Courage

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13

It was dark. Dean was running. Sweat made their skin itchy. Every sound from the surrounding woods stirred a new fear in them.

They had been too late. By the time, Tasha and Dean had decided what their next step was going to be, the teens had set out on a hike, leaving their teacher at the lake. Lockhart told Tasha and Dean after they had come up with a story why they had to find his charges.

From the lake, Dean had gone to get some weapons they felt they needed. Tasha hadn't been happy, but had gone with them. She'd left Dean when she'd felt the wolf come on. It had seemed to Dean that she hadn't wanted them to see her change.

Dean wasn't even sure they were following the right trail. If these paths were taken by hikers regularly they could be following some ghost tourists. But they had to be right, they had to find those kids.

A howl cut through the night and when Dean looked up the almost full moon had been revealed by dark clouds. Dean shuddered, forcing their body to run a little faster. They were hoping that the howl had come from one of the good guys. Maybe it was Tasha, maybe she'd found the kids.

As Dean broke into a clearing they collided with someone just standing there. People started screaming around them but calmed down when they recognized Dean.

“There's...there's...” the boy Dean had collided with stammered and pointed to the other side of the clearing.

Dean shouldered by some teens and saw what the boy had tried to say: a werewolf. She was big, black-haired. The sight seemed to freeze Dean's blood in their veins. They licked their lips.

“Tasha?” they asked.

The answer was a deep growl from the beast. It didn't sound aggressive to Dean's ears so they took it as a confirmation.

Another howl ripped through the tension, it came from some way away, but Dean suspected it came from hungry werewolves eager for their dinner.

“She's friendly,” Dean said to the kids. “She's gonna help. I want you all to run back to the lake. Do you know the way?”

Several kids shook their heads. A tall, gangly boy – it took Dean a while to recognize Greer, he was very pale – held up his hand.

“You know?”

Greer nodded.

“Can you lead everybody back? Here, take the flashlight.” Dean pulled their backpack from their shoulders and opened it. They pulled out another flashlight, then looked around and discovered Corinne who seemed unable to take her big eyes off Tasha. “Corinne,” they called to her. She turned.

“Come here.”

Corinne took a hesitant step towards Dean, then another. She came over slowly and Dean wished she would hurry up, but they weren't going to yell at her now. She looked like she was ready to break apart.

Dean gave her the second flashlight and put their hands on her shoulders. “I want you to make up the rear, make sure that nobody gets left behind. Can you do that?”

Corinne looked possibly even more frightened than before. “But...”

“I promise you, I won't let anything happen to you, okay? I promise. But you need to help me, too.”

The girl looked at Dean for another second then she started nodding, first tentatively, then more confident.

“Good. Now, you all follow Greer back to the lake. Greer, don't run too fast. You need to bring everyone out, okay?”

Greer nodded. He took another look at wolf-Tasha and Dean thought he was going to lose his nerve, curl up into a ball and never move again. Dean pushed Greer.

“Go, now! Everybody, follow Greer!” they called out. They had to push some of the teens to move, but eventually, mostly everybody had left. Corinne was the last one, but two. Two teens were still standing in the clearing and it didn't surprise Dean at all that it was Luke and Desmond.

Dean resettled their backpack on their shoulders. “Luke, come on, follow the others. It's time to go.”

The sandy-haired boy shook his head. He was almost as pale as Greer, but he stood his ground. “I won't go,” he said, obviously talking to Desmond.

“We don't have time for this, Luke. Follow the others.”

He was still shaking his head.

“All right,” Dean said, standing before the boy. “You want to be a werewolf?”

The boy didn't answer the question, he merely swallowed hard.

“They're almost here. What do you think will happen when they arrive and only see us three, huh? Look at me, man!” Dean shook Luke who seemed focused on Desmond, looking at her. He turned big, frightened eyes on Dean. “Who do you think they're gonna eat first?” Dean asked viciously.

It seemed to get through to the boy. His muscles under Deans hands twitched and a moment later he turned and ran, never looking back.

“You fucking traitor!” Desmond yelled after him. “Why are you doing this? Why do you ruin everything?” she turned on Dean. Tears were swimming in her eyes.

“Because you can't just decide for people to die just because you want to escape your lousy life, Desmond.”

“What do you know about my life?”

“Nothing, but I recognize an abused girl when I see one. Life won't just go away, even if you get turned.”

“I know, that's why I'll make sure my old life can't haunt me,” Desmond gave back.

Dean took a deep breath. “You'll die.”

“Then I'll die, but I won't go back to them!”

Dean turned away from Desmond, their hands burying into the pockets of their coat. They found their weapon there. When they turned back toward the teen they had it in hand, gripping the barrel. Dean crashed the gun grip into the side of Desmond's head.

They heard a startled yelp from wolf-Tasha, then a deep growl. Dean had caught Desmond before she could fall. They were looking at the dark creature over her shoulder. “I had to,” they whispered.

Dean awkwardly put their gun away, then they shouldered the teenage girl. Another howl from much closer had them run in the direction they'd come from. At least, that was what they hoped.

Dean heard Tasha following, hoping that she would help them finding their way back to the lake, because Dean could hardly see the ground under their feet.


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