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Albatross

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ALBATROSS

**

Your hands protect the flames from the wild winds around you
Icarus is flying too close to the sun
And Icarus' life it has only just begun
This is how it feels to take a fall
Icarus is flying towards an early grave
You put up your defenses when you leave
You leave because you're certain of who you want to be
You're putting up your armour when you leave
You leave because you're certain of who you want to be
“Icarus” – Bastille

***

Fuck!

Pain was the first thing that Stiles felt: agony throbbing deep within the meat of his forearms, furiously silver-tinged black with hurt hurt hurt that echoed with each sluggish beat of the twenty-three year-old’s heart. Nerves sparked just beneath his skin, sending sensation—pain—up and down his arms to lodge within the base of Stiles’ skull, and all the whiskey-eyed man wanted to do was scream up at the sky until either the pain stopped or unconsciousness once more dragged him down into its grasping abyss.

Motions slow because of how each and every movement just triggered more suffering, Stiles tipped his head upwards, gaze trailing along the solid line of an outstretched arm—and nearly retched, stomach heaving upwards in shock, at seeing how his arm lay pinned to the splintery surface of the Nemeton’s tree stump. A railroad spike immobilized his wrist to the wood, metal punched through the space between the radius and ulna bones: expertly done, and all Stiles could do was force his breathing to steady, trying his best to keep calm even as the pressing question flickered through his mind, circling ‘round like a shark scenting blood in the water.

Who did this?

*

Time blurred for Stiles after that.

Perhaps it was blood loss, perhaps it was shock, perhaps it was the acknowledgement that there was little enough that the young man could do; there was no way to release himself from the bindings, such as they were—the spikes were driven too deeply into the wood at his back and Stiles would need help to get free. So the amber-eyed man just… drifted, following the ebb and flow of consciousness as it surged before retreating, much like the tide towards the moon’s siren call, and he prayed—prayed for someone to notice his disappearance, prayed for someone to come and rescue him, prayed for the agony to come to an end. Prayed to anyone, someone, to listen to him.

Minutes passed and hours trickled on by like the steady fall of sand through an hourglass: days, maybe, but all Stiles could see was the nearly-full moon and the faint gleam of stars beyond its pearlescent light.

Until—

Leaves rustled at the edge of the Nemeton’s clearing, the sound soft and out of place with the steady touch of the night breeze that slipped its way through the streets of Beacon Hills every evening: a sound at odds from the direction that the wind was blowing, and Stiles knew that he was no longer alone. It was agony to move, agony to shift and change the pressure of the spikes pinning him down—but he needed to know and so, nerves screaming with every movement, finite though it was, the man managed to look up and over, neck craning to bare its pale length to the sky above, and Stiles met an all-too familiar hazel gaze.

I knew that Scott’s kindness was going to send me to my grave one day.

“Hey there, handsome,” Kate Argent greeted as she stepped more thoroughly into the open space, tossing a quicksilver smile Stiles’ way. Moonlight gleamed along the blade of a sword that she carried in one hand, handling it with ease despite its size—supernatural strength combining easily with the hunter’s training that she received from her family all of her life, creating something new and so much deadlier than anyone truly believed.

Except Stiles.

He knew that it had been a poor choice on Scott’s part to let her go after the Hunter’s War, knew that his best friend’s kindness, his mercy, would one day come back to stab him in the back—and most likely take the pack and their families down with the Alpha, as well. Better to guarantee a loved one’s safety, better to ensure the pack’s survival, than offer a second chance to a person—a creature—who rarely ever truly deserved it. But Scott never listened.

(But, then again, it was rarely Scott who paid the price for his choices.)

“Don’t,” Stiles croaked out around a parched throat, watching the werejaguar warily as Kate sauntered closer, forearm’s muscles flexing as she hefted the sword higher to flip the blade gracefully into an underhanded grip. Deadly and dangerous: the young man could see why so many others had been drawn in, like moths to a flame—and how easy it had been for the one-time hunter to leave behind nothing but ash.

The smile that Kate offered this time around was slow in coming, teeth bright beneath the almost-full moon’s light. “It’s nothing personal,” the woman answered in turn, words lazily drawled even as she lifted the sword high. “But I do need the power boost in order to take on your True Alpha. You ending up here is just… convenient, sweetheart.”

She laughed quietly at her callously offered cruelty, then brought the blade down before Stiles could say anything in reply: words—his sarcasm—had always been the young man’s first line of defense, but what chance did he have if he was denied that particular weapon from the get-go?

Stiles’ scream echoed through the air, and his agony doubled—multiplied endlessly—as the sword punched through his chest, piercing his heart as too-sharp edges scraped along the caged protection his ribs tried to offer, until the bladed tip finally buried itself in the wood of the stump at the amber-eyed man’s back. Kate twisted the grip, shifting the blade within his body, and Stiles’ screamed louder still as painpainpain became all he knew, all he was, memories of the Nogitsune twisting its own blade in the gut of Stiles’ one-time best friend:

She’s going to kill me.

Something within Stiles rebelled at that thought—rejecting the fact that he would most likely be dead by the time that dawn’s first light finally touched the horizon, refusing to acknowledge the fact that Kate was going to win, hating the thought that his dad was going to be putting the coffin of his last family member into the ground after Stiles’ body was eventually found. And—

No.

Stiles bared his teeth at Kate’s grinning face, expression turning sharp and feral in his agony: If I die, he thought, hate and rage burning within his gaze, turning his eyes copper-bright, I’m going to take you with me, bitch.

He reached out and pulled, burying fingers as deeply as possible into the leylines that gathered together into a node just beneath the Nemeton’s roots. Power flared within his blood, turning it incandescent, and still Stiles pulled, dragging the magic upwards in ever-growing spirals. So much negativity had seeped into the nexus—the Nogitsune’s ikon, its grudge, being one of the latest in a long list of tragedies—and Stiles reached for it all, siphoned it off and added it to the hurricane-strength spiral that continued to grow in breadth with every drop of the young man’s blood that spilled across the bleached wood of the Nemeton’s stump.

“Hey… Kate…”

The werejaguar glanced up from where she was pressing the sword in deeper, attention focused mostly on the crimson pool that slowly spread from beneath Stiles’ body—and Kate blinked in surprise at seeing the blood-stained grin that the younger man offered in turn, gaze alight with both magic and wrath.

“…fuck you.”

Kate’s eyes widened in both surprise and shock.

And Stiles let go of the spiral, letting the world around him howl.

+++

The Spark never expected to wake up. Not after the damage that Kate had dealt to him. Not after the supernova that he had released in revenge, letting the spiraling magic slip through his grasp to scream its fury upon the unsuspecting earth.

Kate’s last expression, though—

That. That had been utterly satisfying.

Still: the fact remained that Stiles hadn’t expected to survive the magic’s backlash, had fully expected to be dragged down with Kate Argent; it’d been worth it, though, knowing that his chances of survival were slim enough—but at least the bitch’d be dead by night’s end, too.

He groaned quietly at the headache that throbbed at his temples, pushing himself upright to sit on the edge of the bed. Pressing the heel of his hand just above an eyebrow to help alleviate the pain, the amber-eyed man slowly managed to stand upright, stumbling his way towards the faint glow of a cracked bathroom door. Glass of water and some aspirin or puking his guts out over a toilet bowl: at this particular moment in time, Stiles didn’t know which option sounded more appealing. There was an even chance that he’d be taking both options soon enough, anyway.

The nighttime air was cool against his skin—shorts shorter than the younger man was used to—and it was only a moment or two longer before Stiles was pushing open the bathroom door, eyes squinting against the low glow of the room’s nightlight before flicking the rest of the bulbs on. His gaze was still on the hazier side, details blurred from both pain and the remnants of sleep, but—

Stiles blinked.

And Laura Hale blinked back, face slowly bleeding itself of color in the mirror that Stiles stood before.

“Oh, shit,” Stiles said—Laura’s mouth moving along with the words—and there was nothing he could do to stop the crimson from bleeding into his (her?) eyes even as an awareness that the magic-user had never met before but instinctively knew began to stir at the back of his mind. “Fuck.

+

One Week – Post-Hale Fire

If Stiles was completely honest with himself—and, to be honest, there was no one else to lie to now—there had been a portion of himself, hidden away for years and never brought up with Derek, that had legitimately despised Laura Hale for everything that had happened following the Hale fire. She had been Alpha, had been responsible for what remained of the Hale pack, and yet she had run away to the opposite end of the country—abandoning Peter to his fate at the hospital and letting Cora run scared for years before the youngest Hale finally managed to make her way back to Beacon Hills on her own when the faintest hint of a rumor eventually reached her ears.

Running, cutting what few pack ties remained, leaving behind territory for anyone else to claim—that was not Alpha.

However:

For a grief-stricken nineteen year-old, floundering with little to no training at being an Alpha, pack-sense numbed from a multitude of losses and fighting tooth and nail to keep a nearly suicidally depressed younger brother afloat… yeah, looking back at things—living things nowadays—Laura’s actions made a little bit too much sense. Fight or flight response: and, maybe, Laura just never stopped running, not until her death.

Nothing more than one of the many shadows that littered the tiny motel room that Laura and Derek had holed up in over the past several days, Stiles watched as the now-Hale Alpha curled up tighter around the shivering form of a sixteen year-old Derek. A barely-there whine still managed to fill the silence of the bedroom and, with how tightly Laura’s fingers curled into the back of Derek’s shirt, the shade couldn’t tell whether the broken sound was coming from Laura or Derek. He supposed it didn’t matter, not really—not when both teens were terrified and hurting, empty eyes avoiding looking in any nearby mirrors… and Stiles could only think of the expression that had haunted his father’s gaze for years.

He glanced out the room’s window, looking towards the distant lights of the Vegas Strip, and something within the amber-eyed man firmed. Stiles could all too well understand Laura’s desire to run as far away from Beacon Hills as she possibly could, but the running wouldn’t fix anything—it’d just end in her death six years down the road and contribute to the constantly tightening spiral of events that culminated in Stiles’ own end.

And… well.

The magic-user had read plenty of treatises on power, on time travel, on alternate realities: attention flitting from one topic to another, as it had always done, but nothing that Stiles had read offered a concrete confirmation towards should I? or shouldn’t I? And it wasn’t like Stiles had ever willingly followed along with whatever was advisable, especially not when he had the opportunity to change things—hopefully for the better.

He tapped fingertips against the curve of a mouth that he could feel but could no longer see and glanced once more towards the gleaming beacon of the Strip, waiting for sleep to eventually pull Laura Hale under into its shaky embrace.

*

The room was too-large, too-bright—white everywhere that Laura could see excepting the broad expanse of a tree stump just before where she stood and the shadowed form of a would-be man perched cross-legged atop the sanded wood. The man’s features were indistinct, nearly detail-less; the only thing that the she-wolf could actually see was the color of the shade’s gaze—nearly beta-gold and matching the color of the two fingers of whiskey that her father used to cap off dinner with.

“Hello, Laura.”

She flinched backwards as the shadow spoke—it sounded young, not much older than herself, but the look in its eyes was so old—and wrapped her arms around her middle, gesture defensive even as she glanced away from the stump and its shadow. “…this doesn’t feel like a dream,” the Alpha countered before the shadow could continue much further.

The shadow tap-tap-tapped over the stump, midnight fingers counting out the beats to a song that Laura wasn’t familiar with. “It is and it isn’t,” the shadow eventually confirmed, pausing for a moment to pin the she-wolf with its own otherworldly gaze; her own eyes flared crimson in answer, and Laura could just barely make out the hint of a sharply curved smile. “You’re asleep, so this is technically a dream. But this is a space that I’ve created within your mind to communicate with you directly.”

“Why? Who—what—are you?” Laura challenged in turn, eyes still burning a bloody-red.

At the Alpha’s question, the tapping finally paused, fingers going still, and the shade gave a thoughtful sort of hum. “Have you ever heard of a tutelary deity? It’s a sort of guardian spirit that looks over a place or object—or, sometimes, a lineage. I suppose that you can consider me Beacon Hills and your family’s… Leshy, in a way. A guardian spirit.”

“Most of my family is dead,” the she-wolf pointed out, eyes going hard and flinty.

The—guardian spirit—shrugged at that. “Magic is weird. I was only brought here after the fire. Maybe that event was something that was destined to happen. Maybe not. It’s not something you or I will ever know. The fact remains, though, that I’m here—now—and I intend to do my job with the options currently available to me. Starting with this: you need to go back.”

Laura jerked back at the order, baring her teeth at the Leshy’s words and the barest suggestion that he wanted her and Derek to go back to the hellhole that had claimed the lives of nearly all of her pack. “You’re insane!” she snarled. “No! Going back is a death sentence!”

The Leshy tilted his head at her denial as the shadows darkened around his form, hiding his gaze for a moment—here and gone again and becoming that much brighter as their eyes once more met. “The territory needs an Alpha spark to remain stable, Laura; there’s a reason why there’s a beacon in Beacon Hills. I’m aware that Talia didn’t get to teach you much” barely anything at all Laura thought but didn’t say “but you need to go back to periodically walk the land. Besides… an Alpha never leaves behind packmates and you abandoned two.”

Laura flinched at the accusation: there was nothing that she could say in her defense on that particular matter because it was true. With her focus on Derek and his emotional collapse and her own terror nipping at her heels… they had run, fast and far, and the she-wolf had only stayed long enough to ensure that her uncle had been settled at Beacon Hills Memorial Hospital. Peter was pack but nearly dead—and Derek… well, Derek. He needed Laura in a more immediate, more pressing way. But…

Two?

“…who? Who did I leave behind?”

The Leshy leaned forward to prop a chin in the curve of the palm of a hand, amber gaze too bright, to knowing amongst all of that darkness. “Peter. And your sister, Cora. If you head back soon, you’ll be able to track her down before the pack that found her ships her off to another—and then another and then another. You need to go back, Laura. I promise that I’ll help you.”

There was no reason to believe the shade—no reason to believe that any of this was real—but the spirit’s words rang with an edge of truth and, furthermore, buried deep within her core—frayed and faint and nearly close to breaking—Laura could sense another flickering bond, and the thought of going back absolutely terrified her, but the thought of Derek being her only back was equally horrifying: she had already lost so much, their entire family had, and she had no knowledge of where the strike had come from or if it would come again and when, but… she couldn’t lose anyone else. She couldn’t.

“I’m afraid,” she whispered and tightened her arms around her middle, desperately missing her family—her pack’s—easy comfort, touches thoughtlessly offered and never felt again.

“If you’re going through hell, keep going,” the Leshy murmured, never once looking away. “I’ll be right there with you.”

+

One Month – Post-Hale Fire

San Francisco was about a two hour drive away from Beacon Hills via the 128 and 101. While Stiles would have preferred to be closer to their home, he didn’t want to push too many things with Laura—not when she was still adjusting to the Alpha power, not when she was already skittish about coming back. There was a time and a place to pick his battles, and Stiles… let this particular one go. There were more important things to worry about.

(Such as pushing Laura to enroll Derek in therapy sessions with a supernaturally aware counselor—even at the time of Stiles’ own death, Derek had still been carrying around so much: from Paige, to Kate, to the fire, to his betas’ deaths. So much had been a tragedy for the one-time Hale Alpha and if seeing a psychiatrist now would lead to a healthier adulthood for the man that the shade had considered a friend… well, this would be a change that Stiles would happily tweak in the timeline.)

For now, though:

The shadow shifted his attention towards the bed in the middle of the hospital room, mouth pulling into an unhappy slant at once more seeing Peter Hale so… still and lifeless, no personality to stand as the fuel behind each and every shift of expression and change in gesture. It reminded the magic-user too much of the dull gaze Stiles found after the Ghost Riders had taken them both.

Laura flinched at the first sight of the burns that covered a large portion of her uncle’s body, skin around her eyes going tight with tension and pain at seeing the packmate she’d left behind unchanged—unhealing, if the scent of still-burnt flesh was anything to go by. Shame settled on her face, ageing the classic features that she had obviously inherited from Talia, and Laura reached out towards Peter’s too-still arm before pausing and letting her hand fall back to her side.

“I thought… I thought that he’d be better by now,” she whispered. “It’s been a month.”

“Burns left behind from a wolfsbane fire and no packbonds to encourage the healing?” Stiles shot back, able to do nothing at stopping the bitterness from making his voice too sharp, angry enough to make Laura bleed from the memories that the hospital triggered. “He’ll be lucky if he comes out of the coma in five, maybe six, years. Who knows when the scars will completely heal? If ever.”

The Hale Alpha jerked away from the shade at Stiles’ words, turning towards him with a too-wide gaze, hurt and betrayal flickering and bright at the sting the shadow’s statement dealt. She swallowed audibly, blinking to hide away the pain before straightening her spine to once more shift her attention back to her bedridden uncle. “Show me what I need to do. To… to do better, Leshy.”

Stiles sighed quietly, letting the rage surge and crest for a moment or two longer—eventually letting it go, trickling it out between his insubstantial grip: perhaps he would always hold onto that particular grudge, his own history partially created by the decisions that Laura had made when she and Derek had left… but that was, quite literally, in another life now. “Mieczysław,” he murmured, not bothering to hide the tiredness in his voice. “If you’re going to call me anything… call me Mieczysław.” Shaking his head, Stiles continued with a gesture towards the comatose werewolf: “First, take his hand and begin to draw away some of his hurt. Even if the packbond was at full strength, I doubt he’d actually be able to feel it with the pain at the foreground of everything.”

Silent now, Laura reached out and carefully tangled her fingers with Peter’s limp ones. Almost immediately, thick black veins began to creep up her hand and forearm, tinging her normally olive tone gray with the agony that the she-wolf carefully pulled from her uncle. Laura shuddered, smothering a broken sound, and ignored the tears that slowly began to gather at the corners of her eyes before falling, dripping one by one off of the edge of her jaw. “I’m sorry,” she murmured. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry.”

Shoulders slumping at seeing Laura’s obvious pain, Stiles swallowed a sigh and came up behind her slim form: resting a hand over the huddled curve of a shoulder, he coaxed his Spark to life—sending it along her connection to Peter, letting the slow-burning ember burrow deep within the older werewolf’s soul. To reignite the packbond that was nothing more than spidersilk and gossamer fanning in the breeze, to coax Peter’s healing factor into existence once more—to soothe the nightmares and dull the memories so that the blue-eyed beta wouldn’t drown himself in rage and vengeance and sorrow and pain. Something, anything, to bring the Hale back to consciousness sooner—and to guarantee the humanity that Peter had so willingly thrown away when the madness had eventually come to consume him.

Let him heal. He went through enough—before. And now. If I’m allowed to change things, let this be one of them.

*

The apartment that Laura had rented for herself and Derek felt so… different… when most of the world had drifted away to sleep. Laura had coaxed Derek to bed hours before, eventually letting exhaustion pull her own body towards unconsciousness and dreams. With the she-wolf’s awareness worlds away, Stiles had learned that he could slip forward to take control of Laura’s body—as he had accidentally done the first night in the past.

Everything was just this side of normal: heights different, weight distribution differing, the ghosting touch of a ponytail against his (her?) shoulderblades, even the more dramatic changes that came from shifting from male to female. It led to a disquieting sense of dysphoria, something unsettled that lingered in the back of Stiles’ mind: this is not my body.

Still, with all the world asleep, now was the best time to lay the groundwork for his overarching plan: perhaps it was petty in the fact that Stiles was unable to let his hate go, perhaps it was a benevolent sort of deus ex machina shift in the plot by stepping forward and getting involved—he would certainly be the first to admit that this was cheating—but, regardless of the reason Stiles would eventually decide upon for his actions, the end result remained the same.

The magic-user wanted Kate Argent dead.

Nothing would change the fact that she had seduced a sixteen year-old Derek Hale, had manipulated him into playing a part in his family’s deaths. Nothing would change the fact that Kate had done this before—would do it again, multiple times, before she ever turned her attention back to Beacon Hills. Nothing would change the fact that Gerard had always stood in the background, pulling puppet strings and nudging things along until tensions between hunter and supernatural were at an all-time high. Nothing would change the fact that it was Kate herself that had killed Stiles, once upon a time ago.

It was Scott, after all, that had spouted the tenants of giving second chances, of letting enemies go—Stiles had always been for the solution of putting them in the ground to never worry about again. And Kate? Kate was a dead man walking. She just didn’t know it yet.

The bright glow of Laura’s computer booting up lit the otherwise dark bedroom, burning away shadows and nightmares both, and Stiles quirked a small, cruelty-edged smile as he logged onto Beacon Hills Sheriff Department’s website.

(His father had kept the same login information—from deputy to Sheriff—since he was first hired, and perhaps Stiles should have felt guilty about abusing that piece of information for years, but… he had never thought of himself as a good son.)

+

Three Months – Post-Hale Fire

“He’s starting to heal,” Laura murmured quietly, a soft sort of joy infusing her words as she kept her grip on Peter’s hand reassuringly tight. All the while, black, ugly veins continued to crawl up her arms as the she-wolf attempted to draw off as much of Peter’s pain as possible. The biweekly visits to Beacon Hills—and the leeching of her uncle’s pain—always left the Alpha nauseous when night came; food was impossible to keep down and Laura spent most of the hours ‘till dawn clutching tight to her bathroom’s toilet, emptying her stomach of anything that she’d eaten that day or the day before.

It was a miserable experience, but actually knowing how much agony Peter was in—every minute of every hour of every day—being able to relieve at least some of it made it more than worthwhile.

Carefully, she reached out and gently tucked a dark strand of hair behind Peter’s ear, thumb lingering for just a moment longer to brush along the softly vulnerable curve.

Watching the gesture, tilting his head—birdlike and curious—at the emotions Stiles was picking up along the link that he shared with Laura, the only thing that the shade could think was a muted: …huh. Perhaps there had been more than one reason why Talia had been so firm in ensuring that Peter kept to the outskirts of the Hale pack.

(And perhaps, too, there had been yet one more reason why Peter’s rage had been all-consuming when he had finally pulled free of the coma the first time around.)

Stiles drifted closer to the bed to lean over the bird’s winged edge of Laura’s shoulderblade, reaching out to settle the insubstantial weight of his hand over the she-wolf’s. As he always did, he pulled at the thinnest thread of his Spark, drawing the magic out and away—pushing it towards Peter to settle within his core: strengthening packbonds, encouraging healing in the few ways he knew how—Deaton’s lessons always never focused on that particular aspect of Stiles’ magic—and, always, leaving behind a few whispered words: Wake up soon, creeperwolf. The Hale pack’ll need their Left Hand sooner rather than later. Wake up; I actually kinda miss you.

*

The white of Stiles’ soulroom was always too white: blinding and uncomfortable, stark where the magic-user had been living in shades of gray for years now (since always, he could at least admit to himself if no one else). He sat perched on the Nemeton’s stump, leaning forward just enough to poke Laura in the forehead with one dark finger. “You’re doing it wrong,” he stated, equally dark eyebrow lifting when the she-wolf opened one crimson eye to glare at him.

“Unfortunately, Mieczysław,” she began, irritation threading each word tossed his way, “my mother never had the chance to actually teach me. So I have no clue if I’m doing it right or wrong.”

Stiles shrugged a shoulder at the statement and resettled into his cross-legged sit. “That’s why you have me now. Your Yoda I will be and all that jazz, so just be glad that I haven’t brought up lacrosse balls as teaching tools.” Laura blinked, both eyes open now, at that particular statement; confusion was readily evident in her gaze but, before she could ask for clarity, the spirit just continued to bulldoze his way forward. “Now. Close your eyes again and feel for the Alpha spark. It’s not that hard.”

Obviously irritated with her mentor, Laura still followed the shade’s instructions—muttering about ripping his throat out… with her teeth—along the way, but doing as Stiles had ordered regardless of the irritated grumbling she indulged in.

In answer, Stiles just grinned: bright and mischief-laden as he watched Laura’s brows slowly furrow as she searched for the ember of power that granted her the Alpha status—and thought, silent but no less amused, that at least Derek had come by his threats honestly.

(Grief still weighed the siblings down, but Stiles had noticed a slight lessening of the tension of Derek’s shoulders since he had started his therapy sessions and had seen how much easier Laura slept at night after he taught her how to view the packbonds—knowing that they gleamed like starfire, a glimmering but steady beacon in a midnight sky.

And maybe Laura wasn’t the Alpha that Stiles grown used to from his own timeline, but… well. She’d learn. He’d make sure of it.)

+

Six Months – Post-Hale Fire

The burns were almost completely healed.

The doctors hailed Peter as some sort of miracle case, whispering back and forth over the speed of his recovery. For the external damage, anyway—the damage from the fire had pretty much completely healed but nothing was able to coax the eldest Hale member from his coma. Day after day, he lay there in bed: unmoving and too still, refusing to—unable to—leave the nightmares and memories that he’d immersed himself in behind.

Like clockwork, Laura made the trip back to Beacon Hills twice a week; she never missed a session, never missed a visit, and she always followed up on how her uncle was doing with the resident doctor before making her way to Peter’s room.

Stiles had gone ahead, drifting away from Laura’s presence as he did from time to time; not often—no point, really, when the Hale Alpha was the only person capable of actually seeing him—but there was history here between him and Peter. True enough, it was a history that would never be repeated if Stiles had anything to say about it—it’d be better, his friends and family would be happier—but it still mattered as long as the shade remembered.

He leaned over the edge of the Hale’s bed, hand settled over the steady beat of Peter’s heart; he couldn’t draw pain, not like Laura could—but Peter was healed enough that the external agony was no longer the problem. Everything internal…? Still up for grabs, especially with how Peter tended to cling, to grasp tight, to refuse to let go until he was made to.

“Wake up, Peter. Six months of this was bad enough. Don’t turn it into another six years. Wake up. It’s time to wake up,” he whispered, letting a steady flow of magic trickle through his fingers as it always did each visit. Power and strength and welcome, sparking the packbonds to life, solidifying Peter’s connection to the family that remained: Stiles’ best and only attempt at soothing the sanity that had to remain, somehow, if only because he never again wanted to face off against the twisted, monstrous version of the one-time Alpha as he had—once upon a time and a lifetime ago.

“Wake up.”

Slowly, so slowly that Stiles didn’t realize at first what was happening, Peter’s lashes lifted—eyes blazing Arctic blue—and he shifted the tilt of his head just enough to meet the shade’s whiskey-hued gaze. His eyes remained hazy for a long moment or two but, eventually, focused on Stiles’ shadowy form.

Triumph—elation and gladness—surged within the magic-user’s veins, success a heady sort of drug that left him lightheaded with laughter he didn’t yet release, and the smile that Stiles offered Peter glowed with winter ice as their eyes met.

(Peter saw him. Peter saw him.)

“Welcome back, Peter Hale,” the spirit murmured, fingers curling over the fabric of the beta’s hospital gown, and the ‘wolf’s eyes flared neon in return, packbonds a steady, comforting presence buried deep within his heart.

*

“Cora!”

It had taken some finagling—a careful dance of diplomacy, of threats and blackmail and the crimson-eyed promise of violence, of favors owed and cashed in on—but Laura was able to finally track down her little sister, following the clues and the trail that Stiles uncovered until everything came to a stop with a pack that lived near the American-Mexican border.

Half a year of relentless detective work, but it had all paid off: Stiles had managed to find Cora.

She was here, she was with them, she was alive; and Laura wouldn’t have had any of it if she had ignored the Leshy’s advice and had continued running East with Derek until they couldn’t run any farther (What city would she have brought them to? What fate would have unfolded for the both of them? Would she have learned how to be an Alpha the way she was always meant to be? Would she have floundered, would Derek have suffered from her inexperience? Laura didn’t know, but she was so grateful that things had ended up the way they had.).

The eleven year-old came flying out of the back room that she’d been kept in, tears streaming down her face at hearing Laura’s voice—at seeing her older brother and sister and uncle—knowing that she hadn’t been wrong to cling to the dimly burning packbonds, no matter how many times the various packs’ Alphas had tried to break them, to bring her into their own packs. But Hale stubbornness was a well-known feature that came paired with the pack’s ‘wolves, and there was nothing that the strange Alphas could do to force Cora into bending to their will.

Cora tumbled into Laura’s waiting arms, curling in close even as she reached towards her brother and favorite uncle, muffling frantic sobs against the hollow of her sister’s throat: relief was an astringent scent in the room and, even as Peter stepped forward to grab hold of Cora’s too-tight grasp, his attention never diverted away from the shadow that leaned over the Hale Alpha’s free shoulder, whispering and coaching the young woman in what to say and what to do to the Viveros pack’s Alpha who still stood waiting in the corner of the room.

And Laura?

Tilted her head towards that quiet voice, listening and attentive even as her hand smoothed over the back of Cora’s head, over and over again, gestures reassuring and soothing.

How… interesting.

+

Eleven Months – Post-Hale Fire

Cora was too young and Derek too focused on his own healing to notice the way that Laura and Peter danced around each other. Touches were subtle, glances from the corners of eyes: nothing overt, nothing that anyone could truly pinpoint and say There!, but there was a certain type of… charge that thrummed between the Alpha and her Left Hand. It was a type of courtship that only Peter Hale could have really been capable of: glanced at sideways, only realized from a skewed sort of perspective…

Talia Hale would have had the observational ability—and the ties that came from being Alpha—to see and know, as well.

(Yes, no wonder she kept Peter on the fringes of the pack. No wonder she took his memories. No wonder she tried to encourage distrust and animosity between the pack and her Left Hand, manipulating things so that the others most likely thought that the dislike came from Peter’s personality and the role that he played for her sister. No wonder. No wonder. No wonder.)

Stiles sat back and watched, curious and… wanting.

Not knowing who the wanting was for.

(He’d always been a rather talented liar. Even to himself.)

+

One Year & Three Months – Post-Hale Fire

Laura couldn’t sleep.

Tension was something that curled tight within his belly and over the nape of her neck: worry plagued her, followed every step—would probably turn her hair white decades before it should have; no matter how good things were right now, there was always the chance—the possibility, the probability—that it would only turn bad. Past experience did nothing but prove that concern correct, and nightmares oftentimes filled her dreams. The thought of being forced to watch what was left of her pack, her family, burn the way that everyone else had—that Peter had and yet managed to survive—was a thought that haunted her every moment of every day.

And so the stress, the tension, wound tighter still.

“Laura…” the shade that was always near murmured, tone scolding even as it pulled her away from her constantly spiraling thoughts. “Go to sleep. You’re protected now.”

The Alpha sighed quietly, shifting to lay a forearm across her eyes to block out the faint glow of a full moon’s light that filtered through her bedroom’s curtains. “We thought that we were protected before. And look at how that ended up, Mieczysław.”

“Deaton always preferred a more hands off approach for an Emissary. I’ve always taken the more… proactive road.”

She lifted the arm at that particular comment, crimson flaring within the depths of her dark eyes so that she could better spot the spirit. “…Emissary? I thought that had always been… a Leshy?”

Stiles went silent for a long moment, heartbeats stretching out between them like taffy pulled too far. “No,” the shade eventually answered. “I wasn’t always like this.”

Laura sighed, ember gaze fading from her eyes as she shifted her attention to the ceiling up above. “I think that I would have liked having you as my Emissary, Mieczysław. You make us feel… safe.”

“Then trust that feeling and go to sleep, Laura.”

“I can’t,” the young woman growled, reaching up to press the heels of her hands against her eyes, frustration and tension and worry all bundling together into this knot of pressure that she hadn’t been able to relieve through looking after her pack or working it out in the gym or checking up on Derek’s therapy sessions or looking at online options for school or anything. Nothing unraveled it and, day after day, it just became that much more tangled.

Before, when the tension wound as tight as it did now, she’d just get herself off—relieving some of the pressure and focusing the rest of the frustration elsewhere; now, though, the guardian spirit was always around: Laura lacked the privacy that she’d thought was hers by right, used to and reveling in as only an oldest sibling could lay claim to. With no privacy, however… no chance at releasing the tension that way.

The young Alpha huffed a quiet breath and wiggled lower down on the bed, tank top pushed up the lean line of her torso in an effort to get some sort of air, to catch her breath while her skin remained too tight and too close and too sensitive around and against her. If only—

A fingertip trailed its way over her chest, just beneath her sternum, bumping over the small indent that her navel made before stopping at the hem of Laura’s sleepshorts. “I can help with that. If you’d like,” the shade murmured, voice husky in a way that caught Laura’s breath and made it hitch.

“Yes,” she gasped, reaching down to tug off the tank the rest of the way even as she felt fingers curl over the edge of the shorts, pulling them down and over the muscled line of her thighs and calves. “Please, Mieczysław. Yes.”

Laura heard the muted sound of a laugh, low and hoarse, and it wasn’t much long after that she felt the light scrape of teeth over an already pebbled nipple, lips closing in an almost teasing manner before the shade suckled, hard and drawn out and perfect, as the solid weight of fingers carefully began to work their way into her slick heat.

*

Peter rolled his hips down into his mattress, the clawed tips of his fingers tearing through his thin blankets as he listened to the telling shift of skin over sheets, the muffled sound of Laura’s pleased moan, a hitched, needy breath, the wet glide of a body against a body: he was so hard, hungry for what he could hear and not yet have, and Peter buried the rumbling snarl that came at the sound of the shade’s—Mieczysław’s—darkly masculine laugh pairing with Laura’s telling whimper of pleasure.

“Oh, my God. Your hands,” Peter’s niece whispered hoarsely, husky in the sort of way he’d only heard her certain nights, and the blue-eyed man arched down one last time and wanted and finally climaxed.

+

One Year & Seven Months – Post-Hale Fire

It was always… odd… taking claim to Laura’s body as she slept. In a way, it still felt like a type of violation—moving limbs here and there without its owner’s express consent—and, though the Alpha was aware of Stiles doing so and didn’t mind… it still pricked at something uncomfortable and dark, hidden away in the back of the shade’s mind.

(If he was honest with himself, it reminded him a little bit too much of his time with the Nogitsune.)

Still:

Needs must and Stiles still had Laura’s permission to do so.

Booting up the Alpha’s computer was routine by now, as was logging into the Beacon Hills Sheriff’s Department website; search after search added to the shade’s already plethora of evidence—helped by the fact that, being from the future, Stiles knew the litany of crimes that could be laid at Kate and Gerard’s feet now—but there was nothing as too much.

Stiles wanted his pound of flesh—and the more airtight his case, the less chance the Hunter Council would be able to argue otherwise.

One of the apartment’s floorboards creaked from a sudden weight, and Stiles glanced up to meet Peter’s chillingly assessing gaze. Silence stretched between them both, and Stiles’ eyes went hooded in thought as he continued to meet the older man’s eyes—head tilting slightly to one side, waiting for the other to break the silence first. If nothing else, Stiles’ history with the beta had taught him that.

(That, and that Peter Hale almost always played the long game.)

Slowly, Peter’s mouth quirked up in a lopsided smirk and he stepped forward, crowding in against Stiles’ chair in a way that he’d never done with Laura but had oftentimes done with Stiles himself when the spirit had been alive. “Good evening… Mieczysław,” the older man greeted, smirk deepening that much further at catching sight of Stiles’ widening eyes—and, surprisingly, dipping his head just enough to steal a chaste kiss. “It’s a pleasure to finally meet you.”

“Good evening, creeperwolf,” Stiles replied, consonants and enunciation completely wrong for Laura—but perfectly him, all Stiles and no one else. He licked his lips to chase the kiss, tasting instead the cherry chapstick crap that the Alpha typically used before bedtime, and reached up to hook his fingers in the collar of Peter’s sleep shirt to draw the older man closer still. “Since you’re up, anyway… wanna help me catch some rats?”

+

Three Years – Post-Hale Fire

It took quite some time to tie the noose as tightly as Stiles had wanted: but, as the sayings went, good things came to those who wait and revenge is a dish best served cold. Laura had willingly retreated for this particular confrontation—lingering in the back of Stiles’ mind the way that he so often was with her—but, for all intents and purposes, the shade was the one running the show at the moment.

“And how are we to believe that there is any truth to your claim, Alpha Hale?” Elder Calavera asked, weathered face harsh and unyielding as she leaned forward onto her forearms to stare Laura—Stiles—down. Despite the hunter’s apparent age, there was something deadly sharp within the woman’s gaze: time had done nothing to dull this particular blade, and Stiles knew that she’d happily gut him and watch him bleed out if given half a chance.

The other four Council members—retired hunters, usually the eldest still living from the most well-known families throughout the globe—remained silent and still, allowing the Calavera matriarch to speak for them for the moment. Always watching, always waiting: perhaps searching for the perfect moment to strike back; no matter how many would try and claim the Council meeting as neutral ground, Stiles was fully aware of just how hypocritical that particular claim tended to be.

There was no such thing as a neutral ground, a neutral party, when it was oftentimes us versus them.

That was fine, though: he’d come to this appointment fully aware that this would be an uphill battle. That’s why he’d prepared as thoroughly as he had—there was no escape in sight for Kate or Gerard Argent. Not if he had anything to say about it.

The smile that the shade offered the five Elders was sharp, and Stiles could feel Laura’s fangs pricking at the full curve of her mouth even as he bared his teeth the slightest bit. “Do you honestly expect that I would have called for this meeting unless I was absolutely prepared?” Stiles shot back, arms crossing in irritation beneath his breasts—breasts, seriously, so weird; he missed his own body with its own appendages—and met Elder Calavera’s eyes, gaze for gaze. “I was fully aware from the beginning that the temptation to dismiss my claims would be the popular opinion. Everything I’ve stated and brought before you all I have evidence for.”

“And yet this evidence has not been brought forward,” Elder Hirako parried easily, offering Stiles a slight smile that never reached his eyes.

Stiles’ answering smile turned sugar sweet at that comment, and he couldn’t help but remember the conversation he’d had with Peter when the then-Alpha had offered him the Bite. It’d been nearly ten years ago now for the shade—Time flies when you’re having fun, I suppose, the shadow thought drily—but still and always, Peter’s comment of I’m not the monster, Stiles. had always stuck with him. It was something that the then-teen had understood instinctively, no matter how flippantly he’d replied, and… well, here and now, with the monsters that stood before him, refusing to give an inch to acknowledge that their own people had become something that they should be hunting… it left ash in Stiles’ mouth.

And so much fury.

“Peter,” Stiles said, voice so very, very cold.

Silent, Laura’s Left Hand stepped forward to toss an inches-thick binder on the thick oak table that the Hunter Council sat at: three years of Stiles’ research, of tracking down leads and solving cold cases that the police couldn’t because they didn’t have all of the facts necessary to do so. Murder after murder, example after example, Stiles had laid it all out methodically and thoroughly; no stone went unturned as he shifted his attention towards it, wanting nothing more than to bring this to a finish.

Intending on bringing Kate and Gerard to an end.

“Your requested evidence, Revered Elders,” Stiles said. “And my call for a Blood Feud.”

*

The Elders declared Kate and Gerard Argent Codeless and outcast by meeting’s end.

Stiles hadn’t given them any other choice. He had sprung his trap too neatly.

+

Three Years & Five Months – Post-Hale Fire

The tip of Peter’s claw idly trailed along the curve of Stiles’ spine, touch insubstantial and just barely not enough, and the amber-eyed spirit shuddered in reaction even as he arched back to press more completely against the beta’s fingertips.

“It never feels quite like enough… does it?” Peter asked softly, smoothing his hand upwards to cup over the vulnerable arch of the magic-user’s skull. Stiles’ eyes fell shut at the question, blocking away everything except for the warm press of Peter’s skin against his own form: solid and real and something that he’d always craved from before but never had—still didn’t have now, either.

It didn’t seem very fair, really.

Peter,” Stiles whispered even as Laura’s fingers wrapped around his own, holding tight.

(No, it wasn’t fair at all.)

+

Four Years & Two Months – Post-Hale Fire

Laura was different.

She was different from when Stiles had first come to this here-and-now: stronger, more confident, more comfortable in her Alpha powers. It showed in how the she-wolf stood tall, shoulders back and meeting the older Alpha's gaze with a level one of her own. There was no flinching, no turning away. Laura knew her abilities, inside and out (How could she not with Stiles coaxing and coaching her along the way?), and was competent enough to realize when she was able to push or withdraw away from those boundaries that had been so firmly established for most of her life.

The contrast was like night and day, and the shade had managed to ease the shift so gradually that nothing felt unusual or different. This was Laura as who she'd always been meant to be. This was an Alpha that Peter was proud to follow, was more than a little bit in love with: this young woman was Alpha and he so-willingly bared his throat to the power that Laura carefully wielded, aware of her responsibility and strength in a way that Peter knew that Talia would have never been able to teach... let alone understand. But apparently their family's Leshy did.

It was only when the other pack's Alpha gave a rumbling, fury-filled roar that Peter's attention immediately snapped back to the attempted treaty at hand:

The burly man snarled, facial features already shifting with his change, and the Overland pack's Alpha bared fangs and claws even as he lunged across the small expanse separating him from Laura; he aimed for her throat, ready for blood to flow and flesh to rip beneath his touch. Before he could come anywhere near the she-wolf, though, the Alpha slammed into an impenetrable, invisible wall. Without meaning to, Peter's eyebrows lifted in curiosity and surprise, and the beta shifted closer to stand at Laura's shoulder. He wanted to move closer, to see just what it was that stopped the Alpha from fulfilling his attack... but the quiet snickers coming from the shade that never drifted far from Peter or Laura's side was answer enough.

Laura smiled at the trapped Alpha, baring delicately pointed fangs--the only part of her body shifted--even as the man howled in rage at being cornered. Literally. "My Emissary takes our pack's safety very seriously," the she-wolf commented idly enough, and it wasn't long after that Peter felt the barely-there weight of a pointed chin hooking over the meat of his shoulder to watch the events unfold. "We came to create a treaty with you in good faith. You broke that."

The Overland pack's Left Hand stepped forward at that, green eyes hooded as she glanced from Laura to Peter to Derek: all obviously 'wolves, each with their individual role to play within the Hale pack--and each incapable of handling the mountain ash that had so obviously trapped her Alpha. "...and where exactly is this Emissary of yours then?" the woman asked, cautious and quietly observant where her Alpha had been belligerent and prideful (but, then again, that was one of the purposes of a Left Hand within a pack).

Smile sharpening further, Laura's answer was simple enough: "Around."

*

"Were you human once, Mieczysław?" Peter asked as Stiles traced a finger over the chiseled lines of his torso, magic flickering to life and making the beta's packbonds flare in response to that oh-so familiar touch. "Laura once mentioned that you were a Leshy. But that's not completely accurate... is it?"

"Does it matter?" Stiles murmured in answer, sighing quietly as he pulled his hands away from Peter's skin--able to touch, allowed to touch, permission that had never been granted (maybe someday; didn't matter now, though) from the shade's own time. "It is what it is and I am what I am. Now, anyway."

Peter hummed in response, reaching up to trail a claw-tipped thumb over the thin skin just beneath the shadow's eye: affectionate and dangerous both, but--then again--Stiles wouldn't have expected anything less from the Hale pack's Left Hand. "And what are you, sweet boy?" the older man asked, blue eyes temporarily flaring with neon as his gaze met an equally vivid one, vibrant against all that darkness.

"Yours, Peter. And Laura's. Can't that just... be enough?"

He was so... tired. Wanted this to be enough, knew himself well enough to realize that it never would be--but there was nothing else to reach towards, not when he would come away empty-handed, grasping and desperate and doomed to fail no matter how hard he could try. It just... was. And Stiles had to satisfy himself with that knowledge, no matter how he was greedy--so greedy--for more.

There wasn't going to be anything else.

+

Five Years – Post-Hale Fire

Five years of waiting.

Two years of searching.

A Blood Feud declared—and Kate and Gerard had finally come up for air.

The Hunt was on and Stiles’ spirit sang in glee, howling for the blood both hunters had spilled over the course of decades. He had no intention of letting either slip the noose—not now, not ever again.

+
+
+

Six Years – Post-Hale Fire

The alert about the dead body found in the Preserve blared out from the police radio, jerking sixteen year-old Stiles out of his ever-continuous Wikipedia research spiral. His fingers skittered across the laptop’s keys, nonsense letters and numbers and symbols filling the address bar at the top of the webpage, and the teen glanced away from the glow of his screen to stare at the purloined scanner with wide, curious eyes.

Though it was the county seat, Beacon Hills was still small enough that anything that a red-blooded teenage male would consider exciting rarely happened. Oftentimes, calls for petty theft or speeding in the middle of the night came across the radio; if Stiles was honest with himself, he couldn’t even remember the last time that a murder had actually happened in the town. It must have been… years.

(His mind momentarily flickered towards the Hale fire, an event that he’d always looked at with suspicion for one reason or another, but his dad had always been firm in reassuring the teen that those deaths had been ruled as accidental. A tragedy, most definitely, but not an example of multiple murders cleverly covered up. Still… Stiles had always wondered, always questioned, knew—for some reason—that there was more there than the police had eventually ruled.)

Curiosity striking, the amber-eyed teen closed out of his current websites, crouching down to grab his backpack, wallet, and keys—backtracking for the cellphone he’d nearly left behind—and headed out towards his Jeep. There was no point in calling Scott—his best friend was on a date with Allison, one that the other boy had waxed poetic about all throughout lunch (Who knew that some people actually considered a two week anniversary worth celebrating? Apparently those people went by the name of Scott McCall)—and so Stiles would be on his own in indulging his curiosity.

It was late enough that few people were out and about on the streets, and Stiles just counted it towards his good luck: fewer people in residence also meant that there were fewer people to tattle on him to his dad. Such was the joys of being the Sheriff’s kid, but… Noah Stilinski had held his office long enough for the teen to learn how to maneuver around those types of limitations.

Twenty minutes later and Stiles was pulling over to the side of the road, near one of the lookouts that eventually bled over into the Preserve proper: the it was a dark moon, only starlight to guide the boy’s steps, and Stiles stumbled and fell over both his own two feet and the roots that littered the forest floor. He was not quiet, didn’t know how to be, and the flashlight app from his phone just barely managed to cut through the murk and darkness that he tried his best to wade through. Any potential wildlife that Stiles may have encountered went running at the constant litany of curses that colored the air blue (most of the words picked up at the station when the deputies didn’t realize that Stiles was near and were a bit… freer… with their language than the Sheriff would have normally approved of).

It seemed like forever—and no time at all—before the teen tripped over a particularly vicious root, and Stiles’ yelp echoed oddly in the night air as he went tumbling down; he’d unfortunately been on the edge of an incline, and all it took was that one moment of imbalance before the boy was falling ass over teakettle until momentum slowed and he stumbled to a halt. Various aches and pains made themselves known—his ankle screaming for his attention in a way that boded No Good Things—and the teen groaned quietly at the knowledge that tomorrow was going to be horrible to wake up to even as he slowly pushed himself to his elbows and knees.

Somewhat vertical, or at least as vertical as he could bring himself to be with his head spinning the way it currently was, Stiles finally lifted his head—

And met wide, blankly staring hazel eyes.

Fuck!

The scream of fright echoed oddly in the ravine he found himself in, and horror was a distantly felt emotion when the boy caught sight of the woman’s torn out throat—realizing that the damp dirt he was sprawled over may not necessarily have been caused by the fog that drifted eerily amongst the trees. “Oh, my God,” he whispered, voice hoarse as terror sped up the beat of his heart: aware of the fact that that type of wound would have been caused by some sort of predator and that there was no guarantee that the predator had actually left.

With the Sheriff’s department potentially searching on the other side of the Preserve for the body that Stiles had just literally stumbled upon, there was the very real chance that no one would be near enough to hear him scream should the animal come back for a Round Two.

The teen swallowed audibly and reached out for the cell phone that’d fallen just out of reach. His fingers were shaky as he tapped in the passcode to unlock the phone, and Stiles nearly dropped it several times before it finally unlocked and showed him his home screen. Dad, the teen thought, tapping frantically at the phone’s address book. Gotta call Dad.

A branch snapped just off to Stiles’ left, and the teen immediately shifted his attention towards the unexpected sound; terror and paranoia had bleached the color from his face, and amber eyes widened fractionally more as he caught sight of a group of four people—two men and two women—and a… a shadow?... hovering just over the older woman’s shoulder. For some reason, the teen couldn’t look away from that dark patch of air, drawn to it—like a moth to flame—and then, in the middle of all that darkness, Stiles saw his eyes, gaze an identical match to his own, a muffling sense of déjà vu cottony in his head even as Arctic cold trickled along the curve of his spine and—

Something slammed into him, blacking out his vision and awareness for just the briefest moment of time, a heartbeat’s flicker pulse—

And Stiles breathed deep as the terror bled away, fingers curling reassuringly around the boxy shape of his cell phone. Another moment, two, taking the time he could to get used to the fact that he had a body again—solid in a way he hadn’t been for six years—and then glanced upwards to meet Laura’s distant but vaguely concerned gaze. “Hello, Hales,” the teen greeted, accompanying grin wide and toothy and mischief-laden and wolfish.

Confusion flickered in Laura’s dark gaze, crimson flaring for the span of a breath—but, at her left, the teen could see sudden understanding, curiosity and interest, sharpening Peter’s features. “Mieczysław?” he asked, finger lightly tap-tap-tapping away in thought over his crossed arms.

(Peter had always been too damn smart.)

Stiles’ head tilted just-so, gesture familiar enough to make Laura’s eyes widen and expression slacken in shock, and his smile eventually just widened that much further. “Stiles, actually. Or—technically, finally,” the teen corrected before shifting his gaze towards Kate Argent’s very dead body.

His and the Hales’ vengeance—six years too late and seven years too early.

But at least she was dead.

Gesturing towards the hunter’s body, Stiles glanced towards his Alpha and Left Hand, lifting an eyebrow in idle challenge. “Someone better take her head; it doesn’t happen often, but sometimes a claw wound is enough to jumpstart the Change. And you definitely don’t want her coming back as, say… a werejaguar.” Something too close to comprehension edged into the blue flare of Peter’s gaze—and, if Stiles was honest with himself, if anyone would be able to figure out what happened by puzzling together the pieces, it’d be Peter Hale—but the ‘wolf still stepped forward to do as the teen had ordered.

Shifting his attention towards Laura, Derek, and Cora, the teen offered a charmingly innocent smile, eyes wide and vulnerable and just barely edging into beseeching. “…and I don’t suppose I could possibly talk one of you into helping me get back to my car? Pretty sure I twisted my ankle.”

Though the move was tentative and cautious, Laura still was the one to step forward—and picked Stiles up in a bridal carry, must to the teen’s disgruntlement. “Looks like you’re going to have to get used to being corporeal again,” the Hale Alpha commented, slow and careful—leery of the change that Peter had picked up on almost immediately—but Stiles could still see how her nose flared to draw in the teen’s scent: familiarizing herself with a sense that had been denied for the six years that the magic-user had remained with her and her pack.

“I can think of some upsides, though, to finally having a body again,” the one-time spirit idly answered and brushed the pad of a thumb along the curve of Laura’s throat, brushing knowingly over the thundering pulse at its base. Her eyes widened, just briefly, and Stiles could feel the prick of claws as she tightened her hold upon him—possessive and desperate and unwilling to ever let go, now that she finally had him in her hold.

Stiles could feel the weight of Peter’s silent stare lingering even as Laura, Derek, and Cora began to make their way back up the ravine. Knowing just how dangerously close he was playing with fire—but, then again, Peter had managed to survive a wolfsbane-fueled inferno and Stiles himself was a Spark—the teen glanced over Laura’s shoulder and winked at the blue-eyed beta who stood predatorily still over the body of the hunter who’d decimated so many packs around the world.

And Peter?

Peter slowly smiled, fangs glinting and too-sharp beneath the starlight.

*

Hours later, Stiles slowly stirred from his slumber, still drowsy and sleep-muddled from the heat that two werewolves generated. Laura was a heavy weight sprawling over the line of his back, breasts pressed possessively to the expanse of the teen’s shoulders even as she hooked a leg over the arch of Stiles’ hip. It was—different, better—being alive again, aware and present in all the best sort of ways. He was finally here, and Stiles hummed quietly in satisfaction as he pressed his ear to the broad plain of Peter’s chest, listening to the steady beating of the older man’s heart.

The touch that came should have been unexpected, but—well, with Peter, Stiles had long ago learned to expect the unexpected (if only to see that brief flash of irritation when the beta ‘wolf was unable to ruffle any of the teen’s feathers). Fingers brushed idly over Stiles’ currently buzzed hair, clawtips pricking teasingly over the magic-user’s scalp just enough to tease but never quite satisfy.

Stiles bit Peter in revenge even as his body stirred in molasses-thick interest.

An answering chuckle fanned over the vulnerable nape of the amber-eyed teen’s neck, and Stiles’ gaze hooded, teeth digging in hard enough to nearly draw blood. “Time travel?” Peter asked, voice husked with both arousal and the remnants of sleep.

“Of a sort. Magic, mostly. And spite,” the one-time spirit answered, lifting a hand to slowly draw an ever-widened spiral over the older man’s opposite pectoral.

“But it’s permanent now?”

“Yeah. Sucks for you, but it looks like I'm here to stay,” Stiles replied, licking away the sting his teethmarks left while Peter caught his hand to bring up to his mouth, pressing a kiss to the sensitive skin of the magic-user’s palm. Stiles hid a smile against the beta’s side, shifting within the other’s hold to skate fingertips over the Cupid’s bow of Peter’s lips—

And with Laura stirring behind him and Peter’s fangs scraping teasingly over the pads of his fingers, Stiles found himself… happy. So happy and grateful—and greedy, forever reaching, for more (knowing, now, that he could still keep reaching--that it was okay to want more and more and more, just as long as it was Laura and Peter he was reaching towards).

*

The spiral Stiles had created once upon a time ago, long ago and not yet happened, finally closed.

-

end.