When Stiles wakes, he has a tube down his throat. He struggles—who wouldn’t?—and tries to gasp around sterilized plastic as his lungs are filled without his control. Gagging, he reaches blindly for it, fingers fumbling as he hears the hiss of compression off to his right and feels the rise and fall of his chest.
He panics. Of course he panics. The monitor on the otherside of the bed starts beeping, and he feels his heart hitch, trip over itself, and then take off like he’s running for his life. He claws at the tubing, hands slow and uncoordinated, arms thin—so thin, so pale, more so than ever before. Tears are clouding his vision; he gasps and gives a violent dry heave, shuddering with violent disparity.
Hands catch his. They’re firm and rough, and they keep Stiles from harming himself any further in his blind terror. Stiles pushes, strains, but in a moment just as quick as his awakening to a room that is too bright, too clean, too unfamiliar, he is completely exhausted again.
“Stiles,” someone calls out to him. Scott? His father? “Stiles, you need to stay calm until the doctor gets here.”
Not Scott. Not his father.
“You’re okay.” He says, and Stiles doesn’t know who is being reassured as he pushes again, but those hands hold him still. “You’re okay. Everything is going to be fine, Stiles.”
Stiles doesn’t believe him. He knows. He knows with something deep and electric that nothing will ever be okay again.
His throat still feels raw. He stares out the window, expression pinched, and his entire body aches. There’s a tightness over his chest and along his scalp. A paper cup full of ice chips sits on the nightstand next to his cot, but the starched sheets already remind him too much of sitting in bed with his mother. There is an itch under his skin; he just wants to get out of the hospital.
The movies get it all wrong. There’s nothing glamorous about a coma. Stiles is affronted, for a moment, that Sandra Bullock would lie to him like this. He doesn’t feel well-rested or calmed or at peace. If anything, he feels more dead than alive.
The door opens. Stiles doesn’t have to look to know who it is. Peter is the only one who visits him during the day.
“You still haven’t eaten anything.” Peter says.
Stiles glances over. “Been busy.”
The new depth of his own voice tends to surprise him still. It’s not much, but to him it’s drastic. Everything is so different.
“With what?” Peter asks.
Stiles shifts the blankets aside, points his feet with a slow curl and then flexes them. Peter lifts a brow, resting his elbows on his knees as he leans closer.
“Impressive,” he says, tone conveying otherwise.
“For human healing, yeah.” Stiles retorts, tossing the blankets back over his feet. “When the doctor talked about atrphy, I thought it would be a lot worse.”
Peter hums. “Keep it up and you’ll be tripping over yourself again in no time.”
“Not really.” Peter says, sitting back again. “Just honest.”
“You? Honest?” Stiles replies and he would lift his eyebrow in echo of Peter’s expression if it wasn’t for the way it made the skin over his scalp go taunt.
He knows that there’s a scar there. Saw it a day after he woke along with the one over his chest, jagged and angry on his skin. It was striking, seeing it stretched over his skull. Like lightening over his skin, and he’d never been so startled to see himself older but with a very familiar buzz cut.
Jaw flexing, his focus turns back to the window. He hears Peter sigh.
“The world must’ve ended while I was out.” Stiles says. “If you’re being honest these days.”
There’s a lengthy pause. “Six years is a long time. People change.”
“You’d know.” Stiles says, hands flexing over his lap. “Wouldn’t you?”
“I’m very familiar with the sensation. While it’s unpleasant, it does wear off after a period of time.” Peter tells him.
“Whatever.” Stiles mutters. “Go home. I’m tired.”
“You know that’s not going to happen, Stiles.” Peter replies.
“Go home,” Stiles snaps and the lights in the room flicker; neither of them are exceptionally surprised, it’s been happening off and on since Stiles woke. “I don’t want you here.”
Peter’s jaw flexes, and Stiles looks over to see his lip curl up into a sneer as he stand from his chair. “I’ll see you tomorrow, Stiles.”
Looking away sharply, Stiles feels his heart clench, a painful tightness in his chest just under his ribcage. His temples give a slow, dull throb in reply, fingers tremling as he curls them further into the sheets draped precariously over his lap. Peter sighs again.
At the door he pauses, voice low. “Wake up soon.”
Stiles shuts his eyes as the door clicks quietly behind Peter. Like so many times before.
Peter says the same thing every time he leaves: I’ll see you tomorrow, Stiles. Wake up soon.
He’s been saying it for six years now. For as long as Stiles was in a coma, Peter has sat at his side every day. And every day he would mutter that same phrase before he left.
Stiles only knows this because he remembers. He remember every second of it, even though during his long sleep he mostly remembers a floating sensation—on endless, listless streams of black carrying him deeper into the nowhere that was only lit by the stars behind his eyelids. Waking was enough to shock his system into remembering years that had gone by in relative stillness.
And to remember that out of the entire Pack, Peter is the only one that has stuck around. Peter is the only one who still visited him aside from his own father. Stiles isn’t sure who it makes him more angry with—Peter or those who seem to have abandoned him.
It’s been a week and a half since Stiles was able to fully wake up—the first week or two Stiles spent struggling to understand where he was, what was going on, what had happened. It was disorienting, only being able to wake up for a few minutes at a time, but eventually he managed complete awareness and with it came memories. The doctors warned his father that he might have dysantharia on one of the first days, but when Stiles opened his mouth to ask Peter why the fuck he was there, they all knew that he wouldn’t have to struggle with that disability.
Peter is still at his side at least once a day. He always brings a book with him, and sometimes Stiles expects Peter to start reading to him—because he remembers hours of that too, of Peter’s voice reading classics, scifi, murder mysteries. Mostly they just sit in silence these days. Stiles takes a great deal of comfort in it.
He hates that Peter has somehow mastered the ability to read his needs so easily.
“You gonna grow your hair back out, kiddo?” John asks, fingers crossed over as he leans forward with his elbows on his knees, smiling crookedly at Stiles.
Stiles rubs a hand over his scalp, hair already a bit longer. “Been thinking about it. Might help hide the scar.”
“Worse comes to worse and you just have to shave it off again, right?” John says.
“Right,” Stiles gives him a tight little smile. “And if people ask about it, I can just tell them I was attacked by a very angry shark because I read that punching it in the gills was a good idea.”
John snorts. “Stiles.”
“Well, it’s either that or a terrifying feat of bravery while rescuing a poor kitten from a very tall tree. Heroically.” Stiles grins, head tilting slightly. “Which one seems more likely to get me laid?”
Shaking his head, John laughs. “Neither, dumb ass.”
“Love you too.”
John’s expression softens, but there are so many more wrinkles there that Stiles doesn’t remember. So many hardships that he’s missed. That he’s probably helped cause.
Jaw flexing, Stiles looks down at his own hands. “When can you take me home?”
“Soon, kiddo.” John says. “Real soon. Doc says you’re just about ready to start in on the real physical therapy. I imagine maybe another week or two since you’ve got all your faculties in order—and I can take care of what you can’t do on your own.”
“Okay,” Stiles nods.
John stands, placing a warm hand on Stiles’ shoulder. It’s almost too hot for him to handle. Stiles has been so cold for so long.
“Soon, Stiles.” John promises. “I gotta run—“
“Work, yeah, I know. Some things won’t ever change.” Stiles smiles. “Get gone, old man.”
“I’ll come by tomorrow. Same time?”
“Sure,” Stiles nods again. “I’d like that.”
Just as the sheriff is headed for the door, it opens and Peter falters for a moment. John offers him an easy smile, and Peter dips his head in reply.
“How are you doing today, Sheriff?” Peter asks.
John shakes his head. “Same old, same old. Shift starts soon. Glad to see you’re still visiting my pain in the ass over there.”
“Of course,” Peter smiles, all teeth. “It’s my pleasure.”
Stiles watches as John pats Peter’s shoulder when they pass one another. He waves a slow hand when his father smiles back at him, and only focuses on Peter once the door is shut again. There’s a book in his hand; Stiles wonders where he keeps finding them because he can’t really imagine Peter at the local library or at the small book shop on Main. It doesn’t seem like his thing.
Taking a seat, Peter relaxes back in the chair, eyes intent on Stiles’ face. Stiles feels Peter’s gaze trace over his features before meeting Stiles’ eyes. He smiles, slow and lazy, fingers drumming over the spine of his book as Stiles frowns at him.
“That’s still weird.”
“Six years is a long time, Stiles.” Peter says, like he’s stuck on the same track, like Stiles hasn’t heard him say that a dozen times before. “A lot of things change.”
Stiles’ expression shutters. “Like you?”
Peter pauses, then gives a small nod. “I suppose you might think that.”
“Are you saying it’s not true?”
“Then why are you here?” Stiles asks. “Why were you here?”
Peter sighs, heavy and burdened, with a dramatic roll of his eyes before he gives Stiles a dry look. “I’ve been where you are, Stiles. And I know exactly what it is like to be alone. I know how crazy it can make a person. Frankly, I’m not that cruel.”
“What did you think would happen?” Stiles frowns. “That I’d wake up and start the apocalypse?”
“With your talents, Stiles.” Peter breathes, eyes flashing faintly, blue and hungry. For what, Stiles doesn’t know. “I wouldn’t put it past you.”
“You invited him to dinner?” Stiles asks as his father wheels him up the driveway.
John huffs out a laugh. “I wouldn’t be the first time.”
Nose wrinkling, Stiles twists to look up at his father. “Tell me he hasn’t been in my room.”
“No one has touched your room.” John says, low and firm. “Not since the accident.”
“It wasn’t an accident, dad.”
“I know,” John sighs. “Let’s get you inside.”
His dad wasn’t lying when he said no one had been in his room. In fact, aside from cleaning it up to keep it from gathering dust, it looks completely untouched. His economics homework is still laying out over his desk.
Leaning against the door frame, Stiles pants faintly, taking the sight of it all in. He inhales deep and long, pressing to the wood and finding strength there. The warmth of the Earth welcoming him home, a safe-haven from all that had happened; for the first time since he woke he feels a familiar heat at the tips of his fingers, just out of reach, but finally there.
The lights flicker on. His dad clears his throat.
Looking over, Stiles settles back down into the wheel chair with a soft sigh. John wheels him in without another word, taking him to his desk. Stopping there, John leans against the edge of it, smiling a smile that’s much more of a grimace.
“I know it’s not much.”
“It’s perfect, dad.” Stiles says. “A little tragic—maybe creepy. But perfect. Thank you.”
John nods. “I thought… I thought that if—when you woke up, you might like to have something that was still the same. That was still yours.”
“It’s perfect.” Stiles repeats.
“Good,” John’s shoulders ease, smile softening. “I also, uh… I got you something.”
“Dad, you really don’t need to—“
“It wasn’t anything.” John shook his head, standing and moving over to the closet; he pulls out a box with a brand new laptop on the cover, and hands it over with a laugh when Stiles makes grabby hands. “I was going to give you a new one after graduation anyways. It’s not much, but it’s nothing to shake your head at.”
Stiles peels it out of the box, running his fingers over the sleak surface with a hum. Smiling, he beams up at John, holding it close to himself.
“It’s nothing. I have to make up for at least five birthdays.” Johns says, then blinks and rubs a hand over his jaw. “Jesus. You’re gonna be twenty-three this year.”
Stiles just grins. “Hey, that means I can get drunk and you can actually know about it.”
John rolls his eyes, patting Stiles’ shoulder. “Like I didn’t know before,” he says. Stiles laughs as John walks out the door.
Stiles spends the rest of his day catching up with what’s going on in the world. It’s… Well, it’s a lot.
Things still haven’t settled down in the Middle East. There isn’t war, but there are still areas that aren’t safe for anyone to go to thanks to some sparse religious extremists. Not that it’s any better in the US—a year previous, the WBC pulled a Jesus juice mass suicide after one of their own members had gone out of control. Australia placed at least third in every event at the last Winter Olympics. There was a revolution in North Korea.
And Stiles isn’t really sure how to feel about their tighter gun control laws. Not because he doesn’t think they’re for the better of the country, but because of the tragic events that finally pushed the laws into place. The assassination of their first female president by some Men’s Rights “activist.” It makes him feel conflicted.
When there’s a soft knock on his door jamb, Stiles barely pulls himself away from the screen; he’s far too engrossed with Ryan Reynold’s Deadpool to care about the werewolf just outside of his bedroom.
“This is the second time, Crossbones. Three strikes and you’re out. Remember that.”
“Shh,” Stiles holds up a finger, eyes on the screen, lips twitching as Wade slumps against a wall, holding a wound over his abdomen dramatically only to let out a loud belch.
“Oh, man, that chimichanga is really biting back.”
Peter snorts and Stiles huffs out a small laugh of his own before hitting the space bar. “What can I do for you, undead and creepy?”
“I’m not sure you’re ready for that particular conversation.” Peter replies.
“Oh, I will.” Peter promises, eyes intent on Stiles’ face. “Just not yet.”
Shrugging, Peter steps slowly into the room. “Guilty as charged.”
It earns him a faint smile. Then Stiles glances down, letting out a soft sigh.
“My dad told me,” Stiles mutters. “About some of the things you did that I—Some of the things I couldn’t have known about.”
“Yes,” Stiles looks back up, frowning at Peter and holding out his hand. “And I just wanted to say thanks. I don’t know why you did it, but it helped my dad out a lot. And it—It kept me from being dead, so thank you.”
Peter stares at him for a long moment, head tilting, and then he takes Stiles’ hand in his. There is a shock of heat—finally, finally—and Stiles gasps, lips parting at the quick rush of it up his arm. It eats at the cold in him, chips it away, and the lights above their heads flicker as static rings in their ears.
Stiles tries to pull away, but Peter’s fingers tighten around his. The man’s jaw is tight, eyes glowing, and Stiles stares up at him as something thrums between the two of them. After a moment, when the lights have stopped and the noise is gone, Peter releases Stiles’ hand—but Stiles’ entire body is still tingling.
“Why are you here?” Stiles asks in a breath.
Peter adjusts his shirt, smile distant. “Dinner. Your father invited me.”
“Not here at my house,” Stiles shakes his head, fingers curling and uncurling in his lap. “I mean here in my room.”
Peter holds his gaze. “To help you down the stairs.”
An abrupt laugh flies over Stiles’ lips, loud and clipped. Peter doesn’t look amused.
“So not happening, dude.”
“You either come willingly or I carry you.” Peter replies, expression wry. “It’s your choice.”
Stiles just turns his focus back onto his computer screen. “Not happening.”
“I fucking hate you.”
“Hush, I gave you fair warning.”
Stiles pinches at Peter’s butt in retaliation, hanging from the were’s shoulder like a wet towel. He gets a smack on the curve of his own ass in return. Stiles yelps.
When Peter carries him into the dining room, John laughs. It only grows louder as Stiles flails slightly, the world “traitor” on his lips.
It takes a while longer for Stiles to officially get back on his own two feet. There’s a lot of physical therapy, and Stiles thinks that he might be sore for the rest of his life but things progress quickly—the doctor said that the first six months show the most results. He doesn’t remember the last time he was so dedicated to something that was solely about himself.
He starts taking walks every day. He has to use a cane, muscles still weak but growing stronger, and he makes it just a little bit further each time. It’s on his fourth outing, after he’s become accustom to being outside again—so many noises, smells, sounds—and accustom to the new sensation of life pulsing around him that he realizes he’s not alone.
“Come on out, jackass.” Stiles says.
“Such harsh words,” Peter says, hands shoved casually in his pockets as he steps out to walk in stride with Stiles down the path. “You wound me.”
“No,” Stiles replies, eyes flashing faintly— a vibrant gold deep in the amber of his irises similar to that of a Beta. “But I could.”
“Yes, I suppose you could.” Peter hums, standing a bit straighter. “You’re getting stronger. I can smell it on you.”
He means it in more ways than one.
Stiles nods, focus falling back to the path before them. His legs are steady but his steps are slow. Peter keeps idle pace with him.
“It’s a slow process. But I can feel it too.” Stiles says with a quiet voice, almost a whisper, like if he speaks of it too loudly everything will fall apart. “It wasn’t like this before. But then I woke up, and it’s like the world is welcoming me back. Like it’s feeding a fire in me that used to be nothing but a—“
“Spark.” Peter says. “A spark.”
Stiles shudders. “I wouldn’t have made it without it. Whatever it is. The spark is the only reason I’m even alive. I can—I don’t know how, but I can feel it. I know it. I know a lot of things these days.”
“Is that why you stuck around?” Stiles asks, and it isn’t accusing. It’s curious and simple. “I know you like power.”
Peter’s expression remains carefully distanced. “Do you?”
“C’mon, dude. You’re all about the power. Like full on rage-boner power. With a capital P.” Stiles shoots him a dry look, brow raised.
“And you certainly have the potential to be very powerful.” Peter nods. “I’ve known that for a while.”
“Since I was bleeding out?” Stiles asks, coming to a slow stop. “Or since you offered me the Bite?”
Peter turns to face him, smile small and wicked and full of promise. “You know the answer to that.”
Eyes flickering over Peter’s almost completely unchanged features, Stiles searches for something. His shoulders slump when he can’t quite find it. “Is that the only reason you stayed? Six years is a long time.”
Tilting his head, Peter holds his gaze. After a moment, nothing but the smell of damp earth between them, Peter glances away. He sighs like it’s the end of the world.
The wind shifts. It twines around them, and Stiles feels it at the edges of his clothes, trying to seep into his skin. But there’s a light in his chest, like a beacon, glowing and growing warmer by the second. Energy gathering like static. It weighs upon them, thick and crackling, and when Peter meets his gaze with eyes that are electric, Stiles feels it still.
“When I was in a coma, I didn’t have anyone. I was in a near vegetative state, just lying there, for years. With no one.” Peter says, and Stiles’ lips part. “I wouldn’t wish that fate upon many people, Stiles. Certainly not you.”
“Why not me?”
“I have my reasons. And you are not at the top of my kill list.” Peter replies. “These days, you aren’t even on it.”
“So you visited me every day to what? Keep me sane?”
“Yes,” Peter nods, shuffling a touch closer, voice lowering. “And no.”
Stiles doesn’t move, knuckles going white as he grips his cane.
“Yes, it was to keep you from losing your mind. It was a possibility that I put effort into preventing. I could smell your energy changing the moment your heart stopped beating—like ozone and spice.” Peter continues, moving to walk around him, gaze appraising and admiring at the same time. Something like liquid fire pools low in Stiles’ abdomen when their shoulders brush. “I didn’t want what happened to me to happen to you. I didn’t want you to know what it was like to be alone. And I didn’t want to deal with what would wake up in your place if I hadn’t tried something.”
Peter rounds him to stand practically chest to chest. He reaches up, eyes not once leaving Stiles’, and traces over the scar with a touch that’s so soft it’s almost non-existent. Stiles can feel it all the way down to the balls of his feet. He recognizes reverence when he sees it.
Dropping his hand back down, Peter sighs. “The other reason I stayed was purely selfish. And incredibly power hungry.”
Stiles snorts, indelicate but amused. “I kind of figured most of that out already. I just want to know what it is that you want. What do you get out of this? A powerful, ex-comatose, twenty-something year old who you can barely get along with?”
“Loyalty. I was loyal to you,” Peter says. “Now I want it in return. I’ll protect you, if you protect me.”
“You want me to be your Pack.” Stiles blinks. “A Pack of two. With no Alpha?”
Peter smiles—and it’s sharp and predatory. Like all Peter wants to do is eat him. “Well, a Pack of three with your father. He’s been very good to me these last few years.”
“Don’t get weird.”
“Honestly, Stiles.” Peter reaches up again, slowly pressing his palm to Stiles’ cheek, giving him plenty of time to pull away. Stiles doesn’t. “That’s all I’ll ask of you. Loyalty. Pack. We don’t need an Alpha.”
“Think about it,” Peter says, eyes glinting as he drags his thumb over the high line of Stiles’ cheek bone. “And remember. I’m asking for more than just power. I’m asking for a place at your side. In whatever way you want that to mean.”
Stiles hesitates. “I’ve been asleep for a long time, Peter. For years. And I remember almost every second of it. I know you were the one that stuck around. I remember everything you’ve ever said, and I remember knowing that none of it was a lie. Just like I know this isn’t a lie.”
Peter’s jaw works for a moment, and Stiles knows that it’s a big risk for him to have Stiles read him so simply, so easily. “And?”
“And I know you’re the product of shitty circumstances. That you regret certain things and not others.” Stiles licks his lips, pulling from his touch. “I refuse to be something you end up regretting.”
Peter frowns. “What do you mean?”
“I know you,” Stiles says. “More, probably, than I ever really wanted to know. But I do now. You ran out of bullshit snark in the first few months, Peter, and I actually remember most of that too. About your family and everything—Everything before. But I was asleep. So while I may know you, you don’t know me.”
“Not enough.” Stiles insists. “So we wait. Protection is—That’s fine. Whatever, I’ll lob someone upside the head with this stupid cane if I have to. But we aren’t Pack. Or anything else. Not yet.”
When Peter smiles again, it’s all teeth. “Not yet, then. I’m a patient man. I can wait.”
Stiles rolls his eyes. “Yeah, whatever. Don’t start counting chickens. Walk me home.”
“Ask and you shall receive.”