“How long has he been down there?” Peter asked, voice low and shaking with barely contained rage.
Derek shuffled awkwardly, looking down at his feet. Lydia looked like she was on the verge of tears, and she bit her lip as she shook her head, unable to answer. Liam, Malia, Kira all avoided Peter’s gaze.
“We don’t really know,” Scott finally admitted, cheeks flushing with embarrassment or shame––Peter couldn’t tell. “We, um, hadn’t talked for a while, so it took longer to realize that he wasn’t just avoiding me.”
“You hadn’t talked for a while?” Peter repeated.
“He killed––” Scott began, with Liam nodding along emphatically.
“He’s supposed to be your best friend!” Peter roared, not wanting to hear Scott’s excuses. “He’s supposed to be your best friend and you have no idea how long he’s been missing! None of you do.”
“You’re right,” Lydia said, jumping in before the argument could escalate. “We haven’t been fair to Stiles, but we’re here now, and we want to help him. And we need your help to do so.”
Peter turned to Lydia, “Do you know what’s happened to him?”
This time Scott did look down in shame as Lydia answered. “We think he’s been turned into a Chimera––”
“Are you fucking kidding me?” Peter said. “I ignore you all for a few months and suddenly Chimeras.”
Lydia glared and continued, “But we don’t know what the mix is, or what traits he might have.”
Peter sighed. “And this Theo, he’s the one responsible for this mess?”
This time the whole pack looked to Scott, who didn’t answer.
“Do you think you can help him,” Derek asked instead.
“I take it it was your idea to call me?”
Derek shrugged. “If anyone knows how to come back from something like this, it would be you.”
“May I remind you that I did die in the process,” Peter said bitterly and Derek shifted uncomfortably again. “Maybe this time we can find a way to make things right without such a mess.”
“Please,” Lydia begged in nearly a whisper. The two other girls flanking her sides nodded along.
Peter turned back to Scott and waited.
Scott clenched his jaw. “You know I wouldn’t ask you if we had any other choice.”
Peter nodded. He didn’t need any convincing to save Stiles, but Peter also felt like it was important to put the so-called Pack in their place.
“I’ll help,” Peter said. “But let this be a lesson for you all.”
Scott glared. “Oh, and what lesson is that?”
Peter smirked. “You should only associate with one crazy person per Pack, and I was here first.”
And with that, he turned his back on Scott and Derek and the rest of the Pack, and opened the door to the basement of the rundown house. He could hear footsteps down below, and a low rumble like a growl. As he opened the door, the smell of excrement and sweat and pain hit him in full force. But after a moment he could faintly smell something that he recognized as Stiles.
As Peter took the final step, and the dim basement finally came into focus, he caught the first sight of Stiles: he was in warn and shredded clothes that were covered in dirt and mud, as was his hands and bare feet. He had dried blood on his face and in his matted hair, and without investigating closer, Peter couldn’t tell if was Stiles’ blood or not.
A fierce and protective growl threatened to rip from Peter’s throat at the sight of this creature that wasn’t quite Stiles, but he bit it back. If he couldn’t help, it would be the end of the McCall Pack as they knew it, Peter would make certain of that. Of course, he would also take care of the psycho who did this to Stiles, but he wouldn’t forget that Stiles’ so-called friends had done nothing to prevent it either.
Peter took a steadying breath and stepped into room. He held up his hands and walked forward slowly, the way he would approach any wild animal. “Stiles. It’s gonna be ok.”
Stiles crouched down on the floor and snarled, low and deep, eyes flashing an orangey-gold as he bared his decidedly non-human teeth.
“Shhh, it’s ok. I’m gonna get you out of here,” Peter said, trying to make his voice as soft and reassuring as possible. “I know you’ve been down here a while, and I know some people hurt you, but I promise I won’t hurt you. I just want to help you.”
Stiles skittered backwards as Peter approached, pressing against the wall and trying to get as much distance between them as possible. So, instead of following, Peter slowly lowered himself to the floor, and sat cross legged. He willed his heart rate to slow, for his breathing to steady, and for the rage simmering under his skin to fade. He needed to be calm for this.
“You will never believe what’s been going on without you,” he said conversationally. “First of all, you know that coffee shop down on 3rd? They stopped serving those little scones. And I know I don’t seem like a scone guy, but everyone has that one indulgence, don’t they?”
Stiles was still huddled against the wall, but his head was now cocked to the side and he was watching Peter intently.
“Secondly, I thought it was about time to reorganize my personal library,” Peter continued, falling into a rhythm.
Slowly over the next hour, as Peter rambled, Stiles began to relax. Inch by inch he began moving towards Peter, as long as Peter didn’t pay him any attention. As soon as Peter looked up, Stiles would skitter backwards and snarl again.
Finally, when Peter was deep in a monologue about the pros and cons of pour over coffee, Stiles reached out and touched Peter’s leg. Peter didn’t falter in his speech, but slowly placed his own hand on top of Stiles’. Peter held his breath, but Stiles didn’t pull away.
With a shock Peter realized that part of the traits he was seeing were fox; whatever was done to Stiles must have built on whatever remnants of the Nogitsune that were left within him.
“There you go,” Peter said at last, once he was sure that Stiles was not about to dash away again. “Can you come back? You’re nearly there, sweetheart.”
Stiles looked up at Peter, eyes still fox-like, and whimpered. Peter let out a breath he didn’t know he was holding.
“Come here,” Peter said, opening his arms.
Stiles rubbed his face against Peter’s leg, then slowly crawled into his lap. Peter pulled him close, and ran his hand through Stiles’ matted hair, whispering soothing words as Stiles shook in his arms.
“I’ve got you,” Peter whispered over and over until Stiles finally stilled.
A long moment passed where they were both still and quiet, Stiles pressed against Peter’s chest.
Slowly, Stiles pulled away. “Peter?” he asked confused, his voice cracking with lack of use. “What are you doing here?”
He looked up into Peter’s face and Peter was pleased to see that his eyes were back to their normal shape and color.
“There you are,” Peter said, still rubbing his hand up and down Stiles’ back. “How do you feel?”
Stiles snorted out a laugh. “What do you think?”
“Apologies, that was a dumb question,” Peter conceded. “Do you have any idea how long you’ve been down here?” Stiles shook his head. “What is the last thing you remember?”
Stiles thought for a moment. “Lacrosse practice? I don’t know, it’s all fuzzy.”
“Yeah, that’s not surprising considering you’ve spent a significant amount of time as a werefox that’s possibly been mixed with some other creatures.”
“What other creatures?”
“Too soon to tell.”
“Well, that’s reassuring,” Stiles said flatly.
“And yet you’re taking this surprisingly well.”
“Ever since werewolves became real, I’ve been pretty good at just going with whatever shit is thrown at me,” Stiles said.
Peter gave Stiles an unapologetic look and Stiles seemed to realize he was still cuddled in Peter’s lap. He tried to shift away, but Peter held him in place. “Hey, hey, don’t move. Sooner than later, the adrenaline is going to fade and you are going to crash.”
Stiles sighed and gave up his struggle, letting Peter hold him. “What are you doing here?” he asked again, this time there was no confusion, but desperation.
“Isn’t it obvious?” Peter asked. “Someone had to save you.”
“But why you? Why not...” Stiles trailed off.
“There’s nothing like a good kidnapping to repair a friendship, if that’s something that’s of any interest to you. Plus,” Peter continued, “it will help once Theo’s gone.”
Peter felt Stiles flinch and heard the skip in Stiles’ heart at that statement.
“You know that I’m going to kill Theo, right?” Peter asked.
Stiles looked up at Peter, face still covered in dirt and smudges of blood. His eyes were bright though, and something in the flicker told Peter that the werefox was not far from the surface. He looked like he wanted to say something, but after a long moment he just nodded.
“Come on,” Peter said, shifting Stiles back to the ground before standing up and stretching out all the kinks in his legs and back from sitting so long. He held his hand out for Stiles, “Let’s get you out of here, sweetheart.”
Stiles looked up at Peter and glared, but Peter could hear the flutter of his heart at the term of endearment. Peter just laughed, and leaned down to help Stiles up, wrapping his arm under Stiles’ shoulder to help him walk.
“The rest of the Pack is probably still waiting,” Peter said as they headed slowly towards the stairs.
“I don’t…” Stiles started. He took a deep breath, and then tried again, “I don’t want them to see me like this. Not after everything.”
“Well, you could just turn back into a werefox, but I wouldn’t worry about them,” Peter said. “I've still got you.”
Stiles stopped at the last step before the door back to the main floor of the house and looked at Peter for a long moment. Peter tightened his grip on Stiles, and Stiles tightened his own grip in return.
Then Stiles took a deep breath and opened the door.