes and volumes to someone who knew the little signs. "I will be."

Stiles stared at him, chewing that over. "What did he do to you?"

Scott sat back in the corner of the window seat, fixing Stiles with a critical glance. "My mom said you're supposed to be resting your brain. Why don't you try that?"

Stiles kept staring, until Scott turned to look out the window, finding something fascinating to look at outside. "Nothing," he said softly. "Nothing I want to talk about right now."

Stiles got the impression that the 'right now' in that admission, translated to 'ever'. But what Scott wanted and what Scott needed were two different things. If Stiles head hadn't hurt so badly he might have pushed. He wasn't up to matching stubborn streaks with Scott at the moment, though. The pressure behind his eyes was pretty horrible and he seriously doubted a couple of Tylenol's were going to drive it away anytime soon. His shoulder still ached and his ribs on the right side felt like somebody had maybe been doing a little dance on them. Either than or an enraged, supernatural bear-beast had backhanded him into a tractor with a paw the size of a frying pan. Either or.

He narrowed his eyes, trying to remember details from last night. He hoped it was just last night and he hadn't been lying here in some sort of coma for longer than that. It made his head pound a little more energetically trying to pick out detail from hazy memory. There had been an awful lot of bodies strewn about, an awful lot of blood. And for a kid who didn't like anything to do with the stuff unless it was safely running through the vein, it had been pretty sickening.

Dupont had been the worst. Watching that thing tear him apart had been one of the most gruesome things he'd ever witnessed. No matter the guy probably deserved it ten times over, Stiles would still have nightmares about it in glaring, Technicolor detail.

He pinched the bridge of his nose, trying to recall details on the other pertinent part of the Dupont equation.

"Do you remember seeing Jan Dupont when we were leaving? I don't remember seeing her."

Scott glanced his way slowly, like his mind had been firmly entrenched elsewhere. He thought for a second, then shook his head. "No. I wasn't - - I don't remember."

"Its okay," Stiles assured him. "It's just, I remember Allison shooting her, but not much after that."

"He sent her to kill you," Scott said hollowly. "I thought - - I thought she had."

"Dude - - " Stiles was stymied for a moment, thinking that if anything would have hit Scott harder than physical suffering, it would have been the emotional distress of his friends being in trouble and him not able to do a damn thing to stop it. Then it hit him. "That bitch shot me. First she cuts me. Then she shoots me."

Scott blinked at him. "You got shot?"


"You got shot?" the echo of that question came from the doorway of the room and was laced with a hell of a lot more annoyed surprise than Scott had put into his question.

His dad stood there, looking haggard enough that it was a safe bet he'd either gotten no sleep or only the barest few hours. Suffice to say, he did not look happy.

"Uhh - -" Stiles floundered. "Well - - technically the bullet sort of flew past - - "

"Twelve hours. Twelve hours and we've got enough bodies to fill the morgue - - put there by something - -" and he stabbed a finger at both him and Scott, "That all of us will damn sure be having a discussion about - - and not only am I told that my son has been admitted to the hospital for a head injury, now I find out he's been shot to boot?"

"Yeah, sort of a sucky, day, huh?" Stiles laughed weakly.

His father glowered at him, but it didn't stop him from stomping up and putting a hand on his shoulder and staring down critically. Like he could tell, just by looking into his eyes, whether he was really okay or not. After a minute, once he was satisfied, he looked over to Scott.

"Are you all right?"

Scott nodded, this wary, hooded look in his eyes like he was afraid his dad was going to start grilling him here and now.

"I came by last night as soon as I could," his dad said. "But you were already out and I didn't want to disturb you. You were both out."

"Did you find a woman among the bodies?"

"There would have been two," Scott said. "Two women."

Stiles glanced his way, not aware of a second woman in the group.

But his father nixed the notion, anyway. "No. There were five bodies in the barn. Another two we found outside. All men. One of them was definitely Julian Dupont."

He looked around, making sure there were no loitering hospital personal near the door and leaned in to whisper. "The thing that did that? Not a werewolf?"

"The thing that did that makes your average werewolf look like a Chihuahua with a bad attitude." Stiles said.

"Argent's tracking it," Scott said. "You don't want your people near it."

"It ripped apart seven men. That we know of. We don't have a choice."

"Yeah, and that's after they emptied like a whole truckload of bullets into it and if that's not a good reason to avoid it, I don't know what is," Stiles said. Panicking about his dad going out there looking for that thing was making the blood pound in an alarming way behind his temples. He winced, pressing a palm to his head.

"Okay," his father said. "That's it. You're supposed to avoid agitation. And all of this - - is agitating."

"Yeah, well, easier said than done," Stiles groused.

"Scott, you need to go home. Your mother's around here somewhere and has been all night. Find her and take her home. Stiles, you will get some rest if I have to shove a handful of sedatives down your throat personally. If the doctor okays it, we'll get you discharged this afternoon."

Stiles gaped indignantly, but Scott rose, nodding at his father.

"He's right. Just calm down. Get some sleep."

"My head hurts too much to sleep. Call me when you get home."

"No smartphone." His father said and clapped his hand down on Stiles' cell, which lay on the bedside table along with his wallet, and the contents of his pockets neatly stuffed into a plastic baggie. "The Doctor said as little mental stimulus as possible, which means, no computer, no networking with your friends or playing online games until the doctor tells me its safe for you to do so."

Stiles gaped. "So, I'm being punished?"

"No, you're not being punished - -" his dad exclaimed, frustrated.

Scott looked at him somberly and said. "Stiles, just do it."

A night's sleep had washed away the lingering shivers of pain. That sense of weakness in his limbs, probably from copious blood loss, had faded as well. It was almost like nothing terrible had been done to his body at all. He could almost, if he tried hard enough, disconnect himself from the sharp little stabs of memory that came upon him unawares. It wasn't even that difficult, because recollection was oddly shrouded in a hazy sort of numb. And there were other things to worry about. Like Stiles being physically incapable of following medical advice. Like his mom, driving herself into exhaustion worrying about him. Like the vanago still out there on the loose somewhere and Dupont's sister still at large.

He didn't have the luxury to focus inward and maybe that was a good thing.

Since his mom had been at the hospital anyway and missed half a day's work yesterday, she'd switched with another nurse and worked the graveyard shift. Scott found her in the on call room, asleep on a cot. He almost hated to wake her up, she looked so exhausted.

"Mom?" He crouched by the cot. She opened her eyes, looked at him and blew out a breath of relief that suggested that maybe she'd been having dreams where he wasn't all right. He regretted being the cause of nightmares for her.

"You wanna go home?"

She glanced at the clock on the wall behind him and half laughed. "Considering I have to be back here at 4. God, yes."

So they home they went. He sat slouched in the passenger seat while she tried not to ask him a hundred questions. She wanted to, he could practically see the need to understand what had happened to him radiating off her, but she knew him well enough to see he wasn't willing or able to talk about it. So she drove in relative silence and he loved her for it.

Isaac wasn't in the house when they got home, but it was a school day and after nine, so it was a good guess he was actually attending class. His mom headed for her bedroom to crash another few hours before she had to get back up again. Scott fiddled in the kitchen, staring for way too long at the contents of the refrigerator trying to find something that appealed. Normally he could eat anything. This morning, he was having trouble reconciling the grumbling emptiness of his stomach to the roiling disinterest in his mind at the very idea of consuming any of the various leftovers in the 'fridge.

He settled for a granola bar, tearing the foil off and munching, on his way upstairs and into his room, which was dim and cool and welcoming. Except for the man in the chair in the corner.

Scott took a sharp breath, an instinctive step backwards and just managed to keep the claws in. Barely.

"Damnit, Derek. Stop doing that."

One of Derek's brows twitched minutely. He had one of Scott's summer improvement reading projects in his lap, as if he'd been sitting here long enough to become bored enough to peruse it. He tilted the cover of 'Call of the Wild', with another brow twitch that translated into a silent 'really?'

Scott wanted silently to suggest he 'fuck off' but he took a breath instead and asked. "So?"

"We lost the trail," Derek said matter of factly. "It just stopped dead. No tracks, no scent. Argent's going to keep on it, but I think it's a waste of time." He tossed the book and rose, reaching for something on the floor next to him as he did. It was a collar. Twice the size or more of the one Dupont had put on him. Derek tossed it at him.

"We found this."

Scott hissed, not wanting to touch the thing, but catching it by reflex anyway. It was cold and venomous in his hands. Thick, unforgiving steel that had seen better days. It was twisted now and pitted with a set deep gouges. He hadn't taken the time to examine his, before he'd flung it away from him, but on this one, he could see the little row of ports lining the inside, a few of which had the tips of heavy grade needles protruding.

His chest seized up, breath refusing to come. He stood there, clenching it in his fists, the world narrowed down to this tiny tunnel of vision centered around the unique perspective of having similar needles jammed into his own neck.

Derek snapped him out of it, growling his name, a lot closer than he 'd been the last time Scott had been capable of focusing on anything other than the collar.

Scott blinked at him, and Derek stared back, frowning. Gauging him.

"It's smart," Derek finally said. "It wasn't running blindly. It was using every trick in the book to elude us."

"Dupont said it was old. A hundred years almost. Long enough to pick up a trick or two."

Derek shrugged. "The old ones are the worst. It doesn't mean they don't make mistakes. It'll leave a trail eventually."

"A trail of bodies?"

Another shrug. "The other problem with the old ones. Habits die hard."

Scott looked away, all too familiar with the thing's lust for violence. If it started killing people - - innocent people - - he couldn't ignore it. And he couldn't deal with it on his own. That had already been made abundantly clear. It would rip him up. It would rip up the people he loved.

His pulse was pounding again, a wild rush in his veins. The collar in his hands was making his skin twitch. He'd thought he could hold it at bay. Very carefully, he laid it on his desk.

"Are you staying?" Softly asked. He was almost afraid of the answer. Derek had other obligations. He had a sister, and Beacon Hills hadn't been kind to him. Beacon Hills had body slammed him to the ground more times than one. It was pure selfishness to wish him to ignore those things just because a man and his psychotic beast had driven a fear into Scott that he couldn't shake.

"Yeah. Yeah, I think I am."

Derek surprised him. Scott let out a silent breath of relief.

Then Derek surprised him again, by saying. "What happened to you - - it heals quick on the outside. Inside," and he tapped his own temple. "It stays with you. It'll fester if you let it. So don't let it. Don't sit here in the dark and let it eat at you. Go to school. Talk to your friends. Do what you have to do."

That bit of advice coming from Derek was ironic, Derek having issues with open, honest and frank communication himself. But then, Maybe Derek knew first hand.

Scott shrugged. "I'll be okay."

"I know."


There was a wolf on her trail. And men with guns. Men like the Man with the skills to track even a wily predator. If she fell back on instinct and the urges of the beast, she was lost. The pain drove her. The bullets of the men she could expel, but the bolts the bitch with the bow had driven into her, were lodged in her body. Some she could get at with her teeth. Others were beyond her reach. At least the way her body was now. She remembered a time when her hands had been clever and her fingers wondrously dexterous. She longed for that mobility again.

She crouched, perched on a flat rock, muscles contracting around the bolts lodged in her flesh, and for the first time since she'd become a beast, was aware enough to long for the human form she'd once worn.

And she felt a change. An intrinsic gathering of energy that ebbed through her bones, though her veins, triggering a shift in her reality that had only ever happened once. The day the curse had been laid upon her.

It came with a price, that transformation. A burning ache of muscle and bone and flesh that had been fixed for so long in one shape, taking the form of another. She roared, as her bones bent. As skin burned and twisted and folded in upon itself. The roar turned into a scream and that dwindled off into labored breathing as she knelt there, hairless human hands splayed on the cold surface of the rock.

She laughed, staring down at them. At long, dirty nails. At pale skin as fragile seeming as any prey she had hunted through the years. She felt that fragility in the points of pain still burning in her body. The bolt in her back she yanked out with a hiss and gush of blood. The one in her chest - - the one her wolf had driven deep inside her when he'd attacked, she had to dig for.

She ran afterwards, naked as a newborn, afraid to stay too long in one place. Bounding from one outcropping of rock to another, to confuse the men following her. It was cold here, but she'd suffered colder. Her wounds healed as she moved and the hated collar, once snug, bounced loose around her neck. She paused long enough to twist it off. Her hands though human soft were still strong. The metal folded in her grip and she tossed it away. The last remnant of the Man himself. But not the last price he would pay for what she had endured at his hands. The bitch who smelled of him - -his sister, she realized now that human mentality was hers once more - - had not been among her victims.

And she would be. That one last piece of old business to take care of, before she turned her attention to more interesting game.




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