"Moving in the Dark"
"Sorry and Lonely"
"That was different, right?" Cora heart Scott say from the kitchen. She was sitting on the stairs, listening to Scott talk to Derek in the other room about the meeting with the twins. Since it seemed no one around here knew anything about cooking, Scott was taking one pizza out of the oven and putting another in. It was one of those rare moments when Cora found herself wishing Stilinski was around. That boy could cook.
"Which part?" Derek replied.
Cora could hear the oven close and caught a whiff of pepperoni. It wasn't her favorite but it wasn't bad either. If she couldn't have Stilinski's pancakes, she figured pizza would have to do. It was enough to make her stomach growl anyway, much to her annoyance since she currently had no desire whatsoever to go into the kitchen.
"The part where Ethan stood up to Aiden," Scott answered. "I wasn't sure he had it in him."
Derek answered with something Cora didn't catch because she'd stopped paying attention. She propped her chin in her hands and her elbows on her knees and sighed.
Scott had invited them into the pack. Both of them. She was having a hard time understanding his motivation. Until now she had been sure the only reason he hadn't already kicked her out of his house was because he respected Derek. She still hadn't completely discounted the idea that the only reason he was inviting her to stay now was because of her brother. But she was starting to wonder if there was something more to it. She wasn't an idiot. She wasn't completely oblivious to the fact she had attractive features. It just hadn't been something she necessarily cared about before. Now, for the first time in her life she felt like it was noticed. Every time Scott walked into a room she was in, his heartbeat jumped up a tick. She knew hers did too but there was nothing she could do about it. Any time he came close enough that she could catch his scent, she could smell the tell-tale signs of arousal. His scent hitting her system was enough to trigger one of her own. She couldn't help it.
She hated it. She hated it because she didn't feel in control of it. Yet somehow at the same time she reveled in it because against all odds she found herself incredibly attracted to Scott. Not just physically. She appreciated his sense of right and wrong, the way he treated women, his sense of family and friendship, his loyalty and bravery. He made her feel safe. Considering what her life had been like for years now, even a flimsy feeling of security was monumental. Sure, they bickered and fought and pushed each other's buttons. But their arguing was superficial. He knew it too. They fought with one another because neither of them wanted to be the first to admit there was legitimate attraction there.
It left her with the question of whether he was inviting her to stay because he was romantically interested in her or because he viewed the Hales as a matching set. She wasn't sure and she didn't know which situation she was actually hoping for.
So here she was, sitting on the stairs and listening from afar rather than risk her brother noticing his sister and the Alpha couldn't be in the same room together right now.
She didn't know how long she'd been sitting there mulling over the possibilities but she was startled out of her reverie by Isaac coming through the front door.
"Hey," Isaac said with a grin, seeing her sitting there. He shucked his jacket and scarf on his way in, hanging them on the coat rack near the bottom of the stairs.
Cora's jaw dropped as a gust of wind from the open door behind him blew his scent in her direction. "Oh my god, Isaac. You totally reek."
Color immediately rose in his cheeks. "I…uh…what?" he stammered, reaching back to close the door behind him. His eyes darted toward the kitchen, obviously hoping on one heard her exclamation.
Cora covered her nose but winked at him. "You got laid, didn't you? That's Allison's scent, right?"
Isaac's eyes nearly bugged out of his head. "Would you just…shush or something? Scott is right in the other room."
She smirked. How Isaac hadn't thought of this before completely baffled her. But then again, born wolves had the advantage of growing up with these sorts of situations and thus knew how to navigate them. Bitten wolves had a lot to learn when living in close quarters with other wolves. "If you don't want him to know then you might want to get upstairs and wash her off of you. Because seriously, it's amazing he couldn't smell it before you walked in the door."
Isaac scowled at her but took her advice to heart, brushing past her on his way up the stairs.
He had just disappeared into the bathroom when Scott strolled around the corner carrying two pieces of pizza. He held one out to her and took a bite out of the other. Cora took the slice and felt her chest tighten as his fingers brushed hers though she did her best to ignore it.
"Did I hear Isaac come in?" he asked around a mouthful of food.
Cora nodded, still deciding whether or not to eat what he'd handed her. "Yeah,. He's in the shower I think."
"Ah," Scott said and the two of them stayed in an awkward silence for what felt like several more minutes but in reality was only a few seconds.
Cora decided against the pizza and handed it back to him. She wanted to talk to him about this whole pack thing but not with her brother in the kitchen, surely listening to every word.
"Look," she said, standing up and wiping pizza grease on her pants. "You wanna go for a run with me or something?"
Scott had to swallow before he could answer. "You mean right now?" he asked, gesturing over his shoulder to the front door behind him.
Cora rolled her eyes. "No, I'm scheduling things out a month in advance. Yes, right now you idiot. I want to….you know…go somewhere. To talk. About this whole pack thing."
Scott nodded while he devoured her slice of pizza in a couple of bites. "Sure," he said, turning toward the kitchen. "I'll tell Derek to watch the other pizza."
Cora didn't wait for him to come back. She slipped out the front door and started walking, knowing he'd follow her scent and catch up within a minute or two. She needed that few minutes to collect her thoughts. She had no idea what she was going to say to him. She hadn't planned for this situation when Derek said they'd needed to come back.
When she heard the subtle scoff of Scott's sneakers behind her, she took off. She started running as if her life depended on it, pushing her speed beyond her usual pace. Part of her wanted to see if Scott could keep up with her. The other part of her hoped he would not only keep up, but catch her. She felt the heat rise in her cheeks at the thought of him leaping forward and wrapping his arms around her, pushing her to the ground. She swallowed hard and changed a glace over her shoulder.
He darted past her in an instant, grinning cheekily as a challenge. He turned toward the edge of the forest and suddenly she was the one trying to keep up with him.
She followed him between trees, over dry creek beds, past fallen trees and holes, until finally they were on a ridge over-looking most of Beacon Hills. She hadn't even noticed the incline of the hill as they ran, so focused was she on keeping his scent in her nostrils. When he came to a sudden stop at it's peak, it took all of her supernatural reflexes to keep from plowing right into him.
Cora bend double for a few moments, propping her hands on her knees while she struggled to catch her breath. "Good grief, McCall. Where the hell did you bring me?"
Scott laughed, his breathing just as labored. He motioned for her to follow him closer to the edge and took a seat on a series of big rocks perched there. "I just wanted to give you a look at what the pack membership gets you," he said with a sweeping gesture at the view.
Cora rolled her eyes. She'd lived her for most of her younger days. She knew what Beacon Hills had to offer. Taking a seat next to him, she looked out over the sprawling town anyway. It was getting dark now and the stars began to dominate the night sky. Street lights were winking on all throughout the valley and from this vantage point, looked like fireflies filling the landscape.
"Well, it is kind of beautiful from up here, isn't it?" she said begrudgingly.
"Yeah," Scott replied. "It's a shame we know what really goes on down there though, huh?"
Cora snickered. "Yeah, I was kind of thinking that, too."
The two of them sat quietly for a while after this, recovering from their near-sprint through the forest. It wasn't one of the awkward silences they'd been operating in lately, between fights. The night was calm and peaceful, the forest behind them embracing autumn whole-heartedly in its early descent into darkness. Had she been alone, she wouldn't have ventured into the woods. It was that she was afraid to, even with the current slayings. She had promised Derek she wouldn't and she took her promises seriously.
Joining the pack would be one of the biggest promises she'd ever made. Choosing to stick around would be making the commitment to look out for the others in the pack. It would mean volunteering to help when the times got tough. It would be the largest of all obligations. It would also be the first time in her life that she'd gotten to choose a pack for herself.
"You know, you really put me on the spot back there," she finally said, breaking the silence. Her voice was low as if she was trying not to disturb the peaceful town below. "Asking me about this in front of the twins and all."
Scott reached up and ran his hand through his hair nervously. "Yeah, sorry. I guess I didn't think about that."
"I mean what were you expecting? For me to just say yes and then we go on to the next topic or something?" she asked. She pulled her feet up and crossed her legs.
"Maybe," he said. "I don't know. I guess I hadn't even considered that you might say no."
"What would you do if I said no?"
He shrugged. "I mean, if you don't want to stay, no one is gonna force you to. It's just that Derek probably won't stay if you don't stay. And we kind of really need Derek right now."
She knew the truth would win out eventually. He didn't want her in the pack necessarily. He wanted her brother. She was just the obligatory kid sister. That's all she'd ever been, as far as she could tell. This time was no different. Internally she kicked herself for getting her hopes up, for thinking there was more to his invitation than politics and power moves.
"Figures," she said, pushing herself to her feet. "That just freaking figures."
"What?" Scott asked.
"You don't care about me," she said, her voice rising. "You don't really want me. You just want Derek. I'm the consolation prize."
Scott looked genuinely confused. "What are you talking about? I didn't say anything like that."
"You're just using me to get my brother to stay," she responded. She threw her arms out wide and glared at him. "Tell me I'm wrong."
His mouth opened and closed several times as his mind tried to work out what she'd just said, making him look much more like a fish than a wolf. "That…is…well. It's freaking ridiculous."
"No it isn't. It makes perfect sense. Why else would you invite me into the pack, huh?"
"Because I want you!" Scott shouted back at her.
Cora felt her heart skip a beat and heard his do the same. He hadn't exactly meant it the way he'd said it by the way the blood rushed to his cheeks. But the words were on the table and there was no taking them back now.
"Look," Scott said with a gulp. "That I mean is that I want both of you. For different reasons, yeah. But both of you."
Cora dropped her arms and looked away. She took a couple of steps into the grass and sat down, facing away from him. She knew the rest of this conversation would be easier for her if she didn't have to look at him.
"You make joining a pack sound like such an easy thing to do," she said with a sigh. "And maybe for you it is. But not for me, okay? My first pack, my family…they were all killed. Well, at least I'd thought they were all dead. I had no idea Derek and Peter survived. So I spent a long time mourning them. And then my next pack, the one that took me in, raised me to be the kind of wolf I am today, the ones who protected me and taught me how to control myself on the full moon…well. They were all killed too. Slaughtered, every man, woman, and child. For no other reason than Deucalion wanting to take me away as leverage against Derek. And I'm still mourning them. Now I know that neither of these events were my fault. I know this. I didn't cause them. The rational side of my brain…it realizes this. But you can't even begin to imagine how it feels to be me, the survivor of two dead packs. I guess it's called 'survivor's guilt' or whatever. But the point is that it hurts. Not having a pack hurts. But joining a new one? To make those sorts of connections with new packmates again…it's scary, okay? I'm just not sure I'm ready for that. Because if something happens, if we lost anyone else…I don't know how much more mourning I can do right now, okay?"
She could hear Scott sigh behind her. "I'm sorry. I…I didn't even think about that."
"I know you didn't," she said, clearing her throat. Her eyes felt tingly but there was no way she was going to let herself cry in front of him.
"But I mean, I should have," he continued. "I should have thought about that. Sometimes…god. Sometimes I'm pretty sure I have no idea what I'm doing."
Cora laughed and turned to see him lounging on the rock, staring out over the town. "Yeah well, join the club."
He shook his head. "No. I mean I'm serious. I have no idea what I'm doing. I have no idea how to be an Alpha. What if I get someone hurt? What if I fail at this? There are lives depending on me knowing what I'm doing."
"Look," she said. "You're doing better than most. The fact that you worry about it means you care about it. Don't discount that, okay?"
Scott shrugged. "I don't know. Yeah. Maybe."
It was quiet again for a while. The sounds of the nocturnal animals coming out in the forest behind them was soothing, a nice white noise in the backdrop. The events of the day, the anxiety and the exercise, finally started to take their bodily toll and Cora could feel her eyelids drooping. She laid back on the grass and crossed her arms behind her head, getting comfortable in the chill, dewy grass.
"I get why you wouldn't want to stay," Scott said so quietly she almost didn't hear him. "But I really hope you will."
Cora closed her eyes and fought a smile. "Look. I'm not saying no," she said with sigh. "I'm just saying I'm not ready to say yes yet."
She wasn't sure if he heard her or not because he didn't answer. With the instruments of the evening forest filling the air, Cora didn't even notice as she drifted off to sleep.
His forest felt alive tonight.
Perhaps it wasn't the forest but him. Perhaps he felt alive tonight. The strength from his previous kills, both the humans and the animals, was running through his veins and he knew he was closer than ever to having the strength to shift into his final form. He was sure once he reached that point he'd be able to leave the forest altogether.
This was part of the fox's plan. He would have to possess the strength to leave the forest. The fox's plan was a good one and he had agreed to it readily enough. If it worked, his beloved would be returning to the land of the living. He could not pass up such an opportunity. He was on his guard however. Foxes were notoriously tricky and he wasn't sure how well he could trust this one in particular.
It was a wondrous and luminous evening. The moon shone brightly for being no more than a crescent, filtering through the empty branches of the autumn trees around him. It was peaceful and perfectly conducive to rest. He had nearly decided to return to his tree form for the night and conserve his energy when he felt that subtle tug on the energy binding him to the Caller.
The Caller. The Caller was at the edge of the forest, attempting to compel him forth.
In an instant he became a stag, bounding through the trees and following the game trails, pushing as quickly as he could toward the Caller's energy. He could already tell the Caller would be standing on the outside of the boundary. He knew the Caller wouldn't be stupid enough to step into his domain. Even knowing this, he couldn't help but feel disappointed when he arrived before the Caller, unable to reach through the barrier.
The Caller looked like a man tonight but he knew this was no man. This was another of those wolf hybrids. He'd spent enough time around these beast-people lately to know the difference between the hybrids and the humans.
"So here you are," the hybrid said.
It was a moment before he could respond as he had to transform himself into a body with vocal cords. He willed his humanoid form into existence, dissolving away fur and antlers and hooves until he was left in the more willowy body of a man.
"Here I am."
They hybrid crossed his arms and flashed his wolf eyes a bright blue. "Can I assume you know your instructions?"
"You wish for me to kill the sapling."
They hybrid looked confused. "What the hell is a sapling?" he asked, furrowing his brow. "No. Look. What you need to do is lure Scott McCall into the forest. To the nemeton stump, to be exact."
He could feel his blood boiling in his veins. Who was this beastling to be so casually referencing his beloved? But then these creatures didn't love the way he did. Humans, and by extension, the hybrids as well, were not capable of love. Not in a true sense. Still, he felt his anger acutely as the name of his beloved fell from the hybrid's lips. He narrowed his eyes. "Scott McCall. He is the leader of the hybrids?"
"No!" the hybrid shouted. "He is not the Alpha. I am the Alpha. I have always been the Alpha and I will always be the Alpha! And you are going to help me get that back."
The hybrid's eyes were glowing blue now and his teeth had become a wolf's fangs. He snarled and paced but didn't cross the barrier. He knew better. He was angry. The heat of this anger rolled off his body in waves.
"I will do this thing. But not because you have asked it of me but because you have compelled me to, against my will. You have Called me to this and I must obey. But be warned, wolf man. Once this deed is done you had best be quick to leave. For if you linger in my forest after this barrier has been lifted, I will drain the life from your body. Your blood will be a sweet nectar to me."
With this said, he turned his back on the hybrid and left, taking flight as an enormous crow in order to cover more distance.
The Caller wanted him to lure the leader of the hybrids to the body of his Beloved. But for what purpose? Did the Caller intend to kill the sapling himself? And why kill the sapling at all? He didn't understand how this would cause a change in leadership. Unless the death itself was important…unless…unless…
Unless the Caller did intend to resurrect his Beloved himself! The sacrifice of the Alpha, as the Caller had called the sapling, would surely be enough power to awaken any vestiges of life still remaining in Nemeton's body.
All at once he found himself looking frantically for his next meal. If he could feed another time or two, another few human lives, he would be able to push through the barrier at the edge of the forest and go forth to capture this sapling.
This Scott McCall.
Once his Beloved Nemeton was brought back to life, the two of them would destroy this Caller together.
"You're all I've got right now. No one else figures out this feeling and how lonely it can get."
Mayday Parade "Anywhere But Here"
A/N: Revised as of July 15, 2015