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A Poverty Most Profound

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It’s not the pain that does it. It isn’t that he can’t --

It’s just --

There’s so much space where his soul used to be. Where his pack --

And the screams. He can still hear them. He can still feel them, like echoes.

There’s nothing --

Laura’s screaming in his face to hold on, to say something, damn you, anything. It’s the worst kind of agony when she buries her head in his chest to cry and none of it matters because they’re gone.

Derek is on his knees in the dirt, blank faced and limp like it was his soul scorched out instead of Peter’s. Like it was his claws covered in his family’s blood. Like he’d --

It was a mercy. It -- there wasn’t a choice.

Everything happens at once, then. Lights and noise and someone wrapping arms around Laura’s waist, pulling her back and away and the weight of her is gone but the agony isn’t. People are touching him, and god, please let him die, please.

There’s a hand on Derek’s shoulder, pale and thin from the latest growth spurt; eyes sad when they fall on Derek, sharp when they strike the house, and there’s something in the depths of them that wants vengeance when they come to rest with Peter.

Stiles watches the paramedics flounder to deal with his injuries, doesn’t so much as flinch when he takes in Peter’s skin but his face goes hard when he sees Peter looking back at him, harder than a thirteen year old’s should, like steel.

No, not steel. Nothing so cold. Stiles’s anger is hot, alive and seething and strong. Not metal but bone.

That’s when it happens. When Peter knows --

His eyes catch the light of the fire like a wolf’s. They meet Peter’s in the dark and hold, and hold, and hold.

+

Peter’s admitted to Beacon Hills Emergency Center Tuesday at 10:51p.m.

Laura comes to see him once, her eyes red-rimmed and puffy. She holds his good hand and says, “If you can hear me, I need a sign. I need... Fuck, Peter, I need help... Please...”

Derek comes to see him once, too, his grief as raw as Peter’s wounds. Even with half his skin singed off, Peter is still not as vulnerable as Derek in those first days. He opens his mouth to speak, but at the end of the hour, he still hasn’t found the words.

By 10:51a.m. on Thursday, Derek and Laura are in another state, and Peter is in intensive care.

It so happens there’s a whole new realm of agony waiting for him there. They call it skin grafting, and it’s hell.

+

Stiles comes to visit, oddly enough, the picture of youthful naivety. While people are looking, anyway. The second that attention is elsewhere, Stiles turns on Peter with a shrewd stare and that fascination is front and center, like it’s his dream come true to have his very own Hale indisposed for study.

And hell, maybe it is. Stiles leafs through Peter’s charts, watches his vitals. He even fiddles with Peter’s IV when he can get away with it, eyes taking in the tiny print on the bag with a focus that betrays the mind underneath.

And damn but the boy is gifted. He plays the caring youngster with a deftness of hand that implies a lifelong experience with deception. Just interested enough to get the answers he wants, never so astute that the nurses feel the need to censor themselves when he’s underfoot. Clever, but not too clever. Awkward, but never off-putting. He might have gone on to be a brilliant politician had he not caught Peter’s eye.

It only serves as proof that Peter’s instincts were right. That’s why when his doctor is talking in hushed tones with the sheriff, Peter catches Stiles’s eye and winks.

His reaction is a beautiful thing. The way his eyes narrow even as his mouth drops open -- red and warm and plush -- the quick glance at his father to be sure no one noticed, even the way he goes deliberately more relaxed, hunches his shoulders, keeps his head down.

Brilliant, crafty little thing.

And eager. So damnably curious, eyes are lit from within as they slide back to Peter’s face -- the part of Peter’s face he can see. Stiles mouths, “Coma?”

Smirking, Peter lifts his good arm a little, just enough to indicate a call for silence. It’s small enough that neither his doctor nor the Sheriff spots the movement.

Stiles nods, rubs a hand absently against his nose, bounces his leg, but Peter knows he has Stiles’s absolute attention. He’s got him hooked.

For his next visit, Stiles brings a book.

“I thought he might like it, you know?” he says to the nurse, smiling big and dumb and making sure to put on voices while she’s in earshot.

The little shit picked Titus Andronicus.

“Cute,” Peter says once he’s sure the nurse is far enough away to mistake their conversation for dramatic reading.

Stiles kicks his feet up on the edge of Peter’s bed, his chair balanced precariously far back on two legs and his expression entirely too smug for a child. “Cuter than you at the moment.”

It’s definitely in poor taste to make fun of the burn victim’s injuries, but Peter can feel a smile tugging at the corners of his lips regardless. “Mmm. We’ll see.”

“Yeah, I noticed, what with the...” Stiles pages absently through his chart until he finds the right page. “The ‘extremely favorable prognosis’ given your ‘remarkable progress.’ Miraculous gets tossed around a lot at the nurses’ station. They’re going to throw you a parade when you ‘wake up,’ dude. You’re their very own Phantom of the Critical Care Ward.”

“You don’t seem particularly enthusiastic.”

“Ha! Wait ‘til you see the confetti I’ve got stock piled. I’m going to enthuse your brains out.” With that unusual grace he liked to display at the strangest times, Stiles kicked off from the bed and dropped the chair back to all fours with a resounding clang. “After you tell me why you’re faking a coma in the first place, that is.”

“What makes you think I’m going to tell you?”

“What makes you think I’m asking?”

The promise of threat sends a hot rush of pleasure up Peter’s spine, delicate and shuddering. The thought that Stiles might use his weakened state to hurt him, for no other reason than that he can. The fact that it isn’t idle, that he really would --

It makes him want to pull Stiles flush with his body and show him what a threat really is, makes him want to take.

Peter gives in to the urge to grin, the stretch of skin a tight agony keeping him in check. Stiles grins back, shows his teeth and that? That’s a promise Peter plans to fulfill.

“What do you know about werewolves?”

+

The thing is, Peter knows it wasn’t a fluke with Stiles that night. It isn’t the first time the boy’s caught his eye. Stiles has always seemed to have a fascination with the Hales. It was like he could feel it, like he knew they weren’t completely human, which made it downright disturbing when the boy stared down creatures that could snap his little spine in half from his place in line to see the Easter Bunny.

True story. One Laura liked to tell every Thanksgiving. Stella could’ve lived to be eighty and she still wouldn’t have lived it down.

But what really got Peter’s attention were the little moments of viciousness that slipped past Stiles’s careful veneer.

The way he’d pushed Jackson Whittemore in front of the swings when he was mean to Lydia Martin. An accident, Stiles pleaded, and it could have been. It really could have, except it was a lie.

Once, in the supermarket, Peter saw Stiles crash a shopping cart into a man’s ankle when he had the audacity to flirt with Stiles’s mother. And then, there was the incident with Bobby Sayers. Stiles nearly clawed his eyes out. The kid still had scars around his eye-sockets and if Stiles weren’t the Sheriff’s son, if he hadn’t just lost his mother, there might have been serious consequences.

The point is, Peter knows that Stiles can be vicious -- cruel, even, with the right motivation -- but thus far, it’s only been for a point, for some purpose, and fighting for someone else’s cause will only take him so far. Stiles might be willing to kill for him, to help him get justice for his family, but that isn’t the same as revenge and what Peter wants -- what Peter needs, is someone after blood.

+

Stiles does throw a parade when Peter’s ready to stage his awakening and by the end of it, as promised, there is a truly alarming amount of confetti on the floor of his hospital room. It would be impressive if it wasn’t so discomfiting.

Because, honestly, where the hell had he gotten that much?

He tells them he doesn’t remember the fire. Claims the last thing he recalls is standing in the kitchen with his sister. He lies.

To everyone except Stiles.

“My dad would be able to help,” he says, foot tapping against the wheel of Peter’s bed. “He’d care.”

And that’s exactly the problem, Peter thinks, but all he says is, “It would put him in danger to know the truth.”

Stiles looks at him sharply, eyes bright and too aware before the moment is gone, stored away behind the veneer Stiles presents to the world.

It leaves Peter to wonder whether Stiles knows he’s in danger now, too.

And from whom.

+

“Miraculous,” they say, when he retains full movement. “Amazing,” when he’s on his feet in a week. They’ve “never seen the like” when it’s only three months before Peter’s discharged, scarred to hell and healing in torturously slow increments.

He’ll have to keep the scars for at least a few years, but it doesn’t bother him as much as he thought it would. Pity is useful in its own way and he’d be foolish to discard even the smallest advantage.

They’d been foolish before. They’d thought they were safe.

This time he’s going to do things properly, and it’s going to start with Stiles.

+

Peter’s reasons are simple. He wants Stiles. He wants him. The kid who snarled louder than Peter ever could and beat the hell out of Bobby Sayers for making a joke about his mom. The kid it took three teachers to restrain who, for at least a brief moment, had real blood on his hands.

And after the fire, even through the pain, Peter had wanted him. Amber eyes and pale skin and quick. So quick. There’s a fire inside Stiles, too, and Peter knew it the moment his little face went hard at the sight of Peter’s skin. Peter saw the glint come into his eyes, just like with his mother, like with that boy. Under the right conditions Stiles is downright bloodthirsty.

The solution is so simple, Peter’s a little disgusted it took him so long to reason it out.

If he wants bloodthirsty, he just has to make Stiles want blood.

+

Slipping into the Stilinski home is easy. Stiles is out at the McCall’s for the evening, the Sheriff passed out on the couch. He still drinks too much -- since his wife -- never so much that he can’t go to work or take Stiles to school, but enough that he doesn’t stir when Peter lights a candle and blows out the pilot light.

It’s much harder than he expected, though, to stand beside Stiles on the lawn as his house burns down. Hard to keep his hand on that too-thin shoulder, birdlike under Peter’s fingers. It’s strange trying to reconcile the fragility of a human boy with the predator he is underneath, but Stiles has always shown his true colors under adversity.

He doesn’t cry. He just asks, “Was it them?” Because he’s clever enough to understand what having enemies means but innocent enough not to recognize when one offers comfort.

Peter does what’s easy and lies, “Yes.” Then he does what’s hard, and stays.

+

By comparison, it’s laughably easy to jump through the hoops of the justice system. With no living relatives closer than a twice removed cousin and a piece of paper listing Peter as the godfather, it’s not more than a few weeks before Peter’s awarded full custody.

Both parents being safely dead, there’s no one to contest it. Stiles wasn’t even born in this state.

He gets a side eye from Melissa McCall when he puts in for permanent guardianship but when Stiles stands up, waifish and wide-eyed, to announce, “I want to live with Uncle Peter,” not even she can muster a fuss. She doesn’t really want him anyway. She loves Stiles but it’s hard enough on her own with one boy let alone two and Peter has money ever since the fire. Even divided between himself and Laura, Peter is set for life if he’s careful, if he invests it the right way.

One benefit to their situation is that everyone is so busy pretending they aren’t staring at the burn victim that no one is watching Stiles. Only Peter sees the calculation in the slouch of Stiles’s shoulders, the sharpness of his gaze as it follows the judge. Devious little thing, all the more dangerous for how harmless he appears. There’s a rage burning inside that boy that could raze Beacon Hills in a single night. Between the two of them --

As soon as they’re in the car, teary-eyed hugs firmly in the rearview, Stiles sheds his affect like an ill-fitting coat. Sickle sharp and just as gray, he glowers vaguely at the scenery while fiddling with a loose thread in his shirt.

“How long?” he demands. No preamble, no foreplay. Straight to business, because he trusts Peter enough not to play games.

And maybe Peter’s conscience isn’t completely dead. There’s a twinge in his chest, high and sharp behind his ribs. He feels badly enough to be straight in return, at least. “Three months.”

Stiles snorts, bitter and harsh. “Dude, child services is not going to care once they see you aren’t raping me.”

Peter’s hands go tight on the steering wheel, but he forces his voice to stay neutral, stay calm, grateful that Stiles is still human and can’t hear the lurch in Peter’s heart. “Think it through, Stiles. Don’t play dumb.”

“Why? What’s so damn special that’s happening in oh.”

“There it is.”

“That makes sense, actually. Where are we going to go?”

“Pass your classes or you won’t find out until next year.”

+

Stiles’s birthday passes while they’re held up in paperwork but they don’t mention it. It’s not the time.

It’s just... too soon.

+

Stiles knows how to use pity, too. A’s and B’s across the board for third quarter, even from Harris, the snake. It’s not hard to reason out his involvement when he reeks of guilt every time Peter’s around, every time he looks at Stiles. Someone taught Kate Argent how to make arson look accidental. Someone who knows a good deal about combustion.

Chemistry is a fine science.

Stiles spends three weeks experimenting with napalm recipes after he picks up a copy of The Anarchist’s Cookbook at a yard sale. Peter spends one and a half trying to decide whether he should be impressed or disturbed that a boy whose father burned to death enjoys playing with fire until he realizes they aren’t mutually exclusive. After that, he’s mostly just intrigued.

See, Stiles gets this look in his eye watching something be destroyed. Hungry and vicious and while Peter might hate fire on principle he loves how hard Stiles gets letting it burn.

Melissa McCall invites Peter to dinner and while she can’t look at him without flinching there are definite advantages to consider in giving her the bite. Giving Stiles a brother.

What surprises him, though, is the way Stiles goes quiet, his big eyes wide and panicky, heart pounding in his chest like it hasn’t for months and his voice a squeak when he manages, “What?”

“Your little friend, Scott. His mother--”

There aren’t many things that can render Peter speechless but Stiles lunging across the couch to straddle him is evidently one of them because Peter can’t think of a god damned thing to say with Stiles’s weight warm and heavy on his thighs, thin arms snaking around his shoulders and long, clever fingers slipping into his hair.

Stiles can, though, his voice steady again despite his rabbiting heart. “Don’t go.”

Peter’s pulse is hammering against his skin, his hands numb with the force of it rushing to his cock which is devastatingly hard and absolutely unconcealable given their position.

And Stiles isn’t moving.

Or rather, he’s not moving away. With a little slither that gives new meaning to the word arousing, Stiles presses himself in until his nose is against Peter’s neck, their bodies flush from hips to head and Peter can’t think. He can’t --

The heat of him is scorching through his clothing --

Those hands are rubbing small circles into Peter’s hairline, against the nape of his neck and  Stiles won’t stop wriggling,  pressing closer somehow even though they’re already flush, shifting with maddening irregularity against Peter’s cock.

The dizzying rush of blood under Stiles’s skin is making Peter feel drunk, a kamikaze pace flooding the room with Stiles’s scent, so thick he can taste him in the back of his throat.

And Stiles presses his lips against the shell of Peter’s ear, breath hot and wet on Peter’s skin as he whispers, “You want me, don’t you.”

He doesn’t even have the decency to make it sound like a question.

Peter knows a trap when he sees one, but with Stiles rocking against him, sparking up a friction that drags a sound out of him he hadn’t known he could make, Peter can’t stop from grabbing at those slender hips and pressing them down, thrusting up so hard it actually hurts.

He can only imagine what it must feel like to Stiles.

Stiles is hard against Peter’s stomach -- it doesn’t take much at that age and Peter would be lying if he said he’d never listened to Stiles getting himself off in the shower, in bed at night or in the morning. Peter knows exactly what it sounds like when Stiles gets a hand on himself but the noise that boy makes when he presses his hand against Peter -- low and pleased in the back of his throat -- is a thousand times better.

Peter says, “I was going to wait until you were older.” Even to him it sounds like a piss poor deflection. And a lie to boot which is just pathetic.

The look Stiles gives him says he agrees wholeheartedly and it really shouldn’t make Peter’s dick throb in his jeans, sensitive skin catching on too-rough fabric in a way that’s good bad. Bad good. It leaves Peter hissing and clutching the couch cushions so he doesn’t clutch at Stiles.

Human Stiles. Breakable Stiles.

Stiles who is clearly already broken.

“Right. Because it would’ve been much less illegal in three or four years.” And then Stiles slides from Peter’s lap with an awkward grace, the muffled thump of his knees against the floor still too loud, too close.

Stiles is watching him through his lashes -- those ridiculous lashes -- staring him down even as he pops the button on Peter’s jeans, tugs on the zipper with a carelessness Peter’s might have to punish him for one of these days and god, if that thought doesn’t have him close to the edge already. Stiles with his hands tied. Stiles with his mouth gagged. Stiles’s ass, red and hot from Peter’s belt.

It might be the best thing he’s felt since the fire when Stiles reaches matter of factly into his pants and pulls out his cock but he really isn’t in a fit state to be making comparisons. Not when he feels like he might actually die from the almost clinical way a fourteen year old is gripping his cock.

Two things are clear immediately. One, Peter’s is the only dick Stiles has ever had a hand on besides his own.

Two, that fact means absolutely nothing because Stiles is already stroking, his hand a tight ring changing pressure and angle and speed, eyes moving between Peter’s face and cock, as palpable as an actual touch. Maybe more so because of the way Stiles is watching him, studying him. Like Peter is the most fascinating thing he’s ever laid eyes on and making Peter come is his highest priority.

Between that and the tension pooling in the base of Peter’s spine as he forces himself not to thrust, holds himself back from being too rough, too hard, he knows he isn’t going to last long.

It’s not until he sees his own hand reaching out to cup Stiles’s cheek that he realizes he’s moving, his fingers sliding around the back of Stiles’s neck, his thumb against the smooth skin under Stiles’s jaw. Peter didn’t even mean it as a hint, but Stiles takes it as one, leaning in to wrap his lips around the head, tongue rolling experimentally against the slit even as his fingers squeeze the base and Peter’s done.

He’s comes in Stiles’s mouth with only a broken moan as warning. It’s bad form -- and it’s definitely not intentional -- but the way Stiles chokes a little, gagging at the taste or the shock, Peter can’t bring himself to be sorry.

He’s just so pretty with his blotchy cheeks, eyes watering as he fights his own instinct to spit.

His lashes are damp when he pulls off, forces himself to swallow, and Peter knows he’s been out manoeuvred but he really, really doesn’t care.

+

Much later, Peter strokes the fine hair at the base of Stiles’s neck, the weight of him pleasant against Peter’s good side, and says, “If I don’t turn them, they’ll always be in danger.”

Stiles lets out a little huff, snugs himself more securely against Peter’s hip. “They’re in danger either way, now shut up, I’ve got school.”

+

Scott stops coming over. From what Peter can tell the boys don’t talk at school and a number of dvds that Peter had assumed belonged to Stiles vanish without preamble, presumably returned in a from-whence-it-came hand off, possibly through a third party.

He catches Stiles staring at Scott once, regret and fear and wretchedness leaking off him like fumes and in another fit of conscience, Peter says, “Stiles...”

He hasn’t even sorted out what to say before Stiles cuts him off, says, “No,” in a soft, voice. There’s nothing angry in it. He doesn’t even sound upset, but Peter recognizes a line in the sand when he’s standing on it and lets the subject drop.

It doesn’t come up again.

+

Peter rents a cabin in Klamath National Forest for the summer.

They’re scarcely out of the car before he’s got Stiles pressed up against it, hot metal on hot skin and too many clothes in the way but it makes Stiles relax, drains away some of the tension he’s been carrying the entire car ride up.

Peter sucks him off before they even look at the place they’re going to be living for the next two months.

Stiles asks derisively, “Does this place even get reception?” He’s been walking around for ten minutes holding his cell phone up like a beacon of hope.

“Who would you even call?” Peter asks, unloading the rest of their bags from the trunk, ignoring the twinge in his side where he hasn’t allowed his muscles to fully regenerate yet. That’s one of the purposes of this trip, actually. Solid time away from scrutiny to heal discreetly. He can come back with significant reductions and people who aren’t medical professionals will be none the wiser.

Really, it might just be better to dispose of his doctor when they return. Simpler all around.

Stiles fixes him with a sneer. “You’re not funny, you know. And you’re still not cute.”

It’s evening before Stiles finally screws up his courage, staring into the heart of the fire they’ve set up in the clearing and saying a little breathlessly, “Do it.” He stretches one pale, mosquito bitten arm into the already small space between them, pulse jumping erratically when Peter takes it in hand, drags his nose across the sensitive skin of Stiles’s wrist, inhales deeply. Fear and want and sweat and Stiles.

It smells like victory.

“Don’t you dare ask if I’m sure,” Stiles commands, so Peter doesn’t.

He buries his fangs in Stiles’s skin, ignores the half-stifled shout in favor of swallowing the blood in his mouth, licks at it while Stiles shakes, eyes on some middle distance Peter can’t quite see.

He licks away the tears, too, and then licks his way into Stiles’s mouth.

+

They run together under the moon and Peter thinks he might remember what it’s like to be happy.

He isn’t sure it’s a good thing. Certainly it makes his nightmares worse by comparison and Stiles can hear it now, when his heart pounds in the night with pain he can’t escape.

Naturally, he has to come looking, slinking into Peter’s room with a grace he hasn’t yet learned to hide, just as fascinated by Peter’s pain as by his pleasure. Stiles doesn’t comfort him. He sits, perched on the edge of the bed, eyes tracing Peter’s scars in the dark. It must be like seeing them for the first time.

When he does speak, his voice trembles a little with something dark and hungry. Something that knows misery and wants to taste it in another. “Which part is the worst?”

And Peter doesn’t even have to think about his answer. It’s there already. He says, “When Laura pulls me out and I know I’m going to live.”

Stiles swallows, adam’s apple bobbing in the chiaroscuro. “I dream about walking into the fire,” he whispers, relief and guilt in equal measure in his tone. “But then I think, if I were dead, I wouldn’t be able to get the bitch who killed him.”

His fingers follow his gaze and trail down Peter’s chest. They tow the line between blemished and pure. “I know it’s wrong, but I want to make her pay. Someone should pay for my dad. Your family.” When his eyes flick back up to Peter’s face his pupils are blown wide, a thin line of gold shining around the edge and a bitter, acrid scent lancing Peter’s senses. The hand on Peter’s chest is clawed, Stiles’s voice a raw entreaty.

“Peter...”

And Peter is as helpless to ignore the need in that voice as he was against the fire that took his family. His hands wrap around Stiles’s narrow little body, pull him in, closer, down. “Kate Argent is going to scream apologies for what she’s done,” Peter promises.

Against his side, Stiles is desperate and writhing, his skin too tight and his body strung out with a change he still hasn’t managed to control. Peter’s taken so much. It’s the least he can do to give him this.

“You want my mouth?” He lets his lips ghost across Stiles’s temple, somewhere between a kiss and a touch, but it seems to cut something loose inside Stiles because without warning he darts forward, sets his teeth against Peter’s collarbone and god, if that doesn’t focus all Peter’s attention beautifully.

Between the fangs and the way Stiles can’t seem to take his mouth off Peter’s chest his next words are almost unintelligible, but what he says is, “No, god, I want... Please, just--”

The way Stiles’s hips keep alternating between grinding down and trying to thrust against Peter’s hip is what finally clues him in. He ignores the wounded little noise Stiles makes when Peter pushes him back, pops two fingers in Stiles’s mouth without warning and lets a little of the alpha bleed into his voice when he orders, “Get them wet.”

And Stiles does, wraps his lips around the digits and laves at them without shame or reserve. Peter presses his hand against Stiles’s cock through his pajama pants, gives him some of the friction he needs before sliding his hand over Stiles’s hip, under the waistband of those pants to cup his ass.

They’ve never done this before, never taken it this far. Stiles was too small and his body too human if the bruises Peter left were any indication. Too young went out the window when he went down on his knees to keep Peter in line, but the other concerns were real, valid, and somehow it’s Peter who sounds wrecked when he says, “I’m going to finger you, do you understand?”

The noise Stiles makes is barely human, the scent of precum bitter in the air when Peter pulls his fingers away, presses them immediately to the cleft of Stiles’s ass. He runs one wet finger around the tight ring of muscle before pushing in to the first knuckle, taking in the hot, tight clench of Stiles around him. The slightly too dry drag of skin on skin.

It’s precisely because it hurts that it’s what Stiles needs.

As for Peter, he doesn’t have to be careful like he was before. This is a Stiles that won’t break, a Stiles that will spring up, whole and renewed. This is a Stiles he could fuck.

When Peter tucks the edge of the pajamas under Stiles’s balls and gets a hand around his cock, Stiles comes with a shout all over Peter’s chest.

Peter knows exactly how he must be feeling, shivery and wrung out, his whole body caught in a wave of sensation that’s too much, too fast, too strong. Thinking about that, it only takes a few strokes for Peter to get off, too, come cooling on his chest and stomach while Stiles shivers, face buried in Peter’s neck and his body curved over Peter’s chest like a bow.

A corner of the sheet is sacrificed so he can clean himself off before he again wraps Stiles in his arms, shifting until he can tuck that soft body against his chest, cradle it in the hollow of his own.

Their skin sticks gently where Peter’s failed to clean up entirely and Stiles wiggles, frowning. Murmurs, “Gross,” in a sleepy, contented way.

Peter smiles knowing Stiles can’t see it, presses a hand against the side of his throat. “Was that a complaint?”

“It’s about to be. Christ. Sensitive much?” In direct contradiction, Stiles presses closer, all gangly limbs and sharp angles. It’s actually vaguely uncomfortable but Peter doesn’t care because in every way that matters Stiles is his.

+

Stiles has never been normal. Peter knows that, better than anyone, probably. Anyone living, definitely. The niggling bits of his conscience would like him to believe that that may well be the cause of what he feels in Stiles.

It’s not normal for kids to use sex to manipulate elders. Fourteen year olds don’t get off on being threatened after a comfort fuck. Peter’s actually spent a good amount of time contemplating whether he could tie Stiles to a radiator for a few days without anything more than minor annoyance as the response and he’s fairly certain the answer is yes.

That’s not -- it isn’t -- Peter’s not sure what did that to a kid with parents who loved him.

What even could.

What’s left of Peter’s conscience says it was him, but there’s another part that says something is missing from Stiles that has nothing to do with Peter at all.

Considering all the pieces of himself Peter’s mislaid over the years, he can’t say he minds -- especially not when it means he could have Stiles on his knees, begging Peter not to stop-- but every once in a while it makes Peter uneasy in a way he can’t quite articulate, and really, really doesn’t like.

+

He’s sitting on his haunches when Peter finds him, crouched low and rubbing two fingers together thoughtfully, curiously.

Stiles looks impossibly small next to the body of the man he’s killed but it’s a far cry from the incongruous picture Peter always thought it would be. And it’s not -- Stiles doesn’t look upset, exactly, he’s just frowning a little, the way he does when he’s having trouble with his homework.

When he needs Peter’s help, but there’s nothing urgent in it. No hurry.

“I thought it’d be harder, you know? Thought I’d... I don’t know. Thought I’d care more or something, but I’ve been sitting here thinking about how this could’ve been somebody’s father and I just... I got nothing.” He glances up at Peter, blood spattered almost indistinguishably among the freckles. “It’s supposed to matter when someone dies, isn’t it?”

Peter glances at the corpse, taking in the blank eyes, the hands that might’ve comforted a child or a lover. Stiles had disemboweled him before cutting his throat. Instinct tempered with compassion. Or efficiency. Peter rather suspects the latter, honestly, but it doesn’t really make a difference, certainly not to the dead guy and definitely not to them.

He thinks about Stiles’s father.

Peter says, “Only if the person mattered to you. Get his legs. We’ll put him in the ravine.”

Stiles does as he’s told without hesitation, fumbling a little with the man’s bulk but apparently okay with both the plan and the concept of handling a mutilated body. “Shouldn’t we like, take his wallet? Smash his teeth in or something so they can’t I.D. him?”

“No,” Peter grunts, shouldering the brunt of it and wishing for the millionth time he could just heal his god forsaken scars and be done with it when his skin strains against the abuse. “This was an accident. He fell down a ravine after some animal attacked him. It’s a tragic story they’ll relay to whatever’s left of his family if he has one.”

“Occam’s Razor,” Stiles says, seemingly at random, until it hits Peter where he’s heard the term before.

He flashes Stiles a crooked grin. “And you thought school was a waste of time.”

+

One night in July, Peter says, “I’m thinking of killing my doctor when we get back to town.”

Stiles blinks, thinking, and answers, “Wouldn’t it be better to kill your doctor while we’re out of town?”

+

Peter’s birthday passes in August and Stiles lets Peter fuck him for the first time, legs thrown up over Peter’s shoulders, warm and wet from where Peter rimmed him for almost an hour. That was never something he’d particularly cared for before but feeling Stiles come apart under his hands, the precise way Peter can take him apart with just his tongue? It’s a heady thing, one that Peter might have appreciated overmuch.

Stiles has already come twice when Peter finally presses in, slow and steady and yes.

Even with the preparation, Stiles is still almost too small. If he were human it would be too much, but he’s not and it isn’t and Stiles fucking whimpers when Peter bottoms out, a sound that goes straight to his dick and Peter needs him to make that noise again. Immediately.

It’s hard and fast he knows he should be trying harder to make it good for Stiles -- to make it nice, at least, even if he can’t make it sweet, but god, the way Stiles is moving, tiny little twists of his spine like he’s trying to get away and get closer at the same time. And the hurt, raw little cries he’s beyond attempting to hold back. He looks so damned vulnerable and he’s not, Peter knows he’s not but that doesn’t make it any less good.

Stiles is getting hard again between their bodies, skin red and splotchy and the expression on his face somewhere between fucked out and fucked up, like he’s trying to figure out which way is up while he’s on the worst trip of his life and sobbing when he comes a third time, body clamping down on Peter’s cock like a vise and somehow it’s the sight of Stiles’s eyelashes clumped together with tears that sends Peter over the edge. Just that little bit of continuity between the first time Stiles went down on him and the present moment.

When he comes back to himself enough to take in their position -- he’s apparently rolled onto his side to stop himself from crushing Stiles -- Stiles is studying him intensely in a way that would be uncomfortable if Peter had the energy to be anything at the moment other than sated.

Seeing as he doesn’t, Peter lets his eyes fall shut, silently willing Stiles to take the hint and go to sleep.

When he hears Stiles pull in a sharp breath, he glares red-eyed in the dark and Stiles is still new enough, fresh enough, that he’s instantly fighting the urge to offer Peter his belly.

“Stiles, I want you to think very carefully about the fact that I am not above gagging you before you speak.”

Fresh arousal rolls off Stiles in waves, clean and cutting through the already mellowing scent of sex and Stiles swallows hard before saying, “Is that supposed to make me stop?”

Peter does his best to pour menace into his grin when he answers, “I’m rather hoping it doesn’t, actually.”

+

In the car on the drive back, Stiles says, “We can’t chase the Argents across the country without someone putting the pieces together.”

“No,” Peter agrees, fiddling with the angle of his side mirror.

Peter isn’t looking at Stiles when he concludes, “Then we’ll have to make them come to us,” but his voice carries a particularly reptilian quality that makes Peter pay attention.

“What did you have in mind?”

+

They start with the insurance adjuster. He begs for mercy, bloodied and bruised on the ground at their feet.

It’s partly a test and partly curiosity that prompts Peter to look up from where he’s carving the spiral into Garrison Myers chest to ask Stiles, “What do you think? Has he suffered enough?”

Stiles just shrugs, eyes narrowed and gleaming with the same expression he used to wear watching things burn. “It’s not much of a message if nobody gets it.”

Something hot and proud crowds up into Peter’s chest when Stiles sinks his claws neatly into Garrison’s eye socket before plucking it out with a wet little pop. “You really should’ve covered your tracks better, Mr. Myers. It was a dead giveaway when you caught my dad’s case, too.”

Peter cuts Myers’s throat neatly. Then he puts Stiles against a tree, pins his hips and swallows him all the way to the root, heavy and smooth like silk on Peter’s tongue. He blows Stiles until the kid’s literally spewing nonsense, begging to come.

Peter’s feeling generous, so he lets him.

There’s fear and anticipation in the air when Peter stands, kisses Stiles hard enough that it would bruise if either of them were human. Enough to hurt the way Stiles likes best -- shivery, achy, too much, not enough -- and Stiles goes boneless when Peter gets a hand around his throat tight enough to cut off his air.

“We’re going to get in the car and you’re going to spend every second of the drive thinking about what I’m going to do to you when we get home. Is that understood?”

Because he can’t speak, Stiles nods, eyes wide and more than a little panicky as he forces himself to be still, works hard not to claw at Peter’s wrist, not to struggle.

Peter runs his free hand down the side of Stiles’s face, marvelling a little at the fact that he can.

“Such a good boy, Stiles.”

+

Stiles turns fifteen.

They burn Reddick and Unger alive in the park near the wall where Stiles spray painted a spiral. It gets a perfect cameo on the front page.

+

The timing is the truly brilliant part, a schedule they’d worked out together after a month of planning. Too soon and the police would’ve caught it. Too long and the Argents might have missed it.

By the time they’ve murdered the video store clerk, Jimmy Hart, at the end of August, there’s an Argent back in town.

Not the one they’d hoped, though.

+

“This isn’t helping,” Peter points out. “We don’t have enough information.”

Stiles sighs, rubbing a hand over what little hair he has, exasperated and tired. They’ve been going over the meager information they have for more than an hour trying to figure out why Chris Argent left his sister in New York.

Peter braces his elbows on his knees, pulls in a steadying breath. He can smell Stiles and dust and sex worked into the floorboards from that morning, the scent of blood seeping slowly out of their skin. And overlaying these, the more domestic smells. The oranges Stiles eats constantly, linen from their sheets, the detergent Peter insists they buy even though it costs more.

All the things they’ve worked to achieve spread out in the air of their home.

“We’ve still got Harris, right?”

Peter nods, taking in the slope of Stiles’s shoulders, the sudden breadth that came with his latest growth spurt. Peter doesn’t remember that happening. He’s been too close to notice those kinds of changes except as a revelation.

Speaking slowly, like he’s still working it out as he goes along, Stiles says, “Garrison Myers was the biggest connection. Reddick, Unger, they were career criminals. Anyone might have wanted them dead and for any number of reasons. The Argents know something is happening here and the spirals were enough to get their attention, but maybe... I don’t know. Maybe Kate hasn’t worked out what it’s about, yet.”

“You think she hasn’t made the connection?”

“Yeah, actually, the more I look at it, that’s exactly what I think.” Stiles nods, hope on his face again as he tests his new theory. “We have to kill Harris in a way that makes it clear this is personal.”

It’s not a bad theory. In fact, the more Peter mulls it over, it’s entirely possible the Argents are only back in town on the off chance this is supernatural. They’ve been careful to change the signature, to vary the style so it just looks like random killings.

“If we kill Harris and she still doesn’t come back, what then?”

Stiles grins wickedly. “We could always kill her niece. What’s her face--”

“Allison.”

“Yeah, that one. We kill her, I bet half the Argent clan would come running.”

“We don’t want half the Argent clan in town, Stiles.”

“Obviously, but we do want one Argent in town and unless you’re looking to leave a trail so obvious the rent a cops at my school could trace it, we need her to come to us.” The careless little shrug leaves Peter itching to spread Stiles out on the bed, an urge he might well indulge as soon as they have a plan.

After a few minutes of silence Stiles rolls his eyes. “Look, if you have a better plan I’d love to hear it.”

Peter’s plan involves tying Stiles to their headboard and fucking his face until he passes out or Peter comes, whichever happens first. If the wave of lust that hits Peter’s nose when he says as much is any indication Stiles agrees, but Peter also doesn’t stop to ask.

Safe and sane don’t really factor into their sex life.

Any part of their life, really.

+

Peter burns a spiral into Adrian Harris’s lawn then strings his body up on the front porch like a windchime. The police lose their minds and call in the FBI, certain now that there’s a serial killer in Beacon Hills.

When he comes back to the apartment reeking of kerosene and blood Stiles is on the couch, feet up on the coffee table and a sneer fixed on his face. The anchorwoman on channel 4 is already stoically describing the murder in pornographic detail while the video from a helicopter zooms in for a close up of the scene.

“Really?” Stiles snipes, the picture of disgruntled adolescence. “I know I said we’d have to make it clear but you don’t think that’s a bit much?”

Peter grins. “Would it help if I said I was sorry?”

“No.”

“Good, because I’m not. Scoot over,” Peter orders.

“You stink,” Stiles adds, imperiously. “And you didn’t let me help, so no, I will not scoot over. I’m mad at you.”

“Move,” and this time Peter lets his eyes flash red, makes his words a command rather than a request and Stiles snarls up at him, something vicious streaking across his features. It’s wrong, disturbing, even. The sight of it leaves Peter feeling off balance and unsteady. It makes him afraid and he’s pulling Stiles up by his collar before he has a chance to process it, dragging him up against the wall.

He doesn’t even give Stiles a chance to get his clothes off, just claws at them with a frantic carelessness that leaves gouges in Stiles skin -- that make Stiles hiss and writhe under Peter’s hands.

It’s not the first time they’ve been rough with each other. It’s actually odd for them to be kind but it’s also not usually this frenzied -- it’s never this callous and Peter can’t say exactly what it is he wants to make happen but he knows he needs Stiles, here, now, needs him to be his.

Stiles gets his hands around Peter’s neck hard enough to bruise, squeezing and grasping and Peter’s vaguely impressed to notice those hands are still human, no claws to be felt, but the pain is enough to make his vision white out for a second. It snaps him out of... whatever that was.

Stiles is speaking, Peter realizes, making an effort to pay attention.

“--freaking maniac. Calm the fuck down, jesus.” It shouldn’t be possible for Stiles to look disdainful with half his clothes ripped off, panting and bleeding where Peter has him pinned, but somehow he manages.

Peter realizes he’s panting, too, breath coming hard to keep up with his heart. For once, words seem to escape them both.

Peter looks down at where he’s sliced Stiles open, long gashes down his chest, over his hips. Under what’s left of his pants, Stiles is hard, dick throbbing in time with his pulse like a taunt.

He doesn’t flinch away when Peter leans in, presses his face against Stiles neck, and just breathes.

“Those clothes are ruined,” Peter says after a long moment.

Stiles snorts, threads his fingers into Peter’s hair. “Yeah, I noticed. Are you good now? Can we go fuck without you going all psychowolf because I’ve got to tell you, as freaky as that was, I’m kind of turned on right now and I’d really like to get off.”

When Peter runs his finger down one of the gashes, Stiles shivers, throws his head back against the wall, hands fisted in Peter’s hair.

“Fuck, do that with your tongue,” Stiles orders, so Peter does, but later, with Stiles snoring next to him on the mattress, Peter thinks about the look that had passed over Stiles’s face.

He thinks about it a lot.

+

Kate Argent does come back to town.

What they aren’t expecting is that so do Laura and Derek. Probably not their finest moment as a family.

It’s all very ghastly what with Laura crying uncontrollably and Derek staring at him somewhere between horror and hope and he’s not going to lie, it hurts more than he thought it would to see them again. To feel that pull of pack and home and know they were gone. He hadn’t let himself miss them, hadn’t thought about the fact that they’d abandoned him but now he can’t stop.

Peter says, “You look just like Linda.”

Laura cries harder and Derek looks away.

+

“It’s not right, Peter, he’s a child.”

Stiles isn’t, of course, not in any way that matters, but that isn’t what Laura wants to hear, won’t take the unease from her gaze or make her understand that Stiles hasn’t been a child since Peter killed his father so he says, “We were alone, Laura. ”

Her hands are as gentle as her voice, as soft as her eyes, but Peter knows a line in the sand when he’s about to cross it. “You’re not alone anymore.”

“No,” he agrees, and feels something in his chest shrivel up. Something he hadn’t even known was there until he feels it blacken and rot away.

He hadn’t known he still had pieces of himself to lose.

It hurts.

+

“Laura’s going to be a problem.”

Stiles doesn’t even glance up. “So kill her.” Like it’s obvious, easy.

The glare from his screen paints him blue in the dim light of the den, throws him into sharp relief. It shows him for what he is, gaunt and lanky and lean and for a moment the casual way Stiles tosses off that answer makes Peter want to hurt him, get his fangs in Stiles’s throat and make him pay, but it passes as quickly as it came. It’s the answer he would give in Stiles’s place.

That he did give in Stiles’s place.

The fact that it makes perfect sense does nothing to dull the pang of regret spiking through Peter’s heart.

“I didn’t want to have to kill them,” Peter sighs against the nape of Stiles’s neck, sliding his arms over Stiles’s shoulders.

“Her,” Stiles corrects, tipping his head to the side so Peter can mouth at his throat, nip at the sensitive skin under his ear. He loves the taste of salt that lingers there no matter when Stiles last showered, the heat of blood pulsing under his lips. It grounds him to be so surrounded in Stiles’s scent.

“Them, I’m afraid. Derek won’t stay if we kill Laura and we can’t afford to have loose ends running around.”

“Yeah, no, that’s not happening.” The way Stiles says it, there’s no uncertainty. It isn’t even a protest. It’s a statement. It’s fact.

And just like that, the wild, black thing that seized him after he killed Harris is back, bitter and seething under his skin like panic and rage rolled into one.

Peter spins the chair around until Stiles is facing him, grips the armrests hard enough to make them creak. There’s not a trace of fear on Stiles face or in his scent, though, and it makes Peter feel wild, unmoored, like he’s finally lost the tenuous grip he has left on his sanity and he’s floating off into the madness he’s always suspected was waiting for him. Like Stiles is his tether and he’s been cut loose.

Stiles, however, just looks impatient like he doesn’t understand why this is still a discussion. Like he’s bored.

The urge to beat that arrogant little look off his face is neck and neck with the one telling Peter to bite his way into that hot mouth, lick at those lips until they open with a groan to let Peter in, but this is the second time he’s felt this way. He’s got a better grip on it, maybe, because he hasn’t done either, yet. He’s not completely gone, though it’s a near thing. A close thing, and he has to make Stiles understand that before he does something really horrible.

Peter lets his eyes bleed red, slides one hand up to get Stiles by the throat. Even Peter thinks he sounds unhinged when he asks, “Is that so?”

“Yes, it is.” Stiles’s heart beats steady and calm. “Let me know when you’re finished.”

Whatever hold he had on himself is gone in an instant, the rage filling him and calling for blood. He doesn’t even feel himself squeezing until Stiles kicks out his knee, snaps it clean back and follows Peter to the floor, pain cresting over his senses like the worst kind of reminder that he’s flesh and blood. There’s a knee pressed into his chest and Stiles’s claws buried in the skin under Peter’s chin and Stiles is still calm. He isn’t even concerned, the scent of him pure and clean when Peter sucks in a breath with his gasp.

“Let’s just get this straight right now since there’s clearly some confusion. I’m here because I want to be. We’re good together. You get me, and we’re going to have Kate Argent’s head on a spike for what she did to our families. It’s going to be a great day for us, Peter. A really fantastic day.”

Stiles voice is gentle, almost affectionate, when he says, “But I want to make this clear, if I even think you’re going to kill Derek, I’ll set your other half on fire before I gut you like a fish and watch you bleed out.” He might have been talking about the weather or his homework; pointing out some flaw in the way Peter dealt with their landlady. Common place things, as if he hasn’t just turned on his alpha. Like he couldn’t end Peter’s life with a quick jerk of his arm.

No. Not like he couldn’t. Like it doesn’t matter.

In direct counterpoint to the gentle way he’s speaking, Stiles drops all his weight onto Peter’s rib cage until his bones give, the crack audible over the half scream he can’t stop himself from making.

It’s not that he didn’t think Stiles could hurt him so much as he didn’t think Stiles would.

When Peter can focus enough to see again, Stiles catches his eye and picks up again in the same tone as before.

“So while we’re on the subject, here’s the plan. We’re going to kill Laura before she causes us any problems and we’re going to frame the Argents for her murder. Derek is going to believe without doubt or question that Kate killed his sister. And when he’s certain -- when I’ve laid it out for him just how many lives she’s ruined -- he’s going to be welcomed into our pack with open arms by his caring Uncle Peter and his loving, nubile Stiles.” Stiles leans in until lips brush Peter’s ear with every word, feather light and the feeling goes straight to Peter’s dick in a way that really shouldn’t be possible given the amount of pain he’s in. “You’d be proud of just how welcome I’m going to make him, Peter. The things I’m going to do to him -- that I’m going to let him do to me...”

Peter would’ve said he didn’t have room to feel anything past the pain but jealousy spreads through him like poison at the thought of Derek being the one to see Stiles strung out and sobbing, ass in the air and his face in the sheets begging, “Harder, please, please...”

Stiles shifts his weight on Peter’s fractured chest and for a second Peter’s pretty sure he loses consciousness. His vision whites out and his ears ring and he can’t decide whether to be turned on or murderous, but either way, Peter feels it dawning on him in a whole new way that Stiles really could kill him -- could’ve killed him at any time and never has, but he’s willing to now.

For Derek.

Like he can tell Peter is close to his limits, Stiles pulls back, either indifferent to or deliberately causing a new wave of agony that makes Peter jerk and twitch. His foolish body trying to escape.

Stiles smirks, free hand stroking Peter’s side. “Relax. We’ve got time for that later when you can breathe again. Not that I don’t like you laid out like this. Gets me all hot to know how helpless you are, but I’ve got a lot of schoolwork to handle and you’ve got a homicide to plan. I just want to make sure we’re not going to have any more problems. We understand each other, don’t we, Peter?”

The fond look on Stiles’s face is either salt in the wound or a stinging balm, but either way it makes something in Peter’s shattered chest clench and shake -- a feeling that stays with him even when Stiles moves away, plopping back in his chair less than two feet away and turning his back on Peter with complete trust.

Trust in what, Peter’s not sure. An hour ago he would’ve said in him, but maybe what he always thought was Stiles’s faith in Peter was really Stiles’s faith in Stiles.

When Peter’s ribs have healed sufficiently for him to get to his knees -- knee, really, considering the other one is still mending, bones grating together with a spine crawling ache -- Stiles swivels around in his chair, a meaningless smile fixed in place and a cheery lilt to his voice to add, “Oh, I took chicken out for dinner but if you don’t want it we can get take out or something.”

And it’s just... it’s so ordinary that the laugh pops out before Peter can stop it, his breath hitching with the stabbing pain it provokes but once he starts he doesn’t care enough to stop.

Because it is ordinary -- the most ordinary thing in the world -- and so is everything that came before it.

Ordinary.

Ordinary.

+

The thing is, Stiles isn’t his beta.

Oh, sure, there’s the yellow eyes and the pack structure and on a technical basis, yes, Peter bit him. Peter is Stiles’s alpha, but Stiles isn’t Peter’s beta.

Whenever they’ve fought, it’s always been about the means, never the goal. Stiles has never challenged Peter but he’s starting to suspect that’s less because Stiles wouldn’t and more because there’s never been a good enough reason.

There isn’t a doubt in Peter’s mind that if he fought Stiles now he would lose.

Because Stiles has spent years learning all of Peter’s tricks. He’s let Peter shape him, let himself be molded into a better weapon because that’s what Stiles wanted to become. But Stiles was a predator long before Peter got his hands on him and Peter’s starting to think that when it comes right down to it, Stiles might be the better predator.

And Peter made him that way.

There are some things he’s failed to account for in all his planning. And it’s far, far too late to change the game.

+

It’s Stiles who does it -- cuts her throat, while Peter holds her down. He even looks at Peter with something like sympathy and says, “It’s going to be quick,” like it matters.

And it is. Stiles even coats the blade in wolfsbane to be sure. She twitches three times before he feels the life go out of her and it’s far too much like cutting throats in the basement while his family burned. Far too much.

He doesn’t vomit, but only because they can’t afford to leave that kind of evidence behind. He vomits plenty later, alone.

They leave the knife, one of Chris Argent’s shell casings reeking of gunpowder, and then cover their tracks; leave her for Derek or whoever to stumble across in the middle of the preserve. There’s enough evidence to link the murders, and enough history that Derek won’t ask questions.

Occam’s Razor, after all.

Peter has questions, though, about the guilt hanging off Derek that he can’t puzzle out. There’s something lurking over his nephew’s head he won’t admit to, something thick and heavy like ozone before a storm. It makes Peter curious, makes him wonder if Stiles knows what’s behind it..

If he would tell Peter if he did.

Because now that he’s looking, Peter can see what he missed before, what he failed to notice in all the emotional fall out. When Derek’s in the room, that’s where Stiles’s focus is. He might not be looking, might not even know he’s doing it, but the boy is relentlessly, persistently, constantly aware of his nephew.

If Derek needs the remote, Stiles has it in hand. If Derek’s going to the fridge, Stiles is between him and the kitchen. If Peter’s in the room, Stiles is between them and it’s definitely not Peter he’s protecting.

He wants to ask Stiles when Derek became more important.

He doesn’t because he’s afraid Derek didn’t become anything and while Peter might be able to live with being ousted, it would end in someone’s death if he’s always been a stand in.

Peter might not have much of a life but he’s going to hold on to it on principle. He’s come too far to lose now.

Stiles fucks Derek a week to the day after they find Laura’s body. Peter listens from his bed -- because it is his bed, now. He knows Stiles won’t sleep in it again -- dick aching and gut burning. He wonders if Stiles knows he can hear them, but that makes him wonder if Stiles even cares and that --

Increasingly, there is a pile of questions in the corner of Peter’s mind he doesn’t want the answers to. All of them involve Stiles.

And that’s something else he was too close to see happening, the way his life is tangled up around Stiles, clinging to him. Peter thought he’d been caging Stiles in and that may have been how it started, but it’s left Peter in shackles just the same.

+

Kate Argent dies screaming in the old tunnels under the house. They only take a day, sadly, because there’s still her brother to contend with, but a lot can be done in a day and they make the most of it.

Derek doesn’t last an hour before Stiles takes him home. Peter tries not to hate him for the way Stiles holds Derek’s face against his neck, rubs soothingly at muscles that won’t relax. Derek looks wrecked in a way that’s worse than the night of fire. Then he’d been blank, absent, lost in pain and fear he couldn’t escape. Now he’s horrifyingly present but can’t make himself run.

Stiles gives him an out, takes care of him in a way that should be Peter’s job -- a way that should belong to Peter exclusively but doesn't.

When Stiles comes back he’s got a Home Depot bag and an executioner’s grin that’s more menacing than all their instrumentation.

“I brought supplies.”

+

She’s dead, Peter thinks.

Dead.

She’s dead. Stiles was right. It is a great day, for both of them. With every broken apology Kate Argent spits out, Peter feels a tiny piece of the weight on his chest lift away. It’s freeing, watching her bleed out in the place where so many Hale’s died.

What he didn’t expect is that he misses the burden and isn’t that just perfect? Nearly three years he’s been planning for this day. He killed Laura in cold blood to see that it happened, destroyed Stiles’s life.

Peter wasn’t foolish enough to think he’d be happy when it was finished, but he didn’t expect to be so hollow, either.

He thought he’d have Stiles, and even though he’s less than a foot away, knee deep in dirt as they dig Kate Argent a shallow grave, the thought of having Stiles seems ludicrous in a way that eats at him, piece by piece.

Covered in filth, they head back to the car in silence. They’ve been mostly silent since Peter ripped open Kate’s ribcage and tore out her lung. And it’s not that he’s tired, it’s just...

As Peter chucks the shovel in the trunk, Stiles says, “Hey.”

In retrospect, he should’ve expected the tire iron in Stiles’s hand, but in that moment he really, really didn’t.

Call it an off day.

+

It’s like waking up knowing he’s late for work. One second he’s unconscious, his mind a blank, endless expanse, the next he’s awake, body jerking reflexively against the wolfsbane rope and his skull throbbing like... Well, like Stiles took a tire iron to it. There really isn’t a better comparison.

Stiles himself is sitting nearby playing with a pair of needle nosed pliers. The ones he used to rip off Kate Argent’s nails, in fact.

Peter does his best to convey just how disgusted he is with the situation but it’s difficult when his eyes won’t focus properly and the skin of his wrists is burning and swollen. At any rate, Stiles looks unconcerned.

His next words, however, make Peter’s blood run cold.

“Did you know your heart beats faster every time I accuse someone of murdering my dad? I didn’t know what it meant for a long time. Thought maybe it was sympathy.” Stiles gives a little snort, smiles in a way that holds no humor, but he keeps his gaze on the tool in his hands, doesn’t look at Peter at all. “I can be kind of stupid sometimes. That’s why I still helped with Kate, you know? I wanted you to have that -- your revenge. You deserved it.”

When Stiles’s eyes find Peter’s face, there’s something brutal and dark there that makes him flinch like he’s been struck and he can’t tell if it’s the concussion or the sense of a noose tightening that makes him want to vomit but all Peter can taste is bile.

“At least when I killed your family,” Stiles adds, “I made it quick. It took Laura what? Ten seconds to bleed out? How long did it take my dad to burn to death, Peter?”

He knows he should lie or play at half truths. Peter’s not always the most subtle but he’s always been a good liar. It might not work, but at least it would be something, anything. It would be a chance.

Somehow, though, while his mind is racing through different possibilities, Peter feels strangely numb. And maybe this was always where things were headed. Doesn’t Stiles deserve his revenge, too?

For an instant he’s back on that lawn with his hand on Stiles’s shoulder.

He makes himself meet that stare. “I don’t honestly know.”

“I figured you’d say that so I did some research. Turns out you’re more likely to die of carbon monoxide poisoning in most house fires, but since in this case it was a gas explosion, there’s a decent chance he caught fire. No one would let me see the coroner’s report, but I guess I could check. There’s not really a point, though, since either way, we still end up right back here.” Stiles frowns at the pliers. “I’m kind of tired of the games at this point, Peter, so let’s just lay things out.

“I don’t really want to kill you.”

Because he’s kind of stupid sometimes, too, Peter laughs. “Why not?”

Bizarrely, the smile he gets in return is genuine. Wry, but genuine. “Couple of reasons. I’ve got zero interest in being the Alpha and before you say it, I’ve got even less interest in having it be Derek. That’s a train wreck waiting to happen and I, for one, don’t intend to be a party to it.”

The most surreal part about discussing the merits of his death is probably that he’s somehow found himself playing devil’s advocate and arguing for.

Stiles rolls to his feet with a little shrug, his spine popping loudly in the relative quiet. “Besides, I meant what I said before. We’ve got a good thing going. It works in its own fucked up little way. Or it did.

“I’ve got a few ideas about that, by the way. You need to get out of the house more, man. The sulking is just pathetic.”

“Rude.”

“But true,” Stiles counters, waving a finger in his direction.

Peter very tactfully decides to drop the point in favor of pressing the advantage. “So you’ve already decided not to kill me.”

“More or less.” There’s an oddly mournful note in Stiles’s voice that Peter’s not accustomed to when he adds, “It’s not going to bring him back, you know?”

Peter cocks his head and taps his ankle against the leg of his chair pointedly and as quickly as it came, the flash of grief is gone, replaced with the gleam Peter’s come to associate with Stiles at his worst.

“Yeah, about that. You still killed my dad, Peter. I didn’t say you were off the hook.”