Here's the next chapter, guys! Sorry I've been MIA; I had eye surgery and couldn't use the computer for a couple of weeks, not to mention I've been in school. I'm going to reply to your reviews today, but in case you read this before I get the chance, thank you SOOO much for the support! You guys rock :)
On another note, the eye thing Teen Wolf showed threw me for a loop. I've written wolf Conner with blue eyes, but as much as I've tried to maybe add something in to make it work, Conner hasn't been in a situation where she'd kill an innocent, and doing so would have changed her into a different person than she is now. So, as much as I hate to do it, I'm going to past chapters and changing her eyes back to gold. Sorry about that! I just don't want to threaten her integrity.
Moving on, I hope you all enjoy this chapter :)! Not so much physical or sappy Donner, but some development in their own way. I also took advantage of the opportunity to show some Deaton and Stiles!
Camilla and Isaac got back to the office not even an hour later, a backpack filled with everything Conner would need when she woke up slung over Isaac's shoulder. Camilla held a set of blankets under her arm, figuring that with the blood loss, Conner might be cold. After they knocked a couple of times, Deaton let them inside, informing them that Conner was asleep and that Scott had left healed. He relieved them of the supplies and urged them towards the examination room, only to have Derek stop them in the doorway. The Alpha stood between them and their comrade, hands held steadily at his sides as he held the door with his foot, only enough so that he could stand there and they could see Conner behind him.
Hardly a full twenty-four hours in the pack, and Camilla knew she was in big, big trouble.
"Now that she's not awake to defend you two," he began, voice tight and shoulders tense, "where were you?" When neither of them answered, he looked between them both (forcing Camilla to lower her head in submission and Isaac to avert his gaze) and clarified. "What I mean is, why is it that the three of you had the same job, and somehow, this happened?" He finished with a growl, gesturing back at the examination table Conner laid across. "We all know how dangerous the Kanima is. That is why I sent you in as a pack. We're stronger as a pack."
"Conner was faster than me, and I lost the trail," Isaac finally replied, still not looking at his Alpha. "Camilla was monitoring the rave, and found them first."
"Faster than you?" Derek repeated. He scoffed. "And you couldn't trail her?"
"I did," Isaac answered through gritted teeth. "Don't you think I would've gotten to her if I'd been able to?"
"That's not an excuse," Derek pressed. Isaac looked up at him, fury barely held back in his eyes.
"Isn't the better question 'Where the hell were you'?" he growled.
Camilla shrieked as Derek grabbed Isaac by the collar of his shirt and shoved him against the wall. Both males shifted but Isaac didn't back down, baring his teeth challengingly even when Derek squeezed his throat, digging his claws in deep. Knowing the fight would only escalate, Camilla ran into the office area to get Deaton. The vet was already marching over, a stern look on his face.
"That's enough," he barked, silencing the two. "Not in my office. If you want to fight, do it in your home." When Derek didn't release Isaac, Deaton stepped up to them. "Now, or you both will have to leave." After a couple of seconds elapsed, Derek released him, his point made.
"No need," Derek said calmly, nodding at the door. "They were just leaving."
Isaac shifted back and glared before taking Camilla's hand. "Let's go," he muttered. "We'll see her tomorrow."
Once they were gone, Derek sat back down in his chair by the examination table. Deaton stood there in silence, contemplating how to say what he wanted to, but there was no need. "I know," Derek said quietly, shaking his head. "It isn't their fault she isn't healing, but she wouldn't be in this situation if they had been there."
"And you're certain that isn't just your guilt speaking?" he asked. Derek didn't say anything, and that was answer enough. "You had to help Scott; I'm sure she doesn't blame you. And it wouldn't be too surprising if she is faster than Isaac. She ran every day as a human."
"And he runs every day now."
"A couple of weeks versus years of experience? Come on," Deaton reasoned. Derek looked up at him and glared. Deaton shook his head and turned his attention back to Conner. She was a pasty color and her breaths were shallow, and when he touched her hands, they were cold.
"She needs blood," Derek observed. Deaton nodded.
"I was expecting her healing factor to have kicked in already," he admitted. "I've never had to give a werewolf a blood transfusion."
"Give her my blood," Derek ordered, rolling up his sleeve and laying it on the edge of the observation table. Deaton gave him a strange look and Derek raised his brows, urging him to hurry up. "I'm her Alpha. This is my job."
"I'm not sure that a sense of duty makes you two the same blood type."
Convinced, Deaton started opening cabinets and gathering the necessary tools. "This could backfire and send her body into shock," he warned. "Your being an alpha might make your blood clash with hers."
"It's better than doing nothing," he muttered. "She's my strongest beta, and we'll figure the rest out later."
"Is that the only reason?" Derek's even stare was his only answer, and Deaton could only laugh to himself. "You're lucky she's patient, Hale. Your trust issues will be the end of you."
Stiles couldn't get over the creepiness of Derek's hideouts. Geez, if the guy had been exonerated, the least he could do would be to move into a regular apartment. Regardless, he took a breath and marched down the stairs into the dim lair, a Beacon Hills High 2006 yearbook pinned under his arm. Isaac had already arrived and was sitting on a crate next to Erica, both of them twitchy and uncomfortable. A trunk filled with what looked like medieval torture devices was open in front of them, a headpiece with nails held in Erica's hands. Of course, it wasn't until they both looked at him and he couldn't escape that Stiles remembered that it was the night of the full moon.
Great. Just great.
"Stiles, what are you doing here?" Derek barked, stepping out of one of the subway cars. Stiles jumped nervously and held up the yearbook, forming a sort of shield between him and the werewolves.
"I have something on the Kanima!" he said quickly. Derek nodded, giving him permission to actually enter. Stiles let out a breath and hurried down the stairs. Once he set foot on the landing, a claw clamped onto his shoulder and warm breath ghosted over the nape of his neck.
Stiles let out a yelp and twisted quickly out of his attacker's hold, whirling around to see Boyd doubled over laughing. Stiles glared at him before marching away, only to find that Isaac and Erica were laughing with equal enthusiasm. Derek rolled his eyes at all of them.
"Idiots," he breathed. A moment later, a door of a subway car slid open and a sneaker sailed out across the station, hitting Boyd square in the chest. Conner jumped down from the car wearing an 80's band t-shirt, a pair of shorts, one sneaker, and an amused expression on her face.
"Really, Boyd?" she said teasingly, holding up a hand. "Nothing better to do?"
Boyd rubbed the spot on his chest where the shoe hit and threw it back into her outstretched hand, smirking. "He makes it too easy," he argued. Conner shrugged at Stiles as she pulled on her shoe.
"It's the full moon, they need to get their laughs where they can," she apologized. "You'll get used to it."
"I hope I never have to," Stiles admitted. Once he reached the less mischievous members of the pack, he handed the yearbook to Derek. He'd bookmarked the page, and as the Alpha opened the book, Stiles explained. "All of the victims were members of the 2006 swim team." Conner frowned and leaned closer to Derek to get a better look at the picture. Derek looked at her questioningly, but Stiles already knew what was wrong.
"My brothers were on that team," she muttered, jaw tight. "They didn't kill anyone."
"They wouldn't have told you if they had," Erica pointed out. Conner opened her mouth, most likely to throw a smart-assed comment at her, but Stiles cut in before a werewolf fight could break out.
"Jackson said last night that Conner was there when his master died," he reminded her. "I researched if anyone on the team or a rival team had died, but nothing showed up. We also think the master can't swim, so he might have drowned. Conner, do you remember anything about someone drowning?" She shook her head, eyes glued to the picture.
"Nothing," she sighed. "The only times I ever saw the team were at swim meets and victory parties. Someone dying at a swim meet would have shown up on a search engine, and the parties…" She trailed off, turning to Isaac. "I only remember one close call, but the kid was perfectly fine."
"Does he look familiar at all?" Stiles eagerly asked, holding up a picture of Matt on his phone. "You know, like someone you witnessed dying?" Something about that kid was evil, so if Conner could confirm it…! She shrugged.
"He looks like he could be that kid I pulled out of the pool, but he didn't die," she reasoned, turning to Isaac. "Do you remember anything?"
Isaac shook his head. "I only remember playing inside," he agreed. "My dad wouldn't let us leave the living room."
"What kinds of games?" Erica asked teasingly. "Spin the bottle?" Isaac rolled his eyes and Conner laughed.
"Try Go Fish," Conner corrected. "We were kids."
Derek didn't seem as amused and brought them back on topic. "So we're back to square one," he concluded. "We don't know who the master is." Conner touched his arm, and his shoulders visibly relaxed a little.
"We'll worry about it tomorrow, after the full moon," she reassured him. "I'll call my brothers later and ask them, but for now, we can just put it out of our minds." She glanced at the trunk of torture restraints and winced. "You guys have enough to worry about."
"Remind me how she gets out of this?" Erica piped up, twirling the torture head restraint around her finger. Stiles realized that the instruments in the trunk were supposed to be used by the pack, and immediately a wave of dizziness washed over him. Being part of Derek's pack sucked all around.
"Her healing factor isn't working," Isaac answered, jumping to his pack mate's defense. "She'd die."
"I'd much rather be here with you guys, but the doctor gave his orders," Conner added. "I get to be locked in a cage by Deaton with a tranquilizer gun instead."
"Can we switch?" Erica suggested, tossing her the restraint. Conner handed it back regretfully.
As unbelievable as it sounded, Stiles was convinced that she meant it when she said she would have preferred suffering with the pack. Looking at her watch, she pulled her keys out of her pocket. "See you all tomorrow." Raising herself on her tip toes, she gave Derek a peck on the lips, but winced and doubled over as she dropped back down. Derek snapped his hands out and held her arms and Isaac bolted next to her, wrapping an arm over her shoulders.
"Still?" Isaac whispered. She nodded tightly, holding a hand to her side. He looked up at Derek questioningly and the Alpha nodded, releasing her. Despite the bickering, even Erica looked concerned. "Come on. I'll drive you home."
"I can drive just fine," she muttered tightly, but handed him the keys anyway. "I swear, the moment we find this master person, I'm giving him a piece of my mind."
"Yes you will," Isaac said condescendingly before turning to Stiles. "Any plans tonight other than watching Scott?" Stiles followed them up the stairs to the surface, glad to be out of the den of twitchy werewolves.
"He has the full moon thing under control," Stiles replied. "And Lydia's throwing a birthday party, so…" Isaac barked a laugh.
"Ah, you got the coveted invite," he teased. "Whatever will you wear?" Conner slapped him lightly on the chest.
"It's great that you got invited," she defended pointedly. "Hope you have fun."
"Yeah, hopefully it isn't a train wreck," Isaac mumbled. A glare from Conner.
"The poor girl's traumatized from the last Alpha's attack," she argued. "Cut her some slack."
"Hey, I'm all for allowing her some weirdness, but in the social food chain, she ranks even lower than I did," he reasoned with a shrug. They all reached the cars and he nodded at Stiles as he led Conner to the passenger side of her pick-up truck. "Later."
"See you tomorrow, Stiles!" she called with a wave. Stiles waved at both of them before climbing into his Jeep. There were only a couple of hours before the party, and he had shopping to do. He looked to the side and saw Isaac and Conner talking in the truck, Isaac's hand on her shoulder with a familiarity that baffled him. They'd only known each other for a couple of weeks, maybe a month, and already they acted like they were family.
Or something else?
Stiles shook his head, banishing the possibility. Pack drama was more drama than he could handle.
The apartment looks different when I step inside, locking the door behind me. Yesterday, my bed was unmade, there was a pile of dishes in the sink to be washed, my guns were laid out on the counter for cleaning, and police reports that Roy had given me were on the coffee table, accompanied by my laptop. Now, however, my apartment looks uncharacteristically bare. My guns aren't anywhere to be seen, the dishes are washed and put away, the bed is fixed, and the mess of paperwork, as well as my laptop, is gone. Figuring Camilla must have done some tidying up, I disregard the changes. I set my bag down on the counter and pull off my shirt, allowing my wound to get some air. Gritting my teeth at the pain, I slowly lean over and pull off my shoes, taking them with my to my bed.
Derek's blood transfusion gave me enough of a boost to heal most of the minor injuries and wake me up early this morning, so after a physical evaluation, Deaton discharged me from the animal hospital. The stab wound in my side, however, is taking much longer to heal, and is another reason I'll be spending tonight at Deaton's office with plenty of ketamine. The good part of it is that I'll most likely be too worn out to cause too much trouble tonight; the downside is that it hurts like a bitch. Needing a break, I lay down and close my eyes, settling down for a nap until Deaton comes to pick me up.
It isn't until the evening that I wake up to the sound of a rhythmic knocking against the wall. I listen carefully, but roll my eyes and groan when I realize it's just my neighbor being obnoxiously loud with his girlfriend. When the chorus of loud cries starts, I grab one of my shoes and throw it at the wall, immediately regretting it when the pain hits. "Keep it down, kids!" I bark. Almost immediately the vocalizations stop, but the knocking continues. Deciding to choose my battles, I sit up and roll my shoulders. It shouldn't be much longer, anyways.
Figuring I'll investigate Stiles' lead about the connection between the Kanima and the swim team in the meantime, I carefully make my way to the closet. Other than the closet, there's no other place to really keep paperwork without it being visible, especially when it's a stack of police reports and hunter files as large as the one Roy left here. My guns should be there, too, which will be a relief to find. I don't like not having a weapon within arm's reach, especially in a weakened state.
My cell phone starts to ring, and as I go through the bookshelf in my closet, I answer.
"It's me," Roy greets. "Deaton says you got knocked around at the rave last night. How are you recovering?"
"Slow," I mutter distractedly. "Damn thing stabbed me, and my healing factor's on the fritz."
"Deaton's on his way with some meds and ketamine, but still, stop trying to unshift shifters," he advises. I can almost see him rolling his eyes at me. "Most of us can only use our talent once a month, and even then, we're drained afterwards. You've done it several times recently, and have received quite a beating. You've worn yourself out."
"I didn't realize it was so draining," I admit bitterly, gritting my teeth as my side smarts again. "How long until I'm better?"
"After the full moon, you should be fine," he assures me. He pauses, apparently sensing that something's going on. "What's wrong? Full moon hitting you hard?"
"Nothing major," I force out, searching the uppers shelving of my closet. "I just got home to find that Camilla moved everything around, so I can't find the files you gave me on the Kanima attacks, or my guns." Looking around, I notice something strange. "Okay, this might sound weird, but half my clothes is missing, too." He lets out a sigh, catching my attention. "What? Do you know something I don't?"
"I'll get you a new gun, but you'd best consider everything else gone. Camilla's gone, Conner," he states, his tone annoyed. "Deaton recognized her, and called her out on it. She's most likely on a flight already."
"But why would she take the police files?" I demand, more irritated at this point than anything. "Or my guns?!"
"She panicked?" he suggests. "Maybe she thought the files contained information about her, and grabbed everything she thought she'd need." I sigh and walk to my bed, getting the feeling this phone call is only going to get worse.
"That's a bit conceited of her. So, who was she, then?"
"Her name's Sarah, Sarah Smith. She's my cousin Hank's daughter."
"She's family?" I conclude incredulously. "My cousin?!"
"Nah, she's a stepdaughter," he corrects. "Hank's a third cousin anyways, and we've never been close. More importantly, however, she's a hunter in training. According to my sister, Hank had only been training his daughter in the family trade for a few months before relocating to California a year ago."
"So he was using her to get to the pack?" I ask. "It was his idea?" As much as I don't trust her, she doesn't have that vendetta against werewolves that most hunters do.
"I wouldn't be surprised," he agrees, albeit regretfully. "I don't see her going off on her own to take down a quiet pack. The moment she was bitten, she knew she couldn't go back to her really family, but at least here, if she was found out, there were less Daniels werewolves to run away from. Seems like you were right all along to not trust her."
"And yet, I don't feel happy about it at all," I admit, running a hand through my hair tiredly. A hunter had been living with my family for a year, but if she'd meant them harm, why had she protected my sister when my dad, Steven, lost it? "I can't help feeling like we're missing something."
"…Really?" he comments doubtfully. "Such as?"
"I think she had a change of heart," I confide. "This whole time, she's been asking about my brothers and sisters, and she seemed sincere about caring for them."
"She was put into the field too early," Roy explains, not swayed by my thoughts. "She wasn't raised a hunter like most of us; she was adopted into the trade. We're taught to make a very clear distinction between a human and a shifter, and to approach situations objectively, without getting caught up in a shifter's humanity. It takes years to gain that strong mindset, and she didn't have it. It's not a surprise at all that she'd grow attached to them."
"Is that contempt I hear in your voice?" I ask carefully. He barks a laugh.
"The girl was a pathetic hunter," he says by means of defense. "Chances are that Steven figured her out, and that's why he lost it. She wasn't protecting your family; she's the one who put them in danger in the first place."
"Nick and the others don't know she was a hunter," I point out.
"All the more reason for you to let them know now," he encourages. "The girl can't pick a side, so warn the Daniels to keep an eye out."
"I'll be sure to call the twins."
"But, in the meantime, we have a Kanima master to find," he reminds me, getting back to business. "The Argents are no closer to finding anything, so what have you all managed to figure out on your end?"
"All of the victims were on the 2006 high school swim team," I begin, glad for the change in topic. "When we talked to the Kanima last night, he said that I was there when his master died. Then, when we were fighting, I heard someone tell the Kanima to release me, and it was a guy. So, it's a guy who was at the rave last night who I saw die with the swim team, most likely drowned."
There's a short pause.
"It'd be overly optimistic to assume you remember, right?"
"The only drowning-related event I can remember is some kid apparently named Matt kid needing CPR," I reply. "I mean, it was intense because he was only eight or something and I had to revive him, but I don't see someone going on a killing spree for a close call."
"You'd be surprised what people do when faced with death."
"Then I'll investigate with Stiles later," I decide. "He'll know how to approach the kid." I reflexively reach forward to grab my laptop and look up pictures of the swim team, only to remember that Camilla took my laptop with her. I ball my fist and growl. "I'm going to kill that doe-eyed tramp."
A knock at the door interrupts my vow of vengeance as Roy chuckles. "As soon as this Kanima thing is over, we can track her down and you can kill her," he promises. I bark a laugh and carefully get up to answer the door.
"Pinky promise?" I joke, looking through the peek hole. Deaton's there holding up a first aid kit. "Well, Doc's here. Talk to you tomorrow?" I open the door and usher him in with a grateful smile.
"Sure. We can catch some breakfast."
"Sounds good. Later, pops." I hang up and lock the door before turning to Deaton. He raises a brow, and I feel my stomach drop when I remember I'm only wearing a sports bra and shorts. "Sorry," I quickly apologize, hurrying to the closet. "I forgot. Give me a sec to put on a shirt."
"It's fine," he assures me, making his way to the coffee table and setting his kit down. "I'm just surprised that you're referring to Roy as your father." He motions for me to sit on the bed as he settles on the edge of the coffee table, opening the kit. "Of course, I'm assuming you weren't talking to Steven?"
I scoff and sit down, turning so that the stab wound is facing him. "Nah, unfortunately, my other father is still on the loose tracking down human family members to bite," I say, waving a hand. "My family lost the trail, so now they're waiting for him to make himself known." Deaton peels the bandage off and looks over the damage, his expression composed to conceal disappointment. I smirk. "That bad, doc?"
He shakes his head and picks up the bottle of hydrogen peroxide and a cotton swab. "I thought Derek's blood might jumpstart your healing, but I guess I was wrong," he admits, disinfecting the wound. I look straight ahead and tighten my jaw, clenching my fists to keep from swatting his hands away. "Where is Derek?"
"He's with the pack, preparing for the full moon," I reply tightly. "I wish I could be there. The first full moon's the worst, and Erica and Boyd have no idea what to expect. They need me."
"I'm sure Derek can handle them this one time."
"I'm not doubting his competence," I clarify. "I just worry about him. He's been stressed enough hunting the Kanima, and though he doesn't verbalize it, I know he's still figuring out how to be an alpha."
"At least he has you to help."
"Yeah, what a help I am," I murmur sarcastically. "I can't even heal right."
"Well, maybe Derek isn't the only one spreading himself thin," he points out. I grin.
He pulls a large roll of gauze out of the kit and waves a hand. "Arms up." I obey and he leans forward to wrap the material around my waist. "How have you been, Conner?" he asks. At my questioning frown, he elaborates. "You worry about your pack mates, but this has been a tough couple of months for you, too. Meeting your biological father was a shock enough, and add on to that having your werewolf Instinct reactivated and Steven going on his rampage. How are you handling the changes?"
The observation catches me by surprise, and I consider it as he works. It has been crazy, hasn't it? In spite of my awkward position with my raised arms, I shrug. "I'm just rolling with the punches," I admit. "Roy's been cool, and I really like my pack. The Kanima situation sucks, as does the thing with Steven, but…" I trail off, trying to figure out how to describe what I'm feeling. He finishes wrapping me up and clips the end before storing the rest of the gauze. As he pulls out the injection of ketamine, I shrug again. "It just doesn't seem so bad with a pack. Like I can take on anything, as long as we're all together." I smile at him. "You know, you're a really cool guy. How'd you get dragged into this whole mess?"
He laughs lightly, shaking his head and motioning for me to lower my arms. "I used to advise Derek's mother when she was an alpha," he answers. "Now I look out for him and Scott."
"Huh. My mom used to talk about you advisors." Deaton wipes an alcohol swab on my inner arm. "She had one, but I never met her."
"Leni was always very private," he reasons. "I only encountered her a handful of times, and she was quite intimidating." I smile.
"Yeah, mom could be a bit intense." He pulls the cap off the needle, and I tense. "That's a big needle. Weren't we supposed to go to your office?"
"Toughen up," he chastises teasingly, lowering it to my arm. "And there's no need. Your body's weak, so this should knock you out until the full moon passes out of its apex. In any case, if you wake up, I have another one here."
"I feel fine," I say weakly, knowing it's no use. Weak or not, I'm already starting to feel the twitchiness of the full moon setting in. "Maybe it won't be a big deal?" He raises a brow. I look away and take a deep breath, wincing as he empties the tranquilizer into my bloodstream. By the time he pulls it out and places it back in the kit, I can feel the dizziness starting. "Whoa. Hardcore drugs, doc." I start to sway and he puts an arm behind my shoulders, guiding me so I'm laying on my back. "Thanks…" The last thing I see is his smile before letting go.
Deaton isn't around when I wake up on the floor the next afternoon. Judging by the tidy state of the apartment, I safely assume the ketamine did its job to keep me subdued last night, and proceed with my morning routine guilt-free. As I walk into the bathroom, I unroll the bandages, and am relieved to see that I've completely healed. All that's left is a small scar left as a reminder, but I'm just happy to be able to move around again normally. By the time I've finished washing off and am dressed in jeans and a black sweater, I've worked up an appetite.
It isn't until I've finished making a pot of oatmeal that the memories start to flow back.
At first, I only remember brief flashes, like from a dream. There's a dark forest and police sirens, but not much more. Realizing the night was much more eventful than I'd thought, I text an SOS to Derek before doing anything else. As I finish getting breakfast together, the memories start to clear up.
It seems that the ketamine wore off faster than expected, and when I woke up, I was alone. Following Instinct, I'd ended up in the forest, running. I'd reached a river and caught sight of a human running alongside the road. What happened after that is a blur, but I feel that there had been a fight, and very soon, police cars had filled the scene. At that point I was no longer a wolf, but I wasn't me, either. I'd spoken to some officers briefly before going my own way on foot. My strength had dwindled and my legs had given out, but Derek had shown up and caught me before I'd passed out.
Thankfully Derek's really at my door before I can get too frustrated. I usher him in quickly, noting the tense look on his face before anything else. "What happened last night?" I ask as soon as I close the door. He leans against the kitchen counter and crosses his arms, letting out a heavy breath.
"The betas are fine," he immediately assures me. I let out a sigh and smile.
"Thank goodness," I whisper. At his expression, I feel my stomach drop. "Is there more?"
"We found out who the master was," he replies. "It was that kid, Matt. Apparently, he actually died that night you revived him, and that was his justification for killing those people." At my dumbfounded expression, he shrugs. "Believe me, I know. He held Scott, Stiles, the Sheriff, Scott's mom and me hostage at the police station, and killed about half a dozen deputies." The horror on my face says enough. "Don't worry, they'll be fine. Everyone's shaken up, and Scott's mom knows what he is now, but nobody was too hurt." I feel a heavy weight lifted off my shoulders at that news. If something happened to Stiles... "The hunters showed up, though. They're getting more aggressive now that Mrs. Argent is dead."
"She's dead?" I exclaim. "How?"
"The night of the rave, remember how she tried to kill Scott?" I nod. "I accidentally bit her." He doesn't need to say any more. I've learned enough about hunters to know what had to happen. Even is she was the enemy, I feel a heaviness fall onto my chest at the news. I know the pain of losing a mother unexpectedly, so I can picture how Allison is feeling right now. Sensing my change in mood, Derek holds out a hand to me, a ghost of a smile lifting the corner of his lips for my benefit. "You look better."
"All healed," I inform him. He pulls me towards him and I welcome the embrace, latching on tightly and resting my head against his chest. "I'll talk to Roy, try and find out what they're planning." He places his lips on top of my head softly.
"How are you holding up?" he asks, the question ghosting across my hair warmly.
"I think I got out last night," I admit. He doesn't seem surprised by the information, and nods.
"You did," he confirms. "Don't you remember? You found Matt's body in the river." I shake my head.
"Don't remember any of it," I mutter. "I just remember being in the forest, then you helping me get home." His reaction is immediate, and with a questioning frown, I pull back. "What is it?"
"I didn't see you last night," he says slowly. Not liking the look of alarm in his eyes, I wave a hand nonchalantly.
"Must have been wishful thinking," I brush off. He isn't calmed at all by my suggestion.
"No. Peter came back last night," he states. "It had to be him." Now I refuse to be distracted, stepping back forcefully.
"Peter? As in Uncle Peter?" I clarify incredulously. "He's back from the dead? Anything else you want to let me know?!"
Before he actually has the chance to answer, his phone rings. It's Isaac asking about a book title, and apparently it's important, because Derek uses it as an excuse to leave. No longer hungry, I grab my keys and leather jacket. I can't stay here any more. If I can't remember finding a kid's body, what else am I forgetting? A drive will help me recover the gaps in my memory, right?
At first I consider going to Stacey's Café, but somehow I end up back at my old spot in the forest where I used to shoot beer cans. I turn off the truck and get out to sit on the hood, leaning back against the windshield with a sigh. This used to be normal, but it feels like it's been forever since I came out here just to think. I close my eyes and listen to the wind rustling the leaves, enjoying the calm. I don't know how long I stay there before company arrives, but it can't be more than an hour. Recognizing the sound of his footsteps, I sit up, stretch, and smile friendlily at the teenager in front of me.
"Jackson," I greet. "Heard you had quite the night." I look around. "Where's your new master?" He doesn't respond, apparently unamused by my jab at his recent loss of identity. I relent, jumping down from the truck and giving him an apologetic look. "My bad. Are you okay?"
"Fine," he answers flatly. Ah, this isn't Jackson: this is the Kanima. I narrow my eyes at him suspiciously. "Just waiting."
"I'll bite. Waiting for what?" I ask, though it comes out as more of a challenge. He cocks his head to the side.
"You tell me."
I wait for him to explain, but he doesn't. Already losing patience, I cross my arms and raise a brow. "Tell you what?" I shoot back. "I don't have anything to tell you except to go run to your new master, and give him my unkind regards." When he still doesn't move, I can't help but let a growl escape my throat. "Dammit, go bother your master, and leave me alone! It's been a hell of a week!"
He's still there, only now it's not so much annoying as it is alarming. Is he here to attack? I bare my canines, but he doesn't even do so much as flinch. Okay, not here to fight. I retract my fangs and try a different tactic.
"What do you want?"
He keeps that even stare fixed on me as he gives that same, creepy answer. "You tell me."
I grit my teeth and take a deep breath. "Fine! I'm leaving!" I bark. I pull my keys out of my pocket and climb into my truck, starting the engine. He speeds to my open window and leans in, eyes fixed intently on mine. Letting out a strangled scream, I scramble away to the passenger seat. "What the hell?! Personal space, dammit!"
He doesn't say anything. He seems to be waiting for me to say something, so cautiously I move closer, holding my hand up as a barrier between us. Before I can open my mouth and warn him to back off, he raises his hand and puts it flat against mine.
Suddenly I remember.
The person by the road, that had been Matt, the Kanima's master. I'd seen him, smiled, and grabbed him by his shirt collar and dragged him effortlessly to the river. He'd tried to shoot me but had missed, only grazing my arm. In a blur of hair, skin and fabric, my hands had latched around his neck, and not even a second later, that neck had gone underwater. He'd struggled, but I was much stronger, even injured. It hadn't taken too long for it to be over, but I'd held him under for another minute, just to be certain. Once I'd been sure, I'd stood up, dried my hands, and smiled warmly at the Kanima approaching me hopefully.
I blink, the tears spilling unbidden. The bile rises in my throat as I remember the rush of power I'd gotten from drowning the teenager without knowing for sure if he was the master. He could have just as easily been any other teenager, not just the one that killed my pack mate's father. Jackson's watching me with curiosity, his hand still on mine. I grip his hand between my own and take a shaky breath, still processing the new information.
"Jackson, I promise you, we're going to figure this out," I vow in a whisper. "I'm not going to leave you like this." He nods, but in his eyes, I can see that I could have said anything, and he would have accepted it. He's a puppet; a puppet everyone and their mother is after. A puppet I now control. Careful to word the order like a request, I tell him to get into the truck and drive back to town, my mind buzzing with questions about what to do next. Without much thought, I reach into my pocket and pull out my phone. Jackson watches impassively as I make a call, no signs of the Jackson I care for showing in his eyes.
"You helped my mom before, right?" I ask, not bothering with pleasantries. Deaton pauses, catching onto the alarm in my voice.
"Yes. I was friends with her advisor, so I offered my counsel on occasion," he confirms. "Why, Conner?"
I laugh humorlessly and steer my truck towards the vet's office. "I could really, really use some advise."