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[personal profile] bootson
Title: Safe In the Dark
Pairing(s): pre-Brendon/Frank/Gabe, pre-Nate N/Spencer S
Rating: Pg-13
Warnings: Strong violence, werewolves, original character death
Word count: 7135
Summary: An AU vaguely set in the Teen Wolf universe. When an Omega turned out to be more than Frank’s werewolf instincts and Gabe’s ex-hunter skills could handle, they formed an alliance with Spencer and his human best friend, Brendon. Too bad they didn’t expect Victoria and the rest of her hunters to catch them in the crossfire.
AN: Title from a song by Ludo of the same name. bandomstuffsit 2012 gift for [personal profile] doctor_jasley HUGE thanks to [personal profile] pikasafire for the beta, [personal profile] saxihighlandck for looking it over and promising it wasn't a train wreck when I had some sort of existential crisis, and theletterelle for being my sounding board for EVERYTHING. Love you, guys!



*

“I hate you.”

“Now’s not the time, Brendon,” Frank grumbled from the backseat floorboard.

Brendon couldn’t see him, but he was fairly certain Frank was still trying to get the wolfsbane bullet out of his leg. Gabe met his eyes in the rearview mirror and looked so guilty that Brendon almost pulled over. They couldn’t though, not here. Not in the middle of fucking nowhere on hostile territory. “No, really, I hate you. I hate everyone. Did you see the way we all almost died? I mean, I didn’t miss that. Some of us aren’t magic with the healing over here.”

“I’m just as human as you, Bren,” Gabe sighed. “And I’m not complaining right now.”

“You’re a hunter. You don’t count.”

A growl sounded from somewhere behind him, and Brendon used the sudden red light – seriously, it was the fastest yellow-to-red switch in the city – to reason out that the sound was too human to be Frank. Even when Frank wasn’t all grrr, I’m a bad ass shapeshifter he sounded more dangerous than that.

“Don’t growl at me. It’s not very becoming of a hunter.” Brendon’s foot slipped off the brake, and his Civic slid into the intersection. Luckily, the light turned green, and the streets were bordering on deserted at this time on a – fuck, was it really only Tuesday? Brendon seethed to pretend he wasn’t pouting. Adrenaline apparently did interesting things to his emotional stability. “You spend too much time with werewolves. You’re getting animalistic and shit.”

“That was me.” If Frank wasn’t bleeding on Brendon’s upholstery, he’d probably sound at least thirty times more threatening; Brendon pressed the accelerator harder. “Just shove me out. I’ll let fucking Victoria kill me. It’s better than this.”

Brendon took a curve too quickly, leaning hard on the door to compensate. Frank cursed, and Gabe shushed him. Apologies were falling from Brendon’s lips, but no one seemed to hear him.

At least, that’s what Brendon thought until Gabe’s hand fell on his shoulder, thumb rubbing absently at the side of Brendon’s neck.

“It’s fine. He’s fine. Just… Get us back to Spencer’s.”

It hit Brendon like a ton of bricks. Spencer was fucking missing. He’d gone after the werewolf Frank and Gabe had cornered until they were ambushed by hunters.

Hunters who apparently knew Gabe, had a vendetta against Frank, and didn’t actually care if Brendon – a perfectly defenseless human, thanks – managed to take a hit in the process. Or take a magic, wolfsbane concoction laced bullet because didn’t everyone carry those around on the regular?

The rest of the drive was quiet, with the exception of Frank muttering random profanities and what sounded like a mini slap fight happening in the backseat. It was probably best not to take his eyes off the road long enough to check. Besides, it would just make the weirdo relationship between Gabe and Frank even more fascinating, and Brendon had steadfastly been trying to not be interested in them , following Spencer’s advice for a change. Yay, personal growth.

Brendon screeched to a stop in Spencer’s parking space and hoped like hell Spencer didn’t care. Whatever, Spencer would probably just run back. If he could run. If he was alive. Brendon swallowed around the lump in his throat and shoved all thoughts of his best friend from his mind.

By the time he climbed out of the car, Gabe had manhandled Frank until he was mostly standing on his good leg. Frank was dangerously pale from what Brendon could tell in the shadows cast around the parking lot by the sad, lone streetlight in the far corner. Seriously, werewolf superpowers had to be the only thing standing between Spencer and a dark, painful death when he came home after parties.

“Bren, keys.”” Frank slammed the car door with too much force and tripped, trying to stumble his way ahead of Gabe’s leisurely pace.

“No. Stop pulling. Do you want to die before we get the round out of your knee? No? Didn’t think so. Such an insolent asshole, oh my god.” Gabe seemed to be in some sort of rant; Brendon didn’t get involved. One of them should be allowed to rant, and those two had enough history to allow leeway Brendon probably couldn’t be granted yet.

Sprinting ahead, Brendon tried not to get out of hearing distance. He was fairly certain no one had followed them, but his experience with car chases was mostly limited to the The Fast and the Furious franchise.

“This is your fault.” Frank’s words were slurring too much to be safe. Brendon had never seen a werewolf go down like that, and Spencer had been shot a few times back in high school. Granted, those were asshole cops who were convinced Spencer was responsible for a string of burglaries so they hadn’t been through How to Kill a Werewolf 101, thankfully.

Gabe was silent, a new occurrence Brendon didn’t want to dwell on. While Brendon unlocked Spencer’s apartment door and shoved his way in, holding the door wide enough for the other two, he averted his eyes. He still heard Gabe muttering to Frank.

“I’m sorry. I should have told them. They wouldn’t have, if I’d told them.”

“They would have. Fuck off. Asher and Suarez do whatever in hell they fucking want. Motherfuck, this hurts.”

“Little longer, Frankie.” Gabe wearily knocked his shoulder into Brendon’s as they passed.

Fidgeting with the door, Brendon willed his hands to stop shaking, but he’d never been thrown into something like this. Apparently, he and Spencer had gotten off easy when Spencer refused to join that pack in high school and everyone knew Brendon was in the know on everything.

Latch firmly secured behind him, Brendon turned to see Frank sitting against the table top, right foot propped on a chair with the knee of his jeans ripped open. His veins were doing some weird, black, goopy thing that made Brendon almost glad he’d missed dinner to search for a psychotic Beta-turned-Omega that, oh hey, liked to eat young, pretty people for kicks.

Definitely only almost.

“What are we going to do?”

Frank shook his head, gritting his teeth around a strained whine. His veins pulsed darker and further out from his leg. Gabe was digging through a bag, pulling out guns, knives – how in the hell did this guy get through a metal detector? – and a fancy box with a lock. Brendon had given up on getting an answer when Gabe held up a bullet and popped the end off.

“We’re going to try something. And hope like hell the crew is still using my formula.” Moving around his pile of artillery, Gabe poured the powder onto the table, pulling out a lighter. “You ready?”

“No, absolutely not.” Crossing his arms, Brendon pretended he wasn’t hugging himself to keep from shutting this whole thing down.

Frank snorted, sounding a bit more like himself. “I got this. Go away.”

Gabe rolled his eyes but backed up enough to stand by Brendon in front of the third-hand sofa separating the living room from the kitchenette. They both watched – Gabe with something like guilt pulling at his eyes, Brendon simply in abject horror – while Frank lit the powder like a fucking sparkler and scooped it up as the fire was still fizzling out. He shoved the entire handful at the hole on his knee.

He may or may not have been literally digging in the hole to push the powder in, but Brendon was too busy hiding his face against Gabe’s shoulder to watch. Then Frank was groaning, biting back what probably would have been a scream that would have earned them a few cop cars.

Something thumped against the floor, a loud bang that made Brendon flinch and drew his attention. What he saw was both heartbreaking and terrifying. Frank was writhing on the table, half rolling as if he’d fall off. Brendon moved to grab him, but Gabe pulled him back.

“Almost bit me the last time we did this, and I got too close,” he explained.

Some strange cross between a growl and yell ripped from Frank’s throat, his back arching so far that Brendon was certain something irrevocable had broken, even for a werewolf. Then it stopped.

Everything stopped. Frank was silent for a few moments, body perfectly still. Gabe moved, faster than Brendon knew possible, even though he’d just watched Gabe take on three hunters. Frank gasped, panting loud and his chest heaving. Shirt sleeve pulled over his wrist, Gabe wiped at the sweat running into Frank’s eyes.

“This is how we met.” There was something soft in Gabe’s eyes even as he smirked like an asshole. Shockingly enough, so did Frank. More words were exchanged, but they were too low for Brendon to hear with his pesky, human auditory skills.

“Did that fucking work?” It was almost surprising that Brendon had been the one to say it. Before he could dwell on how mind-numb the night had made him, the door was banging open. It said a lot about Frank’s current state that even he jumped.

Spencer was backlit by the light on the landing, but Brendon could tell his shirt was ripped, and there were some seriously impressive bruises dotting his neck and disappearing under his shirt collar.

“We have a problem,” he panted, shuffling in with a limp and pulling something – someone with him.

The guy was taller than Brendon, but everyone other than Frank was. His arm was draped over Spencer’s hunched back, hand clenched into a fist around the material at Spencer’s shoulder.

There was a seriously impressive amount of blood coating his arm and shirt.

Gabe jumped, eyes wide and mouth almost comically agape. “Nate!”

The new guy, presumably Nate and possibly dying, chuckled. It was weak, thin, and as hysterical as Brendon felt.

“Victoria is going to be so pissed,” he said into Gabe’s shoulder and struggled away from Spencer. Spencer tried to clutch at Nate, but Gabe grabbed him first.

“Story of my life, Novarro,” Gabe mumbled.

The room stood still, quiet except for their breathing, while Gabe wrapped his arms around Nate’s waist and lifted his feet from the floor. Everything remained frozen until Brendon finally cleared his throat. He shifted his eyes over to Frank, pretty sure Gabe was actually Frank’s mate in that semi-creepy way that werewolves mated for life. Frank didn’t move, standing stock still and betraying how not-human he was.

Spencer growled. “Why in the hell is there blood on my table? What the fuck is that black goo?”

“Wolfsbane blood? Frank’s fault,” Brendon said at the same time Frank told him “Gabe’s second-in-command thought it would be a good idea to shoot me with wolfsbane.”

“We were pretty sure you’d turned Gabe and taken him hostage.” Nate’s voice was muffled by Gabe’s shirt, but Brendon was close enough to hear it. He was also close enough to see the way Nate swayed, unsteady.

Gabe cursed and tightened his hold on Nate, pulling him closer against his chest. His hand caught Nate’s shirt, pulling it higher up his side.

“Holy fuck, was he bitten?” Brendon blinked rapidly and tried to remember that tact was a thing.

“What? No,” Gabe said. The look Nate threw him, however, completely contradicted Gabe’s denial. “Nate?”

“My side.”. Wincing, Nate listed to the side as Gabe shifted Nate’s clothing to get a good look at the bite.

“Fucking shit.” For several seconds, Gabe stared. Then, for reasons Brendon couldn’t reason out but assumed centered on being an asshole, Gabe poked at the edges of the bite. “Wait. How long ago was this?”

“Twenty minutes, tops.” Spencer caught Nate’s arm again, leading him around the sofa and easing him down onto it.

“That’s healing.” While Frank hadn’t moved, his hands were clenching and unclenching in a pattern Brendon thought might be comforting.

Spencer squeezed Nate’s bicep then turned to look at them. “That’s the problem I was talking about.”

The tension in the air was sharp and tight. Whenever it finally snapped, they were all going to feel the backlash. Maybe they were wrong; maybe this Nate guy hadn’t been bitten so much as grazed.

Brendon edged around the others, kneeling down beside the sofa, and reached for Nate. His breathing was labored, but he didn’t jerk when Brendon reached out to touch him. Yeah, no, this was a problem. There were very clear, extremely deep puncture marks that looked a lot like the werewolf bite Spencer suffered, except that the teeth were closer together. The skin around the wound was red and angry but even. The edges were shifted in from where the blood ended, suggesting the skin had started knitting together already.

Frank took an aborted step forward. “But you’re a hunter.”

Nate buried his face against the crook of his elbow. “Apparently, my life goals just fucking shifted.”

Frank bared his teeth before, turning to Spencer and advancing in measured steps. “You said this was a Beta!”

Never one to be cowed, Spencer squared his shoulders. “You agreed with me! You couldn’t get a read on the scent but thought I was right.”

A sharp crack cut through the room as Gabe slammed a hand against the faux wood panelling covering the walls. “You were both fucking wrong. Can we get a new fucking plan, now?”

Several long moments passed devoid of sound. Heavy stomps started as Spencer paced around the apartment. After a few passes, he turned for the kitchen. He opened and slammed cabinets, shifted boxes around, dug jars and canisters from the recesses of the built-in pantry.

This went on long enough for Nate’s breathing to even out in sleep and Brendon’s thighs to cramp from his crouch. Struggling to his feet, Brendon realized Gabe and Frank were having some sort of complicated conversation that seemed to consist a lot of Gabe gesturing wildly and Frank scowling in various different ways.

This was bullshit. More people were going to get hurt if they didn’t do something and fast. They needed a plan, and if no one else had one, then fine. Brendon would stand up and take fucking point on this clusterfuck.

“We’re up against an Alpha, not Batman. Two wolves, a hunter, and me. Three wolves if this kid lives through the night.” He jerked a thumb over his shoulder to point at Nate. “We can take down one fucking Alpha.”

Spencer rolled his eyes. “Not this one. He’s half nuts right now. You didn’t see him. He’s an Alpha running as an Omega. Omega’s are dangerous enough, but an Alpha without a pack is worse.”

Brendon’s eyebrows shot up. When did Spencer figure that out, and why hadn’t he shared with the class before now? Normally, they would have had words - a lot of fucking words - about that, but there were other things that were a little more important just then.

“Desperate,” Gabe clarified. “He’ll do anything. Especially to get at me and Frank. We took out a good chunk of his pack.”

Frank shook his head. “You have two Beta-Omegas and two humans. A blood-crazed Alpha will tear right the fuck through us. Nate’s out of this one. He doesn’t have shift-control yet. He’ll be useless as a hunter and a shifter.”

They all sounded desolate enough that Brendon felt antsy with it. The tension was rippling through the room, gaining intensity every second Frank, Gabe, and Spencer latched onto destructive negativity. Problem was, they weren’t wrong. Not really.

Kicking the battered arm chair, Frank glared at nothing. “It’s just us.”

Nate whimpered in his sleep, and Gabe pulled away from his place by the door to sit beside him on the sofa. Brendon watched the byplay and something started clicking slowly into place like gears slotting together.

This might be a shit idea, but it was still a better idea than what they’d had minutes ago. Brendon turned toward Frank, moving until he could grab Frank’s sleeve. When Frank looked up, Brendon grinned, the expression brittle and sharp.

“It’s not. Not just us.”

****

The moon was high enough to shine some light on the overgrown paths of the forest. Eerie shadows stretched out in a criss-cross pattern that layered dark lines atop one another. It was like the Alpha had picked the creepiest possible location to stalk around and be hunted.

“I’m so glad this isn’t awkward,” Brendon muttered. He swung the duffle bag higher on his shoulder. Gabe had given it to him before they split up at the cheesy and cheap hotel the hunters had all but bought out. He’d run a quick inventory in the car, and Brendon couldn’t complain about the amount of weapons inside. Hopefully, he wouldn’t have to break out the Mountain Ash; he really did not want to risk trapping one of their wolves anywhere near Alpha Crazycakes.

“Tell your new human there is a difference between awkward and rage-filled tension.”

“Suck it, Kate Bishop.” Frank’s voice was a little slurred since he was refusing to shift fully into his human or Beta form. The claws looked more threatening, if you asked Brendon. Not that anyone had.

“Just making a point.” Victoria tossed her dark hair over her shoulder and pulled her hat further down over her ears. This wasn’t anyone’s ideal plan, but she’d been hard pressed to ignore the necessity. “You’re putting together a really interesting pack. I wouldn’t fucking care if it didn’t involve dragging my hunters down with you.”

Frank was silent long enough that Brendon didn’t expect a response when it came. “Gabe came with me on his own. Nate isn’t my pack.”

“Boy wonder is, though. I didn’t know Betas dragging humans around facilitated a powerplay into an Alpha.” The neutrality of her voice was undercut by the way she swung her crossbow back far enough to shoot Frank in the thigh if she pulled the trigger.

Brendon winced in sympathy, but Frank didn’t miss a beat. Maybe being born a werewolf made you an automatic, steely, badass. That didn’t explain Spencer, but Spencer had always been more badass than Brendon, even before the nifty, werewolf powers.

“Brendon’s Spencer’s pack. This is a temporary alliance.” Frank’s scowl brokered no arguments, but Brendon found himself wanting to protest. He shouldn’t, but the thought was there. Brendon distracted himself by staring out at the clusters of trees around them and worrying over where the other groups were.

Frank took a few quick steps until he was shoulder to shoulder with Victoria. His claws caught against her crossbow, making an intolerable screech against the finish as their arms swung in opposite directions.

“Not that I expect a truce to matter. You’re probably planning on killing me the second this Alpha goes down.”

Victoria snorted as something shifted in the shadows ahead and to Brendon’s left. The others didn’t notice, not if the way they kept bickering was any indication.

“Guys,” Brendon started, but Victoria spoke over him.

“You overestimate how much I think about you. I’m not thinking that far ahead. We’re focused on taking out the fucker that ended Nate’s life.”

“Nate was still alive when we left.” Frank swung his arms back, claw catching and ripping at Victoria’s hoodie. The quick rip felt violent in the still night. “Clean bite, too. The Alpha wants him in the new pack, not dead.”

“Being a werewolf is the same thing.” She didn’t look at anyone, but her steps were heavier than before. This was a sore subject for Victoria; Brendon got that, but now was not the time.

Something shifted, closer but still behind the tree line. “Seriously, guys,” Brendon tried again.

Predictably, they continued to ignore him.

It shouldn’t be the other groups. Gabe and Suarez were too far out to have caught up by now, and Spencer could have made it if he wasn’t paired up with Ryland, who was tall but lacking werewolf speed. Plus, if it was them, wouldn’t someone make a sound? Wouldn’t they want Brendon, Frank, and Victoria to know they were there and avoid a possible sudden death?

“Guys!” Brendon finally snapped. Victoria stopped walking, and Frank went on high alert, back straight and chin tilted back.

Frank gave up the pretense, eyes flashing yellow as his ears, hair, and claws shifted. He was mid-crouch when a growl sounded from the group of trees Brendon had been eying. Scrambling with the bag, Brendon fought with the duffle’s zipper, trying to pull out anything that had some sort of range to it. Victoria let an arrow fly, her perfect fucking form letting it disappear directly into the spot where Brendon thought the growl originated.

A large, black wolf with glowing, red eyes came barreling from the spot, no arrow attached to his body. Victoria cursed and fired again; Frank ran full tilt ahead, catching his claws against the Alpha’s shoulder before the wolf reared back and tossed Frank behind him.

Brendon still hadn’t found anything useful. Gabe had given him a dozen different fucking blades. Why couldn’t he have a gun? Spencer should really lift the ban on Brendon and handguns that he’d declared when they were Seniors in high school

“Fucking shit.” Brendon tore through the bag, spilling things as he shifted weapons around, searching. There was at least one thing he could use without getting his delicate, human skin up close and personal with violent, sharp Alpha fangs.

“A little help, Brendon!” Frank yelled, launching himself over the Alpha and sending up a howl that sounded distressed even to Brendon.

Victoria was running in a tight circle, dodging the Alpha’s paws with ease as she distracted him long enough for Frank to get in a few good hits. When the Alpha’s back feet came up, though, Frank went flying. He somersaulted and managed to land on his feet.

“Are you a werecat? What even is this?” Victoria threw her arms out in a facsimile of a shrug, diverting her attention long enough for the Alpha to strike.

Brendon saw teeth coming down just as Victoria cried out and dodged. There wasn’t any blood from what Brendon could tell, which was definitely a lucky move, but the relief didn’t last long. Growling low in his throat, Frank was moving again, racing around to the side, trying to get behind the beast. Victoria fired her crossbow from close range, an arrow burying itself in the Alpha’s front, left shoulder. It cried in rage, tossing its head and catching Victoria in the stomach.

The force was enough to lift her into the air. Brendon’s body locked down as he took in the shocked look on her face, the brief moment of terror before she slammed into Frank’s chest. On instinct, one of Frank’s arms came up, holding her to him as his momentum suddenly changed and pitched them up and back. It was almost comical, the way the pair of reluctant allies slammed into the tree, except neither of them moved.

They crumpled into a pile of limbs, hair, and fur, Victoria sprawled over Frank’s body and her hair obscuring his face. The sound the Alpha made would have been a sadistic chuckle, Brendon thought, if he were currently capable of making human sounds. Momentarily giving up his search, Brendon glanced away from Frank and Victoria in time to see red eyes trained on him, the wolf moving with purpose, limp almost unnoticeable.

“Motherfucker. Spencer, come on, Spencer,” Brendon whispered to himself, resuming his digging with renewed vigor. His fingers brushed glass, and Brendon grimaced. It was bigger than what he’d planned, but it might be his only chance, at least until he could find the Mountain Ash and get creative.

“Back the fuck up!” Brendon pulled his arm back and let the bottle fly. It soured high, the arch sharper than Brendon intended. When it came down, it was off to the left of the wolf, which should have been fine.

Except it didn’t break.

It didn’t shatter enough to ignite, and Brendon knew he was fucked. Molotov cocktails were violent and hot but only if the bottle broke to set off the reaction. This time, since Brendon had absolutely no luck with anything in his life, the autumn leaves blanketing the forest floor had broken the landing and cradled the bottle in the exact right way to ensure Brendon was going to experience a certain death.

“Good boy, “ Brendon tried, dagger in one hand while the other was held out in a placating gesture. “I’d make a horrible werewolf and probably a bad lunch. No, no, definitely a bad lunch.”

The Alpha stalked forward, head down and looking like he was about to pounce. Brendon dropped his hands to crabwalk backwards, blade slicing his arm more than once but the adrenaline dulled the pain. Frantically casting his eyes around the area, Brendon stared at Frank and Victoria, crossbow out of reach where Victoria had dropped it when she went aerial.

"Werewolf healing, my ass.” Brendon’s back scraped against a tree trunk. There was nowhere else to go. He was stuck, trapped, struggling to his feet while an insane Alpha stalked him.

A thump, crunching leaves, and a loud bang disturbed the silence that had previously only been disturbed by the low rumble working through the Alpha's throat. The wolf pitched sideways, the extra weight thrown onto its injured leg making it topple. It was enough time for Gabe to jump over its body and skid to a stop beside Brendon.

“Are you okay?” Gabe ran a frantic hand down Brendon’s arm, but Brendon couldn't get distracted.

“Fine, but Frank and Victoria - “

Gabe froze and followed the direction of Brendon’s flailing arm. For a second, Gabe stared at Brendon’s arm, watching the blood trail sluggishly across his skin, then his eyes moved to the pile of limbs.

“Wrap that,” Gabe ordered, throwing his jacket off and toward Brendon. He was up and running as the Alpha struggled up, back right leg dragging but desperation in his eyes.

“Gabe!” Suarez immediately switched to Spanish, probably in an attempt to disorient the wolf. It seemed to work because the Alpha turned, eyes hitting each hunter briefly.

Gabe replied as he bodily lifted Victoria off Frank. She groaned, batting weakly at him before he set her against the tree and moved for Frank. Frank woke more quickly, bouncing to his feet and only swaying a little. Brendon could see the cuts along his face and neck, mostly knitted together with alarming bloodtracks left behind.

“Fucking fuck.” Frank kicked through a pile of leaves, redirecting the Alpha’s attention again.

The Alpha didn’t pause as he charged, his claws scratched down Gabe’s back before Frank could throw him out to the side. Gabe gasped and collapsed beside Victoria. Brendon had to do something but had no idea what. He dug around for the Mountain Ash, doubting it would work but willing to take his chances. He snatched a handful and ignored the stinging in his arm as he pulled himself up using the tree.

Suarez shot again, missed and lodged the bullet in a tree over Frank’s head. Frank took a bite to the shoulder; it would have been his throat if Gabe hadn’t landed a dagger in the Alpha’s side. A higher voice cut over everything, Victoria yelling for her crossbow as she crawled over a log.

The Alpha was struggling, wounds unable to heal with arrows, bullets, and blades still lodged in his body, probably an added few doses of wolfsbane for good measure. Another arrow flew, the Alpha thrashing enough for it to miss.

Footfalls were crunching branches, loud and disconcerting only because they were coming from behind Brendon. Brendon cringed, crouched down, and stared blankly as Spencer crashed into the small clearing in full Beta form with Ryland hot on his heels. Spencer leapt, claws sinking into the Alpha’s back when Spencer landed fully on top of him.

The Alpha roared, twisting and writhing as it tried to throw Spencer off.

An explosion of heat and flames shot up from directly behind Ryland, his shoe on fire.

“The actual fuck?” Ryland threw himself down to try to suffocate the flames.

“Molotov!” Finally forcing his feet to move, Brendon took advantage of everyone’s distraction to dash in and spread the Mountain Ash.

He’d only done this once, back in high school. It was when Spencer hadn’t had control of himself yet. The wolf that had bitten him while heavily influenced by some weird wolfsbane strain had taught them all she could and asked Spencer if he wanted to join her pack. She still kept up with them, emails and a few random calls during the year. She’d been the one to send her human mate to see Brendon, handing over the Mountain Ash and explaining that he only had to believe, and it would trap any werewolf and a lot of other miscellaneous supernatural creatures they may come across. She told him that until Spencer had an anchor, if Brendon wanted to be in his pack, he might want to use in on the full moon.

It had come in handy then and should again now.

The Alpha was back to throwing Spencer around, Spencer’s teeth now buried in the back of its neck, something primal and disruptive to werewolf nature. It demanded submission that an Alpha - especially a crazed, Omega version of one - fought with every instinct to deny.

Brendon managed to get a circle down, leaving a few feet open as he gestured frantically, the cuts on his arm protesting. “Spencer, now! Out!”

Spencer growled, unwilling to let go.

“Frank!” Gabe shouted as Frank swore.

Brendon wasn’t sure how it happened, but the next thing he knew, Spencer was struggling to his feet, Suarez was shoving at Spencer to make him move faster from where they had crashed together, and Frank was yelling for Brendon to close the circle. Against his better judgment and Gabe’s increasingly desperate protests, Brendon did.

Frank was locked in a misshapen circle with an Alpha that looked worse for the wear but out for blood.

“No! Brendon!” Gabe rushed the circle, clawing with rough nails at Brendon’s arms when Brendon got a hold around his waist.

“Gabe, Gabe! Stop!” Brendon panted against his shoulder. “Frank’s got this.”

“This can’t...” Gabe seemed to run out of words, watching silently as the Alpha used his stronger front leg to slash across Frank’s chest.

The cry Frank let out wasn’t muffled and seemed to stop when expanding his chest made things worse. He fell to his knees, and the Alpha reared back on his hind legs, listing sideways as his injured back leg protested. He roared and lunged. Two rounds struck the Alpha’s chest and an arrow impaled his back. Freezing, crashing, the Alpha fell to his side, legs sprawled. It’s wounded whimper made Brendon shiver and hide his face against Gabe's tattered shirt.

The Alpha started to shift, fur receding and body shrinking until a naked, dirty, bloody man took his place. He reached out, claws still evident as he snagged at Frank’s shirt.

Frank howled, claws coming out and slicing far too easily through the Alpha’s throat. Brendon pressed closer to Gabe, gasping when Gabe reached an arm back to pull Brendon closer in an abstract form of comfort. The gurgling faded faster than Brendon expected, and Brendon was fighting shaking knees and the urge to get further involved. He didn’t look up until Gabe started struggling against him.

“Bren, break it. Break it. Let him out,” Gabe was saying, words catching and tripping over each other.

Gabe pulled Brendon off balance, and they both went down. Brendon didn’t have the energy to get back up, but he let Gabe drag him to the Mountain Ash prison. Brendon ran a hand through the dust, smearing the powder against the dry, brown leaves and dead, faded grass. Frank wasted no time clamoring right onto Gabe and tugging Brendon into the pile with them.

“You’re a fucking hero, Iero. A stupid, pain in my ass hero. I hate you.”

“Fuck off.” Frank dodged Gabe’s hands but didn’t push him away. If anything, he sunk down into the contact.

When Brendon caught sight of Frank’s face, his eyes weren’t the comforting amber Brendon was used to seeing on Betas like Spencer. Not knowing how to deal with that, Brendon hid his face against Frank’s side and ignored the way blood was soaking into his hair.

“Damn.” Suarez glanced briefly at each of them before settling his gaze on Gabe.

Ryland whistled and shoved a hand through his hair. “This escalated quickly.”

Spencer circled around the dead werewolf, nudging it with his toes before lifting it and nodding to Victoria. She moved to the duffle Brendon had forgotten and retrieved the largest blade and a shovel with a folding handle.

“We’ll just. Deal with this, then.” Spencer was already disappearing before Brendon could hum his understanding.

Victoria laughed, a bitter and jaded sound. “Guess that powerplay worked, huh, Iero? Always wanted to be an Alpha?”

Brendon didn’t have to see Frank’s face to know that whine was more terrified than triumphant.

****

“That was the most fucked up episode of fucked-up-ed-ness that I have ever been involved in,” Brendon pointed out for the fifth time.

Gabe threw an arm over Brendon’s shoulders. Apparently, he’d given up on replying, though, because he just patted at Brendon’s hair. Brendon wasn’t going to complain, but he’d like for someone to engage in a little post-battle processing.

“No, but really. Nothing like this ever happened before you guys showed up.” Brendon flailed an arm out for lack of another way to dispel his pent up adrenaline. Frank made a rumbly sound and caught Brendon’s arm, wedging it between them on the sofa. After the token struggle, Brendon gave up and slumped down into the cushions. “I don’t think we ever killed anyone before...”

Frank tugged on Brendon’s arm, their shoulders knocking together; Gabe’s fingers stilled in Brendon’s hair, disappearing as Gabe reached over to pet at Frank. Even when Frank growled - more playfully than Brendon expected - Gabe didn’t stop.

“Technically, you didn’t kill anyone.” Frank leaned their heads together and bounced his knee off Brendon’s.

Brendon hid his face against Gabe’s shoulder and tried to ignore the conversation happening in the kitchen. Ryland had already said his goodbyes and disappeared; Suarez levelly refused to “see Nate like that” and had sent a letter by way of Spencer instead. Victoria was, from what Brendon could tell, alternately trying to convince Nate to come with them or go rogue. Against his better judgment, Brendon turned to watch.

“I don’t like this,” she said. Nate hummed, while Spencer snorted. “I don’t. It’s messed up. We should have let Nate kill that bastard and gotten his life back.”

“I have a life, Vicky-T.” Nate tugged his sleeves down, material bunching around his hands. “It’s just real fucking different.”

“This isn’t a life, Nate! This is... It’s bad.”

“A hunter’s worst nightmare.” The line had the air of something often repeated and drilled down deep. “But you adjust.”

“It’s a death sentence, baby. You know that.” Victoria laid her hands against Nate’s neck. Brendon watched Spencer snarl and willed him not to lash out as he shifted closer to Nate’s side.

“So don’t kill me. This isn’t hard. Spencer and Brendon haven’t had problems. Gabe’s around.” Shuffling his feet, Nate clutched a hand at the back of Spencer’s shirt. “It’ll be fine. If it’s werewolf or death, I’m going with werewolf. Hands fucking down. Every time.”

His voice got harder, lower, and his eyes flashed. Leaning in, Spencer said something too softly for Brendon’s fickle, human ears to catch. Frank's body lost some tension, though, so it must have been reassuring.

Victoria dropped her hands, face twisting as if she’d been slapped. “We’ll keep the crews off your trail, but we can only do so much.”

“Thanks, but we got this. I’ve always got this, don’t play.”

“Yeah, you’re always so on it.” Victoria sniffled and slowly, carefully wrapped her arms around Nate’s neck. Spencer stepped back, and Brendon turned around.

Things were quiet for a few minutes before Nate cleared his throat. “Come on, I’ll walk you out.”

“Alex isn’t here,” Victoria whispered.

“Yeah, I didn’t think I smelled him.” Even though his voice caught in the middle, Nate pushed through. “Come on, Spence. I want werewolf lessons.”

“It’s the middle of the day.” Spencer rapped his knuckles against the doorframe but followed.

When the door closed, Gabe felt tense enough to snap if he moved the wrong way. It couldn't be easy, Brendon figured, to watch your oldest friends leave without a backwards glance. Not that Gabe expected one, he'd explained while they waited for the hunters to come see Nate. They had all gotten into the business after a werewolf had wrought some sort of havoc in their lives. Gabe was a traitor, Victoria had yelled before they had even been completely through the door at the hotel, and she held him personally responsible for Nate's condition and any other bodily damage that may befall the rest of her crew in the future.

Frank tugged at Gabe's wrist until his shoulder was wedged between Brendon and the sofa. It wasn't helping, but Brendon was in the way. As usual.

Brendon shoved forward until he could lean his elbows against his knees. “So. The hunters are gone. Think they’ll stay away?”

Gabe cleared his throat. “No. But I don’t think they’ll come back on the offensive. Victoria won’t hurt Nate.”

“And no one has anyone left to punish for what he is now,” Frank added.

Brendon nodded and lapsed into silence. Things were changing too quickly for him to keep up. It had been Spencer and Brendon with a revolving door of randoms for so long; new people coming in was going to mess with their epic bromance. Then again, that might be Brendon's imagination taking over where the looks being thrown between Nate and Spencer left off. They could be something, probably, if they tried. In the years Brendon had known Spencer, they’d both grown up a lot, but Spencer was still cautious around new people. Exception: Nate.

Later, he’d ask. Right now, Brendon wanted to stop thinking for a while.

“Do you think Nate and Spencer are mates?” Not thinking was obviously not going to happen; no one was shocked.

Frank choked on nothing while Gabe doubled over laughing.

“It’s... Damn, Bren, it’s too soon to tell,” Gabe gasped between bouts of chuckles.

“Oh. Disney didn’t prepare me for that. I feel lied to.”

“I don’t think Disney had a werewolf angle. Ever.” Frank tugged at the back of Brendon’s shirt, stopping only when Brendon squirmed. Instead of pulling away, Frank pressed a hand to Brendon’s lower back. He pretended not to shiver and hoped Frank missed the way his heart rate spiked.

“So are you guys...” Brendon, through an act of pure willpower he wasn’t previously aware he possessed, stopped himself before things could get full on humiliating. As it were, his skin was burning up his neck and through his cheeks. He was, not for the first time, glad he wasn’t as fair skinned as Spencer.

Gabe and Frank, however, learned fast. They were both quiet, the air fraught in a different way than when Victoria had been saying her goodbyes. Clearing his throat, Brendon started to wiggle away; Gabe’s hand gripping his shoulder stopped him.

“Too soon to tell.” Frank huffed another laugh and drummed his fingers against Brendon’s spine.

Brendon kept it together, tried not to get his hopes up. He settled into the rhythm Frank was tapping and chastised himself. There was no getting between those two, not even for a one-night, meaningless hook-up. Not that Brendon even knew which one he actually wanted. Besides, he wouldn’t have much longer to dwell on it.

He stared toward the small window beside the TV. It was getting late, the sun sinking and bringing them closer to a full two days since the first failed hunting attempt and one day since Frank became the Alpha.

“Shouldn’t you guys, I don’t know, be going?”

“Nate’s here.”

“I need a pack.”

Brendon hopped up, ignoring the disappointment he felt when he broke contact with Frank and Gabe. He spun around, sitting on a stack of magazines haphazardly scattered across the coffee table. “Then, you’re staying?”

Gabe scratched a hand through his unruly hair and looked anywhere that wasn’t Brendon. “Unless Nate wants me to go. He’s all over Smith, but he’s a hunter.”

“You promised Katniss you’d watch him.” Frank rolled his eyes and tapped his knuckles against Gabe’s thigh.

Gabe glared, but didn’t argue. “You going to try to build a pack?”

Frank snorted before giggling and nearly killing Brendon with how cute he was. “Like Smith is going to be in anyone’s pack.”

“Spencer’s turned down, like, twelve packs.” When they both gaped at him, Brendon winced. “Okay, that was hyperbole, but he was offered places in at least two packs and turned them down. He doesn’t play well with others.”

Frank rolled his neck against the sofa, shifting restlessly. “Spencer’s a little bitch, but he had a pack, even if it was small and only one human.” Phrased that way, Brendon couldn’t even find it in himself to defend Spencer’s honor.

“Size matters, though.”

It took a grand total of three seconds for Brendon and Frank to lose it, nevermind that Gabe wore an expression of smug intention. When they calmed down, Gabe and Frank each grabbed one of Brendon’s hands and pulled him back to the sofa.

“Packs are safer, is what I’m saying,” Gabe pointed out.

“We did okay,” Brendon countered.

But maybe he was right. If they’d drawn too much attention with this nutjob Alpha business, Brendon, Spencer, and Nate might not be enough. Maybe they would need a real pack and an actual Alpha. Brendon settled in and tilted his head back, staring at the ceiling and working through everything filling his head.

Frank and Gabe were probably right, even though Spencer was going to be eight shades of displeased.

Packs had to be safer.

-END-
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