Stiles is ten when he gives Bunnicula, his Alpha Buddy, away to a man he meets in the hospital. He’s tall and— Stiles’ nose twitches— smells like something burning or burnt, but also like alpha and right and the deep woods opening out to a starry sky. He’s staring at the vending machine when Stiles spots him and Stiles thinks maybe he needs help deciding what to get. Stiles is intimately familiar with the best the vending machines has to offer.
“You should get the frosted strawberry Pop Tarts,” he tells the man. “ Or the chocolate chip cookies. Those are good too, but the Pop Tarts are better.”
The man turns slowly to him. He looks tired. A streak of something dirty slices across one cheekbone. His nose flares.
Stiles crowds into his space, Bunnicula clutched in his arms. He fishes around in his pocket, digging out the handful of change he has, and presents it to the alpha with a flourish. There’s just enough to buy a pack of Pop Tarts. He hopes he’ll share.
“I don’t need your change,” the alpha says.
“Then what are you waiting for?” Stiles says, bouncing on the balls of his feet. He jabs a finger at the vending machine. “It’s A9.”
“Maybe I don’t want Pop Tarts.”
Stiles squints at him. “Everyone wants Pop Tarts.”
The man sighs. He counts his own change out and feeds it into the vending machine, which whirrs to life, mechanics pushing the snack from its assigned slot. It drops down and the alpha leans down to retrieve it. Plastic crinkles when he tears it open. When he sees Stiles looking at him expectantly, he raises an eyebrow. “Where are your parents, little omega?”
“Dad’s at work,” Stiles says, because he knows what stranger danger is, but the man in front of him is eating one of the Pop Tarts in neat bites, and mostly he smells sad. Which makes sense, because no one’s ever really happy at the hospital. Stiles isn’t. “Mom’s sleeping. And my name's Stiles. Why are you sad? What's your name?”
The man doesn't say anything for a long time. He eats his Pop Tart, and just as Stiles is about to repeat himself, hands over the other one. Stiles shifts Bunnicula over into the crook of his arm and takes the Pop Tart before the man can change his mind. He crams it into his mouth and chews furiously. The strawberry frosting is sweet and tangy on his tongue. He makes a happy little noise in the back of his throat.
The alpha crouches down until they’re level. He examines Stiles and something seems to click in his head. He says, before Stiles can ask any more questions, with a nod at Bunnicula, “Is that your Alpha Buddy?”
“His name’s Bunnicula,” Stiles says around a mouthful of pastry and sugar. Bunnicula is his constant companion, always stuffed in his backpack or hauled along with Stiles in his jacket pocket. Every square inch of him smells like Stiles, from his floppy ears to his velvety pink toe beans. Stiles is proud, especially ‘cause his mom told him that the more his Buddy smelled like him, the easier it would be for his alpha to keep track of it, because otherwise it would just smell like cotton and stuffing.
“And it’ll be like they’re carrying around a little piece of you all the time,” she had said, stroking Stiles’ hair. “Doesn’t that sound nice? Don’t you think that’ll make them happy?”
“I guess,” Stiles had said, “as long as they don’t lose him!”
She had laughed and kissed him on the forehead and reassured him they wouldn’t, not when they knew what Bunnicula meant to him. Stiles is months off from having his next heat but he likes the idea that even if he has to be alone during it, he would have Bunnicula with him. And Bunnicula would smell like his alpha, so it’ll be like having a little piece of them too.
The alpha leans in and Stiles watches him get closer and closer until he’s almost— but not quite— tucked against the crook of Stiles’ neck, taking in his scent. At the same time, Stiles inhales too. There is leather and smoke again, the bite of it making him wrinkle his nose. But when he tucks his nose brazenly against the side of the alpha’s head, there’s also something else that he doesn’t have the right words to describe, which is annoying.
So he says, “you smell weird.”
The alpha doesn’t quite laugh but he comes close. His eyes are very blue. Suddenly, Stiles grows shy. He shuffles back, puts what his mom and dad call personal space between him and the man.
“My name is Peter,” he says. “You’re a nosy little thing, aren’t you?”
Stiles bristles, and opens his mouth. The alph— Peter gently presses his index finger over his sticky sweet lips. “That wasn’t an insult; it isn’t the worst trait out there. But you should be careful who you talk to. Especially strange alphas.”
“You aren't going to do anything to me.” Stiles pushes Peter's hand away.
“How do you know that?”
“We're in a hospital,” Stiles says, because duh. “There's cameras everywhere and someone would hear.”
“Clever boy,” Peter says.
“And you still smell sad,” Stiles informs him with all the authority of a precocious ten year old. “So I'm going to give you Bunnicula for now, ‘cause he’ll make you feel better.”
He holds the bunny out. For a second, he thinks Peter isn’t going to take him, then he does. His hands dwarf the stuffed toy but he holds Bunnicula carefully. Stiles approves.
“I’ll take care of him,” Peter promises.
“If you don’t, he’ll wake up in the middle of the night and suck your blood!”
“Terrifying.” Peter keeps such a straight face when he says it that Stiles can’t tell if he’s teasing like adults do or serious.
Stiles whips around. Melissa is rounding the corner, and he knows the look on her face. It’s her you’re in trouble now, buddy face. He twists back around. “I have to go now. Bye!”
He tumbles down the hallway to Melissa, who is exasperated but not angry. It’s only later that night when he’s home and tucked under his comforter, reaching for Bunnicula, hand closing around empty air, that he realises he never told Peter when he needs him back by.
But it’s probably okay. He has a feeling he’ll see Peter again eventually.
And he’s right. Two weeks later on a Monday evening, Stiles is swinging his legs on the couch in the BPD break room, fiddling with a Rubix cube, when he hears Peter’s voice sweeping through the bullpen. Stiles bursts free from the break room without a second thought and skids to a stop right in front of Peter. Peter, who raises an eyebrow and smiles at Stiles.
“Well, well. If it isn’t the little omega,” he says.
“My name is Stiles,” Stiles tells him, looking him over.
“Where’s Bunnicula? Why aren’t you carrying him? You’re supposed to keep him with you all the time!”
“He’s in the car,” Peter says.
Stiles hesitates and says, “Can I see him?”
Peter nods. They go out into the precinct parking lot to Peter’s shiny car where Bunnicula is strapped into the passenger seat, safe and whole. Stiles doesn’t try to take him back, though he swipes his hand over the long floppy ears. The entire time, Stiles talks about how he missed Bunnicula but Peter smells better now so he must be helping, about school and how Scott had an asthma attack during recess last week— everything and anything. Peter doesn’t say much in return, just nods and hums in all the right places, one big hand draped over the nape of Stiles’ neck.
“Satisfied?” he says once Stiles is finished with his inspection.
“Yep. You can keep him for now. But, but— I need him back, for, you know.”
Peter squeezes the back of his neck and Stiles melts a little, purring in the back of his throat. “Don’t worry, sweetheart. I’ll have him back to you by your heat.”
“Okay,” Stiles says.
“How is your mother?” Peter asks, and Stiles jolts, startled.
But he perks up. “She’s almost better! We’re bringing her home tomorrow.”
“Good,” Peter says. “You’d better go back inside now; your father’s looking for you.”
Peter doesn’t have to warn him twice. Stiles scrambles back inside the precinct with a shouted goodbye to Peter over his shoulder.
Stiles thought he was getting sick at first. The heat crept on him like a fever, his throat and eyes dry and hot. His mom noticed first when he complained to her, sniffing at his hairline after feeling his forehead. She sent him up to bed and told him she’d call him out sick from school, and to go back up to bed, baby.
He’s dozing when he hears the knock at the door and his mom going to see who it is. The soft murmur of conversation doesn’t make it up the stairs. His whole body aches. He feels awful. Everything sucks.
“Stiles,” Claudia says. He didn’t even hear her come in, but her weight sinks down one side of the bed. “Did you give Peter Hale your Alpha Buddy?”
“What?” he says muzzily. Something smells good and he makes grabby hands for it.
Claudia sighs and plops Bunnicula into his arms.
Stiles curls around the bunny, huffing in the alpha scent now ingrained into the very fabric and weave of the toy. It’s comforting. He rubs his face against its cheek and lets his mom coax him into another sip of water before she let him sleep. And sleep comes easy with Peter’s scent wrapped up around him, sinking into his pillow and sheets.
“— old for him, I don’t like it.”
“It’s an Alpha Buddy, not some kind of overture, John. I’m sure he meant well.”
“I’m just not sure he’s the kind of guy I want around our son, from what you said about him.”
“The Left Hand’s role is important,” his mom’s voice is firm. “They do what no one else in the pack can. Anyway, we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Stiles has years to go before he makes any kind of decision. Let him figure things out by himself, John.”
He hears his dad sigh. “I can’t help worrying. He’s our son.”
“Worry Bear.” That’s his mom’s special name for Dad. “That protective streak of yours is what makes you such a good dad and cop.”
Both of his parents laugh. Stiles reaches for his water bottle and accidentally knocks it to the floor with a thunk. There is a pause in conversation. He hears his mom say, “I’m going to go check up on him.”
A gentle knock at his door follows shortly after. His mom comes in. She picks up the fallen water bottle and sits down on the bed beside him. Her palm is cool and dry against his forehead. “How are you feeling, kiddo?”
Stiles uncurls from his nest of blankets, one arm still looped around Bunnicula. “Okay. Tired.”
Claudia hands him his water bottle and he drains it in one go.
“What’s the Left Hand?” he asks.
“Stiles,” his mom says, frowning at him, “what have we told you about eavesdropping?”
“You were being loud! I can’t help it if I heard you.”
“I can see you’re nearly back to a hundred percent.” She’s smiling.
Stiles wriggles in his bed and taps at her left hand. “But it’s different from this, right? I could hear the capitals.”
“People are allowed to have their secrets, Stiles,” Claudia says. “This one isn’t entirely mine to share, so I want you to respect that, okay?”
“Can I ask Peter?”
“What did I just say?”
“Fine, I won’t! I’m going back to sleep now.”
“I’ll wake you up for dinner. I’m making your favourite.”
“Okay,” Stiles says, already halfway to sleep, his face pressed against Bunnicula’s tummy.
Peter doesn't know how he ends up with joint custody of the Hale emissary’s son’s Alpha Buddy, but he does.
“Stiles asked me to give him back to you,” Claudia says by way of explanation after dropping the Alpha Buddy onto Peter's lap.
He looks up from his book to her, then down to the stuffed rabbit. It smells like omega, the scent rounded out to a sweet fullness by heat. “Doesn't he have any alpha friends closer to his age?”
“If he does, none of them have presented yet. Stiles is a bit of an early bloomer.” Claudia's voice is full of fond exasperation. Peter is well aware of how much she loves her son. She's a good person and a dedicated emissary. Without her, the Hale house would have been completely engulfed by the fire all those months ago. She managed to get a warning to the pack right before one of Kate Argent’s affiliates shot her. How much does her son take after her?
Maybe he'll find out in due time.
“I'll hold onto it for him,” he says. He carried Derek’s Alpha Buddy around for a while for him; the inconvenience of it was minor.
“Don’t lose it,” Claudia says.
Peter waves her off and goes back to his book, the rabbit sitting in his lap.
He keeps it with him for the next while— as he runs errands, checks in on the territory’s borders, picks Derek and Laura up from school, to the bookstore, to the grocery store— everywhere except for any situations that would involve a scuffle. The last thing he wants to do is try and remove blood stains from an Alpha Buddy when that would remove the buildup of scent from it too. Luckily, they’re in a period of peace.
A month trickles by like that. Then one night Peter gets a text at around ten in the evening from Claudia. It’s a request for him to bring Bunnicula back. Apparently Stiles hasn’t been sleeping well and wants his Alpha Buddy.
Well, who is he to refuse a request from a fussy omega? Especially one that’s entrusted his Alpha Buddy in Peter’s care. He drives over to the Stilinski residence with the stuffed bunny in tow. When Claudia answers the door, Stiles is right by her, clinging to her legs and sulky-faced, drooping with exhaustion.
Peter leans down. “Hello, Stiles. I brought you your Alpha Buddy.”
“Bunnicula,” Stiles says.
“Yes, Bunnicula. Here you go.” He hands the bunny over to Stiles, who clutches it to his chest and buries his face against its plush fur. It is, quite frankly, adorable.
“Thanks,” he mumbles.
“Yes, thank you, Peter. Sorry to bother you so late at night.” Claudia looks and smells exhausted. “Do you want anything? A cup of tea?”
“I won’t keep you. Both of you look like you’re dead on your feet.” Stiles was dozing while standing. “Let me know when you want me to take Bunnicula again.”
Claudia nods at him. Peter can’t resist. He brushes his hand over Stiles’ cheek and ruffles his hair after he does the same to Claudia, nods, and leaves.
That’s the first time. After that, he finds himself in joint custody of Bunnicula on a regular basis. There are long intervals where he keeps the bunny on him and doesn’t return it until Stiles’ heat is creeping on him but also times when he brings it over to the Stilinski house to help Stiles sleep. On one memorable occasion, he gets a phone call from an unknown number. On the other end is Stiles, asking for the return of Bunnicula.
He’s waiting on the porch when Peter arrives, bare feet peeking out from underneath his flannel pajama pants, a little bundle of skinny omega. Peter feels a surge of protectiveness. He sits down on the porch beside Stiles, depositing Bunnicula into Stiles’ waiting arms. Stiles squeezes the Alpha Buddy but burrows against Peter instead.
“Where’s your mother?” Peter asks.
“Sleeping,” Stiles says. “I didn’t want to wake her up.”
“And you aren’t sleeping because?”
“Sometimes I get nightmares,” Stiles says.
“Stuff,” Stiles says, hugging his knees to his chest. He sighs with more world weariness than a child should have. “Mom. It was scary when she got hurt.”
“That won’t happen again,” Peter says.
“You don’t know that.”
Peter stretches his legs out and leans back on his palms. “Well, I’m not about to guarantee anything, but I can tell you that that sort of incident is rare. And I’m sure your mother will try to keep herself safe too. She knows you’ll be sad if anything happens to her.”
“But what if something does?”
“You’ll just have to grow up strong and make sure nothing does, then.”
Stiles glances at him. “That’s not what everyone tells omegas.”
“You don’t think omegas can be strong? Claudia is one. She protects us and you.”
“What do you mean, us?”
“Tell you some other time,” Peter says. “Go inside, sweetheart. It’s cold outside.”
Stiles grumbles but drags himself to his feet. He peeks at Peter from underneath eyelashes, shy, and says, “Bunnicula’s good, but he isn’t you.”
Peter arches an eyebrow at Stiles.
“You feel safe,” Stiles says, flushed pink. That’s all he says before he rushes back into the house, clutching his Alpha Buddy. Peter waits until he’s in his car to laugh. Safe isn’t a word very many people use to describe him.
Sometimes Claudia brings Stiles around to the Hale house, usually when she and Talia are going over something or the other for the pack. New wards, dealing with a supernatural creature or family wanting to settle in Beacon Hills, checking up on the Nemeton. Things like that. Stiles blends in with the rest of the Hale kids while his mother consults with Talia; Peter usually joins in on these visits but once in a while he doesn’t. Stiles never misses a chance to say hello to Peter. He’s a clever, bright little thing. Peter teaches him, Cora, and Derek how to play poker on a rainy day in, trying to instill in them the basics of bluffing and strategy.
Peter wonders if Stiles will get over his little crush on him the older he gets, once more of his classmates start to present and the usual teenage curiosity kicks in. He thinks so. But for now, it’s cute how Stiles presses Bunnicula into his hands after every heat and trusts Peter to help him through it.
The mixture of his own scent laid heavily overtop of Stiles is ingrained into the fabric of the Alpha Buddy now. White is a bold choice for a parent to get their child’s Alpha Buddy; nothing gets dirty faster than a white stuffed animal. But Peter’s careful with Bunnicula. It stays soft and downy white while in his charge.
He loses it exactly once.
It’s on a half errand, half pleasure day. Peter drove up north to one of the packs the Hales are allied with to help them sort out a brief territory dispute, the bunny in the passenger seat beside him. He doesn’t take it with him to the skirmish, of course, because a stuffed toy in his arms while he’s trying to intimidate undermines him. (And the last time he forgot and brought Bunnicula to a meeting with him it had ended in tears after one of the betas made a snide comment about it.)
After he’s done with pack business he heads back towards Beacon Hills, where he stops off at the local bookstore to do some browsing. Bunnicula goes along for the ride in his leather satchel, ears spilling out of the side. It’s a nice day. He stops at a favourite cafe for a snack, lounging on the patio and reading the book he bought, Bunnicula sitting in the iron wrought chair across from him. The Alpha Buddy is good company; silence is golden. Peter even manages to browse at the mall for a couple of hours.
He drives home in a good mood, parks in the driveway, reaches over to the seat beside him to scoop up Bunnicula like he has a thousand times before, only to hug empty air.
Peter doesn’t do panic. Peter is cool rationale and planning. He tries not to think of Stiles’ look of utter disappointment if he shows up with an Alpha Buddy that isn’t Bunnicula while he dials the bookstore’s number and checks that no, nobody left behind a white, bunny Buddy there. He growls under his breath and drives back to downtown Beacon Hills, parking on a side street and retracing his steps.
He is the best tracker in the Hale pack. There is no way he can’t find a single stuffed animal saturated in his own scent. Peter pops back into the bookstore, because it’s on his route, and aggressively stalks between the stacks, scaring away a beta couple before he determines that Bunnicula is not lost there.
He follows his own scent back to the cafe. Nothing. The mall. Nothing there. No bunny in the lost and found or anywhere on the sidewalks. It’s impossible for him to have left it up north because he remembers sitting the bunny across from him at the cafe. He checks his car, combing through his trunk, then the backseat.
Maybe Stiles won’t notice if he buys an Alpha Buddy in the exact same model and replaces Bunnicula. But that’s a last resort.
Bunnicula isn’t in the backseat nor under it.
Peter checks the glovebox. Mints, a pair of latex gloves, his insurance, a lighter. This is ridiculous. It’s just an Alpha Buddy. He gropes his hand beneath the passenger seat and his fingertips brush against something soft. Peter yanks. Bunnicula pops out, a little dusty and with a smudge of dirt on his tummy, but otherwise unscathed. It must have slid out from his bag and fallen off the seat sometime during his drive. There’s a reason why he usually buckles the bunny in.
If anyone finds it strange for an alpha to be clutching a stuffed toy to his chest and laughing in relief in the passenger seat of his car, they wisely stay silent.
Peter manages to get the dirt out with a little bit of detergent and a toothbrush. When Stiles’ next heat hits again, Bunnicula is ready to go for him.
Talia asks him to go to New York with Derek and Peter can’t refuse. His nephew has made a decent recovery from what the pack refers to as the Kate Argent Incident, or the Incident for short, but Talia wants an eye on him just in case. Peter agrees. Neither of them want anything to happen to Derek again.
Unfortunately, it also means relinquishing his duties as Stiles’ Alpha Buddy.
“Tell him I’m sorry,” he says to Claudia the night before he has to catch the flight out to New York with Derek.
“Of course,” she says, “I’m sure he’ll understand.”
Peter smiles at her wryly. “It’ll be good for him to branch out anyway.”
Claudia pats him on the shoulder. “Sure. But you were great to him and I don’t think he’ll forget that anytime soon. Take care in New York. Let me know if you need anything else.”
His suitcase is already loaded with protection charms and various other knickknacks Claudia made for him and Derek but he appreciates the sentiment.
And really, a year or two is nothing to a werewolf. Peter will be back eventually.
Logically, when Stiles thinks back on it as the years pass by, he knows that his first few heats weren’t half as bad as they are now because that’s just how it works— heats get worse the older you get. The fact that Peter’s scent on Stiles’ Alpha Buddy is the one Stiles remembers as most soothing and effective during his heats is probably due to the pink-tinted haze of nostalgia.
Bunnicula has been retired to his shelf for years. Stiles has other Alpha Buddies; he’s asked a couple of different alphas to hang onto them for his heat. Like Scott, his best friend. That had been a weird heat and he hadn’t asked again. Cora, which was weird too. More recently, there is one of his dad’s newest deputies, Parrish, that Stiles always goes a little tongue-tied around. He’s kind and had smiled at Stiles when Stiles ambushed him after his shift at the precinct to ask him to take his Alpha Buddy for him, reassuring him that he’d be glad to do it.
Some Alpha Buddies come with scent packs, but Stiles has never taken to them. So he’s stuck passing his Alpha Buddy around to every alpha he thinks will agree to scent his for him.
He doesn’t see Peter for ages. Claudia always brought Stiles around to the Hale house while she was working when he was younger. Now that he’s older, his friendship with Cora is what brings him over. One kid on top of a bunch doesn’t make a difference. The house is never empty, a Hale always rattling around somewhere.
Peter used to be an occasional fixture at the house. Sometimes he wasn’t around long enough except to say hi before vanishing into the study with Talia and Claudia; sometimes he scooped all the children up and drove them into town for ice cream.
Peter never said no when Stiles handed Bunnicula over a few days after his heat finished. He would just take the bunny and promise to have it back to Stiles by his next heat, which he did unfailingly. Whenever Stiles saw him around the Hale house or around town, Peter had Bunnicula stuffed inside his coat pocket, ears peeking out, or tucked under his arm.
Then all of a sudden, he wasn’t there anymore. His mom had explained it to him; that Talia wanted Derek to have company while he was at school in New York so Peter went with him.
“He said to tell you he’s sorry he can’t help you with your Alpha Buddy anymore,” Claudia said.
“Oh,” he said. That made sense. Derek was four years older than him and an omega, shy and not all that talkative. Stiles hadn’t known him that well. Still, he was a little hurt Peter didn’t say anything to him, didn’t drop by the house to return Bunnicula and say goodbye to him personally.
But that was almost three years ago. Stiles is over his childhood crush on Peter. Really. He is. Anyway, most of his classmates, Stiles included, are nearly at the age where they’re graduating from Alpha Buddies to their first heat partners. Assuming he gives into peer pressure and asks someone. He doesn’t have to, his mom reassures him. Stiles could make do with toys and an Alpha Buddy, but he sort of wants a different kind of buddy.
One that actually has a brain, maybe?
He’ll figure it out. He has time. Right now he has bigger things to tackle than how to deal with his own biology, like the half of a body in the woods calling his name.
The preserve is hushed aside from the excited rush of his own breathing. He lost Scott when they heard his dad and the rest of Beacon Hills’ finest come tromping through the woods. Luckily, he still has the flashlight, the weak beam of it shining over leaves, leaves, and more leaves. Stiles glances at his watch. Ten more minutes. If he hasn’t found anything in ten minutes, he’ll head back home and text Scott to tell him he’s fine.
Stiles isn’t entirely sure where he is. Pretty far off from the Hale house, that’s for sure. In the complete opposite direction. That’s probably for the better. Whatever or whoever killed the hiker is still out there… which Stiles should have thought of way before he hopped into his Jeep and came over here. But most perps wouldn’t stick around at the scene of the crime. Right?
A rustle from the undergrowth startles him. Stiles whirls around, flashlight beam skittering off the trees.
Nothing there that he can see. Probably a mouse or something.
Then someone— something— bursts into the clear he’s in. Stiles doesn’t even get a chance to shriek before he’s knocked on his back, air forced out of his lungs. His head bounces on the packed dirt. Dazed, spots fill his vision, Stiles catches a glimpse of eyes burning too bright to be human, a mouthful of fucking fangs.
Not human. Definitely not human. He’s going to be eaten alive and his dad will have to find his mangled corpse in the preserve and he didn’t even find the body. But most importantly, he’s way too young to die.
Stiles throws up his arm out of reflex. Teeth sink into his forearm and he screams. Something cracks. He tries to kick the monster off of him but it’s like kicking a brick wall. Oh god, he’s going to die here. He’s really going to die here. Fuck. He squeezes his eyes shut.
An inhuman roar shakes the clearing. The awful pressure on his arm lessens, then the fangs are wrenched from his flesh, gouges left in their wake. Stiles opens his eyes. Blood— his own— drips down onto his face and nausea wells up in him. There’s so much of it. Nearby, he hears the snarling and growling and more roaring. He can’t just lie here. He doesn’t know what got the monster off of him but he isn’t sticking around to find out in case it decides to deal with him next.
Just as he’s about to scramble to his feet, a wet, sucking squelch resounds through the clearing. Stiles gags. He gets up somehow, staggering. There is just enough light from the full moon overhead for him to make out vague shapes. A body lying on the ground, blood seeping into the carpet of dead leaves. Another figure standing over it. The one still standing turns his head and looks over his shoulder. Stiles’ breath catches.
It’s Peter Hale.
It’s Peter fucking Hale.
“Sweetheart,” he says, his hands dripping with blood, “you’re a long way from home, aren’t you?”
Everything happens in what feels like an instant after. The rest of the Hales show up, some of them with their faces shifted like the monster that attacked Stiles had been, some of them normal. His mom is with them, her face screwed up in mingled terror and worry. She reaches Stiles first and inspects him.
“Oh, honey. You just can’t stay out of trouble, can you?”
“Mom? What’s going on? What was that?” Stiles can’t help it. He burrows against Claudia like he’s a child again, woozy and frightened.
Talia steps forward. Her face melts from ridged and animalistic to human again. “I can carry him back to the house for you, Claudia.”
Stiles makes a noise of protest but he’s shifted from his mom to Talia, who scoops him up like he weighs nothing. She pauses and says to Peter, “You know what to do, Peter.”
He salutes her, blood flicking across the clearing.
They take him back to the house and call an ambulance for him there. Stiles slips from consciousness to unconsciousness sometime in that time span. When he wakes up, it’s in a hospital bed with his father dozing beside him in the uncomfortable visitor’s chair, arms folded over his chest. Stiles has a concussion and a fractured, torn open arm. He gets the cliffnotes edition on werewolves during his brief stay in the hospital from Claudia, who tells him that the one that attacked him in the preserve was a rogue; a different kind of omega.
“Thank goodness Peter was already on its trail,” she said.
A dusty memory stirs in Stiles’ head. “Was this the secret? The one that you said wasn’t yours to share?”
“You still remember that? It is, partly.”
“But— you’re not a werewolf, are you?”
She laughs. “No, baby. I’m their emissary. I’ll tell you more about it when you’re better.”
That suits Stiles just fine. The meds are kicking in again, making him woozy. He nods, head heavy.
None of the Hales visit him while he’s in the hospital, but they send him balloons and a get well card. Stiles recognises Cora’s handwriting. That’s fine. He’s still reeling anyway, because hello? Werewolves are real. Werewolves are real and there is a pack of them living in Beacon Hills. Cora is a werewolf. Her mom is too. Nearly every Hale is, his mom said. Peter too.
Stiles can’t help it. Even with the supernatural revelation, he can’t help wondering when Peter got back into town. Is it wrong that when he thinks back to the night in the preserve, all he can remember is the utter relief that washed over him when he realised it was Peter standing there? Bloody hands and all. Maybe it’s because the Peter in his memory is still the alpha who would carry his Alpha Buddy around without complaint everywhere, his scent the one that helped Stiles through his first heats.
He goes home after a couple of days. His arm is broken and in a cast. On top of that, he’s grounded. So grounded. His mom is downstairs and playing warden and Stiles can’t exactly climb out of his window with a broken arm. So he’s stuck at home with his thoughts. Most of them revolve around what other supernatural creatures besides werewolves existed. He runs his extensive list through his mom, but that only kills so much time. He wonders if Peter’s back for good.
The official story is that a rabid mountain lion was responsible for the attacks, including the one on Stiles. He can’t even tell Scott the truth because his mom swore him to absolute secrecy.
A knock at the door interrupts his thoughts. The soft murmur of conversation downstairs is nearly indistinguishable. Another knock comes five minutes later, but this time at his bedroom door.
“Stiles, you have some visitors. You feeling up for it?”
Stiles bolts up out of bed, almost falling on his face. “Yes! Who is it? Wait, don’t tell me, I want it to be a surprise.”
He takes the stairs two at a time and skids to a stop in the living room. Claudia calls down after him, “You have fifteen minutes.”
It’s Scott and Cora, sitting on opposite ends of the couch, and— Peter, who’s poking around the mantle, picking up pictures of a younger Stiles and examining them.
This is the best. Stiles was starting to go stir crazy in his room without his phone or computer.
“Looking good, Stilinski,” Cora says.
“Stiles!” Scott folds Stiles up in a hug, careful to mind his arm. “You’re okay!”
They chat for a while. Cora produces a sharpie from her pocket and forces Stiles into letting her sign his cast. She draws a wolf with enormous teeth all over it, smirks at Stiles, and hands the marker to Scott.
“I thought it was a mountain lion that bit you?” Scott says, looking at the drawing.
“Artistic license,” Cora says.
“Yeah, mountain lion,” Stiles says. “There are no wolves in California, Scotty.”
Peter murmurs, “Yes, no wolves in California.” His eyes meet Stiles and he tips a sharp smile at him. Stiles feels himself going pink. This shouldn’t be happening. He hasn’t seen Peter in years and he definitely doesn’t have a crush on him anymore. Definitely not.
The next time Stiles is over at the Hale house with Cora, Peter is there too, lounging on the sofa and reading a book. He has stubble that Stiles doesn’t remember from when he was younger. It suits him. Peter is just as sharp-tongued as he used to be, a little mocking and mean, but kind when it matters. He winks at Stiles conspiratorially when he cajoles Stiles and Cora into a round of poker and beats them both soundly.
He smells really fucking good, all alpha and intimately familiar. Stiles has spent heats wrapped up in that scent. He’s fallen asleep to the comfort of it, the alpha pheromones reassuring and chasing away his nightmares. Whenever Stiles is around Peter now, he’s torn between the urge to cuddle up to him and, more awkwardly, have Peter pin him down and take.
That wasn’t a thing before. Stiles chalks it up to hormones and the fact that apparently he didn’t have eyes when he was younger because Peter is unfairly, shockingly handsome.
“How was New York?” Stiles asks him when he runs into Peter at the bakery. He hasn’t paid yet and Peter caught him off guard, in the middle of a dirty fantasy starring Peter while he’s waiting in line.
“Big city charm,” Peter says. “You should go someday.”
“I don’t know if I’d want to go to school that far away,” Stiles says. “Are you going to go back soon? Derek’s still there, isn’t he?”
Peter hums and looks Stiles up and down in a way that makes Stiles go hot all over. “I don’t think so. Derek’s holding his own. If anything, Talia might make a trip out east soon. He’s her favourite. But enough about me. Look at you, you’ve hit a growth spurt, haven’t you? I remember when you barely came up to my waist.”
“Well yeah, that was years ago!”
“Of course,” Peter says. His eyes soften. “You were precious, especially with your stuffed bunny.”
“Bunnicula,” Stiles says automatically. “I don’t use him anymore.”
“Oh?” Peter smirks. “Yes, you’re at that age, aren’t you. Is there someone you have in mind for a heat partner? Or do you already have one?”
Stiles squeaks. He shakes his head furiously and is saved by the cashier calling him up to the register. He pays, mumbles a vague goodbye to Peter, and flees out the door.
Does Peter think he should get a heat partner? If Stiles had stayed and told him no, he didn’t have one, would Peter have offered to be his heat partner? If Stiles asked him, would he have said yes? Just like he agreed to scent Stiles’ Alpha Buddy for him all those years ago?
Before Stiles realises what he’s doing, he finds himself in the mall, buying another Alpha Buddy. This one is a grey wolf.
He buries it under all of his pillows for two days before driving over to the Hale house with it in his backpack and standing on the back porch in front of Peter awkwardly, holding the backpack with the Alpha Buddy in his arms. Peter is working his way through a meat and cheese plate and looking at Stiles expectantly.
“Can I help you, Stiles?” he says.
This is a terrible idea. He could ask anyone else. Problem is, he doesn’t want anyone else. Before he can talk himself out of it, he takes the Alpha Buddy out of his bag and holds it out to Peter, chewing on his lower lip. “Will you scent him for me? My heat is soon.”
For a long moment, Peter doesn’t do anything. He wipes his fingers off on the napkin beside him and takes the wolf, raising his eyebrows at Stiles. “Does he have a name?”
Stiles’ brain shorts out. “Remus,” he blurts out.
“All right. I’ll hold onto him for you.”
Stiles watches in vague disbelief as Peter settles the wolf right next to him, one hand draped over the back of the stuff toy, and goes back to eating his cheese and meat plate. He belatedly realises that he should have taken so many pictures of Peter just carrying Bunnicula around town for Stiles because the mental image is fucking adorable.
“Would you like some?” Peter interrupts Stiles’ reverie. He pushes the plate across the porch and nods at the spot right next to him. Stiles sits down in a daze. He eats a chunk of cheese and lets Peter draw him into a conversation about whether or not vampires actually have no reflection or if it’s because of the silver component mirrors used to have.
The heat always starts like a fever. Stiles starts to burn up from the inside, then out. Sweat beads his skin. An emptiness builds in him, his thighs starting to slick. Stiles burrows in his room on a nest of blankets, a crate of water bottles, and a box of toys. And Remus.
The instant Peter’s scent wafts off of Remus, Stiles gets wetter and whines, grinding his hips against his mattress. He fumbles for one of his toys, struggling to get it between his legs, moaning when it slides into him. With his face buried against Remus’s fur, Stiles can almost pretend that it’s Peter. Peter’s cock thick and nestled inside him, filling him right up. Peter’s weight pressing down on him, anchoring him. His voice murmuring against Stiles’ ear, telling him what a good omega he is, how he’s going to take care of him.
Remus is big for an Alpha Buddy. Big enough for Stiles to rock his dick against against the soft fur and still be able to nuzzle the top of its head, huffing in Peter’s scent. Stiles comes like that, pretending he’s tucked against Peter with his knot stretching him open, the dizzying, alpha scent of him sunk deep into his sheets and senses.
It’s the best fucking heat that Stiles has had in a while.
Because Stiles isn’t a total deviant, he washes Remus off after his heat and blow dries him and wonders if maybe he should just suck it up and stop using his Alpha Buddy as an excuse and just ask Peter to spend his heat with him, but he can’t. He just can’t.
The Hales don’t lock their doors and are so used to Stiles wandering in and out that most of them just wave at him when he goes by and return to what they’re doing. Stiles wanders for a while before he finds Peter in his room. The door is cracked open but he knocks anyway.
Peter smiles at him. “Stiles.”
“Hey,” Stiles says. There’s no reason for this to be awkward. They’ve done this whole song and dance a million times before. “You busy?”
“No, come in.”
Stiles closes the door behind him. He holds Remus out. “Do you mind?”
Peter takes Remus. He stills, his nose flaring. “Oh, sweetheart. You enjoyed yourself, didn’t you?”
Oh fuck. Oh shit, Stiles totally forgot about the whole werewolf and supernatural senses thing. “I washed him!”
“I have an excellent nose.”
“It was my heat,” Stiles says defensively.
Peter looks up at him. “I know that. I’m not trying to make fun of you, Stiles. It was a statement of fact. And it’s a good scent.”
“Of course,” Peter says. He’s petting Remus absently, legs splayed wide open. “Every alpha likes how a satisfied omega smells. I’m no exception.”
Stiles thinks that’s the end of that, but nope, it sure isn’t.
“Were you thinking of me while you had your face buried against your Alpha Buddy, Stiles? It is my scent, after all. Did you imagine that I was there with you?”
“I— “ Stiles swallows, the sound loud in the quiet room. “Yeah.”
“And did you come all over your Alpha Buddy thinking of me buried inside you? An Alpha Buddy is an adequate substitute, but in the end, it isn’t the real thing. It can’t knot you like a living, breathing alpha partner can.” Peter strokes the front of Remus’s fur, right over where Stiles remembers scrubbing his come and slick from. His eyes are bright when he smiles at Stiles, the promise in it filthy. “Tell you what, sweetheart. I’ll hang onto Remus, sure. But when your next heat comes around, we’ll switch him for me. All right?”
“Yeah,” Stiles says again, “yeah, I’d like that.”
When Peter draws him in for a kiss, Stiles goes easily, breathing in Peter’s scent, his Alpha Buddy’s fur soft under one hand and Peter’s solid shoulder under the other.