Chris finds himself in a place, nothingness and light and white, it's like a room, with a floor, stable, solid, and walls that he can feel, knows are there, but aren't tangible. A memory, a feeling more than anything. The ceiling is the same.
Chris walks, feels the urge, maybe hears a voice calling his name. He finds a child, maybe late teens, maybe much younger, maybe much older, it's hard to tell in this place where everything is fuzzy and blissful and slowed.
The person is sitting, and they have long, long silken brown hair, wavy and beautiful. They're wearing an old victorian style dress, layered with mint teals and pale blues and off-whites, frills and lace and long, flowy sleeves and skirts, with ribbons tied in various places and a thin, cloth, earth brown corset around its middle. The dress has a scooping square neckline that doesn't reveal any sort of cleavage, as the person wearing it doesn't seem to have any to reveal.
Despite the long hair and the willow-lithe supple lasciviousness of the person's body, they look fairly masculine, though there are plenty of feminine features as well. A pretty collarbone and an obvious adam's apple, long, nimble, thin, dainty fingers, but thick wrists, muscles in odd places, broad shoulders despite the thin frame, plush, pale pink lips, and upturned nose, wide doe-eyes, and ivory skin speckled with constellations of freckles and moles.
He, she, they, whoever they are, they're beautiful, gorgeous and tranquil.
Those eyes, gooey honey in sweet-tea, framed by long curling lashes, are looking up at him, the person they belong to sitting on the floor, legs curled under them hidden by their skirts, pianist's hands fluttering along the floor to find and pick flowers that weren't there, but are, always were.
Chris finds himself smiling as they braid flowers into a crown, reaching up and arching their back to get as tall as they can from their sitting position, they offer the small wreath to him, and they're smiling, too.
Chris takes the gift and without much thought puts it atop his head, when he's looking back at the person, they're much higher up than before, the proportions all disorienting and changed, they're still in the same sitting position but now they're on top of a tree stump that can't decide whether it's tall or short and Chris' eyes are losing focus, now, but he thinks he sees small branches crowding the child, teen, elder, into the stump, keeping them there.
Bone-like fingers wrap around the long, thick bars of wood, slowly, and those big, whiskey eyes stare down, up at him, pretty rose-petal mouth spread in the softest smile.
"Christopher," a voice, silvery and smoked-honey deep, singsongs, clear and quiet and ringing like soft bells echoing off of meadows in the distance, then, deeper, more meaningful, not unkind but an order nevertheless, "come find me."
And he wakes slow, because that felt as real as it felt too melodious, saturated, surreal and ethereal, it takes him a minute to shake himself out of the daze he's in, and it's only then, in the still-quiet of the night, barely one in the morning, that he realizes how fey-like the person in the dream seemed.
And he knows, even as he does his best to ignore it, that there's a definite tug, right beneath his heart, a small ache telling him, begging him to go into the Preserve. But he is a Hunter, and he will not fall prey to a faerie spell so easily, if that is indeed what this is.
So he does his research first, though he decides not to tell his sister or his father, the matriarch in training and the matriarch-regent, and avoids letting either know he's researching anything at all. There are many reasons for this, that he's old enough to go it alone being the main one, but there are others, doubts and suspicions that run rampant through him that he will never voice out loud.
No matter what this is, he will follow the Code.
Peter feels white underneath his paws, he sees in sepia but the world around him is too pure, there aren't enough sounds, not enough scents, and his wolf whines with the loss of the world around him. The world he's used to.
But Peter, like this, all animal-wild, is nothing if not instinct, nothing if not a child of the moon, and he can feel her, in his peripheral. So he runs, howls to mother moon even though the sky is an empty expanse of vast-colorless void, immaculate and distant, a hollow disparity, unnatural.
Then the wolf finds it, not his moon but a person, sitting, gathering flowers, and it smells of meadow-sweet nectar, now, he can hear the crickets and the worms and the ants and the beetles, the rustle of wind through flower petals that kicks up scents of the Preserve, of his home, but it's not sharp enough, it's unclear, too buoyant and fleeting to satisfy his empty nose.
The moon-smell person smiles sweetly at him, and they're wearing a pretty dress that cascades down their svelte-lithe frame. They smell faintly of lilies and sage and thyme and roasting meat in hickory sauce, like prey, ozone, moon-mother. They smell content, pleased, proud to be found.
The dress they wear rustles, dainty-quiet. Wind-swept chocolate hair is braided up with little eggshell blue ribbons and it looks messy but it's somehow charming and graceful in its childishness. She... He? Moon-smell person winds flowers- stems and petals and baby's breath and wisteria and honeysuckle and daisies- with too-long fingers that seem to dance through the work, makes it all into a crown to put upon his head.
The wolf allows it, despite the minor silliness he feels, because this boon seems right, correct, primal in the softest ways. The gifter, poised and long and elegance is abruptly caught in thick branches. Suddenly trapped, though they do not smell of fear, only of longing, they reach through the latticed twigs that wrap around their space like a vice, skirts pooling around the stump on which they now sit, and scratch his ear, so kind, so tender, as if he were something fragile, and they say:
"Peter," melody-lilt, echoey, "come find me."
He wakes with a start, the scent of wildflowers and Nemeton still lingering.
And his heart beats a tune that says 'Follow. Follow. I will lead you.'
Well, that was an intriguing dream, to say the least, especially considering the fact that he isn't even capable of the full-shift. And considering how the ghost of cold-soft hands can still be felt running through his hair, against the shell of his ear.
He thinks, for a moment, that perhaps a spell has been cast on him, that he should tell his Alpha before he wonders off in case this is a trap of some kind, but Talia is sleeping and he's impatient, curious. Peter's the Left Hand, always used to assessing threats and playing at politics with mystical creatures of the night. He will be careful, as needs must, and if it is anything serious enough to curtail him she will know soon enough anyway, or Deaton or Felicia will, with their wards and their magic.
So he goes, he follows the pull in his chest out of his bed, his room, his Pack's house, into the Preserve which sings with wind in the trees and the animals and bugs that chitter in the twilight.
That person is there, the one from his dream, they seem even more ethereal, even more saturated, here, under the light of the moon, which is curiously absent from their scent now, and he wonders if it was just a lure.
The Nemeton is just a giant ancient stump in a small clearing, or, at least, it usually is. Now, though, the outer circle has smoothed glossy branches stemming up from the stump as if the old tree were nothing more than a base, the wooden bars curving up in a dome to create something like a human-sized decorative bird-cage. It looks organic, somehow, as if nature actually conspired in this.
And the dolled up teenaged looking fey-like dreamwalker sits in the middle of the stump, in the middle of such a cage, trapped, but they're smiling at him, sun-soaked tea-honey eyes sparkling with something like mischief or pride.
Peter's claws unseath on principal, because his family has been protecting the Nemeton for centuries and this? This is new. Unknown. Peter has trouble with things being unknown to him, that he is suspicious and intrigued, both, by the person before him helps matters- mollifies his wolf- none.
Roasting meats with smoked hickory, pleased, sea-salt brine of unshed tears, lonely, thyme ozone and sage, magic, curiosity.
"Peter Hale," they greet, pointing at him rather rudely despite how they're oozing welcome, like he's an old friend.
"Dreamwalker," he returns, for lack of anything better, and they laugh, not mocking, just pleasant, delighted, bubbly. It's a little more than odd, and Peter finds himself narrowing his eyes at them.
"No." They tell him, like it was a guess in a game and he's just missed the mark.
"Then what, pray tell," he drawls, "are you?"
"I am a Spark, but I was Bitten awhile ago. I've been told that my magic won't dissuade the Bite, and I've not died which I suppose means I survived it, but I have no idea how my magic will interfere with it. Which is so disconcerting, if I'm being honest, really, but. Eh," the dress rustles as they shrug noncommittally. "What can you do?"
The information is so freely given that Peter has to wonder if there's any truth to it at all, but their heart stays steady, hummingbird fast, but steady. Peter walks closer to the Nemeton, acting as the dreamwalker's cage, only to find himself stopped short, not by mountain ash, this is stronger, like an anti-magnet pressed against his very soul.
"And is this the doing of your magic, too?" he asks with a raised brow as he starts testing the boundary, his voice unimpressed despite the fact that he is honestly just... sharply intrigued.
"No, the doing of a magic, certainly, but not mine. I've made sacrifices-" they wave vaguely around, indicating their captivity- "to get here, and to-" here they pull their skirts aside to reveal legs that are more shiny pink scars then skin, their bare feet are interweaving bubbles of pale red and tendered off-white, his ankles are bone-thin- "keep the people I love safe. It's funny, I can barely stand let alone walk. I mean, I get that certain magic requires payment-" they make a face, poking their own apparently useless limb, and then looking around their cage- "but this is kinda overkill, dontcha think?"
Peter hums in acknowledgment, wonders a little at why he finds the burnt, twisted legs beautiful instead of startling, wonders, too, when his wolf slipped under the surface, apparently satisfied that this trapped little thing, smelling of prey and herbs and tears, isn't a threat.
"Perhaps a little. So, then," because it seems an apt question, considering, "why did you call me here? And, for that matter, who are you?"
They laugh, and laugh, and laugh, "The clever one," they say, and it feels like both a joke and something self-deprecating wry.
Peter goes home feeling...
It was oddly intimate, being babbled at by someone so young and so clearly intelligent and so submissive to his interrogation. He, and the boy did eventually say that they preferred male pronouns, but they liked female clothing, and they've been to hell and back often enough they feel they deserve the luxury. Besides, it's not like anyone is going to judge him for it.
Peter had pointed out that he very well could, and Stiles, because his name was offered just as easily as anything else, had said: ("Oh, but why? It makes no difference to you, and it would serve no purpose to manipulate me when I'm already willing to offer you everything. You're not the type of person to be cruel for cruelty's sake."
"Is that so. And how would you know that, little one?"
"That, my friend, is a secret."
"Are we friends now?"
"Maybe not. But we will be.")
The boy still has secrets, but he's admirably straightforward about it all, whenever Peter asked something he didn't want to answer, he just said, 'Ah, that's a secret. Sorry, sorry.' Never sounding sorry at all.
And, clever is indeed a good descriptive, but there's so much more to him, and so much still unknown for all of his endless chatter. No one could claim him boring, that's for sure.
When the sun rose, he'd just told him with a sad smile, a twinkle in his eyes, smelling like a bonfire cookout by the sea, that it was time for him to go home, else his Pack'd be missing him. Peter had actually found himself wanting to stay, though he didn't entirely understand why.
It could've been the lonely-grief pouring off of the boy in waves, but that is entirely too out of character for Peter, sympathy empathy and pity aren't things he contends with, really.
It could've just been how interesting the boy was.
Or maybe a spell was cast.
Still, a trip to the basement library is definitely in order, there's got to be something on the Nemeton acting like this, on a Bitten Spark, on dreamwalking, on any of it.
The dreams are pulchritudinous, and they haunt him throughout the day even after he's woken from them. There's a knot right there in his sternum, it gets tighter the longer he ignores it, but Chris needs to know what this is first.
Only, dreams like this, they aren't connected to faeries, they're connected to magic, of a kind, but it's the pure unadulterated type of magic that is both rare and arduous to accomplish. And it's likely that whoever's behind it could've easily killed him by now, but they haven't.
They've danced with him and sang to him and carded their fingers through his flower-strewn hair and said, 'Come to me, Chris, come find me.'
It's getting harder and harder to resist and that's just... worrisome.
Chris finds himself walking through the Preserve after a small fight with Victoria. She wants to get married, his father wants him to get married, and the clan thinks Victoria would be a wonderful matriarch, but...
Chris isn't so sure, he's not sure of many things these days. He's caught her, a few times, ranting and raving about the mutts that live amongst them and, and Chris knows what he's been taught about werewolves, he's seen them go feral, but he's also faced up against other monsters, and knows that no place is safer than somewhere there's a stable Pack around.
It just feels like he doesn't have all of the information, and it's too dangerous to get access to. But he also knows that the Hales haven't broken the Code, so all the off-handed talk about killing them and them being monsters, abominations, just- well, it doesn't sit right.
He doesn't even notice where he's going, what instinct he's following, that this isn't a normal route he would walk, until it's too late and he hears a low, warning growl in the distance, not too far, but far enough that he can't see the 'were who produced it from behind the trees.
"Peter," he hears, exasperated, and that's, that's the voice of the person from his dream, "calm down. Don't the Hales have a treaty with the Argents?"
Chris can't even help that he's being drawn closer, he can't help, either, that his gun is already out, not pointed, just- readied. In the clearing, sure enough, there's one Peter Hale, and his dreamwalker. The 'were is half shifted, looking at him warily, standing half-protectively in front of a- a giant decorative bird-cage?
"Oh my god," the teen gasps with glee, pointing and hopping a little in place where they sit, making their dress flounce, but it's oddly abortive, like they can't move at full capacity, "look at your face! It's like, 'are you kitten me, right meow?'"
And then they're cackling, folding in on themselves in their hysterics. Peter rolls his eyes and it's annoyed but it's fond, too, which is odd, because Peter isn't the type of person who does fond, not openly anyway, not from what Chris has seen.
Then again, he hasn't really seen much, has he?
Chris still takes the moment to look properly incredulous at the dreamwalker even as, surprisingly enough, his hand eases around his gun, putting it back in safety.
"Seriously, Stiles?" Peter murmurs.
"What? I can't be incredibly powerful and still have a soft spot for shitty puns? C'mon, dude, where's the fun in that?" And the kid honestly sounds petulant about it.
"Incredibly powerful?" is Chris' takeaway, Peter growls at him again, all low-rumble-threat.
"Hello, Chris Argent," smiles this person that he's only just met, but feels like he knows, "my name is Stiles, I'm a Bitten Spark, I prefer male pronouns, I can't move at the moment and I don't have a cellphone. Which is why- and, god, Peter's been asking all month, why did it take you so fucking long to get here, I even gave you directions!" A short huff, "Rude. Anyway, that's why I sorta, kinda, maybe, made you have the special kinds'a dreams."
"What." That's Peter, fondness completely evaporated, but he's maybe not as angry as he could be.
"Why the hell," Chris starts, preparing to aim his gun again, because a Spark, Bitten, dragging him into weird dreams that lure him, alone, into the woods toward an obvious threat smells a little too much like a trap.
"Ah!" Stiles cuts him off, scooting closer to the wooden bars that seemingly make up his prison, "No! You're both here for a reason, okay? Don't be a speciest bigot, Chris, you're the best of a bad lot, I expect you to act like it," Chris is shocked to actually feel chastened, he puts his gun back in his waistband, "And Peter, you are smart enough to ask questions first. Sane enough, too, might I add."
"Well, then," Peter says, still glaring, and Chris wonders how this boy all dolled up in a dress, knows all this about them. "I suppose my first question would be: Why did you invite a Hunter to join us, hmm?"
"Same reason I asked you to join me, Peter," Stiles answers, and doesn't even bother hiding how coy he's being, "I'm lonely. I wanted people to talk to, and I wanted said people, specifically, to be useful to a certain cause, later."
"And what cause would that be?" Chris asks, wary.
"That," Stiles beams, "is a secret."
Peter's lips quirk up, and it's the closest to a smile on the wolf Chris has ever seen.
Chris still feels... intensely confused, but no one has killed anyone, and... Stiles is interesting. He wants to question the ease in the tension that's been building up in him these past few days, wants to question how out of character the Hale is being, how out of character he is being in the face of this.
But he doesn't.
And they do talk, though Peter spends most of the time doing his solid best to ignore him, Stiles is a pretty good bridge of the gap, as his chatter is constant, incessant.
He doesn't dream that night. He doesn't tell anyone. He goes back again the next day.
Chris tries to, he does, avoid Peter, even as he always finds himself, mid-afternoon, walking toward the Nemeton. But Peter is always there, smirk planted firmly on his face. Chris has the feeling the 'were might just be doing it to piss him off.
He has no idea how or why it progresses from there, maybe some spell really was cast on him, maybe a cross-dressing chatter-box has wormed their way into his heart, maybe it's all the pent up doubt and the need for answers, but it does.
And Stiles has so many opinions, all of which he's more than willing to share.
The Code, says the Spark, is faulty.
We hunt those who hunt us.
But what if they're protecting themselves? It's not as if hunters understand the nature of the creatures they kill, they don't think about it that long, don't look at it too closely, the wolf is to be hated and what is hated, inevitably, destroyed. Losing a Pack member is like having a piece of your soul flayed away from you with a dull rusted knife, going Omega? Worse. There are, of course, times when a 'were goes feral and cannot be saved.
That shouldn't take the humanity out of it, a life is still a life, after all.
But too many Hunters think of the Code as just another weapon, something felicitous and there, useful to rely on but only a means to an end. Because Hunters, at the root, think of supernatural beings as anathema.
("You have to understand Chris, that yes, there are certain, terrible supernatural things, and there are sometimes feral Omegas, and yes, people should be protected, because those things can be horrible.
"But so can people. Look at any war. Where does it start? It starts with bias, with hatred toward things that are innately or inherently different.
"That kind of fanaticism led to Nazis. And they had codes, too, morals of a kind, but they were so twisted and outside of anything decent, it was all just more excuses to kill. Because the thing underneath it all is pure, unadulterated, stupid hate. And hatred begets violence, and violence begets more violence, always.
"The Hunters Code is a violent one because it does not stem from the need to protect, to guard. It comes from fear and hatred. A specieism that's in the root of everything the whole organization does.
"At first, at first it's something simple. An Omega that isn't feral yet. You could help it find a Pack it can flourish in, a stable Alpha who can provide the Pack-Bonds it needs to heal, or you can surreptitiously kill it, because it's going to go feral anyway, right? Then, come across a Naga, not one who has killed, just one in an odd or inconvenient place, not something that can speak any form of human communication, and instead of finding a Mage or a 'were who would be able to establish a temporary telepathic bond, just kill it because you can't be bothered.
"And there are no consequences, no ethics, there, not really, so it devolves quickly-" he snaps, eyes lighting on Peter instead, who was studying his cuticles and pretending not to pay attention- "next thing you know a Hunter is seducing a perfectly sane member of a perfectly stable Pack into telling her all of their secrets with every intention of using that information to put the whole Pack down."
Peter did look up then, his expression carefully blank, his eyes a little too sharp, and Stiles had leaned forward in his cage, taking them both in.
"Be careful," he'd said, "both of you.")
Chris always thought he knew and understood the people around him. The Code was his law when he was growing up, he was a master in its study, wanting to impress his mother, wanting to be wanted by his father.
But his mother died, and the Matriarch inherent of their clan was Kate, just a baby at the time, so his father became acting regent until such a time as Chris married or Kate became old enough.
And maybe, maybe he never did have his eyes open? Because, now? Now he's looking?
He can see it, in the way his father lightly sneers and insults him for believing in the Code always and nothing else, the way his baby sister and his girlfriend both call 'were's and anything of the kind abomonation, sin, sickening.
It's always been off, he knows, but...
They're his family. He hadn't wanted to see it, and he hadn't known, not really, their Bestiary covers the what and the how to kill, but nothing else.
Stiles has told him that Nagas require telepathy, fey shouldn't be contained as they do not belong in this world and can become agitated if they're forced to stay in it too long. There are so many different kinds of magic users, Druids ("all about the balance, dude, cryptic fuckers, though."), Mages ("So, like, a small Spark, not fully ignited, and they need a lot of shit to get their magic done. Talismans, runes, tattoos, potions, all that shit."), Witches ("They don't have a Spark, they use the inherent magic of the land, they need stuff, like Mages, but what they can do and how they do it is different and a lot more nature based. Also, wands."), Sparks ("People basically bursting with the raw stuff. It's not as fun as it sounds, magic has a price, and if you're not careful, the price ends up being you. Especially if you don't know what you're doing," a wry laugh, "sometimes even when you do."), and more.
All people, with a little extra.
And Stiles had cajoled and poked and annoyed Peter into talking about Pack dynamics which are, they make so many things make sense. Emissaries, Alphas, Betas, Packless Omegas. What it really means to be Bitten, ("Tell him about Paige." "No. No, how do you even-" "Peter. This is important, and I will tell him if you don't. Tell him about Paige, you were at fault there, too, so tell him. Let the confession be your recompense." "I was just trying to advise him. I had no idea he'd take it that far." "I know, sweet wolf, I know."), that blue eyes don't always mean murderer, sometimes they just mean guilt. That, as long as there is an Alpha, species doesn't matter among Betas, humans fey and the like can all be such. That an Alpha doesn't always have to be a 'were. And more, so much more.
It helps, the knowing, it's also bittersweet because now his doubts are full, comprehending, cutting things that snag on the little things, that give proof to the lie, that tell him who the people around him really are.
And his own house becomes a suffocating, volatile thing.
The Preserve calls to him.
"Peter you're totally a marshmallow."
"I beg your pardon? I am an apex predator, not a sweet."
"You bring me sandwiches so I don't starve, and pretty dresses so I can be beautiful and happy, and you still come to keep me from being lonely, despite the other company."
Stiles beams at Chris, who narrows his eyes, Peter gives Chris an assessing look.
"I suppose he's alright," the 'were drawls, "best of the bad lot and all."
"Really?" Chris asks, half startled, half wary, raising an eyebrow at him.
It's somewhat adorable, Peter can't help but think, how Chris doesn't expect Peter to warm to him at all, but still he comes, still he asks, and he has the unquenchable curiosity of one kept in the dark for so long, the clever wit of someone who might've found the answers on his own, anyway.
And Peter remembers the horrified expression he wore, after being told about Paige, because he'd been terrible to Derek after that, when he saw the boy's eyes flash blue during a meeting between Argents and Hales.
("Jesus," he'd said, and laughed in such a broken way, "I really don't know anything, do I?" A pause, and then shame, guilt, heavy in the air, heavy in sky-clear eyes that looked straight into his, vulnerable, honest, sincere, "I'm sorry.")
Peter finds himself smiling, and Chris looks a little struck.
"I knew it," Stiles crows, pointing with a grin, "you're a marshmallow! See! See! You are the fluffiest wolf, yes you are!"
"Oh, shut up."
"Nope," pop of the p, "Chris you agree with me, right?"
"I am... not getting involved."
"Awww!! Come on, man! He's sooooo fluffy, a marshmallow, pure as snow!"
Chris snickers, Peter glares at both of them.
"Shut up, or I won't bring you a new dress tomorrow, and I'll forget all about the corsets Laura's grown out of."
Stiles outright pouts, Chris guffaws, and Peter can't even help the grin that spreads across his face, threatens to crack him open.
Stiles is wearing a burgundy and black lolita thing, skirt shorter than most, revealing his bare, burnt legs up to their knees. He's taking the braids out of his hair, unspooling long, smooth, glossy locks of chestnut brown.
Chris and Peter are playing chess, Stiles watching and offering advice every once in awhile to Chris who has, generally, never been very good.
A flick of the wrist and the apple Chris brought flies through the air in an arc and straight into Stiles' hand. Food (and clothes), as long as Stiles and his magic are what brings it through, is one of the only things the boundary around him doesn't block. It does, however, keep Chris, Peter, small animals, flowers, and most insects at bay.
Chris' heart beats slower than Stiles', slower than Peter's, even. A steady, sturdy, strong thing. And he smells like aftershave, like overgrown fields and gun-oil and ginger, like calm and peace. His scent mingles with Peter's own (fur, pine, loam), and Stiles' (meat, hickory, thyme, sage) and the Nemeton's. This blend of smells has come to resemble comfort, to Peter, and is so close to Pack that he has to wonder, sometimes, if Talia can feel it, too. Pack-bonds, out of nowhere, slipping into place.
Then Stiles lets out a little whimper, distressed, dropping the apple, and Peter's attention is instantly perked, zeroed in on the boy who is suddenly smelling like rotting raw meat, like pulsing, overwhelming pain.
"Stiles?" Chris calls, alarmed, getting up from their game, Peter is quick to follow, Stiles' heart getting faster, so fast.
"Stiles?" Peter breathes, pressing a hand against the invisible wall that separates them.
Stiles' hands go to his legs, kneading, his whole face scrunched up in something like agony.
"Ah! It's, I'm..." Stiles let's out a terrible, awful, wet noise in the back of his throat, Peter's claws unsheath on instinct, he shouldn't sound like that, and his fucking heart has to slow the fuck down.
"Stiles." Chris' voice sounds raw. The scent of seawater is suddenly pervasive, and Stiles pants out a whimper as he curves in on himself, shakes with sobs and pain both.
"Fuck, fuck, fuck, this hurts, aggh." Stiles grits his teeth, moans, half-screams in the back of his throat as he starts rocking back and forth.
"Stiles!" Peter calls out to him, but it's no use, he can smell the riptide of pain, something so profound Stiles must be drowning in it. Letting out a noise of frustration he punches the stupid magic wall, Stiles weeps, he punches it again, and again, unable to do anything.
"Peter," Chris says, and then he's taking Peter's bloodied, mangled, clawed hand in his. He laces their fingers together, lets claws dig in, doesn't once look away from the boy inside the cage, flinches when he starts to scream.
Peter doesn't know when he closed his eyes, when he started shaking, but he can feel the Beta-shift, he can feel the howl behind his teeth, and the only thing that's grounding him is the hand in his, squeezing hard enough to make his bones creak. Chris is shaking too, he realizes, and that's just.
It's too much.
His howl breaks free.
Stiles is... not sleeping. Unconcious, more like, still clutching convulsively at his legs, curled on his side, facing them, tears streaming down his face, the frills and flounce of his dress pooled around him.
Chris feels Peter, hot and solid against his side. They're both sitting right outside the boundary, Peter's leaning his forehead against it like he can barely keep himself upright, and maybe he can't, he'd been howling over Stiles' screams for what felt like hours before his knees gave.
Chris is still holding his hand, he just- he needed Peter to stop hurting himself.
It was useless, anyway.
And Chris knows, now, just how tactile wolves are, and he wonders if this contact, their legs pressed together, hips close, leaning into one another. He hopes it helps.
Stiles snuffles, coughs a little, opens his eyes blearily.
Peter is standing in an instant, their locked hands mean he's hauling Chris up before Chris even has a chance to think or say or do anything.
"He-y, guys," the boy says, voice raw and broken like glass being ground into dust.
"Stiles." Peter says, half a growl, and he sounds just as bad, but his Beta-shift is finally, finally retreating behind human skin. The pads of his fingers scrape across the wounds his claws left, Chris wonders if he should mind, that that didn't scare him. Not when it was happening, and not now.
The pain was- is grounding, centering.
"Stiles," Chris sighs, feeling relief because he seems okay now, "what was that? What happened?"
"M-y l-" a cough, "legs." A swallow, thick, "Just hurt, sometimes. It's not- it's not always like that, but. Sometimes."
Peter knocks his forehead against the boundary again, eyes sliding closed, Chris squeezes his hand, and some of the tension just sort of slumps out of him.
"Scared the hell outta you guys, huh? Sorry." Stiles smiles, and it's tear-soaked, hauntingly beautiful, it makes Chris' breath catch. He has no idea how he manages to smile back.
"Yeah." He says, because he was. Scared. Terrified. He's never heard someone scream like that.
"Your heart was beating too fast," Peter murmurs, and it makes sense, that that might've been what scared him more, because it's one thing to scream like your being eviscerated, it's another to actually die like that, from a fear/panic/pain-induced heart attack. Another thing entirely to hear all of it and be incapable of doing anything.
Chris squeezes his hand again.
"Sorry," Stiles repeats.
"You said you saved someone you loved," Peter breathes, and slides back down to sitting, Chris goes with him, "to get..."
"Yeah," Stiles says, "but not yet."
"Not yet?" Chris asks, when it becomes apparent that Peter can't really seem to bring himself to continue this line of questioning. Too exhausted, Chris thinks, and he can fully understand the sentiment.
"I saved them, but it hasn't happened yet. When it does, the price has already been paid."
"How is that fair?" Peter huffs sardonically.
"Nothing is ever fair," Stiles tells them. "But it's okay."
"No." Chris says, because, how? How could anything like that ever be okay?
"Yes." Stiles returns, and the smile he offers is as gorgeous as the rising sun.
Chris wants to hate him for it.
Peter just snorts, shakes his head.
"Only you, Stiles."
Stiles grins beatifically at that, holds out his hand, and the apple flies into his palm with a small slap.
Peter is oddly wrung out by the time he gets home, he feels like he just endured watching Pack get tortured, for all that Stiles seemed fine in the end, and it really doesn't occur to him until he's already inside the house that his Alpha should've heard him, hell, any member of the Pack should've.
Laura is in the living room when he walks in, and she seems unimpressed when she looks at him, "You look like shit Uncle Peter."
He hums, throat more than a little scratchy, honestly it feels like someone took a chainsaw to it sometime within the last four hours. He walks away from her scrutiny to the kitchen for a cup of water. He can hear a few other heartbeats in the house, Talia, Derek, Laura, and Mikey. The twins have a soccer game, Arlow is probably there cheering for them, and keeping an eye on Cora, her sister may be human, but she is not, and 'were's don't cheat.
Or at least they try their damnedest not to, whatever.
Laura comes up behind him, asks, smirk in her voice, "So who's the lucky lady?"
And, wow. They really didn't hear him, did they? He wonders how that should make him feel, as it is he's just heinously tired.
"Don't have one," he tells her, his voice sounds no better than a rasp, he gulps down a cup of water while she snickers, and can't she smell it? The lingering dread and helplessness on his skin? He can, he wants a shower.
"Really? Because you always come home smelling like another person nowadays," two other people, he thinks, and one of them an Argent, they're kind of even maybe-friends, and he has no idea what to do with it, but it's happening nonetheless, "and all of my old dresses and corsets keep going missing-" she side-eyes him- "and you sound like you've been having some fun."
Really? This sounds fun? He feels, quite frankly, numb, and he doesn't want to have a conversation right now, not with her, not with Talia.
He finds himself missing the boy in the cage with his secrets and his smiles and all of his fucking sacrifice, he finds himself missing a man who had too much faith in his horrible family but who's doing better now.
A hummingbird heart and sun-soaked honey-tea eyes and smoke-spice meat, a stern-constant heart and sky-clear eyes and gun-oil gingersnaps.
It's an ache, loud enough to swallow him whole, all-encompassing.
He doesn't know what it is about all that, that makes him tell her:
"Yes, well. He's certainly a sight in an evening gown."
Her eyebrows raise in surprise, he carefully refills the cup and leaves her to her surprise. A shower, he thinks, then bed.
"Is your magic protecting this place?" Peter asks the next day, he brought cards this time, Stiles is winning, it's annoying. Then again, Stiles is always annoying. "Or is it the Nemeton?"
"How do you mean?" Stiles asks, furrowed brow, flicking a card out, it floats down, and, dammit. He's inordinately good at this game. He's not even trying. Brat.
"I roared, for hours, you screamed. And no one heard us. My Pack should have, my Alpha wouldn't have needed to hear it, to feel it through the Pack-bonds. So why didn't they?"
Chris, curious despite himself, and failing exceptionally at this game, anyway, sets his cards aside, "And didn't you say something, or your sister said something, about protecting a supernatural nexus during one of the meetings? That's the Nemeton, right? It's been two months, shouldn't they have noticed the change?"
"Apt observation, Chris. So, little one?"
Stiles regards them seriously, crawls closer to his bars on shaky legs, Peter growls a little as the scent of pain sours the air, Stiles rolls his eyes at him but it looks altogether too fond. He grunts when he manages to get to the edge of the stump, using his hands to drag his legs through the spaces on either side of a particular branch, semi-straddling it, his pale pink skirt rucked up oddly around him, his feet planting in the dirt. He weakly curls his toes into the ground, crumbling bits of soil creating a startling contrast to his pale, shiny scars.
He hums in thought as he wraps his arms around the bar in a pseudo-hug, his hair falling down in waves all around him. He's shivering with the pain of his movements, but he still looks incandescent like this, angelic and fragile. So fragile.
"I don't know," Stiles tells them honestly with a thoughtful shrug, "it could be the Nemeton's innate perception filter, which is why it's normally so hard to find, or it could've been my Spark protecting us. I mean, logically? I know I have nothing to fear from Talia or any of the Hales. Adversely, though, I have much to fear from the Argents."
Chris gives a wry little smile at that, tilts his head as if to say 'fair'.
"But instinctually, you two are my Pack, and there's a chance, especially considering how much duress I was in, that my Spark just... kept it between us."
Peter actually preens a bit, he likes the familiarity he has with Stiles and Chris, he likes the small Pack they make together, though they're Alpha-less, though he already has a Pack... There's something about this.
It feels more like home than anything he's ever had before in his life.
He doesn't know if that's more telling of his family or himself.
Chris is even smiling, like the thought makes him just as warm, but he still asks, "You don't know, though? Not for sure?"
"Not for sure, no. There's even the possibility it's both magics working in tandem. The only way to find out for sure is to go through it again," Peter growls outright, Stiles offers a quietly brittle smile that's honestly more of a grimace, "and I don't think anyone wants that."
"No," Chris and Peter both agree, vehemently, and in sync.
"A dress!" Stiles crows, and Chris blushes lightly.
He'd seen it, a cool, glossy, peach white gown with a sweetheart neckline and a sheer overlay with blue flower print, and all he'd thought of while looking at it was Stiles.
"About time you pitched in," Peter chirps, laying down on his back with one of his arms under his head, reading some old dusty looking book that appears to be in spanish, and seems less research and more entertainment, but could be either, knowing him.
"Hey, I bring food all the time," Chris protests, as Stiles' magic tugs the garment gently but eagerly out of his arms and the boy squeals with excitement, "and I don't have any nieces or sisters to steal from."
"It's gorgeous!" Stiles gasps, Peter harrumphing in the background, and mumbling something neither of them can hear before turning on his side, away from them both.
"Don't sulk," the boy chastises, throwing a random twig Peter's way, turning it into a butterfly once it's past the boundary, the insect pestering his face until the 'were has no choice but to stand just to escape it, "I adore every dress and corset I own. And I love you both for indulging me."
Peter freezes at that, and Chris does a little too, his heart skipping a beat. Stiles said it so easily, so sincerely, but that's something profound, and both men know it.
"Where do you put all of your dresses, anyway? It isn't as if you've got a closet somewhere in there." Peter comments after a pregnant pause, and Stiles beams at him, waggling his fingers.
"Oh, for- seriously?"
Stiles cackles, Chris snorts, and Peter shakes his head incredulously, swatting his book at the butterfly- which was still determined to annoy- and telling it 'Shoo', to no avail. Stiles just laughs harder.
Stiles was sitting in that spot he liked sometimes, straddling one of his cell-bars, feet digging into the earth, one of his hands absently kneading at scar-tissue as he ate the candied apple Chris had gotten for him from the fair Victoria had dragged him to.
He had had a moment where he'd wondered what it meant to be buying a gift for someone else while on a date with your girlfriend, and then he'd seen some abstract book, an amalgamation of spanish and french poetry, and he'd gotten that, too.
Peter had been pleasantly surprised to be given it, and had actually kissed him on the cheek which was... It was sweet, honestly. It should've been weird, but instead it just felt right, even better when Peter had grudgingly done it again at Stiles' request as thanks for his present.
"You said you were bitten, right?" he decides to ask, finally, because this is the third full moon they've spent together. Well, not really together, but knowing each other.
"Ye-sh," Stiles answers peeling off white chocolate and caramel and sprinkes and apple-skin messily with his teeth, Chris smiles helplessly as affection swells in his gut.
Peter looks up from his book, apparently wanting to give this his full attention. Chris wonders if he's been curious about this, too.
"A few days before I showed up here." Stiles tells them, gnawing savagely and getting his mouth covered in bits and peices of candied caramel.
"Have you turned, at all?" Peter chimes in, and, ah. Apparently he has.
"Mmm," Stiles hums, half-noncommittal, then, glint in his eye, "se~cret."
"Oh?" Peter scents the air, "You don't smell like a wolf."
"And the full-moon doesn't seem to affect you," Chris puts in.
Stiles shrugs, takes another bite while they narrow their eyes at him.
"I have a feeling," Peter finally concludes archly, "that he isn't going to tell us until it suits him. Brat."
Chris snorts, but agrees, and decides to go after Peter doggedly for translations of the book he gave him. It had been hilarious to learn how into foreign poetry Peter was, and that teasing somehow slid into liking it almost as much himself, especially when the man reads it to them out loud, because his voice is soft, and it lulls Stiles into a sleep-pliant quiet state, it makes the air thicker, and emotions clearer. It's always nice.
He doesn't get anywhere until Stiles starts whining that he's bored and Peter should entertain them, anyway, since he's the responsible adult. Chris makes some sort of indignant noise, but the smug grin Peter sends his way is almost worth it when he gives in and starts reading.
It's been awhile since they've had a meeting, the Argents and her Pack, but Talia can understand, somewhat. They used to have meetings yearly, as the land was shared between them, but after their matriarch dying and the disagreement regarding how the entreaty between three loyal Packs on her territory- that ended in disaster- had been handled, both the Argent regent and she herself had been... avoiding them.
It's in bad taste, and it needs to stop, this is her Pack's territory, and they have an armistice, a truce, with the Argents. It isn't something they can continue to ignore.
So she goes, with her husband as her Right and her little brother as her Left, Gerard bringing with him his son and his daughter.
And, as she and Gerard trade subtle insults and barbs and insinuations and whatever else passes for politics and the sharing of information, she notices a distinct... change?
It's subtle, but it's palpable.
Christopher Argent, he smells, well, he smells like Peter, or at least like what Peter's been smelling of lately. And the attentive soldier that he was is still there, but he seems so much less in line with his father somehow. He looks Talia in the eye and there's shame, familiarity, determination, his eyes slide right past Gerard and there's always a lingering hint of actual disgust.
When Peter snarks, Chris fights smiling; when Chris deigns to speak, as he is a man of few words, Peter actually listens, pays attention. At one point Chris says something under his breath, barely there, about how Peter should save some of the candy he- so rudely Kate had sneered- had brought for someone, and Peter had- uncharacteristically for him on any normal occasion, let alone during a meeting with hunters- snorted, and grinned something full, bright, honest, and real.
He set aside the candy.
It dawns on Talia, with no small amount of horror, that the cross-dressing man Peter's been dating may well be Chris Argent. Which would explain why he's never brought him home.
But, then, she sees how Chris is interacting with his family, now. And it seems like they should notice, there's such a huge divide there that wasn't there before. Chris' eyes go dark when the 'were's are insulted, and his fists clench, Peter's eyes soften, he shakes his head minutely, and Chris visibly takes a controlled breath.
Kate makes a smarmy comment about the code, and Chris looks at her like he's never seen her before in his life, like he never wants to again. Gerard barely has to speak before Chris begins to look sick to his stomach, and Peter, oddly, looks like he wants to grab Chris and run away with him.
At the very end, as the other two walk away, Chris stays for a beat, and he looks at Talia, he looks at Arlow, then Peter, and he swallows, thick and hard.
"I'm so... How didn't I notice?" He sounds hollowed out, exhausted, devastated.
"They're your family, Chris," Peter tells him, and his voice is sweet, teased soothing around the edges with sympathy and understanding and concern. She's never seen those qualities in her baby brother, or at least, not all at once, not this concentrated.
"I'm sorry. I'm just. I'm so sorry."
And Peter smiles at him, like it aches, and for a second, Talia actually feels her heart breaking.
"I know," Peter murmurs, squeezes the other man's shoulder, "I know."
"He smelled like you," she tells him later, much later. He just gives her a sharp look, assesses, for a moment, what his options are.
Then he nods.
"He's a good man," Peter says, "an idiot, with too many weaknesses, but. A good man."
"I see," she says, and when he walks away, she lets him.
She thinks of how earnest Chris was when he apologized, thinks of how Peter looked about ten seconds away from kidnapping what would most likely be a willing victim, how kind his voice was directed at the other man, and then thinks:
Maybe stealing an Argent wouldn't be such a bad idea at all.
In a way, he thinks, Stiles prepared him for this. So did Peter. Normally he shrugs off the micro-aggression, doesn't pay too close attention to his family's extra-curricular activities. But he's nothing less than a Hunter, and he has always been an observant man.
It took Stiles to open his eyes to the faults in their reasoning. It took Peter to realize how really wrong they can all be, how much they've become the monsters.
And as humans, mostly sane, mostly care-free, trained impeccably, none of them have any excuse.
Just a Code that they rape and abuse and twist into some unfathomable device that allows for... For a man like his father killing a child.
And he knows that before he met Stiles, before he befriended Peter, he wouldn't have tracked the man, wouldn't have second guessed a normal hunt. Just another sunday. He would've ignored his gut feeling and let it ride, let his father go slay the 'mutts'. You do what you gotta do.
But that kid, maybe nine, maybe less, she had been. Blonde pigtails and wide blue eyes and just a little selfish, just a little vain, born a kanima though she was born to wolves. And it hadn't been her fault, what she'd done, and she'd been traumatized after, horrified, her parents had just reacted to the threat to their baby girl, which, unfortunately, had been an Argent.
But they'd settled it, killed the previous Master, made the next one someone in the Pack, someone trusted, sent the girl to therapy, and helped her.
It was already done.
So to have her whole Pack slaughtered in front of her, to be berated that it was her fault the entire time, and then literally, literally cut in half.
Chris he'd- he'd tried to stop it, but he didn't get there in time. More than five men, is what it took, to restrain him, keep him at bay. And then his father, covered in gore and sin and... He'd just looked at Chris like he was disappointed.
Chris came from that man. Was trained by him, by the woman he fucked and what kind of woman was she anyway? Was this what it amounted to? Is this. Is this who he was?
How many people had he killed for them?
How many people would he have?
And how many were innocent, like that little girl?
Her blood might as well be on his hands too, add it to everything else, and there was so much, too much, now that it was laid out for him like this.
God, he had to. He had to get out. He needed, he needed Stiles.
He needed Peter.
"Go to the Hales," Stiles tells him urgently, pressing against his bars with a grim expression on his face, "ask for sanctuary. Please, Chris. They'll kill you, they'll kill you."
And they would, they will, if they find out that he isn't. But, still, he can't. He-
"I know. Oh, Chris. I'll be with you, I will. I always will. But you have to go now, my love. Go."
Stiles is pleading now, Hands in white-knuckle grips around wood that will never bend for him, and the urgency in his voice, the way his eyes are shining with unshed tears and this naked need to comfort that he can't even fulfill, that's what finally decides him.
So he goes.
Peter's felt it all day. Wrong-footed, anxious, upset. He hasn't the faintest idea why. Nearly slashed Laura's throat out for insinuating that he's having 'boy trouble', but she may well be right. He could be feeling something from Stiles or Chris, his bonds with them are weaker since he's only just a Beta, but they're there, and more present than anyone's in his mind, excepting Talia, of course.
So he could be getting by-proxy whump from either of them, but it's been a busy day today, and he hasn't had a chance to visit the Nemeton- which is, at this point, just a decorative birdcage with a possible pocket-dimension full of dresses and corsets and sweets, because of a certain lovable brat- so, without any tangible cause, he can't really help them or himself at the moment.
It's late afternoon when the feeling gets... closer.
They're all at the dinner table and suddenly his wolf is prowling to the surface, and all the anxiety ratchets up to terror and numbness and an awful sort of self-loathing that mocks and teases and begs for pain. Suddenly he feels like razing the earth, like howling, like cursing obscenities in every language he knows, and that killing rage just increases ten-fold when he smells him.
Ginger and gun oil, freshly cut grass and rain. He smells like fucking despair.
Everyone in the room has their eyes on him, and Peter can barely hear his own steady growl over Chris' heartbeat, so much quicker and dissonant than it should be.
"Peter?" Talia asks, but it's too faint to his ears, and not fucking important right now. His fork clatters against his plate and his chair shatters with the intensity of him vaulting out of it, claws and teeth and snarl.
He's clear to the door in a second, and crossing the gravel driveway in another two.
Sunken blue eyes look into his, so full of horror and nightmares and pain that it actually makes Peter freeze. Because he smells like blood, too, like Stiles, faintly, and like wolfsbane. His heart stops for a beat, plummets, and all he can think is:
Because something horrible must've happened, for him to smell like that, and come here. The only reason he would was if, if Stiles told him to.
"God, Chris," he breathes, and the hunter looks about ten seconds away from passing out where he stands, so Peter just goes to him. It's the most natural thing in the world to haul the other man into his arms and just hold him.
"What'd they do to you, baby?"
"She was just a kid," Chris murmurs, and it sounds like a carved out piece of flesh, the flayed meat of his soul, offered in monotone because if he puts any more emotion into that sickening, vile truth, it'll break him, "I tried, but I didn't, and I saw her die. She was just a kid. Just a fucking kid, Peter."
Peter swallows the lump in his throat, he feels Chris' arms, and they're a fleeting impression, until they're crushing, hands fisting into his shirt and arms a vice as Chris lets out a broken sob into his chest and it's all Peter can do to just hold him.
Talia is surprised to find them, her brother curled protectively around this man as he seems to break down in his arms, both of them rocking subtly, Peter hushing Chris like he's a pup. She only has a moment to wonder at it before teary-bright blue eyes light on her and Chris squeezes Peter one more time before forcing him to let him go.
Then the man goes to her, and easy as anything, tear stains still plain on his cheeks, he kneels down before her. Hands crossed behind his back, knees hip-width apart, throat bared, eyes downcast, the perfect picture of prey and submission. His voice is gravel-rough, but somehow still even when he says:
"I swear fealty to you Alpha Hale, and loyalty to your Pack. I hereby formally request sanctuary in your home."
She's shocked, honestly, then there's Peter, and he looks just as startled, but only for a moment, before his eyes lock with hers, and he seems grim and determined and, something more, dark-fire, protective-fierce. He takes a deep breath and, eyes never leaving hers, walks steadily to Chris' side, and kneels down gracefully, only then does he look down. His hand reaching immediately to lace with Chris'.
Chris' head snaps up, and he looks at Peter wide-eyed, amazed, probably never expecting such a show of solidarity, to be honest, Talia wasn't expecting it either.
Peter smiles at him, and it's a cute, impish thing, not something she's ever seen on his face before, but Chris apparently has because he bursts out laughing.
"No. We're trying to be serious here! Only Stiles can make that face, what're you even doing?"
"Excuse you, I do a perfect impersonation."
"Sweet wolf, you're deceiving yourself."
"Sweet wolf?" Talia inquires, since they've apparently forgotten all sense of formality, let alone the fact that she's still here.
Chris cringes, and Peter laughs, "Stiles would've thrown a twig at you, no one's allowed to call me that but him."
"It's his fault I call you that at all," Chris grumbles, before turning back to Talia. "It's a... nickname." He manages to answer, though there's a blush steadily creeping up his cheeks.
"And it's far better than marshmallow," Peter says haughtily, completely and utterly fond. Chris snorts.
Talia is starting to feel extremely curious about this Stiles, but, first things first.
"Chris Argent, I accept your fealty and grant you sanctuary," and just like that, the solemnity is back, "may I ask who I am protecting you from?"
His eyes darken.
"My family," he says.
The relief on Stiles' face was plain when he saw Peter sauntering up to his cage with Chris in tow.
"Chris!" He grins, full and wide and so, so grateful, "Are you okay? Did it work? Is everyth-"
"I took your advice," Chris interrupts, chuckling, "and I got sanctuary, everything's fine, Stiles."
"Thank god. So you're- you're okay?"
"I'm better," he tells him, and really what more could you expect, after what he's been through? Peter's overtaken, though, by the scent of relief from Stiles that washes over them, curls around them almost like a hug. He's half-tempted to smile.
"Good, that's so good, my love."
Chris blushes, Peter cocks an eyebrow, but doesn't comment. He's noticed their relationships, how very close they've gotten. Not just between he and Chris, not just between Stiles and Chris, but between Stiles and himself, between all three of them. It feels incredibly new, different and fragile and defiant, somehow.
And Stiles has already said he loves them.
"What about you?"
Stiles laughs, a happy, silvery, clear sort of sound, "How are you doing? Are you alright? You and Chris haven't been fighting have you?"
"No, sweetheart," Peter drawls, "the hunter and the werewolf have gotten along just perfectly."
"Except he won't read me poetry in front of his family," Chris mock pouts, Peter narrows his eyes at him.
"Aw, Peter, baby," Stiles coos, delighted, "are you embarrassed?"
"I hate you both," Peter sniffs, unimpressed.
"Nope," Stiles tells him with all the certainty of a child about to get their way in everything because they've got the whole world wrapped around their little finger, "You love us!"
Peter looks at him hard for a moment, and decides he's already too far gone, it doesn't even matter. He'd kill for both of them, hell, he would've been willing to give up his Pack for Chris' safety last night.
"Yes," he says, honest and sure, because it is truth, it has been for a while now. "Yes, I do."
Stiles looks smug, Chris looks honestly surprised for a beat, awed for another, then he just takes Peter's hand and squeezes it.
"I love you, too, Sweet wolf," Stiles says, sincere and smiling.
"Me three," Chris chimes, soft and gruff and steady.
This. It feels like it means something. It feels like it means everything.
It's terrifying and freeing and something else entirely.
It annoys Peter greatly, and at the same time, he's never felt this whole in his entire life. So he breathes, he nods, and decides that not knowing the outcome might just be fine, as long as he has these two with him.
And he smiles.
Chris settles into her family surprisingly well, and he brings out a side of Peter she's never really seen before, a side none of them have.
Laura's asked twelve times when he's going to show them how gorgeous he is in all of her second-hand dresses, and whenever she does, the two men just share a look like they've got some sort of hidden, inside joke.
Talia overheard them once, purely accidental, she swears. She wasn't stalking them at all.
"Why do they think we're dating?" Chris had asked, quiet, a little amused, a little unsure. Tentative.
"Do you remember that day, when Stiles..." Peter can't seem to make himself finish the sentence, and even Chris looks a little haunted when he nods.
"Well. You've already seen how insensitive Laura can be," Chris barks out a laugh, nods again, "and she thought my sore throat and my walks and her missing dresses meant I was wooing a woman. She confronted me after-- so I told her it was a man and walked away."
"Ah. Huh. We kind of do woo Stiles, don't we?"
"Some," Peter admits, slight grin. "I'm better at it."
"You have access to more women, fashion-sense, and clothing. I maintain that you're cheating. Besides... I don't really think it's what we give him that matters."
Peter hums, considers, then, "You're right. He already loved and trusted us both a completely insane amount before we even met him. Trusted us with his life on the very first day."
"He'll never tell us why, if we ask, will he?"
"No. But he won't lie either, he'll just say-"
"- that it's a secret."
"We should take him some of your sister's pie."
"Yes, we should."
And then they'd stolen nearly half of the pie she'd baked that morning and run off into the Preserve. How she lost them, exactly, she'll never know. But what she does know, is this.
Stiles is their inside joke, he's the one who causes the two men to steal sweets and dresses and take walks for most of the day, he may well be the reason they're so comfortable around each other, and whatever notion the two men have that they're anything but dating is laughable in the face of what she's witnessed of their relationship.
But she kind of wonders if they're dating Stiles, too. Just- the way they talk about him...
And as she watches Chris play with her youngest, and offer sound, good advice to her eldest, and be protective and kind if a little rough around the edges, as she watches him, despite his nightmares and ghosts, fold almost seamlessly into the Pack, as she watches him pull smiles and jokes and poetry out of Peter, she thinks:
Maybe a mystery man who likes to cross-dress, if he is indeed the orchestrator of this as she suspects, would be a wonderful addition to her Pack.
Lord knows Chris was, and is, and will most likely continue to be so.
"Stiles?" Peter calls out to him, trying to parse the scent in the air, it smells like Stiles, but it's... muted. Muddied. Teased just a little sour at the edges.
Stiles is curled up in the middle of the Nemeton, in fetal position, the dress he's wearing rucked up in odd places like he was trying to take it off but gave up at some point during the process. He's... sweaty, and his hair, which is almost always smooth and glossy and put together in some extravagant hair-style that makes no real sense but looks charming anyway, or falling down in soft curling pools around his hips, looks frazzled and unkempt.
His cheeks are dark red in a way the might be beautiful, enticing, under any other circumstance, but is just worrisome, now, considering how much paler he is everywhere else, oatmeal instead of milk.
Long eyelashes flutter, but his eyes don't open all the way, pretty fingers twitch, pale, chapped lips are slightly parted as he pants out too-fast breaths, his heartbeat too slow.
"Stiles!" He calls out more urgently.
Chris isn't here yet, Laura had wanted to finish their discussion on war-strategies before taking his walk, so Chris had told Peter to go ahead, only Chris would be much better with this, Peter's sure, and the 'were is currently at a loss for what the fuck to do.
He fucking detests being at a loss for what to do.
"Hot," Stile murmurs weakly as his brow furrows, he sounds slurred as he continues, "Wh'zzit sso hot?"
But it's not. It's cool today.
"I don't know, little one," he tells him, pressing his hands against the boundary that keeps them from him, "have you been drinking the water we've been bringing you?"
"Ssssoo thirsty," Stiles breathes, Peter smiles softly at him, half terrified.
"Then drink something. You've got to have water and juice in that little black hole of yours, hmm, baby?"
"Farrrr, Peter, 's'tuh, tu- Mmm." He's shaking now, light little tremors rolling all throughout his body, and then Peter sees it, as Stiles' head lolls just a little to the side, black-stick goo, running in a tiny rivulet down his ear.
His blood runs cold. Time stops. Every ounce of his being tunnels toward that sight, and he feels like weeping, like ripping the world to shreds.
"Stiles. No, please..." It takes him more than a second, to get a hold of himself. It's the first time since he was five he actually has to think about the mantra, actually has to recite it in his head, has to control his breathing so consciously.
He closes his eyes, bows his head, "Baby, you're gonna be okay, alright? You're gonna be okay."
He's reassuring himself more than Stiles, and he knows it, but something, something in what he said or the way he said it must've pulled Stiles up, just a bit, out of his stupor.
"Peter," and it's so quiet-soft, it's too small in his mouth, "nie płacz, słodki wilku, kocham cię; nie płacz, nie płacz, nie płukk, ni- ni, mmm, shh..."
"Stiles?" Peter croaks, and he doesn't know what the boy said, vaguely recalls him telling them Polish was his first language, and it sounded sweet, whatever it was, but his worry is just ratcheting up, now.
He slides down to his knees, tries to think through this, doesn't know how, doesn't even have any idea what's wrong, can barely fucking think-
"Peter? Stiles? What's... Stiles." There's Chris, gliding right up to them, breath hitched at the sight, "Fuck. What's wrong with him?"
"I don't know," Peter breathes.
"...kocham..." Stiles murmurs.
"We need to tell Talia," Chris decides, face gone pale because the black gunk is trailing out of Stiles' nose, now, too, "please Peter," Chris is shaking his shoulder, "our Alpha will know what this is, she has to."
"I'm not leaving him," Peter says, shaking, "I can't."
Chris whines in the back of his throat, but Peter knows he understands. The man leaves him with a fleeting kiss on his cheek and runs.
Talia doesn't expect Chris to come running back to the Pack house smelling of such intense fear, honestly, she didn't expect him to come back at all for hours, he and Peter are always out in the Preserve for most of the day, barring whatever time the two of them inevitably must have on retainer for work.
So whatever caused this, really doesn't bode well.
He barges into her study with his heart thudding hard in his chest, and his breath coming at an exerted rasp, "Please," he gasps, "you have to help him."
"What's going on? Is it Peter? Hunters?"
"No, I don't know. It's- please, Talia," and god, does he sound desperate. "It's Stiles."
"Okay," she says, before she even has to think about it, "take me to him."
"Thank you, Alpha."
For a moment, just a moment, she stills. The Pack-bond snaps into place as easy as breathing, and with his, Peter's is so much clearer. They're both terrified. And then he's got her hand in his and he's dragging her forward in a run.
"Sorry, I don't think you'll be able to- without contact. So far it's just been Peter and I, able to- just, bear with me?"
She nods an understanding, keeps pace with him easily, going through the Preserve, down a frankly familiar path, but for a moment, for a moment she can't honestly remember why it's familiar.
And then it hits her.
Chris is actually a little worried that whatever was keeping her out would continue, even with the physical contact, but, fortunately, they both managed to get through to the clearing. Peter still kneeling at the boundary where he left him, shaking, and Stiles still curled up, only he's coughing, now, bits of black-bile bubbling out of his mouth.
"He's getting worse," Peter says, and he sounds so horribly raw that Chris just lets go of one very stunned Talia and rushes over to him. By the time Chris has Peter wrapped in his arms, Talia's snapped out of her stupor and rushing forward.
"Why aren't you-" she sounds outraged, until she smacks straight into the boundary and only manages not to fall flat on her ass because of her inherent grace. "What the hell."
"Neither of us have been able to get past it," Chris tells her as Peter actually turns into his embrace, and presses them close, the pressure of his arms profound enough to make his ribs creak, and the sheer vulnerability in Peter turning his head into Chris' throat in order to breathe hits him hard, knocks him breathless, nestles with the dread settled deep in his heart, "not since we've known him."
"He said it was payment for a sacrifice," Peter grits out.
Talia looks at them, a huddled mass of uncontrolled fright and love for the person in the cage, just beyond the barrier, and nods, short, decisive.
"We're going to-" but she's cut off by a scream, loud and piercing.
Talia watches in shocked astonishment as the boy, small frame, big lungs, shrieks, so loud the trees almost shake, and then they do shake, because Peter's howling, and it kills her, that sound, heartbreak and grief and fear and love and want and need and raw terror.
Her little brother, always so hard pressed to feel, always someone to watch out for, too clever, too willing to abandon ethics.
She presses a trembling hand against her mouth, swallowing the gasp of pain she feels as the sounds mingle like thunder in the sky, ceaseless, spinning, making her dizzy and sick with it.
Then it cuts off abruptly, too fast and abrupt, and Talia's eyes snap open, light on the boy, fierce, murderously sharp gaze latched perilously onto hers.
Her breath catches, those eyes pinning her like an insect, they flay her and delve into her soul, she's never felt so much... She'd been a Beta first, inherited the Alpha power from her father, and even his presence wasn't so powerful and dominating as this.
She doesn't understand what he's said, but she knows an answer needs to be given, so she lets her instincts ride, lets her wolf surface, lets it answer for her.
Barely a breath, but enough, must be because a candy-glossed black coated mouth, teeth, smiles at her, mischief sparkling coyly in the boy's eyes.
His skin shimmers, glints, shifts. Feathers, not fur, beak instead of snout, wings instead of paws. And he's getting small, so very, very small. His head and the outside of his wings are turquoise, like fish-scales, his eyes tiny black beads, his beak a sharp grey pointed little thing, and his belly chestnut feathery fluff, inner wings and tail feathers almost pink.
In the middle of the giant birdcage, in the middle of the Nemeton, so fragile, diminutive, yet the ancient magic surges to swell around him, flirting around his soul as his little wingbeats fill the air, and that teensy-weensy bird may well be, in this moment, the most powerful thing within a 100 mile radius, at least.
"A hummingbird," Peter breathes, and then laughs like he can't even help himself, Chris is right there with him, giddy and manic.
"Oh, Bijou," Chris says faintly, no small amount of awe in his voice, "look at you."
"You're beautiful, baby."
And Stiles actually, literally, preens. Then he flies up, swooping arcs, so fast he's barely a blur, high enough that looking at him means squinting, and then back down, slower, until he's circling the cage at a tranquil pace.
With a chirp he heads toward the boundary, the invisible wall that circles his prison, drags his wing against it, circles and circles until there's a pulse in Talia's bones, like the breaking of a dam, and just like that the hummingbird speeds out, and the Nemeton shudders, groans, before becoming just a stump again.
The bird chitters, sings, fucking cheers, and Talia has no idea how long he's been trapped there, but the overwhelming joy bubbling up from Chris and Peter is almost insurmountable, that is, until she feels it- like a pop.
Another Pack-bond, strong, intense, blue-hot fire tempered by nothing, boiling in her veins in a good way, blooming in her heart, a song of peace and protectiveness, and it's so keenly woven with Peter and Chris' bonds, all three of them braided together inseparable.
She's never felt Peter as strongly before, his emotions always far more muted and dulled to her senses, and it always worried her. Now her bond with him, with the three of them, is stronger than her bonds with any of her other Beta's.
All she can really do, as Chris and Peter jump up to chase after Stiles, both grinning like love-sick fools, is smile with them.
She has no idea what will come next, and she's never seen a 'were quite like this before, but the warmth in her chest at seeing her brother open and free and happy.
Well, it might just be worth it.
Peter feels elated, running after him, wanting to feel, taste, touch, know in close proximity. Stiles leads them, Chris running just a mite slower, and Peter running supernaturally fast, and the hummingbird a blur ahead of them, to the Pack house.
And then he stops, going in energetic circles until they catch up.
There's a shift, a press in the air, and the crack of reshaping bones, and suddenly there's a naked boy, all burns from the tips of his thighs down, falling into his arms. He catches him easy as breathing.
"Stiles," he pants, delighted. The boy laughs, glee and joy and happiness bursting like sunshine in the sound as he wraps his arms around Peter's neck.
"I'm free!" He crows, and then Peter feels one arm uncurl enough to drag an exhausted giggling Chris into this half-carry half-hug, until he's sandwiched in both of their arms, with one arm around either of their necks, "I'm free!" He laughs.
"Little one," Peter coos, and he nuzzles into his neck, smelling mouth watering roast, honeyed-hickory, thyme and sage, "my little one."
"I've got you," Chris says as he presses them all impossibly closer, planting a kiss on Stiles' temple, "I've got both of you."
"Mmm," Stiles hums, then, perfect and sincere and beautiful, he kisses Chris, sound and lingering, with just the slightest flick of tongue, Chris moans, low, pleased, and Peter shudders at the sound. They part breathless, and then Stiles turns to him, eyes a little dazed, laps at the seam of his lips, and Peter opens for him, groans at the taste of warmth and sugar-sweet and oak and hope-burn, swallows the whimper Stiles makes when he nips at the boy's lower lip.
When they pull apart, Stiles is flushed and heaving and the musk of arousal is thick, heavy in the air between them. Peter's eyes linger on the pink of the boy's cheeks before flitting to Chris, a silent demand in them that Chris meets fervently, happily, lunging across the distance to capture Peter's lips with his, a filthy, sensuous, urgent thing.
And then Laura comes out of the house, and shrieks, high pitched and fraught with girlish horror.
"Oh my- Uncle Peter! Chris! What're you? And why is there- jesus christ he's naked! Where's mom? Mom!?"
Stiles is beaming like it's the best thing in the universe, like he doesn't have a care in the fucking world, and hell, Chris, and Peter aren't doing much better.
"Someone get me a dress!" He cackles, bright, giddy, childish glee, "And food! Seriously, all the food. I'm a fucking hummingbird, do you know how much sustenance I require, gallons upon gallons of nectar, seriously, no lie."
"I'll get on the dress," Peter agrees amiably, plopping a sloppy kiss onto Stiles' collarbone and sauntering into the house, leaving a squawking Laura in his wake.
"And I'll get on the food," he hears Chris murmur into Stiles' hair as he carries him inside to the dining room.
"Mom," Laura groans plaintively when Talia finally walks up to the house, having elected to walk at a sedate pace after the exhaustive day she's had, although, in retrospect, it was actually pretty anticlimactic.
"Haven't you ever heard of polyamory, sweetie?" She teases, sacharine.
"Yeah, but I don't need to see it! And isn't their boyfriend a little young?"
"From what I can tell, he might be older than any of us. And you're a wolf, daughter, privacy is not a construct we are ever given with our senses."
She makes gagging noises even as she retreats back inside to snoop, and Talia shakes her head at her daughter, wondering whenever the maturity will come, as she walks in after her.
"He's so happy," Laura says softly, one late afternoon, around three weeks after Stiles joined them. And it's telling, Talia thinks, that she even has to say it, and that they both know who she's talking about.
Because he wasn't happy before, so far from that the dichotomy is almost frightening. And, Talia knows, part of it is because he's her Left Hand, because of the things he has to do in order to secure their safety, his amorality and his manipulative personality and his penchant for mildly sociopathic ideals, part of it was because of her inability to strengthen their Pack-bond, and part of it may have been just how lonely it all made him.
She should've known, her little brother, over achiever, always so strong, would never dare show his fragility to anyone out of pure rebellion, and he can be... an acquired taste. She should've known that his loneliness, his sadness, his troubles and weaknesses, he'd hide them all under sarcasm and responsability and cruelty, because you have to lash out, don't you? When you're the only one who has your back in a Pack, a family, that should...
They failed him, in that regard. Talia especially.
But she can see now, what they had meant, loves to a completely insane extent.
Because that's Stiles, he's just as sarcastic as Peter, just as burdened with responsability as both Peter and Chris, and more lovingly devoted and faithful than all of her Pack combined. He's barely met any of them, with the exception of her little brother and the hunter, and yet it's already so blindingly obvious that he'd die for, kill for, any of them.
And he's clever, more so than Peter, sometimes, or at least in a different way, and so, so wise.
He loves them, Chris and Peter, deeply and unconditionally.
She doesn't think it would ever come to something so horrible, considering, but she's quite sure, if either of his lovers tried to kill him, he'd... close his eyes, maybe even smile. And there's something about that, so pure, raw, dangerous, beautiful.
It's like staring into a star, it's so blinding, so bright, so much.
And it winds Peter and Chris around him, around each other, because it's impossible not to trust something like that, there can be no doubt in the face of it, it's unashamed and immaculate and sincere.
Peter, he, she's seen him, naturally, like he wouldn't be the first Beta to bitch and moan about having to take away another's pain before, just naturally snake his hand onto Stiles' leg under the boy's skirt, and let whatever ache comes with those scars on his legs paint black spiderwebs up his arm.
Because he cares, he loves him back, and he hates seeing his boy in pain.
And if Stiles pesters, and it takes very little pestering, honestly, Peter reads spanish and french poetry aloud, translates as he goes, adds commentary. They play chess and card games, they discuss strategies and supernatural politics and the psychology behind hunters and Chris' gun consulting and Peter's obscure antiquities business. The three of them will talk for hours with varying degrees of seriousness, and Peter smiles, he laughs and he jokes and he is warm and comforting and sweet toward the both of them.
Not to mention, even, how kind of sickening it is to watch both Chris and Peter shower Stiles with dresses and corsets and sweets, it's not even like the boy asks for them, she thinks the two men are just incorrigably whipped, both soft and weak to the face of delight Stiles always wears upon recieving any gift, and the hugs, the cuddling the three of them do, like they're absolutely starved for it.
And maybe they are, they've known each other for about four months, after all, Stiles having been trapped behind that odd magical barrier the entire time.
Whenever she asks, Stiles just absently tells her it's got to do with secrets and waves her off, Peter and Chris always end up wearing fond smiles at that and... she decides to leave it.
She hasn't been the best big sister. She hasn't been the best Alpha, but maybe. Maybe she'll do better, now, now she knows.
Now she's seen.
And how on earth do you convey all that into words?
So instead she says, "Yeah, yeah, he is."
An awful noise fills the air, as smoke shifts, heavy and cloying around the house.
This is it, Stiles knows, swallowing, closing his eyes. Finally. Everything he's done, all of it led to this moment. He looks at the bodies beside him, at Chris who is stoic and timid, brave and terrified, at Peter who is brusque and lonely, intelligent and pessimistic, jaded.
Oh, how he loves them.
He aches with it.
But neither of them will, or can wake. Their minds are soaked and fevered with a slap-stick sort of sleeping spell, and the smoke which is making the air around them black and wretched probably isn't helping any.
His legs are weak, useless things, but his magic is strong, magnificent, unadulterated power, and he wields it like a battle-ax, now, or perhaps, wistfully, a baseball bat, as he lets skin shift down, making him minute, feathered, fast.
'WAKE UP!' He shrieks into their minds, even as he dilutes the wolfsbane in the fire with his Spark, casts away the mountain ash, presses his determinition into the bonds that connect him to Pack, connect him to the two men he loves most in the world, and he screams:
Ah. There they are, those eyes, blue and clear, if a little dazed, two pairs utterly flummoxed, and then finally, truly, alert. Panicked.
And that's enough, this will be enough.
He's done it, mostly, and the next part? Well. That would be easy. He's already paid the price, after all.
The hummingbird tugs on Peter's ear with his beak, nips at Chris' fingers, begging them to follow him. No time left to waste.
It takes seven minutes to carry everyone out, Stiles flying in aggressive circles, leading them to whoever was in the most need. They trust him, follow him, ignoring the magma-burn against their skin, Peter unhealing because of the wolfsbane and Chris so terribly human.
By the time the two men carry Talia and Arlow out, the Pack is just beginning to wake, Laura and Derek the only two absent, both attending a late basketball game tonight, but the fire is sure to bring them home quickly.
"Fuck," Peter breathes, looking at Chris, his arm shiny and pussed, fabric of his sleep-shirt sticking to the fucked up skin, "Chris."
"You aren't doing any better, Darling," the man says with a hint of smile, Peter chokes on a weak laugh and looks around, Talia's eyes fluttering open.
"Everyone alright?" Peter calls, Cora groans, but lifts a shaky thumbs up, Cat stifles a gasp beside her.
"What- what happened?" The girl asks tremulously.
Stiles, having flitted around and checked all of their wounds to his satisfaction, shifts again, human, naked, gorgeous even covered in soot and char as he is.
"Kate Argent," he answers, Chris takes in a hissing breath, "and Gerard."
He shakes his head, looks the Pack over once more, before crawling to his lovers, he puts a hand over their hearts and smiles something sweet and sad and unfathomable at them. Then there's this pulse, an energy, a light, a vibration, and the pain, the burns, they're all suddenly knitting together, charcoal butterflies peeling off of their injured skin to reveal perfect, healthy flesh.
Then Stiles winces, breathes in sharp, grasps his scarred legs and groans.
Peter has him in his arms immediately, "How did you-"
"-I told you," Stiles says, and it sounds wet, a little pained, "I made this sacrifice," he squeezes his own legs, looks up at Peter with shiny eyes, then glances at Chris with a shaky smile, "to protect the people I love."
"No." Chris murmurs, placing a gentle hand against a pinkened mottled calf, "Why?"
Stiles laughs, "For you. Always, I was always going to do this for you."
"Baby," Peter sighs, "you're such an idiot."
"Mmm," Stiles hums in what seems like agreement.
It takes hours for the sleeping spells to fully wear off of the others, and by then Derek and Laura have come back, and the police are surrounding them, taking statements, while firemen try to get the worst of the fire out.
Everyone keeps saying how lucky they all are, but they all know that luck has next to nothing to do with it.
Talia's come by to check on Stiles twice, and say thank you's, over and over, half religiously. Stiles just waves her off, and says, "Don't thank me. Help me make sure this never happens to our Pack again. They went too far, their treaty, their Code, it doesn't cover this. Promise me you won't let this go, that you'll do something about it?"
"I promise you, Stiles. I swear."
"And talk to Derek."
A quizzical look, but, nevertheless, an acquiescing nod.
"Chris," Stiles warns, leaning heavily against his lovers, wrapped in a shock blanket, but otherwise unharmed, his pain being leeched ardently by Peter, "your father and your sister won't survive this."
"I know," he says quietly.
"Will you be okay?" Stiles asks, headbutting his shoulder.
Stiles grins up at him, "As long as I've got you two."
Chris kisses his temple, Peter chuckles softly and wraps his arms more securely around the both of them.
"Then I'll be fine," Chris tells him, and Peter locks eyes with him over Stiles' head, smiles soft, fond, exhausted.
"As will I," the 'were murmurs, and Chris smiles back.
"My marshmallows," Stiles crows, squeezing them, and Peter barks a laugh, surprised and a little hysterical, Chris starts snickering despite himself.
Things will have to happen, now, so many things, but they'll be alright.
Together they'll be perfect.
Chris is sitting at the dining table in their apartment field-stripping his weapons, Stiles sitting with his legs curled under him on the kitchen floor wearing a burgundy velvet corset in lieu of a shirt, worn pale pink jeans, with his long hair tied back in a loose pony-tail eating raspberry ice-cream out of the carton and basking in whatever cool air the fridge has to offer, despite what leaving it open might be doing to their food supply. But their air-conditioner is broken and Stiles does not take to the heat well, at all, so Chris is opting to let it go.
Chris, admittedly, is not doing much better, but his ire at the weather and the sweat pooling down his spine is tempered somewhat by the methodical meditation that comes with taking his guns apart and putting them back together cleaner than anything.
Peter, of course, is lounging like a cat on the couch in nothing but jeans, which are unbuttoned and riding low in a frankly ludicrous way.
The stifling hot air, and the silence is broken when Peter finally drawls, "I know how you did it."
That catches Chris' attention, and he pauses what he's doing to listen. Stiles doesn't seem to mind, head leaning back against one of the fridge-shelves, eyes closed, spooning ice cream into his mouth blindly.
"I know how you knew about Kate and Gerard, about the fire, and, even, about what Deucalion was planning." Peter sing-songs, and Chris is really intrigued now, because no one has been able to figure out Stiles' secret yet, and they've all guessed. Cora, Cat, Shy, and Laura even have bets going. Talia probably has a bid somewhere in there, though she'd never say it out loud, since gambling is undignified.
"So?" Chris ends up asking gruffly when the melodramatic 'pause for effect' has gone on too long, "How?"
"Time travel!" Peter crows, and Chris snorts.
"Wow," Stiles says, conceding, "Yeah. I can't believe it took you that long. Seriously, I was expecting one or both of you to realize within a month at most, but it's taken you two years. And, just so you know, at one point I stopped keeping it secret for the sake of keeping the mission on task, the timelines in line, and started keeping it secret just to fuck with you."
Peter freezes, staring at Stiles in shock, Chris is in pretty much exactly the same state. They're both gaping at the boy, who just nonchalantly spoons another heap of melting ice-cream into his mouth, innocent as anything.
"I was joking," the 'were breathes faintly.
"Really?" Stiles asks, cracking an eye open to peer at them, upon noticing their startled expressions he chuckles softly, shaking his head, "Well, you got me. So. Congrats."
"Time travel?" Chris has to ask, eyebrows climbing to his hairline, just to be sure.
"Yep," Stiles grins, popping the p, his spoon, dripping with half melted ice cream points at Peter and Chris in turn as he explains: "Your family died in that fire Kate set and you went feral, got killed, resurrected yourself, and still managed to be a psychopath, albeit with just a tad more sanity; you ended up a widowed single father until your daughter died, and then you kinda just took her 'were boyfriend and skedaddled to France until shit really started to go down," he points the spoon at himself, "I was the idiot teenager who got involved totally on accident and ended up going back in time to revert the apocalypse.
"If it helps-" he gestures the spoon in a vaguely circular motion, encapsulating all three of them- "I had no idea this would happen. Happy it did though, I'm kind of stupid-mad in love with you two idiots." He licks the spoon, drops it into the now empty carton and stretches to put it on the counter above him before making grabby hands at both of their general directions, "Now, who's taking a bath with me? It's too goddamned hot for this shit."
Chris is still half frozen at the revelation. Peter recovers first and hops up from the couch with a sigh, "Well, if everything you just said is true, then...
And Peter doesn't say thank you often, but Chris can kind of understand, he can't even imagine his life as anything but this, and he's happy, now, clear-headed and reconciled and, finally, finally settled and secure within himself.
He would still be confused, doubtful and torn, trying to follow his father, their Code, and be the good soldier, the good son despite some of the things he saw, some of the things he knew just didn't make sense. He'd still be pushing himself to have faith in the wrong thing, were it not for these two men, a hummingbird and a Sweet wolf, the greatest loves of his life.
"I'm much happier in this life than I was in that one, I'm sure," Peter continues, half wry, half sincere, as he prowls over to Stiles and bends down to pick him up bridal style. Stiles just wraps his arms around Peter's neck and goes pliant in his hold, useless legs swinging in the air limply. Peter sucks in a sharp breath as black veins travel up his hands, creeping thick and dark all the way up to his shoulders.
"Damn, Bijou," Chris breathes, getting up from his chair and walking over to them, "that bad?"
"The heat," Stiles answers, with a glower at the sky, "is not my friend."
Peter grunts, but doesn't stop draining, Stiles hangs onto him tight and Chris rolls up the boy's pant legs in order to massage at the scar tissue there even as they head for the bathroom.
"Well, a long cold bath and then some of that lotion Felicia made for you will do you some good, hmm? And then we're calling Armond, see if he can fix the air conditioner, okay, little one?"
"Yeah," Stiles sighs, and Peter flashes his eyes before giving a sharp nod.
"Love you, Peter, love you, Chris."
"I love you, too, baby, and you, Sweet wolf."
"I love you both, with every ounce of my being, but I will not be coming near either of you while Felicia's foul smelling lotion is involved," Peter murmurs, unapologetic.
Stiles giggles, Chris just laughs, and Peter smiles with amusement in his eyes at the both of them.