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Breathing You In

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Stiles scrubbed over his eyes with the heel of his hand, studiously avoiding his reflection in the mirror in front of him. The bite of mint was too strong, and it tasted off. Sour. It was the same toothpaste he had always used, and it didn't taste the same. Nothing tasted the same. Spitting, he kept his eyes downcast as he rinsed out his mouth. He yawned, pressing a hand over his lips and missing the callouses that used to adorn his fingers.

Everything was different.

He flipped off his bedroom light when he walked through the door, scratching at his belly, ignoring how cold his skin felt even to his own hand. The sun was back up, and he let it flood into the room with a sigh of relief. As much as Stiles knew it wouldn't deter any supernatural creatures that he happened upon, the natural light helped him breathe easier.

His floor was a mess of clothes and he sniffed at a pair of jeans before pulling them on. He'd need to get new pants, ones that still went past his ankle. He hadn’t said anything to his dad, though. They didn't have the money. Stiles yawned again, pulling on a t-shirt and a plaid shirt over top. The material itched at his skin in a way that was foreign, but he didn't dare forego the plaid. It was his father’s, and it settled around him warmly.

Luckily, his shoes still fit, though the flat sole of his converse bothered his feet. He yawned, grabbing a pile of notes from his desk. Going through the Argent's bestiary wasn't easy nor was it fun, but it kept Stiles occupied when the shadows crept in on him and sleep evaded him. He'd give the notes to Peter when he next saw the wolf, his own attempt at a thank you.

Stiles took a deep breath before going down the stairs. He could hear his father in the kitchen, still, and Stiles wasn't sure their dance of avoidance was something he could handle this morning. Stiles couldn't help but mourn the easy relationship they’d once had. Everything had been so simple, only a few years ago, before the supernatural had invaded their lives.

Dad was in the kitchen and he was frying eggs. Stiles tried to be thankful, really, at how much time his dad was spending at home. He was glad that he was working less, but seeing him hurt. Ached. His heart quickened when his father glanced at him, and though there was nothing nasty in his eyes, his gaze burned over Stiles' skin.

Cautious, Stiles walked over to the stove, though he stayed a step away. Watching as the eggs fried, Stiles tried his best to offer up a smile though he knew it fell flat. He twitched away from the hand his father went to lay on his shoulder, and he watched as his dad's eyes went sad. They were always sad, now.

He took a step back, giving his dad a nod and covering another yawn.

“Good morning, kiddo,” his dad said, and the words hurt.

All Stiles wanted to do was step forward and let his dad hug him, allow his father to give him comfort. He could see it in every line of his dad's body, how badly he was holding himself from pulling Stiles in. It would be so easy, to fall forward. His father's hugs had always been all-encompassing, the way he would fold himself around Stiles and hold him as tightly as he could. There was always a...desperate edge to how they held each other, since his mother.

Stiles stepped around him, careful not to let foreign skin touch anything that was special to him. Anything he loved.

He didn't take any of the breakfast his father made, and the dejected line to his dad's shoulders burned at his heart, made his next breath feel too heavy. He tried for another smile, but his eyes were burning. His dad was trying, so hard, trying even harder not to let Stiles see just how much he was hurting. If it wasn't for how well they knew each other, how they had learned to read each others body language to hear the words they couldn't say, Stiles wouldn't even know his father was struggling.

“I love you,” his dad said, and for that, Stiles was able to twist his lips up.

“I love you too, Daddio,” he managed, voice a weak crackle, an imitation of what it once was.

Still, his dad breathed out a sigh, some of the tension leaving his body, and it felt a little like a victory.

Stiles had always liked loud music. There was something about drowning his thoughts out with a heavy bass that had always brought him a measure of calm. He had saved up for months to get a new stereo for the Jeep, doing yard work for neighbours and walking dogs. He had even sold a few essays online for a bit of extra money when he had to get it installed.

It had been worth every penny. Every morning, Stiles would spend the drive to school getting himself pumped up for the day, singing and dancing along as he drove. But he couldn't do that anymore. Stiles couldn't listen to music so loud it drowned out his thoughts, not when he knew how horrible it was to have his thoughts taken away. If he listened to music at all, it was hardly more than a soft whisper of background noise.

Anything louder would send him into a panic. He needed to be able to hear himself think, to know that he was alone in his own mind at all times. The loud chattering of high school made him crazy for that reason. He couldn't hear his own thoughts, not like he needed to, when the halls were filled with countless conversations. Stepping through the front doors was hell on Stiles, and it gave him a headache, every day.

That wasn’t the worst part of walking through the halls, though. He had to keep his head down, eyes fixed on the floor. If he didn't, he would spend his time looking out for faces he knew he would never see again, guilt clawing up his throat until he could no longer breathe. Bumping into people was a constant battle at forcing down his panic, and he flinched every time someone brushed against him.

He couldn't touch or be touched without remembering how much blood his old hands had spilled. How much pain, how much death , he had once caused. This body was devoid of that, clean in a way that his mind wasn't. He still remembered everything that had been done through him, but his body no longer showed proof of the horrors that had been committed.

Stiles got to his locker just as one slammed next to him, and he jumped. He startled easily, too easily, he knew. He yawned again, ignoring the racing of his heart and the pounding of his head as he twirled the dial on his locker. His bag was heavy with his research and the large tome he carried with him, and he dropped it at his feet before looking up.

He had Allison's memorial card hung on his locker. While he hadn't attended the service, unable to get out of bed without his stomach turning until he had nothing left to empty, Chris had stopped by to give it to him. He had told Stiles that it wasn't his fault, that he didn't need to carry the guilt of Allison's death. Stiles had believed that he meant it. Chris may not blame Stiles, but that didn't change the fact that he had been the one to let the Nogitsune in, to start it all.

Grabbing his backpack, Stiles pulled out the tome and notes, settling them carefully along the floor of his locker. He yawned, already dreading the rest of his day. The Nogitsune had left memories. Memories Stiles had never wanted. Memories that made him want to claw through his own skull to rid himself of them. He knew more than he would ever want to know, and it made school seem mundane.

“Hey, buddy,” Scott said from beside him, and Stiles startled so badly, he dropped his bag. Scott laughed, though he didn't reach out to touch Stiles. He never reached out to touch Stiles anymore.

“You're such a klutz, man,” he said, and when Stiles turned to look at him, he found Scott already looking away, staring at Kira across the hall. Something ugly twisted in Stiles' gut, and he pushed it down. “God, Kira looks so good today.”

Stiles ignored the comment. He knew that Scott wasn't expecting him to say anything, but now that Isaac had left for France with Chris, he had no one else to stand around with. Tuning Scott out, he picked his bag back up and he ignored how his fingers shook. It wouldn't be long before the bell rang, and Stiles enjoyed getting to class early, being able to pick any seat that he wanted.

But he didn't leave. Instead, he pretended to listen as Scott prattled on about Kira, still keeping his gaze down by his feet. Waiting for the bell was hard. He knew that as soon as it rang, students would begin rushing to class, and there would be no way to avoid contact. Anxiety began to crawl up his throat, though the feeling was familiar enough that it didn't overwhelm him.

Scott's voice trailed off, and a pair of heels entered his line of sight. There was only one person he knew who wore such shoes. In the aftermath of the Nogitsune, he and Lydia had gotten...not closer, but a solidarity had settled between them. They both lost someone they cared about, and they felt that loss stronger than the rest.

Stiles because he had caused it, and Lydia because she had felt it with her scream.

Once, just once, Lydia had tried to ask him if he was okay. He had laughed and laughed, remembering the ringing in his ears caused by her scream, before telling her that of course he was.

“Hey Stiles,” Lydia said. She paused for a moment, but when he didn't respond she kept talking. “We should get to class.”

Stiles let out a breath of relief, and he tipped his head in her direction. It was enough for her, and she waited until he had swung his bag onto his shoulder before she began walking. She didn't say anything further, and for that Stiles was thankful. He didn't like speaking much, anymore.

Walking with Lydia was helpful as much as it was hindering. When alone, no one tended to notice Stiles, with the way he kept his head down and his shoulders tucked in. But people had always parted for Lydia Martin, and it was only worse now, the death of Allison hanging over all of their heads. When walking with Lydia, it was easy to avoid touch because people cleared out of their way.

But people noticed them, noticed him, and Stiles felt like he could feel their gazes burning along his body. It was hard to believe that they couldn't see the sin he had committed, the death that he had caused. He did his best to focus on the clacking of Lydia's heels as they walked; it was easier than listening to the mumble of whispers as they passed.

School was long. It was always long as of late. Exhaustion crept up as the day went on, pulling at his eyelids and causing his head to ache. Stiles went through his day, still, not bothering to count down the hours until it was over. Lydia quietly sat beside him at lunch, both of them listening to Scott bemoan Kira. Stiles knew they both felt the same way about how Scott was acting, but neither said anything about his behaviour.

He tried to eat, but three bites from his apple and a sip of water had him gagging, dangerously close to flipping his stomach and he had to stop. He kept his eyes on the table so he wouldn't have to see the worry in Lydia's eyes. Stiles was trying his best. He knew he wasn't coping very well, but he...he was trying his best.

“Stiles,” Scott said, and Stiles flicked his eyes up for a moment. It would be easier if he distanced himself, maybe, but being Scott's friend was familiar. Too much had already changed. “You coming over tonight?”

Stiles managed to hum, but Scott didn't seem to get it. He tilted his head for Scott to go on, but all he did was stare at him expectantly. He cleared his throat, once then twice, before saying, “Why would I be coming over, Scott?”

His voice sounded hollow, flat. He still remembered how it felt to twist the sword, how much force he had to apply to tear through the skin. He didn't like talking to Scott.

“I told you, dude! The pack meeting is tonight,” Scott said, rolling his eyes and huffing out a decidedly annoyed breath, as though Stiles had forgotten on purpose. He hadn't forgotten, he just hadn't been told.

Stiles didn't meet Scott's eyes, scratching at his cuticle under the table, a nervous tick he developed. He didn’t say anything, but he nodded once.

Scott leaned forward, and Stiles caught the edges of a too-wide smile as Scott held out his fist. He stared at the raised hand, not daring to move until Scott dropped it awkwardly to the table. Once he did, Stiles stood, grabbing his apple with shaking fingers and pushing down the rising bile. He tried to tell himself that it was okay that Scott hadn't noticed, that he was obviously grieving as well.

But he didn't see the same darkness surrounding Scott's eyes as he saw around Lydia's, or his father's, or that he knew were surrounding his. There wasn't the same heaviness in Scott's actions, the hesitance. Scott talked about lacrosse and about Kira, and Stiles did his best to listen and breathe and pretend that hearing his voice didn't make him want to peel himself out of his own skin.

He tossed his apple into the garbage, making a beeline for the washroom. Once he was tucked away in a stall, he began counting his fingers. They were shaking, but he used his free hand to count them off. He counted them in his head, going through his whole hand twice. It wasn't enough, not with the way his ears were ringing. Whispering to himself, he counted them off again, going all the way up to ten three times before he was able to take a full breath.

Stiles slumped against the door, letting his bag fall off his shoulder. His knees were weak, but he managed to hold himself up. Exhaustion hit him again, and he sat heavily on the toilet, dropping his head into his hands as he fought back a of wave of dizziness. His phone chimed in his pocket and he pulled it out, dread pooling in his belly. When he read who it was from, he couldn't stop the sigh of relief.

From Jackass 12:42 p.m: u good?
To Jackass 12:42 p.m: holding up
From Jackass 12:44 p.m: call me later

Sending back a thumbs up emoji, Stiles shook his head at himself. He wasn't at all surprised that Lydia had texted Jackson, and something warm settled in his belly. He knew that people still cared about him, despite everything that had happened, and it helped Stiles stand. Taking another deep breath, he let himself out of the stall, determined to at least finish out his day.

Stiles was ready to keel over by the time he got to Peter's apartment, but he pushed himself into the elevator and waited out the ride. He exited the too-small space with a yawn, clenching his fists to keep his hands from shaking. The claustrophobia was expected, but no less bothersome. No matter what Stiles did or where he was, he was still affected by the Nogitsune taking over his body.

Stiles didn't knock, and instead waited until Peter opened the door for him. The man already had a smirk in place, his eyes flashing electric blue when he tipped his head for Stiles to enter. Peter's apartment was familiar, now. The comfortable furniture and the expensive appliances were safe to him. No one knew where Peter lived, and that gave Stiles a measure of comfort.

“Hello, Stiles,” Peter said, his voice a smooth purr. Stiles didn't say anything back, and Peter closed the door behind him without comment. “How was your day, sweetheart?”

Stiles wasn't sure when the endearments started, but it was sometime after Stiles showed up for the first time. He didn't mind them, not from Peter. Lifting his shoulder in a half shrug, Stiles walked into the living room. Peter had it set up with a long couch and two armchairs, all angled towards a large television. The room—like the entire apartment—screamed money, but Stiles liked how he sunk into the couch.

Peter veered off into the kitchen, and he came back with two glasses, both filled with cool, dark liquid. He handed one to Stiles, and he knew that the one Peter kept for himself only contained chocolate milk. Peter had been ‘secretly’ feeding him meal replacement, trying to keep his nutrients up. Stiles thought the act was sweet, especially when, after some trial-and-error, Peter learned that Stiles only liked the chocolate ones.

Peter would push a cup into Stiles' hand the moment he got into the apartment, and he would get this satisfied twist to his lips if Stiles drank the whole glass. He always tried, if only to see the smile on Peter's face when he managed to get it all down.

He took a sip now, looking over as Peter settled himself into the armchair across from him. Stiles didn't mind the distance, preferred it, and he was thankful that Peter allowed him it. He had only tried sitting on the same couch once, and Stiles had bolted upwards, his heart pounding out of his chest as he forced distance between them.

“Well, my day was excellent,” Peter said, answering his own question when Stiles remained silent, sweeping out his arms as he settled further back into his seat. “I slept in until eleven before taking a leisurely shower. After that, I did some groceries, which, I tell you darling, was very exciting. There was a new cashier—did you know that a new family moved to town?—who tried to slip me her phone number.”

Stiles flushed, his face heating up as he looked down at his hands, his heart rate rocketing. Anger and something else—something that felt like jealousy, like a sick curl of ownership —coursed through him, and he clenched his hands into fists where they were resting in his lap. Peter laughed, and Stiles had to wonder how he smelt.

He knew that Peter read him by scent, most of the time. Peter had been honest with him when Stiles first started coming by, and he had told Stiles in no uncertain terms that if he wasn't going to talk Peter was going to use Stiles' scent to figure out how he was feeling. Stiles hadn't minded—thought it would be rather nice, actually, to be able to express himself without having to speak.

“Don't you worry, love,” Peter told him, and this time his voice was softer. “I told her I already had my eye on someone, and that I was in it for the long haul.”

Stiles' face only flushed darker, he was sure. He picked at his cuticle again, the skin and angry red as he scratched at it. He didn't know how he felt about what Peter was saying. They weren’t new, the...advances. Suggestions. But Peter had only recently begun to deliver them with an edge of seriousness that Stiles didn't know what to do with.

It was hard to believe. No one had ever wanted Stiles like that before, and the feeling was heady. Confusing. It was one of the things that Stiles cycled through when he couldn't sleep. He often stayed up asking himself whether or not Peter was truly honest in all the sweet words he said. Stiles had no idea what he would do if he were , and even less of an idea what he would do if he weren't.

His finger stung where he had dug his thumbnail too deep, a bead of blood forming along his nail bed.

“Now, enough of my exciting day,” Peter said, and when Stiles flicked his eyes up, there was an apologetic look on Peter's face. “What did you bring me, sweet boy?”

Stiles liked that one, the way it rolled off of Peter’s tongue and made his stomach feel fluttery, and he smoothed his thumb down his index finger before pulling his hands apart. His bag was beside him on the couch, and he pulled out the tome easily, carefully pulling the folder of notes out along after it. He placed both items on the table, and Peter waited until he sat back in his seat to move forward and take them.

He watched Peter's face as the man read over what he had written out. The bestiary he was going through was German, and while Stiles didn't speak the language, he was working on translating it. It kept his mind busy during the night, and it gave him something to focus on when it felt like he couldn't breathe, when the darkness became deafening.

Peter was humming his approval, and Stiles couldn't help the flush of pride that rose up in his chest. Stiles knew that it wasn't easy to impress Peter, and while Stiles didn't think he'd done anything all that noteworthy, it was still nice to think that he might have done so. He took another sip of his 'chocolate milk', and the cool liquid slid down his throat.

It was much easier than eating solids, and it always stayed down. He felt warm at the knowledge that Peter had done this for him, was still doing this for him, and he took a long, deep breath before mumbling, “Thank you, Peter.”

Stiles watched as Peter's head snapped up, his eyes burning electric blue as his eyes flicked over Stiles' face. He avoided eye contact, and instead focused on where Peter's mouth was dropped open, his nostrils flaring as he breathed in, tongue darting out to wet his bottom lip.

It was appealing, the way his fangs were just peeking down under his top lip. His tongue was pink when it swiped over his bottom lip, and Stiles sucked in a deep breath as his belly went warm. The feeling was surprising, the way heat licked up his spine. He hadn’t felt arousal once, not even when he’d tried getting off.

He had never been attracted to Peter before, but Stiles dragged his eyes over the man’s face, unable to pull his gaze away. There was something about the soft lines decorating Peter’s eyes that had his heart rate picking up, and he spent a long moment caught on the shine left on Peter’s bottom lip.

“You're very welcome, sweetheart,” Peter’s voice held a softness to it that wasn't there before.

Stiles managed a smile, though he ducked his head back down as soon as Peter's eyes faded. He pushed down whatever it was he was feeling, ignoring the flush he could feel creeping over the back of his neck at the way Peter was watching him.

Stiles pulled out another book, flipping to his marked page. Along with the knowledge that the Nogitsune left, there was a...spark of something more, something that had been nothing more than an ember before. Now, it glowed within in his chest, and while it didn't feel malicious, Stiles wanted, needed, to know everything he could.

He could feel it under his skin, always so close to the surface, but he’d yet to be able to do anything with it. He was reading through everything he could, pouring over books on magic. Peter supplied them all, another thing he did without Stiles having to ask. His search for answers had yet to yield much, but he tried to stay hopeful.

Sitting in silence with Peter was soothing in a way not much else was. There was no pressure on Stiles to do anything . No pressure on Stiles to speak or to touch or to interact with Peter in any way. He could sit there, sinking into Peter's comfortable couch, and co-exist without any pressure.

It was easy for Stiles to lose time when he was in Peter's apartment. There was nothing there that he could associate with the Nogitsune, and it brought him a level of calm he didn't experience anywhere else. As he read, he felt his body relax, some of the tension that held his body taught day after day melting into the couch as Peter quietly read or worked in the other chair.

“You should head out if you're going to be bringing dinner to your father before the pack meeting,” Peter told him, standing from his chair and taking the emptied glass from in front of Stiles. He blinked at it for a moment, unable to remember finishing it off, but his mouth curved up when he realized his stomach no longer felt so hollow.

Nodding his head Stiles put his book away, standing once he had gotten the tome back into his bag. Peter waited for him, and he walked a step behind Stiles to the front door. Stiles stopped in front of the door, turning so he could face Peter. He managed to dredge up another smile, and he felt proud of it, especially after he had thanked Peter earlier.

Peter didn't say anything else, but he held the door open and gave Stiles a soft smile as he passed through, closing it carefully behind him.

Stiles made his way home, a heavy weight already settling in his chest. His father was working late tonight, something he did on the nights when Stiles went to Peter's after school. Usually, Stiles would spend hours at Peter's apartment, losing himself in the relaxed calm he finally found himself in. Sometimes, if he were lucky, he fell asleep, and he wouldn't wake until Peter gently shook his shoulder to drive him home.

Tonight, however, was different. Stiles hadn't been able to step foot into the station since everything had happened, and he wasn't sure he'd ever be able to again. It hurt, almost more than anything, and it was just another thing that the Nogitsune stole from him.

For so long, the station had been his home, a place to call his. He had practically grown up inside its walls. The deputies had all known him since he was a child and most of them had a hand in raising him, at one point or another. To not even being able to step foot into the building without spiralling into panic tore at his heart, made his stomach feel like it was trying to crawl out of his body.

Stiles had no idea how Peter had picked up on it, but the wolf seemed to know that Stiles wasn't able to go to the station—though Stiles could guess that his scent went sour every time they drove by it. Whatever it was, Peter had suggested that he at least try. Stiles used to bring his father food all the time, and not being able to do that now, especially not being able to sit in his father's office and eat with him, made him incredibly sad.

So, he was going to try. He had no idea what would happen, but he was going to try. He knew that he was doing better, and today—aside from the incident with Scott—had been one of his better days. Stiles was feeling alright, the usual heaviness in his chest not feeling quite as overwhelming. If he was going to be able to walk into the station, today would probably be the day.

He drove home slowly, trying to ready himself for what he was going to do. He had no idea if he'd be able to do it, but he wanted so badly to try. He still felt calm from his time at Peter's apartment, and the warmth in his chest was still there. This, doing this, would be proof that he was doing better, that the Nogitsune wasn't still winning even after everything that it had already done.

He quickly dumped his bag in his room when he got home, barrelling back down the stairs so he could put together a sandwich. Everything he needed was in the fridge, though most of the brands were wrong, unfamiliar. It wasn't his dad's fault—not after Stiles had been the one doing the groceries for so long. At least he was picking up all the things Stiles asked for, never once questioning the list when Stiles handed it to him.

His dad hadn't complained once about his diet, not since Stiles stopped letting him eat whatever he wanted and started making grocery lists again. He would eat what Stiles made for him, and would try to make something himself when Stiles made nothing. Being able to cook, to fixate on his dad's diet, had helped him, in the first few weeks after everything happened.

It still helped him now, gave him something that he could do without having to say anything or interact with anyone. It kept him busy and it got him out of bed. And, maybe even better than all that, it had made his father happy, too. It probably had something to do with seeing Stiles moving about the house, but he smiled widely every time he caught Stiles in the kitchen or scribbling out a grocery list.

He could only imagine how happy his father would be if Stiles managed to show up at his office. It was that thought that made it easy to put together a simple sandwich and pile it into a container. There were more slices of deli meat than Stiles would normally allow, but this was special.

Not bothering to grab a bag for the container, Stiles slipped his shoes back on before making his way outside. It was nearly five, but it was more than enough time to get to the station before the pack meeting would start. He tossed the container into the passenger seat, starting up the Jeep with a deep breath. He was nervous and his heart was all but beating out of his chest.

Stiles’ hands were shaking, just a little, where they were gripping the steering wheel. He drove slowly again, trying to calm his racing heart as he focused on the road and not on what he was going to do. If he thought too far ahead he would lose his nerve. He would get too caught up in all the evil that the Nogitsune had caused when wearing his skin, how many lives had been lost at the station.

Shaking his head, he tried his best to push down that train of thought. It wasn't going to help him steel up his nerves or get a handle on the overwhelming panic. He could feel it trying to claw its way up his throat and make itself at home. Stiles had to squeeze the steering wheel tighter against his growing nerves.

Stiles nearly had to pull over, but luckily he was already at the station's lot, and he pulled into the first free parking space.

He doubled over, resting his forehead against the cool skin of his hands. His chest felt tight, and it was impossible to take in a full breath. Panic welled up in his throat, spilling through his body. All he could think of were the lives that were lost because of him, the blood that was on his hands.

Stiles tried to breathe in, but the breath caught in his throat and he gasped, choking on his own saliva as his eyes began to burn. He leaned back, shakily counting his fingers, rubbing harshly at his eyes when his vision began to blur. He brought his fist down onto his thigh, the spike of pain helping to distract himself.

Once his vision cleared, he was able to count his fingers, and a rush of calm ran through him. He was okay, he...he was okay, for now. Even with his panic under control, he knew he wouldn’t be able to go into the station, and disappointment hit him so hard that his eyes were burning again, fresh tears welling up.

He pulled out his phone, his fingers shaking as he did, and he typed out his message three times before he got it right.

To Daddio (5:23 p.m): come outside please
From Daddio (5:23 p.m): k

Breathing deeply, Stiles tried to get his emotions under control. He tried to tell himself that he was doing good, that getting even this far was better than he had ever done before, that it was something to be proud of. He was bringing his dad lunch, and while he couldn’t bring it to him, even this was better than he had ever done before.

This was the furthest he had made it, all the way into the parking lot, and he had to remind himself that slow progress was still progress.

He watched as his dad rushed down the steps of the station, jogging across the parking lot and making a beeline for the Jeep once he saw it. Some of the tension ebbed out of his body at just seeing that his dad was okay. Stiles had always worried about him, but now, with his knowledge of the supernatural and how much evil was out in the world, he only worried more.

Stiles took a deep breath before he opened the Jeep's door. His fingers were shaking and he tried clenching them into fists to stop them, though it only moved the shaking up his arm. His heart was beating too fast and too loud in his chest, and he felt like he might pass out.

Still, he rounded the car to meet his dad at the passenger door, doing his best not to outwardly show his whirling emotions. He swallowed down the heavy lump in his throat, trying to keep his hands still.

“Stiles, is everything alright?” Dad asked, his eyes scanning Stiles’ face as he reached out to touch, pulling his hands back after a second.

Stiles’ heart felt heavy at the careful way his dad was holding himself, and there was a tension to his body that Stiles could see even through his clothes. He gave a small nod, and he opened the passenger door to pull out the container.

“Did you bring me dinner?” Dad asked, a breathless quality to his voice that had Stiles looking up. His eyes were blown wide, shining with wetness, his mouth dropped open.

Stiles didn't say anything, and instead he handed the container over to his dad. He took it with shaking hands, his mouth stretched into a smile. He reached around Stiles to put the container back into the car, and when he turned to face Stiles, a smile came easily to his own lips.

“C-can I hug you?” his dad asked, a tightness to his voice that Stiles hadn't heard since the third night Stiles had screamed himself awake from a nightmare.

Stiles nodded, a quick duck of his head, and his dad walked towards him slowly. He didn't move his own arms out, but rather kept them pressed to his side, his shoulders hunched in. Dad slid his arms around him, pulling Stiles into his chest until they were pressed bodily together. He ran a large hand up and down Stiles' back, rubbing small circles into the small of his back as he held him tightly.

Stiles shivered, once, before he started shaking and shaking and shaking. Twisting his fingers into Dad’s work shirt, he pulled until he could wrap his hands around the fabric, gripping it as tightly as he possibly could. He tucked his face against the warm skin of his dad's neck, unable to keep in the quiet sob that passed by his lips.

Dad held him tighter, curled around Stiles until he felt safe , wrapped up in his dad's arms. Nothing could hurt him here, and he breathed in the familiar, comforting scent that was Dad . He could hardly breathe over the overwhelming tightness in his chest, and his throat ached as he tried to swallow down too many emotions.

“Thank you,” Dad said, and while Stiles didn't answer, he twisted his fingers further into the material of his dad’s shirt and nodded into his neck. “I am so proud of you.”

The words had Stiles’ eyes burning all over again, and he pushed his face tighter against his dad’s neck to hide his tears.

Even as he cried, it felt like victory.

Stiles, despite his best efforts, couldn't push down the smile on his face as he drove towards Scott's house. He felt indestructible, his heart happily beating out of his chest. He hummed along with the radio, mouthing the words as he played it louder than he had in months. It was like he could still feel his father's arms around him, and he felt warm, all the way to his toes.

It had been so long, far too long, since he had been touched and even longer since he had let his father hug him. He was still reeling from being in his dad's arms, the complete, overwhelming feeling of being safe . He had fallen apart, sobbing into his dad's neck as the man held him up and supported his weight. His skin tingled where he was touched for the first time in weeks.

Stiles had to focus on his breathing to stop himself from hyperventilating, but unlike the panic that had gripped his chest when he had first got to the station, his heart was pumping with nothing but happy adrenaline. There was warmth still lingering on his skin that felt like tangible proof that he was healing.

The happy, light feeling in his chest stayed with him until he was pulling up to Scott's house, parking alongside the curb. The house was so familiar, a building that had served as a second home to him for years. So little of the house’s appearance had changed; the same flowers lined the porch and there was the same peeling paint. It felt wrong when Stiles and Scott, all of them, were such different people than they had once been.

Scott's home reminded him of how much had changed, and with it, how much had been lost. So many, too many , people were gone. All of them were filled with so much grief, so much hurt . They had all seen too much in their short lives, been privy to too much evil. Stiles wanted to start his car back up, drive away and never come back, but he knew he would never be able to outrun the ghosts of the people he had lost.

They would always be with him, in all the empty spaces they would never be around to fill.

A flash of panic welled up in Stiles' throat, and he tried to force it back down. Luckily Peter's car was already there, and it helped ease some of the growing tension in his gut. He didn't want to ruin his good mood, but he was already beginning to grow increasingly anxious. Stiles did his best to cling onto the happiness he had felt at being held by his dad, and it was the memory of the hug seared onto his skin that gave him the strength to get out of the Jeep.

He pulled his key out of his pocket, the one he'd had since he was thirteen and Scott kept forgetting his own, and he slowly made his way up to the front step. Lydia's car was parked on the other side of the street, and knowing that she was inside helped almost as much as knowing Peter was there.

Sliding his key into the lock, Stiles flipped the deadbolt open slowly. This wasn't the first pack meeting that he had been to since—since everything, but it still felt just as terrifying as it had that first time. He didn't want to be here, didn't want to be doing this, but it felt like he didn't have a choice. A sick voice in the back of his head told him that no one would care if he didn't show, but he did his best to think of Lydia and Peter.

Toeing off his shoes, Stiles did his best to calm down his heartbeat. He knew the wolves could hear the erratic beat, and it made him feel uncomfortable, just like the way he wasn't able to hide the scent of panic he always carried with him. With Peter, his werewolf senses felt like freedom; they let Stiles talk without talking, interact without having to push himself too far. With the others—with the others, it felt invasive—like they were prying into his brain when he didn't want them there.

That was the main reason why he didn't like coming to these. Of course, neither the fragile way Kira looked at him nor the betrayal he always saw in Malia's eyes were big selling points—but it was how they could read him far better than he could read them that left him feeling uneasy.

“You're late,” Scott said the moment he stepped into the living room and Stiles shrugged, looking over at Lydia.

The couch was empty beside her, and for the first time, Stiles didn't sit in the lone armchair. Rather, he sat on the cushion beside her, pressed up against the arm of the couch. There was still enough space between them to fit another person, but it was closer than he had ever sat to her during a pack meeting before.

It was easier to sit closer to her at lunch, but here, he hadn’t yet been able to sit this close. The pack meetings made him uneasy, and while he could usually be within touching distance of Lydia at school, when he was here he made sure to keep as much distance between himself and the others as possible.

Peter wasn't in the room, but that wasn't uncommon. He tended to lurk in the kitchen and listen in on their 'strategy' meetings, only to then mercilessly mock them the next time Stiles was at his apartment. Those were some of Stiles' favourite visits, times when Peter had him doubling over with silent laughter mocking Scott’s incompetence.

Stiles wished that Peter was out here. Scott was still staring at him, a dissatisfied curl to his lips. He had no idea what exactly he had done wrong, considering the clock above the television read 6:28 p.m. and the pack meetings didn't start until 6:30 p.m. most days. Stiles ignored him, trying to focus on the positive—Lydia was absolutely beaming at him from her spot beside him, and it felt good, like he was making even more progress.

“So, I was thinking we should go on a trip,” Scott said, his face stretched into a smile. Stiles watched his eyes immediately flick over to Kira's, where she was curled up with Malia on the couch.

Stiles snapped his eyes over to Lydia, catching her gaze before nodding to where the two girls were very close together, Malia's head resting on Kira's shoulder with their legs tangled up. The positions were a touch too intimate for just pack intimacy, and Lydia rolled her eyes. Scott didn’t seem to notice the closeness even though he was staring.

Liam was on the same couch as Scott, and his legs were thrown over Scott’s lap. Something bitter settled into the back of Stiles’ throat at how easily they all touched, lying over one another, and how none of them had ever once offered Stiles the same chance at touch. He closed his eyes against the spike of pain and tried to tell himself that it was fine, that it was easier this way.

He wouldn’t want their touch even if they offered it, not anymore. So Stiles listened as the pack—not his, not anymore—debated about a trip they ‘needed’ to go on. It was easy to tune them out, especially when Malia and Liam started to bicker back and forth. It was familiar, and Stiles let them drone on, leaning a little more into Lydia’s space to watch over her shoulder as she scrolled through her Instagram.

Stiles looked over when Peter leaned against the door frame, his eyes zeroing in on the wolf the moment he stepped into sight. Stiles would be more worried about the way he was drawn to Peter if it didn’t feel anything other than safe.

Peter gave him a twist of his lips, a small smirk pulling at his mouth. It was a sight Stiles liked.

It was easy to follow Peter into the kitchen, and he watched as Peter went over to the counter where he had a laptop set up. Stiles snorted, because of course he would bring his computer to a pack meeting. Even though Stiles knew that Peter was most likely just keeping Derek up to date—typing out the meeting as it happened to then email to his nephew—no one else would, and there was no way the act hadn’t annoyed Scott.

Honestly, Stiles wasn’t even sure why Peter kept coming to these meetings. It was more than obvious that he wasn’t wanted here. A small, hopeful part of Stiles wanted to believe that Peter showed up because he was here, showed up just to see him .

“Hello, darling,” Peter finally said, tracking his eyes over Stiles' body and breathing in, his nostrils flaring. “Oh sweetheart, I am so proud of you.”

Stiles blushed, ducking his head even as his smile got wider, larger than it had been in weeks. The praise made him feel hot, his stomach fluttering pleasantly. He stepped closer to Peter, close enough that they were almost touching. He turned his foot in, pressing their sock-clad feet together. Peter sucked in a sharp breath, and when Stiles looked up his eyes were beta blue, his fangs pressing again his bottom lip.

Stiles’ heart started beating faster, too fast, but he didn't pull away. He reached out slowly, Peter standing perfectly still—his body made up of tense lines. Stiles reached the rest of the way forward, and the skin of Peter's wrist was soft under his fingertips, supernaturally warm. Stiles dragged his fingers over the skin, dropping his eyes to watch as he grabbed Peter's wrist in a loose hold.

Peter didn't do anything, didn't even breathe, and Stiles watched his own hand as he continued to rub his fingers in small circles along Peter's skin, slowly dragging his hand down until he could rub his thumb into Peter's palm.

Darling ,” Peter said, his voice tumbling out of his chest in a growl. Stiles looked up and Peter's eyes held far more than Stiles knew what to do with.

Stiles dropped his gaze, stepping back quickly, nearly tripping over his own feet. Peter reached out for him but Stiles was already turning away, striding out of the kitchen and wrenching open the front door. He jogged down to the jeep, the pavement hard against his bare feet, and he slammed into the driver’s side, fumbling to get the keys into the ignition.

He raced home, something big and soft and vulnerable settling in his chest.

Stiles moaned, arching his back as Peter pressed more of his weight into him. The bed was soft under him, and Stiles ran his hands down Peter’s back. He slipped his fingers under the hem of Peter’s shirt, running his hands along the miles of hard muscle he found there. He drew his nails down his back, grinning when he shivered.

When Peter leaned in for another deep kiss, their bare chests pressed together. Stiles brought his legs up to wrap around Peter’s hips, dragging their erections together as he rolled himself up. It was even better when Peter mirrored the action, and Stiles felt like he was going to fall apart when Peter undid the button of his jeans.

“Oh, you’re such a good boy, Stiles,” Peter said, his voice deeper than Stiles was used to. There was a rumble to it, a growling quality that had Stiles shivering.

Stiles twisted his hands into Peter’s hair where he was now kissing at his stomach and Stiles up pushed off the bed. Peter was sucking at his skin, biting into the softness of his belly. It felt so good, with Peter running his hands over Stiles’ bare thighs.

Peter grinned, his mouth stretching wider and wider. His tongue was too long when he licked up Stiles cock but still his hips spasmed. Peter’s tongue was so warm and pleasure shot down Stiles’ spine when he finally, finally wrapped his lips around Stiles’ cock. He wasn’t going to last, that he could already tell. The pressure was too much, his balls too tight, and he wasn’t going to last.

Stiles gasped when Peter took him to the root, his tongue slipping even further down to lap at where his cock met his balls and that was too much, that was, that was—

Stiles shot out of bed with a gasp, his heart beating out of his chest as he tried to suck in air. He couldn't, not yet. His chest was so tight, too tight, and there was an uncomfortable tension in his stomach, shooting up his back. He scrambled for purchase, digging his nails into his thighs as he tried to breathe, but he couldn't, he—

He fell back onto the bed, his chest heaving. It felt like he was trying to breathe through a small straw, and there wasn’t enough air in his lungs. Stiles’ chest burned , his mind swimming. He tried to remember his dream, remember why it felt like this, like he wanted to claw out of his skin. All he could think about was Peter, the soft rumble of his voice and the way his eyes had glowed when Stiles touched him.

It helped, imagining Peter’s voice and remembering the heat of Peter’s skin under his fingertips.

He squirmed, finally able to take a full breath as more of the panic rushed away, finally feeling the wetness inside his underwear. He gasped, his eyes shooting open as he scrambled at the band of his boxers, needing to check if he had, if he—oh god, he had. It was right there in front of him: his cock, still half hard and covered in come.

He had come. He—he had an orgasm. More than that, Stiles could recognize the strange warmness in his belly as arousal, now that he wasn’t trapped in a panic. He watched as his cock gave a little twitch, slowly shrinking back into itself. His boxers were a mess , completely ruined and soaking through with his release.

And all he could remember from his dream was Peter.

Wrestling himself out of bed, he slowly shuffled into the bathroom. He waited for the water to heat up before he stepped under the showerhead, and the rest of the tension melted out of him along with the water. His mind was still a bit too fuzzy to think, and Stiles ducked his head so the water would hit the back of his neck.

It helped clear some of the fogginess that had clouded over his mind, running down the drain along with the tension in his shoulders. He took a shuddering breath, the first one that reached down to his ribs. He breathed in and in until he couldn't breathe in anymore, before letting it all out in a rush.

It was easier to think, then, now that Stiles could breathe. His chest didn’t feel as tight, and he was able to sort out his thoughts. He was attracted to Peter. Which, was probably not that big of a leap, not really. But more than that, he was so attracted to Peter that his body...his body got off, got aroused for the first time since everything happened. Stiles hadn't been sure that could still happen.

Ever since he found himself in this new body, he hadn’t been able to get hard, let alone get off . The fact that he had gotten off in his sleep, to Peter was...well, it was a little scary. A lot scary, considering Peter was his comfort place. When Stiles thought of feeling safe , it was Peter and Peter’s apartment that come to mind.

He had no idea if this would change things. He didn't want to tell Peter, but he wasn’t sure it would be something that he could keep to himself, either. If Peter didn’t feel the same, it could ruin everything that they had built together. But, Stiles could easily hear Peter calling him sweetheart in his head, could imagine the way his eyes had shone blue when Stiles had touched him and maybe—maybe it wouldn’t be so bad after all.

Stiles was tired. After...after the dream , he hadn't been able to fall back asleep. He was used to being tired, though, and he pushed himself out of bed. He shuffled into the bathroom as he tried his best not to think of what exactly had kept him from falling back asleep. Staring down at the sink, he washed his face and brushed his teeth.

It was easier to push down the feeling that was creeping up his back, sliding through his stomach and curling around his heart, now that the sun was out.

Getting dressed was like a shock of ice: a cold, sharp reminder that nothing was really better. Stiles could pretend all he wanted, could sit beside Lydia and let his dad hug him and touch Peter with the tips of his fingers, but—but his body was still not his own. The skin he wore was still foreign, and the length of his pants was a painful reminder of that.

He took a deep breath and tried to ignore the way his skin felt too tight. He closed his eyes to stop himself from looking down and seeing the hollow cave of his own stomach, the way his skin was stretched taut over his rib cage. Taking a deep breath, he pulled a t-shirt over his head, following it with the flannel that his dad had been wearing when Stiles got home last night.

Stiles didn't ask why his father left them in his room after he wore them, or how he knew that Stiles needed it. The thought of his father stopping , of taking away something that brought Stiles more comfort than he knew how to express was terrifying. Being able to pull on his father's soft, worn shirts felt like safety, and Stiles wondered if Dad kept doing it because he knew just how much it helped.

Before he left his room he grabbed a sweater, a chill already beginning to settle under his skin. His backpack was still by the front door where he had thrown it down last night, and he could see it as he walked down the stairs. He breathed slowly, and he counted his fingers against his thighs, a useless precaution to fight down the suddenly rising panic.

His’ dad wasn't making food this morning, though there was a plate of toast next to where his cup of coffee was sitting on the counter. Each piece was coated in both peanut butter and jam, something he used to do for Stiles as a child, and the gesture made his heart feel tender. Dad was doing dishes, scrubbing glasses by hand despite the dishwasher they had.

When Stiles stepped further into the room, Dad turned to him with a smile. It was easy to walk closer and stand beside him. He didn't touch, and he flinched back when Dad reached for him, stumbling back an entire step as his heart sped off inside his chest. Panic gripped his stomach, made it harder and harder to breathe. He turned away, not letting his dad see how his eyes got wet. Biting into his bottom lip until it hurt , Stiles managed to push down the worst of the panic.

After another round of deep breathes where he went through counting his fingers, Stiles managed to turn around. His father was staring at him with wide, horrified eyes and the second he caught Stiles' gaze he started spilling apologies. Stiles shook his head, wrapping his own arms around himself even if he couldn't push words out of his throat.

He stepped forward, his father still speaking softly under his breath, mumbling apologies. Stiles pressed his forehead into his dad's arm, rubbing into the warm skin revealed by the short sleeve of his uniform. He grabbed softly at his dad's forearm, holding it in his hand as he breathed in.

His father still smelt like old spice and coffee, like warmth and safety and strength . It was easy to get his heart rate under control with the heat from Dad's skin seeping into his own, and his headache slowly ebbed away. Dad didn't move other than to shut off the water, and after that he stood there as Stiles leaned into him, breathing softly.

“I love you so much, Kiddo,” Dad said, and Stiles smiled, easily, as he whispered the words back to him.

He moved closer, shifting until his head was rested in the crook of his dad's shoulder. His uniform smelt fresh, like the same detergent they'd been using for years. Slowly, so slowly, Dad raised his hand. When Stiles didn't say anything in protest he curved it around Stiles' back and held him in a loose hug. Neither of them spoke, and other than their breathing the room was silent.

All the tension that had built up in Stiles' shoulders slipped away, and he relaxed even further. He ignored the rawness in his chest, the loud, fast beating of his heart. Rather, he let himself be comforted by the touch, revelling in the second hug he had gotten in as many days.

When he pulled back, minutes later, his dad was watching him with an unbearably soft smile. There was pride in his eyes and Stiles flushed a little in embarrassment and a little in pride of his own. It was easy to back away, and it was even easier to take a deep breath. An easy calm had settled over his mind, making it far easier to think. The smile he was able to offer up came naturally. He sat in front of the plate, staring down at it for several seconds.

“I made you breakfast,” Dad said, and Stiles nodded. He went to thank him, but his throat closed up, his tongue clawing the words back down.

He tried not to let it frustrate him, and he picked up a slice of bread. Stiles had been able to touch, to let his dad hug him, but he was still choking down his words, unable to get his thoughts out. It felt like he was moving forward as he stood still, and it was frustrating, so frustrating.

Stiles sighed as he did his best to push down his annoyance. He wanted to focus on how good it had felt to be able to hug his dad again, that he was getting better. It was what he had to focus on, the positive steps that he was taking.

The toast was cold, now, but Stiles paid it no mind. He took a small bite that he chewed slowly, and he washed it down his throat with a sip of milk. Dad was beaming at him, leaning against the counter as he watched Stiles eat. He figured it should make him uncomfortable, but it didn't—rather, the brightness in his father's eyes made it easier to take his next bite, and the width of his father's smile made it possible for him to swallow it down.

The lightness in Stiles' chest lasted during the drive to school. He was able to play the radio a little louder than normal, though he didn't sing along like he once would have. It was still nice, especially when one of his favourite songs played, and he even bobbed his head along with the beat. The parking lot was nearly full when he finally pulled up, and he had to jog across the lot.

He stepped through the front doors as the bell rang, though he couldn't bring himself to care even as he weaved in and out of students. His morning had been too good for him to be upset about being late, and he rushed faster towards his locker. It wasn't all too unusual for him to arrive a bit late to his classes, though he hadn’t been late once in the last few weeks.

Lydia was waiting for him with a scowl, though her expression softened when she saw him. Stiles could still feel the small, barely-there smile that his lips were tilted up into, and it didn't go away as he got closer. Neither of them said anything in greeting as Stiles got his locker open, though Lydia started tapping her foot against the ground.

The way that the toe of her heel clacked sharply against the tile was grating, and Stiles grin widened. He grabbed his pencil case from his locker and then, with a deep breath, raised his arm and offered Lydia his fist. She stared at it for a long, tense moment, before she softly bumped her fist into his, her own mouth twisting up into a soft smile.

Stiles met Lydia at her locker before lunch, and they waited until the hallways were a little less crowded before they walked to the cafeteria together. Stiles didn't feel the same heaviness that had always weighed down their silence before. Rather, he felt comfortable as they quietly waited together, and he brushed his pinky against the back of her hand as they walked down the hall.

From the corner of his eye, Stiles saw her mouth drop open in surprise, though she recovered quickly and smoothed her face into a neat smile. She snagged their pinkies together and tightened her grip when Stiles didn't protest. Stiles let himself wonder how they must have looked—walking down the hallway with their pinkies hooked together—but he pushed the thought of his mind.

He was too happy to care. Being able to touch the people he cared about felt too good to be upset. It was easier to think like he used to, to brush off the whisperings of those around him. Stiles had never minded what people said about him before, not enough to ever let it upset him.

Now, walking with Lydia, it felt like that. They didn’t know him, didn’t know either of them, and what they were seeing of him was not who he was. They could pass judgment all they wanted, but they would never see the blood on his hands nor the grievances he had made.

He took a deep breath and he let it tumble out of him. Lydia tightened her pinky around his, and it made it easy to straighten out, walking upright instead of folding in on himself. Stiles deflated as he walked into the cafeteria, the way he had run out last night rushing back to him.

Malia was sitting next to Scott at their usual lunch table, and Stiles twisted his finger tighter around Lydia's. Things between them were...tense, to say the least. Whatever happened in the basement of Eichen was something Stiles didn't like to think about. He hadn't been anywhere close to being in his right mind at the time, and he had regretted it even as it happened.

He knew how wrong it had been, and guilt climbed up his throat even as he sat down across from her. Stiles didn't blame her, no matter how much it felt like he had been taken advantage of. Neither of them had been in the right mindset to make a decision like that, and both of them were hurting because of it. Stiles didn't know how to make any of it better, and it was clear that Malia didn't either.

So, they ignored one another. It worked for Stiles—Malia's natural aggression made him uneasy, fear sliding up his belly every time she flashed her eyes at him. He knew that she could smell it, and he knew that every time she did it, it was done on purpose. It was easy to tell that she only blamed him in the same way that Stiles blamed them both.

It was just another thing that Stiles tried not to think about. He darted his eyes to find her scowling at him, and when he looked over at Scott his expression was much the same. Curling his shoulders forward, Stiles dropped his eyes to the table. He had no idea why Scott would be looking at him like that, what he had done to cause the angry set to Scott's shoulders or the tightness in his jaw.

“Dude, what did Peter do last night?” Scott demanded, his lips pulled back in a snarl. Stiles blinked at him, his stomach going tight at the confrontation in Scott's voice. He didn't like it, and he didn't know why Scott was angry.

Stiles shrugged, his throat too tight for words. Panic was beginning to build in his chest, and he set pleading eyes to Lydia. She reached out for him but he flinched back. He didn't want to be touched now. Lydia's mouth twisted down, and Stiles couldn't tell if it was in annoyance or pity. “Scott, what do you mean?”

He breathed out a small sigh of relief when Lydia asked. Stiles wasn't sure he would be able to handle it if she was mad at him too—he was overwhelmed as it was, and he cared too much about Lydia to handle her anger.

“You just ran out of the meeting, Stiles! You didn't say goodbye or tell anyone you were leaving, and when I went to find out where you went, Peter was standing in the kitchen staring at the front door!” Scott said, throwing his arms out. Stiles’ brow pulled down in confusion; he never said goodbye before leaving. He—well, he never said anything, so he certainly never checked in before he left. “We need to stick together! It's unfair to just leave like that.”

“It was weird,” Malia added, though Stiles kept his gaze from her. “He was just sniffing his arm.”

Stiles heartbeat picked up for a totally different reason at the mention of Peter sniffing himself. He could picture it, and Stiles' chest felt warm at the image it conjured. Peter, standing alone in the kitchen exactly where Stiles had left him, holding his arm up to his face to breathe in their mixed scents. Stiles squirmed a little in his seat, his cheeks heating up.

“Peter is obviously up to no good,” Scott went on, and it didn't seem to matter that Stiles had yet to say anything. “You can't trust him, Stiles.”

“Peter's been helping,” he managed to choke out, the words cutting up his throat, burning as they spilled over his lip.

“He's just using you, Stiles!” Scott hissed out, his voice an angry whisper. “Can't you see he's just trying to get closer to the pack so he can steal the Alpha power from me?”

Stiles shook his head, but his throat closed up before he was able to say anything further. Scott was still staring at him, and Stiles' stomach felt sick, his skin too tight. He just wanted to get away, but he couldn't bring himself to leave, not with the way Scott's eyes were digging into him.

He could clearly see the distrust, even under the anger, and that stung worse of all.

“You need to be more careful,” Scott said, leaning back and crossing his arms over his chest, shaking his head like he was disappointed. Scott's voice went deep, his eyes bleeding red along the edges. “I don't know what you think you're doing, but you’re going to stop talking to Peter.”

Even in his humanity, Stiles felt the Alpha command settle over him. It twisted at his will and pounded in his head, settling like a brand under his skin. It made him sick, and Stiles choked down a mouthful of bile. He reared back, clenching his hands into fists as he tried to fight back against the dizzying pounding of his head.

It felt like it was pulling at his will, and the command was heavy in his head, pounding at his brain. He could hardly think over the way Scott’s words were repeating over and over in his mind, and he pushed against it, pushed against the order as he tried to force it out of his head.

He didn’t want anything else in his mind, and that’s what it felt like: like Scott was trying to force Stiles to obey . Stiles couldn’t say no, couldn’t force the words out. He pushed against it, against the order that was settling heavy and foreign into the back of his brain. It was unwanted, unwelcome, and Stiles felt like he needed to claw himself out of his skin to get away from it. It was too heavy, burning inside him, and he wanted it gone .

You're not my Alpha !” Stiles whispered, and he didn't know where the words had come from, but he felt them with every fibre of his being.

The too-tight feeling in his chest slowly, slowly edged away as Stiles managed to suck in air through his nose. Scott reared back, his eyes going wide as his mouth dropped open in shock. Malia was staring at him with a scowl as her eyes flashed blue, and the sight had anger welling up in his chest for the first time.

“Hey guys,” Liam said brightly, oblivious to the tension as he sat down heavily beside Scott.

Stiles took it as his chance to leave, and the second Scott turned his head to greet his beta Stiles was standing, hurrying out of the cafeteria and heading straight for his jeep.

When Stiles climbed into the Jeep, his head was still reeling. There was a tightness inside his chest that made it harder and harder to breathe. His hands were shaking too much for him to shove his key into the ignition, and his breath kept getting stuck in his throat. For a long moment, his vision blurred as he rested his head against the seat, desperately trying to breathe in.

He punched at his thigh, fear scrambling back up his throat as he thought back to just how the Alpha command had felt under his skin. Stiles couldn't breathe, not now, and there was an emptiness to his chest that he had never noticed before. The feeling could only be the last of his pack bonds breaking, crumbling away.

It hurt , in a way he hadn't thought it could. It felt like someone was hollowing out his chest, creating an empty space where there used to be...well, Stiles wasn't quite sure what used to be there, but it was more than this. He took another deep breath, pinching the skin of his arm between his nails and twisting, the sharp sting of pain easier to focus on than his whirling thoughts.

After what felt like both no time at all and entirely too much, he got his fingers to stop shaking. He held them up so he could count them, getting to ten twice before he turned the keys. His Jeep stalled once, twice, before finally kicking to life, and Stiles let out a deep breath, sagging against the car seat. At the very least, his Jeep would always be shit, and the thought brought him more comfort than he figured it should.

He did his best to focus on the road during the drive home, but the route was familiar enough that it was easy to drive by muscle memory. His mind was going too fast, and his heart was still beating quicker with the fear that had settled under his skin.

He knew there was no going back. What he had said in the lunchroom had been final, and he had spoken the words with all the intention he had felt at the time. Stiles couldn't even bring himself to regret them, not when they had been true. It hurt, knowing that Scott would...would try to control him, after everything. That he would try to force Stiles into doing something after all that Stiles had already been forced to do.

It wasn't as though Stiles didn't already know that Scott ignored Stiles' trauma, but he had always hoped Scott was just not mentioning it because he wasn't sure how. Now, Stiles was sure that Scott hadn’t noticed at all, that he had no idea in the ways Stiles was still suffering.

To know that Scott really didn't see the ways Stiles had changed, the ways that were so obvious to himself, tore away at him. For so long, Scott had been all he had, and they had been there for each other during so much hardship. He had always thought that their bond was mutual, that Scott cared for Stiles as much as Stiles cared for him but...but he wasn't able to keep lying to himself.

It seemed silly to him, thinking of it now—the way he had so desperately forced himself not to see the flaws in his friendship with Scott, clung to something that hadn't been there for far longer than Stiles wanted to admit. It was obvious that Scott had been waiting for something better, with the way he had all but cast Stiles aside as soon as that 'better' came along. Stiles had just trailed after him, refusing to see what was really happening.

He saw it now, saw too much, now.

By the time Stiles parked in his driveway, he was beginning to flag with exhaustion. He was always tired, but the whirlwind of emotions he had felt today left him feeling hollowed out, made worse by the new emptiness in his chest. His house was quiet when he got inside, and he knew his father wouldn't be around for another few hours. Stumbling up the stairs, Stiles barely managed to strip out of his jeans before he was falling into bed, wrapping himself up in his comforter as the chill began to set it.

It was still early enough, sunlight streaming in through his window, that he felt safe closing his eyes. He breathed in, curling into a ball as he wrapped his arms tighter around his waist. He yawned, exhaustion hitting him now that he was lying down, and it was only another moment before he was asleep.

He woke up to roll over. There was an ache in his thigh, and he pressed his palm against the soreness. It only made it hurt more, and Stiles recognized the tenderness of a bruise. He didn’t know what it could be from, and he couldn't remember when he would have hit himself hard enough to leave a mark like that. Sun was still streaming in through his window, and he knew it couldn't have been long since he first fell asleep. He rolled off the side that hurt and closed his eyes again, pushing down the sharp ache in his chest as he fell back unconscious.

Stiles gasped, pushing up in bed even as he struggled against the heaviness in his brain, the voice that wasn't his own laughing and laughing and laughing as he struggled. He clawed at his arm, wanting, needing to get it out, get it out, he needed, needed to get it out, to—

He slumped back against his bed, his heart beating too fast. The phantom echo of Scott's voice in his head was ringing in his ears, the command trying to bury itself under his skin. He didn't want it there, couldn't have it there. Slowly, too slowly, his consciousness caught up with him. He was at home, he was okay, Scott was no longer his Alpha, could no longer control him.

All the tension left him in a rush. It was still bright, but he didn't feel rested at all. He buried his face into his pillow, trying to breathe through his frustration. He ignored the way the material went wet under his eyes, gasping for breath even as he pushed his face harder into the soft fabric.

Sleep took longer to come.

Stiles mumbled, rubbing his face into the rough material under his cheek. He frowned, his brain too sleep-muddled to work through his confusion. He was still wrapped up in his blanket cocoon, his feet tucked under a pile of comforter, but he was definitely not laying on his pillow. Stiles struggled to pry his eyes open, too worn out to panic. He was still in his bed, after all, and there were only so many people who would come into his room.

Blinking his eyes open, he stared at the khaki under his cheek and he breathed in. It wasn't his pillow, but rather his dad's leg. The thigh went tense underneath him, and Stiles managed to wrangle a hand free to pat the knee. He was sleepy, and Dad smelt like comfort, safety, and Stiles let himself burrow into it, lose himself in the comforting rhythm of his dad's breath.

“Hey kiddo,” Dad said, and his voice was hesitant.

Stiles groaned and turned onto his other side, pushing his face further up, nosing at the soft material of his dad’s shirt, pressing his face into his stomach. His dad was sitting sideways on the bed up by his pillows, and Stiles stretched himself out with another groan. Nothing was telling Stiles to turn away, his mind pleasantly calm as he curled more into his dad's side.

“Your friends were worried about you,” Dad told him, gently placing a hand on the top of Stiles' head and then carding his fingers through Stiles' hair when Stiles didn't protest. “Didn't know you were such good friends with Whittemore.”

Stiles didn't say another for a long minute, just let himself float in the soft, pleasant haziness he felt. Eventually, he managed to force the words out of his mouth. “He knows what it's like.”

Dad didn't say anything, but his hand stilled for just a moment before he began petting through Stiles' hair again. The room was quiet, the only sound their own breathing. The last bits of sunlight were still streaming through the window, painting warm stripes of light across his wall. His tiredness wasn't as heavy, easier to ignore now that he had slept a little more.

“I'm glad you have people,” Dad said, a heaviness to his voice that Stiles wished he hadn't put there. “Go back to sleep, kiddo.”

Stiles nodded into Dad's stomach, letting out a large yawn that had Dad chuckling softly. It was so good to hear, though the sound of his dad's laugh was foreign enough that it stung at his chest. Stiles closed his eyes and focused on how good it felt to be here, how every pass of his dad's hand through his hair made his chest feel a little less empty.

The next time Stiles woke up, there was no sun streaming in through his window, though his bedroom lights were on—both the overhead and the two lamps he had. For a moment, his heart felt unbearably full, knowing that his father would have turned on both sets of lights when he left. He rolled onto his side, a smile freely coming to his lips when he found his phone already plugged in.

Thumbing it open with his eyes closed, he was surprised at the number of text notifications he had. No one really texted him first other than his dad, and Stiles knew he hadn't started a conversation with any of the three other people who still replied to him. Anxiety built heavy in the pit of his stomach, and he couldn't shake off the feeling of dread as he hovered over the message icon.

He had no idea who they could be from, and he was too nervous to check his notifications to see. If they were from Scott, it would do nothing but send him spiralling backwards, and he had felt so at peace laying with his dad that he didn't want to lose the last bits of that feeling that he was still clinging to.

Avoidance wasn't a long-term solution, Stiles knew all too well, and he did his best to push down his panic as he took a deep breath. When he clicked into the app, he was more than a little surprised to see that the string of texts was from Jackson . His chest went warm, and he felt a small thrum of something beat under his heart. The emptiness that had been so overwhelming before felt like it had melted away, replaced with that bit of warmness. He almost wanted to laugh, giddy, at the feeling of a bond forming.

From Jackass (1:07 p.m.): im going to kill him. im going to come back and kill him stiles i swear
From Jackass (1:07 p.m.): i swear neither of us are going to let it slide
From Jackass (1:08 p.m.): r u ok. u need to tell one of us if ur ok
From Jackass (1:08 p.m.): stilinski i swear answer me or ill beat ur ass as well
From Jackass (1:08 p.m.): stiles
From Jackass (1:09 p.m.): dude this isnt fcking cool
From Jackass (1:10 p.m.): u cant disappear like this
From Jackass (1:10 p.m.): lydia is going out of her damn mind
From Jackass (3:41 p.m.): just let us know whats going on ok?
From Jackass (5:23 p.m.): ur dad texted us good to know ur alive dick
From Jackass (5:24 p.m.): u cant worry us like that man
From Jackass (7:57 p.m.): it may seem like a crazy idea but give it some thought

Stiles smiled even wider as thumbed up his screen, reading back over the texts Jackson had sent him. He didn't know what the last message meant, but he was in too good of a mood to ask. He knew that Jackson cared about him, of course, but this was further proof that they really were friends. Stiles could never have seen them being like this, being this close, but he was so grateful that they were.

What he had told his father had been true. When Jackson got wind of what happened, he had called Stiles at two in the morning and talked about how it had felt, to have his body stolen from him. Their experiences were different—Stiles could remember everything his hands had done while Jackson had blank gaps in his memory—but they each felt the blood on their hands.

It had helped, the feeling of companionship. Knowing that he wasn't alone and that if he needed someone to talk to, to go to, he'd have someone who would, on some level, understand.

To Jackass (2:33 a.m.): thank you
From Jackass (2:33 a.m.): ur such a dick stilinski

Stiles snorted at the near-immediate reply, his heart only feeling softer.

Despite his best efforts, Stiles hadn't managed to fall back asleep. The shadows felt too imposing with the feeling of Scott's command still so fresh under his skin. Frustration grew and grew, the later it got. All he wanted to do was sleep, exhaustion pulling at his skin, but he couldn't. Every time he closed his eyes, it felt like he was slipping away, being dragged under and under and under, and he would never be able to get back up.

So he fought to keep his eyes open, pacing back and forth and working through translating the bestiary. He couldn't focus enough to scroll through the internet, his mind whirling around too fast. The old, yellowed paper of the bestiary was soft enough that it didn't bother his eyes, and he turned off his overhead light when the stark white of the dictionary became too much.

Focusing on translating kept him occupied enough that he didn't think about the lack of light. It was tedious work, but it was getting easier the longer he worked on it. He was beginning to recognize words, and he used the dictionary less and less to write out translations. It was rewarding when he could recognize sentences and phrases, and it made the whole thing feel less like something he had to do, and more like something he wanted to do.

He retired back to his bed eventually, though. Slipping under the covers, he ached for more sleep. The rest he had gotten earlier hadn't been nearly enough, especially with the day he'd had. All he wanted was to sleep, but it didn’t come, not once throughout the night. His mood darkened, now that his mind was free to roam, and it was too easy to think about Scott and all that had happened between them.

Stiles watched as the sun climbed early, until the sky was beginning to shine outside.

He was exhausted. It was too soon, and Stiles wasn't sure he had it in him to get up. Wrapping himself tighter in his blanket, he finally let himself close his eyes. They stung from how long he had forced them open, blankly staring at the wall in front of him, and it felt beyond nice to have them closed. His eyelids felt heavy , and he let them rest, even if he stayed awake.

The knock on the door startled him. Usually, his father waited for him downstairs, and he would only come and check on Stiles if he was really running late. It wasn't late enough for his father to check up on him, but it was Dad who pushed his door open.

“Did you sleep, kiddo?” Dad asked, moving into the room to sit on the bed again. Stiles headbutted his thigh once, but he moved back before his dad could touch him.

He shook his head in answer, pulling his covers higher up and tucking them under his chin. He yawned, pressing his face into his pillow as he did. When he looked back up, his dad's eyes were soft, though there wasn't as much of the same hurt Stiles was so used to seeing there.

“Well, it's Friday. You might as well stay home,” he said, and Stiles was able to dredge up a smile just for that.

He didn't even want to imagine seeing Scott again, not yet. Just thinking of him hurt, ached in a way he wasn't used too, didn’t know if he would ever be used to, and Stiles wasn't sure what he'd do if he was forced to be in the same space as him. He stopped thinking about it before the panic could set in, looking back up at his dad.

Stiles was thankful for the offer, and he nodded. He headbutted his dad again, and the man laughed softly, smiling down at him.

“Any plans for the day?” Dad asked, and Stiles shook his head. He was tired, and he knew he could use an extra day of sleep. “Alright, kid. I'll be home a bit later tonight. Can we eat around seven?”

Stiles nodded, closing his eyes. He couldn't bring himself to speak right now, not with how dry his throat felt. Dad didn’t seem to mind, and he sat there quietly for another few minutes. It was so much easier now, and he felt comfortable being in his dad’s presence. Stiles had no idea when exactly it had changed, but sharing space with his dad was easy, again.

It no longer felt like there was too little air, like he could read his father’s disappointment in the growing lines of his face. It was just easy, lying here, and as he listened to his father breathe, he felt some of the tension draining from his body. Eventually, Dad had to get up for work, but Stiles managed to press his forehead into his hip before he left.

Once he was alone, he closed his eyes. The light shining through the blinds was getting brighter, and with it Stiles’ breath came easier. It didn’t make it any easier to sleep, though. He was so tired , exhaustion weighing heavily down on him, and his eyes burned with his frustration. All he wanted was to get some sleep, to rest.

But he couldn’t, not here. And there was only one place that Stiles knew he would be able to.

Stiles considered making himself a coffee to take with him to Peter's, but he had no idea if it would help relax him or just make him more anxious. It could go either way, and on the off chance that all it would do was increase his anxiety, he decided it wasn't worth it. He was exhausted, and climbing into the Jeep felt like a battle. He had to fight to keep his eyes open, knowing that even if he were to fall asleep, there would be no chance that his mind would let it be restful.

Stiles knew when he could sleep and when he couldn't. If he slept while feeling this anxious, he would scream himself awake in only a few minutes. He tried to focus on the road—the traffic was light, still, but Stiles felt himself fading. It was harder and harder to keep his eyes open and Stiles felt like he hadn't stopped yawning since he left his bed.

Finally, finally, he pulled up to Peter's apartment. The visitors parking wasn't full, though it never was. The apartment Peter lived in was one of the nicer ones in Beacon Hills, and Stiles hadn't even let himself look up how much the rent could possibly be. Peter had given him both a swipe card and a key code to get into the building, and Stiles always felt nervous letting himself in.

Today, the usual rush of anxiety that came with letting himself into an apartment he clearly didn't belong in never came, and instead a sense of calm rushed through his belly. He yawned, making his way to the elevators. Leaning against the wall, he let his eyes slip closed, already feeling like he could fall asleep. Just being here, so close to Peter, was enough for him to feel safe again.

The ding of the elevator startled him, but when he blinked his eyes open he was on Peter's floor. He shuffled to Peter's apartment, already thinking about Peter's entirely too comfortable couch and how nice it would feel under him as he slept. Stiles waited outside the door, too sleepy to notice that anything was off. When Stiles nearly fell over, more than half asleep where he was standing, he jolted awake in alarm.

He stared at the still closed door with wide eyes, something uneasy settling deep in his chest. Not once since the very first time he had shown up, had Stiles had to knock on the door. Peter always let him in, without fault, and he usually opened the door a second after Stiles had stepped in front of it. He tried to push down the growing worry, feeling silly when fear began to slide up his throat.

Stiles took a deep breath, and then another, but finally he knocked on the front door, three sharp rasps of his knuckles. He waited, taking a step back so Peter would be able to see him through the peephole—and then feeling like an idiot at thinking Peter would check the peephole when he would have been able to smell Stiles since he got off the elevator.

He brought his hands together as he waited, not able to stop himself from dragging his thumbnail along his index finger. Picking at his cuticle was a nervous tick, now, and while it did nothing to calm the growing agitation under his skin, it gave him something to focus on. After a long moment he knocked again, his heart already in his throat.

When there was no answer, Stiles grabbed his keys from his pocket with shaking fingers. Peter had slipped the key onto the ring during one of his visits where he had fallen asleep, and he hadn't noticed it for nearly two weeks. Neither of them said anything about it and Stiles had never used it. Peter was always there to open the door, and so he had never needed to.

He tried to get the key into the lock, but his fingers were shaking too badly for him to do so. He took a deep breath, trying to ignore the way his stomach was twisting uncomfortably, knotting tight until it felt like he couldn't breathe. Stiles gripped his wrist, squeezing until his fingers stilled, and then slipped the key in. He turned it as he exhaled, his heart rate too loud in his own ears.

It felt like he couldn't breathe as he pushed the door open. His chest was too tight, worry building up his throat. Peter had never been gone when he came by, not once. Different scenarios were running through his head, getting worse and worse as he slowly stepped into the apartment. He couldn't think of a single reason why Peter wouldn't be here that didn't have fear gripping his heart.

The apartment seemed too quiet when Stiles walked in, but he couldn't tell if it was because it was empty or because he thought it was empty. He had no idea how much his sudden paranoia was affecting his senses. Stiles gently closed the door behind himself, stepping through the front hallway and peering into the living room. Stiles couldn't help the way his heart was beating out of his chest, worry pounding at his throat as he tried to breathe around it.

If Peter had been hurt, or worse , Stiles had no idea what he was going to do. He had no idea how to use his magic, and he had no strength or speed. All he had was a body that wasn't his, and he wouldn't be able to find Peter on his own. He tried to push back the building fear as he looked through the living room, and while seeing it clean should have helped, it did nothing to diminish his worry.

There was still coffee left in the pot sitting on the kitchen counter, and Stiles found himself surprised that Peter would leave coffee to grow cold. He walked further into the room, a piece of paper stuck to the fridge catching his eyes. He walked to the fridge slowly, probably more cautious than he needed to be, but his heart was still beating so loudly in his chest that it was all he could hear.

The first thing he noticed was Peter's messy scrawl, his letters bleeding together. There was a deep, worn crease running through the paper, as though it had been folded and unfolded countless times. Stiles' heart sped up, though his fear was slowly giving way to anticipation the closer he got. Once he was close enough to make out the words, it felt like his heart completely stopped.

Out running errands.
The coffee is for you, I'll be back soon.
Make yourself at home, sweetheart.

A giddy, crazed laughed fought its way out of his throat before he could do anything to push it back down. All the fear and worry rushed out of him at once, leaving only a warmness in his chest that he was getting more and more used to. He carefully ran his finger down the note, reading it again and again, getting lost in the way Peter's hand scrawled out an endearment, wondering how it was possible for him to blush when Peter wasn't even in the room.

How many days had Peter done this? How many days had Peter left a note on his fridge , on the off chance that Stiles would show up when he was out? This was the first time in all the weeks since he had first started coming over that he had ever come over during the day. Even on the weekends Stiles didn't usually show up, opting to spend his days sleeping.

But Peter had done this without any way of knowing that Stiles would be coming over, or that he would be coming over this soon. By the folded crease in the paper, it looked like a note that Peter left out often. The thought that Peter might leave this out every time he wasn't home, on the off chance that Stiles would come by—well.

He couldn't keep telling himself that he didn't know how Peter felt just to keep himself from admitting how much he liked Peter in return. It was terrifying, this added knowledge to everything that Peter had already done for him. It was impossible for Stiles to tell himself that it could be meaningless, that it could be anything less than exactly what he wanted it to be.

The smile that pulled at his lips came unbidden. He couldn't push it down, and he knew he wouldn't be able to even if he tried. So he let it pull at his face, grow and grow until his cheeks hurt with the size of it. The way his heart was beating out of his chest was nice, comforting, and Stiles wanted to lose himself in the way his chest felt so full.

He took a deep breath, trying to work himself up to do something when he yawned, his exhaustion slamming down on him now that he knew Peter was okay. He stumbled forward, catching himself on the fridge as he yawned again, even deeper. It seemed to hit him all at once, just how tired he still was, the lack of sleep catching up with him. Without the rush of adrenaline keeping him going, he was only weighed down further by the crash of his emotions.

Stiles needed to sleep. Needed to rest. And being in Peter's apartment, feeling overwhelmingly safe even though Peter wasn't here with him, was making it harder and harder for him to fight it. And Stiles—Stiles didn't want to be so afraid anymore. So cautious. Peter had shown him around the third time he had come by, and Stiles made his way into Peter's bedroom. His heart was beating out of his chest, but he was too tired to let his growing anxiety stop him.

Peter's bed was big, a neat ensemble of navy blue. Stiles placed a few of the throw pillows onto the big chair in the corner before he kicked off his shoes and shimmied out of his jeans. His fingers shook as he peeled the comforter back, but it wasn't a bad feeling. More than anything he was excited, a little, and as he slipped into sleep he found himself smiling.


Stiles woke slowly, clinging to the last dredges of sleep. He was unbelievably comfortable, with the way he had sunk into the mattress. The comforter was perfectly warm around him, keeping the chill out of his bones. The pillow under his head was the softest thing Stiles had ever felt, and he pushed his nose into the case, rubbing against the smooth fabric.

A soft chuckle startled him upwards, and his heart rate sped up when he saw Peter staring at him. He was sitting in the same armchair Stiles had piled pillows onto, his left foot resting on his right knee as he leaned back. His face was achingly soft, and Stiles' face went red-hot.

Now, without the same exhaustion pulling him towards sleep, his body demanding that he get some rest—crawling into Peter’s bed didn’t seem like such a good idea. Peter might be mad , that Stiles had slept in his bed. Leaving out a note in case he came by was one thing, but this—this was something else. Stiles knew how wolves could be about their private spaces, and that wasn’t even something Stiles had stopped to consider.

“I-is this okay?” Stiles asked softly, his voice hardly more than an exhale of air, but Peter smiled at him.

“Oh darling, you are more than welcome in my bed,” Peter purred, and Stiles watched as his lips turned up in an entirely too wolfish smile.

Stiles ducked his head, and he felt silly when he couldn’t meet Peter’s eyes. This was all—this was all so much, so new. He didn’t say anything, but it didn’t seem like Peter minded his silence. He was still watching Stiles intently, staring him down, but his gaze was soft. Stiles wanted to ask how long Peter had been there watching him, but he wasn’t sure if he wanted to know.

His mind felt too heavy, and he slumped back onto the bed. Peter laughed again, a soft chuckle that Stiles didn’t think he’d ever be able to get enough of. Stiles had no idea how long he’d been there, but he didn’t see any light streaming in through the window. He rolled onto his side so he could watch Peter, and he couldn’t stop the way his lips twisted up into a smile.

“I texted your father when I got home,” Peter told him, and Stiles’ smile widened. It was always easy to smile with Peter.

Stiles felt rested, and while he always did when he slept at Peter's, this was more . There weren't the same tendrils of exhaustion clinging to him as there had been for...for what seemed like forever. He could only imagine just how long he slept if he had come over so early and it was now dark out. Probably more than he'd slept since before everything happened.

Stiles hummed quietly, and Peter tipped his head. It was so easy being here, being in Peter's space and in his presence. It was a little shocking to realize just how well Peter knew him, how well Peter could read him and how easily he saw through him. There was a time when the very thought of Peter knowing him like this would have terrified him, but not anymore. Peter wasn't the crazed monster that he had been when he woke from his coma.

Stiles wasn't sure what it said about him that he was so comfortable here, if it said anything at all, but he knew he didn't care. It felt too good, sharing space so effortlessly when it felt like he had to watch himself around everyone else. Even with his dad and Lydia, no matter how hard they tried, it wasn't this easy.

Stiles didn't even have to say anything and Peter understood him. The knowledge of that made him feel warm all over, stupidly pleased. He squirmed on the bed, a little, unbelievably happy with the realization.

“You smell just lovely right now,” Peter told him, and Stiles flushed even darker. He pulled the blanket up to his nose, only leaving out his eyes. He didn't want to look away, not when Peter was looking at him with something like interest on his face. “So, to what do I owe this pleasure, pet?”

Knowing that Peter didn't expect him to answer—that he wouldn't be disappointed if Stiles didn't—made it easier to get the words out. “I couldn't sleep.”

Peter's eyes flashed blue, and Stiles felt the same thrill shoot through his belly he felt every time he caused Peter's eyes to flash. He didn't shy away from it this time, and his smile widened from behind the blanket when Peter made a low rumbling noise from his chest. “And that led you to my bedroom?”

Stiles wiggled again, the feeling in his tummy building as his heart sped up. He nodded, despite the pleasant thrill of embarrassment, “I-I feel safe here.”

“Oh darling, you have no idea what it does to me and my wolf to hear that,” Peter said, though his words were slurred around his fangs. It was heady, knowing that Stiles had caused that.

When Peter stood up, excitement shot through Stiles' belly. He didn't do anything to get away when Peter stalked towards the bed, didn't even think about moving away as he got closer and closer. Peter picked up the pillow next to the one Stiles was laying against and tossed it to the floor before he sat down, swinging his legs up and settling against the headboard.

Stiles held his breath and then felt foolish. They had stood even closer together the night after the pack meeting when Stiles had purposely dragged his finger over Peter's skin. A smile twisted onto his lips as he remembered Malia saying that she had walked into Peter sniffing his arm, before it fell. He didn't want to think of Scott, not right now, but his mind was already whirling.

“Oh darling, whatever happened?” Peter asked, and when he reached out, hovered his hand over Stiles' head, Stiles strained his neck up into the touch.

Stiles shook his head even as his throat burned. He didn't want to remember the way the Alpha command had settled under his skin, but he knew he would never be able to forget. He didn't want to go over the things Scott had said, the way he had tried to—tried to. No. No, he was not going to think about that here, not when he was with Peter.

It was easier to push down the bitter hurt that rose up his throat with Peter running his hands through his hair. It was so much like when he had woken up last night, and the way Peter's fingers were carding through his hair made Stiles feel just as safe as when his dad had done so. Stiles knew he would never be able to pinpoint exactly when Peter Hale became someone Stiles sought comfort from, but he couldn't bring himself to mind.

“Alright pet, that is alright,” Peter soothed, letting another rumble out of his chest. Stiles sniffed, just once, rubbing any wetness that had gathered in his eyes into the pillowcase.

When he looked back up at Peter, his eyes were worried, and Stiles made an annoyed grumble until Peter started moving his hand again. It earned him a laugh, and the room felt lighter after that. Stiles was glad that he had been able to break the tension. Stiles' mind was pleasantly quiet, letting him drift comfortably, still awake but toying with the line of sleep.

“Do you need to get going? It's nearing midnight,” Peter asked, and Stiles startled. He must have slept even longer than he had thought. “You're welcome to stay all night.”

Stiles wanted to say yes. An agreement was on the tip of his tongue, would have been easy, so easy , but...but Stiles wasn't ready for that, was nowhere near ready for that. Maybe—maybe one day, but not yet. The thought sat heavy in his mind though, and he couldn't help but picture it, imagining what it would be like to sleep next to Peter.

He wanted, oh how he wanted, but not yet. Stiles could tell that Peter wanted too, with the way his grip has gone tight, fingers tangling in his hair, but he didn't say anything further. He was thankful for that. Peter seemed to be fine with taking things at Stiles' pace, never pushing or rushing him at all. Stiles wasn't sure he'd be able to express what that meant to him, and he didn't have it in him to try.

Instead, he pushed his hand out of the blankets to wrap around Peter's wrist, pulling Peter's free hand close to his face and pressing his lips against his palm. Peter didn't say anything, but his body went tense as he held his breath. Stiles pressed his smile into Peter's hand before letting it drop back onto the bad. Peter's inhale shuddered through him, and his grip tightened in Stiles' hair once more before going loose.

“I should go,” he said quietly, but he wanted to say so much more.

Peter nodded, though he didn’t move his hand from Stiles’ hair. Stiles didn’t move either, not for another few minutes. When he finally did move to pull back, Peter let him go without comment, He only realized he wasn’t wearing pants when he stood up, and he flushed, though he fought to keep his hands by his side.

He didn’t need to look to know that Peter was watching, and he could feel Peter’s gaze as it slid over his skin. Stiles’ t-shirt was long enough to cover his crotch, but his legs were bare, his feet covered by his white ankle socks. He tried not to feel too insecure—he was nothing special, and now, as skinny as he was, he felt even less comfortable. He had no idea how to be comfortable in a skin that wasn’t his.

Stiles didn’t see Peter as he walked closer, but he saw his jeans as Peter held them out for him. He took them without a word, pulling them up quietly. He had no idea what it meant that Peter was turned away. If—if Peter didn’t want him, Stiles didn't know what he would do. He wasn’t sure he would be able to handle that, after finally letting himself think about the two of them together.

“Sweetheart,” Peter said with a sigh, his shoulders slumping as he exhaled. “I turned away because I didn’t want to invade your privacy. I’ll need spoken consent from you before I’m willing to look.”

Stiles relaxed a little, and he was able to whisper a soft ‘thank you’ under his breath. He took a few deeps, doing his best to calm down. His emotions were always so up and down, wildly unsteady and even with how rested he was, he still felt unbalanced.

He hesitated by the front door, unsure of what to do now. Even though he didn’t want to leave, he knew going home would be for the best. He needed time to think, to reevaluate how he really felt about Peter, and about him and Peter. He was attracted to Peter and he felt safe with Peter, but he wasn’t sure what that really meant, especially now that he knew Peter was honest in his interest.

As Stiles walked to the front door, he felt worry clawing up his throat. He knew he would have two more days before he was forced to see Scott again, but just the thought of going to school on Monday had him wringing his hands together. He hated it, that he was already thinking ahead, that the mix of pleasant feelings he'd been floating in was starting to ebb away.

“Darling?” Peter asked, and the concern in his voice was easy to hear.

Stiles shook his head. It wasn't something he wanted to talk about, not when he was still trying to hold onto the way being in Peter's bed had made him feel. He had felt so comfortable and so safe, wrapped up in Peter’s bedding. It wasn’t the same now, forcing himself to leave the only place he felt truly safe. He hesitated by the front door, not ready to go.

Peter took a step closer, and Stiles startled when he finally realized what Peter was wearing, doing a double take. Stiles had no idea how he hadn’t noticed his outfit earlier, especially because it was nothing like something Peter would usually wear.

Peter always dressed incredibly well, and he usually wore fitted slacks and nice shirts. But today, he was in worn looking jeans, and—and a very comfortable looking sweater. Stiles stared, his mouth dropping open as he realized just how soft Peter looked.

Peter's sweater was a creamy beige, and it was snug along Peter's arms and chest. Stiles found himself staring, unable to pull his eyes away from the way the material stretched across Peter's muscle. It looked soft and comfortable, and Stiles had never before seen Peter in a hoodie . When he breathed in, it was like he could still smell Peter, and for a moment, he felt like just like he had in Peter’s bed.

Despite how rested he felt, how light and how clear his chest was, he couldn't quite bring himself to speak. His mind was whirling, but embarrassment was trapping the words in his throat, making it impossible for him to force them out. Instead, he tugged at the hem of Peter's sweater. It looked so soft and so warm. Stiles knew it smelt like Peter, and it hit with him a shock that that was what he was missing.

Being wrapped up in Peter's bed had also meant being wrapped up in Peter's scent, and he wanted that again. He tugged on the fabric one more time, twisting it between his fingers as he stared at Peter with wide eyes. Stiles tried for words, but they got caught up in his throat, his tongue refusing to form them. He didn't know what to do or how else to make Peter understand, and annoyance at himself was bubbling under his skin.

“Sweetheart,” Peter started, but Stiles made a noise of frustration, tugging harder at the sweater. Peter tilted his head to the side before his eyes went wide. “Sweetheart, do you want my sweater?”

Despite the force of his blush he smiled widely, nodding his head happily. He let go of the fabric when Peter reached for it himself, but he didn't step back. Watching Peter tug off his shirt was...well, it should have been illegal. He rolled his body as he pulled the sweater up, thrusting his hips out and drawing attention to the thick, dark line of hair that thinned the higher it went up his abdomen.

Stiles got lost following the hard lines of Peter’s body, taking in the generous dusting of chest hair, his defined pecs. He couldn't look away, didn’t want to look away, and heat built and built in his stomach. Stiles’ eyes ran over his nipple, getting caught on the way it seemed to harden under his gaze. His cock twitched , and Stiles let out a small, breathless gasp.

“Oh my sweet boy, you smell absolutely delicious ,” Peter said, and when Stiles finally looked back up at his face, he wasn’t surprised to find Peter’s eyes blue or his fangs peeking over his bottom lip.

Even if Stiles was expecting it, it sent a thrill through him, and he couldn't help the soft noise he let out. This was the proof he needed, and knowing that Peter was attracted to him and to his scent made it unbelievably easy to step closer. He took the sweater from Peter’s hands, holding eye contact as he pressed it against his nose and breathed in.

The scent of Peter was sharper than it had been in his bed, and he loved it. He let out a small noise, his eyes dropping closed as he let it calm his racing heart. Peter was still watching him when he opened his eyes, and there was something in Peter’s gaze that was easy, so easy, to get lost in.

He stepped even closer, watching as Peter’s shoulders went tense. Peter held his breath, and the act made Stiles smile. His fingers were shaking where they were bunched into the hoodie, his heart thumping out of his chest as his stomach twisted.

Still, he stepped closer, close enough that Stiles’ knuckles brushed the smooth, warm skin of Peter’s chest. It was easy to press forward, and Stiles was surprised to find them the same height, now. The press of their lips was barely a shy kiss of a touch, but it sent Stiles’ heart reeling. He brushed their lips together again, his top lip gently catching against Peter’s bottom as he pulled back.

He kept his eyes closed until he was settled back onto the heels of his feet, and he slowly blinked them open to find Peter staring at him with wide eyes. Stiles wanted to laugh, but he couldn't bring himself to make any noise with the way it felt like he was going to vibrate out of his own skin. His stomach clenched, knotting with nerves as he tried to suck in a breath.

“Thank you, Stiles,” Peter said, and the use of his first name was jarring. Peter never called him anything but endearments and pet names, but Stiles was almost glad that Peter treated the moment as serious as it had been to Stiles.

He rocked forward once more, pressing a kiss to the corner of Peter’s mouth before he was stepping back, a silly grin stretching over his lips. He reached blindly for the door handle, managing to grab it on the third try, and he pulled the door open without ever looking away. Peter didn’t make to move, just stood there with the same achingly soft look on his face.

Stiles stepped into the hall, still staring at Peter’s too-bright eyes as he held the sweater up to his face, breathing in deeply. Peter let out a rumbling growl, and Stiles’ smile only widened, giving Peter a small, ridiculous wave before he turned around, forcing himself to walk— not skip, Jesus Stiles you cannot skip —to the elevator.

By the time Stiles pulled up into his driveway, his fingers were shaking where they were tucked into the sleeves of Peter's hoodie. He ducked his head down and breathed in through his nose, nuzzling at the collar of the sweater as he chased Peter's scent in the fabric. His heart was beating away in his chest and the smile that was pulling at his lips was so wide that it hurt.

He had to take a deep breath before he stepped out of the Jeep. He was still floating from the way Peter's lips had felt against his own, his stomach thrumming with warmth. Stiles could hardly think, and sorting through his thoughts seemed so pointless that he didn't even try.

He felt ridiculous even as he skipped up to his front door, but he couldn't help it. Excitement was bright under his skin, making him feel giddy . He hadn't felt like this in so, so long, long before the Nogitsune. He fumbled his keys into the lock, his whole body shaking.

Stiles had to bite down on his bottom lip to hold in a peal of laughter. He felt incredibly silly, still breathless even after the entire drive home. When he let himself into the front door, he shook out his arms and hopped in place, trying to dispel some of his excess energy.

He tiptoed down the hall, trying to make as little noise as possible. It was so late, already after one, and Stiles didn't want to wake his dad. The floor creaked under his foot and he cringed, pausing before he dared to take another step.

“Hey, Kiddo,” Dad said, startling Stiles so bad he jumped. Dad's voice was tired, and when Stiles looked over, the skin under his eyes was dark.

“Hey,” Stiles said quietly, shoving his hands into the kangaroo pouch of Peter’s sweater. The TV was still on, but it was playing lowly, the only sound in the room. Stiles stepped forward, bumping his knee against the arm of the chair Dad was sitting in.

“Nice sweater,” Dad said, and Stiles flushed red, his face warming under the look his dad was directing at him. “I'm guessing it's Peter's?”

Stiles nodded, though he didn't say anything. His dad didn't seem mad, not a bit, but he wasn't sure. Dad had never said anything bad about Peter, and he had never seemed upset when Stiles got back from being with him, but this...he wasn't sure how his dad was going to take this.

There was so much that Peter had done that his father could see as wrong. While Stiles didn't hold Peter's past against him, he wasn't sure how his father would see it, and the thought of his dad not approving made his chest feel too tight.

“How's he doing?” Dad asked, and he didn't sound upset, just honestly curious.

“He's okay,” Stiles said quietly, picking at his finger inside the pocket. The fabric was soft, though, and he focused on the feel of it instead of the beat of anxiety beginning to crawl up his throat.

“You're spending a lot of time with him,” he pointed out, though there still wasn't anything like anger in his voice.

Stiles hummed, but he didn't say anything at first. Dad was staring up at him, though his face was open. He looked tired, and while that wasn't unusual, it seemed worse. There was no reason for his dad to still be up, not with the hours he had been working lately, and Stiles realized with a start that his dad must have waited up for him.

His heart went warm, and it was easy for Stiles to reach out and place a hand on his dad's shoulder, squeezing gently. Dad looked up at him with a large smile, and Stiles watched as tension eased from his shoulders. It hurt to see, but his heart felt full knowing that his dad had nervously waited up for hours just for Stiles to come home.

“I-I really like him,” Stiles said, and Dad nodded, covering Stiles' hand with his own.

“When are you going to be having him over?” Dad asked, and Stiles’ chest went warm, appreciation bubbling up in his throat.

“Is that okay?” Stiles asked. Even if it seemed like his dad didn't care, like he was okay with...with whatever was going on between him and Peter, he had to be sure.

“Kiddo, I'd be okay with anyone who could make you smile like that,” Dad said, and his voice was heavy. He closed his fingers around Stiles' hand, both of them quietly breathing together for a few minutes.

“I'll ask him to come over,” Stiles told him.

“Good,” Dad said, pushing himself out of his seat with a loud groan. His backed popped when he straightened out, and Stiles cringed. “C'mon, up to bed.”

Stiles smiled wider, letting his father tuck him under his arm and lead him up the stairs. He wasn't at all uncomfortable with the contact, and when his father pulled him into a hug at the top of the stairs he was able to return it for the first time.

Stiles woke already out of breath, twisting his fingers into the sheets below him as his hips rocked forward. He thrust downwards again, grinding his cock into the bed, as he panted open-mouthed. He got an arm under his head, pillowing his forehead on his forearm and rubbing his nose into the soft material of Peter’s sweater.

Nghh ,” Stiles moaned, breathing in as deeply as he could, chasing Peter’s scent from the fabric.

The room was bright, sun shining in through his window. Stiles was warm, the sweater clinging to his bare back where he was beaded with sweat. His mouth dropped open, and he sucked on the sweater, biting into the fabric. His rolled his hips forward, the material of his boxers rough, scraping against the sensitive head of his cock.

He was so close, and he sped up his hips, trying to cling to whatever it was that had gotten him this hard and this close in his sleep. His mind was still a touch hazy with sleep, and he tried to remember just what he’d been dreaming about. He couldn’t, though, and he pushed his face harder against the sleeve he was lying on.

His cock was going soft, and Stiles bit into his bottom lip, holding in the cry of frustration. He rolled onto his back, pushing down his boxers and grabbing hold of his cock, fisting the head as he tried to get off. It was too dry and his grip was too tight, and he groaned unhappily.

He was trying not to get upset, even as he continued working his cock. He just...he just wanted to get off, but it wasn't working, hadn’t worked , not once before. If Peter was here, Stiles was sure it would be different, that it wouldn’t be so hard for him. He used his free hand to pull the sweater up and over his nose, drowning himself in Peter’s scent.

He thought about Peter, of the way his breath had tickled against Stiles’ lips, how warm his chest had been against the back of Stiles’ hand. How he could make Peter’s eyes go electric blue, how he could get Peter to pop a fang . It was heady, knowing that he could do that to someone like Peter, a born wolf whose control Stiles had never before seen slip.

It made Stiles’ head feel pleasantly heavy, and his heart sped up as he stroked his cock. His grip was still too dry, and the way he used to twist his wrist on the upstroke was causing it to cramp up. Stiles made another noise of frustration, though it was drowned out by how loudly his heart was beating even in his own ears.

Focusing on Peter made it easier; thinking about his scent and the way his eyes would be blue, his fangs peeking over his lower lip if her were here. It helped, and it was easier for Stiles to lose himself in the feeling, in the way heat was pulling low at his belly and drawing up his balls. Stiles could easily remember Peter calling him sweetheart, the way he had growled out the word after the pack meeting, the deepness to his voice as he had stared at Stiles with nothing but want .

How it had felt to kiss him, to finally be so close. What it would feel like to kiss him again.

Stiles arched his back, his mouth dropping open as he whined. He pulled the sweater up to his chin right before he came. His stomach spasmed and he rocked forward, curling over himself as he came and came, shooting warmly over his stomach and all over his chest. His orgasm rocked through him and he shook with the force of it, rocking into his come-damp fist as he rode out the last twitches of his orgasm.

Stiles slumped back into the bed as he gasped for breath, trying to breathe even as his heart tried to beat right out of his chest. He closed his eyes, pleasantly floating in his afterglow. This was the second time that thinking of Peter had gotten him off, but it was different, now that it was purposeful.

He wasn’t sure what he was going to do, not exactly, but he was going to have to talk to Peter about what was between them.

Stiles' heart jumped into his throat when his doorbell rang. It was Sunday, and his father had left a few hours ago to go into work. He knew that the decrease in hours Dad had taken was affecting them financially, but his dad hadn't said anything and Stiles hadn't been willing to say anything either. Having his dad around so much, more than he had been in years , was too nice for Stiles to say anything against it.

He walked towards the front door slowly, fear bubbling up in his belly like it did every time someone rang the doorbell when his father was at work. Stiles couldn't think of anything else, any other reason for anyone to be at his front door. He didn't look through the peephole, chanting 'like a band-aid' quietly under his breath.

All fear leaked out of him when he opened the door only to see Lydia. The slow creeping panic rushed out of him all at once, causing him to sway forward as relief rushed through him. He took a deep breath to try to settle himself, ignoring the too-fast beat to his heart.

“Good morning,” Lydia said, her hands clasped together in front of her. She looked perfectly put together, just like she always did, and Stiles let out a long breath.

He nodded, stepping aside so she could come in. Lydia—other than that time after Gerard—had never been to his house. He had no idea what she was doing here now, but he wasn't going to stand in her way. She stepped out of her shoes, leaving them by the front door and it was jarring to look down at her.

“You didn't come to school Friday,” Lydia said, and her voice was disapproving. “You only texted Jackson once, and if it wasn't for your dad keeping me updated, I would have had no idea what was going on with you.”

Stiles flushed, dropping his eyes in embarrassment. It was true—no matter how close they were now, he hadn't thought to text her and let her know how he was doing. He had been too caught up with his dad and then Peter—and didn't that make his cheeks heat up—that he hadn't spared her a thought.

He felt bad, now. A part of it, he knew, was that he hadn't been sure if she had wanted to hear from him. They had never talked about what they were or were not to each other, and Stiles had no idea if they were even friends—real, honest friends.

Sometimes, it felt like they only spent time together because there was no one else to spend time with. It was a thought he hated, that he always felt bad for having, but there was too much between them for him to think otherwise. For so long, Lydia had been a crack-dream, nothing more than someone Stiles chased after.

There was a small, insecure part of him that thought it was all some joke. That the only reason Lydia was friends with him was that she was using him. He knew better, he did, but it was hard to think otherwise at times. Now, with her standing barefoot in his front entryway, looking tired and worn and upset that Stiles hadn't checked in with her—it was easy to see that she cared.

“I'm sorry,” he managed, wrapping a hand around his waist. Her eyes zeroed in on his arm, tracking up his sleeve and over his torso before she raised her eyebrow at him.

“Well, it seems we have more to talk about than I had originally thought,” Lydia told him, and Stiles frowned, his heart rate already picking up. “Oh calm down, nothing bad.”

Stiles nodded, and he tried to push down the flash of fear that was threatening to rise back up. It was just Lydia, he had to tell himself, and he knew that she cared about him, that she wouldn't be here to hurt him. Then again, he had thought the same with Scott once, and it hadn't done him very well.

“Are you going to offer me a drink?” she said, tipping her nose into the air. He snorted, but it cut through the tension that had risen in the air between them, and he got her a glass of water at her request.

He led her into the living room, and he waited for her to sit down first. She sat on his couch with more grace than Stiles would have thought possible, crossing her legs as she rested her glass of water on the table. Stiles watched it with a fond smile before he sat on the other end of the couch.

“So, Scott isn't your Alpha?” Lydia asked. Straight to the point then.

Stiles tucked his feet under him, sitting cross-legged on the couch as he turned to her. He wasn't sure what to say, not exactly. He knew how he felt about Scott, but he wasn't sure how he would put that all into words. There was too much between the two of them, too much hurt to sort through.

Lydia was quiet, giving Stiles time to think. He had already come to terms with the imbalances of his and Scott's friendship, and while it hurt, it wasn't the worst part. What hurt the most, was that Scott hadn't seen what Stiles was going through, that he had remained ignorant to the way Stiles had spiralled. He was too caught up in himself, too caught up in Kira, that he hadn't seen the way Stiles was struggling.

He hadn't taken any steps to notice, and because of that he hadn't done anything to make it any easier, not like Dad and Lydia and Peter all had. It hurt, knowing that he meant so little to Scott, to the person that he had considered to be his best friend for so much of his life.

“I can't follow him,” Stiles said, and the look Lydia gave him was heavy, made him think that she heard some of the things he wasn't able to say. He was glad for it, and he was able to give her a small smile.

Lydia hummed, rolling the water glass around in her hands. “We'll need to find ourselves a new Alpha before Jackson comes back.”

Stiles blinked, taking a moment to let her words sink in. He blinked again, turning his head to the side as he repeated her words over and over in his head. “Uh, what ?”

“Jackson is coming back,” Lydia told him, and Stiles didn't miss the way her voice went lighter, the corner of her lips twitching up. “And he'll need an Alpha. We'll need an Alpha.”

“We?” Stiles asked, the same ugly insecurity rearing its head again.

Lydia looked at him for a long moment, before she sighed. “Of course, Stiles. I'm in your pack.”

Stiles flushed, his face going warm with pleasant embarrassment. He squirmed in his seat, overwhelmed. He had to drop his eyes as his face got even warmer, a pleased smile curling his lips up. Stiles could never have imagined hearing something like that from Lydia Martin , but now it just felt right.

The warmth in his chest burned a little brighter, filling up the emptiness that had been there.

“Now, what is going on between you and Peter?” Lydia asked, leaning closer to Stiles as she narrowed her eyes. He choked on his water, hitting his chest as he tried to clear his airway.

He shrugged, not sure what to say. Stiles didn’t know what was going on between him and Peter. All he knew was what he wanted to be going on between them. But, he wasn’t sure where Peter stood, what Peter wanted from him. Stiles was terrified that he wouldn’t be able to give Peter enough, but he had said that he was in it for the long haul, that he was okay with waiting.

With the way that Peter looked at him, it was easy for Stiles to believe. He blushed again, his face going warm as he looked to the ground. He really didn’t know what to tell Lydia, and it took him another few minutes of silence to settle on something.

“We haven’t talked about it?” Stiles managed, ducking his head down just a little more. He buried his nose in the sweater, though it didn’t smell nearly as much as Peter as he wanted it too, not after wearing it overnight, and he fought down a frown.

“You know we'd follow him, right?” Lydia said, and her eyes were honest.

“I didn't think you would,” Stiles told her, and it was true.

As much as he would like his Alpha to be Peter, he wouldn't force that on her. Stiles knew what he had done to come back to life, and he knew that Lydia didn't like him, nor did she feel comfortable around him. Stiles wouldn't force that on her, but he wanted , wanted to be pack and have Peter as their Alpha.

He wanted Peter as his Alpha as much as he wanted Peter , now that he was thinking about it. It wasn’t hard to imagine Peter as an Alpha, not anymore, and Stiles was sure he would be a great one. With the way that Peter had taken care of him these last few months, seeing Peter as caring and nurturing was easy.

It almost seemed too good to be true, all of it. Stiles was sure that Peter would jump at the chance of being an Alpha again, of being able to lead his own pack. Stiles knew exactly how badly Peter wanted to be an Alpha, how badly he wanted to be stronger, how badly he wanted a pack.

Pack, real pack, was something Stiles craved too. Knowing that he could have it, with his dad and Lydia and Jackson and Peter, was more than a dream.

“You would really follow him?” Stiles asked, his heart lodged in his throat.

“I’d follow you, and if that meant Peter being my Alpha—I’d learn to be okay with it,” Lydia told him, and Stiles’ heart swelled impossibly further.

“And Jackson…”

“Yes, Stiles. We’d both take Peter as our Alpha,” Lydia said, her voice firm. “You don’t need to convince us to follow Peter. We’ve made our decision.”

“We’ll need to find an Alpha,” Stiles said, breathless and excited. The grin Lydia gave him was a touch too sharp, and Stiles managed one in return.

Stiles stayed in the sweater the rest of the day, taking it off before his shower and sliding back into it when he was out, not wanting to take it off for too long. The sleeves were long enough that Stiles could tuck his fingers into them, and the bottom of the sweater hung a little below his hips. It was loose on him, all throughout the body of the sweater. Stiles had never thought that Peter was so much wider than him, but he could still picture exactly how it had clung to Peter.

The thought made Stiles' face heat up, even as he looked at himself in his front mirror. Even his tightest jeans hadn't fit the way he was used to, both too loose and too short. He did his best to ignore that, trying to focus on how warm he felt in Peter's sweater.

It pulled a smile to his lips, and Stiles' eyes ghosted over the shallowness of his cheeks and the darker skin surrounding his eyes. He did his best to ignore the sick feeling in his stomach, looking away when it became too much. He took a deep breath, doing his best to push his darker thoughts away.

Peter liked him. Stiles was sure of that, especially after the kiss they shared. It didn't matter that he was too thin, that he looked too tired and sickly. Peter saw it all, and he liked Stiles despite that, wanted Stiles despite that. He grabbed his bag from the floor, pulling it over his shoulder as he left.

It was weird not seeing his dad, but Stiles had heard how late—or early, really—he had come in, and he hadn't wanted to wake him up. He typed out a text, wishing him a good day, and he knew his dad would see it and respond once he was up.

The drive to school was quiet, and Stiles did his best to ignore the way his heart was racing. He felt infinitely more settled knowing that he had Lydia on his side, knowing that he wasn't going to be facing the day alone. He had no idea how he would react to seeing Scott, and even the mere thought of it had fear climbing up his throat.

Knowing that he would have Lydia on his side was the only thing that gave him the strength to get out of his Jeep, though he walked slowly towards the school. He was in no rush to start his day.

Luckily, Scott didn't seem to be around. Either that, or he was staying away from Stiles. It hurt, even after everything, but he was glad that he hadn't had to face him. By the time lunch rolled around, Stiles' heart was beating easier. His classes were as boring as ever, but he did his best to pay attention.

“Hello Stiles,” Lydia said, and Stiles startled as he put his bag into his locker. He hadn't heard her walk up, and when he glanced down she was once again wearing flat shoes.

“Hi,” he said, looking down at her.

“Please tell me you've washed this,” Lydia said, plucking at his sweater, and she huffed when Stiles shook his head. If he tried hard enough, he felt like he could still smell Peter in the fabric, and he didn't want to lose that. “That is disgusting.”

Stiles shrugged, unrepentant. Lydia laughed at him, and it made it easy to smile as they walked towards the cafeteria. He bumped their shoulders together, earning him a smile.

Scott was sitting at their usual table, and Malia, Kira and Liam were all sitting with him at the table. Stiles saw Scott's head whip up when they walked into the cafeteria. He ducked his head, avoiding Scott's gaze as he followed Lydia deeper into the cafeteria, walking past the table without sparing them another glance.

It hurt, walking past Scott. But Stiles knew they would never be what they once were, that they may never even be friends again. Stiles had forgiven Scott of a lot, over the years, but this wasn't something Stiles could forgive him for. He could still, so easily, imagine the slick slide of Alpha command running down his spine as it tried to take up root in his mind.

Stiles shook his head, trying to push the feeling away.

Lydia sat down first, and Stiles walked to the other side of the table and sat across from her. They were near the back of the cafeteria, sitting at one of the few remaining empty tables. He wasn't surprised when no one sat on the other end of the table, and Lydia pulled out her lunch as Stiles settled down.

“This is nice,” Lydia said, looking around the cafeteria as she started to eat.

Stiles smiled, taking a bite of his apple and chewing slowly. Taking his time made it easier to eat, much less overwhelming. If he didn't chew enough, the food would get stuck in his throat, and then he couldn't swallow. Sitting with only Lydia, it was easy to take his time, eating as slowly as he needed to.

He yawned widely, tired from the weekend. While he normally would have slept all of Sunday, he hadn't been able to with Lydia over. He hadn't minded when she was there and he still didn't mind now, but he was tired all the same.

“Thank you,” Stiles said, and he laughed when Lydia rolled her eyes at him.

“Of course, Stiles,” she said, and Stiles heard the words she didn't say.

They were pack, and Stiles smile came easy.

Stiles took a deep breath, tapping his fingers against the Jeep's steering wheel. He was nervous, but under that was a giddy sort of excitement that he hadn’t been able to get rid of the last few days. Since Sunday, he had been in a stasis of excitement-fueled-anxiety, thinking about seeing Peter.

He was sure that Peter liked him, that Peter wanted to be with him, but there was still a little, nagging voice in the back of his head that told him he could have read something wrong. After all, they had never talked about being something , and until recently Stiles had never even considered Peter romantically, at least not seriously. Now, it was all he could think about—what it would be like to be with Peter.

And he wanted, oh he wanted, but he...he was nervous. Nervous that he wasn’t ready, that he was rushing into something that he wasn’t sure about. It was the main reason why he had waited so long. It was Wednesday, and Stiles knew that waiting any longer wouldn’t be fair to either he or Peter.

He could only go over a pros and cons list in his head so many times before he had to give in—especially when that list had a majority or pros.

Everyone was supportive. His dad kept asking after Peter, and Stiles knew exactly what the look Lydia kept giving him meant. Jackson had even sent him a text, and Stiles had laughed at the inappropriate string of emoji’s the other boy had sent him. It only cemented that this was a good idea, that this was the right choice to make.

But, there was still that little voice. It was why Stiles waited, despite feeling so sure in Peter’s returned affections. Now that he was here, that he was doing this, his excitement was growing and growing. It felt like he was going to vibrate out of his own skin, possibilities of what could happen running through his head.

Stiles was still wearing Peter's sweater when he rode up the elevator, and panic gripped him for a second before the doors opened. He breathed out, trying his best to think positive and not let himself get too worked up.

He told himself that it would be okay, that it had to be okay, as he walked towards the apartment's door. His heart was beating too-loud and too-fast, his palms sweating with a strange mix of excitement and nerves. He stood in front of the door for just a minute before it was swinging open, and the familiarity helped settle him.

This was Peter , the same Peter he went to when he needed to feel safe, that he clung to for comfort. Peter who had tricked him into drinking meal replacement and never questioned Stiles being in his apartment. Peter who left out notes just in case Stiles came by when he wasn’t home, who found Stiles sleeping in his bed and didn’t say a single word of protest.

Peter who looked at Stiles like he wanted to devour him just as much as he wanted to care for him. Peter, who was staring at him, standing in the middle of the entryway. Stiles closed the door behind him, but he didn’t press any closer, not yet. He wanted to step closer, wanted to press into Peter’s space, but he—he couldn't bring himself to do so.

He wrapped his arms around himself, feeling more vulnerable than he had only a moment ago. Peter was still staring at him, his brows pulled down over his eyes in a very Derek-esque frown. Stiles thought it was rather adorable, but he didn’t dare say that out loud. Rather, he waited as Peter’s face smoothed out, his eyes tracking Stiles up and down.

“You’re wearing my sweater,” Peter said, still staring down at Stiles with something very close to wonder in his eyes. Stiles blushed, but he nodded. “Why are you wearing my sweater?”

Stiles shrugged, unsure of what Peter wanted from him and even more unsure of what he wanted to say. He didn’t have a good answer, not one that wasn't entirely too embarrassing. Peter hummed, but he didn’t press the issue, and for that Stiles was glad. Peter never pressed, never forced Stiles into more than he was ready for.

His early excitement had settled under his skin, but being face to face with Peter was different. Stiles didn’t feel nearly as confident with Peter staring him down, and instead he felt unsure, wrong-footed.

He stepped closer, feeling awkward and uncomfortable with the way that Peter was watching him. Still, he stood his ground, unable to get out the words he wanted to say. They got caught in his throat and he choked them back down. Stiles didn’t know how to start, so he waited for Peter to start the conversation.

“I was beginning to think I had scared you off,” Peter said, though his shoulders held a tight line of tension to them that Stiles hadn’t seen on Peter in a very long time. He didn’t like it, and he really didn’t like that he may have been the one to put it there.

“I was the one who kissed you,” Stiles told him, but it didn’t make Peter relax. The man raised an eyebrow, giving Stiles a ‘go on’ gesture. “Peter…”

Stiles trailed off, not knowing how to put into words what he wanted to say—not sure he was ready to put it into words. It felt like there was too much between them for Stiles to put into words. He felt so much for Peter and he had no idea how to articulate everything he wanted to say—he had always been so good with words, before, and now it felt like he would never be able to tell Peter how he felt.

He stepped closer, straight into Peter’s personal space and reached out, tangling his fingers into the fabric of Peter’s shirt—much like he did last time he was here and wanted Peter’s sweater. Peter was staring at him with hard eyes and an expression that Stiles couldn’t read.

“What is this?” Peter asked, and he lightly grabbed onto Stiles’ forearm, softly wrapping his fingers around Stiles’ skin. Stiles didn’t pull back, and his lips twitched up at the gentle way Peter was holding his arm.

“I don’t know,” Stiles said, and that was true. He knew what he wanted, what he hoped they were, but he still didn’t know for sure.

“I want you to be mine,” Peter said, and there was a pleading quality to his voice. “If you don’t want a relationship, that’s fine. Being pack is enough, but if you say yes—I need to know that you want this, that this is serious for you, too.”

“I want to be yours,” Stiles said, swaying half a step closer, “but you have to be mine, too.”

“Darling, I already am,” Peter said, and when their lips met it was just as sweet as Peter’s words.

Their lips brushed together in a soft slide, nothing more than a gentle pressure. Stiles smiled, pressing the stretch of his lips against Peter’s until it could no longer be called a kiss and then letting out a soft laugh. His heart felt like it was soaring, beating away inside his chest as Peter pressed in for another kiss.

Stiles tried to keep up, stepping closer into Peter’s space. Their chests brushed together and Stiles rocked back onto his heels, leaning in for another series of soft kisses. He couldn't bite down on his smile, and when he finally opened his eyes Peter was watching him with too-bright eyes, his own grin stretched over his face.

Peter’s nostrils flared, and his eyes flashed blue. “Don’t you just smell delicious.”

“What do you mean?” Stiles asked, and he didn’t pull away or protest when Peter wrapped him up in a hug.

“Scents linger, darling,” Peter told him, and he pulled Stiles even closer until they were all pressed together. He slipped his hands up under the back of Stiles’ hoodie, though he didn’t press under Stiles’ t-shirt. “Especially when you don’t wash the sweater you got come all over.”

Stiles’ entire face went hot, and he ducked his head, unable to make eye contact as a strangled noise was pulled out of his throat. He pushed his forehead into Peter’s shoulder, gripping even tighter to Peter’s shirt as his heart threatened to beat out of his chest.

He had no idea what to say, and his stomach knotted with embarrassment even as Peter continued to hold him close. Stiles tensed up, his fists tightening into Peter’s sweater even as he thought of stepping back.

“I’m sorry,” Peter said, and he sounded sincere.

“It’s alright,” Stiles told him, turning his head until he could press a kiss into Peter’s jaw. “It’s...I’m sorry. I’m just not, uh, not—”

“That is more than alright, sweetheart,” Peter assured, and Stiles believed him.

They stood together in silence, and Stiles revelled in how good it felt to just hug Peter. It was easy to calm down now that he was here, and Stiles felt giddy, standing here wrapped up in Peter.

“Would you like to come in?” Peter asked, and Stiles nodded, not letting go of Peter’s shirt as he stepped back, following him step for step as Peter walked backwards into the apartment.

Peter laughed brighter and louder than Stiles ever could have imagined hearing and pressed in for another kiss, their noses knocking together. Stiles laughed quietly, his heart feeling fit to burst as he took in the look Peter was giving him. He finally let go, letting Peter walk ahead of him. Stiles went into the living room as Peter went into the kitchen.

He waited, unsure what to do with himself now. It felt different, being in Peter’s apartment now. No less comfortable, no less safe, but there was something more , something that hadn’t been there before. It was the possibility of what they were, maybe, but Stiles liked the weight that had settled in his chest.

“I got you another book,” Peter told him, walking out of the kitchen with his two glasses of ‘chocolate milk’. Stiles smiled as he took it, sitting on the couch as he watched Peter walk over to the bookshelf. “I think this one is what we’ve been looking for.”

Stiles made a noise of interest, making grabby-hands for the tome Peter was now holding. It was thick, bigger than any of the books Peter had gotten for him yet, and it looked promising just because of that. Peter handed it to him, and Stiles was surprised at just how heavy it really was. Stiles placed it on his lap, looking up as Peter began walking away.

Making a noise of protest, something like a whine, he pouted when Peter looked over at him. Peter seemed to know exactly what Stiles wanted, and he stepped away from the armchair he was about to sit on, making his way over to the couch. Peter sat on the opposite end, leaving an entire cushion between them and Stiles smiled at him, thankful.

He drew his legs up, turning so his back was pressed against the arm of the couch. Stiles stretched his legs out, tucking his feet under Peter’s thigh and wiggling his toes until Peter wrapped his hand softly around one of Stiles’ ankles, much like he had held onto Stiles’ wrist earlier.

Stiles smiled, watching as Peter pulled his phone out of his pocket and began tapping away. He looked down at the book, skimming through a few pages to get a gist of what it would be about. It already looked promising, and he flipped back to the start, settling in to read as Peter rubbed circles into his ankle.

The book Peter had given him was big, and while Stiles had made a dent in it back at Peter’s apartment, he hadn't gotten very far. Even three days later he wasn't finished reading, despite spending most of his nights working through it as his body kept him from sleeping.

It was amazing, the things he was learning. It had taken a few tries, but they had finally found a book that focused on Stiles' spark and what it meant, where it had come from. The history behind it was as fascinating as it was heartbreaking. The first part of the book was how sparks had been run down by hunters: hunted for game and captured, forced to use their magic against their will.

By the time Stiles got through that, it made a little more sense as to why Stiles had never found anything about sparks during his initial supernatural research. If he tried, he could sort through the memories left behind by the Nogitsune and find glimpses of them from past lifetimes. He had shared all the information excitedly with Peter, spending even more time at the man’s apartment than he had before.

It took a while for Stiles to read about his actual magic, but when he did he was hooked. His magic was founded in his belief, and from what Stiles was reading, all he needed to harness the spark of power inside his chest was to believe that he could. He wasn't sure how that would work, and he wasn't yet willing to give it a try, but it was interesting nonetheless.

His laptop pinged, pulling his attention from the tome that was stretched out over his lap.

Stiles had been looking for an Alpha since Lydia had first brought it up. He had gotten Danny to create a program that would search for specific keywords in the news, and while it had been incredibly draining, he had been able to get through an entire conversation. Danny had come over later that day and did something with Stiles' computer for a few hours.

Now, his computer dinged when specific keywords appeared in news articles all across the country. Stiles had no idea how Danny had done it, but it seemed to be working. Stiles was sure that every article it had pulled up was related to the supernatural. It was clear to tell when a death was supernatural related, but so far nothing had screamed Alpha.

It was frustrating, more so with all the time he and Peter were spending together. Stiles wanted so bad to make Peter his Alpha, to be pack , real honest pack, with him and with Lydia and, when he came back, Jackson. Stiles wanted to feel the deeper bonds that would form when they had an Alpha connecting them together.

He hadn't asked Peter yet, though he had considered bringing it up. Stiles knew that Peter wanted to be an Alpha again, and he knew that Peter already considered him pack. He wasn't worried that Peter would be against it, and he hadn't wanted to get the man’s hopes up in case nothing worked out, or force Peter to wait it out as he struggled to find someone for Peter to take the power from.

Now, Stiles was vibrating out of his skin with excitement, reading through the article that had popped up. It was exactly what Stiles had been looking for: useless, violent death caused by something that couldn't be human. The erratic pattern and cause of death screamed werewolf, and while Stiles couldn't be sure that it was an Alpha, the amount of death led him to believe it was.

Stiles knew he had to get there fast, else hunters get to the Alpha first. Now that Stiles was so close, the thought of letting the opportunity slip through his fingers made his heart jump, a sick mix of fear and disappointment sliding down his belly. He reached for his phone only to find it missing, before he finally pulled his eyes away from his computer.

He had to walk over to his bed, where he had at some point plugged it in, and he didn't waste any time pulling up Lydia's contact. Stiles held his breath as he listened to the phone ring, tapping his fingers against his knee as he waited.


“I think I found something,” Stiles said, biting into his bottom lip to keep down the giddy smile.

Lydia's voice crackled over the line, but Stiles could hear the excitement as she spoke. “Really, where?”

“Down in Beacon Valley,” Stiles told her, already standing and thinking of what they would need, when they would be able to get away.

There was silence for a long minute before Lydia took a deep breath before speaking. “I'll text you an address. Can you meet me there?”

“Of course,” Stiles said, walking back over to look at the time in the corner of his laptop's screen. It wasn't even five yet, the beginnings of sunlight only just starting to light up the sky. “When?”

“Now,” Lydia said, and Stiles exhaled deeply. “We'll want to be as fast as possible, right?”

“Yeah. Yeah, thank you, Lydia,” Stiles told her, taking a few deep breaths to try to calm down.

He hung up after that, waiting for her text before pulling on a pair of pants, grabbing his keys from the edge of his desk and running down the stairs. Typing on his phone as he walked, he put the address, not recognizing the area it was in.

The address turned out to be a yard of large, industrial-sized storage units, all locked behind a large metal fence. Lydia was already outside when Stiles pulled up, and she got out of her car when Stiles parked. She looked far to put together for five a.m., and Stiles smiled at her, excitement thrumming under his skin.

This was really happening. Stiles ignored the fear trying to claw up his throat, doing his best to focus on the excitement he could still feel. They were going to get an Alpha for Peter and then they were going to be pack , real, solid, bonded pack. Stiles had to bite his bottom lip to keep in a ridiculous noise of excitement, making his way over to where Lydia was standing.

“Allison told me about this,” Lydia told him, and her voice was quiet, hushed in the early morning light.

She pulled out a key to unlock the padlock on the gate, dropping the chain and gently pushing the metal fence open. They slipped inside, walking down the rows of units until Lydia stopped in front of one. She used a different key on the lock keeping the unit closed, and Stiles watched her take a deep breath before reaching down to pull the door up and open.

Stiles’ mouth fell open in shock as he took in the rows and rows of weapons lining the inside of the unit. In the centre there was a long table, covered in ammunition and other deadly looking tools. He took a half step forward, falling back when Lydia grabbed at the sleeve of his hoodie.

“Be careful,” she told him, and Stiles nodded, a small smile pulling at his lips.

“Let me try something,” he said, widening his stance and squaring his shoulders.

Stiles focused on the spark of magic inside his chest, pulling at the warmth until it spread through his whole body. His fingertips tingled, his magic humming under his skin in a way he had never felt before. He closed his eyes, focusing on the feeling of it in and around him.

He pushed out, focusing as hard as he could on what he wanted to happen. It felt like he could ‘see’ where his magic was, the way that it was slithering over the storage units, across the rows of weapons. Lydia was a spot of darkness beside him, black magic vibrating in the space she stood. His spark surrounded her, and he watched as the golden light of his magic jumped against hers.

Stiles focused again, pushing his magic into the storage unit and trying to think solely of safe passage. He didn’t want any sort of trap being set off, considering they had no idea what type of protection this thing would have. Now that he was focusing on it, it was easy for Stiles to feel the line of mountain ash with his magic, as well the trip wire set-up to a camera.

He pushed his magic at both, surprised when he felt them giving away under the pressure. Stiles felt it all through his body when his magic broke the line of mountain ash, when it pushed at the camera and disconnected it. His body tingled, a shiver running up and down his arms as he slowly pulled his magic back inside himself.

He took a deep breath, slowly blinking his eyes open as he pulled his spark back, letting it fade until it was nothing more than the usual brightness that sat in his chest. When he finally looked over, Lydia was staring at him with wide, shocked eyes, and Stiles shrugged, ducking his head even as pride welled up in his belly.

“Magic?” Lydia asked, and he nodded. He couldn’t find the words to explain, but when he glanced back up, she wasn’t looking at him anymore.

Stiles stepped forward, making sure to step over the hidden wire. Lydia followed after him, and they slowly walked to the main table, looking over the weapons there.

“How the hell are we going to do this?” Stiles asked, sending a wide-eyed look to Lydia.

“I have no clue,” she said, and Stiles took a deep breath.

“Shit,” he cursed, and Lydia nodded her head in agreement.

Stiles took a deep, shuddering breath, rolling out his shoulders as he dropped the body onto the floor. The Alpha was heavy , and Stiles was panting from the short walk he had made from his Jeep to the inside of the warehouse. The Alpha groaned, but it didn’t wake up—not that Stiles was too concerned; even if the Alpha did wake up, it was tied up in the wolfsbane laced rope they had found.

He bent forward, resting his hands on his knees as he continued to breathe deeply, trying to calm his racing heart. Now that he had the Alpha where he had texted Peter to meet him, the adrenaline that had been keeping him going was slowly beginning to ebb away. It was leaving him exhausted, all too aware of the thirty-three hours that he had been awake for.

On top of that, there was the magic he had used. It turned out that subduing a feral Alpha happened to be a little more work than either he or Lydia had thought. They had been as prepared as they could have thought to be—armed with high-powered tasers and wolfsbane rope, noise emitters and a few guns with regular bullets—but they had still hardly survived.

Things had been going well, for a second, until the Alpha shook off its confusion and locked onto their scent. Stiles had done his best to lock down on his fear, pushing it away so he could focus on the task at hand and not die. Regular bullets had done nothing to slow the Alpha down, and it hadn't been until Lydia screamed, loud enough to shake the earth, that the Alpha stumbled to a halt, grabbing at its ears as it roared with pain.

Stiles was able to pull at his own magic, then, and he pushed all of it at the Alpha. He hadn’t stopped until the Alpha wasn’t moving and his own nose was bleeding. Only then did he pull his magic back, stumbling to the side until Lydia caught up and held him steady. They had then made quick work of tying the Alpha up before stuffing him into Stiles’ jeep.

It had taken a lot out of them both, and now, having carried the Alpha into the warehouse on his own, Stiles was exhausted. He straightened his back, smoothing down his clothes as anxiety began to creep up his spine. He still had no idea how Peter was going to take this, what Peter was going to do when he got here. There was a chance, however slim, that Peter wouldn’t want to be Alpha, wouldn’t want to be his Alpha—though that wasn’t even a thought that he wanted to entertain.

He couldn’t lose Peter, not now. Stiles tapped his fingers against his thigh, pulling out his phone to reread the text thread between him and Peter for the fourth time. He felt a little ridiculous, for being so nervous, but he couldn’t help it. Even Lydia’s reassurance hadn’t helped, and now he just had to wait.

“Stiles!” he heard Peter call, and he spared one last look at the still unconscious Alpha before hurrying to the warehouse's door.

They were in the middle of nowhere, a twenty-minute drive outside of town in a long-ago abandoned building. Lydia had been the one to find it during the four-hour drive to where the Alpha had been. He checked the time on his phone as he pulled open the big, sliding door, smiling when it showed that Peter was an entire fifteen minutes early. He wasn’t at all surprised, but it still made him smile.

Stiles stumbled, just a little, when he finally saw Peter. The man’s eyes were glowing blue, his fangs and claws both out. His shirt was stretched tightly across his chest, his jeans clinging to his thighs and Stiles stared , not at all ashamed. The sight was more than just nice, but it was more than just Peter’s good looks. Relief rushed through him, and he staggered again, all tension rushing out of him.

“Stiles, what is going on,” Peter asked, rushing forward and hovering his hands over Stiles’ arms, waiting for Stiles’ nod of approval before he pulled Stiles into a hug.

After a moment, he was able to hug Peter back, twisting his fists into the back of Peter’s shirt as he let himself fall forward, letting Peter hold up all of his weight. His knees gave out in exhaustion, but Peter was holding him tight enough that it didn’t matter. Peter was breathing heavily, his face tucked into Stiles’ neck.

“Why do you smell like wolf?” Peter demanded, his voice more of a growl than anything else as he pressed the words into the skin of Stiles’ neck. He nosed there, and Stiles shivered when Peter’s mouth dragged over the skin of his throat.

“I have a surprise,” Stiles said sheepishly, biting into his bottom lip to keep in a whine when Peter’s fang caught on his skin.

“What type of surprise requires such a remote location?” Peter asked, though neither of them pulled back, not for another few moments.

“A big one?” Stiles finally said, tangling his fingers with Peter’s before he walked back to the entrance.

He ignored the pounding of his heart, the way his heartbeat was too loud in his own head. Exhaustion was settling in, and Stiles wanted nothing more than to curl up and sleep , but he couldn't, not yet. Not until Peter was Alpha or—or wasn’t, but Stiles didn't want to think about that.

The Alpha was just waking up when they walked through the front door, and Stiles watched as he slowly came back to consciousness. He blinked his eyes open before he suddenly shot up, snarling and snapping his teeth as he tried to twist out of his bindings. Stiles could see where the wolfsbane rope was pulling and burning at his skin, and the Alpha whined as he continued to struggle.

“Oh, sweetheart,” Peter said, and there was an awed reverence to his voice. Stiles looked over to find him staring intently at the Alpha, his own eyes still glowing blue, his mouth twisted up into a smile.

“He’s for you,” Stiles told him, twisting his fingers together nervously.

“What a wonderful present,” Peter said, and he grabbed Stiles’ hand back in his own, tugging Stiles closer to him. Peter nosed at Stiles’ temple before he placed a long kiss to Stiles’ cheek, and he blushed, looking down. “Is this really what you want, darling?”

“Yes,” Stiles said, the agreeance falling from his lips easily. He faced Peter then, letting the man brush a kiss to his lips before he continued. “We want this. Want you .”

“And who is we?” Peter asked him, holding Stiles’ hips. Stiles ignored the Alpha on the ground, rather thinking of how to best answer Peter.

“Jackson is coming back,” Stiles explained, leaning further into Peter’s chest. “Lydia said that he would need an Alpha, that we would all need an Alpha. I...I understand if you don’t—if you don’t want them as pack, but, but—”

“Darling, I've told you. You were already pack, and that makes the people that you consider to be pack my pack as well,” Peter told him, and Stiles deflated further. “Do you want me as your Alpha?”

Yes ,” Stiles said, pressing in for a kiss. When he pulled back, Peter’s eyes were once again glowing blue, his smile stretched over his fangs.

He rested his head on Peter’s shoulder, doing his best to keep himself awake. He didn’t want to miss this, and he leaned forward when Peter stepped back, straightening up with a yawn. Stiles watched, excitement starting to climb up his stomach as Peter stalked forward, circling the still-thrashing Alpha.

Peter didn’t say anything as he grabbed a fistful of the Alpha’s hair, though he made eye contact with Stiles the second before he brought his claws down, slashing through the Alpha’s throat. Blood sprayed out, a horrible gurgling whine slipping out of the Alpha’s throat.

Peter bowed forward, a painful sounding howl ripping out his throat. Stiles watched as fur sprouted over his cheeks, his eyebrows melting into his face as a heavy ridge pushed forward. It looked painful, the way the shift seemed to be taking over, and Stiles stood back.

He wasn’t afraid, not even when Peter straightened up. His eyes were blood-red, shining with more power than Stiles had ever seen before. He could feel it, with his spark and inside his chest, a bond springing to life. Stiles gasped, overwhelmed as the feeling rocked through him, forcing him to stumble backwards.

It was stronger than anything he had ever felt before, and he raised a hand to press over the feeling. He could...feel Peter , in a way he had never thought possible. When he focused, he could feel the bond and he could see the way it connected them together, strengthening by the second.

Peter stalked towards Stiles, harshly panting. He stopped just before Stiles, his nostrils flaring as he breathed in heavily. Peter looked wild, but he looked powerful . Stiles could feel Peter’s new status echoed in his own chest, the way Peter was still reeling from the rush of power.

It was heady, and Stiles continued to stand still, watching as Peter watched him. Neither of them moved, not for several long minutes. Stiles waited as the crazed-edge in Peter’s eyes dimmed, though the brightness of his new power didn’t.

“Sweetheart,” Peter said, and Stiles understood, could feel Peter’s confusion and how overwhelmed he was.

“Alpha,” Stiles said quietly, the word rolling from his lips as he held out a hand. Peter took it and stepped closer, so close that their chests were brushing together.

“I love you,” Peter said, his words slurred around larger fangs than Stiles had ever seen before.

When Peter cupped his face, his claws were longer and darker, but still, Stiles wasn’t afraid. He could never be afraid of Peter. He couldn’t say the words, wasn’t even sure he felt them himself, but he pressed forward for a kiss, ignoring the way Peter’s fingers were still sticking out.

Stiles yelped when Peter suddenly picked up him , holding firmly to Stiles’ thighs. He scrambled for purchase, grabbing onto Peter’s shoulders as the man dropped to the floor, Stiles sprawled out over his thighs.

“I love you,” Peter said again, and Stiles laughed, resting their foreheads together, getting lost in Peter’s eyes.

“The floor is dirty,” Stiles told him, rubbing their noses together.

He smiled, his grin stretching over his face until his cheeks hurt with it, listening to Peter laugh and laugh and laugh.