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The difficult path

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It's raining heavily and Stiles is soaked to the bone, his clothes sticking to his frame like a second skin by now. The wind is so cold that it feels as if it's cutting into his skin and it doesn't look like it's going to ease up any time soon. He wants to leave, he wants to go home and hide under the covers... he wants to go back in time and be blissfully ignorant again.

As always, he can't have what he wants and has to settle for what he needs.

(And hope he gets at least that.)

Stiles, as a whole, is trembling. His body, his breath, his mind, his soul, everything is shaking violently and he can't make it stop. Even his resolve is faltering and he can't afford that, because he has weighed the odds and they aren't good. Because he may want the complete opposite to what he's about to do, but he needs this. Because the stakes are too high and he can't afford to fail.

(Because having his dad hate him is better than having him six feet under and unable to feel anything at all.)

He grunts as he drags him across the parking lot. Stiles hasn't cried ever since his mother stopped being his mom and became a stranger in her own home. He thinks he should want to cry today but he doesn't. His dad is in the hospital, any goodwill that was left in Stiles after all the shit that has been happening since the supernatural became public knowledge four months ago, died a swift death when he received the call from the deputies.

He hoists him into the jeep and closes the door. He rests his face against the cold metal and tries to make everything stop shaking once again. He fails but that's not a surprise.

He hasn't been able to calm down ever since the supernatural world, tired of the oppression, exploded outwards and took control of everything. (Hell, who is he trying to trick? What a joke. Stiles wasn't calm even in the womb, but certainly things were easier before creatures that could kill him with their pinkies alone entered the picture.) And that with an ease that should be insulting but wasn't even surprising at all.

Stiles suspected they had been planning it for a very long time. They had people in very high places and the transition was way too fast for the circumstances at hand. In little over two months, the world changed irrevocably. Hunter families fell, rules were enforced and territories were defined with alphas to rule over them. Effectively, a new world order was established in fifty-six days.

As far as world orders go, the new one wasn't a bad one, even if humans had been knocked off first place on the podium. Life should have gone on relatively normally after that, except it's Beacon Hills, so of course it didn't.

Beacon County had been Hale territory for centuries before it ended up in the hands of the one true alpha, Scott McCall.

Scott, as the alpha of a mismatched pack of mostly teenagers, was an average alpha. Not too good, and not too bad, with enough good luck and support to get by. As the alpha of Beacon County? It was a disaster and he was in way over his head. In the space of a few hours, he essentially became the king and ruler of around 300.000 people, both supernatural and human, and he was hopelessly lost. Which, sure, it was understandable. Scott had no training whatsoever and suddenly Beacon County (which was for all intents and purposes like a small country) and a whole load of expectations were dumped into his lap. Who wouldn't be lost?

But what were also dumped in his lap were advisors of the supernatural tribes from all around the county and human leaders. All of whom wanted the best... for their people. One thing led to another, and after a while Scott stopped listening to them because "they were only looking for the good of their own tribes". When the pack tried to convince him to at least listen, to take the good from their advice and ignore the bad, he started avoiding them too.

Things deteriorated quickly. Without the proper training, knowledge or support system (though not for the lack of trying on that count), Scott made many mistakes. He looked at the small picture too much and left really important issues unattended. It was like a domino effect. In the end, the economy fell and no other territories wanted a trade treaty with them. The crisis worsened when people started committing crimes to survive. Scott stepped in but the ones that didn't follow the law only got a slap on the wrist and were let go. In less than two months, Beacon County was like the wild wild west and the police was stretched thin, trying to do its best and being scorned and hated for it.

As if that wasn't bad enough, alphas that wanted their own territory to rule started trickling in not long after that, bringing a new set of problems. And then, the outside territories began making noise about intervening to control the situation. If they actually followed through that plan, Beacon County would be divided and absorbed into their adjacent territories after who knows how many casualties.

No, Stiles hasn't been able to calm down to his normal levels for a while.

He gets inside the jeep and lets his head rest against the wheel. His hands clench around it for a moment before he forces himself to let go. He notices detachedly that he's dripping blood everywhere. There are gashes in his arms and chest that are bleeding sluggishly but he can barely feel the pain. He suspects that will change once the adrenaline has run its course but he doesn't really care. He supposes that the pain and the scars will be his penance for what he's about to do, no matter how justified it is.

He drives in silence for a while.

When he's almost at his destination, he gets stopped. Not many people dare to drive at night these days. The deputy asks about his dad before she notices the tied man at the back. Her hand flies to her service weapon as her flashlight zeroes in on Stiles, but he doesn't react. Then she spots the red eyes and she stills for a long minute. After a deep breath and a compulsive swallow, she motions to her partner to get back inside the car, transmits her well wishes for his dad and lets him go with a nod.

Stiles pulls back onto the road and they follow behind at a respectable distance. When they cross another patrol car much later, they flash their lights briefly and Stiles doesn't get stopped again. Before long, he reaches Peter's apartment complex. The patrol car parks just outside and makes no move to follow Stiles inside to the parking lot.

Stiles remains inside the jeep for a while, his stomach in knots. Is this the right choice? Was there any other way he's overlooked? Should he do nothing and let Beacon County be absorbed into other territories?

He takes a deep breath and rubs his face tiredly. He wonders if this is what Peter planned when he followed Stiles to act as the enforcers Scott needed but refused to have. (He has so much blood on his hands that he'll never be able to wash off. Sometimes that's all he sees.) Not even once did he try to take the alpha spark when their opponent happened to be one. He'd step back and let Stiles take the killing shot. Did he expect this to happen? Did he do all he did to prove how he could be the better alpha so that Stiles would come to him when the time came? So Stiles would choose to bring him an alpha tied with a bow to his doorstep? So Stiles would choose him above others?

He takes a deep breath once again. His hands keep shaking and he wishes he could hear his dad's voice right now, before everything changes. (Before his dad learns what he's done and refuses to talk to him ever again.) But that's impossible because his dad hasn't woken up yet, because he's still under the effects of the anaesthesia after the major surgery he had to go through.

Stiles trembles. He closes his eyes tightly and just breathes for a bit. Then he forces himself to get out of the car and put one foot after the other until he's at the door to Peter's apartment.

Peter opens it, polished as ever even though it's only about one hour before dawn. He leans against the door frame and takes in Stiles' appearance, unperturbed. Stiles shakes even more violently. Not because he's afraid of Peter, but because of the magnitude of what he's about to do.

Peter's hand lifts slowly, his eyes never leaving Stiles' face. Stiles follows its path until it disappears under his own jaw. He then looks Peter in the eye and waits. The hand closes around his neck loosely but firmly and Stiles swallows but makes no move to get it off him.

"So this is how far your loyalty goes," he muses thoughtfully, his hand tightening minutely around his throat.

Stiles bristles immediately, his mouth opening to let out the most scathing retort he's ever spat out in his life. Does he think Stiles would do this lightly, that he wouldn't avoid it if he could? That he hasn't tried to the very end? Doesn't he notice that he nearly died tonight because of it? Peter's pleased expression halts his tongue. Clearly, this is the reaction the man wanted to get, but why?

"Loyal to the end," Peter murmurs, his eyes studying Stiles' face intently.

"Yeah, sure," Stiles scoffs, averting his eyes. "Because exe-"

"Don't lie to yourself, sweetheart," Peter cuts in firmly, tightening his hand once again. "It's beneath you."

Stiles swallows and closes his eyes tightly. Unbidden, a tear slides down his cheek slowly. The hand lets go of his throat and travels upwards to cup his jaw. Lips flutter down and gather the tear tenderly between them.

"Fuck you," Stiles whispers brokenly, because tenderness isn't something he can take right now. What he can take is pain, just like the searing one of his wounds. He's stupidly grateful Peter isn't taking it away. "Fuck you, Peter."

---

"What are you doing here," Isaac hisses, outraged. His hands are tightened into fists and his nails are cutting into the skin.

Stiles doesn't answer, his eyes zeroed in on the coffin that's about to be lowered into the ground. He isn't surprised that there are few people here today. Only Scott's former pack is mourning him because his own mother is in the grave right beside them.

He takes a step forward and Isaac growls threateningly. Again, Stiles pays him no mind as he reaches to place two identical Batman action figures on the coffin. Both birthday presents to each other from when they were kids. The very first present they gave each other, in fact.

Because Stiles isn't here for alpha McCall's funeral. Alpha McCall, the omega alpha that refused to step down and was driving them all to their deaths, Stiles overthrew. He's here for that little boy that played with Stiles in the sandbox when no one else would. He's here for the asthmatic boy that once threw Jackson into the swimming pool for being a douche about Stiles' mom and then ran with him to hide. He's here for the sweet kid that stood there, silently, when Stiles refused to talk for weeks after his mom's death. He's there for the boy that followed him into the woods that night.

(He realized some time ago that his friend never really came back.)

"Peter, Stiles?" Lydia snaps. "What were you thinking? Don't think we'll let this go. If he steps out of line-"

"What, you'll do nothing?" Stiles snaps back viciously and she takes a step back, startled. "That's no surprise. Don't worry, if he steps out of line, I'll be the one to take care of it. We've already established that I'm capable of it and you're not."

Her mouth snaps shut and suddenly no one can look at Stiles in the eye. Because it's Stiles who has the scars to prove that he stubbornly kept going back to Scott again and again, not them. They are here today, but for a long time they weren't. Stiles can't get the smell of blood out of his nose because of what he did for Scott in the shadows, not them. It's Stiles who had to...

Because Stiles tried, he really did. Right until the end, he tried to talk him into stepping down and he nearly got killed for it. Scott was going to be killed one way or another. Be it by the adjacent territories' alphas or by the rebelling tribes, it was going to happen. Stiles just took it in his hands and made it as painless as possible. He'll carry the weight of his decision forever, but he doesn't regret what he did.

In short, these people have no right to throw anything in his face.

He turns back to stare fixedly as they slowly lower the coffin. He stays until the last shovel of dirt has been thrown over it. Then he leaves and doesn't look back.