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Soothing the Burn

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Peter felt tears in his eyes, reaching out. He howled in pain, begging for someone to answer. Anyone. Please, he begged as the smoke filled his lungs. Please!

“Peter!”

Peter jolted, eyes snapping open and glowing bright blue. He stared in surprise at the figure leaning over him, blurry from tears. Pale skin, dark hair, brown eyes.

“Leah,” he breathed, only realizing his mistake when he breathed back in, the scent familiar but not that of his wife’s.

Stiles frowned, looking oddly concerned. “It’s…it’s Stiles, Peter,” he corrected, voice uncharacteristic soft. Hesitant. “You started making noises in your sleep. I figured you’d probably rather me wake you.”

Peter nodded, forcing himself to sit up and clenching his eyes shut at the sudden burn he felt behind them as his mind caught up with everything once more. Leah was gone. Everyone was gone, burnt away to ash.

Stiles slowly moved to sit beside him, though he didn’t say anything. He eventually shifted to lean against Peter, shoulder brushing him solidly. Peter reached up, pinching at the bridge of his nose and trying to hide his trembling lip behind his hand.

“If you need to let it out, I swear I won’t breathe a word of it,” Stiles vowed quietly but no less seriously. Peter quivered, moisture gathering in his eyes without his consent. His lip curled in an attempt to keep the sobs at bay. Stiles reached over, brushing his shoulders and guiding him closer. Peter lost it, hiding his face against Stiles shoulder as he sobbed uncontrollably. Stiles turned to hold him more securely against him, hands bracing his shoulders and brushing up and down his back. Thankfully he didn’t offer meaningless platitudes, which Peter doubted he could’ve stomached. As his sobs wracked through his whole body, Stiles curled his hands in Peter’s shirt and his hair, clutching him to him tightly. He felt almost like a pup, protected and safe, and wasn’t that ridiculous? Stiles would sooner kill him than protect him and he was still arguably the closest one in the ‘Pack’ to him, by virtue of them being left to research together a lot. Peter whined, high and desperate. He longed for his Pack. His sister, his Alpha. Talia might not have been perfect and maybe they’d argued more often than not, but she’d done her best when it came to being saddled with a little brother sixteen years her younger and parents who didn’t want to deal with him. She’d practically raised him herself, even. And even though she’d never favored his methods in protecting the Pack, she’d always trusted that he’d acted in the Pack’s best interest and would have his back. He missed having someone in his corner unconditionally.

He managed to get himself under control but was still hesitant to pull away from Stiles’ hold. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d felt a kind touch and wasn’t that a sad thing for a wolf to say? He rested his forehead on the boy’s shoulder, wondering just how much damage control he’d have to manage after this utterly embarrassing breakdown.

Stiles softened his hold but didn’t pull away. He ran his fingers through Peter’s hair rhythmically and it soothed his wolf.

“Not that I’m comparing our situation, but sometimes it helps me to talk about the good times with my mom. From before she got sick, you know?” Stiles spoke, voice quiet but even. Calming. “Not with my dad really, cause he can still get really depressed sometimes if I’m not careful with what memory I bring up, but with some of the officers at the station or Melissa.” He brushed through Peter’s hair and the man cautiously nuzzled against the bare skin above the collar of his shirt, scenting the boy in a way he hadn’t done to anyone in years. It was nice. Stiles hummed, tilting his head just a bit and bumping his nose against Peter’s temple. That was even nicer. Acceptance, even if only temporary, was a relief.

“I know Derek can’t really be the best person to reminiscence with,” The boy continued. “So, you know if you ever want to talk, I would listen. And I’ll be honest, I’m still not a hundred percent certain about your plans, but I don’t think you’re our enemy right now.”

“Why, Stiles,” Peter finally spoke, voice just a little scratchy. “I’m hurt.”

Stiles snorted, rolling his eyes even as he gently cuffed the back of Peter’s head. The man smirked, pulling away to show it to Stiles who returned it.

“Dangerous and a potential threat, yes. But you’re not our enemy right now, at least. Are you?”

Peter shook his head minutely, reluctantly releasing his hold on the boy and fighting the urge to hide his face after such a reaction. Stiles smiled. It was Peter’s turn to roll his eyes.

“Thank you,” he murmured after a moment, glancing at Stiles before looking away.

Stiles nodded, running his hand across Peter’s shoulders and squeezing the back of his neck once before releasing him and reclining back into the sofa with a raised brow. Peter probably should’ve reacted against that, maybe it’s what Stiles was expecting, but instead he only felt a security blanket over him. His wolf calmed at the pressure, soothed, and settled down.

“So. Pixies.” Stiles tried to turn their conversation back to the point of research. Peter eyed the space beside Stiles and before the boy could react had crawled onto the space, curling against the boy and resting his head on Stiles’ chest. He was obviously surprised, muscles jerking in a mild flail, but he didn’t push Peter away, just curved his arm around Peter’s shoulders and held him close. His rabbit-fast heart was a nice sound.

“They need to use fire,” Peter spoke, eyes fluttering shut as he took in slow, deep breaths saturated with Stiles’ scent.

Stiles hummed, brushing through Peter’s hair again. He seemed to like that, not that Peter was complaining either. “How long have you known that?” he asked, curious but not judgmental sounding.

“First book I read.” Peter motioned carelessly towards the pile of books on the floor. “I just…don’t like fire,” he admitted.

Stiles nodded, understanding and not calling the man out.

“I’ll text them. You take a nap. I’ll wake you up once Scott says they’re on their way back,” he promised, already digging his phone out of his pocket and texting one-handedly. Peter nuzzled against his chest again before slowly, oh so slowly, letting himself fall to sleep, listening to the quick beat of Stiles’ heart, feeling the steady petting of Stiles’ fingers through his hair, and breathing in Stiles with every lungful.

When Stiles shook him awake a couple hours later, he hadn’t felt a single flame or smelt so much of a whiff of smoke. 

Chapter Text

It was a Saturday when Peter crawled into Stiles’ window. The boy was somewhere else in the house--kitchen, Peter was pretty sure--but Peter didn't want to chase him down. He just wanted to sleep. He craved the calm restful dreamless sleep Stiles had provided him over a week ago. He hoped the boy would be willing to repeat it.

Exhaustion weighed heavy on him and he didn't think twice about crawling onto Stiles’ bed and nuzzling into his pillow. He breathed in a lungful of the boy’s scent before sighing. The tension slowly trickled out his body as he scented the pillow.

“Woah!” Stiles exclaimed upon returning to his room to find the resident Zombie Wolf snuggled up with his pillow. Peter didn't even send a snarky comeback at him, actually looking mostly asleep at this point.

“Aww, dude. Shoes,” he complained, scowling when the wolf didn't so much as flinch. Rolling his eyes, he moved to unlace Peter's boots and somehow managed to get them off. He set them beside the bed before frowning. He wouldn't have expected Peter to sleep like the dead.

Ha ha. Dead. He was so funny.

“Hey? Creeper Wolf?” he called out, reaching out to shake Peter's shoulder. The man grunted, one blue eye slitting open to glare up at Stiles. “You just here to sleep or are you seriously hurt?” he asked, undeterred by the glower.

“Sleep,” Peter muttered into the pillow, closing his eyes again and burrowing deeper into Stiles’ pillow. The boy rolled his eyes but figured the wolf would be fine. He turned his attention back to his computer to let the wolf sleep.

...

When Peter woke, he was warm and comfortable. Relaxed. He took in a deep breath, letting it out slowly and only then becoming aware of the presence behind him. He stretched a little, glancing over his shoulder to realize that he was playing the part of Stiles’ little spoon. The boy snorted once, mumbling something as he snuggled closer, arm around Peter's middle tightening its hold before becoming lax once more. Peter hummed lightly, closing his eyes and soaking in the warmth and aura of safety he felt from the boy.

He would leave it be for now. He didn't want to give the boy too much over him. But this. This was...nice. Unexpected, but honestly wonderful. He leaned back into Stiles before letting himself fall into unconsciousness for a little while longer.

...

It became a thing between them. Usually at least twice a week, Peter would climb into Stiles room, craving the nightmare-free rest that he could only get when enveloped by the boy. They still snarked and argued most of the time, but Peter was tentatively claiming that there was an almost fondness in their words directed at each other. He of course knew that he'd always liked Stiles, but it’d been quite obvious it hadn't been mutual. Now though Stiles was generally more accepting of him it seemed, backing him up when the Pack mistrusted his plans, touching him casually—scenting, his wolf preened—and sitting beside him during ‘Pack nights’. It was nice. He was still on the fringes of the Pack, but not quite as alone anymore.

It was a few months before Peter actually noticed the change and he wondered how long he'd been doing it without noticing.

He looked away first when his and Stiles eyes met. He gave his opinion but was willing to follow Stiles’ plan. If he was making food, he always made enough for the boy too, even if it meant he'd have to bring it to him. He showed Stiles his apartment, let him read the few books that had either survived the fire or been in the vault at the time. He played the part of the little spoon more often than not, but he didn't necessarily mind it. But none of that was what caught his attention, if he was being honest. All that was in retrospect. What threw him for a loop was…

“Talia used to do that,” he spoke aloud, sitting at the table and watching Stiles prepare dinner. Stiles paused for moment, shooting him a raised brow look. Peter smiled sadly. “She'd always dance when she cooked. She couldn't sing worth a damn, but if she was cooking, she was dancing. She'd also spoon whip anyone who tried to pick at the food before everything was ready.”

Stiles smiled at the revealing of something precious. “I used to help my mom cook. She would turn on this old radio she had that only got one station with god-awful oldies on it and we'd dance. Sometimes dad would come in before everything was ready and she'd tell me she'd distract him while I finished up. Then she'd pull him into a ridiculous salsa-jazz-waltz mash-up that would have us all laughing and usually trip her and dad up.” He bit his lip, emotional like always at speaking about his mom. He looked down at the simple meal he was preparing, going back to cutting the vegetables evenly.

“Leah hated cooking,” Peter murmured after a long silence, voice weak. “On our second date she told me that no matter what, she wanted nothing to do with anything in the kitchen ever and if that was a deal-breaker than that was that.”

Stiles chuckled, glancing over to see a melancholic look on Peter's face. “She's sounds like she kept you on your toes,” he commented cautiously.

Peter laughed lightly, both of them ignoring the waver in the sound and the extra shine to his eyes. “Yeah, she did,” he agreed. “I always said she would've made a terrifying wolf.”

Stiles hummed in acknowledgment, trying not to think too hard about what that meant. (She'd been human and Kate had still—)

When the food was done, they ate on the living room, casting off the reminiscing of the kitchen and instead snarking back and forth over an episode of Pawn Stars. That's how his dad found them, walking in from a double shift and shuffling towards the kitchen, calling out a greeting to Stiles, before backtracking and staring at Peter for a moment.

“Food’s in the kitchen, pops,” Stiles reminded him.

His dad looked at him for a second, then Peter again. “Hale,” he greeted him finally, nodding once.

“Good evening, Sheriff,” Peter returned pleasantly.

John just sighed, heading to the kitchen to make a plate before joining them in the living room. He probably didn’t want to know.

Chapter Text

After that, Peter just started showing up. Sometimes he'd already be home when Stiles walked in, preparing a meal for both the boy and the Sheriff. Sometimes he'd crawl in through the window late at night and just curl up on Stiles bed while the boy did his research. Other times Stiles would come home to see Peter and his father watching a game and chatting occasionally. It was...nice. Very nice.

But it was sad that it’d been such a long time since Peter had felt a solid, steady, true pack bond that he didn't realize what type of bond he'd created until he was forced to in the most obvious and embarrassing way.

“We're not going to use anyone as bait,” Stiles hissed, glaring at him from over the top of one of the books he was reading.

“I'm just saying that so far the only weakness we've found is while it's feeding,” Peter shrugged, subtlety worried about why he felt so off all of a sudden.

“Then we'll find something else,” Stiles declared.

Peter sighed. “Stiles, it's been almost two weeks, I don't think--”

“Our Pack isn't expendable!” Stiles yelled, standing and slamming his book in the table. His chair fell back in a loud clang that echoed in the otherwise empty loft. Peter didn't consciously move, but somehow he blinked and found himself kneeling on the floor, head looking away and neck bare and whimpering. He gritted his teeth against the instincts, though he couldn't hold back a whine when Stiles stepped closer and reached out to hold his neck solidly.

“I know,” Stiles soothed as Peter fought against himself. Stiles brushed his fingers through his hair, scenting him obviously. “I know,” Stiles repeated, quieter. Peter huffed, deflating at this turn of events, and couldn't help it when he leaned against Stiles’ leg and whined again, nuzzling his cheek against the boy's hip.

“No one is expendable,” Stiles repeated, quieter and calmer this time. “No one,” he reiterated, looking straight into Peter's eyes.

“I didn't mean for this to happen,” he admitted quietly.

Stiles smiled. “I didn't figure you did, even though you were the one putting me in this place. But Peter, if this isn't what you want...” he began, frowning.

“No, no, don't be ridiculous. It's not that,” Peter demanded quickly, leaning more into Stiles’ touch. “Honestly, I...I like having someone care about my well-being and work to protect me. I was never meant to be an Alpha anyways. I just...it's a lot of ask, Stiles. And I have a lot of baggage. And you're still in high school.”

“Just for a few more months,” he waved off. “And we don't have to rush anything. We'll go at your pace. If you just want me to act as your Alpha in the sense that I give you comfort, then that's what we'll do. If you want me to protect you, I will. If you need me to claim you in front of the Pack, I will. Just let me know what you want from me.”

Peter whimpered again, hiding his face against Stiles’ stomach. “I just want to feel safe,” he admitted after a long silence where Stiles only combed through Peter's hair with his fingers. “I want to be wanted.”

“I do want you, Wolf,” Stiles said. “In any capacity you'll have me, I want you. And I always protect what's mine, you know that.”

Peter nodded, clutching at Stiles’ legs tightly. “Please,” he begged quietly, looking up to Stiles face to see a beautiful smile there.

“My Wolf,” Stiles murmured, voice reverent. His fingers brushed against Peter's check, the one that used to be scarred, before cupping the man's jaw. “I accept you as my Beta, Wolf. You are mine.”

Peter whined, leaning his head back as far as possible, showing his Alpha his throat. Stiles knelt down, leaning forward to nuzzle under his jaw before sealing his teeth around his vulnerable skin and biting. Not hard enough to bleed, but hard enough to feel and leave a temporary mark. Peter nearly melted in relief when a true pack bond settled and he was welcomed by his Alpha.

“Thank you,” he spoke, clutching Stiles tightly. “Alpha.”

Stiles smiled happily, scenting Peter some more and pressing a closed-mouth kiss to the corner of Peter's jaw. “Always, my Wolf.”

Stiles was fairly sure his dad knew something had changed, but he was clearly taking the ‘If we don't talk about it, it isn't real’ approach. Stiles was perfectly okay with that. The Pack, on the other hand…

“Why do you smell so much like Peter?” Isaac asked, wrinkling his nose.

“Because I spend a lot of time with him, obviously,” Stiles responded, not looking up from where he was taking notes on dryads and Nemeta.

“What? Since when?” Scott demanded.

Stiles rolled his eyes. “Quite a few months now, thanks for noticing. He's at my house practically all the time. If you hadn't been cancelling on our plans all the time, maybe you would've already known that.” He sent Scott a look, raising a brow in challenge. The boy pouted.

“Bro, you know I said I was sorry for cancelling so many times. It's just, things have been kind of crazy and I'm trying to get back with Alison, so you know…”

Stiles waved him off. “I know, I know. I'm just saying, I haven't been hiding anything; you guys just don't pay attention.”

“But how can you trust him?” Scott asked, looking like he was working himself up. “He tried to kill us! He's evil!”

Stiles rolled his eyes. “Peter's not evil. Manipulative and dangerous, yes, but not evil. He just has flexible morals.”

“But! But! He tried to kill us!” Scott argued.

The rest of the Pack walked in then, looking from Scott to Stiles in confusion.

“Yeah, and we did kill him. I think we're even,” Stiles drawled, looking completely unruffled.

“You did something!” Scott accused, whirling to point at Peter.

“What?” Peter asked incredulously.

“You're manipulating him! You got in his head!”

“Scott, would you calm down,” Stiles said, standing and moving between his Beta and the angry True Alpha. “Peter hasn't done anything to me.”

“Why else would you be hanging around him so much that you smell like him? He's obviously tricked you,” Scott spat angrily.

Stiles’ eyes narrowed, irritation leaking into his voice. “I'm perfectly capable of handling my own affairs, Scott, and I don't appreciate you insinuating otherwise.”

“But he's Peter,” Scott sneered, like the older wolf was a poison.

“And I'm done with this conversation,” Stiles ordered, moving to grab his bag, rage simmering but under his control. “When you're ready to apologize, I'll listen.”

“What? Apologize? Me?” Scott sounded utterly thrown for a loop while everyone else just looked a measure of confused and uncomfortable with the two fighting.

“Yes, you,” Stiles glared, turning to brush his hand down Peter's back to guide the wolf out with him. The man looked bemused but didn't fight the direction.

“I'll tell your dad!” Scott shouted, making Stiles tense and slowly turn to glower at him. Scott glared right now, looking triumphant.

Stiles sneered nastily. “Go ahead. I'm sure dad would love to discuss it while Peter and he watch the game together. Or maybe after we all eat the dinner Peter makes for us. Or maybe even after the next Big Bad comes and Peter's the only one who comes to help me with it,” he stated. Scott looked like he'd punched him, not that Stiles cared to watch. He turned to follow his Beta out the room, slamming the door behind them.

“Well,” Stiles sighed, running a hand down his face as they drove away from the loft. “Can't say I was necessarily expecting that, though I'm not completely surprised either.”

Peter was quiet, looking out the window contemplatively. Stiles glanced over at him before quickly looking back at the road.

“What's wrong, Wolf?” he asked, reaching out and brushing his hand down Peter's arm.

“You got in a fight over me. With Scott,” he answered, voice sounding with shock.

Stiles shrugged. “Well yeah. You're mine; he's just going to have to get used to it.”

Peter's wolf preened under the casual declaration; the steadfast loyalty in Stiles was a beautiful thing. Peter treasured it.

“Thank you,” he murmured, smiling slightly. Stiles grinned, squeezing his wrist once before returning both hands to the wheel. They drove in a comfortable silence. Peter was glad Stiles couldn't hear how faster his heart was beating the whole time.

Chapter Text

“If this has anything to do with Peter, I'm going to walk away,” Stiles started as Scott walked up to him at school with a determined look on his face. His step faltered at the blunt statement though and he looked hesitant.

“I just don't want you to get hurt, dude,” Scott tried. “I'm worried.”

Stiles nodded. “I can understand that, but you're going to have to trust me. Peter's not as off the rails as he was before we killed him.” He frowned for a moment. “That's one of the weirdest things I've ever said.” He snorted at his own oddness before shaking it off. Scott still didn't look sold.

“But he always has a plan. He's like that. How do you know he's not manipulating you?” Scott asked.

Stiles frowned. “Okay, seriously, stop insulting my intelligence. Yes, Peter is brilliant and very cunning, but so am I. If you can't trust him—and I'm not asking you to—trust me to know what I'm doing.”

“But—”

“Scott,” Stiles cut in, eyes serious. “Do you trust me?”

“Of course!” Scott answered immediately, looking insulted. “I just—”

“Then trust me,” Stiles demanded. “I'm not arguing about this anymore. If you trust me, then trust me.”

Scott’s expression soured. “Fine,” he agreed, reluctantly.

Stiles nodded once. “Good, glad that's over.”

Peter hummed, relaxing at Stiles’ side as the boy surfed the web on his laptop. Peter shuffled just a little closer, nuzzling against him. Alpha, Alpha, Alpha, his wolf rumbled, rolling belly up and stretching contentedly.

“Just let me finish this paper and then we can get our cuddle on, Wolf,” Stiles murmured, brushing his fingers through his Beta’s hair once before going back to typing.

“I didn't hear that,” his dad spoke from the doorway, looking incredibly uncomfortable.

“Dad!” Stiles startled, flailing. Peter hummed, opening his eyes and studying the Sheriff carefully. “You're home early,” Stiles added weakly.

“Yes, I am. And Peter is in your bed,” John stated, brow raised. “And I'm waiting on an explanation.”

“Uh,” Stiles hesitated.

“Stiles is my Alpha,” Peter spoke. Both Stilinskis looked shocked, though Stiles at Peter admitting it and John at the statement itself.

“I thought you were human.” John frowned, looking back at Stiles.

“No, I am! I'm just also acting as Peter's Alpha. It's...complicated,” he finished lamely.

“My wolf doesn't accept Scott or Derek as my Alpha. Stiles has proven himself loyal, protective, and fierce, among other things. My wolf recognizes those traits as good characteristics in an Alpha,” Peter explained, surprisingly. “Even if he is human, he's more my Alpha than any wolf in Beacon Hills right now.”

John nodded slowly. “And you're in my son's bed because…?”

“Wolves are very tactile within a Pack. As Stiles is essentially the only pack member my wolf has accepted, it’s calming to be in his territory, so to speak,” Peter explained.

John frowned thoughtfully. “And this cuddling…?” he asked, wincing at the word.

“With clothes on, door open, over the sheets, and completely no inappropriate touching,” Peter vowed. He glanced away for a moment, the only sign of his nervousness, before looking back to meet John's gaze. “I respect your son, John, as do I respect you. I would never do anything to hurt him and I would never take advantage of your trust like that. I...I really appreciate all that you and your son have done for me.”

Stiles was a little bit in awe of such honesty coming from Peter Hale. And if it wasn't honesty, then Peter was the best goddamn actor he'd ever met and he deserved an Oscar for that performance.

John studied Peter for a moment before nodding. “Okay. I trust you then. I don't really get all the werewolf stuff like Stiles does, but I will trust you, Peter. But,” he added, eyes sharpening like steel. “I will only trust you once. You hurt my boy or try anything he doesn't want you doing, I will end you. And there will be no coming back from it. Understand?”

“Completely,” Peter nodded, just as serious.

“Good. Dinner’s in an hour. I'm ordering pizza and I swear to god you better not say anything about the extra cheese meat lovers I'm going to get, Stiles,” he directed his last comment to his son, who looked ready to interject, but Stiles huffed and let him have this one. The Sheriff nodded and then continued down the hall towards his room.

“Thank you,” Stiles murmured after a moment, looking down to see Peter studying him from where he lay on the bed.

“For?” Peter asked.

“For being honest with him. I hate lying to him, but I didn't know what you were willing to share about our situation,” Stiles said.

Peter frowned. “Stiles, your father is important to you; I'd never ask you to lie to him for my benefit. Plus, he's been surprisingly welcoming of my presence and I don't want to take advantage of that.” He rolled his eyes. “It's not very often a father is okay with his teenaged son hanging around a man in his thirties.”

“He does trust you, you know,” Stiles admitted, watching the wolf in a new light. “He even put your number as his speed dial above Chris’ so that if he ever has any supernatural questions or an emergency he can call you first.” Peter's eyes widened in surprise at the information. “Plus,” Stiles added, turning back to his essay. “I think he likes knowing I'm not by myself all the time and that there's someone looking out for me. There in the beginning I was working on my own a lot since Scott was with Allison and Derek was brooding, and I got hurt pretty often.”

Peter's wolf growled at the negligence of the other wolves, but the man just pressed a little closer, closing his eyes and nuzzling against Stiles’ side.

“I should be thanking you,” he whispered after a few minutes of just Stiles’ typing. “For accepting me into your Pack.”

Stiles smiled, not looking away from his screen but brushing his fingers through the man's hair a few times.

“Anytime, Wolf,” he replied.

Alpha, Alpha, Alpha, his wolf yipped happily. Peter hid his smile against the boy's side. Stiles pretended he didn't notice, but his equally large smile said he did.

Chapter Text

“Peter,” John greeted, walking into the house to see the man lounging on the couch, some superhero movie paused on TV.

“Hello, John. How was work?” he asked pleasantly as the man sat in his chair with a tired sigh.

“Long, as usual.”

“Hey, dad,” Stiles chirped, coming from the kitchen with a bowl full of popcorn and two Cokes in his hands. He paused at the threshold. “Do you want anything?”

John waved him off. “No, I'm just going to take a shower and get to bed,” he refuted.

“You really should try to eat something,” Peter pointed out gently, frowning in concern and moving to sit up. “I could make you something quick or—”

“Not you too!” John laughed, smiling at their concern. “I appreciate it, boys, I do. But I'm beat. I'm going to go turn in and worry about food later. Enjoy your movie,” he added.

“Well okay then, if you're sure. Goodnight, dad,” Stiles called, giving him a quick hug before moving to put the stuff down on the table. Then he sat in front of Peter and moved to lay down in front of the man. John sighed, reminding himself that this was a wolf thing and trusting that if it ever did move into something beyond that that his son or Peter would talk with him first. He pulled himself back to his feet and headed up the stairs.

Peter’s eyes blinked drowsily, arm around Stiles’ middle and holding the boy comfortably against him. He breathed in his Alpha’s scent, listening to the steady heartbeats of the two humans in the house. He wasn't really paying attention to the movie, but he was sure Stiles would make him watch it again as some point anyways. He was just so comfortable in the Stilinskis’ home. It felt more safe and warm than his little apartment downtown that he only went to for quick visits nowadays. He could rest here, let his guard down. His Alpha would protect him, and both father and son had accepted him, even with all his shortcomings and bad decisions. It was liberating. Addicting. Amazing.

He nuzzled against the back of Stiles’ neck, scenting the boy familiarly. Stiles leaned back against him, hand tracing up and down his arm that was around his stomach before sliding down to intertwine their fingers and squeezing. Peter returned the pressure, feeling himself drift into a peaceful sleep.

When John woke up a few hours later, he yawned, stretching before heading for the kitchen. He paused as he entered the living room though, studying the pair on the couch.

Both Stiles and Peter were asleep, movie menu playing over and over on the TV. Peter had his arm around his son's middle, not restricting, just holding. Stiles’ hand was intertwined with the man's, holding just as tightly. They were both smiling in their sleep, peaceful.

John still wasn't completely okay with the man being so touchy with his son, but he'd be willing to put up with almost anything to see that smile on Stiles’ face. It'd been years since his boy had looked so young and happy, and part of that had been his fault after falling into the bottle after Claudia died. There was never a day where he didn't curse himself for that lost time, for forcing Stiles to grow up too fast.

He went and fixed himself a sandwich, coming back into the living room and switching the TV to put on a game. He brushed his hand over both Stiles and Peter’s shoulders as he passed and didn't wake them up.

“You know, we do have a spare bedroom,” John pointed out one evening during the wonderful dinner Peter had prepared. Peter looked at him curiously and John rolled his eyes. “You're over here practically all the time anyways, no point in keeping that downtown apartment. You're welcome to the room.”

Peter's eyes widened comically in disbelief while Stiles burst into laughter before grinning happily at his dad. John chuckled himself, giving his son a high five when the boy held up his hand.

“Ah...are you...sure? I wouldn't want to impose…”

John snorted, eyeing Peter incredulously. “You're over here for dinner practically every night and you're here for breakfast more often than not. You expect me to believe you're leaving in between those two?”

A light blush crossed Peter's face while Stiles turned beet red.

“Nothing’s happened!” Stiles was quick to assure him.

John waved him off. “I know, son. I trust you two to keep things clean and to not put me in that position.” He looked back over to Peter. “But it stands that if you're eating, sleeping, and spending most of your time here, why bother even having an apartment? Just make it official and move in already.”

“I...thank you, John. I really appreciate it,” Peter finally accepted, looking absolutely blown away. Stiles smiled.

“Awesome! We can go pack up the rest of your stuff and bring it over this weekend. Finally I'll get to read those secret magic books!” He crowed in victory. Peter rolled his eyes in typical Hale fashion, but there was a fondness in his gaze when he looked at Stiles. An awe and gratefulness that he couldn't quite hide. He glanced over and met John’s eyes, wondering if the man understood how precious a gift he was giving him. John smiled to himself, cleverness in his eyes, and Peter knew he knew.

Stiles was kidnapped on his way to the jeep after school and yet Peter was still the first to notice, growing concerned when the boy didn't arrive home at the typical time and didn't answer his phone. He went out, following the route from the house to the school and didn't find the unmistakable jeep until he made it all the way to the school. He called Scott, hoping the boy would deign this worthy of answering.

“Where's Stiles?” he asked as soon as the boy answered, not mincing words.

“What?” Scott asked, sounding surprised.

Peter gritted his teeth. “His jeep is at the school and he's not answering his phone. Where is he?”

“I...I don't know. I asked him to come over after school but he said you were cooking and he wanted to help. Said he was going home.”

Peter hissed in irritation. “Well someone took him then,” he muttered, fighting off his wolf's desire to howl, shift and hunt for his Alpha. “I'll call the Sheriff. Have everyone meet at the loft.” He hung up before Scott could respond, calling John as he headed for the loft himself.

“Peter,” John answered, no doubt confused. It wasn't often the wolf called him after all.

“Stiles is missing,” he told him, figuring the man would appreciate being kept in the loop. “He was taken after school. The Pack’s meeting at the loft and we'll start searching for him, but I just wanted to let you know.”

“Do we know what it was that took him? Any suspects?” John asked, voice that of a Sheriff but tone that of a father trying not to lose it.

“Not yet,” Peter stated, frowning. “I'll keep you updated though. For now it’d probably be best not to draw attention to it by mobilizing the police, but once we know more we can always change that decision.”

“God, my boy,” John murmured, worry taunting his voice. “Find him, Peter. Please.”

“I will,” Peter promised, voice steel. “And whoever took him will regret it.”

“Remember to clean up after yourself,” John warned, not arguing or trying to convince him not to. “I don't want to have to bring you in.”

Peter chuckled darkly. “You don't have to worry about that, John.”

The Sheriff hated that he knew Peter was serious and yet he still felt a measure of relief that this ruthless man was out to save his son and would stop at nothing and spare no one who got in his way.

“Keep me posted,” John finished the call as Peter hung up. John forced himself to act natural in front of his deputies and to trust Peter to find Stiles.

Scott was the one who found him. A witch coven had picked up the scent of a Spark and had come to investigate. Once Scott had found them, they had Stiles bound and gagged, tied to an altar and ready to sacrifice him. There was kindling at the base of the altar, showing he was meant to be burned, but obviously only after the leader stabbed him, if the giant knife was any indication. Scott howled his location and immediately set to trying to talk them into a peace treaty.

The Pack arrived quickly—barring Peter who was on the other side of the Preserve—falling into rank behind the True Alpha and watching the arrogant witches warily. They weren't backing away from Stiles, who was looking increasingly distressed, and also didn't seem to be buying into Scott's idea.

“Please, you don't have to do this,” Scott tried. “We can always work a treaty, I'm sure.”

The head witch rolled her eyes. “See, boy, this isn't about what we have to do. This is about what we want to do, and this Spark will give us the power to—”

They never did figure out what she was going to use to the power to do, since a wolf’s jaws had sunk into her neck and she gurgled once before her eyes rolled back, dead. The wolf snarled viciously, standing taller than any wolf they'd ever seen, and lunged for the nearest witch. The Pack was sent in a flurry, not understanding what was going on, as the wolf attacked the coven. It tore into the women, catching them off guard with its ferocity. Soon it stood alone in the clearing, blood covering its fur. The wolf's eyes glowed supernaturally blue as it turned to the still-bound Stiles. Stiles looked incredibly calm now, almost relaxed, as he watched the no-longer-snarling creature step towards him.

“No!” Scott roared, stepping forward to protect the bound teenager. Allison notched an arrow and aimed it at the beast, earning her an absolutely ferocious roar from it.

Stiles jerked against his bounds, shaking his head wildly and staring right at his friends. They hesitated, confused, and the wolf snarled before turning back to Stiles and loping towards him smoothly. It leaned forward and caught the rope tying Stiles hands with its teeth, tearing through the rope like paper. The boy quickly reached to pull the gag out while the wolf bent to release his feet.

“Wait, don't attack!” Stiles yelled, even as Allison looked ready to take a shot.

“But, Stiles!” Scott answered, gesturing to the bloody wolf standing at his side.

“It's just Peter,” Stiles waved them off, not noticing their flabbergasted expressions as he knelt to brush his hands through the wolf's fur. “I'm sorry I worried you,” Stiles murmured for his wolf’s ears only, wiping away some of the blood on his muzzle without a flinch.

The wolf chuffed, lip curling on a low growl, and Stiles rolled his eyes fondly, brushing his fingers through the fur at the nape of his neck before turning to address his friends again.

Peter?” Derek spoke before anyone else could, taking a step forward before pausing and then looking like someone had killed his puppy. He frowned, looking to Stiles. “How do you know? I can't feel any bond from him and he smells different.”

Stiles raised a brow. “Are you for real, dude? He's been in my Pack for weeks now and you're just now noticing the lack of a pack bond to him?”

The wolf chuffed again, nuzzling against Stiles hip. Stiles rested his hand on top of his head, grounding him.

Your Pack? But you're human!” Scott denied.

“Actually, I think this whole fiasco means that I'm not,” Stiles pointed out, glancing back at the altar he was meant to die on. “But even so, I've been acting as Peter's Alpha for a while. We acknowledged the bond a few weeks ago though, which is when it stabilized.” He paused, glancing down. “I'm guessing that's why you can turn into a full wolf now? Because you've got a stable anchor?”

The wolf nodded, bodily curling around Stiles’ back. Stiles nodded in response, accepting the answer. They'd have to discuss this later, without the Pack though, because a full shift was pretty cool and Stiles had a ton of questions.

“But...how? I don't understand,” Scott frowned.

Stiles sighed. “Look, buddy. I've had a long day. Can't we save the big reveals and explanations for another day? A day when I wasn't seconds away from being stabbed and then burned to death?”

Peter snapped his impressive jaws together to show he too was done with questions. The Pack didn’t really have any choice but to accept that.

.....

A little while later found Stiles in his bed, curled next to the huge now-clean wolf. He ran his fingers down the wolf’s back, watching the dark brown fur shimmer a russet red as it caught the light. His underbelly was white and tan, with brown interspersed through his coat. It was overwhelming really that he was allowed to touch such a beautiful, powerful creature. And yet where Peter had been vicious with the witches he'd been nothing but careful with Stiles.

“Stiles!” His dad shouted, rushing up the stairs. Stiles had been expecting the shout, since he'd called his dad just about ten minutes ago to let him know he was safe, so he just sat up and waited for his dad to make it to his room.

“In here, dad,” he called out.

“Stiles, thank—” John froze, eyes widening comically as he took in the huge wolf currently taking up residence in his son's bed.

“Peter?” he finally asked aloud, getting the same feeling from the wolf as he got from the older man. The wolf huffed, blue eyes blinking lazily now that Stiles was safe and back in his territory. John chuckled, walking the rest of the way into the room and brushing his hand down the wolf’s back. “Thank you,” he spoke, scratching once behind a twitching ear before dragging Stiles up into a famous Stilinski hug. Stiles damn near melted into the embrace.

All was well.

Chapter Text

Later that night, as he lay curled around Stiles—man now, not a wolf—he couldn't help to think of how close he'd came to losing everything again. He bit back a whimper, nuzzling against the back of Stiles’ head and pulling the boy just a little closer. He still wasn't sure what had come over him to bring about the full shift, something he'd never been able to do, but he'd felt Stiles’ fear as he ran through the forest and had just kept thinking he wasn't going to make it, he needed to go faster, needed to protect Alpha, needed to—

And then, like diving into cool water, his body had transformed. It had been as simple as one step to the next. He was running in the beta shift for one second and then he was on all fours, racing through the brush faster than before. And when he'd seen that witch standing over Stiles, gloating, knife in her hand…

It's been instinct to lunge, to bite, to tear. Stiles was his and he’s always always protected what’s his.

“Shush your head, Wolf,” Stiles mutters, rolling over in his arms and snuggling closer, patting him clumsily a few times before sighing and relaxing once more. “Too loud,” he added even though Peter was positive the boy was asleep. He rolled his eyes but embraced the boy, wolf rumbling in contentment when Stiles nosed under Peter's neck and settled with his warm breath wafting over the bare skin of his throat.

Peter closed his eyes. His Alpha wasn't worried and his Pack was safe. He fell asleep.

“Humans can't be Alphas!” Scott denied vehemently. Derek stood to the side, arms crossed and looking vaguely constipated.

Stiles rolled his eyes, sitting on the chair and only half paying attention. Peter was taking his lack of worry to heart, relaxed next to him and halfway reading a book.

“And you would know because…?” Stiles asked curiously, glancing up over his phone where he was playing a game.

Scott flushed red. “Because they just can't. It goes against everything!”

“Humans can form pack bonds and be in a Pack. Makes sense they could also form Alpha bonds, especially if they have enough magic. As someone who's been referred to as a Spark on multiple occasions and has done a few miracles lately, I'm beginning to suspect I have quite a bit of magic in me, Scotty,” Stiles pointed out dryly.

“But- But we already have two Alpha werewolves! Why would we need a human Alpha too?” Scott demanded, huffing like he'd made a point.

“I'm not just an Alpha. I'm Peter's Alpha, specifically. There may be two Alpha werewolves here, but his wolf hasn't recognized either one of you as his Alpha and neither has either of you recognized him as your Beta. You just kept him on the fringes and that was enough for him not to go Omega but only barely.” Stiles explained patiently.

“But why would you even want him as your Beta?” Scott was whining now. Stiles’ eyebrow twitched as irritation began to well up. “He's evil! He's tried to kill us and is probably just using you and you can't trust him and—”

“Scott,” Stiles cut him off, voice even. Peter sat up, instantly on alert by the tightness in Stiles’ voice. He studied the boy for a moment before turning to glare at Scott. The boy had the decency to look chagrined, even though he wasn't taking any of it back. Stiles narrowed his eyes before standing, Peter right at his back.

“Peter is my Beta. I don't appreciate you talking about him like that and I won't tolerate it.”

“But, Stiles! I'm just trying to—”

“You're trying to manipulate me just as you're accusing Peter of doing,” Stiles interrupted. “And I'm done listening to you talk bad about him. Peter is loyal. He's dependable. He's brilliant and pragmatic. He's ruthless, yes, but only to those who've targeted his Pack. But besides all of that, he's mine,” Stiles nearly growled then and Peter's heart stuttered, caught off guard at being claimed to vehemently. So proudly. No one had ever been proud to call him theirs before. “An attack on him is an attack on me. So you understand me now? You keep pushing him away, talking bad about him, blaming him, but you're doing all of that to me too.”

“No, Stiles,” Scott tried, instantly regretful. “I'd never—”

“But you are,” Stiles shook his head. “As his Alpha, I take responsibility for his actions. By accusing him of something, you're accusing me. I understand you're still new to being a wolf, let alone being an Alpha, but this isn't a game. Pack isn't a game. Pack is your family. And you're insulting mine.”

Peter could feel it, barely, over the Alpha bond. Stiles was furious. He was holding it back, trying to keep Peter from feeling it, but enough was slipping through that he could tell. He'd never had someone angry on his behalf, someone so thoroughly in his corner that they felt this kind of fury at an affront. He felt warmth settle on his chest and his wolf’s tail wagging. He wanted to fall to Stiles’ feet and bare his throat, carry his Alpha’s scent proudly.

He caught Derek's gaze and his nephew looked confused, surprised. Maybe even...longing? Peter curled his lip, showing his teeth, making his nephew’s eyes narrow. Stiles was his.

“Stiles, you're part of my Pack though,” Scott spoke, sounding almost petulant. Stiles frowned.

“I haven't ever been in your Pack, dude. I love you, you're my brother, but this bond I have with Peter now,” Stiles paused, grabbing at his chest like he could physically touch their bond. “I've never felt anything like it before. And between the two of us, you've never been the one giving orders, you know.”

“But you're my brother! You just said Pack is your family. How can you not be in my Pack?” Scott looked near tears now, lip quivering and eyes bright.

“Pack is different. Just because you're already family doesn't automatically make you Pack,” Stiles tried to explain.

Scott sniffled. “But we promised we’d always be brothers,” he whined.

Stiles sighed, shoulders dropping as weariness set it. “Scotty, we'll always be brothers, but that doesn't make you my Alpha.”

Scott sniffled again and Stiles stepped forward, pulling him into a hug. “We're okay, dude,” he promised, hugging him tightly. Scott collapsed into his embrace, clutching at him tightly. Stiles squeezed him once before pulling away a little and whacking him lightly on the side of the head. “But seriously, stop talking bad about my Beta,” he ordered sternly. “I’m not going to listen to it anymore. Got it?” Scott blubbered for a moment before whining and hanging his head, nodding.

“Okay,” he muttered unhappily. “I don't trust him, but I'll trust you,” he added, glaring over at Peter before turning a hopeful look towards Stiles. The boy sighed.

“I'll take it,” he shrugged, before grinning maniacally and tugging him forward into a headlock. He then dragged his knuckles across Scott's head, laughing obnoxiously when the boy shoved him off with a yelp.

Peter shared a look with his nephew, both wondering how this was their life.

“Stiles.”

Stiles looked up to see Derek at his window, uncharacteristically hesitant looking.

“What’s up?” he asked, setting his book aside and turning to sit on the edge of his bed.

“There’s…something you need to see,” Derek explained, looking at Stiles’ eyes so steadily that the boy couldn’t help but note how unnatural it seemed.

“O…kay?” Stiles said, tilting his head at the oddness.

Derek huffed through his nose. “You’re an Alpha now. And the territory has…visitors. Who might take notice of that. So you need to come with me so I can show you what we’re dealing with. So you can prepare.”

Stiles blinked once, twice—processing the words—before he jumped up and grabbed his shoes, shoving his feet in them. “Yeah, dude, definitely. Let me get Peter. Where are we going?”

Derek sighed like he was already regretting this. “The house. Peter probably already knows what’s going on.”

“Nah, dude, he would’ve told me if something was up,” Stiles denied. “Peter, we’re heading out!” Stiles called out and Derek heard shuffling from the kitchen as the beta put stuff away. “I’ll meet you outside,” Stiles told Derek, grinning and heading for his bedroom door.

Derek leapt to the ground and by the time Stiles and Peter were out the door, he was revving the engine in the Camaro.

“So it’s a pack of Alphas,” Stiles said, eyeing the symbol that had been painted onto the old Hale house front door. “How does that work?”

“Not well,” Peter supplied, leaning against a tree. “Alphas don’t usually play nicely with each other for long.”

“Makes sense,” Stiles muttered, mind whirling. “You can’t play follow the leader when everyone wants to be leader.”

Derek rolled his eyes. “We need to figure out what they’re doing here.”

“Uh, two choices,” Stiles said, shrugging. “They’re recruiting or they want the territory. Either way, they’ve got to go.” He frowned, looking around. “By the way, where’s Scott? He’s an Alpha too, shouldn’t he be here?” He gestured to Isaac. “And why’s Isaac here and not Erica and Boyd?”

“Because Erica and Boyd left,” Isaac supplied, pouting.

“What? When?” Stiles demanded.

“They wanted to leave,” Derek interrupted with a growl and Isaac slumped, eyes downcast. Stiles frowned and his eyes narrowed as he glared at Derek. “And I haven’t told Scott about this.”

“Why not?”

“Because he doesn’t have to be involved.” Derek crossed his arms, glaring right back at Stiles. “You’re only involved because Peter’s in your Pack and this is Hale territory.”

“I do have to say, not involving Scott might actually be a good idea,” Peter said.

“Scott’s an Alpha. If the Alpha Pack is recruiting, they might go for him. As naive as my bro can be, we’re not going to get very far if we don’t present a united front.” Stiles directed to Peter before turning and pointing at Derek. “And don’t think I won’t be looking into this Erica and Boyd leaving thing either. That’s certainly not going to help us.”

“They said they wanted to find a new Pack!” Derek yelled, eyes flashing as he took a step towards Stiles. “There! That’s it! That’s the whole story!”

“Hey, don’t bring your failures as an Alpha out on me!” Stiles shouted back automatically, chin jutting up in defiance.

Derek roared, fangs slipping as he swiped at Stiles with his claws. Peter growled, moving to block the blow only to stare in surprise when Stiles raised his hands on instinct and Derek went sailing through the air, hitting a tree and knocking the air from his lungs. Derek laid on the ground on his back, blinking up at the sky, dazed. Stiles stared at his hands with wide eyes, equally shocked.

“Holy shit,” Isaac exclaimed. “How did you do that?”

“I…don’t know,” Stiles said, turning his hand and watching it like he was about to catch fire.

“Those witches did say you were a Spark,” Peter spoke up, edging closer to his Alpha. “Maybe we should look into just what that means.”

“Yeah,” Stiles echoed in agreement, looking at where Derek was still breathing heavily. “Hey. You okay, dude?”

“I think so,” Derek muttered, anger having vanished. “That would be useful against the Alphas.”

Stiles grinned as the implications of that sunk in. “I’m going to be a badass,” Stiles realized, giddiness seeping in. Peter couldn’t help but chuckle. Stiles turned to him, lifting his fist to his Beta. “Don’t leave your Alpha hanging,” he sang.

Peter sighed, though his lips quirked with humor. “Teenagers,” he teased, though he did return the fist-bump.

“Hell yeah!” Stiles cheered.

“There’s no sign of Erica and Boyd,” Stiles said by way of greeting as Peter entered his room a few nights later, sitting at his computer desk. “Also, Sparks are apparently super rare. To the point that no one knows anything useful and I’ve almost exhausted my Google-fu.”

“Good thing I’ve got connections then,” Peter said, procuring a leather-bound book with a flourish.

“Oh my god,” Stiles exclaimed, excitably snatching the book and flipping it open. “This is, like, a whole history of magic!” He skimmed through it, hands flailing wildly. “And runes! Spells!” He closed the book, looking up at Peter with a grin. “You are so my favorite.”

Peter rolled his eyes, smirking as his wolf preened under his Alpha’s approval. “Yes, well, that’s a given.”

Stiles laughed, looking back down and reverently caressing the leather. “I’m gonna read you so good,” he cooed.

“Should I leave you two alone?” Peter teased.

Stiles waved him off, smiling down at the book one last time before shaking off the excitement. He was going to learn magic

“Alright, moving on,” he announced, looking up at Peter. “Have you found anything about Erica and Boyd?”

Peter frowned, sitting on the edge of Stiles’ bed. “Their trail heads out of town, but then it disappears. A magic user could’ve taken them and hidden their scent trails. Otherwise, there were some hunter trails crossing through the Preserve further from the house. I destroyed a couple of those damn ultrasonic emitters that I found placed around the outskirts.”

Stiles’ brow furrowed. “Argent?” he asked quietly, concerned.

Peter sighed. “I don’t even know. The smell of gasoline was too strong at that point. They probably had ATVs or something.”

Stiles rubbed at his temples. “Headaches, dude. I hate this.”

“Why do you think I wasn’t so quick to want the Alpha power again?”

“With great power comes great responsibility,” Stiles muttered, setting the book on the table so he could lean forward with his elbows on his knees and roughly run his hands through his hair. “Okay, plan. We need a plan.” He was still talking to himself, so Peter took the moment to kick off his shoes and shed his jacket, stretching before shuffling further onto the bed and getting more comfortable.

“Alright,” Stiles decided, nodding to himself. “Well I’m basically useless in a fight until I learn how to control my magic, so I’m making that my prime focus for now. And as much as it pains me, Erica and Boyd aren’t actually my responsibility and if you can’t follow their scents we really have no way of finding them anyway. The Alpha Pack worries me, but we need to know more about them. How many there are, what they want, where they’re staying. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat.”

Peter blinked. “Did you just quote Spiderman and Sun Tzu within the span of ten minutes?”

Stiles straightened up, offended. “Uh, excuse you; that responsibility quote came from Uncle Ben, not Spiderman.”

“It’s the same thing, Stiles,” Peter waved off.

“No, it’s really not; not even a little,” Stiles corrected. “Oh my god,” he groaned. “We’re going to have to have a superhero marathon now. I have to educate you. This affront cannot stand.”

Peter huffed. “Maybe when our territory isn’t being infiltrated and we don’t have a multitude of other things that are more important going on.”

Stiles shook his head, standing and grabbing his laptop before crawling onto the bed. “Nope. A break is just what we need anyways. All work and no play makes Peter a dull boy,” he said, setting the laptop up over their legs. “That’s a quote from The Shining by the way, although it’s actually a proverb from centuries ago with no definite origin. Since you seem to be keeping track of my quotes,” Stiles teased, winking.

Peter shook his head, smiling despite himself.

Stiles hummed, finding Spiderman in his downloaded titles before leaning back against the headboard and pressing his side against Peter’s familiarly. The intro was just starting when Stiles registered what Peter had said.

“Wait. It’s our territory now? I thought it was Derek’s?” Stiles said, looking over at Peter.

“It’s Hale land. I’m a Hale, and I’m in your Pack. Maybe if there were more of us left…” He trailed off with a sigh. “Since Derek’s a Hale Alpha, he does have more of a claim to it, but I’m older and also haven’t left the territory in decades. I have a better connection to the land than he does, which my nephew despises, but he’s the one who decided to fuck off to New York for six years.” Peter’s voice had a growl as he’d gained momentum, eyes flaring before he took a deep breath and calmed himself down. “It’s why I was able to do the resurrection ritual in the first place. The land wouldn’t have helped me if I wasn’t connected to it.”

Stiles soaked that in, taking Peter’s hand in his in a show of support as he thought. He couldn’t help his fidgeting, fingers idly playing with Peter’s which the man didn’t seem to mind. “So if it came down to it, would the land listen to you or Derek? Who’s calling the shots here?”

“This territory is alive with old magic,” Peter corrected. “Derek or I, or anyone with magic honestly, can make requests of it. That doesn’t mean it will listen or support them. The Hales protected this land, and generation after generation of Hale Alphas fed their dedication and power into its borders, so it has a predisposition for supporting Hales. However, I doubt my nephew is performing or even knows the proper rites and rituals to perform to keep an Alpha tied to their territory, so at this point I’m willing to bet the land would be swayed by anyone who promises to take care of it properly.”

Stiles frowned, pausing the movie and turning to face his beta. “That sounds…really bad, Peter. Like. Really really bad.”

“I don’t disagree,” Peter said.

“No, but listen. Laura left for, like, six years, right? So she wasn’t connected to the land. You never did anything with it when you were Alpha, correct?” Peter reluctantly nodded. “And now Derek’s not doing it, ignorance or not. That’s three Hale Alphas that’s come and gone and the territory isn’t feeling the love. After generation after generation of Hale support, I’m willing to bet that isn’t going over well. We need to correct that. Immediately. If the Alpha Pack is here for the territory, we need to make sure it isn’t that easy for them to just take it out from under us.”

“And what do you propose? Am I to teach Derek?” Peter growled this unhappily, lip curling in distaste. “My nephew who led our family into the flames? Who then abandoned me for years? Who slit my throat without remorse? Who is a horrible excuse of an Alpha who pushed his own Betas away?”

Stiles reached out, fingers coaxing through Peter’s hair and making the man look at him. “Calm down,” he soothed. “I, uh, actually meant me,” he said. He nervously bit his lip, but his eyes remained steady. “I know I’m not a Hale, but I have magic and you trust me as your Alpha, right? And someone needs to do something, fast. I just,” Stiles frowned, looking to the side and taking one of his hands back to grasp at his chest. “I feel something off. Like, something’s coming and we can’t afford to leave such an open vulnerability.”

Peter nodded, pressing his forehead to Stiles’ as he closed his eyes. “I understand,” he murmured, appeased by his Alpha’s decision. Peter had forgotten how nice it was to not have to make all the decisions. “I’ll teach you what to do.”

“We’ll start tomorrow,” Stiles said. “Tonight, we watch Spiderman.”

Peter couldn’t help but smile as Stiles snuggled under his arm before pressing play again. He supposed a break wouldn’t be a bad thing.

Chapter Text

Peter leaned against the open door frame to Stiles’ room, watching the boy as he concentrated on the spell book Peter had given him. Stiles’ hands skimmed the pages almost reverently before turning to the next carefully.

“In or out, Creeperwolf,” Stiles teased him without looking up, fingers tracing a rune that was written on the page curiously.

“I'm ready to head out to the Nemeton if you are,” Peter said.

Stiles did look up then, grinning. “Cool, give me a second,” he said, standing and grabbing his shoes. He swiped his phone and tucked the book safely in a box under his bed before following Peter. “So what's the Nemeton?” Stiles asked as they slid into the jeep and Stiles started for the Preserve.

“It's where the ley lines cross. According to my family's records, it used to be marked by a great tree until a fire burned it down. Now it's a stump with a mind of its own. It’s the most potent point of the territory.”

Stiles frowned, staring out the front window. “‘Mind of its own’? That's not ominous or anything.”

Peter sighed. “It's temperamental, I won't lie. It's got generations of Hale magic saturated within its roots. Plus it can be a pain to find if it doesn't feel like being found.”

“Would Deaton know about it?” Stiles asked. “I've been thinking about it and even though no Hale had been taking care of it, maybe he has? He's always super secretive anyways so it's not like he would've told anyone.”

Peter sighed. “It's possible, but I doubt it. Alan helped Talia when we needed a magic user, but he was always more passive and never did anything unless specifically asked by her. He calls himself maintaining the balance but honestly I think the man's just lazy.”

Stiles laughed. “Hey, I bet running a vet’s office is crazy enough without all our wolfy emergencies. Maybe he's got some more books I can borrow though?”

Stiles parked to the side where Peter directed and they got out, Stiles falling into step behind Peter.

“So I'm not going to have to sacrifice anything, right? I'm not a fan of murdering bunnies, dude.”

Peter rolled his eyes. “No, Stiles. Mostly this is just introducing you to the territory as a new potential Alpha and letting it get a feel for your magic. Then you'll have to come visit the Nemeton for the next seven days, every day. Then on the full moon next week, I'll show you how to officially tie yourself the territory.”

Stiles hummed. “So like courting, kinda?”

“I guess, if you want to call it that,” Peter shrugged.

Stiles gave that some thought as he watched his feet to try and keep for tripping. “What's the chance Derek or Scott will be able to tell what we're doing?”

“Scott? Almost zero chance,” Peter said easily. “He's not even attuned to his wolf, let alone the territory. Now Derek? I couldn't say. I honestly thought he would've been able to tell that I’d left his pack sooner than he did, but once again my nephew proved how exceptionally bad he is at being an Alpha. I have no idea how connected he is with the territory at this point.”

“Is this going to, like, evict him?”

“Not if he isn't connected to the land,” Peter said loftily.

“That wasn't an answer,” Stiles pointed out.

“Do you want to involve Derek then? Because that's the only way I can give you a certain answer,” he snapped.

Stiles frowned, walking faster and resting his hand on Peter's forearm, squeezing. “Hey,” he called gently, making Peter stop walking. “Talk to me. What's going on in that mind of yours?”

Peter sighed, clutching the bag on his shoulder and looking at his feet. He was uncharacteristically quiet, hesitant. “The last time I visited the Nemeton was with Talia and Leah to solidify our matebond.”

Stiles’ thumb brushed his arm carefully. “Can I give you a hug?” he asked quietly.

Peter huffed out a small laugh, eyes misty, but he grabbed Stiles’ arm and tugged the boy closer. “Damn Alpha,” he grumbled, nuzzling against Stiles’ shoulder. He would forever deny how much he liked the few inches Stiles had grown that put him just a hair taller than Peter himself.

Stiles scented him back freely, embracing Peter securely. “I've got a really inappropriate question but I'm going to utilize my often forgotten filter and save it for later,” Stiles whispered.

Peter laughed, pulling away to wipe his eyes quickly and throw a smirk at the boy, amazingly actually feeling better. The support and care from his Alpha’s pack bond did wonders for his psyche.

“Shoot,” Peter said, waving for him to ask while they started walking again.

“Well, it's just,” Stiles began rambling, “I do a lot of research about this stuff. And it's hard to know what's real and what's fake, you know? Like, a lot of my searches initially just bring me to bad fanfictions so you have to understand—”

“Stiles,” Peter interrupted, chuckling. “Ask your question.”

“Right. Um. When you said you came here to solidify your matebond…” he trailed off.

Peter laughed as he followed Stiles’ trail of thought. “You read some of those bad fanfictions, didn't you?” He teased.

“Maybe,” Stiles mumbled, blushing. “I just...it’s hard to know for real when it comes to mates and matebonds. Especially on the internet.”

Peter shook his head, humored. “Well no, I did not have sex on the Nemeton with my wife while my sister watched.”

Stiles turned bright red, covering his face. “Sorry,” he muttered.

“No, matebonds are different. Firstly, there's not just one mate for a wolf. It's more like...certain people have more mate potential. A wolf rarely knows immediately upon meeting someone if they have mate potential, just like a human would have to get to know someone before knowing if they could fall in love. It takes time, growing closer, getting to know each other. If there is mate potential, a wolf might start courting their intended, if they want.  There's no pressure or any ill effects if the two decide not to go that route and the potential fizzles out. Some are just happy being friends. It's different for every case.”

Stiles listened, absolutely rapt. “But what did you mean by solidifying the bond? Is there, like, a ritual? Does it involve magic?”

“Well, if the wolf has started courting and the suit is accepted, the two have a fledgling matebond which is made by openly expressed reciprocated feelings and a certain level of physical intimacy, normally small stuff like scenting and kissing. Not much different than dating someone. You can still break up and move on without any problems. Some might even decide to go back to being friends. But you can also decide to solidify the bond. That can only be done on a full moon with the blessing of the Pack. Normally this would be given by the Alpha, if they're not involved in the relationship in question. If they are, the Alpha’s First speaks for the Pack. It's normally performed on special land. The Nemeton is an old power source for the Hales for that's why we choose it, but there were a few other options we could've also chosen.”

“What's involved with the ritual?” Stiles couldn't help but ask.

“Mate-bites mark the other as theirs, as well as form a solid packbond. It's stronger than any other bond a wolf could ever feel. A wolf can always find their mate. They share power and pain. Even if that wolf became packless, they would have a stable anchor in their mate. They would normally share deaths, too.” He paused, looking down. “That I survived was nothing short of a miracle,” he murmured, reached up and running a thumb at his collarbone over his shirt, the only scar still on his body hidden by his shirt. “Or perhaps a curse,” he added so lowly Stiles wasn't even sure if he'd heard him correctly.

Stiles blinked away his own tears, leaning against Peter's side and taking the man's hand. “I'm glad you killed the ones responsible, even if it doesn't bring your Pack back,” Stiles said seriously.

Peter slumped, nodding, before looking up. “We're here,” he said, collecting himself and pulling Stiles through the trees into a clearing with a huge stump in the center.

“Woah,” Stiles said, and it was like static electricity was buzzing in the air around him. He could practically taste the power in the air here and wondered how it could've ever been missed within a mile radius. “Hello there,” Stiles said, moving towards the stump as if on autopilot. His hand fell from Peter's but he didn't notice. Peter watched him curiously. “I'm Stiles,” Stiles introduced himself, suddenly overwhelmed with the desire to meet this entity. He knelt at the stump’s side, hands hovering over the wood. “May I?” He asked the air.

Feeling acceptance even if Stiles couldn't explain how, his fingers brushed the wood grain, closing his eyes as power edged against him. Curious. Lonely. Desperate. Hungry.

Stiles frowned, opening his eyes to stare at the small spot on the tree that was black with rot.

“I'm going to take care of you now,” Stiles promised, the words tumbling out his mouth without thought but he meant them without reserve. “I'm the Alpha of this territory and I'm sorry you've had to be alone for so long.” Stiles stood and walked over to the black spot, fingers flinching away even inches from the wood.

“Something's poisoning it,” Stiles murmured, more to himself than to anyone. “A parasite?” He thoughtful aloud, touching the wood a few inches away and letting his magic prod the black spot instinctively.

Stiles recoiled as if he'd been burned, almost falling if Peter hadn't caught him. He twisted with barely enough time before he threw up on the ground, shivering uncontrollably.

“Stiles?!” Peter called out, concerned. “Stiles, what's wrong? What happened?”

Stiles wiped his mouth, eyes glaring at the rot and shining a vivid violet. Peter stared in shock, for the first time feeling the magic swirling just under the boy’s skin before it settled and, with in, the glow dissipated.

“It's killing it,” Stiles said, lip curled in a snarl. “It's—It's—Evil.” He accused.

CHAOS.

Stiles gulped, feeling the wind change around them and shivering at the sinister feel to the air.

Stiles stood, pulling from Peter's slack hold and marching over to the stump, slamming his hand down on the black spot and fighting his every cell that told him to pull back.

“I will end you,” Stiles spoke, voice unknowingly echoing within the clearing with the power of his will. Peter was dazed, watching the violet return to Stiles’ eyes and sparks randomly discharge in the air around him. He slid to his knees, unashamedly showing his throat even if his Alpha wasn't looking at him. He could barely breathe under the assault of Stiles’ magic, the atmosphere suddenly heavy and thick.

And just like that, it was gone. Stiles gasped, collapsing beside the Nemeton as his power drained. Peter stared at him, carefully edging closer.

“Stiles?” He called out.

“What was that?” Stiles asked, looking up at Peter with wide, frightened eyes. “I don't...I've never…”

“Shhh,” Peter shushed him, finally coming closer and pulling Stiles in a hug, feeling wetness soak in his collar as Stiles tried to hide how shaken he was. “It's okay.”

“It was like...something came over me,” Stiles murmured. “Like this power suddenly filled me and I moved without thinking.”

“I think you've already made a good impression on the Nemeton,” Peter said, eyeing the stump behind Stiles as his hands rubbed at the boy’s back.

“That was the Nemeton?” Stiles hissed, hands fisting in Peter's shirt. “And I'm supposed to...to tie myself to that?”

“It won't always be like that,” Peter assured him. “You'll practice and learn to control it. Plus, the Nemeton will get used to you and it won't overload you either.” His eyes landed on the black spot. “I think we need to figure out what's causing that rot though. For all our sakes.”

“Great,” Stiles muttered, turning to glare at the black spot as well. “Just what we needed. More problems.”

Peter chuckled. “Didn't you call this a hellmouth once? Seems you weren't entirely wrong.”

“That's wasn't a challenge,” Stiles stressed, running his hands through his hair roughly. “Shit, things can just never be easy.”

“Our Pack is strong, Alpha,” Peter assured him. “We can take it.”

Stiles paused in his mini-freak-out, looking to Peter. Then he grinned. “You know what? You're right. We're going to kick ass and take names.”

“That's what I'm talking about,” Peter agreed.

It was time to get to work.

Every day after school that week, Stiles went straight to the Nemeton, bringing his spell book from Peter to study and mostly letting the stump’s magic become familiar with him. It seemed Peter was right though, it did seem to like him, and as long as Stiles avoided the black spot, he didn't get any more feelings of wrongness within the clearing.

After a couple hours, Peter would join him, bringing dinner that they'd share while going through everything Peter had managed to find out that day.

“We still don't know enough,” Stiles grumbled. “Those hunter trails you found have me on edge. And Erica and Boyd’s disappearance is still bothering me. They couldn't have just dropped off the map. Someone took them. I don't know who or why, but someone did.”

“Well we haven't heard anything else from the Alpha Pack.”

“Yet,” Stiles muttered unhappily. He paused, biting his lip. “Would they have taken Erica and Boyd?” He asked, looking to Peter. “Like to recruit? Or is there a punishment for leaving your Pack?” Stiles blinked, concerning welling up as his mind whirled. “Oh god, what if they killed them? Then hid the bodies, that could explain there not being a sign of them anywhere. And we'd never know because they'd already severed their ties with Derek. Dammit,” Stiles growled, slamming his hand against the ground. Small sparks flew in the air, his magic unpredictable within the magic-rich air around the Nemeton. “Why didn't they tell somebody how to contact them? Their parents, Isaac, anyone. My dad's been searching for them too and hasn't found anything on that end either.”

“We'll find them,” Peter assured him. “You're already close to being accepted as the Alpha of the territory and once you solidify it on the full moon, you'll have an even greater feel for anything within your territory. Plus, you're getting stronger every day. You’ll have a solid anchor within the Nemeton soon and nothing will be able to stop you.”

Stiles couldn't help but glance over at the black spot, trepidation playing his nerves. Being connected to the Nemeton meant also having a connection to that. He'd had to work harder than ever find out what it was and get rid of it as soon as possible.

“What will I need to do on the full moon to solidify the connection? It's only three days away,” Stiles asked.

“It's a blood oath. To protect the territory and its inhabitants, to be connected with the Nemeton, to share your power just as the Nemeton will share its power.”

Stiles hummed. “So basically I'm going to have to bleed on the Nemeton.”

Peter sighed, waving in the air with a weak flourish. “Basically.”

Stiles laughed. “You're too much sometimes. Everything doesn't have to be a big production, you know.”

“It's the sanctity of the ritual, Stiles,” Peter grumbled. “It deserves some level of grandeur.”

“So what? Am I going to have to be naked? Do I have to dance on the moonlight? Paint runes on my body? Sacrifice a bunny?”

Peter pouted. “You're not fun,” he accused. “You just have to say an oath and bleed on the Nemeton. If it accepts you and your oath, it'll allow the bond. Then you're the Alpha of the territory. That's it.”

Stiles hummed, thoughtful. “What kind of oath am I saying?”

“It's got to be personal to you because you've got to honor it. The Nemeton will judge if your intent is worthy. So you better get to thinking,” Peter teased.

“And you're just telling me this now?”

Peter smirked. “You'll do okay, Alpha.”

Stiles narrowed his eyes. “Not. Cool.”

Peter chuckled. “Normally, an Alpha’s whole Pack would be present for the ritual to witness the Alpha’s oath. The First is normally held accountable for holding the Alpha to their oath, actually. Considering I'm the only one in your Pack though, I guess I'll be the only witness,” he shrugged.

“Will that be a problem? Me having a small Pack?”

“The Nemeton doesn't judge the Pack, just the Alpha themself. Packs can always grow but the Alpha must be able to measure up to the Nemeton’s standards if they want their Pack to grow within its territory.”

“So does this mean you're my First?” Stiles asked.

Peter shrugged. “If you want me to be. I'm used to playing the role of Left Hand though. A First is normally a counterweight to the Alpha, someone to keep you from having a bias too far in one direction. We're probably too similar for me to play that part too well.”

Stiles frowned in thought. “There's a lot more to Pack dynamics than I realized,” he murmured.

“For instance, Packs have an Alpha and three Betes, minimum. That's a First, a beta, and a Left Hand. Mind you, very few Packs would remain that size for very long, they'd either grow or die out, but that's the main idea.”

“What does each position do?”

“A First is the Alpha’s back-up. Sometimes they're called the Right Hand. They are the Alpha’s most trusted, short of the Alpha’s mate. Any betas are under them. The Left Hand is the one who handles the grizzly work. Some Alphas like to do this themselves, but for instance with Talia, I was her Left Hand. There were too many eyes on her that would judge her for any actual blood spilled, so I would handle the enemies that couldn't be dealt with diplomatically and then clean up so it wouldn't fall back on the Pack.” Peter hummed. “In Derek's Pack for another example, I believe my nephew intended Boyd as his First and Erica as his Left Hand. I never cared enough to ask though, so I could’ve been wrong.”

“So we'll need to grow our Pack eventually,” Stiles muttered mostly to himself. Another thing to put on the list of things to do then.

Stiles startled when his phone rang. He pulled it from his pocket, surprised to see Lydia's name on his screen.

“Hello?” He asked unsurely.

“Stiles,” Lydia said, sounding distinctly not right. Almost hysterical, but obviously trying to keep it together. “I've just found another dead body, which makes it the second this month if anyone is counting, and I'm waiting with your father at the station. Could you...come pick me up and give me a ride home?”

Stiles eyes widened. “Yes! Definitely. Oh my god, are you okay?” He asked, packing his bags while Peter gathered their containers from eating. They both headed for Stiles’ jeep.

“I'm fine. The guy I found is not.” Her voice got notably lower. “And I screamed again. I couldn't help it. Something’s going on again and last time things got crazy you pulled through in the end so I'm hoping you can help me.”

Stiles nodded even if she couldn't see him. “I got it. I'll be there in ten.”

“Thank you, Stiles,” Lydia said before hanging up.

“Think this is the Alpha Pack or a new problem?” Stiles asked, sliding into the jeep and putting it into drive.

“Hellmouth,” Peter input from the passenger’s seat.

Stiles sighed. “Perfect.”