Stiles angled his head to get a better view as he watched the humans below him run around in a panic. He flapped his wings, and his tail helped him stabilize and aim for the next building.
Amusement bubbled in his chest and he let out another belch of fire. The thatched roof caught, and more little human-ants came running out. Each carried a miniature version of themselves, and Stiles hummed. When the buildings finally collapsed, he huffed out a laugh and flew off to his nest.
It was a nice nest, if he did say so himself. His collection of treasures pleased him, and he picked up one shiny bauble to gaze into. Destruction, as entertaining as it was, could only keep him occupied so long.
The bond tugged at his heart, at his loins. He shifted to his bipedal guise and rubbed one hand through his spiky locks. His mate existed in this world. It felt odd though, like the must of rotting leaves, the sharp scent of pine, the warmth of rough fur.
His mate wasn't a dragon, of that he was quite certain. Two centuries and counting, and a few decades had slipped by him like sand in an hourglass.
He sighed and placed the bauble back in its pile, with other stones like it. Boredom plagued him no matter what he did to stay its progress. No amount of chaos kept it at bay. It would soon be time to move to the next place, before his nest got ransacked. Again. So many humans on the planet these days, taking it over a foot at a time.
Cold fire roared through his body like ice and he collapsed to the ground. His head bounced on the rock, protected only by the vestigial scales that spattered his body in this form.
"Mate," he gasped, and shifted back to his winged form. He ran to the opening of his cave, leapt, and took flight. The icy flames pulled him towards his mate, and he let them.
Flashes of trees, metal birds that he brushed by with the flick of a wingtip, shouts and buildings and more trees as he arrived at the destination. And it was fire.
In a panic he breathed in next to the fire-drenched house. Mate, mate, mate, trapped, pain, fear, such fear as Stiles had never known. He drew the fire in, choked on the flowery essence. Not pure, but dirty, polluted fire. He kept on though, breathing, choking, breathing, choking, until it died down.
He wheezed, clawed at the remains, dug down until he reached the basement. Humans, and some odd smelling humans, hard to tell past the smoke. He snuffled at them until he found the right one.
Sirens blared behind him and cut through his focus. No! He'd finally found his mate! Stiles growled and scooped up his mate in his claws. Burned, but Stiles could fix that. Unconscious, but easier to move that way. He flew low into the forest, away from the carcass of a dwelling, but landed close enough to keep watch.
If his mate's nestlings lived, perhaps he would want to know such things. For the time being, he had to see to his mate's health. He gathered leaves to cushion the man, and then laid him out for examination.
Charred skin and body hair half burned off, so much damage where a burning beam had held him down. Stiles removed the clothing fragments that still clung to the man with careful deliberation. He ran his long forked tongue over every contusion, and soothing trills left his throat as he worked. When his mate smelled more of him than of the fire, when his skin no longer held any damage at all, he stopped.
It didn’t take long for the man to come to wakefulness. Stiles tilted his head when he jumped into a crouch and growled low.
“Where--what the hell are you?!” His mate didn’t back away, instead he held his ground with claws bared, and his eyes flared a bright yellow. “Where is my pack?”
Stiles snuffed at him and tucked his tail around his hindclaws. Wolf. Well, that explained the odd smelling humans. He leaned forward, just a bit, and flicked his tongue out at the man, who lashed out with his sharp-tipped fingers. Pleased with his headstrong mate, he trilled again before shifting to his bipedal form with a suddenness that made the other man jerk back into a defensive stance.
“I’m a dragon, just in case the wings and scales didn’t give it away. I’d breathe fire too, but I think that would be just a bit insensitive, all things considered.” Stiles quirked a brow. “What is your name, wolf?”
“Peter Hale. Where is my family?” He darted at Stiles and grasped his throat. “The whole house was burning down around us, but we couldn’t get out.” He glanced around, as if his nestlings might have made it with him. While his attention appeared diverted, his claws clicked against Stiles’ neck scales.
His mate was adorable. Seriously, those little talons, like they could hurt him. “You’re so cute, oh my gods.” Stiles chortled when Peter flashed his eyes again, kept them lit up like little suns. “Sorry, sorry, right, your pack. If you wouldn’t mind unhanding me?”
Peter tightened his grip and one claw slid between his neck scales to prick the flesh beneath with a delicious sting, then he pushed Stiles away. “Tell. Me. Now.”
He stumbled back, then brushed himself off and hacked out a cough. That damn smoke stuck in the back of his throat. Good at ignoring the unpleasant when he could, he focused on the wolf before him as pride and pleasure mixed into a heady warmth. A strong mate was a boon to any dragon.
“There was an,” Stiles paused, tried to put the word to the flashing lights and noise, “ambulance? I don’t deal with humans much, directly that is, but I try to maintain a decent vocabulary.”
“Ambulance. Good, they’ll be at Beacon Hills Memorial, they have a good burn unit.” It was as if Peter had forgotten all about him, and began to walk away.
Stiles blinked. That just wouldn’t do, his mate couldn’t get away, especially with the need to claim pounding in his veins. “Peter, where are you going? Without clothing, I might add? It’s been a couple of centuries, but I thought humans still frowned upon walking naked in public.”
Peter paused, looked down at his body. “Shit.” His shoulders slumped and his head bowed, he stood there in silence for a few moments. “I guess I should thank you or something. But I need to see to my pack. My Alpha. Make sure everyone is okay.”
“No need to thank me. Our mate bond called to me, let me know you were in danger. I need only retribution. Also, your pack--” Stiles cut off when Peter whirled around.
“Mate bond? There can’t be a bond! Wolves mate for life.” He snarled at Stiles, then turned to resume his journey into the forest.
“As I was saying, it seemed as if most of your pack choked on the smoke, rather than being burned. Your injuries were due to the beam that had you pinned.” Stiles chose not to address his mate’s denial of the bond, rather generously in his own opinion.
“The smoke. The fucking fire. Whoever it was added wolfsbane into the mix. And surrounded us with mountain ash. How did you get past the barrier?” Peter frowned up at random trees, seemed to decide on one, leapt up, and hung there before making the climb.
Stiles watched as his mate disappeared into the foliage, and ogled his bottom in particular. “Ah, that would explain why the fire choked me. But no fire-altered wood can stop a dragon from saving his mate.”
Peter dropped in front of Stiles with a black bag slung from one shoulder. “You might not have heard me earlier. We cannot be mates. I had a mate.”
“Where is she now?” Curiosity and the solid psychic sensation of an intact mate bond kept Stiles from losing his temper. “Or he?”
“My wife and pup are dead.” Peter’s eyes flashed again, a beautiful bright yellow which couldn’t hide the pain there, sharp as a dragon’s fang. “So shut the fuck up and let me get to my family.”
Stiles stared into the wolf’s eyes and felt a painful tug of understanding in his chest. “I’m sorry for your loss. Especially of the pup whose life was cut too short. I do grieve for you, my mate. But I’m not wrong. Our bond led me here, to you. Saved you and your pack. Is that not proof enough?”
Peter returned his regard for several tense seconds, then snorted as his eyes went back to a more pale, human blue hue. “No. It’s not. The rest of this conversation, whatever it is, should be saved for when my Alpha is here.”
He ran his gaze over Peter’s well-muscled form. “Don’t get dressed on my account. I know humans have weird sensibilities about covering flesh, but I’m rather enjoying the view.”
Peter grimaced and yanked open the bag. He threw two articles of clothing at Stiles, all black, how boring. He then drew out a shirt and pair of pants for himself in navy.
“I would’ve thought you’d be more colorful.” Stiles plucked at the shirt he wore over skin and scales.
“I didn’t pack this with the intent of standing out. Keep up if you can.” He didn’t wait, instead loping off in the direction Stiles assumed held the hospital.
“By all means,” Stiles called after him, “lead the way.”
It would’ve been nice to walk, but Stiles had the thrill of chasing his mate, so he wouldn’t complain. Peter tried to outrun him every so often, but Stiles had the stamina of a dragon. It was as if he forgot, or something.
They finally stopped where the woods surrounded a building. Peter let out a howl that vibrated in Stiles’ belly. Then he tipped his ear in the direction of the hospital and they waited.
Peter sank to his knees with his face in his hands. “Thank fuck.” He rubbed his cheeks hard.
Stiles approached with caution, laid a hand on Peter’s shoulder. “They will be okay? The polluted smoke didn’t damage them too badly?”
“No, they’ll be okay. The doctor wants to keep them overnight. We’ll move to the alternate den tomorrow, which is when Talia will need to meet with you.” Peter brushed his hand away.
Stiles grinned. “Oh, good. That’ll give me time to find the dead people.” He rubbed his hands together.
Peter looked at him with confusion plastered on his face, and Stiles laughed. “Oh, whoever was stupid enough to attack my mate is dead. They just don’t know it yet.”
:: :: :: :: ::
Stiles made it back to the charred remains of the house. Yellow tape surrounded it, but that didn’t deter him at all. He breathed in the sick smell of burned flowers, but something was just below it…
“This is a crime scene.” The voice came from the corner of the property, and Stiles finished cataloguing what he could before he met the stranger’s gaze.
The recognition hit him in the gut, and he saw past the uniform, the sheriff’s badge, to the being beneath the mask. “It’s you.”
Jordan Parrish nodded, held out his right hand where a small flame flickered in his palm. “Brother, I welcome thee with flame.”
Stiles responded the way custom dictated and suspended his right hand over the flame. “Brother, I thank thee. May the fires of our friendship never extinguish.” They grasped each other and the warmth dispersed up their arms.
“I haven’t seen you since Paris, fifty years ago. You look a little different.” Stiles looked around. “But this. This was my mate’s dwelling. The bond called to me when he was in danger.”
“It was at least a century ago, Stiles. Ugh, that’s just great. By all means, search for what you need. Can you just,” he paused and held his hands out before he continued, “try not to mess with the scene too much?”
Stiles batted his worries away with a wave. “Don’t worry, I won’t disturb your precious dead house. Besides, once I find what I need, you won’t even have to worry about, um, prosecution?” He tapped his fingertips together, then nodded. “Yeah, that’s it.”
Jordan groaned. “You realize that I’m the Sheriff here? A mysterious death after a mysterious arson isn’t going to look good.”
“Not my problem, brother. This was a direct attack, and if I hadn’t made it in time…” he trailed off, blinked away tears. “I know they seem to think wolves mate for life, but dragons really do. If Peter had died...”
Jordan choked out a laugh. “Your mate is Peter?”
His spine stiffened in outrage. “What’s so funny about that?”
The Sheriff shook his head and widened his eyes. “No, nothing, just...he’s a bit of a sassy firecracker, stubborn as a fucking mule, and maybe a little too passive-aggressive to suit a dragon. I would think, anyway.”
“He’s perfect,” Stiles gritted out, “and I can take care of the aggressive well enough that the passive is a good personality trait on his part.”
“Whatever you say, brother. I’m sure the gods knew what they were about when they formed this mate bond. He’s accepted, then?” Jordan followed as Stiles sniffed some more. That scent...there was something there damn it.
Stiles paused, looked at Jordan from the corner of his eye, then kept moving around the perimeter of the house. “Not quite yet. But he will.”
:: :: :: :: ::
The house was so unassuming. Not the biggest, not the smallest, in what most humans would consider a “decent neighborhood” to be sure. Stiles stood at the end of the driveway, still in his borrowed clothes.
It hadn’t even taken much to lead him to this location. His prey somehow managed to bleed at the site of his mate’s near-demise. He only had to follow the fiery hatred he sensed in the blood, mixed with the unique scent of the blood itself.
There was still the decision of how to exact his revenge on these ants. They wouldn’t matter in the grand scheme of things, but what if his mate required something of them? This attack wasn’t just on his mate, but on the wider family unit, and his mate’s pack also had a right to recompense.
“This would be so much easier if I were alone,” he muttered. He could just set the dwelling ablaze, watch as his prey screamed and pleaded for mercy. He would be completely justified in his enjoyment, he was sure.
“Well, technically you are alone. You could just go back to wherever dragons come from. After speaking with my Alpha about the small matter of arson, of course.” Peter’s voice dripped with disdain from behind him.
He spun on his heel to look at his mate. “Wow, sneaky. I didn’t even sense you. Perhaps I should pay more attention in this town. This is the second time someone has appeared out of nowhere.” He shook his head, tried to clear it. “I’ll be happy to speak with your Alpha about this. And to let her know of my intent to consummate our bond too.”
Peter lifted one side of his lip in a wolfish sneer. “Try to consummate our bond without my consent. See how I tear you apart.”
Happiness fizzed up inside of Stiles like champagne, and he beamed at the wolf. “You are everything I could’ve hoped for in a mate.” Then he tsked. “But I would never harm you by taking you against your will. Don’t worry. By the time we mate, you’ll be willing.”
“You are out of your mind, aren’t you?” Peter sniffed at him. “Though mostly I can smell the effects of mental deterioration in humans, I’m not sure what dragon insanity smells like.”
Stiles chortled. “Beautiful, vicious, funny. Doesn’t that sound perfect? What part of that seems unreasonable to you?”
Peter shook his head and clicked his tongue. “Come on. Talia wishes to speak with you before you leave.” He put special emphasis on the last word.
Stiles chose to ignore that part. He was so good to his mate, really.
:: :: :: :: ::
Peter led him to the new den, set even further into the woods than the previous one. Stiles didn’t attempt to talk, he’d have to address himself to the pack’s Alpha. Talia, Peter had called her.
If he concentrated, he could hear a congregation of heartbeats on each floor of the two-story house. He assumed the one he would go towards was on the first floor. Peter opened the door, and a voice from within called out.
“We’re in here.”
Stiles walked into the study with Peter hard on his heels. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Alpha of my mate.” He stuck out a hand and waited, even as the pup behind Talia flashed bright blue eyes and growled at his approach. There stood another, older male back beyond her right shoulder who watched, confident, relaxed but watchful.
Talia blinked stoplight red eyes and took a breath. “Dragon. Peter spoke about your role in this. What is it you seek? If it’s my little brother, I’m afraid I’ll have to deny you without further proof.” She looked at his hand, then back up at his face, a deliberate snub.
Stiles chuckled and retracted his hand. “Rude. But that’s okay, I can hear that you aren’t completely recovered from your ordeal.”
The Alpha showed her teeth in a snarl, her torso held stiff and upright in her seat. “We will be fine. We’re a strong pack. I won’t let you steal one of our strongest members because of your erroneous assumption.”
“If I were a wolf, would we be having this discussion?” Stiles set his hands on his hips. “I am much older than you, Alpha or no Alpha, and he is my mate. I wouldn’t even be here if he weren’t.”
“Bonds such as those are connected to the pack. We’d feel it too, and we don’t.” She clenched her jaw. “In the meantime, besides Peter, what is it you seek as payment for your assistance? For which we are grateful.”
“Wow, don’t choke on the gratitude. Not that I really need it, I didn’t do this out of the goodness of my heart.” Stiles scowled and cracked his neck with a sharp jerk of his head. “I know the house where dwells our attempted murderer.”
Peter pipes up behind him, “The Argent house, Talia. It was an Argent.”
The pup with the glowing candy blue eyes, and wasn’t that an interesting trick he’d have to ask about later, went white as a sheet, but it didn’t appear that anyone else paid attention to him.
Talia leaned forward. “How do you know this? I couldn’t find the signs in the wreckage.”
Stiles scoffed. “Please, can you begin to understand what the fires of hatred smell like? The little flickers of fear which start the inferno to begin with? Whoever she was, and it was a female, she damaged herself in the process. At the periphery of your property, not the central location.”
A heavy pause filled the room as they waited for Stiles to spill more. He decided, just this once, to oblige. “Oh, and she was pregnant too. About a month along? Maybe a little less, definitely not more.”
If wolves could turn translucent, that pup in the back almost managed it. Stiles heard his heart pounding even without focusing, and from the corner of his eye, he saw Peter laser in on the boy.
“Nephew,” he drawled. “Why are you so affected by this news?” He took well paced steps until he stood nose-to-nose with his nephew.
“I--I don’t know what you mean.” Sweat ran down his face in large beads, and desperation reeked from his pores. Everyone in the room could hear and smell the lie.
With a snarl, Peter bared his fangs, his eyes yellow fire that sought out the truth. He grabbed the boy by the throat, and blood ran where his claws punctured. “What did you do?”
By this point, Talia rose from her seat, and the older male stood with clenched fists at the ready. “Peter, let Derek go! He’s a child!”
“He knows something. You hear his traitorous heartbeat just as well as I do!” He shook Derek, who whimpered and scrabbled at Peter’s fingers.
“He is sixteen years old, which in the state of California is still a child. Drop him, Peter.” Talia placed a hand on Peter’s trembling arm, Alpha-red eyes bright and steady.
With a disgusted noise, he threw Derek down. “It’s not as if this would be the first stupid move he made.”
“Like you had no part in that,” Derek muttered. Peter lunged at him, but the elder male blocked his way.
“Peter, calm down!” The man pushed him, or tried, but Peter had rage on his side.
“Not that I’m not enjoying the family drama, but I came for my mate and revenge. Whatever else is going on here, it has nothing to do with me.” He waved a hand at the cluster of angry werewolves. “I would also really like it if you could refrain from injuring my mate. I would hate to damage yours in return.” Stiles raised a brow.
Talia looked at him, then back at her pack members with a sigh. “Shit. Paul, Derek, Peter, all of you back off. Now isn’t the time for this discussion. Not in front of...,” her nose crinkled in disgust when she looked back at Stiles, “him.”
It was the last straw. Stiles knew it was the last straw even as it happened, and he grew. And grew, tearing through the clothes Peter had provided the day before. And grew some more until finally he was in his winged form, and even Alpha looked shocked with wide scarlet eyes.
Stiles roared, his neck bent at an awkward angle so as not to break another house, but he let loose. He wanted his mate. He wanted retribution. He wanted all of this bullshit to fucking stop. It wasn’t supposed to be this complicated.
He stood there, panting, cotton shreds hanging from his wingtips and the small spikes of his eyebrows. Mate approached. Mate approached with open hands, open, vulnerable body. Stiles lifted his upper lip, showed off his fangs when those-who-were-not-Mate tried to approach. He snared Mate with his foreclaw, pulled him close.
Mate made noises, word-noises, even Stiles could recognize that. Small flesh wings batted at his chest, and Stiles trilled and chuffed. His heart pounded, but less now, less frantic. Mate calmed and soothed, as he should.
“--it’s okay, don’t burn down this den, I don’t think we could really afford it. That’s it, good dragon, good Stiles, let’s turn back to human please. It’s easier to understand you that way.” Mate’s words were borderline insulting, but Stiles decided to accept only the praise.
He set Mate--Peter, Mate was Peter, Peter was Mate--away from him, but to the side. Not near the aggressive nestlings. Stiles needed legs for standing, and a mouth for making word-noises, and he shrank, down, down, until his scaled bipedal form took shape.
Alpha--no, no, Talia--moved forward, and Stiles bared his teeth at her and hissed. His fangs might be small in his bipedal form, but they were still effective.
“Okay, okay, I--we believe you.” Talia held her hands down at her side, palms out.
Stiles looked her up and down, then sneered. “How kind of you.” Her weakness rankled, but Peter seemed loyal enough. Her pack seemed devoted to her. Perhaps it was only temporary, the stubborn indecisiveness. Though with the mess they were in, he wasn’t sure whether to believe that or not.
He shook himself. He needed to figure out what to do. That was the purpose, and then he could leave with his mate. Peter watched him with wary eyes, but the bond felt stronger than it had even a few minutes before.
Stiles flashed his eyes, and Peter returned the gesture. The acknowledgement was enough. Stiles clapped his hands together and the rest of the pack jumped.
“Okay, we’re all here, we’re not killing each other--”
“Yet.” Peter interjected.
Stiles rolled his eyes, and continued, “As I was saying, tell me what you need as far as recompense. The female is dead, I don’t really care if she’s with pup, it’s not far enough along to survive without her anyway.”
Derek whined, just a little, and Talia and Paul both glowered at him.
Paul spoke low and steady, which took away none of the power in his words, “We will speak about this later, but it’s not up to you.”
Talia shared a look with her mate, then turned back to Stiles. “We don’t kill innocents. Anyone complicit in this should face justice in whatever way you feel like dishing it out, but I don’t want harm to come to any children in that house, or anyone ignorant of the attack.”
Stiles snorted. “I likely won’t kill a child, but how am I supposed to figure out who knew or not?”
Talia gave a one-shouldered shrug and continued. “Not my problem.”
“Yeah, it really is,” Stiles pointed out. “You look weak now. You can’t afford that, otherwise more will smell the blood and circle around like the predators they are. Like the predators you need to be.”
“Fine, then it’s not my immediate concern. I don’t want the house damaged. There’s been enough suspicious activity in town, we don’t need more exposure. Or enemies that we don’t already have.” Talia flicked her fingers at him and he tamped down the urge to hiss.
“Have it your way. I’ll exterminate the female we are aware of, and any remaining participants will be your problem.” He smirked. “You know, when you feel like dealing with them.”
“Peter, find him more clothes and show him out.” Talia didn’t even look at Stiles again, instead choosing to confer with her mate in quiet tones.
Of course, quiet tones weren’t enough to keep him from listening in, but he decided to ignore those beneath his notice. They stopped outside the door, and his wolf held out a hand that clearly meant ‘stay.’
Well, if he was just going to stand here, he may as well eavesdrop.
“Derek, who was it?” Talia asked with a firm tone. “Who did you get involved with?”
“Mom, I just.” He sniffled loud and his breaths stuttered. “I thought she loved me. I didn’t know--”
“Tell me her name. We’ll take care of this. Ask Deaton to recommend a counselor. Pup, you have to tell us. It’s not just about you any longer.” The soft scritchy sound of nails through hair, and a small, pained whimper.
“It was Kate. Kate Argent. She said she loved me, that we’d run away together if--if no one approved,” Derek whispered. “She didn’t seem bad.”
“Sweetheart, sociopaths are very good actors.” More scritching sounds. “We’ll get this figured out after the dragon takes care of her.”
“She’s pregnant, Mom. What if it’s mine? Shouldn’t that matter?”
“It matters, but not as much as the people already alive, the people she almost killed. That she’d probably try to kill again, if we give her the chance.”
“It’s out of our hands anyways,” Paul brought up. “The dragon, Stiles, seemed not to care one way or the other about the pregnancy. Besides, another question: what did she plan to do to the child, if she even went through with her pregnancy?”
“I don’t know, but given what she already did,” Talia hissed, “I can’t imagine that it would be anything good.”
At that point, Stiles heard soft thuds as Peter came down the stairs holding a bundle. “Here you go. Jeans, boxers, shirt. I thought the red would go nicely with your scales.” His cheeks tinged pink and Stiles took the clothing with a pleased rumble. It was nice to have his mate provide for him. He’d repay the favor soon enough.
A sniff told him that the soft shirt and boxers belonged to his mate. The jeans belonged to someone else in the house, but mostly smelled of detergent. He donned them. They would do.
“I’ll try not to lose my temper and demolish these,” Stiles promised. Peter gave him a small smile, then cleared his throat.
Peter led him to the door, but he stopped before turning the handle, his hand tight on the metal.
“Are you telling the truth?” Peter’s back and shoulders pulled tight when Stiles placed a hand between his shoulder blades.
Stiles answered in a sure voice. “I am.” His pulse held steady. It wasn’t that he couldn’t lie, but he rarely saw the point in doing so. The truth tended to serve his purposes more than lies.
The werewolf turned and Stiles let his hand drag over Peter’s body until it rested over his heart. “Once this situation, well,” he paused to look in the direction of his family, “these situations are handled, we’ll speak. I make no promises, but perhaps I can stop fighting this thing you claim lies between us.”
The tension that had stayed locked in his muscles suddenly flowed out of him like water. It left him looser, calmer, more in control. Stiles let out a long, steady breath. “Thank you, Peter. Now, would you like to assist me in this task, or would you prefer to stay out of it?”
With a subtle head tilt and a smirk, Peter flashed vivid yellow eyes at him. “Oh, I’d be delighted.”
:: :: :: :: ::
“You realize this isn’t just about the fire now, right?” Peter knelt next to Stiles in the woods behind the Argent house. Early morning sunlight dappled through the trees.
Stiles glanced over, then resumed his watch. “Really? What else is it about?”
A rumble caught Stiles’ attention again, and he watched as Peter took several deep breaths. “As angry as I was at my nephew in the moment, his mother had a point. He’s still a child. The hunter who seduced him, apparently her name is Kate, is in her early twenties. An adult by any stretch of the imagination. It’s an abomination that he was taken advantage of in this way.”
Stiles frowned into the distance, cocked his head. “When was sixteen considered childhood? Maybe being alive for over two centuries colors my views of such things.”
Peter choked out, “Over two centuries?”
“Yes, I believe I mentioned that before. Though maybe your mind was on other topics, like your family den burning down.” Vague amusement took hold. “And anyway, I’m a dragon. Did you think I’d be young? There aren’t many of us left anymore. I think there’s a younger female who’s only a century or so.”
The mechanical rumble of a car starting drew their attention. “Finally, I was wondering when they’d leave.” Stiles stood and stretched. “It’s an educational day? For...education? I don’t know. Children and young adults leave the house to gather in another house with books and such.” Stiles reached for the black bag he’d brought and shouldered it.
“School day?” Peter followed along after him, his steps light and silent even over the leaves.
“Yeah, that. Anyway, I wanted to explore the Argent home. If the bitch who attempted to murder you guys is there, all the better.” He jostled the bag. “I’m prepared to gather information.”
They reached a barrier of ash and Peter stopped abruptly at the boundary. Stiles rolled his eyes and swiped through the magical circle with ease. “I don’t know why they think this stuff will work on every single creature. Especially fire creatures.”
When they reached the back door, Peter took the lead. He extended one claw and picked the lock. “It’s amazing what stays with me from my misspent youth.”
“You’re still a youth.” Stiles walked into the house and breathed. It smelled of gun oil, humans, flowers, and very faintly like sex. “Huh. It’s got fewer weapons on the walls than I’d expected.”
“Well, if they really want to provide attackers with weapons, I suppose they could display them,” Peter snarked.
The slam of a large door in the basement vibrated the floorboards under their feet. “I guess someone is home,” Stiles whispered. He tilted his head. “I can hear a heartbeat now.”
“Well, obviously, if someone is home, they’d likely have a heartbeat,” Peter hissed in return. “Unless you hear dead people too.”
“No, I couldn’t hear it before. They have a soundproof room down there.” Stiles listened as footsteps moved closer and closer. He pushed Peter into the kitchen and closed his eyes. He focused on the scent, and his eyes slammed open when it hit.
“Not her. But similar. Male.” He stepped out of the kitchen into the dining room and faced a scruffy man, not bad looking, about Peter’s height. He stood tall with a gun aimed at them, but his forehead wrinkled in a frown.
“Peter.” The man tipped his chin down in a small nod.
“Chris, how nice to see you again.” Peter’s tone echoed with pent-up rage behind his polite words, and Stiles moved to stand in front of his mate.
“You have a steady arm. That must be useful in a hunter,” Stiles commented, and let his bag of tools slide from shoulder to hand. “Of course, it doesn’t take much aim to set fire to a house surrounded by magic ashes with almost an entire pack inside.”
Chris’ eyes went wide. “Fire? No one here set the fire at the Hale place. Nous chassons ceux qui nous chassent.”
“You don’t hunt those who hunt you? I know that someone here set it. Though your heart tells me you’re honest, you are related to our little firebug. A woman. Sound familiar?” Stiles cocked a hip and rested his encumbered hand there.
The hunter swallowed hard and engaged the safety on his gun before lowering it. “Shit. What is your dog in this fight?”
Stiles grinned and aimed his thumb at the wolf behind him. “Why, my mate was in that house, Mr. Argent. By your own motto, I have the right to her. Will you stand in my way, or stay out of it?”
“What proof do you have?” He holstered his gun and gestured towards the chairs. “If you’re going to accuse my sister of attempted murder, I’d like to hear more evidence of her supposed guilt.”
“Her scent, her blood, a trail to this house, the similarities of your scents. Do I need to keep going?” Stiles took a seat, slid the bag under the table, and leaned back with a shiver when Peter’s hands came down on his shoulders.
“When Victoria gets back from dropping Allison off at school, we’ll have to consult with her on this. I don’t even know where Kate is at this time of day.”
They sat in silence, Peter’s grip on him getting tighter and tighter as the minutes passed, until the crunch of tires on pavement announced Victoria’s arrival. She entered the room, took in the scene, and sighed.
“Chris, you didn’t even offer them a drink?” She strode past and put together drinks in the kitchen before sliding them onto the table. “Explain to me why there is a werewolf, and a...whatever he is, in our home.”
Instead of taking a seat, she stood at her husband’s back. Her back was ramrod straight, and despite her skills as a hostess, the cold ice in her eyes impressed Stiles. “You’re scary. I like you. Oh, and I’m a dragon.”
She stared at him, gave one long, slow blink, then nodded. “Okay. I’ll take it. Again I ask, why are you here?”
“They think Kate set the Hale fire.” Dull little thuds vibrated the table as Chris tapped his fingers on the surface.
“That doesn’t exactly surprise me, darling. Kate has a certain way about her. Gerard hasn’t helped that, in recent years. With no one to corral him, he’s had undue influence on her.” She patted Chris’ shoulder and he shook his head.
He blew out a hard breath. “She’s been more vicious lately, but I never would’ve--she’s my little sister and we were always taught tha--”
“She attempted to murder a group which had children as young as six,” Stiles interrupted. “She has also been fucking a sixteen year old, which was apparently how she got access, and is a little bit pregnant with his child. If that makes any difference in your decision.”
“Pregnant?” Chris barked. “Kate is--then she and Gerard really were--oh fuck.” He buried his face in his hands.
“Chris? What’s going on?” Victoria looked at him with a concerned frown. “What were they planning?”
“I overheard something about genetic experiments, especially in utero.” He grimaced, and his voice went hoarse. “She said she was taking care of that part.”
“Shit,” Peter breathed. “She planned a lot.”
“And probably not alone,” Victoria admitted. “This has Gerard all over it.”
Stiles pushed his chair back and stood. Peter’s hand landed at his hip, and he decided it could stay there. “It doesn’t much matter if you guys agree or disagree; it’s clear to me that Kate needs to die. She very nearly killed my mate, and he’s the only one I get. I can’t trust her not to make attempts on his pack’s lives again, so she will face a dragon’s justice ritual. I will call on a brother in flames to witness. You may also witness, or not.”
Chris and Victoria traded glances, then Victoria met Stiles’ gaze head on. “She’ll be back here at seven. I require visitors to attend dinner every evening.” She smiled, and fear shivered down his spine. “It’s only polite.”
“Yeah, I definitely like you.” Stiles grinned, nodded, and grabbed his bag. “We’ll let ourselves out then, and see you here at seven. Don’t worry, I’ll take care of it from there.”
:: :: :: :: ::
“Stiles, I am the Sheriff here! I can’t attend a murder, justified or otherwise!” Jordan twisted the blinds closed.
Stiles lounged in a chair, the jeans a little constricting around the thighs, but not too terrible. “You have a prior loyalty to this post, brother. I need a witness for this ritual. Especially given the special circumstances.”
Jordan thumped into his desk chair, and it creaked as he leaned back. “I realize that my loyalty is to other fire creatures, but that doesn’t mean that I have to like this situation. In particular.”
“Have the human morals rubbed off on you?” Stiles bounced his leg and tapped the arm of the chair. “It’s less than convenient for me to have nearly lost my mate, but you don’t see me complaining.”
“You’ve done nothing but complain, Stiles,” Jordan accused.
“I prefer to think of it as a plan of action that I make up as I go along. Killing will soothe the savage breast.” He held a hand to his chest. “I don’t normally go around murdering folks, I usually just terrify them for my own amusement. All these negotiations are strange.”
“That’s because you’re a weird loner dragon.” Jordan pointed at him. “If you went back to your home clutch ever, you’d probably socialize more.”
Stiles scoffed. “Please, let’s not get into this. I can only take so much of other dragons before I want to tear out hearts with my claws. I can only thank the gods that, in their wisdom, they mated me with a werewolf instead of a dragon.”
“And hellhounds are so much better?” Jordan asked as he twirled a pen through his fingers.
“Well, you’re not sanctimonious and prone to droning for hours on end about philosophies that are obsolete, so there’s that.” Stiles reached for one of the shiny pens and let the light catch on its clip.
“You want to do a justice ritual, and you need me to do it. So, what do I have to do? Just witness, or actually participate? And where is this happening anyway?” Jordan tossed the pen up, caught it on the way down, and repeated.
Stiles watched as it caught the glimmer. He really needed to make a new, more permanent nest. With shiny things. Many shiny things. “Oh. Um. I thought the burned wreckage of the Hale den would be best. I mean, it’s already mostly burnt up.”
Jordan winced. “Great. So, on an active crime scene, the Sheriff shall witness a vigilante murder. Sounds perfect.”
With a chuckle, Stiles stood and pocketed the pen in his hand. “Doesn’t it though? Glad you agree. I’ll be retrieving Kate around seven or so from the Argent house. They may be coming along with us, so if you could be there when we arrive, I would appreciate it.”
“And more witnesses to go with the active crime scene. Stiles, you are such a giver. Fine, I’ll be there to call down the fire with you. Can you just try not to cause more havoc until then?” Jordan looked so earnest.
Stiles sighed. “Oh, all right. Fine. I’ll behave. Probably.”
:: :: :: :: ::
“I thought you were just going to light her on fire and watch her scream.” Peter tilted his head as Stiles tore into a rabbit.
He chewed and relished the gamey flavor, the bright tang of blood. His shirt rested on a tree branch behind him, and he was careful not to drip on the pants.
After swallowing, he noted, “Well, that was the plan. Her pregnancy complicates things. So does the sheer amount of people here, and the fact that your family wishes to remain on good terms with said people. I think they would frown on the mayhem I usually rain down.”
Peter chuckled. “Probably, yes. That doesn’t mean that it wouldn’t be entertaining to watch”
Stiles slanted a glance at him. “Hm. It seems my mate is bloodthirsty too.” He shrugged. “We’re a fitting match, more so every day it seems.”
“I think my family thought I was...kinder before,” Peter mused. “Not always possessed of the best ideas, as Derek alluded to, but not that horrible. Things changed after the death of--of them.”
“Yeah, it would. Life changes everyone, even dragons. I’m a bit morally ambiguous, but do you understand what I would become if you were killed?” Stiles tossed the inedible parts of the carcass into the brush for scavengers.
“You would become a monster. What kind, I cannot say.” Peter shrugged. “But I’m alive, so it’s not something I’ll think about for the time being. Hopefully my influence can cull your excesses in that direction. Not that I’m any moral authority myself.”
Stiles grinned and wiped at the trickle of blood that ran down his chin. “That’s okay. We can figure it all out together. I’m sure the next few centuries alone will be a learning experience.”
Peter’s eyes widened. “Wait. Centuries?”
:: :: :: :: ::
“So are we ready?” Peter rubbed the point of his chin on Stiles’ shoulder.
Stiles trilled and rubbed his cheek against Peter’s before straightening. “Yes, we are. Time to fetch her out and get this done.” He rang the doorbell and listened as Victoria made her excuses about some extra guests.
The door swung open and Victoria appeared, dressed in black slacks and a black silk shirt. “You’re just in time. Please, come in.” Her wine-red lips curved into a smile that didn’t meet her eyes.
The clatter of dishes met their ears and when they walked into the dining room, they found Chris holding Kate in place, bent over the table with one arm wrenched up her back.
“Well, it seems that Kate suspected something, because she pulled this on me.” He held up a small handgun, then held it out.
Victoria grabbed it from him, her lips pressed together in a thin line of annoyance. “Really, Kate? At the dinner table?”
Kate laughed, low and husky. “Oh, Vicky, Vicky, Vicky. Such a fucking bleeding heart for these beasts.” She grunted when Chris hitched her arm up more.
“No, not really. I agree, ravenous beasts need to be put down.” Victoria nodded, cocked the gun, aimed. “Of course, sometimes humans become beasts and also require putting down.”
Stiles cleared his throat. “Much as I appreciate the sentiment, if you wouldn’t mind saving her death for the appropriate time?”
“You’re just going to give me to them? To those animals?” Kate shouted, struggled as Chris stood her up. Victoria handed him some zip-cuffs, and he wrangled her into them.
“All must answer for their crimes,” Peter said. “You can run, but they catch up eventually.”
Kate bared her teeth at him, and his lips quirked up in a tiny smile. “Who’s the animal now, Kate?”
:: :: :: :: ::
Four circles of ash surrounded Kate, still bound with the zip cuffs, this time at the ankles too. Stiles stood at the south side, Jordan at the north, Peter to the east, and Chris and Victoria to the west.
Stiles began, “I call on the elements. I call on the gods. I call on Fire Itself to judge your actions this day. May justice be served by Fire.” The outer ring glowed like a banked fire.
“I call on the elements. I call on the gods,” Jordan intoned. “I call on Earth Itself to judge your actions this day. May justice be served by Earth.” The large middle ring took on the same orange-black hue as the other.
Peter cleared his throat. “I call on the elements. I call on the gods. I call on Air Itself to judge your actions this day. May justice be served by Air.” The smaller middle ring came to life.
Chris cupped Victoria’s shoulders, and they spoke as one, “We call on the elements. We call on the gods. We call on Water Itself to judge your actions this day. May justice be served by Water.” The last ring, mere inches away from Kate’s bare feet, lit up.
“For attempting to murder a dragon’s mate, you are judged guilty by Fire,” Stiles hissed. The outer ring caught fire and Peter jumped, but didn’t move from his place.
“For attempting to murder a pack of innocents, you are judged guilty by Earth.” Jordan’s proclamation was met with the larger middle ring catching fire as the outer ring sank into the earth.
“For gross abuse and manipulation of at least one child, you are judged guilty by Air,” Peter gritted out. His eyes lit up when the inner middle circle caught, and the outer sank into the ground.
Kate looked around with crazed eyes. “You can’t do this. You can’t do this to me! I’m a hunter, an Argent! Gerard will make you pay for this!” She bared her teeth again in a caricature of a smile.
“For unnatural experimentation on supernatural creatures, before and after birth, you are judged guilty by Water.” Chris spoke alone this time, and his eyes were filled with grief.
The third circle snuffed out, and the final circle caught fire. Stiles walked forward and she hobbled around to face him, the flames licking at her calves. “For those crimes listed, for those only the gods know, you have been judged. For your punishment, only the fire knows.”
He paused, and tension rose with the flames until they surrounded her up to the neck. “We bear witness.”
She screamed, a high, sharp noise that suddenly cut off when the fire clung to her. Midway down her body, the fire glowed even brighter, until it was a blue so pure that it hurt the eyes.
It lifted away, floated up, winked out of existence. Kate, what was left of her, melted down like a sped-up candle. When the punishment ended, there was only a cluster of ashes left behind.
“It is done. Judged, witnessed, may the soul be cleansed and born anew,” Stiles finished with a strong clap of his hands that reverberated through the air.
“What was the fire that left her in the middle?” Chris asked in a hoarse voice.
Stiles and Jordan traded a relieved glance. “The fire punished her. The child she would have borne had done nothing wrong. It’s likely that the child has been given to the nest of an elemental creature, probably fire, since this was that kind of ritual.”
Peter approached, carefully avoiding the site of Kate’s demise. “So, the child will live?”
Jordan nodded. “Yes. Perhaps not as it would have otherwise, it may not even be a werewolf anymore, but it wasn’t killed by the fire.”
“We have to inform the pack.” Peter brushed some residual ash from his clothes and his hands shook.
Stiles took them, kissed the backs. “Of course.” He turned to the others. “Thank you for being part of this.”
Victoria nodded. “It was the right thing to do.” She turned and walked towards their vehicle.
Chris paused, then spoke. “I’ll deal with Gerard. What he and Kate planned was more than monstrous. It will be handled.”
Stiles nodded. “I leave your hunters to your justice. Had Kate not nearly murdered my mate, she likely would’ve faced your own justice. Well, assuming you caught her.”
The hunter winced. “I’m not sure we would have.” On that note, he followed his wife.
Stiles let go of Peter’s left hand, reached out his right with a small flame in the middle. “Brother, it was an honor.”
Jordan met him with his own flame. “It was. Sheriff or not, the fires were just.” He nodded, then walked away to the cruiser parked near the old Hale den.
“Let’s go talk to Talia,” Peter repeated, and tugged Stiles along.
:: :: :: :: ::
“So, she’s dead. And no one else participated in the arson?” The skepticism in Talia’s tone came through loud and clear, and Stiles resisted the urge to claw at her face. Barely.
“Yes, she’s dead. As far as I can tell, Chris, Victoria, and their daughter are all innocent of this crime. Kate may have had other accomplices, but they’re not my concern at this point. And likely weren’t privy to her entire plan.” Stiles’ claws emerged through the tips of his fingers, then back, then out again, then back.
“Good. What of...her condition?” Talia continued, tip-toeing around the words. Paul curled an arm around Derek, who snuffled into his chest. The sadness and grief poured off the younger wolf.
“The fire judged the child innocent, and it has been placed in an appropriate nest. It likely won’t be a werewolf, but that’s probably for the best.” Stiles answered in as delicate a fashion he could.
He didn’t care about many, but the wolf, even at sixteen, seemed far younger than sixteen year olds used to in decades past. It inspired a pang of sympathy, though it could be his strengthening bond with Peter as well.
Peter stood behind his left shoulder, but this time his hand rested at the small of Stiles’ back. Talia took note. “Peter? Have you decided to leave the pack?”
Fear and discomfort wafted from his mate. “I’ve decided to explore this mate bond. Even I can sense it now, and as I’m still part of this pack, you should be able to feel it if you look.”
Talia’s nostrils flare and her eyes flickered from human to wolf and back again. “Hm.” She closed her eyes, very still for one minute, then two. Then she jerked her chin to the side in what smelled like annoyance. “Yes, it does appear to be genuine.”
Stiles threw his hands up. “That’s what I’ve been telling you guys.”
Talia lifted a brow, pursed her lips. “You’ll forgive us for being suspicious when these things converged all at the same time.”
“I’d planned to come for my mate at some point, you know. But since his natural lifespan is extended, I hadn’t anticipated rushing over to spare him from a psychotic human bent on his pack’s destruction.” Stiles shrugged with as much sarcasm as he could muster. “Forgive me if I’m not a fortune teller.”
It wasn’t an acceptance, but Talia relaxed her posture anyway. “You may stay on our land, if you like. There are other, smaller dens at various points on the property. Or Peter has a studio apartment closer to the city. Unless you guys are leaving.”
Peter clenched his hand in Stiles’ shirt, which he’d taken great pains to keep clean. “We’ll stay for now. I wouldn’t remove my mate from his family so soon after they all almost died. I’m not that cruel.”
“Just a little bit though,” Peter murmured.
Stiles stifled a chuckle while Talia rolled her eyes and reprimanded her brother. “Peter, there’s a child in the room.”
Stiles turned just in time to see Peter widen his eyes. “Why, Talia, I don’t know what you’re talking about. If you saw something dirty in that, then it’s your own mind that’s the problem.”
She scoffed and waved them away. “Okay, out, both of you. Go bond or eat or something, but do it away from here.”
Peter gave a small snarl and grabbed Stiles’ hand. “Fine. Stiles, we’ll go to my apartment. I can make you food that isn’t raw rabbit.”
Stiles could get used to being provided for, especially after Peter’s earlier doubts. “Okay, mate, show me your den.”
:: :: :: :: ::
Stiles slammed Peter back into his door once they were inside. He buried his nose against the wolf’s throat and breathed in. “Oh gods, you smell good. This whole place smells good.”
Peter sighed and melted into the embrace. “Stiles, as interesting as this position is, I’m hungry.” Grumbling from his belly confirmed the statement.
“Fine, fine, I’ll be patient. Again.” Stiles nipped the skin just above his jugular, and pulled away. “Make us food. Preferably meat. Not that I mind vegetables, but a dragon needs his protein.”
Peter snorted. “I figured. I have some nice steaks waiting for us. With veggies on the side, and potatoes, but mostly steak. How do you like yours?”
Stiles stared at him pointedly. “Take a wild guess.”
Peter grinned. “Ah. Yes, well, I prefer my meat cooked a little, but still bloody, so medium-rare is how you’ll get it.”
The dragon slid onto one of the chairs lined up at the counter. “Sounds like a plan to me. I mean, I can eat raw, but I can eat cooked too. I just...haven’t in some time.”
When Peter finished the meal preparations, he set out silverware at the small dining table. “You do know how to use a fork and knife, right?”
Stiles rolled his eyes. “I’ve been around for a long time, and not just in my winged form.”
Peter held up his hands. “Just checking. You seemed kind of astonished by the cars.”
“I’ve seen cars, but I never saw the point in being inside of a metal box to get myself places when I could walk or fly.” He picked up the knife and tilted it back and forth in the light.
“I see the rumors about dragons and shiny things hasn’t been exaggerated.” Peter pointed the fork at him before taking a bite of his steak.
“No, it hasn’t. Though I’ve heard less about werewolves. Like the blue eyes your nephew sports, how does that work?” Stiles took a huge chunk of meat and gnawed at it, then sneezed a little at the pepper that spiced it.
Peter ducked, and for several minutes the only sounds were the scraping of metal against plates and the ticking of a clock that hung on the kitchen wall.
“I’m sorry, was that an insensitive question?” Stiles’ stomach turned over, a sick feeling he wasn’t used to, but his mate’s discomfort skittered along the bond like roaches.
“You accidentally went right for the hard one, especially after what we just did with Kate.” The wolf took a deep breath in through his nose, let it out through his mouth. “Blue eyes indicate that a wolf has killed an innocent.”
“After watching him, he seems...a young sixteen, if you catch my meaning.” A scoop of well seasoned potatoes made Stiles hum appreciatively.
“I do. I’m afraid that it is a long, convoluted journey to his status, but in the end, it was my fault, if not entirely my doing.” Peter cleared his throat.
“Do you really want to leave it there? It’s not as if I’m going anywhere, so putting it off won’t do you any good.” Stiles pointed at him with the fork, then waved it before stabbing up more beef.
“Derek was infatuated with a girl at school, Paige. He wanted to be with her. This was not long after the loss of my mate and pup, you understand?” His eyes shone with remembered pain and his free hand trembled on the tabletop.
Stiles refused to twinge at Peter using the word ‘mate’ for someone else. He reached for Peter’s hand, twined their fingers together, and let out a low purr. The wolf’s hunched up shoulders lowered after half a minute of the soothing noise.
“I told him that he should get her the bite. That humans don--they don’t survive a wolfpack. Not well, anyways. Not with hunters and feral omeg--” he broke off, whimpered, then shook his head and cleared his throat. “I told him that. And the stupid brat found an Alpha to bite her, didn’t tell anyone else. And then she rejected the bite. Derek…” he trailed off with a sigh. “He was alone with her. She was in such pain, and he stopped it.”
Stiles gripped the hand in his own tighter. “He mercy killed her.”
“Yeah.” Peter dropped his fork with a clatter and gulped down some wine. “Yeah, he did. I wasn’t there, no one was there, and the whole damn thing left him wide open for Kate to take advantage of. I guess we could say that this event leads back to me as well.”
“Okay, I won’t talk you out of your guilt on some things, but this one thing I shall. If you start tracing things, as you said, we could go to the one who killed your wife and pup. Or however that started off. It’s a neverending insanity to try and assign blame that far back, my mate.” Stiles rubbed a thumb over the back of Peter’s hand before letting it go.
Peter watched him, head tilted to the left, before Stiles broke. “What? Why are you staring at me? Not that I’m not gorgeous and worth a look or twelve, but your food is getting cold.” He scooped up the last bite of his steak and chewed with an open mouth.
That, at least, prompted a grimace and made Peter look away. “It’s the first time you’ve called me your mate, and I was able to feel the bond tremble. Of course,” he snarked, “you then ruined it by such uncouth behavior as chewing with your mouth open. You ate the raw rabbit more gracefully.”
Stiles snorted. “I’m a dragon. I’ll be uncouth if I want to.” He smashed the last bit of potato between sharp teeth and let Peter view that as well.
A carrot thwapped against his forehead, then plopped onto his plate. Stiles speared it with the claw he extended from his pointer finger, and delicately placed it in his mouth. He chewed and swallowed, then cocked a brow. “I’m the ill-mannered one here, am I?”
Peter snorted. “I suppose not.”
They finished off their food, and Peter took the dishes to the sink to clean. “What would you like to do tonight? As you can see, I have a large selection of entertainment options.”
Stiles quirked his lips and studied the muscles in Peter’s back. “I wouldn’t mind getting clean. Perhaps a new set of clothing is in order. Getting clean.” He walked closer, ran a finger down the line of Peter’s spine. “And getting to know my mate better.”
Peter froze before a shiver visibly moved over his frame. “I would like that,” he whispered. “But, if we could go slowly?”
Stiles smiled and made sure the stroke of his hand on Peter’s back, his cheek on Peter’s shoulder, translated the soft affection he felt. “Of course. We have all the time in the world now.”
:: :: :: :: ::
Peter gathered towels from a small closet and led Stiles to the shower. He twisted the knobs until water fell from the faucet in the ceiling like rain. The wolf turned, lifted his chin in defiance, and asked, “Would you like help out of those?”
Stiles grinned and held out his arms. “Absolutely.” He shivered when Peter’s sharpened claws dragged over his sides as he removed the shirt. The wolf stepped closer, snuffed against his neck. Stiles heard the pace of his heart pick up, smelled the hint of arousal turn into a deluge that mixed with the steam.
Clever fingers worked the button of his jeans open, slid the zipper down. With pinkened cheeks and averted gaze, Peter pushed the pants and boxers down Stiles’ legs, then held his hands as he stepped out of them and into his mate’s space.
Peter swallowed hard. “I need to get out of my clothes too.”
Stiles struggled to hold back the predator within that only wanted to mark and mate and claim. “Of course. May I assist?”
Peter gave a couple of choppy nods. Stiles didn’t go fast with the process, nor did he go as slow as he wanted. He reminded himself that they had time, he’d just admitted to it after dinner.
When the black shirt dropped to the floor, he pressed a kiss over where Peter’s heart beat. The well-defined muscles bulged under his fingertips, but he didn’t linger, just slid them down to pants which met the same fate as his own.
They stood, naked, and Peter wouldn’t meet his eyes. Stiles tutted. “My mate, my vicious darling, what has turned you so shy? We’ve been naked together before.”
Peter didn’t move his head, just narrowed a glance at Stiles, then turned his gaze away again. “That was just nudity. This is...naked with intent.”
Stiles ran a hand down the man’s side, patted his haunch. “I also recall a promise to take this as slow as you need. We’ll shower, and whatever happens will be because we both wish it to.”
He grabbed his wolf’s hand, opened the glass door, and led him inside. Droplets slid over his skin to bead on his scales. Peter reached for the ones that ran behind his ear and down his neck. Stiles tilted his head and grunted when one of Peter’s nails slid on the edge of one scale.
Stiled glanced at the shelf that held the cleansing products, then frowned at them. “Peter? Why don’t these have labels?”
Peter chuckled and sidled closer. “It’s my secret hobby. I make my own products. I find the scent used in commercial items overwhelming. Your scales vary in shade in a very subtle way behind your ears.”
“Do they?” Stiles stilled when Peter stroked over the aforementioned scales. “That’s nice. Do you like them?” His mate hummed, which Stiles chose to take as agreement. “Since you know what’s in the bottles, I’ll let you take the lead here. That’s probably the best idea overall anyway.”
Peter’s eyes flashed gold, and Stiles took note of that. His wolf wanted to lead? Let it never be said that a dragon wouldn’t oblige his mate.
The scales wound in a filigree pattern over his neck, straightened down his spine, and Peter’s fingers mapped them out until they stopped in a point at his tailbone. They stood close, but there were still a few inches between them, enough that Stiles hoped Peter didn’t feel crowded.
“Soap first,” Peter whispered, pumped the second bottle from the left twice. He smoothed the creamy soap across Stiles’ shoulders, down his arms, circling his wrists where he had a smattering of scales over the inside.
Stiles bit his lip, didn’t quite hold back a moan at the tingles that fanned out from his wrists. Peter hummed again, but said nothing else as he knelt in front of Stiles.
More tracing over the red, orange, and yellow scales that danced across the vee of his hips, down to the base of his dick where it swirled into flexible flesh, twined behind his sack and back up his hips.
Peter ran tender palms down his thighs, massaging the muscles there until Stiles’ moans rang in the enclosed space. Down, down his calves, then each foot got attention as Stiles balanced on the other.
Peter tapped his right calf. “Turn around.” His hands traveled back up, pausing to slide between the cheeks at face level, then up Stiles’ spine, fingering over where scale turned to skin. Twin sweeps up over his shoulder blades, his shoulders, then down his arms until their hands met and tangled together.
His wolf stepped closer, pressed up against his back. He drew the tip of his nose along the curve of Stiles’ neck. “Come, step under the water, rinse it off.”
Stiles did as Peter bade, and let the wolf sluice the bubbles away. He turned his head, glanced at his mate from the corner of his eye. “You want me to reciprocate?”
“Not yet. I’m going to get your hair before we move onto me.” Peter pumped another bottle, this time releasing a minty scent.
Stiles approached, stopped less than a foot away to let Peter decide how they would proceed. Instead of circling around him, he stepped right up until they were chest to chest. The height difference really was negligible on level ground and he nudged the tip of Peter’s nose with his own.
“Fuck me,” he breathed when Peter’s hands dived through his hair and massaged. He hadn’t realized just how good it would feel to be washed by another. Especially in this form, in that area.
Peter chuckled. “Well, if you insist, I could be made amenable to that exercise. Eventually.”
“Mmm, whenever you wish. Just let me know. But keep doing this for a while,” Stiles directed. He viewed Peter through slitted eyes, wanting to close them but not quite able to relinquish the view of his wolf with focused eyes and mouth slack enough that Stiles would take a taste of his mate if he weren’t too relaxed to move.
He lost himself in the decadence of his scalp rub, and just followed along when Peter pushed him back under the water.
Stiles opened his mouth under the stream and drank some, then moved to the corner of the shower. “What next?”
“Next? You can watch me get clean, and if you find that inspiring, don’t let my presence stop you from taking care of that problem.” He winked, a flush still very apparent on his cheeks, but got some of the herbaceous smelling body wash and got to work.
He really hadn’t been able to just enjoy his mate’s body before. They’d been running, or naked for non-sexy reasons, and most looks he took were mere glances. Now he could appreciate the muscles that bulged under smooth, warm skin. The way his chest flexed, the curve of his fingers as he cupped them around a rapidly hardening cock.
Powerful thighs, sculpted calves, his mate was a work of art. And that work of art belonged to him; he’d kill any dragon that tried to steal him.
Musk and salt reached his nose, and Stiles tuned into Peter’s increased heart rate. One hand in front, stroking with a slow, deliberate pace. But one hand behind as well, doing something Stiles couldn’t see.
He wanted to move, wanted to stalk over to Peter, do things to him over there by the water. Instead, he stayed where Peter told him to and watched. He hadn’t done much sexually in his bipedal form, so when his cock rose to match Peter’s, engorged and so sensitive, he took Peter’s example and cupped it.
His head hit the wall behind him with a thump, but he couldn’t bring himself to care. Ecstasy raced over his skin that was nearly painful, and he cried out. “Peter!”
Peter, the bastard, just laughed at him. He stopped stroking himself, rinsed the soap away, and cleaned his hair with brevity. Now that Stiles knew, he couldn’t stop looking at Peter’s hard shaft, the shape of it, how it would make him feel were Stiles to touch it.
“Come on, one last rinse, and we’ll get out of here. See what happens.” Peter held out a hand, and Stiles took it. He liked the way it felt to thread their fingers together, as if they were a puzzle that meshed perfectly.
:: :: :: :: ::
They rinsed, then dried, and Stiles chased a stray water droplet over Peter’s right shoulder blade with his tongue, but didn’t follow that up. Peter snorted and led him to his bedroom.
The plush sleeping area shocked him a little bit. Stiles had his own set of treasures, but sleeping areas were usually large enough, and sparse enough, for him to curl his neck in the best position, and stretch his tail out when needed.
“It’s really quite comfortable. Why don’t you lay down?” Peter led with their clasped hands, guiding Stiles onto the bed.
He sank into the bedding, which was as odd a sensation as any he’d felt. “What is this?”
Peter arched a brow. “Are you telling me that in two centuries, you never used a bed?”
“No, what I’m saying is that no bed I’ve ever been in has tried to eat me.” He held his arms up and wished for a tail to help him balance as he scooted just to the right of center.
A scoff and rolled eyes were the response. “Yes, well, this is memory foam. It molds to the body. I see no reason to be uncomfortable on a bed that’s too hard or too soft. This is always just right. Get used to it.”
He stretched out next to Stiles, and they stared at each other. Stiles wanted nothing more than to lean forward, claim that mouth, shut it up at least. Maybe mark up that throat if the healing would let hickeys stick. But Peter was in charge of their exploration. At least, until he said otherwise.
He said otherwise. “Stiles, just,” he grimaced, continued, “do something. Anything. You are my mate,” a small gasp when the bond twinged between them, “I can feel it, and I want the bond solidified. Stable. What do we need to do? Because if this goes on much longer, this feeling like a live wire--”
“Consummation,” Stiles interrupted. “Penetration is the most common way. Either one of us will do. But I haven’t done this before. At least, not in my bipedal form.” He swallowed hard. Curiosity didn’t always dampen trepidation, he was finding.
He huffed out a breath and stroked his hand down Peter’s arm, where it lay between them. “I understand that the unstable bond causes some discomfort, but I don’t want you to do this if you don’t really want it. Me.” Stiles glanced away. “A mating should be more than an obligation or duty.”
The wolf hauled himself up and over Stiles, caged him against the soft mattress and looked at him with a very serious expression. “I want this. I’d lost hope to ever have a partner again, the peculiar kind of happiness brought by companionship.”
His eyes flicked across Stiles’ face, unable or unwilling to focus on any one thing. “But you are not...not a duty. Or obligation. You are beautiful, and you took vengeance on my behalf while also respecting our community ties. I saw how difficult it was for you, but you did that for me.”
Stiles sniffed and turned his head to the side. “I don’t want you to bed me out of gratitude either. I want you to want me, Peter.”
The other man rolled his eyes. “Did it seem as if I didn’t want you earlier? Does it seem that way now?” He pressed his hips down against Stiles’ pointedly.
A whimper made its way out of his throat and he rested his forehead against Peter’s shoulder for one trembling moment. He wanted his mate to want him. His confidence in the mate bond reassured only so far. “No, it doesn’t. I just wanted to be sure of…” He let his head fall back into the pillow with a soft thud.
“Of me.” Peter suddenly rubbed their cheeks together, and a burst of affection ran down the bond. “I like you, Stiles. I will come to love you in time, I’m sure, but my desire is already here. For you. For the bond. It’s one and the same now, but I didn’t really feel the bond until I started to enjoy you.”
Stiles melted beneath Peter’s weight until he sank into the plush bed, surrounded by the scent of his wolf. His wolf, all his, with those intense blue eyes, wicked claws, and very sexy fangs, when he let them out.
Peter brushed their noses together, then transitioned that smoothly into brushing their lips, skin against soft skin until they caught, released. He tilted his head and nibbled at Peter’s bottom lip, licked at it, and Peter’s tongue came out to tease his briefly.
A moan rumbled from his chest and he curved his hand around Peter’s nape to draw him in for more. Soon the kisses deepened, sumptuous and slick.
Stiles scratched lines down Peter’s back, swallowed his broken growl, and rolled his hips when Peter’s pressed down. Delicious friction skittered over his skin like sparks.
Peter pulled back with a gasp, slid down a little, and lunged for Stiles’ neck. A frisson of fear worked through him, twined with the heat of his cock rubbing against Peter’s, made it stronger.
He tilted his head back, opened his posture like prey. Soft lips pressed to the curve of his neck, hot breath and a wet tongue marking his protective scales, and Stiles groaned when he felt them.
Sharp fangs danced on the soft skin of his shoulder and Stiles strained beneath Peter, grabbed him by the hips with the tips of his claws digging in. “Yes, do it. Bite me, wolf.”
Pressure, so much pressure on two sections of skin, building and building as he rocked against his mate, his mate, and then the release slammed through them. His claws punctured the flesh of Peter’s ass, and his skin broke beneath the wolf’s fangs.
He cried out and held onto his mate. Pleasure roared through Stiles with the force of a tsunami, spurting out between them in a slick mess as they rubbed together.
The bond slammed into place with such power that they held onto each other with crushing force.
Sex-pleasure-pain-affection-fondness-worry-anxiety-love-pain-pleasure-sex all looped around in a cacophony of feedback. Stiles pressed an open-mouthed kiss to Peter’s neck, reveled in his shiver. He licked at the sweat, enjoyed the salty flavor.
“Well, I guess,” he panted into Peter’s ear, “penetration comes,” he kissed the earlobe there for no reason at all, “with a variety of definitions.”
Peter grunted an affirmation, pulled back, and with blood-smeared lips, took Stiles’ mouth in a vicious kiss before giving him an evil grin. His own blood tasted of copper and smoke, as it always had, but it was particularly delicious from his mate’s mouth.
Out of curiosity, he lifted his claws to his mouth, tasted Peter’s blood with delicate little licks. Metallic and musky with wooden notes. He offered a claw to Peter, “You want?”
Peter took one claw into his mouth, tongued around the finger it was attached to, and pulled off slowly. As mindblowing as their combined orgasm had been, a twinge of desire trickled through anyway.
Stiles growled, and Peter peered at him from coyly narrowed eyes. “Can I help you, Stiles?” He gave a sinuous little gyration that tore a gasp from the dragon.
He grabbed Peter’s hips, held him still. “Yes, we could go back to the shower and clean up a little.”
“Hmm, I don’t think we need the shower for that. What’s a little cum between mates?” Peter slithered down and lapped at the sticky flesh of Stiles’ belly. With a mischievous flash of his eyes, he opened wide and took Stiles into his mouth.
Stiles reconsidered the shower. His mate was very convincing.
:: :: :: :: ::
A knock at the door woke them both, and the heartbeat beneath Stiles’ ear sped up. Peter got out of bed and threw a pair of loose black pants at Stiles after he put on his own.
“We are seriously going to have to shop for clothes appropriate to you in this form.” Peter gestured at Stiles’ whole body with a sweep of his hand.
Stiles drew the pants up and shrugged. “I guess you have a point. I had some clothing before, but I always misplace it. Or, you know, accidentally burn it or transform in it.”
“Yes, I don’t wish to recall your temper tantrum in my sister’s den, thank you. And you can’t keep wearing all of my clothes, though I suppose we could share shirts. Some of them.” Peter tossed him a soft yellow shirt with a high neck, even as he chose a v-neck in a light olive tone. The buttons glinted in the morning sunlight, and Stiles was mesmerized until the knocking started again.
Peter swung the door open. “Sheriff, how can we help you this morning?”
Stiles peeked around Peter, saw Jordan standing there with a box in hand, topped by a shiny, festive bow.
“I’m not here in my capacity as Sheriff this morning. I wanted to bring a mating gift for my brother there.” He pushed the box towards Peter, who grabbed it and held it against his side.
Stiles yanked it from its perch and tilted it to view the shine of each individual loop. “Peter, please let Jordan in. He doesn’t lie, and he’s brought me a gift. I mean, us a gift.”
Peter laughed as he let Jordan enter. “I don’t know Stiles, you seem pretty possessive of this box. You sure you meant ‘us’?”
“Mm-hmm.” Stiles took it to the table. “Get Jordan some orange juice. It’s his favorite.”
“Despite Stiles’ rudeness, the gift is for both of you. However, I fear if you don’t take it away from him, he’ll open it before the right time.” Jordan lounged in the kitchen chair, one arm hanging off the back.
“Right time? I can’t open it yet?” That didn’t sound right, not at all. It was covered in shiny paper and he wanted to see what was inside. “But I want to know what’s inside, and as you may have heard, curiosity has harmed no dragons. That I am aware of. Well, except for Uncle Cluey, but really, he should’ve known better than to invade a Naga’s nest. So that didn’t count.”
Peter clunked a glass down in front of Stiles, and placed the other glass in front of Jordan with a bit more caution. “Stiles, really? You can’t wait? Or, explain, since that would be helpful?”
“Stiles knows, he’s just being stubborn. It’s one of his many faults.” Jordan pointed out, and sipped at his orange juice with a happy purr.
“Well, by all means, mate mine. Tell me,” Peter murmured, leaning on his elbow and twisting his own glass back and forth.
“Gotta pick a spot to start my new collection as a mated dragon. I think the shelves above the television might be a good place for it. Unless you have another room. Do you have another room?” Stiles looked around. He hadn’t noticed much beyond his mate before.
“Yes, I have a small library.” Peter shrugged. He didn’t realize he’d said the magic word.
“Library, you say?” Stiles closed his eyes and bit his lip. Perfect. His mate was perfect.
“Is that important in some way?” Peter snatched his cup away, put it in the sink. “Are you a big reader?”
Stiles shrugged. “You could say that.”
Jordan laughed, choked on his juice, and then fell off the chair with a clatter. “Didn’t--” he coughed hard, propped up on one arm, “--didn’t you ever ask what he hoarded? Well, his main hoard?”
Peter sat up straight and blinked, a confused moue marring his expression. “We would’ve gotten around to it, I’m sure.”
Jordan righted the chair, and himself. “Yes, well, I think I’ll let Stiles field this one.”
“I enjoy reading books related to the supernatural. Preferably written by other supernatural beings, but I also enjoy mundane takes on our world.” Stiles snicked out his claws, examined them in the light.
“Well, you should enjoy my collection then,” Peter said faintly, brows raised before his voice firmed. “And if your hand sneaks any closer to that box, I’m hiding it where you can’t find it.”
Stiles pouted. “You’re no fun. I want to see what’s inside.” He tapped his claws on the table.
“Don’t mark up the furniture.” Peter swatted his hand from the table. “Were you raised in a barn?”
“No, mostly a cave. Well, several caves, until I was old enough to find my own. Sometimes I’d build a mud hut though,” Stiles reminisced. “It was a much simpler time. Fewer people.” He retracted his claws.
“Fun as this trip down memory lane has been, would you like to see the library? If there’s an appropriate spot in there, perhaps you could open the package sooner than later,” Peter pointed out. He also grabbed the box and Stiles squawked at him. So mistrustful, his mate.
They all trooped to the library, Stiles trying to grab at his prese--their present along the way. Peter was faster than he’d thought, also ever so slightly taller. Stiles huffed and folded his arms over his chest.
Then he took the room in. Floor to ceiling bookshelves, except for one wall which had a window, and the other wall where a mantel rested above the fireplace.
“This is it,” Stiles whispered. The mantel sat there, right above a home for fire. It couldn’t get more appropriate than that. He spun around, and Peter held out the box. Jordan leaned against one bookcase and watched with a soft smile.
With one careful claw, he sliced through the shiny paper, then through the strip of tape holding the box shut. When he lifted the lid, the walls of the box fell open, and inside… Stiles’ breath caught in his throat.
“Jordan, where did you find this?” Stiles lifted up the carved figurine. A wooden dragon with his markings etched out with red and orange staining, a matching wolf with citrine eyes, chasing each other around an egg of fire opal, all set on a dragonwood base.
Jordan examined his feet, a blush climbing up his neck. “I know some people. When you said you were courting a wolf...I already had the egg. I just needed the carvings.”
“It’s beautiful, Sheriff.” Peter touched the tip of the wolf’s ear, ran it down the textured ruff of its neck. “Thank you for such a princely gift. Especially given our past.”
Jordan waved his words away. “Peter, you’d suffered a tremendous loss. Besides, I’m a hellhound. I barely even felt the blows. Also, your aim sucks when you’re drunk.”
Peter smirked, and Stiles watched the exchange with interest. He’d have to find out more about his wolf’s past. Well, they had time for that. Plenty of time.
He held the figure close to his chest, closed his eyes. “Peter, come here, and surround my hands with yours. Get as close as you can. Jordan, I assume you’ll witness?”
“Of course, brother. Always.” Jordan clasped both of their shoulders once they were in position.
“From fire we’re born. Through fire we came. By fire we’re united. Heart to heart, soul to soul, mated as destiny decreed.” Stiles opened his eyes, met the bright yellow gaze of his mate, and blew a tiny flame over the egg. Peter growled when it lit from within, then dimmed.
“This mating was decreed. The bond has been witnessed.” Jordan smiled once he finished his part, clapped them both on the back, and stepped away.
Stiles held Peter’s fingers in place, and they walked together to the mantle. They slid the figure into place, right in the middle, and something clicked into place for Stiles.
He relaxed for the first time since arriving in this new place. It finally felt like home. He had his mate and the beginnings of a new nest. A permanent one.
Stiles twined his fingers with Peter’s, turned back to Jordan. “Thank you very much.”
“You’re more than welcome. Okay, I do have a job, so I have to go.” He pointed at the door. “You guys enjoy the gift. And congratulations on your mating.”
Peter walked him out while Stiles gazed at his newest treasure. When Peter returned, he wrapped his arms around Stiles from behind. “Happy now?”
“Hmm. Yes. I have everything I wanted. We’ll have to go elsewhere when I get bored enough to cause mayhem though.” Stiles tilted his head to the side and Peter pressed small kisses over the curve he presented.
“If you insist. But you’ve never been here before. Trust me, we get plenty of chaos. Beacon Hills, as the name might suggest, seems to call to supernatural creatures of all kinds,” the wolf explained, and hooked his chin over Stiles’ shoulder.
“Good to know. Hopefully it can survive a few weeks without you at some point.” He looked over the collection of books within eyesight. There were several that he’d never seen before, titles he’d never thought to find. His fingers itched to start reading one. Or two. Or twelve.
“Why is that?” Peter sounded so adorably confused. His fingers clenched in Stiles’ soft shirt, started inching it up.
“We’re mated. It’s been witnessed. Time to meet the nest guardians of my clan. Or, in the more modern language, my parents.” Stiles grinned when Peter froze around him. “Hey, I need to retrieve my books to add to this wonderful collection. And anyway, I met your pack. It’s only fair. You’re a dragon’s wolf now.”
Peter groaned, but the emotions running down their bond were affection, joy, and a smidge of nervousness. Stiles could definitely get used to this.
“Okay, which books do I start with?” Stiles rubbed his hands together. He couldn’t wait to begin.
Peter opened his mouth to respond, but before he could, the high-pitched mechanical ring of a cell phone sounded. “Hold that thought,” he growled, and went to answer it.
Well, if his mate was going to leave him alone, again, in a room full of books on the supernatural, who could blame him for taking advantage. He scanned the titles, narrowed it down to three, when Peter stalked back in.
“You said you wanted chaos, right? A little mayhem to keep the blood pumping?” Peter plucked a book from the shelf, handed it to him.
“Yes, I do recall just saying that, my mate.” Stiles stroked the cover, the words embossed on the dustjacket in a livid purple color that shifted in changing light.
“Gerard Argent is coming to town. He gets in the day after tomorrow. Chris has requested that we be on hand to...assist in dispensing justice. If that’s alright with you.” The casual shrug Peter affected belied the mischievous glint in his eye.
“You’re so sweet to ask. Of course, I’d love to assist.” Visions of fiery torment filled his head and he gave an excited little trill. What fortuitous timing.
He reached for Peter with his free hand and drew him into a kiss. Their lips clung, and Stiles bit at Peter’s bottom lip. When his mate shivered, Stiles chuckled, pulled away, and drew him over to the roomy chair that rested in one corner.
“Peter, come read with me. There are titles here I haven’t seen before. I’d like to hear your thoughts.” They twined around each other, and Peter’s voice rumbled out over his shoulder as Stiles basked in his wolf, his nest, and his new life.