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Man's Best Friend (is Not Always a Dog)

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[Seven Years Ago]

 

Stiles doesn't like waiting. He doesn't like it when his human-wolf has to go away and Stiles can’t follow. But Peter promised he would come back, like he promised every other time, and he always kept his word, so Stiles would wait even if he doesn't like it.

He waits and waits, he goes out to hunt for food, he patrols their territory, he growls at the occasional passing car speeding along the road at the eastern edge of their land, then he returns to their den and settles down to wait some more, but eventually, even the ticking thing on the wall that Peter once told him was called a ‘clock’ stops eating time, and Stiles knows – instinctively – that his human-wolf isn’t coming back.

The first night after he understands this, Stiles abandons their den in favour of runningrunningrunning without a destination, howling his rage at the moon nonstop. He runs until his muscles ache, and even then, he presses on, if only to use the physical pain to repress the betrayal sitting like a rock in his gut.

By the time exhaustion trips him up and sends him tumbling nose-first into the dirt, Stiles is no longer angry, only tired and hurt and confused by his only packmate’s abandonment.

But-

That’s not right. They’re Pack, and Peter has always come back without fail. Stiles thinks back to the last time that members of his Pack never returned – his mother and father and siblings, all killed by humans that smelled like too-many-plants, their blood used in some stupid ritual that left Stiles alone and grieving after Mother managed to chew through the ropes binding Stiles and told him to run away.

Stiles shouldn't have run away.

But he did, and then he was alone and hurt and hunted, and then he wasn’t because Peter found him and killed the humans who killed his Pack and nursed him back to health, so this time, he isn’t going to run away again. Peter told him about hunters who like hunting human-wolves; what if one of them got Peter?

But surely, surely Stiles would've felt it if his packmate died? So maybe Peter was only injured, like Stiles was after he escaped the humans-that-smelled-like-too-many-plants? Too injured to come back, but still alive?

Which means Stiles has to go to Peter this time instead of just waiting around. Waiting isn’t doing any good, and what if his packmate needs him?

It’s an easy enough decision to leave their territory. Peter isn’t there anymore, and their den smells less like Stiles-and-Peter and more like just-Stiles with each passing day, so it’s no longer really home.

Much harder is finding Peter. It’s impossible to track Stiles’ human-wolf with just his nose. There are cars and people and big ugly dens – buildings, he’s heard Peter say – that spew out black stuff all the time these days, and not a single one takes kindly to animals. Well, some people might, but in Stiles’ experience, they’re more likely to run away screaming or shout or bring out their weapons, even when Stiles tries to be friendly.

Peter was special. Is special.

The thing is, Stiles doesn't really need his nose. He doesn't understand it entirely, and he thinks Peter sometimes called it a ‘bond’ of some sort. Stiles puts it down to Instinct and leaves it at that. Either way, it helps. He knows – vaguely – where to go, knows which direction will take him to Peter, and that’s all that matters. He has to sprint across roads to avoid getting hit (he gets clipped a few times at the beginning before he gets better at judging speed and distance, especially when some cars go faster when the human inside spots Stiles, which means Stiles has to put on an extra burst of speed), and he absolutely hates cities where there’s never anything to hunt except garbage, and the air itself tickles his nose and makes him want to sneeze, and there’s never anywhere to rest aside from dark, dank corners that smell like dead rodents, and even those places aren’t really safe.

But he forges on doggedly because he needs to find Peter. He doesn't know where he’s going, only that his human-wolf will be at the end of the trail, and that’s good enough for him. Of course, Peter’s told him about places like ‘California’ and ‘Beacon Hills’ where most of Peter’s blood Pack live – it’s one of the things Stiles likes best about his human-wolf, the way he always talks to Stiles like he knows that Stiles is smart enough to understand both human- and wolf-speak – but what do any of those names really mean to Stiles? Land is land, even if more and more of it is being taken over by humans every day, and Stiles can’t be certain that he’s heading to ‘Beacon Hills’ anyway, so it hardly concerns him in the long run.

Stiles loses track of time. He always thought Peter’s inclination towards checking his clocks all the time was rather ridiculous, but now, even the number of sunrises and sunsets that Stiles used to keep an eye on blur together into a never-ending cycle. He barely even notices the passing of each season anymore, only that whenever the weather gets cold, food and shelter become even more of a problem than usual. More than once, he gets turned around, bewildered by scents that make his head spin, or forced to take a longer path when something or someone gets in his way.

And he’s hungry almost all the time now, tired too, and he knows he’s getting weaker because of both, but he can’t stop, can’t quit, can’t give up on that distant tug in his heart and his mind that pulls him ever-closer to his only packmate in the world.

Stiles is nothing if not tenacious when he wants something, and he’s set his mind on finding Peter, so no matter how long it takes or how difficult the journey, he isn’t going to stop until he’s reunited with his human-wolf.

 


 

[Present Day]

 

The wolf appears out of absolutely nowhere.

One minute, the Beacon Hills Pack is elbows-deep in a life-or-death battle with a nest of vampires. Peter is mentally cursing any and all gods he’s ever even heard of for putting him in the same state as a bunch of moronic teenagers who can never seem to stay out of trouble and – even worse – have the gall to drag him into their senseless stunts.

He dodges another vampire and twists around to take off its head with a swipe of his claws before focusing on the next one. The rest of the Pack is scattered on the other side of the clearing, fending off six vampires together. Peter is alone with these three.

Why he even bothers is beyond him. Maybe he should move after this. Just leave. It isn’t as if anybody actually wants him here. He doesn't quite know where he would go – he’s a dead man after all – but surely anywhere would be better than here where he’s surrounded by people who hate him and are barely allies on a good day?

He could always go back to Florida. That was his home more than Beacon Hills ever was even before the fire, if only because Talia never seemed to want him around her children anyway and was more than happy to only see him during holidays. That little cabin of his in the middle of nowhere a good several hours outside of Tampa would be a perfect retreat from having to deal with all this crap, even if the company would be... lacking.

Another vampire lunges at him with a wordless screech, hunger in every line of its face. Peter ducks again, decapitates it, and then rounds on the last two with fangs and glowing eyes. Undead and fast – not a good combination for him when it’s being used against him.

The two vampires leap at him at the same time, obviously having cottoned on that attacking one by one isn’t going to give them their meal ticket. Peter evades one and meets the other head-on, ripping into its abdomen and cracking open its chest. The thing is still trying to bite him even with Peter tearing it apart. He has to go for the hea-

A shriek alerts him to the other threat bearing down on him from just inside his blindspot. He shifts his weight to defend himself, only for the partially split open vampire to latch onto his arms.

Peter snarls, wrenches the vampire’s head off, and then bodily hurls the remains at its friend, only for said friend to spring past it, fangs gleaming and aimed for Peter’s throat, and fuck-

That’s when the wolf appears.

Out of nowhere, a brown blur races out from the tree line and slams into the vampire with all the focused momentum of an oncoming bullet train, sending both bodies crashing to the ground in a whirl of teeth and claws. There’s blood and gore, and then the vampire’s head goes flying, torn messily from the rest of its body like some grotesque ragdoll straight out of a horror movie.

On his part, Peter just... stares. He’s frozen to the ground, claws still unsheathed and dripping dark crimson. The noisy cacophony of shouts and combat is dying down from where Derek and the others are stationed but he barely hears it. Instead, all his attention is on the russet-coloured wolf hunkered over the carcass of its kill, splattered in blood and mud and who knows what else.

Large ambers eyes turn to look up at him. There’s a scar along its muzzle, and an ugly gash that’s still oozing blood but looks old adorns one of its ears.

“Peter?” Scott calls from somewhere behind him, clearly confused. “What- Is that a- Is... that a werewolf too?”

Peter doesn't answer. He can’t take his eyes off the creature in front of him. His lungs feel tight, and a distant part of him is pretty sure he’s forgotten to breathe.

“Peter,” Derek this time, demanding as always, like the man-child he is. “What is that?”

A wolf, some part of Peter’s mind drawls acerbically. Obviously.

Footsteps stalk closer, and just like that, the spell is broken.

The wolf spins around, lips pulled back into a snarl of pure hostility even as it rushes forward to crowd in front of Peter – in front of Peter how is this possible this shouldn’t be possible – a growl rumbling deep in its – his – chest, and Peter is moving before he’s even consciously aware of it.

“Get away from him!” Peter barks, fangs extending to flash a warning at his nephew. Derek pulls up short, eyebrows scrunching together into a defensive scowl, but Peter pays him no further attention as he drops to his knees in front of the wolf – in front of his wolf – and reaches out with hands that can’t seem to stop shaking.

“Stiles?” Peter whispers, fingers brushing fur that’s matted and dark with dust and grime. “Stiles, is that you?”

A pointless question. Of course it is. Peter would know him anywhere, anytime.

The wolf – StilesStilesStiles – growls softly, still looking over Peter’s shoulder at the silent Pack.

“It’s okay,” Peter soothes. “They’re okay. They won’t hurt you. Or me.” For now. “Do you remember what I told you about Derek? About my nephew? That’s Derek right there.”

The growling dies down. The scent of complete bafflement spikes from the Pack. Stiles produces a questioning noise instead, eyes finally turning back to Peter, and the pained exhaustion he sees there makes his heart ache.

Almost clumsily, he fishes out his handkerchief, wipes off his own hands with one side, and then begins trying to scrub away some of the worst of the filth coating Stiles’ pelt with the other. It doesn't help much, and eventually, he tosses the handkerchief aside in favour of sliding one hand along the length of the wolf’s flank.

Peter can feel – he can see – every single one of Stiles’ ribs. There’s a minute tremor running through his body, and he’s just a little too warm, even for a wolf. There are scars in places that Peter knows weren’t there before, more than just the one on Stiles’ muzzle, not to mention a whole battlefield of cuts and scrapes and probably infections, and Stiles is just- he’s so damn thin.

“You crazy wolf,” Peter murmurs, gently cupping his hands around the wolf’s face before reaching back to tangle fingers into his scruff. “Did you walk all the way here from Florida? How did you even find me? Have you been looking for me for the past seven years?”

Stiles whimpers, low and hurt at the back of his throat, snuffling into Peter’s chest. The trembling’s gotten worse, so with careful coaxing, Peter manages to get him to lie down, head resting on Peter’s lap. Although it’s not so much as ‘lie down’ as it is ‘collapse’, his legs folding underneath him like he’s been waiting for a very long time to finally take a break.

“Cora,” Peter instructs, keeping his voice calm despite the fact that his heartbeat is still pounding away in his chest, with worry gnawing at his gut. He’s still stuck somewhere between disbelief and overwhelming joy at the moment. “Go get Deaton, would you? I’d like the vet side of him for once. Tell him to bring whatever equipment he needs to give a red wolf a medical examination.”

There’s another shuffle of footsteps. Stiles tenses but doesn't bolt to his feet under Peter’s reassuring hand.

“I- Yeah, but-” Cora sounds stunned. “Uncle Peter, is that really Stiles?”

“What’s a Stiles?” Isaac interjects. He’s ignored.

“Of course it is,” Peter snaps tersely, feeling Stiles shudder under his palms. “Now go get Deaton.”

Cora goes, dashing away at top speed, and then there’s nothing left to do but wait. Stiles’ eyelids droop, and Peter hastily gives the wolf’s scruff a light tug. He can hear how sluggish Stiles’ heartbeat is.

“Hey, hey,” Peter admonishes with a forced sort of equanimity. “You don’t get to drop dead now after you've made it this far.”

Stiles huffs out a disgruntled breath. Peter almost smiles. He’s looking at his wolf – his beautiful, loyal wolf – and he can still hardly believe it.

He hasn't returned to Florida, not even after he came back from the dead with most of his sanity intact, too occupied with kanimas and Argents and Alpha Packs and Nogitsunes, but he should have. The majority of these teenagers – or adults-who-may-as-well-be-teenagers – don’t mean anything to him. But he thought Stiles would've moved on by now, found a different pack or struck out on his own after realizing that Peter wasn't coming back. Or died. He didn't want to return to their shared den and be proven right.

He should've known better.

Then again, Stiles wouldn't have been there anyway. If his state of health is anything to go by, the wolf’s been on the road for years. Florida to California, on foot, with nothing but a- what? An unravelled pack bond to guide him? How is that even possible?

A tongue swipes across his hand, a familiar comforting gesture that Peter has no trouble reading. He does have trouble hiding another smile.

“You're going to be fine,” Peter tells the wolf. “And once you're better, you and I are going to have a long chat about why years-long migrations across the country are not advisable for wolves.”

Stiles flicks an ear at him – the uninjured one – before pointedly turning his head away as best he could. Peter rolls his eyes.

Behind them, Scott clears his throat. “So, uh, Peter? Is that wolf... not another werewolf then?”

Stiles snorts, loudly, which seems to be answer enough if the startled noise Scott makes is anything to go by.

Peter smirks. “No, Scott, Stiles is a wolf. He just also happens to be smarter than the rest of you. Keep that in mind when he shows you up sooner or later and try not to take it too hard.”

He’s also my Pack, Peter doesn't add, combing fingers through Stiles’ tangled fur before absorbing some of the constant pain currently plaguing his packmate.

Peter wonders what it says about himself that a wolf – the same astoundingly intelligent wolf that Peter saved from the clutches of a coven of witches all those years ago, but a wolf nonetheless – would be the only one willing to claw his way back to Peter’s side despite the monumental odds stacked against him when his own family was perfectly content to abandon him to an agonizing descent into madness.

Well, it hardly matters now. Besides, there was always a reason Peter preferred Stiles’ company over his own blood kin’s.

 


 

Seventy-two hours later, Peter’s turned in his apartment key and moved all his belongings into one of the guest cottages deep in the Beacon Hills Preserve. Stiles waits impatiently for him there, struggling to his feet every time Peter appears with a car full of boxes, and tussling with Cora – the only one aside from Peter who’s been allowed to approach Stiles without getting bitten or scratched – every time Peter leaves again.

“I’ll be right back,” Peter promises every time, and there is no part of him that doesn't hate himself just a little bit when he smells the doubt in Stiles’ scent. Cora has to practically sit on him to prevent Stiles from following on limping paws, three of which – Deaton pronounced after being allowed to examine Stiles – were rubbed raw and moderately to severely infected. He’s supposed to stay off his feet as much as possible for at least a couple weeks, which is why Peter has his niece wolf-sitting.

“Are you certain there’s nothing magical about him though?” Deaton enquired just before he took his leave, frowning curiously down at a drowsy but still suspicious-looking Stiles. “He seems to understand a lot more than an average wolf would.”

Peter never stopped petting the wolf from where he was sitting right next to him.

“I’m certain,” He confirmed in neutral tones. “He’s just smart for an animal.”

An animal who was caught in the magical backlash of some witches’ ritual, his old pack having been used as animal sacrifices, but nobody needs to know that.

Peter said nothing more, and Deaton took his leave. So long as the vet/druid didn't try to experiment on Stiles or something equally stupid, Peter won’t have any reason to kill the man.

Now, with the still bemused Pack off living their own lives again now that the latest threat has been nullified, Peter ferries the last of his clothes to the cottage, pulling into the makeshift driveway just in time to hear Cora shout, “Stiles! Come back!”

And then a wolf is bursting through the front door and making a hobbling beeline for Peter. The moment Peter steps out of his car, Stiles darts forward, clamps down on the hem of Peter’s favourite Henley, and rips.

Peter is left blinking down at his newly torn shirt, a large strip of it now hanging from Stiles’ jaws.

Peter crosses his arms and pins Stiles with a long-suffering look. “Really, Stiles?”

Stiles stares back with an equally unimpressed look, and then he spits out the fabric at Peter’s feet before stalking off, tail swishing haughtily behind him.

Laughter spills from the cottage doorway, and Peter stills before glancing up to find a rare sight: his niece is laughing, something he hasn't seen since before the fire.

“You've got a lot of grovelling to do, Uncle Peter!” Cora snickers, crouching down when Stiles lopes up the three steps again to meet her. Stiles allows her to give him a hug before squirming away once more and slipping between Cora and the doorframe to get back inside.

Peter heaves a sigh even as he stifles a smile. He’s missed this. Stiles can’t use human words but he can still keep up with conversations just fine, and Peter’s almost forgotten how much he cherished Stiles’ company.

“I can’t believe he’s alive,” Cora remarks once Peter’s joined her on the front stoop with a cardboard box under one arm and his shirt hung over the other. “I can’t believe he found you.”

“Stiles is special,” Peter tells her smugly as he stacks the box with the others, to be unpacked at his leisure, and tosses the remnants of his shirt on top of that.

Cora rolls her eyes at him as she follows him back inside. “You thought he was dead too until he came to your rescue.”

“I thought he would've had the good sense to move on,” Peter corrects her, wandering down one hallway to duck into the master bedroom where Stiles has curled himself up at the end of the bed. His eyes are at half-mast, a simmering autumn gold as they meet Peter’s gaze. “But apparently not.”

He takes a seat beside the wolf, reaching out to scratch behind one ear. The left one isn’t bleeding anymore and looks to be able to make a full recovery. His paws are bandaged, and his fur is washed and combed back to pristine sleekness again save for the smatter of scars here and there. The one on Stiles’ muzzle is the most prominent, like someone took a whip of some sort to him. If Peter ever finds out who did it, he’ll make them suffer more than Kate did.

A scratchy-sounding growl-purr starts up, followed by a deep sigh that only emphasizes how emaciated Stiles has become. Peter’s tried feeding him – he personally went out and killed half a dozen rabbits and brought them back fresh for Stiles – but Stiles only ate two before refusing the rest. Peter’s fairly certain that the wolf really only wanted one at most but gulped down the second to express an extra dose of gratitude.

Deaton did warn him though, that Stiles has been eating out of dumpsters and whatever else he could forage in cities and towns and everything in-between for so long that his appetite would be slow to return.

It makes Peter want to smash something.

“Derek’s flipping,” Cora announces, leaning against the doorway to observe them. “In his own brooding way. He’s only not saying anything about it because I know Stiles, but he’s still suspicious of him.”

Peter scoffs. “Only because Derek tried to push cleanup duty on me, and then he decided it was a smart idea to shove me towards the remains. It’s his own fault Stiles mauled his leg. Besides, he’ll heal.”

“And because Stiles likes you more than anybody else,” Cora tacks on matter-of-factly.

“And God forbid anybody ever does that,” Peter says dryly. He shifts to stretch out beside Stiles, draping an arm over warm fur. “You coming or going?”

A long silence ensues. And then, almost tentatively – which is strange because Cora has never been the tentative sort, now or back before the fire – she wriggles into the space between Stiles and the footboard, settling down even as Stiles thumps his tail once before finally closing his eyes.

Peter weaves his fingers through Stiles’ fur. “Aren't you glad you came to visit me those summers?”

“So that I can now call dibs on the coveted position of Stiles’ second favourite?” Cora snorts, trailing off into a yawn before rolling over and cuddling into Stiles’ side. “...You know, I think it wouldn't be so bad to go back to that cabin, even just for vacation. Beacon Hills feels too crowded sometimes.”

Peter stays awake long after both Stiles and Cora have nodded off, breathing in Stiles’ familiar scent.

No, it wouldn't be bad at all.

 


 

Stiles follows him to the next pack meeting two weeks later. They've mostly been taking strolls in the forest, occasionally with Cora but mostly by themselves, and Peter hasn't felt this at peace with himself since he was forced into a coma.

Today, Stiles hunches down in the backseat of Peter’s car as if he knows – of course he knows – that being seen by a cop (or anyone really) would not be a good idea. Once they're at the loft, he parks himself outside and proceeds to peer warily up at the building like the thing would swallow them both whole.

“It is pretty ugly,” Peter agrees, coming to stand beside the wolf. “Derek has no taste, I’m afraid, but unfortunately, something else has come up, possibly dangerous and most definitely giving them trouble if they've decided to call me in.”

Stiles slants a look at him, growl-barks his annoyance at the world in general, and then gets to his feet again to pad towards the door. He’s still limping, and that worries Peter, though not as much as the dwindled appetite and erratic sleeping patterns. Still, it makes him wonder if Stiles will ever regain his smooth gait. The wolf used to be able to run like the wind, swift and agile as a fox, and it would be a shame if Stiles has lost that. Also, it would be on Peter’s head, though if he ever says that to Stiles, he’ll probably get his leg chomped on in reprimand.

By the time they enter the loft, the entire Pack’s attention is on them. All eyes are drawn to Stiles, who ignores them with all the lofty arrogance of a cat, scampering over to Cora and rearing up – much to Derek’s aborted alarm – to nose at her neck in greeting before trotting back to Peter’s side.

“...That’s really weird,” Isaac decides from across the room.

Stiles joins Peter on the only unoccupied couch before fixing Isaac with a flat look that doesn't waver until the werewolf shifts uneasily and glances around, breaking eye-contact. Stiles huffs and flops down, scratching at his neck before pressing into Peter’s side and promptly dismissing the rest of the room in favour of a nap.

Peter smirks and pats Stiles’ back. “He certainly has no room to talk, my dear. The scarves are definitely out of season.”

Isaac looks taken aback and offended all at once, reaching up to fiddle with his latest scarf.

Lydia on the other hand leans forward with an inquisitive glint in her eyes. “You can understand him? Can werewolves understand real wolves?”

Cora snorts before Peter can answer. “Of course not; it’s body language. And Uncle Peter knew Stiles for years before the fire happened.”

Derek grimaces at that, morphing into a scowl when he sees Peter watching him with evident amusement.

“Let’s get down to business then, shall we?” Peter breezes on, switching his gaze onto Scott. “Why am I here? I'm not playing bait again.”

“You will if we need you to,” Derek retorts. “You're the only expendable one he-”

Without warning, Stiles lifts his head and roars, loud enough that it shakes the windows and rafters, and has the entire room covering their ears.

“Holy crap!” Scott blurts out, staring wide-eyed at the red wolf facing Derek with flattened ears and a murderous expression that turns his features borderline feral.

Derek actually gapes for a good long minute. Peter grins with satisfaction, rubbing Stiles’ right ear in silent thanks.

“Derek,” Cora calls out from where she’s studying her – slightly extended – nails. “Maybe you should keep in mind that this is the wolf that literally travelled three thousand miles just to find Uncle Peter. And then maybe you should reconsider everything you're ever going to say to Peter ever again. Not to mention to his wolf ’cause he’s not the only one who might rip you a new one if you try anything on Stiles.”

The silence that follows is deafening. Derek literally looks as if he has no idea what to say, though his eyes do glow blue at Stiles for a moment, like he’s issuing a challenge.

Stiles just snorts back at him and doesn't look away until Derek can’t help but blink first. Only then does the wolf lower his head again to bury his nose under the crook of Peter’s elbow.

“Why is his name ‘Stiles’?” Kira speaks up almost timidly, glancing nervously around the room before looking at Peter.

Peter quirks a half-smile. He likes Kira. She’s the sort of sweet and innocent that he normally wants to ruin, but at the same time, when the going gets tough and she needs to buckle down and get something done, the half-kitsune can become surprisingly tough and down-to-earth. She’s a good foil for Scott and his endless black-and-white naivety, although seeing those two together is almost as sickening as seeing Scott and the Argent girl together used to be.

“That’s where I found him,” Peter explains, ignoring the paw digging into his ribs. “Stuck under a stile, one of those fences that you tend to see on farmland.”

Stiles was running from witches back then, and his hind leg was broken so he couldn’t jump over even the bottom rung. He tried to squirm under instead, only to get stuck because he was too big. It was pure luck that Peter was nearby taking scenery photos for a client that day and heard the commotion.

Luck for both of them really.

“Now, back to the situation on hand?” Peter reminds everyone. “What did you get yourselves into this time?”

“Er, right,” Scott stumbles on, still eyeing Stiles with cautious interest but moving on willingly enough, and the rest of the afternoon is spent researching how to counteract the poison from faerie dust.

Stiles just yawns and basks in Peter’s annoyed boredom as he peruses page after page. Peter decides they should suffer together so he reads everything out loud, voice pitched low enough so that it doesn't disturb anyone else, most of whom keeps taking snack breaks after twenty-minute study intervals anyway.

All the same, Peter ends up ignoring a handful of looks ranging from perturbed to skeptical, as if reading to an animal is so much more alien than – say – humans who like burning children to death or magical tree stumps that serve as a lighthouse for every monster and their ghoulie grandmas.

Teenagers. Priorities. Honestly.

Three hours in, Stiles stirs from his Peter-induced puddle of brain-melting tedium. Peter – accustomed to Stiles having an opinion about everything – stops mid-sentence and watches curiously as the wolf rises, gives himself a shake, and then pads off the couch. This – coupled with the sudden silence on Peter’s end – catches everybody’s attention so they're all watching when Stiles noses around the stack of books at Peter’s feet before dragging one out, an old text held delicately between his teeth as he drops it off on Peter’s lap.

It’s one they've read before, about an hour ago, and Peter obediently cracks it open, flipping through the pages under Stiles’ watchful golden gaze until the wolf sticks his nose forward to stop him.

Peter looks down. It’s a list of various herbal ingredients, mixed together to form a paste that-

He blinks and rocks back a bit when Stiles dumps the book they were reading two minutes ago on top of the first one, opened to a page detailing bluebells and its uses.

Peter cocks his head and shuffles the books so that they're side by side. Separately, they're useless against faerie venom. Together however, and change that ingredient with that, and add in that before throwing in bluebell petals...

It’s unmistakeably a cure for faerie venom.

Peter looks up. Stiles looks very proud. Peter chuckles. “Good boy. Excellent work.”

Stiles thumps his tail once against the floor before heading for the door, apparently more than ready to go now that they've found the solution.

Peter finds himself in complete agreement.

“Here, Stiles and I found the answer to your problem,” Peter plunks the books down in front of a gawking Scott before reaching for a notepad and a pen, jotting down the changes that the Pack will have to make to the entire concoction. “Those are the extra steps you need to take to make the cure. Try not to mess it up after we did all the hard work.”

And with that said, Peter turns on his heel and heads out after his wolf, leaving an astonished audience behind. Hopefully, they won’t come crawling to him again for another few weeks.

 


 

Life gets easier, at least for Peter. Oh, monsters keep coming of course, but he’s no longer as involved now that the Pack seems much more disinclined about using him as bait, so for the most part, he’s left alone aside from research, which Peter always enjoys making them beg a little for before acquiescing, if he acquiesces at all.

Cora finds it amusing and makes sure she’s never the one to come and ask him, if only to enjoy the fireworks when the others get sent to deal with Peter.

But besides that, Peter gets to spend time in the forests around Beacon Hills with no one but Stiles to keep him company. Peter’s more careful with the wolf these days, religiously checking his healing injuries, which irritates Stiles to no end, but Peter insists. The wolf’s muscles ache at the end of each day, but when Peter draws the pain into himself, it’s always a little less every time.

There’s nothing to be done about the limp though. That becomes clear once the infections clear up and even the haphazard scrapes on his legs close without scarring, but the slight shamble in his step remains.

“You've put on a little more weight at least,” Peter sighs, lying on his back in bed with his wolf blanketing him like a weighted rug. “Still too thin though.”

Stiles grumbles under his breath. He cranes his head around to look at Peter, and for once, there’s none of the sass that the wolf somehow learned to raise to an art form years ago on his face (it was probably Peter’s fault). Instead, a mournful croon of a sound rolls out of Stiles’ mouth, and the pack bond between them – re-established and vividly bright again – pulses with a temporary storm of grief and loneliness and that bullheaded determination that saw Stiles navigate at least ten states to get to Peter.

Peter closes his eyes and presses his face to the thick fur at Stiles’ shoulder. He can feel the muscles flex underneath, but otherwise, Stiles doesn't move, holding patiently still as Peter tries to figure out what to say around the tightness in his throat.

“I’m glad you think I was worth all this,” He says at last, pulling back to smudge a thumb along the dark scar curving around Stiles’ muzzle. “And I can see why you’d think suffering these injuries is still better than being alone. But that doesn't make it okay.”

He pauses. Stiles licks his chin. Peter flicks his nose in retaliation. “...I’m sorry I didn't come back.”

And sure, it wasn't exactly his fault that Derek’s choice of girlfriends is always the psychotic type, and the first one managed to put him into a coma, but Peter is still sorry. He knows – intimately well – what it’s like to be left behind, and he’d never wish that on someone else. Well, not on anyone he cares about anyway, not on his Pack, especially when it was him doing the leaving behind, admittedly unintentional but still regrettable.

Stiles bares his teeth in exasperation before flopping down again, fidgeting a bit to get comfortable, which consequently traps Peter under him even more. Looks like neither of them will be leaving this bed until Stiles says so.

Such a high-maintenance wolf, honestly.

Peter relaxes into the pillows under his head all the same.

He is sorry, but apparently, Stiles doesn't want an apology.

“I won’t leave again,” Peter promises instead.

And this time, he gets a rumbling purr of approval in response.

 


 

“Is this what you do with your time now?”

“Is this an intervention? I’m touched. I had no idea you cared.”

Peter is standing knee-deep in a lake, shoeless and sockless with his jeans rolled up as he idly watches the assortment of aquatic life swim around him. A blink and a swoop of his arm later, he’s straightening up again with a silvery fish gutted on his claws, still twitching.

“Hah!” Peter crows, tossing his catch into the bucket on the shore in a perfect three-pointer arch. “That’s seven for me; I’m winning.”

On the other side of the lake, Stiles releases an irritated bark-howl. There’s some splashing, and then – when Peter turns to look – the wolf is sauntering out of the lake with another fish in his jaws. He drops it into his bucket before shooting Peter an annoyingly superior look.

Peter wrinkles his nose. “I still have one more than you.”

Peter.”

Peter rolls his eyes and grudgingly shifts his attention onto the skulking figure of his nephew glowering on dry land. “What do you want, Derek? Don’t you have something better to do than police my every action? Is fishing illegal now?”

Derek glares, arms crossed, eyebrows drawn together. “You're needed for research. Lydia can’t find what we’re looking for.”

Peter shrugs, absently tracking Stiles’ movements again. The wolf has apparently decided to forfeit the match because he’s already tipped over the bucket and is settling down with his first hard-won fish.

“Not my problem,” Peter tells his nephew, wading out of the lake now that his competition no longer wants to play. Stiles can get distracted like that. “Go to Deaton.”

“Deaton won’t help,” Derek grinds out. “You know that. He’ll just say something cryptic that none of us will understand and send us away again.”

“I repeat,” Peter picks up his bucket of fish. “Not my problem.”

Derek follows him as he makes his way around the lake to where Stiles is. Peter kind of hopes that his nephew will do something stupid again just to see Stiles mangle another limb.

“It’s sucking the blood out of patients at the hospital, and it’s not a vampire,” Derek snaps. “Scott’s having a meltdown that it might get Allison next but it’s not a good idea to move her. The whole issue concerns the safety of this town, and you live in this town. Shouldn't you at least care about that?”

Peter shrugs again. “I’m busy.”

“You're playing with your pet wolf.”

A threatening growl rises from Stiles. His amber gaze is latched onto Derek like a predator would its prey. Derek has the good sense to look at least a bit wary.

“Stiles is nobody’s pet,” Peter corrects him as he sets his bucket down a few feet away from Stiles’ feast. “Honestly, Derek, it’s like you just don’t learn from your past mistakes.”

He sniggers to himself at the double implication. Derek seems to hear it anyway because his glare only gets darker.

“He’s my packmate, Derek,” Peter smiles condescendingly, simultaneously flashing his eyes. “Get it right.”

Derek looks between them, lingering on the way Stiles is tearing into his second fish. Peter is delighted; Stiles’ appetite is slowly coming back.

“He’s a wolf, Peter,” Derek points out. “He’s literally an animal. You can’t have an animal for a packmate. That’s-”

“That’s what?” Peter arches an eyebrow, smile thinning to something more lethal. “He’s a better packmate to me than you or anyone else in your pack of disasters, you can trust me on that. And explain to me how he found me if he can’t be Pack.”

Predictably, Derek has no comeback, though his jaw works like he wants to take out his frustration on Peter.

Peter uses the blessed silence to stoop down next to Stiles and dangle a third fish in front of him just as he finishes swallowing the last bite of his second. If the wolf had eyebrows, they would be raised to truly indignant levels. Instead, with a snuffle, Stiles ignores him and snags a different fish from the ground, biting into that with gusto.

Peter snorts and tosses the fish back into the pile with the others.

“...Why does Cora know him and I don’t?” Derek asks after a lengthy moment of Peter watching Stiles and Derek watching Peter-and-Stiles. His tone is stiff but not as confrontational as before.

“She visited me in Florida over the past two summers before the fire, remember? You on the other hand said you were too grown-up to be spending your holidays with your boring old uncle instead of your teammates and then your mysterious girlfriend.”

Peter eases back so that he’s sitting down now. Derek is far enough away that he’s not towering over Peter so the height difference isn’t too uncomfortable. “...Stiles was with me for four years before I returned to visit Beacon Hills and ended up not returning.”

Stiles pauses from devouring his meal, licking blood away before tapping Peter on the knee with one paw. Peter smiles fondly at the wolf, his own fingers carding through Stiles’ pelt, tracing faint scars that he’s long since memorized.

“I didn't say you were boring,” Derek denies after a while.

Peter glances up with a sardonically amused smirk. “You didn't have to; you never did understand why I liked photography so much, and if I recall correctly, you threw the mother of all temper tantrums when Talia wanted you to accompany me and Cora when I took her to Florida for a few weeks. Something about being the responsible older brother, I believe? You were even worse that summer than the one before when you refused to go the first time. But then again, the second time was the Year of Kate. I brought Cora home just in time for a good old family bonfire.”

Derek is almost white by the time Peter finishes. It’s always so much fun to mess with the boy. Once, Peter might have felt guilt, or at least a twinge of it, but that emotion’s been burned out of him a long time ago.

At least towards anyone who isn’t Stiles. Stiles brings back pieces of himself, reminds him that he still has a solid reason to live, still has good days to look forward to, and can actually depend on someone without looking for the knife in the back. Everyone else though – with perhaps the exception of Cora whom Stiles likes – is fair game for his manipulations and mind games.

“Is it entertainment for you?” Derek finally grits out, blue seeping into his irises. “Always bringing that up?”

“I could ask you the same thing; you're always bringing up Laura so I guess we’re even,” Peter counters blithely. “Besides, who else will remind you not to put your dick in crazy yet again if not me? Remember the lovely Ms. Blake? I stopped throwing your mistakes in your face long enough to go investigate the Darach’s connection with the Alpha Pack, and the next thing anybody knows, you were sleeping with her.”

He shakes his head mockingly, eyes on Derek, pushing, pushing, pushing. “You should've let me remain the Alpha. You and Scott are both so very susceptible to a pretty face. At least McCall’s little tryst with the Argent’s youngest psychopath resulted in only two of your Betas being tortured a little. Not that that’s saying much since they died anyway, and you agreed with Boy Scout Scotty to let their murderers go free. I wonder how long it’ll take for that decision to come back and bite us all in the ass. But the kitsune seems fairly grounded in reality even if she is a bit too earnest for my taste, so at least internal strife should be one thing you won’t have to worry about aga-”

Enough,” Derek cuts him off at last, and there’s something horribly defeated in his expression underneath the black hatred creasing his face. “You've made your point. I just came out here to ask you for help with the research. I can see I wasted my time. I’ll leave you alone with your pet wolf.”

And for once, Stiles – relatively quiet throughout Peter’s diatribe – doesn't bare his fangs even as Derek storms away, fury in every step.

Peter waits until he can’t hear his nephew’s heartbeat anymore before glancing at Stiles. The wolf stares back unblinkingly.

Peter frowns. “Don’t look at me like that. I insult Derek’s intelligence and general life choices all the time. Scott even more.”

Stiles continues watching him. Peter scowls. “Who are you, Talia? I never listened to her either whenever she lectured me about something she didn’t approve of. Granted, she didn’t approve of most of everything I did so I became immune very early on.”

Stiles doesn't make a sound. Peter looks away and then looks back. A part of him deflates. “Too much?”

He finally gets a grunt of affirmation from the wolf. Peter heaves a resigned sigh. He still doesn't feel all that guilty but... maybe he did let his resentment get the better of him today. Doesn't mean he’s going to apologize.

“I suppose it’s a good thing you're not Talia,” Peter relents. “Because you, I have to listen to.”

Stiles gives the wolf version of a smirk.

“Right,” Peter gets to his feet and grabs his bucket of fish. “Let’s head back. I guess we have research to do.”

At least, Peter thinks as Stiles clambers to his feet and follows him without hesitation. He can count on Stiles to still like him even if Peter decided to disregard Derek’s most recent plight.

 


 

They figure out what’s preying on the hospital populace – a loogaroo apparently, which may as well be a vampire – and they even manage to kill it right before it’s about to drain one wing of the long-term care ward. Peter doesn't get any thanks once the Pack catches on that the danger is over, and neither does Stiles, but they do get a visit from Lydia several days later.

“Derek said thanks,” She announces after flouncing into the clearing that Peter was reclining in under the shade of a tree with Stiles draped over his legs.

Peter suppresses a grimace and plasters on a politely smarmy smile instead. “No he didn’t.”

“Well, no he didn’t,” Lydia concedes, coming to a stop by another tree a good six feet away. “But he looked less doom-and-gloom afterwards, and Scott did say thanks.”

Peter scoffs, returning to his book, though he continues keeping an eye on the banshee from his peripheral vision. “Of course he did. Is that all you came to tell me?”

“Yes,” comes the unexpected answer, and Peter looks up again, cocking an eyebrow when all Lydia does is arrange her skirt over her legs after taking a seat at the base of the other tree before pulling out a laptop and promptly tuning everything else out.

Peter considers leaving. He shares a look with Stiles who settles down even more insistently. He’s right; why should they leave? They were here first, and it would look like running away if they left.

The click-clack of typing is a little grating but nothing Peter can’t ignore, especially when he picks up where he left off in The Two Towers.

They finish three more chapters of Lord of the Rings, and then Peter takes a break and talks about other things, touching on peripheral matters, like Allison’s comatose state in the hospital via her possession by the Nogitsune, which was why Scott was so frantic about stopping the loogaroo.

He broaches more personal topics too, like his short duration as Alpha when he felt like nothing in the world could ever hurt him again and the emptiness in his heart could be forgotten for a while, all relayed in a soft murmur for Stiles alone to hear. Stiles practically smothers him with furry solace the entire time.

And when Peter gets tired of talking, he slips away behind a crop of trees, shucks his clothes, and shifts into his full wolf form, something that makes Stiles very happy, and they’re soon racing each other through the forest, play-wrestling with each other and even chasing down a couple rabbits. They move at a somewhat slower clip because of Stiles’ right foreleg, but for the most part, it’s just like old times.

By the time they return to Peter’s clothes, the sun is setting, and Peter’s surprised that Lydia is still here, though once he’s straightened his shirt and picked up his shoes and socks without bothering to put them on again, he steps out into the open again only to find Lydia studying him thoughtfully over the top of her laptop.

Peter hides his apprehension behind a leer. “Why Ms. Martin, I never took you for a voyeur.”

Lydia raises her eyebrows as if she’s saying, Is that the best you've got?

It doesn't help that Stiles has canted his head in a curious manner at the banshee. So far, Stiles hasn't taken any interest in any of the members of the Pack, Cora notwithstanding.

“You've mellowed,” Lydia comments out of the blue.

Peter levels an affronted sneer at her. “Excuse you.”

The banshee shrugs gracefully, eyes sharp as they scrutinize both Peter and Stiles. “The others don’t really understand why you have a wolf following you around all the time. There’s even been a few jokes about you being into...”

For once, Peter stares uncomprehendingly at her. “...Into?”

Lydia sniffs. “Bestiality.” Peter almost does a double-take. Lydia nods briskly as if he did. “Yes I know; boys can be so crass. Your sex life isn’t anybody’s business but your own.”

Peter regards her with more than a little incredulity. Stiles winds around his legs like a very large feline before taking a few steps towards the banshee.

“And that’s not the point anyway,” Lydia dismisses with a wave of her hand. “Stiles is good for you. You don’t look like you’re plotting our demise every minute of the day anymore.”

Peter smiles patronizingly at her. “If I wanted your demise, sweetheart, you’d never see it coming, even with forewarning.”

Offensively enough, Lydia doesn't look at all concerned. She begins packing away her laptop. “That’s all I wanted to know. And with how smart Stiles is, I can see why you like him.”

She gets to her feet, and Peter is tempted to scare her a bit, frighten her into submission, have her bleeding at his feet as he once did. But Stiles is in the line of fire, and it wouldn't do to get his wind-ruffled fur dirty right before they head home for the night.

Lydia slings her bag over one shoulder. She doesn't waste time with extended goodbyes, nodding once at both of them instead before marching off back to civilization.

“I should've killed her when I had the chance,” Peter laments.

Stiles makes a chuffing noise. His tail swishes once. Peter glances reproachfully at him. “You cannot like her.”

Stiles makes another noise. This time, it is unmistakeably laughter.

Peter sighs.

 


 

Eventually, the supernatural residents of Beacon Hills more or less get used to Peter-and-Stiles as a package, even if most of them never quite break the habit of directing strange looks at the pair, as if a man and a wolf living together is grounds for mockery or scorn or discomfort.

Peter pays them no mind beyond the times when he has to. When he attends a pack meeting, he and Stiles banter over the others’ heads until Derek looks close to blowing a gasket or even Scott starts looking agitated by the conversations that they’ll only ever hear one side of because none of them understands Stiles.

It’s a shame, really. Stiles has a lot of cleverly sarcastic insults that never fail to make Peter smirk at the Pack’s expense.

Only Cora shares his amusement, and Lydia to an extent, who’s more intrigued by Stiles than Peter would like, if only because Stiles seems to have taken a shine to the banshee in return and can occasionally be found lending Lydia a hand with her portion of the research instead of Peter’s.

Peter is not jealous no matter what anybody says. There’s no reason to be. Especially since Stiles always goes home with him at the end of the day.

(If he tends to make sure to run his scent over Stiles more carefully on those days however, that’s nobody’s business but his.)

Aside from that though, Stiles makes the Pack bearable to be around. Peter always gets unconditional support, and nobody dares try to throw him into walls (Derek) or use him as bait (everyone) with Stiles there to snarl at anyone who doesn't treat Peter with at least a modicum of human decency.

And with Stiles around, Beacon Hills doesn't feel like such an awful place to live anymore.

 


 

“Do you want to go back to Florida?” Peter asks one night when the skies are clear and star-studded, and they’re sprawled on the grassy front lawn, Peter on his back with Stiles a warm weight at his side.

Stiles growls quietly, not stirring from where his head is pillowed on Peter’s chest.

Peter hums, eyes finding Sirius up above. “We’ll keep our options open then.”

A hopeful whine follows.

Peter rolls his eyes. “And we’ll take Cora and Lydia with us if they want to come. But I’m drawing the line at two.”

Stiles chuffs out an agreement before his nose prods Peter’s chin until Peter obliges and tilts his head to the side to make room for the demanding wolf, who proceeds to burrow his muzzle into the crook of Peter’s neck.

Peter sighs but an unbidden and terribly fond smile curves his lips and wrinkles the corners of his eyes. “Yes, yes, you stubborn wolf, I know I’ll always come first in your books. I think I got the message after you tracked me down and got all possessive.”

A pointed growl echoes in his ears.

“Obviously,” Peter assures, twining fingers through Stiles’ fur. “You’ll always come first for me too.”

And the growl smoothes out into a contented growl-purr.

Easily pleased, this one.

Peter’s smile widens.

They fall asleep under the stars that night.

 


 

Stiles found his human-wolf, but then, there was never any question that he would.

Peter is more damaged than Stiles remembers, but that’s okay, because Stiles is more damaged too. They can take care of each other, and Stiles always ensures that he makes his packmate smell happy at least once every day.

Quite often, it's always more than that.

They live on territory – ‘Beacon Hills’ – with another pack these days. Most of them don’t seem to like Peter much but Stiles will remedy that sooner or later, by hook or by crook. He’ll scare them all into submission if he has to. Derek – the nephew that Peter used to complain about a little and speak of with exasperationamusementlove a lot, and now only ever fights with – is perpetually wary of Stiles.

Stiles is okay with that. Derek makes Peter sad and bitter and tired and angry and mean, even when Peter pretends to be something else on the outside, and Stiles hates that. He can’t fix it either so he’ll settle for distracting his human-wolf or helping him say sorry when he goes a bit too far and may regret it later.

Stiles likes Cora though – the tiny pup from so long ago who no longer laughs nearly as much but still smells happier around Stiles and Peter than she does with anybody else – and he can’t help liking Lydia too even though she smells a bit like death and a bit like life, never one without the other. She treats him like an equal, and Stiles thinks he can see her as Pack too. It makes his human-wolf sulk though so Stiles always makes a point to cuddle with Peter to assure him that nobody will ever be as important to Stiles as he is.

It always works.

Life in ‘Beacon Hills’ is not exactly like life back in their isolated den in ‘Florida’, but Stiles thinks it’s better in some ways. For one, Stiles now knows the people he has to share Peter with, unlike back then when he had to let Peter go off to people who were blood Pack to Peter but strangers to Stiles. Peter has to share Stiles now too so everything is fairer, and Stiles no longer has to wait.

Peter’s promised that Stiles will never have to wait for him again, that he’ll never leave again, and Stiles is slowly coming to trust that.

Because when it comes down to it, they both know that they'll always be Pack to each other first while everybody else comes second.

Stiles is with Peter again, and so long as he has his human-wolf, he’s happy.

He’s even happier to know that Peter feels the exact same way about him.