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Love Thy Neighbour

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About two weeks after the whole showdown against Gerard, not to mention the Romeo and Juliet rendition starring Jackson and Lydia, someone moves in to the empty apartment unit next to his. Stiles doesn't really give it much thought; he’s never been the Welcome! Here’s your casserole! type, and he’s far too busy eating the handful of books that he managed to beg off Deaton for breakfast, lunch, and dinner to care.

 

For starters, there are a lot of rune combinations and spells and herbal concoctions to go through, all of them useful, and all of them interesting, which also means – triply so – all of them worth learning. He’s already carved sigils for concealing scents and sounds from the outside into the frames of his front door and windows, as well as runes for wards that prevent supernatural creatures from entering his home unless explicitly invited inside by Stiles. Both were things he looked up and learned first because that Alpha Pack does not sound remotely like good news, and Stiles would rather not have them busting down his door to get to him for whatever twisted reason they have in mind.

 

One abduction/torture session was more than enough, and he’s no one’s damsel in distress. If he has to teach himself the intricate art of magic to protect himself because Hogwarts never deigned to send a letter, so be it.

 

So he really can’t be blamed for not taking much notice of a new neighbour who moves in while he’s at school. The only reason he knows that someone’s there at all is because the light is switched on when he passes by to get to his own home. People come and go all the time from the complex, and Stiles has more dangerous people to keep an eye on than his fellow apartment dwellers.

 

On hindsight, no he really doesn't.

 

“Following me home now? I didn't think you missed me that much.”

 

Stiles stares. And stares some more. The smirking figure of Peter Hale, arms crossed, blue eyes cold, and hip leaning against the railing outside 303, does not go away.

 

“What are you doing here?” Stiles blurts out, flailing a little in horror because how the hell did the resident undead werewolf manage to track him back here? Stiles even desecrated his precious jeep with runes just so people who want to do him harm would find themselves distracted by other things if they try to follow him while he’s driving around town.

 

Peter cocks an eyebrow. “I should be asking you that. You're not very good at tailing people, are you? Although considering the fact that I just moved in three days ago, I do commend you for finding me so quickly. Not even Derek knows where I live now.”

 

Stiles actually has to mouth all those words back to himself to force his brain to digest them, mostly because – by this point – at least three-quarters of his higher mental functions are currently being delegated to computing the sheer tidal wave of this cannot be happening that comes with everything Peter just said.

 

“Oh my god,” He finally says, feeling rather faint. “What- Why- I must've slaughtered a monastery in my last life to deserve this- this cruel and unusual punishment!”

 

The wall is looking very appealing for banging his head against. His new neighbour is a certified murderer who can sprout fangs and claws at a moment's notice. He can’t even go home now without bringing the supernatural to his doorstep.

 

When he focuses on Peter again, he notes that the man’s eyes have thawed just a little as a touch of puzzlement enters his expression instead like he’s just now realizing that Stiles didn't follow him home.

 

Stiles heaves a sigh of defeat. Well, at least he’s already warded his apartment. Small mercies.

 

He digs into his bag even as he marches past Peter and stops in front of 304. “I wasn't stalking you, creeperwolf,” He throws over his shoulder. “I'm pretty sure you and Derek have that market cornered.” He pulls out his keys with a dramatic flourish and waves them in the air before moving to unlock his door. “I live here, genius.”

 

He pushes open the door, and despite the situation, he has to smirk to himself when he catches a glimpse of the stunned expression on Peter’s face.

 

He sticks his head back out for one last parting shot, “If you happen to have a problem with this, and please, do have a problem with this, feel free to vacate the building at your earliest convenience, preferably to someplace far, far away from here. Don’t worry; you won’t hurt my feelings.”

 

And with that said, Stiles ducks inside and slams the door behind him, locking it for good measure before sliding down to sit on the floor.

 

His life is just one big circus act, isn’t it? And somewhere upstairs, somebody is having a laugh at his expense; he just knows it.

 


 

 

Stiles throws together a makeshift dinner of sandwiches, finishes up an English essay, reviews for his Chemistry test, and then throws himself into more research on various strains of wolfsbane until he conks out at four in the morning. Two and a half hours later, he’s scrambling through his morning routine before rushing out the door within thirty minutes.

 

303 is silent and dark but Stiles doesn't give it more than a fleeting glance as he passes by. It’s too early to concern himself with Peter, and he has his newspaper route to complete.

 

When he returns forty-five minutes later, it’s just his luck that Peter seems to be coming back from retrieving his own newspaper from the daily delivery stacked in the lobby. They bump into each other at the bottom of the stairwell that leads up to the third floor, and – after eyeing each other guardedly for a moment – Peter smirks and sweeps an arm out in a courteous gesture for Stiles to go first.

 

Stiles scoffs but doesn't argue as he starts up the stairs. He has to shower and change, and generally get ready for another monotonous day at the local institute of learning.

 

His phone vibrates with an incoming call. When he sees his best friend on the caller ID, he has a strong suspicion as to what this will be about. “Hey, Sco-”

 

“Stiles!” Stiles winces and yanks the cell away from his ear. “We have a Chemistry test today!”

 

Stiles cannot help but snort. “Yeah, Scott, I'm aware, and you should be too, considering the fact that I reminded you about it a week ago.”

 

“You did? Well I forgot about it, and it’s Harris, dude, his tests are always super hard, and I don’t even know what this one’s about. What do I do?!”

 

Stiles sighs as he rounds onto the second-floor landing. “Alright, look, calm down, first of all. I’ll meet you at the library in... twenty minutes and go over everything with you, okay? I’ll show you the sections that you absolutely have to know, and with any luck, you’ll get a passing grade. Actually, scratch that, you have to get a passing grade. You're already failing English and Math; you can’t flunk Chemistry too. Not even Coach will be allowed to let you stay on the team no matter how good you are, understand?”

 

“I know, I know, I’ll do better. Twenty minutes? That long? I'm already at school!”

 

“That’s a first,” Stiles mutters as he finally reaches the third floor. Louder, he continues over Scott’s splutter, “Some of us need to earn a living if we don’t want to starve to death, Scott. I just finished my paper route; I need to grab a shower first. I’ll see you in twenty.”

 

He hangs up as he hurries towards his apartment. Honestly, sometimes he feels like Scott’s babysitter.

 

He glances back once just before he disappears inside. Peter’s still watching him with shrewd curiosity even as he pulls out his own keys.

 

“Have a lovely morning, Stiles,” The werewolf offers, and Stiles doesn't need ears to detect the mockery in his voice.

 

He huffs with annoyance. “After seeing you?” He grumbles as he heads inside. “Too late.”

 


 

 

When it becomes quite clear that Peter isn’t going anywhere, Stiles is determined to simply ignore the man’s presence, and tighten the wards surrounding his home. It isn’t like Peter’s going out of his way to talk to Stiles to begin with, so even if they do come across each other in the mornings five days out of seven, or – after a meeting at the new loft Derek bought – they end up more or less driving beside each other all the way back to the apartment complex, they don’t really talk besides the occasional snarky barb.

 

It works, and even though he never forgets that Peter’s now living next door to him, he becomes a little more accustomed to it, and he’s even fine with returning the greeting when the werewolf starts bidding him a “Good morning, Stiles.” whenever they see each other in the early hours of the day, and another “Goodnight, Stiles.” If they happen to get home at the same time. Six weeks in, it gets to the point where Stiles is actually okay with the arrangement so long as Peter doesn't try anything.

 

So really, considering that it’s Peter, he should've known that the status quo wouldn't last.

 


 

 

“Why do you live alone?” Peter enquires one evening once Stiles returns from a nearby bakery that tends to hire him for a day or two every few weeks. Stiles is an excellent baker if he does say so himself, and money’s money.

 

Today ran late though, seeing as the bakery needed extra hands to prepare the orders for an upcoming wedding, so it’s a bit of a surprise to see Peter sitting on the top step of the third-floor landing at ten-thirty at night, ostensibly waiting for Stiles to get back.

 

Stiles squints blearily at him. He’s been working since three-thirty in the afternoon, non-stop just like everyone else at the bakery, and the hours were a blur of measuring, mixing, stirring, and so on and so forth, and then rinse and repeat. At least the icing bit was fun from beginning to end, what with the intricate designs required.

 

Still, he’s exhausted, and maybe that’s why he answers without deflecting like he normally would.

 

“My parents are dead,” He mumbles, climbing the last few steps and slipping past Peter. “No living relatives. I applied for emancipation and got it.”

 

His stomach gurgles a complaint, and Stiles makes a face at nothing in particular. Damn it, he’s starving, but he’s also too tired to cook anything, and he has a chapter of Econ to read before he can go to bed.

 

“I have Chinese takeout,” Peter calls from behind him, and it takes a moment for Stiles to register the implication before he whirls around and pins the werewolf with a look of disbelief.

 

“Are you inviting me over for dinner?” Stiles asks dubiously.

 

Peter shrugs, the epitome of laidback nonchalance. “Well, seeing as you look about ready to collapse, I can take an educated guess and say that you're not planning to eat anything tonight if left to your own devices. Fortunately for you, I ordered in, and the food arrived only five minutes ago. Your choice.”

 

Stiles raises a skeptical eyebrow. “Uh-huh, and if I just happen to come down with a case of food poisoning?”

 

Peter does a very bad job at smiling innocently. He misses by a mile. “Then we’ll both know to never eat anything from that particular restaurant ever again.”

 

Stiles has to roll his eyes, but, well, Chinese does sound good right about now. Still... “Thanks, I think, but I’ll pass-”

 

His stomach growls. Loudly. Stiles flushes red.

 

Peter smirks with amusement and opens his door. “It’s free food, Stiles. Yes or no?”

 

Stiles bites the inside of his cheek. He can smell the sweet and sour pork from here.

 

No, no, no-

 

“Sure, why not?” His traitorous mouth agrees.

 

Peter smiles, pleased and triumphant. That expression really should worry Stiles more, but what the hell, if he’s gonna die tonight, at least he’ll die on a full stomach.

 


 

 

Well, he doesn't die. But he does fall asleep on Peter’s couch about a minute and a half after they finish a quiet dinner, and before Stiles knows it, Peter is shaking him awake (and scaring the crap out of him in the process), the first rays of dawn are peeking in through the curtains, and Stiles topples off the couch in a heap of limbs and blankets.

 

“I hope you don’t wake up like that every day,” Peter remarks dryly as he watches Stiles pick himself up off the floor.

 

“I- You startled me!” Stiles says defensively, rubbing the sleep out of his eyes as yesterday night trickles back to the forefront of his mind. “Jesus, what time is it?”

 

“Just past six-fifteen,” Peter tells him, and Stiles notices that the man is wearing pajama pants and a shirt (which does nothing to hide his perfect physique, and Stiles will look away right now), and his hair is still somewhat sleep-mussed. “I didn't know what time you had to start work so I thought I’d wake you up early.”

 

“Yeah, this is- this is about right,” Stiles nods, stretching languidly before looking around for his bag and phone. “I usually get up at around six-thirty for my paper route.” He grabs his belongings but stalls awkwardly by the couch. “I- Thanks for dinner. And letting me stay. You could've just woken me up, you know.”

 

Peter waves a dismissive hand. “You looked exhausted, Stiles. What kind of heartless soul would I be if I had woken you up just to kick you out?”

 

“I’d say exactly your kind of soul but...” Stiles quirks a wry smile as he bends down to retrieve the blankets and at least drop them back on the couch. “Thanks, dude. I’ll see you around, I guess.”

 

He can feel his ears heating up so he makes a hasty retreat, scurrying for the door without making it look like he’s scurrying anywhere, and it isn’t until he’s back in the safety of his own apartment that he stops to take a breath and wonder what the hell Peter thinks he’s playing at.

 


 

 

Immediately after that, the Alpha Pack makes their move, Cora Hale appears alive if not entirely well, and Scott goes off with Deucalion and comes back a True Alpha. Stiles spends his time running around trying to keep everyone alive, and in-between all that, plus school, plus research, plus his multiple odd jobs, he and Peter don’t really get to go home to their respective apartment units since they're too busy pulling all-nighters at Derek’s loft trying to figure shit out.

 

By the time the intruding Alphas are either dead or not attempting to kill them all anymore, Derek is no longer Alpha, Scott is now the Alpha of Beacon Hills, and Stiles feels like he’s aged a million years after fighting against all the death and chaos that never seem to be able to leave Beacon Hills well enough alone these days.

 


 

 

“Dude, where’s your car?” Stiles asks as he and Peter leave the loft after one last pack meeting just to conclude the latest disaster to hit Beacon Hills.

 

Peter shrugs, and for once, he looks as bone-weary as Stiles feels. Beacon Hills seems to drain everyone these days, taking a little more fight out of them – a little more life – with every close shave. They do an alright job of protecting the town from the supernatural, in Stiles’ opinion, but it’s taking its toll on all of them. Two of their numbers are already dead.

 

“I ran to the hospital, hitched a ride with that ambulance, and haven’t been home since,” Peter mutters as they step out into the night.

 

Neither has Stiles but he did drive his jeep over to the loft early on, and then forgot it in the parking lot as he was running madly around after supernatural creatures, both allies and enemies.

 

“Come on, I’ll give you a lift,” Stiles suggests, already striding towards his car. He senses more than hears Peter following him.

 

The ride home is silent, but it’s a comfortable sort. They're used to each other now after all the times they've put their heads together and poured over tome after tome, looking for answers and solutions and ways to fight back, and after seeing Peter pull his own weight against the Alpha Pack, Stiles is a lot more inclined to trust him these days than at the beginning. That’s not to say Peter isn’t still a manipulative sassy bastard but Stiles suspects that that’s just his default setting. It’s kind of his too when it comes down to it. Their senses of humour at least are strangely similar, and Peter – as Stiles soon realized – is the only one in their circle who can keep up with Stiles when he gets leaps of insight or goes off on a tangent in the middle of research, and is also the only one who can and is willing to match him in a verbal spar.

 

Of course, Stiles has seen Scott and even Derek giving them sideways looks whenever they get into a debate about some obscure fact one of them found, or when they snipe at each other just for the heck of it, but neither of them have said anything, and Stiles doesn't care enough to confront them about it.

 

“I owe you dinner,” Stiles brings up out of the blue once they're halfway up the stairs. “From way back when.” He fiddles with his phone to hide his sudden nervousness. “If you... wanna come over, I can make pasta. I make a mean pasta.”

 

He gnaws on his bottom lip for a second before glancing up at Peter. The werewolf is smiling faintly at him.

 

“Well,” Peter inclines his head. “How can I possibly turn down such a tempting offer?”

 

Stiles snorts but grins anyway, and they bypass 303 in favour of 304. “Oh, wait.” He turns, snagging Peter’s arm before concentrating on thoughts of welcome and acceptance and consent, and then he tugs the werewolf over the threshold. There isn’t any resistance.

 

Peter blinks, peering back at the doorway. “You have wards up,” He sounds impressed, and when he turns back, there’s a gleam in his eyes that sends a shiver down Stiles’ spine.

 

“Yup,” He focuses on ushering Peter further into his home. “Gotta protect myself from all the things that go I'm-gonna-kill-you in the night. I'm trying to figure out how to expand it to include humans too. I mean what if hunters show up at my door and try to kidnap me again?”

 

“I’d rip their throats out,” Peter states easily as he takes a seat at the dining table, not batting an eye when Stiles gapes at him a bit upon hearing that – admittedly characteristic – declaration. He tilts his head, studying Stiles intently. “‘Again’?”

 

“Oh,” Stiles shakes his head, reaching into a cupboard for a few glasses. “Uh, back when you’d just risen from the dead, or around that time anyway, Gerard sent some hunters to abduct me, and then he beat me up as a warning to Scott. My pride’s never been the same since getting smacked around by a geriatric.”

 

“Gerard may have been getting on in years but by no means does that make him any less dangerous,” Peter says calmly. Maybe too calmly. “Scott never did get that message, did he?”

 

Stiles scoffs at this, setting a glass of water down in front of Peter. “Are you kidding? He had enough on his plate, and I wasn't gonna give Gerard the satisfaction of seeing any of his plans work out the way he wanted them to. Besides, it wasn't that bad. The injuries were healed within a few weeks, and in the greater scheme of things, it wasn't all that important.”

 

That whole debacle still leaves a bitter taste in his mouth. Jackson’s a grade-A douche, and Lydia still went running back to him. Sure, Stiles has always been more or less resigned to the fact that there will never be a him-and-Lydia no matter what he tells the world (he admires Lydia and her intelligence but he isn’t so pathetic as to want to spend the rest of his life trying to live up to her standards and be someone he can’t be), but he still thinks that she can do a hell of a lot better than Jackson Whittemore, better than Aiden, especially since Lydia’s an actual friend now and Stiles is even more protective of her than before.

 

“It was important,” Peter interjects, interrupting his train of thought.

 

Stiles blinks in confusion. “What?”

 

“You were injured,” Peter clarifies, taking a sip of water. “It was important.”

 

Stiles stares stupidly at the man for a long moment before wheeling around to hide his face. He busies himself for a while with pots and pans and the fridge, setting out the things he needs to get started on dinner.

 

He doesn't understand Peter sometimes. Actually, whenever he really thinks about it, about this... arrangement of theirs, he doesn't understand Peter at all. The man’s thirty-something, and Stiles knows for a fact that if he isn’t alone in his apartment or fighting off bad guys these days, then he spends most of his time with Stiles, who’s seventeen, was responsible for setting him on fire, and can’t take a hint to stop whenever his sarcasm begins cutting too deep (he’s always taking a shot at Isaac, and he knows it makes him come off as an unsympathetic asshole, but it’s just how Stiles is, not to mention the dude’s been taking up more and more of Scott’s time since they met; it should count for something that – if Isaac is ever in danger – Stiles would do his best to save him).

 

So he doesn't know what Peter’s angle is here, and he wants to know if only so that he can brace himself for the fallout when it all comes to a train wreck of an end because that is how everything in Stiles’ life ends.

 

“This’ll take a while,” Stiles eventually says without turning from the stove. “Feel free to poke around if you want. There’s nothing too valuable around here worth hiding.”

 

He studiously pretends not to feel Peter’s gaze drilling holes into his back but he does breathe a sigh of relief when the werewolf slips out of the room without further comment.

 

Half an hour later, dinner’s ready, and Stiles finds Peter in the guest-bedroom-turned-workshop, examining the many figurines lined up on the shelves.

 

Stiles is determined not to feel self-conscious.

 

“I thought you’d be in the study,” He says as he steps up to stand beside Peter. “What with Deaton’s books and my notes all in there.”

 

Peter hums absently, fingers hovering over a wooden statue of a wolf in mid-leap, but not touching. “This is more interesting. You made these?”

 

“A guy’s gotta earn a living somehow,” Stiles shrugs, running a critical eye over the wolf. It’s one of his better works, meticulously detailed down to the last line of fur. “And part-time jobs are all well and good but I need a steady income just as much as the next person. I sell most of my pieces online, but once a month, I also take a few of these down to an arts and crafts store I know that’s willing to display and sell them for me for a cut of the profit. People seem to like them so I make pretty good money from this line of work.” He quirks a grin and tacks on, “You can pick them up if you want a closer look.”

 

Peter doesn't waste time, scooping up the wolf, but he handles it carefully like it’s a priceless work of art, thumb tracing the figurine’s snout and tiny sharp teeth.

 

“It’s beautiful,” Peter commends, and Stiles reddens with a mix of pride and embarrassment.

 

“They're pretty good,” Stiles agrees, rocking back on his heels as he looks over the other statues – bears and dolphins, tigers and even a phoenix that took twelve weeks to perfect each every feather. He’s going for a dragon next, a project on par with the phoenix. “But my dad was better. He was the one who taught me.”

 

A gut-wrenching surge of grief rolls over him before he can tamp it down and shunt it to the back of his head again, and – involuntarily – his eyes are drawn to the three picture frames gathering dust on a cabinet in one corner of the room. He leaves them out but he doesn't go near them. Most days, he doesn't even look at them. He doesn't know why he doesn't pack them away.

 

“That’s your family?”

 

Stiles stiffens at the question, but he trails after Peter when the werewolf drifts over to the photos. “Um, yeah, they're...” He trails off for a few seconds, watching Peter take in the various people frozen in time, and then the words bubble up, unbidden.

 

“That’s my grandma,” He points to the elegantly poised woman in the family picture. Stiles – still a toddler – is sitting in her lap. “She died when I was four, of old age, so I don’t really remember her that well.”

 

The second picture is of Stiles and his parents, and the third excludes his mom but includes his extended family.

 

“That’s my mom,” Stiles introduces next, gesturing at the beautiful woman with sleek brown hair and an open smile, expression warm as sunshine. “She taught me how to cook and bake and fix a car. They were our mother-son bonding activities.” His jaw clenches. “She died when I was eight. Cancer.”

 

He goes quiet for a while. Peter doesn't interrupt, patient as time beside him.

 

“After- Afterwards,” He eventually continues. “My aunt and uncle, and their daughter-” He points them out, rather needlessly, a man with a steely-eyed stare but a gentle smile, a woman who could be his mother’s twin, and a little girl of five. “-moved to Beacon Hills as, you know, familial support. And they figured it would be nice for me and Vee – er, Vaneza I mean; she said that since I had a nickname, she wanted one too, and she wouldn't answer unless we called her Vee – anyway, our parents thought we could grow up together.” Stiles smiles, bittersweet and wistful. “She used to follow me around everywhere like a puppy, and sometimes, she’d cry if she wasn't allowed to sleep with me at night. After she started school here, she always wanted me to drop her off and pick her up.”

 

His smile widens a touch. “It was great, for two years. I mean, we all missed Mom, and Dad drank a lot in the first year after her death, practically bordered on alcoholism until Aunt Lillian finally got fed up with him and told him to pull his shit together or she was gonna take me away. And Aunt Lily was never one to make idle threats. She had a long fuse but when she really got angry, she got Mount Vesuvius angry. Nobody crossed her and got away with it. The rest of the time, she was always optimistic and fun to be around, strict when it came to the house rules but she still spoiled me and Vee whenever she could. Those were... a good two years.”

 

“...What happened two years later?” Peter prompts when Stiles gets lost in his own head for well over a minute.

 

Stiles blinks back into the present, flicking a look at Peter before zeroing in on his uncle. “Uncle Luke... was a fireman.”

 

He glances at the werewolf again, and he sees the light of comprehension dawn in the man’s eyes, swiftly shuttered by skulking shadows borne from smoke and ash. Peter’s always been a little too good at connecting the dots with only a mere hint to guide him.

 

Stiles scrubs a hand through his hair. “He got a transfer to the Beacon Hills fire department, and he was one of the first to arrive on scene when they got the call that the Hale House was on fire. I hear he was part of the team that went inside to try and get- well, get your family out, but part of the ceiling collapsed on him and trapped him there, and he died before more help could arrive.”

 

He pauses. “Vee was- She stopped talking for a month, and you have no idea how disturbing that was. She was a chatterbox so the silence was- unsettling. Worrying. And Aunt Lily didn't start drinking or anything but she was sad, like, all the time, even though she tried to hide it in front of us. Dad was busy taking care of her so I took care of Vee, and... It got better, eventually. Nothing like before but Vee started talking again, went back to school, and Aunt Lily snapped out of her funk for the most part. Life moved on.”

 

Stiles raises a hand and swipes a finger over his little cousin’s face. It comes away grey with dust that he brushes off against his jeans. “A year and a half later, there was a hit-and-run. They made it to the hospital but Aunt Lily died in surgery, and Vee didn't survive twenty-four hours after getting out of the ER.” A savage grin temporarily splits his face. “My dad caught the man who did it; he wasn't even drunk during the accident. And he wasn't sorry, so I made him sorry. Hacking into multiple cameras and files to frame him for a whole bunch of other much more serious crimes on top of the charges for the crash turned out to be pretty easy. The bastard was sentenced to life without parole.”

 

He stops again. On occasion, even now, he doesn't think it was enough. He wants to do worse, always worse. But maybe that’s because he knows that no matter what he does to the culprit, it won’t bring his cousin and aunt back to life. It won’t make things better.

 

Vengeance is empty like that.

 

He looks over at Peter, who’s watching him like he understands completely, and he does, doesn't he?

 

Stiles musters a weak facsimile of a smile that falters before it can fully form. “Revenge doesn't really help, does it?”

 

Peter glances away for a second before looking back, grave and hollow-eyed. “No. No it doesn't.”

 

Stiles’ shoulders slump a little but his voice is brisker when he speaks again, “I still had my dad for a couple more years. He was made Sheriff when I was twelve, a little before Vee and Aunt Lily died, and he held the job until I was fourteen. We used to go fishing together, when Mom was still alive and we all went on camping trips in the summer, and he taught me how to shoot a gun, and-” He jabs a thumb over his shoulder. “-he taught me woodcarving. We both sucked at fishing though.”

 

Peter’s mouth twitches just a little. “Couldn't catch anything?”

 

“Oh we caught plenty,” Stiles assures him. “We just let them all go afterwards. Mom was always exasperated when we returned to the campsite with an empty bucket.”

 

Peter huffs a startled laugh, and it elicits a genuine grin from Stiles in response.

 

“Dad died on the job,” He finishes softly, mirth fading. “Went to work just like any other day, except he never came home. There was a holdup at the bank – the same bank Boyd and Erica and Cora were being held at actually; the bad security was why it closed down – anyway, there was a shooting, and apparently, a stray bullet hit my dad. He bled out before the ambulance could get him to the hospital.”

 

He clears his throat, forces back the irritating sting in his eyes, and takes a step back as if distancing himself from the photos would help him forget.

 

“And that is my entire life story in fifteen minutes,” Stiles announces with fake cheer. “And I have no idea why I told you any of that but I'm sorry for vomiting all of it on you, and I promise I don’t do it often, or at all actually, this is a first, and we should totally just go eat before the food gets stone cold, if it hasn't already.”

 

He swallows hard in the abruptly awkward silence, and he hastily casts about for a change of topic. His gaze lands on the wolf still cradled in Peter’s hands. “Do you- Do you want that? I haven’t posted that one on my website yet so you can have it in exchange for listening to me ramble on and on about really fucking depressing stuff-”

 

“Why do you stay here?” Peter cuts in, distractedly turning the statue over and over in his hands.

 

Stiles blinks, and he can connect the dots too. He scratches at one cheek. “I still have Scott. I mean let’s face it – he’d probably flunk out of high school without me around, and he can’t cook to save his life, so whenever Melissa has to cover an extra shift or something, I usually go over to make dinner for the both of us. He still needs me. Besides,” He glances out the window at the moonlit night sky. “My entire family died here, but they also lived here, and when they were alive, I had everything I ever needed. It wasn't all bad, you know?”

 

He turns back to Peter, tilting his head. “Why do you stay? It’s not like this town is any better for you.”

 

Peter frowns and looks down at the wolf. For a while, it seems like Stiles isn’t going to get an answer, but then, “...This is my home,” The man says at last, raising his head again to meet Stiles’ gaze. His eyes flares an otherworldly blue for a moment, strengthening the already intense look aimed at Stiles. “My Pack is here.”

 

They treat you like shit most of the time, Stiles doesn't say. For once, he bites his tongue and holds back his opinion. Instead, he nods a little, and the subject wordlessly closes as Peter straightens and the atmosphere lightens.

 

“I think I’ll buy this,” Peter lifts the statue, forging on heedlessly when Stiles makes to protest. “I can certainly afford whatever price you name, Stiles. And...” His eyes flicker over Stiles’ shoulder at the shelves. “I’ll probably want a few other pieces as well.”

 

Stiles throws his hands up but his next smile comes with less effort. “Yeah, alright, whatever you want. It’s not like the money’s gonna hurt. But dinner first?”

 

“Of course,” Peter agrees, replacing the wolf before following Stiles out.

 

Dinner is buoyed by lighter conversation, with Peter complimenting the pasta, and then moaning over a chocolate dessert, much to Stiles’ delight because he hasn't gotten a response like that since Scott got used to Stiles always making good food.

 

And this time, it’s Peter who dozes off on the couch, the lines on his face relaxing as his breathing evens out, leaving Stiles to retrieve a blanket and a pillow for the werewolf before cleaning up and retiring to his study to finish up his latest personal Bestiary entry on Alpha werewolves.

 

He falls asleep at his desk, and wakes up early for his paper route per usual, but when he gets back, there’s fresh coffee in the pot, Peter’s up and about and in fresh clothes, and he’s making breakfast as Stiles walks in through the door.

 

“Well this is domestic,” Stiles comments, not sure what to make of this scene as he hovers in the kitchen doorway.

 

“I'm making pancakes,” Peter throws over his shoulder like this is an everyday occurrence. “Go shower; they’ll be done when you get out.”

 

Stiles is too taken aback to do anything but obey. Apparently, sharing meals is going to be a thing for them now.

 

 


 

 

“Dude, why are you two always... carpooling?” Scott’s face scrunches up as if the very concept of carpooling escapes him. Or maybe the concept of Stiles and Peter carpooling escapes him.

 

Stiles doesn't miss a beat. “We live near each other.” He’s pretty sure Peter doesn't want the rest of the Pack knowing exactly where he lives. “Sometimes, I drop him off. Other times, he drops me off.”

 

Scott knows where his apartment is but he doesn't typically make the trip down to Stiles’ place since Scott’s the one with the larger selection of video games and TV channels. As for the others, well, Stiles isn’t even certain whether or not they know that he doesn't have a family. Lydia does because it was big news when the Sheriff died (then again, she didn't even know he existed back then so – quite possibly – she tuned out any news about the Sheriff’s son being granted emancipation), and Isaac probably does too unless he was too busy keeping his head down or being locked up in a freezer to keep track of any rumours, but Allison’s still relatively new to Beacon Hills, Cora certainly wouldn't know, and back when he hid Derek, he took the werewolf to his old house, the one that still has a For Sale sign out front. Derek thought it was simply an abandoned house nobody wanted to buy, and Stiles didn't correct him since he wasn't exactly wrong.

 

“You know where he lives?” Cora stirs from her corner, looking up from her phone.

 

Stiles bobs his head in vague confirmation, flipping through a book on werewolf lore that Peter lent him yesterday. “We bumped into each other a while back.”

 

“But,” Scott interjects before Cora can quiz Stiles some more. “It’s Peter.” He glances uneasily over at the eldest Beta perched on the spiral staircase. Peter flicks a disdainfully amused look over the top of the notes that Stiles lent him. It’s a hypothesis on a hybrid variety of wolfsbane that Stiles wants to experiment with as soon as he can get his hands on some.

 

“I promise I haven’t whisked him away into my evil lair of doom for anything nefarious,” Peter drawls. His smirk darkens wickedly. “Not yet anyway.”

 

Stiles snorts even as Scott and even Derek bristles uncertainly. He can tell by now when Peter’s poking fun at other people’s expense.

 

“Drop it, Scott,” Stiles advises. “You'll just dig yourself into a bigger hole. It’s no big deal; in fact, I save up on gas when Peter gives me a lift. It’s a win-win.”

 

“Win-win? And what do I get out of it?” Peter wonders, lowering the notes to focus on Stiles.

 

Stiles just grins. “The honour of basking in my illustrious presence, and enjoying the benefits of my acerbically witty tongue.”

 

Peter’s lips thin in that way that Stiles knows to mean that the werewolf is suppressing genuine humour.

 

But of course, it wouldn't be Peter without a leering follow-up of, “Oh I don’t think I've enjoyed the full benefits of your tongue yet, Stiles, but you can certainly make it up to me with a practical demonstration in the near future; better late than never after all.”

 

Stiles squawks at the blatant innuendo, ignoring the way half the room looks torn between revolted fascination and shock. Alright, so he walked straight into that one.

 

“You couldn't afford my tongue for all the gas money in the world, creeperwolf!” Stiles shoots back indignantly, trying and failing to force down the flush crawling up his neck. Wait a sec- “Did I just stick an implication of being a prostitute in there somewhere?”

 

Peter doesn't laugh at him out loud but the unchecked mirth that makes his eyes glow is more than capable of taunting him silently.

 

Asshole. World-class asshole.

 


 

 

“I don’t have work today,” Stiles announces the moment Peter opens the door. And then he does a double-take because the werewolf is decked out in nothing but boxers and a towel around his neck, hair still damp, and evidently fresh out of the shower. “Dude, put some clothes on before you answer the door!”

 

“Why?” Peter enquires airily. “You seem to be enjoying the view, and I’d hate to deprive you of it.”

 

With more effort than Stiles will ever admit to, even on pain of death, he wrenches his eyes away from that very tantalizing chest to stare over Peter’s shoulder instead. “I am not! Just- I was about to do you a favour free of charge, but never mind! Clearly, you're busy so I’ll leave you to it.”

 

He turns on his heel and is about to flee back into his apartment but a hand closes around his wrist before he can take more than a step in the right direction.

 

“I'm hardly busy,” Peter admonishes, amusement still curving his lips, but he refrains from teasing some more. “What’s this favour then? Shouldn't you spend your free time on something you want to do?”

 

Stiles scowls and discreetly retrieves his arm first. Well, maybe not so discreetly. You can’t discreetly detach yourself from someone, and okay brain, shut up, you're not making any sense.

 

“Well, this is something I want to do, or I wouldn't have offered,” Stiles grumbles, taking a peek at Peter’s abs again. Hey, if the guy insists on displaying his annoyingly perfect physique even after being told to put on some clothes, no one can blame Stiles for looking, right? Heck, Danny would be drooling right about now, which- Stiles kinda doesn't like to even think about that. Danny shouldn't be allowed to ogle werewolf strangers anyway. For his own safety.

 

“Your apartment, and your car,” Stiles continues, rapping his knuckles against the doorframe as he concentrates on Peter’s face, which really isn’t a hardship either. “Do you want me to ward them?”

 

Peter’s expression goes blank with surprise. Stiles barrels on. “I just figured, what with this town being a veritable death trap, some extra protection can’t hurt. You can hover over my shoulder or something to make sure I'm not carving anything dangerous – dangerous to you, I mean, not, you know, to your enemies – and I’ll explain what each rune means if you want. I can give you the same set of wards I have, plus a few new additions that I just added yesterday. How ’bout it?”

 

Peter scrutinizes him for a long moment, expression unreadable. Stiles fidgets a little but doesn't look away.

 

“...You don’t have to,” Peter says eventually.

 

Stiles shrugs and repeats, “I want to.” And then, because – in retrospect – that reveals a little too much, he amends, “What if the next Big Bad follows you home and then finds me in the process? This is self-preservation, dude.”

 

And that’s not a lie because it is partly self-preservation, so his heart doesn't blip. But Peter cants his head to the side, unblinking and thoughtful, and Stiles can’t tell if the werewolf believes him.

 

It’s another few seconds before Peter pushes off the doorknob and waves him inside. “I would be a fool to turn you down, Stiles.”

 

It takes Stiles five days to finish engraving each and every rune. He describes the concealment wards to Peter first, and then he goes on to explain the newest set he just learned how to make – offensive wards for last resort that will sense ill-intent and electrocute (not fatally, and Stiles has to roll his eyes when Peter has the gall to look disappointed, but seriously, think of the dead bodies piled outside, that’s just not healthy) whatever attempts to break in, and all of it intertwined with fire-specific runes that are self-explanatory.

 

“I still don’t know how to keep humans out,” Stiles gripes as he works on the last sigil for the bathroom window. “But I can at least keep hunters from burning your home down a second time.”

 

Peter, balancing on the edge of the bathtub and watching him work, doesn't say a word, but later that night, after dinner when Stiles is about to return to his own apartment, the werewolf extends a hand and cups his jaw before ducking down to press his cheek against Stiles’.

 

It doesn't feel like one of Peter’s usual jokes or come-ons, especially since he never goes this far with the touching, and the man withdraws after a few seconds, simultaneously bidding Stiles goodnight and leaving him slightly dazed as he wanders back next door.

 

It isn’t until Stiles is lying in his own bed, skin still tingling from the memory of Peter’s warm palm and calm breath and close proximity, that he suspects that the out-of-the-blue scenting was the werewolf’s way of saying thank you.

 


 

 

Peter starts greeting him by scenting him and initiating small physical contact after that, especially since Stiles doesn't do anything to hinder him, and even begins learning to return the gestures when he realizes that the werewolf has no intention of stopping.

 

Peter comes very close to beaming after the first time Stiles clumsily mimics him by actively nuzzling into his neck.

 

Stiles gets used to it.

 


 

 

Peter is lounging along the length of the couch, Stiles is sprawled on the floor with a bowl of popcorn, and they're marathoning Supernatural because Peter missed it during his stint as a coma patient. Plus, it’s therapeutic to see how their lives could be so much harder when compared to the Winchesters.

 

And then Peter’s thigh – the one Stiles is using as a headrest – shifts, and Stiles immediately cranes his head around because- “What’s wrong?”

 

Peter looks disgruntled. “You have visitors.”

 

A moment later, there’s loud knocking at the door. Peter elaborates at the questioning look Stiles sends him. “Scott and Isaac.”

 

Stiles frowns. Part of him doesn't want to answer; they can’t hear anything from outside anyway. But what if something’s wrong?

 

With a sigh, he hoists himself to his feet and heads for the door as Peter pauses the show in the middle of Sam and Dean fending off a pissed off ghost.

 

More obnoxious pounding against wood continues until Stiles throws it open and pins his long-time friend with a long perfected long-suffering look of this better be good. “Someone better be dying, Scott! You couldn't have just texted?”

 

Scott lowers his hand, offering a sheepish look in response. Isaac is behind him, posing against the railing. Stiles glares at him too just to be fair.

 

“We thought we could swing by to hang out!” Scott says brightly. “I haven’t seen you in a while, dude. Besides at the loft I mean; you're becoming a hermit.”

 

If Scott is expecting Stiles to invite the both of them inside, he’ll be disappointed. Stiles doesn't budge from the doorway, crossing his arms instead. “I have work, Scott. It’s virtually impossible for me to become a hermit. And I'm busy; I can’t really hang out today.”

 

Scott’s face falls, and Stiles feels slightly guilty. Isaac looks about as disinterested as ever, and Stiles doesn't even know why he’s here. Scott’s welcome enough – he’ll always be Stiles’ bro – but Isaac’s presence sets him on edge, and for some reason, the mere idea of letting the werewolf into his home makes him feel defensive and uneasy.

 

“Come on, Stiles,” Scott borderline whines. “You don’t have work today, do you? It’s Sunday!”

 

“I’ve worked on Sundays before,” Stiles points out wryly. He glances behind him. Well, it’s not like he’s ashamed or anything. “But no, not today.”

 

“Then we can hang out!”

 

“Look, Scott,” Stiles sighs. “I have company over. Peter’s here.”

 

Isaac’s eyebrows rise. Scott’s eyes unconsciously flash red. “What? Why?” A not particularly subtle sniff. “I can’t smell him. Or hear him.”

 

“Maybe your senses are defective,” He jokes, and Scott actually looks like he’s considering it. “We’re watching Supernatural. He needs to catch up on his pop culture and modern media.”

 

The True Alpha of Beacon Hills gawks. “Super- Stiles! Are we talking about the same Peter?”

 

Stiles snorts. “I only know one Peter. Well no, I know like five Peters but the one we both know is the one parked on my couch. So. Busy. I’ll see you later, okay?”

 

“Wait!” Scott takes a step forward determinedly. It’s a good thing he doesn't try to force his way in because Stiles hasn't gotten around to giving him explicit permission to enter yet. “We can all watch. I’ve got nothing better to do, and Isaac...”

 

He glances behind him at the Beta, who shrugs and nods, smirking a little when he meets Stiles’ gaze, not spiteful exactly but irksomely entertained nonetheless.

 

Stiles sort of wants to shove him over the railing. He certainly isn’t letting him in, or Scott for that matter since they seem to be a package deal now.

 

He opens his mouth to refuse, only to start a little in surprise when a hand lands against his back and Peter appears behind him, his typical provoking smirk curling at his lips.

 

“Actually, it’s about time for us to leave,” The werewolf cuts in smoothly, handing Stiles his coat before shrugging on his own.

 

Stiles blinks. What?

 

“We have reservations for lunch,” Peter reminds him, and yeah, they do, but that’s not for another hour, and it doesn't take sixty minutes to even walk to an old-style, family-run Greek restaurant that Peter suggested a few days back, much less drive. But hey, going out now means not having to explain Peter’s presence, and then explain the wards, and then explain why Stiles doesn't want Isaac inside (he doesn't even know the answer to that last one yet), and so on and so forth, so Stiles is all for it.

 

“Oh yeah, we do,” Stiles pulls on his jacket, and then accepts the phone, wallet, and keys that Peter hands him as well. “Sorry, guys; lunch awaits. Maybe another time?”

 

Scott doesn't look at all happy by this turn of events, and he shows it by glowering at Peter for the interruption or maybe just for being there at all.

 

A wave of irritation washes over him. It isn’t as if Scott hasn't blown him off more times than he can count recently in favour of Allison or Isaac. Bro or not, he has no right coming here without so much as a phone call ahead, and then getting all resentful about the people Stiles is spending time with. Or, well, person. His point stands.

 

“Hey, knock it off,” Stiles says sharply, stepping in front of Peter and into Scott’s line of sight. It helps that he has about an inch on Scott when it comes to height. “If you wanted to hang out, Scott, text first next time, and once we make plans, don’t, you know, cancel.”

 

Scott winces. Stiles just shakes his head and closes the door once Peter’s stepped outside. “I’ll see you later.” He nods briefly at Isaac to include him, and then he’s off down the hall, pretending not to see the smugness on Peter’s face out of the corner of his eye.

 

“What was that about?” Stiles asks once they're a block away on foot instead of taking a car. “Worst comes to worst, you could've gone back to your place for a bit until they left if you didn't want to stick around. I wouldn't have told them you lived next door or anything.”

 

Peter just arches an eyebrow. “You didn't want them in your den, Stiles. I just gave you an excuse to sidestep the tedious task of refusing them entry and then – no doubt – arguing about it.”

 

Stiles frowns in bemusement. “Dude, don’t call my home a den; that just sounds weird. I'm not a wolf.”

 

“And yet,” Peter counters placidly. “You didn't want them stepping foot into your territory.”

 

Stiles shrugs. “So? Isaac was there. If it was just Scott, I would've let him in, but- I dunno, I just don’t know Isaac all that well. He’s more Scott’s friend than mine so, you know, I’d bail him out if someone tried to kill him – again – but we’re not even on friendly terms half the time, I don’t think he even likes me – most people don’t, go figure – so I didn't really want him invading... my...”

 

He stalls, thoughts churning. ...That’s not exactly normal human behaviour, is it? It isn’t as if Isaac would've snooped around in his apartment or made a huge mess or anything. Nevertheless, it still doesn't sit right with Stiles to let the werewolf have free rein in his home.

 

“You don’t trust him,” Peter says with a sly, knowing smile. “So you don’t want him inside what you consider your safe haven. Your den. No werewolf would.” His smile widens ever so slightly. “You have the instincts, Stiles; you would've made a magnificent wolf.”

 

Stiles only scoffs. “If you say so, Peter. Frankly, with my ADHD, my control would've been shot to hell. It was hard enough training some control into Scott, and he’s about as mild-mannered as you can possibly get. It totally didn't help that he wouldn't even believe me about the whole lycanthropy thing at the beginning either, and he was always sneaking off with Allison, which left me running around after him to make sure he didn’t maul anyone, and nobody mauled him.”

 

He gives Peter a very pointed look for the last bit. The man doesn't even have to decency to fake repentance.

 

“I wasn't in my right mind,” Peter dismisses.

 

“No,” Stiles relents with a cynical sigh. “Sometimes, sanity can be overrated.”

 

They walk in silence for a while, meandering down the sidewalk with Stiles following Peter’s lead when the man crosses a street or takes a turn. He’s never been to this Greek restaurant before, and he has a feeling that they're taking the long way around to kill some time.

 

They walk past an outdoor basketball court, and there are a handful of kids playing. Stiles doesn't miss the way Peter’s head turns, eyes following their movements.

 

“Did you play?” He asks inquisitively.

 

Peter chuckles, but there’s tang of nostalgia underscoring the sound. “I was on the basketball team back when I attended high school. Captain.”

 

Stiles’ eyes widen before he presses on eagerly because this is a piece of Peter’s past that he’s never heard before. “You were a basketball jock? And you were popular, weren’t you? Bet you had all the teachers eating out of your hand too.”

 

Peter smirks deviously with an arrogance that should be infuriating but only serves to make Stiles roll his eyes with something frighteningly akin to fond exasperation.

 

“It wasn’t my fault all the idiots at school were so easy to manipulate,” Peter says blithely. “Do you play any sports? And please don’t say lacrosse.”

 

Stiles snickers. “Lacrosse.” He cackles outright when Peter wrinkles his nose with contempt. “Nothing wrong with it, man. I don’t play anymore – not since I was emancipated and had less time for extracurricular activities that didn't pay me – but I joined in middle school with Scott, and I still practice with him in his backyard or something when I have time. I wasn't any good though; benchwarmer for life. Scott was too until his upgrade to werewolf status.”

 

“Which got him first line on the team of his favourite sport, the hot new girl who wouldn't have looked at him twice under any other circumstances, and no more worries about diseases or diets for the rest of his life,” Peter muses. “Would you look at that; he should be thanking me on bended knee.”

 

“Don’t push it,” Stiles reprimands, elbowing him half-heartedly in the ribs.

 

“Do you regret it?” Peter asks rather suddenly. “Not accepting the Bite when you had the chance? You could be as popular as Scott right now if you had.”

 

“Or I could've died,” Stiles points out, disregarding Peter’s scoff. He shrugs instead. “Nah, not really. I mean, occasionally, like when Gerard beat the crap outta me and I couldn't stop him, I would've liked to have been able to fight back. But otherwise, I'm pretty happy with who I am. I'm not really the type to fight with my fists anyway, or, you know, fangs and claws. If someone screws with me just because I'm at the bottom rung of the high school social ladder, they usually learn their lesson once I’ve splashed their dirty laundry all over Facebook and Twitter. Then they know to stay away. I'm not popular by any stretch of the imagination, but by now, the muscleheads on top know better than to bother me.”

 

Peter looks amused and approving at the same time. “I suppose that wouldn't earn you many friends.”

 

Stiles makes a face. “I don’t want a lot of friends. I had enough problems keeping Scott out of trouble and on track when it comes to his schoolwork before he became a werewolf, and now I have Derek to worry about because I've developed a bad habit of saving his life a lot, god knows why, he can barely tolerate me. And of course, there’s Lydia, and by extension, the rest of the Pack requires looking out for too. That’s already a hell of a lot of people to care about; my capacity for caring is pretty much unavailable for further expansion, and I’d like to keep it that way, thank you very much.”

 

Peter makes a noise at the back of his throat like he understands. “Less people to lose in the end,” He offers softly, almost like he’s saying it to himself.

 

Stiles glances at him before tipping his head back to stare up at the sky as they turn onto a busier street. “I have magic now. I'm not losing any more of you guys even if it kills me.”

 

Peter goes predator still for all of a heartbeat before his frame relaxes again like his pace never hitched, but his eyes are bluer than usual, and he has that same look on his face as the day Stiles offered to create wards for him.

 

It’s still as unreadable as the first time around.

 


 

 

The Greek restaurant – awash with sunlight while a gentle breeze swirls in from the open windows – becomes one of Stiles’ favourite places, and not just because of the excellent food. The decor is amazing too. Peter insists on paying because it was his idea to come in the first place, and he promises to take Stiles again another day.

 


 

 

Stiles gets sick on a Tuesday. He loathes getting sick. He doesn't often, he has a pretty tough constitution overall, but when he does, he gets really sick, as in hellfire degrees of fever that would urge anyone sane to cart themselves off to the hospital at once, blinding headaches that literally leave him mostly blind with pain, and nonstop shivers that make winter blankets feel like sheets of ice even while he’s burning up.

 

Lucky for him, it’s never killed him despite the fact that he never goes to the doctor for treatment, and he’s always been able to sleep it off. It’s just... excruciating every single time, and it can take up to three days before his fever breaks and he can manage a Bambi hobble to the bathroom to make himself look a little less like death warmed over.

 

So when his alarm shrills on a Tuesday morning, and Stiles wakes to a haze of pain and a chill drilling straight down to his bones, he groans, barely managing to roll over to shut his alarm clock up before dozing off again, curled into a shivering ball under his blankets.

 

It’s his own fault this time honestly. It was pouring buckets all day yesterday, and he spent the entire time running knee-deep through a swamp in pursuit of a couple malicious redcaps that already murdered several innocent civilians, and Stiles did it by himself because Scott and most of the others couldn't afford to not study for an upcoming Physics test, Lydia refused point-blank to leave her house in such shitty weather, and Derek was out of town with Cora; something about visiting friends down in South America.

 

Stiles probably should've at least asked Peter to go with him, but the weather was truly horrible, and he doubted the werewolf would want to spend it chasing homicidal goblins through the forest.

 

He got them in the end, pinning them to the ground with a knife through each of them (not that he’ll tell Scott that; they're gone should be sufficient) before snatching their caps and waiting for the blood to dry, but now he’s paying for it by feeling like he’s dying an agonizing death.

 

The next time he surfaces, everything’s too bright and too cold, and he has a sudden overwhelming desire for comfort. He’d settle for a hug. He misses his mom.

 

He goes under again.

 

When he returns to fuzzy consciousness once more, his breath is rattling in his chest, he’s hot and cold at the same time, and he must have advanced to hallucinating because he can swear there’s a blurry image of Peter’s face hanging above him.

 

A hand rests against his forehead, and Stiles moans and turns into the touch. Maybe Peter really is here; either way, at least his sluggish mind doesn't think he’s alone anymore, and that fact alone eases something in his chest.

 

Peter’s mouth is moving. It takes a moment for Stiles to decipher the words.

 

“-to the hospital, Stiles. Your fever’s too high. Can you hear me?”

 

“No,” Stiles croaks, latching onto ‘hospital’ even as one of his hands flops out feebly to latch onto what he hopes is Peter’s shirt. “Don’ need ’ospitals. C’n sleep it off.”

 

Peter says something else, urgent and harsh, but Stiles is nodding off again, only managing to slur out a last, “Done this b’fore. Just ’ave to ride it out. B’fine, Pe’er.”

 

He gives the werewolf a listless pat on the chest before his hand drops limply back onto the bed, and then he’s being dragged down once more by indistinct nightmares that have him tossing and turning in a quagmire of claustrophobic darkness.

 

He loses track of time for the next however-many hours, dreaming of his mother and Aunt Lillian fussing over him, dreaming of Vee refusing to leave the foot of his bed while he’s sick, dreaming of his father bringing his work into Stiles’ bedroom to keep him company, and dreaming of Uncle Luke sneaking him ice-cream when no one’s looking.

 

Sometimes though, as he drifts in and out of delirium, he feels someone else wiping his face with a cool cloth, wrapping themselves around him when he honestly feels like he’s about to freeze to death, muting his migraines down to a manageable level, and even coaxing him to a semi-lucid stage from time to time to feed him soup before tucking him in again.

 

Overall, he doesn't feel as bad as he normally would in the throes of illness, and he can’t figure out why, only that when he wakes up at last, lethargic and achy and tired, he also feels safe and content, and generally less awful than he typically does after his fever breaks and he wakes up alone in sweat-soaked sheets and an empty apartment.

 

Someone’s changed his sheets actually, and-

 

Stiles bodily jolts when he finally registers the arm draped over him and the body plastered against his back. Said arm tightens the moment he makes to pull away.

 

“Stop moving,” Peter grumbles drowsily. “Go back to sleep. You’ve been sick for two days, and your fever just broke an hour ago; you can’t possibly want to get up right now.”

 

Stiles obeys, mostly because he’s too dumbfounded not to. “...Peter?”

 

A long-suffering sigh. “Yes, Stiles?”

 

There’s really only one thing Stiles can say at this point. “What are you doing in my bed? Actually, what are you doing in my apartment?”

 

He can practically hear Peter rolling his eyes. “You were sick, Stiles. I could hardly just leave you languishing away in bed, could I?”

 

“But-” Maybe he’s forgetting something? “But I told you I’d be fine. Right? This isn’t the first time I've gotten sick, and it’s always this bad. Actually, this time was better.” Because Peter stayed and took care of him apparently. “So, I mean, you didn't have to stick around. I would've just slept it off, maybe downed some Tylenol if I could convince myself to get outta bed.”

 

A long silence ensues, long enough for Stiles to start rambling again. “But uh, thanks for... taking care of me? Er, did Scott come by? He usually does if I don’t show up for school, to drop off my homework for me, and sometimes, if he has time, he’ll do my paper route for me. Oh wait, shit, he wouldn't have been able to get past the wards. Did you explain things to him? If, you know, he came by-”

 

“He came by,” Peter cuts him off in neutral tones. “And he wasn't happy that I could enter but he couldn't. Eventually, he stopped complaining and grabbed a few of the others to take care of your paper route instead while I made sure you didn't die in your sleep.” A pause. “Remind me again how you managed to get emancipated? You obviously don’t know how to take care of yourself, and I hear that’s a requirement for independent living.”

 

Stiles instantly bristles, and he wants to turn and face Peter or at least push himself upright but the werewolf’s arm is like an iron band around his waist, and all he can do is sink an elbow into the werewolf’s gut, which doesn't accomplish anything anyway.

 

 

“I can take care of myself!” He snaps instead, voice weaker and hoarser than he wants it to be. “I told you – you didn’t have to stay; I would've been fine!”

 

“Your fever topped a hundred and two for a full half hour when I found you!” Peter growls right back, and he actually sounds authentically furious. “Anyone else would've shipped themselves off to the hospital or at least called for help! If it hadn't gone down when it did, I would've taken you anyway, your wishes be damned since you clearly haven’t the faintest clue how to act responsibly.”

 

“Responsi- This coming from you?!” And this time, when Stiles makes to twist around, Peter lets him, and they end up nose to nose and glaring death at each other. “I don’t need anyone on my case. Which part of ‘I’ve been sick before’ did you not understand?”

 

“That doesn't make it okay,” Peter sneers. “What if it had been worse this time? And going out alone to deal with redcaps in the middle of a rainstorm? Are you really that much of a fool? One would think you had a death wish; wouldn't your parents be proud?”

 

Stiles goes white. Something flickers through Peter’s eyes, something a lot like regret, but the words are out, and the werewolf doesn't apologize for them. Hales don’t apologize.

 

“Get out,” Stiles hisses, and magic twists through the air. “You aren’t welcome here. Get out.

 

And before Peter can do more than open his mouth, probably to argue, there’s an ear-splitting shriek as the wards ripple around the apartment, and then Peter is simply gone.

 

There’s a muffled crash outside where the wards have dumped the werewolf, and a vicious profanity stabs through the walls, with an animalistic snarl of “Stiles!” on its heels.

 

Stiles rolls over, buries his face in his pillows, and digs his nails into his palms in an effort to beat back the pain throbbing in his chest.

 

He also pretends he doesn't already miss the line of heat and life and comfort that was pressed against him mere seconds ago.

 


 

 

Stiles doesn't see Peter again for two weeks, not even once he’s feeling moderately well enough to go back to school the following Monday. Mostly because he doesn't leave his apartment.

 

Stiles avoids Peter, and Peter avoids Stiles, and when they finally do see each other, it’s only because the entire Pack’s gathered at the loft to discuss the latest monster of the week. The others have no idea what’s happened, but the two of them arrived in separate cars for the first time in months, and it doesn't take a genius to sense the angry tension between Peter and Stiles when – only weeks ago – the two were getting along so well.

 

Peter is the first to stalk out the door as soon as the meeting is over, and Stiles deliberately packs up more slowly so that they won’t arrive home at the same time, but before he can leave, Scott draws him to the side for a word.

 

“Hey, uh, is everything okay between you and Peter?” Scott looks uncomfortable but there’s something earnest in the concern he’s showing.

 

Stiles shrugs. “He was being an ass.”

 

Scott scratches his head. “Oh, well, alright then. Was he being an unforgiveable ass?”

 

Stiles scowls. “What does it matter? I thought you’d be happy the two of us were on the outs.”

 

Scott looks even more discomfited now. “That was before- Look, when you were sick, Peter was pretty worried, and before then, I didn't think that guy worried about anyone besides himself. I don’t think he went home at all ’cause whenever I texted you or swung by to drop off your homework a couple times, he was always there. Like, he gave me updates when I asked for them and everything. So, I guess what I'm trying to say is, I still think whatever’s going on between you two is kinda weird and I don’t get it at all, but you’re moping, dude, and you were a lot happier when you weren’t mad at each other. And Peter’s even worse; he just spent the entire meeting today insulting everybody. Heck, he brought up the fire with Derek, and Kate with Allison. He stopped doing that when you guys were... friends. Friendly. I mean, he still mocked everyone but it wasn't... serious, you know? Everybody could tell, but today, he was really gunning for weak spots, so, I don’t know man, was he being an unforgiveable ass or not?”

 

Stiles listens and doesn't know what to say. He... didn't really notice the change, though on hindsight, it’s pretty obvious. The Pack and Peter still metaphorically circled each other as if each party’s waiting for the other shoe to drop, but they weren’t outright hostile anymore either. The Pack could stand to treat Peter better, include him more instead of leaving him on the fringes, but... that was what Stiles was there for, wasn't it? Peter wasn't alone because Stiles sort of took him under his wing without realizing it.

 

“He brought up my parents,” Stiles mutters, shoving his hands in his pockets.

 

“O-kay,” Scott says slowly. “I'm assuming in a bad way?” At Stiles’ what do you think look, he hastily hurries on, “So... why?”

 

“I don’t know!” Stiles barks, actually making Scott jump. “He was practically yelling at me about not taking care of myself, and then the bastard sticks my parents into-”

 

“You don’t take care of yourself,” Scott interrupts, and then looks like he wants to cringe when Stiles levels a pair of murderous eyes on him. “I mean, you can cook and clean and it’s unfair how many odd jobs you know how to do, and dude, I know better than anyone how smart you are, but when you get sick, or hurt, you don’t tell anybody.”

 

“Yeah, ’cause I can take care of myself.”

 

“Lying in bed until you get better isn’t taking care of yourself, Stiles,” Scott says firmly. “Even my mom’s told you that.”

 

Stiles falls silent. Melissa has told him that, but the method’s effective enough so why mess with something that works?

 

“I know I haven’t been a very good friend recently,” Scott admits unexpectedly, shuffling his feet guiltily. “Even before you started hanging out with Peter. But I’m- I’ll do better-”

 

“Scott, you know I wouldn’t hold that against you-”

 

“That’s not the point!” Scott steamrolls over him fiercely. “The point is, you're my brother, and you've always been there for me, but I haven’t been doing the same, and I'm sorry for that. So now I'm gonna act like one and, you know, be supportive and do... supportive stuff.”

 

Stiles’ mouth twitches, Scott cracks a grin, and it almost feels like pre-supernatural freight train again, back when it was just the two of them against the world.

 

“I don’t get what you see in him,” Scott continues. “But you were seriously happier around him, and he was... better around you. I can’t say I trust him, and the others still don’t like him or just don’t care, but I trust you, and if you think he’s worth it, then that’s good enough for me. And I think- I think, if you've had a fight, then maybe you should go talk it out, because it’s pretty clear that you're both kinda miserable right now, and the radio silence isn’t helping anyone, least of all you two.”

 

Scott finishes on an insistent note, and Stiles just sort of stares for several long seconds. And then, “When did you get smart?”

 

Scott beams. “Well, I’ve known you for years; something was bound to rub off sooner or later.”

 

Stiles snorts at this cliché quip, but for the first time in two weeks, he’s smiling again and it doesn't feel false.

 


 

 

Stiles doesn't head home right away. Instead, he drives circles around Beacon Hills to clear his head a bit and do what he does best – think. He still doesn't understand what the fuss was about, not really; he told Peter that he would be fine. Sure, being sick makes him feel like shit but he’s always recovered from it before no problem.

 

Still, Peter was worried, and he cared enough to stay the entire time Stiles was ill, and Stiles thinks that neither emotion is something that comes easily or often for Peter Hale. The man shouldn't have brought up Stiles’ parents like that, that was just a low blow, and not something Peter should ever have used against him in any capacity after Stiles trusted him enough to tell him about his family.

 

Oh god, Stiles trusts Peter Hale. When the fuck did that happen?

 

But maybe using it was the point. Peter never does anything without reason, and he wasn't getting through to Stiles (still hasn't), so he gambled with the guilt trip card, only to have the makeshift weapon backfire on him. The man probably knew that Stiles would be livid but was most likely hoping that he would also understand what Peter was trying to say, and it would temper the anger.

 

Evidently not.

 

Nonetheless, even if Stiles doesn't comprehend the whole you’re taking care of yourself wrong even though it’s worked for years issue, maybe he was a bit tough on the guy, especially after Peter looked after him for two days, feeding him, monitoring his temperature, staying with him, and Stiles never even thanked him for that before throwing him out of his apartment, out of his den, a place that he allowed Peter into when he never even got around to allowing Scott, and for a born werewolf, that probably hurts even more than it would your average human.

 

 

So, Stiles can see how they were both in the wrong, and as much as he doesn't want to admit it, he’s missed Peter these past two weeks. Missed their banter, missed their shared meals, missed having Peter watch him when he works on carving his dragon, missed just having the man around. His apartment’s never felt emptier.

 

In some ways, it’s so pathetic, and Stiles doesn't know when the former psychopath managed to burrow so far under his skin without him ever noticing.

 

He sighs. It’s probably time to suck it up and apologize. God knows Hales are prideful to a fault, so if Stiles doesn't go first, then this’ll only fester until their blue moon of a friendship is beyond repair, and, well, that’s just not an option, not for Stiles. He’s always been rather possessive of what he has.

 

He’s still kinda pissed when he thinks about their argument but not pissed enough to toss it all down the drain, so, he can bend first if that’s what’s required of him.

 

He goes to the supermarket that night to buy all the ingredients he needs for a proper apology, and when he arrives home, mindful of Peter’s car in the parking lot and the lack of lights streaming from the werewolf’s apartment, Stiles rolls up his sleeves and gets to work on baking a cake worthy of royalty with a sweet tooth.

 


 

 

Sunday morning finds Stiles going through breathing exercises outside Peter’s apartment as he balances a freshly baked cake in nervous hands.

 

Unless he’s suddenly gone deaf, Peter should already know he’s standing on his doorstep, and of course, the bastard’s gonna let him stew.

 

Stiles huffs, steels himself, and raises a hand to knock, once, twice, three times.

 

He isn’t all that surprised when nobody answers right away, so he knocks again at ten-second intervals. Stiles is a lot of things, and stubborn is at the top of the list.

 

It’s past the fifteen-minute mark by the time the sound of the lock clicks, and the door swings open, and by that point, Stiles is far more irritated than anxious.

 

Finally!” Stiles all but spits out, looking squarely at Peter’s expressionless face. “Did you fall asleep on the toilet? Take a dip in the bathtub and forget to come up for air?”

 

Peter’s jaw tightens, and his hand flexes from where it’s holding the door open like he’s about to close it again, which, no, that isn’t happening, at least not until Stiles has said his piece.

 

So he reins in his aggravation, but then his trepidation returns with a vengeance, and the speech he prepared flies out the metaphorical window, leaving Stiles with the single alternative of winging it.

 

“I'm still mad at you!” He blurts out with all the grace of someone who skipped class when brain-to-mouth filters were being handed out. Ah well, too late now. “You shouldn't have brought up my parents like that ’cause I told you about my family and I trusted you not to use that against me, and then you went and did it and that’s just not cool, and I’d still like to punch you in the face for that, but.”

 

He takes a breath. Licks his lips nervously. Charges on. “But, I was wrong too. I still don’t get why you were so upset just because I came down with the flu, I mean it happens to everyone and nobody flips the fuck out until it advances to pneumonia or something and that’s never happened to me, but you took care of me when you didn't have to, and you got mad at me because you were worried, and I was an ungrateful asshole about the whole thing. So.”

 

He’s babbling, he knows he’s babbling, and god, why can’t he have been born one of those people who are inherently blessed with suave verbosity or something?

 

He extends the cake box like the peace offering it is, stopping just short of the threshold. Peter’s probably retaliated by banning Stiles from his apartment, and he doesn't want the cake to be damaged in anyway.

 

“I came to apologize,” Stiles mumbles, flushing red but lifting his chin in defiance anyway. “I made a cake. It’s an apology cake. Not that there’s an apology written on the cake because that’s just dumb. But it’s one of the best cakes I've ever made so you better like it or I’ll chuck it at your stupid face.”

 

Stiles hates tense silences, and that’s exactly what comes next. He’s already squirming inwardly, and he wants to say screw it and flee because it’s becoming increasingly clear that this was all just an exercise in humiliating futility, and Stiles should hurry up and leave while he has any dignity left to call his own.

 

This is also why Stiles doesn't apologize very often. Well, partly because there aren’t many things he does that he ends up being sorry about in his life, but also because he sucks at it.

 

Seconds tick by. Peter is as silent as the grave and about as cryptic in terms of facial expressions, and fuck, Stiles’ eyes are stinging.

 

Okay, he gets the message.

 

He blinks, averts his gaze, and retracts the cake. At least he tried; that should count for something.

 

Without another word, Stiles turns to head back to his own apartment next door. He kind of feels like hurling the cake at the nearest wall now-

 

A hand catches him by the forearm, and he flinches, but Peter doesn't let go. Stiles keeps his eyes glued on the hand; he doesn't look up again.

 

Peter tugs, and Stiles’ feet follow as the werewolf leads him into the apartment without so much as a tingle of magic against his senses (The wards weren’t set against him?). They stop by the kitchen where Stiles’ cake is plucked from his hands, and he hears the fridge opening and closing before Peter returns and ushers him onward. They end up in the study where Peter stores what’s left of the Hale family’s library.

 

“This is Sera, my wife,” Peter says, and Stiles’ head jerks up fast enough to nearly give himself whiplash.

 

There are photos, not many, and almost all of them are singed at the corners and somewhat faded, but they're spread out on the desk like the broken remains of a long lost puzzle, and Peter’s letting Stiles see it all.

 

“It was an arranged marriage,” Peter continues, absently drawing Stiles closer to the table. “Talia – my sister, the Alpha – wanted me to settle down, and a marriage between the two of us would cement an alliance between our packs. We liked each other well enough, and I probably would've grown to love her if we had had more time.”

 

He stops for a moment, giving Stiles the opportunity to take a closer look. She was very pretty, with dark blonde hair, and a fox-like mischief in the curve of her smile and the laughter in her grey eyes. And...

 

“She was pregnant,” Stiles whispers, horrified as he spots the protective way her hand is cradling the swell of her stomach, the way a younger Peter – standing beside her – has his hand covering hers. They look happy.

 

“Yes,” Peter confirms rather needlessly, and there’s a world of heartbroken, crippling pain in that one word that makes Stiles want to resurrect Kate just to set her and everything she cares about on fire and see how she likes it.

 

Instinctively, Stiles takes a step closer to the werewolf so that their shoulders are pressed firmly against each other, and without any real conscious thought, he slides a hand into Peter’s and tangles their fingers together.

 

Half a second later, it occurs to him that they’re looking at Peter’s wife, and maybe this isn’t the best way to provide comfort no matter how natural it feels, but before he can make up his mind either way, Peter’s hand tightens around his.

 

Well, alright then. Stiles can roll with this. He is a master at rolling with things nowadays.

 

Tentatively, he prods Peter into sitting down in the desk chair before taking a seat himself on the left arm, never letting go of the werewolf’s hand.

 

“Did you have a name for her?” Stiles asks. “Or him?”

 

“Her,” Peter tells him, and his smile is terribly sad. “It was going to be a girl. And we were thinking of Signy or Antheia or Anastasia. We hadn't settled on one yet but Sera liked mythology; she insisted on picking a name from a myth.”

 

Stiles bends down. It’s practically reflex to graze his nose along Peter’s prickly jawline before leaning a cheek against Peter’s in an imitation of a werewolf’s penchant for scenting. In turn, Peter releases a sigh and turns his head to press his face into the arch of Stiles’ neck for a moment, their breaths syncing hypnotically.

 

“Tell me about the others?” Stiles requests once he’s pulled back a little.

 

Peter does, in mostly steady tones, of nieces and nephews and in-laws and siblings. Stiles listens and soaks everything in, hoarding it as a dragon would its treasure.

 

He sees the collected pictures in the middle of being organized into a newly bought photo album currently opened on the side, he hears Peter’s measured recount of a burnt-out past, and he recognizes both to be the unspoken gesture of apology and extension of trust that Peter was evidently preparing before Stiles beat him to the punch.

 

Stiles accepts.

 


 

 

They eat the cake later, one with a chocolate shell on the outside that coats a peanut butter fudge with coffee on the inside, and the entire thing is decorated with an image of a wolf howling at the moon.

 

Peter declares it his favourite dessert, and won’t let Stiles have the last piece.

 


 

 

Things go back to normal, for a given value of normal. Stiles tweaks the wards to let Peter back in before giving the wolf a key to his apartment (“So you won’t have to pick the lock anymore, creeperwolf.”). Two days after that, when Stiles fishes out his keys, there’s an extra one on the keychain that Stiles doesn't even have to test to know that it’s a copy of Peter’s apartment key.

 

The entire Pack relaxes again (as much as they ever relax with Peter in the vicinity) when the two of them appear at the next pack meeting together in Peter’s car. Scott at least is happy that they're talking again even though he’s still cautious around the eldest Beta.

 

They get through the rest of Supernatural before moving on to Heroes, which even Stiles hasn't gotten around to watching yet so it’s something new for both of them.

 

Stiles starts teaching Peter woodcarving when the werewolf asks, while Peter begins teaching Stiles Latin and Greek so that he’d have the chance to read the books that haven’t been translated into English.

 

It fills up the hours that Stiles used to spend sitting home alone with nothing to do and no one to talk to when Scott was busy. Sure, he has jobs but not all the time, he has his sculptures but he doesn't want to do that twenty-four/seven, he has homework but he always gets that done early, and – after Beacon Hills became Monsterville year-round – he has research but even Stiles can only do that for so long when he’s not on a deadline (emphasis on the ‘dead’, bad pun fully intended) before his concentration’s shot. And TV and video games can only sustain him for so long.

 

With Peter around, there’s always someone willing to listen to him, and more importantly, there’s always someone who can and is willing to keep up with him when his brain’s going a mile a minute and he needs to vocalize his thoughts and ideas.

 

Stiles’ home has doubled in space too, and more and more often, he sometimes has to go next door to fetch a sweater that he left at Peter’s, or Peter has to come over to use his own laptop because he left it on the coffee table.

 

(“We should just knock the wall down,” Peter remarks one time when Stiles pads next door without shoes or even socks, and in pajamas. He’s out of toothpaste, and he hasn't had time to buy a new tube.

 

“Deliberate property damage – felony,” Stiles mumbles as he shuffles into Peter’s bathroom, but a part of his mind is already whirring, wondering if he can make a part of the wall dividing their apartment units vanish.)

 

So, things go back to normal, Peter-and-Stiles’-once-in-a-blue-moon-friendship levels of normal.

 

But not for long.

 


 

 

Christmas is just around the corner, and Lydia is throwing her annual Christmas party. The Pack gets an invite, including Stiles and excluding Peter.

 

“You should go,” Peter recommends from his end of the couch without looking up from The Valley of Fear even as Stiles examines the formal invite with something like astonished disbelief. Once upon a time, he would've sold his soul for one of these. Or maybe not since selling his soul is probably an actual thing in the supernatural world, and can’t possibly end well for anyone, but it would've been a close tossup.

 

“It’s on Christmas Eve though,” Stiles frowns, flopping back against an arm of the couch, feet propped carelessly on top of Peter’s legs. “And these parties usually last until, like, dawn. Mostly because people get drunk and pass out sometime after midnight, and then all their embarrassing moments get splashed all over Youtube. It’s great blackmail material.”

 

Peter smirks appreciatively at this as he flips a page. “So just make sure you don’t get smashed.”

 

Stiles chews on his bottom lip as he scans the invitation again. “But Christmas is a time for, you know, watching each other open presents and growing fat on chocolate and turkey.”

 

“I'm fairly certain that’s not how it goes.”

 

Stiles grins, lowering the invitation. “Well, there’s peace and goodwill too, and all that other feel-good jazz, but my version is more fun.”

 

Peter rolls his eyes and finally sets the book aside. “I suppose I can’t argue with that. But I'm sure the lovely Ms. Martin will have all of that prepared at her party. You’ve already bought her gift, along with the rest of the Pack’s.”

 

Stiles shrugs. “I was just gonna deliver them to the loft for pickup.”

 

“How thoughtful.”

 

“Aren’t I just?”

 

Stiles scans the invite again, a faint smile still playing on his lips. “If I go, what will you do? It’s the full moon on Christmas Eve.”

 

Peter scoffs. “Please, I'm a grown man; I hardly need supervision just because of that. I’ll stay in, read, eat all your chocolate, and laugh when you stumble in with a hangover the next morning.”

 

Stiles is still hesitant about RSVP-ing in the positive but he is kind of curious about the party, he’s only ever been to Lydia’s birthday party and that sort of turned out to be a disaster. And maybe he’s somewhat thrilled too at finally having scored an invite because Lydia Martin honestly considers him one of her friends, and it’d be rude to refuse now.

 

“You should go, Stiles,” Peter repeats lightly, picking up his book again. “It’s good for pack bonding, and do you really want to disappoint Lydia by not going? She is your friend now after all.”

 

“Well, if you're certain,” Stiles slowly agrees. “But I’ll be back before morning for sure.”

 

Peter shrugs casually, returning to his perusal of Sherlock Holmes. “There’s no rush. I’ll be here.”

 


 

 

Stiles goes to the party in the required tux and tie, and he’s bored out of his mind within the first half hour, which has to be some sort of record. He spends the first twenty minutes greeting his Pack, exchanging and receiving presents, and spinning Lydia, Allison, and even Cora onto the dance floor for a few circuits around the room.

 

And then he grabs a glass of punch for himself and retreats to a corner by himself. Derek looks a little out of place too but he has Cora, and Scott and Isaac never leave him alone for long.

 

If he’s honest, scenes like these aren’t really Stiles’ thing. He’s never been invited to a party in his life aside from class parties back in kindergarten, and yearly celebrations for Scott’s birthday, and the ones with his own family when he still had a family. Other than that though, well, Stiles isn’t popular, has never been popular, and the only friend he’s ever had in his entire life is Scott McCall.

 

Scott’s popular now though, and Stiles doesn't begrudge him for it. Being co-captain with Danny on Beacon Hills High School’s best sports team, and dating one of the hottest girls in school while being friends with the most popular student is bound to get him noticed. Stiles on the other hand, while he does hang out with them at lunch and whatnot, still doesn't really fit in. He’s still nerdy and spastic in class, and people look down on that sort of thing.

 

Stiles is fine with who he is though, and he has plenty of experience with brushing off insults and flinging back his own, always nasty and always meant to hurt.

 

Here though, at this party filled with jocks and other popular kids who catch sight of Stiles and sneer or mutter something stupid and derogatory as they pass by but still know better than to go beyond that lest they find themselves the school pariah come the new year, Stiles is... uncomfortable. He doesn't care about ninety-eight percent of everybody here, and the two percent that he does care about is mingling with the rest.

 

Even worse, now that he has nothing to do, his mind keeps returning to Peter, wondering if the werewolf is okay, if he’s lonely, if he’s eaten all the chocolate yet, if he’s thinking about his lost family, both the dead who’ll never come back, and the living ones who want nothing to do with him.

 

And looking around at faces who will never mean anything to him, at people whom Stiles doesn't give a rat’s ass about, and even at his Pack who has each other and doesn't need Stiles right now to find a cure or strategize against an enemy or go behind their backs to make sure evil old men stay dead, Stiles wonders what the hell he’s doing here instead of back home with Peter and the perfect Christmas tree that they spent four hours bickering over before buying and the stack of Christmas movies that they're supposed to be watching right now.

 

Stiles sighs, checks his watch, waits another five minutes to make it a round forty, and then goes to hunt down Scott and Lydia to excuse himself for the night. He feels a little bad at their crestfallen expressions but they have the others while Peter has no one, and it’s really not that hard a decision to stick by. So he wishes them both a merry Christmas, hugs Scott, drops a kiss on Lydia’s cheek, and then weaves his way out of the house without a backwards glance.

 

It’s snowing outside but not too badly, and he has his jeep. Halfway home though, something flies out from the passenger window of the car ahead of his, and they're both going slow enough that Stiles gets a good glimpse of what it is in the glow of his jeep’s headlights. The car in front trundles on down the street. Stiles stomps on his brakes, executes an illegal U-turn, and then screeches to a halt in the middle of the road before throwing his door open and sprinting out into the winter night.

 

It takes a few minutes of searching but he finds it in the end – a small grey and white kitten, barely the size of his hands, and mewling pitifully in the foot of snow, its fur matted down and wet.

 

As soon as he has time, Stiles is going to hack into the traffic camera on this street, get the license plate of that car, and give the owners a Christmas surprise they won’t soon forget.

 

Quickly, he strips off his jacket and carefully bundles the cat into it before hurrying back to his car, heedless of his own increasingly sodden clothes. He settles the kitten into the passenger seat, cranks up the heater, and peels off down the street.

 

Peter hears him coming, and the man has Stiles’ door open by the time Stiles reaches the third-floor landing, peering outside with a frown. “Stiles? Did you forget something?” His eyes rake over Stiles’ form. “You're drenched; what happened?”

 

“Cat,” Stiles gasps out as he skids to a stop in front of Peter, who wastes no time pulling him inside and slamming the door to shut out the cold. The werewolf’s eyebrows rise incredulously when Stiles reveals the ball of fuzz curled up in the suit jacket, big blue eyes blinking sleepily up at them.

 

Peter looks like he wants to facepalm but – with a really, Stiles? sigh – he disappears down the hall instead as Stiles places the cat down on the kitchen table, returning shortly with an armful of clean towels.

 

“Canines and felines do not get along,” Peter mutters, eyeing the kitten almost suspiciously as Stiles dries the creature more thoroughly. “You’ll be dropping that thing off at Deaton’s after the holidays, right?”

 

He sounds a little too hopeful. Stiles shoots him down. “One, Deaton runs a pet clinic, not a shelter, and two, how would you like it if you got dumped in some orphanage because nobody wanted you, and during the holidays too?”

 

Peter rolls his eyes. “It’s a cat; it doesn't know that it’s the holidays.”

 

“That is so not the point,” Stiles huffs, already quite smitten with the animal as it nuzzles into Stiles’ hand, a purr vibrating in its throat. “Isn't it adorable? Is it a girl or a boy? Either way, I think I’ll keep it!”

 

“I’d say the thing’s a female,” Peter says after a closer examination, but he looks miffed. He’s actually glowering at the cat now. Stiles pokes him in the ribs. “Don’t be mean! I didn't know you were a cat-hater.” He turns back to the kitten. “Don’t pay any attention to him; he’s just a big old meanie.”

 

The cat purrs even louder, especially when Stiles scratches behind its – her – ears. Peter crosses his arms sullenly, and then uncrosses them and throws a towel at Stiles’ head. “Get yourself out of those clothes before you catch hypothermia. I promise I won’t toss this thing back out while you change.”

 

Stiles looks scandalized at the very mention of it, but after cooing at the kitten for a moment longer, he scurries off to change into dry clothes. By the time he gets back, the cat is sitting up and engaged in a glaring contest with Peter.

 

Stiles stares for three seconds, and then whips out his phone to snap a picture. The noise catches Peter’s attention, and promptly redirects the glare in Stiles’ direction.

 

“Where did you even find her?” Peter sighs, sounding downright aggrieved. “Aren’t you supposed to be partying it up at Lydia’s?”

 

Stiles clears his throat with something like embarrassment, and he busies himself with picking up the kitten. She immediately nestles against his chest. “Someone threw her out of their car. In the middle of winter, what the fuck. And I was on my way back here. I got bored at the party. I wanted to come home.”

 

“It hasn't even been an hour.”

 

“I got bored fast.”

 

When he glances up, Peter is smiling, and it makes the corners of his blue eyes crinkle.

 

Stiles’ breath catches for just a second before he ducks his head to hide his reaction to something so simple. His heart stutters anyway. Fuck his life.

 

“Come on,” Stiles says out loud, turning towards the living room with the kitten still cradled in his arms. “We’re watching Christmas movies. I’ll set it up while you whip up some hot cocoa.”

 

Peter chuckles and moves towards the cupboards. “Start with The Christmas Carol.”

 

“Of course.”

 


 

 

They exchange gifts on Christmas Day over a turkey dinner. Peter gets him a PlayStation 3, and a set of old diaries written by a half-Fae about the Seelie Court’s customs and hierarchies, as well as accounts of her daily life living with one foot in each world. Stiles has no idea how the werewolf managed to get his hands on them because they were definitely not in the remaining collection of the Hale library last he checked.

 

In return, Stiles gets Peter another wolf figurine, along with a tome that took months of research to trace to a pawn shop in Michigan.

 

The figurine is one of his best works, painted and polished with eyes of real topaz, and tiny sigils meticulously inscribed in the soles of the wolf’s paws, one for luck, one for protection, another for strength, and the last for hope.

 

The tome has seen better days, what with the yellowed pages and almost crumbling spine, but it’s worth it. Ever since Peter mentioned in passing that a deal with a rival pack went south, and the Hale family – while winning the physical confrontation – lost several priceless books in the process when the rival pack managed to swipe them before fleeing. Two were pettily destroyed by the time the Hales caught up with them but the last was never found before Talia tore out the Alpha’s throat for attempting to backstab them. Stiles badgered the title and everything else Peter could remember about that last book from the werewolf, and then got down to business.

 

“I honestly didn't think this still existed,” Peter breathes with something like awe as he runs a reverent hand over the ancient leather cover. “This is a family heirloom, Stiles; I didn't think I’d ever see it again. How-?”

 

Stiles just grins, immensely pleased with himself for producing the shock on Peter’s face. “I'm just that awesome. And I'm a master of Google-fu. Though you wouldn't believe the number of witches and druids and this drunk dude that I'm seventy percent sure was a satyr that I had to get in touch with along the way. Most of them thought I was nuts for wanting to track down something obscure enough to be a rumour, but there were a few who pointed me in the right direction, and the drunk guy was a big help at giving me the name of the pawn shop once I narrowed my search down to Michigan, especially since it was a magical pawn shop run by a sorceress that can only be found by word of mouth, and he wouldn't give me the name until I promised him five bottles of Chardonnay and three bottles of Pinot Noir. Expensive bastard; I had to bribe some people from the rougher side of town to help me buy the alcohol. I just sent them off three days ago with a really annoying singing Christmas card.”

 

When Stiles finishes his narration, Peter is watching him with summer sky eyes that have never been more intense. Stiles shifts in his seat before offering a lopsided smile. “I'm... glad you like it?”

 

“‘Like’ is an understatement,” Peter murmurs, and then he reaches out, takes Stiles’ hand, and draws it up until his lips are pressing a fleeting kiss against Stiles’ rabbit-fast pulse. He doesn't let go right away even after lowering their joined hands. “Thank you, Stiles.”

 

Stiles has no idea if this is a werewolf thing or a Peter thing or an expressing interest thing. No matter what it is, Stiles is pretty sure he’s screwed.

 

(Later that night, when he’s gone to bed with his new pet curled up on a pillow beside him, if he rubs at his wrist and absently presses his own mouth to it, well, nobody needs to know.)

 


 

 

Stiles names the cat Myfanwy, Peter hates her on alternating days, and she settles into their lives like she’s always been there.

 

“I hate that thing,” Peter grumbles resentfully as Myfanwy occupies Stiles’ lap while Stiles squints at the slanted script in the first diary.

 

Stiles hums distractedly. He doesn't notice the cat lifting her head from her white front paws and shooting a disturbingly smug, superior look at Peter.

 

A muscle ticks in Peter’s jaw, and he sends a dirty look back at the cat. That, Stiles does notice.

 

“Hey, how many times do I have to tell you to stop being mean to Mivvy?” Stiles scolds, stroking a hand down Myfanwy’s back. Myfanwy starts purring happily again. Peter bares his teeth with a hint of fang. The kitten looks neither impressed (acceptable) nor terrified (preferable).

 

Stiles returns to the diary. Peter bites off the head of a cat-shaped vanilla-mint cookie and chews with a vengeance.

 


 

 

School starts up again. The Pack adds three wendigos (“Those are ugly motherfuckers.”), a leprechaun (“No we won’t follow the rainbow. How dense do you think we a- Scott you idiot! What do you think you're doing?! Don’t follow the rainbow!”), two dozen garden gnomes that prefer killing people with pitchforks (“What the fuck is my life?”), and a lamia that almost successfully kills Derek after seducing him (“Nephew, you really must improve your taste in women. Better yet, go celibate. The world will thank you for it.”) to their list of unpaid heroics.

 

Myfanwy – a Maine Coon, Deaton says – grows bigger and begins learning to hunt, mostly by leaving claw marks in Peter’s v-necks.

 

(“She’s hunting the buttons, Peter!”)

 

Peter invests in a spray bottle, and it’s open war between them anytime Stiles isn’t around.

 

And then, Stiles comes home one day with a mystified look on his face, scoops up Myfanwy to plant a kiss on her head, and then tells Peter, “I think I got asked out on a date today.”

 

Myfanwy meows, demanding more attention, and Stiles looks down in time to miss the way Peter’s expression spasms and his eyes flash a violent blue.

 


 

 

“He’s a really late transfer student,” Stiles reveals, still picturing the new guy that walked into Econ with a confident smirk and an ass that had Danny and most of the girls leaning out of their seats for a better look. “His parents had to move for their job or something so he’s finishing his senior year here.”

 

Markus was charming and roguishly handsome, and Stiles was more than a little taken aback when the teen tracked him down at lunch in the library, introducing himself and telling Stiles that he thought the snarky retorts Stiles tossed out during class when he and Coach had their biweekly shouting match were hilarious, and he enjoyed listening to the heated debate that Stiles got into with half the class when they tried to dispute one of his opinions on China’s market economy.

 

And then they got to talking because Markus couldn't take a hint and leave, and Stiles was reluctantly impressed when the guy stood his ground even after ten minutes of Stiles jabbering his ear off about five different topics. Markus told him about his rather nomadic high school education, and Stiles told Markus about the main highlights of good old Beacon Hills (barring the supernatural night life).

 

A gaggle of girls stopped by, as did a handful of other students who deemed the new kid cool enough to join their cliques, but Markus turned them all down, barely sparing them half a glance before focusing on Stiles again. And at the end of lunch, Markus asked if maybe they could hang out sometime this coming weekend, and Stiles could show him around town and grab some lunch together.

 

It was... flattering. Also highly suspicious but that’s most likely his paranoia talking.

 

Stiles keeps the last two thoughts to himself, and he arches an eyebrow instead when he sees Peter’s wooden expression that only gets stonier by the time Stiles concludes his recount of his day at school.

 

“Markus is a ridiculous name,” The werewolf dismisses loftily. “Who names their kid Markus?”

 

“A lot of people,” Stiles deadpans dryly. “It’s an ordinary, widely used name.”

 

“Exactly,” Peter nods sagely. “He’s too ordinary.”

 

Ookaayy.

 

“What would you have in common with him anyway?” Peter continues, sadistically dangling a toy mouse just out of Myfanwy’s reach. “You run with wolves and save this town on a weekly basis. He’d probably take one look at a werewolf and wet himself.”

 

Stiles’ eyebrows get steadily higher. “You've never even laid eyes on him.” He thinks back to charismatic grins and attentive green eyes, and a knack for cracking jokes that even Stiles snickered at. “I don’t know; he doesn't seem the type to have a mental breakdown in the face of the paranormal. Not that I'm gonna tell him anything of course, but still. Anyway, he can stand being around me right from the start. Nobody likes me right from the start. Even Scott had to get used to me at the beginning.”

 

I liked you right from the start!” Peter refutes indignantly. “I even told you so!”

 

“You were psychotic,” Stiles reminds him sardonically. “And you needed people to make a pack to boost your own strength. Excuse me if I'm gonna take your opinion of me back then with a grain of salt.”

 

Peter looks offended. His hands move jerkily for a moment like he wants to ball them into fists. The toy mouse smacks Myfanwy in the face, and she retaliates with a high-pitched yowl and a set of claws in Peter’s leg.

 

Peter curses, pulls the cat away from his sweatpants, and throws the mouse after her for good measure. Myfanwy bats it aside with unerring accuracy and glares icily at Peter with all the affront of a slighted queen. Peter glares right back.

 

Stiles rolls his eyes at their antics. “You realize she’s a kitten, right Peter? You are constantly getting into fights with a kitten.”

 

“She’s Satan,” Peter growls. “You should've named her Mephistopheles. Or Diabolus. There is nothing beloved about this little terror.”

 

“And here I thought you’d called dibs on the devil,” Stiles teases. “I bet you secretly like her.”

 

Peter snorts derisively. Stiles pays him no mind, stooping down and holding his hands out for the cat. Myfanwy’s whole demeanour changes as she darts towards Stiles, all loveable cuteness once more. “I don’t know why anyone wouldn't like her. She’s adorable, aren’t you, Mivvy?”

 

Myfanwy just starts purring again and stretches blissfully as Stiles scritches under her chin.

 

Peter clicks his tongue with annoyance. “Only you think that. ...So? Did you accept this Markus’ request for a date?”

 

Stiles looks up from the cat, cheeks pinking just a little. So sue him; nobody’s ever asked him out on a date before. Winter formal with Lydia didn't count; she was only using him to get back at Jackson.

 

“Yeah,” Stiles nods. “I thought, you know, one date wouldn't hurt.”

 

And it’ll take his mind off Peter, Stiles adds in the privacy of his head. The man hasn't made a move since that night with that kiss on the wrist, which – for all Stiles knows – could just be some obscure werewolf way of saying thanks that Stiles hasn't come across in his books yet. Peter hasn't brought it up again, and Stiles isn’t about to make a fool of himself by mentioning it in case there really isn’t that much of a significance to the gesture.

 

“And he seemed into me,” Stiles tacks on, brightening a bit because no one is ever into him.

 

“I see,” Stiles jumps a little when Peter shoves out of his chair and stalks for the door. “Well, I hope you have fun.”

 

The front door opens and closes with a bang.

 

Stiles blinks dumbly after him, taken off guard by the abrupt exit.

 

Could it be...? But Peter hasn't said anything, which is disappointing because Stiles is pretty sure that he’s maybepossiblyyeahprobably halfway in love with the man, but if nothing else, the Beta has never held back when he wants something, and surely he would've made certain that Stiles got the message if he wants something with Stiles.

 

But he hasn't, so it can’t be.

 


 

 

The date is an absolute fucking disaster. As in, on a scale of zero to soulmate, it ranks somewhere around negative five hundred in the lowest pits of hell.

 

And it isn’t even Stiles’ fault.

 

He and Markus take public transport, and they walk around town, and it starts out great because Markus genuinely laughs at his jokes, and – as they stroll past a movie theatre – they discover that they share a love of DC and especially Batman, and Markus has watched Star Wars, and is a secret geek because he gets all the references that Stiles makes, and even manages to quip some one-liners right back.

 

They click, they really do, and for once, Stiles can stop walking past shop windows or billboards or whatever and automatically think oh, Peter would love to see that play or I wonder if this tea will make Peter smile or Peter was thrown around a lot in today’s fight; I’ll make his favourite dinner tonight.

 

But it all starts going downhill when they stop for lunch at a diner Stiles recommends.

 

First, the waitress spills the drinks into Markus’ lap, and the restroom and storeroom has run out of paper towels so they have to go find a restroom elsewhere to clean up, but Markus is good-natured enough about the entire situation, and things look like they can still be salvaged.

 

But then, after that, they get held up for fifteen minutes by a trio of gung-ho promoters of some vehicle company, and by the time they manage to extract themselves, they're both a little irritated.

 

Not twenty minutes later, when they're just getting into a discussion about what kind of events might lead to a dystopian world like the one in The Hunger Games, they're interrupted by some dude asking for a smoke, which, what? Do they look like they have cigarettes on them?

 

The guy takes a good five minutes to get rid of, and by the time he’s gone, their conversation’s tapered off again, and Stiles is contemplating knifing the next idiot who approaches them for anything.

 

Ten minutes later, just as they're rounding a corner, a car zooms by, far too close to the curb, and sends up a spray of muddy water from a puddle that douses Markus’ jeans up the knees. Even Markus, who seems to have a rather long fuse, is looking a little pissed by that point. Stiles memorizes the car’s license plate and promises himself to send a pig’s head to the owners, just as he did to the people who abandoned Myfanwy. Then he leads Markus to yet another public washroom to get rid of the worst of the stains.

 

And so it went, a streak of bad luck that lasts the rest of the day, each worse than the last until Stiles is half-convinced that that last motorcyclist was trying to run Markus over on purpose, and by five, both of them just want to go home, with Markus looking far more ragged and banged up than Stiles since he seems to have taken the brunt of all the misfortune that day, including being pitched headfirst into a hotdog stand.

 

“I’ll see you around at school,” Markus mutters half-heartedly, already turning away, and there’s a look in the other teen’s eyes that’s a familiar shade of Jesus what was I thinking hanging out with this guy, so not worth it.

 

Stiles can’t even blame him because even though none of this was his fault, he can’t help but feel bad about the catastrophic date anyway, especially since Stiles may as well be positively pristine compared to Markus’ rundown state, and – for some reason – everyone who came up to them that day mostly bothered Markus with their demands and general harassment.

 

He trudges home alone, shoulders hunched with both exhaustion and disheartened misery. For the first date of his entire life, it was a colossal failure. Hell, today’s fiasco might just put him off dating, period.

 

Peter’s just coming out of his apartment when Stiles arrives home, but Stiles isn’t in the mood for company.

 

“It was a disaster,” He reports curtly before the werewolf can ask, not slowing his stride as he passes Peter.

 

Peter makes a sympathetic noise and ambles closer as Stiles unlocks his door. “Well, I'm sorry to hear that. How about I cook one of your favourite dishes, and we could watch a movie to take your mind off it? Something cheerful and-”

 

“Not tonight, Peter,” Stiles cuts him off, attempting a smile that feels fragile and wrong on his own face. “I kinda wanna be alone, okay? I’ll see you tomorrow or something.”

 

He doesn't wait for a reply before slipping inside and quietly closing the door behind him.

 

He takes a shower, isn’t hungry enough to bother with food, and goes to bed without doing anything else. Myfanwy hops up onto his bed and curls up on his chest in a furry ball of purring solace.

 


 

 

Peter has pancakes, bacon, scrambled eggs, sausages, and perfectly toasted toast spread out on the dining table when Stiles gets up the next morning. There’s even tuna and a saucer of milk set out for Myfanwy.

 

“That pitiful, huh?” Stiles grouses as he slouches into a chair. Myfanwy eyes her food doubtfully like she thinks Peter’s poisoned it but she starts eating it in the end.

 

“Never,” Peter assures as he sets a glass of milk beside Stiles’ plate. “But you were upset so a good breakfast can’t hurt.”

 

Stiles allows a reluctant smile to surface as Peter takes a seat across from him. Everything does look delicious.

 

Stiles eats in gloomy silence. Peter’s the one who breaks it.

 

“I'm sure there’ll be others,” The werewolf says. “He obviously wasn't good enough for you.”

 

Stiles scoffs around a mouthful of bacon but he swallows before responding. “He didn't do anything wrong. We were having fun at the beginning but it was like the universe was conspiring against us. Besides, what others?”

 

Peter regards him appraisingly. “Stiles, you're not exactly lacking in any department, mentally or physically. I'm sure someone else will be swooping in to ask you out again soon enough.”

 

Stiles squints at him to see if the man is being serious. “Dude, have you met me? People in general don’t like me, and I'm not just saying that so you’d feel sorry for me or something. I'm annoying, and I tend to insult people a lot, especially when I first meet them, mostly because I don’t give a shit about them.” He stabs his fork into one of the sausages. “Trust me, there’s no lineup of suitors waiting at my front door. And I'm not sure I want to go out on a date again if my first was already such a crap one.”

 

Peter’s brow furrows. “Yesterday was your first date?”

 

Stiles grunts. “Don’t rub it in. Plenty of people don’t go on dates until they’re like, in their twenties or something. If they go on dates at all. And really, it’s nothing that special. It’s not like I'm losing my virginity or something.”

 

“...I thought you went on a date with Lydia,” Peter says after a pensive moment. “Didn't you go to a dance with her?”

 

Stiles shrugs. “Sure, except she only went with me as a favour to Allison, and because she wanted to make Jackson jealous. I don’t really consider it a date when I'm being used.” He shakes his head. “And apparently, things go wrong all by themselves when someone is honestly interested in me. Whatever. Can we stop talking about this?”

 

Peter nods. “Of course.” He looks distracted, and for the rest of breakfast, neither of them says anything more.

 


 

 

At school on Monday, Markus avoids him like the plague, and Stiles lets him, pretending not to hear a couple of morons who – like three-quarters of the school – have somehow heard about the date ribbing Markus about trying to go out with the freak of nature because of course something would go wrong, what did you expect from associating with the crazy ADHD kid who had a restraining order filed against him by an upstanding guy like Jackson Whittemore?

 

Instead, Stiles catches up to two girls who wouldn't take a hike on Saturday and kept badgering Markus for almost twenty minutes. He’s had time to think about it, and the more he does, the stranger it seems. They were... a little too persistent, not just them, others too, and really, what are the odds of so many people interrupting a date all on the same day?

 

So Stiles wants to know what kind of prank was played, and which bastard at school was responsible for it.

 

“You have ten seconds to spill the beans,” Stiles says with a too pleasant smile once he’s cornered the two girls in an empty classroom. “Or I show your parents and the principal pictures of you two selling drugs between classes out back behind the dumpsters.”

 

It doesn't take long for the girls to crack after that threat.

 

“We were being paid,” One of them huffs defensively. “Fifty bucks each to mess with your date for as long as we could. It was good money, and the new guy’s hot. Flirting with him wasn't exactly a hardship.”

 

Stiles’ eyes narrow, mind already running through a list of popular kids with wealthy backgrounds. “And who paid you?”

 

The girls share a look. “Some guy, older than us.” Both of them blush. “He was really attractive, and really polite, like a gentleman, but he gave off a sort of bad boy vibe too.”

 

Never let it be said that Stiles can’t put two and two together. “Dark hair? Blue eyes? ’Bout my height except broader in the shoulders, and wears a borderline illegal v-neck?”

 

The girls glance at each other again before nodding. Stiles slides off the desk he was sitting on. “Thanks for your time.”

 

“Wait! What about the pictures?”

 

Stiles is already halfway out the door. “They’ll stay gone; you’ll just have to take my word for it.”


 

 

Peter opens the door. Stiles decks him.

 

He almost breaks his hand on the man’s face but it’s still gratifying to watch the werewolf stagger backwards, blood trickling from a split lip even as the wound knits itself together again.

 

“You bastard!” Stiles shouts. “What the fuck is wrong with you?! Did you think it was funny, screwing with my date, and then listening to me pour my heart out about it? Had a good laugh, did you? It must've been hilarious to see Markus practically running away from me by the end of it like I'm some freak cursed with bad luck! Half the school’s feeling so very sorry for Markus that he had to put up with the crazy-”

 

“Hey, would you mind toning it down?” A man four doors down sticks his head out, his voice snooty and grating.

 

Stiles is in no mood to take any shit. He snarls at the man, human teeth bared. “Yeah, I would mind, now scram or I’ll tell your wife you've been sleeping with her sister!”

 

The man pales drastically, his face turning a sickly mix of grey and green. He splutters wordlessly for a second and then slams the door shut again.

 

Stiles sneers before rounding on Peter again. “So explain to me here why exactly you thought it would be fun to fuck with my life? I thought we were at least friends, and newsflash, asshole, friends don’t pull this shit on each other- what the- hey!”

 

Before he can blink, Peter’s hauled him forward by the front of his sweater, and then he’s shoving Stiles against the door, and not half a second after that, Peter kisses him.

 

It’s a biting, frustrated, inferno of a kiss as Peter’s tongue plunders his mouth, rough and frantic and tasting of blood and whatever tea he’s been drinking and a trace of chocolate, and Stiles isn’t even aware of clutching at the werewolf’s shoulders and returning the kiss until he already is, tongues sliding slick against each other, a moan reverberating in his throat as his ears pick up an answering growl rumbling in the depths of Peter’s chest.

 

He has no idea how long they've been making out in the doorway by the time they properly part for air, although neither of them lets go of the other as their shallow panting breaths mingle. Peter’s mouth is red and slightly swollen, decidedly not from the punch, and Stiles is certain he looks even worse. Or better depending on how you look at it.

 

He shifts his weight minutely, only to emit a strangled noise when his hard cock grazes against a similarly rigid line in Peter’s pants, and his hips accidentally stutter forward for more contact. Peter’s nostrils flare, and his eyes burn hot and hungry, looking as if he wants nothing more than to devour Stiles right then and there. Still, the werewolf has enough control to hold Stiles in place by his hips instead of rutting forward and destroying any remaining brain cells he has left.

 

Stiles’ dick is severely disappointed but his lust-fogged brain grudgingly appreciates it as it boots back online and climbs back to a more manageable level of thinking.

 

His thoughts are racing, and there are a million and one ways that he wants to start the impending conversation with, but Peter beats him to it.

 

“I was going to tell you,” The man confesses, leaning their foreheads together. They're close enough that their noses brush together. “About Saturday. If I’d known it was the first time someone invited you out for a proper date, I wouldn't have interfered.” He pauses, and then amends, “Much.”

 

Stiles rolls his eyes. His anger’s fizzled out in the wake of that amazing kiss; now he’s just exasperated and somewhat confused and cautiously hopeful.

 

He pulls away so that he can look at Peter full in the face. The werewolf makes a moue of displeasure but doesn't protest beyond crowding a little closer.

 

“And why did you interfere in the first place?” Stiles asks pointedly.

 

Peter scowls off to the side for a moment before returning his gaze to Stiles, lips thinning to a flat, discontented line. When he speaks, his words are barely audible, but the possessive fury in his voice is unmistakeable. “You're mine. I saw you first; I saw you, long before anyone else ever did.” He stops, exhaling sharply through his nose. “You're Pack. You're mine, and I thought you knew-”

 

He stops again, cutting himself off. His hands clench and unclench around Stiles’ hips.

 

Stiles studies him for a long minute before heaving a sigh. “You fucking lunatic, why didn't you say something like a normal person? Oh my god, I'm not a mind reader or something, you gotta tell me this stuff or I won’t know!”

 

“You let me into your den!” Peter defends. “So you trust me. And you let me scent-mark you, and you do it in return, so people know you're mine and I'm yours.”

 

Stiles turns red. “That’s- First of all, only werewolves would know, and second, I didn't know I was even staking a claim!”

 

“There was intention, on my part,” Peter grumbles, but then concedes stingily, “I might have projected a little.”

 

Stiles rolls his eyes again. Peter growls. “But you smell like arousal around me, only around me, I checked, which means you're not interested in anyone else anyway.”

 

Fuck, Stiles is blushing again. Damn werewolf noses.

 

“Then why didn't you say anything?” Stiles demands. “Okay, yeah, I like you-” Blue eyes brighten like the sun coming out after a storm, and it’s irritatingly endearing. “Don’t let it get to your head! I like you a hell of a lot but I didn't know if you liked me back. Well, I know you like me or you wouldn't spend so much time with me, but I didn't know if you liked me that way. I don’t have enhanced senses, I can’t smell emotions like you, and I'm not exactly what you’d call an expert on feelings either. You should've said something.”

 

Peter looks almost sulky. “I take you out for meals. We watch movies. You bought us tickets for A Midsummer Night’s Dream that one time. We go for walks. We go grocery shopping together. We take turns cooking. We spent Christmas together. I let you into my den. We practically share a house. Shall I go on?”

 

Stiles gapes speechlessly for a full five seconds before groaning and tipping his head forward to thump his forehead against Peter’s shoulder. “You- Have we been going on dates? Have we been dating and I didn't even know it? And you couldn't have told me? With words?!

 

Peter mutters something under his breath, presses a kiss into Stiles’ hair like he can’t help himself, and then shrugs his shoulders to make Stiles look up again.

 

“Well then, how about now?” Peter looks as confident as always but there’s a tightness around his eyes that betrays him. “We’re on the same page now, aren’t we?” His right thumb is rubbing soothing circles into Stiles’ skin where his shirts have hitched up.

 

Inwardly, Stiles gives an enthusiastic Yes! Outwardly, he gauges Peter’s expression intently. “You still haven’t said why you didn't just come out and say it. You don’t really think I knew and then decided to cheat on you with some random dude at school, did you?”

 

Peter looks mildly embarrassed now. “Of course not; you're loyal, and you're all about commitment. ...We were comfortable with each other, and I didn't see a reason to change the way things were going. I thought I’d give you some time to get used to it so that by the time you turned eighteen next month-”

 

“I’d be even more receptive to your advances,” Stiles finishes sardonically. “Use everything to your advantage, huh, creeperwolf?”

 

Peter shrugs, wholly unrepentant. “You do the same, if not for all the same things.”

 

Stiles quirks a smile at that. True enough. He takes a breath. “Are you- Are you sure? I mean, if you got out more, ’cause, you know, you don’t unless it’s with me, but if you did, you’d probably meet someone better suited-”

 

“I was twenty-seven when the fire happened,” Peter says wryly. “And even during those twenty-seven years, I’ve never met anyone more suited for me than you.”

 

Stiles opens his mouth but nothing comes out. He closes it again. Something warm settles in his chest.

 

“If anything, I should probably be asking you that,” Peter continues. “I'm quite a bit older than you-”

 

“Doesn't matter,” Stiles asserts immediately, fingers tangling more securely into Peter’s shirt.

 

Peter’s mouth curves into a smile. “So then,” He murmurs, swaying closer again, lips brushing against Stiles’. “Do I get official permission now to maul anyone who tries to lay their grubby paws on you?”

 

Stiles releases a startled laugh, and his hands come up, one threading into Peter’s hair while the other traces fingers along the werewolf’s features. Because he’s allowed now, allowed more intimacy than just leaving his scent on Peter, allowed to think about it all he wants, allowed to have.

 

“You're still a psycho,” Stiles tells the werewolf. “Except now you're a possessive psycho, and you're mine.” And then he reels Peter in and initiates another kiss.

 

Peter is more than agreeable with this course of action, and he doesn't waste any time picking Stiles up, kicking the door shut, and taking their impromptu make out session somewhere more comfortable.

 


 

 

“You realize you’ll have to live with Mivvy forever and ever now, right?”

 

“I suppose I’ll survive. She might not though if she keeps sleeping on you all the time.”

 

“I can’t believe you have such a huge jealousy problem.”

 

“I'm not jealous of anyone.”

 

“You paid off our school’s star pitcher to throw a fastball at Markus when he tried to talk to me again after school!”

 

“Yes, and he missed. Are you sure he’s the star pitcher?  Because if he is, it'll take a miracle for them to reach the championships this year.”

 

“That is so not the point here.”

 

“He was attempting to ask you for another date.”

 

“Uh-huh, and I was in the process of turning him down because – as I told him very clearly before he was almost stoned to death – I have a boyfriend now who also happens to be a part-time sociopathic stalker that I'm actually crazy enough to go steady with.”

 

“Yes, and I reinforced your words to make them stick. Just in case he didn't get the message.”

 

“Sociopathic stalker boyfriend; god only knows why.”

 

“Because you can’t help but love me.”

 

“I suppose I must.”

 

“And I love you too, of course.”

 

“Oh, you better.”

 

“I still hate the cat though.”

 

“Oh my god, never mind, I give up. Go to sleep, Peter, before I tell Mivvy to ruin another one of your shirts.”

 

“Yes, dear.”

 

 

[End]