When Peter opens his eyes, he is alone.
That’s nothing new; he’s been alone for years. The only difference now is that he has a ceiling to stare at and is no longer locked inside his own head with his family screaming in his ears.
It takes almost a year after that for him to begin regaining his mobility. It takes another month before he can speak.
When his nurse tells him that his niece and nephew have been notified about his improving condition, she also asks if he would like to give them a call. Peter declines.
He has very little to say to Laura and Derek, and none of what he does have to say is remotely friendly.
The very fact that he has to call them at all is reason enough to refuse. He’s lost his family, his Pack; most days, he thinks he’s lost himself.
He isn’t going to lose what little pride he has left as well.
Peter is a werewolf but even most of that’s been taken away from him. He’s a packless Omega, his scars won’t heal, and he has to go through physiotherapy to recover the use of his legs.
It’s demeaning. Frustrating, when he can muster up the energy for it. How do humans handle this?
He hates it. He hates the white walls around him, he hates his wheelchair, he hate his meals, he hates the staff, he hates the bed sheets that are changed out every week and never smell like home.
Sometimes, he stares at his dinner knife and wonders if he’d be able to bleed out before his healing factor kicks in or the doctors arrive.
He never goes through with it but the thought is there all the same.
He wonders if that makes him a coward or a survivor.
The nurse hands him the morning paper every day. Once, and only once, Peter asks for information on the Hale House fire.
He gets a paper for that too, dug out of the library archives. It was labelled an accident, a case long closed.
Peter folds the paper back up and very carefully does not rip it apart.
What can he do though? He has no leads. All he knows is that it was wolfsbane in the air that prevented his family from reacting fast enough, that it was mountain ash that kept them all inside a burning house, and that it was a single delayed flight out of Sacramento that consequently left Peter running late on that fateful day, only to return to a house on fire and an invisible barrier that wouldn't budge no matter how hard he shoved against it, flames eating away at his skin all the while, and the lingering stench of burning flesh coating his nostrils, underscored by the scent of that revoltingly pungent perfume that Derek always came home wearing.
Aside from that, Peter has nothing.
Peter bumps into a boy on a Tuesday afternoon. Quite literally too, and through no fault of his own. He’s wheeling himself back to his room after his latest physiotherapy session, and even though exhaustion and pain are tugging at his limbs, he’s objected to being pushed back by someone else, the same as all the other times. He doesn't want to be dependent on anybody more than he already is, even for something as simple as this, especially when nobody in this building can look at him without pity.
He’s taking a corner when he hears the spin of wheels seconds before someone else in a wheelchair flies around the turn with all the recklessness of someone who laughs in the face of death, careening forward and narrowly missing Peter’s hand when the left arm of their respective chairs crashes together and sends both of them rolling backwards.
Peter catches himself with a hand on the wall, claws surreptitiously unsheathing about half an inch to dig into the plaster even as the rest of him struggles to keep his fangs out of sight. He rounds on the person who ran into him and snarls harshly, “Watch where you’re going-”
And then his voice dies, along with most of his anger, when he catches sight of the boy, no more than seventeen at most, with pale skin that’s scarred as badly as Peter’s.
He’s bent over at the moment, clumsily gathering up a sheaf of papers that he dropped during the collision, and when he looks up again, his eyes – amber and wide – are almost feverishly bright.
All he says is, “sorry, dude,” and his gaze doesn't linger on Peter’s own disfigured features, barely seems to see it. He’s distracted, his heartbeat is all over the place, and he’s soon wheeling away again, not waiting for a reply, moving past Peter and down the length of the long-term care ward at about the same untamed speed as before, papers clutched to his chest.
Peter watches him go and thinks of the unmistakeable burn scars that marks the left side of the boy’s face and spills down his left arm, uncovered for the entire world to see with that buzz cut and the too-large t-shirt he was wearing.
Like a challenge. Like a dare.
Peter doesn't know why that sticks with him. What other burn victims choose to do is none of his concern, though he wasn't aware that there were any other burn victims in the hospital, much less in the same ward. Then again, he only ever leaves his room for physiotherapy and the few meagre trips outside that the doctors let him have, so it isn’t that surprising, even if the burn victim in question is the most vibrant thing Peter’s laid eyes on since he woke up.
But he looks down at the long-sleeves he’s been insisting on since he was well enough to insist anything, and he feels his uncut hair brush his scarred cheek.
Like he’s ashamed.
His hands clench until his knuckles turn white and his nails draw blood.
The next day, he asks the nurse to bring him something more suitable for the summer weather, and he sits through the trim that she gives him when he requests it, tensing when the scissors come too close to his neck for comfort but allowing it anyway and watching locks of his hair flutter to the ground.
He looks in the mirror afterwards, square in the eye of his scarred reflection, and for the first time since the fire, he thinks he sees a spark of his old self staring back at him.
Peter begins venturing out to the cafeteria for his meals instead of having them brought to him, and it’s almost amusing the way people can’t seem to stop gawking at his scars, only to flinch and avert their eyes when he turns fast enough to catch them in the act.
He keeps an eye out for the boy too, strangely drawn to the memory of those few seconds they interacted, and he’s rewarded two weeks later.
And just like last time, Peter hears him before he sees him.
“-gotta believe me, Scott!”
Peter pauses briefly in the doorway, quickly finding the boy with the scars sitting at one table on the far end of the cafeteria, with another boy sitting across from him, clearly a visitor. Casually, Peter picks up a tray with the day’s selection on it before rolling over to an empty table. Despite the chatter all around, he doesn't need to be that close to eavesdrop.
“-going on about this for ages,” The other boy – Scott – is saying in vaguely reproachful tones. “You've got to drop it, Stiles. Everybody knows it was an accident.”
“Then everybody’s wrong,” Stiles – oddly fitting – shoots back, fierce conviction etched in the part of his face that Peter can see from where he’s sitting, coincidentally the scarred part. “Come on, Scott, I know what I’m talking about.” He jostles a file placed between the two of them. “I know it’s thin but-”
“Thin?” Scott interrupts, frown knitting his brow, a blend of annoyance and concern. “This isn’t thin, Stiles, it’s- It isn’t even proof. There’s evidence that it was an accident, that they were both accidents-”
“The Hale fire wasn’t an accident!” Stiles hisses, and Peter almost snaps his fork, frozen in place by the unexpected and abruptly livid words. “And my dad knew that and he investigated and he found something-”
“Stiles, that’s not true-”
“Yes it is! Look, as soon as I get outta here and get my hands on a laptop, I can do more digging. I know- I know I don’t have any hard proof right now but if I can just get a laptop and some time and- and- just give me time-”
“You've been looking into this for months, Stiles!” Scott interjects again, frustration bleeding through. “Ever since you woke up. Look, maybe- I think maybe you should get some help.”
Stiles pulls back like he’s been slapped. A tinge of guilt enters Scott’s expression but there’s a stubborn set to his jaw that says he isn’t going to back down.
“It wasn't an accident,” Stiles repeats in a tone that’s too calm to be anything but two wrong words away from insanity. “Just- Just think, Scott, okay? For one fucking moment, consider that I’m right and not crazy. What are the odds? The Hales were burned alive, my dad thinks it wasn’t a fucking gas line exploding, he starts investigating, and the next thing anybody knows, my family gets burned alive. You cannot tell me that’s a fucking coincidence!”
Peter stares. What?
Scott winces but he shakes his head, sympathetic in a way that makes Peter grind his teeth. “Yeah, Stiles, it can. One of the deputies even snuck you the report, remember? To give you closure? The fire inspector-”
“Screw the fire inspector!” Stiles jerks forward, half-rising before his legs give out, and he collapses back into his wheelchair. “He was wrong, or he was bribed or blackmailed or what-the-fuck-ever-”
“Stiles, you have to stop!” Scott shouts, loud enough to attract attention from some of the nearby tables. The boy flushes and ducks his head, hastily lowering his voice again. “Look, I know you swore me to secrecy and everything but- but if you don’t drop this, I’m- I’m gonna have to tell my mom. This isn’t healthy, Stiles.”
“I’m not crazy,” Stiles thumps a fist against the file on the table. “I’m not crazy.”
“Well you’re talking crazy,” Scott snaps back, clambering to his feet. Even from where Peter’s sitting, he smells a little afraid and a lot fed up.
“You want crazy?” Stiles snarls back, amber eyes wild and suddenly that much closer to unhinged, especially when his expression twists the scars on his face. “When I get my hands on whoever killed my family, I’m gonna carve out their spine, stake ’em to the ground with it, and burn them alive. How’s that for cra-”
He cuts himself off, visibly reeling himself back and shutting down the feral rage splashed across his features. Except in his eyes. His eyes glitter with something terrible and foreboding, a promise of pain and death and retribution, and Peter finds himself smiling, drawn to this broken boy with a connection to Peter that he never could've anticipated in a hundred years.
“I just-” Stiles looks up at his friend, expression softening to something a little more vulnerable. That other boy – Scott – must be someone special, a childhood friend perhaps. “Is it so wrong to want to get some justice for my family?”
Scott looks worried and just a little bit scared but all he does is run a hand through his hair and sigh. “If it was murder, then yeah, but- do you hear yourself? You- I really think you need a therapist or something. My mom knows some good ones-”
“No,” Stiles dismisses, lips thinning with aggravation. “Scott, I’m not- I’m not crazy-”
“You just said all that- all that stuff and you think you’re not crazy?” Scott retorts incredulously.
Stiles scrubs a hand over his face, fingers scraping over his scars. Peter watches Scott’s attention flicker to them, and he growls low under his breath on Stiles’ behalf when he spots the pity there.
“Okay,” Stiles grits out. “Okay, maybe I’m a little- But I’ve been in a coma for three years, and I listened to my entire family die. Give me a fucking break, man.”
Scott cringes at the scathing reminder but forges on doggedly, “And don’t you think that’s a good reason to see a therapist?”
Stiles hands form fists on top of the table. The vulnerability in his expression slides into something painfully close to desperation. He looks at Scott like the boy’s holding every last shard of hope and trust that Stiles has left in his hands. “Scott, please. Please believe me. I wouldn’t- I wouldn’t come to you with this if I wasn’t- if I wasn’t sure. Please.”
Scott hesitates, looking almost willing to indulge, if only for a little while longer, but then a muffled buzz breaks their standoff, and Peter bites his own tongue until he bleeds as he watches the boy fish out his phone, check his text, and promptly melt like ice-cream on a sunny day.
“It’s Kira,” Scott says dreamily, already texting something back. “I have to- Kira wants to meet up. Look, Stiles, I won’t tell my mom but you really should think about getting some help, okay?”
Betrayal flashes across Stiles’ face like a jagged piece of glass through the ribs. Scott doesn't see it, already turning away, but he’s stalled when Stiles staggers upright again, one hand on the table to support himself and the other catching Scott’s sleeve.
“If you leave,” Stiles bites out with dead eyes and a voice heavy with disappointment. “If you leave, don’t bother coming back.”
Scott’s face scrunches, and he has the gall to look hurt. He pulls out of Stiles’ grasp. “I can’t just spend all my time with you, Stiles. I have a date. Just- I’ll come back when you’ve calmed down, alright?”
That’s the last thing he says before he leaves, hurrying away without a backwards glance.
Stiles remains motionless for a long time, not moving until his legs force him to move, toppling him back into his chair. He slumps into it like his strings have been cut, and for a second, his expression crumples like he wants to cry. But Peter can’t smell any extra salt coming from his direction, and his eyes stay bone-dry like they've forgotten how to produce tears.
His hands – one scarred, one not, and both an unhealthy near-white – tremble even as long fingers curl around the worn-looking file in front of him.
“’s’okay,” Peter hears the boy mumble. “You don’t need him. He’s a fucking potato anyway; not like he could help. It’s okay.”
And that’s what he does for the next few minutes, talking to himself in a listless stream of on and off murmurs, some quiet enough that even Peter can’t pick up. It’s easy to see why people would think him crazy. Peter doesn't care; he gets the same way sometimes.
“Stiles?” A nurse approaches, professional concern written on her face. “Is everything alright?”
Stiles looks up with dazed eyes but doesn’t answer. Instead, he places the file into his lap before reaching for the push rims of his wheelchair and veering away, heading for the door that would take him back to the long-term care ward. Behind him, the nurse’s lips purse with annoyance but she only sighs and walks away.
Peter doesn't bother with her or his meal. Without delay, he pushes away from his table and chases after Stiles.
“I heard you talking in the cafeteria,” Peter starts without preamble from the doorway.
Stiles’ head snaps up from where he was pouring over the file in his lap. Every line of his body screams defensiveness, and his heartbeat gallops at double-time, but he meets and holds Peter’s gaze without faltering. He seems a little more stable than he was in the canteen. “I- What?”
Peter cants his head. “We’ve met before. I’m Peter. Peter Hale.”
Recognition and surprise flit across Stiles’ face, followed by a frown. “We’ve met before?”
Peter cocks an eyebrow. Is he that unmemorable? “You bumped into me two weeks ago.”
Stiles continues looking mystified. “Oh, I- That was you? I...” A fetching shade of pink-red rises in his cheeks. “I don’t really remember. I was focused on- something, and I tend to block out everything else when that happens.” He pauses. “Sorry.”
Peter shrugs. “No harm done.” He inches into the room, stopping only when Stiles stiffens again. “And that isn’t what I’m here for. As I said, I overheard your conversation with your friend.” He leans forward. “I don’t believe the Hale fire was an accident either.”
If anything, Stiles’ expression only gets warier. Peter approves.
The boy’s hands flutter over the pages on his lap. “You have proof?”
Peter smiles, barely concealing his fangs. “Nothing that will stand up in court.”
Stiles studies him for a long moment. Peter gets the feeling that – even paying attention now like he didn't the first time around – the boy isn’t really seeing the scars. Like he’s seeing all the rawest parts of Peter and nothing else. It’s a curious thing, and it’s as fascinating as it is unsettling.
“I don’t have anything that will stand up in court either,” Stiles says at last, and whatever he’s gleaned from Peter’s expression has his shoulders loosening ever so slightly. “And I’m not- My family-”
“I heard,” Peter nods. He doesn't say sorry because he knows that it’s a pointless sentiment that wouldn’t help either of them. “I didn't know about yours.”
“Happened three years after the Hale fire,” Stiles informs him briskly. His gaze is searching again. “You... believe me?”
“I believe my family died because somebody wanted them dead,” Peter clarifies plainly. “And the fact that your father was investigating it gives the same person motive, and it’s enough to convince me that your family went the same way. I want to offer my assistance, in any way possible. Both our families should receive that much.”
It isn’t quite hope, the look in Stiles’ damaged gaze, not after Scott shattered it. And it certainly isn’t trust; Peter gets the impression that this boy used to be the naturally inquisitive sort, and now, after life’s screwed him over, he’s the naturally cynical sort.
But still he looks at Peter like he’s the first ray of light at dawn after a very long night, and something in Peter settles in the face of that intense regard, captivating him in turn.
And beneath his skin, his wolf stirs, and for the first time in six nightmarish years, it turns its thoughts onto something other than a single-minded thirst for revenge.
“I’m Stiles,” Stiles introduces himself belatedly, eyes bright, and it’s as good as an agreement.
Peter smiles, dark and just as broken as the boy in front of him, yet it’s also the most genuine response he’s ever given anyone in this place. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Stiles.”
“The staff won’t allow electronics in this place,” Stiles tells Peter. “They say it might screw with their equipment, and it’s apparently bad for your health, so if you want internet access, you gotta go to the terminals downstairs, and you're only allowed on for an hour a day. I can’t work like that, plus everything’s monitored for safety reasons, so I gotta wait until I get outta here before I can do any real research.”
Peter hums as he flips through Stiles’ compiled theories. They’re... good. Detailed. Reports of both the Hale fire and the Stilinski fire are in here, along with conjectures and hypotheses and research on the procedure following any house fire. There’s also a phone bill included-
“What’s this?” Peter waves the phone bill. He isn’t certain why a list of the Stilinski household’s calls have been retrieved from the phone company.
“Proof I’m not crazy,” Stiles answers without needing more than a cursory glance at what Peter’s holding. “About four days before the fire, my dad got a call on the house phone. I was there when it happened, when he picked up, and he looked so- so pissed and grim after the first few seconds that I snuck into the next room and listened in on a different phone, and I heard the whole thing. He threatened my dad, threatened my whole family, told Dad he’d better drop the Hale fire case or he wouldn't like the consequences. My dad refused of course; he’s not- he’s not the type to back down because of some threats, but he did start making plans to get us to a safe house. But he wasn't fast enough. Four days later-”
He stops, chokes. When he looks away and says no more, Peter doesn't push, returning to his perusal of the file instead.
“It’s one of the last incoming calls, at the bottom,” Stiles continues eventually. His voice is hollow. “I tried calling it, but it went to some telemarketer’s number. So. Not exactly proof, I guess.”
Peter studies the digits. “Did whoever it was that threatened your father introduce himself?”
“Yeah,” Stiles says, and Peter glances up sharply. “I didn't want to write it down anywhere because-”
He motions abstractly at the walls around them. “Just in case. The guy was a cocky bastard though; introduced himself like some creepy gentleman-wannabe with serial killer tendencies. Called himself Gerard Argent.”
Peter freezes, heart hammering in his chest, blood thundering in his ears.
Stiles catches the change. “What? Do you know him? Do you know the name?”
“You’re certain?” Peter demands instead even as his wolf bays for blood, for vengeance, for the deaths of the entire Argent empire. “You're certain he said Gerard Argent?”
Stiles’ eyes go steely and hard. “Damn sure. No way would I forget. Now what’s the significance of that name?”
Peter stares at the boy and then stares down at the phone bill again. Today is actually three and a half weeks after Peter first made contact with Stiles. Stiles wouldn't let him rifle through his notes at first, understandably cautious, but Peter returned every day, and even without looking at the file, Stiles was at least willing to discuss the two fires and some speculations with him, along with easier, unrelated topics in-between that left Peter hungering for more as he swiftly came to realize the extent of just how brilliantly insightful Stiles’ diamond-edged mind could be. He’s fairly certain that average teenagers – especially ones who fell into a coma for three years – should not be able to debate Roman law, argue over Lincoln’s policies on civil liberties, and play chess without an actual chessboard.
Peter hasn't been this thrilled to meet someone in his entire life, and it certainly isn’t just because Stiles is the only ally he has.
He looks up again. Stiles’ expression has sharpened into something borderline dangerous, borderline feral, amber eyes gleaming with something that’s part warning, part threat, and part command.
Peter’s mouth curves into a smirk. God, this boy would be perfect as a wolf. In a way, he already is one, ruthless and untameable, with the scent of thunderstorms on his skin.
Peter’s wolf presses forward, weaving around the fledgling pack bond that Peter has made very little effort to prevent from forming. He can almost taste it, the potential in this boy, the loyalty when he mentions his family like they were Pack, and the pragmatic cunning when he strategizes.
And Peter wants.
“The Argents,” He begins, and it doesn't even feel like a risk. “Are an old hunter family.”
Stiles’ eyes narrow, mind already racing.
Peter grins, shark-like and savage. “They hunt werewolves.”
And then he shifts, fangs lengthening, eyes flashing golden yellow, and one clawed hand drumming against the arm of his wheelchair.
Stiles jolts backwards, eyes widening and mouth dropping open with shock. Peter waits, scenting the air and listening to that increasingly familiar heartbeat, and the shock soon turns into fascination, and then to a childish sort of excitement, and then finally to a laser-focused sort of calculation.
“Can werewolves be trapped by anything?” is Stiles’ first question, and he leans forward, fearless and curious with a hundred enquiries on his tongue. “Is that how they got your family?”
Peter can’t help it; he laughs, honest and exhilarated.
His boy is magnificent.
“It’s a valid question!” Stiles bristles, looking indignant, but there’s a similar half-smile on his face as he watches Peter, a quirk of his mouth that looks awfully fond.
Peter smiles back, fangs receding, claws retracting, eyes losing their supernatural glow.
Pack, his wolf whispers, stretching and preening. Pack. Finally.
“Sweet boy,” Peter purrs, and the flustered look on Stiles’ face is terribly endearing. “You are one of a kind.”
From that point on, there’s no stopping them. Stiles takes to the supernatural world like a fish to water, endlessly curious about so many things, and even Peter occasionally finds himself stumped for an answer, having to promise to let the boy look through the Hale library as soon as possible instead.
The word ‘library’ makes Stiles look like Christmas has come early.
It stabilizes him, Peter thinks, both the pack bond – which is something even humans can feel over time, especially Stiles who shows all the signs of being something a little more – and their regular interactions. It gives Stiles something real to tether himself to, and slowly but surely, some of the madness fades away.
Peter is the same, his wolf less feral and more anchored, though there are still days when one or both of them aren’t really up for conversation, choosing instead to sit next to each other and bask in their shared company.
Even better, after Peter explains it, Stiles lets him close, lets him scent him, and they touch more, a hand at the back of Stiles’ neck, or Stiles’ head resting on Peter’s shoulder when they read or doze off. Admittedly, Stiles seemed to find it a little awkward at first, though not unreceptive, only as if he’s unused to touch, which makes part of Peter want to claw someone’s eyes out.
On the other hand, once Stiles adjusts to it and allows Peter past his emotional walls, the boy can apparently be very tactile – to the point of appearing touch-starved – and Peter takes shameless advantage of this. Stiles isn’t the only one starved for touch from a trusted source.
Another month passes. Peter heals much faster now, and the astounded hospital staff end up releasing him first. Peter doesn't waste any time signing Stiles out as well and into his care, and then they’re free.
They stop by Stiles’ burnt-out husk of a house, and again, the boy doesn't cry, as if the fire burned that ability out of him. But he stares at the blackened wood for a long, long time, and he doesn't move until the sun begins to set. Peter doesn't rush him because he knows he’ll do the same at his own family home, and Stiles will be there for every minute too.
After, they buy an apartment together. It feels natural. They don’t even bat an eye when they eventually migrate into the same bed more times than not at night.
“I’m a rich man,” Stiles announces one day with gallows humour when his bank gets a hold of him. Apparently, he’s already been emancipated, an arrangement that the former Sheriff made for his son even before the threats became real. His insurance from the so-called accident has also hit the roof.
“I had my own bank account before the fire,” Peter offers his two cents. “And being a lawyer pays a lot.”
Stiles considers him with a critical eye. “What about your insurance?”
Peter smirks, thin and mirthless. “My darling niece would have that. She’s head of the family now.”
Stiles’ expression tightens, and with an instinct that eases the sting of Peter’s remaining blood kin’s abandonment, the boy leans over to press their shoulders together in silent comfort.
“Alpha, huh?” Stiles scowls faithfully. “Not much of one.”
Peter pulls his packmate close and hides a pathetically grateful smile in Stiles’ hair.
Once, Peter catches Stiles looking at the fast-disappearing scars on Peter’s body, his healing factor working steadfastly now that he has Pack to call his own again. The boy doesn't even really seem aware of it, but he fingers his own scars, and for the first time since they met, Stiles turns away when he sees Peter watching him.
Peter puts a stop to it before any despicable thoughts can truly take root.
“You know it doesn't matter to me,” He tells Stiles forcefully, catching the boy by the chin and tracing the scars with gentle fingers before snagging Stiles’ hand and pressing it to his own chest. “I don’t care about them. I never have.”
His heart remains steady, and when he goes on to tell Stiles about the impression that the boy left on Peter before they ever even knew each other’s names, that he was the reason Peter got over his own scars at all, Stiles’ scent brightens again, like fresh grass after a spring shower, and Peter walks around smug for the rest of the day.
Even if it gets a cushion chucked at his face.
Stiles is a genius when it comes to research. He hacks anything that can be hacked, bribes, blackmails, and impersonates law enforcement to get what he wants, and anything he doesn't know how to do, he learns. Within months out of the hospital, Stiles has police reports and witness accounts piled to the ceiling, all pertaining to the deaths of families around the world, and all with hints of an Argent’s psychopathic touch.
Meanwhile, Peter has his own favours to call in, most of them decidedly not human, and all of them more than happy to hand over any dirt they have on the Argents after Peter assured them that he would leave their names out of it. Separately, they’re not of much use, either too speculative or too petty a crime to amount to anything more than a fine at most, but pieced together, and combined with Stiles’ mounting evidence, the two of them slowly but steadily build a solid case.
The anniversaries of their respective family’s deaths come and go. They don’t deliberately go out of their way to do anything special.
Peter spends his entire day submerged in the Argent case, eating only when Stiles puts food in his hands. Half an hour before midnight, he leaves the apartment and runs all the way to the Preserve, and then he shifts and runs straight on into the forest, howling at the moon and getting lost in the feel of the wind in his fur and the dirt underneath his paws, and he doesn't stop running until sunrise.
When he finally stumbles home at six in the morning, Stiles is waiting for him, and the boy ends up bundling him into the shower before feeding him and then tucking both of them into bed. They don’t do much else for the rest of that day.
And when Stiles’ anniversary date swings around, Peter wakes up and finds Stiles completely checked out from reality. He’s only seen this once, back in their early days at the hospital, when Stiles sat next to his window and talked to people who weren’t really there for four hours straight. He does that now, curled up on the window bay and muttering to himself from time to time. Peter lets him at it, keeps him company but lets him have his mental space if not physical. Sometimes, he catches names – Áine, who was three and Stiles’ favourite cousin; Gabryjel, who was twenty-two and Stiles’ architect brother; Uncle Rowan, who was manipulative on the best of days and taught Stiles all his tricks because Stiles was his favourite nephew.
Stiles only comes out of his fugue state around dinner time. Peter has a meal waiting for him when he does, and he puts on some jazz because it was Stiles’ mother’s favourite, and then they go to bed early that night.
They manage. They have each other, orbiting and meshing and fitting together like neither of them ever expected to. It shouldn't work. Stiles is on the brink of eighteen with enough jaded sarcasm to get himself killed and a mind that will probably never heal entirely, and Peter is thirty-six with a sociopathic streak a mile wide and an interest in Stiles that any morally righteous adult would disapprove of even if he hasn't acted on it yet.
But they’re also equally broken and equally lonely, and when they’re together, they’re less and less of both every day.
They aren’t conventional by any stretch of the imagination, but then again, they've never been the sort of people who wants conventional anyway.
Life continues, as it’s wont to do, through triumphs and tragedies and everything in-between.
Stiles takes online courses instead of going back to school, and then he takes his GED about fifteen months after his former year mates have all graduated from BHHS and moved on to greener pastures. It would've been sooner but he has to split his time between physio, the Argent case, and catching up on the three years of government-issued education that he missed.
On his part, Peter retakes the bar exam and passes with flying colours. They continue working on the Argent case, though they keep it quiet and under wraps as much as possible. When they drop all the evidence into FBI hands, they don’t want Kate or Gerard Argent escaping arrest because they were forewarned.
Scott McCall stops by one time. Peter almost – literally – rips him a new one. Only the fact that Stiles sees the boy as a brother, no matter what he’s done (or, more accurately, not done), stays his hand.
“I’m a legal adult,” Stiles says flatly when Scott complains in hushed tones while Peter eavesdrops from the bedroom about Stiles living with ‘a man twice your age who’s probably taking advantage of you’. “And even if I wasn’t, you’re not my guardian. You have absolutely zero say about how I live my life.”
“He’s Peter Hale, right?” Scott asks with sudden suspicion. “You haven’t dragged him into your conspiracy theory, have you? Stiles! He lost most of his family! I don’t think you should dredge up-”
Stiles slams the door in his face and ignores any further knocking until Scott goes away. Then he lets Peter cuddle him on the couch, occasionally massaging the muscles in his legs, and they marathon Disney movies for the next five hours.
Distantly, Peter wonders what it would take to make Stiles cry.
He promises himself that if that day ever comes, Peter will make whoever caused it suffer for a very long time.
It is stressfully nerve-wracking from the moment Stiles contacts Rafael McCall with all the evidence.
From what Peter can see, neither of them likes the other, and there’s some history there, but there’s also an antagonistic sort of tolerance between them, if only because they’re both assholes who can be utterly merciless when they go after what they want, not to mention Rafael is more than happy to help them when Stiles pretty much hands him his next promotion on a silver platter, pun fully intended.
The country-wide manhunt has Gerard and Kate’s faces plastered on every news station in the US, along with photos of Gerard’s fanatical hunter followers to a lesser degree, with daily updates on the main pair wanted for a series of murders that were either labelled as accidents or never solved, and every police officer and government official wants them caught.
It takes five weeks. Stiles and Peter barely leave their apartment, staying glued to the TV or a laptop or a phone. The first time the two Argents slip away from a raid on their home, Peter smashes the coffee table, and Stiles yells at Rafael over the phone for a good half hour. To his credit, Rafael lets him yell without complaint.
The second time they escape again, the police almost loses them to a flight heading to Dubai, but the airport’s shut down, and the chase is on.
And then, five strenuous weeks in, the FBI proves that they aren’t completely useless. They run Gerard and Kate to ground in Montana, near the Canadian border, and that’s that. They’re cuffed, imprisoned, and shipped straight to Sacramento for trial.
Peter’s already packed and ready to go not three hours later. He’s the prosecuting attorney in the Argent case, and he doesn't care where the trials take place as long as they do, though it is a bit of a coincidence that his first case after the fire will be taking place in the same city that he won his last case before the fire in.
And of course, he’s taking Stiles with him. One, he isn’t about to leave his only packmate behind, and two, it may be a slam-dunk case but a solid witness or two won’t hurt.
“Do you think they’ll be there?” Stiles asks on the flight over.
Peter smiles coldly. “I’m sure of it. They won’t be able to stay away.”
Peter’s right, as usual.
Peter scrutinizes his dead sister’s daughter long enough that the Alpha in Laura bristles beneath her skin even as the scent of her nervousness heightens.
She looks good. Matured. Grown up in a way she wasn't back before the fire. He wonders if she’s married.
Behind her, his dear nephew is scowling. Nothing new there. Even before Kate burned their family to death, the boy was already increasingly moody around his family every time he was in the house for longer than half an hour, no more time for his younger relatives, no more patience for his older ones, always wanting to be out of the house and independent.
Rebellious fool. And Peter was a stupid fool for not keeping an even closer eye on Derek when the boy started pulling away. God knew Talia never did. She loved her children, sometimes a bit too much. They never could do much wrong in her eyes. No, that was always Peter.
“Laura,” Peter acknowledges at last. He looks past her. “Derek. How nice to see you again.”
Laura has the decency to wince. Derek’s scowl deepens, his eyebrows drawing together. There’s an air of guilt hanging around him, stale and sour in a way that suggests he’s been wearing it for years.
“We heard about Kate, and Gerard,” Laura jumps in, like she’s protecting her brother from Peter. “We had to come.”
You had to come for a couple of murderers, Peter thinks bitterly. But you couldn't even bother to come for your own uncle. Not even a visit, Niece. Not even a phone call. And you left me to rot for six years in a hospital under my own name where any half-assed hunter could've strolled in and killed me just by pulling a plug. So much for family.
If Peter never met Stiles, if he couldn't feel the golden glow of their bond between them right now, strong and constant and grounding, he doesn't know what he’d do. Well, that’s not quite true; he does have a vague idea, but it would most likely end in blood and corpses all around, and he wouldn't even have the self-control to stop, much less the desire.
“Well,” Peter continues lightly. “It’s good you're here early. I can brief you before Kate’s trial begins tomorrow.”
Laura blinks. “‘Brief us’?”
Peter smiles, bland and thoroughly fake. “Not you.” His sets his sights on Derek, whose shoulders go rigid. “You, Nephew. You are here to testify, are you not?”
Derek recoils as if Peter’s stabbed him. Peter grins, enjoying himself immensely.
“So tomorrow,” Peter presses on with silky relentlessness. “You’ll get up on the stand when I call on you, and you’re going to tell the world exactly how Kate coaxed you into bed-” Derek makes a choked noise. “-and fucked the day of our family reunion out of you, down to the exact time of when the majority of us would've been sitting down for lunch.
“Don’t worry,” Peter adds gently. “I’m sure I can spin it so that everyone will sympathize. You're certainly not the first sucker who let his dick do all the thinking when confronted with a pretty face.”
He waits three seconds before delivering the coup de grâce. “Considering Kate Argent’s kill count, you aren’t even the first one who got most of his family murdered in exchange for a good fuck. Isn’t that a relief?”
Derek is nearly white in the face, making his eyes and facial hair stand out like charcoal on a blank canvas, and he staggers back a step, looking torn between bolting and throwing up right then and there.
“That’s enough,” Laura snarls, eyes flashing red as she steps directly in front of her brother with challenge and command written in every line of her body. “Derek made a mistake but it wasn’t his fault. Back off, Peter. You don’t need him for a witness anyway. This is going to be an open-and-shut case.”
Peter meets her eyes evenly. He doesn't bare his throat. He doesn't submit.
“‘He made a mistake.’ ‘He didn't mean to.’ ‘He regrets it.’” He lets a slow, unamused smile spread across his face this time. “I have news for you, Laura: he still did it. It still happened.” He sneers. “How infatuated do you have to be to tell an outsider about being a werewolf, and then tell her about the only escape route in the entire goddamn house on top of that? In what universe does being asked a question like that not set off alarm bells? Unintentionally and indirectly murdering your family still counts as murdering your family. Betraying your Pack is still betraying your Pack. No matter how you choose to go about it.”
He catches Derek’s devastated gaze. “You’ll testify, Derek. I’m going to be pinning everything I possibly can on her. On both of them. And if we’re lucky, the judge will give them both the death penalty.”
Laura practically vibrates on the spot with the urge to leap at Peter. Peter would like to see her try.
“Derek!” Laura barks out tersely, eyes never wavering from Peter. “You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do. What happened to our family was on Kate, not you, so don’t-”
“Peter?” Frail and uncertain, Peter would still recognize Stiles’ voice anywhere. The tone surprises him though, especially since their pack bond doesn't match it.
Stiles moves to stand beside him, steps unsure, chin tucked down like a spooked bird.
Laura’s voice withers away in her throat, and Derek physically takes another step back, horror bleaching his face of the rest of its colour as they both catch sight of the burn scars on Stiles’ face.
Stiles looks back at them with nervous inquisitiveness before glancing up at Peter. “Are these your relatives?”
Peter nods silently, placing a hand on Stiles’ shoulder while smothering the amusement welling up inside him.
Stiles turns back to Laura and Derek, head canted in a way that subtly tilts his scars away from the two and has his hair – long since grown out from that buzz cut – flopping down just far enough to hide one of the worst scars at his temple.
“Are you going to testify too?” Stiles breathes out, hands wringing together as his gaze darts between Laura and Derek before settling on the latter. “Peter says it would help, if more people do. He said- He said it might be dangerous because Gerard’s crazies are still out there, but, um, I think it’s worth it. I’ll be testifying tomorrow; I really- I really want them gone.”
Peter’s insides cramp with the effort of holding back gales of laughter. Oh, his boy is truly spectacular.
Laura looks stunned, and her previous confrontational anger has completely fizzled out. Derek looks three seconds away from losing his breakfast.
“You-” Laura swallows. “Kate got you too?”
“Gerard, and it was my family,” Stiles explains, and this time, he doesn't need to fake the tidal wave of grief that surges up like the maw of a ravenous beast. “My dad, he was the Sheriff, and he suspected something wasn't right about the Hale fire. He was threatened but he wouldn’t- Anyway, Gerard set our house on fire in- in the middle of the night. Filled the place with sleeping gas first but everybody woke up anyway when the fire got really bad. My dad died. And my cousins, and my uncles, and my aunt. My brother too.”
Stiles’ chin lifts, momentarily defiant. “I got lucky.” And then he shrinks in on himself again, only glancing over at Peter with a shaky smile. “How- How was that? I’m going to say that tomorrow on- on the stand. You said I’d have to go into detail so I’ve been- I’ve been practicing.”
If Peter doesn’t know better, he’d fall for Stiles’ little act hook, line, and sinker. Oh, the emotions are definitely real, but the stutters, the timidity, the vulnerability – every last shred of that is calculated for maximum effect to win a crowd and damn two serial killers.
Not to mention reel in an extra witness.
And now it’s Peter’s turn to sell it.
He squeezes Stiles’ shoulder reassuringly. “It sounds perfect,” He tells the boy softly. “Just tell it like it happened, and I’ll do the rest. Even with just your testimony, the Argents’ lawyers will have a very difficult time winning this case.”
Stiles chews on his lip. “But... it’s not an absolutely sure thing, is it?”
Peter hesitates for exactly three-quarters of a second. “I’m sure-”
“It’s going to be a sure thing,” Derek interjects, speaking up for the first time in a voice gruff with adulthood and nerves. He clears his throat, eyes on Stiles, averting them when Stiles looks up at him, wide-eyed. He meets Peter’s gaze instead. “I’ll- I’ll testify. Tomorrow. Two testimonies will be better than one, right?”
Peter smiles, carefully restrained even as triumph races along his and Stiles’ pack bond. “Yes, Derek, it will be.”
Laura looks accusatory and defeated at the same time. Like she recognizes the con but she doesn’t see how she can avoid it.
Mostly because she doesn’t see Stiles.
“I’ll contact you tonight then, Nephew,” Peter offers, hand sliding down to rest between Stiles’ shoulder blades. “For now, I should accompany Stiles here back to his hotel room.”
Derek nods jerkily, and they walk away, Peter automatically shortening his gait to accommodate Stiles’ limping strides, which – while also real enough – are more pronounced today since Peter knows that Stiles usually tries to cover up the limp.
They break character once they’re on the elevator, snorting with laughter even as Peter tugs Stiles close and tries to erase the heartache with proximity.
“I think we’re awful people, in a way,” Stiles remarks with an almost apologetic sigh. He leans into Peter’s chest like it’s the easiest thing in the world.
“Well, at least we can be awful together,” Peter smoothes a hand over the boy’s hair. “You didn’t have to say all that. I would've convinced him sooner or later.”
Stiles rolls his eyes. “And you don't actually need Derek’s testimony.”
Peter’s lip curls. “Laura coddles him. It’s disgusting. Now he’ll have to face up to what he did. And I want to make him hurt.”
Stiles hums and says nothing. Neither of them mentions the fact that Derek may hurt now, but in the long run, helping Peter put Kate and Gerard away, and accepting his role in the entire matter, can only be a good thing if Derek ever wants to move on with his life.
The trials are over within days. Peter reduces first Kate’s then Gerard’s lawyers to tears. Both Argents glare pure hatred at him. Kate gets multiple life sentences. Gerard gets the death penalty.
Peter watches both of them get hauled away. The Argent case is by far one of the easiest he’s ever taken on.
Yet at the same, it is also the hardest.
One look at Stiles – pale-faced and wild-eyed, his attention glued on the door that Gerard Argent was dragged through – tells Peter that he isn’t the only one who wants to give the reporters a miss and hide away from the world for the next seven days.
“Come on,” Peter murmurs, suitcase in one hand as he ushers Stiles towards the doors. “We can spend the rest of the week in our hotel room. We don’t even need to leave until our flight. We can order room service.”
Stiles remains mute. The only sign that he even knows that Peter’s beside him is the death grip he has on Peter’s hand.
They slip out of the courtroom. Peter doesn't bother searching for Laura or Derek. As far as he’s concerned, there is nothing left to discuss between them. There’s nothing left between them, period. Now he just wants to go home with Stiles and get on with his life.
Peter turns, and his patented civilized smile abruptly drops off his face. “Argent.”
Stiles stiffens beside him.
He saw the Argent family sitting in the back row during the trials, watching the proceedings but giving no support. Christopher and Victoria, and their daughter Allison who’s standing off to the side by the wall with bags under her eyes and a lost look on her face, huddled in a baggy coat.
Peter suspects that she didn't even know about the supernatural until a SWAT team burst into their house the first time the FBI attempted an arrest, and her parents had to explain why her aunt and grandfather were being hunted down like rabid dogs.
“Our condolences,” Victoria forces out like every word pains her. Peter hopes it does. “We had no idea what Gerard and Kate had done.”
“It would hardly have made a difference,” Peter scoffs derisively. “I’m sure you would've approved.”
Anger flares in Victoria’s scent. Her features grow even colder. Beside her, her husband shifts his weight, jaw tightening.
“We follow the Code,” Victoria snaps icily.
Peter inclines his head mockingly. “I have no doubt. When it’s convenient for you.”
Victoria’s eyes narrow, and it looks almost as if they're about to dissolve into a full-blown argument right then and there, but then Chris shuffles forward a step, and even though his wife shoots him a poisonous look of I’m handling it, the man meets Peter’s eyes and nods once.
“You're entitled to your own opinion, of course,” Chris says, curt and stiff, but there’s a note of something more genuine in his tone than Victoria’s had. “But we only came to apologize on behalf of the Argent family. We won’t keep you any longer than any of us wants to.”
Peter sneers. “Your apologies can’t bring back my family, or Stiles’.”
He turns to leave, part of him seething, his wolf’s hackles rising with hostility, but then Stiles lets go of his hand, and it’s enough to distract Peter and have him stop short. “Stiles-?”
Stiles slips through the bustling crowd around them, not stopping until he’s standing in front of the Argent girl, Allison. Beside Peter, both Chris and Victoria go still with suspicious alarm.
There’s something of Kate in Allison’s face. That, and she’s looking at Stiles. What if she tries something? It makes Peter want to tear her delicate white throat out.
But then Stiles is swaying close, saying something to Allison, who looks miserable and small, but she listens before blinking with surprise, and then she mumbles something back, something that makes Stiles lose a little of that crazed air he’s had since the end of Gerard’s trial, replacing it with something calmer.
Then he reaches out and pats one of Allison’s hands, both of which are – probably unconsciously – clutching at the front of her coat, a self-comforting gesture more than anything else. The touch is brief and harmless, and it’s accompanied by a solemn string of words, but for some reason, that’s what makes Allison blink, look down, and then release her coat, shoulders slumping even while one arm comes up to scrub over her eyes.
When she looks up again, there’s a tiny, tremulous smile on her face, faint and weak but like a shaft of sunlight peeking out from behind a storm cloud on her wan features.
Peter hears Victoria stifle a noise of something between displeasure and gratitude while Chris releases a quiet sound of relief.
The three of them watch the two barely adults talk some more, tentative in a way that Peter has never seen Stiles with anyone else, and then they’re both taking out their cell phones and undoubtedly exchanging contact information before finally making their way back over together.
“Finished?” Peter asks tightly, arching an eyebrow, and he doesn't mean to sound like an asshole but-
Stiles doesn't miss a beat. He’s already pressing into Peter’s side, an absentminded, familiar motion they they’ve done a thousand times. He nods politely at Chris and Victoria before turning back to Allison.
“I’ll text you,” He promises.
Allison manages another smile, already nodding. “Yeah, and we can set up something for Skype?”
Peter nods his own short, borderline cordial goodbye, and then they part ways. Seconds later, he hears Victoria ask, “What were you two talking about, dear?”
There’s a pause, as if Allison has been giving her parents the silent treatment and is contemplating continuing the strike.
And then, “He said he wasn't sorry that Aunt- that Kate and Gerard are getting what they deserve. But he’s sorry that I have to lose family.”
Another pause. “I told him it was okay. Because I didn’t even really know Grandpa, and Aunt- and Kate wasn't the person I thought she was.”
“...And what did he say?” Chris this time.
“He said he wouldn't know because they’ll always be murdering psychos to him. But he also said people always have more than one side. And he said that the only one who can decide who Aunt Kate was or wasn’t to me is me.”
And then they’re turning a corner, and Peter loses the conversation. He wraps an arm around Stiles’ shoulders instead.
“Sometimes,” He murmurs. “You amaze me.”
“And sometimes I make you jealous?” Stiles teases in return, grinning when Peter flashes his fangs at him.
“She looked lonely, that’s all,” Stiles tells him more somberly. “She looked a little bit like I did when I saw myself in the mirror after I woke up and Melissa told me I was the only one left.”
Peter’s arm tightens around him. He knows that look all too well.
“You’re not the only one left,” Peter reminds him after a moment of melancholic silence.
Stiles smiles at him, soft and sweet and so very fond in a way that takes Peter’s breath away.
“I know, Peter. Same goes for you.”
They go home.
They flounder a bit now that they've reached their goal and don’t really have another one.
Scott comes by to say he’s sorry, looking very contrite. Stiles accepts it, but there’s a divide between them now that can’t be bridged. They mostly text, what with Scott away at college with Kira, and even those don’t come very often.
Laura comes back with Derek and plans to move back onto Hale land now that the danger has passed. She stays briefly. Very briefly.
Peter bans her from Beacon Hills. Laura is outraged. Derek says nothing.
Laura declares that she’s the Alpha. Peter tells her in no uncertain terms that she isn’t his Alpha, and that she gave up all rights to the Hale territory when she abandoned it.
It almost comes down to a fight. Both of them are already wolfed out, yellow glaring into red while Derek hangs back, claws out as well but looking reluctant.
And then Stiles is there, bringing with him the scent of ozone and lightning and thunderstorms. Peter gave the boy free rein of what remains of the Hale library, as well as introduced him to Alan Deaton, and both sources have encouraged Stiles’ magic to grow in leaps and bounds.
Peter is pack-bonded with a motherfucking Spark. He may not officially be an Alpha but he can certainly match his strength with one.
And with Stiles there, no longer acting the scared little boy, Laura and Derek don’t stand a chance. In the end, they have no choice but to leave.
“Do you want a bigger pack though?” Stiles asks in the aftermath. “Or, you know, Alpha-ship? Should we catch you an Alpha?”
“I just want you,” Peter replies, and the frightening honesty in those words startles even himself.
It’s worth it to see Stiles blush like he so rarely ever does.
They learn to live all over again.
Stiles applies to Stanford and takes online courses for History and English and Mythology, and in his spare time, he starts randomly scribbling down short stories and then longer stories, all with historical settings tied into them, and meticulously researched to boot.
Peter continues prosecuting people to death, though mostly only figuratively these days. And in his spare time, he goes about buying/trading/blackmailing ancient texts and grimoires from his contacts to rebuild the Hale library.
More often than not though, they mostly just enjoy each other’s company. It’s a rather slow courtship, but it suits them. Sometimes, Peter ambushes Stiles with flowers and dinner from an old family recipe and a couple vinyl records for Stiles’ growing jazz collection. Other times, Stiles greets Peter after a long day with a massage and takeout from Peter’s favourite Italian place, along with a good vintage wine and a few possibly illegally acquired books that even Peter’s never seen before.
When they kiss for the first time, it’s in the supermarket after Stiles retrieves several packets of Reese’s. Peter presses a chaste thank-you kiss to the boy’s lips, Stiles returns it for a second or two, and then they move on to grab the toilet paper before heading to the checkout counter. It isn’t until later that night when they’re in bed that they realize that it’s a first for them.
After that, Peter gets greedy about the kisses. That’s okay. Stiles does too.
“I’m glad I met you,” Stiles comments one day when they’re enjoying a picnic in the forest by a lake on a summer day. He’s lying on his back with one arm tucked behind his head.
“Of course you are,” Peter agrees lazily from where his head is resting on Stiles’ stomach as he reads a book. “Who wouldn't be glad to meet me?”
Stiles tugs reproachfully at his hair in retaliation. “You're such a dick. I take it back.”
“Mm, no take-backs, I’m afraid,” Peter claps his book shut, places it aside, and rolls onto his side to look at Stiles.
“If it helps,” He tacks on graciously. “I’m glad I met you too.”
Stiles rolls his eyes but his fingers comb through Peter’s hair this time, affectionate and soothing all at once.
“What brought this on?” Peter enquires, eyes going half-lidded with feline contentment when Stiles doesn't stop.
Stiles shrugs, staring up at the endlessly blue sky. A gentle breeze sweeps over them. Birds chirp in the distance. “No reason really. I just felt like saying it. It’s that kinda day. You're the best thing to ever happen to me, and I just wanted you to know.”
Peter has to work to breathe through the sudden, ridiculous swell of happiness in his chest. Honestly, he loves this about Stiles, the way he’s so very unashamed and straightforward about his feelings for Peter, the way he never hides it.
He loves Peter, plain and simple.
Peter flips over and settles himself above Stiles, drinking in the pleased curve of his mate’s smile and the gleam of mischief in his amber eyes. The scars don’t detract from either at all. They never have.
“Of course I know,” Peter says, lifting Stiles’ wrist to his mouth and planting a kiss over the mating Bite there, the scar that matches the one on Peter’s own wrist. “How could I not?”
Because you're the best thing to ever happen to me too, he doesn't say. And I never want to live another day without you.
Instead, he curls around Stiles’ frame and buries his face in his neck, breathing in the scent of mate and home and Stiles.
Stiles’ free hand comes around to cup the back of Peter’s neck.
“You're such a sap,” Stiles announces because he’s always been able to hear what Peter doesn't say.
“You started it,” Peter grumbles back, but his smile is helpless and wide, pressed against the vibrations in his mate’s throat as he listens to Stiles’ laughter.
They’re not perfect. They still have their bad days, when Stiles retreats into his own head, or Peter runs and runs until he collapses.
But those occasions get fewer and farther in-between, and they have so many more good days now to enjoy.
They're not perfect.
They're so much more than that.