The Nogitsune had almost ruined everything. Junior year was supposed to be the calm before the storm and yet it had been a freaking hurricane. Senior year had passed in a blur of stale fear and self-loathing. Stiles had killed so many people, had almost killed Allison. It took weeks and weeks of horrible, nauseating work to return to his normal physical health. He had decided to keep the momentum rolling and started strength training regularly, which benefited him immensely as more fairytale monsters decided to try their luck against a True Alpha.
Fixing his body was not the only hurdle to leap, unfortunately. Stiles had a deep mistrust of mental healthcare professionals and couldn’t stomach being in the fake cheery rooms they use as offices. His father had asked him to try home visits, but he just felt like someone was invading his space and couldn’t focus on anything other than the wrongness that washed over him every time the doctor moved. Stiles had to accept that therapy was out of reach at that moment, though he did try again once he was safely across the country. It was a successful attempt and he loves his therapist.
Originally Stiles had thought Quantico would be his destination, and yet after the actual hell he’d gone through he didn’t want to be a field agent anymore. He had PTSD and explosions and danger were no longer appealing after he had watched himself cause them. Stiles had known his entire life he would work in the criminal justice system, but now he didn’t want to be the guy running head first into the battle. He couldn’t be that guy even if he wanted. He froze up when things exploded, he sometimes became convinced that there was a trap up ahead even though he rationally knew there couldn’t be, worst of all was the paranoia though. Stiles eventually gave each member of his pack a code phrase so that he knew they were them and that he was himself. He’d played it off as if they should’ve done it since the beginning in case witches possessed someone, but he’d taken one look at the friendly neighborhood Zombiewolf and knew he wasn’t as smooth as he thought he was.
Derek and Peter had informed the pack in their senior year that if they were all going away for school that they’d need to figure out which pack member was closest and make regular trips out to each other, otherwise the wolves could start getting more and more restless and even the humans would feel the separation acutely. The pack mapped out the routes they needed and figured out who was closest in case anything happened. Scott had to meet everyone’s local pack and introduce his betas to the local alpha before they were allowed on the territory, which had exhausted everyone and stressed Stiles out. Scott was not the best at thinking on his feet, but luckily he had a charm that was undefeatable. Stiles insisted on accompanying Scott and whichever pack member they were introducing, because if he didn’t he’d drive himself nuts with worry.
Kira and Scott were the easiest because UC Davis was in Satomi’s territory and she actually liked the pack as a whole, not just their lovable alpha. Stiles still grinned every time he thought of cute little Kira being a vet at some big zoo, helping big cats and giant gorillas. Kira had always been a little unsteady at social interactions, but she loved animals with her whole being. She’d be the most adorable vet in the world, and Stiles was genuinely happy for her.
Isaac was going to the University of California in Irvine, which put him seven hours from Scott and Kira and ten from Beacon Hills. He was going to school for creative writing. His therapist had recommended he write his abuse through a third person omniscient point of view, and it had not only helped Isaac come to grips with loving and not loving his abusive father, but had also sparked a hidden passion and talent in the boy. Stiles had grown much warmer to Isaac in the past few years and couldn’t wait for his friend to finally get his big break and get a publishing deal. He had the potential to be the next John Green and Stiles was so proud of his strength through the journey he’d traveled. Irvine’s alpha was an older man with a whip quick reflexes and a tendency to hug everyone often. Stiles was hugged every time he opened his mouth, because apparently the man found him hilarious even when he wasn’t making a joke. Stiles liked him immensely and hoped he helped Isaac get past some of his touch avoidance.
Boyd had finally felt comfortable enough with the pack to show everyone his photography senior year. Everyone had been blown away by his skill. He had decided to go to Virginia Commonwealth University to get formal training and learn how to edit his photos. He decided to minor in advertising in case he wanted to go that route at some point. Stiles’ heart swelled every time he thought of their stoic, solemn packmate who’d found solace in the world around him and learned to let himself have something soft and good. He still carried the loss of his sister, but photography had helped Boyd escape his guilt and focus on the beauty around him. Stiles loved him for it. The local alpha was a very old woman with soft eyes that seemed to find the darkness in each of them. Stiles avoided her and her piercing gaze; he knew the darkness that lived in him.
Lydia chafed under the need to be “presented” to an alpha. Stiles had straight out cackled when she asked Scott if he thought she was “some breeding mare that needed to be assessed if she was worth the money or not.” Scott had been so flustered and had no idea what to say to that. Eventually Lydia had cracked and laughed at Scott’s horrible attempts to let her know that “women were amazing and his equal in every way and that actually Lydia would probably be worth more than Scott if they were horses, not that he thought someone could put a value on Lydia that is!” Stiles held that memory very dearly. Lydia had met the alpha with grace and thinly veiled venom and the man had eaten it up. The local alpha was positively wrapped around Lydia’s finger like everyone else in their lives. Stiles loved that girl and was so proud that she was going to Columbia and was on track to win that Fields Medal he told her she’d win all those years ago.
Allison had decided against college and taken a much more badass route. She had started fighting in mixed martial arts competitions in northern California, but quickly advanced to the national tournaments. Her father sent them videos and pictures of her fights and when she was close to a packmate they’d go watch her beat the snot out of whichever poor soul was facing her that night. Stiles was probably the only pack member that drove multiple hours to go see Allison fight, but that was mostly due to the fact that he was enchanted by MMA and absolutely adored her sunshine attitude as she beat the daylights out of someone.
Erica was obviously a pre-med major. Her Epilepsy had denied her so much of her childhood and adolescence that now she was determined to work on Epiletic research. Her major was in pediatrics and that was so in line with the light in her soul. Some of the pack seemed shocked that she had the grades for it, but Stiles had seen her working extra hard junior and senior year to make up for that awful semester sophomore year when she’d been on a power high. Stiles knew she could easily keep up with himself and Lydia, but chose not to wield her brain like the weapon it was. Erica was more preoccupied with experiencing everything than with arguing or debating with Stiles, Lydia, and Peter. She was going to use her second chance to make something of her life. She was going to do everything as she walked the path of medicine. Stiles got misty eyed when he thought of his fierce friend. They’d gotten closer after Gerard’s torture and he was so happy to have her in his life. She even got accepted to Vanderbilt in Nashville, Tennessee, which was amazing. She knew she wanted to get as far from Beacon Hills as financially possible and Vanderbilt had given her an amazing scholarship. Stiles had played Miley Cyrus’ The Climb at the graduation party Erica’s parents had thrown for her. He sang along loudly, and so very off key before grinning at her and reminding her that this is what she had to look forward to in Nashville.
Stiles and Erica actually had the same alpha to meet because Stiles had been given a full ride at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. He’d accepted immediately. He was surprisingly excited to see the body farm and start his own supernatural research there. The local alpha actually lived in Nashville and she would be able to help Erica in class and on the full moon since she was surprisingly also a professor at Vanderbilt. Stiles was grateful she wasn’t located in Knoxville in case she disapproved of his research and told Scott what he wanted to do.
Stiles has to give his research pitch to the department heads at the end of summer, and he’s honestly nervous about how it’s going to go over. The Body Farm was going to be his saving grace, all of their saving graces actually. If Stiles’ research pitch was approved he’d begin studying the effects of natural toxins as they develop in a corpse. The research idea is relatively simple and unchallenging, but Stiles’ real research would be in reanimating the cadavers and running a series of tests using supernatural toxins and offensive spells. Scott would definitely not approve, though Scott would hopefully never have to know about it. Someone had to figure things out before one of the got irreparably hurt, and after Peter Hale disappeared they had no one left with any real answers. Stiles would find them answers, find them safety, even if Scott would hate him for it.
He had started in this endeavor last autumn when he finally had a space to himself where he could read his spell books and the old diaries he'd began collecting junior year without being labeled a freak. Stiles was already a relatively awkward adult and his ADHD tended to let his mouth run away from him, which usually ended in new people being uncomfortable around him.
He didn’t really care about branching out too much at school. He had made a few friends freshman year, and all of them had slowly fizzled away as they went different routes with their classes. Now that Stiles was firmly into his degree specific classes he had made a few polite connections, but it seemed that everyone was chasing after some TV show and not the realistic side of being a forensic chemist. Stiles had seen the real life of a squint and it was getting increasingly harder not to spoil everyone’s fun about how much “action” they were going to see and how many car chases they were going to be in. It just wasn’t like that.
There was one girl that understood, though she was a criminal justice major so he only occasionally had class with her. Her name was Malia and she was one of the most bad ass girls he’d ever met, on top of being the first werecoyote he’d ever seen. Her hair was buzzed on both sides of her head, but her “mohawk” was so long that she just wore it down flat and would switch which side she parted it on whenever she wanted. Her hair was dyed a different color every couple weeks and her stylist always painted the coolest designs on the buzzed sides. Her hair was currently bright green and blue with an alien head on one side and a spaceship on the other, it was amazing. Malia had no piercings because apparently a were’s accelerated healing meant that they’d be in constant discomfort/pain as the tissues tried to knit themselves together again, and in worse cases the body would just heal around it as if absorbing the metal. That piece of imagery made Stiles want to curl up and die. He couldn’t even imagine what that had to feel like, much less the surgery they’d have to perform to get it out.
Piercings aside, Malia was covered in tattoos. Stiles was both in awe of her strength and on the edge of vomiting at the thought of burnt flesh every time he looked at them. He could still smell that night that Scott got that horrible tattoo.
Malia was a different kind of fighter than Stiles was used to. He spent hours just watching her box with her friends and was genuinely enraptured by the differences in her and Allison's moves and the play of their muscles. Allison was a mixed martial artist and her body was lean with sharply defined muscles, while Malia was a boxer with thick thighs and biceps the size of a cantaloupe. Stiles was in awe of these scary women.
A benefit of his newest friend being a were was that Stiles had someone he could frankly speak to about his research. The first step of which was to successfully reanimate a cadaver only for the specific time period he needed. Malia always accompanied him when he tried, just in case he brought the soul back as well as restarting the body. It was a potentially horrifying side effect of reanimating corpses, if the soul came back then he had technically resurrected them and they had free will again, which almost always ended in blood, death, and murder.
A surprising benefit of being close with Malia was all of the cuddles and warm touches. Stiles had always known the McCall pack was not the standard. He had read plenty about how tactile and cuddly pack animals were and had just assumed it was exaggerated, but Malia and the other weres on campus were proof. They had always been two steps from death in Beacon Hills so maybe that was why the pack bonds hadn’t formed strongly and why they didn’t have pack cuddles. Stiles is aware that distance helped his pack a lot, but he’s also aware that that isn’t normal. He can physically feel the bonds with Erica, Boyd, Lydia, Allison, and Malia, but the rest of the pack bonds are weak and unused, which hurts Stiles more than he’d like to admit.
Malia is an amazing friend and a wonderful packmate, even though werecoyotes are usually solitary, but Stiles still can’t share his mental and emotional struggles with her. Malia means well, but always brings Allison into anything she deems trouble. Stiles loves both of them and he loves that he introduced them and that they’re the cutest couple he’s ever seen, but he’s burdened and endangered Allison enough. He hasn’t told Malia about the nogitsune, and to his knowledge Allison hasn’t either. Malia genuinely just wants to help, but every time Stiles sees her in danger he gets thrown back into that horrible place he was in after they expelled the nogitsune from him.
He knows he keeps too much from his pack. He knows he should tell Malia about all the shit they went through in Beacon Hills, knows he should tell Scott about his research, knows he should tell any or all of them that he’s drowning and on the verge of being homeless or starving very soon. He just can’t burden them anymore.
Stiles leans against the shaking machine and stares blankly at the book in his hands. He doesn’t remember the last time he had a real meal. He still has his mother’s life insurance money, but her will regulated all the money to college fees. He didn’t feel quite comfortable using the money anyways. He pushes his glasses back up his nose and tries to use the sounds of an empty laundromat to motivate him to read more. He’d managed to reanimate a corpse but the spell had worn off too quickly to test the Kerastes venom properly. He had to get this right soon, he was bound to get caught sneaking around the local graveyards, until he had his research approved he would be in danger of being caught and charged with a felony.
“Maybe if I add more of-”Stiles stopped mumbling out loud when he heard the door open and someone step into the once empty room.
“Oh don’t stop on my account darling.” Came a rumbling, cocky voice from above him.
“Please don’t be who I think it is” Stiles whispered, clenching his eyes closed tight in denial.
“And who do you think it is clever boy?” asked that fucking voice Stiles just knew belonged to someone he wasn’t prepared to run into.
“Oh fuck off Peter. What are you doing here?” Stiles snapped, his eyes flicking open and straight up to glare at Peter fucking Hale.
“Well hello again sweet thing. Oh how I have missed our banter.” Peter smirked down at him.
Immediately unhappy with the implied power imbalance of Peter standing over him, Stiles stood up and clutched his book to his chest defensively before saying, “You sound like an old movie villain, you do know that right?”
Peter just chuckled at him, which only irritated Stiles.
“You wouldn’t happen to know anything about death magic would you Zombiewolf?”
“Why Stiles I thought you’d never ask.” Peter placed a condescending hand over his jerk heart.
“Forget it. Why are you at a laundromat anyways? I thought you were all fancy shmancy and would never stoop so low as public living or anything that goes with it.”
“Well as it turns out I was passing by and saw you looking positively inviting and decided to see how you’ve grown in the last three years.”
Stiles scoffed as he ran a stressed hand through his oily hair. “I’ve “grown” into a stressed out, half starved, poor college student, who just wants to do his research and wash his shitty clothes in these expensive yet shitty machines in peace.”
“My penthouse apartment happens to have its own laundry machines and a nice quiet study if you’re interested in a better arrangement than this quaint establishment.” The way Peter sneered around the word quaint made Stiles roll his eyes.
“Don’t make promises you don’t want to keep Peter.” Stiles smirked at him before turning around to take out his now dry laundry.
“I intend on keeping my promises, little one. Here, take my number. Text me if you ever pull your head out of those old resentments.” Peter said with a smirk of his own as he tossed his business card into Stiles’ now full laundry basket and walked away.
“Oh god he’s hot. Why is he so hot? I don’t remember him being that hot?” Stiles exclaimed loudly into his phone.
“Stiles, do-” Malia was cut off by Stiles sighing dramatically and flopping back onto his bed.
“You should’ve seen him Em. All cocky and sharp like he used to be, but somehow softer.” his inflection rose on the last syllable as he tried to articulate his thoughts properly.
“Like I totally used to fantasize about his fucking beefy ass arms, but now they’re softer. Like he doesn’t have to be at peak physical condition anymore. Like he doesn’t have to prove he isn’t weak anymore. Don’t get me wrong though He’d still built as fuck. And his arms are still basically tree trunks.”
The sounds of heels rhythmically thumping the bottom of the bed.
“And his hair! Ugh! It used to be slicked back and short but he’s grown it out and now it’s the slicked back rich businessman cut!”
“Stiles I don’t know wh-”
“Yes you do! Like Schmidt, but in the new season where he and Cece have Ruth and his part is sharper instead of it all just being combed back. It has a part Malia!”
An annoyed grunt through the speaker.
“And those fucking V-necks! I can’t handle it!”
A dazed sigh.
“Like before he was so stuck up and rigid, almost like he was trying so hard to be the villain and remain separate from us. I was one of the only people he’d actually work with.”
“Maybe that was a sign he liked you.” Malia hurriedly said through the phone before Stiles could cut her off again.
“He always reminded me that he liked me from the beginning, but that was just him playing the creepy uncle role and projecting the whole “Don’t trust me, we aren’t friends” vibe.” Stiles dismissed before continuing his previous thought, “Malia it honestly looks like he’s happy. Definitely healthy. He looks like he’s thriving.”
“Maybe that’s why he’s suddenly irresistible. You do tend to gravitate towards older, more put together people. Probably because you’re a garbage fire and crave the stability to counteract your chaos.” Malia chuckled.
Stiles barely flinched. He had had serious issues with words like “chaos” being used around him for a couple years, but through hard work had recently gained the ability to shake it off instead of freezing up or dissociating.
“As if your life is any better.” He replied a beat later.
“Scott would never forgive me though.” Stiles mumbled glumly.
“So what? Peter hasn’t been a menace since your sophomore year of high school right? That was over four years ago. It’s time to live and let live my friend. Go get that dick.” Malia offered her support like other offered criticism, it was short, crude, and often left one feeling harassed.
“I’m just using his laundry machines so I don’t have to drop thirty bucks a month on stupid laundry. It’s not like I’m gonna move in with him or anything!” Stiles insisted with a bright blush.
“Fine then, weak ass. Just text him already. I’m tired of listening to your gay rambles.” Malia grumbled faux-annoyed.
“I listen you both yours and Allison’s gay rambles so I think I’ve earned this.” Stiles reminded her with a shit eating grin she could no doubt sense through the phone.
Later that night Stiles found himself hitting send on his first text to Peter.
“I hope that wasn’t weird.” Stiles mumbled to himself as he packed up his books and headed back to his apartment for the night.
Peter hadn’t expected to see Stiles Stilinski ever again much less sitting on the dirty ground in a rundown laundromat at midnight. He had no idea why he approached the boy. Man, Stiles was a man now. If Peter remembered correctly he was most likely around twenty or so by now.
The boy had certainly grown. He was now noticeably taller than Peter, which affected Peter more than he’d like to admit. Stiles’ eyes had a brighter glow to them than the haunted walnut color Peter had last seen in the wake of the nogitsune. Stiles had also, unfortunately for Peter, bulked up in the last three years. Most might not have noticed Stiles’ musculature, but Peter had been watching the boy since that night in the woods years ago.
Peter had always been aware of Stiles. It was something he had tried desperately to fight in the early days, but ultimately accepted as unescapable attraction. He’d been orbiting Stiles for two years in dull pain as the boy continued to mistrust him. Finally Peter couldn’t take it any longer and left. He’d moved out to Knoxville, Tennessee so that he could disappear in a large crowd while also being surrounded by nature. He now lived about an hour away from gorgeous waterfalls and stunning mountains. He had never felt so at peace. The Great Smoky Mountain National Park was lush and full of life. He had quickly found a running path that stayed clear of the ranger trails as well as the areas that other humans could see him. He’d found an odd serenity in the forests there. He’d taken the time to run off the anger and pain he’d harbored for so much of his adult life.
The betrayal of being ignored after the Alpha-Spark choose Talia instead of Peter. The shame of slowly being swallowed by Talia’s shadow. The pain of losing his pack. The bitter resentment of being abandoned. The all-consuming self-loathing of becoming a murderer. The blind fury of revenge. The cold loneliness of being an omega. The madness that’d taken him once and now sat in his peripheral waiting for him to break.
He ran until each breath was cleaner, easier. He ran until he could understand the errors of his life. The Alpha-Spark wasn’t his to demand, it was a force of nature that belonged to no one. He hadn’t been forgotten by his pack, he’d isolated himself in his self-pitying jealousy. He didn’t lose his pack completely, they were still with him in the whiff of popcorn that sometimes floated on the breeze reminding him of pack nights and the fierce strength he saw in Derek and Cora. Laura’s death had been a mistake, one he couldn’t take back or entirely forgive himself for, but he was trying. He still felt that rage sometimes, but had learned that he could also let it go instead of letting it fester and consume him again. He didn’t feel so lonely now that he’d found solace in himself. That madness had filled in the cracks and holes in his soul, but now that he was healing those wounds he was no longer as scared of the ever present madness that hovered around omega werewolves.
Peter was healing, but he also knew that having someone he could trust completely was the next step. Stiles had seemingly dropped into Peter’s life just when he was ready to actually love the man instead of just lusting after him from afar. Maybe it wasn’t as instantaneous as Stiles just appearing, maybe Stiles was orbiting Peter too. They were stuck in each other’s gravitational pull, or rather Peter hoped they were. He could just be spinning nonsense because he had a crush on a boy that was now a mysterious man. What was Stiles’ major? What did he want with death magic? Why did he choose Knoxville?
Peter’s phone snapped him out of his thoughts of Stiles’ life post Beacon Hills when the man texted him.
“Hey I’m a forensic chemist so this is peak humor to me.” Read the text, which was accompanied with a picture of a dog in a cowboy hat with the caption “What in titration”
The image startled a laugh from Peter before his brain made sense of the fact that Stiles Stilinski just sent him a meme. The singular laugh turned into a pleased giggle that Peter would never admit to later. Stiles wanted to talk to him. Stiles sent him a meme. Stiles was thinking about him.
“At four o’clock in the morning?” Peter paused between each word as he realized what time it was and how odd it was that Stiles was texting him this late.
“It’s always refreshing how cheap noodles are.”
Peter stared at his phone with a smile on his face as he contemplated how to respond.
“What are you planning on making?”
Stiles’ response was immediate and troubling.
“I’m just going to cook them and toss some alfredo sauce on them because other ingredients are expensive.”
Peter frowned trying to think of a reply that didn’t include his credit card information.
“College draining you? I remember those days.”
“Okay, Daddy’s Money.”
The smart ass response made Peter genuinely laugh and kept a beat in his step for the rest of the day.
“Why do I wait an hour in the line at Starbucks every morning just to drink something I could make at home?”
Stiles smirked at the text Peter sent him before responding.
“‘Cause you’re an idiot.”
Peter’s reply was instantaneous and brought out a delighted giggle.
“Ah, that’s it.”
Stiles was grinning so wide his cheeks were burning.
“You’ve seen Heathers!”
“I am not an animal Stiles.”
The odd high Stiles felt from their short conversations carried him through his grueling classes.
“Scientifically it’s mad fucked up that humans drink the milk of another animal when we make our own.”
Peter blinked in confusion at his phone screen that was currently blinding in his dark room.
“Stiles how high are you right now?”
Peter laughed out loud, the sound rough from being woken up in the middle of the night.
“I saw that Allison has a fight in Nashville soon. Are you going?”
Stiles thought for a minute about how Peter Hale could possibly know what Allison Argent was up to.
“Yes. I’m driving her useless lesbian girlfriend that says “gays can’t drive Stiles, they just can’t” every time we have to go somewhere. How did you know?”
“I’d think a millennial would remember that Facebook exists.”
Stiles huffed an offended breath.
“Well I thought a corpse like yourself wouldn’t know how to use it.”
Stiles smiled at the text that zipped into his inbox next.
“You wound me. Again.”
Stiles smirked because he knew what Peter was referring to. He also knew that Peter had long forgiven him.
“I might’ve thrown the bomb but you're the dumbass that continued to hold it for a solid two minutes until it's sudden but inevitable explosion.”
Peter’s only response was, “Touche darling.”
It was almost one in the morning and Peter was beyond ready for bed when his phone went off.
“How make jello shot”
Peter’s head canted to the left as he tried to understand why Stiles would text him that. Before he could respond another text came in.
“Where buy jello”
Peter finally just replied with a question mark, still not understanding what Stiles, who was obviously drunk, was doing.
“How much alcohol in jello shot”
It finally clicked and Peter shook his head in fond amusement.
“This isn’t Google Stiles. This is Peter. But you want to boil one cup of water then add one cup of cold vodka and stir in the jello packet which you can purchase at the dollar general or wal-mart. Have a good night and drink water.”
“Is it frowned upon to eat only ramen noodles for three days?”
The text made Peter’s eyes widen dramatically.
“Yes. Yes it is. Why are you only eating ramen noodles?”
Stiles’ reply made him frown worriedly.
“Because I’m poor why else would I regularly shovel garbage into my mouth?”
That was worrying, but Peter didn’t want to overstep.
“‘Cause you’re an idiot.”
“Ah, that’s it.”
“Hey Peter can I come over and wash my clothes?”
The text shouldn’t have been a big deal. Peter and Stiles had been texting constantly for weeks now, but for some reason Peter’s heart was racing and his entire body felt too hot.
He was too nervous he’d say something stupid so a short confirmation seemed the best action. Peter hoped it wouldn’t come across as rude.
Peter opened the door for Stiles and led him down a short white hallway.
“This is the laundry room and pantry”, he motioned to the door on the right, “and this is the study I mentioned.” He finished, motioning to the door forward and to the left.
Stiles set down his laundry basket in front of the laundry room and rubbed his hands together deviously, “Show me your evil lair Peter.”
The older man just chuckled and led the way out into the living area.
Stiles cooed at him with one hand on his heart and said in his best rich white lady voice, “It's got an open space floor plan!”
Peter was not amused.
The ‘wolf did in fact have an “open space floor plan” the entry way opened up to dark cherry wood flooring with varying shades of grey furniture scattered strategically across it. The walls behind him on either side were covered top to bottom in books and some movies. The wall to his left that ran the length of the apartment was completely made of glass, filling the space with natural light and taking Stiles’ breath away with its view. In the middle of the space were a light grey couch that faced the bookcase behind Stiles and a loveseat that faced the enormous window. On each were two slate grey pillows that made Stiles want to hold them to his chest as he looked out over the town and watched the sun set beneath the mountains.
The area to his right was dedicated to the kitchen. The kitchen cabinets were stained a dark color that contrasted the River White granite countertops and stainless steel appliances. In front of the cabinets and appliances was a fancy island countertop with bar stools that Stiles had only seen on HGTV, which he would never admit to watching nearly as much as he actually does.
Peter patiently waited for Stiles to close his mouth and drop his eyebrows back to their natural resting place before leading Stiles past the kitchen area and to the staircase at the far end of the room that had blended so well into the matching white walls that he hadn’t even noticed it.
“Would you like to see the loft?”
Peter’s voice shook Stiles further out of his trance and restarted his brain into action. He flashed a wide grin and exaggeratedly motioned for Peter to lead the way. Peter rolled his eyes at Stiles’ antics, but continued his tour anyways.
The stairs opened up to a home theater and another room. Stiles was instantly flopping on the plush leather, slate grey couch that faced a huge TV as well as still giving him a wonderful view out the glass wall.
“You have a surround system and everything?” Stiles exclaimed more than inquired.
Peter nodded anyways and leaned his hip against the glass railing so he could watch Stiles geek out about his set up.
“And finally that door leads to my bedroom as well as the only bathroom so if you need to use the restroom just go on in.” Peter informed him.
Stiles blanched at the idea of invading Peter’s private bedroom, but he was already invading Peter’s home so really what’s one more line crossed, especially when he has permission.
“I’m going to make lunch. It’ll be ready soon if you’d like to put your clothes in the washer and then snoop like you know you want to.” Peter informed him with a smirk before padding down the stairs.
Peter was not panicking. He really wasn’t. He wished his wolf would get it together and stop acting like a damn puppy around the man though. Every time Stiles’ bright whiskey eyes landed on Peter’s his wolf would roll over and practically start whining for pets. Peter had to choke back a whine once when Stiles had smirked at him with a mischievous glint in those sinful amber eyes before the younger man had went to snoop through Peter’s study. Peter had leaned against his door for a long moment after he’d walked Stiles’ out, unaware of how much he resembled a teenager in a rom-com.
“This is fine. I can do this. I won’t make it weird just because I have a silly crush.” He assured himself as he shook off the gross emotions.
“Wait he fed you?” Malia asked her eyebrow raised in suspicion.
“Yeah and it was amazing! I want him to feed me all the time, Em.” Stiles sighed around the milkshake straw hanging from his mouth.
“So if he fed you why the hell did I have to pay for your milkshake? Were you not satisfied from your beau’s food? Why make me suffer?”
Stiles just grinned at her and slurped his milkshake loudly in response.
“So are you gonna bang him or not?”
The question caught Stiles off guard and made him inhale milkshake, which in turn made him spew it back out onto the table.
“It’s fine. It’s just a silly crush. I hope I don’t make it weird.” Stiles said between hacking out his drink.
Peter could tell that Stiles had had a rough day. The man looked exhausted and just all around worn down. He’d stood in Peter’s doorway a beat too long before nodding quietly at the older man and trudging into the laundry room. Peter hadn’t wanted to bother him, but he was worried. His worry manifested in stress cooking the finest pasta dish he could think of that’d only take about thirty minutes to prepare. He put the water on to boil and waited for Stiles to emerge from the laundry room that doubled as a pantry, which took longer than usual due to Stiles’ sluggishness.
Stiles’ reappearance was short lived. He grunted at Peter and simply walked into the study without a proper word in greeting. Peter was officially worried. He collected the ingredients he needed from the pantry and set about quickly preparing penne with vodka sauce.
When Stiles left the study to move his clothes from the washer to the dryer Peter stepped forward and cleared his throat to get the younger man’s attention. Stiles blinked blearily at him for a second before realizing Peter wanted his attention.
“Yeah?” The younger man’s voice sounded like gravel as he spoke.
“How much magic have you done on how many hours of sleep?” Peter asked, folding his arms against his chest to stop himself from pulling the man in close.
“That’s too many questions.” Stiles grumbled before slumping into the laundry room, though this time he left the door open behind him.
Peter leaned against the door frame and watched him for a minute before speaking again, “I made dinner. You should eat a real meal.”
Stiles looked at him quietly over his shoulder as he contemplated the offer. Finally the man nodded his assent and resumed moving his clothes into the dryer.
Stiles sat beside Peter at the island bar with a quiet groan a few moments later. After the younger man had eaten two servings and had a glass and a half of water, Peter reached over and poured him a glass of red wine to accompany his pasta. Stiles grinned deviously at him before taking a delicate sip to test the taste of the dinner wine.
“Not too shabby old man.” Stiles chuckled quietly before stuffing more food in his mouth.
“You should consider eating better if you are going to keep doing magic on little sleep. The food will help restore your energy.” Peter heard the whine-y nag in his own voice, but refused to cringe away from his statement.
Stiles smiled fondly at him for a second before saying, “I’d roll my eyes if I didn’t have a headache. I really can’t eat better or more because I’m using so much of my funds to flesh out our bestiary and update the stuff that’s just plain racist nonsense.”
Peter hummed in acknowledgment and continued to drink his wine as his mind spun potential ideas on how to trick Stiles into taking some money.
“Sorry I don’t have an actual dining table.”
“That is kind of rude of you. I was honestly offended when I saw that we’d have to eat at this completely underwhelming and unsatisfactory island.” Stiles sniffed haughtily and stuck his pinky out dramatically as he took a drink of his wine.
Peter’s eyes crinkled as he smiled into his glass.
Stiles ran out of the elevator and jammed the key, that the older man had given him two weeks ago, in Peter’s front door quickly before slamming it open in his excitement. He immediately started chanting the older man’s name as he sprinted into the living area. When he didn’t spot Peter straight away he raced up the steps to loft, still chanting the man’s name. Stiles reached the top when he heard a door open and Peter emerged from his study with a rare smile on his face that made the younger man’s grin broaden.
“What can I do for you Stiles?” Peter asked patiently, purposely walking slowly to the other man.
“Come on slowpoke! I just bought Thor: Ragnarok and you just have to see it! I watched it like three times in the theaters and they just released the Blu-ray today! I personally prefer when Thor makes deadpan jokes, but Taika Waititi did such a good job at bringing humor into the franchise. Especially since this is a dark ass movie!” The words rushed out of Stiles in a flurry of movement.
Peter was smitten.
“Okay. Put it in. I’ll join you in a moment.”
“That’s what she said!” Stiles called over the railing before crouching in front of the TV.
Peter returned with a bowl of popcorn in one hand and two cold beers in the other.
“For someone that can’t get drunk you sure do drink a lot of alcohol.” Stiles said in lieu of greeting.
“Whoever told you such malarkey as that? Of course I can get drunk. Werewolves have existed for thousands of years and I promise you we figured out a long long time ago how to get drunk.” Peter informed him, an incredulous eyebrow raised.
“Oh damn. I don’t even remember who originally said weres couldn’t. Malia doesn’t drink, but that could just be for the health thing. Damn. I wonder if Scott knows?” Stiles shook his head once before continuing, “Never mind that now. We have a hot Australian to watch!”
Throughout the movie Peter never once looked away from the screen, completely enraptured in the narrative like the closet nerd Stiles knew he would be. Stiles on the other hand couldn’t stop watching Peter. The man was wearing a cardigan as a shirt again, which Stiles always found both ridiculous and ridiculously attractive, and soft looking denim jeans. His hair was slightly unruly like he had ran his hands through it a couple times, and honestly it was seriously affecting Stiles. He wanted to run his fingers through Peter’s normally perfect hair and down his soft looking cardigan to the skin he knew was so warm he could curl up against it and sleep for days.
Peter broke Stiles out of his thoughts when he laughed out loud at Korg trying to fight Loki’s specter. The sound was so undiluted and happy that Stiles found himself smiling into the popcorn bowl.
Peter leaned forward to rest his elbows on his desk as he contemplated what he’d just done. Stiles deserved this, which was what Peter had to keep reminding himself. Even if Stiles was mad he deserved to be rewarded for his hard work. He deserved to be able to at least eat like a normal person for all he’s done. Peter didn’t have to ask why the pack wasn’t helping Stiles in his time of financial need, it was obvious. The boy had never done well with leaning on others and he seemed to have grown into a similarly burdened man. Rationally Peter knew that not everyone was raised with pack mentality and the resources he had because of it, but it still made him irritated that these young adults still had no idea how important pack is.
“Hey Zombiewolf! Can you meet me at the graveyard off Olive Street? Bring snacks and any death magic books you have!”
He stared at the text for a minute as he tried to remember which books would be helpful to the man. He owed six that contained death magic specifically, but all but two of them focused more on reviving oneself or someone the caster has a connection to. Two would have to do.
“Hey man took ya long enough!” Stiles greeted him with a broad grin.
“Yes well this wasn’t exactly close. We’re practically in the park.” Peter sighed as he took in the materials the man had scattered about.
“Good eye! The National Park sign is about 5 minutes from here. Now what’d ya bring?” The younger man made grabby hands at Peter’s backpack, who naturally gave him what he wanted.
“You have yet to actually tell me what it is you are doing with death magic little dove.” he reminded Stiles impatiently as the younger man rummaged through his bag.
“Gross, don’t call me that when I’m about to raise the dead. What I’m doing is reanimating corpses to test how long supernatural venom and toxins last as well as their side effects. I still haven’t gotten the corpse to last more than a few minutes though, which is why I was hoping you’d have some books. Thanks for these, I’m keeping them” Stiles informed him with shit eating grin.
“Of course you are. What would you like me to do during the spell and experiment?”
“Well normally my friend Malia just hangs around and does nothing unless I accidently bring the soul back too. That’s when I need some claws since the undead are not usually nice.” Stiles shrugged as if an undead corpse trying to kill him was no big deal.
“Lovely. I’ll be over here then.” Peter told the younger man as he sat down at the base of a nearby tree.
Nearly an hour later and Stiles was falling over against Peter’s side. He’d managed to keep the corpse functioning for twenty minutes, which was long enough to record the effects of Kerastes venom. Peter considered it a monumental win, but Stiles was less thrilled.
“I wish I could find a spell that didn’t drain me so badly. I can work with this at least.” The younger man grumbled, letting himself going completely limp against Peter.
“You know I can feel your subsonic wolfy grumbles when we’re this close so even though you weren’t using your words to nag me you were still nagging. I’m fine Peter. This is nothing.” Stiles insisted.
“I worry about your health. There’s also something I need to tell you.” Peter replied, his anxiety almost choking him.
Stiles silently lifted his head from Peter’s shoulder to look at him.
“I created a website for you. I think you should fill it full of your research and bestiary information. You should charge people a subscription fee that way you can keep researching, but also eat and live like the twenty year old you are.” The fear in Peter was oppressive by the time he finished.
“You have no right. If. If I ever did something like that i couldn’t charge people for life saving information. That’d be horrible and selfish. Go home, Peter.” The words left Stiles mouth with such finality that Peter could only wordlessly comply.
Stiles had been so tired when Peter had sprung the website idea on him. He’d been so hungry and tired, all he’d wanted to do was curl up against Peter and sleep. Stiles had been planning on asking Peter to take him home with him. Crashing on his couch was step three in Stiles’ twenty step plan to wooing Peter and it had been ruined. The idea wasn’t bad and he knows he reacted too harshly to Peter just looking out for him. It had just taken him for a loop. He’d never thought about selling his information before. Later, when he was safely in his bed, Stiles realized that a lot of people in the know probably sold their information. He’d seen plenty of movies where the protagonist bought information from someone else.
Maybe he was being irrational.
“Well I think you’re a dumbass.” Malia said unhelpfully when he called to get her take on the situation.
Stiles spluttered incoherently instead of replying.
“Listen you idiot. He’s a wolf. Pack means everything to wolves. You’re constantly bitching about your shitty diet and Bam! He starts feeding you gourmet meals and sending you off with snacks and leftovers. You bitch about being poor and Bam! He tries to give you a way to provide for yourself. You’re dumber than I thought if you don’t know that he would much prefer to provide for you himself. This is him respecting you. And you kicked him.” Malia explained irritation thick in her voice.
Stiles was speechless. He hadn’t thought about it like that. He was an idiot.
“You didn’t have to be so mean about it.” He mumbled.
“Yes I did.”
“Yes you did.”
Stiles decided to go see Peter and apologize. This seemed like a good plan up until the moment he was physically standing in Peter’s doorway. Stiles closed his eyes and took a deep breath. He counted to three twice before finally opening the door and stepping inside.
“Peter?” He had meant to call out, but the word left him in a whisper.
He stepped further into the living room and actually managed to shout Peter’s name.
The man stepped out of his room and up to the glass railing in just a towel, his hair limp and dripping water down his neck and shoulders.
“What can I do for you Stiles?” Peter asked with a smirk, no doubt smelling Stiles immediate arousal.
“Pl-please put some clothes on and come down here.” Stiles stuttered, his face burning red.
Peter chuckled, but did as told.
“I’m sorry about last night.” Stiles started.
“No need to apologize darling. I overstepped.”
“Please don’t say that! You didn’t do anything wrong! I’m sorry Peter. The website was a good idea. I’m still uncomfortable with charging people for information that could save lives, but it’s a good idea. Maybe we can do a two dollar a month subscription fee, that wouldn’t make me feel bad.” The words rushed out of Stiles in one breath.
Peter only smiled and asked, “Do you want to see it?”
“Oh no she’s hot. I’m gay. God I’m so gay.” Reverence and awe were evident in Malia’s voice as she watched Allison fight.
Stiles laughed and leaned over into Peter’s space to say, “She does this every time. It’s very cute.”
Peter just nodded with a small smile. Allison was fighting with quick, efficient motions that conserved her energy but didn’t cut the strength behind the blows. She briefly reminded of the one time he’d seen Victoria spar Kate. Peter had taken to checking up on the Argents whenever they were in town, and had happened upon a fierce fight between the current matriarch and the once princess of the clan. Allison’s movements resembled her mother’s in that she fought with fair and equal movements, but he saw Kate’s trickier moves in the girl as well. He would love to see her fight with the intent to hurt. Good money said she was something to be feared. She had obviously grown as a fighter in the years since she’d been thrown into the supernatural world. He understood why Stiles was so keen on making it to as many fights as he could, she was truly a sight to behold.
“Goddamn I’m glad she’s on our side. I still think about that time she went all crazy hunter on us. If that happened again we’d be mincemeat.” Erica declared with a throaty laugh.
Peter had to agree.
“Hey don’t bring that shit up. She wouldn’t do that again.” Stiles admonished with a frown.
The man was probably thinking about the time he’d gone all crazy fox on them and was not inclined to remember much of their high school years. Maybe that was another reason he came to these fights. To see with his own eyes that Allison was alive and well, that the nogitsune hadn’t killed her. The girl had come so close to death’s door that night. Stiles probably still had nightmares about it.
The thought made Peter instinctively put his arm around Stiles shoulders before he even recognized that he probably shouldn’t touch him so freely. Stiles actually relaxed into the touch, surprising the older man.
Peter leaned into Stiles’ space, tightening his hold on the younger man’s shoulders and whispered, “Thanks for inviting me, Stiles. This is fun.”
Stiles blushed bright red and nodded at him with a bright smile.
“Fuck a two trips!” Stiles yelled across the parking garage as he loaded both of his squishy human arms with groceries.
Peter rolled his eyes and simply took all of the bags from Stiles leaving the human with the task of opening the doors.
“Damn that werewolf strength. Need me a freak like that.” Stiles mumbled under his breath forgetting that Peter could still hear him.
Stiles felt his face heat as he saw the smug look on Peter’s face indicating that he had indeed heard. He really needed to lock down his crush. Lately Peter was all Stiles could think about. It was driving him insane, and worse Malia refused to talk to him about it anymore.
“I’ve told you three whole ass months ago when you called to gush about the fine ass wolf from your past: Get. That. Dick.” was the last thing Malia said on the matter and she refused to speak about it further.
Stiles didn’t blame her. Three months was a long time for her to have to listen to his pining. She still listened to him, but she was done commenting and instead would just roll her eyes or glare at him whenever he droned on about Peter Hale.
Things had been so good with Peter. There were almost never weird, everything felt right when they were together. Stiles didn’t want to ruin the peaceful safe place Peter’s apartment and Peter himself had become. He didn’t want to potentially taint the tentative packbond that was growing stronger by the day.
It’d been so long since Peter had a pack, and Stiles was terrified of the chance that anything romantic occurring between them would lead to a messy end and Peter packless again. He couldn’t do that to the man. He couldn’t give him pack then one day take it away.
“Stiles? What’s going on in that clever head of yours?” Peter asked, concern twisting in his voice as he ran a soothing hand down Stiles’ spine.
Stiles forced a laugh and rubbed the back of his neck awkwardly, “It’s nothing. Just thinking about how grateful I am that you’re here.”
Peter’s eyes widened and his mouth parted slightly in a look of shock. Stiles wished he had a camera, Peter is not easily surprised.
Before Peter could say anything and make the moment more tense Stiles blurted, “Let me cook for you this time!”
The werewolf nodded with a bright smile, and Stiles swore he saw a slight red tint to Peter’s ears and cheeks.
Six months passed by in a blink. Stiles had been so hesitant and unsure that first day in Peter’s penthouse apartment, but now he was there practically every day. Peter had become a permanent fixture in Stiles’ life and the human wouldn’t have had it any other way. School was stressful as always, but Peter’s help with his research had lightened his load enough to maintain his grades. Peter’s cooking had also helped Stiles find his energy and motivation again. He’d been so exhausted and run down all those months ago when they’d met again in that laundromat. Now he was strong, healthy, and most importantly he was happy.
Stiles sighed contently as he watched Avengers: Infinity War curled up beside Peter on their couch.
“I’m going to grab some more wine. Do you want anything darling?” Peter’s voice was deep like warm honey pouring down his soul.
"Sometimes, It's almost like we’re married. You could have at least taken me out first, you know." Stiles mumbled tiredly without thinking.
Peter tipped Stiles face up to stare into his eyes as Stiles realized what he’d said.
"If we were married I'd ask for a divorce because you never eat all of your vegetables.” Peter paused as Stiles laughed before continuing, “But if you wanted my hand in marriage, Stiles all you had to do was ask."
Then Peter kissed him soft and slow. Stiles felt like liquid gold was pouring into him, sealing all his cracks and hollows. Purifying all the self-loathing and fear that gripped him when he thought of actually having Peter.
When they separated Stiles’ face heated quickly and his hands flailed around them as he started describing a beautiful little Mexican place he’d seen a couple of months ago and had instantly thought of taking Peter there.
Peter smiled at him and waited for Stiles to finish before gently holding the human’s face between his hands and saying, “It’s a date.”