Peter’s voice is back in three days, although he has to spend the first one speaking at a whisper. By the fifth, he’s able to have liquids and soft food, and at the end of the week, seems fully recovered. Stiles does his best not to hover while all this is going on, although he only manages it about half the time.
He’s only just managed to get back to his own place for some peace and quiet when the door opens and Peter walks in. Stiles can’t help but be somewhat amused at this. “Hey, Uncle P, what’s up? How are you feeling?”
“I’m fine,” Peter says. “I have something to do down at the office and I thought you might like to join me.”
“Oh, sure,” Stiles says, since Peter is obviously in one of his cryptic moods and probably won’t be explaining himself any time soon. He pulls on his shoes and says okay when Peter asks him to drive. He can’t help but fill the air with nervous chatter as he drives down, but Peter doesn’t seem to mind, listening with fond tolerance.
It’s not that it’s been a bad week. It’s actually been a pretty good week. Scott took a few days off work so he could be home and hang out with Stiles to help Derek keep him distracted. Cora snagged the job of production manager at the local theater group’s production of As You Like It and it’s all she can talk about. He’s been baking a lot and playing with the kids.
But it’s been hard to distract himself from everything that had happened, and he’s been having bad dreams. It seems stupid to have nightmares about something that he doesn’t even remember happening, but he keeps dreaming about killing Peter, dreams where he’s conscious but not in control of his actions, where he’s forced to watch himself kill the people he loves most.
It’ll get better, he supposes. He’s had nightmares before, after what had happened with Kate Argent, what had happened with Deucalion. They go away after a little while.
He watches in interest as Peter goes through the same security as before to get into his office, and follows him inside. “So what are we doing here?”
“We have some changes to make,” Peter says, and gestures to the constellation of packs on the back wall. He opens a drawer and pulls out a pair of scissors. “Would you care to do the honors?”
“Hell fucking yes,” Stiles says, accepting them. Then he pauses and says. “Just cut the whole section off?”
“Mm hm. It’s all done on a posterboard base. You should be able to snip them right out.”
“Cool.” Stiles has to move over a file cabinet so he can climb on top of it, as the Douglas pack is towards the top of the constellation. He removes the pin around which the threads are wrapped, letting them drop downwards. Then he cuts around the name ‘Douglas’, neatly removing it from the constellation entirely.
“Just follow each thread to its destination and you should be able to pull it from around the pin now that it’s free from the other end,” Peter says, and Stiles nods and does so, removing the green and red threads that had radiated from the Douglas pack. Once he’s done, he climbs off the cabinet and stands back to admire his work. “That’s better, isn’t it?” Peter asks.
Stiles nods. “I feel a little bad for the pack members who didn’t know anything about this, though.”
“Why?” Peter asks. “It’s not like they’re going to go to prison. They’ll join different packs. Packs that aren’t run by homicidal maniacs.”
“True,” Stiles says, cheering up.
“Besides,” Peter says, “from what your father has been telling me, I think that Charlotte was actually the only one who didn’t know. We can feel it, you know, when our alpha dies. When any pack member dies. They would have felt some unease and pain at his ‘death’,” he makes air quotes, “and for someone young and inexperienced like Charlotte, she would have assumed that was what it was. But I doubt the older ones would have been fooled. Besides, Douglas was living at the den, in his own house.”
“Was he?” Stiles asks. “I had kind of wondered about that.”
Peter nods. “That’s why they moved Charlotte into Russ and Gloria’s house. There was no reason she couldn’t have stayed in Garrett’s – his sister and her husband were still living there, and they could have looked after her. But they moved her to the other house so she wouldn’t realize her father was still there.”
“Makes sense,” Stiles says. He watches as Peter pulls out a packet of multi-colored thread and starts adding new strings to the constellation. More blue between the Janssen pack and the Hale pack, a yellow thread between Hale and Romero. “So wait, does that mean that there are pack members who knew about Douglas’ plan to frame the Janssens and, you know, kill us all, who aren’t going to be punished?”
“We’ll probably never know exactly how much his siblings and their mates knew about his plan,” Peter says. “There’s not much we can do about that.”
Stiles chews on his lower lip. “Okay, but, uh, won’t they be pissed? We sort of killed – worse than killed – their alpha. And we killed Russ, too.”
“Of course they will be,” Peter says. “Or at least there’s a very good chance they will be. Now, we’ll make sure they’re split up, and settled into packs far away from us, although physical distance isn’t the deterrent it used to be, thanks to the internet. And then we’ll watch them.” He turns away from the constellation and sits down on the desk, letting his legs dangle. “That’s our job, Stiles. To monitor them, by whatever means necessary, and make sure that they aren’t going to pose a threat. And if they do pose a threat, to remove them before they can act.”
Stiles nods, but then pushes both hands through his hair. “It’s just . . . it sounds fucking exhausting to have to do that.”
“It can be,” Peter says. “I won’t lie. It can be demanding, and draining, and awful. The Left Hand is not a position that anybody can do. But it keeps the pack safe.” He reaches out and tousles Stiles’ hair. “And I’m glad I’m not doing it alone anymore.”
At this, Stiles manages a smile. “How do you keep track of people like this?”
“You’ll laugh if I tell you.”
“Probably,” Stiles says.
Peter gives a snort. “Through friends.”
Stiles does laugh. “You have friends?”
“I do,” Peter says, smirking. “Or at least I have allies, people who owe me favors, debts. That’s something else it’s important to keep track of, a little constellation of its own. You’ll be even better at it than me, because the entire werewolf world owes you debts from what happened with the WLO.”
“The owe you more than they owe me for that,” Stiles says. “You’re the one who killed Kate Argent.”
“It doesn’t matter who killed her,” Peter says. “It matters who found her. That’s what you keep trying to misunderstand about that. You keep trying to say I was the one responsible for taking down Kate Argent, but without you, I wouldn’t have known who to take down, let alone been capable of it.” Peter shakes his head. “What’s the first thing I taught you?”
“Take whatever people will give you,” Stiles says automatically. “Take it without hesitation or shame.”
“People have given you the credit for what happened,” Peter says. “People have willingly placed themselves into your debt. They’re happy to be there and they’ll be happy to pay you back. Don’t ever forget that. It’ll make the burden so much easier to carry.”
Stiles manages a nod. “Okay.”
Peter checks his watch. “On that note, we should get back to the house. Talia said she had something planned for dinner.”
“Yeah, she told me,” Stiles says. They head back out to the car. “Not that she told me what she had planned, but I think she thinks I need a night off. Which is fair. I need an entire week off. I think Derek and I should go to Hawaii for the week or something. You can all just eat sandwiches or whatever. Malia can keep Dad from eating too many cheeseburgers. That’s like her favorite thing to do in the universe.”
Peter gives a quiet snort. “Yes, she and Marisela take altogether too much joy in policing your father’s diet. It’s amazing what they get away with. It’s also amazing how many cheeseburgers he still manages to eat when he knows you’re not looking.”
“Hey!” Stiles sulks. “Don’t encourage him.”
“I would never.”
Stiles is still fake-sulking when they get back to the den, and he’s surprised to see a lot more cars there now than there had been when they had left an hour previous. “Did Talia invite some people over for dinner?”
“You could say that,” Peter says, as Stiles parks the car. Once they get out, he takes Stiles’ elbow and steers him around the main house to see the clearing set up a little like it had been for the wedding. There are tables and chairs, each one draped with a pristine white tablecloth and set with flowers. Lights have been strung up between the trees, giving the clearing a soft glow that accentuates the setting sun.
“What . . .” Stiles manages.
Talia, seeing them approach, hurries over. “Well, what do you think?” she asks with a smile.
“I think I’d like to know what’s happening,” Stiles says.
Talia arches an eyebrow at him. “Derek did say you still wanted to get married. Don’t tell me you’ve changed your mind.”
“Of course I do, but – how did you even – ”
“We’ve been planning it ever since what happened at Valack’s house,” Aaron says, wrapping an arm around his wife’s waist. “Well, even a little before that. Derek had made it clear that he wasn’t going to just not marry you, God forbid. So we had been talking with the alphas in the area. They weren’t thrilled with it, to be honest, but they did agree that what happened was unfair. Then we found out Douglas wasn’t even dead, so.” He gives a little shrug. “They came around.”
“So, wait, is this happening right now?” Stiles starts to hyperventilate. “Which part of the ceremony did we skip to? Do I have to start all over and greet everyone again? I don’t know where my flashcards wound up – ”
“Softly, softly,” Aaron says, squeezing his shoulder. “You don’t need to start over. Talia told everyone that we were just going to do a smaller, private ceremony. Less chance that something else would happen to, you know, make a hash of things.”
“They were okay with that?” Stiles asks, a little surprised.
“Oh, no, a lot of them were really annoyed,” Talia says, with a snort. “But they gave up after I reminded them that you had been through quite enough on behalf of the werewolf world. They begrudgingly agreed that since you had done the welcoming ceremony once already, they would take that as your formal entrance to the regional hierarchy. Ah, there’s Scott and Allison – they’re going to help you get ready.”
“Oh – okay,” Stiles says, still a little stunned as the two of them each get one of his arms and sweep him into the main house. “Where’s Derek?”
“He’s getting ready over at the other house,” Scott says. “Cora and Isaac are with him.”
“Did he know about this? Did you all know about this?”
“Derek knew, kind of peripherally, that his parents were setting it up,” Allison says, grabbing a tuxedo bag from the front hall closet. “And he had talked with them about which parts of the ceremony were most important to the two of you. Because, you know, we couldn’t get all the vendors together on such short notice, even with generous cash bribes. But he didn’t know it was going to be today.”
“Hell, we didn’t even know that until yesterday,” Scott says. “That was when the bakery confirmed they would have the cake ready in time.”
“And, and the caterer and everything?”
“We lost some of the smaller, less important parts,” Allison tells him. “The caterer is here. They freaked out at first but once we told them it would be a much smaller party, they agreed they could do it. The photographer is here. The band couldn’t make it so there’s a DJ instead. We did most of the decorating and everything ourselves.”
“You guys are amazing,” Stiles says, snuffling a little despite himself.
“Yes, we are,” Scott agrees. “Now strip.”
Stiles takes a hasty shower and then gets dressed in the tuxedo that’s been waiting for him ever since the day of the ceremony. He’s not a huge fan of formal wear, but at least he doesn’t have to wear a bow tie. Instead, he has a necklace that has the Hale pack’s insignia, the triskele, that fits underneath the collar. “Okay, how do I look?”
“Great,” Scott says, giving him a thumb’s up.
“Here’s your shoes,” Allison says, handing them over.
“Oh my God, this is actually happening,” Stiles says, tugging them on. “Oh my God, I’m freaking out. Where’s my dad? He’s here, right? He must be here – ”
“Your dad was helping the twins get ready for the ceremony. He’s probably downstairs by now.”
“Okay,” Stiles says. He allows Allison to run a comb through his hair and give it the usual spikes before he pulls away and runs down the stairs. As predicted, his father is there, in a suit and tie, and both the twins are as well. They’re wearing sundresses that are identical in style but different in color; Malia’s is a pale yellow and Marisela is in lavender. They’ve both had rather elaborate hairdos done and are wearing a bit of eyeshadow and lipstick. “Wow, who are these two beautiful young ladies?” Stiles jokes.
“Stiles!” Malia protests. “We’re your little sisters!”
“Of course you are,” Stiles says, sweeping them both into a hug. “You’re the best flower girls a guy could ask for.”
Now they’re beaming at him, and Stiles straightens up and hugs his father. Tom embraces him for a long minute, before saying, “Okay, you ready?”
“I was ready months ago,” Stiles says.
“Then let’s go.”
Stiles forces himself to walk outside rather than run. The clearing is now filled with people. Even though the ceremony is going to be smaller, and they aren’t hosting every alpha in the region, there are still plenty of people there. The Hale pack has lots of friends. Stiles waves to Boyd and Erica, watches happily as his father finds Peter in the crowd and gives him a kiss on the cheek, says hi to Danny and Heather. Corey and Mason are there, along with Liam Dunbar, Hayden Romero, and their alpha. The entire Janssen pack is in attendance, with Charlotte practically glued to Haji’s side and Haji keeping his arm around her every second.
None of that is really important because, at one end of the clearing where an archway has been set up, is Derek. He’s wearing a tuxedo similar to Stiles’, although his has a white jacket, and every single molecule of him is perfect. He turns and sees Stiles emerge at one side of the crowd, and a smile lights up his face so brightly that Stiles nearly swoons and passes out.
Someone starts up some music, Pachelbel’s Canon, and everyone heads to the chairs lined up in front of the arch. Deaton is presiding at the head of it, wearing his Druids’ regalia. The Hale family occupies the first few rows. Cora is standing at Derek’s side, looking elegant in a dark green dress, and Isaac is giving her dreamy eyes from the assembly.
“Okay, girls,” Tom says in a low voice, and Malia and Marisela start up the aisle, sprinkling the flower petals on either side of them and occasionally throwing a handful into the audience (and once or twice, at each other). Scott and Allison go up next; Scott sees Allison to her seat in the front row and then takes up the position opposite Cora. Tom takes Stiles’ arm, supporting his weak knees, and walks him down the aisle, guiding him into the place facing Derek before sitting down next to Peter and the twins.
“You look amazing,” Derek says softly, just loud enough for him to hear, and Stiles has to hastily knuckle away a few tears before murmuring that Derek does too.
The sun has mostly set, and the clearing has taken on the glow of the lights strung up in the trees. Deaton greets everybody and starts talking about love and devotion, about the amazing mysticism of the mating bond, and honestly Stiles isn’t even listening because Derek is right there and gorgeous and marrying him and it’s all a little too much. Derek reaches out and takes both of Stiles’ hands in his and gives them a squeeze.
“Source of life and spirit of love, fill this gathering with your presence,” Deaton says. “Help make this assembly of loved ones present in the promises to which they bear witness. Derek and Stiles, today you enter here as individuals, but you will leave here as husbands, blending your lives, expanding your families, and embarking upon the grandest adventure of togetherness. The story of your life together is yours to write. All those present have come to witness and celebrate your love and commitment this day, eager to be part of the story not yet told.”
Stiles, lost in Derek’s eyes, mouths, ‘I love you’ and sees the corners of Derek’s eyes crinkle as he smiles.
“Do you, Derek, take Stiles to be your partner in life, to share your path with him, to have and to hold from this day forward, promising to honor and cherish, and to grow with you for all the seasons of your lives?”
“I do,” Derek says, squeezing Stiles’ hands.
“And do you, Stiles, take Derek to be your partner in life, to share your path with him, to have and to hold from this day forward, promising to honor and cherish, and to grow with you for all the seasons of your lives?”
“Hell yes,” Stiles replies, and a little laugh goes through the audience.
“Derek, please state your vow,” Deaton says.
Derek squeezes Stiles’ hands again and says, “Stiles, I join my life to yours. I will support and protect you, through good times and bad. No matter what joy or hardship we face, we will face it together. This is my solemn vow.”
“Stiles, please state your vow.”
Stiles almost goes blank despite having heard Derek say the vow two seconds previous, but after a moment, manages to collection himself. “Derek, I join my life to yours. I will support and protect you, through good times and bad. No matter what joy or hardship we face, we will face it together. This is my solemn vow.”
They exchange rings and say a few more things that Stiles barely hears, his hands shaking slightly as he slides the ring onto Derek’s finger.
“Now you will feel no rain, for each of you will be shelter for the other,” Deaton says. “Now you will feel no cold, for each of you will be warmth for the other. Now there will be no loneliness, for each of you will be companion to the other. Now you are two persons, but there is one life before you. What you have joined here together today, no man may sunder.” Deaton finally breaks into a smile. “It is my pleasure to declare that you are now married.”
Stiles throws his arms around Derek and they embrace for a long moment before Stiles manages to pull away enough to go in for a kiss. Derek returns it, with interest, before rubbing his cheek against Stiles’ hair. Then they turn to the crowd, where everyone wants to hug them and congratulate them, and Stiles is so happy that he feels like he could burst. There’s a fierce warmth in his chest that swells every time he looks over at Derek, at his husband. “You married me,” he whispers into Derek’s ear.
“I know,” Derek whispers back. “I was there.”
The music starts and Derek guides him into the little clearing. Stiles rests his face against Derek’s chest, feeling like he’s floating, and Derek wraps his arms around his waist.
“What are you thinking about?” Derek murmurs into his ear.
“I’m not capable of thoughts right now,” Stiles tells him. “You married me. Like just now. It just happened. We’re married now. You’re my husband. No take-backs.”
Derek laughs. “No take-backs,” he agrees. “You know what I was thinking about?”
“Better be me,” Stiles says.
“The day I met you,” Derek says. “Before everything got weird. Those twenty minutes in the Camaro where everything was so new and exciting and perfect. How I could see so many possible futures in front of us. And they all ended here, in this clearing, with you in my arms, wearing that ring.”
Stiles flushed pink and clutches at Derek harder. “You’re an enormous sap. And also, five hundred percent wrong.”
“Wrong?” Derek asks, arching his eyebrows.
Stiles nods and leans in for a kiss. “It doesn’t end here. It doesn’t even peak here, although this is probably gonna be one of the high points. But we have a million more exciting, perfect moments in front of us. As husbands,” he adds, because he just can’t get enough of saying that word. “Now is when we get to live happily ever after. There’s a law or something.”
Derek huffs out a laugh. “Well, I know you would never break a law, so I guess we’ll have to.”
“Damn right,” Stiles says, and kisses him over and over again, until long after the music has stopped.
~ ~ ~ ~