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He’s seventeen, he’s horny and the late addition to his phys ed class—currently gliding across the basketball court with purpose—is not helping his situation. Peter adjusts his threadbare gym shorts from his seat on the bleachers and stares intently at his prey. Okay, maybe ‘prey’ is a little extreme. Conquest? Object of desire? Whatever. This guy showed up the previous day, new to town apparently, but today’s his first day in their regulation gym shorts and what can he say? He’s got a thing for legs. And dishwater hair with a slight curl and blue eyes so bright he’d suspect preternatural if his nose didn’t tell him otherwise.

He tracks him throughout the scrimmage, noting the skill and precision of his movements. He’s more than athletic; he knows how to use his body, in complete control and clearly aware of his surrounding players. He’s anticipating their moves and easily skirting around them with the ball in hand. If Peter wasn’t able to hear the way his heart jumped when he scored, he’d suspect he wasn’t even enjoying himself with a face so serious.

He waits until the locker room is nearly cleared before approaching and he leans against the line of lockers, jutting his hip out obnoxiously. “What’s your story?”

Gorgeous, as Peter has affectionately dubbed him in his mind, pulls up from his bag on the bench, shirt in hand, and Peter doesn’t waste the chance to gaze upon his freshly showered physique. It’s not like he’s trying to be subtle, anyway.

“What?”

“What’s your story?” Peter repeats.

“New in town.”

“Obviously.” Peter rolls his eyes. “What brings you to Beacon Hills?”

“My parents.” His eyes narrow before he looks away to pull his shirt over his head. Peter laughs. Oh, he does like a challenge.

“And why did your parents bring you to Beacon Hills? Business or pleasure?”

He takes his own pleasure in the sound of Gorgeous’s heartbeat taking a quick little spike before he takes a deep, calming breath to even it out. This might actually be more fruitful than Peter originally anticipated.

Whatever his heartbeat gave away definitely isn’t showing on his face or body language. Such control. Peter thinks he’d like to see what he looks like when it slips. “What do you care?” Gorgeous bites off, his voice deeper than a high school senior’s has any right to be. Peter lets it shiver down his spine.

“I’m the welcome committee.” He moves closer with an extended hand and suggestive grin. “Welcome to Beacon Hills. I’m Peter.”

They shake and their eyes lock momentarily. “Chris.”

“Pleasure to meet you, Chris,” Peter says with a wicked grin.

---

It would be good luck, if Peter hadn’t planned this, hadn’t spent the week figuring out what Chris’s last class is and where he goes after school. But he still feels a surge of triumph when he spots him seated at one of the library tables in the back, head dipped forward as he studies whatever book is in front of him. His t-shirt has ridden up, just enough to reveal the pale skin underneath, and Peter wonders how it would feel under his fingers.

“Fancy seeing you here,” Peter says as he slides into the chair beside him.

Chris doesn’t even look up from his book. “Yes, it’s shocking to see another student here. In the school library.”

“That’s almost a joke. That’s good.”

“Don’t you have better things to do than bother me?” Chris sighs as he lifts his head this time to look at him, already annoyed. It’s the first time that gaze has been turned solely on him, and those blue eyes are so intense Peter finds his brain needing a moment to process any thought at all.

“No, actually,” he manages, a few seconds too late for it to have the bite he’d been hoping for.

Chris rolls his eyes, turning his attention back to his textbook. He uncaps a yellow highlighter, taking his time marking a passage, as though if he ignores Peter he might just go away. If only he knew that just encourages Peter more.

“Is Beacon Hills living up to your expectations?” Peter asks, leaning closer.

“It’s fine,” Chris says, tightly.

“Just fine? Maybe you’re not getting the full experience.”

Chris marks another sentence with his highlighter, but Peter doesn’t fail to miss the way his grip tightens, or his heart speeds up, just for a second, before he catches himself. Peter just wants to push, until he finds the limits of just how far that cool reserve can go before it buckles.

“I could show you all that Beacon Hills has to offer,” Peter continues, sliding closer to the edge of his chair until their knees are touching. “It might even be enlightening. You might actually enjoy yourself.”

“You sound pretty sure of yourself. In more ways than one.”

Peter cracks a smile at the dryness in Chris’s tone, but it’s just as much to do with the fact that he isn’t pulling away. “It comes with being right most of the time.”

Chris snorts, and in one fluid movement, he picks up his backpack from the floor and deposits his textbook and highlighters into it. “You can try to prove me wrong some other time, then.”

“I’m taking that as a challenge,” Peter says, grinning more.

---

“Settle down, find a seat,” Mrs. Patton sighs as she guides her Chemistry students into the classroom. A few students surge ahead to sit with friends, but most trudge along, completely un-enthusiastic about combining classes for lab today.

Peter bares his teeth at a girl who seems to be heading toward the open chair beside Chris, and she’s momentarily stunned enough that he’s able to claim the spot instead. Chris takes one look at him and his expression falls. “No,” he says, pointing toward the door. “Not happening. Go.”

“Together Everyone Achieves More,” Peter says, smiling sweetly. “Go teamwork.”

Chris raises his hand to get the teacher’s attention, which just makes Peter laugh. “You’re adorable. What are you going to tell her? That you can’t concentrate if I’m around? I’m sure no one will tease you for that.” He puts his chin in his hands, batting his eyelashes at Chris. “Even if it is true.”

He gets another scowl, which Peter’s beginning to think is the only facial expression Chris knows, but he lowers his hand slowly.

“You better not suck at chemistry,” Chris mutters, pulling his textbook closer to himself as though Peter’s going to cheat just by looking at it.

“You really don’t have this sharing thing down, do you?” Peter tugs at the corner of the book until Chris finally relents, with a glare, to set it between them. “Besides, I am awesome at chemistry. Like I’m awesome at everything.”

Chris looks like he has a few choice words he’d like to say to that, and Peter desperately wants to hear them, but in the end he keeps his lips in the same thin, tight line. “You know,” Peter continues, “they say if you frown enough, your face can get stuck like that.”

“I thought you said you were good at science,” Chris mutters, ducking his head down to stare at the test tubes in front of them like they hold the answers to the universe. He pointedly ignores Peter as the teacher starts going over the experiment.

Peter lets Chris have his silence, for awhile at least, as they measure out ingredients. They’re making ice cream, and everyone else looks like they’re having fun now that they’ve realized this isn’t a difficult experiment, and that in the end they get, well, ice cream. Everyone but Chris is excited, anyway, who is glaring daggers at each grain of sugar and doing his hardest to ignore Peter’s entire existence.

“What kind do you like?” Peter asks, suddenly breaking the silence, and Chris seems to consider not answering him, but then he lifts his head from reading over the formula to frown at him.

“What?”

Peter rolls his eyes and nods to their concoction. “Ice cream? What’s your favorite?”

“Why should I tell you?”

“Conversation?” Peter suggests, but Chris just looks back at the textbook. “If you’re not going to tell me, I’m just going to guess.”

“Knock yourself out.”

“Vanilla,” Peter deadpans back.

“No, really, knock yourself out. Please.” He looks smug at his almost-joke, the corners of his lips turned up. It’s a strange juxtaposition, because that look really just makes Peter want to climb him like a tree, and also cringe at how not-funny he is.

“Lemon,” he drawls instead of pointing out Chris’s complete lack of humor to him. “Because you’re so sour all the time, get it?”

“Still wrong.”

“What do you think my favorite is then?” he asks, suspecting that Chris isn’t that good at turning down a challenge. He feels a surge of triumph when Chris turns toward him, studying him for a moment.

“Bubble gum.”

Peter recoils, scandalized. “That’s low. You think I have terrible taste, oh my god.”

Chris laughs—it’s clipped and surprised, like he doesn’t mean to let the sound escape at all, but then it’s there, hanging between them, and he can’t take it back. Peter feels like he’s just won a goddamn marathon, even if Chris frowns instantly, returning his attention quickly back to anything that isn’t Peter.

But Peter knows he’s won.

He lets Chris stew in his own thoughts for a few more minutes, but when he hands over the requisite amount of rock salt to finish the experiment, he makes sure to let his fingers brush against Chris’s a little longer than normal, making him jump. There’s a blush creeping up his neck now, and it feels like sweet victory.

“Will you stop?” Chris sighs.

“You are wound tighter than a spring,” Peter comments, fascinated.

Even without werewolf senses, he could hear Chris grinding his teeth. “Maybe because you’re annoying.”

“What do you think I’m going to do to you?”

Peter’s got a pretty good idea of what he’d like to do, but from the way Chris blinks at him, face contorting into something that looks like pained confusion before he schools his features back into open frustration, Peter thinks that Chris has no idea at all. “I don’t know what you want,” Chris says, sealing their gallon-bag full of not-yet-ice-cream and squeezing the air out of it. It looks more like he’s trying to strangle it.

“That means you aren’t paying attention, then,” Peter says, leaning closer but not quite touching him. He’s learning Chris’s boundaries, and he doesn’t want to spook him just now. Or send their science experiment flying and draw attention from the teacher. “But not an answer to my question.”

“You’re infuriating,” Chris sighs, exasperated.

Peter smiles at that. “I really confuse that pretty little head of yours, don’t I?”

The look Chris gives him could probably kill. “Don’t flatter yourself.”

“I’m trying to flatter you, actually.”

Chris narrows his eyes suspiciously. “Still infuriating,” he huffs, finally looking back at the table. It’s still not a direct answer, but Peter’s pretty sure he got one anyway.

He makes it a point to eat the ice cream as obscenely as possible when it’s ready, laughing to himself when Chris storms out the second the bell rings.

---

"Making new friends, I see." Peter slides next to where Chris is leaning against the wall in the back, noting it's the perfect spot to observe without everyone observing you.

Chris sighs and Peter rolls his eyes at Chris's imagined long-suffering. It would be more believable if his heartbeat didn't get so erratic at Peter’s appearance. He lets himself delight in the affect he's having on Chris. "Two weeks and you're already a part of the bourgeoisie." He gestures to the crowd around them.

"Hardly," Chris says into his beer, taking a sip. "You seem a better fit for this crowd than I do."

"How so?" He asks, still mesmerized by the way Chris's lips circle the bottle’s end.

"You all have an inflated sense of self importance."

Peter laughs, full body, and slinks closer. "And what type of crowd do you fit into?"

"None."

"So harsh," Peter chides. "The lone wolf." He smirks, letting his eyes give an almost imperceptible spark of color.

At that, Chris turns fully toward him with narrowed eyes. Oh, that's interesting. Usually people look at his shining eyes with wonder, not suspicion. Chris is much more than a pretty face, that's for certain. Perhaps Peter shouldn't be so cavalier with his natural talents.

Well, those natural talents at least.

"What is it you want from me?" Chris asks, his voice low in the loud chatter of the party.

Peter can barely contain his glee. He steps closer. "I think I've made myself perfectly clear."

"I'm sure your little shtick works wonders for you normally but I'm not easily fooled."

"Fooled?" Peter feigns offense. "Christopher-" and that gets him a glare. Noted. "-I'm nothing if not genuine. I mean everything I say."

"Funny, you talk a lot but you don't say much."

"I like to let my body speak for me." He takes another step, entering Chris's personal space.

Chris rolls his eyes but lets out a small laugh. It's music to Peter's ears. Peter moves again, closing the platonic space between them, and the hard earned ghost of a smile slips from Chris's face instantly, replaced with a wary hesitation. Peter's hand reaches to touch—his face, shoulder, anything—but Chris quickly steps back, his heartbeat jumping in his neck. He turns away, swallowing behind his beer bottle, eyes a little panicked as they try to casually survey the party.

Peter steps away too. Hm. He knows he didn't read the signals wrong. Chris is into him, no doubt. His hesitation and nervousness is probably a result of being the new guy. The new guy being pursued by Peter Hale at the first party of the new year, no less.

Fine. Peter will cut him some slack tonight but he's not happy about it. He gives Chris his best you-don't-know-what-you're-missing smile—the one with the eyebrow—and walks away, leaving Chris with his pride almost perfectly intact.

A short while later, Peter's in the middle of telling Claire exactly why she's wearing the wrong colors for her skin tone when a hand grips his bicep and pulls him swiftly backwards through the nearest door.

"Rude,” Peter says, but gives a satisfied grin when Chris pushes him against the door with strong hands on his shoulders. He loves being right. He also loves the feeling of Chris looming in over him, heat radiating between them in the cramped bathroom.

Chris hovers inches away from Peter, his blue eyes alight. "You," he growls out, "are really irritating."

Peter smiles wide. His wolf is itching to pounce, to nip at Chris’s full lips and taste him. He flips their positions and relishes the surprise on Chris's face. "Well, what are you going to do about it?"

Chris actually snarls at him and Peter laughs. Who's the werewolf here? How cute.

He reaches to touch Chris's chest, his fingers skimming across the lettering on his shirt—athletic department or something similarly boring. He'll have to do something about Chris's clothing choices—before lowering to press just below the hem. He can feel Chris trembling with adrenaline through his fingertips, his anticipation palpable. It sends an excited jolt straight to Peter’s dick.

He leans forward the slightest amount but pauses, as he wants Chris to make the deciding move, and he does. He grabs Peter's shoulders and pulls their lips together in an angry kiss.

This, Peter can work with. He pushes back hard, not using his full strength but enough to leave a bruised memory. The idea of leaving his mark on Chris makes his wolf coil in excitement and suddenly the air feels more charged.

He moves his hands up Chris’s sides, rucking his shirt to reveal tight muscles that he desperately wants to lick. Chris presses forward and Peter wedges his thigh between his legs, grinding them together. He breaks the kiss to mouth at Chris’s jaw, nipping down to his collar. Chris’s arms slide down his back and slip under his shirt. The feel of his cool hands on his hot skin is exhilarating and Peter rocks forward and bites down on the muscle at the base of Chris’s neck.

“Fuck,” Chris gasps into his ear, jerking into Peter. “You’re an asshole.”

Peter laughs and licks at the reddening skin in apology but he doesn’t think Chris is too angry, judging by the way he’s slipping his hands into the back of Peter’s pants to dig his fingers into his ass and pull them impossibly closer. It’s amazing. Peter’s more turned on that he’s ever been, rutting against Chris’s leg desperately. He feels dizzy with excitement, like he could get drunk on how delicious Chris is, with his dry wit and fierce eyes that are perpetually drawn together in an absurd scowl. It’s like his face is in a constant state of pique and Peter just wants to devour him until he comes apart.

He kisses Chris again, sloppy and eager, and Chris moves one hand around to cup Peter through his jeans. A ridiculous moan escapes Peter’s throat and he comes before he can even think about how it's too soon to come and he should really think of something like baseball or cold showers to calm down so he doesn't make a fool of himself. He’s definitely missed that particular window of opportunity, though.

Chris stills and Peter thinks he's about to make a joke or laugh or, god forbid, say something reassuring, so he plants his mouth over Chris's and shoves his hand inside his jeans. Whatever Chris was about to say comes out as a groan instead and he rocks into Peter's hand. Peter sucks on his tongue and grips harder until Chris is choking on a moan and coming into Peter's hand.

They stay intertwined for a long minute, breathing between lazy kisses until Peter finally withdraws his hand and steps to the sink to clean up. He avoids Chris's gaze in the mirror and absolutely does not think about his record setting cream job.

Chris must have the same idea, because he steps up to the sink beside Peter, avoiding his gaze as he lathers soap into his hands. “I gotta go,” he says, as he’s wiping them quickly on a hand towel, and for a split second, Peter thinks about stopping him. Their eyes lock in the mirror for a short moment, and though he can hear Chris’s heart pounding in chest in that moment, his expression says so much more.

But before he can decipher it, Chris is gone.

---

Peter’s not quite sure what he was expecting on Monday, but whatever it was, it wasn’t this.

He’d spent the entire weekend on edge, trying to place his finger on just where his whole seduction scenario with Chris had gone awry. Or perhaps where it had gone right, considering. Even if he finished surprisingly quicker than he’d intended (because he wasn’t embarrassed. Peter Hale didn’t do embarrassment), he still had the memory of Chris’s hand wrapped around him, of the intensity in Chris’s eyes had been focused squarely on him when he came, like Peter was the only thing that mattered at the moment.

He’s jerked off half a dozen times just thinking about that look since then.

But that still leaves too many question marks in the air, like if Chris is secretly some homophobic sociopath who’s going to bludgeon him to death at school, or why he had such a strong effect on Peter, to the point where he can’t stop picturing those piercing blue eyes every time he closes his eyes. Though the only question Peter really cares about come Monday is the question of when they’re going to do it again.

He expects Chris to be a little stand-offish, to hide out in the library and actively avoid him for a few days. And that’s fine. Peter likes it better when his mark plays hard to get. But what he isn’t expecting is for Chris to be hovering in the parking lot beside his truck, clearly waiting for Peter. He looks like he’s been there for awhile.

Maybe he should have put more credence into the bludgeoning scenario.

He’s dressed in jeans, which hug him in all the right places, and Peter feels his chest tighten at the idea of peeling those jeans off later and getting a much better look than he’d gotten in the bathroom at Mandy’s Friday night kegger.

Chris nods to him as Peter climbs out of his own car, and Peter thinks for a split second about just turning and walking away. Fair would be fair, after all. But there’s an almost desperate look on Chris’s face, imperceptible to anyone who didn’t know his features were always sort of stuck in a stupid, pained expression anyway, and Peter’s bleeding heart can’t stand it. Not that he’d ever admit it to anyone.

“Hello,” he sighs, with more dramatic flair than necessary, but it seems to get the point across. No matter how much he’s itching to push Chris into the backseat of his car and rip his clothes off, he’s going to make him work for this.

“Hi.”

Chris’s heart rate is shooting up. “Of all the gin joints,” Peter says dryly, smiling at the glare he gets in return. This at least feels closer to normal.

“Can we talk?”

“Some would consider this talking,” he points out, and Chris huffs a little, already getting frustrated. “Or did you actually have something specific to say?”

Chris looks anxious, and that makes Peter strangely excited. “Do you always have a comeback for everything?”

“Do you always take this long to spit things out?”

“I want to talk,” Chris insists, then sighs, squaring his shoulders. Peter’s about to make another snarky comment when Chris’s hand lands on his shoulder. “Please.”

Huh.

Peter waves his hand. “I’m your captive audience for now. Though if you’re going to give me the, I’m-not-gay-and-it-never-happened speech, please, spare us both. You’re better than that.”

“That’s not,” Chris starts, then sighs again. “Why did you do it?” is the question he seems to settle on, after some sort of internal debate with himself.

He flashes him a grin. “Please. You know the answer to that one.”

Chris looks unconvinced, but shrugs off one of the straps of his backpack so he can swing it around to his chest, unzipping it and reaching in to rifle through it. He produces a notebook and pen a second later, scribbling down an address and handing it over to him.

“Is this so you can kill me in private?” Peter asks, studying it. He’s pretty sure it’s just an ice cream parlor downtown, which is close to adorable and hilarious, but he smiles to himself at Chris’s narrowed eyes.

“No,” Chris says, snapping the notebook closed. “It’s a chance to talk, in private.”

Peter pockets the slip of paper, but then his entire body goes shock still as he catches sight of what’s written on the front of Chris’s notebook. In neat, perfect penmanship, are the words CHRIS ARGENT.

His eyes flash yellow on instinct, and suddenly Chris is jerking back against the car, startled. He reaches uselessly around his waist, but this is school, of course he isn’t armed—and suddenly Peter can smell it on him, now that he knows what to look for: there’s the faintest whiff of gunpowder lingering under the surface. Peter’s hand goes for his throat, claws already out.

“Shit,” Chris breathes, and Peter’s not sure if it’s because he’s realizing he jerked off a werewolf, or because Peter’s hand is bearing down on his throat.

“You can say that again,” Peter growls. “Did you know?”

There’s something deliberate about Chris’s stance now, and all the nerves and jitteriness has seeped away. This is his element, and that he was more nervous of Peter the boy than Peter the wolf makes his own blood run cold. “No,” Chris says, tilting his head back just enough for it to be a dare. “I’m assuming you didn’t either, unless this has been a long con. In which case, school is an awful place to kill me.”

Peter smiles tightly, but doesn’t retract his claws. “Only if they heard you scream. And trust me, they wouldn’t.”

“I recommend letting me go, Peter,” Chris says again, slower, and there’s definitely a threat in there. Peter’s own heart feels like a jackhammer in his chest, as he wonders how he didn’t realize before.

“So you can kill me? I don’t think so.”

“I’m not armed.”

Peter flashes him white teeth. “So you’re telling me you are just happy to see me after all?” He’s not surprised when Chris doesn’t answer, but it’s still almost disappointing. “You going to give me that line about having a code?”

“We do,” Chris says, and it’s almost painful, how much it sounds like he believes it. “So I recommend you don’t give me a reason to invoke it.”

Peter pulls his hand back, stepping out of Chris’s immediate range of motion if he decides to strike, but still blocking off the exit. “There’s never just one of you.”

“I’m not going to tell anyone,” Chris says, straightening up. There’s already a bruise starting to show on his neck, red and angry now, but it’s going to blossom to a lovely shade of purple. Peter shivers at the way that makes him feel.

“And why should I trust a hunter?” Peter growls.

“Maybe you shouldn’t, but I don’t really see what other options you have. If you do hurt me, they’ll find you and kill you for sure. If you trust me, and keep away, maybe that doesn’t happen.”

“That’s a shitty deal.”

Chris shrugs, studying him. “It’s the option you’ve got.”

Peter growls at him again, just to let him know he’s still not pleased with the scenario, but Chris shoulders past him and heads for the school doors without looking back. Just for good measure, Peter wads up the note still tucked safely in his pocket, and leaves it on Chris’s windshield where he’s sure to find it later.

---

Peter has the large red dodgeball gripped in his hand, holding it out and ready to fire. Chris is across the centerline of the basketball court in a similar position. They look like a pair of cowboys in an old western duel, arms bowed out, each holding a ball and scowling at each other. Well, Chris is scowling and Peter is smirking; he knows he’s going to win and Chris probably does too.

It’s no surprise they’re the final two left in the game; their other classmates are watching from the sidelines and lounging on the bleachers looking bored. They’re unaware of World War III being waged on the court right in front of them.

Chris flexes the fingers in his free hand, keeping his eyes trained on Peter. He’s made sure not to let it show, but Peter actually finds it pretty disarming—Chris hasn’t paid him any attention in months, going out of his way to avoid him at every possible opportunity, keeping his head down in gym class. But something about the idea of having free permission to whack Peter with a ball has flipped some switch, as for the last 30 minutes, his attention has been squarely focused on him. At first, Peter thought he’d just been competitive about the game, but after the fifth time he’d ignored easier targets to keep his focus on Peter, he’d started to get the bigger picture: Chris wants Peter.

It would be more flattering if he didn’t look like what he wanted him for was to kill him. Painfully.

“Getting tired?” Peter asks, cracking his neck and trying to look like he’s bored, like this is easy because he’s a werewolf with far more energy and better reflexes. He’d thought it would be easier to take out Chris, actually, but he’s incredibly agile, and he seems able to predict Peter’s movements. That mostly just pisses Peter off.

Chris’s lips press into a thin line and he narrows his eyes, shaking his head ever so slightly. Peter jerks his arm but the fake-out doesn’t work on Chris, the bastard doesn’t even flinch. Peter curls his lip up in a snarl and lets his eyes shine golden and Chris gives him a pointed look. The ‘don’t you dare’ is unspoken but Peter gets the message loud and clear.

Mr. Weatherby walks to the center line at the edge of the court with a few balls tucked under his arms. “Hurry it up, fellas,” he says, looking tired and one-hundred percent done with their little stand-off.

“You heard the man,” Chris says, “Make your move, Peter.”

“Funny how I’m always the one making the moves, aren’t I?” Peter teases and Chris does not look pleased if the way he purses his lips and gives his own little snarl is anything to go by. Peter smiles wider, because he knows it pisses Chris off more, as they stare each other down.

He sees his opening, though. The one thing that Chris has never seemed to be able to wrap his head around is how Peter likes to color just outside the edges, to throw the rulebook aside which is something Chris never seems to do (bathroom jerk-off session aside). So while the polite thing to do would be to wait for their gym teacher to get completely off the court, the second his back is turned, Peter lobs his ball straight for Chris.

Who side-steps it easily, while Peter’s face crumples.

Well, fuck.

He dives for one of the spare balls still scattered around his side of the court, hoping that he can get to it before Chris makes his play. But he’s lost the advantage now, and Chris strikes at the perfect moment, catching Peter square in the chest.

Peter catches the ball before it falls and it takes all of his self control to not pop it with his claws. Chris laughs, his teeth flashing, and he starts walking off the court with a huge smirk. It makes Peter furious, not for losing but for the way it makes his chest clench.

He throws caution to the wind and the ball straight to the back of Chris’s head, the force of it making him stumble. Chris whips around, hand to the back of his head, face red with rage. But before either can do anything about it, Mr. Weatherby is stomping between them, yelling. “Hale! What the hell do you think you’re doing?”

Peter ignores most of his lecture about poor sportsmanship, his eyes locked on Chris’s as he stands by for a moment, throwing eye-daggers at Peter and rubbing his head, before going to the locker room. By the time Peter’s promised to apologize, the locker room is nearly empty.

Chris is standing shirtless by his locker, pulling out a fresh t-shirt from his gym bag, but he drops it onto the floor as soon as he sees Peter, making a beeline for him instead. Peter’s expecting to be shoved against the locker behind him, but it’s still a shock to his system at just how strong Chris is that he’s able to manhandle him so easily.

“What is wrong with you?” Chris hisses, fingers gripping his shirt so tight that his knuckles are turning white.

A few of the kids around them are pretty much fleeing now.

“Currently?” Peter asks, tilting his head like he’s really thinking about it. “You’re not wearing a shirt. That’s a little distracting.”

Chris’s nostrils flare, but he doesn’t back down. “You think this is a joke? You could have killed me,” he snaps, pushing Peter further into the locker. His grip hasn’t loosened at all, and he’s actually shaking from frustration. “Or someone else. You know better than to use your strength against a human. You can’t pull shit like that, and at school? What if someone had seen your eyes? Are you a complete idiot?”

Peter gives him a look that’s a cross between sympathetic and mocking. “Do you need me to kiss it better?”

Chris growls at him, looking ready to snap, but Peter lets his pout turn predatory, lowering his voice. “Do you want me to kiss it better?”

Chris's eyes drift to his lips for a fraction of a second before he catches himself and gives a useless shove against Peter's chest, letting his grip loosen. He starts to poke his finger at Peter’s chest but Peter bats it away with an eyeroll. “You better watch yourself, Peter.”

“Or what?” Peter pushes off the lockers, effectively pressing himself against Chris, who quickly steps back. “You’ll tell your dad someone threw a rubber ball at your head and it hurt real bad?”

Chris glares and gives a little huff, turning his back on Peter to gather his things and pull his shirt on. “I don’t know why I’m trying to give advice to you,” Chris grits out, slamming his locker door closed. “You’re just going to do whatever the hell you want anyway. You always do.”

“I’m pretty sure it wasn’t just me who wanted it last time,” Peter scoffs, staring Chris down until he can see the flush of red rising up his neck. That’s better. Chris is back to his one and only look, though, and scowling at Peter as he throws his gym bag over his shoulder.

“Whatever, asshole,” Chris mutters, heading for the door. He makes sure to shoulder against Peter with a little—or a lot—more force than necessary, though, and sending Peter stumbling into the bench. He tries to catch himself, but even with werewolf reflexes there’s nothing to grab onto, and he winds up on his ass on the ground, shoved between the bench and the lockers, with his legs mostly in the air. There’s a few snickers from behind them.

He can’t see Chris’s face, but he can tell from the way his shoulders are shaking on his way out that he’s laughing.

---

His car is already spotless but when Peter passes by the car wash fundraiser on Main St and sees the familiar face, he can’t stop himself from turning the car around, or the wide grin forming on his lips. He pulls into the mini-mart parking lot and parks behind the only other car being washed. He gets out just as Chris jogs over. He’s wearing only swim shorts, his t-shirt tucked into the back of his waistband. Peter smiles as Chris’s face falls into a scowl.

“Leave,” is all Chris says, stopping in his tracks.

“You would deny the children my donation?”

“This isn’t for children.”

“Whatever,” Peter says, flippant. He pulls a twenty from his wallet and waves it in Chris’s general direction. “I’m a paying customer.”

Chris narrows his eyes and lets out the most aggravated sigh Peter’s ever heard, but he stalks forward and snaps the bill from his fingers. “It’ll be ready in fifteen.”

“Excellent.” Peter swings his keys around his finger before dangling them out for Chris to grab (angrily).

He heads into the mart to kill time and to avoid thinking about how hard his heart is pounding and that Chris’s was in a matching rhythm. It’s been over a year since graduation. He’s seen Chris a handful of times since but only from a distance. He’s still not sure what made him turn around for the car wash. What makes today the day it was finally okay to speak to each other. Well. Who is he kidding? It’s because Chris is willingly bending over the hood of a car, half naked and wet.

Peter gets a cherry slushy and decides to wait out in the heat. Might as well enjoy the show.

Chris is sudsing his car with a big yellow sponge. If he wasn’t enjoying it so much, Peter would roll his eyes at the cliché his life is in this moment. Ogling the guy washing his car in a seductive manner. Chris isn’t technically being seductive, yet the way he’s forcefully scrubbing at the paint, like it has personally offended him, is enough to do it for Peter.

When Chris works his way to the other side of the car, body hidden from view, Peter looks over to the others working the car wash. The truck in front of him has just pulled away and the other volunteers are mingling, except for the leggy red-head staring at him. She’s viciously twisting a towel in her hands and is about to shoot lasers from her intense eyes. He flashes her a smile and tips his slushy cup. Her gaze trails him when he heads back to Chris.

“Woo, if looks could kill,” he says around his straw, sucking lecherously, his eyes flicking from Chris to her. Chris follows his gaze but remains silent as he starts rinsing Peter’s car with the hose. “Is that your new squeeze? I bet her name is... Cookie.”

“Victoria.”

“And does Miss Victoria know about your other proclivities?”

Chris pulls up and turns to him, letting the hose spray water over Peter’s legs. “Oops,” he says, impassive.

Peter rolls his eyes and points to the windshield wipers. “You missed a spot.”

“No. We’re done,” Chris says, obviously meaning more than just the car wash.

“Are you going to dry it?” Peter never could resist poking the bear.

“No. Here,” Chris pulls his keys from his pocket and shoves them at Peter’s chest and lets go before Peter can grab them. They splash into the puddle at his feet and when he comes up from retrieving them, Chris is back over near Mrs. Death Glare, wrapping his arm around her waist.

Peter shakes the water out of his keys. “Dammit.”

---

It’s Laura’s birthday in a week, and staring at the shelves at the toy store is getting him no closer to figuring out what she’d like. “No dolls,” she’d informed him a few days before when he’d asked her what she wanted, wagging her finger at him like he was a child, instead of her favorite uncle. “And no pink, Uncle Peter, I’m warning you.”

She’s going to be hell when she’s a teenager.

He’s lost in thought, staring between a Lego kit and a water gun his sister-in-law will kill him for but that would make for epic battles between Laura and the boys, which must be how he misses the scent of him entering the store. Until he’s standing behind Peter, not moving. And then it’s all any of his senses can detect, his entire body like a compass pointed toward Chris Argent like he’s True North.

“It’s not polite to stare,” Peter says, turning around to face him. He’s filled out a lot since the last time they saw each other—his shoulders are broader, and he’s obviously been working out, probably training. Peter doesn’t even have to guess to fill in the question marks about why he’d need to.

Chris looks far too calm, but Peter can still hear his heart rate speeding up when they make eye contact. Peter holds his gaze for a moment, then lets his eyes sweep over Chris’s body as though he’s checking him out, just to watch Chris squirm, but he’s really checking for any signs of a weapon. They’re in a toy shop, but Peter wouldn’t put anything past an Argent. He’s almost disappointed that Chris doesn’t even flinch.

“An elderly couple was attacked just outside town,” Chris says. “You wouldn’t happen to know anything about that, would you?”

“Your small talk sucks,” Peter notes. The Hale’s had nothing to do with that—it was a lone wolf, and Chris knows it. Peter’s pretty sure he’s either already killed him or driven him out of town, as they haven’t caught his scent anywhere in the last two weeks. He nods instead to the ring on Chris’s hand. “I see there is now a Mrs. Asshole Hunter. Congratulations?”

Chris’s face does something indecipherable—there’s a flash of pain there, for a second, before he steels himself. Peter grins.

“Or maybe my condolences to the little lady? Tell me, does she know her husband likes to spend long, lonely nights in the woods, killing people?”

Chris sighs, but there’s no anger there, and oh. Peter nods slowly. “Right. So you’re actually Mr. and Mrs. Asshole Hunters. How quaint. It must be a match made in heaven. Do you all have a dating service or something?”

“Peter,” Chris says, exasperated.

“No, I’m really quite curious,” Peter continues, tilting his head to the side. “Tall, dark and handsome seeking fellow twisted psychopath. Must love nature and be able to shoot a moving target?”

“Peter,” Chris repeats, firmer, and this time Peter just smiles tightly.

“I hope you’re both very happy,” he says, and it comes out a touch too bitter for his taste. He’s going to be kicking himself for this entire conversation later. “What are you even doing in a toy store?”

“Shopping,” Chris says, and his expression shifts from annoyed to nervous. He looks away from Peter. “We needed a new carrier.”

Oh.

Peter forces himself to keep his expression blank. “Is the little bundle of joy a boy or girl?” Chris tenses up, causing Peter to roll his eyes. “I’m not going to eat your child, Chris.”

He sighs, looking back at Peter. “Her name’s Allison.”

Peter nods. “Quite the happy family, I’m sure.” He holds up the water gun, rattling it a little. “But I’ve got better things to be doing than standing here talking to you, so, forgive me for being rude.” He brushes past Chris, moving to get in line. Even though his back is turned to him, he can tell that Chris just stands there for longer than he should, possibly even watching Peter. But eventually, he walks away.

---

The woods are alive with sound tonight, the animals restless and the wind stirring up fallen leaves, but Peter can still make out an occasional branch cracking under the heels of their boots. There’s three of them—he’d caught their scent about a mile back, and he’s been trailing along behind slowly ever since. He thinks he can recognize Gerard Argent, but the other two he’s less certain about. One is a girl, and she holds her gun out like this isn’t the first time she’s handled one. Something about that, combined with her age, makes Peter shiver.

They’re not heading toward the house, but they’re obviously looking for something. There’s no way it’s anything good.

“Here,” the girl says, nodding to a grove of trees some time later. Peter hunches down behind a tall group of bushes, to where he can still see them.

Gerard pulls out some coiled wire from a bag at his side, while the other two stand guard, peering into the darkness.

“You’re sure this is it?” asks the guy, scanning the trees again.

The girl nods. “I’ve seen the Hales walking home from school through here.”

“Quiet, Kate,” Gerard says, running the wire along the ground to a tree, and then higher. It takes Peter a moment to recognize that they’re building a snare, and he can feel his blood run cold.

“There’s no one here,” Kate says, waving him off. Her teeth flash white in the moonlight, laughing. “This is going to be so great.”

“I said quiet,” Gerard insists, tying off the snare. They step back and toss a branch at its trigger point, watching it shoot up toward the trees, branch still clasped tightly in the wire’s snare. It’s not the first time Peter’s seen something like this, and his stomach lurches at the thought of one of his nieces or nephews being trapped in it. Or worse, what would happen if they were found like this. Gerard and the others reset the trap, as well as two more nearby, and then the moon is hanging low in the sky, with tinges of pink and yellow just starting to mark the dawn.

Peter stays hidden, waiting until he can’t hear their footfalls echoing through the forest anymore, before stepping out to cut down their handiwork.

---

He usually doesn't go to bars—it's not like he can get drunk, and with so many nieces and nephews at home, he's never bored. But sometimes he likes the warmth a glass of scotch provides as it slides down his throat, and he likes crowds and the way that it's easy to get lost in them. That's got nothing to do with why he's here tonight, though.

Chris is easy to spot, sitting on a stool at the bar and nursing a beer as he glances occasionally to the score of the basketball game on TV. He looks comfortable, so it probably isn't his first beer of the night, but he's also alert. Peter's whole body feels like it's vibrating with nervous, angry energy, but he still waits until the person sitting to Chris's right leaves before stalking forward and claiming the seat.

He's almost disappointed when Chris just sips his beer, slower, and keeps his eyes on the TV. "You know, if you're going to trail me, you should be a lot more subtle. I see you still feel a need to make an entrance, too."

"Where's the Mrs?" Peter asks, mostly to get a reaction, but there's none forthcoming in his expression.

"Home."

"Why aren't you?"

Chris does turn to look at him this time, and Peter has almost forgotten just how blue his eyes really are. They look tired now, though. "Is that what you want to talk to me about?"

He's not even aware that his claws have come out until they're digging so hard into the bar that he hears a snap of wood as one sinks into the polished oak. He doesn't retract them, and Chris' eyes don't leave his face. "I think you know exactly why I'm here."

"I need another drink if you're going to talk in circles," Chris sighs, motioning for the bartender. "Lose the claws, Peter."

He retracts them just before the bartender appears with two fresh beers, though he doesn't reach for either. "You know why I'm here," he repeats, slower. "What, were you too busy with the wife and kid to help them?"

"Whatever you think you know," Chris says, expression hardening, "trust me, you don't."

"Are you saying your father and his goons weren't setting traps for my family? For my nieces and nephews?" he grits his teeth, forcing his fangs to recede.

Chris's eyes betray the slightest surprise but it's quickly masked. "They wouldn't do that."

"Like hell they wouldn't." Peter's fist slams on the bar a little too hard, rattling the drink glasses. Chris moves to speak and Peter cuts him off, "If you give me that line about your bullshit code, I will burn this bar to the ground."

"You might not want to hear it but we do follow it. I'm sure they were just training. Doing practice traps."

"Are you? Can you say with one-hundred percent certainty you've never seen a hunter, especially someone as zealous as your father, diverge from your precious code?" Chris's blank stare is very reassuring. "That's what I thought."

"I'll talk to them," Chris says, and though it's not hesitation in his voice there's definitely something uneasy there. It's the first time since that day in the parking lot that Peter has seen him rattled. He lifts one of the beer bottles from the counter and brings it to his lips, and if Peter stares a little longer than he should, it's just because he's still angry. "I didn't know," Chris says finally.

Peter barely resists the urge to roll his eyes. "Is that meant to be comforting?"

"No, I guess not. But I thought you should know."

Peter leans into Chris—personal space be damned—and shines his eyes a little too bright for the darkened bar. "If it happens again, I won't be as courteous." Chris raises a challenging eyebrow. "They brought it on themselves."

He leaves without a backwards glance at Chris but he can sense the eyes following him out the back. The alley door barely clicks before it's swung open again and Chris is wringing his hands in Peter's collar, hauling him across the alleyway and stumbling into the brick. Chris's eyes are furious, his nostrils flaring in little huffs of breath, his jaw clenching like it does when he's trying to pull his words together.

"Get your hands off me," Peter warns, a dangerous growl rumbling in his throat.

Chris loosens his grip only to gain leverage to slam Peter against the wall again. Peter's head makes a sick sound against the brick, and if he weren't a werewolf, he'd probably have a cracked skull. He narrows his eyes—now glowing full yellow—in warning but Chris talks over him. "You think you can threaten my family and I'd do nothing? Whatever you think there is between us, you're wrong. You're nothing to me."

Peter grins, wicked. "You sure about that? You're the one who can't seem to keep his hands off me right now." Chris's hands clench tighter at his collar, and he's like a rubber band, stretched so taut that he's going to have no choice but to snap. It would be funny, if all of that anger wasn't directed squarely at him.

"Stay the fuck away from my family," Chris says. He somehow gets even closer, so Peter has absolutely nowhere to look but at him.

"Keep them away from my family, then," Peter suggests, tilting his head to the side. "Maybe you should go home to that family you love so much, instead of groping me in an alley." He can feel Chris's right hand loosening its grip on him to form a fist, headed for his face, but it gives Peter just enough leverage to use the full force of his weight to shove Chris off him, sending him toppling backwards. He winds up on the ground, staring up at Peter with anger and bewilderment. "So go home, Chris," Peter says again, turning to walk down the alley.

He's not stupid enough to think Chris is going to leave it alone though, so when Chris grabs his shoulder and spins him around a moment later, he's not really surprised. "What now?" Peter asks, exasperated.

"Shut up," Chris grits between clenched teeth. "Just shut the fuck up." Peter's eyebrows shoot up in surprise and a little, squeaky 'oh' escapes when Chris starts grabbing at his belt and forcefully walks Peter backwards behind the dumpster.

"So romantic." Peter doesn't laugh, exactly, but it's close. He's always been able to get under people's skin. He knows what buttons to push to get what he wants and to get a rise out of someone. That's part of why he likes Chris so much, he's so cute when he's irritated. He tells Chris as much.

"I said. Shut. Up." Chris has Peter's fly unzipped and he's angrily yanking his pants downward and pulling his cock out.

"Jesus," Peter says when Chris drops to his knees and licks a stripe along his very quickly hardening length.

"So you can't keep your mouth off me either, I see," Peter says, and a moment later he finds himself shoved up against the wall again, some of the scaffolding digging painfully into his side.

"I swear to god, Peter, I will shoot you in this alley." He doesn't sound like he's joking, either.

"Promises, promises," Peter says, gasping as Chris presses his hands into his hips to hold him in place. "You want me quiet, you better figure out how to shut me up."

There's no good reason why he's pushing now—he's got Chris as subdued as he's ever going to get, he's wrapping his mouth around Peter's cock again and even when his gaze flickers up toward Peter in the dark and his eyes are still narrowed, that's really just more of a turn on. But he likes it when he can break down the walls Chris puts up. He always has.

Chris takes him almost to the hilt and it's pretty clear this isn't the performance of a cocksucking virgin. Peter has a flash of jealousy at the thought of those lips on someone else—never mind that Chris is married—but then Chris's mouth tightens as he pulls back at an agonizing pace, effectively shutting Peter's brain down. He knows Chris will hate him for it, but he runs his hands through Chris’s hair to grip the back of his head and gives an encouraging tug when Chris looks up and actually fucking growls at him.

"You started it," Peter chides.

Chris's nostrils flare, as though he thinks it looks menacing instead of strangely endearing, and Peter just grins back, a little dazed. "Cute, honey." He tightens his fingers in Chris's hair as he thrusts into his mouth once, trying not to laugh at the way Chris's eyes bug out for just a moment and he makes a noise like he might be choking. "You can take it," Peter insists, smoothing his hand down Chris's jaw once before thrusting up again.

He gets another glare, but Chris does take it, jaw going slack as he tries not to choke this time. Peter watches him through half-closed eyes as Chris moves one hand down to cover his own denim-clad erection, rubbing his palm over himself a few times before fumbling with the zipper.

There’s a possibility Peter has thought about a situation very similar to this before but the real thing is much more intense than his imagination can provide, and he has a very vivid imagination.

He loses himself in the push and pull of Chris’s mouth, the wet heat pooling into a pleasure he hasn’t felt in a long time. He pulls his head back from where it’s resting against the brick to watch Chris jerk lazily at his cock. Even in the dark alley he can see the flush along Chris’s neck and cheeks, the ambient light from the outer street revealing a glisten of sweat at his temples. Peter runs his thumb through it and brings it to his lips to taste. “Delicious,” he groans.

Chris grunts and works him faster, rougher, probably knowing he can’t really hurt Peter. Or maybe he can just tell Peter likes it. He lets go of his own cock to cup Peter’s balls and rub along his perineum and Peter rocks off the wall, feeling it build. “Fuck,” he says. “I knew that mouth was made for more than scowling.” That gets him a growl and a scrape of teeth across the top of his cock. Peter gives a shaky laugh, “Shit. Do that again.”

Chris doesn’t.

It’s Peter’s turn to growl but there’s no heart in it. He focuses on the way Chris works his tongue on the underside of his cock, just under the tip, the way Chris’s heart is beating as fast as his own, the salty smell of Chris’s own precome, the sound of it dripping onto the asphalt. He’s close and he thinks he should probably warn Chris but before he can get the words out, Chris is pressing a finger against his hole and doing something with his tongue and he’s suddenly coming with a choked shout. The alley whites out behind his eyelids as he rides it out.

He’s belatedly shocked when he realizes Chris didn’t pull off but honest-to-god swallowed. He’s impressed. That is, until he opens his eyes to see Chris with his hand on his cock, like he’s going to finish himself off down there, like he’s afraid to look at Peter after sucking him off. Peter can’t have that.

He pulls Chris up by his shirt and bats his hand away to replace it with his own. Chris groans and leans into him, his eyelids drooping. Peter’s other hand reaches around to the base of his skull and pulls him forward into a kiss. Chris is reluctant and it takes a good twenty seconds for Peter to get him to relax enough to kiss back.

“Let go, Chris,” Peter whispers against his lips. He’s not rough, but he gives him firm, steady strokes and lets Chris lean into him, knowing the stability is what Chris needs. Chris might appear to be a rough and tumble guy, and maybe he is on the exterior, but there’s something soft and calming about him that Peter craves. Not to be confused with weakness, though. There’s nothing weak about Chris Argent, that much Peter can tell.

Chris stiffens against him and comes, gasping into Peter’s mouth. Peter gives him a few moments of peace to just breath against him. When Chris steps back to tuck himself away, Peter sucks some of his come off his knuckle.

“Christ,” Chris swears, shaking his head like he thinks Peter is ridiculous. He’s not wrong.

Peter steps into his space again and brushes the back of his hand, still covered in Chris’s come, under Chris’s shirt, across his chest. “You missed a button,” he says, smirking.

---

Living in a house with so many others, Peter learned at an early age that the key to sneaking out is to do so while looking like you aren’t doing anything suspicious. He waits until almost everyone is in bed—he can still hear the faint sound of Laura’s rock music, or of his brother on the phone—but he doesn’t go creeping down the stairs dressed in all black, carrying his shoes in his hands because he knows he can be quieter barefoot.

The same can’t be said for his nephew Derek.

Peter’s already at the bottom of the stairs, grabbing his keys to tuck them into his pocket alongside the hotel address Chris had written down, when he hears a door creaking closed upstairs. He glances up and catches sight of Derek, tennis shoes in his hands like they’re weapons, and watching the ground to make sure each foot fall doesn’t make any noise. He’s so focused on his task that he doesn’t even notice Peter until he reaches the first floor, and then he looks up, staring at Peter’s bemused stature by the front door and suddenly resembling a deer caught in headlights.

“Hello,” Peter offers, watching as Derek’s shoulders sag. There’s definitely no denying that he was trying to sneak out. “Is that a new fashion statement, shoes on hands? What will you crazy kids come up with next?”

“No,” Derek says warily as Peter opens the front door and motions him out. Derek glances between him and the front door, like Peter’s trying to trick him into a trap—but then he darts out.

“Not so fast,” Peter laughs, catching the back of his shirt before he can get too far. “This conversation is definitely not over.”

Derek scowls a little, clearly disappointed, but leans against the porch railing to get his shoes on. “I’m just going out.”

Peter makes a show of sniffing the air, still almost delighted. “Is that cologne?” Even in the moonlight, Peter can tell that he’s blushing now. He knows that Chris is waiting—but he hasn’t been late once yet, and if he suffers for a few minutes longer for a change, well, this is entertaining enough to warrant the foul mood Chris will be in for the rest of the night. “Who is she?” Peter asks again, then waves his hand. “Or he?”

“No one,” Derek says carefully. Even if Peter wasn’t a werewolf, Derek’s clearly lying. He can’t even look at Peter.

He leans closer to sniff at him, and Derek goes stiff and still, but he doesn’t pull away. He almost coughs at the amount of cologne Derek’s wearing, which is telling in itself, even if he couldn’t detect the underlying scent of someone who smells of bloodroot and ginger and human. “It’s not a wolf,” he says, trying to hide his amusement at how embarrassed Derek looks by the whole thing.

“Please don’t tell anyone,” Derek says quickly, finally meeting Peter’s gaze in a panic.

“You know this isn’t going to end well,” Peter offers, feeling his own chest tighten up. “It never does.”

“She’s different,” Derek insists, jutting his chin out. He looks absurd. “Just, please don’t tell anyone.”

“Be careful,” Peter warns again, clapping him on the shoulder. “And for goodness sake, if you’re going to be this obvious about sneaking out, just climb out a window. You are not good at espionage.”

Some of the tension eases in Derek’s posture, and at least he doesn’t look like he might have a panic attack anymore. And Peter’s definitely late now—even if the thought of Chris pacing the hotel room waiting for him and taking an extra glass of scotch because he’s worried, definitely does something to him. He squeezes Derek’s shoulder once more before turning to head towards his car.

“Hey, Uncle Peter?” Derek’s voice calls over his shoulder, and Peter glances back at him.

“Where are you going?” Derek asks, narrowing his eyes at him.

For an instant, Peter’s expression might mirror Derek’s earlier deer-in-headlights one, but then he gives him an easy smile, hoping his nephew doesn’t misinterpret the threat or the mutual understanding in his words. “I’m just going out.”

---

Peter's not anxious about meeting Chris at the hotel. Okay, that's a lie. He's just a little more anxious than he'd like to admit, is all. Meeting as they've been is thrilling; it brings a new level of danger to an already stupidly dangerous situation. A werewolf and a werewolf hunter having secret, passionate rendezvous. It's a regular old Romeo and Juliet tale, which, yes, bad comparison but there's something about the illicitness that makes what they have more heated. So yes, Peter's anxious to get there. To stop worrying about what Talia—his Alpha—would think of him; about what his family would do if they found out. To let his nerves calm by getting his hands on Chris's skin, to feel Chris's temperature rise under his touch.

Chris is sitting against the headboard with a scowl when Peter comes through the door. The TV is flickering but the volume is low and Peter knows Chris has been sitting there thinking of angry ways to punish him for being late. He can't say he's not okay with the idea. He smiles as he drops his keys to the table and shrugs off his jacket. "Cheer up, sourpuss." Peter laughs when Chris snarls in response. "Got held up a bit. I ran into my nephew on the way out."

Chris stiffens at that. "You didn't... he doesn't-"

"Relax," Peter cuts him off. While Peter is equal parts nervous and thrilled with their arrangement, Chris is equal parts paranoid and really paranoid. Peter has concerns about his family but in actuality, he has nothing to lose but their respect. Chris, on the other hand, has everything. Well, by definition. He's obviously not very happy with his textbook wife and kid or he wouldn't be sneaking two towns over to fuck Peter. "No one knows anything."

"You can't know that," Chris says, rising off the bed to meet Peter halfway.

"The door's just there," he waves his arm back but knows by the way Chris's hands are reaching to untuck his shirt that he won't leave.

"Did it feel like you were being followed?" Chris asks, trailing one hand down Peter's now-bare chest before his hands duck lower to reach for his belt.

Peter leans against the wall, just out of reach so they aren’t pressed together, waiting it out. "Werewolf, remember?” He arches his hips toward him at last, smiling brazenly as he nudges his knee between Chris’s leg, letting him grind against him. “Is that really what you want to talk about?"

Peter’s belt drops on the floor between them, and he would be more turned on if Chris didn't follow it up with fumbling to toe off his own boots, almost losing his balance once. Instead, it just makes him smile. "Need some help there?"

"I'm just being thorough," Chris says, and Peter's smile turns into a full blown grin when Chris's eyes dip down to his lips on the last word.

"Is that what they're calling it these days?" Peter asks. He reaches out quickly, snaking an arm around his waist and pulling him against his chest in one quick movement.

Chris rumbles a hrmph sound against Peter's neck and he mumbles, "It's just—"

"I know," Peter interrupts. "Don't worry. Not tonight." He pulls Chris up and puts his hands on the sides of his head, looking into his eyes, and says, "Tonight it's just us," and he kisses him. Chris relaxes in his arms and melts against him.

"Isn't that better?" Peter asks, sliding a hand down his back under his shirt. His skin feels cool in the chilled air of the hotel room, but it won't take long to change that. Chris hums his approval against his lips.

"You were late," Chris murmurs when he presses his lips against Peter's neck, teeth scraping enough to draw a gasp.

Peter laughs. "You missed my sparkling wit and charming personality that much?"

"Don't flatter yourself," Chris says through a smile. I was worried, is the sentence that hangs between them unsaid. There are a million things that could go wrong with this scenario, and that’s not even taking into account factors like pack wars, or other supernatural creatures, wanting werewolf (or hunter) blood on their hands. There’s no point in saying those fears out loud though, as they’re the kind of things that are never going to fade away.

Peter feels the slightest bit guilty now for being late, but it’s all that he allows himself. He turns his attention entirely to Chris, to keeping that smile on his face.

Chris pulls them to the bed, falling onto his back and tugging Peter with him. Peter sits back, straddling Chris's waist, and looking down at him.

"You're wearing cologne," Peter comments, not even trying to hide his amusement as Chris slides a hand down his chest, and lower still, until it reaches the zipper on his jeans. At least it’s not as much as Derek was wearing earlier. "Don't think I don't know that that's for my benefit."

“Maybe I like cologne,” Chris says, and Peter snorts.

“At least you didn’t douse yourself in it like my nephew. He’s got a girlfriend.”

“I don’t want to know.” Chris wrinkles his nose, but he’s laughing a little. “I don’t even let my sister talk to me about that stuff.”

Peter hums, dipping his head to press a kiss along his throat and raking his teeth over the spot after. "I prefer you smelling like me. For the record."

He can tell Chris likes the thought of that from the sudden, heavy smell of arousal in the air—it makes Peter grind their hips together and grin against his lips as he steals another long, slow kiss.

Chris works his hand into his jeans and under the waistband of his boxers and Peter groans against his lips. He loves Chris like this. Unguarded and looking like he's actually enjoying himself, with faint smile lines creasing his eyes. He looks to all the world like he's actually happy and not in a miserable relationship—marriage—like he so often looks when Peter sees him around town or for those few minutes before they part where Chris looks reluctant. Like he's considering not leaving at all. It kills him to know what they have will always be a secret. He doesn't kid himself about their future; he knows there's no happily ever after for them. If they're lucky, they'll have a few months, maybe more, of their current situation but eventually it will fade, as much as he hates the thought.

Chris grips him, hand sure against his cock, and Peter falls forward against his chest, mouthing along Chris's shoulder and nips at the firm muscle there.

"Watch the teeth," Chris warns, but there's a warmth behind his eyes. Peter just smirks and drags his tongue over the spot, pushing his hips forward into Chris's hand.

"So give me something else to focus on," he murmurs against his ear, pleased when Chris rises to the bait and turns his head, claiming his mouth. There's always an underlying struggle for control between them, even if it's shifted since they started this. Now when they're together, Peter finds himself trying to get the wheels of Chris's brain to stop turning, until his focus is squarely on Peter. If the way he's working Peter's cock is any indication, he's not going to have to work that hard to get them there tonight.

He turns his head for another kiss, smiling against his lips, and too distracted to notice the click of the door opening behind them until it’s too late.

Chris freezes, his pulse skyrocketing, and Peter literally jumps off him to the side of the bed, into a crouch, eyes flashing.

The door bangs against its stopper and two men—hunters, his brain supplies. fuck—enter with, fuck fuck fuck, Gerard strolling in behind them; he'd appear almost leisurely if it weren't for the rage in his eyes. Peter shifts completely, his senses screaming danger. He snarls when one of the hunters turns toward him and flicks the rod he's holding out to its full length. In his peripheral he can see Chris standing on the opposite side of the bed, his shoulders held back in a tense stance. He’d look stronger if he didn’t look so terrified.

"Christopher," Gerard spits out, his voice tight with anger. "I can't say I'm surprised to find you betraying your wife like this. You always were weak." Peter glances from the two hunters standing in front of him, trapping him between the bed and the exit, to see Chris stiffen, his face closing up more than Peter thought possible. "But honestly," Gerard continues, "I would have rather you waste yourself on a whore than this thing."

Peter growls at that, snapping his teeth. The hunter closest steps forward quickly and smacks the rod into Peter's chest. He's not expecting the jolt of electricity to come through and it hits him with a force that knocks him onto his side, his jaw grinding shut as his body convulses.

"Get out," Chris says from the other side of the bed, and even as searing, white hot pain flashes beneath his eyelids, Peter can make out the way his voice shakes on the words. There's a venom there, though, and Peter struggles to gain composure of his screaming muscles enough to open his eyes, to see what's going on.

"We're well past the point of no return, boy," Gerard counters.

"Get out," Chris says again, practically spitting the words out. There's the unmistakable sound of a palm connecting with flesh, and Peter finally finds the strength to open his eyes, claws trying to spring out again, but his body refuses to comply. He feels helpless as he stares up from the floor at the open-palmed red mark blooming on Chris's cheek, and the way Gerard is gripping his wrists almost tight enough to snap bone. "You're a disgrace in every conceivable way," he snaps at Chris.

"Let him go," Peter hisses, not realizing he's speaking until the words leave his mouth. Gerard's attention snaps to him, his lips curling up in a snarl. He flicks his eyes to one of the other hunters and nods. The rod hits Peter again, this time against his neck and it's held there longer, forcing his throat to seizes from the shock, his breath locking in his lungs.

It feels like an eternity by the time his body calms enough to release the air held in his chest and he's gasping and his eyes are watering enough that tears are escaping in full force. He can hear yelling now but can't make out the words. He curls into himself and focuses on the shaky breaths he can blessedly take now. He hears a shuffling and the sound of something knocking to the floor. He pulls his eyes open to see Chris pinned against the wall next to the bedside table with Gerard's forearm against his throat, their faces inches apart. Gerard is seething; Chris's face is a mixture of fear and humiliation. Peter's stomach turns at the sight. He has to get out, knows they'll kill him if he doesn't get away.

He swallows a groan and rolls onto his knees, keeping his body curled defensively inward as he tries to will it to heal itself, now. He can feel the hunters shift toward him, can feel the electricity in the air and still buzzing under his skin.

"It's not—" Chris starts.

"It's not what?" Gerard interrupts. "It's not betraying your family and everything we stand for? It’s exactly what it looks like. You’re in bed with the enemy. You’re fucking a monster that wouldn’t hesitate to kill you, or Victoria, or sweet little Allison.”

Chris pushes Gerard off with a sound of rage. “I would never put her in danger.”

“You have been for weeks,” Gerard says, voice booming through the room. Peter’s not sure who moves first, Gerard or Chris, but a second later Chris has a hand at Gerard’s throat. He risks a glance toward the two hunters, whose attention is momentarily focused on the tussle. A quick test of flexing his hand into a fist proves that his muscles are still aching painfully, but he’s at least regained control over his movements again. If he’s going to get out, this is his chance.

There’s the sound of someone being knocked forcefully into the wall, and when he looks back, Chris no longer has the upper hand in their fight. Gerard has him pinned to the wall with the force of his full weight, and then his fist connects with Chris’s jaw in one swift, well-trained movement. And then again. The sound is sickening.

He swears Chris’s eyes lock onto his for a second, but then his gaze is gone again as he tries to protect himself from the next blow.

The hunters are too busy gawking to notice Peter springing to his feet. He’s fumbling more than he’d like, his body screaming in protest, but he’s still faster off his game than they are, and by the time they’re pulling out their rods again, he’s out the door, his feet pounding down the faded hotel carpeting and then the staircase as fast as he can manage.

---

Peter doesn't go home for two days. There’s no proof that Gerard knew more about him than what he is, and that he has a certain fondness for Chris Argent’s dick, but he still has no intention of drawing them right to his family. He’s not a complete idiot.

His senses are on high alert the entire time, and even though he knows there's no one following him—he'd have smelled them, heard their heartbeat, anything—he can't shake the feeling that he’s still under threat. That this isn’t over. That someone's just watching him and waiting for him to mess up, so they can inflict pain. A lot of pain.

So he stays gone. He fires off a text to his brother that he has last minute business out of town and turns off his phone just in case they're tracking him, and gives himself way too much time to think. How did Gerard find them? Which one had he been trailing? How long has he known?

These are the questions Peter busies himself with as he holes up in a motel three hours away, subsisting on crappy vending machine snacks which are going to be hell on his figure and feeling the paranoia in his chest bloom with each passing hour until it's twisted up his insides, like the branches of a dying tree searching out the last gleam of sunlight. It's still easier than the questions he really wants answered. Is Chris alive? Are they still coming for me?

But they don't. After two days, and no hunter in sight, Peter drives home in the cover of darkness. He’s already made up his mind to keep quiet. There’s too much possibility that someone in his family is going to want to exact revenge against the Argents (either father or son, really), and starting a war over this seems like a surefire way to get them all killed. So they barely blink an eye at his concocted story about meeting up with an old high school friend on Friday night, and it’s not exactly a lie. He just leaves out the parts about fucking him, or his hunter father catching them with their pants down and then trying to kill them.

It makes the story a lot less dramatic, but it’s better this way.

But it still makes the dull roar in Peter's ears that much louder. It threatens to swallow him whole, to pull him under, this sense of overwhelming, impending doom and dread. Chris hasn't made contact, and neither have the hunters. It's the not knowing that he's always hated. You can survive if you have a plan, but you can only win if you can anticipate your enemy's next move and gain the upper hand.

Finally, Peter can't take it anymore and he risks a stop by Chris's house. He's never been here before, and it's quaint, much more normal looking for an Argent house than Peter expects. But he's mostly been expecting dungeons and booby traps and possibly a moat. Instead, there's just a quaint little house on the end of a cul de sac, smelling of freshly polished wood and lavender, and a For Sale sign posted out front. He doesn't break in—maybe there really are booby traps inside or a hex or even, scariest of all, Victoria Argent—but he can see the place has been cleared of any personal belongings, and it makes his stomach twist up in knots. The dark, growing sense of dread threatens to swallow him whole.

He has plans to start looking for him. But the investigation is cut short that night when someone burns him and his entire family to the ground.

That sort of puts a damper on things.

---

Life—if he could even call it that now—is a messy, pain-filled haze. He's not used to pain like this, or pain of any kind, really. Growing up werewolf will do that to you. Skinned knees healed almost as quickly as they appeared, broken bones needing only a good nights sleep to mend, a phantom twinge the only reminder by morning. This, though, this is something else entirely.

He remembers the heat, the way it felt like his skin was melting away, which he supposes it was doing just that. His genetics tried to save him but only helped to make it worse. His body trying desperately to heal itself but the fire was too strong and the two opposing forces just prolonged his agony. There was a time directly after, when he was swaddled in a cocoon of blankets, the pain muted slightly and his mind a fog.

There's a memory—or a dream, it's hard to differentiate the two—of Laura hovering above him, speaking with tears in her eyes. They flickered crimson, telling him all he needs to know; he has a new alpha.

Sometimes there are others—they must be doctors, nurses, dressed all in drab white and looking at charts, but they never speak to him. Even if they did, he’s not sure he could make out the words. Sometimes he sees Laura again or once—with tears streaming down his face and looking anything but like the young boy Peter remembers—there’s Derek. He can hear a hum when they’re around, knows they’re speaking to him—but something in his brain must be misfiring, because his body refuses to move to brush their tears away, his mind refuses to translate the words they’re saying. When he doesn’t see the others, though, he can guess their fate. He doesn’t need words to fill in some of the blanks.

Maybe it’s better to just let the world drift in and out, he decides. He’s not sure how much of this world he really recognizes anymore anyway.

He doesn’t know how much time passes, but eventually his senses start to come back to him. It starts out slow, so slow he almost doesn’t notice it, but then he finds himself catching words in what the nurses are saying around him, and then whole sentences. He regains his sense of smell. But he still can’t get his body to cooperate and just move, and he still can’t cry out for his family. So all it really means is that he’s suddenly painstaking aware of how boring his life has become, lost in his own thoughts.

He takes to listening to the nurses gossip in the hallways, considers it his own private soap opera for who is sleeping with who this week, who wronged who, and how they’re all reading some book called Twilight, which frankly, terrifies him. This is what passes for literature in whatever year this is?

This is his entertainment now. This is his life. It really sucks.

He almost misses the days of being blissfully unaware and hazy. Almost.

And then one day, he feels something stir in his chest. It’s been so long since he felt anything like the clawing sensation in the pit of his stomach that he almost doesn’t recognize it, but somewhere inside him, his wolf stirs. He’s so preoccupied with the feeling that he misses what must be its cause entirely, until Chris Argent is sliding into his room, thanking a nurse for directing him, and closing the door behind him.

His wolf whines inside his chest at the sight of Chris standing before him and even if he had any control, his heartbeat would still beat off the charts. Chris looks older, a speckling of gray at his temples and his furrowed brow makes the creases around his eyes stand out. It’s stupid, but Peter is suddenly grateful he was bathed today and is sitting in his chair instead of lying in that damn bed. Feels like he can almost pretend he’s not the invalid he is now. If only he could force his body to heal like he should be able to, to be able to speak out and say a simple hello.

Chris looks as though he’s going to step forward but aborts at the last second, standing awkwardly near the door, hands shoved deep into his pockets. He looks everywhere but directly at Peter.

“I...uh-” Chris starts, as he gestures toward the door, “they said you can’t speak...but it’s good if I-” He stops again, his face scrunched up. He looks uncomfortable, like he’d rather be anywhere else. Peter can relate.

Chris scratches at the back of his head and finally looks at Peter, really looks. Peter’s seen himself in the mirror, he knows he’s disfigured and disgusting. He’s beyond bandages now, healed enough that he’s just a scarred shell of a man. In more ways than one. Chris’s face crumbles from discomfort to a pitying sadness. Peter hates it. He wants to turn away so Chris can’t see him and he can’t see Chris’s reaction.

“I’m sorry.”

Something aches in Peter’s chest from not being able to say the words back. He knows they’re cut from the same cloth, and that Chris understands the need for self-preservation that carried him out the door that night. He wouldn’t have begrudged Chris doing the same thing if he’d had his own shot at getting out of that situation, even knows he wouldn’t have done anything differently. But that’s never been enough to quiet the worry or the wonder of what happened after. He feels something akin to regret, but deeper, sharper. It’s been a long time since he’s actively wished he were dead in more than a passing, bored thought. But now, watching Chris and being unable to participate in this conversation in any way, he wishes it.

Because really, what’s the fucking point?

“I’m sorry,” Chris repeats again, and his hands hover uncertainly in the air, his gaze flitting around the room. It’s the first time that Peter can remember where he looks so unsure—but is it just age and his defenses gradually being worn down, or does Peter unnerve him? In the end, he rubs the back of his neck with one hand, settling the other on the bed to work the sheet between his fingers. “I bet you hate not being able to tell me to get to the point, right?”

Peter really doesn’t. He doesn’t get many visitors anymore anyway, and sort of delights when anyone talks to him now. Anyone at all. Even the janitor. With the mullet.

Chris sighs again. “We just moved back. I guess... I don’t know what Victoria’s thinking, actually.”

On second thought, maybe Chris should shut up if he’s going to talk about his wife.

“It was her idea, you know,” Chris says, and that gets Peter’s full and undivided attention. “I didn’t have a choice.” Peter thinks Chris might sound sorrowful but he really can’t focus over the roaring in his ears. His chest is rising and falling quicker, his heart pounding against his ribs, his mind racing, and suddenly he’s picking up every detail. From the nurse posted outside at the desk, filing her nails, to the soft whistle Chris’s nose makes as he breathes. Chris’s heart is beating steady. There was no lie in that confession.

He’s always suspected the Argent’s were to blame for the fire but he didn’t expect Chris to be involved. Or maybe he was hoping that was the case. He liked to think they had more than just a physical connection but maybe that was one-sided.

“If I could take it back,” Chris starts, and Peter can feel his mind willing his claws to lengthen and sharpen, even if he knows his body does nothing but lay there immobile. Is that meant to be some sort of comfort for what’s happened to his family? He’d laugh, and tear open Chris’s throat, if he could.

What else do you think he’s capable of? the twisted, broken part of him whispers in his mind. Had he gone home, bloodied and bruised to his wife, and begged for forgiveness by promising to destroy Peter and his family?

Or maybe he’d been playing Peter. Maybe he’d been the one who had tipped Gerard off, had offered himself up for the abuse to put on a good show, to distract him or gather intel, in the name of their cause. Inside him, the wolf is anxious and howling now, loud and threatening to tear his insides apart.

Chris reaches to touch Peter’s hair, to run his fingers through the too-long-length of curls, and Peter doesn’t want to die anymore. He wants to destroy, to kill.

---

School dances haven't changed much since Peter was a teenager. There's still horrible music, awkward teenagers who don't know how to slow dance (though Peter is proud to say he at least never fit into that particular category), and the lingering aroma of both hope and disappointment in equal measures.

Peter's not a teenager anymore, though. He's not sure what he is now, actually. Is he a man? He's spent too many years now as both beast and disfigured invalid to feel more man than monster. So is that what he is? Peter feels like he's regained some semblance of control over the wolf now that he's pretty sure there won't be another unfortunate incident like with Laura (and his chest tightens just thinking about that), but does that mean he's past all redemption?

So he's caught between two worlds instead, not sure which side is going to win out. Or even which side he'd like to win.

Right now, all that matters are the tasks at hand: finding Derek and killing Chris. And he's willing to be swayed on which one he does first.

Peter scans the crowd, waiting. Scott will know how to find Derek, and he’s here, upstairs somewhere—Peter heard him the moment he hit the roof. It’s just a matter of time until he makes his way down to the dance floor though, and Peter is a master at being patient now. A coma will do that to you.

At least the punch is good.

He spots Stiles sitting at a table with a pretty redhead, who can only be Lydia. Derek has barely spoken in the last three days, even before he went and got himself kidnapped, but in the months before, his visits to Peter have been a great source of gossip for all things Beacon Hills High School. He feels like he knows all about them, even likes some of them. Even if his only real interaction with any of them has been Stiles and that had been a little more... adversarial.

He wasn’t really going to kill him back at the hospital.

He’s pretty sure Derek’s still pissed about that, though.

“All these teenagers are so over dramatic,” Peter says, waving his chopstick dismissively as he reaches for another sushi roll. Derek eyes the food like it’s poisoned—or at least not whatever combination of meat and potato Peter’s pretty sure he eats on a normal basis. But for a first meal after being in a coma for six years, he’s allowed something slightly more exotic than meatloaf. Good God.

“Stiles isn’t really going to ‘go all medieval on your crazy werewolf ass’. Unless you give him reason. And then I may help.”

Derek says it so dryly that Peter actually smiles. “I like him.” He rolls his eyes at the dark look Derek shoots him. “Are you jealous? That’s adorable. But terribly misguided.”

Derek eyes him suspiciously but eventually just grunts in response, scowling at the California roll on his plate that he has yet to touch.

“I can see what you like about him,” Peter says, and Derek’s eyes widen, looking caught. “And I can appreciate Stiles’s flair for the dramatic. No, it’s the other one who’s too over the top. Scott. It’s not like we’re asking for much from him,” he says, considering their conversation in the locker room. “Just a little... cooperation.”

Derek looks up at him again, but keeps his expression hardened this time. He’s been less than receptive since Peter came back a few hours ago, but given the circumstances and that he’d probably roughed Derek and Stiles up a bit more than necessary back at the hospital, Peter will allow it.

“You’d think he’d want to help,” Peter continues into the silence. There’s been far too much of it in his life already. “Once the Argents are out of the way, there are fewer people standing between him and Allison and their supposed happy ending. Unless the apple really doesn’t fall far from the tree, and daughter really is like mother.”

Derek cocks his head at that. “Or father.”

Peter feels a surge of anger blossom in his chest, the same way it had the night in the park when he’d killed those men who had set the fire. But he manages to clamp down on it this time, even if he can’t be sure his face doesn’t gives away just how close he really is to letting his control slip out of his grasp. “Yes, or father. They all need to pay. And we’ll need Scott’s help to do it.”

He’s got no intention of letting anyone else go after Chris, though. He’s going to be the one to rip his throat open, and he’s going to savor every minute of it.

His attention is redirected as he hears a familiar voice across the room and looks over to find Allison talking to some friends, her smile not quite reaching her eyes. She's really not having fun at all here.

She’s a vision in the dress he picked out though, and something about that makes his lips curl up in a smile. The idea that Chris potentially snapped photographs of them earlier, or his wife told her she looked stunning, with both of them unaware of just how much of this day their enemy has orchestrated.

He's been waiting a long time for this, and he's had months since Chris admitted he's the one responsible for the fire to plot out how to make him suffer. He plans to enjoy this.

"Hey, you."

Peter turns his head just enough to see a man in an ill-fitting suit wandering over to him. His nametag reads FINSTOCK. "Are you a chaperone?" Finstock asks, crossing his arms in front of his chest.

Peter's gaze swipes over him once before offering a warm smile, well-practiced. "Of course."

Finstock looks completely unimpressed. "Then how about you stop oogling the high school students and get to breaking up make out sessions, huh?"

"Right," Peter says, stepping across Finstock's personal space barrier. He pauses long enough to be adequately unnerving, Finstock's heart rate ticking up in annoyance and with a touch of fear, his eyes widening more than their already comically large state. "I'll go do that, then." He steps around him toward the hallway exiting the gym.

Finstock's mumbles something about creepy ass parents and how that was probably Greenberg’s dad but Peter stops paying attention when he picks up a voice in the distance outside the school. Chris's voice. He follows it outside to the woods beyond the school.

“We’ll use the Beta to draw out the Alpha,” Chris is saying in hushed tones to his fellow hunters. “Keep your firearms out of sight when possible. We don’t need to interrupt the dance and cause a frenzy of panicked teenagers.”

The men stop when Chris raises his fist, on alert, and then Peter notices the other voice calling out, to him, “Come on. I know you’re here.” It’s that obnoxious teen, Jackson, from the video store. He’s sniveling on the forest floor, begging for the bite. If he wasn’t so desperate Peter might consider offering but the whining is very unbecoming.

Peter hangs back to watch their approach. Chris has his smug hunter face on and Peter wants to rip it off his face, or maybe just rip his face off entirely. His claws extend, itching to tear through Chris. Chris appears sincere in his convictions, and it’s spectacularly easy for him to convince that little shit to lure Scott outside and right into their trap, but Peter knows what he looks like when he’s laid out, bare and blissed, and this Chris isn’t the real one. This is the Chris Gerard wanted, the stone cold hunter and not the man who fell for the enemy. Or maybe that was all a mask too.

Chris put an arm over Jackson’s shoulders to lead him back toward the school, and Peter knows this is his chance. He can still reach them, shift into full Alpha, take them all out, finally punish Chris for his sins. This is what he’s been waiting for.

But he doesn’t. He watches them load into their SUVs, frozen in his spot. It shouldn’t bother him, killing Chris. He deserves it, Peter is certain, but he just. Can’t.

“Jackson!” The redhead, Lydia, calls from near the school and he knows what to do now. Maybe Peter will get his shit together and kill Chris later but for now, he’ll settle for turning his daughter’s best friend.

---

Peter feels pretty safe in saying that this hasn’t been his year. Maybe even not his decade, but definitely not his year. Now that he’s had time to reflect, Peter thinks that maybe he did prefer the coma after all. To being dead, anyway.

He doesn’t blame Derek for what happened. He’d have done the same thing if their situations had been reversed. It’s just that he’d like to try sticking around for more than three days this time. And sure, it had been thrilling to finally wipe at least one Argent off the face of the Earth, but a few months stuck under the floorboards rotting away? He’ll take a coma any day. At least that came with sponge baths.

But that’s all behind him. It’s been a long, slow, torturous process coming back—and he’s just grateful that all it took to shake Lydia’s attitude and turn her into someone who could follow a few simple orders was just a few months of psychotic nightmares, a small price to pay—but he’s here. In flesh that’s healed, not scarred over from the fire.

And he can still feel the anger and the hurt deep in the pit of his stomach, but he’s not searching it out this time. He’s refusing to let it dictate his actions anymore.

Which may not entirely explain why he’s currently camped out on the Argent property, watching Chris and Gerard from a distance through the window as they go over a map of areas they’re searching. For a kanima, which, just great. Derek’s apparently let the entire town go to hell in a handbasket in his wake.

“She’s too young,” Chris says as he pours them each a finger of scotch. He’s slightly more liberal with his own glass—and even from here, Peter can tell he looks more worn down than the last time he’d seen Chris. There are bags under his eyes from lack of sleep and new stress lines etched onto his face. The wedding ring is gone too, but he can’t say that he’s particularly sorry about that development. “I don’t like throwing her into this.”

“You should have told her sooner,” Gerard admonishes, tone sharp. “What’s happening to her now is on you, Christopher.”

“What’s happening now shouldn’t be happening at all,” Chris continues, firmer. “She’s my daughter. We didn’t want this for her.”

“So you’d prefer she not be able to defend herself?” Gerard is leaning back against the wall now and his tone has softened, and Peter rolls his eyes at how subtle he probably thinks he’s being. He can smell the manipulation from a mile away.

Chris glares at him, but doesn’t answer.

“Because she’s going to need to know, eventually. How long do you think it’s going to be until Scott loses control around her?”

“Scott isn’t a bad kid.” It looks like it pains him to say the words. Peter’s met Scott, and he can relate. He’s useful, but far too concerned about doing the right thing. And Allison. It’s always about Allison with that kid.

“It’s a high school romance,” Gerard supplies, watching Chris closely. He’s going in for whatever trap he’s set up here, it’s so obvious it makes Peter’s chest ache for the lack of subtlety. “What was it I heard you tell Scott? High school romances burn bright and fade fast? You’d best hope so, or someone may have to intervene. For her protection.”

Chris is sitting rigid, clearly furious, but he’s not shrinking back from the conversation Which is... interesting. Peter can’t quite put his finger on why. Yet, anyway.

They’re distracted enough that Peter dares to get closer to the house, and he presses a hand to the exterior of it—there’s no mountain ash, no wards, no nothing keeping him out if he wanted in. For a hunter, it’s either arrogance, or he’s hoping something that crawls in the night finds its way inside.

Which is even more interesting.

---

“This place is, uh, pretty devoid of anything even resembling a personality,” Stiles says, turning around in a circle to survey the room. He bumps into a coffee table that Peter’s pretty sure Derek scoured from a dumpster. “It suits you perfectly, Derek.”

Peter smirks, because he had almost the same reaction the day before when Derek brought him and Isaac to his new loft. It’s cold and hard and impersonal—and some might say the blue suede couch or the chipped lamp in the corner give it character, but Peter would beg to differ.

“You’re hilarious,” Derek says, crossing his arms in front of his chest.

“It would be less hideous without the furniture,” Peter offers, and Stiles jumps a little at the sound of his voice, like he’d forgotten Peter has been leaning against the wall since he got here. Even considering that he’d helped them defeat the kanima without sacrificing Jackson’s life, it’s obvious that Stiles still isn’t sure Peter can be trusted, or that he’s not going to lose control again like that first time. Peter can’t really blame the instinct to distrust. “But it is safer.” He pauses, tilting his head to the side in consideration. “Assuming we don’t run into anything else with wings.”

“Why is he here again?” Stiles asks Derek, ignoring Peter as if he hadn’t spoken.

Derek looks at Peter for a long time, like he’s trying to figure that exact question out, before saying, “I’m not really sure myself.”

Peter gives his best exaggerated eyeroll and pushes off from the wall to walk as close to Stiles as possible on his way to sit on the couch. He stretches his legs out onto the coffee table and says, casually, “I’m here to help.”

“Help with what?” Scott chimes in, stepping closer to Stiles defensively. Peter’s not really sure why he’s here at all. Scott had made his opinion of Derek perfectly clear the other night at the warehouse. If Scott wasn’t a bitten wolf, Peter would’ve had some choice words with him about what he did to Derek—as ridiculous as it sounds, the bite is a gift and not something an Alpha gives arbitrarily. Peter may have been out of his mind when he bit Scott, but he still chose him. He just chose...poorly. “The kanima is dead,” Scott continues, “it’s all over now.”

His naivety would be endearing if it wasn’t so grating. “Haven’t you ever heard the phrase, ‘If you cut off one head, two more take its place?” Peter asks. The blank stare he gets in return is enough to make him roll his eyes. “There’s always going to be a new enemy. Have you still not grasped the concept that Derek was building up a pack because there’s strength in numbers? There’s a reason that’s important. We’re vulnerable.”

Scott’s gaze flickers over to Stiles for confirmation, but Stiles is busy studying Derek across the room, looking like he wants to say something. Derek’s staring back, but his lips are pressed together in a thin, hard line, refusing to give away whatever thoughts are swimming around in his head. It reminds Peter of something, or someone, that makes his chest ache.

He flashes a smile at Scott when he has his attention again, and pushes at the coffee table with one foot so that it wobbles precariously. It unfortunately doesn’t break. “And until that time, I can redecorate.”

“What aren’t you telling us?” Stiles asks, looking between Derek and Peter. He’s too smart for his own good; the bruising on his cheek and his cut lip are evidence of that.

“Why don’t you ask your alpha?” Derek says, face stony. Peter snickers and is about to quip ‘touché’ but Derek flashes red eyes at him and his lifelong instinct kicks in and he shuts up.

Scott huffs, already heading for the door when he calls back, “Let’s go, Stiles.”

Stiles hesitates, eyes lingering on Derek a little too long, before he finally moves to follow. He stops at the door—well, at the hole in the wall—and turns back. “Just...let us know if we can help. We need to work together from now on.” He doesn’t wait for a response, not that Derek would’ve given one. Peter might have suggested a moonlit campfire and group kumbaya singalong if he’d stayed around long enough to hear.

Derek doesn’t move from where he’s standing, even when the loft falls silent enough that the only discernible sound is a soft whistling from his nose as he breaths in and out, clearly losing himself to his thoughts. Peter finally takes pity on him, turning to face him. “Is there a reason you aren’t, what do the kids call it these days? Hitting that?” It does the trick of getting Derek out of his reverie, but he just frowns at Peter. “Oh, please. It’s obvious to anyone with eyes.”

“You don’t know anything,” Derek says, stomping over to join him on the sofa. He takes up the furthest possible position from Peter that he can manage, and Peter’s sure he’d be even further away if he’d thought to rummage up more than the one sofa.

“I know attraction,” Peter argues, tapping the side of his nose.

“I wouldn’t be good for him,” Derek says, which is more of an admission than Peter had really expected, but it’s so comically bleak that Peter has to fight the urge to roll his eyes.

“When will you get over this guilt complex?” Peter sighs. “Because I may technically qualify as un-dead, but you’re not the last living relative anymore. So get over it.”

Derek stares at him, face paling. “Don’t you know?” he asks.

“Know what?”

Derek grips the edges of the sofa, features pinching up in clear pain. He looks ready to pass out or run away screaming. “What happened,” he says, slowly. “Kate Argent... I...”

Peter waves his hand dismissively. “That’s no reason to deny yourself.”

“I slept with her,” Derek hisses.

Derek stares at him, somewhere between horrified and confused, before he has to look away. Peter realizes they haven’t done this. In all of his haste to get revenge, and through the fog that followed the coma, they haven’t actually discussed what happened. It hasn’t even occurred to him until right now that Derek has been shouldering the blame for this, for years, and he feels an overwhelming sense of loss—for the missing time, for the way things will never be as easy as they should have been for Derek or himself. He owes Derek something, though, especially after what he took from him: Laura.

He lets out a breath, “Listen, Derek. You should know.” Derek still isn’t looking at him and he’s glad because he’s finding it more difficult to get the words out than he thought. “What happened wasn’t your fault.” Derek’s head snaps up and he looks angry, like Peter’s wrong for trying to take away the thing he’s clung to so tightly for the last six years, when all he has left is his guilt. “Hear me out. I’m not trying to appease you. I know you don’t trust me but I’m one-hundred percent serious when I say the fire rests on my shoulders.”

“You don’t know what happened,” Derek starts, cautious, like he’s not even sure that’s the truth.

Peter shakes his head at him. “I know exactly what happened, and it had nothing to do with you sleeping with Kate Argent. Don’t give me that look, I’m not omnipotent. I remembered her scent from that night I caught you sneaking out.” He flexes his fingers, letting himself replay her death over in his head. He may have been crazy, but that’s one thing he’s never going to regret.

Derek’s gone even more tense, which Peter hadn’t thought possible, but he’s quiet as he studies Peter, waiting. Peter lets out a shaky breath. “I let myself get involved with someone who I knew better than to trust, but I did it anyway.”

When Derek remains quiet, Peter realizes he’s going to have to just say it. “I was sleeping with Chris.”

“Argent?” Derek’s eyebrows shoot up in genuine surprise and his voice squeaks a little.

“The one and only.” Derek’s looks away, his mouth opening and closing like he’s not sure what to say and Peter figures he’ll give him a moment to process. “We had a... thing—” he grimaces. It’s a crude way to describe what they had but there isn’t a better way to classify it. “—going all the way back to high school. Gerard found out a few days before the fire.”

Derek’s silent for a long moment, but then he turns back to Peter, remembering. “You were gone for a few days before.”

“I was in hiding, until I thought it was over,” Peter says, letting the guilt wash over him for the first time. Maybe if he’d just come instead, told the pack what had happened... “I never thought they’d go that far,” he finishes, but it’s far from enough.

The silence stretches on between them until Derek finally says, quietly, “They were good.” Peter looks at him, confused, until Derek continues. “At manipulating you into feeling things. At making you feel safe when you weren’t. Kate was... She was the same way.”

Peter would give anything to be able to go back in time just then. “They were good,” Peter agrees, and he has to turn his head away so he doesn’t have to keep looking at Derek. He wants to tell him how he had the chance to take Chris out once and for all, but he couldn’t do it—but it feels like an even deeper betrayal, now that he’s said it all out loud.

The slight easing of tension in Derek’s shoulders will have to count as a victory instead.

---

He doesn’t know what he’s doing here. Again. This is the third time since he’s been back that he’s stood outside Chris’s home for no reason. Maybe he’s subconsciously hoping Chris will storm out the door with a shotgun or scare him away with wolfsbane laced lawn sprinklers. Or maybe he’s just a masochist and he misses Chris and he’s hoping to catch a glimpse of him through the window. Which is unlocked.

Peter isn’t dumb enough to think it was on accident. Chris isn’t the sort of person to invite intruders. Well, intruders other than Peter, that is. He slips in without making a sound and finds himself standing in the breakfast nook. He feels almost giddy that he’s actually inside, which is ridiculous. He feels ridiculous too.

The small light above the stove clicks on revealing Chris leaning against the counter with his legs crossed casually in front. Peter walks into the kitchen and spreads his hands out over the island. It’s not awkward. Okay, it’s a little awkward. They haven’t actually spoken to one another in years and the few encounters they’ve had since haven’t exactly been pleasant. “Surprise,” Peter says with a smirk and little wave of his hand.

“Indeed,” is all Chris is willing to offer, apparently.

“Aren’t you going to welcome me back to the land of the living?” It’s been a week since he and Derek killed (temporarily) Jackson in front of everyone, effectively announcing his return. Not that anyone has made him feel very welcome.

“Congratulations,” he says, wry.

“Your manners haven’t improved since high school,” Peter chides, leaning further over the island and closer to Chris. He doesn’t move.

“Is there proper etiquette for murdering psychopaths returning from the grave?” Chris asks, eyes flicking over to him. “Was I supposed to buy you a toaster?”

Peter waves his hand dismissively. “I’m not a psychopath anymore. Your father has that title all sewn up.”

Chris doesn’t even do him the satisfaction of scowling. Which is really a shame, as Peter has missed that scowl.

“I don’t need a toaster, anyway,” Peter continues, rounding the kitchen island to stand in front of him. They’re still not touching—he can feel the nervous energy vibrating off Chris, and as much as he’d like to take his involvement yesterday as a sign that he’s not planning on killing Peter in his kitchen right now, Peter’s learned his instincts are usually awry when it comes to Argents. At least he’s seen with his own eyes that Allison is spending the night at Lydia’s, or he’d probably have a crossbow aimed at his back by now.

“What do you want, Peter?” he says with a small sigh. He looks tired, the graying around his temples making him look years older than his age.

Peter has debated that question a lot lately. When he set up his backup plan to return from the dead if necessary—which was good planning on his part, evidently—he’d done so with the intent to kill whoever had killed him to begin with, as well as finish avenging his family. It’s all he’s thought about since the fire. Things have changed, though. He’s glad to not be alpha; Derek can bear that load now, thank you very much. And standing here, he knows he’s not going to kill Chris, just as he knew back at the high school months ago.

“I was going to kill you, you know.” It says something about Chris that he doesn’t flinch. He doesn’t even look scared. Rude. “‘Was’ being the operative word.”

“What changed your mind?” Chris asks.

“Still not quite sure about that one. I...couldn’t.” He has to look away from him now. “Not that you didn’t deserve it,” he adds and when he looks up again, Chris looks confused. Peter flashes him a smile. “You think I don’t remember what you said in the hospital just because I was in a coma? Please.”

This time, Chris looks angry.

He levers off the counter and steps closer. “So I deserve to die for that?” he asks, and Peter can feel his blood boiling, but he reins his control in. “You think I wanted that?”

Peter sniffs. “I know you wanted it. That’s not the kind of decision one makes on a whim.”

“Vict-my wife made the decision to move after what I’d done to her. Gerard and his men beat the shit out of me that night. I woke up the next morning with busted ribs and a packed house.” He’s definitely angry now, yelling. “So don’t you fucking dare say I deserved to die. I paid for what we did.”

His hands are balled into fists, and he’s in Peter’s face now, shaking with anger. But Peter can barely focus, his mind racing to catch up. “What are you talking about?” he hisses, but it doesn’t sound like his own voice. It’s too frantic.

Chris growls at him, shoving his chest and pushing him back against the island. One of the edges digs into Peter’s side. “What are you talking about?”

Peter stares back at him, eyes wide, as the panic in his chest ratchets up another notch. And then just like that, Chris’s words are clicking into place. “You didn’t set the fire.”

Chris deflates at the words and reels back, and he looks as confused as Peter feels. “What? Of course not.” He takes a step away, giving Peter room the breathe, which he honestly needs. When Peter doesn’t say anything, Chris continues, his voice quiet now. “I only found out Kate was responsible hours before you killed her.”

Peter takes a deep breath, and another. “I thought-” he starts but doesn’t know how to finish.

“Gerard,” Chris says, and his voice breaks on the word. “He had Kate spying on you and your family. That’s how he found out. And then after he caught us, and got me out of town, they came up with the idea to...”

The world feels like it’s been tilted on its axis. Everything he thought was wrong. He’s never been so completely wrong about something as he has been about Chris, and it leaves him spinning. The betrayal he felt suddenly lifts only to be replaced with the thought of what if I had killed him.

Chris moves forward cautiously and puts his hand on Peter’s shoulder. “I would never,” is all he says when Peter finally meets his eyes. Peter’s looks to the hand on his shoulder and feels the weight of it, the heat seeping through his sweater into his skin. It’s the first time they’ve touched, since. When he looks back, Chris is watching him with a familiar fondness. The hand on his shoulder moves to the side of his neck and rests there, and Peter’s breath hitches as he’s struck by a fierce want he hasn’t let himself feel in a very long time.

Chris steps forward to close the space between them. “I’m sorry,” he says, his thumb rubbing against the underside of Peter’s jaw.

“For what?”

“For abandoning you. For being a coward and never standing up to my father.” The hand on his neck flexes and Chris’s jaw tightens. “I was afraid of him, even up until a few days ago. I let him control me and too many people suffered.”

Peter swallows, and Chris tracks the movement, sliding his free arm around his waist. “Guilt isn’t sexy,” Peter murmurs, going for humor, but it comes out too shaky to hit its mark. Chris just keeps watching him, until he draws in another sharp breath and continues. “You took a stance when it mattered.”

“Not soon enough,” Chris says, and Peter’s sure he’s going to say something horribly stupid next like, I don’t deserve this or even I missed you, and then what little of him that’s holding it together now won’t be any longer. But instead, Chris closes the distance between them, pressing a far too chaste kiss to his lips and backing him up against the counter again. Peter can tell he’s still being cautious, like he’s afraid one wrong movement will shatter the moment.

Chris kisses him again and Peter lifts a hand to the back of his head and deepens it, letting his fingers roam and tug. The coiled tension he’s become so used to finally eases under Chris’s touch, like it’s been waiting for just this moment to give him a reprieve. Chris groans into his mouth and Peter breaks away to suck at the tendrils of Chris’s neck he’s been dreaming about since high school.

Chris is wearing pajama pants and Peter would like to take a moment to thank whatever lord is available because he can easily feel just how much Chris missed him. He presses his free hand on Chris’s cock over the fabric and Chris bucks into it, cursing, “fuck,” into Peter’s ear. Peter grins and makes him do it again.

“You’re evil,” Chris grins back when he’s found his breath again, tugging at the hem of Peter’s shirt and pulling upwards. Peter whines at having to move his hands off Chris to get his shirt off, but the moment he’s naked from the waist up and Chris is leaning forward to run his tongue over his chest, teeth scraping over one of his nipples, it’s all but forgotten.

There’s a sudden frenzied need that wasn’t there before, and Peter finds himself being lifted up to sit on the kitchen counter as Chris leans up for another kiss and presses against his leg. His desperation to get closer, now, makes Peter shiver.

Chris breaks the kiss and Peter absolutely does not whine, except that he does but mostly because Chris pulls his pants open enough to free his cock with long fingers wrapped deliberately around it. Peter drops his head against Chris’s shoulder and plans to say something like oh god or fuck, your fingers but it comes out unintelligible when Chris strokes him from the base up.

Chris pulls back though and before Peter can object—and he’d like to object very loudly because no one touches him like Chris does—Chris is jogging out of the kitchen saying, “be right back,” over his shoulder.

Peter listens to his footfalls racing up the stairs and fading away, looking around the kitchen for lack of, well, anything else to do as he waits. There’s still dirty dishes in the sink, and a grocery store list on one of the counters that includes strawberry ice cream—and it’s so domestic he finds himself laughing.

Which is how Chris finds him a moment later when he returns, out of breath but brandishing a bottle of lubricant, which only makes Peter laugh more. “I don’t think that’s the appropriate response,” Chris says, not looking the slightest bit scandalized as he struggles to get out of the remainder of his clothes on his way back over to him.

“You like strawberry ice cream,” Peter says, grinning. “I’ve been thinking for years it was probably chocolate.”

Chris pauses for the briefest of moments, looking at Peter like he’s crazy, but then he just shakes it off because he’s apparently used to not understanding Peter.

“This is the first time I’ve been in your home,” Peter says, still smiling as Chris claims his mouth again.

“You want a tour?” Chris says, deadpan.

Peter’s laugh echoes through the kitchen. “Maybe later.”

Chris smiles against his chest, where he’s sucking a wet trail of kisses downward. He’s also helping to pull Peter’s pants off as Peter tries to shimmy out of them while sitting on the cold granite. Once they’re both freed of clothes, Chris stands between his legs and wraps his arms around Peter’s waist. He pulls him to the edge of the counter and Peter won’t deny he loves the feeling of Chris’s strong arms wrapped around him. He’s running his hands under his arms and over his shoulder blades to grip the nape of Chris’s neck and pull him in against him.

They stay like that for a few minutes, kissing and touching and fucking finally just being together without the threat of destruction looming over them like a storm cloud. Eventually Chris pulls back a little and looks Peter in the eyes, “I want to fuck you,” he says and Peter can’t help the shiver that goes down his spine.

“Are you waiting for a written invitation?” he asks, moving his hips toward Chris in a way that doesn’t leave anything to the imagination about what he wants. Chris smirks back at him, until Peter wipes the look off his face with another, harder kiss—leaving Chris fumbling for the lube he’d brought down.

At the first finger, Peter bites down on Chris’s lower lip. Not enough to draw blood, but Chris seems to like it too if the way he moans into his mouth is any indication. Chris’s other hand wraps around his cock again, stroking him through the addition of a second finger.

“I want you,” Peter gasps, tipping his head back—which Chris takes as a sign to begin kissing the expanse of skin there—and it might be the first time he’s ever said the words out loud.

Chris adds a third finger and bites down hard on the soft skin of his neck and Peter keens through his teeth. “Jesus, just fucking do it already,” he says, breathless.

“Maybe I want to make you wait a little longer. Make you beg for it,” Chris growls against his collarbone.

“I’ve waited six fucking years.” He doesn’t mean it to sound as desperate and mournful as it does but it has Chris pulling back to look at him again, hand freezing its thrusts. Something like understanding passes between them as they stare at one another for a moment. Chris knows how he’s feeling, he’s been waiting too. They’ve both waited much longer than six years to finally have this—have them.

“Shut up,” Peter says to Chris’s thinking and pulls him forward and catches his mouth. Peter reaches blindly for the lube and soaks his palm when he finds it. He coats Chris’s cock liberally, giving him a few playful tugs as he does so. Chris bites at his bottom lip and—fucking finally—pulls his fingers out to line up before pushing in.

Peter groans and shifts his hips up to wrap his legs around Chris’s waist as he eases into Peter. It’s true he wasn’t lamenting before, it has been years since he’s had any sort of sex, and he’s glad in theory that Chris is being gentle with him but he’s also a fucking werewolf. “Chris, I’m a werewolf, you’ll remember.”

“I recall,” Chris says, his voice clipped and focused.

“A recently risen from the dead one, to boot.”

“What’s your point?”

“I’m not going to break.”

Chris laughs and the motion reverberates up from his cock where it’s finally, blissfully buried balls deep in Peter. “It has never once crossed my mind that you’re breakable,” Chris says.

“Then how about you move your ass and fuck me already,” Peter practically pleads.

Chris laughs again but it fades into a moan as he shifts his hands to grip at Peter’s waist, moving faster in him. They kiss again, roughly, as Peter grips the edge of the counter and pushes his hips up to meet each thrust.

It was never going to last long—and it’s a testament to something that his brain cells are still firing enough to give him a brief flashback to their first short-timed encounter, but he’s determined to last longer than that. He works a hand between them, jacking himself off as Chris stares at him, his own control obviously slipping. His arms are shaking, the muscles straining, where he’s holding onto Peter, his thumbs pressed against his hip bones and fingers curling around into his ass.

Peter’s proud that he manages to outlast Chris this time, as he slams his hips forward a few more times before choking out Peter’s name and pressing his face into his chest. Peter makes a desperate keening noise, and Chris moves enough to steal another kiss—though he’s less urgent now, even if Peter’s more—and replaces Peter’s hand on his dick with his own. It’s enough for him finally be able to let go, and Peter jerks up into his fist a few more times before he’s coming, groaning and arching back.

Chris grunts in return, leaning heavily against the counter and Peter. But there’s nothing for Peter to lean against in turn, so he bats ineffectively at him until Chris gives him a dark look, but pulls out and slides down to sit on the kitchen floor, bare-assed. Peter wrinkles his nose. Surely it’s cold.

He huffs, but climbs down to sit with him anyway. “Did I break you?” he asks, poking at Chris’s side when he doesn’t move except to stretch his legs out in front of them. “Because really, I was hoping for more than that.”

“You really never shut up,” Chris says, sounding a bit in awe. “I always wondered. But not even death shut you up, so I’m not sure why I’m surprised.”

“You’ll just have to try harder next time, then,” Peter suggests, and he can tell from the way Chris’s face twitches that he’s fighting back a smile. “But if you’re not broken, can we move this to a bed? Or at least off the floor?”

“Because the kitchen counter was more sanitary?”

“I should hope so.”

This time, Chris does smile at him, a little lopsided. Peter swears he looks younger than even an hour ago, but it may just be the constant frown lines replaced by something lighter, better. He rests one hand over Peter’s, and Peter’s about to make fun of him for it, when Chris leans over for a slower kiss that nevertheless takes Peter’s breath away.

When he pulls back, Chris still has the same stupid, lopsided smile that makes Peter’s chest feel tighter. “Welcome home.”