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The locks on the cellar door are not quiet.

They screech like a banshee, as a matter of fact, so both Dean and Sam know that someone is coming long before they actually see light, or hear steps. They both stay back from the bars, better safe than sorry, intending to scope out what’s coming before making any moves.

Not that they have all that many moves to make, what with being disarmed, banged up and locked away behind bars meant to hold rampaging werewolves.

Honestly, it’s a bit shitty.

“You and your bleeding heart,” Dean grumbles, mostly to himself but actually to Sam, for the forty-fifth time since the disarming, banging up and locking away happened.

Come on, Dean, let’s work with some other hunters for a change. It’s gonna be fun, Dean. You’re not a damn island, Dean.

Dean likes being a damn island, damnit. Islands don’t get locked up at gunpoint.

Although, if he’s honest (which he won’t be, not out loud), it wasn’t bad. Backup is a pretty awesome thing to have, actually. Especially against redcaps, which are mean fuckers. They swarm.

So that bit was good. Three more experienced hunters at their backs meant two to one odds, unlike the five to one it would have normally been. The ‘good’ kind of ended when their new buddies, Mike, Dale and Chip (don’t ask) started subduing the redcaps instead of killing them. And then putting them in cages they kept in the back of their truck.

And then putting them into cells.

And then torturing them.

Don’t get Dean wrong, he hates redcaps as much as the next guy, assuming the next guy has ever had a redcap take a bite out of his left thigh, but torture? Kill it, or leave it alone. He doesn’t buy into torture. Not against any sentient being, not for no reason at all, not just because it’s fun. Mostly because it isn’t.

Mike made some comments about the value of certain redcap body parts on the black market. Dean wanted to puke.

Still, he would have been happy to walk away and call up Bobby, get him to spread the word that those dudes were not okay to hunt with. Evade at all costs.

But Sam just had to go and climb on his damn soapbox and before Dean knew it, baby brother had a gun to his temple and after that, it just got embarrassing.

The redcaps are dead now.

Dean and Sam inherited their cell.

And now someone’s coming.

Two guys. From the sound of their footfalls, it’s Dale and Chip. Mike has a limp and Dean doesn’t hear his awkward shuffle-skip. What he does hear is the kind of grunting that implies someone is being dragged and doesn’t like it.

Still hanging back from the bars, an arm stretched in front of Sammy to keep him stationary, Dean watches as Thing 2 and Thing 3 drag someone into view, unlock the neighboring cell and toss them in.

They land with a litany of curses that would have made Bobby blanch, spitting and immediately trying to get at the door. To no avail. Dale slams it shut in time for Chip to wave mockingly through the bars.

“See ya, bitch,” he jeers, already turning to get back upstairs. On his way past, he gives Dean the finger and kicks at the bars of his and Sam’s cell. “Brought ya company, boys,” he explains.

“You better kill us right now,” Dean snaps, taking a step forward despite knowing better. “Because I swear to fuck, when I get out of here, you’re dead, asshole.”

Chip is about five ten, as broad as Dean, with half as much muscle. He makes up for it by being a mean son of a bitch and his smirk makes Dean want to punch him. “Big words for a guy behind bars,” he teases.

Dale, an older guy, around forty, with greying temples and a few nasty scars, is more careful. “We ain’t gonna hurt you. We just need you out the way for our last job ‘round here. As soon as we’re finished, I’ll cut you loose personally. We only kill monsters, Winchester. We stick by the code.”

The ‘bitch’ in the next cell over snorts loudly. “Yeah, sure,” a female voice snaps. “Fucking hunters and their fucking code. Fuck you!”

Chip chortles. Dale shoves him toward the stairs, throwing back a casual, “Settle in, girlie. You ain’t leaving any time soon.”

“Sooner than you think,” the girl mutters, too quietly for the assholes to hear. Dean and Sam wait until the door bangs shut again before turning their attention to the newcomer picking herself up off the floor.

Jean-skirt, Converse, graphic tee. A messy, stubby ponytail, no make-up. The girl looks all of twelve as she wipes her knees clean and licks at a split lip. She’s still mumbling shit under her breath, but stops when she notices she’s being observed.

“Hi?” she asks, tentatively. Dean tries to figure out how old she is, but long, coltish legs, a distinct lack of boobs and bad lighting make it kind of hard. She could be any age below twenty, although he’ll eat his car keys if she’s any older than seventeen.

Sam steps forward. “Hi. Are you okay? You landed pretty hard.”

For a very long moment, Dean watches her watching them. Then she suddenly sets her jaw, all brave girl front and says, “I’ve had worse.”

And with that, she turns to study her cell, dismissing them.

“I’m Sam. This is my brother Dean. Where are you from? Why did they throw you in here?”

She stops her perusal. “I was minding my own damn business during freshmen orientation, that’s where I’m from. And suddenly, wham, here I am. As for the rest, why should I tell you? You’re probably working with the dudes upstairs.”

Sam snorts. “In case you didn’t notice, we’re locked up, too.”

“Or maybe you’re plants, to figure out what I know. You sure look a lot like the assholes that threw me in here.”

Dean rolls his shoulders. “Maybe,” he concedes, sending Sam a look to keep him quiet. “But we want out of here as much as you do. So how about we work together?”

Kicking some loose straw together in one corner, the girl plonks down, legs crossed. If Dean were sitting down, he could probably see up her skirt. If she weren’t twelve, it might be worth a try. “Nah,” the girl remarks, throwing her hands behind her head, leaning ostentatiously against the damp wall. “I’m just good here, thanks a lot.”

She has small tattoos on each wrist. Dean ups his estimate by a year. Freshman, tattoos. Eighteen, then.

Sam frowns, mouth already open to argue. “You’re just going to wait for them to kill you?”

“They won’t kill me.” She sounds pretty sure. Judging by the split lip and the bruise blooming around her left eye, she doesn’t have much reason to be.

“These guys aren’t exactly friendly,” little brother cautions. “They… look, if you’re not human, they’re not gonna…,” he trails off, because the kid might seem tough, but she’s eighteen, and looks as fragile as a baby bird, all skin and bones and moles and freckles, and Dean can already see her shivering in the damp of the cellar.

If those hunters plan to do with her what they did with the redcaps, she doesn’t stand a chance. Dean clenches his fists, takes a deep breath. Even if she’s some kind of creature, she seems… nice. In control. Not like someone who deserves to be cut up and sold for parts on the black market.

“I’m human,” she counters. “Also, bait. They can’t kill me.” She smirks a little, lets it go ugly. “Not yet.”

And with that, she closes her eyes and settles in to wait.

+

Hours later, Sam is muttering something about maybe having a way to bend those bars out of shape, if only they had tools. Dean is listening with one ear, keeping the other on the cellar door and his eyes on the girl.

She’s gotten up from her straw nest some time ago and started pacing, rubbing her arms. She’s dressed for Californian summer, not Californian underground torture chambers. As she moves, Dean tries to make out the tattoo along her spine. It’s just circles, differently shaded. It takes him a while to figure out that they’re the phases of the moon.

He wonders who she’s bait for. Or rather, what.

He wonders if they’ll get here before she has frostbite. With a sigh, he strips off his leather jacket and the flannel underneath, before putting the jacket back on. Plenty warm enough. Also, he has some meat on his bones. Unlike the tiny tough chick one cell over.

Knocking against the bars between their cells, he holds out the shirt. She stops moving, blinks at him. She’s been chewing her split lip and it’s bleeding again. Her eye has bloomed into a spectacular shiner and there are hand-shaped bruises on her arms and legs that formed a bit slower. Some of them are almost black and she moves stiffly, like she got worked over good. She must have struggled like hell. Dean can respect that.

“You look like you’re about to shake out of your skin,” he comments, motioning with the hand not holding out the shirt.

Her eyes, some weird golden brown color, narrow at him. “Yeah?” she asks, challenging.

“Don’t be stupid,” he orders, a bit waspishly, but hey, it’s not like he’s having the time of his life down here, now is it?

Paradoxically, him bitching at her seems to make her relax a fraction. She grins briefly, all teeth on display. It’s a bit worrying, but she snatches the offered clothing from his hand and slips into it. Despite her being tall, it reaches almost to the bottom of her skirt and could easily fit her twice.

She rolls us the sleeves half a dozen times before doing up a few buttons and damn near sighing in relief. “So, hey,” she remarks, “I won’t die of exposure, that’s good news, I guess. I like not dying of exposure. Really. I do.”

“You’re welcome,” he snaps, gruffly. Behind him, Sam laughs.

“Don’t mind Dean. He just wants to help.”

The girl holds up one hand, the sleeve of her new shirt pulled tightly over her balled fist. Silently pointing out that she’s aware. Dean shuffles his feet. “You got a name, kid?”

She hesitates. “Still not convinced you’re not in league with the bastards upstairs,” she points out, almost idly. Then, holding her skirt and shirt in place, she drops back down on her pile ‘o’ straw. “That said, I’m bored. Hi, I’m Stiles. No, that’s not my real name. Yes, it’s a nickname. No, I will not tell you my real name because it is a crime against all ears and humanity to boot. Now, Sam and his brother Dean, convince me you’re not the bad guys in this swanky little hunter-drama. Fair warning, I have hunter related traumas, so I’m bound to be a tough audience. Expect booing at any point.”

She leans her arms on her knees, tucks her chin into her hands. Waiting.

Dean is still trying to parse anything beyond ‘Stiles’.

Sam, on the other hand, decided to leap right in with what is possibly the worst thing to say. “Actually, you were half right. We are hunters. But we have nothing to do with those assholes.”

Stiles – which, really? – stiffens immediately. “Let me guess,” she says, acidly, “you’re good hunters. You stick to the code.” She sounds so disgusted, Dean actually considers taking half a step back. That kind of hatred doesn’t come from nowhere. There’s substance behind it. He wonders who she lost.

“Yeah,” Sam insists, lamely, “we do.”

Stiles does a slow clap. “Fantastic. The last time a hunter said that to me, he kidnapped me and beat me half to death in his basement.” She looks around exaggeratedly. “Oh, hey. Look. Two out of three.”

She folds her hands in her lap. “The shirt was a nice gesture, but I don’t like hunters, sorry. Keep to your side of the bars, will you, boys.”

Her hands are trembling again. This time, Dean doesn’t think it’s from the cold. Very carefully, he steps back from the bars. When Sam opens his mouth to argue, he shakes his head. “Leave her be, Sammy,” he says, loud enough for Stiles to hear him. “She has no reason to trust us.”

+

She doesn’t, that’s the thing.

Dean knows that this business is a dirty one and he tries to be the exception to the rule, to keep humans out of it, but all too often they get caught in the crossfire. Get used for bait, or abandoned in the pursuit of more important prey. Get left for dead or just left, desperate for answers.

Some people say every hunter was once a victim, and they’re right. But not every victim is a victim of the supernatural. Some get hurt by those that are supposed to protect them. It’s not an easy balance to keep, saving people and hunting things. One or the other wins. Usually, it’s the wrong one.

Stiles is a baby, really, but she’s obviously seen the worst parts of this world already, jaded little thing. Dean wants to ask how she got into this life, how she got caught by hunters. Is she bait for a family member? A boyfriend? An obsessed monster?

And does whatever creepy crawly she is meant for care enough to actually come?

Stiles seems confident they will, but then she’s a tough little nut. She might just be fronting. God knows, she hasn’t stopped shaking in the past hour.

+

“We ran into a vampire chick named Lenore that one time, you know?” Dean tries, idly, hours later. He’s bored out of his skull and Stiles keeps half falling asleep and then jerking herself awake, wide-eyed and panicked.

“She and her coven were feeding off of cattle. Some other hunter took down a few of them and, well, I gotta admit I helped. But when we figured out that she wasn’t feeding off of humans, we let her go. We let her go, okay? I didn’t like it, but I don’t kill anything that doesn’t prey on humans. We were hunting redcaps with Mike and his bunch of assholes, but when we realized what they were doing with them…,” he doesn’t finish his sentence. Doesn’t think ‘I was gonna walk away’ will cut if for the girl. He shrugs a loose roll of his shoulders, flexes his toes. Sammy is asleep with his heavy skull on his left thigh and that whole leg is slowly going numb.

“We ain’t the bad guys here,” he finishes, lamely and too late.

Across the cavernous room, bathed in damp dark, Stiles shrugs. “Fun thing,” she offers, quietly, like she doesn’t want to wake Sammy. “That’s what the bad guys keep saying.”

Dean snorts. “That’s pretty jaded for a little thing like you. Aren’t you a bit young for that?”

Nevermind that he’d already been killing shit for almost a decade by the time he was her age.

In lieu of an answer, she spins a lazy finger in a circle at shoulder height, indicating the current situation.

Right. That.

+

Dean thinks it might be morning. He has no way to be sure, but it feels like morning. There is sound upstairs, voices picking up after tapering off for the night, maybe. Footsteps. Mechanical clicks as weapons are cleaned and prepped. Whoever Mike and gang are hoping to draw here with Stiles, they’re gearing up for bear. There are a lot more people around, now.

Stiles hears it too, rousing from the doze she fell into not too long ago. She rolls to her feet, stretching, bending to keep her muscles from locking up after a cold night on the floor. Then she stops, head cocked to one side.

“How many do you hear?” she asks.

Dean, who had been counting, answers promptly. “At least ten. Good old Mike called reinforcements.”

She turns to him, grinning, skull-like. “Won’t be enough,” she informs him, something viciously pleased in her expression. For the first time, Dean thinks she might be more than a victim of unfortunate circumstance here.

“Enough for what? What exactly are you bait for, kid?”

She opens her mouth like she means to answer, but just then the sounds above grow exponentially louder before cutting off again, abruptly. Someone just opened the door, then shut it again. Someone’s coming.

Two sets of footsteps. By the time they come into view, Sammy is fully awake, standing shoulder to shoulder with Dean, but the two new arrivals don’t spare them more than a look.

One of them is as tall as Sam and skinny as a beanpole, while the other is short with a beer gut and a visibly crooked nose. Both of them are under thirty. Young. They look angry.

And they only have eyes for the teenage girl in the other cell.

“So you’re the bait, bitch.”

Stiles doffs an imaginary hat at them in greeting and Dean has to hand it to her, she has style. “I’m the bait, bitch,” she confirms, staring the short one, who spoke, straight in the eye.

The tall one surges forward, slamming both hands into the bars, making them rattle loudly. “How does it feel, little girl, knowing that before sunset, all your little dogs are going to be dead?”

He’s trying to sound tough, sound taunting, but there’s real rage behind his words, ugly and new.

Stiles, damn her, picks up on it, too. She smiles sweetly, “How many of your buddies did you lose last night? How many went out to scout and never came back?”

The tall one lets out an inarticulate roar of rage and then the worst possible thing happens: number two pulls out a set of keys. Shit.

Sam and Dean exchange alarmed looks. After that comment, those assholes are going to beat the shit out of Stiles. She knows it, too, backing away from the door. “Hey now, boys, no need to come inside, yeah? I’m really big on personal space and you’re just great out there, aren’t you? Let’s just not…”

They do. Shorty unlocks the door and Beany surges inside, laying a right hook on Stiles before she can finish trying to placate them. She kind of deserves it, for taunting them with potentially dead friends, but she’s also tiny and fragile and a baby and Dean finds himself railing against the bars, shouting for the other hunters to, “Stop, Jesus Christ, you’re gonna kill her, fuck it, stop!”

She goes down after the first hit, just folds into herself with blood already streaming from her nose. Beany keeps kicking her where she’s curled up on the ground, protecting her vulnerable bits.

After a few endlessly long moments, his friend pulls the manic fucker off of her and for a beat, all Dean can hear is his own heavy breathing and the rush of rage in his ears.

Then Stiles moves.

She groans as she slowly unwinds, rolling away from the hunters as she does. A mouthful of blood and spittle hits the ground. She probes at her ribs, hisses, sits up. “Feel like a tough guy now?” she slurs through a swelling jaw. “Beating up the human girl?”

Shorty sneers. “You stopped being human the moment you threw in with dogs.” He kicks at Stiles’ knee hard enough to force a yelp from her.

Dean has never been this disgusted with another human being before. Stiles bravely sneers at the world at large, leaning forward a little. “You wanna know a secret?”

“Don’t provoke them, damnit,” Sam mutters under his breath, clutching at the bars.

“What?” Beany barks, derision dripping from his voice.

The girl laboriously fights back to her feet and three steps backwards, five to the side. A single lunge away from where they’re plastered to the bars, Dean notices. Suddenly, they’re the lesser evil.

“We’ve got a code, too. Us big, bad monsters, I mean.”

Laughter.

“Yeah? What’s that?”

She’s skin and bones and bruises, holding her ribs and spitting blood and Dean’s never heard anything as spiteful as, “We hunt those who hunt us.

And as if that’s the signal, as if by fucking magic, a hair-raising howl suddenly rings down the narrow stairs, distorted by damp walls and loud enough to make their ears ring.

For a moment, all other sound ceases. Then Stiles grins, sudden, fierce and bloody, and throws her head back, mouth open and –

Dean has heard a lot of sounds come from human throats. Sounds human voice boxes are not supposed to produce. This sound, that ululating howl coming from a little girl’s mouth, is one hundred percent human. That only makes it creepier.

Because there are werewolves howling in the woods and Stiles just answered.

Shorty pales and Beany shoves him toward the door, the two of them double timing it toward their buddies upstairs, where, presumably, the trap has snapped shut.

They slam the door shut, fumble the keys and then sprint toward the stairs. “Look who’s eager to die,” Stiles mutters, abruptly amused where, a moment ago, she was vengeful as hell. She plasters herself against the front of her cell, straining to see further around the slight bend leading upstairs.

Sounds of a fight reach downstairs, dim and far away.

With a silent look exchanged, Sam and Dean start preparing for whatever is about to come down those stairs.

‘Whatever’ turns out to be… a teenage boy. Wearing nothing but a pair of douche slacks, all tall, blonde and entitled. As soon as he comes within sight, Stiles calls a relieved, “Jacks, thank fuck!” her arms reaching through the bars as if to hold him close. He grins at her, smarmy as hell, eyes flashing blue.

Dean expects some kind of snappy comeback, but the kid just steps up to the bars and lowers his head enough for Stiles to run her fingers through his hair, just once. It looks almost like he’s… submitting to her?

“Are you seeing what I’m seeing?” Sam asks, sounding more excited than freaked-out.

Immediately, ‘Jacks’ jerks away from Stiles, snarling, eyes impossibly brighter. Definitely not human, that one. Stiles just chuckles. “Relax. They’re nice hunters.”

He gives her a look. “Alli nice or Gerard nice?”

The question seems weighted.

Stiles considers. “Alli.”

From upstairs, gunshots sound, suddenly a lot closer than before. At a guess, the baited party drew the hunters outside, Jacks snuck in to free Stiles and now it’s all converging back inside. Yay.

Stiles jumps at the sound, cringing. “Get me out of here,” she orders and the kid jumps to comply, gripping the edges of the door and pulling.

After a long moment of absolutely nothing, the thick metal frame begins to bend. A moment later, the lock, twisted too far, snaps and the door flies open.

“Well,” Dean deadpans, just in time to witness something even more disturbing. As soon as Stiles steps through the newly opened door, Jacks drops to his knees and starts changing. He doesn’t go full wolf, but stops at some halfway point, all unnatural angles, snout and teeth. He crouches at her feet like a cross between gargoyle and obedient puppy and Dean feels the need to throw up in his mouth a little, when a new voice announces, “If you’re quite done with the floorshow.”

Stiles’ head shoots up, but the fast movement must jar something hurt, because she suddenly stumbles. Her wolfy friend catches her around the waist and, between one blink and the next, there’s a politely middle-aged guy in jeans and a v-neck, lifting her up, bridal style.

“Careful, Little Red,” he croons, gently mocking, and Dean has flashbacks to reading the Little Red Riding Hood as a kid and thinking about how fucking creepy the wolf was.

Adult Dean, meet the wolf.

Stiles bats at his chest weakly, hisses in pain and then subsides. “’M okay,” she announces, and wriggles her feet until he sets her down again, letting their other buddy steady her.

She hooks a thumb over her shoulder at the Winchesters. “Get them out, will ya?”

“Who are they?” Older Dude asks without moving.

“Peter,” Stiles snaps, voice edged. “Get them out.”

It’s an order now, crisp and sharp and with a lazy grin full of too pointy teeth, Peter repeats Jacks’ Amazing Jailbreaking Act, getting them out. He sniffs them as they shove past him, careful not to give anyone their back. Stiles has scary friends.

His nose wrinkles. “Hunters. Bad taste, Little Red.”

“Screw you, pedowolf,” the girl returns and finally pushes away from her friend. “How’s it going upstairs?”

Jacks shrugs and Peter rolls his eyes before abruptly letting himself fall forward. He lands on all fours, paws, not hands. Between one blink and the next, there is a giant wolf in place of the creepy dude.

Dean about jumps out of his skin.

Stiles doesn’t bat an eyelash, just nods at the beast, who shakes off the remains of his clothing and then shoots past them all like a bullet, up the stairs.

Stiles hobbles after him until Jacks sweeps her up in a secure hold and takes the stairs two at a time. Finally. For someone staging an escape, they were all way too slow and relaxed.

Dean punches Sam in the shoulder and then follows.

+

Upstairs is pandemonium.

At a glance, Dean sees at least three bodies, shredded and left in puddles of blood, all of them hunters. Gunshots, screams, running, fighting. A few feet away, a burly guy in biker gear is wrestling with a skinny kid with blonde curls. The kid is sitting on the biker’s chest, holding him down seemingly effortlessly, claws slashing downward, shredding arms.

Dean’s first instinct is to leap in, rip the monster off the biker, but the wolf, the actual one on four legs, seems to sense his intentions, because he leaps between them. Curly swipes down one more time and the biker dies in a gurgle of blood. The kid looks up, deformed face and glowing blue eyes, and finds Stiles. He gives a happy little yip before a shout somewhere further in the building draws his attention.

He’s gone between one blink and the next.

In his place, a redhead with a Beretta in hand comes marching put from between packing crates. She’s wearing a floral dress of all things. “Stiles,” she greets. “Are you hurt?”

Stiles struggles down from Jacks’ hold, shakes her head. “Bumps and bruises. The bad guys like to hit their hostages. Shocker!”

The two girls, because let’s face it, they’re both fucking children, both roll their eyes. Then Jacks strides over to the redhead and holds out his arm to her. “Shall we, my Lady?”

Stiles makes a barfing sound. The next moment, her arm slashes out in a wide arc and Dale and Chip, who were trying to sneak up on their eight, both go flying.

One of them drops his gun and Dean swoops in to pick it up. He feels better with a weapon in hand when he’s in the middle of a freaking battlefield. Sue him.

Also, apparently Stiles is magic. Awesome!

(Not.)

Before either Sam or Dean can react, the wolf lunges for Dale, ripping out his throat. Chip is being held in place by some sort of invisible force field until the wolf gets to him, too. It reminds Dean way too much of demons, the way he’s pinned against the wall and then, suddenly, blood.

Jesus. Every single instinct Dean has is telling him to take aim and shoot. The only thing holding him back is that a) those assholes brought it on themselves and b) if he does, he’s pretty sure he’ll be just as dead as them.

The redhead starts swaying, then, before visibly shaking out of it. “I refuse to scream for them. No way.” Despite her perfect makeup and cutesy dress, she reminds Dean of nothing so much as a feral animal as she bares her teeth at the corpses.

Stiles, finally remembering them, turns toward Sam and Dean. “Dude. Get the hell out of here. I can’t promise Alpha’s going to let you go. He gets a bit protective.”

As if to prove her point, that chilling howl from before rends the air again and a giant, black wolf with red eyes lands next to Stiles, pink foam at its mouth.

Dean almost has a heart attack.

Stiles actually fucking giggles. Just cutely presses one hand to her mouth and giggles. Her other goes to the giant, slavering beast’s scruff and settles there. Immediately, the snarl dies down and baleful red eyes give her a quick glance before settling back on the Winchesters.

“I’m fine, dude,” Stiles tells the wolf as if it’s talking. “They’re… probably actually not awful people, so we’re not killing them, okay? Today, at least, they don’t hunt us.” she says it heavy, full of meaning. “Go finish cleaning this shit up, okay?”

The giant fucking alpha werewolf snarls in Dean’s direction loud enough for him to feel the vibration on his skin and then surges forward, back into the shadows.

Slowly, Dean’s heart starts beating again. He promptly starts looking for a way out of this shitshow.

Unfortunately, there’s monsters all over and he’s not sure he and Sam aren’t going to end up in ribbons the second they step out of the protective circle that seems to be Stiles’ presence.

So far, three werewolves have obeyed her orders.

As of thirty minutes ago, Dean would have happily sworn up and down that werewolves in beast form are mindless killing machines.

The alpha and Jacks have both taken off, as has the curly dude, but the other full shift – Peter – hangs out, occasionally wheeling this way and that, ears pricking.

Dean exchanges looks with Sam and they both silently agree to stay put. “If you don’t mind,” Sam says, perfectly polite, “we’ll just wait until it’s over. Don’t want to get between the fronts.”

Stiles gives them both long, searching looks. Dean notices her wrists flex. Those tattoos, hidden under the sleeves of his shirt. Maybe. Her eyes come to rest on his pilfered gun. “You aim that at any of my pack, and I’ll burn you.”

“I thought you were human?” Dean drawls, because down in those cells she was all human prisoner and now she’s… something else. Something at home in a pack of monsters.

He’s starting to get the feeling they were the ones getting played and he doesn’t like it much.

But she’s been keeping the wolves off of Sammy and him, so he’ll take it. Carefully. He is very, very sure he doesn’t want to do anything that can be interpreted as hunting her.

He’s not a coward and fuck knows, he’s a sucker for a lost cause. But half the hunters in this building are already dead and the rest are dying. Dean tries not to be a complete fucking moron.

She snaps her teeth, an entirely canine gesture. “I am what I have to be to stay alive,” she corrects and then spins toward encroaching gunfire, throwing up a hand.

Fire.

The hunter dies screaming and Dean clutches his gun and forces himself not to shoot her in the head out of reflex.

He doubts he’d make it. Peter is watching him with cold, blue eyes.

Behind the burning corpse, double vision flips off a stack of crates and then dissolves into identical twins with a face full of fangs. Jesus. Those chompers rival the alpha’s.

They grin at her, throw sloppy salutes and then take a sharp detour toward more screaming.

Just how many people are there in this building?

“Stiles?” an unsure female voice suddenly calls. “Don’t fry us, it’s me and Dad!”

The voice is followed by a leggy brunette in tights and a skirt, wielding a giant fucking bow and arrows. After her comes –

“Argent?”

Chris Argent stops. Frowns. “Winchester,” he returns.

Stiles groans. “Of course the hot plaid dudes know each other.”

Leggy brunette – Argent’s daughter? – cringes. “Don’t call my dad hot, Stiles.”

“What? It’s a well-established fact that I’m into older guys. And your dad is a total DILF.”

While this exchange is taking place, Stiles smacks another hunter into the ground with her magic juju and the daughter promptly shoots him.

Argent ignores the entire byplay and strides over toward Dean, giving Sam a nod.

“What are you doing here? I thought you steered clear of this kind of rabble.”

Dean shrugs. “We do. Which landed us in the cell next to Stiles, here. We’re jail break buddies.”

Around them, the sounds of fighting are dying down. Argent still takes another step closer, hand moving for Dean’s gun, which he automatically jerks out of reach.

Argent pauses, then says, low and hard, “This pack is not the enemy. They abide by the code. They harm no innocents. You attack any of them, I’ll get you blacklisted so fast, your head will spin.”

“Cozying up to monsters, Argent?”

The older man doesn’t look happy. Sam makes a bitch-sound.

“Clan Argent has a new code, Winchester. I abide by my matriarch’s law.”

Yeah. Dean’s always found the hunting clans fucking weird. “Hug the furries?” he hazards.

“We protect those who cannot protect themselves,” Argent Junior corrects as she comes over, bow at her hip.

Yeah. Because those wolves look like the need protection. But –

Stiles is human. And she has at least two broken ribs.

For once in his life, Dean bites his lip and shakes his head. Get out alive. That’s the goal. “Whatever, man.”

Sam gives him an incredulous look.

Bitch.

With the fighting almost over, he decides it’s time to risk it. “We’ll get out of your hair, then.”

On the way out of the warehouse, they step over several puddles of blood. No corpses. No-one trying to stop them.

Behind them, Dean hears wolves growling and yipping. Hears Stiles laugh.

“You know,” he tells Sam, conversationally, as soon as he spots the Impala, parked between a bunch of trucks, “this kind of shit only ever happens to us in California.”

Sam rolls his eyes. “Yeah. Because everywhere else is just a cakewalk.”

Dean is forced to hotwire Baby, which is a fucking travesty, but he’s not going back in there to look for the keys. No damn way.

He doesn’t like not knowing who to shoot.

He strips the wires, gets her rolling.

And then gets the hell out of California and hopes he’ll never see Stiles and her pack again.

Ever.

Fucking redcaps.

+

He’ll call Argent, tomorrow, or the day after, and he’ll talk to the man about what the fuck is going on and Argent is going to tell him about a family on fire, about too many dead children and about doing right.

And Dean is going to rage and rant and shout and then, eventually, he’s going to settle down, Sam by his side, and he’ll listen.

Eventually, he’ll meet Stiles again, this time over the span of a diner table, milkshakes between them, and he’ll listen.

Eventually, when the sky comes falling down and there’s angels and literal devils everywhere, he’ll dial a number as familiar as Sam’s and Bobby’s and say, “We need help.”

And Stiles will say, “Dude, that’s not new,” before turning away from the phone and hollering, “Derek, pack our shit, we’re going Winchester Saving!”

And they will.

But right now they’re getting the fuck out of California.

+