She's in the graveyard when he finds her.
Her family's tombstones are lined up in front of her: Kate, Victoria, Gerard, a grandmother she never met. Allison comes for her mom, not the others. She has been trying to forgive Kate, because it wasn't all that long ago that she used to love her aunt like an older, fun sister and she's learned the hard way what Gerard's influence can do to a person, but there's a part of Allison that's realized that she never even knew the real Kate, and it makes it hard to mourn her.
She's barely even ready to mourn her mother. Everything about her death makes her angry. Angry at Derek. Angry at her father and Gerard. Angry at herself. Angry at her mother, most of all. That she'd go after Scott like that. That she'd choose to kill herself rather than face the reality of the bite. It seems to be the easy way out, a coward's choice, and nothing her father tells her about duty and tradition and strength can shake that feeling. It's impossible not to think, If she had loved me enough, she would have lived and faced this, for me.
So she comes here every week to sit and stare at her mom's grave and try to bring herself to let go of all the anger that's been piling up inside her since that night. If she's honest with herself, she doesn't come here for her mom at all, but for herself.
Scott followed her a few times in late summer, after the Alpha pack had first made themselves known. She knew he meant well and was merely trying to protect her, but she sent him away with words that were harsh enough to sting. It wasn't Scott's fault; she just wanted to be alone.
She's not alone now.
There's no sound when he approaches, no rustle of dry leaves, no footfalls on the ground. But the air shifts in a way that raises goosebumps on her skin, and the tell-tale feeling of being watched crawls down her spine like a spider.
She grabs her crossbow and cocks it, scanning the area. The cemetery lies quiet and still. She could almost believe that there's no one else out there.
"Who's there?" she calls out. Doesn't really expect an answer, expects someone, something, to jump and attack, and her pulse beats faster in equal parts fear and excitement.
No attack comes. Instead, Deucalion calmly steps forward, out from the trees behind the last row of graves, sauntering towards her.
She keeps the bow trained on him. It should make her feel safer, knowing where her potential assailant is, knowing who he is, being able to see him rather than having to watch out for a faceless danger from somewhere in the dark. Paradoxically, though, it makes her feel more afraid rather than less. She can't quite keep her hands from shaking.
"Better put that thing away," he tells her. "I'm not here to hurt you. And even if I was, you couldn't stop me. Or do you honestly believe that you could shoot me before I rip out your throat?"
"I could try." She tries to keep her tone light and firm, but she knows she's not fooling him. The way his mouth stretches and reveals a glimpse of teeth, the satisfied gleam in his eyes, the way he steadily crosses the distance between them without even looking at the weapon in her hands, lets her know that he can smell her fear.
She sets the crossbow down next to her where she could reach it, theoretically. "What do you want?"
"Who says I want anything?" He crouches beside her, altogether too close for comfort. She's itching to move away and put some distance between them, but that would mean admitting that he's unnerving her. It would mean giving in.
She remembers her dreams about him, the dreams he forced upon her -– weeks ago, when the Alphas held her hostage – remembers not being able to tell reality and dream apart there, alone and tied to a chair in an abandoned warehouse. The dreams had lingered, afterwards, not with the same intensity or the same deceptiveness, but even now she sometimes finds herself gasping awake with Deucalion's names on her lips, his phantom touch making her scream in the dream, and not always in agony. The worst part is that she can't know what part of it is mind-control and what's just her own treacherous subconscious betraying her.
She flushes and tries to pull her gaze away from him, futilely.
He motions towards the gravestones in front of them. "Your family has been decimated rather quickly during the last year or so. No one left but you and your father now, is there?"
"Don't," she snaps sharply.
He laughs, and it makes her shiver. No one ever laughs out loud in graveyards. People keep their voices down and speak in solemn, hushed tones. Deucalion clearly doesn't care about convention, doesn't feign any sort of respect for the dead that lie buried here, probably wouldn't hesitate to spill her blood all over her family's graves if it suited him.
It lets her emotions boil over, all the fear and the anger and the pain of the last months, and the way he's sitting here laughing and issuing thinly veiled threats against her father's life, and she squeezes her eyes shut and wills herself not to cry in front of him. "I hate you."
Such a stupid, pointless thing to say, but it's enough to make his laughter ebb away. She steals a glance at him from the corner of her eyes, expecting to find anger, but all she can make out on his expression is a stony seriousness.
"Maybe so. But bear in mind, none of them," he points towards her family's graves, "are here because of me."
Allison isn't sure what to make of the statement. Perhaps he's trying to turn her further against Derek by pointing out his involvement in their deaths. Perhaps he's just making a point, letting her know that her life was hardly perfect before he and his pack came into town. As if she didn't know it. Truth is – Kate, Gerard, even her mom, they all had it coming, and Allison is perfectly aware of it, can't ignore it even if she tried.
She doesn't look at him, stares at the words on her mother's gravestone until the words blur. Slowly, surely, the surge of blazing fury dims, and all that remains are the low-burning embers of anger that's always been inside her since that night her mother died. Something he said, before, when they held her captive comes back to her, worming into the forefront of her mind. She didn't really pay attention then, too frightened and distracted by the way he was pushing her buttons, but now she remembers. It's like a puzzle that insists on being solved.
"You said that hunters make good werewolves. How did you know? If they all choose death over turning, then how do you know what they'd be like? That they wouldn't go crazy or something because it tears them apart inside?"
Deucalion smiles the secretive kind of smile that says he knows something she doesn't, and she bristles inside because inexplicably it makes her feel as if her question was stupid and naive when she thinks it's a valid point.
"Is that what you think? That it would tear you apart from the inside? That something in your hunter upbringing would rebel against it?"
"We're not talking about me," she says, even though she's starting to realize that maybe they are. Maybe they've been talking about her all along. "And you're dodging my question. How can you know, when there's no precedent?"
He reaches out and takes her wrist in his. His fingertips – human and blunt – trace the lines of her veins. The gesture, though gentle and not threatening in an obvious manner, makes her want to pull away, but she knows that if he decided to bite her right then and there, she couldn't possibly be quick enough to escape, and she's let him get too close for the crossbow to be an effective weapon. She's estimating how quickly she could reach for the knife in her bag when he speaks, pulling her from her thoughts.
"I didn't say there was no precedent. Most hunters who've suffered the bite choose to kill themselves or are eliminated by others before they can complete the transition. Occasionally, though, there's a hunter who embraces the gift. It happens rarely, but that doesn't mean it never happens."
Something about his choice of words is sitting uncomfortably with her, the way he talks about the bite. "Is it a gift if you never asked for it?" she challenges.
It makes her flinch when he suddenly reaches across her body, and she's momentarily distracted by the way it brings him close enough that she can smell the warm, earthy scent of his skin, the faint hint of aftershave. Her heart is beating in her throat, and the confusing rush of emotions crashing through her unbalances her so much that she doesn't notice that he picked up her crossbow until he sits back up again, a safe distance between them.
Stupid, stupid, stupid. She can't believe that she let him take her weapon this easily, without any resistance or protest at all.
Warily, she watches the way he handles it, unsure what he's playing at. If he wanted to hurt her, he didn't need a weapon.
"When you found out about werewolves and hunters, about who you were, who your family was. When your father gave you your first crossbow, you didn't ask for it, did you? I bet you didn't really want it to begin with. You just wanted to go back to the way things were before, when your parents would give you books and pretty clothes instead of deadly weapons." There's a flash of fangs when he smiles at her, briefly and sharply, and she can't help but wonder if maybe he hasn't been hanging around town for longer than they've all realized, watching and waiting.
Suddenly he moves, lightning-fast, spinning the crossbow towards the group of trees opposite them. He shoots. Allison startles and her heart does a summersault. There's a rustle, and a large bird falls from the tree, arrow piercing its body. Allison swallows drily.
"And yet, hasn't it served you well? You've made it your own, that gift you never wanted, and you mastered it and it probably saved your life on more than one occasion. Does it matter, in the end, if you wanted it to begin with or not?"
He turns the bow and holds it out to her, handle-first, and it's the fluidity of the gesture that triggers recognition even though the ease with which he moved it and fired the shot before should have been obvious enough. The weight of the realization settles in her stomach like a cold, hard stone she swallowed.
"You were a hunter. Before you became a wolf. You were talking about yourself, before."
He seems pleased that she's figured it out. The way he looks at her reminds her of how a tutor would look at his star pupil, like he's proud of her for drawing the conclusions from the clues he laid out for her. She tries to fight the way the blush rises to her face under his satisfied expression, to no avail.
He pushes himself up from the ground.
"Quite. I'm still a hunter." His smile is broad and predatory. "The hunt has changed a little, though."
The implications are clear. It's her who's prey now; her and her dad and Scott and Derek and anyone who isn't with Deucalion. She watches him stand and walk away. Before the darkness swallows him, he turns back towards her.
"Go home, Allison," he taunts. "It's not safe out here."
I can protect myself, she wants to say, wants to protest the notion that she's a fragile little human thing that needs protection. Wants to tell him that she's not prey and won't ever let herself be so again.
It would be nothing but words, though.
She fires without raising the bow, too quick for him to see it coming. The arrow soars inches past his head. It gives her a deep sense of satisfaction to see the startled expression on his face before it gives way to his usual arrogance.
Allison shrugs and picks up her things, deliberately making a show of putting the crossbow away. She brushes past him when she passes him. "No, I didn't," she says, plugging the arrow from where it has speared a small rodent onto the tree behind him and wiping the blood off the tip.
Walking away, she can feel his eyes on him. It takes all her willpower not to turn around.