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The Alpha Thief

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Something changes around the time Peter turns thirty. His wolf becomes malcontent and angry. His control, impeccable since he was a child, starts to slip, that inner rage leaking out. Talia's iron clad control over the pack chafes him. He can't explain why, but it feels like his world shifts. Pack members he's grown up with suddenly leave with barely an explanation, without a goodbye. His parents' deaths, something that occurred over five years ago, suddenly feel raw, everything after their passing he remembers feeling stilted and wrong.

He's afraid he's going insane.

He's confused, struggling to find his place in a pack that's distancing themselves from him. He has his suspicions of what the fuzziness of his memories mean, that maybe Talia stole something from him, but he doesn't know for sure, and he doesn't know what. He doesn't see Kate Argent coming until she's laughing outside his house, and then he burns.

There aren't words to describe the agony. Peter is sure he's in hell. He doesn't know what sins he's committed to earn this, but he burns for them regardless. His nephew Josh, human and fragile, cries in his lap, burns covering his skin. Peter roars in rage and pain and snaps Josh's neck clean, knowing there's no way he'd survive and unwilling to let his last moments drag out in misery. He wishes it were Talia's neck.

Peter doesn't expect to wake up when the blackness takes him, when the smoke inhalation is too much and he feels his pack bonds snap one by one as his family dies around him. His only small comfort is knowing at least Laura and Derek are still at school and not trapped in the basement with them. He's sure that his number is up and when his consciousness fades, it's for the last time. Maybe he deserves it, but he doesn't know what his family did to join his torment.

The first thing he's aware of is excruciating pain. He can barely feel his wolf, can only vaguely tell it's crying and wounded, reaching out for help. He reaches out for the pack bonds he has with Derek and Laura, once he's able to remember that they should be there, but finds nothing. Either he was wrong and they died, or they lived and cut him off from them. He doesn't know which hurts more.

It's slow, glacially slow, but his body starts to heal. He flickers in and out of consciousness, and he's never sure how much time has passed between when he drops out and when he wakes up. He's aware enough the hear when the doctors and nurses whisper about his recovery being miraculous, but he also knows he's healing much slower than he should. His wolf is weak and sluggish, both injured from fire and from the lack of pack bonds. Even so, he should be stronger. He feels like his wolf is half of a whole.

His new nurse is violent and uncaring with his body. She probably doesn't expect him to every wake (not an excuse), and lacks the bedside manner his previous nurse had. Her touch is rough on his sensitive, new skin. She digs her nails in, scrubs too hard, jostles him too much. His body is healing but he's still trapped in his mind, unable to move and make her stop. His wolf rages when she places her hands around his neck and starts to squeeze, only letting up when he feels at the brink of unconsciousness. She does this over and over, like she's working herself up to complete the act. When he heals, he vows to kill her first.

Peter's mind is still jostled with confusion and pain, but he knows he's not entirely sane. He knows he's not exactly firing on all cylinders, that all he can think of is revenge and pain and pack. When the full moon's pull is too much and his wolf is yanked to the surface, Peter is just along for the ride. He crawls out of his hospital window and runs through the preserve, only getting glimpses through the wolf's eyes. He's never been this out of control, has never been taken over like this. He can't fight the exhilaration at the dirt under his feet, though, or the fresh air and moon in the sky.

After two full moons, and a baffled staff on how a catatonic patient's feet are covered in dirt, he meets a strange alpha in the preserve. He doesn't realize it's Laura until she's dead at his feet, his hands covered in blood. All his wolf saw was an unfamiliar wolf, and alpha, in his territory, and hadn't paused to consider anything else before attacking. The alpha spark rolls through him and he roars, body twisting grotesquely. Bones break and pop and rearrange themselves until he's a hulking beast, eyes red with rage. It's like something slots into place inside of him, something he'd been missing, but at the same time it feels wrong. Corrupted. Like the alpha power was tainted.

He doesn't know if it would have made a difference if he'd recognized her. She'd left him. The alpha power had gone to Talia's selfish child over Peter, and she'd abandoned him and cut him from her pack, leaving him to die or be murdered by any hunter that came back to pick him off. She deserves to be dead on the forest ground.

He's vaguely aware that he's even more unstable now than he was before, but he barely cares. Because he's stronger now and can heal himself faster. He can kill Kate and everyone who helped her kill his family.

Biting the boy in the preserve is an accident. The alpha instincts are screaming at him to build his pack, because the lone wolf never survives. And the boy smells good, like he would be an excellent wolf, and excellent pack mate, and Peter only realizes he bit the wrong boy (the friend, it was his friend that Peter wanted) when his blood flows into his mouth. He leaves his new beta where he is. Either the change takes or it doesn't. Peter really doesn't care.

He thinks he'll be able to easily control his beta. Newly turned wolves bend to their alpha's will naturally, but not Scott. Scott fights his call with the help of his friend, Stiles. Stiles who Peter should have bitten. Stiles is the smart one, the one who figures out what Scott is, and how he can control himself. Stiles who looks into the face of an enraged alpha werewolf defiantly. Stiles who figures out in a few weeks what the Beacon Hills Sheriff Department didn't in six years. That the fire wasn't an accident.

He scares Stiles when he bites the banshee (it pays to have an insurance policy) on the lacrosse field, and as much as he regrets it, it can't be helped. He needs her, and he needs Stiles' help to find Derek. Stiles smells of fear and rage, and Peter, well, he can relate.

Peter's self control is tenuous at best, and standing in the empty parking garage, holding Stiles' wrist is testing him. He wants nothing more than to sink his teeth into his skin, to claim Stiles wholly. He'd make a remarkable wolf, and Peter is aching to have him. But Stiles says no, and as much as it kills Peter to do it, he lets him go. He knows without a shadow of a doubt that if he forces the bite on him, Stiles will see him dead within a month.

"I get it, okay?" Stiles says when Peter turns to go. Peter raises an eyebrow. "I know it was Kate, and if I were you, I'd probably be doing the same thing. I don't care. But leave Scott out of it."

"Scott's my beta," Peter says, even though he doesn't particularly want him.

"No, Scott's my friend," Stiles snaps. "And he isn't a part of your revenge drama. Kill Kate, I don't care. Leave Scott alone."

Peter assesses Stiles carefully. Even his burned, manic mind can sense the danger rolling off him, knows that Stiles won't hesitate to put him in his grave. He nods slowly.

"I will do my best to keep Scott out of it," Peter says.

He doesn't even break his promise. Scott comes out to the Hale house without Peter calling for him. Stiles should probably thank Peter for saving him from the Argents, honestly.

Peter barely has time to revel in his victory, in his murder of Kate Argent, before he burns again. Stiles' toss of the Molotov cocktail is halfhearted at best, and the look of horror on his face when the Argent girl shoots it with her arrow is enough that Peter knows it's not want he wanted, but that's little comfort. At least he burns quicker this time. When Derek ends it, Peter's even a little relieved.

It takes a long time for Peter to claw his way back to life. It's disorienting and he's weak, but he feels better. His mind isn't as twisted, is more sane. It feels almost like his wolf is reset. It's still not whole, but it's better and less mangled. He still feels unsettled, like he's missing a part of himself, but no longer like he's flying apart. He doesn't know what the resurrection did to achieve that, but he feels clearer than he has in years. He's also now sure that Talia stole memories from him.

It grates on him to submit to Derek, both because it's his little shit of a nephew, the nephew that abandoned and murdered him, and because the alpha power just feels wrong. Now that he's back to just being a beta, Peter can tell that the Hale alpha spark Derek now has is tainted and twisted. It was hard to see when he had it, when that power was driving him, but he can feel it now. It's been corrupted long before Peter took it from Laura. And he has some theories.

Derek is a miserable alpha, though Peter supposes he can't blame him entirely for that. Talia never trained Derek, always focusing on Laura, and the broken alpha power, well, that can't help. He tries, bless his angry little heart, but he just isn't cut out for it. He doesn't know enough to make his betas respect him. Peter chimes in with advice every once in a while. Sometimes it's genuine, sometimes it's just to get under their skin.

Gerard Argent comes to town, bringing with him a slew of angry, bigoted hunters, and a grudge over his psychotic daughter's death. Scott and Stiles spend a lot of time arguing with Derek over the best course of action. Scott's bland morals are grating and boring, and will definitely get someone killed. And knowing Scott, it'll be someone else and somehow won't be his fault.

Stiles, as loyal as he is to Scott, actually sides with Derek and Peter on this. With a kanima and insane hunters running around, they can't afford to think that if they all sit in a circle, holding hands and singing Kumbaya, things will change. Scott, more often than not, storms out in a huff, unwilling to listen to reason.

"Gerard isn't going to stop," Stiles says after Scott leaves. "And Scott is always going to see things in black and white."

"And you're, what, more open to the grey?" Peter asks.

"Morally flexible, my dad likes to say," Stiles says. "Let me know when you have a viable plan, okay? Because I'm invested in making sure no more innocent people die."

"So on the alignment chart, would you be a chaotic good?" Peter asks.

Stiles looks pleasantly surprised at the reference, though Derek just looks confused.

"Maybe," Stiles says. "Closer to neutral on some days."

"What are you talking about?" Derek asks.

"Nothing," Stiles says. "Let me give you my number so you can stop crawling in my bedroom window if you need something."

"Kinky," Peter says.

"If that's your idea of kink, I overestimated you," Stiles says.

"Oh sweetheart, you have no idea what - "

"Can you not?" Derek asks, pinching the bridge of his nose. "Yes, Stiles. We will call you when we figure something out."

Stiles leaves with a smirk and a cheery little wave over his shoulder.

Gerard becomes the kanima's master, Boyd and Erica disappear, and Beacon Hills becomes even more of a shit show than before. Scott's plan is a bit dramatic, even for Peter's taste, and ends up robbing Derek of his bodily autonomy again when he's forced to bite Gerard. It's satisfying to watch Gerard cough up black goo, but he still wants to wring Scott's neck. But the kanima is still up and fighting, and he supposes that's a more pressing concern.

Stiles, of course it's Stiles, drives his Jeep through the damn wall, crashing into the kanima. Lydia, magnificent as she is, gets through the Jackson. Something about love and a key, but Peter isn't listening to specifics. His eyes are on Stiles

There are far more injuries on him than a simple crash should cause and when Peter gets closer, he can smell the stench of Gerard all over him. Peter's wolf rumbles angrily, and it's a bit of a shock to realize it considers Stiles pack. His wolf barely acknowledges Derek on most days, but it's rabid and snarls over Stiles being injured. It's unexpected, and somewhat unwanted, but Peter knows better than anyone how easy it is to become unstable without a pack. He supposes if he has to tie himself to anyone, Stiles is a good bet. And he needs to make himself indispensable to Stiles, too. That starts with treating his injuries.

"It's interesting, isn't it? How Scott's morality works?" Peter asks, stepping up beside Stiles as they watch Lydia and Jackson embrace, both of them crying. "He won't kill anyone himself, but he'll set others up to do it for him. He'll pass the sentence, but employ an executioner."

"Yeah, a real thrill," Stiles says. He turns, wincing at the movement. Peter reaches out on reflex, wrapping his hand around the back of Stiles' neck. Stiles starts to ask what he's doing, before his eyes flutter shut, Peter draining his pain. "Oh my god, how are you doing that?"

"It's a werewolf ability," Peter says, frowning at exactly how much pain there is for him to pull. He doesn't understand how humans can stand being so fragile, to have their hurts linger like this. "Scott hasn't done this for you?"

Stiles shrugs a shoulder, grimacing at the pain it causes. "Scott didn't notice I was kidnapped off the lacrosse field and had my ass kicked by a geriatric," Stiles says. "I doubt this is a priority when Miss Sunshine and Dimples is around."

Peter follows Stiles' line of sight and yeah, that's Scott mooning over Allison, who is studiously trying to ignore him. Idiot.

"Let me drive you home," Peter says.

Stiles looks at him suspiciously, but then just slumps, like the night has finally defeated him.

"Yeah, okay," Stiles says, handing him the keys. "Let's see if she even starts. She wasn't in great condition even before I drove her into a damn wall. And to save Jackson, of all fucking people. God, I need a drink."

"You're underage," Peter points out.

"A strong coffee, then," Stiles says.

"It's night. Sleep it off, I'll bring you coffee tomorrow," Peter says.

"You better," Stiles grumbles.

No one seems to notice them leaving, which is an oversight all around, really. He can understand Derek's anger and devastation, and Stiles isn't really Derek's pack, but it still makes Peter grit his teeth. He also expects very little of Scott, and yet he is still constantly let down. Part of him still wishes he'd bitten Stiles instead that night in the woods, but he also knows Stiles would have killed him and made sure it stuck, so it's probably for the best that he didn't.

Stiles doesn't fight it when Peter follows him inside. He doesn't fight when Peter insists on checking over his injuries, because he doesn't trust that the boy did a thorough job himself. Sure enough, at least three of his abrasions need to be cleaned better, and he has a nice new cut on the side of his head from bouncing around his car when he hit the wall. Stiles endures it stoically, only wincing once when Peter dabs it with disinfectant.

"How do you even know how to do this?" Stiles asks as Peter presses a butterfly bandage to one of his cuts.

"Even werewolves need to clean their injuries. It's not fun to reopen skin to wash dirt out," Peter says. "And there were human pack members before the fire. They didn't seem to remember they weren't quite as durable as the rest of us."

Peter pauses, hands resting next to a cut on Stiles' collarbone, because he remembers. It's weak and he struggles to get a grasp on it at all, but he remembers. He remembers his little niece Mia sitting in his lap, tears on her cheeks as he pulls out her pain, cleaning her scraped knees. Her asking him to make the other kids let her play and stop pushing her, that they'll listen to him. Him promising to have a chat with them. It becomes garbled after that, and no matter how hard he strains, he can't think of what happens next, if he did talk to the other pups, if he talked to their parents. It's maddening, just out of his reach, and he knows that this is different from forgetting a memory due to time or after a night drinking. This is something Talia stole from him.

"Peter," Stiles says softly, gently touching the hand still resting on his chest.

Peter doesn't startle, but it's close. He can't remember the last time, even before the fire, that someone touched him gently, when they didn't have to. The last full hug he remembers is from his mother before she died. He's nothing to Stiles, just the werewolf that started the mess his life has become, yet his touch in gentle and calming. It's disarming, and Peter isn't entirely sure what to do with it. But he knows he needs Stiles, needs him on his side, so he doesn't pull away. He tells himself that's the reason why.

"Dude, what's going on up there?" Stiles asks.

"My sister, Derek's mother, took something from me," Peter says slowly. He drops his hand from Stiles' chest, but Stiles doesn't let go of the grip he has on Peter's wrist. Peter doesn't make him.

"What'd she take?" Stiles asks.

"Memories," Peter says. Stiles' eyebrows raise. "It's something an alpha can do. I don't know what she took, but I'm getting flashes of things I didn't know happened. And my wolf feels...wrong. Incomplete. It's better now than when I first woke up, but something is still wrong."

"Why would she do that?" Stiles asks.

"I don't know. She's always kept me on the outskirts of the pack. They treated me differently, didn't trust me," Peter says, frowning. It feels wrong to say it. It feels like a lie. Peter wonders if that's even real. "I don't...I don't know how much of what I know is real."

When he looks up, Stiles looks horrified, which Peter doesn't really understand until he remembers what he found when he looked into the Stilinski history. He doesn't tell Stiles, but Peter had investigated the sheriff thoroughly, and if there had even been a whisper that he'd been part of the fire's cover up, Peter had been ready to slaughter him. He'd been clean, but Peter remembers reading about Mrs. Stilinski's dementia, so yes, Stiles' reaction makes a bit more sense.

"What can you do about that?" Stiles asks. "Can Deaton do anything?"

Peter's lip curls at Deaton's name. Deaton, Talia's emissary, whose wards had failed when they were needed the most. Smug and cryptic Deaton that always reeked of mountain ash, and eyed Peter distrustfully, even before the fire. Peter's wolf snarls, and Peter has to agree.

"I trust Deaton about as much as gas station sushi," Peter says. Stiles snorts, squeezing Peter's wrist before letting go. Peter's wolf whines, but Peter refuses. He has some dignity, after all.

"So what are you going to do?" Stiles asks.

"I don't know," Peter says, and that rankles him.

It's not a phrase Peter's used to. He always has a backup plan. His backup plans have backup plans, but right now all he's running on is the instinct to survive. The only thing on his horizon is becoming an alpha again. It's an urge in him he can't fight, his wolf whining and desperate. He doesn't know if it'll fix his wolf, it certainly didn't last time, but he doesn't know how much of that was his own insanity and how much was the muddied, tainted Hale alpha spark. It's a drive he can't ignore, but not at the cost of Derek's life. He's lost enough family members, one at his own hands, and he can't lose another. He'll wait.

"Well, let me know when you have an idea," Stiles says.

"Why?" Peter asks.

"So I can help, dumbass," Stiles says.

Peter's surprised, but he knows better than to look a gift horse in the mouth, so he merely smiles. "Thank you, Stiles," he says.

"I mean, don't thank me yet, I doubt my help can do much," he says. "All I could do is make some mountain ash work and hit a lizard with a car."

"The ability to manipulate mountain ash like that, especially with no practice, isn't something to scoff at," Peter says. "My guess would be you have at least some latent magical talent. And I would strongly caution you against listening to Deaton if he gives you any advice."

"Yeah, I'm getting that feeling," Stiles says. He yawns, wincing a little when it tugs on his ribs.

"You need sleep," Peter says. "Keep an eye on your cuts. If they look worse, you may need to see a doctor."

"Yes, Dad," Stiles grumbles, but doesn't fight it when Peter helps him off of his chair and guides him to bed. "Thanks for, you know, making sure I wasn't dying and all that."

"It was my pleasure," Peter says. It isn't even a lie.

He'll take care of the damage to Stiles' Jeep, even pay for a tune up and some repairs he desperately needs. It's the least he can do considering they'd be fighting a deranged lizard still without his intervention. Peter's a fan of rewarding good behavior.

Beacon Hills is quiet for a blissful twenty four hours before Derek realizes that his wayward betas never made it home after being released from the Argent basement. Derek drags Isaac and Peter out into the preserve and around town every day looking for them. Their scent leads from the Argents' house to the preserve, then trails off about a mile away from town. They could easily have just left town, but Derek doesn't buy it. Frankly, even if Derek's fragmented pack bonds didn't tell him they are still near, Peter highly doubts two sixteen-year-olds with no money wouldn't come crawling back quickly.

Derek refuses to ask Scott for help, which Peter can't really blame him for, but he's smart enough to accept assistance from Stiles when he shows up in the middle of summer. Peter has no idea how he knows Derek purchased the loft, but one morning he's banging on the door, demanding to be let in. Isaac and Derek look bewildered as Stiles pulls out a map of Beacon Hills, asking where they've already looked. He maps out a grid pattern that they use when searching for people lost in the woods, because, "Obviously, following your sniffers isn't getting you anywhere."

Stiles doesn't ask, he just suddenly is with them. He pairs off with Peter most of the time so Isaac can be with Derek, covering more ground. Derek stares at him like he doesn't understand, but accepts the help, putting Erica and Boyd's safety as the priority. Maybe he's improving as an alpha after all. Peter doesn't know if Derek realizes what an asset Stiles would be as a pack member, and he doesn't know if he wants him to. Peter will be an alpha again, of that he's certain, and he wants Stiles in his pack, preferably without having to rip him away from Derek's.

Summer is almost over when they meet at the Hale house to regroup after a day of searching to find the alpha pack symbol painted on the front door. Peter's mind start to turn.

With Deucalion running around, it's a reasonably good bet that he has Erica and Boyd. It gives Derek hope that they're at least alive so Deucalion has a bargaining chip, which is a little optimistic in Peter's opinion, though possible. But more importantly, they suddenly have an abundance of alphas in Beacon Hills, ripe for Peter's picking.

"I assume you want Deucalion," Stiles says apropos of nothing. They're in Derek's loft, Stiles reading everything Peter has on his laptop about Deucalion and alpha packs. Derek is at the school with Isaac, some parent-teacher thing now that he's his official guardian. Peter isn't sure, he tuned him out about thirty seconds in.

"Not my type," Peter says. "I prefer them with darker hair, fair skin, and a little less murderous."

"Ha ha," Stiles says. "I meant for you to take the alpha power from. He's the strongest, I figured you'd like that."

Peter would be surprised, but he stopped being surprised by Stiles months ago.

"That'd be preferable," Peter says. "But any of them will do."

Stiles hums in acknowledgement and goes back to reading, not bringing it up again.

Tracking them isn't easy, but once they know they're looking for Deucalion, they're able to trace him to a closed bank. One harrowing night with near-feral wolves, Derek and Peter come back with not two betas, but three. Cora, angry and scared and a bit worse for the wear, had heard of a Hale alpha gaining power and building a pack, but Deucalion and his bastardization of a pack had intercepted her on her way here.

It's...not the happiest reunion. She screams at Peter for Laura's death. She screams at Derek for abandoning Peter. She screams at both of them for not realizing she wasn't among the dead. She screams and pushes Peter until her voice gives out and she sobs, clinging to the front of his shirt. He holds her tightly, not able to fight his own tears. Derek hesitantly joins them, wrapping his arms around her from behind. She shakes apart between them, alternating between shouting her rage and crying. Peter doesn't blame her.

It's three days before Peter leaves the loft, no longer as terrified that he'll wake up and she'll be gone. He stops by his family's vault before going straight to Stiles' house. It's the weekend, so Stiles is wearing just pajamas and a t-shirt, even though it's nearly noon. He looks confused to see Peter, but lets him in.

"I thought you'd be wolfy bonding with Cora," Stiles says, fighting to stifle a yawn.

"I am. I wanted to bring you these, though," Peter says. He hefts the backpack off his shoulder and sets it down on Stiles' kitchen table.

"What's this?" Stiles asks, peaking into the bag.

"Books of magic I've collected over the years," Peter says. Stiles looks up at him quickly, eyes wide. "If I'm right and you do have magical abilities, you need to learn as much as you can. Especially with the bloodthirsty things that tend to come through town. With the absence of a teacher, this is as best as I can do."

"What if you're wrong?" Stiles asks, glancing down at the bag. "What if there's no magic anything and it's just me?"

"You aren't 'just' anything. But if so, they'll still be useful. You would be more like a druid," Peter says.

"Like Deaton?" Stiles asks in alarm.

Peter's lip curls. "Nothing like Deaton," he says. "A druid is just someone who's able to manipulate magic, but doesn't have any of their own."

"These are yours," Stiles says, rubbing his thumb over the spine of one of the books. "Why did you bring these to me?"

"I want you safe more than I'm worried about the state of their covers," Peter says. "Read them. Call me if you have any questions."

Stiles still looks a bit perplexed, though pleased, and agrees. That makes Peter breathe a little easier.

The thing Peter can't figure out is why the alpha pack is here. It's not like Derek is a prize alpha to add to Deucalion's collection. He would be able to take one look at him and realize he's not the powerful Hale alpha that used to be here. Peter's guess is they want the nemeton, but he honestly has no idea if Deucalion even knows it exists. It's possible, he was friends with Talia before the fire, but Peter just doesn't know. His memories of him, like most that he's sure Talia interfered with, are hazy at best, and just plain not there at worst.

The disappearances and murders start, and the animals start going crazy, and now there's a darach in town, and it can only be the alpha pack's fault. What are the odds of them being here at the same time for conflicting reasons? Not good, and not a way Peter would place his bet.

It means working with Chris Argent and his insane daughter. It means working with Scott, who's proven time and time again that he can't be trusted. It makes Peter watch Stiles, Cora, and Derek closely, not willing to lose any more to other people's ineptitude. Erica and Boyd at least, after having been rescued, are more loyal than ever. Peter wonders if it's gratitude or if Derek was able to instill in them what being pack is about. Peter doesn't particularly care, as long as they actually help.

When they realize the current pattern of murder victims and Stiles says, "I need someone to sex me right now," it's all Peter can do to keep from growling and dragging Stiles out of the loft. Stiles is his, his wolf snarls. The idea of anyone else touching him makes him rage, and he fights tooth and nail for control. Stiles is young, much too young. Seventeen is barely more than a child. His wolf doesn't care.

Peter controls himself, barely, and thankfully the next death isn't a virgin, signaling a new pattern, and Stiles' desperation abates.

Then the sheriff is taken, and Stiles is frantic. Cora is sick, and nothing Derek and Peter do makes any difference. It's chaos, none of them know what they're doing, the darach and Deucalion are using them like pawns and Peter is livid. There's a storm raging, stronger than Peter has seen in Beacon Hills, and he's sure that's the darach, too. He's holed up in his apartment with Cora, not trusting the safety of Derek's loft, while Derek is out with Scott and Stiles, trying to deal with the darach and get to her fix what she'd done to Cora, when Stiles calls.

"Did you find her?" Peter asks.

"No," Stiles says. "Well, yeah, but she got away at Derek's loft. Look, we're at Deaton's and he's trying to sell us this ritual sacrifice ice bath to find our parents. Scott's just blind to whatever Deaton says but I don't know, dude, this seems sketchy as fuck. Everything I've read in the books you lent me says this is a bad idea and can 'taint' you."

"Do not get in that tub," Peter growls. "It puts a darkness on you and opens you up for all kinds of nastiness. Take the grimoire I gave you and look up scrying. You should be able to find them that way."

"Okay, standby," Stiles says. Peter hears rustling in the background, then, "Scotty! We aren't doing this bullshit ritual. I've got a different way."

There's some back and forth, Scott yelling about them not being able to trust Peter, Stiles countering that they can't trust Deaton. There's a lot of yelling and snapping, before Scott finally agrees to try Stiles' way first.

"Okay, Peter," Stiles says. "We're gonna do that. We'll keep you updated if we find the darach or anything about Cora. Are you sure she shouldn't be at the hospital?"

"Hospitals are being evacuated because of the storm," Peter says. "And even if they weren't, they wouldn't be able to do much about her vomiting mistletoe and black sludge."

"Eurgh, yeah. We'll find something, okay?"

"Don't make promises you can't keep, Stiles," Peter says.

Peter doesn't know what happens then, too busy trying to keep Cora alive. He takes what pain he can, but it isn't enough. He hasn't wished he were an alpha this hard since he came back to life. If he were an alpha, he could heal her. He could purge her body of whatever the darach did to her, and he wouldn't think twice about it. She's his niece, his pack, and he would do anything to save her.

He hears Derek before he lets himself in to the apartment. He barely waits until he's in his line of sight before saying, "You need to heal her."

Derek pauses, looking down at Cora. She's wrapped up in the blankets Peter keeps on his couch, sweating and shivering at once. It kills him to suggest it, to show Derek how to give up the Hale alpha spark, but saving Cora is infinitely more important to him than the twisted spark that's been passed from Hale alpha to alpha. Derek agrees to do it, because one thing they agree on is keeping Cora safe. She's been through enough.

Peter doesn't relish the look of pain on Derek's face as he pulls the agony and sickness from Cora, but it needs to be done. Derek lists to the side, collapsing as Cora opens her eyes, coughing. The red fades from Derek's eyes, leaving them blue as the alpha spark flows completely into Cora, forcing her body to heal.

Peter means to pull Derek up and set him on the couch at Cora's feet, but then there's a change down the pack bond he shares with Cora. It's been a weak, fragile little thing until now. Peter had been trying to coax it to grow, make it strong enough that he could find her if she ever disappeared again, but now it's like they're bound together with steel. Peter can feel her in his very soul, his tie to her warm and pulsing. It's not the same as the bond an alpha has with their beta, not exactly, but it's close. And another part of Peter's puzzle slots into place.

Cora looks at him strangely as he explains what happened, why Derek is unconscious and how she's healed. She helps him get Derek settled on the couch, takes the cloth he gives her and starts cleaning the sweat from Derek's face. Grooming behavior. Pack behavior. It makes Peter ache a little, knowing he isn't welcome, but he's just happy she's alive.

"I can feel you more than before," Cora says. Peter just nods. "Do you know why?"

"I have theories," Peter says.

"Let me know when you figure that out," Cora says, frowning. "This is weird."

"So sorry you have such a miserable side effect of your life being saved," Peter says. He can't help it, not when he feels this raw. His reaction to uncomfortable emotions tends to be lashing out. "I'll be sure to take that into consideration next time."

Cora blinks in surprise. "That's not what I meant," she says.

Peter immediately feels foolish. "He needs electrolytes," Peter says, standing and grabbing his keys. "I'm running to the store. Don't let anyone in."

Before she can say anything, he's out the door. He'll go to the grocery store, but he has a stop to make first. Stiles had texted saying they found their parents and that he's at the hospital, waiting for the sheriff, Chris, and Melissa to be checked over. Peter heads there first, following the sound of Stiles' heartbeat to the third floor. Stiles looks up in surprise when Peter enters the waiting room. They're the only ones in hearing distance, thankfully.

"I think I was an alpha," Peter say as soon as he's close enough. He takes a seat across from Stiles, leaning close to not overheard.

Stiles blinks at him. "Uh, yeah," he says. "You biting Scott kind of proved that."

"No," Peter says, shaking his head. When he looks down at his hands, he finds them trembling. "No, before that. Before the fire. I don't think memories are the only thing Talia took from me."

Comprehension and horror dawn on Stiles' face. "She stole that from you," he says.

"It makes sense. Why she took memories, why everything past when my parents died, when the alpha power was passed down, is murky. That's when my wolf started feeling restless and angry and...broken," he says. "When the Hale alpha spark healed Cora, it was like a bond snapped into place between us. I think it's because that spark was rightfully mine, and she was my beta. It felt wrong and corrupted when I had it, and I think it's because Talia stole it."

"How would she even do that?" Stiles asks. "How could she become the alpha without killing you?"

"Deaton," Peter says, and Stiles' eyes narrow. "When I was younger I remember...patches with him. When my parents were alive, they had a different emissary. Deaton was never powerful, nothing special. But he was flush with power as Talia's emissary. I think he helped her and the tie to the alpha made him stronger. And that's why he's all but useless now. He doesn't have that anymore."

"And it would make sense why he tried to get us to do the sacrifice," Stiles says. "He was trying to convince all of us, but he seemed pretty adamant that it's something I specifically needed to do. It's hard to tell with him, Mr. Stoic, but he seemed pissed when scrying worked. If you're right and his ritual would be corruptive to my magic or whatever, it could be because he knows you and I are close. And he knows I can help you."

"And probably so you don't become stronger than him," Peter says and nods. "Becoming an alpha...it's not a matter of want, it's a matter of need. Every instinct I have is pulling me towards that. And I think this is why. My wolf is trying to regain what it's lost," Peter says. "I think I was always the alpha. And I need that back."

"Okay," Stile says. "Well, the alpha pack has to go. Scott wants to talk to them."

"Scott's going to get everyone killed," Peter snaps.

"I know, okay? I agree," Stiles says. "Which means we need to get you an alpha before Scott can get to them."

"You can't be there," Peter says. Stiles squawks in outrage, but this is a point Peter is holding firm on. "I will not risk your life."

"You can't go after a pack of alphas alone!" Stiles hisses.

"I won't be going after them all at once," Peter says. "I don't want them anywhere near you. If something goes wrong and they know you're important to me, I don't want to guess what they'll do to you."

Stiles' eyes soften and Peter tenses a bit. It's not something he'd particularly wanted to say, not when his friendship with Stiles is still so new, but if it keeps Stiles from doing something stupid, well, it's worth the potential awkwardness that will follow.

"Does it have to be up close and personal?" Stiles asks. "Like, in order for you to get the alpha-ness, do you have to kill him with claws and teeth, or can you shoot him?"

"It's the act of killing the alpha that matters, not the method," Peter says.

"Then that's what you're going to do," Stiles says. "It might not be as viscerally satisfying for your dramatic ass, but it'll get the job done and you won't be dead."

"Fine," Peter says. "If it will keep you for getting in their way, fine."

"Good," Stiles says. "Thank you."

"I need to get back to Cora," Peter says, standing. "I'm glad your father is safe."

"Thanks," Stiles says. He stands too and moves into Peter's space. He clumsily brushes his cheek over Peter's, smelling of nerves, scenting him. Peter's wolf is howling with joy. He exhales sharply and rubs his cheek against Stiles', making Stiles slump in relief. "Stay safe, okay?" Stiles says.

"You too," Peter says.

Stiles doesn't keep his word, which doesn't shock Peter but does irritate him. He gets a call not a week later from Stiles and already wants to snap his phone in half.

"Heeey, uh, could you come to the school? I have a bit of an alpha problem," Stiles says.

"Are you hurt?" Peter asks, already halfway out the door.

"No, but I have some very pissed off alphas locked in mountain ash in the locker room, and I can't really keep them here all night," Stiles says.

The gun Peter brings is one he stole from Chris Argent. If the body is found, well, being tied to a gun registered to an Argent would tickle Peter pink. It's late, everyone from lacrosse practice having left already. Peter's guess is that the baby teenage alphas tried to corner Stiles after practice and found out just how not helpless he is. It turns out Peter's right, because he walks into the locker room to the snarling, monstrous form of Aiden and Ethan locked in a circle of mountain ash. Stiles is sitting casually on a bench nearby, grains of dark ash weaving around his fingers. The giant alpha that is Aiden and Ethan smushed together is snarling and pushing at the mountain ash barrier, which isn't budging an inch.

"I thought I recalled telling you to stay clear of this?" Peter asks.

Stiles looks up with a grin, letting the mountain ash slither into a pile on the bench next to him.

"A. You're not my alpha yet, can't tell me what to do. B. I actually didn't have to do anything. They followed me in here after the practice ended," Stiles says.

"After you just conveniently dangled yourself in front of them as bait?" Peter asks, skipping over the way his heart beats harder at 'not my alpha yet'.

Stiles shrugs. "You can prove nothing," he says. "They're not Deucalion, but they're here and handy."

"Who am I to deny such a wonderfully packaged gift?" Peter asks and Stiles grins. Peter pulls out the gun and the Aiden/Ethan beast roars, charging at the mountain ash over and over. "Is this something you want to be here for? Or do you want to wait outside?" It wouldn't do to traumatize Stiles by murdering in front of him.

"I'm fine here," Stiles says. "They tortured Erica, Boyd, and Cora. I'm not particularly fussed about them dying."

Peter grins. It's been a few years since he's used a gun, but it's like riding a bike. Two wolfsbane bullets, the first in the throat, the second between the eyes, and the alpha falls dead at their feet. Peter staggers as their combined power flows into him. It's not pure exactly, having been gained from killing their own pack, but it's not the mangled thing that the Hale alpha spark was. He thinks there may be cleansing ritual, but that flies to the back of his mind as his he collapses to his knees, body surging with power.

His wolf howls in victory, feeling whole and in control for the first time in years. He doesn't feel injured, weak, and half dead anymore. He feels whole and powerful, like waking up from years of fog and remembering who he really is. On the heels of that feeling are the memories.

Peter's mother on her death bed, cupping his cheek. Telling him he'll be a magnificent alpha.

Talia, watching enviously as Peter speaks with Satomi and the other alphas assembled, hammering out treaties that will keep them safe for years to come.

A young Cora shrieking as she tackles him, him laughing and telling her how good she is at hunting, catching her alpha like that.

Pack parties, puppy piles in the Hale house, wolves scenting him, calling him alpha. Pack members that 'moved away' declaring their loyalty to him. Driving hunters and rogue omegas out of his territory. His eyes flashing red in the mirror.

Peter doesn't know why this time is different, why the alpha power weakens the hold Talia's memory suppression has on him, though he thinks it might because the Hale alpha spark had been tied to her. It doesn't matter, the point is flashes of memories flow through him, granting him insight into the pack he ran. The pack he ran well. They're not all back, all he has are snippets, but it's enough to know that he was the alpha. His mother chose him, and Talia stole that from him.

"Peter," Stiles says softly.

Peter looks up, eyes glowing red. Stiles is kneeling in front of him, looking worried. He's holding his hand out in front of him, like he's not sure if he should touch. Peter leans forward, resting his head on Stiles' shoulder. Stiles immediately wraps his arms around him, pressing his face into Peter's neck. Peter shudders at the contact and feels a something thrum inside him. A pack bond, small and new, winds between them. It's not the same as the one Peter has with Cora; that one is fortified by the Hale alpha spark, because Cora was Peter's beta years ago. This is one they've nurtured together, that exists by choice.

"So, that's what a pack bond feels like," Stiles murmurs.

"I didn't know if you'd be able to feel it," Peter says, nuzzling at Stiles' throat. "Humans don't always."

"I do," Stiles says. "And as much as I would love to stay like this, we need to get rid of the body and get out of here."

Peter sighs but pulls back. Stiles is right.

"Go home, I'll deal with it," Peter says.

"I can help," Stiles protests.

"You've done wonderfully already," Peter says. "Let me finish up here."

Stiles isn't thrilled about it, but he lets Peter dump the body deep in the preserve, well hidden enough that the sheriff won't have to deal with it for a good long while, if ever. He wonders if Deucalion even felt the pack bonds with Aiden and Ethan snap.

The sheriff isn't working tonight, so Stiles is spending time with him, pretending he didn't participate in a murder just a few hours ago. It leaves Peter alone in his apartment, writing down every new memory that surfaces. They're still disjointed, and some are just vague impressions (he was Derek's favorite uncle, his favorite, before Talia interfered), but Peter clings to all of them.

Peter can't have been the only one whose memories Talia fiddled with. Pack members he now remembers he was close with, Felicia and her wife Samira, treated him with disdain after Talia took over, before leaving entirely. Talia's children, who'd loved him so deeply, looked at him with distrust. Pack mates who'd respected him turned away. Peter doesn't know if she went into their minds individually or if Deaton somehow magicked them all into believing Talia was the alpha and Peter wasn't trustworthy, but he knows something was done.

It breaks his heart knowing that Derek and Cora don't remember the truth.

When Stiles texts him the next morning that Scott is now an alpha, a "true alpha", Peter wants to break his phone. True alphas are pure myth, bullshit stories werewolves tell around the campfire. Scott becoming an alpha so soon after Derek loses it? Of Deaton having another alpha in his pocket as Peter gets closer to the truth? The odds aren't good that that's a coincidence.

Thanks to the darach, Ennis and Kali are killed, and Scott the Special True Alpha, lets Deucalion go (after his eyes are healed, no less). It's lovely how Deucalion, who murdered his pack and facilitated the murder of countless others, is redeemable, but what Peter did in a trauma-induced bout of madness isn't. Wonderful.

Peter finds the darach (who it turned out was Derek's girlfriend, poor guy can't catch a break), Jennifer, clinging to life, dragging herself to the nemeton. Peter can't let her heal herself, not with all she's done. He's not nearly as forgiving as Scott, and he can't allow someone this dangerous in his territory. He grabs her by the leg and yanks her backward, flipping her onto her back.

"Of course it's you," Jennifer says with a laugh. "Everyone else suffers, but somehow you still come out on top." Well, Peter would argue the suffering part, but he tries not to get into debates with his murder victims. "Now that Scott's an alpha you'll able to steal it from him and an be an alpha again."

"Again?" Peter says, teeth lengthening. Jennifer flinches back, scent curdling even further with fear. Peter wraps a clawed hand around her throat and yanks her forward. "I am the alpha. I have always been the alpha!" he hisses in her face.

Before she can say anything else, he tears out her throat, listening until he's satisfied that her heart has stopped beating. He takes the time to rip apart her body and dispose of it the same way he did Aiden and Ethan. Scott is soft and won't kill, won't protect 'his' territory. Peter will.

Beacon Hills is blissfully quiet with the alpha pack and Jennifer taken care of. Peter splits his time between spending time with Stiles, and Derek and Cora. Cora hasn't mentioned the bond between them, pulsing bright and strong, and Derek hasn't either, making Peter assume she hasn't told him. If either of them have caught on that he's an alpha again, neither say anything.

"I think I found your emissary," Stiles says on afternoon.

Peter looks up from where he's filleting salmon for dinner. Stiles is sitting at his breakfast bar with his laptop, frowning in concentration.

"What?" Peter asks.

"Well you can't remember who is was, right? Just kinda flashes?" Stiles asks. "And that you only remember her up until you were about thirty?"

Peter nods. He gets glimpses sometimes of a blonde woman, images that come with a feeling of contentment, but her face is blurry to him.

"Well, I looked into deaths around the time we think Talia took over, and only one woman matches what you remember," Stiles says. "She's buried in the Beacon Hills Cemetery."

"How did she die?" Peter asks.

Stiles grimaces and says, "The newspaper says animal attack."

Peter closes his eyes, fighting the urge to snarl. So not only did Talia kill his emissary, she savaged her.

"Let's go," Peter says.

The cemetery isn't his favorite place, littered with the bodies of his family. The Hale memorial plot is next to where his mother and father are buried. Peter would spit on Talia's grave if it weren't one combined memorial for all the lives lost in the fire. He needs to see about getting Cora's name stricken off the headstone.

Stiles very deliberately avoids Claudia Stilinski's grave as they make their way through the rows. In the third to last row, five graves in, Stiles stops. The headstone reads Ava Loeffler, her date of birth and date of death, and that's it. No customized words, no flowers, no anything. Peter glances at Stiles, who's looking down sadly, probably thinking the same thing Peter is.

"Do you have her picture?" he asks quietly.

Stiles nods and pulls out his phone, handing it over to Peter. A lovely woman with short blonde hair smiles up at him. She's maybe forty, with bright blue eyes and laugh lines that make Peter think she was a joyous woman. Peter's half expecting an onslaught on memories upon seeing her, but all he gets is a sense of recognition, and the feeling that she was a lovely person. Talia fought hard to make him forget her.

"It's her," Peter says. Of that, he's certain. Ava was his emissary, and Talia murdered her. "Why is her grave so utilitarian? Where's her family?"

"I couldn't find any," Stiles. "All records I found say she was an only child whose parents died years ago."

Peter swallows hard against the lump in his throat. It feels wrong to mourn someone he doesn't remember, but it would feel worse not to.

"We're going to figure this out," Peter says. "And we're going to do a proper burial for her."

Stiles nods. He steps forward, glancing around to make sure no one is around, and kneels over Ava's grave. He murmurs under his breath and three daisies sprout from the ground next to her headstone. Stiles stands and steps back next to Peter.

"I'm not really great at the whole magic thing yet. I know it's not much, but for now..." Stiles trails off a little uncertainly. Peter threads their fingers together, grasping him tightly.

"It's enough," Peter says. "I didn't know you could do that."

Stiles shrugs. "I'm trying to learn what I can from the books for lent me," he says.

Peter kisses his temple, resting his forehead against him for a moment. "You're remarkable," Peter says. Before Stiles can answer, Peter tugs him by the hand, leading him out of the cemetery. "My mother had an ally nearby. Satomi. She ran a pack a few towns over. She's one of the memories that gets hazy, then suddenly we never spoke to her again after Talia became the alpha. I think she might have some insight."

"Okay, when are we going?" Stiles asks.

"I can't ask you to walk into a literal wolf's den with me," Peter says. "I don't know what we'll be going into. I don't know why contact was cut off, or how dangerous she is to us."

"All the more reason you can't go alone," Stiles says. He drops Peter's hand so he can climb into the passenger seat of Peter's car. "I think we both know I'll easily be able to out-stubborn you on this one."

"I could just go without you," Peter points out.

"I'd just track your phone's GPS," Stiles says cheerily. "I'm going. Deal with it."

"This is not how pack talks to their alpha," Peter grumbles, but there's a smile tugging at the corner of his lips, and he's pretty sure Stiles knows it.

Satomi takes a few weeks for Peter to track down. The contacts he'd had before the fire have either disappeared or are leery of him after his six year absence. By the time he's managed to find her, Deaton's fed Scott lots of lies about being a werewolf, about being a true alpha. Stiles relays everything Scott's told him to Peter, skepticism dripping from every word.

Thankfully, Derek and Cora don't seem to buy a word of it, which means Erica, Boyd, and Isaac don't either. Peter's happy about that, but it also puts him in a bit of a precarious situation. Deaton is dangerous, and if the ploy of using Scott as his marionette alpha isn't working out, it's very likely that he'll lash out. And he's proven just how dangerous he can be.

Peter can tell Stiles is itching to tell Scott how full of bullshit Deaton is, but he listens when Peter tells him not to. If history is anything to go by, Scott won't listen to a word Stiles says, and most likely run to Deaton and tell him everything. Peter's not ready for that confrontation yet, not when there's so much that's still unclear. Beacon Hills has two alphas, one of whom is a secret, and an ex-alpha who still vaguely runs a pack of a teenagers. Things are messy as it is.

Peter and Stiles drive to Hill Valley on a Saturday. The sheriff is working, Scott is mooning after (stalking) Allison, and Derek's just happy Peter's out of his hair. No one asks where they're going. No one even knows they're together. It takes a couple hours, and Stiles is jittery the whole drive. At one point Peter flicks out his claws, drumming the impatiently on the gearshift, but that just makes Stiles rolls his eyes and call him a drama queen.

Satomi agreed to meet them at a restaurant in the center of town, most likely to give them plenty of witnesses in case Peter is less than truthful about his peaceful intentions. He's expecting to be surrounded by customers and pack members, but when he and Stiles walk into the modest Italian restaurant, the hostess walks them back to a private dining area that has just Satomi and an elderly man that Peter is pretty sure is her emissary, Roger. Peter bows respectfully in greeting, though he doesn't take his eyes from her. He can't show weakness in front of another alpha, and looking away from another predator's gaze is just that. Satomi gestures for them to sit at the table across from her.

"Peter Hale. It's been many years," Satomi says.

"It has," Peter says. "Though I think it may have been longer than I remember."

"I'm not sure I follow," Satomi says.

Peter has tried to decide how to ask this for weeks. Does he jump right in ask if she remembers him as an alpha? Does he ask why Talia cut off the alliance? Peter's rarely at a loss for words, but this is an important discussion, and he needs to play it just right. Which is, of course, when Stiles opens his mouth.

"Basically, we know Talia stole the alpha-hood from Peter," Stiles says. "We're trying to piece it all together and are hoping you might have some insight as to that."

Peter glares, seriously considering kicking Stiles out, but Satomi makes a surprised sound.

"Emissary Stilinski, it's not common to be so blunt," Satomi says. "But personally, I think it's a refreshing change of pace from the idle chatter I have to sit through in most meetings."

"I'm not an emissary," Stiles says quickly.

"You may not have the official title, but that doesn't change the actions or the intent," Satomi's emissary says.

Stiles glances to Peter, like he isn't sure what he's going to say, but honestly, Stiles acting as his emissary isn't his pressing concern right now.

"Do you know anything about what Talia did?" Peter asks.

"I don't, though I thought it may have been what happened," Satomi says. "You were a fair alpha, Peter. Talia was not. When she replaced you as alpha, she wouldn't tell us why. She said you had stepped down, had parted ways with your emissary, and decided to put the pack in her charge."

"She was lying," Peter says, fighting the urge to growl.

"I assumed as much, or that you were dead," Satomi says. "I broke off our alliance because I didn't want my pack to be involved in something like that. My alliance was brokered with your mother and renewed through you. I made no deals with Talia, and I would uphold no alliance with her. I must admit, I expected you to come to me back then for assistance reclaiming your mantle."

"Talia took the memories from me," Peter says. Satomi's eyes widen and Roger looks disgusted. "I remember fragments of when I was an alpha before, but that's it. I don't know what happened to loyal pack mates or what she did to make the rest of the pack go along with it, but I know she killed Ava, and I know she had Alan Deaton's help."

"Charlatan," Roger hisses. "He's barely a footstep away from being a darach himself."

"Took the words right out of my mouth, buddy," Stiles says. Peter kicks him under the table.

"He was expelled by the High Order of the Druids," Roger says.

"Then how come he's still running around fucking up packs?" Stiles asks, outraged.

"Stiles," Peter says. Stiles closes his mouth, but he still looks livid. Peter doesn't blame him.

"The druids don't license or police people. They just refused to be associated with or teach him anymore," Roger says.

"I don't know about how Deaton may have affected the change, magic isn't my area of expertise," Satomi says. "But the memories Talia took from you? Those are still locked in her claws. There are ways to retrieve those memories if you have those claws."

"Talia's body was burned," Peter says. "And her claws along with it."

"Not so," Satomi says, smiling slightly. "I happen to know that Talia Hale's claws are currently being kept in a Calaveras hideout."

"Calaveras?" Stiles asks.

"They're a hunting family, similar to the Argents," Peter says.

"Oh good, more morally bankrupt hunters. Just what we need," Stiles says. "Why would they have her claws?"

"Plenty of hunters enjoy experimenting on us," Satomi says, lip curling in a snarl. She turns to Peter. "Come find me when you remember. We'll have much to discuss about reforming our alliance."

"Thank you, Alpha Satomi," Peter says respectfully.

"You are welcome," Satomi says. "And Peter. Congratulations on being an alpha again."

Peter nods his thanks, smiling slightly. Roger walks them out, giving Stiles his phone number in case he's interested in learning more about emissary duties and training. Stiles thanks him, looking at Peter a bit apprehensively.

"I'm not trying to replace Ava," Stiles blurts out as soon as they're in Peter's car.

Peter arches an eyebrow. "I didn't assume you were."

"Because they're talking like I'm your emissary, and you didn't ask me and we didn't discuss that, and I don't want you to think I just jumped in without permission and tried to replace a dead pack member," Stiles says quickly, not stopping to breathe. Peter stops him with a hand on his shoulder.

"I'm not offended, Stiles," Peter says. "You are somewhat acting in the capacity of an emissary. After you talk with Roger and if you decide it's something you're interested in, I'm more than happy to go forward with that."

"What, really?" Stiles asks.

"Of course. You're easily my most valuable pack member," Peter says with a smirk.

"I'm your only pack member, asshole," Stiles says, punching him in the shoulder. Peter doesn't even pretend it hurts.

"And the most irreverent one," Peter says, tsking. "No respect for your alpha."

"Come on, you'd be freaked out if I were all deferential," Stiles says.

"True," Peter says. "You wouldn't be nearly as interesting."

Tracking down Talia's claws isn't easy. The Calaveras hunters have strongholds in plenty of cities, though they're centered in the southwestern part of the United States and into Mexico. Stiles halfheartedly suggests asking Chris Argent if he has information he's willing to part with. He's a lot more disillusioned with the hunter culture now than he was when he and Peter were younger, but Peter's not willing to stake something this important on an Argent.

When Peter finally does locate them, in a safe house in Nevada, Stiles makes it very clear that he won't be left behind. He argues for hours, pointing out that a hunter hideout is going to be covered with mountain ash and wolfsbane that Peter can't touch, promising he'll fly out his damn self if he has to, and Peter eventually relents.

"Are you going to tell Derek and Cora what we're doing?" Stiles asks.

"No," Peter says. "Once we're back and I have my memories restored, I'll talk to them. Until then, they're just going to think I'm trying to sully their mom's name and won't be willing to listen."

Stiles shrugs. "It's your call. I don't think you're giving them enough credit, though," he says.

"I'd rather not risk it."

Bringing Stiles along pays off in the first five minutes, because even though the home is empty of heartbeats, there are three circles of mountain ash around the perimeter. Personally, Peter thinks that's a bit overboard (if someone gets past one, they can probably get past the other two), but no one asked him. They skirt around the security cameras until there's a big enough gap for them to work. Stiles breaks the mountain ash lines easily and they slink forward. Peter's not stupid enough to think they don't have other cameras or some kind of alarm, so they move quickly. Thanks to Satomi, they have a vague idea of what they're looking for, and the house is small, so they're able to locate the trunk in only a few minutes.

The trunk is made of rowan wood and filled with mountain ash, so once again Stiles is the one that handles it. He pulls out the cylindrical container from inside the trunk, a triskelion carved in the top, and hands it to Peter. A glance inside shows five claws, and that's enough for Peter. They're in and out in less than ten minutes.

Peter doesn't truly relax until they're out of Nevada, and even then he's checking the rear view mirror every few minutes, half expecting a truck full of hunters to run them off the road. He'd have loved to fly, but he didn't want to deal with the possibility of TSA being nosy and potentially taking the claws.

They make it back to Beacon Hills, and no one even notices they were gone. Peter doesn't particularly care, it serves his needs well, but he's angry on Stiles' behalf. His best friend should notice he's gone. His father should notice he's gone. He doesn't bring it up, though. Not until Stiles does. It's his choice if that's something he wants to discuss and when he does, Peter has some scathing comments ready about the people who are supposed to be closest to Stiles.

Roger consults with them on the best way to retrieve the memories, and much to Peter's displeasure, the only way is for another werewolf to use the claws on the back of his neck. The idea makes his skin crawl, but it has to be done. Which means he needs Derek or Cora. Stiles promises to be there in case either of them try to fuck with Peter, which he appreciates, but it only dulls some of his nerves.

"Mom's claws?" Derek asks skeptically. They're in the loft, the triskelion container on the coffee table between them.

"Yes," Peter says. "Stolen off of some hunters. I could ask Satomi to do this, but I want you to see what she took from me."

"You really think Mom took memories from you?" Derek asks.

"From all of us," Peter says. "Think about when your grandparents died. Isn't everything hazy? Isn't trying to remember anything concrete like trying to remember a fading dream?"

Derek frowns, but doesn't disagree. Peter glances at Cora, who shrugs.

"I was young," Cora says. "And a lot of my memories are already hazy. Trauma at a young age does that to you."

"I don't know," Derek says slowly.

"Derek, it's not going to hurt you to try," Stiles says, annoyed. "Look, if there's nothing there to find, then you wasted an hour and that's it."

"And had my dead mother's claws embedded in my fingertips," Derek says.

"You heal in like five minutes dude, I don't feel bad for you," Stiles says.

"Fine," Derek says. "If this doesn't work, I don't want to hear about it again."

"Fine," Peter says.

"You can bring me in too, right?" Cora asks. Derek opens his mouth to argue, but Cora cuts him off. "I want to see. I don't want to have to take either of your words about what happened."

Derek doesn't look thrilled, but he acquiesces. A few minutes later, Derek is standing behind the couch where Cora and Peter sit. He has his claws positioned at the back of Cora's neck and Talia's, now embedded in his fingers (Stiles had gagged at that) at the back of Peter's. Derek doesn't give warning, just plunges in.

Everything is foggy at first. Peter can vaguely feel Cora and Derek, but he can't see them. There's the nauseating feeling of his mind being invaded, once again not in his own control, then the flood of memories start.

Ava, smiling and agreeing to be Peter's emissary.

Peter's mother, teaching him how to be an alpha. Letting him in on negotiations with other packs.

A younger Satomi, comparing the mantras the packs use to learn control.

Peter teaching Derek and Laura how to control the shift. Popping out their claws only, flashing their eyes, lengthening their fangs.

Camping with the pack children, teaching them to navigate through the trees.

Bouncing a young Cora on his lap, letting her gnaw on his fingers.

Talia's hateful words, accusing Peter of killing their parents. That he just wanted to be an alpha sooner. That he somehow made their car crash, even though he hadn't had any idea about where they'd been that night.

Deaton paralyzing Peter with kanima venom, making him watch as Talia rips Ava apart, her screams echoing in his ears. Deaton chanting, the power draining from Peter. Talia's eyes flashing blue, bleeding to a deep, alpha red. Her triumphant grin as she digs her claws into the back of his neck, and everything going black.

Peter thinks that's going to be it, but Derek doesn't let go. He sees Peter's wolf's confusion, its rage and agony. He sees Peter lashing out in fear and pain, Talia pushing Peter to the outskirts of the pack. His isolation. His misery. Peter pushes back because no, that isn't something he offered to share with them. Derek claws retract and a moment later Peter's collapsing forward on the loft's floor, knees jarring in pain as they hit.

Stiles is at his side in an instant, crouching down next to him. His touch on Peter's shoulder is grounding him, letting his wolf know this is reality, that he's safe. The memories are flooding through him, overwhelming him as if his entire life is being rewritten. He remembers Talia's lies and implanted memories, but he also remembers what actually happened. He's going to be spending a lot of time trying to separate the two.

"Peter," Stiles says, taking his face in his hands.

"I'm fine," Peter says, squeezing his eyes shut. His wolf is joyous at finally being complete again, but also mourning, Talia's betrayal fresh. "I remember."

Stiles sighs and leans forward, resting his forehead against Peter's. Peter lets him, sucking in deep breaths. Stiles smells familiar, of pack and magic, and it helps calm him down, makes the shaking easier to manage. He'd known what Talia had done, but knowing and seeing are two different things.

"You were our alpha," Derek says, eyes wide. Peter looks up. Derek has his arm around Cora and they're both staring at him in shock. Peter just nods. "You were the alpha, and Mom took that. I remember Ava, and Mom..."

"She did," Peter says.

"You're an alpha again," Cora says, and Peter doesn't know if she saw that too or if his eyes flashed red when he fell to the ground.

"I am," Peter says. "Aiden and Ethan were most accommodating in that manner."

"I need...to think," Derek says. Cora nods in agreement.

"I understand," Peter says, and he does. Their whole world is upended, the view they had of their pack, their mother, and their uncle turned on its head. But he can't deny the hurt at them walking away.

Stiles glares at them as the walk out the loft, then tugs Peter up on the couch.

"Are you really okay?" Stiles asks.

"I will be," Peter says. "It's...discombobulating."

"Well, yeah, suddenly remembering years that someone edited off your life will do that," Stiles says. "Do you want to get out of here?"

"Yes," Peter says, pulling himself to his feet. He doesn't want to sit in Derek's shitty loft like an abandoned puppy waiting for Derek and Cora to decide if they want him around.

Stiles drives them back to Peter's apartment, making a few weak jokes about finally being allowed to drive Peter's Mercedes, like he isn't sure what to do if he isn't joking. Peter doesn't mind, because Stiles stayed. Stiles has stayed with him since his resurrection. Even before learning about what Talia had done, Stiles had been willing to give him a chance. Of everyone in this damn world, he owes Stiles the most.

Stiles suggests ordering takeout, but Peter wants the routine of cooking. It gives him something to do with his hands while his mind processes. He's still getting little flashes and his brain sorts through the memories. He's grinding pepper into the mashed potatoes, but he's seeing his coronation as alpha. He's putting chicken in the oven, but reliving actually knowing Ennis before he joined Deucalion, the two of them hunting and taking down an elk.

Peter sighs, setting his palms on the counter, head hanging between his shoulders. Stiles comes up behind him and wraps his arms around his waist, pressing his forehead against Peter's back. Peter hums and rests his hand over Stiles', threading their fingers together. They stand like that for a long while, Peter reveling in the grounding force his one true pack mate can give him.

They only move because the oven timer goes off and the chicken needs to be taken out before it gets dry. They eat in the living room, Stiles pressed up against his side. They don't bother with the pretense of keeping their space, of pretending that Peter isn't taking comfort in having Stiles against him, curling up under his arm when he's done eating. The sheriff is working, so Stiles stays over without Peter having to ask. He feels raw and flayed open, like his whole body and soul is one exposed nerve. He's still processing, working his way through new memories that are surfacing, and he's not particularly good at asking for what he needs. Taking what he wants, yes, but not asking for what he needs.

Stiles flops into Peter's bed that night, sighing happily when Peter curls up around him. They've slept like this before, Peter rubbing his scent all over his boy. Slept, and just slept. Peter's not a fool, he knows that Stiles wants more. He does, too, desperately, but he's done plenty of terrible things in his life already. He'd rather wait until Stiles is at least eighteen so he can avoid adding 'statutory rapist' to his list of defects. He wouldn't want that tonight anyway. He just wants to hold him and sort through the dizzying mess that is his mind right now.

The dreams that night are a confusing mess of real memories and ones Talia implanted. Peter wakes up more than once, gasping from nightmares, or confused and angry. Stiles wakes with him once or twice, coaxing him to lie back down, pulling him into the comforting circle of his arms. Peter's never been prone to panic attacks, but he's seen plenty of pack members before the fire, and Stiles, in the throes of one, and he's pretty sure what he's experiencing isn't too far off. His wolf soothes him, reminding him he's awake by how whole and complete he is. Stiles' presence at his side is calming, proof that he has a pack, even if right now there are only two of them. That even though she hurt him, Talia hasn't won.

He calls Satomi the next morning, explaining what he saw and remembered. She sounds sad, and confirms what he tells her is true to the best of her knowledge. She doesn't apologize for not coming to his aid all those years ago, but he doesn't expect her to. She'd needed to put her pack first, and stepping into another pack's problems only courts trouble. She does offer support over his claim to the Hale lands if he wants to build a pack, and that's something. He'll move heaven and hell if it means keeping his family's territory, his territory out of the bumbling hands of Scott.

It takes three days, three days of feeling off balanced and sifting through his memories, slotting his identity into what he now remembers, before Cora comes to him. Stiles is at school, but he's been over often enough that Peter's apartment is saturated with his scent. It helps when he feels overwhelmed, giving him something to anchor to in reality. Cora sniffs subtly when he opens the door for her, but doesn't say anything about it.

"Can I talk to you?" she asks.

"Of course," Peter says, stepping aside to let her in. She starts talking before he can offer her a drink or anything of the usual social niceties.

"I was younger when you were the alpha, so I think Mom didn't spend a lot of energy rewriting my memories of you," Cora says. "I remember you've always been an ass, but that doesn't seem changed."

That's something Peter's always loved about Cora. Her straightforward nature might have been off-putting for others (Laura especially would complain that Cora was rude), but Peter's always found it refreshing.

"It's just as true about me as it is about you," Peter says. Cora smirks.

"Well, yeah. That's a given," she says. "My point is, I think she focused a lot on making the older pack members hate you." Peter tries to hide his flinch at that. He's usually much better at concealing his emotions, but he hasn't exactly had a long time to come to terms with what happened with his former pack. Cora grimaces, but continues. "Meaning I still remember you spending time with us as kids, even before the whole claw memory thing."

"Oh," Peter says. He's not entirely sure what to do with that.

"So it's easier for me to come around than Derek," Cora says. "Look, I don't think either of us are good at heart-to-hearts or anything, but I want to tell you I'm sorry for what happened. I'm a Hale. This is my home and you're my alpha. I belong in the Hale pack, if you want me."

"Of course I do," Peter says. He doesn't say she's always been his favorite, that he'd kill to keep her safe. She already knows. She's seen everything he is, laid bare. "I will always want you in my pack."

The bond between them flares brightly, wide open between them. It still isn't the same a true alpha-beta bond, like the magic can't decide what to do with such a strange situation, but it's settling into something very close, and Peter's sure it'll amend itself over time. Cora looks like she wants to hug him, makes an aborted movement forward, but seems unsure. Peter isn't. He gently tugs her to him, wrapping her up in his arms. She's stiff for a moment, before shuddering and clinging to him. She rubs her cheek against his shoulder, adding her scent to his and Stiles'. He'll probably have to explain that in further detail at some point, but for now it's fine.

"I know you've been through plenty of things you haven't told us about," Peter says softly, carding his fingers through hair. "And I'm not forcing you to talk. Just know I'm here if you want to."

Cora nods, but doesn't say anything. That's fine, he didn't expect her to. The goal had been letting her know he's here for her, and he takes his victory in the way she relaxes more and hugs him tighter.

"Have you had lunch?" Peter asks, pulling back.

"I could eat," Cora says.

Peter makes macaroni and cheese, because while it isn't his first choice, he remembers making it for Cora when she was younger. She doesn't say anything, but smiles slightly when she realizes what he's cooking.

They trade memories as he cooks, about how Peter told her, even as a child, that fighting fair doesn't mean anything if you don't go home at the end of the day, so fight as dirty and you need to survive. Of him giving her ice cream when she kicked the ass of a boy at school who was picking on her. They steer clear of Talia. Peter's feelings toward his sister aren't overly complicated, though he is trying to unpack how they'd gotten along so well in childhood, only for things to end up how they did. He can't imagine how complicated it is for Cora and Derek though, to have the picture of a loving mother, to love her with everything they have, only to find out much of their life was a lie. He doesn't try to placate her, tell her that her mother loved her, that it was just Peter she hated. Cora's going to draw her own conclusions and have to come to a revelation she can live with on her own.

Cora's still over, watching Game of Thrones with Peter, when Stiles comes over at class. Peter had texted him that Cora is over and to not make a big deal out of it It wouldn't do the scare her off. So when Stiles walks in the door a few hours later, he has three drinks from Starbucks balanced in his hands, as well as a small bag of scones.

"A green tea frappuccino with peppermint for his royal highness," Stiles says, handing Peter a drink. "Passion tea lemonade, for the wolf with much better tastes than her uncle. Chai tea latte for the token human. Oh and scones all around."

"Thank you," Peter says, brushing a hand over Stiles' neck when he walks by. "Though I believe we've discussed the whole 'token human', undervaluing yourself thing."

Stiles flaps his hand in dismissal, making Peter roll his eyes. "Whatever. Be right back, gotta pee," Stiles says, then disappears down the hall.

Cora raises an eyebrow. "He has a key," she says.

"He does," Peter says. "You can have one too, if you want."

Cora doesn't answer, but he can tell she's thinking about it.

The night is actually nice. Peter makes Stiles do his homework, because he knows otherwise he'll put it off and end up pulling another all nighter. Stiles grumbles, but works on his essay. Cora watches in amusement and doesn't leave until Stiles does, offering her a ride back to Derek's as he goes. Peter feels warm and content even after they leave, happy to have his pack under one roof.

It takes Derek a little longer to come around. He'd always been close to his mother, so Peter can understand his struggle to reconcile what she's done, even though he doesn't particularly enjoy the waiting game. It's hard to feel charitable when Derek now knows the truth and is taking his sweet time, but he's trying. Stiles is actually over when Derek shows up, and makes himself scarce. He hesitates a bit before leaving, but Peter tells him it's fine, he'll call him later.

Derek, much like Cora had, skips the preliminary chit chat.

"I saw the night you killed Laura," Derek says.

Peter's stomach lurches, but he carefully keeps his face blank.

"And?" he asks.

"I didn't know...you really didn't mean to," Derek says.

"I didn't," Peter says. "If I could take it back..."

"We shouldn't have left you after the fire," Derek says, and Peter's heart trips. "I don't know why we did, if it was mom's influence telling us you weren't good, or if it was our own stupid selfishness, but we shouldn't have left you. And I'm sorry."

Peter says nothing, trying to choose his words carefully. He doesn't want to say he understands, because he doesn't. He doesn't want to say he forgives them, because he doesn't know if he can.

"You would have healed faster with us, wouldn't you?" Derek asks. Peter nods. Derek sighs, running a hand through his hair. "I knew something was wrong, but I didn't press it. After everything and Kate...I was just grateful Laura wasn't kicking me out. I should have pushed harder."

"What's done is done," Peter finally says. "The past is muddled and useless. I want to focus on rebuilding the pack and protecting the Hale lands. I want to live the life that was denied to me, not wallow in old anger."

Derek nods, like he'd been expecting that. Cora had probably told him that was Peter's plan.

"They're not my betas anymore, but I think Erica, Boyd, and Isaac would be interested in what you have to say, if you wanted them in your pack," Derek says. "They're not as enchanted with Scott as he hoped they'd be."

"And you?" Peter asks. "Are you planning on falling into line behind Scott McCall?"

"No," Derek says with a snort. "Have you felt his power? It feels wrong and like it isn't his."

"I don't think it's a coincidence that he became an alpha right after you gave your alpha spark up to save Cora," Peter says.

Derek frowns. "Deaton?" he asks.

"Deaton," Peter says. "Being an emissary gave him power and protection before. Now he has a baby alpha in his pocket and is trying to regain what he lost."

"So Scott isn't a true alpha," Derek says.

"No. True alphas aren't real. It's a bullshit campfire story that he's gullible enough to believe," Peter says. "It's just Deaton making himself a pet werewolf."

"Hmm," Derek says, flicking out his claws casually. "When are we going to be paying Deaton a visit?"

Peter grins, and he knows it isn't nice.

They wait for Cora and Stiles, both of whom want to be there for this, before heading to the animal clinic. Peter has a feeling Deaton's been expecting company, because there's a line of mountain ash outside the back door. Stiles breaks it easily so Peter can kick in the door. Dramatic, yes, but he's pissed off and feels like he's earned that right.

Deaton tries to run, but Cora and Derek are faster, grabbing him by the arms and pinning him to the wall. Peter stalks forward, Stiles at his side. His eyes are alpha red.

"You took something from me," Peter growls, tracing a claw over Deaton's cheek. It's irritating that he shows no outward sign of fear, but the rabbit-quick beat of his heart and stench of terror hold Peter over. "From us. Tell me, did our wards fail us on purpose the night of the fire? Or were you just too inept to keep up what Ava had created?"

Deaton seems to know that reasoning with Peter is no use, so he tries a different tactic, turning to Derek.

"Your mother wouldn't have wanted this, Derek. She wouldn't have wanted you to be a killer," Deaton says.

"Our mother isn't exactly someone I would call a moral compass," Derek says.

"She loved you. She loved all her children," Deaton says.

"And yet she betrayed us all," Cora growls, digging her claws into Deaton's shoulder until blood is running down her arm.

"Stiles," Deaton gasps through the pain. "You'll lose Scott over this. If you take away his only father figure, he won't forgive you."

Stiles makes a disgusted face at that, and Peter doesn't blame him. Absent as he is, the sheriff has played more of a role in Scott's life than Deaton has. Even Peter knows that. As far as role models go, an absent father is better than a traitor any day.

"If you're looking for a moral dilemma, you're talking to the wrong person," Stiles says. "What Scotty doesn't know won't hurt him."

"You don't understand," Deaton says. "I did what I needed to. He would have run the pack into the ground, he -"

"That's enough out of you," Stiles says and flicks his wrist. Deaton's voice immediately cuts out, though he's still moving his mouth, trying to speak. Peter's impressed, and files that away to talk to Stiles about later.

"This isn't a debate," Peter says, trailing claws down to dig into Deaton's throat. "I just wanted to make sure you know why you're dying."

Peter digs his claws in deeper, relishing the warm blood that flows over his hand, and rips out Deaton's throat, snapping his neck for good measure. His body falls to the floor with a thud, blood pooling on the ground. Cora steps over it distastefully, not wanting any of it on her shoes, and stands by Derek.

"With Deaton dead, does whatever he did to make Scott an alpha die with him?" Stiles asks.

"I don't know," Peter says. "But either way, he isn't taking Beacon Hills as his territory."

"Oh I know, that'd be a disaster," Stiles says. He looks down at Deaton's body, nose scrunching up. "Can we maybe deal with him? It's gross."

"Of course," Peter says. "Two murders in and still squeamish. How cute."

Stiles kicks him in the shin.

Two months later, Peter and Satomi are sitting down to draw up a new alliance. Derek, as Peter's second, sits to his right. Stiles, his emissary, to his left. Cora is back at the loft (Peter hates using it as a base, but until the Hale house is rebuilt, beggars can't be choosers) with Erica, Boyd, and Isaac, waiting to hear the outcome of their new treaty.

Chris Argent, having been apprised of the shift in control of the Hale territory and the visit of Satomi (so don't shoot the strange werewolves, please), isn't thrilled with Peter being an alpha again, but he has no proof of any wrongdoing and has no reason to go after the new Hale pack. As long as he and his unbalanced daughter stay the hell away from his pack, Peter doesn't care.

Scott...is not happy. The magic that had given Scott the now twice-stolen Hale alpha spark died with Deaton, reverting Scott back to a beta. He's not talking to Stiles, horrified that his best friend could side with someone like Peter. Stiles bears it stoically, except when he curls up against Peter at night, trembling and trying to hold it together while the boy he'd considered a brother refuses to speak to him. As much as Peter detests Scott and never would want him in his pack, he does hope he relaxes a bit, if only for Stiles' sake.

It's slow. They don't jump into pack cuddle piles like the pack did before the fire. There's too much time and history to just pick up where they left off, but Peter's rebuilding the Hale house. The new Hale pack, Peter, Derek, Cora, Stiles, Isaac, Boyd, and Erica, have dinner together at least twice a week, though some combination of them seems to be together more often than not. Peter trains them, takes them out school shopping, gives them a place to stay when their parents freak out over the werewolf thing (Erica). He promises to do what he can to help Boyd find out what happened to his sister. He puts Isaac in therapy for what happened with his father (and tosses Cora and Derek toward a therapist as well for good measure). He sets up college funds and offers tutoring help if they need it.

Peter is going to get being the alpha right this time around, and god help anyone who tries to get in his way.