They were a little family of four broken people. A werewolf girl without a pack, a husband without a wife, a boy without a mother and a man without a life.
For Cora it started when her whole family burned alive. Well, almost. But the ones that are left are barely family, let alone pack.
She had been playing out in the woods by herself like she did most days. Maybe waiting for her favorite uncle to join her, like he often did.
At first, she noticed the smell. The scent of fire which she had been taught to avoid at all cost. But surely she wasn’t expected to stay away from her own home, right? Only, when she came close to it, there were other scents as well. Gunpowder, wolfsbane, mountain ash, hunter, danger.
A couple of people hidden in the woods, both to her left and right. Mindful of them she moved forward a bit and saw the whole house being surrounded by mountain ash. Even if she had been able to get past the ash, the hunters would shoot or grab her the moment she came in sight.
There was nothing she could do. No one she could call as she had no mobile phone. She couldn’t run to Deaton either. Peter didn’t trust him and had forbidden her to ever approach him by herself.
Tears were running down her cheeks as she tried to muffle her sobs while she listened to the screams of her family. Peter’s words from training rang in her ears. Always run away from danger. Your first priority is saving yourself. Run as fast as you can. Stay alive.
Later, he’d said, he would train her for combat. But for now she was still growing her strength, barely able to take down a deer, and her shift was unpredictable yet.
She desperately fought against Peter’s words but she had promised. Had sworn to him to keep herself safe. And she wanted to, she really did, but how could she just leave her family?
Suddenly there was the sound of sirens from far away. The hunters moved around more, maybe debating to leave, bringing them closer to where she was hiding. In the end, though, the thing that made her turn around and run run run was the smell of her family’s flesh burning.
For John it started with looking into the yellowy glowing eyes of a girl with… fur on her cheeks?
He stared at her in consideration, hand lightly on his side holster. It was two days after the Hale fire, which had already been ruled an accident, but John wasn’t completely convinced about that. So, for now he was treating it as an open investigation, walking a grid around the perimeter to investigate on the down low.
His standing at the station was precarious already but he had recently pulled his head out of his ass and majorly cut down on his drinking. The current sheriff was set to retire soon and if John played his cards right, he would still be eligible as successor, despite his recent problems. But a mistake in a case as big and controversial as this could break him for good.
However all these thoughts left his mind when he saw the young girl. She was thin and had long brown hair. That was about all he could make out under the dirt. With the case closed, there hadn’t been a thorough examination of the bodies. So, it was very likely that she was one of the children, presumed dead. He racked his brain for a name.
“Cora,” he finally said quietly, trying to reassure her. “My name is John Stilinski. I’m a deputy with the sheriff’s office. I don’t know if you know this but your sister Laura and brother Derek are alive. They weren’t at home.”
The girl tilted her head to the side, regarding him with a frown. John reached out a bit.
“I can take you to the sheriff station and we can call them,” he said slowly, trying not to show his displeasure of them leaving town yesterday.
Suddenly the girl snapped her teeth at him and he had to quickly pull his hand away. Her eyes flashed wildly and she growled, showing… fangs?
He held his hands up in defeat and swallowed thickly. What the hell was she? Surely she couldn’t be what it looked like? What he had first thought to be some sort of costume.
“Please calm down, kiddo. I won’t hurt you, I swear. I just want to take care of you. Bet you could use a good meal and hot bath,” he said slowly.
She frowned harder but the growling seemed to lessen a little.
“And then I could take you to the hospital. You see, your uncle Peter has survived as well. Though, he’s in a bad shape, maybe that’s not a sight for you.” John cursed himself silently for bringing Peter up, who was more dead than alive, but his thoughts were interrupted.
“No,” Cora shouted. “Uncle Peter. I want to see him. Now!”
John grimaced. This could’ve gone better. But he could understand her wish, so with a sigh he gave in.
“Fine. But first you will bathe or shower and have a meal.”
Cora growled some more before she huffed. “Fine.”
She stomped past him to the direction he had come from and he hurried to follow.
“Uh, one more thing. You should probably put the fangs away. And the fur?”
Turning her head while walking, she glared at him furiously. “I can’t,” she screamed. “I can’t shift. It won’t go away.” The she suddenly broke into tears. Her knees gave out and she started calling for her mother.
John’s heart clenched, reminded of another child sobbing for his mother. But he forced himself to slowly approach where she could see him. Then he reached out even slower until he could put a hand on her shoulder. When she didn’t push him off, he shuffled closer and pulled her against his chest. Wailing even louder, she dug her fingers, claws?, into his arms and buried her face against his neck.
John picked up the crying child and walked to his cruiser. It was heavy work and slow going since Cora was a lot taller than she had seemed, cowered in the bushes. And he might be slightly out of training, he figured ruefully, vowing to work out more regularly.
When they got to the car, John bundled Cora inside, handing her clean tissues and a bottle of water. He waited until she had calmed down a bit, blown her nose and drank half the bottle. But before he could start the car, Cora’s small hand reached out, grabbing the wheel.
“Do you swear to take me to my uncle?” she asked earnestly, sounding awkward around the fangs.
John looked at her solemnly and nodded. “I swear it.”
For Stiles it started with a text message from his father, asking him to start dinner and announcing a guest. Stiles thought it might be another deputy or even the sheriff. That had happened sometimes, back then. Not recently, though.
Elated by the news, Stiles immediately set out to prepare dinner, quickly skimming his folder with heart healthy recipes. Eventually he decided on vegetable lasagne. If he added enough spices and a smidgen of cheese it was actually quite tasty.
He took out a bag of frozen veggies and premade, organic tomato sauce, putting everything into casserole. Before he put it into the oven, he added some extra cheese for taste. He wanted to impress their guest and reward his dad a bit, who had been quite good lately with his eating and drinking habits.
While the lasagne was cooking in the oven, Stiles bounced up and down around the house, barely able to contain his excitement about his father trusting him with this. He picked up a few things he had left lying around like an empty chips bag and soda bottles and then even put on a clean shirt.
When he finally heard the cruiser pull in, he stormed to the door, ripping it open. He waved frantically to his dad, watching him get out of the car and moving around to the passenger seat. At first he didn’t understand what he was seeing but when John lead a young girl out of the car, Stiles slowly put his hand down.
The girl was maybe around his own age, ten, but it was hard to say with all the dirt. She let John guide her a few steps but then stopped, staring at Stiles.
“Cora, this is my son, Stiles. He won’t hurt you either, I swear. He even made some food for you.”
She, Cora, wrinkled her nose but then they all heard her stomach growling. So, John ushered her inside
When they passed Stiles at the door, he let out a gasp, following them inside. Did he really just see fangs and fur in Cora’s face? He stumbled after them, hearing the timer go off. In the kitchen John was pulling the lasagna out of the oven, putting a huge portion onto Cora’s plate.
“Hey, kiddo. Can you get Cora some orange juice?” John asked to distract Stiles, looking at him meaningfully.
Stiles’ head turned from Cora to John, blinking rapidly. “Uh… sure.”
Quickly he poured a glass and sat it down in front of Cora who shovelled down the piping hot food, not looking particularly happy about it.
“I hope it tastes okay, dad. I used some extra cheese.”
John gave him a small smile. “I’m sure it’s fine.”
He put some food on his own and Stiles’ plate and them some more on Cora’s when she finished hers. They ate in awkward silence, Stiles furiously debating with which kind of questions he might get away with.
Eventually Cora had emptied her second helping and stood up, rubbing her dirty arms.
“Stiles, why don’t you show Cora to the upstairs bathroom and give her a towel and some of your clothes?”
Cora looked extremely unhappy about that but ready to follow him. Stiles stood up and was about to turn around when he suddenly blurted, “Are you a werewolf?”
“Stiles!” John hissed and Cora growled, her eyes flashing yellow.
Stiles squeaked and stumbled backwards over his chair, landing on his ass.
“Jesus Christ, Stiles, are you okay?” John asked, pulling him up.
“Fine, I’m fine,” he mumbled embarrassed.
“So…’ Stiles started but trailed off, rubbing the back of his neck.
“Yes, okay? Werewolves are real and I am one. Happy?” Cora snarked and gave him a truly epic eye roll.
Slowly, Stiles started to grin. “You can’t even imagine how much.”
“Stiles, that’s enough. Bathroom, now!” John ordered and Stiles sighed dramatically before leading Cora upstairs.
He had so many questions but he wasn’t a monster. No, he was very well aware that a Cora had been on the list of victims of the Hale house fire. Which meant not only had she lost her mother but most of her family. That was something he couldn’t possibly imagine, even though he dreaded it every single day.
After showing Cora the shower and setting her up with everything she needed, he went back down.
“Dad, what’s going to happen to her?” he asked quietly, watching John putting away the dishes.
With a sigh John closed the dishwasher and pulled Stiles into a tight embrace.
“I don’t know, kiddo. I assume Laura will request guardianship like she did with Derek.”
“Hm,” Stiles said, hugging back tightly. “I like her.”
John laughed and patted Stiles’ back. “Me, too, buddy.”
For Peter it started with hearing his favorite niece swear beautifully.
“Give me back my fucking phone, you asshat. Or I will tear you a new,” Cora hissed and Peter heard her claws snick as she shifted.
Someone snorted and replied, “Don’t get your tail in a twist, Corakins. And don’t let Dad hear you swear like that, he might ground you.”
“Ha ha, very funny. Don’t call me that. Ever. And please, I’m not the one who was grounded for four weeks for sneaking into a crime scene. Again.”
There was some shuffle and the other person, who sounded like a boy maybe in Cora’s age, laughed breathlessly. “Needs must, puppy.”
Cora growled and the boy yelped. ”Owww! Sorry, sorry. I yield, okay? Here’s your stupid phone. Now please let go.”
It sounded like Cora stepped back and brushed herself off.
“Next time I will really hurt you. And if you call me puppy again, I will tear your throat out with my little finger.”
“Yes, boss,” the boy said and seemed to sit down somewhere.
Suddenly Cora came closer and her scent hit Peter strongly. His fingers twitched and he fought to open his eyes.
“Do you think I should drain his pain again?” Cora asked, plopping down into what must be a chair right beside Peter.
Pain! His pain! Now that she mentioned it, he noticed it, bright and stark, coursing through his every fibre. Like fire. Fire! There had been a fire, he half-consciously remembered and then suddenly the pain dimmed a little.
“Cora,” the boy hissed, coming closer to them. “Only twice a day. You promised!”
“Come on, Stiles,” she pleaded. “Just a little bit. Look at him, he’s restless today. It must be from the pain. You know we can’t ask the docs to give him more pain killers.”
She paused and started to draw more pain and Peter wondered how she had the strength for it. He didn’t know how long it was since the fire and she did sound more mature but still quite young.
His thoughts were racing in his head, when warm fingers slipped into his hand, squeezing it lightly.
“He does seem restless,” the boy, Stiles, mumbled. Why was he touching Peter? And what kind of name was that anyway?
“See? And it’s Friday! I can eat an extra portion and sleep in tomorrow” Cora stated firmly.
There was no reply and after a few moments Cora took on a sweet voice that Peter knew well and could never resist. “You know… if you take over my lawn duty tomorrow morning.”
Stiles huffed but it sounded amused. “Fine, but you will cook tomorrow and Sunday.”
“Deal,” Cora replied lightly. Since when she did cook? That one was new.
It was silent for a long time as Peter’s pain kept lessening while his mind raced. He seemed to be in some sort of hospital. Maybe even Beacon Hills Memorial. There had been a fire and he was hurting bad which probably meant he had been burned. Badly, if Cora wanted to take his pain twice a day and more.
He tried to reach for the pack bonds but for some reason that was a jumbled, painful mess, making him think that a lot of people must’ve died. In fact, he mused numbly, every grown up must be dead, if they let Cora take his pain. She’d never been good at it back then, still had to learn a lot. Technique and endurance.
Pushing all attempts of mourning away for now, he racked his brain about this Stiles boy and who could his father be? And how did they know about werewolves? The boy smelled entirely human, despite Cora’s scent all over him.
He also smelled a little of gunpowder but that wasn’t uncommon in this country after all. As long as there was no trace of wolfsbane scent, Peter had no reason to panic and assume Cora had been taken in by a hunter family.
Pushing that curiosity away for now as well, he took stock of himself. Everything hurt. Even through Cora’s attempt, he felt the pain and damage smoldering beneath, like residue of a fire and wasn’t that poetic? He also felt the pain killers and other medication in his system. It didn’t help a lot with the pain but it made it hard to think and move even the tiniest muscle, even unable to open his eyes.
But somehow he had to push through. For Cora’s sake. He fought and fought and just as he was about to give up, his fingers spasmed.
“Oh, my god,” Stiles gasped, squeezing his fingers painfully.
“What?” Cora hissed.
“He moved! He moved his fingers. I felt it. I swear!”
Cora was silent but her heartbeat skyrocketed, sounding like thunder in Peter’s ears.
“You’re making that up,” she finally whispered.
“What? No, I’m not. Why would I make that up? I’m not that much of an asshole.”
Cora let out a small whine and Stiles moved closer to her, pressing against Peter’s side.
“Cora, I would never ever do that to you,” he said solemnly. “Listen to my heart beat.”
“As if you haven’t learned how to lie to me within two weeks after I moved in,” she said with a snort.
Stiles huffed and seemed to decide to ignore her. He leaned over Peter, very close to his face.
“Peter, do you hear me?” He placed warm fingers on Peter’s face and it didn’t hurt. Maybe his face wasn’t as burned as his body, Peter wondered absently.
For some reason the warm, confident touch of the boy gave him strength and he felt his eyelids twitch. Cora gasped and pushed the boy’s fingers away, pressing against Peter’s cheek.
“Peter! Please Uncle Peter, can hear me at all?” Her voice sounded desperate and Peter revised his guess about how long he’d been asleep.
“I’m calling Dad,” the boy said firmly. What was his name again? Peter struggled with a sudden rush of weakness that left him boneless and his thoughts went foggy.
The next time he came to, a man was handling his body this way and that. The clean, antiseptic smell supplied ‘doctor’ immediately.
“What do you think, doc?” another man asked and the one closer to Peter hummed thoughtfully before stepping back.
“Well, sheriff. I gotta be honest here. I’m really not sure the kids saw anything at all.” Sheriff? Why was the sheriff here? And why couldn’t Peter remember the man’s name? Damn his brain! Maybe he had inhaled too much smoke, even for a were.
“According to Stiles it was more about what he felt. He said Peter moved his fingers.”
“Yes, I know,” the doctor said, sounding frustrated. “Your son told me. Repeatedly.”
The sheriff huffed in amusement. “Can’t blame them for being excited, doc. It’s been four years.”
For years? Four fucking years? How on earth did he survive lying in a coma or whatever the hell this was for four years without anyone moving in for a kill? And Cora! She certainly was no threat to anyone who wanted to take over the territory.
“I’m not blaming anyone, John. I’m just telling you that the odds are slim.”
“You’ve been telling me that since the day he was brought in,” the sheriff, John, sighed. “Thanks, though. For putting up with us.”
“Anytime,” the doctor said and left the room.
The sheriff heaved another sighed, this one even deeper, and sank into the chair next to Peter’s bed.
“What do I do, Peter?” he said, sounding bone tired. “I can’t just give up hope. It would break the kids’ heart and probably mine, too. Stiles did a lot of research over the years. It seems entirely common for weres to keep healing even after years.”
There was a little rustle from the sheriff moving around before he continued. “And recently he’s researched magic, probably even dabbling with it. He thinks I didn’t notice but I’m not an idiot. I know my own son.”
Another long pause in which Peter wanted to ask ‘who the fuck are you?’.
“I should go and get the kids. Tell them what the doc said. It’s late. We should get home and have dinner. Especially since Cora seemed to have overdone it a bit with the pain draining.”
After that, Peter dozed again, only half listening when the kids indeed came to say goodbye. Touching his face and hands again to see if there was any reaction. But Peter was completely exhausted by only that little bit of reaction he had displayed today.
The next morning, Peter woke again. Not feeling well rested of course but maybe a tiny bit stronger. The pack bonds had been reinforced last night, he thought as he realized he had subconsciously accepted bonds with Cora’s new family. Stiles and John. Peter should get used to their names. Especially as he guessed they were the reason for him and Cora being alive.
It took Peter a few hours and some naps in between but eventually he decided to hide his consciousness for now. It had kept them safe for now and there was no saying what the hunter community or other supernatural beings would do if they heard Peter Hale was awake. And loathe as he was to admit it, there was no way was he was up for any kind of fight anytime soon.
So the weeks passed where he would be lying and listening. Cora’s snarking, Stiles’ rambling and John’s musing. He dozed during the day and at night he tried to train his muscles as much as he could. First by very small movements that increased over time. It was not ideal, he was no physiotherapist, but it worked. He also gathered strength from the pack bonds. He wasn’t sure if the others noticed, maybe not even Cora, but the bonds got stronger every day as they kept touching and even scenting him more and more.
Initially, Peter had planned to stay ‘asleep’ until he could at least walk a little. Maybe even shift his claws and fangs. But despite his progress, it was too slow going for his liking and he grew impatient. And as much as he loved Cora, and had come to like Stiles, their childish squabbles and endless debates about some other kids named Lydia and Scott tired him out.
Soon he began to crave John’s adult company. Looking forward to hearing about the man’s work. His struggle to keep an eye on the kids and keep his loneliness at bay without turning to the liquor cabinet. Even mundane tales of John washing Stiles’ red hoodie with his undershirts, thus colouring them pink, was very entertaining to listen to in John’s dry voice.
If Peter was honest to himself, and he had a lifelong rule to not sugarcoat things, John was one of the main reasons why he wanted to be able to finally open his eyes for good. His voice and soothing manor was so calming to Peter while simultaneously riling him up to try and learn more about this man.
It was the damndest thing. Here he was lying with half his body covered in severe burns that were healing alt glacial pace, his muscles so weak he couldn’t even walk, probably in mortal danger, and yet he had a crush on a man he had never even seen.
It was one of those days now, almost three weeks after he regained consciousness, that he was lying in bed, staring at the ceiling, idling tensing and releasing the muscles of his thighs, when John rushed in, a lot more agitated than usual.
He dropped into the chair next to Peter’s bed, reached out and laced his fingers with Peter’s.
“I did it, Peter,” he whispered, triumphantly as he leaned close into him. His voice was choking when he continued, “I finally got the last of those bastards behind bars and he even gave me her name.”
John’s thumb was rubbing over Peter’s knuckles as he swallowed audibly. “That’s one of them dead from a heart attack, the other one suicide and the rest rotting in jail. That’s all her dirty little helpers. Now she’s the only one left and I promise you, I will get her.”
It took a few moments for Peter to process John’s words but then his eyes snapped open. His fingers tightened over John’s and he pulled himself up, staring into striking, light green eyes. John gasped and reared back but Peter held tight.
“Who?” he rasped, his voice unused for four long years.
John blinked dumbfounded, his mouth slightly open. Under other circumstances Peter would’ve found it endearing but not now.
“Who is it?” he demanded. “What is her name?”
John swallowed again, eyes rapidly taking in Peter’s state. Finally he took a breath, forcing out the name.