Peter was suspicious.
Just generally, as a person. He always assumed his fellow man had impure motives until they proved otherwise, and then he still kept an eye out.
But at this particular moment, he was specifically suspicious of Derek’s new girlfriend.
Derek didn’t know Peter knew about his girlfriend. Derek thought he was being stealthy, always showering before coming home, as if no one would notice the smell of fresh body wash every single time he came home from one of his “study groups.”
No one ever said Derek was the strategist of the family.
But Peter still loved him, and more than that Peter liked him. He’d probably never get along with Derek the way he did with Cora, but he was a good kid. Peter wanted to protect that. However, Peter was also a little too sharp edged for them to spend much time together, their personalities an ill fit for each other.
Cora understood. She understood his motivations better than just about anyone else in the family.
She was suspicious too.
But she was also too young to be involved in this, so here Peter was, alone in his suspicion of the blonde sitting across from Derek as he sat at a table outside the café.
Or at least he’d thought he was alone. As he observed the clandestine date in progress, Peter became aware of a kid glaring daggers at Derek’s girlfriend as he ate a grilled cheese. The kid appeared to be there in a booth with his father, who was nursing what looked like a cup of coffee and a hangover.
The pale kid with the short hair continued staring with such intensity that Peter found himself dividing his attention between him and the date. The division became unnecessary when the girlfriend leaned in for a kiss and the kid deliberately swept his ceramic plate off the table. It shattered on the floor, startling everyone in the café, including Derek and Blondie, who jumped apart.
“Stiles!!” the presumed-father yelled.
“I’m sorry, it was an accident,” he said sorrowfully. Even Peter would have been convinced of his remorsefulness if he hadn’t seen him purposefully create the disruption.
“Just,” the dad sighed. “Just go wait at the tables outside while they sweep this up and I pay the bill.”
Stiles nodded, and kept his head down as he walked outside. Soon as the door closed behind him, he turned back to watch Blondie through the windows with narrowed eyes, just as Peter had been doing.
Only a moment later though, the kid, Stiles, snapped his head around and zeroed in on Peter.
The intensity of his look startled Peter. Surely this wasn’t normal for an eleven, maybe twelve year old?
“Very clumsy with that plate in there,” said Peter easily.
The kid shrugged. “I’m told I’m growing into my limbs. Accidents happen.”
Peter hmm’d. “Accidents do happen. They just didn’t happen there, ” he nodded his head towards the interior of the café.
The kid shrugged again. “Believe what you want.” He settled down at a table to wait for his dad.
Peter considered for a moment, and then asked “Why were you watching the blonde in there?”
Stiles stiffened and turned a laser sharp gaze on Peter. “Why were you watching me?”
“I wasn’t,” answered Peter, partially truthful. “I was watching her, and then noticed you watching her too.”
Stiles turned his eyes back to Derek’s date, which appeared to be wrapping up now. “I don’t like her,” he seemed to say without thinking, engrossed in whatever was happening in his head.
“What don’t you like about her?” Peter asked, intrigued.
Stiles continued to stare, brow furrowed, mouth tense in a way that seemed inappropriate for a child.
“I don’t like the way she feels,” he said absently.
“Come on Stiles,” the dad said as he appeared in the doorway. Peter noticed for the first time that it was the sheriff of Beacon County, widower and father to the enigma who must be named Stiles Stilinski. Sheriff John Stilinski politely nodded at Peter, who nodded back, and the father and son took their leave.
Peter glanced inside the café again, and saw them settling the bill. He quickly picked up the newspaper he’d had sitting in front of him and took off as well.
“Do you go to school with a Stiles Stilinski?”
Cora raised her eyebrow. “Yeah. Weird kid, got weirder after his mom died. Hangs out with Scott the asthmatic. He punched Jackson once, it was awesome.”
Peter thought carefully. “What exactly about him is weird?”
“He talks a lot. About weird stuff too. He once spent all of lunch talking about how different types of cloth are made. There was a fight that day and everything, so no one was even listening.”
Peter raised his own eyebrow. “Then how do you know he was talking for the entire lunch period?”
Cora rolled her eyes. “I was on the detention wall, and so was he. I watched the fight like everyone else while he kept talking at me.” She scrunched her nose a little. “But sometimes he doesn’t talk at all either. Sometimes he just comes in and sits down and doesn’t really do anything all day. He did it sometimes before his mom died, but more after.” She shrugged. “He’s a weird kid, but he’s alright. He’s not a jerk like Jackson, and he’s pretty smart. Why do you want to know?”
“I saw him while I was getting breakfast. He looked about your age. He broke a plate. Interesting kid.” Peter added nothing else, but knew Cora read between the lines when her eyes narrowed.
“Thanks Cora,” he added, before heading upstairs to his study. Perhaps one of his contacts would have a lead on who the blonde is.
“No one calls me that Cora. Just use Stiles.”
Stiles slowed down his walk to the bus line. He was alone today, Scott having been picked up earlier for a doctor appointment. He had a lot of those. Not as many as Stiles’ mom had before-
Stiles automatically redirected his thoughts. “What’s up?” he asked. He could feel determination from her, and not a little amount of curiosity, which wasn’t unusual. What was unusual was having it directed at him.
“My uncle said he saw you on Saturday.”
Stiles looked at her in confusion. He hadn’t seen anyone-
“Said you broke a plate.”
“That guy was your uncle? I thought he was a college student.”
“He is. Well, he’s a grad student. But yeah, he’s the youngest of my moms family, by like fifteen years. Grandma still thinks it’s funny to buy Kinder Surprise eggs and give them to him.”
Stiles burst out laughing unexpectedly. “Oh my god, your Grandma is savage!”
Cora’s mouth slanted up, and shrugged. “You wanna come over and meet her?”
Stiles paused walking. “What?”
“Come on. McCall is out at the lung doctor or whatever-”
“Jesus, what do you have against first names?”
“-and doesn’t your dad work like, all the time? Come over. You can meet Savage Grandma and Peter can make fun of you for breaking a plate and you can help me with the quadrant graph thing.” Cora looked at him expectantly.
Stiles was immediately suspicious. He was suspicious, but she was completely right. His alternative was going home and spending 4 hours alone before making dinner, and then eating that alone, and then doing his homework alone and then putting himself to bed.
There were times when Stiles was overwhelmed with everything and he really really needed that much alone time, but there were also times when he really really needed to not have that alone time.
Besides, he’d never find out what she really wanted if he didn’t go.
Stiles didn’t quite know what he’d been expecting, but it wasn’t this.
The Hale house was absolutely swimming in positive emotion. He could feel the genuine love and respect between Talia and Joseph, Cora’s parents. He could feel that Talia really meant it when she said Stiles was welcome, and that she wasn’t just being polite to the kid with the dead mom. Oh sure, there were flashes of irritation and pettiness here and there, but every single person home in their huge family knew that they were loved. Each person radiated protectiveness of the group.
It was warm and enveloping and so, so overwhelming, which is why Stiles immediately asked for the bathroom after they walked in the house.
He sat on the edge of the bathtub with his forehead on his knees, taking slow breaths. He wasn’t going to cry in a stranger’s house. He wasn’t going to do it. He was going to keep it together, soak in the atmosphere for as long as they would let him, and then he would take the feeling home with him.
He took another deep breath, then flushed the toilet and washed his hands in case someone was listening.
He spent the entire afternoon there. Helping Cora with their homework, eating cookies, proposing marriage to Talia over said cookies, listening to Talia tell him that Joseph had made the cookies, proposing marriage to Joseph instead- it was a good afternoon. It was the best afternoon Stiles had had in a really long time.
He immediately felt guilty for thinking that, considering all the times the McCalls had given him a place to take a break. But Scott’s home just wasn’t quite as restful. The McCall house still carried the psychic weight of all the abuse that had taken place there before Scott’s dad left, and Stiles always brought a bit of it home with him.
The Hale house however; Stiles was sure he could hold any object here and he wouldn’t pick up any emotion worse than indifference to the decor.
It was amazing. It was like he’d unclenched his jaw for the first time in two years.
So when Cora’s Uncle Peter came home, maybe Stiles wasn’t as on guard as he would normally be. There’s a chance that he’d forgotten about Peter’s suspicious questioning at the cafe, and there’s an even bigger chance that he didn’t remember what he himself had said right before leaving with his dad.
And when Peter offered to drive him home, Stiles was just happy that he wouldn’t have to take the bus. The emotions on public transit were always like sitting in a tepid, unpleasant smelling shallow pond. So, Stiles just said “Yes please,” waved goodbye to Cora and hopped into the car.
The first few minutes of the drive were quiet, Stiles still relaxed from the Hales. Peter in particular seemed to have a quiet way of feeling, almost like he was dampening the ambient emotions around him. On any other day, Stiles might have been curious about why that was, but right then he just wanted to hold on to the calm he had gathered that afternoon.
About halfway to Stiles’ house, Peter quietly asked “What did you mean by ‘I don’t like the way she feels,’ Stiles?”
Stiles’ spine jacked up straight like he’d just been entered into a 1950’s posture competition.
Peter glanced sideways. “On Saturday. At the café. You said you were watching Derek’s date because you didn’t like the way she felt.”
“Derek?” Stiles latched onto that. “Is that the guy she was with? Wait, Derek-Derek, as in Cora’s brother Derek? Your nephew? Is that why you were there? Were you spying on your nephew?”
Stiles was turned fully sideways in the passenger seat now, looking directly at Peter and paying attention.
“Sometimes younger family members need someone to watch out for them,” Peter said evasively.
“You should,” Stiles said abruptly.
“... I should what?”
“You should watch out for Derek.” Stiles was relieved to think of someone keeping an eye on the blonde woman from the café. She had radiated such hatred that Stiles had barely been able to stand being in the same room.
“Hm,” Peter said. “And why should I be watching out for Derek specifically?”
They were pulling up Stiles’ street. He turned his face away to look out the windshield.
“Well obviously you have some idea, otherwise you wouldn’t have been spying on their date in the first place,” Stiles said.
Peter pulled up in front of the dark Stilinski home and turned off the car before facing Stiles. He pursed his lips before deciding to give some in order to hopefully get more.
“I was only aware that Derek was hiding something. I suspected it was a little girlfriend or boyfriend. Once I got there I certainly wasn’t happy to see how much older she is than him, but I didn’t see anything that would warrant the loathing of a twelve year old stranger. So I’ll ask again: what do you know about her?”
Stiles sighed. Peter was trying to protect his family, and if there was one thing Stiles was sympathetic to, it was that.
“I don’t actually know anything about her. I don’t know who she is, I can only tell you that she’s not planning anything good with Derek. It’s something really bad, actually. Not just like steal his wallet bad, or even manipulating him into underage sex-”
Peter jolted a little at hearing him suggest a sex crime, but supposed if any child was going to be aware of those sort of things, it would be the child of the sheriff.
“-it’s something really really bad, even worse than that, and she doesn’t have any doubt that she’s going to be successful.”
Peter felt sick to his stomach. His instincts told him Stiles was right. But-
“How do you know? How are you so sure?” he asked searchingly.
“I just am,” he said shortly. “Thanks for the ride.” He clamped his mouth shut and got out of the car.
Peter watched the front door close and waited to hear the deadbolt slide. The light in the living room diffused softly through curtains, and the sounds of Jeopardy came from the house.
Peter finally turned the car back on and slowly drove away.
“Oh my god , Cora, I’ve literally proposed marriage to both of your parents, could you please call me Stiles?”
“No.” Cora dropped her lunch tray across from Stiles and Scott. “I got an A on the homework last week.”
Scott looked so confused that Stiles almost felt bad for him, except that Scott’s confused face was one of the funniest things to grace the earth and Stiles never passed up an opportunity to see it.
“Good job, the world of quadrant graphs is blessed to have you on board,” Stiles said.
Scott’s confused face bounced between them, eyebrows scrunching up harder with every word, as if he could almost understand the language but not quite.
“It’s the first A in math I’ve gotten all semester,” she said shortly as she bit into her sandwich.
“Oh,” said Stiles, surprised.
“Will you tutor me? My mom said she’s willing to pay you, in money or my dad’s cookies, whichever you want.”
Stiles could suddenly see a future where he spent one or two entire afternoons in the soothing atmosphere of the Hale’s every week .
“Yes. Yeah, absolutely I can do that,” he agreed eagerly.
“Dude! You’re supposed to be helping me with math! And English!” said Scott indignantly.
“I can help both of you. Cora, you wanna ask your mom if we can do, like, a study group at your house once or twice a week? She doesn’t have to pay me if she’s giving us a place to go, I probably would have helped you anyway,” Stiles shrugged.
Cora took a swig of her juice and nodded. “She’ll probably be fine with that. There’s always a dozen of us running around there anyway.”
Two days later, the three of them were gathered around the kitchen table, doing homework, when Derek came in.
“Did you guys eat all the cookies?” he groused as he came in.
“You snooze you lose, buttface,” Cora said cheerfully.
Derek rolled his eyes and shoved her shoulder, trying to knock her out of her chair, but she grabbed onto his wrist and brought him down with her, resulting in an impromptu wrestling match on the floor.
“Shit Cora, oof -”
Derek almost had her pinned, but as she wriggled around, something fell out of his pocket. She snatched it up with her one free hand and said “Oooo, Derek, I didn’t know you’d started wearing fancy jewelry -”
“Give it back!!”
“NEVER. Stiles, catch!”
Cora threw the stolen necklace at Stiles, who snatched it out of the air and let out an involuntary yelp, fist clutching tighter around the necklace.
“If you two don’t cut it out, your mom is going to-” Peter walked into the kitchen, ready to lecture his niblings on not acting like wild wolves in front of company, when he saw Stiles staring at something in his hand with horror.
For half a beat, the entire kitchen froze and watched Stiles.
Then, as if coming up for air, he gasped and threw the necklace away from him. Trembling minutely, he ran over to the kitchen sink and started viciously scrubbing his hands with the soap there.
“Stiles, bro, are you-” Scott cut himself off with a glance at the others in the kitchen. “Is this a thing ?” he asked instead, with unsubtle emphasis.
Stiles nodded, then shook his head, and then hunched his shoulders, continuing to scrub.
Peter saw Derek moving out of the corner of his eye, but darted forward to grab the offending piece of jewelry before he could get to it. He examined the seemingly innocuous silver pendant curiously, looking up to see Derek’s stricken face.
Suddenly, Stiles shut off the water and abruptly turned around to face them. He looked straight at Derek and said in a shaking voice, “She’s planning to kill your entire family. You have to tell your mom. She’s going to circle the house with mountain ash and light it on fire. You have to tell your mom everything, Derek.”
Shocked silence followed this for a moment, everyone’s faces varying shades from pale to completely white.
“Stiles, you aren’t supposed to talk about it!” Scott hissed, distressed.
Stiles just shook his head.
Cora darted forward and pinned him to the cabinets.
“How do you know about this? How do you know about us ?” she growled.
“Jesus Christ, Cora, let him go,” Peter said, exasperated as he slid the necklace into his pocket. “He’s clearly some variant of psychic.”
Scott looked shocked. “How did you know?” he blurted.
Peter spared one glance for the other boy and immediately disregarded him as an idiot. He turned to Derek.
“Talia will be home in about 30 minutes. Go wait in her office. I’ll meet you there as soon as I’m done in here.” His tone brooked no argument. Still white as a sheet, Derek simply turned and headed toward the office.
Peter sighed and scrubbed a hand down his face. Cora had backed up a few inches from Stiles, but was still looking at him suspiciously. Peter considered kicking her out of the room for a minute, but decided she’d find everything out regardless.
“Psychometery?” he prompted Stiles.
Stiles shrugged, looking a little lost. “I guess. I think that’s a word my mom used sometimes. Mostly I’m just empathetic. Not like ‘I’m here with you buddy’ empathetic, but like ‘I can tell my dad is thinking about firing his newest deputy right now’ empathetic.”
Stiles wondered in the back of his mind whether he should be telling them this. But they were werewolves (which he hadn’t known. How hadn’t he known that?) so they obviously knew how to keep a secret.
“Usually when I pick up an object, I’ll get a kind of vague emotional history behind it. Like the emotions behind the people who have handled it. Sometimes, for things involved with like, particularly intense emotions, I’ll get little snippets of memories or something. That,” he looked at the pocket where Peter held the necklace, “is pretty full of intense emotions.” His voice began to shake a little again, and he looked longingly at the sink.
Peter noticed. “Do you need to… wash your hands again?” He was uncertain what was happening with that particular reaction.
Stiles shook his head, embarrassed. “It’s- no, thank you. It’s not like I can actually wash the memories off of me. I just feel- it’s a bad feeling, having the emotions of someone like that forced on me.” He was pink by the end of his sentence.
“Dude. ” Scott still looked stunned and distressed.
Stiles held out a placating hand. “It’s cool dude, they’re in the know. Like, remember that naiad that held the swimming classes in second grade?”
Scotts eyes grew big, swinging his head around to look at Cora and Peter. “They’re naiads?”
“McCall, do I honestly look like any kind of nymph?” Cora asked, rolling her eyes.
Scott threw up his hands. “Well I don’t know!”
“I just mean they know about stuff already, Scott. They know how to keep a secret,” Stiles soothed his friend.
Peter noticed that he didn’t outright say what they were, despite clearly knowing himself. It looked like they weren’t the only ones capable of keeping secrets. Admirable sentiment, but this one was already pretty much out of the bag.
“We’re werewolves,” he said blandly, getting mild enjoyment out of the shocked look on Scott’s face. Much more gently, in Stiles’ direction he said “Talia, the Alpha, will want to talk to you. Can you stay?”
Stiles shrugged and nodded. “We haven’t finished the math yet anyway.” He seemed to be getting a little calmer the longer he stood there.
Peter nodded in thanks, and on his way out of the room said “Cora, your dad hid another batch of cookies behind the cookbooks. I think you should probably get them out.”
Stiles waited up for his dad that night.
They didn’t normally talk about his empathy. It brought up too many memories of his mother. It was pretty much only referred to obliquely, when Stiles was overwhelmed and needed to stay away from people for a day.
He didn’t do that often. Not unless he absolutely had to, actually. Every time he did, his dad seemed to take it as a personal failing of his. It was the very definition of a negative feedback cycle: Stiles gets overwhelmed, tells his dad he needs to be called out of school for a day. Dad feels guilty that Stiles has reached that point because their home is steeped in grief and no longer a place for him to rest and recharge. Stiles feels that he feels guilty. Dad knows that Stiles feels that he feels that, and feels guilty over that too, and so to cut the loop he stays away as often as possible so that Stiles can have a break.
The cherry on top is that as desperately as Stiles wants to spend more time with his dad, he was right. His father’s guilt and grief is almost constantly overwhelming.
So John was surprised when Stiles was waiting for him in the living room when he got home close to midnight.
“Don’t you have school in the morning?” he asked, putting his gun in the safe.
“Yeah, but I need to talk to you.” He shifted on his feet. “A thing happened today at the Hale’s house,” he said, evasive out of habit.
After a pause, John said “... an empathy thing?”
John sighed and headed for the whiskey. He gestured for Stiles to continue as he poured a double.
Stiles barely held himself back from staring hatefully at the bottle. There were three stages of emotions to his dad’s drinking: muted quiet, screamingly loud, and then dead passed out. On the worst nights, he hit all three. Lately he’d only drunk enough to reach the first, and Stiles was trying to be grateful for the improvement.
Still, it wasn’t easy.
He cleared his throat. “Did you know the Hales are werewolves?”
John finished his sip, throat tightening a little. “Your… mom, she mentioned that they were something but never got too deep into it with me. Did they say something to you? Why were you at their house?”
“Cora and Scott and I started a study group. We’re meeting twice a week at Cora’s house after school when you and Melissa are at work.” Unable to stay in one spot anymore, Stiles began moving around the kitchen table as he talked. “There was a thing, with Cora and her brother Derek, she stole a necklace he was holding and tossed it to me, and I saw-” he choked for a moment. “It was his girlfriend’s necklace, except his girlfriend is actually a hunter who is planning on burning their whole family to death. I told them, Derek talked to his mom, who’s their Alpha, and she talked to me, and they all want to talk to you too.”
John stared at his son. He threw back the rest of his whiskey and then sighed. “Do they want to talk to me as your dad or as the sheriff?”
“Both, I think,” Stiles said in a quiet voice. Even quieter, he added “I think they’re going to press statutory rape charges.”
John tensed up, and wondered exactly what Stiles had seen when he’d held the necklace, but he was too afraid to ask.
“How did the Hales react to you? Were they rude about your whole… thing?” he asked seriously. John knew he was far from Father of the Year material, but he’d be damned if anyone was going to make his kid feel inferior about who he was.
“They were cool,” he replied quickly. “Scott was there for all of it,” he added belatedly. “So Melissa probably knows about werewolves too by now.”
Internally, John thanked god for Scott’s inability to hide anything from his mother. John wouldn’t have anyone to talk to otherwise.
“Alright. As long as they’re treating you well,” John said with another sigh. “Aw hell kid, I’m sorry you had to go through that.” He stood up from the table and snagged Stiles by the shoulder to draw him into rare a hug.
Stiles slumped into it, suddenly fighting back tears. He had this. They’d lost his mom, but they still had each other. Derek’s girlfriend had been trying to take away all of that from the Hales, who were so loving. He gagged on the memory of her hatred, the vile contempt apparent in every inch of her memory.
Stiles clutched to his father, and pleaded with whoever was listening that someone like that would never come near them.
When all is said and done, or just beginning, or maybe continuing through, Kate Argent was in prison and the Hunter Council had granted the Hales permission for whatever retribution they see fit after she’s released, up to and including her death.
Turns out the Hunter Council takes rape of a minor and conspiracy to commit murder more seriously than the US legal system does.
Talia sat Stiles and John down to thank them profusely for their help. She also, with a slightly too knowing look in her eye, made it clear that her home is open to Stiles whenever he wants to be there.
John was just grateful that Stiles had more people who care about him.
Once Cora relaxed a little, she’d taken to scaring Scott with her teeth and claws. Except it really only worked the first couple of times before Scott got over it and started asking questions.
In just a week, Cora convinced Scott that she’d been born a puppy, that their family only ate raw meat, and heavily implied that a ritual sacrifice was done every full moon.
Stiles only let Scott believe it for three days because he’s such a good friend.
Peter decided to be satisfied with his Masters degree, and rescinded his acceptance of the PhD program he’d been scheduled to start.
He needed to be close to home.
And Stiles finally got to meet Savage Grandma.
“So you’re an empath, huh?” she said with a twinkle in her eye. “You ever watch Hannibal ?”
Stiles loved this whole damn family.