Author's Note: To Marine and Teresa-Thanks pups! Peter's not going to change much, so he'll still be a class A a**. But Ami is going to be able to approach him when the others won't. And yes, it is weird saying Peter and nice in the same sentence. To Fizz Wizz-thanks pup! Welcome to the pack.
"You too, huh?" Stiles' voice made me look up from my notebook. I nodded mutely, having listened to his session through the door, and he tried to offer me a smile. Leaning over, he placed a caramel Godiva Chocolate square on my current drawing before he walked out.
I looked after him, wishing I knew what to say to him to help him. Touching his yellow ribbon hurt the most right now; heavy with despair and worry and fear, it was hard to ignore. But I had to ignore it. All any of us could do was wait.
"How are you holding up, Ami?" Ms. Morrell asked as I sat opposite her. Meeting her brown eyes, I handed over my journal and watched her flip through it. Pictures of both dreams and reality filled the pages, shaded in painstaking detail with colored pencils. A wall between Scott and Melissa, Matt underwater, Allison crying under the full moon, and everyone I knew slaughtered by the Kanima took up the most recent pages. But she flipped right passed them, stopping at a picture of Derek surrounded by a sharp and rather dangerous looking blue-gray ribbon. It looped like the wind around him, growing out of the ground at his feet. Words like rage, concern, and betrayal were written on the ribbon, and she held it up to show me what she was looking at. "I didn't realize you knew Derek Hale," she admitted.
"He's my foster brother," I whispered, watching her flip through a number of similar pictures of my family, pack, friends, and even enemies.
When she got to the drawing I'd done of myself, she looked up in concern. "You really drew all of these?" she asked, seeing the ribbons slipping out of a pale, sickly girl's hand. The girl was kneeling, a knife falling from her other hand, defeated. I nodded, looking down to where light fell across the desk in front of me. "And this?" she asked, holding up the next drawing. It was the second of two pictures of myself, and in this one, a small silver wolf pup sat in a long tunnel of never ending darkness. "What were you feeling when you drew this?" she questioned, setting the purple eyed wolf pup on the table.
Staring at the lonely pup as she howled, I remembered the feeling perfectly, since it hadn't gone away. "Can't you tell?" I challenged her flatly.
"Lonely, vulnerable, lost," she said, but she wasn't done, "But I also see a wolf howling, because she knows her pack will hear her, and help her." Flipping the page over, she returned to the picture of the girl with the ribbons. "And in this one, I see a girl who thinks she is weak, because her body has been wrecked by loss, torture, and exhaustion. She is burdened by secrets both her own and belonging to others. In her heart there is grief, and pain, from losing all the people she loved. There is confusion, and desperation, even sorrow, for she does not know who to believe when they tell her what to do. There is fear for the ones who made their way into her care, and she does not know how to save them. I see a girl who has lost the battle," she told me.
I raised my eyes to hers, and she continued, "But I also see strength, in her heart and her effort to fight for those she loves, in the way she holds herself. There is courage in her will to forgive and accept with arms ready to offer comfort. She knows the truth, and will not surrender until it has been told. Though it hurts, she remembers those she's lost, and those she's found, with joy and love. She already knows what she must do and is willing to pay the price at her own cost. But most importantly, she's willing to fight to the last second to protect those she cares about. I see a girl who can still win the war."
For a moment, I stared at her, and she handed back the journal. But it had been flipped to a new page. As she'd been speaking, Ms. Morrell had drawn a skillful portrait of me facing her but looking away. In her drawing, I smiled fondly as my hair blew out behind me, revealing the Hale locket around my neck. Taking the journal, I met her eyes and said, "She thinks she's been defeated, but she's only lost one battle."
Ms. Morrell smiled and nodded, then stood to open the door for me as final bell rang. At the door, she put her hand on my shoulder and said, "There is still time to rebalance the scales." I nodded and strode out of the office with my head high. Instinctively I looked around the lot for the black Camaro, but then I remembered that my pack had gone into hiding, and that included Derek.
Sighing, I walked to the silver Camry waiting for me and slid into the passenger seat, still unable to believe I was sitting in the car with this man. "How was school?" Peter taunted from the driver's seat, earning himself a level, pointed glare. "What? High school was a riveting experience," he said, pulling out of the lot.
"Yeah, well I know you don't actually care, so stop acting like you do. Don't think I haven't noticed your totally off topic questions, Peter. You've always been manipulative, even when you were my uncle. Nothing's changed now that you've told me the truth," I replied acidly.
"And here I was thinking we could have a nice father-daughter talk about your day," he sniped sarcastically.
"That right went out the window the day you decided not to tell me. You want a nice father-daughter conversation then you should have told me the truth instead of letting me wonder for all my life," I snapped, glaring out the window.
"I told you already that I didn't know you were my daughter when you lived with my sister," he complained.
"But you still haven't told me how you found out when you were comatose in the hospital for six years," I reminded him sharply. I was determined to get the truth out of him, even if it came to stealing wolfsbane bullets from the Argents and shooting him.
"You wouldn't believe me even if I told you," he protested, and I gave him a pointed look.
"I have no freaking reason to believe anything that comes out of your mouth. Get over it. Just because you saved me from Gerard doesn't mean I forgive you for terrorizing my friends and my brother. The only reason I'm sitting in this car right now is because you said you might know a way to save Jackson," I snapped, not looking up from a new drawing. Peter didn't seem to have a response for that, so I turned my full attention to the image forming on the page.
"What are you drawing now?" he asked simply, and I looked up.
There was no malice in his tone, so I decided to be honest. "You," I told him, but I didn't hold the page out for him to see.
"Why?" he asked, glancing at me.
"Because I see you differently now than I did when I was a kid," I replied matter of factly. He pulled up in front of the bookstore and I slipped out of the car, sitting behind the counter as I continued to draw. Glancing around, I sighed and climbed off my stool, digging out the folder I'd filled with drawings I'd done on scrap paper or ripped out of my school notebooks. Taking two new ones of my backpack, I added the Kanima and Gerard by the bridge, then another one of Scott sitting alone on a rock, waiting for the girl who wasn't coming.
Melissa picked me up on her way home from the store, and I put the groceries away as she went to change into her scrubs for work. I could hear the water running, so I guessed Scott was home, and I thought Melissa would hurry back down as fast as she could to avoid seeing her son. But when she didn't come down, I went up, hearing Scott come out of the shower. Stepping through the door, I froze, falling into a defensive stance without thinking. Gerard sat in the chair across from me, meeting my eyes calmly. He nodded to the corner and a hiss made me turn to see Melissa grasping at the Kanima's tail where it wrapped around her neck and lifted her off the floor.
Scott stepped out of the bathroom and stopped short, horrified. "As you can see, Scott, there's been some interesting developments lately. I think we should catch up," Gerard told him. Rage flowed down Scott's ribbon and his hands snapped out at his sides, tipped with sharp claws. "Come on, Scott, let's be realistic about who's got the upper hand here."
"Let her go," my brother ordered as I moved to his side. I didn't like the way we stood separated and alone with the Kanima and a veteran werewolf hunter in the room.
"Can't do that. But let her live? That's up to you," Gerard replied evenly.
"What do you want?" Scott asked, meeting his mother's terrified eyes. I placed my hand on his wrist, taking calming breaths until his claws withdrew. He didn't need to provoke Gerard with Melissa so vulnerable.
"I want to talk. You haven't been answering your phone," the hunter told him, and I stared at him. What had he done to Scott to get his phone number and cooperation?
"Let her go, and we can talk about whatever you want," the young wolf bargained.
"I want the same thing that I have always wanted," the old man assured him, standing. Meeting my eyes, he explained, "I want Derek and his pack."
"You have them all in hiding. How am I supposed to know where they are?" Scott protested.
"I think with the proper motivation you and your delicate little sister could draw them out. And if you haven't noticed I now have a fairly impressive means by which I can motivate people," Gerard pointed out, and behind him, the Kanima hissed. "Why do you think I'm able to control him? You know the myth, Scott. The Kanima is a weapon of vengeance."
"This is about Kate?" my brother realized, shocked.
"I didn't just come here to bury my daughter, I came to avenge her," the old man snarled. Then the Kanima let go and Melissa dropped to the ground, hitting the bedroom floor on hands and knees as she coughed. Scott darted towards her, kneeling in front of her as he watched Gerard and the Kanima leave.
"Are you okay?" Scott asked as I knelt beside Melissa, rubbing her back.
She shook her head, saying, "I don't know what's happening. I don't know what that thing was or even what you are," she sobbed, her voice raspy and breathy. Scott's ribbon flared with pain, hurt, and shame and he drew back. "But whatever he wants, just give it to him," she told him, avoiding his eyes.
"Mom, it's not that easy," Scott sighed, meeting my eyes. I understood immediately, and reached out to him, taking his hand.
"Do what he wants, just give him what he wants," she sobbed, keeping her head down.
"I don't know if I can," my brother admitted, and I got to my feet, backing away.
After my own shower, I retreated to my room, listening to Scott pace on the other side of the wall. Standing at my bedroom window, I stared out over the moonlit lawn, knowing it was going to be yet another sleepless night. So I pulled out my journal and went back to my drawings and notes on the ribbons.
Saturday morning came with singing birds outside my window. Dressing in a pair of gray skinny jeans, boots, and a plain white Henley Derek had bought me, I gazed sadly at my reflection. As much as I argued with Derek that I was healthy, I knew I wasn't. Stress and worry and lack of sleep were leaving their mark, some visible, some not. I might have put on muscle, but I'd lost weight after Kate and hadn't gained it back. Dark circles could be hidden by Lydia's foundation, and she didn't question me when I asked her to buy me more. Danny bought me coffee every morning, and even Coach didn't push me.
"A girl who can still win the war," I remembered, and set to work on my makeup and hair. When I was done, I smiled in the mirror and grabbed my lacrosse sweatshirt. Once my head was free I looked in the mirror and met Scott's eyes. "I'm going to work," I assured him, and he nodded. He was dressed to go to the clinic already, but he didn't need to know that I was meeting Derek at the Hale House before I went to my shift. He especially didn't need to know if it kept Gerard from finding out. So I didn't tell him.
Derek was standing before a table full of books when I slipped into the Hale House. "Hey," I murmured, crossing the room to wrap my arms around his waist from behind. Leaning my cheek against the broad expanse of his back, I felt one of his hands drop to mine and pull my arms from around him. He pulled me around in front of him, lifting me by the waist to sit on the table. "Derek?" I asked as he turned back to his book, flipping through the pages like he was looking for something.
"They're leaving," he told me, not looking up as guilt and hurt ran down his ribbon.
"All three of them?" I asked softly, surprised.
"I don't know about Isaac," he sighed, and I nodded.
Catching Isaac's ribbon, I closed my eyes, deciding to try something Deaton had told me about. I didn't have any idea if it would work, but it was worth a shot, so I directed a thought towards the baby blue ribbon, 'Isaac?'
'Ami?' surprise pulsed down his ribbon as his voice sounded in my head.
'Do me a favor and go talk to Scott before you leave, okay?' I requested, hoping he could feel my pleading tone. Before I withdrew, I caught a glimpse of resignation and worry, but I knew Isaac would go see my brother.
Taking Derek's hand, I drew him back to stand in front of me. "This isn't your fault, Derek. Maybe we did this too soon, but you were never trained to be an Alpha. You couldn't have been expected to know right away," I told him, taking his other hand.
"I should have known how to handle a hunter," he snapped, avoiding my eyes.
"Even Dad didn't know how to handle Gerard," I reminded him, and he sighed. Stepping closer, he leaned his forehead against the top of my head, closing his eyes as he drew a deep breath. "What are we looking for?" I asked when he stepped back.
"Anything on the Kanima," he told me and I nodded, taking a book from him. Scanning the pages as I flipped through them, I set aside book after book with nothing.
A footstep at the door made Derek and I look up. "You decided," Derek said, turning as I set aside the book in my hands. Erica and Boyd stood in the doorway, both uneasy and torn. "When?" he asked.
"Tonight," Erica told him. Her voice was soft, lacking the confidence I'd gotten used to lately.
"Everyone's gonna be at the game. We figured it was the best time," Boyd explained, ever the logical one.
"It's not like we want to," the she-wolf assured the Alpha as he stepped forward.
"What do you want?" Derek asked, his voice starting to sharpen.
"Since I just turned sixteen a month ago, I wouldn't mind getting my license. I can't do that if I'm dead, you know," the blonde could barely meet Derek's eyes as she spoke, but there was no changing her mind.
"Well I told you there was a price," Derek reminded her, his voice even and calm.
I slid off the table as Boyd protested, "Yeah, but you didn't say it would be like this."
"Yeah, but I told you how to survive," Derek snapped, and I hurriedly stepped forward, going to calm him. I couldn't see them fight, not now, not with everything else falling apart. "You do it as a pack. And you're not a pack without an Alpha," he reminded them, turning back to me.
"We know," Boyd said, and Derek turned back to look at him.
He stared at Boyd until the large Beta looked away. Realization made Derek scoff quietly and he said, "You want to look for another pack." Erica looked away and the guilt on both of the Betas ribbons assured me that was the truth. "How are you even gonna find one?" Derek challenged.
Erica looked up at Boyd, prompting her pack-mate to say "I think we already did."
I stepped up to Derek's side as surprise flared on his ribbon. "When?" I asked them quietly. My attention was divided between them and Isaac as he went to the clinic.
"Last night," Boyd told me.
"Like all of a sudden we heard all this howling. It was unbelievable," Erica added.
"There must have been a dozen of them," the big Beta told the Alpha, his voice full of admiration for the idea of a large pack.
"Maybe more," the she-wolf suggested.
"Yeah, or maybe two," the Alpha replied flatly. "You know what the Bo jest affect is?" he asked as the two Betas looked at each other. "If they modulate their howls with a rapid shift in tone two wolves can sound like twenty," he explained sharply. Copper brown uncertainty. Were we about to make the biggest mistake of our lives?
"Look, that doesn't matter, okay?" Erica shifted on her feet, her eyes sad and worried. "There's another pack out there, there's got to be," she insisted. Then she straightened and told him, "We've made up our minds."
"We've lost, Derek. Alright, it's over," Boyd said sadly. Then, holding my brother's gaze, he decided, "We're leaving."
"No. No, you're running. And once you start, you don't stop. You'll always be running," my brother told them angrily. But I knew he wasn't actually mad at them. He was hurt that they couldn't trust him enough to fix everything. He turned back to the table of books as I watched Erica grab Boyd's hand and stride angrily out of the house.
Derek braced his hands on the table as I stepped back to his side, running one hand over his tattoo in soothing circles. But he tensed, his back going rigid under my hand, and he picked up the shard of glass he'd used to poison Jackson. Rage pulsed down his ribbon and then he was spinning. Using his other arm to push me behind him, he threw the glass with the perfect aim of a skilled baseball player.
Peter caught the shard as it touched his neck and I felt the furious rumble in Derek's chest. My brother stepped back, his posture screaming fight as well as forcing me away from my father. "I expected a slightly warmer welcome, but," Peter said, holding up the shard, "point taken."
"Peter," I cautioned, sensing that this was about to get very bad.
"It's quite the situation you've got yourself in, Derek," my father said plainly and I winced. Derek looked away, practically trembling with fury under the hands I had on his back. "I mean I'm out of commission for a couple of weeks and suddenly there's lizard people, geriatric psychopaths, and you're cooking up werewolves out of every self-esteem deprived adolescent in town," Peter taunted, and I knotted my hands in Derek's shirt, holding him in place.
"What do you want?" my brother snarled, his jaw clenched in rage.
"Well, I want to help," the former Alpha replied like it was obvious as he stepped forward. "You're my nephew. You two are the only relatives that I have left. You know there's still a lot I can teach you," he said, offering an almost sincere, smug smirk. He approached until he stood just in front of Derek, and set his hand on the Alpha's shoulder as he asked, "Can we just talk?"
Derek looked down at the hand on his shoulder and said, "Sure, let's talk." My eyes widened at his tone and I stepped back. No sooner did I let go that Derek grabbed the wrist on his shoulder, caught his uncle by the throat and threw him. My hands clapped over my mouth as Peter slammed into the staircase, breaking several bars on the railing as he fell onto his back on the floor. "Go, Ami," Derek ordered, and I stepped around him.
Catching his face in my hands, I stretched up and kissed his forehead. I met his eyes, whispered, "I love you, Derek," and fled. Peter got to his feet as I scrambled out the door. I didn't stop running until I reached the front door of the bookstore.
When Mr. Roberts came in to let me off for the game, he caught me by the arm. "Are you alright, kiddo?" he asked, concern clear in his old eyes. I nodded, smiling gratefully up at him before I slipped out the door.
Stiles was waiting in the Jeep to take me to school. I watched the way his hand tapped a nervous rhythm on his thigh and reached over. Lacing my fingers through his, I gave him a sad smile, just as worried about tonight's game now that I knew from Scott that Jackson was playing.
"Tiny McCall, get in here!" Coach yelled when he saw me waiting outside the locker room door.
"Uh, Coach, I'm a girl in case you hadn't noticed," I called, making all the players laugh. Danny came out, half-dressed, and covered my eyes. Blinded, I let him guide me into Coach's office and didn't open my eyes until the door closed behind him.
"A little help would be appreciated," Finstock told me, a tie hanging around his neck. I laughed despite my worry and stepped forward. I really should have known Coach didn't known how to tie a tie. But the bomber jacket with the walkie-talkie was too much.
I cracked up, shaking my head, only to be cut off by a sharp call of, "Jackson!"
"Stay in the goal tonight, Danny. Do not come out and if you see me coming towards you, run the other way, as fast as you can," Jackson ordered his best friend. His voice shook, knowing how much danger he was putting everyone in by obeying Gerard's orders. Blinking away tears, I stepped out of the office to watch him walk out and hesitate when he saw Melissa in the doorway.
Coach nudged me aside, handing me the books, and turned on his little radio. "Good morning," he started, and all the boys gathered around, grinning. The speech from Independence Day was Coach's tradition, and we all knew it. "In less than an hour, aircraft from here will be joining others from around the world. And you will be launched the largest aerial battle in the history of mankind. Mankind, that word should have new meaning for all of you today," he spoke so seriously that Melissa's confusion was amusing.
As I listened to the speech, I closed my eyes, wishing that this was just like any other game. Instead it was a potential massacre that I couldn't stop. I was jerked out of my desperate prayers when a new voice sounded in front of me. "Well spoken, Coach," Gerard said, stepping forward. Melissa's ribbon pulsed with fear and anger, and she shifted behind Stiles. "I might have chosen something with a little more historical value but there's no denying your passion. And while I haven't been here long, there's no denying my pride in having a winning team for this school" he went on. Stiles shifted, uneasy, as Scott glared furiously at the white haired man from the bench. "I know you'll all be brilliant tonight, even with only one co-captain leading you," he continued, glancing at Scott. My brother and I snapped out heads around, staring at a smug Gerard in confusion.
Dread made me bite my lip as I realized Gerard had literally backed us into a corner. Jackson was playing, the Kanima, and Scott, the only wolf we had there, wasn't. Which meant everyone, including Stiles and Danny, were in serious danger. "Now, I'm your principle, but I'm also a fan, so don't think I'll be content to watch you simply beat this team," Allison's grandfather said, making Coach grin widely behind him. I swallowed in fear as Gerard's voice changed, and he ordered, "Get out there and murder them."