Stiles kicked his shoes off and stomped upstairs. The door slam echoed in the empty house. His bed was soft, the linen fresh and clean, but only because he had changed them yesterday. Just like he had burned his spaghetti yesterday. Like he had gone to the store the day before that. Just like-
Just like no one was home anymore to- to-
Stiles sobbed into his pillow. Scott had had another asthma attack. They hadn’t found his inhaler in time and he had been almost blue by the time the ambulance had gotten there. It was only after school that he had opened his locker, his lock lying broken on the floor, still slightly hysterical, that he had found it. The moment of utter panic, seeing the missing inhaler there, before noticing the disappearing back at the other end of the corridor that Stiles could recognize even in the dark.
No one believed him when he told them about Jackson.
Not even his dad.
“It’s not fair,” he croaked. Stiles was tired. He was tired of going to school when the only person happy to see him was Scott. He was tired of coming home to an empty house where only ghosts greeted him. He was tired of going to the station, to see the pitying looks and endless cookies that were never right.
He couldn’t even go to visit Scott because- because-
Stiles’ breath hitched as he curled into a ball. He hated hospitals. He wanted them to disappear from the surface of the earth. They brought nothing good to the world, they should just go, they were a death trap and one day, just one day, Stiles knew he would meet Scott there, his father there, only to- to-
The loosening grip, one last desperate squeeze, the fastened beeps that echoed into silence-
Stiles clung to his pillow. It was wet against his cheek. He would have to change the casing again. For the third time this week. Everything should be clean, everything should be fine, his dad was busy, he didn’t- he didn’t need-
Stiles stumbled from the bed. His head was killing him again. He didn’t want to take any pills. They didn’t work for his mom. They wouldn’t work for him. They were just-
“An illusion of health,” he mumbled.
They didn’t stop his mom from calling him a monster.
Stiles followed his feet downstairs. The sun was coming down. He had lost the sense of time. He wasn’t hungry. It wasn’t like his dad realized if something was missing from the fridge or not. He could eat a bigger breakfast, maybe. Maybe Scott would be back to school too. Maybe he could actually have dinner with his dad. He had free nights on Fridays to make up for the weekend shifts.
If he didn’t pull a double.
Stiles almost dropped the glass he was holding. A drop of orange juice made it to the counter. He wiped it with his sleeve.
It wasn’t that he didn’t understand. Even in a small town such as Beacon Hills the Sheriff would be busy. Especially with the accidental fire burning the whole family down. It was a mess, he knew that. A tragedy. It might have gotten him a few more calls from his dad, he could hear his worry, but- Stiles hoped his dad would find his way back home soon. He was getting lonely in the house where the wallpaper yelled at him and the smells were foreign.
Stiles set the glass down. He could use it in the morning, he decided. He made his way back to his room, ignoring the backpack with unfinished homework. He could do it before class. It wasn’t like it was hard. He still needed the answers to be perfect, so he had to go, he couldn’t skip. Scott wasn’t all that brilliant in math and Stiles needed to be there for him. He needed Scott.
Stiles closed his eyes.
He needed Scott.
The instant Stiles fell asleep, he found himself in a grassy green area. He recognized the park as the one he used to frequent as a kid, the one with the awesome sandbox and buried treasures. He rushed to the swings when he saw the familiar figure there, a shout catching in his throat. Scott looked so alive there. His cheeks were flushed bright and his eyes were shining in competition with the sun. There was a free swing right next to him, just waiting to be filled.
He stared at the sight, drinking it in, but there was something wrong with the picture. He shook his head and rubbed his eyes. When he looked back again, Scott was still there, lively as ever.
It wasn’t Scott.
His Scott was just as beautiful and bright, but this wasn’t him. His Scott’s face had been hinting on blue and his nails had been broken. This Scott had perfect nails. He wanted Scott, but this wasn’t the Scott he wanted- he wanted the real Scott.
And his Scott wouldn’t be dreaming of Stiles’ favorite spot.
The scene faded a little, colors twirling around him. He shook his head again and walked past the scene. Scott remained seated in the swing, eyes never making contact with Stiles’ retreating form. Why would they?
It was only what Stiles wanted to see.
He picked up his pace. Colors and scenes rushed past him, some calling for him, some demanding his attention. Some were light, some were dark, but in his hurry to search for the one they blended into shades of grey. Stiles reached for the knob that should be right there and pushed past the threshold. He waited for the familiar tug, but it never appeared. He frowned.
“Why aren’t you asleep, Scotty-boy?” Stiles asked but there was no one to provide him answers.
He slowed down and the colors around him formed a pair of familiar eyes. Stiles waved them away. He looked around. The colors obeyed him and formed a large room with no end in sight. Doors popped up by the dozens, even hundreds, but Stiles ignored them as he walked. He knew from the heart where Scott would reside. He quickly arrived at the right spot, surrounded by doors aligning symmetrically. His neck craned around as he searched for the right name.
It wasn’t there.
There was one door claiming the name McCall, but it wasn’t the right one. She wasn’t the person who he wanted to meet tonight, whose dream he wanted to slip into. Stiles let out a broken sob.
He didn’t want Melissa, he wanted Scott. He knew Scott’s dreams were always happy; there was something in there that would always soothe Stiles, help him have a few moments of peace. He rarely involved himself in them, just watched Scott and the people he envisioned – Stiles took pride in knowing that he was the most frequent companion – march from journey to journey with the most colorful animals for them to befriend.
They always had a happy ending and Stiles craved for that.
He closed his eyes and the scene faded from him. The area around him bled colors, the little that had been clinging to the walls, doors, until only white was left. When he finally gathered himself, doors had appeared, suggesting where to go, what to do. Melissa’s door stood right next to him but the fear it emitted made Stiles flinch. He wished there was another door there with Scott’s name on it but no.
Somewhere in the back of his head Stiles knew he would face school alone tomorrow.
He wandered the area, lost. Names he knew, names that meant nothing to him. Everything was void of color. Something echoed in the nothingness, noise that wasn’t there usually, but he wasn’t sure where it came from. He ignored it. He listlessly watched as doors and even more doors started popping up. Some disappeared soon after they appeared, but some stayed longer. They were unassuming, quiet; unless Stiles would walk beside them, peek inside, he wouldn’t get a read on them. There were even some doors with cobwebs on them, still as death. Stiles shivered as he saw them.
To be asleep for so long, he didn’t want to know what lied behind them.
A flash of something caught his eye. He turned his head. There was a door there, not too far away, with a reddish tint on it. He wiped his eyes and squinted. No, it was still there – and getting brighter the longer he looked. Something lifted its head inside him. Curiosity.
He walked towards the door and the closer he got the stranger the sight became. The red seemed to spread on the wide plane, licked the surface as much as it could, and the frames were black and cracking as if burnt. The area around it was a mismatch of black bits and shades of grey. Like ash. There were footprints left in his wake.
Stiles slowly moved his gaze upwards. The red writhed.
It was like the door was on fire.
He stood there, staring. As the realization sunk in, he slowly reached for the doorknob. He grabbed it. It burned, as if blazing hot and freezing cold at the same time, and Stiles couldn’t withdraw his hand. He was stuck and oh – so curious, mesmerized, fascinated. The door clicked-
-and he was blasted with rage and grief so powerful the next thing he saw was the ceiling of his room.
Stiles gasped for breath he hadn’t realized he had been holding.
Who was that?
Stiles had been right. Scott wasn’t there the next day and Jackson had gotten off the hook like the little snake he was. He pranced around with his nose stuck high and Stiles itched to punch him. He knew he couldn’t; he didn’t have the strength for that nor could he get close enough – or scot-free even if he did. Stiles still knew that revenge was best served when the person least expected it, so he said nothing and just planned. It was Thursday now – and Stiles expected that Scott wouldn’t come back until Monday – so he had time.
“Tomorrow,” he swore. Tomorrow he would plant the seeds and let Scott enjoy the chaos with him on Monday.
Stiles glanced where Jackson sat with Danny. He scowled. How someone like Danny could stand him Stiles would never understand. For the past three months Jackson had been insufferable, taking it out on anyone and everyone, except for him. And maybe Lydia but no one bullied Lydia. Stiles half-suspected it wouldn’t end until someone died – and if someone did, Jackson’s dad could get the charges dropped. There wasn’t a month when Stiles didn’t hear his dad curse Mr. Whittemore for getting someone out of jail where they belonged.
No wonder Jackson was the snake he was. It was in his genes.
Stiles sulked in the cafeteria. He sat alone because no one wanted to approach him. Or, well, Mandy had tried as had Heather and Jonas, but he hadn’t really been good enough company for them to stick around. Stiles rubbed his eyes. He could have really done with a happy ending last night…
He paused in chomping down his apple. Who could have that been, the person behind the weird door? It wasn’t anyone Stiles knew, that was for sure, but it did beckon him, which was new. The only people he could pick out naturally were his dad and Scott, but he was pretty sure that if he tried to find his way back to the door he could.
He chewed absentmindedly. It was rare people felt so much in their sleep. Nightmares caused the strongest reaction, but they often didn’t last all that long because the person would wake up. This one didn’t seem to be able to wake up. Stiles didn’t know how long he had actually observed the door – time worked weird in dreams – but when he had woken up it had already been morning. It was a long time to be stuck in a nightmare.
Stiles shivered. He didn’t like the idea. It was like- like when his mom-
He shook his head. No, he wouldn’t- no. But. He could go back and see what it was about, couldn’t he? Just a little. The person had to be in the hospital, right? When Stiles had followed Scott’s presence, it had led him to the hospital and the person had been close enough for Stiles to have seen him. Felt him.
He threw his half-eaten apple into his backpack and rushed out of the cafeteria when the bell rang. He just managed to run in before he could be late. Jackson laughed at him, but Stiles just brushed him off, mind stuck on the fire-door person.
He would investigate. It wasn’t like he had anything better to do.
Something hit his head. He took it out and found a note. He bit his lip when he read it, hard enough to draw blood. Later he would remember nothing of the English lesson but that was alright.
He had his revenge to plan.
Stiles groaned yet again as he glanced at the clock. The red lettering kept mocking him. It was already past midnight and he still hadn’t fallen asleep. He had jumped to bed after seeing his dad off to the night shift and locking the door behind him, hoping to find the red door again.
No such luck.
Stiles growled. At this pace, he would never fall asleep!
He rolled onto his stomach and screamed into his pillow.
Needless to say, he didn’t get any sleep that night.
“Stiles,” his dad said as soon as he walked in to see Stiles munching his cereal like a zombie. Stiles raised his head and his dad’s lips thinned. Stiles knew, alright? He looked bad. Circles underneath his eyes that didn’t belong there, that had hardly left since- since. He knew.
And he was reminded of them every time his dad witnessed another restless night.
“It wasn’t a nightmare,” he just said. When his dad looked doubtful, Stiles braved a small smile. “Just couldn’t sleep.”
“Oh, kiddo.” His dad’s hand felt great against his buzzcut and Stiles leaned into the touch. He missed this. His dad worked so much and dreamed so little – and always about mom – that Stiles was just as worried about him as he was about Stiles. “How’s Scott?”
Stiles shrugged. His dad nodded.
“I’ll call Melissa as soon as I take a shower, alright?”
With another ruffle that wasn’t a ruffle, his dad left the kitchen. Stiles turned back to his soggy breakfast and made a face. He was fed up with cereal. And take-outs. He would have to learn to cook if this continued. He missed the home-cooked dinners, like the ones his mom made-
Stiles shook his head. He pushed the plate away and stood up, gathering the dishes and draining the milk out of the plate, before throwing the cereal away. He wasn’t all that hungry anyway. He could eat more at lunch or something. Have a snack. Later.
Stiles stumbled into the hallway and was putting his shoes on when his dad appeared, dressed in casual clothes for once. “Let me drive you to school,” he said. “You can call Melissa in the car.”
It took two tries for Melissa to answer.
“Morning,” she said.
“Morning,” Stiles echoed. “How’s Scott?”
“Oh, Stiles.” Melissa sounded tired. She probably didn’t even check who called her before answering. “Scott is recovering. He’s alright. It looked worse than it was-” and with the slight hitch in her voice, Stiles determined she was lying to him, trying to comfort him- “but he’s still going to miss Friday. Would you pick up his homework?”
“Of course.” Stiles licked his lips. “Do you think he’ll be back by Monday?”
“By the evening today if he has anything to say about it. After he woke up this morning, he insisted on that. I’ll keep you posted, promise.”
“He misses you,” Melissa said gently. Stiles swallowed.
“…I miss him too.”
The call ended and Stiles found that they were at school’s parking lot already. Stiles hugged his dad, shouldered his bag, and jogged into the building. He was earlier than usual. There weren’t all that many people around but still too many for Stiles to start his revenge. That was fine, he thought. It wouldn’t do if Jackson found out about it before Scott was back.
“If only I was this tired last night…” he mumbled, barely avoiding collision with the lockers.
It was surprising that he didn’t fall asleep during class. He was mostly left alone although he did spend his lunch with Heather and Jonas. It was fine, but he missed Scott. He wasn’t as close with Heather as he used to be, and Jonas was… kind of dumb. He only talked about football these days. Beacon Hills didn’t even have a good team and it was still the only thing he talked about. It was getting boring. Couldn’t he even focus on lacrosse?
When the last bell rang, there was a loud cheer that shook Stiles and the desks around him emptied fast. Even Heather and Mandy just threw him an off-the-shoulder “bye!” before disappearing through the door. It was fine though. He would see his best friend soon enough. And this way, he didn’t have to explain anything.
He waved at his teacher as he passed and ran off. He walked past his locker and stopped by Jackson’s. It was the first time ever he was glad about their lockers being almost next to each other, thanks to their last names.
He put the code in – like he didn’t know Jackson’s code was Danny’s birthday – and pulled the yoghurt his dad had forgotten in the fridge. There was mold in it. He smeared it on his books and expensive gym clothes and threw in the juice box – cherry, Jackson hated cherry – for good measure. He left the empty cartons there and closed it. It would look like Jackson had done it himself in his hurry and he would get in trouble for messing with the books, especially the math book. Mrs. Reed was very particular about her books.
Stiles grinned. It wasn’t much but it would do. Scott wouldn’t enjoy being too mean either. When Stiles had the resources though he would make sure Jackson paid for it. This would be just the beginning. He wouldn’t forget. Maybe he could mess with Jackson’s dreams a bit. He’d never done that before, it was a bit like cheating, but maybe it would make him more bearable.
It was chilly when Stiles walked out. There were a few people around still, someone even shouldered past him, but no one paid him attention. That worked fine with him. The trek home was just as uneventful as the day was and Stiles stumbled in the moment he heard the lock click. He found a note by his dad that he had been called in but that he would be back by dinner. That meant take-out, again.
“Please, don’t pick up Chinese,” he said to the note. They’d had Chinese for the past three days. If Stiles had to eat one more spring roll…
Stiles slumped on the couch and turned the TV on. He settled on some afternoon filler show after going through the whole selection. There was some old cartoon going on, something about a dog being really scared, but Stiles found it hard to focus. Everything was blurry. The weird dog wasn’t even getting any-
Stiles opened his eyes and found himself standing in his math class. Oh, he had fallen asleep. He looked around, finding Jackson dressed in stained clothing and being yelled at by Mrs. Reed. He smelled awful. Stiles snickered but stood up. He would see the scene on Monday and it would be better than this.
No one looked at him as he walked out of the door and entered the space in-between. He focused but couldn’t find Scott anywhere. There weren’t many people sleeping but it made sense. It was afternoon. Stiles skipped along, seeing granny Fredricks pop up but no one else in the neighbor-
He paused. There was that something again, tingling his senses, the weird echo from the night before. He decided to follow it. As he walked closer he noticed how the noise – it wasn’t really a noise, per se, maybe more of a very concentrated feeling? – made the colors shiver and wither. Stiles watched as the shades turned from full to pale imitations before fading away.
Was something eating the colors?
Then Stiles felt the crack in the air. His head snapped towards it and saw the different shades of red lick the door before him in a rage he had never witnessed before. It was the same door from the night before, it had to be. Stiles bit his lip in indecision. He had imagined coming back to investigate – he had never seen anything like this in his dreams before – but the pain-
It reminded him of his mom. Stiles could admit it scared him.
He found his feet taking him closer, however, and there he was, standing in the ash and hand reaching for the knob. The burning cold sensation was there again, and he pulled the door open and, this time, he wasn’t thrown out, no-
This time, he was pulled in.
Stiles felt like he was falling. The world, no, dream, no, world around him was twisting and bending and there was no foothold to keep him standing. He slumped down, making sure his hands touched the cold, moist ground underneath him to keep him from turning and turning and turning until he would have found himself lost in despair. The air was cracking and filled with smoke-
He could barely see a thing, it was so thick.
“What the-” Stiles coughed, his mouth drying even as his eyes watered. The dream was so vivid he could taste the ash on his tongue. He heard a howl, another, a third – a whole choir. He pulled himself to his hands and knees and started crawling towards the noise. The cracking noise got louder, and the smoke got thicker, and tears leaked from his eyes. The world was dark around him, filling with echoes and echoes of rage, impotence and despair. He could see light, however; strange, living light – fire, he realized as he got closer. Like the door.
And then he saw it.
The whole building before him was engulfed in an inferno. The howls were coming from inside the house strangely enough. He would have thought wolves would be stuck outside, circling the death trap. No, the only figure he could see was standing on two legs, unable to break whatever invisible barrier there was between him and the burning house. He sobbed, screamed, but to no avail. One by one the voices were silenced as Stiles watched, unable to move; howl by howl the crying stopped and, even when the echo of the last broken whine faded away, the man didn’t stop trying to barge in.
And then, right before Stiles’ eyes, he caught fire – and screams of pain far heavier than the ones before filled his ears.
Stiles fumbled then. He stood up with unsteady feet and scrambled towards where the man was twisting on the ground, arm still reaching towards the dying husk. The imagery around him burned away bit by bit until there was only the blazing man shining like the sun in the darkness.
“Nonononono,” Stiles repeated in a mantra, waving his hand frantically, but it barely made a dent in the flames licking the man. He was deaf to the screams – he didn’t know how long he had listened to them, too long, far too long, and now they were etched into his brain like brands – as he tried to douse the man. Nothing was working. The dream was so real that he felt powerless. But he had to do something, he had to-
With a burst of speed he didn’t know he had in him he was tackling the man. He hugged him tight, ignoring the flames claiming him too, and sobbed, loud and ugly. They rolled on the ground, over and over and over again. The pain was immense, but Stiles held on. He didn’t even know a dream could hurt him, anyone, like that. He didn’t know how long it was – long, long, far too long – but little by little the flames started cooling down. He clung on, still sobbing, and the rage surrounding him turned simmering cold.
Stiles lifted his eyes and found two of the brightest eyes he had ever seen stare right into his soul. He opened his mouth-
-and found himself yanked awake. He stared up at his dad and his frantic, openly scared eyes. His throat felt like a desert and when he swallowed it hurt.
“Dad?” Stiles heard his voice break on the single syllable. The large hand that brushed his cheek was shaking. It left a trail behind. It was like Stiles’ face was wet from something.
His dad brought him up on his arms and hugged him tight. Stiles melted into the embrace and started shaking almost belatedly. As if shaken to his very core. The first and second sob he let out hurt but after that he couldn’t even feel them. He didn’t know how long it took but, finally, he fell into the soothing black oblivion.
He didn’t dream that night.
Stiles’ dad got him an appointment with a therapist after Stiles couldn’t explain what had caused the breakdown. When he tried to tell him about the man on fire, his dad’s face had darkened, and he had looked as solemn as he had during mom’s funeral. He would go on Monday after school and his dad would drive him to the hospital where the woman worked. He apologized for forcing him to go but Stiles- well. He could understand how scared his dad had been. His dad would have made the appointment even earlier, just in case, but Stiles had told him not to.
He didn’t want anyone to know.
His dad had only nodded, the only concession he made. They had eaten in silence and went to visit Scott on Saturday. He was alright, thankfully. A little weak, still, but Melissa swore he would be right as rain come Monday. Stiles was glad.
But even the McCalls could see there was something else going on.
They left soon after that. Melissa and his dad talked in low tones when they thought Stiles didn’t see. He did. He couldn’t hear but he saw. He saw it in the small, aborted moves Melissa made and in the thin line that was his dad’s mouth. Even when Scott was talking, Stiles couldn’t completely focus.
His mind was still on the burning man with eyes of the brightest blue.
When Stiles fell asleep that night, it was next to his dad. As he found himself sitting on a large tree stump, he looked around but felt no pull towards either his dad or Scott. He sighed and leaned down until he was lying on his back. He painted clouds idly. It was easier to find the dreams of people he was most familiar with, know where the comfort of their dreams lingered. He did like to explore the possibilities by himself too – flying, for example, was tons of fun – but it was always nicer to just… reach for the comfort already there and gently guide them to another direction or just sit and enjoy. Scott dreamed a lot about animals and adventures where his breath didn’t bother him; they were always fun and Stiles enjoyed giving him a little thrill that reality didn’t allow.
The door to his dad’s dream appeared by Stiles. He smiled softly, stood up, and peeked inside. There he was, sitting by the porch, fishing. Stiles snorted. Only his dad. There were clouds gathering in melancholy, but he blew a wind to take them away. The sun shined down on them and his dad cuddled what looked like Stiles next to him. Stiles itched to merge himself into that Stiles. He knew first-hand how great it was to just linger in his dad’s arms.
With a heavy heart, he let the door close. He took a step away, and then another, more, until he could barely read the sign on the door. He turned around and, with determined steps, braved forward.
There was a place he needed to be tonight.
It took a bit longer than before but he found the door again, settled into the midst of those with cobwebs on them. Stiles wondered if- if he was in long-term care. Like his mom had been. He had never entered those kinds of dreams before. They were more permanent and, perhaps, that was the reason Stiles found it difficult to affect the man’s… dream… before. It took merely a breath for him to change the course of his dad’s.
It had taken everything he had and more to even make a dent in the man’s.
Stiles found that, while the ash was still there, the door was no longer burning. Well, it was still charred, but it felt like ice when Stiles reached for it, and the name was just as unreadable as before. He wondered if that was due to him or perhaps the man’s dream was different this time.
Stiles found himself pulled inside again but, this time, there was no gravity-defying effects at play. It was cold, however, and Stiles hugged his middle in an effort so stay warm. His breath was visible, he noticed as he sneezed. There were things also falling from the sky. It almost looked like it was snowing – but the snow was grey and not white.
It was raining ash.
“Well, this is… different,” he said. Still just as grim but different. Stiles wandered around the deadlands. These dreams, worlds, were large and wide, he thought. Usually they built as things progressed, but the scenery here was akin to dimensions instead of temporary adventures. He wondered if- if all- all coma patients’ dreams were the same. Stiles shivered.
He didn’t think he wanted to find out.
Because the man had to be in a coma. Not medically-induced, because Stiles wouldn’t be able to visit them; no, a real, long, devastating coma. Probably a new one as well, if the blasts of emotions were to indicate anything. Stiles wondered if the man was a survivor of the fire his dad was still investigating.
He paused. “That’s it,” he whispered. It had to be. Maybe if he peeked at his dad’s files, he could-
Stiles blinked and found himself at the edge of a lake. The man was there, underneath the icy surface. Stiles crept closer. The man’s eyes were open but sightless and he lay still like the dead. He breathed the water but was otherwise still.
Like in a grave.
Stiles’ hands formed fists and he bit his lips.
No. No. The man was still alive. Coma or not, Stiles didn’t- wanted- he didn’t know the man’s story. But-
He was still alive, even if the wolves were not, maybe. And there was no reason for him to linger in a grave of his mind’s own making.
Stiles crawled on the ice until he was face to face with the man. The eyes were dull, he noticed, and the blue wasn’t the same. Stiles thumped his fist against the surface but didn’t even make a crack.
His eyes narrowed. “Come on,” he grimaced. “Work with me.” He put more force into his hits, driving all his pent-up feelings into them. As he was about to scream in frustration the ice cracked. Stiles barely had time to realize the fact when he was drowning in the freezing water.
He didn’t know how – he really didn’t, he just wished harder than ever before – but they actually did make it to the shore. Stiles was cold, so cold, and his teeth clattered but the air was heaven to his lungs. He curled on the ground next to the man. He was warm, Stiles noticed numbly, even though by all logic he shouldn’t be if Stiles himself wasn’t. He scooted closer, missing his dad’s embrace all the more, and clung to the man.
The man twitched.
Stiles raised his head. He could see the blue of the man’s eyes sharpen and grow into something unnatural. He didn’t know what that meant but- it was a beautiful color. Sad, yes, but still beautiful.
“Hi,” Stiles rasped. The man didn’t move but something told Stiles he wasn’t alone, that the man could hear him even if he was, perhaps, unable to understand what he was saying. He didn’t know how comas worked. They seemed to be so very different from ordinary dreams.
Personally, he thought this was different from the coma ones as well.
“Hi,” he repeated. He scooted closer – didn’t know how it was possible but he did – and stared into the eyes staring at the sky. The ash rain had stopped.
“I’m Stiles,” he said. Stiles felt a little silly for saying that – the man wouldn’t remember him anyway – but it was polite to do so. His mom- “I’m sorry.”
Because if there was one thing he understood, it was loss.
A burst of the same impotent rage and grief created a blizzard in a matter of seconds but as Stiles didn’t move away, only clung harder, hid under the man’s chin, it slowly dissipated. Stiles stared at the now still lake, hiding the terror within.
It was scary, he thought, to not be in charge. He bit his lip. He wondered if that was how the man felt as well.
He didn’t move, stayed where he was, until his dad woke him up.
Stiles wandered the hospital corridors, doing his best to avoid detection. His dad had been talking with a few nurses when Stiles slipped away. His therapist had been… alright, probably, but it wasn’t like Stiles could tell her anything new. Well, he could tell her how afraid he had been for Scott and she seemed to accept that as the reason his Dad was worried about him. Perhaps think that the scare might have brought up memories of-
She might even tell his dad that. She probably wasn’t even wrong.
At least Jackson had been pissed off today. Mrs. Reed had been as well, at him, and Jackson had gotten detention for a week straight. It busted his clean record and there would be calls home to be made. Stiles and Scott and the rest of the class made fun of him. Even Lydia had laughed. Jackson had flushed a bright, unflattering red that hadn’t really left his face the whole day.
Served him right, the jerk. Stiles hoped he got flak from his parents too, for being ‘forgetful’.
Stiles finally made it to his mom’s former ward. It was a quiet place. No one laughed, only a few cried. His mom had been the loudest, screaming at Stiles that he- that he. Stiles crouched, watching as a nurse walked past him. He didn’t even glance at him. Stiles made sure no one was there before he entered the ward.
He peeked inside the rooms but no one looked familiar. He did recognize some of the names – they never moved, always there, even when his mom had been there and longer – but none looked like the man. He needed blue eyes, probably light skin, light brown hair. Strong build, kind of stocky, but in a muscle-y way. Because his dad was build, Stiles knew that, but he wasn’t like the man. Dad was… he was lean, maybe, but the man seemed like one of those people he could see using equipment on the sports channel.
Stiles evaded his mom’s old room. There was someone inside, but he didn’t dare to look. He hoped the man wouldn’t be there. Stiles didn’t think he could enter it even if he was. Just coming to the ward was hard enough.
It took him several doors, but he did see a familiar hand on one of the beds. Stiles looked around but, seeing no one, quickly slipped inside. He pushed past the curtain and his feet froze on their place.
The man was covered in bandages.
Stiles could still see the eyes, slits as they were, and he thought he could recognize the duller of the blues. The hands were the same as well. But everything else… Stiles’ hands shook. There was no hair. Half his face and most of his body were covered but Stiles knew what that had to mean. The man was burned, severely burned, and it was a miracle he was even alive.
Stiles’ eyes fell on the documents at the end of the bed. His gaze fixated on the name there.
“Hello, Peter,” Stiles whispered. He stood there, staring, long enough for his dad and Melissa to find him. He got scolded and even told he would be put under house arrest. Stiles just nodded and accepted the verdict.
The man finally had a name, and it was Peter.
Stiles didn’t go to Peter every night. Sometimes he just needed to play with Scott and the animals or sit with his dad, enjoying the last breezes of summer. He had decided not to bother with Jackson. Stiles had humiliated him at school a few more times, enough that people were still giggling every time he passed by. Only Danny seemed to not take a piss at him and Jackson clung to that. Good. Maybe that would teach him to be kinder to other people’s best friends.
That didn’t mean he didn’t go to him more often than not. Most nights he did. If someone asked him, he wouldn’t be able to tell why he kept going back. It wasn’t like Peter was his business. He had his dad and Scott, Melissa and Mandy and Heather and other classmates, but he didn’t know Peter. He knew about the fire – and how there had only been two other survivors. The fire had been declared an accident and Stiles later found out that Laura and Derek, Peter’s niece and nephew, had visited him once before disappearing. He could, arguably, understand the desire to run away from the tragedy; however, personally, Stiles resented anyone leaving Peter there.
Or, perhaps, that was why he continued going back, so often even that it became as easy to find Peter’s door with its still unreadable sign as it was to find himself slipping into his dad’s or Scott’s dreams.
Some days Peter’s door was still burning but, little by little, after months of visiting, it seemed to be happening less and less. There were days that Stiles would find Peter burning, other times freezing, drowning… dying. But there were good days too. And the longer Stiles stayed, the more he realized he could, in fact, affect the constant dreams Peter lived in.
It started with a small thing.
One night, Peter was lying down, staring at the ash fall, freezing cold. It was like the constant heater inside him had been broken. It made even Stiles colder as he lied next to him. Stiles remembered wishing for a patchwork quilt, the one his mom had made when she was still mostly her, the one Stiles still slept under even during summer. It always kept him warm and safe, any and all seasons.
Then, as if by magic Stiles hadn’t been able to use here, it was there, covering them both.
Peter was still cold, but it was no longer a bad cold, just an autumn chill. Stiles thought he saw the grey atmosphere lighten a little, but it was probably just his imagination. It was nice, lying underneath the quilt – so nice, in fact, that Stiles found himself falling asleep inside the dream with the ash gently covering the bright reds and greens.
Stiles woke up that morning feeling more rested than in what seemed like years. He stared at the quilt, wondering.
He dug out the barely started quilt his mom had been working on until she couldn’t.
Two months, a learning experience, a lot of effort, tender fingers and some sneaking later, Peter was covered in blues and golds of his own.
It took time but, eventually, Stiles managed to make a dent into the barren wasteland that was Peter’s dreams. He knew the house had been in the preserve, even seen some trees during the scenarios where Peter… well… he tried to recreate the trees and, little by little, he did it. The more time he spent in his dreams, the more trees he managed to create, before Peter’s subconscious took a note and Stiles found himself standing in the middle of a forest the summer before he started junior high school.
He found Peter wandering around, stalking the shadows aimlessly, for the first time ever. Stiles may have cried a little. Peter still didn’t acknowledge his presence – he hadn’t gotten a reaction out of him since the first time he spoke to him – but Stiles didn’t let it discourage him. Besides, he liked talking. Peter probably didn’t get much company and Stiles-
Well, sometimes he felt a little lonely too. Besides, it wasn’t like Peter was gone. He was right there, and it felt wrong to leave him stew in silence.
There was nothing he could do with the ruins of the Hale house though. What he could do was make sure the weather stayed nice. It rained less and less, and more often the cover he had created by the lake would act as a sunshade instead of an umbrella. He imagined a couple of those long chairs in beach resorts wouldn’t be out of place there. The grass was greener every time he visited and once they even stumbled upon a clearing and Stiles was able to fill it with wild flowers. That time Peter had stopped in his tracks and even the howls they could still hear – ones Peter continued to try to find – didn’t get him to budge an inch.
Stiles made certain to include flowers wherever they were after that, the smellier the better. For some reason, they seemed to calm Peter down. He even brought him some when he visited his therapist, making sure they were sitting by his pillow.
Even when he quit his visits to the therapist, with his dad’s grudging permission of course, he didn’t stop visiting Peter.
Sometimes Stiles actually thought Peter was watching him, both in the dreams and not. There were times he found his eyes on him, both kinds of blues although the electric variety was reserved only for the dream, but whenever Stiles waved his hand over his face, he didn’t even twitch. It was weird, like he was dreaming wide awake. Like Stiles was, only not really.
He wondered why he kept those visits a secret. His dad would probably understand if Stiles tried to explain. He just… didn’t. Peter was his, in a way no one else was. Perhaps it was selfish of Stiles, but he wanted it to stay that way.
And he could almost read his name on the door too.
“You must be Stiles.”
Stiles stumbled. He blinked owlishly as he tried to trace the words’ origin. He found himself staring at Peter who was lounging on a beach chair, which, whoa, had he created that one? He had just played with the idea. When he met Peter’s eyes, he found that they – well, they weren’t glowing, but they were no longer dull either. There was something sharp in the ice of them.
“Peter?” Stiles gasped aloud. And then felt a little silly, for having asked. “It’s you! I mean, of course it’s you, it’s your dream but- wait, you can see me? Know it’s me-me?”
Peter tilted his head. He glanced around, taking note of the accessories Stiles had gathered through hard work, before looking back to him again. “So it seems, whatever that’s worth. Where are we? A dream, you said?”
“Oh. Yeah.” Stiles shuffled on his feet. Peter quirked his brows at that and gestured at the chair Stiles had apparently conjured. Which was weird since it hadn’t been a conscious effort, more like a musing. “Yours, actually.”
“Ah. So I am not dead.”
“That’s morbid,” Stiles told him. Peter huffed a laugh.
“A big word for a ten-year-old.”
“I’ll have you know I’m thirteen,” Stiles said. “Not ten.”
“It was.” Peter huffed again in amusement. Stiles relaxed a little at the sound. He gingerly sat next to Peter. “You’ve been dreaming for years.”
Peter’s gaze sharpened. The ice was more pronounced than before. “With what I remember of your visits, I know it has been a while. But years?”
Stiles nodded. There was no sugarcoating it, he supposed. “Since… since the fire,” he said delicately. “It’s 2008.”
Peter closed his eyes. “Three years,” he whispered.
“You are taking this well,” Stiles said. Peter’s chuckle had a bitter edge to it.
“I wouldn’t say so. Tell me, did anyone survive?” When Stiles hesitated, unsure what to say, Peter sighed. “I thought so. Who abandoned me?”
“I’m sure they-”
“Spare me,” Peter cut in sharply. “Who cut me off the bonds and left me to rot?”
That was a weird thing to say, Stiles thought privately. He licked his lips before answering, “Laura and Derek.”
If winter had a human form, its name would be Peter. The cold he radiated made Stiles shiver. A few snowflakes blew past him.
“Naturally,” Peter spat out but didn’t elaborate. His poise was no longer relaxed – Stiles had to wonder if it ever had been, if he had just been duped into believing that – but, rather, coiled to strike. What, Stiles didn’t know. Hopefully not him.
People were never aware of him when he visited their dreams. He was merely a part of them. But Peter was; he knew Stiles was an intruder.
It was… new. Kind of terrifying but also fascinating.
Peter stood abruptly and stalked to where the edge of the forest lingered. Stiles scrambled up, but Peter’s voice stopped him from following.
“Leave, little dream walker. You are trespassing.”
Stiles felt a tug at his navel and the moment he blinked found him staring at the door, charred and black but there, with Peter’s name proudly hanging for Stiles to read. When Stiles tried to open it, he couldn’t.
It was locked.
Stiles stared at it in bemusement.
What did that mean?
The door wouldn’t open anymore.
Stiles stood many a night outside it to no avail. Peter wouldn’t answer to his calls. He knocked, pushed, even kicked with all his might – which, admittedly, wasn’t a lot but it was still something – but it wouldn’t budge. The name tag mocked him, glinting in the unnatural whiteness around them. Stiles was worried.
The door was rotting.
Small bits and pieces were falling off of it and if Stiles were to pull a stripe off, it would fall to the ground, lifeless, and disintegrate.
It still wouldn’t let him in, no matter how many holes decayed on it.
The upset Stiles felt transferred to the world awake. Scott didn’t leave his side but, sometimes, it seemed that he was afraid to say something. Anything. Stiles felt awful. He had snapped at him once, twice, more times than he would like to admit, when he had gushed about the new upcoming game that Stiles himself had been excited about just a few days ago. He was the worst friend. He had tried not to let his night-time activities bother him during the day but-
Peter plagued his mind.
His dad hadn’t noticed yet, but it was mostly due to his shifts, all nights this week. Stiles had barely seen him since Saturday; he was always gone or asleep when Stiles wasn’t. It made him even more anxious, being unaware of how his dad was.
With the calls he kept getting, his dad must be worried as well – just not about the right thing.
Since Stiles first witnessed the torture Peter went through, had an actual outward reaction to it, his dad had tried his best to be there again, despite his many duties. He still did. It wasn’t perfect but there were fewer days that Stiles had to spend alone – nights too, if he wanted to. If something – someone – could have dragged Stiles out of his funk, it would have been his dad or Scott… but one Stiles didn’t have access to and one he had himself hurt and didn’t dare to touch under threat of breaking him with even the lightest of brushes.
He had dropped by Scott’s dreams a few times already to soothe the nightmares whenever his best friend was making himself sick with worry, afraid that Stiles would find him somehow inadequate when it was Stiles who-
Stiles was the worst.
He tried staying away. Peter clearly didn’t want him there. Stiles knew that. Perhaps that was what was best, really. It wasn’t like he was anything to Stiles. Their only real conversation, one where it wasn’t just Stiles talking to an unresponsive Peter, consisted of the man telling him to go away. He would be fine, Stiles told himself.
It didn’t work.
Stiles stood next to Peter’s bed, hand clasped on the scarred skin that wasn’t reflected in Peter’s dreams. Perhaps he didn’t realize his state, perhaps that was who he was inside. Stiles’ dad looked younger in his dreams too, with less wrinkles that had come after Stiles’ mom had begun losing her mind. People were different, their core selves, in their dreams. Their fears, desires, things they hid were exposed within their subconsciousness made visible.
“I’m not going to stop,” Stiles told the sleeping man. Peter’s breathing pattern didn’t change a bit. He squeezed the hand again, changed the flowers, and left.
The next night Stiles found himself standing in front of the door that smelled distressingly alike flowers rotting alive, all sweet and cloying, with deep scratches marking the name plate. It was almost illegible again. Stiles took a deep breath.
He pushed through.
“Peter?” Stiles called. The dream world was dark. The decay was overwhelming, smell enhanced hundredfold, and Stiles’ stomach clenched. He felt the urge to throw his guts out. Peter’s dreams were always hyper realistic. He wouldn’t put it past them to make him do exactly that.
A nagging feeling made Stiles’ lips thin.
Perhaps that was because this was the reality Peter lived.
Peter wasn’t by the lake. It was bubbling something awful and the beach chairs and sunshade were in pieces and tatters, ripped apart. It was like they were destroyed by something Stiles definitely didn’t want to meet. The darkness was distressing.
He didn’t want to know what might lurk in there.
The only light he had was the blood red moon in what had to be the sky but was instead just as black as the shadows around. Stiles wished for a lantern and, to his surprise, the dream granted him one. It lit, and the shadows grew under it. Stiles wasn’t sure if the light was mercy or not.
“Peter!” he called again. The name echoed around him and Stiles turned and turned until it faded away. He shivered.
He hated it there.
He pushed forward.
He walked up the path to where he knew the ruins lingered. It took him time – it was seriously spooky in there – but he found it. The shadows were curled around the remains possessively. Stiles gulped.
He saw something move on the blackened porch and stiffened. The creature – because it wasn’t anything like human – lifted its head and stared straight at Stiles with its supernaturally bright blue eyes. There was something familiar in the shade. It took Stiles embarrassingly long to realize why that was.
“Peter?” Stiles’ voice wavered, and he wanted to kick himself for it. He cleared this throat and tried again. “Peter? Is that you?”
The creature slunk forward towards Stiles. Stiles wanted to take a step back – run away even – but he didn’t move. His heart tickled his throat.
He lifted his lantern.
The creature was long and disfigured. Its size was massive and even on four legs it seemed to tower over Stiles. A true monster under the bed, hairy but with patchy fur. As if it had forgotten how to be who it once was. The elongated teeth and sharp claws glittered in the harsh light, competing against the unnatural blues holding Stiles hostage.
The beast was on him the moment Stiles could no longer keep his eyes open and he blinked. Its breath was rank, and death clung to it like a parasite. Stiles wet his lips, his heartbeat going off the rails. The lantern clattered on the ground.
“It’s me,” he said, voice low. “Stiles.”
Peter – because the creature could be no other – growled. Stiles’ heart skipped a beat but amid its race he barely felt it. It – he – stood up to two legs and, holy shit, he really did stand so much taller than Stiles ever would.
“You are not alone.”
Peter roared. It tasted of hate and anguish, rage.
“You’re not alone,” he repeated. His hand shook but he reached over to touch Peter’s chest. It was cold and sort of thickly wet. Stiles didn’t want to know. “I’m here.”
The teeth looked terrifying. They were far too close to Stiles’ face. He had never died in a dream before. He had never had a desire to find out what would happen if he did. He hoped he never would have to.
“I can be your pack,” he told the werewolf. Stiles wasn’t stupid. He had never been called slow on uptake. The creature Peter was looked like a text book example of a monstrous werewolf the fairy tales never did justice.
The werewolf, Peter, scoffed. That told Stiles enough that it was Peter in command there despite his outward appearance.
“I can,” he insisted, then hesitated. “I don’t know what that entails,” he admitted. “But I can learn. I don’t want you to be alone. We can learn together.”
The rasped question caught Stiles unaware and he blinked rapidly. The eyes, still shining, didn’t look as crazy as they had before.
“Because,” Stiles said. His voice cracked. “No one should be alone.”
Stiles’ mom died alone despite Stiles being there with her, alone. The long nights his dad had slaved to pay for the hospital costs he didn’t know Stiles knew about, the ones his insurance hadn’t managed to cover. The dinners spent alone. The empty bottles he found, the nights he spent terrified until he fell asleep and escaped to the haven only Scott could bring.
The feeling of love he got from his dad’s hugs. The bottles he hadn’t seen for years. The adventures he went on with his best friend. The nights he could curl beside the people he loved best. The memories of his mom’s favorite perfume. Melissa’s famous chocolate cake. The knowledge someone would stand next to him, come hell or high water.
He absently traced the skin under his hand. “No one should be alone,” he repeated softly. He leaned against Peter’s chest, his forehead pressing against the patchy fur there. The lantern’s light flickered and then died, leaving them underneath the moon’s pale beams.
It bathed the world in its soft, golden glow.
A hand pressed against Stiles’ skull, dull fingertips petting the short-shorn hair on Stiles’ head. Peter’s chest racked with a shaky wheeze. Stiles closed his eyes.
Somehow, he knew the door wouldn’t be locked again.
Stiles baked Scott’s favorite brownies and apologized. He took them, the temptation too strong, but the look on his face was serious.
“Are you alright?” Scott asked. It was like someone squeezed Stiles’ intestines and tied them to a ribbon. They stared at the high school lacrosse practice that was starting from their seats at the edge of the field.
“I will be,” Stiles said finally. He leaned against Scott.
“Can you talk about it?”
Could he, not did he want to. Only Scott.
Scott nodded. “You’ll tell me when you can,” he said decisively.
Stiles hummed and stole a piece. Scott squawked and battled Stiles’ frosting covered fingers as he attempted to get another one. They ended up rolling on the grass until the lacrosse coach – a crazy-looking man with hair sticking in every and all directions – yelled at them to get off his lawn.
Scott grinned. “I got the game. Come over?”
The brownies, thankfully, were still intact as they rushed away giggling.
“Why haven’t you used your powers on other people?”
“Not the way I meant.”
Stiles shuffled on his feet before he plopped down next to Peter. “I’ve thought about it,” he admitted. It would be so easy. He already has blackmail material for so many people because, sometimes, he liked to wander. But-
“Dreams are sacred. They are the only time people are at peace, truly. Not always but they can be free from everything that, you know, chains them.” He sighed and softly added, “it’s the only time mom ever was happy in the end.”
In the end, it was only in the few dreams between her nightmares that Stiles got a glimpse of the woman she once was.
His lips thinned. “It doesn’t mean I wouldn’t. But. Things haven’t gone to that extent yet. I almost did, once. Jackson stole Scott’s inhaler and he had to be taken to the hospital. I was so mad, scared really… but I know the effect my actions can have. And I had someone else to distract me.” Stiles flashed a quick grin at Peter who merely quirked his brows. Stiles rubbed his neck and admitted, “I visited him, a few months later. He’s adopted.”
Peter nodded. “A lot of ammunition.”
“Yeah,” he sighed. Jackson’s dreams… were more of a darker variety, more often than not, like his temper. Stiles wasn’t cruel enough to add to the dreams he already had, but he was vindictive enough to slip away and do nothing about them.
“Does anyone know what you can do?”
Stiles hugged his knees.
He felt Peter’s eyes dig into his skull. The unasked question hovered in the air.
“It’s just- I didn’t realize it was anything special, as a kid. Then when I did- people- mom, dad, they told me I was lucid dreaming. And, I mean, they weren’t wrong, not exactly,” Stiles rambled. “Just didn’t hit the right notes. And then I thought that, well, maybe they were sort of wired not to get it? If someone dreamed of someone else, they wouldn’t say the person was there, just peg it as a weird thing to say if, say, they were told that the person was really there. Just part of the dream. Eventually, I stopped trying. It was easier that way.”
Stiles leaned back and met Peter’s gaze. The intensity in them was… It was. A lot. “You were different, though. You always knew I didn’t belong here.”
When Peter didn’t answer, Stiles tacked on, “I mean, I do now, but I meant- you knew you didn’t imagine me. I thought it might have been because of your, uh, coma? But could it be because of all the… grr?” Stiles clawed the thin air with his fingers. Peter looked utterly unimpressed.
“Grr?” he deadpanned. Stiles repeated his movement.
“Yeah, you know, grr, arr, I’m howling at the mooooon?”
Peter rolled his eyes so hard it looked painful.
“I am a werewolf, not a pirate,” Peter said. “And it could be. Could also not. This is the first time I’ve come across a dream walker.”
“…That has a nice ring to it. Dream walker,” Stiles mused. He waved his fingers again, a few coughs of smoke bursting from the tips. He stared at the wisps forlornly.
Peter stared at the dying strands. “I suppose it has limitations.”
Stiles pursed his lips. “It used to be a lot easier,” he muttered. He pointed at Peter, pouting. “Your dreams are just too hard to control.”
Peter actually preened at that. Stupid wolf. Why did Stiles even stay there? Stiles shook his head and laid out the theory he had, about this being Peter’s reality versus actual dreams. Peter’s brows traced his hairline.
“That… does sound likely, from what I’ve come to understand of your talent,” Peter admitted. He frowned pensively. “I wonder if, in that case, you could affect the real world as well. If you have latent magical abilities.”
Stiles blinked. “Well, if I have, they are very latent. I don’t think I’ve lit any candles without matches in my life and I’ve definitely never conjured beach chairs out of thin air.”
“It would be interesting to study, nonetheless.”
The scrutiny Stiles was subjected to started to creep him out a little. He flopped on his back and stared at the sky. For once it was completely clear. The stars were pretty, shining against the dark. They looked so real that Stiles wondered that if he could fly up there, would he be able to touch them.
Peter lay down next to him. Stiles thrust his arm up and started tracing the shapes he could find. Sometimes Peter would tell him what that shape was if Stiles got one correct. If not, Stiles made a name for them himself. All stars deserved to belong to something.
Peter made a small, considering sound. Stiles tilted his head to look at him.
“Do you think you could take someone with you while you ‘walk’?” Peter asked.
Stiles froze, the words playing in his mind. A grin slowly spread on his face.
“Want to find out?”
Turns out, he couldn’t.
Not completely anyway.
Peter traced the frame of his door, sitting on the edge of it, feet sturdy on the ground inside. He leaned back as much as he could and looked upwards. What he could see of it, the door was badly scarred, charcoal staining it cold. The nameplate, however, was shining after Stiles reached over and wiped it.
“The doors…” Stiles started and then fell silent. Peter looked around them curiously, inspecting all the doors around them, before quirking his brows at Stiles. He shrugged sheepishly. “I just realized something.”
“Yeah.” Stiles worried his lip before admitting, “The doors reflect the people. I didn’t- they were always white. But I never really thought about them, just looked at the name and what was inside. The doors themselves weren’t important. But-” Stiles reached over and pressed his palm against Peter’s doorframe.
“I guess they were.”
Peter turned back to his door. “Am I scarred?” he asked frankly. Stiles hesitated before nodding. Peter hummed thoughtfully.
“It does make sense.”
“Wolves are pack creatures,” Peter said. He scraped some of the charcoal off. The flakes fell to the floor. “Lone wolf dies, the pack survives.”
“You heal quicker… with other werewolves?”
“With pack, family.”
“Do you think…?”
“Would I be in a coma with my pack around, you mean?”
Stiles nodded. Peter sighed.
“I don’t know,” he said. “It’s possible that I was too hurt not to fall into coma. However, it is also possible that even if that was the case, I would have healed quicker, perhaps even woken up before too long.” Peter paused. “It is probable that that has already happened.”
Stiles blinked. “But you just said-”
Peter turned to him. There was something in his eyes that made shivers run down Stiles’ back.
“But you are here.”
The hairs on Stiles’ cheek rose as his moles were traced. Peter’s lips twitched into a smirk.
“I do have a pack… don’t I?”
Stiles’ opened his mouth and then closed it without ever making a noise. His cheeks felt far too warm.
Did he mean that the claim Stiles made on Peter actually-?
Peter took pity on him and dropped his hand. “You’ve been to my room. Sometimes I think I can smell- well. The flowers, even when you’re not here. And you said my door reflects my being.”
Stiles nodded, the flush slowly dying away. He reached over to trace Peter’s name.
“When I first arrived, I couldn’t read this,” he confessed, and then continued quietly, “it, and the whole mystery of it, made me continue. I was just curious.”
The smile on Peter’s face wasn’t focused on Stiles but it definitely felt like it was.
“You stayed. That’s the only important part. And…”
“You gave me back my mind.”
The words tied themselves tight around Stiles’ throat. He nodded mutely. There was something scary, powerful, behind Peter’s admission. He filed it away for later inspection.
Stiles gestured at the doorway and the whiteness around them. “Do you want to test your limits?”
The answering smirk was all the answer Stiles needed.
It wasn’t much, Peter thought, as he watched Stiles make the most hare-brained plans to get him to leave his dream. Instead of helping, Peter sat there and watched the boy who had unwittingly, and then unapologetically, become pack.
Mind, Peter wasn’t sorry about the turn of the events. He shuddered to think what might have happened had he been all alone. He remembered what it felt like to burn day after day only to drown in the odd days in between when the grief overtook the pain of loss. As he had said, he didn’t care if it had begun as a mere curiosity; Peter could appreciate nosiness, it was in his own blood.
What he cared was that he stayed.
It was something neither Laura nor Derek had done, and this boy had done so instinctually.
His wolf, the little of what there was awake, grumbled and then huffed in pleasure, basking in the presence of pack. Peter wondered why he couldn’t feel any of the bond that had to be there. Perhaps it was because Stiles himself was there, like a physical manifestation of one. Perhaps there was still something twisted in the way Peter was healing, because he was not well. On his way to be, maybe, but not yet well, and he was well aware of that.
Here he was, clinging to a wisp of a boy, to hold his sanity in check. He wasn’t ungrateful but still couldn’t help but think-
No, Peter thought as Stiles explained how they could tie a rope to a tree and Peter on the other end, that way he could be always tied – literally – to his own dream. Then his bright expression soured as he realized he couldn’t make any rope out of thin air. Then he cursed that he had used one of his genie wishes on beach chairs instead, now again intact, and proceeded to flop onto one of them dramatically.
Peter couldn’t help the smile that inched onto his face. It pulled on muscles he hadn’t realized were there, muscles he didn’t remember being there, that he could feel.
There was something about this boy that had drawn him to Peter. Peter could appreciate that.
But there was also something in him that called to Peter, which had nothing to do with his recovery. Still, if there was one thing the coma had taught him, it was patience. Time would tell what that thing was. And Peter was very patient indeed.
With the quizzical smile sent his way, Peter suggested fashioning a rope from their clothes and trying it out. Stiles’ expression reminded Peter of the sun.
It wasn’t like he was going anywhere.
No matter what they tried, Stiles couldn’t bring Peter with him on his travels. There were still times when Stiles would wander around aimlessly but he was mostly focused on three people, sending every good feeling he could muster their way and soothe the nightmares away. He had taken a break from Scott’s dreams, though, after witnessing a particularly interesting one about him and a weird amalgamation of a girl with distinct features from many of their classmates.
No one had seen him running away like his tail was on fire, so it hadn’t happened. Denial was a healthy coping mechanism, thank you very much. Thankfully the day it hadn’t happened had been Saturday and Scott had been on house arrest for playing games instead of doing homework on a week night, so Stiles had an entire day to compose himself before seeing his best friend.
Peter had at least got a good laugh out of it, the bastard.
He was fine now, though, honest.
Stiles smiled tiredly as he flopped on his bed after coming home from Scott’s. They had had a marathon of Buffy and it had been awesome, no matter what Jackson and the rest thought. What was not to like? Supernatural creatures, compelling characters, compelling strong female characters his mom had liked, a good enough plot for a show about, well, supernatural creatures. They had eaten junk food until the point of almost passing out. It was rare but there were times when Stiles would experience a real dream, one where he couldn’t escape from and embellish, and he had a feeling he was about to have one today, so heavy he felt. Heavy and fuzzy, barely recognizing his dad when he came to take him home after his shift.
The first time that had happened he had panicked and cried until his mom and dad had taken him to their bed and he could cling onto their soothing dreams afterwards. The first time it happened with Peter had caused the big lump of a wolf to sulk until Stiles explained why he hadn’t been able to visit the night before without notice.
His eyes fell close.
And he dreamed.
Something warm and wet was moving up from Stiles’ navel to his chest. There was a presence on top of him, hot and heavy, but not unpleasant at all. Stiles whined when the wet heat pulled away, only to be replaced with what seemed like hands. Large hands. Hands that could keep Stiles still no matter how much he squirmed.
The heat was blowing into his ear and Stiles shuddered, shivers running down his back. It was amazing. His own hands explored the body. It was clear it wasn’t a girl’s body. There were no soft curves to hold, only hard lines and barely hidden strength. It felt familiar, somehow, but Stiles couldn’t imagine why that was.
Hips pushed against his, ground deep and hard.
He woke up.
Well, he thought, mind hazy, first sunbeams lightening his room. Guess he was gay then. Or at least bi. Or just a teen. Stiles stretched and wrinkled his nose as his boxers felt awfully sticky.
He needed a shower.
And a talk with his dad, probably, which, no.
A shower it was then.
Stiles was fourteen when it happened.
In the past year Peter’s dream had started to become easier and easier to handle. Like, he actually managed to conjure that rope? Although, like the one they made from their clothes, it didn’t actually work. But the more Stiles imagined stuff there, the easier it became.
And then he managed to hover in the air, right before Peter’s eyes, and took him flying.
Peter loved to fly. Some days – nights really – when Stiles rushed inside Peter’s dream he would find the lazy wolf hovering somewhere above the trees, letting the sun keep him warm. There were also days when Peter was off doing wolfy things in his shifted form – very strange seeing all that eyebrow disappear and the ridge of his nose get all weird. Peter had commented on that it looked even funnier on his nephew.
He hadn’t even seemed to realize what he had said before taking off, making Stiles chase him. Some day later Stiles found him shifted into a real wolf. He was so soft. Stiles had complained long and hard that he had been deprived of the best snuggle buddy and Peter had been a cheat and a lying liar who lied when he had told Stiles he couldn’t do the shift.
Peter had been oddly quiet about that – or maybe not since he had been a wolf and wolves didn’t talk – and then licked Stiles’ nose. Stiles doused him with water in revenge. Peter shrugged most of it back on Stiles and looked generally fluffier than before.
It was totally unfair.
Stiles loved it.
But it was on one day after his fourteenth birthday that it happened.
Stiles visited Scott’s dream, thankfully without any scenes counted as ‘wet’, and pushed a pile of puppies his way. The way he laughed was making Stiles’ chest ache. It had been a difficult day. Rafe – Stiles refused to call the man Scott’s father, he refused – had called Melissa, Stiles had no idea why, but it had left Scott in such a mess that even Jackson had left him alone that day, no snide remarks from anyone. Stiles knew there would be hell to come when Scott eventually fell asleep. Stiles waited, patiently, until Scott’s door arrived and pushed past so quick no storms could arrive and pushed and pulled until Scott was sitting under a pile of puppy slobber. He considered adding bunnies as well, but Scott would probably suffocate under all that fluff.
Stiles waited for a while, but it seemed that the worst had already passed. He left with a skip on his stride to visit Peter as promised.
There was only one problem.
Peter’s door was nowhere to be found.
It was on that night that Stiles learned that he could have a panic attack in his dreams and that his screams could shatter the glass of water on his table.
He learned that being forcibly ejected from the dream world hurt like a bitch and that it was possible to claw himself bloody in what felt like a nightmare.
He learned that somehow, somewhere, Peter had become an irreplaceable part of his life.
It wasn’t until his dad rushed to his room and carted him to the hospital that Stiles’ body gave up and he fell into the perfect, dreamless unconsciousness.
Stiles stared at the hospital ceiling blankly. The heart rate monitor beeped next to him, calm and not missing a single beat. It was strangely soothing. The light peeking behind the blinds claimed it was no longer a night.
The dream wasn’t a dream anymore.
His dad was asleep on the chair beside him. Stiles tilted his head the barest bit. He looked tired, Stiles noticed. The wrinkles were more pronounced than before. His back would hurt when he woke up, he thought, and raised his hand. The moment he laid a hand on him, Stiles’ dad was up and blinking sleep from his eyes.
Stiles tried to smile but his muscles were pulling wrong. The relief in his dad’s eyes was palpable.
“You’re awake,” his dad breathed out. His back suddenly straightened with a crack and he winced. “You’re awake! I need- Melissa. You’re awake, god. Stiles, don’t you ever do this to me. Never do this to me again-” he rambled and fumbled on something on his lap.
Stiles nodded wordlessly while his dad grasped his hand, tracing the soft side of his wrist. Suddenly Melissa was there, fussing over him and inspecting the damage. There was none, luckily, she told them, but with the way they didn’t know what had caused such an intense panic attack and if there would be any lingering effects, they would like to keep Stiles until the evening at least, perhaps overnight.
His dad and Melissa fell into a discussion and Stiles drifted. He was under the same roof Peter would have been. That his mom once was, that Scott was under far too often. It hurt, being here. The home of loss, of hurt. Hospitals had been, for the longest time, the place Stiles hated the most. Nothing good ever came of them.
People just went there and never came out right if they ever did.
“I’m sorry but… did someone die here yesterday?”
Melissa blinked at the odd question but answered it nonetheless. “No,” she said bluntly. “No one has been lost in three days.”
Stiles’ heart skipped a beat. His dad and Melissa glanced at the monitor sharply.
“Please,” Stiles found himself saying. “Please. Take me to Peter Hale.”
“Stiles?” his dad asked unsurely. Melissa looked at between the two of them, now engaged in what seemed like a staring competition, before nodding slowly.
“I’ll fetch a wheelchair,” she said, and then left them to it. The monitor kept beeping.
“I’ve been visiting,” Stiles said. His dad’s brows shot up. He knew how Stiles felt about the hospitals, better than probably anyone. He probably already knew where Peter was located as well. “He has no one. I- I thought he was dead.”
“Stiles…” his dad said carefully. “He is in a coma.”
You never met him when he wasn’t, was left unsaid.
Stiles nodded. He knew that. It didn’t make any sense to someone else but- but he had to see how Peter was himself.
“I’ve talked to him in my dreams. I couldn’t find him, Dad, I couldn’t- I thought he was dead.”
His Dad looked at him like he was crazy, like he was breaking his heart. Maybe he was. Stiles felt awful. Maybe he should have tried to talk to his dad about his dreams but- he hadn’t believed them when he had tried at first. Nor the second time, third, or any times after. Granted, he had been a kid. Should he have tried again when he was older?
Or would he just have been rebuffed again and again?
“I can prove it,” Stiles said instead. “Show you. When we are both asleep.”
The skepticism stayed. Stiles didn’t wonder why.
He would be lucky if no one committed him before he could explain the dreams in depth.
Melissa returned with the promised wheelchair. His dad looked like he wanted Stiles to stay exactly where he was, to stop this nonsense, but said nothing. Instead, he helped him to the chair and wheeled him to the ward himself. Stiles’ knuckles whitened on his lap, like they still did after all these years, and he knew his dad’s grip would reflect his. Half way there Melissa’s pager went off and she rushed off with an apology. The ward’s new nurse, Jennifer her name tag said, chattered with them and pointed them to the right room as if Stiles didn’t know where that was.
When the door opened, Stiles’ breath left him. Peter sat in his wheelchair, facing the window, but there was a moment when Stiles could have sworn his fingers twitched. Stiles’ dad wheeled him before him and Stiles couldn’t help but gasp. He reached over to touch Peter’s chest.
“The quilt,” his dad said in incomprehension, but Stiles only cared about the heart that beat under his hand. Tears fell down his cheek as he saw the minute focus of Peter’s eyes on him, the scars less severe than they were before.
Peter wasn’t dead.
Peter was awake.
Two days later Stiles fell asleep with his dad next to him and visited him in his dreams. They were fishing, a younger him and his dad, and regretfully he dismissed his dream self and replaced himself with him. He told his dad about his dream walking, meeting with Peter, the adventures he has had – not everything, no, but enough. He took them places in sequences even dreams couldn’t follow and ended in a scene where he was watching over his mom’s dreams.
The morning after, even before Stiles could begin babbling about the dreams, insist he wasn’t crazy, his dad hugged him with tears in his eyes and the arms around him didn’t leave until both of their bellies grumbled in hunger.
Things didn’t get magically better.
Peter was still asleep most of the time and in such random times that Stiles kept missing him or being thrown out of his dreams as he kept waking up. It was a good thing, Stiles knew, but… he missed Peter. Spending time with him. At the very least the times they did meet in the dream world kept being easier and easier, somehow more… dream-like, maybe, less harsh reality?
Perhaps it made sense. Peter was awake, so his reality had shifted from coma to the living world. His dreams were no longer bound by the rules that chained their world.
“I’m becoming better again.”
The way Peter explained it to him hurt Stiles’ brain. He understood the theory of it, agreed with it even, but the confirmation… Still, Peter was recovering. That was the crucial point.
Stiles’ free time, however, was now limited. Since he couldn’t neatly divide his time anymore, waking hours with his classmates and with Scott and his dad, night hours with Peter, it became apparent that Stiles lived a double life. If he wanted to keep visiting Peter – and he did – it would have to cut to the hours he spent with others.
His dad reluctantly understood. Part of it might be due to the fact that Peter was now a witness of the Hale fire that he claimed was not an accident. It blew Stiles’ mind. Peter had never even hinted at it before now, but it made sense. Why would a bunch of supernaturally inclined die in a house fire when they should be able to smell the danger before it became one? So, his dad reopened the case. He didn’t like how Stiles was in the middle of things – he had to act as the mediator since Peter couldn’t talk yet – but that was a necessary evil, he admitted. He would rather that than leave others perhaps suffer the same fate.
“I’m proud of you, son,” his dad told him. It made Stiles flush in pleasure and tear up.
Peter still didn’t mention a thing about being a werewolf but that was fine. It should wait until he could prove it, he told Stiles. Stiles knew he was right. His dad was a natural skeptic due to his background as part of the force, requiring evidence before committing to anything. It was a good thing in his line of duty – a terrible thing for the side Peter and even Stiles now belonged.
Scott, well, it was a little hard to reconcile with Scott at first. They used to spend at least four to five evenings a week together but now, since their time was cut into, he felt left out. Stiles understood. He would have felt that way too. He took Scott to meet Peter and introduced them. While Peter couldn’t do anything but the barest twitches, Stiles had learned how to read him well enough to translate. Could sense what he wanted, really.
He wondered if that was part of being a pack or something else entirely.
When they left, Scott clasped Stiles’ on the shoulder while they waited for Melissa to give them a lift. They didn’t exchange a single word of what had happened inside the room, but it was alright.
Soon afterwards Scott also got a job at the local vet’s – Scott’s dream job was to become one – and their time was split evenly. The evenings Scott worked, Stiles would spend with Peter. The evenings his dad had off would be spent with him. Somehow it all worked out.
Nights were, of course, mainly spent with Peter. Scott still didn’t know, and his dad preferred not to know when Stiles visited his – it hurt a little, but Stiles got it, he wouldn’t want his dad viewing his real dreams either now that they had taken a turn to the wetter kind – but Peter always welcomed him. It was nice to know he was wanted, whenever, always.
But there was the outside world that wasn’t as kind.
“So, how’s sucking the dick of the coma man?” Jackson sneered as he stopped Stiles in the school corridor. First year of high school had made Jackson even more of a dick than usual. It was like he had to prove himself as one of the big fish, retain the top spot he had painstakingly fumbled to in middle school. “Limp as his hand?”
His cronies cackled, the lacrosse newbies who tried to look tougher than they were. Lydia, who had already established herself as the queen bee, forgoing the brain she obviously owned, flipped her hair and checked her nails, pretending to not hear or see. Danny was nowhere to be found. Perhaps he didn’t approve. Perhaps he didn’t want to show he did.
Stiles didn’t know. He didn’t particularly care.
He only cared about a few people in the entire world and only one of them was in high school with him.
“Why, you want tips?” Stiles snapped back. He cared fuck about his reputation. His dad knew, Scott knew, Melissa knew, that things weren’t like that. Peter’s recovery was on good track. He was growing stronger by the day. He could speak already and was pretending for the sake of appearing human that his physiotherapy was taking as long as it was – and it was already progressing in a miraculous speed for normal people.
But it wasn’t like that, he told himself. He visited, did his homework with Peter, talked to him, played games. Searched for the people responsible for the Hale fire but that wasn’t something anyone but them knew.
They had already found out about Harris’ entanglement with the issue. Stiles couldn’t wait to stick it to the chemistry teacher.
“And why would I need to? I’m not you,” Jackson laughed. The cronies laughed with him. Only three months, and Jackson was on his way to the top. He stomped on those he deemed worthless, like Scott and Stiles, and that had caused some of their middle school classmates to avoid them in an attempt to preserve their own status. Heather had gone to a different school altogether and Jonas had joined the swim team and was more interested in chasing skirts than anything else. Mandy, at the very least, tried, but she had found new friends during the first couple of weeks and that was mostly it.
It wasn’t that they were loners but with Scott’s status as the asthmatic dunce and Stiles’ as the spastic nerd, they weren’t even runner ups in the high school pageant, much less on the stage.
“I mean, with all the sucking and sucking up your dad does, I thought it would be in your genes.” Then Stiles hit where he knew it would hurt, ruthless and taking no prisoners, “but wait, you’re adopted, right? Maybe you just want to emulate dear ol’ daddy in the only way you can.”
Jackson paled suddenly. The crowd around them hushed into silence. Stiles blinked and then realized-
No one else knew.
No one else knew Jackson was adopted.
And Stiles, dick as he was, had just outed him to the entire school.
The way Jackson didn’t even have the strength to deny Stiles’ claim spoke volumes and they both knew that Stiles had just, singlehandedly, destroyed Jackson’s bid to the throne. He wouldn’t be known as the star child of the school or the athletic son of the district attorney-
No, he would be known as the kid whose parents gave him up, unwanted.
Jackson fled the scene and the crowd dispersed, stunned, but soon after the whispers started. The look Scott sent him was both awed and judging, and Stiles nodded. He swallowed.
He screwed up.
“With great power comes great responsibility,” Stiles said. The Spider-Man definitely wouldn’t approve of what he did. He hid his face into his knees. Peter was making rounds around the room, stretching his legs. The physiotherapist had told Peter not to overdo it, but the stubborn wolf was determined to be out of the hospital before New Year’s.
“I screwed up,” Stiles continued, whined really.
“And that’s bad, why?” Peter asked. Stiles blinked and lifted his head. He stared in Peter’s direction.
“Why? Because no one knew!”
Stiles blinked rapidly. He exploded. “And? I destroyed his life!”
Peter snorted. “That’s a little dramatic,” he said. He squatted down slowly and spread his arms. “Besides, wasn’t he one of those who used to torture you? Tried to, at least.”
“Didn’t he almost kill Scott?”
Stiles’ mind flashed to the time of the inhaler and he drew in a shaky breath.
“Yes, but Peter-”
“Then why do you feel guilty?”
“Because I didn’t mean for that to happen!” Stiles yelled.
Peter rose, rolling his shoulders as he did. “So you mostly feel sorry for yourself.”
Stiles gaped at him. Peter arched his brows but merely continued to push forward with his exercises. Stiles snapped.
“No I don’t!” he hissed loudly. “It’s wrong to use the knowledge against him!”
“Sure,” Peter answered easily. “But on the other hand, what else do you have against him? Your physique? You’ve told me how athletic he is in comparison. Your grades? That acts against you, whether you were higher or lower than him on the scale. Your wit and resourcefulness are things you should embrace.”
His eyes pierced Stiles’. “It may be on the dubious side of morality for some but that’s life,” he said flatly. “The shades of grey instead of black and white. Sometimes another dark is needed to counter with similar darkness.”
Stiles was quiet. Peter sighed.
“Just because Scott wouldn’t approve doesn’t mean it’s not your right to use everything you have. You already do, so why is this different?”
“Because I walked into his dreams and found out what hurt the most,” Stiles said quietly. When Peter reached for him, he flinched back. The hand was dropped.
“You use what you can to stay on top,” Peter said. The steps he took away from him were loud in Stiles’ ears. “He used what he had. Why shouldn’t you?”
Stiles sat there in silence while Peter started his exercises again. He slipped away when Peter’s back was turned, despite knowing the futility of that. The door that clicked behind him hurt more than he could imagine.
The man in Stiles’ dreams clung to him and it was less about gratification, more about desperation. It was fast, it was furious, and Stiles didn’t even know if he was the one doing the work or just on the receiving end of the biting pace, he just answered with more of the same. When Stiles finally woke up, he found himself wrung out and a mess, dried come all over his belly and tear tracks running down his cheeks. He wondered what his subconscious wanted to tell him.
Shower didn’t make him feel any more human either.
Stiles stayed away from the hospital for a few days. The days were quiet back in school. Or, well, not quiet exactly. People were talking, a lot, and some were bothering Stiles on the count that he had known about Jackson’s situation, that he must know more, that he had to tell them, that they had the right to know.
Stiles stayed quiet on the matter. Scott stood and guarded him the best he could.
Danny kept glaring at him. Every day the glare felt colder as Jackson didn’t come in. Jackson’s cronies had quickly changed their target into Jackson himself. Lydia walked amongst the mortals like the queen she was but the smile on her face seemed more and more plastic as the days went by.
It was on the fourth day after the incident that Stiles arrived on Jackson’s porch. His father’s car was nowhere in sight – it was the single most expensive one in the whole town, so Stiles should know – but Jackson’s was there and that was all he needed to know. He charmed himself in through Jackson’s mother – a lovely woman, who definitely didn’t belong to the snake pit – and found himself behind Jackson’s door.
Apparently, he had locked himself in and wouldn’t come out for anyone, not even Danny. His parents didn’t even know what was wrong with him – probably the reason Jackson’s mother had let him come in and his father hadn’t come raining hell on Stiles’ dad.
Stiles knocked and waited. Nothing. He knocked again. Waited. He repeated it for a few times until decided that enough was enough. He took out the hairpin he carried with him – liberated from Melissa years ago – and picked the lock. He stepped in the moment the lock gave away and clicked it shut behind him again.
The room was a mess.
Pillows were thrown and chairs were knocked down. The curtains were drawn and only a sliver of light could be found on the opposite wall. Miraculously nothing was broken, Stiles noted absently. Then he found Jackson himself, staring straight at him from his position on the bed.
“You,” Jackson said flatly. “Why are you here? Didn’t you do enough?”
“Like when you stole Scott’s inhaler and almost killed him?” Stiles snapped back. They both winced.
“I didn’t mean that to happen,” Jackson said softly. Regretfully. But even that felt like pulling teeth; even then he had never admitted his part in it nor apologized.
“Me either,” he said. He licked his lips, and continued, “I’ve never forgiven you for that. Even after the yoghurt incident.” And every other little trick he did after that.
Jackson never apologized but Stiles never did either.
“I should have known that was you.”
“You really should have,” Stiles agreed. “I still didn’t mean to just- well. I did. But not like that.”
“Why not?” Jackson said. His tone was muted, lifeless. “It’s not like it wasn’t true. My parents never wanted me.”
“No,” Stiles disagreed. “Your parents wanted you. The people who gave birth to you may have not – I don’t know about that, you should talk to your mother about that, she seems lovely – but your parents adopted you. They had to make a conscious decision have you. Went through the entire process for that. I don’t know about you, but that sounds like they love you more than some other parents ever do their blood children.
“Of course,” he continued, “I’m still sure I was loved more but, you know, what can you do when your kid’s as awesome as I am?”
Jackson stared at him. Stiles felt awkward under the watch and he squirmed on his feet. He cleared his throat.
“I just came to tell you to own to it. I’m not… proud of what I did. But I was only using what I could.”
Jackson nodded slowly. “How did you know?” he asked. Stiles shrugged.
“I saw it.”
Jackson’s quizzical look almost made Stiles want to explain but he didn’t. Let him make the connections he wanted.
“In any case, that’s what I came to do. So, I’ll go now. You should, you know, do what you have to do.” Stiles bit his lip, shrugged again, and turned his back to take his leave.
Stiles paused. He didn’t turn, hand on the handle.
“He isn’t… a good father,” Jackson forced out. “Someone should do something about it. Give a good home to Isaac.”
Stiles waved his hand. He unlocked the door and left it open. As he came downstairs, Jackson’s mother looked at him and the open door and hurried upstairs.
He took his leave.
Later that week, one Robert Lahey was arrested and his son, Isaac, was taken in by the social services. When he arrived back at school, Jackson had retaken his place with speed that left people’s ears ringing, and no one dared to say a thing about Isaac. There were two different groups of people who would bite the heads of anyone who tried to start anything.
For some strange reason, the school found out that the cafeteria tables that held the same two groups of people had gravitated next to each other from the other ends of the room.
No one knew what had transpired and there was no talk about it either.
However, soon after the weirdness had become the new normal and no one seemed to be able to recall anything else anymore.
“You were right.”
Peter paused in his dinner before continuing without any acknowledgment, the only sign of him noticing Stiles’ presence was the smoothing of the lines on his face. Honestly, it wasn’t like Stiles was expecting anything else.
“But you were wrong as well.”
“I assume you will now tell me the how and whys.”
“Yeah, I will, you prick,” Stiles said. Peter snorted, chuckling into his disgusting hospital food. “I should use my resources. That much is true. It didn’t do shit to pull tricks that amounted to pretty much nothing. But you were wrong in implying that I did nothing wrong. I did. I could have chosen better ways to retaliate.”
“I told him to man up and he did. Now we have a truce.”
“A truce. How cute.”
“No, no. It’s adorable.”
“No, it really is.” Peter wiped his mouth and folded his napkin neatly. “Stiles, do you know what I did for my pack?”
Stiles blinked. “Did for your pack?”
“Yes. What was my job, the role in my pack?”
“Naturally. But that is my position in the hierarchy. What was my role?”
“I don’t know. The smartass?”
“I was the left hand.”
Stiles frowned. The left- “Does that mean, like, the dirty jobs? Because right hand is associated with advisers and such.”
Peter nodded. “I handled things that needed more… delicate operation. Collecting information, spying, occasional dispatch. Of course, always under my sister’s orders. Well, mostly. I did my own research in my spare time.”
“See, Stiles, life is what you make it. Someone else in my position might have chafed under the pressure. I thrived. Of course, that is also due to my loose morals but that is neither here nor there.
“You protect the people you love the way you can. Your friend Scott does it through his friendly nature. He seems like an ideal peacekeeper. Your father would have made an excellent right hand. You? Well, maybe in time left hand might have been the position you would have taken. Maybe you would have become something else. But you use the strengths the world has given you. Nothing less.”
“But I could have done better.”
“Of course. You could have always blackmailed him. Far less messy.”
Stiles snorted. “You’re awful.”
Peter preened at his words. “Thank you.”
Stiles slumped on the bed next to Peter’s feet. He traced the line of them from above the quilt; the same blue and gold one Stiles had made as a kid.
Peter hummed, and then kicked Stiles off the bed. He went down, laughing.
One night, when both Peter and Stiles were asleep at the same time, they sat in the dream world’s clearing, the one that Stiles had decorated with flowers what felt like ages ago. It was like before when neither had responsibilities to anyone but themselves. The moon above them shined on them.
“Do you think I’ll be able to see this myself?” Peter asked. He sounded wistful, longing. Stiles knew that the fake moon couldn’t be the same – didn’t know what the pull of the moon felt like during the nights locked up in hospital – but he could imagine it felt like a piece of him was being held down by shackles. That there was something there that yearned the freedom to move, run, be who he was without the expectations to hide.
Stiles realized he wanted to make that possible. He grasped Peter’s hand and held on.
“You will,” he promised, swore. Peter squeezed back.
In silence, they watched the moon glow.
Peter seemed to forgo every pretense of being human in his recovery. He pushed and pulled until only Stiles was able to get him to stop from overworking himself. Melissa and other nurses had taken to calling Stiles whenever that happened. They didn’t know why the silence Stiles would give to Peter on the speaker would work but it did.
The first time Peter had almost gotten himself set back by weeks, werewolf healing notwithstanding, Stiles had gotten so mad about it that he gave Peter silent treatment. He didn’t deprive Peter of his company – he had seen how relieved Peter had been after Stiles returned after the whole Jackson episode that he didn’t have the heart to do that – but he did deprive him of his chatter.
From the way Peter acted, it was even worse, and only when he cut back did Stiles start talking again.
Neither acknowledged the difference – Peter certainly didn’t apologize – but it was enough.
It was pack.
The day Peter left the hospital was the day huge news broke out. The news all over the country were clamoring over the “Argent conspiracy” and the “Hale massacre”, journalists going crazy over every bit of released information. Other cold cases were opened in the wake of the news, similarities too distinctive to ignore.
It wasn’t spilling blood, crushing bone or begs for mercy.
It was long nights, deep discussions and tears of frustration.
It was justice.
It was revenge.
Stiles and his dad stood next to Peter when the sentences were carried out. Gerard Argent got what was already coming for him, death, only accelerated; his daughter, Katherine Argent, was also served several life sentences with no chances of ever setting a foot outside again. The other participants got what they deserved as well. Harris was sacked too, despite his relatively minor role. Stiles had watched him clear his desk with a grin made of all teeth.
Stiles’ dad was suddenly famous, his investigative skills and tenacity praised. He might even be up for a medal, the gossip would tell you. He took it well, with calm and grace, but when the attention strayed, so did his. There were two others who deserved a mention, the acknowledgement, for the work that had been done.
But they all knew it was better if they didn’t.
The figure in Stiles’ true dreams held him close. It was kind, that grip of his, and Stiles felt like he would be drowning if it wasn’t for that person.
The loss he felt when he woke up was familiar.
“The Argents just moved to town,” Stiles told Peter the moment he saw him. Stiles’ dad had texted him but only after Stiles had already seen the new girl – Allison Argent – capture Scott’s attention like the puppy he was.
Peter blinked slowly and set down his glass. He was, for the moment, settled in the spare room at the Stilinskis, until his monetary affairs were straightened. His niece, Laura, was officially in charge of his fortune and, with her and Derek living under a rock, the paper war was slow.
The dinner bubbled on the stove and it smelled delicious.
“Did they now?”
Stiles stopped in his rant – he hadn’t even realized he had continued talking, his mind on Scott, Allison, what it could all mean – and looked at Peter. He frowned.
“You don’t care?”
“Oh, I do,” Peter said. He leaned against the counter. “But they won’t be a danger.”
Stiles tilted his head. “Why not?” he asked.
“Because I set the Hunter Tribunal at them.”
“The what now?”
Peter smirked. “The Hunter Tribunal is an ‘unofficial’ organization that’s supposed to watch over the hunting business. A sort of governing element in the midst of all the chaos. Of course, if they can make away with it, they won’t do a thing about it. But, with evidence presented…”
“The Argents, they won’t be a threat anymore?”
“They were advised not to… start… anything, if you get my meaning. Even if they were to move here, to watch over the area or whatever excuse they might use, if they ever lay a hand on any Hale or anyone they consider pack… Well, let’s just say no one will be happy afterwards.”
“And why didn’t you tell me this earlier?”
Peter actually winced at the disappointed tone in Stiles’ voice. He gestured at Stiles and Stiles followed the cue, settling next to Peter. Peter’s touch was light yet grounding.
“I- apologize,” Peter said, the words heavy. “Despite… everything… I am not used to explaining myself. Talia, my alpha, only ever cared that things were done. Never the how or whys.”
“Peter,” Stiles said calmly. “I’m not Talia.”
The look Peter gave him made his heart skip a beat. The smile that softened his features gave it back hundredfold.
“’lo,” Stiles mumbled into the old landline they still had. His mom had loved the idea of keeping one and, despite the all these years, his dad hadn’t had the heart to remove its spot between the living room and the kitchen. It never rang because people knew to call the Sheriff’s department if they wanted to catch Stiles’ dad or Stiles’ phone if they wanted to talk to him, which, surprisingly, had started happening more often lately.
Still. Who on earth would call them this early in the morning on a school day?
“Hello. Is this the Stilinski residence?”
Stiles chewed his mouthful and swallowed it down.
“Yeah, Stiles talking. Who’s this?”
The woman on the other end was quiet for a bit before sighing. “My name is Laura Hale.” Stiles’ eyes widened in alarm. “I got your number from the hospital. Is my uncle with you?”
“He’s… in the backyard,” Stiles said dumbly. It was the day after the full moon and Peter had decided to spend the night running around the preserve, going full wolf, and was now basking in the morning light. It was, if Stiles was allowed to say, adorable. He had always wanted a dog. He probably wasn’t allowed to say that, let alone think.
Then he registered who he was really talking to and asked before he could stop himself, “why are you calling him now?”
He could hear something shatter from the receiver. Laura’s voice was tight as she answered, “I was just told my uncle has woken up and left the hospital. Why wouldn’t I?”
Stiles blinked, taken aback. “He’s been awake for much longer than that,” he told her. “It’s been months. Sure, he was just released but why didn’t you call before?” Or visit, he wanted to add, but that was something for Peter to hash out.
“I- wasn’t aware.”
“Well you should fucking be. What kind of an alpha are you?”
The hitch on her breath was loud and he could hear someone growl near her. Stiles realized what he had just said and- shrugged. It would have come out eventually anyway.
“Yeah, I know about your furry little secret.”
“Then you also know why I’m calling just now,” Laura said. “His healing factor wouldn’t have kept him contained for months.”
“It would if he wanted to appear human, you- are you an idiot? Do you understand how coma works?” Stiles asked in disbelief. “Besides, you cut him off the pack! I shouldn’t even be calling you his alpha, there’s no way you are any part of his pack!”
Laura scoffed. “And you are?”
“Yes!” Stiles yelled, his anger peaking. “I’ve been at his side since before he even woke up from the coma! I visited him nightly, kept him grounded. What did you do, except prance somewhere or other with your brother, living your life to the fullest, and ignore the uncle you left behind?!”
“You don’t understand anything-”
“Maybe not. I don’t think I even want to-” Stiles bit out, speaking over her. He stopped when a hand gripped his wrist, the same hand holding the phone, and Stiles looked up to see Peter. The expression on his face was unreadable but the teeth that peeked past his lip indicated the coiled fury heating him inside.
“Let me speak with my niece,” Peter said silkily. “Besides, you’re going to be late for school.”
Stiles glanced at the clock and, shit, it would be pushing it if he wanted to make it. He still gave Peter the look, to just ask if he wanted him to stay, but the bloodthirsty grin that answered him was enough of a clue.
Stiles smirked and left Peter to it.
He would hear about it later.
And it was glorious.
“Who are you going with to the winter formal?”
Stiles blinked. Lydia – the same Lydia who rarely talked to him, not even after all these months of pretty much cohabiting the same air – asked him.
“Huh?” was the most intelligent answer that left him. Lydia’s expression couldn’t be drier if she was desert personified. She tapped her foot and Stiles hurried to answer, “I- no one?”
She snorted. “Well that won’t do. We need to find you someone. With the way Scott is driving himself over the moon with Allison and Danny is plying Isaac with his favorites, you’re the only one not attached. So,” she leaned forward into Stiles’ space and smirked, “what’s your flavor, Stiles?”
“Chocolate with side of chocolate and curly fries, preferably not together, but I’m not too picky,” he promptly answered. When Lydia continued looking at him, he said, “seriously, don’t worry about me.”
Lydia pursed her mouth. “What, you have someone already? Why don’t I know about her?”
Stiles laughed. “No, I don’t have anyone,” he told her and smiled. “But it’s fine. I don’t mind going stag this year.”
Lydia looked like she wanted to contest that but then Allison called her and distracted her enough for Stiles to slip away. The smile on his face dropped as his stomach clenched.
The taste in his mouth felt like a lie.
“You should be going with someone,” Peter told him later. Stiles gaped.
“But I really don’t want to,” he insisted. He crossed his arms. He was sitting in Peter’s new apartment. The couch was sinfully soft and firm at the same time, the kind of quality you couldn’t get from Ikea. He had already explored the bedroom and bathroom, raided the fridge in the kitchen and fawned over the big flat TV that Peter had sworn he wouldn’t get but Stiles had begged. There was even a full gaming system, one Stiles had drooled on but never breathed a word about.
What a soft wolf.
“You would have more fun if you had someone obligated to entertaining you.”
“Obli- Peter, what are people to you?”
“Sources of amusement.”
Stiles snorted. “Sounds about right.” He shook his head and flung an arm over the back of the couch. “No, I’m fine like this. I wouldn’t want to go with someone I’m not interested with.”
Peter’s look was dark, searching.
“Is there someone you are? Interested in?”
Stiles felt hot. He swallowed.
“Maybe.” His mouth was dry, and his words scratched the back of his throat.
The glow in Peter’s blue eyes was intense. All-consuming.
Stiles left early that day but the want he had seen, even felt on his skin, followed him home.
So did the yearning to answer it.
Stiles wandered. Scott was gallivanting with Allison, and his dad and Peter were out of town with Mrs. Argent to finish some business. There was no one to visit and Stiles was bored as he walked the familiar streets in his dream. He stopped by the Sheriff’s station, but no doors were open for him. Wait, one of them was. Nope, gone again. He wondered what the person had done. He wondered if he could find out-
He paused. He knew it was wrong to interfere, really, to cause harm when people were in their most defenseless – he never wanted another Jackson – but… what about criminals? The ones no one ever finds evidence on, the ones that continue their murdering ways for years and years because suspicion is never enough.
And here Stiles stood. If he could have access to that person’s dreams – minds – what if…?
Stiles could prevent tragedies like the Hale fire from happening again. He could protect people, like his dad, but instead of being forced to let go of people, he could find reasons to put them behind bars where the only people they could harm were themselves.
He watched the building and wondered, imagined, a world he could use his gift for good.
Stiles was the only person to go stag to the formal, but he honestly didn’t mind. Scott was a Mr. Sappy Sap Sapperston and Allison was beautiful in her dark dress. Lydia was stunning as well, Jackson barely an accessory in her glory. Danny and Isaac were doing well too but they were being overshadowed by the shining two couples.
Neither seemed to mind that though, if all the stolen kisses were to prove anything.
Stiles was happy for them. He really was. And he knew he would have been far less happy if he had taken someone, a stranger, a classmate, someone he didn’t really know, with him.
“I know you, I walked with you once upon a dream…”
But he would be even happier if there was that someone special with him right now as well.
“I know you, that look in your eyes is so familiar a gleam…”
He felt a vibration against his thigh and fished out his phone. The message lit up the screen.
The widest grin spread on Stiles’ face. He looked around, but all his friends were occupied, dancing under the dim lights and the tenderness in the air. He sent a message that they would see later, telling them not to look for him. He would have to fend for questions when they’d see next time but, right now, he didn’t care.
With one last look behind, the doors closed behind him.
“You'll love me at once, the way you did once upon a dream…”
Stiles sat under the moon with Peter for the first time together – the real moon, not the pale imitation that never seemed to leave the sky in Peter’s dreams. It was nearly the full moon, perhaps a few days off. The clearing, the same one as in the dreams, was bathed in the soft glow and Peter seemed to soak in it. His eyes were half-closed in pleasure.
Stiles’ heart missed a few steps in its dance.
Peter tilted his head his way, a flash of supernatural blue peeking beneath his lids, skin smooth.
“I love you,” Stiles just said. There was no hiding the uptick in his heartbeat and the warmth that spread on his cheeks. Even with the plaid he had replaced his suit jacket with, haphazardly thrown on his shoulders and leaving him mostly with his dark undershirt, he was suddenly burning.
It had been a long time coming, he realized. Not the romantic part of it, definitely not, but the love. He had loved Peter for a long time, before he even realized what the feeling was. And now, at last, it had taken that last step forward into-
Peter’s eyes didn’t lose their shine.
“I love you too.”
But Stiles shook his head. He leaned over and pressed a hand over Peter’s chest where his heart beat, calm and true.
“I’m in love with you,” he told him. And he was. At some point, he had no idea when, the love he had held for him had turned into something else – just as deep but with a different flavor. Somewhere between getting to know Peter, the recovery that set them against each other at times and the life started fresh, the quiet flame inside Stiles’ chest had sparked into something new.
The smile that spread on Peter’s lips warmed Stiles to his core.
“I’m in love with you too.”
The kiss between them spoke of eternity, of love he remembered seeing as a child, that he still saw, just as devoted and beautiful even after all these years.
And he was fine with that.
It wouldn’t be easy.
Stiles was merely sixteen and Peter, in the eyes of the law, was almost twice his age. His dad and Scott would be on their side when they learned of it, Stiles knew that, even if it might take them a while to reconcile with the idea. They probably saw it coming, to be honest, before even Stiles did. Stiles was even talking himself into telling Scott about his… walking. And lately, there has also been these weird little things happening that he couldn’t explain, that Peter couldn’t explain unless it was… magic. He might be magic, more than just the obvious parts.
He didn’t really know what to do with that piece of information.
But Peter’s relatives might not get it, get them, when they would eventually show up. The world might not either, not right now anyway. Stiles and Peter would have to keep it quiet, keep it under wraps and above the belt, until the law was on their side.
And that was fine with Stiles. With Peter too.
Because, he thought with a smirk twisting his lips that Peter answered with that sharp grin of his, as they sat fully clothed underneath their own quilts on the living room couch, TV blaring before them, leaning against each other-
They still had their dreams.