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tomorrow is another day

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It starts the way it always starts with Stiles – a combination of curiosity, a thirst for new knowledge, and practicality. He knows he has magic now, he wants to know what it can do, and magic could save his life and – more importantly – his dad and Scott’s lives one day. There’s no better incentive for him to learn.

His car is first because he loves his car – it was his mom’s after all – and after crashing it once to save a girl who’ll never look at him twice, he doesn’t want it trashed again ’cause that shit costs money to repair, and wouldn’t it just be easier if it was decked out with some magical protection? If he can put power into mountain ash, surely he can do it to other things too.

So Stiles starts researching everything he can about magic and Sparks, and he starts creating his own little runes and wards. As a rule, the runes that people use are usually only for wards, for defense of a building or the basis of a ritual, which, why?  Why can’t runes do other things?

So he experiments.

He soaks up all the rudimentary knowledge he can find on runes before deviating from the books to attempt his own creations, and he’s surprised when he realizes how… instinctually easy it is for him.  He finds out that he doesn’t actually have to carve anything or even use blood because he’s a Spark and all he really needs is belief to make a rune exist for him, so ink will do, or even just a fingertip, though that usually leaves him exhausted because he has to channel the magic directly into whatever he’s warding.

He moves on to weapons after he successfully makes the frame of his jeep as hard as diamond (he’s done a test-run and everything – the headlong meet-and-greet with the side of a cliff far into the Preserve may have been a bit reckless but ultimately, the cliff face lost, so a round of applause for Team Stilinski, thank you very much).

He gets his hands on a knife, nothing special, the edge dulled even, the hilt chipped, a used one that he got from one of his contacts since they were throwing it away anyway. Stiles just wants to see if he can repair it.

He repairs it alright. But he also does one better. The hilt becomes a sturdy thing when he marks the base with a single reinforcement rune, and the blade sharpens when he figures out the correct intricate string of runes to emboss on one side of the knife. The other side – he traces elemental runes into. And the next time the Pack’s facing off against a nest of vampires, one gets its teeth way too close to Stiles’ jugular, and without hesitation, Stiles shoves the knife into its gut.

The vampire hisses with laughter. Stiles grins back, feral and dark, and thinks hard of a bonfire, and in the span of a single breath, the vampire reels back with a shriek as it goes up in a beautiful plume of flames that matches the setting sun on the horizon.

In the aftermath, Stiles flops onto his back on the forest floor and laughs at the crimson-streaked sky, breathless with the exhilaration of triumph.

 


 

The Pack finds out. Most of them think what he does is dangerous, especially when Stiles blows up Derek’s coffee table on his fifth attempt at creating a dynamite rune.

After being yelled at and sneered at and mocked, as well as forking over the money to replace the table, Stiles never makes the mistake of showing his work to the Pack again. He knows now that they won’t encourage him, and that doesn’t really surprise him, as sad as that is – people have been telling Stiles no, you can’t for as long as he can remember; not once has that ever stopped him from doing exactly what he wants to do anyway.

So he keeps trying, except he does it all in his bedroom instead, and his sixth through thirteenth attempts at the dynamite rune go the same way. His desk, his nightstand, and almost himself are sacrificed to the cause, but on his fourteenth attempt, the rune fizzles, sparks, and then blazes to life with a bang, and that makes it all worth the damages. Now, with the rune drawn on his left palm, the ink long gone but the magic still locked in place, all he has to do is clap his hands once, think of fireworks, and anything he touches goes boom.

It’s awesome.

Deaton, Scott tells him again and again with earnest (irritating) concern, Does Not Approve. The cryptic druid actually has the balls to come around to Stiles’ house and lecture him about responsibility and power and how he should stop.

Stiles asks him if he’s willing to teach Stiles something else if Stiles stops. Deaton is as vague as always but the man looks at Stiles with something uncomfortably close to fear, and the bottom line is no way.

“Then you have your answer,” Stiles tells him with a smile that’s probably more teeth than humour, and then he slams the door in the druid’s face, brushes fingers over the runes he pressed into the door frame the moment he learned how to ward his home, and smirks when he hears Deaton yelp on the other side from a small current of electricity.

So Stiles continues doing whatever he wants (which includes getting his hands on his dad’s backup piece and fusing a bunch of runes into the muzzle so that every bullet that comes out will pack a wolfsbane punch even when they’re just regular bullets; he warns his dad of course, who sighs at his son’s borderline criminal ways but doesn’t kick up too much of a fuss because he knows it won’t change anything) regardless of what anybody else wants because Stiles has always had a problem with authority, and if his dad can’t order him around, nobody else has a snowball’s chance in hell.

 


 

Not everybody is completely against what he does though. Allison sidles up to him one day at school, looking sheepish and hesitant and defiant all at once, and quietly asks if he can upgrade her bow and arrows (”They did nothing against those giant spiders last week, Stiles. ...I hate being useless.”).

Stiles agrees because he likes Allison, and not just because she’s Scott’s ex-girlfriend these days. Sanity can be overrated. Life is easier to handle when you’re crazy. And she has enough people looking at her like they’re waiting for her next psychotic break without Stiles jumping on that bandwagon too. That’s not to say he doesn’t keep tabs on her; he keeps tabs on everyone. But he likes her, and she’s the first to show nothing but interest and curiosity over what he can do, so he takes her bow for a week, and when he returns it, her arrows soar like comets when she wants them to.

Stiles is very good with fire, as it turns out. And Allison seems like a fire sort of girl.

 


 

They become bros when Allison keeps coming over even after Stiles finishes enhancing her bow, just to hang out. Stiles doesn’t realize how isolated (lonely) he’s been from everyone else, especially Scott now that he has another girl to distract him from reality with, until Allison climbs in through his window like a ninja at three in the morning, and they end up aggressively playing Mario Kart until dawn.

Eventually, Stiles wards some of Allison’s other weapons too. Runes blossom under his fingertips as easy as breathing. All of Allison’s daggers end up producing an electric shock.

Allison is delighted. She smuggles him some of her father’s hand grenades as a thank-you. Stiles only spares a few seconds to wonder if normal friendships are supposed to have weapons trade as a common interest, and then he remembers that his life hasn’t been normal since he found half a dead body in the woods, so he dismisses the thought for good.

He’s never liked normal anyway.

Chris gives him suspicious looks for weeks when Stiles starts coming and going from their house, probably wondering if he’s the next Scott, but then garden gnomes start invading the innocent lawns of Beacon Hills, a handful of them try to ambush Allison with lethal pitchforks on her way out the door one morning to fetch the paper, and only Stiles’ half-trip, half-tumble out of the second-floor guestroom window and onto the porch saves her. He slaps a hand on the railing, the entire piece of metal flashes once, and the subsequent repelling wards that spring up are so powerful that they launch every trespassing gnome off the Argent property and clean across the street with morbid pops akin to balloons at a porcupine’s birthday party.

The sight of raining gnomes – all of them reduced to smoking husks – makes for a pretty macabre spectacle, but Stiles subscribes to the whole ‘better them than us’ adage so he really doesn’t have much of a problem with it.

Turns out, the Argents don’t either. Allison gives him a kiss on the cheek, and Chris sighs in a way that says he’s two hundred percent done with Beacon Hills in general but the man hauls Stiles back inside anyway to wrap the sprained ankle he got after he leapt out the window like a failed Batman.

 


 

After that, Stiles more or less becomes a permanent fixture around the Argents’ house, and the first thing he does is walk the perimeter, leaving a trail of runes in his wake with every step he takes. They glitter under the afternoon sun for several minutes before sinking into the ground like they were never there. By nightfall, the Argent home – aside from the Sheriff’s house – is quite possibly the most protected place in all of Beacon Hills.

Possibly in all of California.

Allison teaches him archery in return, mostly because Stiles is already aces with a gun. He ends up almost shooting himself in the foot, then narrowly missing a passing sparrow, and then shaving off at least six lives from the neighbour’s poor cat.

When he finally manages to hit the dummy target, he ends up shooting its crotch, and Allison cackles so hard she falls over, dragging Stiles down with her in a tangle of limbs and laughter. That’s pretty much how Chris finds them when he gets home from work, sprawled on top of one another, breathless with giggling hysterics, and – for once – looking exactly like the seventeen-year-old teenagers they’re supposed to be.

Chris invites Stiles to stay for dinner. It’s the first of many shared meals for the three of them. Occasionally four when the Sheriff isn’t too busy, but Stiles becomes family and is probably the only male in existence whom Chris will knowingly allow into his daughter’s bedroom for the night without throwing a fit.

 


 

Stiles gives Chris an innocent smile and a handgun for the man’s birthday.

It saves the hunter’s life when he runs out of bullets during a shootout against the Alpha Pack, but instead of clicking on an empty chamber, something the smirking Alpha is undoubtedly expecting, the muzzle lights up with a multitude of complex runes instead, and within the next blink, the Alpha goes down hard with a dying wheeze of pure shock and doesn’t get back up.

Upon closer examination once the battle is over, there is an entrance wound and an exit wound – with the circumference of a bullet – that punches straight through fur, skin, muscle, bone, and through the heart, and then straight back out the other side.

It’s tiny but one hundred percent fatal.

It’s a bullet made of condensed wind, Stiles tells Chris with an excited grin because this is the first time he’s managed to incorporate an element other than fire into a weapon.

Chris gives him a long assessing look in return before telling him he’s terrifying. But then the man pulls out a second gun, messily shoots the dead Alpha three times in the chest area, and promptly erases all evidence of Stiles’ handiwork so that when Derek stalks over with a red-eyed glare, he doesn’t see anything apart from the regular wounds dealt by a hunter’s wolfsbane bullets.

Except when Chris turns around, there’s Peter Hale staring almost (no, there’s no almost about it) hungrily at Stiles, who hasn’t really noticed, still fluttering around the body with a thrilled expression that would’ve been better suited on someone who brought home their A+ science project instead of a corpse killed by a magically augmented gun.

Allison notices too though because she grabs Stiles and hustles him away, subtly shielding him with her body even as she pins the eldest remaining Hale with a glare of pure venom.

Chris brings up the rear. He starts detailing a list of ways to assassinate a werewolf as cunning as Peter always is.

 


 

Combining magic with weapons is fairly easy for Stiles by this point, so he turns his attention back to vehicles.

Allison lends him her car for experimentation; she doesn’t even get mad when he short-circuits the entire thing, though she makes him buy her ice-cream for the next two weeks while he tackles the engine problem.

Allison’s car, Stiles sulks when he pops the hood and gets a face full of cranky-feeling steam for his efforts, doesn’t seem to like being tampered with.

But he works with it like he would a particularly bad-tempered tiger, slowly, cautiously, gently coaxing magic into it to include an upgrade on the sunroof to ward off rain even when you’re halfway outside, and an enhancement added to the trunk and backseat so that they’re-

“Bigger on the inside than the outside!” Stiles crows proudly, bouncing around the vehicle in question and grinning maniacally at his audience. “The back seat can fit six people instead of three now. It’s a bit like the TARDIS, get it?”

Allison bites her bottom lip around a fond grin of her own even as she eagerly explores the interior, which is ridiculously roomy now, and none of it shows on the outside. Chris watches with an indulgent sort of exasperation, and he tosses Stiles a towel and some water and tells him to clean his hands and face before they’re permanently smudged with oil and ink and grease, but he also orders takeout from Stiles’ favourite Thai place that night in celebration, and he carries him to bed when the boy conks out midway through dinner.

Allison thinks, privately, if she was born with a brother, both she and her dad would’ve wanted it to be Stiles.

 


 

“Hello, Stiles,” Peter materializes beside him when he steps out of Home Depot with a bag of nails that he needs for his next project.

Stiles blinks bemusedly at the man for a moment. He hasn’t slept in close to forty-eight hours, but Chris is out of town for a business meeting, and Allison is down with the flu (which is why Stiles’ other hand is occupied with a bag of all the ingredients needed to whip up a homemade chicken noodle soup), so neither of them can scold him for his unhealthy sleeping patterns at the moment, and the Sheriff isn’t around enough to notice.

Stiles hasn’t had much to do with the Beacon Hills Pack recently. Derek honestly seems to loathe having humans in his little band of misfits, and Stiles is not in the habit of letting himself get degraded or pushed around every time he tries to help and even after he saves someone’s life, so he’s sort of… well, stopped trying, really. He only ever puts in an appearance for supernatural showdowns nowadays when Chris takes him and Allison along because Derek has – once again – fucked up one too many times for Chris to ignore. The bastard never thanks them either, always looking pissed instead when the three of them show up just in time to fend off the latest monster hell-bent on taking a chunk out of the Pack.

At least he doesn’t shove Stiles into walls or slap him over the head hard enough to make him woozy anymore. The first and last time he did it in the Argents’ line of sight after Stiles snickered out a dog joke in his presence – only to get slammed into a tree in return, leaving him seeing stars when the back of his head cracked against a knot in the trunk – Allison turned pale with rage and promptly sprayed Derek with a special brand of wolfsbane that made the Alpha howl in pain as he inhaled the concoction and immediately began to throw up black goo. Chris just went stone-faced and hunter-cold and told the convulsing Alpha in no uncertain terms that if he ever laid a finger on Stiles again, he’d put a bullet in Derek’s brain himself.

“I thought you claimed you were one of the civilized werewolves,” Chris remarked icily right before they left after taking down a golem for the Pack. “You don’t treat humans like that, Hale. Ever. Especially not over a goddamn joke from an ally who’s saved your life too many times to count.”

If Stiles was secretly pleased, secretly bewildered, and secretly grateful all at the same time, nobody needed to know.

But honestly, it’s a smart decision, to stay out of the insanity for once. His life expectancy – as the line graphs that he drew up once when he was bored have shown – has risen significantly now that he’s bowed out of the whole pseudo-vigilante supernatural-exclusive club angle that the Hale Pack is always going for.

His only regret is the canyon that now yawns between himself and Scott, but that’s been happening since Scott met Allison, and then Isaac, and now Kira. Ever since Scott became strong and fast and popular and was given other options, Stiles no longer had a place beside him because cool kids don’t mix with the jumbled mess that’s been Stiles since he was born.

Still, all of that just means that he doesn’t see a lot of people he knows outside of Allison and Chris these days, and his father to a certain degree when he isn’t working overtime at the station, which – let’s face it – doesn’t happen often.

And he certainly hasn’t seen Peter aside from the fights they’ve both been in, and Peter doesn’t tend to fight a lot, either because nobody trusts him on the battlefield or because he doesn’t feel like helping.

Stiles suspects it’s some of both.

So this is the first time he’s really conversed with Peter in… months, for all that they just saw each other a couple weeks ago against that sea serpent in one of the lakes in the Preserve.

(Stiles remembers it well. The grenade he threw into the lake exploded with enough ice to freeze the water, immobilizing the sea serpent. And to think, the first ice grenade he made – and obviously tested – froze his hair and eyebrows and gave him a brain freeze agonizing enough to cripple him for three days. Chris wanted to cart him to the hospital; it was that bad.)

And like this, standing outside Home Depot in a v-neck Henley and jeans, and a charming smile on his face, it’s almost easy to forget what Peter did at the height of his madness.

Almost.  Stiles isn’t in the habit of forgetting anything.

“Peter,” Stiles greets back, shifting his weight. He’s wearing his good sneakers today. That is to say, he’s wearing the pair with a rune under the right shoe, and one tap of his foot will send out enough vibrations into whatever it’s touching to cause a minor earthquake within a ten-foot radius. “What are you doing here?”

His expression turns wry as he glances up at the store behind them. “Finally decided to do some home renovations before the next storm buries you in rubble?”

Peter shrugs elegantly, smile curling into something equally dry. “That’s up to our Alpha, but Derek seems to like living on the edge. And you’re behind the times; I moved out months ago. I have my own apartment now.”

“What, not a cave in the wilderness? What a shame.” Stiles snarks back. He cocks his head. The word itches under his skin. “He’s not our Alpha, just yours.”

Peter hums. He doesn’t look surprised.

“So I’ve seen,” The werewolf nods, and his next words are a bit too pleasant to be genuine. “You’ve fallen in with the Argents lately, haven’t you?”

Stiles’ lips tighten. His shoulders square. He takes a deliberately measured breath.

“Ally and Chris aren’t Kate and Gerard,” His voice comes out flat and controlled. “And I like them, so if you ever decide to… extend your grudge against the people responsible for the Hale fire to people who weren’t, you and I are gonna have a serious problem.”

His chin lifts an inch with challenge, and his consequent smile feels too sharp for his face. “I destroy problems these days, Peter.”

Peter looks… amused. The man rocks back on his heels, still as relaxed as ever, and he regards Stiles with an unsettling gleam in his eyes. “There’s really no need to bring out the threats, Stiles. I have no desire to be on the wrong end of your little… inventions.”

Stiles frowns at him but he lets himself relax a little. Somehow, he doesn’t get the feeling that Peter’s lying at the moment. Still, the urge to show Peter exactly what Stiles can do these days – just as a warning – doesn’t entirely go away.

He toes the sidewalk with the tip of one sneaker. He can almost feel the rune pawing in anticipation, yearning to sink its teeth into the cement. Not a surprise. There’s a gravity component in it; of course it would want to return to the earth.

But…

What about anti-gravity? Zero gravity. But it would have to be controlled in some way or he’d just float aimlessly in the air.

But it’s a thought.

Stiles stares at the ground. Weightlessness. Wind component? That was always such a difficult element to harness.

Still.

Flight.

He could-

“I’ve lost you,” Peter remarks lightly, and Stiles’ head jerks back up, startled.

Oh. He forgot Peter was there. Peter, who looks… faintly annoyed. Mostly intrigued.

But Stiles suddenly has a million designs for a new rune racing through his mind, and he needs to get it down on paper right now. He thinks it’s going to be a complicated one, but the challenge is what makes it fun.

“I gotta go!” He blurts out in a rush, already turning away. “It was nice seeing you around; try not to get stabbed, eaten, burned to death, etcetera, etcetera. We should do this again sometime; see ya!”

And then he’s off, sprinting for his jeep, tossing his shopping bags into the back, and hastily clambering into the driver’s seat. He starts the car and speeds off towards the Argents’.

Oh damn, he still needs to make chicken noodle soup for Allison.

This at least slows him down a bit. A squiggle of guilt tugs at him. Allison’s sick; taking care of her is more important than runes, even if the end result of the latter could grant him flight.

Alright, Allison first, then runes.

 


 

Stiles jumps off a cliff on a Saturday morning. On hindsight, it may not have been the best idea, but his ideas after a month of sporadically caffeinated all-nighters are never particularly good.

He’s barefoot with the first version of his flight rune meticulously inked along the arch of each of his feet. The cliff he’s about to test it on is – in terms of cliffs – not that great in height. It’s ten feet, twelve at most, and Stiles is sure this will work.

It… almost works.

He takes a running leap off the edge, feels the runes flare to life, and for one, two, three seconds, he thinks he’s going to fly.

At the very least, he hovers for a moment.

And then, with a yelp, Stiles finds himself swung upside-down as the runes hoist him up so that he’s pretty much hanging feet-first in the air instead, bullied Severus Snape style, dangling helplessly as he tries to right himself, and then – another second later – the power in the runes sputter out like guttered candles, and all at once, gravity plucks him out of the air and flings him back towards unforgiving ground.

Stiles only has time to throw his arms up (or down, depending on how you looked at it) to shield his head but he knows it’s too late and his arms aren’t going to do shit except break themselves the moment they-

A snarl rents the air, and Stiles catches a blur of movement out of the corner of his eye a fraction of a second before something slams into him from the side. He’s crushed against someone’s chest, a hand braces the back of his neck, and an arm wraps around his waist, and then the world is spinning out of control like he’s living it through a ping-pong ball’s point of view.

They hit the ground with a jarring thud and roll several feet over dirt and rock before finally coming to a skidding stop with Stiles still bundled up in the cradle of-

He pulls away, though only far enough to get a good look at his unexpected savior, mostly because the hand at his neck and waist prickle twin clawed warnings against his skin and won’t let him get any farther.

Peter’s Beta blue eyes are very, very unimpressed.

What,” The werewolf growls, and wow, those are fangs peeking out. “Did you think. You were doing?”

Stiles is dumbfounded enough to answer honestly. “I was trying to fly.”

Peter stares. “…One would think that that’s a phase you would’ve already grown out of as a child.”

Stiles flushes and shoves at Peter’s chest. This time, the man lets him go, though when they both sit up, Stiles immediately spots the rips in Peter’s shirt, as well as the bloody scrapes crisscrossing the length and width of the werewolf’s side and back. They’re already beginning to heal, knitting themselves back together, but there’s also dust and debris caking the injuries, and Stiles very much doubts that having the skin heal over all of that is a good thing.

“Shit, okay, wait,” Stiles mutters, scrambling to his feet and running over to the bag he dropped over the cliff when he first got here. In addition to his notes, there’s also a water bottle inside, along with a pack of tissues, which will have to do for now.

He jogs back, falling to his knees beside Peter again. “Okay, take off your shirt. Er,” He tips his head and shrugs. “What’s left of it anyway.”

Peter arches an eyebrow. Stiles rolls his eyes. “Oh my god, just do it, you creep. Don’t turn this weird.”

“I didn’t say a word,” Peter admonishes mildly but he shrugs out of his tattered shirt with a smug twist of a smirk.

Stiles huffs and doesn’t dignify that with a response. The bastard was totally thinking it.

He washes out the scrapes with careful hands. It’s the least he can do even if it does annoy him on some level to be saved by Peter Hale of all people. Although…

“What are you even doing here?” Stiles asks, brow furrowing as he glances up at Peter. The werewolf is strangely docile under Stiles’ ministrations, letting him dab at the closing injuries. “And don’t tell me you were out for a morning run or something and just happened to see me.”

Peter smiles with faux innocence. “You did say we should ‘do this again sometime’.”

Stiles scowls, recalling his own words from a month ago. “So you- what, decided to stalk me ever since?”

Peter admits to nothing. He doesn’t really have to.

“You’re kind of really creepy,” Stiles deadpans, wiping away the last of some blood before sitting back and drying his hands. “Don’t you have anything better to do?”

“Like what? Babysit my emotionally stunted nephew?  Please.”  Peter scoffs, examining his mostly healed skin before stretching languidly right there in front of Stiles, muscles flexing subtly, all sinew and grace.  Stiles pointedly keeps his eyes on the werewolf’s face.  Peter smirks again but only assures, “You are far more interesting than Derek will ever be, Stiles.  I very much enjoy your company.  Even after you take a swan dive over a cliff.  Possibly especially after that, considering I got you to play nurse without any incentive on my pa-”

Stiles punches him in the arm just to shut him up.  Jesus.

“You’re such an ass,” Stiles mutters, sitting back on his heels. “Why are you such an ass?”

Peter shrugs, still looking far too amused. “It’s part of my irresistible charm. Besides, we’d both find me infinitely more boring if I became a second Scott McCall.”

“I’d perform an exorcism on you if you became a second Scott,” Stiles retorts. Peter just smirks unrepentantly back at him, amusement crinkling the corners of his eyes.

Stiles blinks, finding himself temporarily mesmerized before he gives himself a mental shake.

Odd.

He glances away, feeling an uncomfortable flush crawl up his neck.  Stupid, more like.

His gaze slides back to the cliff before lifting to the sky. It’s a nice day today, sunny but not too hot, a blue canvas stretching out in all directions with wisps of white to keep it company.

It’s a nice day to learn to fly. Now if only he could work out how.

“Why do you want to fly?”  Peter’s voice cuts into his thoughts, prompting Stiles to drag his eyes back to the werewolf.  Peter is watching him avidly, still seated on the ground beside him, half-naked and frustratingly distracting.

Stiles squints at him.  “I just want to see if I can do it.”

He pauses, looking back up at the sky.  His next words come unbidden.  “Besides, don’t you think it’d be nice to be able to fly?  All that open space with nothing to worry about.  Just go up there-”

“-and never come down again?”  Peter finishes candidly, leaning back on his hands.  His gaze hasn’t wavered when Stiles’ attention snaps back down to earth.  In quieter tones, he murmurs almost pensively, “So you’re one of those then.”

Stiles automatically bristles.  “What’s that supposed to mean?”

Peter – infuriatingly enough – only shrugs and deflects.  “Let me guess – you jumped off rooftops trying to fly when you were a kid, didn’t you?”

Stiles glowers.  “…I only did that once.”

Peter grins, looking very close to outright laughter.  Stiles scowls some more.  Bastard.

“If you can make fun of me, then you’re back to normal,” Stiles grumbles, hoisting himself to his feet.  “I’m going back to work.”

He stalks off, annoyed, though that soon slips away when he spots his bag.  Soon, he’s on his hands and knees with all his notes spread out on the ground and the poster-sized runic scheme diagram laid out in front of him.

He gnaws on his pencil as he studies the diagram, mentally reviewing his dive from the cliff.  He thinks he knows what he got wrong – the distribution of weight wasn’t balanced, being human and therefore too top-heavy, and it didn’t help that he placed the runes on his feet either.

He loses himself in his work, retracing his steps and peeling back the layers of runes to try and puzzle out exactly what he should change.  He tunes out everything else, and he doesn’t even remember another presence in the clearing until a hand drops onto his shoulder and gives him a firm shake.

“Stiles.”

Stiles lifts his head and blinks.  Peter’s face swims into view a foot away from his.  “Wha?”

Peter arches a sardonic eyebrow from where he’s crouching next to Stiles.  “The sun is setting, Stiles.  Don’t you think you should at least go get yourself something to eat?  I hear that’s an essential requirement for continued survival.”

Stiles blinks again before automatically looking down at his own stomach.  As if on cue, it gurgles a loud complaint.  He reddens, especially when he looks up again and finds Peter smirking at him.

“Why are you even still here?”  Stiles snaps defensively.  “Did you stick around the whole time?”

Peter’s other eyebrow joins his first to double the judging impact.  Stiles is kind of envious.

“Your lack of awareness when it comes to your surroundings is not exactly an asset considering what you’re involved in these days.”  Peter looks positively reproachful.

Stiles scrunches his nose at the werewolf.  “I’m aware enough.”

“You forgot me,” Peter points out.  “Twice.”

Stiles can’t help reaching out to pat the man’s shoulder with a good dose of mock commiseration.  “I’m sure your ego can handle it.  And if it can’t, then it probably needs to be taken down a peg or two anyway.”

His mouth clicks shut when Peter’s hand darts out to snag his wrist before he can retract his limb.

“Oh my ego’s fine, Stiles,” Peter purrs, claws suddenly prickling Stiles’ skin even as the werewolf turns his head to nuzzle the sudden spike in Stiles’ pulse.  “You really should be more worried about yourself.  Who knows what kind of shady questionable characters you might meet out in the middle of the woods?”

“I’m pretty sure I’ve already met my fair share,” Stiles clears his throat, gaze fastened on the sly tilt of Peter’s mouth half hidden behind his wrist.  He wiggles his fingers a little.  “Er, mind letting me go?”

Peter’s eyes flare electric blue for one unmistakeable second.

“I mind very much actually,” The werewolf murmurs, breath ghosting over pale skin as his expression sharpens into something hungry.  “In my opinion, I’ve let you go far too many times already, dear boy.”

But – before Stiles can do more than gape like an idiot – Peter does let go, relinquishing his grip on Stiles’ wrist but never looking away from Stiles himself.

Stiles snatches his arm back, cheeks probably a blotchy red by now even as he tries to calm his rapid heartbeat.

“You creep!”  Stiles splutters.  “This is not normal, socially acceptable behaviour; do you not realize that?!”

Peter just smiles blandly at him, wolfish corners tucked away once more.  “Do I strike you as a normal, socially acceptable person?”

It sounds more like do I seem that boring to you?

“You’re right,” Stiles concedes with an underscoring bite.  “You’d never be able to pull it off.”

Peter only grins, evidently choosing to take Stiles’ words as a compliment.

Stiles heaves a sigh.  There’s no winning with this guy.  At least his face doesn’t feel so hot anymore, and the conversation’s back on relatively safe grounds.

He glances back down at his notes.  The scheme isn’t working out; he’s close but he can’t quite get the-

“Stiles,” Peter interrupts a second time, this time in a more serious tone that quickly draws Stiles’ attention back up.  “Food.  Now.”

“I’m not done here!”  Stiles protests immediately.  “I’ve almost got it figured out!  It’s just weight distribution that’s driving me nuts and if I could just-”

“And you can do that after getting some food,” Peter chides sternly.  “When was the last time you ate something that wasn’t-” He gives an exaggerated sniff.  “-coffee and curly fries?”

Stiles glowers.

“Careful, sweetheart,” Peter has the gall to tap Stiles’ furrowed brow with one finger.  “You don’t want your pretty face stuck this way.”

Stiles bats the man’s hand away, instinctively baring his teeth in a way that only makes Peter laugh, so he glowers even harder just to be contrary.  “I can eat later.  Allison’s with Lydia until tomorrow, and Chris is out of town for some conference thing again, so I don’t have people to cook for today.  I’ll eat later.”

“You’ll eat now,” Peter corrects him.  “Come on, Stiles, you’ve been working all day.  A break isn’t going to kill you.”

Stiles refrains from crossing his arms like a sulking five-year-old.  Truth be told, a part of him does feel like yanking his hair out.

“I’ll treat you to dinner,” Peter adds like that’s some sort of incentive.

Stiles rolls his eyes.  “You know, I can take care of myself.”

“You can,” Peter agrees.  “But most of the time, you don’t.”

Stiles goes still for a too-long second, glancing sharply at the werewolf, who only returns his gaze with a knowing one of his own.

Somehow, it rattles Stiles, just a little.  He presses his lips together and focuses on packing up.  His concentration’s shot now, and there’s an ache building up behind his eyes.

Migraine.  He gets those.

“I’m going home,” Stiles says abruptly, clambering to his feet and slinging his bag onto one shoulder.

“Dinner first,” Peter reiterates, falling into step beside him as Stiles heads for the tree line.  The werewolf’s still shirtless.  “My treat, Stiles.”

Stiles slants a sideways look at the man.  “Has anyone ever told you how irritatingly persistent you are?”

“Not recently,” Peter smirks.  “But only because I haven’t come across anything nearly fascinating enough to pursue.  Until now.”

Stiles’ mouth drops open without his permission.  Peter’s smugly pleased expression snaps it shut again.

“Stop joking around,” Stiles mutters, unwillingly flustered.  “Seriously, how has no one gotten you arrested yet when you spout creepy shit like that all the time?”

He hurries on before Peter can say anything else, especially since the werewolf’s taken on a thoughtful look this time, still observing Stiles like he holds all the secrets in the world.

“Fine, you can take me to dinner!”  Stiles relents before jabbing a finger at the man.  “But you need a shirt first, and if you try to take me to any of those absurdly expensive restaurants, I’ll stab you with the fork.”

“We’ll stop by my apartment,” Peter placates, though it’s thoroughly ruined by the triumphant light in his eyes.  “And I have reservations at Theon’s Taverna downtown.”

“You presumptuous bastard,” Stiles scowls.  He pauses.  “I love the food there.”

Peter smiles.  “I know.”

Stiles sighs and gives up.  “We’ll take my jeep.”

 


 

Dinner is… nice.  Fun.  Which shouldn’t come as much of a surprise as it does.  He and Peter haven’t spent much time together ever since Stiles took a hint and started doing his own thing away from Derek’s Pack, but they share the same sharp wit and penchant for banter and snarky humour, and whether it’s about books or runes that Stiles brings up, or old myths and supernatural history that Peter divulges, or even just everyday stuff that they bring up about their respective lives, conversation always flows easily between the two of them.

It’s a bit worrying, Stiles thinks, especially when Peter makes him laugh over disparaging remarks about the moronic stunts that Derek and his pack of children like to pull.  Peter’s a former psychopath – he is very likely a sociopath – with blood on his hands and a future filled with possible backstabbing to regain his Alphaship.  But Stiles has blood on his hands too, he isn’t exactly the sanest of individuals either, and he doesn’t even have the excuse of going mad with grief and pain and loneliness like Peter did.

Sure, Stiles lost his mother, and that’s an ache that will probably never go away, and his own father doesn’t trust him – hasn’t believed a word that’s come out of Stiles’ mouth quite possibly since Stiles first learned to talk – and the Sheriff spends more time at the station than he does at home, so Stiles is no stranger to loneliness either, but compared to Peter’s train wreck of a life, Stiles figures he’s had an easier time of it.

Still, they’re very much alike, is the thing, him and Peter.  Stiles has come to love Allison like a sister, and he cares about Chris as well (against all odds), but Peter… interests him in a way nobody else ever has.  The werewolf listens to Stiles babble about new runes without looking like he wants Stiles to shut up or talk about something else.  He seems just as engrossed as Stiles when Stiles delves into the complicated construction of a particularly destructive rune that almost anyone else would be horrified by and would probably haul him off to the nearest madhouse for good measure.

But then, it’s Peter.  Peter is exactly the type to love this kind of thing, even though – or because – Stiles’ crazier runes usually end in blood and body bags for his enemies.

What does that make Stiles then, when he loves it too – creating a new rune, seeing it come together, powering it with his Spark, and watching it come alive – just as much as Peter does?  Stiles’ runes can strengthen, can build, they can give aid and heal and protect, but they can just as easily rob a life, and Stiles doesn’t care.

So it’s probably a good thing that he only ever uses his deadlier runes on people who dare attack him or his friends or his allies.

“I’ll drive you back to your place,” Stiles offers as they exit the restaurant.  A faint smile still rests on his lips as the cool night breeze ruffles his hair.

“I’d appreciate the lift,” Peter steps out beside him, looking sinful even in the simple v-neck and jeans he chose to wear, half-cloaked in the evening’s shadows.  His typical smirk curves his mouth like he knows exactly what Stiles is thinking.

Stiles just rolls his eyes.  He’s too content – with a full stomach and the lingering warmth of a more enjoyable dinner than he can remember having in a long time – to kick up much of a fuss.

“It’s just like old times,” Peter comments once they’re in the jeep and on their way back, the darkness of night outside permeated only by the streetlamps dotting the streets.  The werewolf’s in the passenger seat while Stiles drives, and it’s no hardship to realize what Peter’s referring to.  Stiles feels almost nostalgic when he thinks back to a similar night when he drove Peter away from the school and to the parking garage that the werewolf directed him to.

The night that ended with Peter burning all over again.

Stiles can’t say he’s completely sorry for his hand in killing Peter.  The man was well and truly crazy, unable to stop his killing spree even after he ripped Kate’s throat out.  But… Stiles supposes he should have tried something other than fire to incapacitate the werewolf.

Stiles isn’t good at apologizing.  It helps that he’s rarely ever been truly sorry about anything.  He’s sorry he couldn’t do anything to prevent his mother from dying.  He’s sorry he can’t be the son his father wants.  He’s sorry he dragged Scott out into the woods to look for a dead body that fateful night and getting him Bitten, if only because Scott always seemed to resent it despite all the benefits that the Bite has given him in return – friends and girlfriends, enhanced everything and a permanent lack of health problems for the rest of his life.  Considering the hostility towards Peter that Stiles has glimpsed every time the former Alpha and Scott are in the same vicinity, Scott will always take for granted everything he’s gained from becoming a werewolf.

Scott can forgive the Alpha Pack who murdered Boyd and Erica, and he can even let Gerard walk because the idiot’s still sending hopeful looks at Allison even with Kira on his arm these days, as if he thinks Allison actually wants her demented grandpa alive and anywhere on the planet and it’ll win him points from his ex who refuses to even look at him these days and sticks to Stiles at all times when they’re at school.

But Scott won’t ever forgive Peter, who – in a supernatural court of law, or hell, even just a human court of law – could quite literally plead PTSD and temporary insanity due to a horrendous lack of proper treatment, and any halfway decent lawyer would get him off scot-free for all his crimes, probably with a recommendation of some therapy on the side.

Sometimes, even Stiles doesn’t know how Scott can be so… so judgingly black-and-white all the damn time, and get Derek onboard with it (then again, maybe that’s not so surprising considering Derek’s been looking for redemption for years).  That’s probably one of the reasons Stiles and Scott can barely be labelled passing acquaintances these days.  That, and ‘stealing’ Allison, if the alternately hurt and angrily betrayed looks that the idiot’s been sending him ever since Allison started hanging out with Stiles is anything to go by.

Point is though, Stiles doesn’t say sorry.  What’s done is done.  He’s only ever apologized to his mother’s grave for not being able to do more to make her last weeks (months, years) more comfortable.

He doesn’t say sorry, but he can still make the effort to express it in some other way.

So when Stiles pulls up outside the apartment complex, he reaches into the glove box for one of the leather and silver bracelets inside.  Ally helped him melt down the metal before reshaping them into small silver buckles that were then attached to brown leather strips, engraved with microscopic but intricate runes, and forged and strengthened with his own Spark until the protective trinkets were pretty much simmering with Stiles’ magic.

Allison has one, of course, and Chris has another in his possession.  The Sheriff carries one with him even though he looked exasperated and more than a little dubious when Stiles pressed it on him.  There are two more leftover, and Stiles gives one now to Peter.

Peter stares at it, expression unreadable as the silver metal shimmers in the palm of his hand, glowing like starlight and pulsing with power.

“If you ever get into any real trouble, that’ll come in handy,” Stiles explains, fully aware of his stupid heart picking up speed again.  He mentally curses werewolf hearing.  “It’ll help you out if you’re in danger of getting badly hurt or dying or something.”  He chews on his bottom lip for a moment.  “In return for today, I mean.  For saving my life and all.  That might save you one day.”

He doesn’t mention that the thing is tied to his own magic.  No doubt, Peter will research the runes carved into the bracelet himself, just in case because Peter is nothing if not a survivor, not to mention – if Stiles knows anything about the guy – the werewolf will prefer researching the runes himself instead of having Stiles tell him everything about them.

So Peter will probably eventually figure out that the protection magic in the bracelet is still linked to Stiles’ Spark instead of Stiles imbuing the thing with just a bit of his magic, as most artifacts tend to be in the hands of other witches or mages or what have you.  It will be stronger this way, with a source to draw power from, dangerous for anyone who isn’t a Spark or even as strong as Stiles is, and Stiles is confident he won’t die from it should any of the bracelets ever have to be used.  Of course, if Peter ever attempts to reverse a rune or two and deliberately take some of Stiles’ magic through the connection, Stiles will feel it, and, well, he certainly won’t be happy about it.  Peter will be even less so once Stiles is done with him should the werewolf ever be suicidal enough to try it.

Peter’s fingers curl around the length of the leather, and he looks up again to meet Stiles’ gaze.  There’s something strangely bright in those blue eyes that has nothing to do with being a werewolf.  Stiles almost wants to squirm but he holds his ground instead.

Peter’s expression softens, like he can sense Stiles’ discomfort (of course he does) and – for once – he’s decided not to pounce on it and exploit it for his own amusement.

“Sounds useful,” is all the werewolf says.  “I’ll keep it with me.”

And before Stiles can so much as blink, Peter reaches out with his free hand and briefly cups Stiles’ jaw in one calloused palm.  Stiles freezes, brain unable to compute well enough to come up with a suitable response as Peter leans forward and blatantly scents him.

The gesture is shamelessly bold – no one’s ever scent-marked Stiles before, ever laid claim to him in any sort of capacity before, not even Scott when the two of them were still as close as brothers – but Peter does it without a hint of uncertainty, running his nose over Stiles’ cheek and brushing his thumb along Stiles’ jawline before finally sitting back again.  The natural heat from the werewolf’s hand lingers like a brand on Stiles’ skin.

“Goodnight, Stiles,” Peter murmurs, eyes at half-mast with all the lazy satisfaction of a cat after a successful hunt.  “Thank you for the gift, and of course your company over dinner.  We really should do this again sometime.”

And then he’s gone, car door shutting quietly behind him as the werewolf lopes off towards the nearest stairwell of his apartment, leaving Stiles sitting in dumbfounded silence right up until Peter disappears around one corner of the building on the second floor.

Well.  That was… new.

 


 

Stiles drives home in a daze.  ‘Home’ more often means the Argent house than the Sheriff’s house nowadays, but no one will be there tonight so Stiles heads to the Sheriff’s house instead since he’ll be alone either way.  His dad isn’t on a night shift but he’ll probably eat and sleep at the station again if he isn’t home already.  Stiles will have to remember to drop off a few more home-cooked packed meals tomorrow morning; otherwise, the Sheriff would never eat anything healthy ever again.

Stiles is in the privacy of his bedroom before his brain finally boots back online enough to realize, as he flops down onto his bed, that tonight – dinner at Stiles’ favourite Greek restaurant and my treat, Stiles and the scent-marking at the end, practically a possessive declaration of intention for any werewolf to smell – was in all likelihood a… date.

“That bastard,” Stiles mutters out loud, feeling torn between indignant and stunned at being tricked into going on a date of all things.

What is he supposed to do about this?  Well obviously, he can always reject any and all further advances by tazing the shit out of Peter if the werewolf doesn’t back off.  It’s what Stiles should do.  He’s seventeen, and absolutely no one would be particularly happy if they hear that there’s anything remotely intimate going on between Stiles and Peter.

But then since when has Stiles ever given a rat’s ass about what other people think when it comes to his own affairs?  He does what he wants, always (possibly why his father is always so disappointed in him, and even that’s not enough to make Stiles stop so why would anything else be able to), and what he wants from this

He scratches absently at one cheek, remembering the barely-there graze of Peter’s beard against his skin.

He had fun tonight.  He was happy.  In fact, he still is, the emotion squiggling stupidly in his chest even now, and he’s rarely ever this level of long-term happy anymore, even when he’s with Allison, and Allison is best friend and sister these days.

So it’s an established fact that he enjoys Peter’s company, even if that makes Stiles a bad person, or at least a not very wise one.  But that in itself comes with a slew of problems.  Things like age difference and Peter being technically dead (or has he fixed that?) aside, what if Peter’s just playing him?  Nobody wants to date Stiles; nobody.  He’s too weird, he doesn’t fit the mould, and most people avoid him because they’re either annoyed by him or intimidated by him.  There’s never been any concrete evidence but – before the supernatural happened – every student in BHHS knew not to bully Scott for a reason, and that reason certainly wasn’t Scott.  Humiliating things always mysteriously happened to anyone who didn’t have the brain cells to not pick on Stiles’ bro, and, well, no proof, but rumours did get around until only Jackson dared continue giving Scott and Stiles the occasional shove into a locker, and Stiles has always been just a little more lenient with that idiot, if only because of Lydia.  Nevertheless, there was a line that Jackson knew not to cross, and so long as he didn’t, Stiles tolerated the jock’s sporadic harassment that served to hide an inferiority complex the size of Mexico.

So nobody has ever liked Stiles, even as just a friendly acquaintance or a friend – Scott doesn’t count because Scott trusts everyone and their evil granddad to be A Good If Misguided Person, Peter notwithstanding, and Stiles went through too much crazy shit with (and against) Allison and Chris to not form some sort of bond with them that only grew once they really got to know each other – much less like him enough to trick him into going out on a date, yet Stiles can’t figure out Peter’s angle either.  He isn’t close enough to the Beacon Hills Pack these days for Peter to use him as leverage against one of them, and Peter’s big on self-preservation, he’s seen firsthand what Stiles can do with his Spark nowadays, so there’s no way the werewolf would try to use Stiles to get to Allison or Chris either if he doesn’t want Stiles putting him back into the ground.

Then maybe Peter’s doing it for the entertainment value?  But what entertainment value?  If Peter knows him at all, then the werewolf should at least guess that Stiles would get suspicious sooner rather than later, and if this really does turn out to be some kind of dumb joke on Stiles because Peter’s bored or something, the werewolf should know very well that Stiles is exactly the type of person to retaliate tenfold.

Of course, there’s also the possibility of Stiles making an entirely too big a deal out of absolutely nothing, and Peter actually doesn’t have any alternative motive at all – romantic or otherwise – and is just being his typical creepy self.

Stiles blows out a gusty breath, rolling onto his stomach to bury his face in his pillow.

All he can really do is wait and see.  He’s a big advocate of keeping your friends close and your enemies closer.

Well no, he prefers keeping his friends close and his enemies six feet under, but Peter hasn’t been an enemy for a long while now, not to Stiles at least, and if Stiles proceeds with caution, then surely there’s no harm in letting Peter…

Wait.  Now that he thinks about it…

Doesn’t all this boil down to the teeny little fact that… Stiles is apparently okay with the idea of dating Peter?

…It does.

Wow.  There really is something wrong with him.

He groans into his pillow.  This is one revelation he could’ve done without.

 


 

“This is one revelation I could’ve done without,” Allison tells him, nose scrunching cutely.

Stiles eyes her dubiously.  “Really?”

Allison huffs.  “Of course not.  If Peter really was hitting on you for whatever nefarious plans he’s concocting, I have to know so I can turn him into a pincushion if he hurts you.”

It’s the morning after The Maybe Date.  Allison climbed through his window twenty minutes ago with a bag of scones, only for a sleepy-eyed Stiles to greet her with a summary of yesterday’s events and his own hypotheses on the matter, so here they are now, lying beside each other on Stiles’ bed, their breakfast forgotten on the nightstand.

“Thanks,” Stiles grins, knees knocking against Allison’s when he wriggles onto a cooler patch of bed.  “Do you think he was?  Hitting on me?”

Allison scowls a little, head resting on the arm she’s tucked under it.  “That guy’s always been way more interested in you than anyone that much older than you should be.”

“He isn’t that old,” Stiles mutters, ears turning red when Allison arches a slender eyebrow at him.

“Do you want him to be in to you?”

“I dunno,” Stiles grumbles.  “I just- He’s kinda… interesting too, you know?”

“I don’t,” Allison says frankly.  “All I know is that he’s not good enough for you, interesting or otherwise.  But I guess that’s your choice, when it comes down to it.”

Stiles searches her features.  “…You’re not gonna tell me he’s bad for me?  That I shouldn’t go anywhere near him?  That I’m stupid for even thinking about it and I’ll regret it ’cause he’s evil and I’m too young and yaddy yaddy ya-ouch!

Stiles yelps from the pinch Allison gives his thigh.  The huntress snorts rather indelicately.  “Do I look like Scott to you?  You can make your own decisions.  I mean it’s your life, right?  And would you listen to me anyway if I tried to force you to do something you didn’t want to?  Of course not; it’s you.  Besides, too young my ass.  Neither of us is too young these days.  And you’re a lot of things but stupid isn’t one of them.”

She falls silent for a long moment before cautioning, “Just… you know Peter and power.  And the way I’ve seen him look at you sometimes, right after you kill something that Derek’s Pack can’t handle, it’s… it’s worth being careful about, you know?  I mean, I don’t think I have to tell you this, but you’re powerful, Stiles.  And if Peter does want a… a relationship with you, that’s probably at least part of the appeal.”

Stiles grunts an acknowledgement to this.  Although… “He said- He told me he liked me, even back when he was still psychotic and on a revenge spree.”

“Stiles,” Allison looks almost amused.  Mostly though, she just looks a mix of exasperated and gravely solemn.  “You were powerful even before you started throwing magic around.  We weren’t really close back then but even I could tell that you were smart and practical and ruthless when you had to be for the people you wanted to protect; Scott would never have survived without you looking after him, and he’s an idiot for giving that up.  Giving you up.  I don’t know much about Peter but I do know that he’s the sort of person to appreciate a cunning mind and a devotion that makes the people you give it to worth killing for, and he likes you because both of you have those traits in spades.”

Stiles plucks a spare pillow from the side and smothers himself with it.  His voice is muffled when he whines, “Do you have to put it like that, Ally?”

Allison giggles in his ear, and next thing he knows, she’s rolled on top of him and snatched his pillow away with deft hands just so she can smirk teasingly down at him.  “I love embarrassing you.  It’s hilarious.  I mean, nobody else can, and even I can’t in public.”

Stiles rolls his eyes before shaking his head.  “Your hair’s poking me; get off.  I don’t know why I put up with you.”

“’Cause you love me,” Allison answers matter-of-factly, an implied duh tacked to the end.  She makes no move to hop off of him.  “And I love you.  And whatever you decide to do about Peter, I’ll back you one hundred percent, but if he tries to screw you over and hurt you, don’t think I won’t step in and make him pay.”

“If he tries to screw me over and hurt me,” Stiles smiles grimly.  “You’ll have to get in line ’cause I call first dibs.”

“Deal.  But leave some for me.”

He regards her affectionately, hands settling on her waist seconds before he grins, hooks a foot around one of her ankles, and promptly flips them over in a move she showed him months ago.

“Breakfast?”  He suggests even as Allison laughs approvingly.

“Breakfast,” Allison agrees from underneath him.  “And then you can take me out shopping for all the trauma you’ve put me through.  All this talk about Peter Hale; once the smooching and wining and dining really starts, I can just see you swooning and sighing dreamily about his beard and pecs and what a great ass he ha-”

She breaks off with a high-pitched squeal of mirth as Stiles shuts her up by tickling her mercilessly, and soon their wrestling sends them both crashing off the bed and onto the floor, each trying to pin the other down and almost knocking over one of Stiles’ bookshelves in the process.

It’s a good start to the day.

And Stiles doesn’t even realize that he’s forgotten all about his work-in-progress flight rune until much later when he’s dutifully following Allison around with an armful of skirts and blouses.

 

Chapter Text

 

Sometimes, Stiles likes the hustle and bustle of people coming and going around him.  He’s just one of many, lost in a crowd, and he doesn’t even have to try to blend in.  It’s relaxing, for him.

It’s why he likes the coffee shop five blocks down from his house.  It’s a bit out of his way but not a whole lot of his schoolmates frequent the place – if any – and its patrons mostly cater to an older selection of individuals who either rush in for a coffee in the morning before hurrying back out to get to work or enjoy a quiet afternoon in the café with a drink and a newspaper or laptop in front of them.

All in all, it’s quiet without being silent, and when Stiles just wants to keep his own company while watching the world go by outside, he’ll make his way to the coffee shop, grab a seat in the far corner by one of the windows, and settle down with a book, a sandwich, and a mocha.

Today is one such day.  Allison’s off with Lydia again (Stiles has his suspicions about something going on between those two, but Allison hasn’t mentioned anything to him yet, and he can respect her privacy until she tells him on her own time; Lydia’s no danger to Allison so Stiles won’t interfere), the Sheriff is at work, and Chris is at home slaving over paperwork for Derek and the Idiots’ Latest Fuckup to keep the Hunter Tribunal off their collective backs.

(Chris was very much not pleased, to say the least, and he tried roping Stiles into doing half the paperwork, but Stiles scarpered out the bathroom window before the hunter could catch him.)

So Stiles has today to himself, his flight rune’s still a failure, and if he looks at one more rune permutation today, he’ll puke, so he’s taking a break.  He isn’t even doing homework or research; he’s simply kicking back with a book for some uninterrupted, trouble-free Stiles time.

Five chapters, a sandwich, and three-quarters of a mocha in, those plans fly straight out of the stratosphere.

“Good morning, Stiles.”

It’s been a week since The Maybe Date.  Stiles has actually been busy, between school and his own stuff, and it isn’t as if he’s in the habit of gatecrashing one of Derek’s pack meetings (you’d have to pay Stiles quite a bit to do that) or even ambushing Peter at the dude’s apartment (though Stiles has no qualms doing that if he has good reason to, and you wouldn’t even have to pay him), so they haven’t crossed each other’s paths since last Saturday, and – for the most part – Stiles has managed to shunt all thoughts of Peter Hale to the back of his mind.

Mostly.

“Good morning,” Stiles sighs, lowering his book.  He can practically feel the stress pouring back into him.  He doesn’t want to deal with anything more troublesome than a refill today.

Peter seems to sense his mood though because he doesn’t jump right into a snarky quip or mind game.  Instead, he lifts his own paperback before gesturing at the chair beside Stiles’.  “May I?”

Stiles studies him for a long, eagle-eyed moment before nodding once.  His gaze is drawn to the wink of silver at Peter’s wrist as the werewolf pulls out the chair and takes a seat.

His Spark thrums a note of possessive satisfaction in his chest.

When he glances back up, Peter is smiling at him, an odd little thing that makes Stile’ fingers drum against the table.

“Would you like another, Stiles?”

They both blink.  Stiles looks up, automatically quirking a smile of his own as he raises his drink.  “Still working on this one, Anna.”

Anna – one of the part-time employees at the coffee shop – holds out the fresh cup of iced coffee anyway, a blush rising in her cheeks.  “Well you might as well hold on to this one anyway since you’re almost done your first.  On the house, since you’re a regular and all.”

Stiles flashes a grin and accepts the coffee, his fingers brushing hers.  “Well I’m never one to turn down a free drink.  Thanks, Anna.”

Anna’s head bobs, face bright red now, and beaming shyly back at him before excusing herself and fleeing from Stiles’ table, disappearing behind the counter and into the rear of the café in record time.

Stiles’ visible good humour fades.  He catches Peter’s eye.  “What?”

“She has a crush on you,” Peter points out in far too mild a tone.

Stiles scoffs.  “I know.”

Peter cants his head like he’s trying to figure out the workings of Stiles’ mind.  “You could wrap quite a number of people around your finger if you turn that charm on more often.”

“I’m plenty charming just being myself,” Stiles shoots back.  “Besides, why would I need that many people wrapped around my finger?”

Peter’s smile is positively devious.  “Minions can be useful.”

Melodramatic peacock.

“Not as useful as me,” Stiles retorts.  “If I want something done, I’ll do it myself.  And if I ever want someone else to do it, I can always pull in a favour.  Now,” he gives Peter a pointed look.  “If you want to stay, stop talking.”

Which is ironic because it’s usually other people telling Stiles to shut up, but it does the job now; Peter smirks patronizingly at him before cracking open his book – one of Vonnegut’s, Slaughterhouse-Five, go figure – and settling down for a long read.

Stiles surveys the werewolf for a second longer before returning to his own book.  He’s already read Gaiman’s Neverwhere multiple times but it’s a favourite of his, and in his opinion, you can never read it too many times.

 


 

They spend the next four hours there.  They each get up once for a bathroom break, and Peter ambles off to buy a quiche and an Earl Grey two hours in, but other than that, they stay in their respective seats without talking, either reading or observing the cars and pedestrians hasten by on their way to whatever destination each of them has, ruled by time and duty.

It’s Stiles who stirs first when his phone buzzes with a text.  Peter seems to take this as a cue to finish up the paragraph he was on before glancing up as well, reaching for his tea as he unfolds himself from his seat with a subtle elegance that only emphasizes the werewolf’s predator side.

Stiles checks his phone.  It’s Chris, with a sullen :Will you be home anytime soon? This paperwork isn’t going to finish itself.:

Stiles snickers.  :It’s not my paperwork.:

:I’ll fund that skiing trip you and Allison want to go on if you help me clean up this mess.:

Never let it be said Chris doesn’t know him well enough to bribe him properly.

:Agreed. I’ll be home in half an hour.:

He’s smiling when he looks up again.  Peter cocks an eyebrow at him.  “Good news?”

“Chris is drowning in paperwork, and he wants me to help,” Stiles reveals with probably far too much cheer.  He does sober a little as he continues.  “The Tribunal’s sniffing around again, especially after the recent monster disaster.  They don’t like the way Derek handled it, letting the succubus go just like that.  It’s already racked up almost thirty deaths up and down the west coast; it should’ve been put down but…”

“McCall convinced him,” Peter growls, all trace of geniality gone.

“I guessed as much,” Stiles returns dryly.  His next words are sharper and more formal.  “But Derek Hale is the Alpha, and he was also the one to refuse hunter assistance.  If he didn’t want to kill the succubus himself, he could’ve left it to Chris or Ally or even me, but we were… assured-” ‘Assured’ isn’t quite the right word here.  “-that the problem would be taken care of by the Pack, and since the resident supernatural power in town is the one primarily responsible for any supernatural threats that put this town at risk in any possible way, we allowed you first shot at it.  Letting the succubus go free is not taking care of the problem.  That’s like letting a serial killer go free, and Chris has gotten word that it’s already killed another three people in Nevada.”

Peter looks disgusted, mouth a thin slash on his face, and expression icing over with stiff apprehension, but for once, Stiles suspects it isn’t directed at the local hunters.

“…What is the Tribunal’s decision regarding this matter?”  Peter enquires, equally formal, words stilted with detached indifference.  “Will there be an investigation?”

This, Stiles knows, places Peter – personally – and the Pack – in general – in Stiles’ debt.  It’s a game of politics really, and technically speaking, neither Stiles nor the Argents have any obligation to inform anyone in the Hale Pack of the situation because the Hale Pack should already know that what they’ve done doesn’t fly in the supernatural world.  Any halfway sensible born wolf should know.

Then again, Derek’s never been all that sensible.

And here and now, Stiles and Peter are both very well aware that the decision to launch an investigation is all down to what Chris’ reports to the Tribunal will say.

More than that, they’re also very well aware that an investigation is – more often than not – just another term for the extermination of a pack that can’t handle their own territory and is – directly or indirectly – a danger to people outside their territory as well.  Hunters from the Tribunal will be sent, and yes, there will be an inquiry into how the Hale Pack runs things in Beacon Hills, but Derek will more than likely piss them off since his main form of communication is violence and aggressive body language, and Scott’s holier-than-thou, ‘killing is bad and we’re better than you because we don’t kill and we give more second chances than God’ attitude even for creatures that are acknowledged threats to society – even for werewolves that were responsible for the deaths of packmates – will earn him nothing but scorn and abhorrence.

Stiles gets headaches just thinking about it so he tries not to.  He’s no longer responsible for Scott’s safety; it shouldn’t bother him so much.

“We’ll spin something believable,” Stiles sighs, dropping the formality as he scrubs a hand over his face.  This isn’t Peter’s fault – if Peter were in charge, the Alpha Pack would’ve been decimated, and they wouldn’t even have a problem right now – and Derek has no idea how lucky he is that the uncle he both abandoned and then killed – no matter how much the latter was necessary at the time – still at the very least holds familial duty in high enough regard to look out for his nephew.

“Something that won’t bring every hunter on the west coast down on your heads,” Stiles clarifies.  “It’s not like we haven’t had to do this before, you know.  Just… We have to field damage assessment paperwork and damage control paperwork every single time you guys try to deal with whatever shit is going down in Beacon Hills by yourselves without our input, and while I’m glad I don’t have to save the world every time I turn around these days, it’s sometimes… well sometimes, you guys are just way more trouble than you’re worth.”

“Do not,” Peter’s voice redefines frigid contempt.  “Group me in with them.”

Stiles inclines his head.  Fair.

Peter’s jaw clenches before deliberately unclenching again.

“I should inform Derek,” The werewolf says in deceptively light tones.

“Will he even listen to you?”  Stiles asks offhandedly, gathering up his garbage.  “Or just dismiss your concerns?  And probably throw you into a wall while he's at it? Doubly so if you tell him it comes from me?”

Peter sneers, bitter and cold, an answer in and of itself.  The man stands too, tucking his book under one arm while the other collects the remains of his lunch and follows Stiles over to the trashcan.

They exit the coffee shop together.  Their break is over; back to work.

“Want a ride?”  Stiles offers, surreptitiously scanning the street for Peter’s car.

Peter’s shoulders loosen.  “Like old times.”

Stiles rolls his eyes.  He can tell this is going to become a thing for the two of them.

But at least Peter doesn’t seem quite as stressed out and angry anymore.

 


 

They’re halfway to Peter’s apartment when Stiles’ phone buzzes again.  This time, it’s a text from Allison asking for a lift home.

Stiles grins evilly and quickly texts back a confirmation.  Oh goody.  She can join in on the family bonding over paperwork.

“Allison?”  Peter speaks up abruptly.  Stiles slants a sideways look at the wolf.  Peter’s face is fastidiously neutral, giving nothing away.

“Yeah,” Stiles nods, taking a left turn.  “She wants me to pick her up.  Don’t worry; I’ll drop you off first so you won’t have to see her.”

Peter turns away to stare out the window.  Stiles can see the faint outline of his frowning reflection.

“You two are close?”  The werewolf eventually enquires.

Stiles slows to a stop at a red light.  “Well yeah.  She’s… Allison.”

Peter gets kudos for at least trying to look somewhat less disdainful than he no doubt feels.

“Taking it slow then?”  He prods with the faintest hint of a bite.  “You smell like you sleep with her but you don’t smell like sex.”

Stiles… stares.  Quite literally.  It’s lucky they’ve turned onto a quieter street with no other cars in front or behind them because he totally stops looking at the road for a good ten seconds.

“I- What?  No, that’s not-”  Stiles sputters out, much to Peter’s bemusement.  “Allison’s like a sister to me!  I mean, we sleep together, but we don’t- you know, sleep together.  Don’t make stupid assumptions like that!  It’s not like you at all!  I thought you were smart.”

Peter’s face is very blank, though something about his expression makes Stiles think the werewolf’s no longer as… riled up as he was mere seconds ago.

Are you jealous?  Stiles kind of wants to ask, pleased and nervous in turn, but Peter probably won’t take that well.

“Some kids at school think we’re together too,” He expounds instead.  “Because we spend so much time together, and we probably act closer than normal sibling relationships.  But normal’s overrated anyway, and after everything that’s happened… well I guess it just made sense that we’d end up sticking together.”

He’s silent for a long moment, keeping his gaze straight ahead this time.  Peter seems perfectly content to wait him out.  “…I’m fine alone, most days.  I’m used to it so even after Scott- even after he started spending all his time with Isaac instead of me, I was okay.  But Ally’s not like me in that, and that’s probably why she started sitting next to me at lunch.  Probably would’ve even if I hadn’t given her magic arrows.”

He takes another left.  Peter’s apartment is close.

“She was so angry back then, after everything with the kanima and Gerard was over,” Stiles muses pensively, recalling Allison’s too pale features and volatile mood swings, depressed at times or hot-tempered when something set her off or wrapped up in Stiles’ blankets and completely silent when she just needed the world to go away for a while.  She improved the more time she spent with Stiles, but when she first approached him about giving her weapons a power-up, her mental and emotional states were undeniably messed up.

“She was angry at Gerard,” Stiles clarifies to a silent Peter.  “And angry at Kate, and angry at her mom and her dad for lying to her and sheltering her and then tossing her into the deep end to sink or swim just because she was an Argent and she befriended a werewolf.  Furious at Scott too, I think, for never giving the whole ‘you’re my girlfriend’ thing a rest when she just couldn’t handle it at the time, and probably for working with Gerard when Scott was always preaching about doing the right thing, and a whole bunch of other stuff that just piled up until she couldn’t take it anymore.

“But mostly, I think she was just angry at herself.  For being so gullible, for being too weak to resist what Gerard turned her into, for believing in all the wrong things.”

Stiles’ hands tighten around the steering wheel.  “Humans can be monsters too. She learned that lesson the hard way, when she turned into one herself and never even realized it.”

He pulls up in front of Peter’s apartment complex and turns to face Peter, who’s still quiet and is watching Stiles with unblinking fascination instead.

“I wouldn’t say I was convenient but it was something like that when she started hanging out with me, probably because I didn’t expect her to be an Argent or Scott’s girlfriend or anything except whatever she wanted to be,” Stiles shrugs.  “And I didn’t mind.  We make shockingly good friends when we don’t have to play tug-o’-war with Scott as rope.”

Peter scoffs at that.  “I’ve never understood why Scott seems to be everyone’s favourite toy.”

“He’s a good person,” Stiles attempts to explain.  “Or at least he tries really hard to be one, and most people gravitate towards that because most people are not good people, but they want to be so they hope some of that goodness might rub off on them if they stick around long enough.”

Peter looks distinctly unimpressed.

Stiles huffs out a laugh.  “Yeah, well, it’s what I think anyway.  Personally, I don’t really care about being good.  For me, it was a… territorial thing I guess.  Scott moved to Beacon Hills when he was ten, and he became my friend.  My first friend.  That’s probably why I’ve never liked Isaac, and I didn’t even really like Allison at first.  I didn’t have anyone before Scott; I was too weird to fit in at school, and the one time Jackson laughed at me for having a crazy mom – she had frontotemperal dementia, you know? – anyway, I stuck a Molotov cocktail in his locker and made sure it blew up when he was like three feet away from it.  Nobody could pin it on me but rumour is a powerful thing, and people tended to avoid me after that.”

Peter’s eyebrows rise.  “So that’s why he’s so afraid of you.”

Stiles cocks his head.  “Really?  You could smell it on him?”

Peter nods, a malicious smirk playing at the corners of his lips.  “The few times you two interacted at pack meetings before he moved away and you… left, he always smelled uneasy around you.  Wary when you were in the vicinity.  Downright scared when you walked past him or stood too close.  He covered it up with all that posturing but he couldn’t exactly hide his scent.”

Stiles can’t say he’s sorry.  “I can hold a grudge.”

Peter shrugs.  “So can I.”

Stiles has to laugh again at that.  Peter’s smirk widens.  And in that moment, Stiles glimpses a flash of the werewolf’s unashamed admiration for him.

It occurs to him, suddenly, that this is the very first time in his entire life that anyone has ever looked at him, seen all of what he is, and still wants to know more about him because he is the way he is.

He supposes if anyone can understand him, it would be Peter.  That probably doesn’t say good things about Stiles as a person but Stiles can’t really bring himself to care.  And it definitely doesn’t say good things about Peter for encouraging Stiles but Stiles very much doubts Peter cares about that either.

“I should go, or you’ll be late,” Peter breaks the companionable silence first, looking as reluctant as Stiles feels.  But then he’s reaching out, just like last time, one hand curling gently around the back of Stiles’ neck to guide him forward, leaning in to scent him with thorough possessiveness, and Stiles can almost sense the werewolf’s delight when he relaxes into the motions.

“You are worth so much more than Scott McCall anyway,” Peter murmurs into his ear before finally pulling back and letting go.  “I’ll see you around, Stiles.”

He ducks out of the jeep and closes the door.  The window is down.

Stiles rubs a sweaty palm against his jeans.  He takes a breath.  And then, before Peter can do more than step onto the curb, he calls out, “Wait!”

He chews on his bottom lip for a moment as Peter dips his head to meet Stiles’ eyes through the window.  “Do you… want to get dinner tomorrow night?  I mean, together.  Like, eat dinner together.  Out.  Eat out together.  Fuck.”

He can feel his face going volcano.  Nice, Stilinski.  So smooth.  You can blow someone up without batting an eye but you can’t even ask someone on a date without making a fool of yourself.

“I would love to.”

Stiles perks up.  Peter looks amused but his eyes are soft and vibrantly blue.

“How about I drive this time,” The werewolf offers. “And you pick the restaurant.”

“Yeah,” Stiles’ grin probably looks at least a little goofy and possibly a lot relieved but Peter doesn’t seem put off by it.  “Yeah okay, sounds great.”

“Then I’ll pick you up at six,” Peter steps back.  “Until tomorrow, Stiles.”

Stiles drives away, feeling irrationally giddy.  It looks like he wasn’t wrong about Peter being interested in him romantically.

And now he has a date.  Second date.  Or is it third date?  Does today count as a date?  Is a date a date if Stiles doesn’t really have a say in it, or even realize it’s a date until after the fact?  So does that mean tomorrow is the first date?

Oh what the hell.  He has bigger concerns to worry about.  Like what he’s going to say to Chris about missing one of their regular dinners tomorrow.

 


 

“I’m taking Peter out on a date tomorrow night,” Stiles announces midway through the piles of paperwork.

He’s always been at least a little evil so it should come as no surprise that he breaks this news just as Chris takes a gulp of coffee.  The hunter’s eyes go wide, and he almost looks like he wants to spray his mouthful all over his desk but then thinks better of it.  Instead, he inhales too quickly and ends up choking and coughing and almost spilling what’s left in his mug anyway.

Allison bursts into slightly maniacal-sounding giggles at her father’s near death by coffee, wholly unsympathetic to his plight.  Stiles suspects it’s at least partly because of the paperwork they dumped on her.

“HALE?!”  Chris bellows in strained tones once his airway clears.

“Yup,” Stiles pops the ‘p’.  “He took me out to dinner last week, and we hung out in a coffee shop today, so I figured I’d repay the favour.”

Chris looks horrified.  Slightly panicked.  And more than a little like he’s thinking of places to bury a body.

He fumes for a while.  Allison watches him from under her eyelashes.  Stiles hums tunelessly and fabricates at least two-thirds of the report he’s writing.

“He’s dangerous,” Chris finally says.

Stiles lifts his head to meet the hunter’s hawk-eyed gaze.  “So am I.”

A muscle jumps in Chris’ jaw.  It’s odd.  Stiles didn’t think the man would be this protective.

“I can’t decide,” Chris’ attention flicks from Stiles to his daughter.  “If this is better or worse than Scott.”

Allison rolls her eyes.

“He’s old,” Chris persists almost grumpily.  It’s hilarious.

“He’s younger than you,” Stiles reminds him wryly.  “Does that make you ancient?”

Allison sniggers into her report.  Chris shoots her a betrayed look.

“You’re seventeen,” Chris counters stoutly, turning back to Stiles.

“We’ll save any fucking for after I turn eighteen,” Stiles assures airily, inwardly stomping down hard on any embarrassment trying to get its hooks into him.  “Scout’s honour.”

Chris looks horrified all over again.  And maybe five seconds away from going for his gun and hunting Peter down.

Allison reaches over to pat her dad on the back.  “At least he’s still a virgin, Dad.”

Stiles squawks a wordless protest.  He’s ignored.

Chris freezes before pinning his daughter with a narrow-eyed glare.  “What do you mean at least he’s still a virgin?  Did you-?”

He can’t seem to bring himself to finish the question.  Horror-struck would not be an exaggeration when describing the hunter’s current state of being.  “I could’ve lived the rest of my life without having that confirmed.  Do you want me to kill McCall?”

Allison looks entirely too blasé.  “I’m just saying.  And anyway, Stiles is a big boy.  He can date whoever he wants.  Besides, do you really think he’d be happy dating someone his own age?”

Chris sort of deflates after that.  He seems to make a conscious decision to completely delete the implication of his precious daughter already having had sex with Scott McCall (probably in this very house) from his mind, choosing instead to concentrate on the Peter dilemma.  The hunter releases a short sigh over it but Stiles can tell that he’s come to the pragmatic conclusion that there’s really no use in starting any further arguments, if only because Stiles has already made up his mind, and by now, Chris knows better than to try and change it.

Stiles is mostly just impressed that the issue of werewolf never came up.  Talk about personal growth.  Apparently, some adults can still learn after all.

“If he hurts you or tries to use you in any way,” Chris warns instead.  “I’m putting a bullet in his head.”

“Get in line,” Stiles and Allison chorus.

Stiles will call it a win when that manages to coax a grudging smile from the hunter.

“Now get back to work,” Chris grouches.  “Nobody’s going anywhere until we get this done.”

Allison groans.  Stiles grimaces and reminds himself that the skiing trip will be worth this torture.

 


 

“I’m going on a date tomorrow,” Stiles casually discloses that night at dinner.  His dad has time for a home-cooked meal (eaten at home) before he has to head back to work.  Stiles figures it’s only fair to tell the Sheriff what he told the Argents.  He’s trying not to lie so much (at least to his dad) these days, and to be at least moderately more truthful with what’s going on in his life.  He just hopes his dad won’t jump the gun once he mentions Peter.

The Sheriff pauses with his fork halfway to his mouth.  He looks both surprised and cautiously optimistic.  “Oh.  Well that’s great!  With who?  Lydia?”

Stiles makes a face.  Lydia was always just a dream.  Someone Stiles thought could match him in the intelligence department.  Someone he’d click with.  But after Lydia and Jackson’s Disney-esque reunion, not to mention almost ten years’ worth of not being good enough for her and remaining completely beneath even the smallest bit of her acknowledgement, that crush has finally – thankfully – died.  He really wouldn’t want to clash with Allison over the issue either.

“No, actually,” Stiles pokes at his food.  “It’s a guy.”

The Sheriff immediately frowns.  “But you’re not gay.”

Stiles’ fingers dig bruises into his thigh underneath the table.  His other hand waves his fork in the air.  “I totally could be!  In fact, I’m at least a little gay!”

His dad rolls his eyes.  “Like I said, not dressed in those clothes you’re not.”

Stiles can’t help it.  His head drops a little so that he can look down at his own body – clad in a soft plaid shirt with one of his favourite sweaters thrown haphazardly over it, and sweats that can’t quite cover his ankles and are a bit frayed at the bottom – and he tries to see what his dad obviously sees, and maybe then he’ll figure out what’s so wrong with himself.

An awkward silence descends.  He hates silences like this, so he licks his lips, takes a quick, fortifying breath that feels too shaky by half, and then he looks up and plasters on an indignant look, and this time he flails with both arms, almost smacking himself in the face in the process.

“Well I’m doing a bit of exploring then!”  He proclaims.  “I’m a healthy seventeen-year-old, and hey, I’m a catch!  Dudes totally want to date me too and…”

He rambles on and on until his dad’s expression melts into one of indulgent amusement as he eats, really only half-listening to Stiles’ enthusiastic babble, and Stiles…

Well, if Stiles omits Peter’s name and doesn’t touch on the specifics of his date again, there’s nobody else around to notice.

 


 

Stiles chooses an Italian restaurant that he knows Peter likes.  The former Alpha isn’t the only one keeping track of other people, and back when Stiles attended Derek’s pack meetings, he’s seen Peter occasionally bring in takeout from this place to enjoy in front of the others.  The food costs more than he usually spends on his own meals but it’s not too pricey either so he thinks it’s fine to splurge a little.

He dithered over how to dress for this date earlier.  This is technically the first official one he’s ever gone on, and he doesn’t want to look… underdressed.  The restaurant isn’t particularly posh or anything but he also doesn’t want to look like he just picked the first clean clothes he could find in his room and threw them on.

In the end, he still goes with jeans and a pair of sneakers that he’s only worn once or twice.  He tries on five different shirts before settling on one that isn’t plaid and/or flannel and certainly isn’t as comfortable to wear; it’s one that Allison got for him, claiming that they brought out his eyes and made his arms look good.  Or something.  He hopes she’s right and wasn’t teasing him.

He leaves his hoodie behind.

Peter pulls into the driveway five minutes before six, and Stiles clatters down the front steps to meet him.

“Hi,” He squeaks as he slides into the passenger seat.  He clears his throat.

Peter rakes an openly appreciative eye over him before focusing on Stiles again with his signature smirk.  “Hello, Stiles.”

He’s in jeans too, along with a black v-neck, simple and very much Peter’s style and overall only serves to highlight how unfairly gorgeous Peter is, but the werewolf could probably make a paper bag look good enough for the runway so it isn’t as if he has to try very hard at it.

It really should be illegal.

“So where are we going?”  Peter asks as he backs out of the driveway.  His smirk shifts into a leer.  “Of course, you look good enough to eat, my dear, but sadly, I very much doubt you’re on the menu tonight so we’ll have to settle for…?”

Stiles rolls his eyes so hard he almost strains himself, but it does what Peter probably set out to do.  He feels his nerves settle, ironically enough, in the face of the werewolf’s outrageous flirting.

“Italian, you big creep,” Stiles is almost dismayed to hear his words come out so fond.  Peter looks irksomely smug.  “Your favourite place on Twelfth.”

This time, it’s surprise that briefly colours Peter’s expression before it’s smoothed away again, and he takes the next right turn.  “Have you been watching me, Stiles?”

“Someone has to,” Stiles retorts.  “Besides, you can’t talk.  You’ve been following me around too.”

“I have to keep my favourite human safe,” Peter defends blithely.  “Imagine what would’ve happened if I hadn’t been there when you decided to leap off a cliff without even telling anyone.”

“Yeah, yeah, I didn’t think that bit through,” Stiles grouses.  “I hear you.”

“I’ll believe that if you don’t do it again,” Peter mutters, but the sting in his words doesn’t match the hand he extends rest on the back of Stiles’ neck, squeezing lightly before withdrawing again.

Stiles’ skin tingles.  His eyes follow the glint of the bracelet around Peter’s wrist.

“I’ll be more careful,” He says quietly, and it holds the weight of a promise.

He wonders why.  Even his dad’s never been able to cajole/request/order him to do anything Stiles didn’t actually already want to do anyway.  Peter didn’t even do that much; he just implied what he wanted.

“Good,” Peter’s smile is dark with a promise of his own.  “It would be troublesome to have to raise you from the dead.  I’d do it, but I’d rather not have to.”

Maybe that’s why.  Because Stiles has no doubt that Peter means every word.

And in all honesty, he isn’t quite sure how to feel about that.

 


 

The date goes as splendidly as their unofficial one did last week.  Somehow, Stiles still finds himself amazed.  He’s never gone on a date his entire life until Peter, and if he’s being realistic (daydreams about Lydia notwithstanding because there was never anything realistic about those), he’s always believed that any date he went on – at least at first – would consist of him humiliating himself and weirding out his date and probably getting dumped before the night ended.

Yeah, his self-esteem could use some work in certain areas.  Maybe Peter should take the job.  He’s certainly giving Stiles his undivided attention tonight.

Stiles made reservations yesterday so they’re ushered to a table immediately.

“I’m surprised we aren’t being chaperoned, perhaps with me at gunpoint,” Peter remarks once they’ve ordered.  “Or am I your dirty little secret, Stiles?”

Stiles rolls his eyes.  He has a feeling he’ll be doing that a lot around Peter.  “Don’t be so dramatic.  Allison’s fine with it, and Chris didn’t even bring up the whole werewolf thing.  I told them we were going on a date-” His eyes dart over Peter’s face, and his fingers stop tearing at the cloth napkin in his lap when the werewolf doesn’t refute the claim.  “-and they only threatened you a little.”

“I only warrant a little threatening?  I’m hurt,” Peter deadpans.  “And the Sheriff?  I half-expected him to show up on my doorstep with a shotgun…”

He trails off, and Stiles puts in a little more effort into his nonchalant expression as he gulps down a mouthful of water.

Peter’s eyes narrow.  Apparently, he isn’t falling for it.

“I didn’t really tell him,” Stiles mumbles.  “I mean, I was going to, and I did say I was going out with a guy, but you know, he’s the Sheriff, so I figured I should probably hold off about who you are until I’m at least eighteen.  If we’re still- er, together by then, I mean.”

Peter tilts his head.  He seems to sense that Stiles isn’t telling the whole truth, but thankfully (astonishingly), the man doesn’t push.

“I don’t see why we wouldn’t be,” Peter says instead.  He smiles, and it’s one of his rare genuine ones that always make the corners of his eyes crinkle.  “If it’s what you want.”

Stiles has to fight down another ridiculous blush, especially when he finds himself somewhat mesmerized by the smile on Peter’s face.

“Well I guess that would depend on how well you’ll be spoiling me,” Stiles hastily replies, and then he instantly regrets it when Peter’s smirk resurfaces, mischievous to the core.

“Do you want to be spoiled, Stiles?”  The werewolf purrs, somehow injecting about a dozen different sexual innuendos into the question.

“With- I mean with stuff!”  Stiles splutters.  “You’re terrible!  Why am I here again?”

Peter chuckles, reaching for his wine.  “I’m irresistible, sweetheart.”

“And so modest too,” Stiles snarks back.

They’re interrupted by the waiter bringing pit their appetizers, and the break gives Stiles time to cool down enough to at least suppress the urge to kick Peter under the table or something similar.  It’s tempting, what with the werewolf wearing his perpetual smirk across from him.

It helps – marginally – that Peter doesn’t seem inclined to continue teasing him.

“How is your flight rune going?”  The man asks instead once the waiter leaves, and Stiles brightens immediately.  Nobody ever asks for details about his runes, not even Allison most days because it isn’t a field of study that she’s as interested in as Stiles is, and therefore doesn’t understand everything when Stiles talks in-depth about it.

But Peter looks at him now with attentive curiosity, like he honestly wants to know.  Stiles thinks briefly of all the alternative motives Peter could have for asking at all, but then he dismisses them for now; he can always worry about it later if it becomes a problem.

He launches into an account of the latest modifications he’s made to the flight rune, not much, and they haven’t solved the balance problem yet, but he knows he’s close, and the constructed layers of the rune itself is practically perfect, and it’s only a matter of time before Stiles figures out what he’s missing.

Peter never gets bored.  He raises other questions that prove he’s actually following at least most of what Stiles is chattering on about, and even once their main dishes arrive, they keep up the discussion between bites of pasta.

And when Stiles asks what Peter’s been up to (“You can’t just be cooped up in your apartment or running after Derek all the time, right?”), the werewolf tells him about how some of his contacts have helped him build his identity back up so that he’s no longer a dead man, and he reveals that – before the fire – he went to college and graduated with both a history degree and a teaching degree and was even a teaching assistant for a few years, and he’s been thinking of applying for a teaching post of some sort at either Stanford or Berkeley or even down at UCLA.

“You can teach?”  Stiles gapes, wide-eyed as he tries to imagine it.  For some reason, his brain conjures up a lecture room full of cowering students that all know better than to mouth off to Professor Hale.

“Do you like teaching?”  He enquires inquisitively.

“I wouldn’t have gotten that teaching degree if I didn’t,” Peter says dryly before his shoulders lift a little in a small shrug.  “I enjoy history, especially of ancient civilizations, and I’m familiar with the supernatural side of those civilizations as well.  It’s a pity I can’t teach that.  You’d be interested in Egypt, I think.  There were pharaohs and entire government bodies who believed in the supernatural back in those days, werewolves who were worshipped as gods, and humans who dabbled in runes to guard their treasuries and tombs and reinforce their weapons and strengthen their defenses.  Did you know back during the Early Dynastic Period, one of the rulers that rose to power was actually an Alpha werewolf?  And his people knew it too.  His advisors and military commanders were Pack, and his reign was…”

Stiles is slightly slack-jawed as he listens to Peter talk.  Who the hell knew Peter Hale is actually a history buff?  This is bizarre.

But he’s good, Stiles soon realizes, sucked into the narration that the werewolf is recounting.  Peter is excellent at maintaining his audience’s attention, which really shouldn’t be a surprise if you bear in mind the dude’s personality.

The rest of dinner involves Peter getting subtly more animated as he moves from Egypt to Atlantis (“Atlantis is real?!”), the latter of which has Stiles grilling the werewolf for more information – how the city was formed, the runes their people must use to hide an entire civilization from the rest of the world – and Peter is more than willing to share what he knows about the underwater society from all the comprehensive research he’s done, including tracking down old tomes and crumbling records found in forgotten archives in dusty pawnshops, all a side project of his that he’s apparently been working on since his early twenties.

“That’s amazing!”  Stiles breathes, and if he were ten years younger, he’d be bouncing in his seat.  He’s momentarily distracted when the waiter comes to whisk their empty plates away, and then he’s diving right back into the conversation.  “I can’t believe you managed to scrounge up all that information and put it all together!  I’ve never come across even a mention of Atlantis that didn’t also say that that city’s just a myth.”

Peter visibly preens under the praise.  Stiles figures he has the right even if it does give an unnecessary boost to the man’s already too large ego, so he lets it slide just this once.

“It takes time and patience that most people wouldn’t want to put in if they don’t have a thirst for that sort of knowledge,” Peter concedes.

“If Hogwarts was a thing,” Stiles grins.  “I’d like to say you’d be a Ravenclaw but I can’t actually see you anywhere but in Slytherin.”

“I would be offended if I was placed anywhere but in Slytherin,” Peter follows up without missing a beat, much to Stiles’ delight.  “Of course, you’d be a shoe-in for that House too.  Double incentive for me.”

Stiles wrinkles his nose.  “I could be in Ravenclaw too.  Or Hufflepuff.  I’d rather stay away from Gryffindor though.  They’re too rowdy and straightforward to fit me.”

“I’ll grant you Ravenclaw.”

“But not Hufflepuff?  They can be totally badass, you know.”

Peter scrutinizes him with something eerily close to a wistful sort of want.  “Hufflepuff wouldn’t do you justice for how loyal you can be, Stiles.”

And just like that, the conversation takes an unexpected turn from lighthearted to intense.  Stiles blinks at Peter, startled.  Peter gazes back calmly from over his wineglass.

Stiles coughs, tugging at the neckline of his shirt when he feels distinctly warm underneath it.

He isn’t quite sure how to respond to this.  He knows they’re both thinking of Scott and fire and an offer refused in that empty parking lot from what feels like a lifetime ago.

Miraculously, the waiter appears at their table again with their bill.  Stiles is unspeakably grateful.  This guy has good timing.

“I’ll pay!”  Stiles asserts, fishing out his wallet and scowling at Peter when the werewolf goes for his.  “You paid last week; it’s my turn.  Don’t argue.”

One corner of Peter’s mouth tips up, amused, but he relents without putting up a fuss.

They take their leave a few minutes later, Stiles tripping out the door to breathe in the dusky evening’s refreshing chill.

“Ugh, I’m so full!”  Stiles grumbles without any real ire.  “The food was great though; I can see why you like this place.”

“Shall we take a walk before I drive you home then?”  Peter suggests.  Stiles shoots him an ‘I’m on to you’ look, one that Peter meets with a wholly unconvincing rendition of innocence.

“An evening stroll under the stars?”  Stiles smirks a bit even as he makes his way to the tiny park across the street, not stopping until he’s standing by the railing that overlooks the street down below.  “How romantic.”

It is a fairly clear night, especially since they’re in the middle of a town.  Stiles takes the opportunity to tilt his head back and stare up at the endless expanse of sky, a never-ending canvas of black velvet studded with a meadow of diamonds.

“‘Two possibilities exist,’” Stiles quotes distractedly.  “‘Either we are alone in the universe or we are not.  Both are equally terrifying.’”

“Are they really?”  Peter murmurs, drawing closer until Stiles can feel the werewolf’s body heat.

Stiles angles his head to the side so that he has a good view of Peter’s face.  The werewolf is looking up as well, expression indecipherable.

Stiles looks back up at the sky one more time before quirking a humourless smile.  “I guess it depends on the person.”

They’re not talking on the grander scale anymore, are they?

He stiffens when he feels Peter’s hand land on his back, but he doesn’t move away, which Peter seems to take as permission to step even closer until the werewolf’s chest is pressed lightly against Stiles’ shoulder, his hand gliding down to settle on Stiles’ hip, and his other hand resting on the railing along with Stiles’.

They’re quiet for a long while, gazing out at the smatter of lights from various buildings and vehicles in the distance, but it’s a comfortable sort of silence.  Stiles idly marvels over the fact that he trusts Peter enough to let the man this close to him.  Not even two months ago, he and Peter only ever saw each other if their respective groups happened to be tackling some monster together.

Then again, Stiles has to admit that Peter’s always been more… fixated on him than any of the others.  In fact, Stiles wouldn’t put it past the creeperwolf to not have already been stalking him as far back as when Stiles was still drifting on the fringes of Derek’s Pack.

“I have a question about your flight rune,” Peter speaks up suddenly, startling Stiles enough to make him turn his head again.  They’re close enough that their noses brush, and when Stiles automatically tries to jerk back, Peter’s hand clutches more tightly at his hip for a few seconds, stilling him but not preventing him from tugging himself away if he really wants to.

Stiles takes a moment to breathe.  And then he deliberately relaxes once more without pulling away.  “What question?”

Peter hums under his breath, sounding pleased.  His grip on Stiles loosens again, though his hand is no less warm even with Stiles’ shirt and jeans acting as a barrier.  “I can’t claim to understand everything you told me about the progress you’ve made, but I do want to know why you decided to anchor the rune to your feet.”

Stiles blinks.  He wasn’t expecting that.  “Well… I extrapolated the flight rune from the jump rune I created.  Portions of both runes are really similar.  Putting it on my feet just seemed the thing to do.”

Peter’s brow creases ever so slightly.  “But you jump with your feet, right?  Your legs?”

Stiles frowns.  “Yeah…”

Peter cants his head to look Stiles full in the face.  “You don’t fly with legs, Stiles.  You fly with wings.”

Stiles sort of… stares.  He stares for a long, frozen minute, mind racing, mentally comparing the scheme of the jump rune with the scheme of the flight rune.

Could it be that simple?  Could he have overlooked such a simple mistake?

Humans don’t have wings.  It’s why he based the flight rune off of the jump rune.  Both should carry him through the air, he figured, with the flight rune carrying him a farther distance through the air while the jump rune required landing intervals depending on how hard you push off a flat surface each time.

“Oh my god,” Stiles says out loud.  “Can I be any dumber?”

“Yes,” Peter replies solemnly.  “You could be-”

“Don’t even,” Stiles elbows him in the gut.

“I was going to say Derek,” Peter protests.

Stiles rolls his eyes but lets it go.  He’s more hung up on the fact that he never thought to create wings.

Stupid.  Embarrassingly so.

He’ll have to fix a fundamental part of the rune.  Definitely shift the anchor.  And-

“Have I been forgotten again?”  Peter enquires, sounding somewhere between petulant and droll.

Stiles gives himself an inward shake.  Okay, fair.  Peter takes priority right now.

He squirms his way around so that they’re chest to chest.  Peter smiles a challenge and doesn’t back away.

Stiles purses his lips.  Like this, Stiles thinks he may actually be an inch taller than Peter.  You wouldn’t think so from even a few feet away.  Peter has a presence that just makes him seem bigger than he physically is, though he’s certainly broader across the shoulders than Stiles is.

“This isn’t a joke, is it?”  Stiles demands.  “I mean, are we on an actual date?  Is this going to be a… a relationship?  Or is all this just because you have a twisted sense of humour and you were bored and you decided to fuck with me just because you can?”

Peter looks amused all over again.  “Well, I’ll admit to boredom.  Things just aren’t the same without you around to test Derek’s authority at every given opportunity.”

Stiles lets out a snort.  “I only argued with him when he was about to do something stupid.  Which admittedly was a lot of the time, but it’s not like I disagreed with him just to disagree with him.  I didn’t enjoy getting shoved around, you know.”

He pauses.  “But seriously, are we- is this-?”

Peter’s hand comes up, and his knuckles graze against Stiles’ cheekbone, freezing Stiles in place again.  “Only if you want.”

Stiles’ eyes narrow.  “And if I don’t want?”

Peter smirks.  “Then I’ll just have to find a different way to woo you.”

“‘Woo’ me!”  Stiles scoffs.  He chews on the inside of his cheek for a moment.  “…Why?  I mean why me?”

The amusement fades from Peter’s face, leaving behind something frighteningly sincere in its stead.  “Because you are far more than anyone ever gives you credit for.  Sometimes including yourself.”

Stiles frowns.  “So because I’m powerful.”

Hunger temporarily shifts the werewolf’s features into something more wolf than man.  His voice is unyieldingly firm in Stiles’ ears.  His gaze holds Stiles’ and refuses to let go.  “Because you’re powerful and loyal and clever.  Because you’re human and yet you have never once truly submitted to an Alpha.  Because people look at you and think prey, right up until they cross you and realize predator.  And because if I ask you right now the same question I once did in that parking garage, you’d say no again, and this time you’d mean it.”

Stiles is fairly certain he’s forgotten how to breathe.  How is he supposed to respond to… all that?  People don’t spout stuff like this, in tones of near reverence.

Peter’s mouth curves up, looking amused all over again by Stiles’ rare speechless state, but at least some of the tension in the air around them eases now that the werewolf isn’t staring as intently at him anymore.

“Basically,” Peter shrugs.  “You’re never boring.”

Well there’s a gross oversimplification if Stiles has ever heard one.

“And here I just gave you a chance so I could pick your brain,” Stiles mumbles for lack of anything better to say.  Their dimly lit surroundings probably do absolutely nothing to hide the flush on his cheeks from Peter, especially with the werewolf standing mere inches away from him.

“My brain is one of the best around,” Peter agrees.

 “Your humility on the other hand could use some work.”

“Whatever for?  I see no reason to downplay the truth, and it’s hardly arrogance if it’s true.”

“You’re really lucky I like your brain,” Stiles informs him loftily.  He feels like he’s regained some of his equilibrium, enough to banter at least.  But he needs space to think.  Peter standing this close isn’t helping so – even if Stiles is perfectly content to bask in the cozy warmth Peter is emitting – he lifts his hands anyway and urges the man back a bit.

Peter obliges, hands falling away as well despite his expression rearranging itself into an almost comical moue of disappointment.

Stiles doesn’t fall for it in the least.

“I had fun tonight,” Stiles blurts out, and then he just has to roll his eyes at himself for saying something so cliché.

Peter takes it at face-value though, expression going soft around the eyes again.

“So you know,” Stiles bulldozes onwards.  “I’d be okay with… doing something like it again.”

Peter arches an eyebrow.  “Only okay?”

“Don’t fish,” Stiles orders.  “You can pick our date next week.”

Peter’s eyes go electric, just for a few seconds.  “It would be my pleasure.”

Stiles’ mouth does something funny.  It takes him a moment to realize he’s trying to stifle a stupid smile and failing miserably.

“Drive me home, you gigantic creep,” Stiles commands.

“As you wish, darling.”

 


 

Peter drives him home.  They park outside the Sheriff’s house – the cruiser is gone, thank fuck – and Stiles fidgets in the passenger seat until Peter rolls his eyes, hauls him close, and takes Stiles’ first kiss without so much as a by-your-leave.

Just for that, Stiles bites down on Peter’s bottom lip in revenge, but Peter only growls deep in his chest before licking into Stiles’ mouth like he’s starving for a taste.  Stiles does his best to keep up but he’s never done this before so the kiss is probably a bit sloppy on his part, lacking the finesse that Peter is devouring his mouth with, but his enthusiasm probably makes up for it, and Peter doesn’t seem to mind anyway.  If anything, the rumbling noise in the werewolf’s chest makes a reappearance when Stiles whines at the back of his throat without meaning to and ends up sucking on Peter’s tongue for a few seconds.

By the time they pull apart, Stiles is dazed and gasping, and his lips are very swollen if the greedy, self-satisfied way Peter is staring at them is anything to go by.  His only consolation is that even Peter looks a little wrecked, mouth red and hair mussed from when Stiles reflexively tangled his fingers in it earlier.

“We didn’t have dessert,” Peter remarks in a husky, heated purr that sends a shudder through Stiles’ body, and for a split second, he honestly believes that the werewolf is going to jump him right here and now.

(For a split second, Stiles is crazy enough to consider letting him.  That’s how turned on he is, and that’s from a single kiss, goddamn it.)

But then Peter sits back, raking a hand through his hair before smoothing it down the front of his shirt to rid it of the wrinkles that Stiles inadvertently made when he was clutching at it during the kiss.  All in all, it doesn’t actually do much to make him look any more put-together than before, but Stiles is very much okay with that since he himself still mostly feels like half his brain cells have been fried.  At least he manages to pull himself back together enough to (hopefully) look less kiss-drunk.

“I’ll cook for you next Saturday,” Peter offers, voice still a bit too far on the growly side to be normal.  “Lunch maybe?  And we can watch a movie or two at my apartment.”

Stiles swallows.  And then he licks his lips just to see the half-second flick of Peter’s eyes, down and back up again.  “Uh, yeah.  Yeah, I’m down for that.  I’ll drive over at around noon?”

“I’ll have the food ready.”

And then Peter’s leaning over again, and this time Stiles is ready for him.  Their second kiss is much more chaste, a press of lips on lips that’s somehow no less passionate than their first.  Stiles tries to deepen it, tongue swiping insistently at the seam of Peter’s lips, but the second he does, Peter pulls back, though the hand that the werewolf has curled around the nape of Stiles’ neck lingers.

“Sorry, darling,” Peter’s voice is rough.  “But I don’t quite trust myself not to take it too far if we continue.  You are very… tempting.  And I believe it was implied that we should wait until you turned eighteen before we take it beyond a few kisses?”

Peter Hale with morals.  Will wonders never cease.

“If we’re going with that, then I’m pretty sure it was implied that we should wait, period.  No kisses.”

“Well you can’t expect me to behave unconditionally, can you?”

Stiles just grumbles a complaint, which only serves to make Peter chuckle.  A thumb sweeps over the skin under Stiles’ jaw and skims down to the thunder of his pulse before Peter finally retracts his hand, looking downright mournful at having to put any distance between the two of them at all.

“You should head inside, get an early night’s sleep,” Peter says softly.  “You have school tomorrow.”

Stiles grimaces at the reminder.  “Can you sound any more like Chris?”

The instantaneous revolted look on Peter’s face is so worth the resulting dissipation of the lust-charged air between them.

“He always yells at me and Ally to go to bed when we stay up too late binge-watching Game of Thrones or something,” Stiles tells him with a snigger.  “I’m pretty sure he’s just terrified he’ll hear us bawling our eyes out over a tragic scene in the middle of the night again.  The first and last time he woke up because Ally burst into tears too loudly, he came barging into the room with a handgun, tripped over the Xbox that we hadn’t put away yet, and almost shot the TV.  Scared the crap out of both of us.”

Peter snorts, but Stiles gets the feeling that the werewolf is cataloguing this piece of information to see if it could be used as blackmail one day.

Stiles almost feels guilty but he can’t quite manage it because A) he’s not that good a person, and B) there’s genuine laughter in Peter’s eyes, and Stiles doesn’t think he’ll ever regret anything that can put it there.

He doesn’t get any more kisses that night, but after they’ve exchanged goodnights and Stiles is stepping away from the car, Peter rolls down the window and calls him back.

“As lovely as you look tonight, Stiles,” Peter tells him point-blank, features going intent and focused like he wants his expression alone to drive his point home.  “I find you equally delectable in anything you wear.”

Stiles chokes on air at the bald statement.  Peter smiles his eye-crinkle smile.  “So you should stick to what you’re comfortable in.  There’s nothing you have to prove to anyone, no matter what they say to you.”

Stiles is silent for several flabbergasted seconds.  How did Peter know? His hand lifts to tug at the collar of his shirt, and it strikes him right then that he’s been doing it all evening, mostly because the fabric is scratchy against his skin.

Oh, that’s how.  And Peter is smart enough to put two and two together and come out with both fours.

“…You egotistical bastard,” Stiles sniffs belatedly.  “I’m not trying to impress you.  And I don’t need to prove anything to anyone; I already know I’m awesome.”

Peter just smirks knowingly at him.  “So long as you remember that.  Goodnight, Stiles; I’ll see you next Saturday.”

Stiles doesn’t move until Peter’s taillights disappear.

He’s still smiling when he reaches his bedroom and promptly shucks his shirt into his laundry basket without any intention of wearing it ever again.

 

Chapter Text

 

It’s Allison’s turn to drive them to school.  She grins with visceral glee when Stiles clambers into the passenger seat.

“Had fun last night?”  Allison asks innocently as she pulls away from the curb.

Stiles scowls half-heartedly.  “Shut up.”

Allison chortles.  “You look like you’re floating on cloud nine.  Spill.”

Stiles rolls his eyes but obediently assuages Allison’s curiosity by recapping his date.

“And then he kissed you?”  Allison’s eyes are practically sparkling.  “Was it good?”

“Oh my god, Ally!”  Stiles moans, palming his face.  “Yes, it was good.  No, I’m not gonna tell you any more than that!”

Allison pouts as she turns into the school’s parking lot so Stiles quickly tacks on, “Or should I ask if you’ve kissed Lydia yet?”

This time, it’s his turn to cackle when Allison’s cheeks turn pink.  “Is that a yes?  Should we set up a double date in the near future?”

You’re technically not supposed to be seen in public with Peter in any capacity right now,” Allison points out.

Stiles shrugs as they exit the car, slinging their respective backpacks over their shoulders.  “Meh, we can head over to the next town or something.  Go bowling.  Or paintballing.”

A smile tugs at Allison’s lips as they head inside, cutting a path through the numerous groups of students milling about, complaining about homework or exchanging gossip.  “Could be fun.”

“Aha, so there is something with Lydia.”

Allison rolls her eyes.  “Like you didn’t already know.”

Stiles smirks.  “True.  How is she anyway?”

Allison frowns pensively.  “…Lonely, I think.  She doesn’t hang out with Scott’s group, or I guess it’s Derek’s group, Pack, to be exact.  And her reputation at school is…”

Stiles nods without having to be told even though he’s only caught glimpses of Lydia from afar ever since the real-life reenactment of Romeo and Juliet over a year ago starring Beacon Hills’ power couple.  While certainly not bullied, Danny’s taken Lydia’s top spot as BHHS’ most popular student since that fateful night, whereas Lydia’s faded into the background for the most part even though she still sits next to Danny at the popular kids’ table during lunch, usually silent and picking at her food, though Stiles has seen Danny – nice guy that he is – persistently attempt to coax more of Lydia’s old vivaciousness back out.

“It’s hard for her,” Allison continues.  “Because she’s spent so long making everyone believe that she’s just a pretty face without a brain, and she doesn’t really want to pretend anymore, you know?  And after everything we’ve all gone through, it’s hard to be isolated like she’s been since she doesn’t exactly have a whole lot of people to talk to about that.  I mean, at first, she didn’t really want to know about our world, but she’s already part of it, and she can’t really just…”

She makes a helpless gesture.  Stiles side-eyes for a moment before knocking their hands together, fingers tangling.  “Why don’t you invite her to sit with us at lunch?”

Allison beams, and her hand squeezes his in thanks.

 


 

“Stiles.”

“Lydia.”

Lydia gives him a tentative smile like she half-expects Stiles to snap at her again.  It’s weaker than anything he’s ever seen from her, and she looks… washed out around the edges despite her flawlessly applied mascara and impeccably stylish outfit.

Allison sort of hovers on Lydia’s left, shooting him a see what I mean look.

Stiles blinks once.  “How’s life?”

Lydia looks startled.  And then she huffs out an almost amused breath. “Weirdly monotonous.  I keep waiting for this town to go to hell again or for someone to kick off the apocalypse.”

Stiles can understand that.  “Once you know, you can never really un-know.”

This – of all things – makes Lydia’s shoulders sag with something a lot like relief.  Her smile is wry.  “And I don’t even really know anything.”

“I’ve filled her in about some stuff over the past several months,” Allison cuts in supportively.  “Explained some supernatural lore to her.  But we’ve only just started hanging out together recently.”

They smile at each other.  Stiles suspects they might be holding hands under the table.

“You haven’t told Danny?”  Stiles enquires.  The dude is Lydia’s best friend, more than ever now that Jackson’s gone.

Lydia’s lips thin.  “He knows there’s something big that I’m not telling him, and he’s even asked a few times, but I know you’re not supposed to spread this stuff around unless you’re already part of it somehow.”

Her eyes narrow dangerously, and there’s the innate spark of proud ferocity Stiles knows she possesses.  “Derek came around to my house a little after Jackson left.  He climbed onto my windowsill and tried to break into my bedroom just to tell me to keep my mouth shut about everything after I told him I wasn’t joining his pack.”

Allison bristles protectively.  Stiles raises an eyebrow.  “Did you taze him?”

Lydia’s lip curls with vindictive satisfaction.  “Nope.  I pepper-sprayed him.  In the eyes.  And then I shoved him off my window and threatened to call the cops if he ever broke into my house again.  I mean seriously, he’s an adult man and practically a stranger, and he tried to enter a teenage girl’s bedroom to threaten her?  Does he think that just because he’s an Alpha werewolf, it gives him a pass?  If anything, that just makes it worse!  I couldn’t decide if he was just that stupid or if he honestly thought that sort of thing is okay.  Pretty sure he knows better now though.  At the very least, I haven’t seen him again since then.”

Stiles smirks, Lydia mirrors his expression, and for the first time ever, a sense of camaraderie blooms between them.

They move onto lighter conversation material after that.  Lydia falls in easily with them.  It helps that all of them know about the supernatural so there’s no need to hide on that front.  It also doesn’t hurt that Stiles and Lydia have been the undisputed first and second in their year’s school rankings – switching every term or every other term – since elementary school, and Allison is no idiot either, so they’re all more or less intellectually on par with each other.

They spend lunch debating the corruption of ambition in Macbeth that their English teacher brought up last class, and then they bring up the new nightclub downtown that just opened, the one with that bouncer who’s willing to let you in so long as you have an ID even if you don’t quite look old enough to enter, and maybe the three of them can go sometime?

By the time the bell rings, Lydia is smiling for real and looking like a weight’s been taken off her shoulders, and even though none of them share last period together, it’s an unspoken given that they’ll all be meeting up after school anyway.

Stiles is dumping his tray along with the girls’ when he spots Danny, who’s completely ignoring one of his friends’/posse members’ blathering in favour of staring at Lydia – who’s still talking to Allison while they wait for Stiles to return – with something painfully close to a mix of betrayal and resignation, like he’s been expecting this moment for years, perhaps since the town went to hell and Lydia went off the deep end for a while and came back changed.

Everyone likes Danny.  He’s nice.  He’s personable.  He’s good with people.  Everybody likes him.

But hardly anyone really knows him enough to call him friend in the truest sense of the word.  Lydia does.  Jackson did.  The three of them grew up together; they were probably the sort of childhood friends that didn’t even need words half the time to communicate.

And now one’s moved across the country and has – as far as Stiles knows – burned his bridges with everyone in Beacon Hills, another went crazy for a while before returning with older eyes and secrets, and the third has no idea what’s going on or how to help, only that his two best (and possibly only) friends have pretty much abandoned him in all the ways that matter.

Stiles stares at Danny until the boy finally allows the jocks around him to distract him with whatever they’re talking about, and they leave the cafeteria as a group.

“Stiles?”  Allison calls.  “Is something wrong?”

The two girls move forward to join him.  They’ve both seen him watching Danny, and there’s something like hope on Lydia’s face.

Stiles tosses a glance at Allison.  The huntress shrugs and nods.  He turns back to Lydia.  “You want to fill him in?”

Lydia is nodding almost before Stiles is finished asking.  “Yeah, he- I’ve been brushing Danny off a lot.  He tries not to push but he’s also worried.  Frustrated too.  We don’t usually keep things from each other.  I’ll lose him if I don’t tell him; I know it.”  She looks tired right then, too jaded for her years.  “And frankly, I’m sick of losing things.”

Losing Jackson, losing her mind, losing time.

They’ve all lost something since they were plunged into the supernatural world, their childish ignorance first and foremost.

Hell, Stiles lost that years ago.

He studies Lydia for a moment longer before nodding once.  “Kidnap him after school, okay?  I’m sure Coach won’t mind if Danny skives off lacrosse practice just this once.”

Well, he will, and he’ll yell, but everyone’s used to Finstock yelling, and Danny’s his favourite anyway.

“What about Derek?”  Lydia looks irritated at having to ask at all, but as laughably unsuitable as Derek can be at the whole Alpha werewolf gig sometimes, the dude is still an Alpha werewolf, and Lydia is neither a Spark nor in the hunting business, and she hasn’t exactly grown into her powers as a banshee yet either, so Derek is an understandable concern for her even if she does have pepper-spray in her arsenal.

Not for Stiles though.  Not for Allison either if the way her fingers twitch towards one of the knives hidden on her person is anything to go by.

“Don’t worry about him,” Stiles assures as they make their way out of the cafeteria.  “I’ve never actually done anything Derek has ever approved of, and I’m not about to start now.  Besides, Danny’s a smart guy, and I’m pretty sure he’s actually heard me and Scott talk about werewolves a few times back in the day when I was still teaching Scott some self-control.  He’s halfway in the know already.  This is just us telling him so he can be prepared in case anything happens.  And he can keep a secret, right?”

Lydia nods a confirmation.  “Better than most.”

She smiles then.  Not one of her superior, glamorous, I’m beautiful and powerful and I know it, bow you peasants smiles that she nails on for the student body; instead, it’s that slow, slightly crooked, bite-her-lip smile that reaches all the way to her eyes and makes her whole face light up, and Stiles has only ever seen it directed at Jackson or Danny when she thought nobody else was watching, and even then, it was a rarity in public.

Stiles quirks a half-smile back.  Allison’s already on her phone, texting her father a heads-up about the impending increase of people involved.

“And I won’t even ask him if I’m attractive to gay guys,” Stiles promises.

Lydia laughs.

 


 

“And that’s why Lydia and Danny hang out with us now,” Stiles concludes on Saturday afternoon, lunch just finished, and the first episode of Leverage about to start.  Peter has pretty much everything available on Blu-ray; apparently, he went and mass-bought every series and movie that looked even remotely interesting to make up for all the media entertainment he missed when he was stuck in a coma.

It must be nice to be rich.

Stiles has watched Leverage before, loved it, and jumped on it immediately when Peter said he hasn’t gotten around to that one yet.  Stiles is certain the werewolf will adore Parker as much as he does.

“I did hear something about that,” Peter nods as he makes himself comfortable on the opposite end of the couch that Stiles is already curled up on.  “The teenage brigade reported the four of you sitting together at lunch to Derek, though they weren’t able to overhear anything you said.”

“They wouldn’t,” Stiles smirks.  “I always raise a muting ward around us when we talk these days, just in case.  It doesn’t cut off sound completely since that would be too obvious but anything we say is muffled and unclear.”

“Handy,” Peter decides as he fiddles with the remote.  He frowns down at it for a moment like he isn’t used to the layout of the buttons or perhaps even so many of them.  He’s barefoot and sitting cross-legged, and it’s kind of adorable, in Stiles’ opinion, especially coupled with the cozy-looking cardigan Peter is wearing over his shirt, the well-worn sweats in light grey, and even the cushion he’s situated on his lap.

The couch itself isn’t that long so when Stiles – after a moment of thought – sneakily shifts his legs a bit, he can wiggle his toes under Peter’s thigh.  The werewolf’s gaze flicks down past the remote and back again.  Something soft and amused flits at one corner of his mouth but he makes no mention of the action, and Stiles settles deeper into the couch.

All in all, it really only takes Peter an extra two heartbeats or so to figure out how to navigate the Menu screen with the remote.  No one can accuse Peter of being slow on the uptake.

“Are you building yourself a pack, Stiles?”  Peter asks out of the blue as they wait for the first episode to begin.

Stiles glances at him, perplexed.  “I’m not a werewolf, Peter.”

Peter’s gaze doesn’t shift from the TV.  “I didn’t say you were.”

And then Nate Ford appears, and both their attentions go back to the show.

Stiles has always been a fan of multitasking though so he only spares part of his mind for Leverage, another part goes to watching Peter watch Leverage, and the rest is diverted to pondering over whatever Peter was trying to suggest earlier.

Of course Stiles isn’t building a pack.  He’s not a werewolf, duh.  End of story.  Besides, Stiles building a pack sort of implies that Stiles would be the Alpha, and who’d accept him as Alpha anyway?  Lydia and Danny have only just started really getting to know him, and vice versa.  At the same time, well, Stiles doesn’t follow, period.  He was born with an authority problem the size of Russia.

And even barring all that, packs can’t really be called packs without wolves, can they?  Humans to anchor the wolves, wolves – and potentially other supernatural creatures if they happen to join – to kick-start the bonds with their inherent magic, and together, the pack would make each other strong.

Stiles’ hypothetical pack would have a banshee, and of course he himself could provide some of the magic to tie them all together, but again, you can’t call a pack of wolves a pack without the wolves, and they wouldn’t even have a single werewolf-

Stiles eyes skitter back to Peter.  Everything clicks into place.

Ah.

 


 

Stiles doesn’t ask about it further, and Peter doesn’t bring it up again.  They get through all of season one before Peter goes and cooks dinner for them while Stiles watches.

“I’ll cook for you next time,” Stiles offers from where he’s straddling a chair, head and arms resting on the back.  “I’m good at it.  I’ve been cooking for myself and my dad for almost a decade; I won’t give you food poisoning or anything.”

Peter throws him an odd look that Stiles can’t quite decipher, but it’s replaced by a smirk before he can puzzle it out.  “I look forward to it then.  Although inviting me over to the Sheriff’s house for a meal seems rather… counterproductive at this point in time.”

Stiles has to agree.  He winces at the mental image.  Even if he makes sure his dad is working that day, it would still be kinda weird.

“You could come over again,” Peter continues, stirring sauce in a pot.  “I suppose you can take over my kitchen once in a while.”

Stiles lets out a snort.  “I promise I won’t-” –burn it down.  “-explode flour over everything.”

Peter glances up shrewdly before returning his focus to the task at hand.  Beyond that, he doesn’t acknowledge the miniscule hitch in Stiles’ quip but there’s something quietly appreciative in the lines of his face all the same.

Stiles props his chin on his forearms.  He doesn’t speak again until it’s time to eat, eventually lulled into a half-dozing state as he watches the graceful movements of Peter’s careful, capable hands.

 


 

Stiles remembers to exchange phone numbers before he leaves that night.  He thinks about entering it under creeperwolf of course, but he supposes that isn’t very imaginative anymore, and what if some bad guy gets their hands on his phone and manages to identify Peter through it because they’ve managed to eavesdrop one too many times?  He has everyone else under obscure names after all.

So he thinks about it before grinning evilly and files it under cuddlywolf.  Because barefoot Peter in a cardigan and sweatpants with a cushion clutched to his stomach looks too soft for anything but cuddles, and nobody – in their right mind or otherwise – would ever connect Peter with cuddles.

Not even Peter.

The ‘wolf’ part is still a bit of a giveaway but Stiles can’t bring himself to change it now that he’s thought of it.

He drives himself home and isn’t surprised to find his dad passed out on the couch with a half-empty glass and a two-thirds-empty bottle of whiskey on the coffee table.  The sight dims some of his contentment but it’s nothing new so he simply covers the Sheriff with a blanket, puts away the whiskey and retrieves a few painkillers and a glass of water, and then sits with his father for a while to make sure the man won’t throw up or wake up and need something.

And then he heads upstairs to grab a shower and get some sleep himself.  There’s a message waiting on his phone when he takes it out to charge the battery.  It’s pointless and dorky and makes Stiles smile like an idiot.

:Goodnight, Stiles. Try not to stay up too late. I’ll swing by with coffee tomorrow.:

Stiles stares at the lit up screen for a minute.  Part of him – the part that runs on levelheaded reason and cold practicality and only ever acts the fool to hide all the other parts that aren’t fit for a society that condemns all those who walk through life sideways or backwards or upside-down – that part of him sneers at the sheer folly and naivety of exposing himself to such a huge potential threat.

Stiles blows out a long breath.  And then he sends back a text, puts his phone aside, and crawls into bed, reaching for his iPod and earphones.

:coffee is always incentive to wake up:

:nite:

 


 

“You’re late, Stiles!”  Allison hollers from the living room as Stiles clatters in through the door.

“Yeah, yeah, sorry,” Stiles puffs out as he skids into the room, almost tripping over Danny, who swiftly snags him by the back of his sweater to yank him upright before he falls flat on his face.  “Thanks, dude.  Breakfast just ran late.”

Allison squints at him – half her toes are glittering gold – as Stiles plops down on the floor, dumping his bag beside him.  “Breakfast?”

Stiles shrugs.  “Yeah.  Breakfast.  Breaking fast.  Important morning meal.”

Now even Danny and Lydia are squinting at him suspiciously.

Stiles eyes all three of them before rolling his eyes.  “It’s not like it’s a huge secret.  Well okay, it kind of is a huge secret, and if anyone goes running off to tattle on me, just remember whose wards all three of your houses are protected behind, and just what I can do with them if annoyed.”

“Oh,” Danny says with dawning realization.  Stiles is a bit miffed that nobody seems the least bit intimidated by his threat.  “Is this about that older guy you’re dating?”

Stiles stares at Danny.  Allison and Lydia stare at both of them.

“How do you know about that?!”

“You were eating dinner with him at Theon’s like two weeks ago, right?”  Danny shrugs.  “I was driving by when you two left the restaurant.”

“You were what-”

“Older guy?”  Lydia cuts in before Stiles can say anything else.  She stares at Stiles for a lengthy few seconds before guessing, “It’s Peter Hale, isn’t it?”

“I-”

“Peter Hale?”  Danny’s brow furrows.  “The… ex-Alpha, Miguel’s-”  “Derek’s.”  “-uncle, dead, and then not dead, and now Beta werewolf?”

Stiles pinches the bridge of his nose.  “Are you two finished?  Yes?  Okay.  Yeah, it’s that Peter.  Yeah, we’re dating, as of, like, last week, I think.  Officially anyway.  And…” He cocks his head in thought.  “Honestly, he’s probably more Omega than Beta at this point.  Derek likes to use him as bait.”

He glares off to the side.  It wasn’t his problem before.  Is it even his problem now?

He looks back at the others, mostly at Lydia.  “Is this gonna be a problem?”

They all look at each other.  Allison’s already made her opinion clear so she just shrugs and goes back to painting her toenails.

Danny looks at Lydia.  Lydia’s eyes go a bit distant before she shakes her head and sighs.  “I can’t forgive him yet, but… I guess I can see how six years in a coma and losing most of his family would drive him pretty crazy, and there wasn’t really any reason for him to care about some random girl he stumbled on, especially with his mental state being what it was.  Like, I get that it wasn’t personal.  Just… Is he… Is he good to you?”

Stiles lets himself relax an inch.  “Yeah.  He’s… different now.  He’s not completely insane anymore.  I mean, he’s not sane either, but hey, who of us here can claim they’ve never gone a bit crazy?”

Danny raises his hand.  Stiles and Lydia both roll their eyes at him.  Allison does a bad job hiding her grin.

“He’s broken,” Stiles continues.  “And I mean, that’s not news.  At least not to me.  I could see it back when he was batshit insane, and I can still see it now.  But he’s… better.  Just a little.  Enough to make a difference.  And… I guess maybe we have things in common?”

“He asked about you, a lot,” Lydia reveals abruptly.  “When he was-” She motions vaguely at her own head.  “And I didn’t really know a whole lot about you anyway so I couldn’t say much, but even then, he spent a lot of time watching you.”

Huh.  Really?  Well that sounds… right up Peter’s alley actually.

Stiles scrubs a hand over his face.  This should freak him out.  He has a real-life stalker.  Who literally stalked him from beyond the grave.  That’s some creepy obsessive shit right there.

But hell, it could be said that Stiles is a stalker too.  He has blackmail on almost ninety-six percent of BHHS’ student population, and more blackmail on approximately sixty-four percent of this entire town’s populace.

He spent quite a bit of time as a kid poking around the police station and hacking cameras and shit and following people around.  Heck, he’s made copies of all the key cards and keys in his father’s possession, and he’s already broken into the gun safe in his father’s home office.  Twice.  The first time just to see if he could, and the second… well, let’s just say he didn’t have time to get his hands on an illegal gun, and in the worst-case scenario, Stiles needed a way to plant a bullet in Gerard’s head and possibly Jackson’s lizard head too.  But hey, on the bright side, he put the gun back before his dad noticed, and he didn’t even have to use it.

So Peter isn’t the only criminal around, and maybe that’s part of why Stiles finds it easier to accept the guy, faults and creepiness and all.

“He’s your boyfriend,” Lydia says decidedly, finally turning back to the bottles of nail polish lined up on the floor.  “And if you can keep him in line, I won’t say a word.  You can set him on fire again with your magic if he ever deserves it, right?”

Stiles shrugs and nods.  “Pretty much.”

(He knows he won’t.  Even if he has to kill Peter again one day, he won’t use fire.)

“Then your love life’s none of my business,” Lydia tells him briskly before holding up a red bottle and a blue bottle.  “Which one do you want: First Dance or Mezmerized?”

Danny’s toes are already green.  The boy helpfully brandishes a bottle labeled Shake Your $$ Maker at him with one hand while Allison reaches for his other one.

Stiles points at the blue.  Allison’s painted his nails more than once so he knows the drill.

Mezmerized it is,” Lydia acquiesces.  Her own nails are a brilliant, fiery orange.  “Now give me your hand, Stilinski, and try not to fidget.”

 


 

:my nails r blu:

:lydia painted them:

:she says she’s willing to paint yurs too but she mite also b tempted to stab u in the eye w the brush:

:Understandable but I think I’ll pass on this generous offer all the same.:

:prob for the best:

:wat r u doing rite now?:

:Cleaning up my resumé.:

:oh yea:

:#ProfessorHale:

:thats never gonna get old:

:hav u decided on a school:

:Stanford, most likely. I’ve been in contact with them. The pay’s decent, they like my credentials, I even get my own office. And it’s less than a day’s drive from Beacon Hills.:

:u want to stay close to our very own personal hellmouth:

:Less that, more other things.:

:wat things:

:peter?:

:teeellll meeee:

:Hm. I don’t think I will.:

:u no being mysterious isnt as cool as u think it is:

:besides il figure out all yr secrets sooner or later:

:I’m looking forward to it.:

 


 

In addition to the last bracelet Stiles made, he produces another one and gives one each to Lydia and Danny.

“So this is our club membership token, huh?”  Danny deadpans, holding it up to the light so that the silvery runes glint under the library lights.  Lydia smirks even as she secures the bracelet around her wrist.

“Sure, why not?”  Stiles rolls his eyes.  “More importantly though, my magic is in that, so if you’re ever in trouble, I’ll be able to locate you anywhere, and it’ll help protect you if you need it.”

That’s the gist of it anyway.

“So that’s six of us now?”  Allison glances at everyone.  “Not counting Stiles of course.”

“Who else has them?”  Lydia asks as she returns to rifling through the mountain of college brochures in front of them.

They’re in their final year of high school, and they’re all still alive.  Sometimes, Stiles still can’t believe it.  He still fights any supernatural creature that tries to take a chunk out of the town when the Hale Pack can’t handle it but it’s not the same as the heart-stopping run-for-your-life constant terror that he had to live with back in his sophomore year, when every night felt like it could be his last.  He’s capable of a lot more now, with equally capable people beside him who won’t forget him or just leave him to fend for himself, and that makes whole worlds of difference to his life expectancy when it comes to confronting anything dangerous.

“Chris, my dad,” Stiles counts off.  “And Peter.”

“Hm,” Lydia picks up a pamphlet for Harvard, stares at it with a critical frown, and then tosses it into the ‘No’ pile.  “So when are we going to actually meet Peter?  I would really like to have a memory of a Peter who isn’t psychotic.  We even met your dad already, for like two minutes when we came over to your house yesterday.”

“Speaking of, I don’t think he likes me very much,” Danny says pensively.  “He gave me these strange looks on our way upstairs.  I’m not sure how I should feel about the Sheriff of my hometown not liking me.  It makes me foresee a lot of traffic tickets in my future.”

Stiles snorts with laughter.  “It’s nothing like that.  He just thinks I’m dating you.”

Danny raises his eyebrows.  Stiles elaborates, “I was going to tell him about Peter, but then, well, I thought better of it, so I just told him I was going on a date with a guy.”

“And this results in him giving me strange looks instead of the shovel talk or the sight of him cleaning his gun at the dinner table because…?”

Stiles huffs.  His eyes stay glued on a glossy picture of Stanford.  “…He doesn’t think I’m gay.”

Even Lydia looks up this time, eyes sharp with something dangerous.  “Did you tell him?”

Stiles shrugs and nods jerkily.  “I mean it was over dinner, and I told him I’m at least a little gay, and you know, going on a date with a guy usually implies that I’m at least bisexual.  Which I’ve figured out I am.  I mean, I’ve never actually been ‘in the closet’.  I had a crush on you, Lyds, you know that, but I’ve mentioned guys before, and now I’m with Peter.  And I like to think I’m pretty self-aware most days so I’ve known I was bi for a while now, and I’ve never gone out of my way to hide that.  And like I said, I did tell him about there being a guy, hence the misunderstanding with Danny, but.  Well.  My dad says I’m not gay, so.  I dunno.  He saw Danny, and he jumped to the most likely conclusion.  And ‘going on a date with a guy’ isn’t exactly the same as ‘dating a guy’ which… I don’t know, implies a more long-term relationship, so I guess he was just surprised I was still with you?  Not you you, obviously, but my dad thinks that the guy I went on a date with was you, and he was probably trying to figure out a polite way to help me break it off with you so that nobody would be embarrassed or heartbroken or whatever when I eventually realize I’m straight.  Which I’m not.  But he says I am.  Just.  He means well.  I’d probably appreciate it if I was straight…”

Stiles trails off, finally out of breath.  Out of words.  He thinks he’s said too much, but Ally is sitting across from him, dark-eyed and protective and looking like she wants to go and slay this latest problem for Stiles until said problem isn’t even a distant memory anymore so that it won’t ever be able to rear its ugly head again to hurt Stiles, and it gives him courage and a looser tongue.

To his left, Lydia’s lips have gone terrifyingly thin, and it occurs to Stiles right at that moment that she’s been Danny’s best friend since forever, and she’s probably dealt with everything from homophobes to people who claim they aren’t homophobes but are still stupid or awkward or teeth-gratingly well-meaning about Danny’s orientation anyway.  Keywords being ‘dealt with’.  Stiles has personally seen her ruin other people’s social lives at school after they insulted Danny – wearing a vapid smile on her face and dripping poison with every barbed word all the while.  It’s one of the reasons he admired her so much.  Even though he didn’t like the way she used to look down on people who weren’t her friends, she was also perfectly willing and able to rip people apart for those who were, and that – he thought – was something worth respecting.

Danny’s the laidback one who looks at Lydia and then turns back to Stiles with a calm expression on his face but steel in his eyes.

“You know it doesn’t matter what he says, right?  Good intentions or not, he can’t tell you what you are.  Or aren’t, in this case.  Either way, whether you like girls or guys or both or neither or anything else is totally up to you.  It’s your life and your choice.  And if your dad can’t understand that-”

“-then we can always go explain it to him,” Lydia finishes, voice saccharinely sweet.

Stiles looks at her, at Danny, at Allison, and for a moment, he can’t quite find the words to speak.  He doesn’t need them to defend him, especially since his dad does mean well, and yet…

“Right,” He finally croaks out.  He swallows hard, glancing down and picking at a stray piece of string on his shirt.  “I- right.  I mean.  Thanks.  That’s good to know.”  His gaze catches on the brochures, and he quickly reaches out to grab one.  “So.  Colleges.  Did you know Peter will be starting at Stanford as a history professor in September?”

They don’t say anything about the abrupt change in topic, going along with it instead of calling him out on it, and Stiles is unspeakably grateful for the silent understanding.  It’s times like this that makes him wonder how his life might have turned out if he’d made friends with Lydia and Danny back in kindergarten all those years ago.  But Jackson pretty much hated him on sight for some reason, and those three were already friends, so Stiles didn’t stand a chance.  He had a few friendly acquaintances through primary school – classmates who didn’t mind partnering up with him on projects – but it wasn’t until Scott came along, the new kid and asthmatic and just as friendless as Stiles, that Stiles actually had someone to hang out with on a more regular basis.

Of course, look how that friendship’s turned out.  Scott dropped him like a hot potato as soon as better prospects appeared, and maybe that’s the lingering bitterness and resentment and hurt speaking, but Stiles doesn’t think that’s all it is.  Besides, Jackson’s cut his ties with his two childhood friends too, and Lydia and Danny actually seem to like Stiles now that circumstance has thrown them together and they’ve gotten to know each other a bit, and he has Allison.

Stiles knows he’s weird.  He knows he doesn’t meet certain expectations.  He knows his father sometimes (all the time) wishes for an easier son to not-raise.  He knows he isn’t exactly normal, and not just because he can do magic.  He knows some people might go as far as to call him a sociopath.

But Allison knows what he is, and he’s fairly certain Lydia and Danny have a decent idea, and they’re still here anyway.

He’s not normal by a long shot, but he thinks he’s still a pretty lucky guy.

 


 

:school’s boring:

:Graduate early.:

:I only have like 6mths to go. no point:

:Then don’t be a brat and pay attention in class like you should be right now.:

:UGH:

:Capslock isn’t going to get you out of class any earlier, darling.:

:And winter break starts next week. You have that skiing trip with Allison don’t you?:

:I guess:

:lyds n danny r coming too:

:Something to look forward to then.:

:um:

:What?:

:do u have plans for Christmas:

:its just:

:the others wanna meet u:

:properly:

:there mite b a few death threats thrown in but lyds and ally promise they’ll stay civil:

:n danny’s real chill bout everything so u don’t hve to worry about him:

:Stiles, is this your way of asking me to go skiing with you?:

:maybe? I mean ul have to pay for yourself:

:n u don’t have to:

:just:

:we’ll be staying til after new years so I thot maybe u mite wanna come along instead of staying in bh:

:Well Derek certainly won’t be extending any party invitations, or at the very least certainly not to me.:

:So I’m free, and I’d love to spend holidays with you if you’re certain your friends won’t mind.:

:they wont:

:I think even lydias willing to try to get to no u first:

:so u better make a good second impression or she might end up stabbing u anyway:

:Then I shall be on my best behaviour.:

:But what about Christopher? He might not be very happy with this arrangement, and our history aside, he would still have a point – you’re all seventeen, and I will not be pretending to be anybody’s father.:

:actually allys eighteen, she was held back a year from all the moving around her family did:

:but also ew, don’t pretend to be my dad:

:yr my boyfriend:

:I’m your boyfriend?:

:sht up u already kno that:

:n we’ll be going to a private ski resort in alaska owned by argents, chris booked it for us so there’ll literally only be us + employees in charge of cleaning up after us and wont give a fck:

:unless u flip out and go wolf n start killing ppl:

:then ul prob get shot:

:but otherwise chris even went out of his way to make sure those ppl aren’t biased against werewolves:

:also also chris won’t be there:

:there has to be at least one licensed hunter in town at all times so hes staying behind n skyping us over hols:

:so u 2 wont even have to put up with each other:

:Then I suppose I should start looking into some winter gear.:

:awesome =D:

:It’s a pity that we’ll be the only ones there though.:

:??:

:There will be plenty of rooms free.  However will I have my wicked way with my boyfriend if we won’t be sharing a room?:

:OMG PETER:

:WEREN’T U THE ONE WHO JUST POINTED OUT THE AGE DIF:

:I’m joking, Stiles.:

:But I can hear you blushing.:

:liar yr werewolf powers aren’t that awesome:

:Well are you blushing?:

:THAT IS TOTALLY BESIDE THE POINT:

:ul get a whole room to yrself so don’t complain:

:n u can kiss me, I like kissing u:

:I like kissing you too, sweetheart.:

:good:

:but:

:does it bother u:

:that we have to wait:

:I mean we don’t HAVE to but:

:Sex isn’t the be all and end all of a relationship. At least it isn’t for me. Even after you turn eighteen, if you don’t want to right away or even at all, we don’t have to.:

:I enjoy your company, Stiles. Frankly that’s far more important than a good fuck.:

:oh:

:ok:

:but a good fuck would b nice too rite?:

:Stiles, if we have sex, I guarantee it will be a lot more than just a good fuck.:

:oh:

:Blushing again?:

:I hate u:

:Whatever helps you sleep at night darling. Now stop texting and pay attention to your lessons.:

:or wat:

:Or this delicious chicken and mushroom pie I’m making won’t be waiting for you after school.:

:u bake the weirdest shit:

:But?:

:imma paying attention now:

:Good boy.:

 


 

“Stiles?  Did you buy this winter jacket?”

Stiles sticks his head around the doorway of the kitchen, blinking at where his dad is toeing off his shoes and staring puzzledly at the jacket hanging from the door of the hall closet.  “Yeah, I need it.”

The Sheriff looks more than a little confused.  “Stiles, it’s California, why in the world would you need a winter jacket like that?”

Something goes tight in Stiles’ chest but he makes an effort not to show it.  “I’m going skiing with my friends over break, remember?  I told you a couple weeks ago.”

His dad frowns.  “You did?”

Stiles smiles bracingly.  “I did.  You made it home in time for dinner but you got called out again like twenty minutes later so maybe you forgot?”

The Sheriff sighs.  “Yeah, probably.”  He glances at the jacket again even as he shrugs out of his own.  “And… you can afford this trip?”

Stiles just manages to suppress a grimace.  “Chris- Mr. Argent is paying for us.”

His dad’s frown deepens.  “I don’t know how I feel about someone else paying for you, Stiles.  Are you sure he’s alright with it?”

Well, considering the Argents are rich, yes, but also, it isn’t as if Stiles is just freeloading off the guy’s money.  He’s been doing his fair share of work that the Tribunal’s been dumping on Chris, and the only reason Stiles isn’t getting paid directly is because he isn’t eighteen yet.  Once he’s a legal adult, Chris has already arranged the paperwork so that he and Allison will officially be part of the hunter liaison team for Beacon Hills.  That’s also the only reason another team of hunters hasn’t been sent in.  Usually, a place with supernatural activity doesn’t have just one hunter running around.  Even Stiles can admit that sounds unnecessarily dangerous.

“Yeah,” He says out loud.  “And it’s not like it’s just me he’s paying for.  It’s basically his Christmas present to us.”

The Sheriff levels a severe look on him.  “And you’re certain you didn’t pester him into paying for you?”

Stiles pulls an offended look with very little effort.  “Seriously?  I wouldn’t do that!”

The Sheriff sighs again.  “With you, one never knows.  I suppose it’s fine then.  Just don’t make a habit of it.  I understand Scott is one thing, being Allison’s-”

“Whoa, whoa!”  Stiles gapes a little.  “Scott isn’t Allison’s anything, Dad!  They broke up ages ago, back in sophomore year!”

The Sheriff looks taken aback this time.  “Oh, I thought they must have gotten back together.  When you said you and your friends-”

“Yeah, me, Ally, Lydia, and Danny,” Stiles counts off.  And Peter, but best not mention him.  “My friends?  Hello?  Come on, Dad, you’ve seen them.  I brought them around just two weeks ago.”

“I thought that was for a school project or something.  You’ve been friends with only Scott for so long, I didn’t think anybody else could put up with you.”  The Sheriff says it like a joke, and Stiles obligingly cracks a grin at it even though it feels more like his skin splitting apart than any sort of genuine humour.

“Danny?”  His dad continues, and recollection finally surfaces on the man’s face.  “You still haven’t broken up with him yet?  Stiles, for god’s sakes, you shouldn’t string the poor boy along when you’re not-”

“Ow!”  Stiles yelps, flailing and almost falling over after accidentally on purpose pretending to stub his toe against one wall.  “Shit!  Ouch!”

The conversation dissolves as his dad hurries forward to make sure Stiles isn’t going to give himself a concussion or something, looking terribly exasperated at his son’s clumsy tendencies, and then Stiles has to rush back to the stove to make sure their dinner doesn’t burn.

It’s much easier to deal with than anything his dad has to say on that particular topic.

 


 

“Stiles?”

Peter blinks at the hunched figure standing on his doorstep before automatically stepping back to let him in.  Stiles shuffles inside, already wearing pajamas under his sweater, with crocs on his feet of all things.  His scent is off, not quite drowningly sad in the way it sometimes gets, less these days than even just a year and a half ago, before Allison and – he likes to think – Peter himself.  But tired maybe, with something restless seething under his skin.

“My dad’s at work,” Stiles explains succinctly, tone as dull as his eyes.  “Can I stay here tonight?”

Peter nods, “Of course,” and leads him to the guest bedroom.  Instinct tells him to bundle Stiles into his own bed, but that’s probably a step too far so he doesn’t.

Stiles simply sheds his sweater once he reaches the bed before crawling under the covers.  Peter hesitates, wondering if he should just leave now, but then Stiles rolls back in his direction and makes gropey hands at him until Peter snorts and sits himself on the edge of the bed.  He typically only sleeps in his pants, having only thrown on a shirt to answer the door, but he figures if they’re going to be sharing a bed, he should probably keep it on.  This already feels somewhat more intimate than the dates and make-out sessions up until now.

Stiles snuggles into him as soon as he lies down, and Peter doesn’t even have to think about it before running a soothing hand up and down Stiles’ back.  They’ve both become fairly tactile with each other ever since they started dating but there’s something desperate and starved in the way Stiles clings to Peter tonight, so Peter simply holds him and tries not to think about how easy it would be to make the town sheriff disappear.

Eventually, some of the tension leaks out of Stiles’ frame, and not long after that, the boy’s breathing evens out.  He looks younger in his sleep, young and innocent with a long life ahead of him, and if Peter was any kind of decent, it’s stuff like this that would make him feel guilty enough to break things off with Stiles, let him find someone else who isn’t twice his age, give him the chance to be with somebody who isn’t a burnt-out shell of a man with too little morals and too much blood on his hands.

But Peter isn’t – he’s selfish and greedy and he wants Stiles in all his brilliant, clever glory, wants him in a way he’s never wanted anyone or anything before, and they’ll have to pry this boy out of his cold dead hands before Peter ever lets him go.

He saw Stiles first after all.  Saw what he was and what he was capable of long before anybody else ever did, saw him the way the good Sheriff refuses to and Scott has never noticed.  Peter sees the fire in him that most of the world will always want to put out because Stiles is bright and different and dangerous, and people have never known how to appreciate things that frighten them without wanting to destroy them too.

But perhaps the most astounding thing of all here is that Stiles sees him too, sees exactly what Peter is at his core, man and wolf and monster, and still wants to be here.

The boy makes a snuffling noise and cuddles deeper into Peter’s chest, unafraid and trusting.  Peter draws him closer still, pressing a kiss to Stiles’ forehead before letting his own eyes fall shut.

Let the world try.  Stiles is stronger than ever nowadays, and anything that slips past him, well, Peter will be there to rip it apart for him.