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I'd Give It All for You

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Stiles had spent almost all of his teen years feeling vaguely uncomfortable in his own skin. He mostly knew he was awesome, okay, it was just that he was also acutely aware of his flaws. Or at least the things other high schoolers counted as flaws. His intensity for one thing, which often made other kids he was getting friendly with back off. Ride or die had always been an understatement for him, and teenagers just weren't prepared to handle that kind of commitment. The babbling thing annoyed people too on the days when he couldn't focus, and on the other days when his attention was sharp as a razor but limited in scope they resented his stillness and silence. Balance was hard for Stilinski men and he had struggled for years to find that line.

Scott had pretty much been his only friend for years. The dude stuck by him when no one else would and tried to ease the way for other people to join Stiles' orbit. Never worked though, not until high school was over and everyone else matured a little bit. Now he had a small but great group of friends he would murder for and it was great. He knew who he was and had been secure in that during the years he had taken off from school to take care of his dad and then help with the hospital bills. He was Stiles Stilinski, dammit, and he liked it that way.

He resented it immensely that college was eroding that confidence just a little bit.

Now that he was 25 and out of that age bracket, he had to admit that people between 18 and 22 were a special kind of stupid. Not all of them and most of them meant well, but still. They were fresh faced and finding their feet, and they were desperate to prove they could handle a little thing called 'Life as an Adult'. Always seemed to think they knew everything and refused to listen to any advice - he'd been the same way, so most of the time it didn't bother him. Now he could admit that he knew pretty much nothing and that nobody else really had a better idea of what they were doing. Everyone was flailing in the dark while pretending they could see perfectly fine, and that was cool. They'd learn, the ones who hadn't yet, and then they'd all just be the regular kind of stupid again.

Being stuck in a room full of them, several staring at him from the corner of their eyes, it was hard to keep all that in mind. They were judging him, he knew it, and fuck if it didn't make him feel like he was back in high school again. It made him twitchy and nervous and feeling like his skin was too small. He hated it.

At least the TA - please let the guy be a TA and not the professor - was giving him a commiserating glance. Guy was hot like burning too which was nice. Not quite his type, but something pretty to look at when his attention couldn't settle on the task at hand was always appreciated. TA Guy was even older, in his early thirties, so he had to know what Stiles was feeling. Especially since several students, female and male both, were openly ogling TA Guy with lust or hearts in their eyes. Had to be weird.

Just before the clock hit their 11:00 start time, their professor ambled in. He gave off the stereotypical 'absent minded professor' vibe, with wild hair and a rumpled suit. Dr. Turner didn't even make eye-contact with any of them before shoving a pile of papers at TA Guy and asking him to pass them out. He did so with an exasperated look on his face while the professor launched into a long-winded talk about his own experience and accolades. That quickly devolved into a rant about some project or another he was having trouble getting green lit, so Stiles tuned him out in favor of studying his syllabus.

It was pretty standard, or what he assumed was standard given his experience so far. There were a lot more essays than in any of his other freshman courses, but the dates and subjects were clearly laid out. He figured he'd get started on some of them now, then go back and tweak as they went over relevant information in class. It was a little infuriating to see that they were only going to be doing readings from the text book three times - he'd paid a fortune for the fucking thing. Maybe he'd return it and follow his initial impulse of getting his books through slightly more questionable means.

He went about his inspection, highlighting key dates and information, until the professor's outrage finally wound down and he remembered he was teaching a class. Dr. Turner whirled to face them with a slightly frantic look and then visibly changed gears.

"None of that, however, will impact this course in the slightest. I apologize for sidetracking that way. Ah, I assume most of you looked over the syllabus. Are there any questions?"

While he had a lot of them, not a single one pertained to the syllabus or their class so he didn't raise his hand. He did flick his eyes to TA Guy - Derek Hale going by the paper in front of him - and noted his resigned expression. He had a feeling Derek spent a lot of time herding Dr. Turner and keeping him at least a little on track. From what little he'd seen, it couldn't be an easy job.

Dr. Turner spent a few more minutes going over his expectations and making sure to remind everyone that he wanted citations in Chicago-style format, specifically of the notes and bibliography variety. As he had no fucking clue what that meant he figured a visit to the Writing Center was in his near future. Two hours ago he'd been under the sad delusion that MLA was the only citation style to exist, and fuck high school for making him think that. APA seemed like it wouldn't be too bad once he got used to it, and he hoped this Chicago-whatever would be the same.

Though he might try and get an explanation from Derek instead. The guy had office hours listed under Dr. Turner's, and he would have the best idea of exactly what the professor wanted. Beyond that, it might be nice to get to know him. He wasn't going to be in this course forever, after all, and he'd like someone on campus to talk to who didn't look at him like he was an old, old man who had no business being enrolled in college.

He even thought about going up to introduce himself when Dr. Turner dismissed them early, but the stampede of horny undergrads doing the same changed his mind. Dude looked both a little panicked and like he'd expected it to happen. Stiles didn't need to add to the crazy and he definitely didn't want to look like he wanted in the guy's pants. So he just gathered up his stuff and shoved it all in his messenger bag. On his way out the door he managed to catch Derek's eye. His mouthed 'good luck!' earned a tiny smile and an eye roll that summed up how he felt about the mob pretty damn well.

Giving the guy finger guns as a goodbye didn't go over quite as well, but whatever. He was an acquired taste was all.

All his morning classes behind him, Stiles was going to subvert the urge to call his dad and wander around campus instead. He knew where all his class buildings were, along with his dorms and all the places there were to eat. Now what he needed to find were the best study nooks and the best lounges to catch quick power naps in. He needed to explore the library - which had so many books he drooled a little thinking about it - in more detail and figure out which sections he'd be living in during his times of hyper-focus.

In short, Stiles Stilinski was fully prepared to take college on in a no-holds barred, take no prisoners, balls to the wall fashion. Now that he was finally able to go, he was going to give it everything he got, if only to prove to his old man that the years between this and high school hadn't ruined his future. He was going to excel here, he would make damn sure of it.

And he would let nothing, absolutely nothing, get in his way.

~.~.~

After chasing a maddening scent around Derek's campus all day, Peter was reduced to a snarling shadow of himself. All the wit he prided himself on was gone, his usual vicious patience torn to shreds. His wolf was prowling and pacing in the back of his skull, demanding that he find and claim and take. He had only the faintest idea of what had been leading him around by his nose, but he did know that it was important. Important and tantalizing. Too tantalizing, really - he'd dropped fangs several times during his thwarted hunt. His iron control was another thing he was proud of, and he should be furious at the source of the scent for ripping it from him.

Instead all he wanted to do was find whoever it was and rub himself all over them.

He thought he might know exactly what that scent meant, but he was afraid to hope. Afraid to be wrong after all this time spent waiting. If he let himself think he was so close to his Mate and he was wrong... it would destroy him.

All in all, he'd been in no mood for company. He had canceled the usual dinner he had with Derek at the start of every semester. His nephew had said nothing, but his eyebrows had implied both concern and judgement. He only hoped the boy wouldn't call Talia and tattle on him. Dealing with her as an Alpha had been insufferable enough. Having her play the concerned older sister now that he was no longer part of her pack was, in many ways, even worse. Derek and Cora were the only family members he willingly made contact with, and he admitted freely that staying in Derek's life had as much to do with access to the university library as anything else.

Little Cora, beautiful and vicious, had always lived in one of the few soft spots in his heart. Derek lurked at the edges, because lurking was what the boy did best. The rest of his pack... well. He would probably lend a hand if he stumbled across them bleeding in an alley. Beyond that he didn't have it in him to offer much.

Not after the fire. Not after he had saved them all only to have them still turn away from him because of his role as the Left Hand.

There was nothing to make him stay, no Mate's comfort or opinion to take into consideration. As soon as he'd moved to New York, Peter had thrown himself into his work. He wrote and networked, gathered resources and then poured them into furnishing his den. He may have no true pack to offer his Mate, but he was determined to make up for that with everything else. Discreetly he offered his other services to a select few, putting all the skills and knowledge he had gained as Talia's Left Hand to a better use.

When he was younger, Peter had dreamed of a Mate full of fire and passion. He had hoped for someone who wanted more than sitting around looking pretty the way Talia's husband was content to do. Werewolves always cherished their Mates, but when that Mate was human that adoration took a different form. He didn't know exactly when it had been decided that human Mates needed to be coddled and treated like dolls, only that it left a sour taste in his mouth. What he wanted was a partner, someone to match him and challenge him. He prayed for a Mate that would want more than to sit at home and tend their children and spend Peter's money. Back when he had been young and full of hope, Peter had dreamed of a human Mate who would fight and love as fiercely as any wolf.

Then 25 had come and gone, 30 following close behind. With every year that passed and left him alone, he let go of some of those hopes. He'd stopped dreaming of what kind of Mate he wanted and just prayed that he would find the one that was his.

Now, at closer to 45 than he liked to admit, he knew he would take anything. He would take a human who wanted to be nothing more than a doll if it meant he got something. Being picky was for those far less desperate than he, and he was only a little ashamed at how willing he was to let go of those old dreams.

But if he was right, if that tantalizing scent he'd followed all day was what he wanted for it to be... well. He would accept whoever was at the other end of it, no questions asked. Peter would give them anything they asked for as long as they would be his. Hell, if he had to go crawling back to Talia and ask for a place in the pack again before his Mate would accept him, he would put aside his pride and hurt and do it.

As soon as he found whoever it was teasing at his senses, Peter would offer them his everything and hope like hell they accepted.

~.~.~

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~.~.~

Dr. Turner was the craziest professor he had and also, objectively, the worst. Stiles loved him, and the two of them would often start riffing off one another in class. While they bantered, the other students stared until Derek stepped in to remind the two of them that there were in fact other people in the room. Doc Turner added almost daily to his more esoteric history trivia - through emails when they didn’t have class - and it was awesome.

Less awesome was the way it constantly felt like someone was tracking him.

Also math. Professor Cage was remarkably Harris-like in her dealings with him. A week in he was sorely tempted to drop the section and enroll in something else. Competing with that was the urge to stay and be as much of a shit as he could feasibly get away with. He had until Friday to make a final decision on that.

Other than that, his classes were pretty unremarkable. There were a couple kids in more than one of his classes that he smiled at and a few he was even starting to talk to. His RA was pretty cool, so he hung out with the dude on the regular.

Then there was Derek. Guy had an impressive eyebrow game and the chillest kind of no-chill he’d ever seen. His eyebrows were impressively verbose, like huge hairy caterpillars that emoted separate from the rest of Derek’s face. Conversation with him flowed easily, half about class and half just shooting the shit. It was almost like having a friend.

So things were going good. Great even, and it was shaping up to be the perfect first semester. Well, as long as he ignored that vague feeling that someone was dogging every step he took outside of his dorm. He never saw the person, but his spidey senses were always tingling, telling him that something just wasn’t quite right. Other than that though… everything was finally going according to the plan he’d made way back in high school.

~.~.~

Peter was damn near ready to pull his hair out.

That scent, that fucking scent, was still haunting him. It was all over the campus and it should have been child's play to find the source. Instead he was chasing his own tail more than anything, going 'round in circles and never finding what should have been a goddamn two-by-four in a pile of sand. It left him frustrated and half-feral, always a hairs-breadth from losing what had once been impeccable control. He hid that as best he could - a werewolf without a pack couldn't afford any real slip-ups - but he'd sent more than one co-ed fleeing from smiles that were more snarl than anything else.

As if that weren't enough, apparently Derek was tired of his excuses not to meet. He could hear his nephew at the door and cursed the day he'd decided to give the boy a key. That had clearly been a mistake and one he would need to rectify as soon as possible.

Jumping out the window to avoid the coming passive aggressive non-confrontation seemed like an excellent idea. He restrained because he did still possess a measure of self-discipline even in his current state. Besides, Derek would just chase him down anyway. Hiding in his room and forcing his nephew to search him out would only be humiliating, and pretending he was in the shower or on the pot was beneath his dignity. So he situated himself at the dining room table, flexing his hands and hoping he could keep his claws sheathed.

He also hoped Derek would show some small measure of sympathy for his plight. The boy had mixed feelings about Mates for good reason. If he were very lucky that might make Derek flee as soon as the topic was broached. That would be a nice escape that no one could accuse him of engineering.

"Peter? I know you're in here."

"Obviously," he muttered, barely keeping his eyes from rolling. Any werewolf with even a little worth would know he was there. It wasn't exactly impressive detective work. Clearly Derek had heard, because he said a curse under his breath that Peter couldn't quite make out. It was going so well already - he couldn't wait until they were in the same room.

There was something that was getting his hackles up and he didn't even know what it was... until the moment that Derek walked in the room. The scent he'd been chasing was suddenly sharper than it had been all week, rolling off his nephew - his fucking nephew in waves. His nephew had met his Mate and had enough contact to make their scent cling. Derek had touched his Mate before he could even locate them, and it was infuriating.

He didn't even know he had started moving until he slammed Derek into one of the walls hard enough to make the shelving unit mounted on it shake. His nephew growled, but it was weak in the face of his absolute fury. The growl he gave in turn was louder and far more aggressive, punctuated by pulling back and then slamming the younger wolf into the wall again. He knew his eyes were glowing, and he felt the way his fangs had dropped and his claws had popped.

"Why. Do you. Smell. Like. My Mate?"

Derek abruptly went pale and tipped his head to bare his throat. It soothed the rage and possessiveness that had roared to life inside of him; distantly he was glad of that. He didn't want his nephew's blood on his claws even if the insufferable, whiny little shit had managed to find his Mate first. It was certainly worth killing over, but only if the other 'wolf refused to give up the information Peter needed.

He had spent too long thinking, because Derek let out a high, uncertain whine. Willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, he set his fangs gently against the side of his nephew's throat to accept the gesture of submission and then pulled away. The younger man didn't drain of tension immediately which was good. Maybe he was finally learning caution; maybe he'd finally learned that being too relaxed was a good way to end up dead.

"I... apologize," he said, words like ash in his mouth. "I've had the scent all week but I can't--" When he broke off into a frustrated growl, Derek paused on his way to a chair, waiting a moment before starting to move again.

"You don't have to... I get it." Fuck, he might be on the verge of having a talk about feelings and shit with his most emotionally constipated relative. At least Derek didn't look any happier about it than he did. "I only came because you wouldn't have dinner with me," the man accused, like this whole debacle and the ensuing conversation were both Peter's fault. "If you just hadn't cancelled--"

"Who are they?" Derek didn't look surprised by the interruption, though his brows did draw down in an even scowl-ier scowl than usual. "What's their name? Gender? Age? Where can I find them? What--"

"How am I supposed to know? I see a lot of people in a day Peter. I don't know every single person that I've--"

"Don't pretend to be a moron," he hissed in return, trying to will his fangs away again. "How many people touch you enough to embed their scent in you clothes in a day, stupid boy?" A blush flared to life on his nephew's cheeks, and then he slumped in the chair.

"You have a point." Derek went quiet to think and it took everything he had not to stalk over and shake the truth out of him. He began to pace, hoping that his nephew would figure it out quickly and tell him the truth for his own sake. He didn't like killing family on principle, but he would have to if the boy lied about this. Honor demanded it. "I guess... there's really only one person it could be."

"... and?" he prompted when the younger wolf didn't continue right away. "My patience is thin, nephew dearest, and the last thread of it is going to snap soon."

"I don't... look. He's had it tough, okay, and he's so happy to be in college There's this whole plan - he started telling me about it but then I got bored, and-- okay, stop growling at me. I like him, but he babbles. It's a near permanent state of being, so sometimes I just... zone. A little. I'm not trying to insult your Mate when I say that though. Stiles is--"

"What the fuck is a Stiles?"

"That's his name, Peter. Or at least what he goes by."

So he knew his Mate was a man and that he had the most ridiculous nickname. He shuddered to think what the real name behind it might be. It was a hell of a lot more information than he'd had only ten minutes ago... and it still wasn't close to enough. Peter wanted to know what a 'tough time' meant, wanted to know what color his Mate's eyes were. There was a hint of ozone in this richer version of the scent which hinted at the possibility of magic; he wanted to lick that taste of power right from his skin. He was hungry for every quirk, every dream, every gasp and moan and strangled sob. He wanted everything.

A nickname was a paltry second prize.

"I... Peter I can't ambush him with you." Instead of leaping across the table and ripping his nephew's throat out, he gripped the edge of it instead. He felt the moment his claws buried themselves deep in the wood. He hoped it would be enough to save Derek's life. "I don't know how much he knows about werewolves for one thing. You know... you know that not everyone..."

He didn't often have it in him to be gentle. At that moment the best he could offer was not making a cutting mark at just how they knew that 'not everyone' was fond of their kind.

"And I think he could be a friend. A good one. If I just... if you just show up and I have to introduce you as his Mate? That's not going to... I know him well enough to know that's not going to go over well."

"So I should just--"

"Don't just show up. That's what I'm asking Peter. Let me talk to him and... and I'm sure he'll at least meet you. But don't back him into a corner because he seems like a biter."

His wolf howled and snarled, desperate to make his opinion on the matter known. His Mate should be proud to be his fated partner. They should be together as soon as possible, because he had waited so long. He had built this den, this life for them to share and he would be so, so good to Stiles.

"... talk to him then," he managed to grind out around his fangs. "Sooner rather than later, because if you don't? I will find him eventually. I won't... I can't just stop looking." Derek looked troubled by the promise that was part threat. His nephew was so goddamned soft inside that it was hard to know exactly what that worry stemmed from. He didn't particularly care either. "I don't know why you're still sitting at my kitchen table when you could be going to have that talk." Derek wisely bit back whatever warning or insult was behind his furrowed brows. He was smartening up too, because he didn't try to sway Peter or say they should have dinner. No, he just heaved a sigh and got up, walking gamely toward the door.

"And nephew? If you show up again smelling so much like my Stiles before we're bonded, I can't be held responsible for what I'll do."

To his credit, the other werewolf only nodded before vacating Peter's den completely.

"Stiles..."

~.~.~

"So let me get this straight." Keeping his voice even was a struggle, but he managed it because poor Derek looked like he wanted to crawl under a rock and die. "You're a werewolf - cool, fine, great. So's my best friend even if he's shitty at it. Rogue Alpha bit him," he added when the other man opened his mouth to ask - they always asked. "Shitty couple of years when it first happened, but we managed. That part I am totally down with. But dude--"

"Don't call me dude," Derek complained despite knowing he wouldn't listen.

"Your werewolf uncle - who isn't even in your freaking pack anymore - thinks I'm his Mate."

Derek waited like there was more, but nope. That was all of it - the whole thing was what he had a problem with. First of all, the whole notion was insulting. Like, he could pick his own husband or wife or whatever all by himself, thank you very fucking much. He didn't need fate or a werewolf's nose to tell him 'this is it, this is what you get, you're welcome'. It was bullshit. Plus he was human, or human enough that it didn't make a difference. What that meant for him as a werewolf's Mate was just... just fucking gross and a huge kick to the balls.

Mates who were human were considered 'precious' and tucked away from anything resembling the real world. They were draped in jewels and silks, given everything they wanted... and kept away from living actual lives. They didn't have jobs, didn't go out unless their fuzzy half was with them. The expectation, as far as he understood, was that they were mostly seen and not heard. A piece of art that couldn't be touched by anyone except the owner, who would regularly fuck it because it was theirs. God, even in his own mind they were little more than belongings. Pampered and treated well, sure, but property nonetheless.

It as so far from what he wanted for himself that it was laughable.

"Peter's a good... he's complicated," Derek amended. He narrowed his eyes, because the guy's own nephew couldn't call him a good man. "And he's been... look. He always knew his Mate would be human. Some of us just... just do."

"How about you?" The pain and utter devastation on Derek's face told him the subject was closed, now and maybe forever. He'd learned some tact in his years since high school, enough to know they weren't near close enough for him to go digging at those wounds. "Sorry. But look - I've got plans. I've got solid, important plans that are finally going right. None of them involve being the pet of some 'complicated' werewolf."

"I know all about your plan, Stiles. It's a good one. Peter will think so too. He won’t--"

"Won't what? Won't try to sweet talk me into quitting college because he can take care of me? Won't tell me that he can handle everything so I shouldn't worry my little human head over anything? Won't use flattery and presents to try and get me exactly where he wants me? What, exactly won't your uncle do?"

Derek looked very much like he wanted to head for the hills - he admired the guy for sticking it out. And really, he didn't have to be here. He didn't have to be having this talk. Derek could have just brought Peter with him, or he could have let Stiles keep fumbling around in the dark without ever knowing that there was a werewolf closing in. The big guy was biting the bullet here, and he was doing it for him.

He could keep his temper in check out of respect for that.

"He'd never force you," Derek finally said, breaking the silence. "He's an asshole with a massive ego, and he's done some things that... but he also has loyalty in his bones, Stiles. The people that he considers his? He'd do anything for them - anything. So if you really don't want this, he'd walk away. Not before he meets you and not before he takes a shot at... at wooing you, but still. Peter will let you go if it's what you really want. You don't have to--"

"Be fate's bitch?" Derek snorted, then gave him a faint smile.

"Sure, if that's how you think of it. So... could you meet him? Once? It would be in public and I could even be there if you really wanted. So could you?"

"... ugh. Fine. Put the eyes away big guy. I'll meet your uncle. And hey - maybe once he meets me he'll figure out that I'm not what he's looking for."

Derek didn't look at all convinced, but the words got his own brain to whirring. He could do it, probably. He could show Peter just how un-fucking-suitable he was to be a werewolf's Mate. The man would be running for cover by the time Stiles was done with him, and then he could put this whole thing behind him. His plans and future were the important things - they were at stake, threatened by some asshole who thought he had a right to Stiles just because he smelled good or whatever the fuck. He wasn't about to settle for being a kept man, a pet.

So yeah, he would meet Peter. The werewolf wasn't going to know what fucking hit him.

~.~.~

Stiles was late. Only by five minutes - so far - which was negligible in the grand scheme of things. He knew that, but every second that ticked by grated on nerves that had been scraped raw in the last few days. His skin was too tight and his wolf restless; the urge to run and hunt and kill to present a worthy offering to his Mate was nearly unbearable. On Derek's advice he had brought nothing but himself and was already cursing that decision. Maybe his nephew knew Stiles better, but coming to his Mate empty handed felt wrong.

Where was he?

It took another ten minutes before Peter got the first sense that Stiles had arrived. He would have waited a thousand more of course, but he would still have to speak to his Mate about the value of being punctual. Of course he only wanted to do that so he didn't look like a soft touch. With his Mate... he shouldn't need that kind of mask. Peter wanted to be soft for Stiles where he could be. He just hoped he knew how.

By the moon, even these first hints of Stiles' scent at full strength and he was already turning into an idiot.

Peter had expected a boy, someone fresh out of high school. It wasn't an unreasonable assumption based on everything Derek had told him. In working so hard to subvert what he truly desired as a Mate he had painted a rather unflattering picture of Stiles. He'd convinced himself that his Mate would be a step up from a child, a simpering thing who wanted to be wrapped up in silks and a wolf's protection. The boy would probably want to leave college, because why work so hard for a degree when he had someone to take care of his every need and whim? Peter would have accepted it, accepted just about anything if it meant filling the aching hole in his soul. His wolf had been whimpering over the lack for years, and he would take his worst nightmares of what a human Mate could be over nothing.

The man that rounded the corner was nothing like the grim picture he'd painted. Stiles might be closer to everything he'd once dared to hope for, actually. He wouldn't let himself get too excited though, not when they hadn't even introduced themselves yet.

The tattoos crawling up Stiles' arms were clearly magical in nature; he itched to read the runes and smooth fingers over the whirling lines. There were even more hidden under his clothes, he could tell that much. Those on his arms disappeared under his shirt sleeves after all, and part of one was peeking out of the collar of the man's shirt. He wondered how well they would have to know each other before Stiles would let him trace over the designs with his tongue.

By the time he was ready to take in anything other than those works of art Stiles had almost reached his table. There was a fire in those amber eyes which seemed near to glowing and a determined set to his jaw. His expression was not one of simpering pleasure - hell, he didn't look welcoming at all. Not when his lips were pressed together in a thin line and his brows drawn together in a heavy furrow.

His wolf sat up in quivering attention when he realized that Stiles was going to make him work for this. For them. It was a challenge he relished, would enjoy because at the end of the chase was his Mate.

Stiles stopped short of actually sitting down, choosing to stand behind the chair Peter had left for him instead. Even while scowling he was beautiful, with a constellation of moles dotting his cheeks. They continued down the side of his neck and all he wanted to do was strip his Mate and see how many other formations there were. As much as he wanted to trace the tattoos, Stiles' moles took clear precedence... and might have to wait a while.

The younger man was still standing, after all, looking and smelling more pissed off the longer he stared. He arched a brow in a question that was only answered by an intensified glare. Peter realized that he was fucking this up already and he hadn't even opened his mouth yet. Usually he was at his most charming when he wasn't talking so this... this did not bode well. Derek had mentioned that Stiles was feeling some hesitation, but this felt a hell of a lot more like hostility.

"Staring up at you is starting to hurt my neck darling. Would you like to sit down?" He gestured to the chair Stiles was still ignoring while he fought the urge to stand and usher the man into it himself. If his Mate really was feeling tetchy about them being meant for each other then he needed to control himself. No matter how much part of him was howling that he needed to scent Stiles, breathe him in and then keep him close until their scents blended and everyone knew the man was his, well. He needed to bite that desperate part of him back. He'd waited almost 45 years for this - he could hold on for another few hours or even days if he had to.

"I won't be here much longer, so I wouldn't worry about your neck." Disappointment punched through him and threatened to make him hunch in on himself. He held himself together though, and schooled his face into feigned nonchalance. His Mate was already on the verge of leaving - he couldn't show any weakness that might push him over that edge. "Well? Derek said you wanted to meet me. Here I am. We done?"

"I had hoped we could talk a lit--"

"Can't, sorry." Stiles sounded anything but, and he didn't know how to fix this. Not when he didn't know how it had broken in the first place. "I've got a thing."

"I... see. We could meet another time, perhaps? Maybe we could schedule it on a day when you don't have a thing." He tried to keep the frustration from his voice but he knew it wasn't working. Interestingly enough, he would swear that was a glimmer of self-satisfaction on Stiles' face.

"My time is in pretty high demand, so I don't think so. I know education isn't so high on the list of priorities for Mates," and oh, there was a world of scorn and fury in that word. Things were starting to make a little more sense, and he was going to throttle Derek for downplaying Stiles' antipathy towards the idea of Mates. "But I plan on getting this degree."

"I would never want to interfere with your schoolwork," he said and then ignored Stiles' answering snort. "But surely you aren't studying all the time. I could even treat you to a coffee or lunch between classes."

"Because throwing money at the situation is definitely gonna fix it." Before Peter could find a reply to that acerbic accusation, Stiles was off and running again. "And when I'm not studying then I'm working with clients. My services are in high demand even if I didn't have a lot of personal connections out this way before I moved here. I'm busy Peter. I don't have time to deal with... with this." He motioned between the two of them, face pinched in another distinct sign of displeasure. "So let's just--"

"Do you deal in charms?" Peter interrupted, hoping that talk of his craft would keep the man from leaving. "Or are you more interested in straight spellwork?"

"... I like wards," Stiles answered with clear reluctance. "And I specialize in breaking nasty curses. But that's not--"

"Curse breaking? That's difficult and dangerous work. You must--"

"Yup. Super difficult, super dangerous, and I have zero intentions of walking away from it any time soon. I'm good at it - too good to give it up to be a fuck toy."

"What the hell are you talking about?"

"I know how you wolves work when your Mate happens to be a human, so don't even try to pretend. I'm supposed to be a meek little lamb to your big bad provider self, right? I've gotta roll over and flash my belly, give up everything I've worked for and let you do all the work. I get a gilded cage and you get a warm body in your bed whenever you want."

"You have no idea what I want," he snarled, abandoning his attempts to keep his fury under wraps. "And you probably know only a little more of what being Mates entails, so how--"

"You have no idea who I am or what the hell I know. So don't you fucking dare--"

Peter slammed his hands on the little table as he rose from his seat, infuriated and wildly turned on. Stiles' eyes were snapping with fire, cheeks flushed and body primed for a fight. He looked wild and dangerous, like some Fey creature daring him to get any closer. Calling that dare could get him killed... or he could gain something more precious than all his accumulated wealth.

"I've never had any use for dolls," he said with a sneer. "And a living one doesn't interest me at all. I don't want a toy, or a pet, or whatever else you've convinced yourself of." To his credit, Stiles didn't shrink back at all when he flashed his fangs. Instead the delightfully feisty human snarled back at him, the scent of ozone in the air sharpening.

"I have a life, and fuck if I'm going to give it up for you."

"No one is asking you to."

"Not yet, but I know how it works. I've seen the way this fucking ends, and I'm not--"

"Since we've only just met, sweetheart, you've never seen me with a Mate. You have no idea how this will end."

"Fine. Then I'm not interested in finding out. I'm not what you want - fuck, I'm not what any werewolf would want out of a human Mate. So just... fuck off and find someone else."

There was no one else, not now. Not after he'd filled his lungs with Stiles' heady aroma, not now that he'd met the man the scent belonged to. Not since he'd seen intense eyes and tempting moles, and not when nobody else would have that same intriguing set of tattoos. Stiles was his Mate, and he could already tell that Mother Moon had chosen his fated partner well. They would fit, he was sure of it... he just had to convince Stiles of that fact.

"I didn't realize you would be a coward," he remarked lazily, shrugging one shoulder. "I apologize for frightening you--"

"I'm not scared--"

"No, of course not." Peter bit back a smirk at the way Stiles was getting his back up. "You're only running away so your busy life doesn't get interrupted. I understand how intimidated you must be."

"I see what you're doing, okay, and fuck you because it's fucking working. Whatever. If I see you around I won't hex you into oblivion, and that's all you're getting from me."

"More than enough, darling. You'd best be going - I would hate for you to be late for your... 'thing'."

Stiles stared at him a moment, expression caught between curiosity and anger. It was an enticing look on the man but he forced himself to ignore it. He needed to keep his Mate on his toes so he could try to woo the man. Letting Stiles leave without having anything settled between them had his wolf whining, but it was a necessary reprieve. He had some thinking to do, and so he only gave the man a smile when he huffed and stormed away.

Peter had a plan to make and a Mate to woo.

~.~.~

Things hadn't gone exactly the way he had expected. For a start Peter was hot as fuck and exactly his type - in any other circumstance he would be begging for a chance at the guy. Fuck fate for picking a sexy, cocky asshole to pair him with. It was going to be harder than he'd thought to resist his advances. Especially if the werewolf kept saying things like 'I don't want a pet'. That was probably bullshit, but he was very good at spouting it convincingly. Stiles had to admit to the very real possibility that he was in trouble.

He sort of hated Derek for bringing the man into his orbit. Except the surly wolf was a friend and the only one he had who was in his physical proximity. Besides, Peter would have found him anyway - at least he'd had a warning. Stiles had been able to go in with his tattoos bared and his chin held high. If he'd been ambushed he wouldn't have handled it well. Instead of hating Derek he should buy the guy a thank you gift.

Groaning low in his throat he let himself collapse forward, head thunking down on the desk. He didn't have time for this shit. Hot werewolves who wanted to sex him up might have been a fantasy in high school, but now he was a grown-ass man who had other priorities. He didn't want to get lost in someone else, not now that he was finally comfortable being himself. There was more to life than being a pampered pet, at least for him - he shouldn't judge the people who were happy like that. Probably.

It was just that he remembered how it had all gone down between Lydia and Jackson, and fuck did he not want any part of a mess like that. He couldn't, wouldn't be swayed by sweet words and a wicked smirk.

Nope. He was going to keep his head down and refuse to be swayed, dammit. He was fucking chock full of self-control.

Even as he thought it, Stiles could hear the way his dad would laugh and laugh and laugh if he heard it.

~.~.~

"What the fuck do you want?"

"I told you I would treat you to coffee between classes, didn't I?"

"... it's sort of creepy that you know I'm between classes, do you know that? No, not sorta - very. It's very creepy. You'd better not be hassling Derek for my information - I will shank you if you're bothering Sourwolf."

"He has a nickname already? I'm hurt darling."

"Ugh. Whatever. Stop walking with me, Creeperwolf. You should not know where I'm going well enough to keep up."

"You aren't going that fast. Here - take the coffee."

"Only because it smells so good and I am severely under-caffeinated. Get the smirk off your face or I'll pour this down your pants instead."

"Yes darling. Do try to get through math without hexing anyone."

"Why do you know I'm going to math? Hey! Don't you walk away from me! And I know you're still smirking, you asshole!"

~.~.~

"Hello again. Fancy seeing you here."

"Excuse you, this is my library."

"Really? How odd. The name on the front is Lloyd Sealy - however did you get 'Stiles' out of that?"

"You know what I mean! This is the campus library, so you shouldn't--"

"Stiles darling, not everything is about you. While it is certainly a delight to run into you here, this has been a haunt of mine for almost a decade. I use it for my research."

"... what kind of research?"

"You interest is very gratifying."

"If you're gonna be a dick about it--"

"I write. Generally I focus on crime fiction, which makes this--"

"Pretty much the perfect library.”

”Yes. It's why I continue to suffer Derek's presence in my life."

"Not because he's a good guy? Or because, you know, he's family and all?"

"The first is debatable, and as for the second... well. It's a rather complicated and sordid tale. Certainly not one I'd feel comfortable telling in such a public place. If you'd like to join me for dinner one night, maybe--"

"Dude. Tempting offer, but no. Not interested, remember?"

"If you say so."

"I do."

"It was nice chatting with you, but Sara has spotted me and is headed this way - she always manages to find the most fascinating tidbits. Have a nice day."

~.~.~

"What in the hell happened to you?"

"I do not have time for this. Unless you know a good way to kill a lamia--"

"Don't believe anything you hear about rosemary and salt - someone clearly once got a cookbook confused with a bestiary. Silver works nicely, blessed or not, but it does need to be pure. None of this sterling silver nonsense. Something longer than a dagger is recommended so you don't end up getting caught in her coils and squeezed to death. If all else fails, try fire. There are surprisingly few things in this world that can't be handled with a judicious application of flames."

"Uh. Right. Okay. Thanks?"

"You're welcome Stiles. I'd be happy to hunt her with you if you need--"

"No. That's... I'm helping a client of mine and she doesn't... she'll go with me. You're not... you're not going to tell me I can't go?"

"I have no right and no desire to do so. I do wish I could be there, but if you say no... well. Be careful. If you could let Derek know when it's all done and you're safe, I would appreciate it."

"I could... yeah. That's... he's my friend so yeah. Thanks again. I gotta, you know. Head out."

"Of course. Take care."

"Yeah. You too."

~.~.~

"Hey Peter. Still stalking me, I see."

"Of course. I won't get to see you otherwise. Here - I thought you might appreciate this."

"Dude! This is... I can't take this. It must have cost a fortune."

"Of course you can, and I received that as thanks for a favor so you don't need to feel guilty about it."

"Someone just... just gave a priceless grimoire, one that has partial copies that go for over a hundred grand."

"You are remarkably well informed on the matter."

"I was hoping to snag a few pages before I realized I could buy a fucking house for what they would cost me. Don't change the subject. Someone just forked this over?"

"I'm pleased I could get you something you wanted, even if that part wasn't planned. And yes, Stiles. I had a friend who 'forked this over' after I did him a favor."

"Must have been a hell of a favor."

"I wasn't always an author, you know. I possess depths. Multitudes even."

"Whatever. This is still... it's too much. And I'm not going to just... just fucking fall into your bed for a fuck because of a book. Not even this one."

"I didn't expect you would. I just know you'll get more use out of the book than I would. Have a nice afternoon."

"Peter? Hey I didn't mean to... offend you or... or hurt your feelings or whatever. Peter! Come on!"

~.~.~

"Spit it out."

"I'm getting there, don't be such a Sourwolf. Look I haven't... Peter's been, you know. Around a lot. Or he had been. But I haven't seen him all week, so..."

"So? Do you want him to be?"

"No! I mean... I was just. You know. Getting used to him. And he'd stopped pushing so hard with the Mates thing. Anyway I was just... I thought maybe something might have happened? Or maybe he was on a book tour or something?"

"He's fine. Doing research like always but he's not buried in it."

"Oh."

"I had lunch with him yesterday."

"Right. Right. That's... you know. Good. That he's not dead in a ditch somewhere. I thought maybe... but that's good."

"... do you want me to call him for you?"

"No! No no no no no. It's not like I miss him or anything. I just wanted to know if he was, you know. Okay. And that offer sounded like it physically pained you, so double no. He is right? Okay?"

"Yes."

"Okay. Good."

"Should I tell him you asked about him?"

"If you ever mention this conversation to him I will shave off your eyebrows. Now. What's Doc Turner going to give us in terms of essay questions on the midterm?"

~.~.~

Missing Peter was stupid.

He'd only known the guy for a couple months and they'd never even really talked. Only a handful of their little chats had lasted more than a few minutes. That whole Mates bullshit had constantly been between them, at least on his side of things. The werewolf was attractive and witty and occasionally hilarious, but they weren't even friends. So him being gone shouldn't be a big deal or even something he cared about.

Except... except that somehow the ass had become part of his life. He'd managed to slip under Stiles' skin and make a home for himself there. Peter had ambushed him with coffee at least once a day, brought him little snacks even more often than that on days when his class schedule was loaded. He would be in the library, just around, researching his own stuff and sometimes slipping a book onto Stiles' table - it would always be the one he needed too. Peter knew about all kinds of facts about the supernatural, and had on more than one occasion given him the info he needed to take down a threat or break a curse. There was that fucking grimoire that he loved more than anything else he owned, and a small stack of other useful books that had been slipped into his bag when he wasn't looking.

And now Peter was just gone, with no explanation and no goodbye. The wolf had absconded out of his life, leaving behind an emptiness under his breastbone that seemed to ache a little more with every passing day. Asking Derek always resulted in a long, hard stare and a gruff assurance that the man was fine. It wasn't enough, and he hated that it wasn't enough.

He'd gotten exactly what he wanted, and he was a fucking moron for being so upset about it.

~.~.~

He didn't fail often, and it was even more rare for that failure to be quite so spectacular. None of them had hurt much either, but this... It was like having a little piece of his soul ripped out every day. Even knowing that he was doing it for all the right reasons didn't help much, but he did find some small comfort in the fact. If Talia could see him now she would be shocked. No one in his former pack had ever accused him of being selfless, and they weren't wrong. To walk away from something he wanted so much, to let his Mate go because it was what Stiles wanted, went against every instinct he possessed.

But it was all that was left to do. He'd been trying for weeks now to endear himself to his Mate, and sometimes he'd even hoped it was working. The initial hostility had faded quickly into something he'd told himself was fond exasperation. Stiles would take his offerings of food and coffee and never tried to return any of the books Peter would slip into his bag. They'd started to banter a little and occasionally his Mate would drop crumbs of his life into those conversations. Those he hoarded more jealously than a dragon guarded treasure, using them to sustain himself until he could see the younger man again.

Despite all of that, it was clear that Stiles was still deeply opposed to the idea of being Mates. If the subject was even hinted at he bristled like a porcupine, then hurled accusations that cut marrow deep. As the Left Hand he had grown up steeped in the old ways, and the idea of Mates was sacred to him. It was difficult, infuriating and insulting to be constantly accused of wanting a doll or a whore instead of the partner his wolf craved.

He'd never been interested in a 'kept human' that was now considered traditional for werewolves. If that was what his Mate wanted he would have settled and been fairly content to do so. What he didn't want and couldn't bear was a Mate that not only didn't want him, but who ridiculed and debased the very idea of them. Every time Peter had tried to explain, tried to give Stiles context, he was rebuffed. The man didn't want any part of it, and he couldn't keep trying to force the issue because it hurt.

At least this way the pain was for a purpose.

Peter had lived for 43 years craving a Mate, so he knew he could live without. It would be harder now that he knew Stiles' scent and face, true. He was haunted by whiskey eyes and moles he'd never gotten to touch, by tattoos that promised his Mate could be everything he had ever wanted. Part of him would always be howling for the man and whimpering over the loss... but he could do it.

He could and he would because it was what Stiles wanted. There was no greater gesture to make, no other way he knew to declare his feelings. Walking away was the best courting gift he could give.

It would be easier if he lived somewhere else, of course. After so thoroughly learning his Mate's schedule and favorite places, he couldn't trust himself not to take advantage of that in a moment of weakness. Even if he managed to resist there was the chance that his Mate would always be looking over his shoulder, never comfortable because he never knew when Peter might pop up.

Leaving was better, even if he would miss the access Derek could get him at the library.

What he wouldn't miss was his irritating, gloomy, relentless nephew himself. The big lump had been staring at him for a solid twenty minutes now despite receiving not a single ounce of encouragement. He hadn't even bothered to snarl or sneer at the other wolf, hoping he would get the message. Unfortunately, Talia's baby boy was a bit dense.

"You would hate Nebraska. Your real estate agent is obviously terrible at their job."

"I don't recall asking for your opinion."

"You never ask anyone's opinion. That's probably why you fucked this whole thing with Stiles up so much."

"Dear nephew, I'm afraid if we're going to play that game you're going to lose, badly. I've never been fooled by a false scent, after all." The boy was growing a thicker skin, because for once he didn't even flinch at the allusion to Kate. That sort of fortitude should probably be rewarded. "But do tell - how exactly have I fucked this up?"

"Look. I haven't known Stiles for long, but I... he'd appreciate your intensity and the way you happily murder for the people you consider yours. He's got that same vibe, honestly, and I'm sure you could be a very happy and destructive couple. But as much as he's studied magic and the supernatural, he's not a wolf. He doesn't know anything but what the media and his own experiences have shown him about Mates."

"I've tried to--"

"You barged into his life and didn’t give him any access to your own. Does he know where you spend your time? You know where he lives - could he say the same? Did you even give him your phone number?”

”I…” he had to pause and think about that, which was ridiculous. Of course he had… he had at least given Stiles his… “Fuck.” How could he be such an idiot?

”That’s what I thought. Maybe you say you don’t want a ‘traditional’ relationship with your human Mate, but how is he supposed to believe that? You have so much of the power and you haven’t handed any of it over. He could probably get all that information on his own, sure, but--”

”I should have given it to him.”

”Yeah. So before you move to Nebraska, which you would hate, maybe try that instead. Invite him into your life instead of invading his. Idiot.”

He didn’t even growl at Derek for the insult, and he didn’t stop his nephew from leaving either. The other wolf was right anyway. He had been an idiot, and he couldn’t believe he had overlooked something so plain. Offering things - even things Stiles liked and enjoyed - had been the wrong tack to take from the beginning. He was a fool not to have seen it earlier.

Because maybe he had meant to show Stiles what he could give, but he had really been taking instead. He’d offered nothing real to Stiles, nothing that was inherently his own. No, like an arrogant fool he had fallen neatly into the role of ‘big bad provider’ and then was startled when his Mate didn’t swoon.

Now he just had to hope that he could fix it, and that Stiles wouldn’t mind having an idiot by his side for the rest of their lives.

~.~.~

Peter had been gone for two weeks, and fuck him for disappearing right before midterms. Any grades below a B+ he was going to lay at the werewolf’s feet and demand compensation for. His concentration had been shot all to hell; even Derek’s reassurances weren’t enough to stop that.

Maybe if he could have gone home for break his nerves wouldn’t be so on edge. But it made more sense to save his money for stupid shit like eating and transportation. He wouldn’t see Beacon Hills again until the fall semester was over.

His depressing thoughts were interrupted by someone clearing their throat nearby. “I am trying to wallow,” he muttered. When a familiar chuckle answered him, he shot up in his seat and looked up into Peter’s face. There was just enough time to process the way the werewolf looked unusually subdued and serious, and then suddenly his face was buried in that obscenely cut v-neck. He was twisting the back of the shirt in his hands as well, which was interesting. He didn’t remember moving, let alone wrapping Peter up in a hug.

There was a longer hesitation than he would have expected before he felt arms wrap around him in return. It soothed the empty feeling he’d been carrying around in his chest, replacing it with a glowing warmth that scared him a little. His worry also faded, leaving him feeling pissed instead.

”You asshole!” he raged quietly, not wanting to draw the ire of the library staff. “You think you can just… just come back after vanishing? Fucking jerk.” Peter let him land a punch to his shoulder, which was fucking annoying and satisfying in equal measure so he did it again. “What the hell is your problem?”

Gentle hands framed his face, which was a great way to stop his flailing - if the werewolf had grabbed his wrists he would have kneed the bastard in the balls. The gentle caress Peter gave both his cheeks calmed his anger instead of sparking it further, but that didn’t mean he stopped glaring up at him.

”I’m sorry.”

”You’re sorry.”

”Yes, Stiles, that’s what I said. Pay attention, won’t you darling?”

”I will hex you into the next century, swear to God--”

Peter leaned in, pressing their foreheads together and took a deep breath. “I missed your scent so much,” he murmured, so softly that he probably hadn’t meant to be heard. “Thinking I could go without was so…” Another deep breath, and the man was pulling away, hands dropping to Stiles’ shoulders. “Derek has recently informed me that I’ve been a bit… well. A bit stupid. As much as it hurts me to have my idiot of a nephew be the one to realize it, he was right. So yes - I’m sorry. I’m sorry for disappearing, and I’m sorry for having my head stuck up my ass before that.”

”That’s… I… what?”

”I went about wooing you all wrong, didn’t I sweetheart?” There was a wry smile on the man’s lips that was very different than his usual smirk. Stiles didn’t like it very much. “Thought I was so different from all those other werewolves, the ones stupid enough to think humans need to be coddled and cossetted like children. But as soon as I caught your scent I acted just like them.”

”This feels like goodbye. Why does this feel like goodbye?” And why the fuck did that thought hurt so much?

”It can be, if that’s what you want. I won’t follow you anymore or ‘just happen’ to show up. I will continue to use the library, but I generally stick to the same times every week. There’s a list for that, since it’s rightfully your space.”

”Uh, no? You were here first.” What was going on?

”Yes, but now that you go here… I’m fucking this up too. The point is that you’ll get to decide if you see me there or not instead of me making that decision. You’ll also have my cell number, my email address and my actual address. It’s what I should have given you right from the start, I think. That power to decide. I held all the cards at first, and I was too stupid to even realize it. I’m sorry.”

He stared in open-mouthed shock as Peter reached into the bag he hadn’t even noticed on the floor. When he pulled out a file folder thick with documents, Stiles couldn’t help but snort in amusement. Once it was pressed into his hands he gave into the urge to flip through it. He was both impressed, flattered and a little creeped out by it all, the latter only because he was sure that Peter had a file just like it on him.

There was contact information, sure, but also a list of Peter’s favorite places. Each was also detailed with times the wolf preferred to visit them and, in a number of cases, the table he usually sat at. Walking and jogging routes, the park he chose to frolic in as a wolf on the full moon… everything he would need to either avoid Peter completely or see him at every turn. The books he’d written were all there along with the name and number of the guy’s editor and publicist - just in case, he’d handwritten beside them in a neat scrawl. A few friends were listed as fucking character references, and when he saw that he started to laugh.

He laughed hard enough that he had to put that ridiculous, amazing folder down on the table so he wouldn’t drop it and scatter the contents. Almost immediately afterwards he collapsed into the chair and hunched in on himself, arms wrapped around his aching stomach. There were tears in his eyes and more of that terrifying warmth in his heart - it was the best he’d felt since leaving everyone he loved behind in Beacon Hills.

Peter was watching him with that smug smirk back in place, and fuck but it was hot. If he weren’t laughing so hard he couldn’t breathe he might even have said so. He couldn’t stop, because every time he did he thought of references and immaculately drawn floor maps, and it just tickled his funny bone all over again.

His idiot werewolf was the one to pack him up when one of the staff members came over to yell at him. Peter was careful to get everything back into his messenger bag and thoughtfully wrote down the call numbers for all the library books he had laid out on the table. Stiles let the wolf take him by the arm and escort him out, still snorting and giggling and trying to hide it by pressing his face into Peter’s bicep.

A wonderfully muscular bicep that smelled fucking amazing.

By the time his fit of laughter finally trailed off, leaving him winded and his cheeks feeling overly warm, they were by a car he recognized as Peter’s. It had been in the file, after all, as one of three vehicles the wolf liked to drive in the city and another he broke out for cross-country travel.

”You’re ridiculous,” he finally managed to gasp out, not sure if he loved or hated the way his heart felt so full it could bust. His werewolf’s face briefly fell before sliding into a neutral expression Stiles suspected meant he was hurt and too worried about looking weak to show it. That had been the last expression he’d seen before the wolf had turned tail and run the last time, anyway. “And impressively thorough.”

A bit of hope edged into Peter’s eyes, which was kind of sweet to watch. He was still pissed the man had pulled his vanishing act right before midterms, but in the moment it was hard to remember why he’d been fighting this - them - so hard. While he still wasn’t ready to fall into forever with the guy… maybe he could dip his toes into the pool.

The file was an intriguing look into the way his wolf’s mind worked, and he was going to get on reading the guy’s books ASAP. He still felt the phantom of that gentle touch from earlier, and he wanted more. It was so much better than surprise visits, coffee, and books that were worth more than his dad made in two years as Sheriff. That stupid folder was a key to the guy’s whole life, and he’d dropped it right into his hands.

It was enough to make him think that maybe Peter really didn’t want to keep him as a pet.

”Hey,” he reached out to grab hold of the man’s shirt, pleased when Peter allowed him to drag the man closer. “Date me.”

”... excuse me?” Something like awe was blending with hope and confusion in the man’s eyes. “Date you?”

”Yeah. You know, pick me up in one of your fancy cars, take me to dinner and a movie. Then we can make out, maybe do a little groping, and then you drop me off and we say goodnight. At first anyway. We’ll see how it goes after that. I’m not making any promises, Peter,” he warned quietly. “I still think this whole fated Mates thing is kind of bullshit.”

”Fair enough. Will you… can I teach you a little bit about what being Mates is meant to be?”

”Sure thing, Creeperwolf.”

”I protest that nickname.”

”So you don’t have a file at least this thick on me and all my habits?” The innocent look on the man’s face didn’t fool him for a second. “That’s what I thought, you creeper. You’re lucky I find that kind of reconnaissance sexy.”

”Very lucky. And I would love to date you, darling.” Peter brought a hand to the side of his neck, then slid it around until his palm was pressed to the nape of his neck. The warm weight was a comfort, and he gave a soft sigh and let his lids flutter shut. After a moment he leaned down a little to bring their foreheads together and was rewarded with the sound of Peter breathing him in again.

”I missed you. Fuck if I know why, but I missed you. Derek threw a book at my head the last time I asked about you.”

”Do we owe him a fruit basket or an unpleasant surprise?”

”Fruit basket for sure. Now shut up and kiss me. If you ask me if I’m sure,” he added quickly, opening one eye to see that, sure enough, the man had opened his mouth to speak. “I will knee you in the balls and our first date will be grope-less. I can make my own goddamned choices, and I don’t need you to check in after every one, alright? So just-- hmmm…”

Peter’s lips were soft and dry, and the light scrape of his stubble was the perfect contrast to that. The man’s palm stayed pressed to the back of his neck while other hand found its way to the small of his back. Stiles let his own hands fall to Peter’s hips, squeezing down and delighting in the way his wolf groaned against his mouth.

There were no fireworks, no sudden and all consuming passion that swept him away and made him forget all his objections. As far as first kisses went it was amazing, without the awkward fumbling and hesitancy he was used to, but neither one of them moved to deepen it or take things any further. All in all, it was sort of… just a kiss. A great kiss, but he’d thought… maybe he’d expected more since they were supposed to be Mates. He’d expected something more explosive, he guessed.

Instead it was like something quietly slotting into place inside of him. Or maybe like a gentle tug to his arm, one that said ‘pay attention, this is important’. It was a softer, sweeter thing than he’d thought it would be. It made him hope that maybe he really didn’t know a fucking thing about Mates after all.

~.~.~

Several years later, when they were very happily not-married despite Talia’s increasingly desperate hints, the contents of both Peter’s files were hung in places of pride throughout the house. The pages had been lovingly mingled and then preserved in gorgeous frames, bits of red yarn strung between bits of their lives that had overlapped before they’d even met. Derek always looked pleased - too pleased, in Peter’s opinion - whenever he saw them. Thankfully his nephew’s Mate was good at turning that smug look into a bashful blush with only a few sweet, teasing words.

Most of Stiles’ friends had been horrified by them, but he didn’t care. His Mate was still prone to giggling whenever he read over that list of character references and that was all that really mattered. It helped that John took one look at them and broke out into peals of laughter himself, gasping out that Stiles had gotten exactly what he deserved. It had probably been as much insult as compliment, but that was fine. He’d still preened at that sign of acceptance from his Mate’s father, much to the man’s amusement.

They were talking about adopting, and he looked forward to the idea of having pups to look after. He would be the one to stay home, of course, and he relished in the scandalized look Talia gave him whenever the plan was mentioned. His Mate indulged him by talking about it and their mutual dislike of the institution of marriage every time he was in the same room as Peter’s sister.

All in all, his life with Stiles had absolutely been worth the wait.