Peter Hale didn’t run away. He retreated in a practical fashion when he realized that death was inevitable or a situation no longer salvageable.
(Biting Lydia Martin and using her to come back from the dead had been genius, if he said so himself, but it also did very little to ingratiate him with the dysfunctional litter of puppies his nephew called pack.
Getting set on fire twice and having his throat cut certainly put things into perspective. He knew that Derek would never trust him again, not after Laura, and while he didn’t particularly care all that much about Derek and his pack he had also realized that Derek was not a very powerful Alpha. Deceiving him and eventually stealing his power seemed like too much effort considering the meager boost he’d get out of it. His time would be better spent carefully planning to seduce and kill that lovely Alpha from Oklahoma he had met years ago in his sister’s backyard.
However, watching Derek try to train his pups—and spectacularly failing at it—had made him feel incredibly old. He still remembered Talia teaching Laura how to control her shifts, and lingering at the edges of this particular pack of ragtag teenagers opened old wounds he didn’t know he had.)
No one batted an eyelid or shed a tear when Peter misappropriated the keys to the lake house that was owned by the remaining Hales (and also Derek’s Camaro because Peter knew how furious his nephew would be when he found out, and Peter was nothing if not petty) and left Beacon Hills without a backward glance.
Peter opted to drive in silence, not bothering with the radio or the mixed CDs his nephew had stashed in the glove compartment.
He revved the engine and exploited the full potential of all that horsepower on country roads winding through woods and sun-kissed fields. A certain sense of juvenile delight overtook him, increasing with every mph past the speed limit. He hadn’t done this in years, and, finally, the suffocating chains associated with the stifling environment of his hometown fell away.
On his own like this, he could lay the machinations to rest for a little while, was able to just exist and breathe without having to think ten steps ahead at all times.
Once, he stopped for coffee and a bagel, eating in the parked car rather than the small diner—not wanting its pervasive scents to infringe upon his solitude.
When he was finished he drove the last couple of hours with his windows rolled down, enjoying the cool breeze tousling his hair and brushing over his exposed skin.
Half an hour away from the lake he reached the closest village, a tiny aggregation of houses and stores scattered about the landscape. On his way through the village Peter took note of a small gas station, doubling as a general store, a cozy looking diner and a barely-there post office. That was it, no other mentionable establishments to be found anywhere. All other business would have to be conducted in one of the city further out.
Peter left the village behind and sped the last leg of his journey, contemplating the quietness of his impending life.
When he finally reached his destination, he hadn’t encountered any living souls for miles. The lake house, which had been built a decade or two ago, was a quaint combination of rustic and modern, sticking to wooden frames but breaking them up with glass panels and steel. It had cost Talia an arm and a leg, but she had liked to spend a couple of weeks here every summer with various members of her pack, her children at the very least, if no other adults were able to take time off work.
Peter had sometimes come here by himself, or with his fiancée Collette, when he wanted to enjoy a couple of days in peace, re-reading his favorite books and occasionally taking a swim in the cold, sprawling lake, surrounded by nothing but nature.
Parking beneath a gnarly oak tree in front of the house, Peter quickly got out of the car and stretched his legs.
He scented the air eagerly, no humans around to witness his strange behavior, and relaxed when the familiar combination of pine trees, lake water and the local wildlife penetrated his senses—blood started to rush excitedly through his veins, his wolf urging him to shift, to run, to hunt.
Eventually he turned back to his car, got out his bags and locked it, before heading into the house. The air was cool and dust-free, he had hired a cleaning service to deal with seven years of filth several days before his departure. After a quick inspection, Peter noticed that they had also bought new sheets and linen, as well as essentials like towels and toilet paper. He would have to tip them generously when they came to settle the bill, maybe he should hire them on a regular basis so as not to have to deal with cleaning the house himself.
Peter entered the large open living room, eyes flickering briefly over the wooden staircase leading upstairs to the gallery running along the edges of the den, as well as three spacy bedrooms. He’d have to pick one for himself later (one that contains fewer memories), now that the house was his alone. Maybe convert one of them into a library; there were a couple of overflowing bookshelves in the living room, but they hardly contained even a fraction of the volumes he used to own once upon a time—a thought that left a bitter taste in his mouth.
Deciding to inspect the kitchen and the bedrooms later, he strode through the den and, sliding open the French window, stepped out onto the patio overlooking one branched-off tail of the lake.
Sucking in a lungful of crisp late-September air, the werewolf marveled at the breathtaking scenery: Situated at the foot of a sprawling, tree-covered mountain-range at one side, and nestled in extensive woods on the other, the lake rarely saw direct sunlight, not even at high noon, rendering it too cold for most humans.
The color of the water was a dark, enticing teal, obscuring the dangerous depths of the lake, while exerting its seductive powers, calling to him as strongly as the full moon.
He listened to the silence surrounding the house and imagined that this place would be his heaven and hell wrapped in one, with nothing to distract him from the past or his own destructive thoughts.
After long draw-out moments spent staring—his mind almost mute—he eventually headed back inside, trying to ignore the emptiness squeezing his chest.
He wasn’t running from himself when he escaped to the kitchen, wasn’t running when he concentrated on compiling lists of groceries he needed to buy, wasn’t running when he thought about restocking the wine cellar, wasn’t running--
He paused and stretched his senses in a way he hadn’t done in a very, very long time, but there was no sound other than that of animals darting through undergrowth, of birds circling far above the house, of the breeze gently rustling the treetops outside.
Living like this might drive him finally, irrevocably insane.
I might have to get a job , he thought distractedly, scratching his goatee in abstract forlornness.
The night hung like a dark curtain over the valley between wooded hills and mountains, hushing all but the most nocturnal of creatures. Glowing stars dusted the black sky in random patterns, twinkling cheekily as they danced around the serene moon, who offered nothing if not steady companionship.
All was quiet and still as Stiles broke through the surface, careful not to cause any waves so large that they would give him away.
Drawn closer to the shore, he couldn’t help but stare at the house that had been looming emptily for years—now there was gentle, warm light shining from within, reflected on the tiny waves of the lake’s surface.
Trying to keep to the shadows as much as possible, Stiles swam closer, finally able to hide underneath the floating jetty.
He stared through the darkness, up the pebbly shore and tried to solve this puzzle before him. The house had been empty for so long that Stiles had started to wonder whether humans had died out altogether.
Fear and curiosity rivalled for his attention, fear and curiosity and longing…
He’d been alone for such a long time that he craved company, and yes, the fish he’d befriended were nice enough, but a bit stupid if he was completely honest, not at all like the ones he had known during his childhood.
Stiles started up at the illuminated house and tried to figure out whether the human was dangerous or not, whether he was a hunter , if they had found him at last. If he had to swim and hide, find a different lake to live in.
He hated hunters. Slow-burning, red hot rage overtook him, thinking this human could be one of them.
His tail spasmed uncontrollably for a second—making a loud splashing noise that echoed alarmingly through the night—before he was able to get his emotions back under wraps.
Suddenly the screen door of the house was harshly pulled open and somebody stepped out onto the porch.
Panicked, Stiles quickly ducked beneath the surface.
Dammit , he chided himself furiously, this person could be somebody who wanted to kill him, he needed to be more careful—and not let his emotions get the better of him like that.
Stiles remained underwater, slowly edging away from the floating jetty and the shore. Once he reached deeper waters he dashed off in a hurry, quickly diving into hard-to-reach pockets of the lake he didn’t think humans could ever explore.
When he could be sure that he was safe he stopped, trying to swallow around the nausea that came with a rapidly beating heart, and wallowed in the hollow sensation that followed in the wake of his rage.
He needed to be more careful, he thought once more, he couldn’t just throw away his dad’s sacrifice like that. His dad’s and his mom’s too, he thought bitterly. His mom who had only been spotted by the hunters because he, Stiles, had drifted too close to their boat, had been too naïve to recognize the danger for what it was. And his dad, who had tried to rescue his mom and buy Stiles the time he needed to escape, yelling at him to swim as fast as he could, to not stop until he was safe.
But Stiles, stupid Stiles, had hesitated long enough to see the harpoon impale his dad’s chest, coloring the sea a vibrant, nebulized red.
Stiles shook his head to clear away the images that flooded his head even after all those years, forever burned into his mind, and curled in on himself, resting gently against a large algae-covered rock.
Yes , he decided, he would find out whether this human was a hunter and then he’d make plans for a stealthy get-away.
For about two weeks Stiles kept the house under surveillance, playing the sleuth, collecting clues and evidence. It was the most fun he’d had in a good long while, not considering the dangerous edge to his undertaking (or maybe even because of it). After watching for days and trying to detect a routine in the human’s life Stiles was pretty sure that the man wasn’t a hunter. He wasn’t here to hunt in any case. He just seemed to live here now.
(Which Stiles was a bit miffed about, actually, since this was his lake and not the man’s, he’d been here first after all.)
Watching for danger had turned into watching for pleasure—he hadn’t had any form of entertainment, any form of contact since--
He might have become a little desperate, since.
So watching this strange creature did him a world of good, right up until he became obsessed, that was. Because Stiles had never been good at letting things go and the sheer potential of making this human’s acquaintance made him swim nervous laps in deep waters to get rid of this giddy sort of energy that had befallen him, his fins quivering in excitement.
One time he’d nearly been spotted because of his carelessness. He’d barely managed to dive behind a rock in the shallows, just as his object of curiosity had decided to take a swim, jumping in a graceful arc into the water—in the nude , too, which had made his cheeks burn for days. He’d been fascinated, really, had followed in a safe distance, had observed the awkward way humans had of maneuvering in the water, without tails and fins to help them. Awkward, yes, but strangely mesmerizing, too.
And Stiles had started to get reckless, to move closer and closer, day as well as night, just to catch glimpses of this human creature taking a walk along the wooded shore, or puttering around inside that house of his.
His water-bound friends had started to make fun of him for his obsession, but they were just fish, what did they know anyway?
And so he spent weeks in this fashion, slowly losing himself in these attempts to conquer his aching loneliness.
On a particularly overcast night—heavy rainclouds hanging low in the sky, keeping the stars a secret from inquisitive eyes—Stiles crept closer than ever before.
He had been restless the last couple of days, barely managing to sleep; all he wanted was meet the man he’s been watching, daydreamed about all the strange things landfolk must be thinking about, talking about.
Stiles was tired of the jokes his fish-friends told, tired of the same old stories, the steady stream of complaints about that one annoying swarm further east that always stole their plankton.
So he came closer to the shore that night, and closer still, until he suddenly found himself in a bit of a predicament.
A gentle wave carried him forward until he felt the stony ground in the shallows scratch his tail and by the time he was able to adjust the angle of his body accordingly it was already too late—the water receded rapidly, leaving his flapping body stranded on the wet, pebbly shore.
Panic swept through him like a freezing current and he tried to push himself back into the water, uselessly flapping his tail and casting anxious looks at the silent house.
Shit , he thought to himself in hysterics, unable to suppress a desperate croak that fell from his lips without hindrance, I’ve beached myself .
Panic gave way to deep-seated fear at the thought of being discovered, being hunted and killed. You never knew how land dwellers would react to seeing merfolk, at least that was what his dad had always said.
How could he have been so stupid, swimming into the shallows like that?
Damn his curiosity!
Damn him for--
--being a forgetful idiot.
He flicked his tail back and forth and felt like total fishling. Irritated, he took a deep breath and swallowed to get the taste of panic off his tongue. While he technically could roll back into the water only a couple of yards away—something he had completely overlooked in his panic, even though he’d probably scrape his tail bloody and raw, making the next few days (if not weeks) a painful experience—there was also something else he could try, something he hadn’t done since he’d been a child, something he remembered his mom teaching him in secret.
For a moment he wondered if he was even still able to do it or if the magic had vanished together with his mother’s life.
But he could at least try, right?
Stiles remembered the tales of caution his mom had told him while they had practiced on tiny uninhabited islands underneath the burning sun, tales that warned him against doing this where others could see. It was a secret gift of their kind, a gift forbidden to use because it might mean their discovery, might cause humans to kill them or lock them into tanks—large glass cases filled with water intended to show them off like a spectacle.
But there was only one human around who could potentially spot him, and none of his own kind to persecute and banish him. He’d already done that by himself.
Nibbling on his bottom lip in concentration, his razor sharp canines drawing blood, he closed his eyes and willed his body to shift .
It hurt in a way that reminded him of the times he’d slept on his tail the wrong way—all prickly and sore. Then it started to burn, racing through his tail, his arms, his neck, like white hot fire.
Stiles gasped in shock, thinking he did something wrong, but it stopped, it stopped and left only nausea in it’s wake.
He gulped in huge lungfuls of air, feeling shaky and weak, but when he looked down on himself, the tail was gone. Instead he sported two distinct legs that looked thin and tiny and fragile in comparison. Looking at his hands, he realized that the webbing between his fingers was gone and when he touched the sides of his neck, unable to suppress a tremble, he felt that a thin layer of skin had grown over his gills in order to protect them.
He sat there for a few moments, just taking in the change, before he realized where it was that he was stranded and why he had to shift in the first place.
Getting to his newly acquired feet was an experience he could have done without, he decided after crashing and banging his knee against a pointy rock for the third time.
When he tried again, he stumbled forward, flailing his arms in panic, and did his best to keep his balance, hoping that the racket he was making didn’t alert the human like the other time.
He wondered how humans did it all the time.
Eventually he managed to stumble gracelessly back into the lake and shifted as soon as the water reached his waist, the cold soothing the burning sensation in his limbs.
Stiles really needed to pay more attention where he was swimming next time, and really hoped that none of his friends had seen him like that.
He would never hear the end of it.
The night that changed the game for Stiles wasn’t even a night on which he’d intended to watch the human.
He’d actually just wanted to enjoy the stars and the full moon—the night especially clear, make the huge, pale disc shine majestically above the mountaintops in the midst of a patterned tapestry of twinkling freckles.
He was currently floating on his back not too close to the house (he’d learned his lesson, okay? Shut up.) and was welcoming the solitude for once.
Stiles vaguely noticed the human coming outside (his senses still trained in that direction, just to be on the safe side), but he wasn’t too worried. The man did that sometimes, just enjoying the quiet stillness or taking a late-night swim.
But this time proved to be different.
There was the familiar sound of crunching gravel and Stiles turned toward it, careful not to draw any attention to himself, and seamlessly took up his favorite pastime: human watching.
The man shed his clothes, like he’d do when he wanted to swim in the lake and Stiles already planned on moving his stargazing, when it happened.
For a moment, Stiles thought that he was dreaming.
The man he’d been watching for almost three weeks now suddenly turned into something else: limbs shifting, bones cracking and bending in a way that shouldn’t be possible, hands and feet turning into paws, handsome face growing a snout.
When the transformation was complete, and Stiles may have stopped breathing by that point, his object of observation was no longer a man, but a wolf.
Falling back on its hind legs the wolf strained its head toward the night sky and howled.
It was— magnificent .
His human was a werewolf.
A werewolf , he thought, shocked and a little bit giddy.
His mom had told him about these mythical creatures who could easily blend in with regular humans, something Stiles would never be able to do. With envy and wonder Stiles had listened to stories about pack runs and true love under the full moon.
But to actually meet a wolf—he had never thought he’d ever get the chance.
Stiles watched mesmerized as the wolf howled once more, before dashing off into the woods.
With his heart beating fast against his ribcage and feeling a bit like a fishling with a first crush, he swam in nervous circles underneath the moon’s watchful gaze, just back and forth, not quite sure how, but knowing that this revelation had irrevocably changed everything.
After he’d seen his human shift into a werewolf, Stiles was no longer able to take the distance. He was so tired of being lonely and he knew, knew , that this man wouldn’t kill him or chase him away. They were both impossible creatures in a human-centric world and that had to count for something, right? Right.
That didn’t mean that he wasn’t drowning in anxiety, however. He had never before tried to connect with landfolk and the thought of breaking the most important law of his kind... was terrifying. But also exhilarating, if he were completely honest with himself. But then, the wolf had never even seen a glimpse of him before, while Stiles had had weeks to become accustomed to sharing his lake with the newcomer. What if the wolf didn’t see it that way? Werewolves were notorious for feeling territorial after all.
But he didn’t let these thoughts cripple him—he wanted desperately to get to know this creature, and nothing, especially not his own anxiety, would stand in his way.
Which was why Stiles decided to take a closer look.
He’d never been closer to the house than the pebbly shore, but tonight he would try to get inside—just to take a quick peek, just to see his wolf up-close at least one time.
When he reached the shore, he stopped and swallowed thickly around the lump in his throat. Remembering the pain of his first shift, he didn’t really want to go through that again if he could help it.
But there was no other way.
So he closed his eyes and willed his body to change, willed it to become almost human, right there in the shallows of the lake.
The water soothed the searing pain somewhat, and to his delight Stiles realized that it didn’t hurt as much as the other night. If he practiced some more it might even become a tolerable inconvenience.
Only when he was fully shifted, did he open his eyes.
After a moment’s hesitation, he took stock in a way he hadn’t last time, out of panic, mostly. But now he had the time to pat himself down—the fins adorning his pointy ears were still there, and so were the one’s flowing down his back. His gills were again protected by a layer of skin and the webbing between his fingers was no longer to be found. Which was good, because Stiles didn’t want to worry about them drying out while he had no easy access to water. There were patches of iridescent scales dotted randomly across his torso and legs, and his reproductive organs were just.. out in the open, not sheathed away like he was used to.
He wondered for a second why humans left vulnerable body parts unprotected like that.
But then he shook himself and looked up at the house. He needed to do this now, lest he lost his courage. He really, really , hoped that his wolf didn’t hear him approach. He just wanted to take a quick peek—then he’d return to the lake. Just one look, he told himself, one look.
He managed to gain some sort of balance a bit easier this time around, mostly because he flailed about with his arms whenever he was tripping over another stone, or, you know, nothing at all.
Being on land was harder than he’d thought it would be—movement wasn’t as effortless as in the water, he was constantly weighed down and wished he could just.. swim through the air.
Thus engaged in trying not to fall on his ass too often, he reached the porch after what seemed like ages, out of breath and feeling worse than he would after racing his friends from one side of the lake to the other.
But he reached the porch. He really did it.
When it was time to open the door, however, he paused and wondered whether you needed to be a werewolf in order to open it. He’d seen the man do it often enough—just sliding it open. He shrugged and tried it, too, realizing quickly that he had to grab the latch and use a bit of force to drag the heavy thing open.
Stiles didn’t slide it open as far as it could go, instead he only created a passage wide enough for him to slip into the dark and silent house.
He was finally, finally , inside the wolf’s den.
Adrenalin rushed through his body and he had to take a moment to try and calm his racing heart beat.
He looked around and was at once confused and fascinated by his surroundings. There were so many things cluttering the inside of the house, so many things he didn’t understand, didn’t need below the lake’s surface.
His fingers itched to touch, so he did.
He stumbled deeper into the house, letting his hands trail over the walls, over the strange objects placed haphazardly throughout the den, surprised when some of it was soft to his touch, some of it cold.
When his feet suddenly made contact with unexpectedly fluffy ground, he almost tripped over himself. Looking down he noticed a differently colored square covering the floor, wondering why it was there, hoping he hadn’t broken or hurt it.
Quickly stepping back onto solid ground, he edged around the fluffy square, careful not to touch it.
Keeping his eyes fixed on the ground and looking out for more squares, he ran into something—a large construction filled with cube-like objects, one of them falling out and landing with a loud, hollow thump on the floor.
Stiles froze in shock.
Poseidon’s trident !
Surely the wolf must have heard that, he thought in panic, and listened for any sounds indicating that somebody was waking up somewhere in the den.
But nothing moved.
Seconds trickled by and Stiles hardly dared to breathe, but when nothing happened and nobody tried to eat him, he started to relax a little.
For a moment he just observed his surroundings, trying to figure out how to navigate safely through the den. It was obvious that his wolf was somewhere else in the house, and he could spot several open passages and more doors. He would just try these and see whether the wolf was sleeping behind one of them.
Carefully edging forward he frantically kept looking out for more obstacles but now that he had realized how precarious it was to walk like landfolk it was easier to manage. His respect for these creatures certainly grew by the minute. Navigating rocks and swarms of fish was definitely less hazardous than this.
Taking deep, calming lungfuls of air, Stiles managed to make it to the first passage leading into another part of the house. But sadly his wolf was nowhere to be found and there was no other way in or out of there, so he turned around and carefully made his way to the second passage. This one resembled those dark tunnels he sometimes liked to hide and sleep in, and sported a couple of closed doors.
When he tried to slide them open, however, they wouldn’t move one bit.
Biting his bottom lip in frustration he tried to use more strength, leaning all of his weight against the latch in the hopes it would then finally slide open.
But it didn’t budge.
“Oh for the love of plankton,” he cursed under his breath and glared at the door.
Then he just grabbed the latch and rattled at it. When he shook the thing particularly hard, he accidentally pushed it down and for the second it took the door to spring open, Stiles thought he’d broken something else. Stumbling backwards from the now open door, he slowly realized what had happened.
Stiles frowned as he stepped closer to the door once more and wondered why landfolk had different ways of opening doors.
That was just completely stupid.
His bare feet touched smooth, shockingly cold ground all of a sudden and he couldn’t suppress an alarmed hiss. It wasn’t so much that he didn’t like the cold, in fact, being a merman, cold water was his natural habitat; he just had not expected to encounter cold ground so suddenly.
When his wildly beating heart had calmed down a little, he was able to inspect this newly discovered part of the house. It was empty, no wolf to be found, and less cluttered than the other room.
Even though he was dying to discover all the little things hidden away, he just had to see his wolf first. That was why he’d come here, what he needed to do if he wanted to return to the silent, lonely depths of the lake. Maybe if he could just see the wolf up close one time, he’d be able to take his isolation another couple of weeks, months even.
Turning away from the strange room, he quickly inspected the remaining parts of the house, now that he knew how to open doors. One of them, however, just would not open no matter what he tried, and when he peered through the little hole he noticed on the door, he could see trees behind it and knew instantly that it was another way in and out of the house.
Suddenly, he found himself at a loss.
He had searched everywhere but he had not yet found his wolf.
Feeling dejected, he returned to the room he had entered first, but there was no other passage way branching off into hitherto unknown areas.
He sucked his bottom lip into his mouth and surveyed the room, trying to figure out what to do.
Then, he spotted something he had noticed before merely in passing—a strange mountain made of wood, all sharp angles and smooth surface. It led up and up and Stiles followed its ascent with his eyes right to the top where he caught sight of something else. Along a narrow mountain pass more doors could be found.
He made his way to the foot of the mountain and peered up once more.
This appeared to be an impossible task, seeing as he’d barely managed to figure out how to walk.
It was very clever, he thought, having a mountain in one’s home to make sure unwanted guests didn’t manage to reach one’s sleeping-place.
Steeling his resolve and scraping up every last bit of energy he could manage, he started climbing that mountain.
The second time of nearly tripping and crashing back down, he used his hands and knees to have better purchase. Praying to Poseidon, he hoped he would survive this climb.
After what seemed like panic-filled hours, he finally made it to the top. Collapsing in an undignified heap, he briefly kissed the ground and promised himself to never do anything like that ever again.
Trying to catching his breath and ignoring the burning sensation that had started assaulting his legs some time ago, he cursed this walking business in his head. What had he been thinking. This was torture.
His legs felt like jelly fish— burning jelly fish—and he wasn’t sure whether he could continue his journey. Stretching his legs, Stiles pressed his flushed cheek against the cool floor and gazed longingly at the closest door.
He really wanted to finally get a good look at his wolf.
Giving up now would be stupid, he told himself, after all the way he had traveled already.
Biting back a frustrated groan, he got back to his feet as quietly as he could in fear of waking the sleeping werewolf who had to be behind the four closed doors that remained. Deciding to start with the one of his right, he quickly stumbled forward and nearly faceplanted.
Grabbing the construction that made sure nobody fell off the mountain pass, he managed to stay upright.
Centering himself with a deep breath he silently crept towards the door and pushed it open, inch after inch. When the gap was big enough, he slipped through, ready to take a quick look before investigating the rest of the house.
But there was no need for that.
Because his wolf was right there, his sleeping form illuminated by the moonlight streaming in from the large pane of glass making up one side of the room.
His pulse quickened and he could do nothing but stare.
Then, as if in trance, he slid closer, never taking his eyes off the wolf, who was still fast asleep. The sight of him was simply breathtaking—bare chest perceptibly rising and falling, limbs tangled up in soft sheets.
Stiles didn’t exactly form the conscious decision to throw caution to the wind, he simply couldn’t resist stepping even closer and gingerly climbed onto the sagging platform the wolf slept on. It was difficult to find his balance at first, but he was determined to move as close to his wolf as possible without waking him.
Kneeling next to the man he had been watching for three weeks, he didn’t quite know what to do other than stare greedily at his face. His wolf was incredibly handsome, something he had not noticed as clearly before, but it was undeniable; hair in gentle disray, dark eyelashes fluttering animatedly against high cheekbones, strong jaw noticeably clenched shut.
Stiles frowned and wondered whether the wolf was having a bad dream.
He strained to touch, trail his fingers across smooth temples and stroke smooth-skinned cheeks, scratch blunt nails through the wolf’s beard.
He flexed his hand and tried his best not to do anything stupid. If he touched the wolf—Poseidon only knew what would happen.
He let his longing gaze drop down to man’s torso, his eyes falling halfway shut as he dragged them lazily over well-defined pecs. His cheeks flushed as the desire to touch hit him hard and made his fingers tremble with the need to run them through the wolf’s chest hair.
As if he were able to sense Stiles’ filthy yearning, the man’s breathing picked up.
But no, as Stiles glanced at his face, he could see that the wolf was definitely caught in a nightmare.
Wetting his lips, Stiles wondered if it was possible to ease the wolf’s sleep without touching him.
Should he sing the song his mom had always sung when Stiles had been unable to fall asleep? But that would surely only serve to wake the wolf.
Maybe he should just leave and hope it would get better without his help?
Lost in thought, he didn’t notice how the wolf’s body grew tense like a coiled-up spring.
Suddenly, out of nowhere, the wolf sat up with a gasp.
Letting out an alarmed yelp, Stiles reeled back and toppled off the bed, landing in a heap on the floor, his fins trapped painfully between his body and the hard ground.
Dread settled low in his gut as he heard his wolf let out a deep, guttural growl and he knew that this was the day he would die.
The fire was everywhere, he could feel it lick his skin and turn the world to ash — all around him his pack was screaming, the sheer agony of it drowning out the roar of the flames as the consumed everything, everything.
Trapped, trapped and burning, he couldn’t escape, there was no way out, not here, not this time — he opened his mouth to scream, too, but ash and wolf’s bane choked him until he had no voice left, no air in his lungs.
Then, slowly, almost imperceptibly, the faint scent of seaweed and lake water penetrated his senses. So slowly, that he didn’t notice at first, was feeling his clothes catch fire, was burning, until, until —
A gentle breeze rippled over the flames like gentle waves on a pond; it brought the scent of seaweed with it, stronger now, smoothing the pain in his body, his mind.
He turned his head and listened, but the roar of the fire was muted, now. Instead he could hear the gentle sound of water lapping against stone, the murmur of the sea.
But the Hale den wasn’t anywhere near the sea, he thought, and looked around the room. There was no fire now, no pack succumbing to excruciating pain. Only dark shadows and burned-to-cinder remnants of his home.
The smell grew distractingly strong now, and finally--
Peter suddenly woke up from his nightmares, sitting up in his bed, gasping, a silent scream imprisoned in his raw throat.
There was somebody next to him on the bed who now shrieked and fell off backwards and Peter couldn’t help but let out a deep, threatening snarl, furious that he had not sensed this intruder before they had reached his bedroom.
Jumping after the imminent threat, he pinned them firmly to the floor, claws digging into the soft skin of human wrists, his teeth hovering mere inches over a pulsing jugular.
Only when he instinctively knew that he had gained the upper hand, his night-time assailant completely at his mercy, did his rage recede to allow reason back in.
The first thing he noticed about the intruder is the scent of lake clinging to him like a second skin—the scent that had crept into his nightmare.
The second thing he noticed; a frantic heartbeat and gasping breaths.
“ Pleasedon’teatmepleasedon’teatmepleasedon’teatme ,” the intruder chanted desperately.
Intrigued, Peter leaned back—just enough that ripping out the fellow’s throat was still a viable option—and peered down at the boy caught in his claws.
But it wasn’t a boy, not a human boy in any case, skin too pale but sporting dark-gray accents, patches of iridescent scales dotting his torso and arms, fins adorning his long, pointy ears. No, Peter realized, this was not a human boy, but a merman.
A merman .
Slowly his heartbeat started to calm down when he realized that this boy wasn’t a threat.
“I won’t eat you,” he drawled in dark amusement, still pinning the creature to his bedroom floor.
Unless you ask me to , he added mentally, dragging his hooded gaze lazily over the boy’s captivating features—his pouty lips, the strong jaw, and whiskey-colored eyes framed by thick lashes. Oh, just ask me to .
“Oh, thank the tides , for a second there I thought it was over, goodbye world, no more Stiles,” the merman started to babble. “But really, thank you for not eating me, Mr. Wolf, I totally wasn’t trying to attack you, really, I promise; I know how this looks, but, I just saw you move into the house and I was curious and wanted to know who I’d be sharing my lake with and I just had to--”
And somewhere during that word vomit the absurdity of the situation hit Peter like a freight train—there really was a merman in his bedroom, a creature that should be nothing more than a story, and on top of that, this particular merman wasn’t a viciously beautiful vision, luring people into the waters, no, he was more like a teenager on crack.
He couldn’t help it, he sat back on his heels just as slightly hysterical laughter bubbled out of him, and then it was just over—he laughed and laughed, and just looking at this impossible creatures splayed out on the floor in front of him added unintentional hilarity.
“--figure out if you’d hunt me and-- holy Kraken tentacles --”
Peter’s sides ached and he felt tears gather in the corners of his eyes and Peter couldn’t remember the last time he had laughed like that.
“--oh no, I broke you, didn’t I? Cornering you was too much, you’ve gone crazy, shit, I am so so sorry, oh no, what do I do, what do I-- stop laughing !!”
Peter dragged his palm over his face to swipe away the tears and tried to get a hold of himself. He continued to giggle helplessly.
“Stop, okay, I’m serious, you need to stop, like, right now,” continued the merman from his position on the floor. “Seriously, my fins are killing me!”
At that, Peter stopped giggling.
A sense of elevated calm followed in the wake of his outburst, leaving him strangely light-headed. He looked down at the merman, detached, observing, and finally noticed the fins peeking out from underneath the boy’s back. Suppressing a sympathetic grimace, Peter finally moved off the creature and grabbed his forearm in a firm grip, dragged him with him until they were both upright on their feet.
“Ow, ow, fuck, ow,” hissed the merman under his breath and shook his limbs.
When the creature twisted around, trying to look at his own back somehow, Peter realized for the first time that the kid was completely naked. Mentally smacking himself for being such an unobservant idiot, he finally shook off the last lingering tendrils of his dreams and stretched his senses like he’d become used to, out here, making sure there were no other dangers lurking, no unpleasant surprises waiting to jump him when he was too occupied to notice.
“What’s your name,” he asked, his voice a bit too husky, and flickered his gaze unabashedly all over the boy’s well-defined body.
The merman redirected his attention to Peter and blinked at him, eyes showing depths that Peter longed to explore.
“Stiles,” he simply stated, starting to look a bit weary.
“Mhhhm, interesting,” Peter murmured and shamelessly invaded the boy’s personal space, trailing his hands over that delicious neck where he could now make out what had to be gills hidden away under translucent skin.
The merman flinched and angled his head out of Peter’s reach, but the wolf just touched the other side of the boy’s neck, eliciting a full-body shiver.
“ Gnn ,” the boy moaned and tried to move away from Peter’s hands.
Fascinated, Peter touched the fins on Stiles’ ears, then the ones on his back.
“ Cut it out ,” the boy hissed, all breathless and flushed a pretty, dark shade of red.
“I apologize,” Peter offered, only half sincere, with a low, amused chuckle. He couldn’t take his eyes off this mesmerizing creature, and as he was done circling him at a languid pace, having watched the subtle play of muscles in the boy’s back, his ass, he came to a halt in front of Stiles, now blatantly staring at his crotch, the half-hard cock.
Perfect , he thought and smirked in smug satisfaction.
Stiles glared at him and blushed even more furiously as he realized what Peter was looking at, and made a protesting noise in his throat.
“What’s your name, anyway, Mr. Wolf,” the kid asked, obviously trying to change the subject.
“Peter,” he replied after a long moment of just looking at Stiles.
“What a weirdo name,” the kid mused and scrunched up his nose.
Peter snorted and couldn’t help but wonder if ‘Stiles’ was a perfectly normal name for a merman. Quite frankly, there was little about the supernatural he didn’t know, he prided himself on his knowledge of even the most obscure of resources—which was exactly what had helped him survive in the past. The possibly endless knowledge he would be able to gain just by befriending this creature… it sent shivers of anticipation down his spine and made his mouth water.
This was just what he needed.
“While your current tail is very impressive,” Peter remarked with another filthy smirk, and nodded at Stiles’ crotch, “I’d rather see your real one.”
Stiles spluttered in indignation but before he could do so much as protest, Peter grabbed his wrist and dragged him out of his bedroom. He didn’t really care if the merman wanted to show him this side of himself—the kid had broken into his house in the middle of the night, and on top of that knew that he was a werewolf. He had to have watched him from afar at least for days.
Quid pro quo was a philosophy he wholeheartedly lived by.
Before they reached the stairs, Peter noticed how unsteady Stiles seemed to be, how stumbling and jerky his movements. He wondered whether the boy got to do this much, use his legs instead of his tail.
He slowed down and kept an eye out, descending the stairs as slowly as he could. He didn’t want the kid to break his neck, not when he wasn’t the one doing the breaking. And that just seemed like a giant waste of perfectly pretty companions.
When they both finally managed to make it safely downstairs, a process made highly amusing to Peter by Stiles’ whining comments about landfolk having freaking mountains in their houses, the wolf led the young merman outside, feeling a little bit like a child on Christmas.
He was about to see a real merman.
They reached the lake, it’s water gently flowing around their bare feet, but for some reason, Stiles seemed to hesitate.
Peter waited patiently and was eventually rewarded with an explanation of sorts.
“It’s actually forbidden to shift,” Stiles admitted nervously, and Peter cast a searching look across the vast surface of the lake.
He couldn’t help but mull this over in his head, this merman who’d broken the law just to see him, and it was a rush. A rush of power, of emotion.
After the fire, his pack, his Alpha , had abandoned him, had left him checked into a hospital under his real name—any stray hunter could have just wandered in and killed him off. He understood, intellectually, why Laura and Derek had left Beacon Hills, understood even better after learning the circumstances surrounding the fire, but he had needed his pack and they had abandoned him at a point where he had been unable to protect himself. That loss of control and security, and yes, power, he would never be able to forgive.
And here was this impossible creature, this stuff of bedtime stories, who, out of sheer curiosity, defied his entire species. For him.
“What will your people do when they find out,” he asked after a moment’s consideration, because he had learned early on that this kind of information was a vital instrument in guaranteeing one’s continued existence.
Stiles, who had no idea what was going on inside of Peter’s head, looked at him with an unprecedented expression of solemnity.
“Merfolk doesn’t dwell in these parts,” the boy said, his voice deeper, more mature than before.
And that struck a chord, didn’t it, a lone wolf and a lone merman. But, so Peter figured, this was probably for the best. He did not intend to lose sight of this creature ever again and having to deal with an entire society that prohibited the very foundation of his desire would definitely put a spoke in his wheel, as it were.
But instead of waiting for Peter to reply, or show sympathy, Stiles turned around and waded into the lake until the water reached his hips.
Fascinated, Peter stepped closer, felt the ice-cold water soak his sweatpants, and watched as Stiles’ body tensed, watched his shoulders grow taut, his arms, listened to a rapidly quickening heartbeat, a gasp, sensed the pain when it hit and watched, mesmerized, as Stiles’ suddenly lost his secure footing and started to move with the waves, his body seemingly becoming one with the motions of the lake.
Throwing a quick, cheeky smirk over his shoulder, Stiles dived into the water—one graceful arch that showed off his shimmering tail—and disappeared from sight.
Breathless with wonder, Peter waited for Stiles to resurface—but the merman didn’t.
Rolling his eyes and feeling long-forgotten boyish excitement course through his veins, Peter shucked off his sweatpants and followed the refreshingly brazen merman into the depths of the lake.