I don't believe I'll fall from grace
Won't let the past decide my fate
Leave forgiveness in my wake
Take the love that I've embraced
“I Am The Fire” - Halestorm
He dreams of the fire, of skin crackling, crisping—blackened and burning and withering away to show raw, bloody flesh beneath the thinnest of barriers that keeps his insides from being outsides. He dreams of pain, of agony, of a scream that never stops, never pauses, shreds his vocal chords until he’s rendered mute with mouth parted in a cry that only God ever truly hears.
He dreams of the delicate curl of lilac, faint scent curling treacherously through the den for weeks beforehand. He dreams of furtive glances, awkward youth pushing into the first blushes of true love, of destiny and hopeful romanticism. He dreams of a naïve nephew, a packmate who dooms him to endless pain—an ocean’s worth of helpless fury—just as he once-upon-a-time-ago gave that very same packmate eyes to match his own.
He dreams: dreams of twilight, of fog, of disconnect—shattered bonds, severed by death and rejection both. He dreams of loneliness, of unwanted touches. He dreams of searching—always, always searching, never finding and never found in turn—of something to ground him, lay the pathway for a foundation to build himself up again; he dreams and cries out for someone to hear (no one ever does) and he burns, burns burns burns—always burning, crumbling to soot from the inside out until he’s dust to dust, nothing more or less than dust and ash: soil to birth something new.
He screams, raging at body and the universe, mute button struck over and over again until he’s nothing more than a broken man, feral and ravenous within the confines of his own mind and lifelessly still, breathing doll with limbs to move and maneuver and rearrange for perfect display, on the outside.
He dreams that he is consumed by the inferno, burning and bleeding and becoming one with it, rage catching fire and lighting the world to burn it all to cinders—salting the earth for measure because all that there’s left is spite and hate as he burns burns burns everything and anything and becomes a caricature of the man he used to be. But he hates, and it is enough.
He burns and no one can hear his cries.
Hey, Mom. I know… I know that you’re not really all… there… anymore. But Dad says that it’s still good to talk to you ‘cause my voice is something familiar and I need to be more understanding that you’re sick and… uh. Um, nevermind. I took a Social Studies test yesterday and already got the results back. The teacher says that I retain—that I remember and understand, she means—the information well, but that I have trouble focusing on one subject at a time. Dad’s thinking about maybe getting me tested…? I was doing some research online and I know that Wikipedia isn’t always reliable, but I found this article on ADHD and…
The storm continues to rage on, but—for the first time since the fire—it feels as if he can finally breathe again, cool water soothing his parched throat. A small relief is better than the nothingness of before, and he’s desperate for more—needing, greedy, craving the reprieve in a way that buries deep and sinks its claws in the marrow of his bones.
(There is a little boy who visits his ill mother, and things are perhaps a bit steadier when he is near. But then she dies and he burns, bright and deadly and as unstoppable as a wildfire as his roar echoes a continent and eventually brings his would-be Alpha running back home.)
He’s awake now, conscious and as aware as he possibly can be—circumstances notwithstanding—and he knows that what he’s done so far is wrong is something that Talia would have never approved of, but his sister is dead (her daughter now, too) and he’s always been cut from a different cloth than the rest of his family (his pack, his pack, dead and gone and rejected as he burned).
There are pieces of himself scattered all about, sharp-edged reflections of who he used to be, what he could have been: none of them matter anymore, so he leaves them be, crushing them to silver-starlight dust underfoot. He’s power nowadays, surge of the moon’s call singing through his veins: teeth and fangs and blood-hued eyes that glowed with the heat of his hate; he’s a monster in all definitions of the word, shifted wrong—limbs lumbering and lopsided, ugly and malformed when his sister had been nothing but grace and predatory lines—and there’s enough of himself still in there, buried deep, to hate this thing that he’s become:
But the fire burns hotter, burns higher, stokes his rage and bloodlust both, and all he wants more than anything else is his revenge.
He Bites and Turns, takes others on a merry goose chase as he lies in wait in the shadows: nobody ever looks towards the broken man, the man whose blue eyes slowly alight with life, with ash-coated soul—he burned and burned and still burns, but managed to keep on surviving; it’s something that the hunter forgot, continues to forget, but he’ll remind her of it every last agony-soaked second of the last moments of her life. She’ll forget overlooking him, will regret thinking him nothing more than a fangless, declawed puppet, dancing to the nurses’ strings as they cart him all around the hospital for his weekly tests.
She’ll regret so very much, but most of all, she’ll regret leaving him this empty husk of a wolf, howling for a pack that never answers: alone and vulnerable and hungry for connection, and so much more vicious because of it.
He dreamed, not too long ago.
Now he’s awake, thirsty for the copper tang of blood in his mouth: craving the thrill of the hunt even as he takes down his family’s murderers one by one. There is no justice in this, only revenge, and he’s never been one for lying to himself, anyway. He wants blood, all of it, wants it to soak the earth to wet the ash, coaxing strangling brambles to life with the lives he takes as payment.
There is Judas. And thirty pieces of silver line the path between him and his nephew.
He burns, is always burning, howls to relieve some of the building, building, all-consuming pressure that fills up his chest and leaves echoing hollows of broken bonds behind—he is alone and he is Alpha and he is One—and he knows that the world has gone topsy-turvy as his bones rattle in his body, clink clink clink of the nightmare hag’s bone dice, ancestral guardians whispering him home.
(But he burns too brightly, mouth too filled with blood for the graveyard dirt to take its place.)
It’s then, car exhaust heavy in his lungs and sweet tang of gasoline filling his nose with more and more poison—he’s nightshade and wolfsbane now, silver running in another’s veins and Death upon the ground—that something new but old Sparks itself to life, and he stops with fangs bared and about to pierce the thin skin over a hummingbird’s frantic pulse, wrist held tightly between his own clawed fingers. He hears a stutter in a heartbeat, wants to still lean in and bite and rip and tear and Claim, to turn and rekindle the rage within—forging unbreakable metal of new bonds, new pack, new Others because the One is breaking, piece by piece, and the power will consume the rage in the relentless destruction of a tsunami, swallowing everything in its wake.
He wants, he dreams, he aches to Bite—
But the boy says No. and so he pulls away.
(Mine, his soul whispers. Ours, the beast snarls.)
Peter’s grave gives way beneath his determined digging, and he breaks free of the shallow dumping ground: he gasps for air, filling his lungs to capacity for the first time in what feels like years. His skin is new and tender, thousands of sensations pressing in around him—clamoring for attention—and it almost feels as if he’s burning again:
But he is the new life that has sprung forth from the ash and blood-soaked ground, darker and more twisted and hiding the ember of hate, but—so, too—there is nothing within him that can catch fire. He was nothing more than soot and charred bone upon his previous death, and now he’s something less than even that.
Brittle but hardy, a weed that cannot, refuses to, die—and Peter continues to claw his way up towards the worm moon high overhead, arctic chill of his too-blue eyes freezing his nephew into place (because this world will end in fire and ice and Peter has already burned himself up for his nephew’s truest love) and, in this, he will live.
(There is a beacon lighting the night within the city, bright enough to chase away the shadows that midnight brings. It’s both warm and cool, Sparking through the tattered remains of his soul to croon a song that keeps him still, keeps him mesmerized and interested, and it is not long after that Peter finally realizes what that spider-web thin thread is—what calls to man and wolf and promises the wild and freedom and home as he breathes in Stiles’ thunderstorm-rich scent while lightning blazes through him.)
Mine, his touch promises, butterfly-kiss tentative against the nape of the boy’s neck.
Catch me, amber eyes challenge, flaring brighter than the fire that’s already claimed him twice.
And man and beast and monster dream and burn and hunt this piece of themselves that had long ago—years past, locked away in mind and body and hospital room—become essential to him.
Mine, and Peter finally has the clarity to see.
(Peter is naught but the moth and this boy is the flame that consumes him.)