Stiles has scars. He owns that, he accepts it, he's cataloged and memorized every single one, he's hyper fucking aware of them all.
When Peter kidnapped him, after assaulting Lydia, he left claw marks in the tender skin around his wrist. To this day Stiles doesn't know if he meant to or not, if he even noticed.
Gerard, by far, left the most. Long, deep, silver slashes all over his back, burns on the soles of his feet, odd, twisting, bubbled abrasions around both his wrists, jagged cuts up his thighs, one gash in his stomach he probably should've died from. He was in that garage for hours. But, after Gerard and his goons left them to go play with the kanima, Stiles had managed to escape, getting an unconscious Erica and Boyd down from the ceiling and managing to haul them out with- unexpectedly enough- the help of Chris.
If Chris knew the extent of his injuries, how much blood was his, not the Betas, he never said, just let Stiles demand he drop them off in the school parking lot so he could get the pups to the Hales, because, no matter what, Chris was an Argent, and after having been tortured by his father, trust wasn't something Stiles had to spare for the man, however his allegiances seemed to be changing.
The two had been unceremoniously pulled into the kanima shenanigans, as was he, when Lydia had stormed into his passenger seat and Scott wouldn't stop texting him.
But they'd remained safe throughout, neither with any true idea of what happened- he'd just said Chris got them out and he helped it along, believable enough for werewolf ears- and had a teary-eyed reunion with their Alpha, apologies and promises to be better all around, it was beautiful.
He doesn't think he'd have survived the night without Deaton, who, due to his wanting to keep everything in 'balance', could be mostly trusted to provide medical care whilst also keeping his mouth shut, he already had thousands of secrets to bear, what was one more?
The excuse he had offered his father for his more visible bruises had been less than satisfactory, but good enough to serve as a band-aid for a time.
Everyone lived, everyone was safe, no one need ever know.
The Alphas left him with claw marks along his hip, another under his armpit, but, thankfully, Deaton had provided some magical lessons along with his first-aid, and his father had begun enforcing him going to self-defense and martial arts classes, so he'd managed, equal parts agility and magic, to keep Derek, Peter, and Boyd safe from the douche-twins and Kali while Jackson and Scott saved Deaton, Isaac and Erica bodyguarding the shit out of Jennifer.
The scar his sacrifice to the Nemeton left wasn't on his skin, but it was there all the same.
He'd forgotten the names of the orderlies who left electrical burns on his body, pin-prick scars inbetween his fingers where they'd injected him with things against his will.
Allison, too, had a scar now, because of him, but she'd survived, they all had, and they'd beaten the demon with finality and all of the grace a terribly wounded werewolf Pack could muster.
So, he had scars, his body was littered with them, his soul was a hollow expanse because of them, but nobody knew, nobody needed to know.
California didn't exactly hold with the types of things he wore, now- neither did Lydia, if he was being honest- hoodies over plaid over t-shirts, jeans or slacks or sweats, boots, gloves, even, sometimes.
But the truth will out, he knows, it always does, and he's not extensively worried about it, he's not even sure anyone will care, but he's got other things to worry about, and for now they don't know, so it doesn't matter.
Peter knows Stiles is brave, clever, outrageously loyal, a brilliant strategist, and, though the other wolves may not see it, a good fighter in his own right.
He didn't peg him for having an insane pain tolerance, however, and was floored, not to mention a little disquieted, when- after a hard-fought battle with another Pack that wanted to take over their land, and kill whoever got in their way, seeing that Stiles was favoring his arm after- he'd reached over to him, brushed his hand against the boy's, leeched some pain, and almost blacked the fuck out.
"Peter?" Derek calls, grudgingly concerned by whatever sound he must've made, and probably feeling just as much guilt for said concern.
"Oh, he's fine," Stiles says cheerfully, no evidence of strain in his voice. "Aren't you Creeperwolf?"
The look the boy is giving him has an odd, cold glint to it, reminds Peter of the fox he'd housed beneath his skin, makes his mouth go dry.
"Fantastic," Peter drawls to his nephew, who narrows his eyes, but accepts the reassurance for what it is as he leads them back to their respective vehicles.
Stiles sighs with only slightly fond exasperation as Peter gracefully slinks through his open window.
"Are werewolves allergic to doors? Is that a thing? It sure as hell seems like a thing."
"Perhaps not werewolves," Peter snipes, "but mass murderers on your father's shit-list certainly wouldn't be seen setting foot on your doorstep. Besides, your windowsill is lovely," he points at the potted plant on aforementioned sill. "Hyacinth?"
"Rare type of wolfsbane actually, not the- the," Stiles waves a hand around, "kill you kind, the kind that can be put into tea and calm 'weres with rage issues the fuck down."
Peter snorts and shakes his head, moving to sit on his computer chair, studying him with sharp blue eyes. Stiles doesn't drop his gaze, knows better, by now, than to show weakness, though it can probably be read in the sleepless bruises under his eyes, the pallor of his skin, how skinny he is.
Still. It's the principle of the thing.
"I suppose the good vet asked you to grow this for him?"
"Nope," Peter looks surprised at that, Stiles shrugs, suddenly feeling self-conscious, "I procured it myself, I only even know about it because I stole from Deaton. Figured it would help, so I found some guy in Chicago, a vampire, I think, he sold it to me."
"You... bought a rare strand of wolfsbane from a vampire," Peter breathes faintly, "because you figured it might help."
"Yes," Stiles replies evenly, shooting the man a defiant glare, and he huffs an incredulous laugh.
"He could've killed you," Peter points out after a moment, and Stiles shrugs again, because he tried, only actually giving him the seeds when a silver tipped stake was pointed at his heart and half of the furniture in that shop of his was levitating.
"He didn't," Stiles says, and Peter heaves a sigh, because that isn't what he meant, and they both know it. "What do you want, Peter?" Having the more untrustworthy of the Pack getting protective weirds him the fuck out, leaves an odd fluttering in his chest, like moths, waiting perilously and suicidally to be burned.
He doesn't like it.
"You're injured," the man says, "and whatever it is, it's put you in enough pain that I nearly fainted when I-"
"- Used your werewolf mojo on me without my permission?" Stiles smirks, and Peter gives him a black look, crossing a leg over his knee and smoothing out some invisible wrinkle on his pants.
"Tell me the truth Stiles, how bad is it?"
Stiles is suddenly very done with this conversation, pushing aside the piles of open books and loose leaves of paper covered in notes in front of him, he gets up off of his bed and leaves the room without answering. His father isn't home, and Stiles knows that Peter could easily follow him, but panic is creeping up his spine, mingling with the ache of the wounds he'd sustained today, and he just needs to do something other than talk.
Otherwise he'll forget how to breathe.
He remains unattended for a moment as he places the mixing bowl, the flour, vanilla, eggs, whatever else he needs on the counter. When Peter finally comes down the stairs, Stiles' heartbeat has settled, and the man, with an indiscernible expression, watches him, doesn't press further.
After awhile, silently, he leaves his place leaning on the counter, and presses fingertips against the nape of Stiles' neck, letting out a small whine as Stiles' pain strangles his arm with black-shadow cords, thick, and spidering in pulsing veins all the way up to his shoulder.
"Jesus, Stiles," Peter grinds out, but Stiles can barely hear him, dizzy from the euphoria of it, his body tingles, floats, the hurt gone, clouding his mind with some sort of- he lets out a breathy little moan when it comes back, full-force, the pleasure leaving a dissonant haze that makes him feel weak in the knees, like his skin is too tight and his muscles are too loose, before it evaporates like the fog it was, leaving him shivery and wrong-footed.
"How are you even standing right now?" Peter asks, strained and with a quiet growl underneath. Stiles sways, catches himself with a white-knuckled grip on the sink.
"You know," he pants, "it would be a lot easier if you'd stop giving me fucking whiplash, and- oh, I don't know, maybe fucking ask me next time? Scott may have forgiven you, but Lydia hasn't- neither has Derek, for that matter- and lack of consent is a fucking problem, Peter. Do you understand me?"
The 'were flinches back as if he'd been struck, and, still trembling from the aftershocks of Stiles' pain, whispers a shocked but sincere-sounding, "Sorry. Won't happen again."
"Okay," Stiles blows out his cheeks with an exhale, "okay." He hands him the bowl, filled with ingredients, and two forks, they never managed to buy a new whisk after the last one broke when he was six because he and his mom used it for some stupid school project, "Mix."
Peter takes it warily, but doesn't object, although he does, after a few moments, reiterate a quiet, shame-filled apology.
"It's okay, man, just- I was- I was posessed, lack of consent, lack of agency, it's. Please, you have to understand, I need you to ask first, okay?"
"Yes, Stiles. I promise, for anything, next time I'll ask," and he looks so honestly chastened that Stiles actually believes him.
"I'm okay, too. I've had worse, Peter, believe me, I just got knocked around some."
Peter's pauses in his stirring to look at him with this horror-struck expression, eyes flashing a glowing crystal blue for a second before he asks, sounding just a little shaken, "You've had worse?"
Stiles sighs, looks deep into his eyes, thinks about Gerard, how gutted he felt when he decided to sacrifice himself to the Nemeton, how lonely he's felt, and broken since the Nogitsune.
"Yes," he replies simply, even though it isn't simple at all.
Peter looks stricken, pained for a breath, before he seems to remember himself, and schools his expression into some approximation of blank and sarcastic.
Stiles wonders what it says about him that their masks, their armor, is so similar.
The 'were allows himself to be ordered around the kitchen some, drinks tea with Stiles while they wait for the cookies to bake, drinks some more as he eats his share of the chocolate-chipped goodness, and tells him in the quiet, dim light of the kitchen, that they're very good.
Stiles smiles, a real smile, for the first time, and gives him a ziplock baggie to take home to the pups.
"Oh my god," Erica moans, "who baked these? They're amazing!"
"Stiles," Lydia responds promptly, licking crumbs off of her lips, the sheen of her lipgloss dimming with the movement.
Erica's jaw drops.
"Stiles? Seriously?" She sounds so utterly skeptical, like it's really that hard to believe the other teen could be behind such divine confections. Lydia smirks at her, while Scott pipes up:
"Yeah, he's a nervous baker. When he used to have panic attacks and stuff, he'd spend hours in the kitchen before he could calm down, he'd make his dad take whatever they weren't gonna eat that day down to the soup-kitchen on Avery. He still does it, sometimes, but not as often and not as much."
"How did I not know this?" Erica mutters to herself, staring at the half-eaten cookie in her hand with awe, "I should have known this."
Boyd pats her shoulder sympathetically as he sneaks the last cookie from the baggie on the counter, Lydia seems to be the only one who notices, and he offers her an amused, smug little eye crinkle before spiriting away with it.
"I thought you would've," Derek grunts, stomping down the spiral staircase toward the table in the dining room only to scowl at the empty baggie like it's personally offended him when he gets there. "He's the one who baked that lemon cake after the-" he can't seem to bring himself to say it, his words stalling as he picks up the ziplock and moves to throw it away. Lydia suspects he still carries some heavy misplaced guilt for their time in Gerard's basement, and she can understand why, but he's stupid for holding onto it so steadfastly. Kids run away, it's what they do. Granted, he could've been a better Alpha, better at communicating, but there were so many extenuating circumstances, and, in the end, it isn't anyone's fault but Gerard's- "to welcome you two back home, safe and sound. Or... relatively, whatever."
With a very constipated sort of face, the man retreats back upstairs, apparently having contributed all he was going to to this conversation, probably, also, dealing with whatever complicated emotions got dragged up due to it.
He only came downstairs for the cookies, anyway, she muses.
"He's the one who-" Erica hisses, mostly to herself, before she huffs out a laugh, shaking her head. "Fucking Stiles."
Isaac snorts from his place next to Allison and Scott on the couch, "Fucking Stiles," he agrees.
Peter finds Stiles sitting at the park, his back leaned up on the chain-link fence, wearing some baggy long-sleeved shirt that threatens to fall off of his pale shoulder, jeans, steel-toed boots, steadily growing hair held back from his face by a pastel-pink headband, a grocery bag in front of him and birds, ravens, or crows, maybe, all around him.
It's a little past one in the morning, and the boy seems to be having a hard time keeping his eyes open, staring off absently in the middle-distance, but then there's this moment, where he breathes, and small tear steadily makes it's way down his cheek.
Peter walks over to him, oddly bereft that the birds, previously content, scatter upon his intrusion, but the flapping of wings doesn't draw Stiles' attention at all, nor does calling his name, clicking his fingers, shaking the boy slightly.
He just blinks, and another tear falls.
Peter swallows, sighs, sits next to him. He'd meant to go to the convenience store, grab the pups and their Alpha and himself a few things, snacks, water, a pack of cigarettes for Jackson. But they can wait. Not like they fully trusted him with their order, anyway.
He knocks shoulders with the boy, scenting the flesh of watermelons, fruity curiosity and tenacity, the earthy loam of bravery, the cinnamon-spice of Stiles, all soured and overwhelmed by the pungent stench of quiet, long-suffered anxiety, stress, loneliness, misery.
"I don't like it," it scares me, "when you're so quiet."
Stiles doesn't respond for a long moment, a few more tears staining heated cheeks, a sniff, and, then, finally, "Why?"
"Because," it makes me feel like you're giving up, "it isn't normal. You're not meant for silence, Stiles." It reminds me of the hospital, trapped, nothingness.
"What am I meant for, then?"
"Are you getting philosophical on me, little one?"
Softer, but with more meaning, and before he can stop himself, "Are you sure I'm the one you should be asking?"
'Uncle Peter? How're you--'
With just as much meaning, and even more hushed, tremulous, "You're the only one here."
Rip. Slash. Cough. Choke.
"I don't have to be," you could tell anyone.
Stiles leans into him, cheek resting on his shoulder, head nestled into the crook of his neck, but he doesn't say anything, lets the silence fall again.
Red. Power. Blood.
There's a rustle as he reaches into the grocery bag in front of him.
A hitched breath as he bites back a small sob.
His hand comes away with two strawberry-milk juice-boxes.
He hands one to Peter, and with a bittersweet smile, he takes it.
Stiles stands in the middle of the sidewalk on his way to the loft for the Pack-meeting, umbrella handle held loosely in his hand. The shattering sound of rain against the plastic protection above him sounds like sharp fox-teeth shattering.
No it doesn't.
His free hand is out in front of him, spread wide and shaking, but the rain is heavy, it makes everything blurred and strange and he shakes as he tries, tries to see through it enough to remember what his fingers look like, because he has to, he has to count them.
A bloodied body mutilated at the feet of a laughing girl, knife in her twisting fingers, and she's him, she's giggling as her mother screams, she's plunging the knife inside, she's finding the ropes of intestines, she's feasting on the gore and the terror as someone new and interesting finds her, and then she's onto them next and what's funny, what's so funny, is how they fight back. They don't know it's already over, they're already dead.
"Not real," he breathes, and the umbrella rolls off of his shoulder, slips from his fingers, clatters onto the ground beside him, "it isn't real."
The rain pelts him, and he feels a frozen chill coat his bones, but outside of himself all he feels is numb.
"One... two... th-three..." His breath hitches, his vision is too blurry, and he can't breathe, he can't, he can't do this.
"Stiles?" He hears a voice say, so, so distant, crowded and muffled by the pounding heartbeat in his ears, the stifling downpour of rain, the familiar, disquieting rumble of an engine.
She paints a symbol with blood on the trees calls animals to her, dangerous ones made of shadow and ideas and emotions, she binds them to her with bones tied together with braided, bloodied strands of hair, she marches onto an unsuspecting kingdom with the minions of hell on her heels, and she laughs a fox's laugh.
He starts again, or tries, even as his heart stutters because his lungs have yet to unclench and he's so cold, lonely, lost, shaken, broken, crazycrazycrazy, suffocating, freak, monster, nightmare, focus, focus on the fingers, have to-
Is this real?
"Is this real?" He breathes, and he doesn't know who he's asking, doesn't know why he's asking, but suddenly there are hands in his, and a gentle, gentle voice saying.
"Yes. It is. Don't worry, count mine, and breathe little one, with me, come on: In, one, two, three, four, five, six, seven. Hold, eight, nine, ten... And out, ten fingers, I have ten, we both do, see?"
Stiles gulps in greedy breaths of air, shivers against the cold, squeezes Peter's fingers convulsively, "C-can we c-count them again?"
"As many times as you need, Stiles, but let's get in the car first, okay?"
Stiles looks up from two pale pale, slender, bony hands, trembling, encased in two wide, strong, warm, real hands, meets tender blue eyes, pools of water vast and deep, beacons for him to hold onto, glowing, safe.
His lighthouses, trapped in those eyes.
Needless to say, they don't get to the loft for a long time after, and he's still wet and chilled by the time they do. Derek orders him to take a warm shower and Isaac ends up lending him some clothes, since between him and Derek (the two who actually live at the loft), he's the only one with things that could reasonably fit. They discuss what to do about the new threat in Beacon Hills, a Siren, they think, and Stiles promises to research with Lydia and Peter, Scott, Allison, and Jackson agree to patrol in the morning, Erica, Boyd, and Isaac during the night, while Derek (asking Stiles to check and see if his dad would be willing to help in this regard) works to actually track the thing down.
After, Peter herds him back to his car, which is outrageously expensive and ungodly beautiful with leather seats and a heater to kill for.
"Why were you walking in the rain?" The older man eventually asks while Stiles is looking through the CDs he has in his glove-box, ignoring the other odds and ends in there, although the stuffed bunny he'd inexplicably found- but was too polite to actually ask about, since it was providing him comfort and he didn't want it taken away- had ended up in his lap.
"Roscoe's in the shop," he explains, "you have a really weird taste in music."
"Have you ever listened to any of it before?" Peter asks, voice laced with amusement as Stiles opens one of the cases and puts the CD into the CD player, futzing with it until the car is filled with delicate sound.
"No, but opera? And like," Stiles looks at the words on the case dubiously, "really fucking obscure opera?"
Even as he says it, though, a voice that is open and sincere and mournful, that reminds him of bells and crickets, it weaves itself into a pattern. Flutters, trembles, flows. There are birds in that sound, sleeping on branches with snow below them, not knowing that the cold will kill them, too attached to the home they've already lost to ever leave it. There is hope, the hope of someone who has lost and grieved and lies down in the dark to accept the death that comes only to be picked up like they are weightless, like all of their heavy heavy burdens, the things that take away every leg they thought they could ever stand on, aren't as important as holding them.
Stiles' breath hitches, because it's too beautiful, and his skin feels thinned under the pressure, he doesn't deserve to hear this, doesn't deserve for it to melt him, scour him, pierce.
He closes his eyes and feels a hand twine in his.
"I'll never make fun of your music again," he says, because he needs to say something.
He listens silently the rest of the drive, tightens his grip on Peter like he's a fucking lifeline, and lets the tears fall. It's like someone filled up his soul until it couldn't take anymore, too full, it overflowed, popped, and the release, the outpouring is beyond cathartic.
Her dark skin was covered with golden warpaint, and her big, loud, curly hair adorned starlight. She was beautiful, the way she moved like glass, even the eye blinking in the hollow of her throat seemed more mesmerizing than ludicrous and alien. She was singing, swaying, dancing, melodious, her body the natural grace of mountains, her skin carried the fragrance of snow, and the way she smiled made him think of Elouise, his first love, who'd had a macabre sense of humour and a tattoo of a swallowtail butterfly on the inside of her wrist.
Then there was a sound, or, more accurately, a pressure in the air, it came on in a thick, rushing wave, and she stopped. Distantly, he heard the other wolves whining, heard someone shouting, screaming, some part of his brain responded, howled when the woman lashed out with an elegant hand and he heard a familiar person grunt, cough, smelled their blood in the air.
But his attention was too riveted on this woman, comely and wonderous, so drawn to her, he was, that he couldn't snap out of it, not even for the sake of- of-
A bright, terrifying light swirled in the dark sky, hummed like something other, and his eyes tracked the line of luminescence back to where it accumulated in the palm of his- Stiles, it's Stiles- hand, arms stretched up above his head, hands splayed out, light gathering, brighter, and brighter, he's bloodied, and panting, but his eyes, when they lock on the Siren, are steady and profound as hellfire, the amber in them a penetrating flame.
"Don't you dare touch what is mine."
Solemn, fierce, and then his hands come down, right before the light explodes out of him, there's a moment, a little slice of still-time, saturated quiet, the eye of the storm, the apprehension before the blow, and right then, the Siren looks properly, horribly, petrified.
"What are you?" She breathes in a terror-stricken voice, Then the pressure in the air snaps, releases at the same time the light streams, hits her full-force, and the whoosh of it, the whirlwind of air, almost drowns out the scream that tears out of her.
By the time it all finally dies down again, everyone's blinking spots out of their eyes, the darkness too pervasive after so much unadulterated light.
Stiles stands in the clearing, arms falling to his sides, the Siren nothing but ash a few feet in front of him. He looks at them, eyes raking over every single person in turn, and he laughs in shaky, startled relief before all of the blood drains out of his face and his knees buckle, his legs giving out underneath him.
Instinctually, breathlessly, with his heart beating wildly within his chest, Peter leaps, catches him before he has a chance to hit the ground.
"Stiles? Stiles, what's-"
Slender arms wrap around his neck, a sweaty, blood-slick face nuzzles into his throat.
"Safe?" He slurs.
"Yes, yes, we're safe."
His heartbeat evens out, gets far, far too slow, and he's slumping in Peter's arms, becoming a deadweight as whatever's left of his energy drains out of him.
"Deaton's," Scott says, hovering worriedly, but not quite touching, "we've gotta get him to Deaton's, he'll know what to do."
Peter glares at the young Beta, every instinct that has ever screamed untrustworthy around the vet making him very unwilling to hand over this fragile boy to the Druid.
"Peter," Derek growls, and Peter pulls Stiles closer to him, snarling, agitated, protective, his wolf wanting nothing more than to shield Stiles from any and all possible dangers. Scott's scowling at him, about to reach out and pull Stiles away, and Peter's very sure he will have no qualms ripping his throat out if he gets too close, but Derek stays him with a quiet, considering rumble. "We don't know what's wrong with him," Derek reasons quietly, eyes flashing Alpha red, "and we don't have any better ideas. You want him safe, don't you?"
Yes, he does, that's the only thing he wants.
"He'll be alright," Deaton tells them clinically, "he just used up too much of his Spark all at once... But. That much raw power? What you described?" The vet shakes his head, "I haven't heard of a Spark so powerful in ages."
Derek looks down at the teen, all of his scratches and bruises patched up, but still too pale, too thin, too quiet. He takes in Scott, concerned furrow in his brow, mulish set to his jaw as he watches how Peter clings, makes all the other wolves keep their distance, barely able to keep his wolf down at all.
Part of him thinks it's curious that his Uncle made Stiles his Anchor.
Another part of him thinks it makes perfect fucking sense and wonders why he didn't see it before now.
"So, what do we do?" Erica asks, biting her trembling lip, even though she tries to keep her shoulders squared, herself strong.
"Wait," Deaton replies matter-of-factly, "allow him his rest, and warn him not to exhaust his power like that again, so we can avoid a repeat of this situation."
"Have you met Stiles?" Isaac snorts, though it sounds wet, a little helpless, resigned, frustrated, fond. "If it helps us, keeps us safe, he's not gonna give two shits what it does to him."
"He's too stubborn to listen to reason," Peter murmurs softly, brushing a strand of hair out of Stiles' face, Scott's eyes flash and his fists clench, but he doesn't say anything, "doesn't have an ounce of self-preservation in his body."
"No," Lydia says, shaking her head, "he has self-preservation, he just ignores it because he's too goddamn selfless."
Peter chuckles, "You may be right about that."
"I am right about that," she sniffs haughtily. "I'm right about everything."
Boyd claps her on the shoulder, and nods in stoic agreement. Erica laughs at the display, Allison and Isaac soon joining her.
"Peter," Derek says, because he's pretty sure, for all that the tension has mostly eased, Scott's going to deck his Uncle if something isn't done relatively quickly. "Take Stiles home. Scott," he continues over the expected protest, "go inform the sheriff of what happened." His Beta grimaces, but, thankfully, nods, "The rest of you, go home, Stiles isn't the only one who needs rest. We're all exhausted, and we won't be any use to anyone running on fumes."
Stiles blinks his eyes open blearily, feeling heavy, tired, like his head is full of helium or cotton, every extremity tingling like his body has been deprived of circulation the whole time he was out, and it's only returning now he's awake.
"Stiles?" He hears someone- Peter, he thinks- say from a great, great distance, but his eyes are already slipping shut, and he couldn't turn his head to look if he tried, anyway.
"Sooooo tired," he mumbles.
"I know, baby, I know." There's a hand running through his hair, a little scratch against his scalp that has him sighing in contentment. "Sleep."
"You w'n' leave?"
"Never, little one. I'm right here, I'm not going anywhere."
"Mmm," Stiles hums, reaches out blindly with a boneless hand until another, strong, big, warm, covers his. As he laces their fingers together he smiles, and with a bubbly feeling in his chest, he lets sleep take him again.
John gets home a little later than he'd hoped, especially considering what Scott came to the station to tell him, and rushes upstairs to his son's room, not at all expecting what he finds there.
"Peter Hale? What the hell are you doing in my son's room?" He tries to keep his agitated voice in a hushed whisper, since Stiles seems to be sleeping, as he should be.
"I couldn't leave him," Peter whispers, and he seems just as surprised as John is that he even said it, but then his lips thin, and he nods solemnly, as if to say 'it's the truth.'
Stiles' hand twitches convulsively in the older man's, and he mumbles a sleep-slurred little, "Peter?"
"I'm here, little one," he says, turning his attention and focusing it all on John's son, his free hand carding through thick brown locks. "Right here."
Stiles hums, turns on his side and curls around where Peter's sat on the edge of his bed, presses their interlaced fingers to his heart and nuzzles into his thigh. "'Kay."
John watches on for a few minutes in dumbfounded silence. Peter, still running a gentling hand through his son's hair, doesn't even turn away from the boy when he says, determined, and thick with an emotion that John understands, but would really rather not put a name to, "I won't leave him."
And from the looks of things, Stiles wouldn't want him to, anyway.
John heaves a tired sigh and, resigned, says, "Fine. But when he wakes up, we're talking about this, all three of us, you got that Hale?"
"Crystal clear, sheriff."
When Stiles manages to wake, finally, nearly a day and a half later, Peter is too tired and raw to be anything short of relieved. The boy, of course, just screws up his face in this really befuddled, reluctantly amused expression and asks, "Did you call me baby?"
Peter barks out a startled laugh, chokes on it, blinks back the sting of tears, squeezes Stiles' hand and asks, because asking is important, "May I please hug you?"
Stiles blinks a few times, like that was the last thing he expected, swallows, once, twice, a third time before he finally just nods, and Peter pulls him into his arms, hauls him into his lap, and shakes.
"If I asked you never to do that again...?"
"Sorry, man, I can't even promise my dad somethin' like that."
"I figured," he concedes with a shuddering sigh, "but I had to ask."
Stiles hooks his chin on Peter's shoulder, threads his hands together against the small of his back and quietly murmurs, "I know."
He wonders how much passes between them like that, just holding each other, without the need for words. He wonders how much Stiles knows without needing to be told.
Probably too much.
He wonders why that doesn't scare him in the slightest.
Why it just makes him feel safe.
The long, wildly awkward conversation with his dad about his relationship with Peter Hale and his relationships within the Pack leads to Peter, interestingly enough, elaborating on Pack-bonds, the tactile affection of a werewolf, and Anchors.
Because he's Peter's Anchor, apparently.
And, when his brain-to-mouth filter fails and he blurts out that Peter's his Anchor, too, well- he finds that it's pretty fucking true.
When he's with Peter the oppressive listlessness, numbing and intense, lifts, just a little, the need to count his fingers because reality and dream blur together and sometimes he just doesn't know, eases, just a little. The power within him, bright, screaming, building, building, constantly awake and ticklish underneath his skin, pulls back, settles down, lets him relax.
Yes, Peter's still a killer, and he's not necessarily the best person out there, but for all his smug arrogance, and his relative douchery, he's trying to be one of the good guys, he's trying to crawl back from that place where his mind wasn't entirely under his control and- and Stiles guesses he knows exactly what that feels like.
And, he thinks, with a sudden, blinding certainty, he trusts him.
Peter would never hurt him. Peter makes him feel safe. Human.
He makes his lungs bloom with air instead of constricting with anxiety, makes the moths in his chest transform into butterflies.
And it's when he tells his father, Peter's eyes widening and his lips parting with honest, stunned surprise, that he trusts this man with his wellbeing, his life- it's then that he knows. He can't keep this secret locked in forever, can't keep these scars, his skin so forever hidden, it's exhausting, excruciating, debilitating in the way most terrible secrets are. Painful.
The sheriff, in the background of Stiles' revelation, subsides, accepts things as they are, and tells the werewolf that he'll hold him personally responsible if anything happens to his son, and he's got wolfsbane bullets well in stock. Then he claps Stiles on the shoulder and leaves them both to hurry off to work.
Peter watches Stiles take another big, deep breath, like he's building up to something, only to deflate again when it seems he's almost there. They're in the kitchen, baking again, since Stiles has already been called off school for the day, Peter has no intention of leaving, and he's quite sure the boy does this when there's a lot on his mind, bakes.
"What is it?" Peter finally asks, when the scent of trepidation mingled with cooking chocolate and banana gets to be too much. Stiles looks at him for a moment, hesitant, looks away, down at the splintered counter like maybe it has the answers. Peter knows from experience that inanimate objects never do.
"I trust you," Stiles repeats the sentiment he'd told the sheriff earlier, just as awed, just as honest, and even though he's already heard it once before, it still fucking floors him. "And- there's something I haven't told you, anyone, lots of things, maybe, but I. I think I need to tell someone. So if I- can you promise not to tell anyone? If I, if I tell you?"
Peter flexes his fingers, tries not to worry. If Stiles hasn't told anyone, not Scott, or Derek, his own father, it must be... Stiles doesn't like keeping secrets, as far as he can tell, he still carries the weight of guilt for keeping the supernatural secret from his father for so long. The boy is good at keeping secrets, when it suits him, but he never likes it, and he avoids it if he can help it.
"I promise," he says, because this seems important, because he'd keep anything for Stiles, and secrets are his trade, besides. He's curious, he wants to know, to comfort, to be closer, to understand. He wants insatiably when it comes to this boy.
"So," Stiles wrings his hands, "remember when you maybe sorta kidnapped me?"
"I may have been insane, Stiles, but my memory of events, unfortunately, remains perfectly intact."
He swallows, wonders where this is going.
Stiles bobs his head in a nod, and a spark of dark understanding flashes through his honeyed-amber eyes. Peter wonders how much of what he did under the influence of the Nogitsune he remembers. He knows better than to hope those memories left when the demon did, none of them are that lucky.
"Well, when you grabbed my wrist, your claws were out, it kind of-- and that scarred."
Peter cringes in on himself, bile rising in his throat at the idea. Stiles' heart-rate speeds up, and his scent suddenly is awash with something like terror. Peter withers under it, the boy begins to pace.
"Then there was Gerard. I went missing during the lacrosse game, which- you were kind of, doing the resurrection dance at the time? I have no idea if you know that, but. I got kidnapped, again," he huffs a sardonic laugh, "by Gerard and his goons. Boyd and Erica were barely conscious when I got there, and by the time- by the time he," Stiles flaps a hand, "left us, it was bad. Like, supremely bad. But I- I got myself down, I got them down, and I got us outta there. Chris helped enough that I could use him as a scapegoat without the werewolf lie-detectors sniffing me out.
"And the Alphas, well, were generally unkind. I don't think the fact that I was a squishy human registered much beyond, you know, weakness, I guess? Anyway, yeah, so, I wanted to tell you first, but I. I do want to. Can I show you? I mean, they're gross, it's all," he wafts a hand down his length, "pretty ugly, but I just. I want someone, one person who I don't have to fucking hide from."
Peter takes a very, very deep breath, and, because he doesn't quite trust his voice at the moment, nods. Without any real preamble, Stiles sheds all but his boxers, and Peter swallows back a gasp that would surely turn into a sob, the sick feeling in his gut that would surely turn into vomit.
Lacerations, abrasions, burns, cuts, claws. His body shows evidence of torture, several kinds, and, beyond that, older and newer, the mortality of a human who runs with wolves, there are even bruises, on his shoulder, back, leg, from the encounter with the Siren.
But even so, even with the bits of vulnerable fragility, the intense want, furious need to find Gerard Argent and tear him to shreds, to dismember Deucalion slowly, to saw his own arm off, one thing strikes true, and he's saying it before he can stop himself:
Stiles blinks at him, a sharp intake of breath.
"You're gorgeous," Peter breathes, looking deep into sun-soaked-honey eyes that glisten with some sort of emotion, deep and wanting and powerful.
Stiles blows out all of his breath, takes a step toward him, and trembles.
"I'm so fucking glad you survived."
A choked, wet little laugh comes out of the boy before he leaps past the rest of the distance, wraps himself around Peter with his whole body, Peter's hands immediately going underneath his thighs to support him. Slender, muscular legs wrap around his hips, thin ankles crossing against his ass, a bare chest pressed flush against his, arms wound tight around his neck, and face buried into the junction of his shoulder.
Hummingbird heart fluttering.
He smiles into the boy's hair when he says, high and breathy and fraught with a flurry of fragile emotion, "Me too."
It's not raining, and he most definitely could've walked, but Stiles still texts Peter when he's due to pick Roscoe up from the mechanic, asking for a ride.
He looks into the adorable button-eyes of the stuffed white rabbit he'd filched from the glove-box again, and wonders how it got there, but, still, doesn't dare ask.
The ebb and flow of mezzo-soprano filters through the air, bejeweled sound full of grace, and he finds himself half humming along with the tune as he plays with the bunny arms, makes the stuffy dance.
"Have I ever told you," Peter says quietly, looking over at the rabbit in his arms with a complicated sort of smile, "that I had a twin?"
"You had a twin?" This was information he did not know, and very surprising.
"Twins and triplets were common in our family, probably something to do with the fact that we were wolves. Derek's little sisters, Cordelia and Caterina, were twins. My sister, her name was Tara, and she was a hellion. She gave all of us grief, wouldn't put up with anything, her spirit could've filled a stadium, and then some. She was..." He takes a very deep, steadying breath, flexes his fingers on the steering wheel. "She came home from college four months pregnant, wouldn't even tell me who the father was," he huffs out a little laugh and shakes his head, "she was so goddamned stubborn, determined to have that baby and take care of it and damn anything or anyone who got in her way.
"Five months later and three weeks early she had a daughter, my goddaughter, named her Merlin, of all things. I think it was in remembrance of our mother, who was named Guinivere, although why," he sighs in fond exasperation, "I never quite knew what she was thinking, but we all just called her Merry. She was the calmest, sweetest child I've ever known, never fussed, minded everyone, she was a weak little thing, but strong, in her own way. We went to the fair, once, when she was barely three, and I won that for her. She named it Arthur. She was in love with it, dragged it with her everywhere.
"I don't know why she left it in my car, I don't even know when, but when I got it out of storage, Arthur was there."
Stiles feels a tear trickle down his cheek, and wipes it away furiously. His fingers are still wet when they brush the satiny fur on Arthur's arms.
"I think she would've liked you," Peter murmurs softly after a long, contemplative moment, "and I think she would've hated the idea of Arthur gathering dust in the glove-box of my car."
Stiles clutches the bunny to his chest and swallows past the thick lump in his throat.
"Do you think he and Roscoe would get along?"
Stiles barks out a startled, sobbing laugh.
"Yeah, probably. They'd fucking love each other."
A few minutes later, Stiles' sight still blurred with emotion, they pull into the parking lot of the mechanic-shop downtown, Stiles no longer able to go to the one closer to home since the kanima incident, he just can't stomach it. Sniffling, and with Arthur still pressed tightly against his heart, he wraps an arm around Peter's shoulders and pulls him into a slightly awkward hug. The gear shift is digging into his abdomen, and he's twisted in a weird way in his seat, but he doesn't fucking care, because there's a little rabbit infused with memories between them, and Peter's arms are gentle around him.
He smells like fallen leaves, ink, tea, and home.
Peter's arms tighten, and the music coming from the speakers swells. Stiles laughs at the ridiculousness of it, the sound watery, pressed into Peter's cheek before he smacks a kiss there and pulls back. He sniffs, looks down at Arthur with a smile that aches, looks back up at Peter to see him looking at him with so much sincerity, trust, warmth, that it knocks him breathless yet again.
"Thank you," he repeats softly, because he honestly doesn't know what else to say.
The smile he receives in return makes everything feel brighter, and he locks the image away in his melting heart to cherish forever.
When Derek comes home he finds Peter and Stiles on the couch, which, on it's own isn't all that surprising, Stiles is at the loft surprisingly often these days- a combination of his father's long work hours and loneliness, Derek suspects, and understands all too well- and Peter, whatever his unfathomable reasons, is at the loft more often than he's ever at his own apartment.
What is surprising, however, is the way they're... sort of... snuggling?
Peter's half sitting, propped up by the arm of the couch and cushions, his legs out diagonally, ankles crossed on the coffee table, his arms wrapped around the boy pillowed on his chest, cuddling into him with his legs curled up and a blanket covering him. Peter's eyes sluggishly turn from whatever sci-fi show playing on the TV to light on him, and he whispers very, very quietly, "He's asleep, please try to keep noise to a minimum, he needs rest."
Derek shrugs, nods, closes the door gently and heads upstairs.
He's noticed the way his Uncle is with Stiles, he's been keeping an eye on it, because for all that Peter seems... different around Stiles, softer, kinder, more empathetic, fiercly protective, both more and less in control of his wolf, Derek still doesn't trust the man, doesn't know what he's capable of, but, he's started to see, too, the way Stiles acts around Peter.
If it keeps developing he won't be able to continue ignoring it. It's not that he doesn't want them together, if anything, it's the opposite. He sees the ghosts of their old selves when they're together, happy, snarky, joyful, loud, innocent, and he sees something new, who they are now blending with that joy, companionship, hope. He likes who they are when they're together.
But he knows there will be a fallout, if what he suspects is going to happen (what part of him kind of wants to encourage to happen), happens. There are some members of the Pack (Scott, in particular) that he knows won't approve, and others he doesn't really know how to gauge.
So he needs to prepare.
When he comes downstairs a few hours later they've moved, Peter leaning against the kitchen counter with a cup of steaming tea in his hands and Stiles making some sort of cheesy pasta dish, chattering on with delight about how he finally, finally got Coach to actually call him by his last name correctly, and how he's glad there's at least one teacher he can be absolutely sure isn't anything terrible or frightening.
Because fuck Mr. Harris, Ms. Blake, and, more recently, Ms. Hatley (the Siren), apparently.
"-Seriously, though, I've checked, with every spell I know," Stiles waves around the spatula, "and the school isn't cursed. Not with bad luck or anything. It's very suspicious. D'you think the universe is conspiring against us?"
"Because the universe would conspire against a group of supernaturally inclined teenagers," the sarcasm is overwhelming, but not nearly as melodramatic as the eyeroll that proceeds it.
"Wouldn't it though?" Stiles asks, completely seriously, and Peter takes a very long sip of tea before he simply shrugs. "Want some dinner, Sourwolf?" The boy calls to him over his shoulder when he notices him stalling in the dining area.
"Ah, yes, dear nephew, do partake in the wonder that is Stiles' cooking."
"Wonder," Stiles mocks back with a snort, and Peter raises his eyebrows at him.
"Wonder." The man states over his tea, solemn and grave, as if it were a life or death matter, his tone brooking no argument, and Stiles... Stiles smiles at him.
Derek has seen Stiles smile before, but not so much lately, after the Nogitsune, and never like this. He's even more shocked when Peter smiles back, tender and serene and fond.
The exchange is more intimate than a kiss, and Derek, feeling like an intruder, retreats to the living room, leaving the couple to their own company with a gruff, "Tell me when it's done."
Because Stiles is a good cook, and he's not missing out on whatever he's making for anything.
Stiles floats on the surface of the lake, as still as he ever can be, languid. Peter watches him from the dock, the way the water laps at his marred skin. The boy is completely naked, shameless and bare and beyond beautiful.
Today is the anniversary of his mother's death, which somehow prompted a picnic in the preserve and the spontaneous decision to go skinny-dipping in the mostly hidden lake that lies deep within the forest. Peter doesn't really know why Stiles called on him to join in this experience, but he's glad for it, and pleased that he didn't try to brave the day alone.
"I'm afraid," Stiles murmurs, the light of the stars catching on the ripples he makes in the water around him, scattering, kissing his pale, moled skin fleetingly, grazing his scars, "sometimes, of closing my eyes."
"Why?" I am, too.
"Because it feels like, like if I'm not always aware, inside my body, in control of it, like I'll drift away. I'll just... stop existing, or the world will. And... I don't like the darkness, behind my eyelids, where I can't see anything. It reminds me of him, it makes me feel like I'm losing it, every time."
"Then I'll watch for you, when you sleep, when you blink, I'll keep my eyes open, and when you need it, I'll count with you." You're not losing it. The Nogitsune is gone. My wolf isn't feral. We're okay.
"What about when you're not here?" Stiles asks in a terribly small voice.
"I'll always be here, baby."
"You can't promise me that."
"No," he concedes. We'll both die, someday.
Stiles shifts, dives underneath the surface, swims with far more agility than he walks, his clumsiness annihilated underwater. Peter wonders if that dark scares him, too, but he doesn't ask.
Stiles folds his arms on the windowsill and looks down, he can't see, it's far too dark, but he's sure he felt... he doesn't know what exactly, but he knows, with every certainty, that Peter's lurking out there somewhere.
"Creeperwolf," he says in a normal voice, knowing the werewolf will hear him, would probably hear him even if he whispered as quietly as a mouse, "come here."
Barely a minute later the man is coming out from behind the trees, climbing up the side of his house with the ease of practice, and slipping past him into his room.
"Something the matter?" He asks as Stiles shuts and locks his window, draws the curtain.
"Just figured if you were going to watch me all night, anyway, you might as well be useful and help me research."
"I would," Peter says, before going to him and cupping his cheek in a wide, tender palm, "but I'd rather help you sleep instead." The pad of his thumb runs over the dark bruises he knows are under his eyes, and he can't suppress a shiver at the sensation the contact leaves. "You look exhausted."
"I am," he confesses with a sigh. "But I can't."
"Oh, baby... At least let me help you try?"
Stiles narrows his eyes at him, but he really is tired, the bone-deep kind that presses on your eyelids and drags you down, makes you easy prey. It's unsafe to be this kind of tired in this goddamned town.
"You keep calling me baby," he points out softly, not a protest, which Peter takes as permission enough to drag him toward the bed. Stiles lets him, allows his body to be moved, unclothed, rearranged until they're both under the covers, loosely embracing each other on their sides.
"Yes," Peter agrees. "Do you want me to stop?"
"No. I like it." It makes me feel loved, cocooned, protected, safe.
Peter hums contentedly, like he's pleased with the answer, tucks loose strands of his hair behind his ear, hand caressing down his jaw absently.
"What are we, Peter?"
"I don't know, baby," he answers softly, faces so close their breath is mingling, watercolor blue eyes dim in the ambient darkness of the night. "But I love you."
It passes his lips so easily, like it's the most natural thing in the world for him to say, barely even a confession, just a truth. A statement of fact.
"I love you, too," Stiles breathes, because he does.
Then, just as naturally, like they're being drawn in by some force, a magnetic pull, their lips come together, gentle and sweet and tender. Stiles opens for him when his tongue presses, questioning. Wet, slick-slide, rough tongue, tastes like mist and coffee and something richer, darker, more dangerous, like hope. He can't help but whimper when Peter worries his bottom lip with his teeth, gasp and moan when strong fingers tug gently on his hair.
When they pull apart, open-mouthed and panting, foreheads resting against each other's, he breathlessly tells him, "This won't help me sleep."
And Peter laughs, kisses him again.
Who needs sleep, anyway?
Scott first comments on it when Stiles is giving him a ride to school.
"Where'd this come from?" He asks, pointing with a bemused crooked smile at Arthur, who is sitting in Stiles' lap as he drives, because life is unkind and Arthur makes things better, reminds him of-
"Peter?" Scott intones, sounding less than happy with this discovery.
Stiles figures it's best to rip off the bandaid in cases such as this, especially when depression and nightmares and life, generally, have sanded you down and made tact a less than friendly solution. He's never been big on keeping stuff like this in, anyway, and, though he knows Scott's initial reaction is gonna suck, he isn't going to keep this from him.
"My boyfriend," Stiles amends, and Scott scowls.
"You can't be serious."
"Oh, I'm serious, buddy," he claps his friend companionably on the shoulder as he takes the turn that will lead them down the street toward their school, "serious as an avalanche."
"But-but it's, I mean," Scott sputters, flaps his hands around, like movement will get his point across better than words, and Stiles has a moment to think, is that what I look like all the time? "It's Peter."
He says the name like it tastes particularly sour, Stiles doesn't exactly blame him.
"Yep. And your girlfriend, might I remind you, went crazy homicidal after her mom died. Granted, Peter was worse, a lot worse, but his whole Pack had died, and he wasn't in complete control of his mental faculties at the time." Stiles shrugs, "I kinda know what that feels like. Besides, I love him, he makes me feel happy, Scott, he makes me feel like I'm real-- I- I know you don't get that, I'm not asking you to, you never could, no matter how hard you tried. Just. Accept this, because it's happening, and it's mine, and I don't want to lose it, okay?"
Scott gapes at him, dumbfounded for a few moments, before he starts nodding slowly, making his jaw shut forcibly, "Okay. Okay. I love you, dude, I just want you to be happy, you know that, right?"
"I know, Scotty. Love you, too, bro," he smiles at him as he pulls into the high school parking lot.
"If he ever hurts you, though, I'll kill him. Fair warning."
"Scott... I hate to tell you this, but you're no killer."
Scott grins at him in an oddly foreboding and mysterious way, pats him on the cheek, and jumps out of the car.
Unbeknownst to Stiles, somewhere far away, Peter feels an ominous chill.
The rest of the Pack doesn't pick up on it for awhile, except maybe Derek, who catches them making out in his living room at one point, and just rolls his eyes, gives them a thumbs up, grabs the bottle of water he'd come down for in the first place, and retreats to his room upstairs with little more than a grunt.
When they finally do notice, it's a combination of scent, which made them suspicious, the fact that it's always Peter bringing Stiles' pastries back to the loft, which made them more suspicious, and the obvious closeness the two share.
Eventually, it's Erica who breaks, tired of guessing, leering, second-guessing, and not knowing. With a melodramatic sigh she stands in front of them, Stiles leaning into Peter's side as they pore over some book on faeries, trying to figure out the monster of the week and what to do about it.
"Are you two fucking each other?" She's as blunt and shameless as ever.
Stiles blinks up at her for a moment, just, stunned by her cheek, and a little awed by it, too, if he's being honest.
"No," he tells her honestly, "but we'll probably start when I turn eighteen, seeing as we are dating, which is what I'm assumin-"
"Oh my god," she cackles, fist-pumping, "oh my god, I knew it! Isaac, Jackson, you owe me fifty bucks!" She saunters toward the two boys, who sigh and, admitting defeat, hand over their money.
"Wait," Stiles looks over his shoulder at the lot of them incredulously, "you guys were betting on my love life?"
"Yes," Lydia replies sweetly, unapologetic, saccharine smile plastered across her face, "and actually, Erica, you owe me two hundred, since I'm the one who guessed they'd be keeping it virtuous until Stiles was no longer a minor."
Stiles turns back to Peter laughing, "God, I have the strangest friends."
"I think it's charming."
"I honestly can't tell if you're being serious or not."
Peter doesn't respond to that beyond kissing him, which elicits cheers and wolf-whistles from the crowd behind them, along with fake gagging from Jackson. Stiles flips them all off, deepens the kiss just because he can.
"Wow," Stiles comments, sitting in Peter's passenger seat, still dazed by what he just experienced. Pixies sucked, especially when they crashed, well, it was sort of a date? More like, going skinny dipping with Peter, it's become kind of a thing they do, when Stiles gets a little too depressed.
"What?" Peter asks, wiping gooey Pixie guts off of his bare shoulder.
"My umbrella," Stiles points at the backseat, where his clear umbrella lays, closed and innocuous, "I left it there- what? Four months ago?"
"Closer to five," Peter says with a sigh, looking Stiles over, neither of them had managed to get much more than their pants on, before they'd been running and fighting and too distracted to save their shirts, undergarments, shoes. "Your father might be home."
Stiles frowns, not understanding what he means until he looks down and sees, ah, his scars. Wherever he goes, whoever's there, they'll see, he has no way to cover them up, and Pixie guts aren't enough to hide them. He'd almost forgotten, whenever he's with Peter he always feels... And they just stop registering, ugly, terrible, disgusting.
Peter makes them, makes him, seem beautiful. Worthy. Brave.
"... Let's go to the loft."
Peter quirks an eyebrow, "Are you sure?"
Stiles smiles a fragile sort of smile, takes the older man's hand in his, kisses his knuckles and takes a deep breath.
He has no idea what will happen.
But he's sure.
He's done hiding.
"Yeah. Let's go home."