Allison could feel her heart on the tip of her tongue, the pounding rattling her chest so viciously that her vision blurred from each intense beat. Still she stared up, remembering this sensation from the day before, of being helpless, of losing all control. She expected to see death looming over her once again, mocking her for thinking she'd actually escaped its claws, but the kanima didn't reappear. In fact, if she hadn't seen it from the corner of her eye as it sliced its venom into the back of her neck, she wouldn't have understood why she was on the floor to begin with.
Instead of finishing her off, the creature had disappeared, leaving her in terrifying suspense. It wasn't until she heard the creak behind her that she realized it had walked past her toward the door to the basement.
Some part of her wasn't as scared as she should have been, some part of her was busy wracking her brain as to what the 'something wrong' with this situation could be. Then she remembered Stiles' comment from earlier, about the kanima flushing Derek's pack out. About coincidences.
She heard the echo of Gerard's voice from downstairs and realized the basement door was still open. All the will in the world wouldn't let her roll over any closer to it though. She tried to still her panic, calm herself enough to listen to what was happening down there.
She expected a shout, expected a gunshot, but she didn't hear either. Instead it sounded like they were talking down there.
"Biding…time…" Stiles was saying, his voice low, the tone somber. Allison hated that she knew his expression probably matched his voice. She hadn't really put much thought into her relationship with Stiles Stilinski, friend by default. She hadn't realized how much she cared about him, how much he'd worked his way into her life, until she saw Derek carrying him away.
"...Kanima do all the dirty work?" It was the tail end of a question, but it pulled Allison from her thoughts.
The basement was excruciatingly quiet for a moment, but some reply finally came from Gerard.
"...Wasn't lying to you, Stiles…" Allison tried to force her head up, to get a better angle for listening, but it didn't work. Gerard was still talking, and he sounded calm, despite the fact that a monster was down there with them. Was the kanima hiding then? Did they even notice it? Allison tried to hear the rest of what Gerard was saying. "…You'll be helping determine a way to suppress the effects of the werewolf bite."
Stiles' voice was louder, easier for her to hear, as if he were angry. "You went through all this trouble, but you couldn't have given Allison's mom a heads up? You just let her go kill herself when she might have had another choice?"
Allison knew she was imagining the ice running through her veins, but she could almost feel the chill that came with those words. They'd been buried in the back of her mind as well, throughout the conversation between Gerard and Stiles. As much as she wanted Stiles to have a chance, as much as she didn't want to see Gerard hurt him, she'd been confused at Gerard's offer to help him. Either it was a lie, or… She didn't even consider what the "or" could be, because all she could think of was that her mother had made the choice not to try and live with the bite. That her mother hadn't fought tradition, that her mother had left her with this duty, and…
Don't throw up, Allison thought, turning it into a mantra. She wasn't going to drown her own spit-up because she was weak. She pushed the emotions deep, focusing on the conversation down below.
"I know Victoria wouldn't have agreed to what I'm planning to do next," Gerard was saying. "… Fortunate… get her out of the way. Allison will be much easier to control…"
There was more, something whispered and low and menacing, but Allison's heartbeat was drowning out everything else.
He let it happen.
He let her mother do that to herself. Let her leave a note filled with hate, with blame.
Allison felt a tickle at the edge of her eye, tears rolling out toward the floor. She wasn't sure how much time passed, but eventually she heard weight on the stairs and realized she was moving, the kanima pulling her out of the room by her feet, leaving her tucked in front of the sofa, as if to hide her from view or maybe just clear the path. It disappeared again, and when it returned, she knew that it wasn't alone.
"Allison, sweetheart," Gerard called.
He stepped into the room, alone, though she could hear the front door opening, hitting something heavy along the door frame as it moved. The kanima pulling Stiles with him, she thought, instinctively. Gerard sighed heavily, as if reading her thoughts. "I know this must be terribly confusing for you, but I promise, you will have your vengeance tonight. Derek Hale will be out of the picture, and tomorrow will be a new day." He bent down, touching her hand. "Stay put."
He heaved himself up, vanishing from her sight, the front door slamming shut a moment later. She was alone, the house quiet and dark around her. And she wanted to scream.
The rope was completely unnecessary, Stiles thought, as he watched Gerard swing it over the limb right above their heads. They hadn't gone as far as the preserve, but the small grove behind the Argent house looked dense as the coming night overtook it. Not that Stiles had actually done any of the walking, since Jackson had slung him over one shoulder after scratching a claw above his hip, deadening his legs and most of the rest of his body. Stiles' arms felt like limp noodles, but he could swing them slightly, if he concentrated.
"I'd prefer not to do this inside the house," Gerard commented, either to Jackson or Stiles. "I anticipate a bit of a mess."
"Swords aren't the cleanest weapons," Stiles noted, trying not to let his voice shake as he glanced the sheath held low at the old man's side, like a forgotten cane. It wasn't an easy task, providing sarcasm, since the venom made him feel like his cheeks were full of cotton. "You know, your son runs guns now, so it kind of seems you've taken a step backward with the family business."
Gerard chuckled lightly, glancing up at the rope to center it and abandoning the sword next to the tree trunk. The branch was only a few feet higher than his head, but he nodded to himself, finding it sufficient, before he tossed one end back over again and began to loop the tail.
Leave it to the Argents to have a taste for lynching, Stiles thought.
"There's a certain weight to a sword, isn't there? A permanence." Gerard gestured for the kanima's attention and Jackson raised Stiles onto his feet, holding him upright with an arm around his side and a clawed hand pressed threateningly against his chest. Stiles felt his heart jump into his throat when Gerard circled him, disappearing from sight. A second later, he felt the man's hands at his wrists, pulling the rope taunt around them.
"A wolf might stand back up after taking a dozen bullets," Gerard continued, "but I've never seen one recover from being split in half, have you?"
Stiles blinked out at the woods in front of him, wishing there was movement, but the trees were painfully still. "Uh, no, can't say that I have," he answered. "Kind of hoping to never see that theory tested though."
Gerard was too close to his ear when he replied, "Oh, son, it's not a theory. No, the only theory I'm testing tonight is whether the kanima's venom inhibits pain reception. Judging from your grimace, it seems to leave its victim with full awareness."
Stiles swallowed hard, but was cut off by a sudden pressure at his shoulders as his arms were lifted from behind. He twisted his head a few inches, spotting Gerard with the other end of the rope, tugging to put his makeshift pulley to work. Every jerk of the rope pulled Stiles' arms up higher behind him.
"Ah, could you not?" Stiles panted, then stifled a groan when his arms were raised another inch. He could feel a layer of sweat blanketing his forehead as his body was forced to bend at the waist to keep his arms upright. "I thought we covered the part where you really don't have to torture me for info. I said I'd help you. Just tell me what you want."
"And as genuine as I'm sure your answer was," Gerard said, sounding doubtful, "I assure you that you are helping me, Stiles. See, all I need from you is a scream. Preferably, a howl."
Gerard turned his attention to Jackson. "Let him go," he ordered.
The kanima took a quick step away, releasing his grip, and Stiles watched the ground, watched his useless legs trembled before they gave in to gravity's pull, letting him drop. His wrists stayed high, pinned above from behind, and his shoulder released two sharp pops.
"Quick, do it quick."
The words were muffled, spoken through clenched teeth.
"I'm sorry," she answered, then pushed the knife down against the shaft. "Last one."
It was bloody work, but Erica carved at the flesh with steady determination, moving quickly to pull the arrowhead free before the skin could heal back around it. It was odd that by the third one, when Boyd had rejoined her in the land of the living, she'd found a sort of rhythm to pulling the arrows free, like she was getting used to it. She really didn't want to concentrate on the fact that she lived in a reality where she could ever get used to cutting her friends open.
Boyd made a low sound when she dropped the final one to the tile floor, but he didn't comment on her lack of surgical skill. His tensed body relaxed against the grimy wall of the bathroom. The floor was covered in more filth than she cared to think about, but the gas station had been the first store she'd run across. Thankfully, it had been almost empty, and the dingy bathroom was detached, outside the main building. Breaking the weak lock had been effortless, and she'd hauled Boyd inside, satisfied to have something resembling privacy before she'd gone to work on him.
"Glad infection isn't a thing anymore," she muttered, dropping the knife.
Erica stood up, leaning over the small sink, trembling slightly. After a moment's hesitation, she turned on the water, rinsing her hands off and splashing her face.
"We should probably wash off, in case there's any wolfsbane on us," she said, absently.
Boyd moved but didn't bother to stand. "I don't feel poisoned," he said.
Glass half full, Erica snorted. "Yeah, that's probably because you bled it all out…" The floor was covered in red, a constant drip sounding from the grate at the center of the room, where the mess was trying to escape. "I feel bad for the person who has to clean this place."
Erica saw him in the reflection of the speckled mirror, giving the tight space a once-over. "Smells like no one cleans this place."
When she didn't reply, Boyd looked up at her back, then met her gaze in the mirror. "They really let us go?"
"Not 'they'," she said, "just the one guy, Allison's dad. The others… they weren't going to."
Boyd ran his hands down his face, letting them rest against his chin. He shook his head. "We can't stay here, in Beacon Hills, Erica. As long as we're tied to him, they're going to keep coming."
"Not Derek's fault," she answered, quietly.
Boyd pushed himself up onto his feet. "I didn't say it was," he snapped, "but he can't protect us. You said it yourself. We're just going to be used against him. He wants a pack to help him fight this, but there isn't one. We're just a bunch of teenagers, and if he had any sense at all, he would have ran away from this place before he ever met us."
Erica reached out for the paper towels, dabbing her hands dry to buy herself time to respond. When she turned around, Boyd was looking at her like he'd already asked the question on his mind. She asked it for him.
"So you still want to run?"
Boyd waved at the door. "There's another pack out there. There has to be. One that isn't on some crazy hunter's hit list. We need to find them, like we talked about." He reached out, resting his hands on her arms. "We've been given new lives, we've got our second chance. We need to take it."
Boyd shook his head. "We'll leave Derek a note. He makes it out of this mess, at least he'll know we're alive, right? He'd understand, Erica. So will Isaac. He'd want us to stay alive."
Erica dipped her head, staring at the holes in his shirt, where the arrows had ripped through. Boyd was right, she knew. They'd been over all this before, made the same arguments. They'd agreed this was the best thing for them, for their families. Erica couldn't bring herself to nod, though.
"You wanted this," Boyd said, and it sounded like an accusation.
Erica looked up to meet his eye and expected anger, but she found Boyd smiling sadly. "I can't go right now," she said. "Not yet."
Boyd sighed the name. "Stiles Stilinski."
"They still have him," Erica said, pleading. "They'll kill him, Boyd."
"And what are you going to do? Storm the gates? For all we know, Mr. Argent went back for him too." Boyd let go of her. "You're not a superhero. You're my friend, and I don't want you to die because of Derek Hale. Or Stiles. Don't let some crush get you killed."
Erica hoped the hurt didn't show on her face, because she knew Boyd didn't mean for that to be a blow. He wasn't wrong, his plan was the best. He was the best. She hadn't had a friend like him since she was a kid, and they were just at the start. They could be forever; they could be pack. But Erica couldn't quiet the voice inside her, screaming for her to go back to look for Stiles.
"You're right. I'm not a superhero," Erica finally said, trying for a smile, "I'm Catwoman."
"You're not coming." Boyd nodded once, taking a quick step back from her. "I'm not staying."
The decision seemed final, cemented by a sound outside, faint through the brick walls, but distinct. It was a wolf's howl, strangled and cut off.
Erica felt her breath catch in her throat. "Stiles?"
"A trap," Boyd corrected. He rolled his eyes at her then leaned forward, pulling her into a hug. "Be sneaky," he whispered against her hair, "be smart. You change your mind, you find me."
Erica was surprised when she blinked and found the broken door wide open, Boyd already out and running away from the store. Her body still felt warm from his touch. She stared out after him, wanting to call him back and turned instead, looking at his blood puddling the floor. Without another moment's hesitation, she reached down, fetching the hunting knife, and took off, retracing her steps.
The howl had done its job.
Derek had known, the moment he'd hear it, that it was intended for him, and he'd had not a second's doubt that it had come from Stiles' lungs. Probably ripped out by force, since the beta had yet to even transform yet. The sound had set Derek's teeth on edge, and he'd been out the door of the McCall house before Melissa even managed to ask what he was doing.
"Scott," was the order he'd given Isaac, and the young werewolf must of understood, because he wasn't at his side, running across town. At least Derek hoped Isaac knew what to do next, or this night would be over before it even began.
The city lights kept the early evening sky bright gray, but inside the grove behind the Argent house, it was black as midnight. Derek knew his alpha red eyes were beacons, but he didn't care. The better to announce his arrival with.
He could smell Stiles' pain before he ever caught sight of him. Derek could sense something else as well, another presence circling behind him, no doubt Gerard's new favorite toy. Derek pushed his way through the trees, not bothering with stealth, and stopped thirty feet shy of his beta.
"I assumed you would need a formal invitation."
Derek wanted to glare at the old man for the comment, focus his rage on him, but instead his eyes stayed on the thin band of moonlight reflecting off the sword's blade. It was a familiar weapon the hunter was holding, the same one they'd seen the night Gerard had rounded up the omega and sliced it in half at the waist. The edge was far too close to Stiles.
For a moment, Derek wondered why Stiles was leaning forward, legs folded beneath him, but realized he must have been dosed with the venom. The younger man's head lolled to the side, like he didn't have the strength to hold it high. The grimace could be seen, even in the faint light, and Derek couldn't blame him for letting it show; arms weren't meant to be facing that direction.
"Stupid!" Stiles spat, annoyed and breathless from the attempt, but Derek could hear the relief in his voice. He wanted to promise Stiles he was safe now, but it was far from the truth.
"Let him go." The words sounded hollow, even in his own ears, but Derek couldn't force them to stay inside. "And bring me the rest of my pack."
"There it is," Gerard said, his gravelly voice full of delight. "That Alpha confidence I was looking for. Though, I suppose it isn't with bravado but desperation that you've arrived tonight, alone. You're in no position to make demands."
Derek felt the air shift at his back and moved, rolling to his right before the kanima could rake its claws down his spine. He had only a second to leap back again before it lashed out, slashing at the spot he'd just occupied. From the corner of his eye, Derek saw Gerard raise one finger and the kanima stilled, frozen in place, Jackson's icy, reptilian eyes fixed on Derek.
"An interesting beast, the kanima," Gerard commented. "More interesting still, that a weak-willed teenager with a broken mind had been able to control such power."
"The teenager you murdered?" Derek commented, giving him a side glance. "I guess you didn't look under his shirt before you killed him. He used the kanima against the innocent, and it was changing him."
"Yes, well, in this case, the kanima is a somewhat temporary boon," Gerard said, a smile in his voice. "I have other plans for the long term. Which is where you come in, Derek Hale. You're going to pay tonight, for my daughter, and in interest, or Stiles will pay for you."
"I didn't kill Kate." Derek's jaw hardened. "If anyone should be out for blood, it should be me. After what she did, after what you raised her to do."
Gerard stepped a bit closer, letting the tip of the sword rake at the leaves beneath. It was a step further from Stiles' side, and Derek took the move as a win.
"An understandable opinion," Gerard said, "if it weren't coming from a beast's mouth."
Derek huffed, but bit down the comment on the tip of his tongue. He didn't want to give away what Scott had told him, about the man's illness, about the only solution. Instead he straightened, looking at Gerard.
"You wanted me here, I'm here. My betas in exchange for me. I won't fight you."
"Beta," Gerard corrected, with a small pout. "I'm afraid you took a bit too long to arrive, and I had to choose one strategically." He raised the sword a few inches, gesturing back at Stiles. "My granddaughter's favorite of the litter. I hope this one will suffice as a bargaining chip."
Derek felt his mouth go dry, his throat tightening with panic. He restrained himself from running forward, charging the man. He could feel his nails cutting into his palms. Had the bond between them been so thin, so new, that he hadn't even felt half of his pack die? Derek didn't want to believe it.
"What do you want?" Derek growled out, concentrating on the one who was still there.
The one still alive. The one who could be saved. Stiles' eyes glinted in the moonlight, still their human, amber shade, but bright with unshed tears. He was shaking his head, as if trying to get Derek's attention, but the Alpha only raised his chin, waiting for Gerard's answer.
Gerard cocked his head, as if it were obvious. "Why, the only things you have left to give, Derek Hale. Your blood...and your bite."