Peter’s not sure what wakes him. Things in the Hale house have been hectic ever since Stiles’s big reveal and Claudia being turned. John and Claudia have taken up temporary residence in the guest room until the full moon passes. Peter has taken to locking his bedroom door to keep Stiles from sneaking into his bed. It only works half the time.
Tonight appears to be one of those times. Peter is alone in his room. Light from the full moon streams in his window and nothing is out of place. Peter can’t help but feel like something is off.
He pulls on a robe and starts checking bedrooms. He pauses outside each door and listens to the even heartbeats inside. Talia and Paul. Claudia and John. Amelia and Jessica. The stairs creak as he wanders up to the attic. He finds Cora, Laura, Derek, Charlotte, and Amber all where they should be. Stiles is not. He peeks inside Derek’s room just in case but the air mattress on the floor is empty.
His heart jumps to his throat but he refuses to panic—at least, not immediately. He concentrates and there it is—Stiles’s heartbeat—even and steady. Peter sighs in relief and wanders down to the first floor. Stiles is out onto the porch, sitting on the front steps and staring intently out into the darkness.
Stiles doesn’t even turn as Peter settles onto the porch steps next to him.
“What are you doing up so late?” Peter asks. He runs his hand through Stiles’s hair. They’ve been letting it get longer than they used to. Stiles and Peter both like it that way.
“Waiting,” Stiles says, like that’s an answer.
“For what?” He’s used to Stiles acting odd. He used to think it was just a personality quirk, just a child being an imaginative, creative child. His eyes have been opened now and he’s starting to wonder if all of those quirks had a hidden meaning he was too blind to see.
“The bad woman.”
Peter’s heart freezes and he can’t help the way his arm curls around Stiles, pulling him protectively tight against Peter’s side. The last ‘bad’ person Stiles had talked about was Gerard Argent and his plan to murder Deucalion’s pack at their peace treaty meeting. Stiles had convinced Deucalion to talk with Gerard’s son Chris instead. For the first time in years, there’s a solid treaty between the Argents and the werewolf clans of the United States. All thanks to a remarkable child.
“What bad woman?” Peter forces himself to ask. Gerard has a daughter, but there are a number of other unaffiliated hunters who could see the treaty as a sign of weakness.
Stiles doesn’t turn away from the woods. “The one with the bad man. They want to take our family away.” Peter starts to rise, to call out to Talia and Amelia and the others so they can get the kids to safety, but Stiles’s small hand grips Peter’s arm impossibly tight. “It’s okay,” Stiles says, his voice sure and confident. “My friends won’t let them.”
Peter swallows. He doesn’t sit down, but he doesn’t finish rising either. “Stiles, I don’t think pixies will be of much help. They’re hunters. They know-“
Stiles squeezes Peter’s arm and points off into the trees. “Look.”
Peter does look. At first, there’s nothing. Just trees and shadows cast by the moon. Then the shadows move, fluid and sinuous and not at all like any living thing Peter has ever seen. He swallows hard and sits heavily on the porch steps. That’s not… Those aren’t… He doesn’t even know what they are but the very sight of them frightens him to the core. Stiles, the impossible child that he is, doesn’t even seem afraid. The dark shadows slip away into the trees.
“Shh.” Stiles brings a finger to his lips.
The woods are silent. The house creaks slightly, old wood settling. Eleven heartbeats sound in steady rhythm. John snores faintly before there’s a shift of fabric and he quiets, lulled by Claudia wrapping around him. Amelia talks in her sleep, muttering about needing turnips for soup. He has no idea what he’s supposed to be listening for until he hears it—faint and distant, the screams.
Peter sits up ramrod straight. Out there in the woods people are dying. It sounds awful. Their screams are terrified, pain-filled, wretched and cut off too quick. They’re not nearby but they could have been. They’re definitely on the Hale property. They were coming here.
All too soon the screams are gone and Stiles stands up. He moves to step down from the porch but Peter stops him, hand shooting out reflexively as he sees shadows in the treeline once more.
Stiles turns. He smiles and pats the hand holding him. “It’s okay. They’re my friends. Your friends too.” And then he slips away, out of Peter’s grasp and down onto the grass and gravel of the lawn.
He doesn’t go far. Only a few steps. One of the shadow things lopes out to meet him. As it comes closer a sort of shape takes form. Not quite a wolf or a cougar but something similar, though sharp and jagged and unreal. There is no color to it but inky darkness. No eyes, but a definite sense of a mouth that hangs open, gaping like a panting dog but much more deadly.
Stiles pets the thing, somehow, on its strange pseudo-head. He doesn’t even have to lean down. The thing is almost as tall as Stiles is. It leans against Stiles, rubbing against him in a way that’s obviously affectionate.
Stiles looks back at Peter and grins. “Do you want to pet him?”
Stiles shrugs and kisses the top of the thing’s head before sending it out into the night with a few words of thanks and a promise to play some other time. When Stiles reaches the steps, he holds out his hand. Peter takes it. Together they lock up the house and head up to bed. Peter doesn’t even think of protesting when Stiles crawls into bed with him.
Stiles is out in seconds, his body curled against Peter’s side as close as he can get. Peter lies awake staring at the ceiling.
How had he not known those things were out there? How is he supposed to go out in the woods again without thinking that one of them might be watching him? He’s terrified but also not because apparently those things are friends of Stiles and somehow, by association, friends of the Hales. They protected him and his family. They’re probably still out there, guardians of the Hale land.
Peter wonders how many other strange friends Stiles has. How many more terrifying creatures come to his soulmate’s beck and call? Peter knows he’s the adult in the relationship but it makes him feel better knowing that Stiles is sleeping by his side, protecting Peter from the monsters lurking in the night. It shouldn’t work that way, but it does, and Peter has never been more proud that Stiles is his.
He can’t wait to see what a terrifying force Stiles will be when he grows up. If he’s feeling generous, he might even warn the others.
No. He won’t warn them. What’s the fun in that?