Author's Note: Thanks to Ash, Teresa, and Fizz for reviewing!
"We're going home now, Erica," I murmured, brushing tangled blonde curls away from the face of my friend. Derek stepped over Allison's jacket, nose crinkling at the ammonia, and his eyes landed on the body of his Beta. "It's not your fault, Derek. There was nothing we could do," I told him as he picked her up. The guilt and self-loathing and fury were pretty evident in the line of his shoulders and depth of his eyes. But he simply nodded and carried Erica's body out into the hallway where Scott waited. I watched the guilt and grief darken Scott's already pained eyes before Derek brought Erica to the alley where the police would find her. We didn't have time to bury her with the Betas loose and wild and the cops needed to close her case.
"Go after the blue eyed Beta, Ami, but don't let him catch your scent. Scott, track Boyd. I'll go after Cora," the Alpha ordered lowly. The tone of his voice had Allison hurrying down the hallway to take off in her car. I didn't want to, but I knew exactly what Scott had revealed to her that made her so guilty, grief stricken, and angry. Outside the bank, I looked up at the moon, and then the three of us were running for the forested hills outside town.
The blue eyed Beta's ribbon was a dark gold that I figured would be warm caramel when he calmed down. When I saw his ribbon pause, I slowed, prowling slowly through the trees to the crest of a hill. Below me lay the bloodied body of a buck, and the blonde was bent over it, ripping it to shreds. He growled, looking up, and bounded into the woods. Two more ribbons told me he was chasing Cora and Boyd, who could defend themselves against him without me worrying.
So when I caught up to Derek and Scott, running on Scott's other side, I realized I needed to call Isaac. Ahead of us was a very weirdly shaped tree that didn't slow the boys at all. Derek went left, launching himself through two of the branches to land on a crouch on the other side. Scott went through the middle, flipping off the tree to roll into a crouch as Derek straightened. I followed Scott, leaping into a handspring off the tree to land between them. "Is it them?" Scott asked, seeing the footprint Derek was eyeing.
"We're not the only ones that decided to stick together," my Alpha replied.
"Is that gonna make it easier or harder to catch them?" my younger brother asked, looking up at him as I stood. Even though Scott neither knew Cora or the other Beta nor was Boyd's pack mate, he was taking responsibility for this.
"I don't know," Derek sighed, looking out into the woods. He'd never had to deal with something like this.
Scott stood, worry and dread shining in his eyes. "Derek, I saw Boyd try to rip two little kids apart. Are they gonna do that to everyone they find?" the Beta did not like this at all.
"Everyone and anyone," Derek sighed, walking past both of us to run into the woods again.
"Go, I'll catch up. I have to get Isaac," I told Scott as he looked after my elder brother. He nodded, glancing over his shoulder as his moved into the thicker woods. I climbed back into the deformed tree, my back against the trunk to keep myself hidden while I was distracted. Then I called a baby blue pixie forward, and spoke to him. "Isaac? I need your help."
Suddenly I noticed that Lydia's ribbon had gone murky, and her pixie was still. Intrigued, I called her forward, letting her show me a pool. I didn't understand until Lydia was looking at the pool of blood. Her scream jolted me out of the ribbons, and the one in my ears knocked me out of the tree. I fell into a pair of strong, wiry arms, and looked up into Isaac's face. "Are you okay?" he asked frantically.
"What? Yeah, I'm okay. Come on, we've got to track the others," I told him, dropping out of his arms. I shook my head, suddenly having the urge to draw a tent full of candles and like a million weird bugs.
Our heads went up at the same time as a feral roar reached our ears. "Cora," I told him. "She was the girl you saw with Boyd," I added. He nodded and we ran, leaping off a rock to land in the clearing with the human girl and Cora. My sister snarled, and Isaac grinned. I shook my head as he charged, and got to my feet to pull the human girl back. She backed away on her own eyes wide with horror and shock as Isaac slammed Cora into the leaves. It didn't really surprise me that Cora was able to throw Isaac into the tree, but Scott's lion like growl did startle me when he leaped over Isaac. I'd been too focused on Boyd and the other Beta crouched over another shredded deer to hear him coming. Both of Scott's feet hit Cora in the chest, and he was quick to flip back to a crouch.
Derek brushed against my shoulder as he moved in on Cora's other side, and I noticed that none of them were fully shifted. The wild she-wolf backed away from the Alpha as he roared at her, then took off into the woods. Scott stayed behind as the other two gave chase, seeing the girl behind me. He walked towards us, only for her to back away again as fear pulsed down her amber ribbon. While I moved around the fire to his side, he held up his hands towards her and said, "Are you okay?
"What?" her voice shook as she stared at him, but he looked perfectly human to her.
"Are you all right?" Scott pressed, and when she nodded shakily he told her, "you need to get out of here, okay? Get out of the woods. Get out of here as fast as you can." Then we raced after Derek and Isaac, and I knew the other two rabid wolves were with her.
When Scott's phone ran the group skidded to a halt. We could all hear Stiles, so I wasn't sure why Scott turned his back like it would help. "Are you sure?" Scott asked when Stiles paused for a deep breath.
"Yep. Throat ripped out, blood everywhere. It's like the frickin' shining over here. Two little twin girls come out of the woods, start asking me to play with them forever and ever, I'm not gonna be surprised.
"Can you get a little closer to make sure it was them?" Scott requested, his stomach dropping as dread and guilt dragged his pixie to the front of my mind.
"Make sure it was them? Scott, who else is going around ripping throats out?" Stiles demanded.
"Please just do it," Scott sighed, and I saw the silver purity band flash across Stiles' ribbon before he confirmed it.
"This doesn't make any sense. The public pool is all the way on the other side of the woods. We haven't tracked them anywhere near there," Derek said when Scott got off the phone.
"Derek, they killed someone," Scott told him, trying to get his attention.
"How are they moving so fast?" the Alpha demanded. He was not used to being in the unknown when it came to werewolves. This was completely new for him.
"Derek!" Scott snapped
"But they can't be that fast on foot!" my brother argued, arms tightening where he had them crossed over his chest.
"Derek, they had a head start, and who knows how fast they really are," I sighed, whishing it wasn't true.
"They killed someone. Some totally innocent kid is dead and it's our fault," Scott told him bluntly, making him look up. Both could see the confusion and the guilt in the other's eyes.
"It's my fault," Derek told him, swallowing before he took more guilt that did not belong on his shoulders.
"We need help," the smaller Beta decided.
"We have Isaac now," the Alpha pointed out, glancing at his Beta as he did.
"I mean real help," Scott replied, making Isaac's ribbon flare indignantly as his head shot up. "They're too fast for us, for all of us. They're too strong, too rabid," Scott pointed out, and Isaac forgave him for admitting that he was at a disadvantage too.
Derek sighed, knowing he was right but not knowing who to turn to for help. So instead he argued, "We'll catch them."
"What happens if we do? We just gonna hold them down until the sun comes up?" Isaac asked, his voice layered in sarcasm.
"Maybe it would be easier just to kill them," the Alpha sighed. He really did not want to kill his own sister, but he couldn't ask Scott or Isaac to do it for him. He was determined for their eyes to stay gold as long as possible. And honestly, so was I. Then I wondered what would happen to my eyes if I took an innocent life.
"Killing them isn't the right thing to do," Scott protested, ever the loyal and protective friend. Maybe Stiles was on to something with the dog jokes?
"What if it's the only thing to do? If we can't even catch them, what else do we do?" Isaac asked, but Scott wasn't giving in that easily.
"Find someone who knows what they're doing," the younger of my brothers advised.
"Who?" Derek and I asked suspiciously.
"Someone who knows how to hunt werewolves," Scott smirked, and I sighed.
"He's at the grocery store," I told him, and he nodded. All I could do was follow the three wolves to the edge of the preserve where Derek had parked the truck. Isaac and Scott climbed into the truck as I sagged against the backseat. It didn't take very long for Derek to drive to the store, but by the time he had, I'd drawn a river of beetles in the leaves on a napkin.
"So your, uh your sister?" Isaac's voice jolted me out of whatever zone I'd been in and I flinched away from the drawing in my lap. Derek's raised eyebrow made Isaac say, "Sorry, yeah, it's…it's bad timing, I'm sorry. I'll ask later. It's fine." Derek gave him another look, getting an instant withdrawal on the subject. "Or never. Yeah, yeah, I'm good with never."
I leaned around Derek's seat to see Mr. Argent aiming a gun at Scott. "Isaac, we haven't seen her in seven years. We thought she was dead," I told him gently, and Isaac's blue eyes widened as they met mine. He thought instantly of Camden, and I sighed. I hadn't wanted to make him relive painful memories, but it made him understand.
Guilt and confliction tore through Scott as Chris put the gun away and stepped closer. But Chris's grieved words only made Scott more determined. "Follow him. Scott's taking him to the pool," I murmured to Derek.
When I saw the lights, I understood Scott's plan. Grief and horror washed over Chris as he saw the parents crying over a body bag, and I sighed. "He'll help us," I told Derek and Isaac. Derek nodded and turned the Toyota around to head out to the woods. Scott hurried from the SUV so Chris could return to the apartment and get whatever he needed, and Derek parked up at the edge of the preserve. It didn't take long to run up to where we'd found footprints.
I watched Chris approach from my perch in the tree beside Isaac. The hunter dropped a full duffle bag in the leaves, then crouched in front of Scott. "You're tracking them by print?" he asked.
"Trying to," Scott told him, unafraid to admit that he had not had any success.
"Well, then, you've been wasting your time," Mr. Argent replied, standing in the light of the full moon. "There's only one creature on earth that can visually track footprints, and that's man.And if you're not trained like me, you have no idea that this print is Boyd's, those are the blue eyed Beta's and these,"
"Are Cora's," Isaac said, pointing down at the prints in front of him.
"Nope. They're yours. You trampled Cora's as soon as you walked over here," the hunter told him. Isaac shifted uncomfortably at being wrong, and I patted his shoulder. "Listen, I know the three of you are focusing half your energy on resisting your own urges under the full moon, but that puts you at a severe disadvantage to Boyd and Cora, who have fully given in. They put the pedal to the floor where you three are barely hitting the speed limit."
"So what do we do?" Derek asked with his arms crossed as usual.
"Focus on your sense of smell. Actual wolves are known to track their prey by up to a hundred miles a day by scent. A trained hunter can use scent to track them." As Mr. Argent spoke I caught a brief flash of pain from Allison and looked down her ribbon to see her in the woods. She was armed with daggers and her bow, and had pricked her wrist to lay a trail of blood. She was hunting the wolves, like us, determined to fix the mess she'd created by breaking the barrier. "If the wind is with them, wolves can track a scent by a distance of two miles, which means we can draw them to us. Or into a trap," Chris continued, throwing a net to Scott. "The full moon does give us one advantage. They'll have a higher heat signature, which makes them easier to spot with infrared," he said, tossing night vision goggles to Isaac and Derek.
"Thanks, but I've got my own," Derek replied, flashing his Alpha eyes.
"Just remember, we're not hunting wild animals. Underneath those impulses are two intelligent human beings. Don't think they can't rely on that human side. It's suppressed, but it's there, reminding them how to mask their scent, how to cover their tracks, how to survive," the veteran hunter reminded us. He led us up the ridge to the view of town, and I stopped at Derek's side.
"When's the last time you saw your sister?" Chris asked Derek.
"Not in years. I thought she died in the fire," the Alpha replied.
"Do you feel like you have a lock on her scent?" the hunter asked. Derek shook his head and I knew how much it hurt that he had to. Years ago, Cora's scent was as familiar as mine to him. "Scott, how confident are you in your skills?"
"Honestly, most of the time, I'm trying not to think about all the things I can smell," the smaller of the Betas told him. Isaac nodded and Chris sighed.
"Ami?" he checked, and I shook my head. I didn't have a wolf's sense of smell, even on a full moon. "All right. The problem is when they breach the woods and hit the residential area. Once they're past the high school, they're right in the middle of Beacon Hills."
"They're not gonna kill everything they see, are they?" Isaac asked worriedly.
"No. But there is an important difference to recognize. Wolves hunt for food. At a certain point, they get full. But Boyd and Cora are hunting for the pleasure of the kill, for some primal apex predatory satisfaction that comes from the ripping of warm bodies to bloody shreds. And who knows when that need gets satiated?" I shivered as Chris spoke, thinking of the boy by the pool that Lydia had found.
"We can't kill them," Scott pressed.
"What if we can't catch them?" Derek asked him. Scott didn't reply, choosing to turn pleading eyes on Mr. Argent instead.
"Then maybe we just need to contain them," Argent replied, his mind whirling with an idea. "There's no one in the school at night, is there?" He was thinking of the night of the attack by Peter, and now no one wanted to work in the school at night.
"You want to trap them inside?" Derek realized. He wasn't arguing, which I knew meant he really didn't want to kill the three rebid Betas.
"If there's somewhere with a strong enough door, no windows or access to the outside," Chris told him, but he didn't know the school the way we did.
"What about the boiler room?" Isaac suggested. "It's just one big steel door."
"You're sure the school's empty?" Chris checked.
"It has to be," Scott replied. "There can't be anyone there this late, right?"
I shrugged and followed them back to the SUV, where Chris opened what I thought was a gun case. He took out a weird silvery stake, driving the sharpened end into the dirt as the four of us stood over it. "These are ultrasonic emitters. It's one of the tools we use to corral werewolves, pushing them into a direction we want them to run," he told us, pressing a button on the top. Blue and white light flared from the top as a high pitched sound shattered my eardrums. I gasped, clapping my hands over my ears as the boys did the same. "Gives off a high-pitched frequency that only they can hear," Mr. Argent added with a grin.
"God, no kidding!" Isaac gasped, and Mr. Argent quickly shut off the emitter. I shook my head, my ears ringing, but lowered my hands to take the emitters Chris passed over.
"These are gonna drive them to the school?" Derek asked, doubtfully taking his pair.
"And then it's up to you to get them into the basement," Argent replied as he handed Isaac a set.
"Does anyone else want to rethink the plan where we just, uh, kill 'em?" the tall Beta asked, holding the emitters warily.
"It's going to work," Scott told him, taking two more. "It'll work," he insisted.
"Ami, with me," Derek ordered, and I nodded, switching directions. I'd been heading for the SUV, but I followed him out into the woods, running behind him as I kept tabs on Isaac and Scott. Derek launched one of the emitters at a tree and I shook my head at the silver stake embedded in the bark.
"But the last time something like this happened," Stiles reminded her, thinking of the night of her birthday. Then I understood. Lydia hadn't just randomly found a body. She'd been drawn there, just like I'd drawn the pool.
"I know. Derek's uncle," Lydia replied, eyes wide with fear and worry. She knew what she'd done that night.
Stiles' ribbon grew heavy with worry and dread as he realized, "Peter."
"And the hunted becomes the hunter," Peter's voice from the darkness made Derek look up from the last emitter and I felt my eyes flash purple in anger. "You really think a few high-tech dog whistles are gonna help?" my father mocked.
"I don't see you offering a hand," Derek snapped, rising to his full height so he stood between Peter and me.
"Personally, I'm trying to cut down on futile endeavors," the older wolf replied, moving out of the shadows into the moonlight.
"Cora's alive," Derek told him. I narrowed my eyes at Peter as I went to turn on the emitter, but Derek caught my arm.
"I heard. Let's throw the reunion party when she's not an unstoppable killing machine," Peter replied.
"I can stop her," the Alpha said.
"Sure you can. By killing her. Which happens to be the point of this little exercise. Deucalion wants you to kill them. He wants you to get rid of his baggage, making it easier for you to join his pack. The fact that it was supposed to happen in the vault, and not up here, out in the open, doesn't change his plan. It just means that Boyd and Cora are gonna kill a few innocent people first," his uncle told him.
"And I should just let them? I should be okay with innocent people dying?" Derek demanded. I set my hand on the arm holding me behind him, Derek's doubt standing at the front of my mind. I did not like the fact that Peter could make Derek question what he knew was right.
"Unless you're okay killing your own," Peter challenged.
"I can catch them," my brother insisted.
"Oh, come on. How much damage can they do? So they off a few homeless people, a drunk stumbling out of a bar too late. So what?" our uncle replied. Then he made my blood run cold. "Let Scott deal with it. Let him be the hero of his morally black and white world. The real survivors, you and I, we live in shades of gray." His words made Derek search his face before he added, "Then again, even if you did kill them, you're still an Alpha." I stepped back as he leaned down to turn on the emitter. "You can always make more werewolves," Peter assured him.
"And get more people killed?" I demanded as Derek looked away. "That might be your way, Peter, but it's not ours," I snapped, taking Derek's hand to drag him away. He started to run back towards the school, scooping me up to cling to his back as the darkness blurred with the moonlight.
Resting my head against his shoulder, I let Stiles' disgust and horror take over until I could hear him. "Is that brain matter? Yeah, it's brain matter, of course."
"See the indentation? He was hit in the back of the head, hard enough to kill him. In fact, any one of these things could have killed him," Melissa told him, and I could see that she was thinking of the throat cut, the ligature mark, and a bashed in head. The kid could have died from three different things.
"Ami, stay with Isaac," Derek ordered as he stopped at the doors to the school. I followed the younger beta as he ran by Scott and Mr. Argent, but I paused when I saw Mr. Argent's confusion and worry.
"Do you see that?" the hunter asked, thinking maybe he was seeing things.
"Yeah, it's a firefly," Scott shrugged. He'd seen plenty of them earlier when he was hunting Boyd.
"No, no, I know, it…" Mr. Argent replied, his mind whirling as he considered possibilities.
"What?" my brother asked. If something was wrong, we needed to know now.
"It's, uh it's very unusual. The, uh, California fireflies aren't bio-luminescent," Chris told him. Seeing his brows furrow, he explained, "They don't glow."
"Does that mean something?" the wolf asked.
"Ami?" Isaac's soft voice called me to his side as the howl cut through the darkness. Three wild ribbons flared suddenly in my head, and I cringed. The rapidness of the three Betas made their ribbons painful and loud.
Boyd's snarl behind us made me stiffen in dread. "Oh, great," Isaac sighed, and we turned to see all three Betas behind us, ready to pounce. Isaac's pixie went wolf as he shifted beside me, and I willing turned my eyes purple for whatever advantage I could get. The honk of Argent's horn made the betas growl and snarl as they whirled towards the headlights, and then they charged. But instead of going into the wide open doors, they froze at the sight of Derek inside. With wild snarls, they leaped straight up and scaled the school to the roof.
"They're not going through the school. They're going over it," Scott realized in dread.
"Oh, my God, did you know her? I'm so sorry. I didn't even think," Melissa's voice cued me into Stiles' sudden flare of grief.
"I was I was at her party. It was her birthday. Her name is Heather," Stiles told her. As he stared down at the girl's pale face, her ribbon floated forward and I stared in horror. I'd watched this girl disappear from her own house and now she was dead.
"Okay, we need to call your father, 'cause you're a witness. Stiles?" my adoptive mother realized, watching him reel as his mind whirled. The flashbacks triggered something on the ribbons, because suddenly I could see Heather's hallucination on her ribbon. To my shock, it matched the drawing I'd done of broken bottles and spilled wine.
"The rear doors, someone has to get them open. Someone has to drive them inside," Scott's voice jolted me away from Stiles' ribbon as the group hurried together.
"I'll go," Chris said, his cattle prod crackling with electricity.
"No. I'm faster," Isaac said, taking off around the side of the building. I waited for the flare of triumph from him before I darted into the school, Scott and Derek behind me. The three Betas charged down the hallway until Derek slammed into Cora, throwing her into the lockers before he flung her down the hall. The two rabid males snarled and made to move forward. Scott's appearance at my side and Chris's cattle prod held the three fast, hesitant to attack.
"Come and get us," Derek challenged, taking off for the basement. Scott and I raced after him, and the three wild wolves gave chase to fleeing prey. Derek yanked the boiler room door open before Scott and I ran inside, the door closed behind the other three. In the darkness, I had to rely on the difference in the snarls to pinpoint where each wolf was. Boyd's deep snarl rumbled like a lion's, Cora's hissed as if she were a puma, and the other boy growled like a furious leopard. I watched two sets of yellow eyes and a pair of blue eyes get closer, and then Derek and Scott let loose with the fire extinguishers.
The distressed snarls and yelps told me it was working, and then my brothers exchanged a look. We dropped the red canisters and ran for the door. Derek slammed it shut behind Scot and me, leaning against it to hold it closed. The Betas pounded on it a few times, and then everything went still. "Did that actually just work?" Scott asked from his spot against the wall, completely astonished.
"It worked," Derek realized, eyes wide with shock. I looked up at him from where I'd sank onto the stairs, grinning as he stepped back to sink into the corner. Scott moved up to the door as Derek closed his eyes and I knew they were as tired as I was. "What are you hearing?" the Alpha asked.
"Heartbeats," Scott replied.
"Three of 'em?" Derek checked.
"Actually, four of them," the younger of my brother's realized, turning around in confusion. Derek looked up, dread pulsing down his ribbon, and looked over at me. I shook my head, unable to reach for any ribbons near by the Betas while they were still wild.
"What are you doing?" Scott demanded as Derek braced himself to open the door.
"Close the door behind me and keep it shut," the Alpha ordered. I got to my feet, horrified as I realized what he planned on doing.
"You go in there alone, and you're either gonna kill them, or they kill you," the Beta pointed out.
Derek hesitated, then turning to meet Scott's eyes told him, "That's why I'm going in alone." Without looking at me he yanked open the door and ran in.
"No! Derek! Scott, let me go!" I screamed as Scott slammed the door shut behind him and used his body to keep me away. "Scott, please," I pleaded, taking a deep breath. "I can take Cora. Please, Scott, he's facing three to one!"
"Then I'll go," he decided.
"No. I'm not strong enough to hold the door closed if they win," I argued. Scott sighed, knowing I was right, and stepped back enough for me to slip through the door. I reached Derek in time to tackle Cora as she went to slash open Derek's throat. My brother had the blue eyed Beta in one hand and Boyd in the other. The power behind Derek's roar should have forced Boyd back to human, but instead pain raced down my arms to my fingertips as short white claws grew out of my nails.
Snarling into my sister's eyes, I caught her wrists as she slashed at me. Then Boyd and the other Beta ripped into Derek. His pain distracted me long enough for Cora to sink her fangs into my wrist. Derek didn't even hear my scream over the ringing in his ears as we held on.
Suddenly Cora went limp, and I released her to pull my wrist free. Then I crawled aside and knelt on the cement floor, holding my torn wrist to my chest. Scott found Derek kneeling between Boyd and the other beta as Isaac saw me crouched over Cora. Their horror at the wounds Derek was covered in faded when he lifted his head, exhaustion clear in his eyes. "There's a teacher. I'll take care of her. Get them out of here," he ordered.
Scott lifted the blue eyed Beta as Isaac grabbed Boyd. With a groan I got to my feet, bringing Cora with me. I heaved her over my shoulder and staggered up the stairs behind the boys. Mr. Argent hurried to take her from me, leaving me free to open the back doors of Derek's truck. Cora went in the back seat, Boyd and the other boy in the back as Isaac scrambled into the passenger seat. Scott waited long enough for Mr. Argent to bandage my wrist before we climbed out of the SUV at the hospital.
Stiles met us in the hallway, then led the way to the morgue. He showed Scott the wounds, and my brother realized "So Boyd and Cora might not have killed anyone?"
"You're gonna wish they did," Stiles replied, his hand resting on Heather's covered forehead.
"Why?" Scott asked, seeing the grief and dread in his best friend's eyes.
"I'm not exactly sure yet. The other girl who was out in the woods, Emily? Eventually they're gonna find her. She's one of them. Emily, Heather, that guy Lydia found at the pool. All three were virgins. And they're all gonna have the same three injuries; strangled, throat slashed, head bashed in. It's called the threefold death," the pale boy explained. I caught a glimpse of sorrow and failure from Sheriff Stilinski, but had to look away from Emily's body.
"So if these aren't random killings, then what are they?" Scott asked worriedly.
I looked up as the same chant from all of my recent dreams and visions filled my ears. It got louder as Stiles said, "Sacrifices. Human sacrifices."