"Stiles," his dad says when Stiles is done talking and he can only hear his laboured breathing at the other end of the line. Because Stiles has apparently forgotten how to do that and has to concentrate actively on it or he'll suffocate. It's great, ten out of ten would repeat again. Not. "Listen to me, kiddo," he says in that calm voice that has always reached him, even when they couldn't look at each other without feeling pain and frustration. "Are you listening, kid?"
"Yeah," he lets out between one deep breath and another.
"Good," his dad says decisively, like he's preparing to tackle an insurmountable obstacle and Stiles braces himself for the verdict. "You did what you had to do."
"You heard me, kiddo. You did what you had to do. Am I happy that you had to do that? No, I'm not. Do I wish there had been another way to do it? Yes, emphatically yes. But there wasn't, kiddo, and a father has to do what he has to do and I'm proud that you didn't hesitate." The way I didn't, goes unsaid, and Stiles bites his lip, reminding himself that it's been years and things are better now. "I'm proud of you, you'll be a good dad."
"Jesus Christ, dad. I'm not- He's not-"
"But he is, isn't he? Call yourself his big brother or uncle or whatever, but for all intents and purposes, he's your son now. Your responsibility. Unless you're thinking of-"
"No!" Stiles protests before he can even think of it.
"Then there you have it."
Stiles looks at the occupant of the second bed of the motel room and watches for a moment the steady rise and fall of his chest. He takes a deep breath himself and reaches to run his hands through the twelve-year-old's locks. Liam's mouth curves into a slight smile but he continues sleeping.
"What are you going to do now?"
"They want me out of the territory. It may have been justified, but apparently I've demonstrated my capacity for violence or something? I guess they're wary."
"So pure bullshit, you mean. You're the same kid that babysat their kids just two days ago. You haven't just suddenly become more powerful or whatever. If anything, this should show that you're not afraid to defend a child when needed," his dad scoffs and Stiles can't help but smile at it."Come with me, kiddo," he finally says after some more intelligible grumbles. He seems to hesitate for a second before adding. "I... I have a room for you. I thought... maybe one day you'd like to visit and you'd like to have your own space, you know? Just... Maybe until you get back on your feet again?"
Stiles takes a second to answer. They have their issues, his dad and him. The separation and long telephone conversations have helped iron some of them, but there are still some that...
"Yeah," he answers finally. "Yeah, I'd like that. But dad, I'm..."
"An adult with your own life now. I understand, kiddo, I really do. But maybe... I can be part of it again? If you'd like that?"
"Yeah- I- Yeah, I would, dad."
It's well into the night and Liam is out like a light when Stiles finally pulls into his dad's drive. As he turns off the car, the lights of the front turn on and the door opens. Stiles smiles because it's been a long time.
(It's a bittersweet smile. The last time he laid eyes on his dad was nearly eight years ago, when he saw him passed out on the sofa of the house they used to have in Fresno. They had just had one of the worst fights they'd ever had. Looking back, Stiles knows that a lot of the things that he let out that night needed to be said, but he'll forever regret the way that he went out of his way to hurt the man as much as he was hurting.)
"Hey, kid," his dad says softly, approaching him almost awkwardly.
"Hey, dad," Stiles says back, reaching for one big Stilinski hug because he refuses to let this be awkward. He didn't leave because he didn't love his dad, he left because he was starting to hate him too and he couldn't handle it. "Missed you," he adds when he feels his dad tighten his grip around him.
"Yeah- I- I've missed you too, kiddo," he replies, voice thick. "So," his dad asks after, clearing his throat a couple of times. "Where's the kid?"
"He's out like a light," Stiles snorts. "I swear, enhanced hearing or not, he'd sleep through the apocalypse."
"Huh, that doesn't sound familiar at all."
"Hey! I wasn't that bad!"
"Should I remind you of the vending machine?"
"The vending machine at the precinct." When Stiles still has the clueless expression after the clarification, John elaborates. "You pestered me for hours for one of those candy bags because I didn't want to buy you, and I quote, just one measly bag of candy. For the record, you had already charmed at least seven deputies out of their own stash and you were so high on sugar that it was a miracle you weren't walking on the ceiling." Stiles emits a dying whale noise at that. "So then you went on strike and tried to chain yourself to the vending machine. Finally, you fell asleep upright against it, slobbering all over the crystal. The other deputies kept getting things from that vending machine and you didn't even stir."
"What?! I did not! You're making this up!"
"I have pictures."
"Oh my god," Stiles whines, covering his eyes, and John pats his back consolingly. Stiles leans on his dad's arm for a moment before he starts moving. "Let's get this show moving, shall we?"
"Are you going to wake him up?" John asks, nodding.
"Yeah, at least so he can see where we are. He won't react well to waking up in an unknown place," Stiles explains rubbing his face tiredly. "I'll probably sleep in his room too, for tonight at least. Or until he wants his own room, in any case."
"Isn't he a little too o-"
"Don't-" Stiles takes a deep breath to stomp on the instinctive reaction of protecting his kid, even against his own dad. "Don't-"
"I'm sorry, I didn't mean anything by..."
"Yeah, I know, dad," Stiles sighs. He waves a hand and a rune array lights up on the car, from the bumper to the tail, before vanishing as fast as it appeared. "Just, never say something like that. If he hears you... It's taken me so much time to even begin to fix..." Stiles takes another deep breath. "He wasn't in a good place, before."
"Uncles. They took him in when his parents died." John straightens up, face going hard as granite. "No, dad, they never abused him. They just... didn't care enough? They provided anything he could need money wise, but..."
"Yeah," Stiles nods. "And then..."
"Yeah." Stiles clears his throat a couple of times, fist clenched and eyes locked onto the kid asleep on the backseat. "A pack is different, ok? Touch is important. Very important. Add to that that I'm his only pack right now. And his anchor too," Stiles says before taking his eyes off his charge to turn them seriously on his dad. "It took me a lot of time to make him comfortable enough to touch me as much as he wants without feeling like... I'm not letting anyone ruin that."
"One room, got it," John nods. "The basement is bigger, if you'd prefer that? We can fit in a bigger bed and also personalize a corner of the room to be yours and another to be the kid's. That way you can be together even when you need some space? Does that sound good?"
"That sounds... awesome, dad," Stiles says smiling, feeling unbelievably relieved that something looks to be going well for a change. "Thanks."
"Come on, let's get you inside. You look like you need that sleep, son."
"What gave it away, the bags or the black under the eyes?" Stiles laughs.
"You look like a racoon," John says dryly as he takes a step back to avoid crowding Liam.
Stiles sends a grateful smile his way and opens the door slowly. "Hey, kiddo," he says softly as he reaches to run a hand through his hair lovingly. "Time to wake up, we've made it." Liam grumbles as he pulls on the blanket to cover his face. When he's done, only a tuft of hair is visible. "Come on, kiddo, there's a bed with your name on it inside."
"Dun wanna," Liam grumbles from inside his cocoon.
He shares an amused look with his dad and then spends the next ten minutes cajoling the kid into moving. The result is that he ends up with a cuddly eighty-something pound bundle in his arms and his dad has to carry the bags inside by himself.
Later, with Liam already completely out for the count again, Stiles bids goodnight to his dad and, after a lot of tense days in which he didn't know what was going to happen, he finally lets himself relax. Tomorrow he has a lot of things to do, but for now he's safe.
He falls asleep in seconds.
As much as Stiles doesn't like it, his first stop has to be wherever the local pack resides. Big city packs are much more open about other werewolves staying (since there are universities and other things in their vicinity), so asking for a temporary residency is a mere formality that takes very little time and effort. Beacon Hills is not a big city, however, so that means Stiles has to meet with the local alpha and explain his intentions clearly to get granted residency or at least safe passage for a while. If he doesn't convince the alpha, he'll either have to fight his way out or leave in the next few hours. It sucks, especially since Liam has to be there and he hates putting him at risk, but that's how things are.
He pinpoints the pack lands very easily. The local pack either has or used to have a druid, because there are wards protecting the place. Not very good wards, mind you, but wards nonetheless. And yes, Stiles may or may not be a snob about wards, but hell, even the first one he created was better and less obvious than this one. It's offensive, that's what it is. It hurts his delicate sensibilities and his hand itches to fix it.
Focus, Stiles, focus.
He shakes his head and grabs the kid before he can stick his foot into the only hole on the whole road. Liam smiles sheepishly and with a mighty jump that nearly sends Stiles to the ground, he gets onto Stiles' back for a piggy ride. Stiles huffs out a laugh but makes no move to dislodge him.
"I'm hungry, Stiles," Liam says as he swings his legs back and forth, a distinct pout in his voice.
"Really?" Liam says, perking up. "I thought we were meeting the alpha?"
"Well, kiddo, in the Middle Ages all you'd have to do is howl right at the edge of the pack lands, and they'd be here in a jiffy. But we're not in the Middle Ages, are we?" He feels Liam shaking his head no. "So now that we know who they are, we're going to call them to set a meeting. Do you know what that means, buddy?"
He walks back to his car, listening to Liam speak a mile a minute about the toppings he wants on his pancakes. When they're almost by the car, Liam slides down until his feet are back on the ground and then rushes to get inside because in his mind, the faster he goes, the faster he gets pancakes.
"If only you were this fast every morning, getting out of bed," Stiles snorts.
"I would be if there were pancakes every morning," Liam replies earning a hearty laugh from Stiles.
"Cheeky little brat," he mutters fondly as he walks to his side of the car and gets inside.
He drives back to the town's center and looks for the diner his dad suggested. Once inside, he calls him to ask about the owners of the land and, from there, it's easy to find a way to contact them and set a meeting.
"We've heard of you," Talia Hale says, not quite walking around him to intimidate him but close enough to make him mildly dislike her from the get-go.
"Is that so?" Stiles replies glibly. He's already presented his case, at this point he can only wait for the verdict. He may want to live here, but he refuses to be cowed or to grovel for it. If push comes to shove and Talia pushes for a violent outcome, well, Beacon Hills' territory may find itself without an alpha. Stiles won't start it, but he sure as hell will end it if they put his kid in danger. "Do share," he adds with a smile, polite but razor-sharp. The way he sees things, he has to set a standard here because these people look like they will chew him up and come back for seconds if he lets them walk over him.
Talia studies him intently for a moment before speaking again. "You don't seem very remorseful about what you did."
Liam pales and tenses under his arm. Just for that, Stiles' smile cools down quite a few notches, going well into glacial territory, which makes the two other werewolves present shift into more obvious protective stances. Stiles doesn't even spare them a glance, his eyes focused into the alpha reds of one Talia Hale.
"Well, that would be because I'm not remorseful at all. I did what I had to do."
"Not mine," he cuts in sharply.
"But you were like brothers. Or so they say at least, and my sources are rarely wrong."
"Let me rephrase that: you're sticking your nose where it doesn't belong, madam."
"I'd tread carefully, boy," the older man that stands to Talia's right growls, showing fang, "if-"
"I would too," he cuts in, "if I was you, but thankfully I'm not. But let's not digress, shall we?" The man takes a step forward and Talia halts him with a gesture. "You're prying. The proper authorities were called after the incident and the matter was resolved. The information that you need, you already have."
"Is that right?" she replies slowly. "Because I don't think so. This is my territory and I won't have you bring strife into it."
"Strife," Stiles states flatly.
"We don't know you. What's stopping you from a repeat performance?" the man sneers.
"Well, that would be telling, wouldn't it?" Stiles sneers back.
"Stiles?" Liam whines, obviously picking up on the aggression that's building up. Stiles tightens his arm around him, lifting his hand to squeeze the back of his neck gently.
"You protected him," the younger man finally speaks after watching the exchange. It's telling that the older one goes silent despite the age difference. It's even more telling that Talia goes silent too. "That's what happened, wasn't it? He..." he stops speaking, his eyes taking in the way that Liam seems to be curling in on himself.
"I did what I had to do," Stiles repeats, chin raising a bit in challenge. "And I'd do it again if I had to."
And just like that, the tension in the three in front of him eases. Stiles fights a frown. Were they testing him? He's pretty sure they were and he doesn't like the feeling at all. He's also pretty sure that these people had enacted some sort of play to be able to judge Stiles' character and Stiles just fell into it headfirst. Irritation bubbles inside him despite knowing he'd do the same.
"Lady, my patience is running thin," Stiles says after a beat of silence, smile finally gone. "I've stated our purpose and intentions clearly. Do you grant Liam the right to stay or not?"
"Just the kid?" the older man asks, face falling into a frown of disapproval, and Liam looks wide-eyed at Stiles. "Are you asking us to take-"
"Do not finish that statement, sir, it's as badly thought as your wards," Stiles snarls, hugging the kid to him. "But we digress. Again. Let me spell it out for you: so long I create no problems of supernatural nature, you hold no authority over me. I'm no werewolf."
"You're pack, though, or the kid would be omega. That means the alpha does hold a measure of authority over you," the younger man points out placidly and Stiles narrows his eyes at him. "We're not asking for much, aren't we? Just a little bit of reassurance since we're also protecting a lot of kids under us. You wouldn't begrudge us that, now would you?"
Stiles is very aware that the man's manipulating him, but at the same time he, very reluctantly, can see the truth behind that statement. He sighs in defeat, leveling an unimpressed glare at the younger man and earning an unrepentant smirk for it.
"Do you grant us residency or not, alpha Hale?" he finally scowls, having to resist the urge to smack the smirk out of the man's face very badly.
"I do," she replies, very amused.
"Great," Stiles grumbles. "So if you have no more questions, we're done here and-"
"I do have one question, though," the younger man says, prompting a groan from the older one.
"Peter," Talia says, amused and exasperated at the same time.
"What? He's the one that-"
"Do ask, Peter," Stiles cuts in flatly, shaking Liam playfully when the kid giggles.
"Why, thank you! You're so very kind to indulge me, Stiles."
"I'm a regular Gandhi, what can I say."
"So, my question."
"The one you said you'll answer, remember."
"How curious, I don't remember saying that."
"Did I now?"
"Yes, right at the start of this meeting, which you now very graciously extended by your own choice by saying that so if you have no more questions," he lilts, making a so on gesture instead of finishing quoting. And fuck, he's right, the little shit. "You're really a regular Gandhi, aren't you?"
Stiles smiles shark-like and Peter matches it.
"Do ask then, Peter."
"Why thank you! So gracious."
"Oh, for the love of-" the other man groans. "Pup, ask your damn question!"
"Uncle David!" Peter growls, cheeks pinking in embarrassment for the nickname that the older man obviously didn't really mean to use but came out anyways by force of habit.
"Yes, pup, do ask," Stiles snarks mockingly.
Peter narrows his eyes at him and Stiles feels like he's being sized up, as if the man is looking for the most vulnerable part to bite into. He smiles challengingly. Peter smiles back.
"Oh, for the love of-" says Talia this time. "Peter ask your question, please?"
Peter's smirk widens and Stiles braces himself, waiting for the blow that's sure to come.
"So, the question."
"The question in question, yes."
"The question in question that you have to answer."
"That pesky question in question that I'll have to answer when you actually get around to finally ask the question in question, you mean."
"I swear to- Peter, the question in quest- Just ask it!"
"Tsk, no patience," both of them say at the same time and Liam dissolves into giggles, hiding his face in Stiles' t-shirt.
"So, the question in question," Peter says, clearly enjoying the groans it elicits.
"Do ask that pesky question in question, Peter," Stiles smirks, earning even more groans.
"So what's wrong with the wards?" Peter finally asks, putting them out of their misery.
Stiles blinks, surprised.
"Oh, now you've done it," Liam pipes in.
Stiles grins shark-like, enjoying Peter's sudden wariness. He searches in his bag for some snacks and a console for Liam, patting his head as he hands them to him. Liam plops down to the ground right there, getting comfy against Stiles' legs.
And then he lays it on them.
For one hour.
The next day is hectic to say the least. He has a lot of matters to settle (from a primary doctor for Liam to their registration certificate, with a veritable ton of other things in between) and it's better to have them done as quickly as possible.
Leaving Liam at home is not an option because he's still wary of his dad, so Stiles has to find new and inventive ways to keep him happy and entertained. Thankfully, he has his own ADHD filled childhood experience to fall back into, so at least he has a head start.
Still, after quite a few hours of bureaucratic frustrations, Liam is one cranky kid and Stiles is frazzled, so he stages a tactical retreat for pizza back at home base. His dad takes a look at the pouting kid and his own nearly manic son and is clearly torn between amusement (karma, Stiles can hear him thinking) and sympathy. Stiles has to remember quite a few times that he's an adult and a rolemodel now, and resist the temptation to stick his tongue out at him and his damn twitching lips.
Still, Stiles calls the whole morning a success. Thanks to Beacon Hills being a relatively small town, everything is practically one step away from the other, so that's saved him a lot of time and effort. Add in that Stiles keeps all his documentation in order out of sheer self-preservation (because his ADHD may be almost gone, but there was a time when it wasn't and not keeping everything in order meant the mental equivalent to blood and tears) and things have gone mostly without a hitch.
As of now, only one big thing remains: Liam's schooling. Liam had already decided that he wanted to actually go to school, not be homeschooled. However, that was before the whole thing with Scott happened, so Stiles doesn't know if it has changed.
"So," he says when they've finally finished lunch and his dad is already dozing before the TV. "School." Liam freezes like a deer in headlights. "Hey, none of that kiddo. Come here," he beckons him.
Liam practically plasters himself against Stiles, his face hidden against his stomach. Stiles squeezes the back of the kid's neck and he goes boneless against him, making him carry his weight entirely.
"I said I wanted to go," he says, muffled.
"Yeah, but do you still want to? There's nothing wrong with changing your mind, kiddo."
"Whatever you want," Stiles says firmly. "You can even give it a try, and if you decide that you're not ready yet, we take you out and homeschool you until you feel you are."
"You were never a scout," Liam pouts. "So that doesn't count."
"I swear on my limited edition Chewbacca figurine and Star Wars DVD trilogy."
"Really???" Liam squeaks, turning his head up to look at Stiles with eyes wide as saucers. Stiles nods seriously. "Then I wanna try!"
"Try you will then, my little padawan."
And that's that, Stiles thinks as Liam grins and squeezes Stiles, burying his face on his stomach once again. Stiles smiles fondly, rubbing his back. They'll take this afternoon to relax and go tomorrow to take care of the enrolment formalities. Apart from that, everything is mostly taken care of since Stiles is a freelancer that can work from anywhere so long he has an internet connection.
"Star Wars marathon?" he offers, even though he knows that Liam is so tired that he'll conk out before the first one is over.
"Hmm, double chocolate?"
Stiles is a little giddy. It feels a little stupid, but at the same time... Well, it's progress, isn't it? It's been nearly three weeks since they made it to Beacon Hills and it's the first time that Liam has decided to stay at home instead of following Stiles wherever he went. Not that he minds the kid's presence! If he could, he'd bundle him up and keep him by his side to cuddle and keep safe forever. He loves Liam so much... But at the same time he knows that most of his clinginess stems from trauma and other issues, so this feels like a huge step forward. Like he finally trusts that Stiles won't disappear if he loses sight of him, that he loves him. And it also means that he's finally comfortable enough to be alone with his dad. So yeah, progress.
And no, he's definitely not checking his phone again and again like a father leaving his baby with a babysitter for the first time. He's not. Nope. Not at all. He's... He's just looking at his grocery list and taking out his phone by mistake, that's all.
Peanut butter. He needs peanut butter.
"Uncle Peter, no," Stiles hears a boy say at the milk aisle of the supermarket. A gleeful duet of "Uncle Peter, yes," follows, this time by two little girls, one way more articulate than the other. And finally, as Stiles is getting a premonitory shiver down his back, a "Well, hello there, Stiles," finishes.
Stiles turns around slowly, preparing for battle. He's greeted first by the sight of a little boy with an impressive judgey frown leveled at the rest of his party. A little to the left, a little girl still in diapers is trying to torpedo her way around, seemingly only stopped by the hand another little girl with a shit-eating grin is keeping latched to the hood of her jacket. And then there's a smiling Peter, who makes him instantly echo his shark-smile in response.
"Hello, Peter," he greets back.
"It's been a while. How are you liking our little town so far? I'm sure it's quite a change from the big city. Phoenix, was it? Or was it Philadelphia?"
"Philadelphia," Stiles answers flatly after a bit of a staring contest. "And yes, quite the change in some ways."
"In some ways?"
"Some things never change, no matter where you are," Stiles elaborates, smile still razor-sharp. "There are busybodies and assholes everywhere. You'll be minding your own business and suddenly they appear out of nowhere."
Peter's smile widens. "Don't forget the smartasses, Stiles, there are quite a few of those everywhere too. But language, please, there are kids present, Talia will be most unhappy if they come back repeating what they shouldn't."
"Oh, my bad, I apologize. Busybodies and anuses."
They stand there brandishing a megawatt smile and using it against the other like a weapon of mass destruction for a few seconds. The moment is broken when the little peanut tries to crash into a stand with so much force that the other girl holding her gets pulled after her with a startled eep. The boy grabs the girl out of reflex and Peter grabs the boy, pulling them all backwards to avoid the train wreck. Then he grabs the little peanut by the back of her jacket and hoists her up to his shoulder like a bag of potatoes, earning squeals of laughter for it.
"Speaking of Talia," Peter continues as if nothing happened. "She was wondering if you had any plans for Thursday."
For a moment, Stiles draws a blank, but then it clicks. The full moon. In Philly, most of the stragglers in the city used to join the official pack of the area. It didn't mean anything, it was just a chance to run free for a night without having to worry about being fully in control. Scott and Liam would do that, and Stiles used to join the emissary and druids living there to create an enclosed place for the werewolves to run wild.
Bottom line, Stiles has run with Liam many times before, but never on a full moon. Still, even if he accepts what he thinks Peter is offering, he's not going to leave Liam alone this time.
"Oh? On what exactly?"
"On if there will be a problem with me joining in." At Peter's surprised face he adds. "You don't think that I'm going to leave him alone, do you?"
Peter's smile sharpens. "Surely you aren't insinuating that we-"
"That's not it."
There's a beat of silence where Peter studies him intently. Whatever he finds satisfies him, because he lets that line of questioning die and relaxes his stance. The kids, who had gone abruptly still and silent, start talking again.
"You've done it before?"
"Not like on Thursday, but yeah. I used to... provide the safety measures."
"Oh? That's interesting," Peter hums. He absently dodges a small fist that comes towards his face with the force of a tiny missile. "You do realize that it's not the same, right? That... there are more risks involved because of the special circumstances?"
"I do," Stiles nods. "I have some... tricks up my sleeve to handle the situation. Other than that, I've run with him before."
"You mean he's run you down," Peter snorts, earning a flat stare from Stiles. He raises his free hand placatingly, if slightly mocking. "I don't see a problem with it, but I'll have to run it by Talia first, just in case. She may be interested in those... safety measures too. I suppose part of it was some sort of enclosure?"
For a second, Stiles nearly puffs up like an offended cat, because his wards are much more complex than that, thank you very much. If the amused tilting of Peter's mouth is anything to go by, the man can tell and Stiles has to resist the urge to pout too.
"Yeah, among other things," he settles for saying instead, voice dry as the desert.
"Great," Peter, honest to god, chirps. "Expect a call from her then."
"Sure," Stiles sighs.
And then they stand there, Peter looking at Stiles expectantly and Stiles just wanting to leave and go home to his kid.
"The phone, Stiles," Peter says finally.
"Yeah, I heard you. She'll call."
"My big sister is a woman of many, many talents, Stiles, but even she can't call someone if she doesn't have the number."
And so Stiles gives him his number, of course. But as Peter leaves, Stiles revisits the wording he used in his head and starts to strongly suspect that he's just somehow been tricked into giving the man his number because he's pretty sure Talia already had it.
Stiles groans internally and goes in search of the damn peanut butter.
Stiles talks to Liam first, of course. It's nice that they have the option to run with others, but if Liam is uncomfortable then they'll have to find another alternative and that's it. Stiles can create a safe space anywhere he wants, after all, and not all the preserve is Hale land.
To his surprise, Liam is really open to the idea from the get-go. Stiles bets it has to do with the fact that the Hales have quite a few children in his age range. That, and that he won't be alone no matter what since Stiles told him he'd be there at all times, of course.
With that settled, Stiles finalizes the details with Talia pretty easily. Stiles is surprised at first by her openness, but the more they talk, the more he suspects that she's hoping to learn if what he does can be replicated so she can include the human pack members that normally have to sit the full moons out. (Which, if he's right, is very thoughtful of her since not many packs even think to try.) Add in that Stiles is going to provide a very safe enclosure and he can definitely see why she's so open about any thing he suggests.
All in all, Stiles is quite happy about how things are progressing. He could do without Peter tagging along like a particularly annoying puppy while he lays the wards, though, even if their verbal spars are quite amusing.
Still, he'll give it to the man, he does know when he has to be silent... and he's quite adept at catching Liam before he falls into any hole on top of controlling the veritable troupe of kids that have followed them as he lays the foundation of the proximity wards.
Stiles really doesn't know how that happened. It's like fungus, they multiplied the moment he wasn't looking. One moment there was only Liam, the next Talia's terrible trio were there and the next another five little cousins were tagging along. Stiles is afraid that by the next focus point of the ward they'll have their own lacrosse team and then, by the next after that one, they'll have two and will be able to hold an actual match.
(Still, Liam looks so happy that Stiles can't even be annoyed. God, he's turned into such a sap.)
"Stiles!" Liam hollers cheerfully, and that's the only warning Stiles gets before an eighty-something pound projectile impacts into his back and then proceeds to climb him as high as he can. Four tiny growling monsters in diapers surround him right after that, including torpedo peanut (and Stiles maybe, just maybe, should start learning their names), and try their best to bring him down while Liam squeaks and hums and laughs.
Stiles, of course, does his best to resist, but then the rest of the troupe jumps him and a controlled fall is the best he can do.
"The full moon is going to be so much fun," Peter says smiling smarmily from above.
Stiles, who is too busy trying to protect his most vulnerable parts while also pursing his lips as hard as he can so a tiny foot doesn't come inside his mouth, mud and all, just flips him the bird.
Thursday greets him bright and early with Liam jumping onto him as if it's Christmas morning. And look, call him weird but, even as a child, the promise of presents wasn't enough to peel him out of bed early, candy and sweets had to be added to the offer for him to even consider moving. Adulthood certainly hasn't made that any better, so having a twelve-year-old jump on him as if Stiles is an elastic bed at the ass-crack of dawn may as well be Chinese torture for him.
Stiles grumbles into his pillow before hiding his head under it and making his best effort at suffocating himself. Because upon the first impact of the meteorite on the Earth, he spied the clock and no. No, no and no.
"Stileeeeees," Liam complains.
"Stiiiiileeees," Liam whines.
"Stiiiiiiii-leeeeeeesssss," Liam pouts.
No, he thinks, that won't work, he's immune. Liam may have the pouting of an adorable golden retriever puppy (with a destructive power to match), but Stiles has developed a strong resistance to it. It won't work. Nope.
Silence. Why is he silent? No more whining? Has he given up? Has he resigned to the inevitable and is conceding to a superior opponent? Can Stiles go back to sleep until a more reasonable hour?
That's not it, he thinks feeling alarm raising like a tidal wave. He can't see them with his head buried as it is, but he can feel them. It's silent pouting combined with the puppy eyes. Nonono, Stiles wails internally, trying his best to resist.
Ah, crap, who is he kidding? All is lost. Their combined power of destruction is staggering and he knows his end is near with unshakable certainty. It's penetrating his titanium shield of resolve like anti-tank ammunition going through a lead plate.
Stiles groans and turns, unearthing his head from under the pillow. This earns a cheer from Liam, who now drapes over his stomach and bounces and Stiles groans again. He rises with what's definitely not a pout, lifting Liam over his shoulder like a potato sack on his way up. He ignores the way, even thrown over his shoulder, the kid puffs up triumphantly and makes a straight line towards the kitchen and the coffee machine.
Because look, his pride is in shambles but he still has coffee. Coffee makes everything better, just like curly fries. If Stiles was faced with the decision of what to bring with him to a deserted island, it would be those. And a boat, of course, because he's not stupid. But yeah, coffee and curly fries. Give him those and he'll be happy, he doesn't need anything else. Well, hello, scurvy, let's be toxic friends. Wait, no, potatoes have a lot of vitamin C, don't they? He needs to google...
No, coffee. Coffee's what he needs. Coffee. Black as his mortal soul.
And some actual food to go with that coffee.
He sets Liam down on one of the kitchen chairs and starts preparing a very high-calorie breakfast. It's going to be a very eventful day for both of them (Stiles is going to be running a lot and the full moon shift always makes Liam ravenous) and they're really going to need the extra energy.
"Do I wake grandpa up for breakfast too?" Liam asks.
Stiles has two simultaneous reactions. The first one is to coo and actually get emotional because, well, grandpa, but he covers that one immediately because with Liam the best course of action is to not bring attention to it. The second is a very evil glee because if he has to suffer being up at don't-look-at-the-clock-or-you'll-cry AM, so does his dad.
"Sure, go for it," he says simply, not even turning from where he's measuring the coffee. Liam shoots out from his seat, dashing towards his dad's room. "No jumping on him, kid!"
"I knoooow, because I'm strong and he's old and fragile and something could break," Liam recites as he climbs the stairs.
"Exactly!" Stiles confirms, trying very hard to not burst out laughing.
Liam leaves his dad's door open as he goes in, so Stiles is treated to pained groans almost immediately. Ah, music to his ears. Then it gets even better when he hears Liam explaining very earnestly that of course he won't jump on him because he's old and, well, he likes grandpa and he doesn't want to break any bones. Stiles has to bite his cheek very hard to not burst out laughing.
When Liam dashes back, a very rumpled former sheriff follows. He throws a very deadpan stare towards Stiles and he loses the battle immediately and starts cackling. He accepts the kitchen towel that flies to his head as his fair dues for laughing at his dad and continues cooking breakfast.
After they're done, Liam, still all nervous energy, runs back to their room to get ready. Because he doesn't want to be late, he yells as he leaves, even though they still don't have to be at the Hale's for about six hours. Now alone with his dad at the kitchen, they share a fond smile.
"Grandpa, huh?" the man mutters softly, mystified but clearly happy.
"Yeah," Stiles grins, clicking his mug lightly against his dad's. "Yeah."
Stiles has to admit that, for all he's still not entirely sold on the Hales, he likes the way they organize the full moons. He can tell that it's a system they've perfected over the years to be able to accommodate all the participant's schedules and also include the humans in the whole process. For Stiles, who as a rule has seen the opposite, it's a really well-thought out affair.
They try to make it a full-day event if it's on a weekend, during vacation or a holiday. They have lunch together, normally a big barbecue. Then they have numerous activities designed to burn as much energy of the youngest members of the pack because that makes the night easier for the adults that have to keep an eye on them. And that means both the human and the werewolf children. Stiles has babysat enough tiny humans to know why that's a very good idea. What he didn't know is that shifted children are tiny and evil Duracell bunnies that never stop and raze everything in their way while playing. Stiles can't help but to remember how destructive torpedo peanut was on a regular day and blanch. It's a terrifying concept that makes him shudder in dread just thinking about it.
(Nope, abort, abort.)
(Mental picture deleted.)
That changes a bit if the day of the full moon falls on a weekday. Kids that have school and adults that haven't been able to free their day, come for lunch and then go back while the rest continue with the normal schedule of activities. They will join back once school or work is over and the schedule will resume as normal.
It's vacation time, so Stiles and Liam get treated to a very full house when they arrive at lunch time. In fact, even before Talia opens her mouth to greet them upon opening the door, they get treated to the sight of torpedo peanut balancing on the chandelier of the entrance and the five cousins that trailed after them while placing the wards barking like dogs right underneath.
Stiles smiles politely like there's nothing out of the norm and his hand clamps down on the hood of Liam's jacket lightning fast before he can gleefully rush in to join.
"Good afternoon, Talia. Thank-"
"Stileeeees," Liam whines, making grabby hands towards the kids. The pack stops barking and all their eyes, including torpedo peanut's, zero in on Liam. Exactly like a predator's on prey and woah, that's adorable in a creepy as fuck way.
"-you for having us."
"Thank you for having us," Liam parrots sheepishly before fidgeting in his place, eyes going back to the kids.
"Welcome Stiles, Liam," Talia answers placidly, as if her child isn't hanging several feet above her. "Thank you for joining us. Oh that smells divine," she adds looking at the bag Stiles is carrying as she lets them in. "Pecan fudge brownie? And... lemon?"
Stiles nods. "Lemon meringue pie for the ones that prefer something less sweet."
"Oh, thank you! That's so thoughtful, but you shouldn't have. You're our guest, after all."
"It was no problem," Stiles says, hand still holding Liam in.
"Stiles loves baking," Liam beams, finally tearing his eyes from the pack of little monsters that looks like it's planning on eating him alive. "All he makes is super yummy too! The cakes and the cookies. The pies! And the cupcakes and- and- Carrot cake! Even though carrots taste bad, but his cake is good! Everything he makes is super good."
"Even carrot cake, huh? That's truly impressive," Peter says as he glides in. Torpedo peanut lets go of the chandelier and he catches her without even looking. He doesn't even react when she starts pulling at his hair gleefully. "Well hello, Stiles."
"Peter! Aren't you a sight for sore eyes," Stiles enthuses smiling brightly and Peter, getting the double meaning, echoes his gesture immediately.
"Same, same," he volleys back placidly. "And meeting you is always like finding light in the darkness, Stiles."
Stiles' smile widens.
Peter's smile widens.
They beam at each other as if the light of their smiles has the power of a thousand burning suns in their intensity. Talia groans softly and rolls her eyes.
"Let's let the kids play, shall we?" she sighs. "In the backyard," she adds pointedly.
The poor boy with the impressive eyebrows that Stiles met in the supermarket shows up out of nowhere with a very long-suffering face. (And if this is what the kid's been dealing with since the day started or, god forbid, on a regular basis, Stiles feels for him, he really does.) Stiles lets go of Liam and, after a second of very intense staring between the pack and his kid, he dashes in the direction the other boy is pointing at with a gleeful shriek. The pack of little monsters take immediately after him with high-pitched growls. Torpedo peanut looks considering for a second before she takes her pacifier out, hands it solemnly to Peter and demands to be put down. Then she wobbles forward for a few steps before she picks up speed and runs after them.
Stiles is pretty sure she doesn't know how to brake yet, so the only way she's stopping is by colliding with something that doesn't give into her destructive force. It gets confirmed when he hears a crashing sound that Stiles can't help but wince at. He expects some truly epic crying but, instead, mirthful shrieks erupt after that, followed by, if Stiles isn't mistaken, the oldest girl he met at the supermarket's goading. The boy sighs, looking heavenwards as if asking for patience and then visibly girds his loins before jumping into the fray.
Stiles salutes at his retreating back solemnly, wishing him all the luck. He hears an amused snort and turns his attention back to Peter, arching an eyebrow.
"Let me show you to the kitchen so you can leave that there, Stiles," Peter says, twirling the pacifier that Cora speared on his finger. "If you'd like?"
"That does pacify me, yes." Peter twitches and Stiles is also pretty sure he hears several pained groans coming from different directions. He grins brightly. "Thank you, Peter, how very kind of you."
"If you follow me," Peter motions lazily.
"To the moon and back," Stiles replies cheerfully and he hears Talia groan once again.
"We've got no matches, Peter," a man, Talia's husband Stiles thinks, says from the backyard as soon as they make it to the kitchen. "Could you get me some from the kitchen?"
"Lets hope there are some or you'll have to do a quick run to the store," Talia says.
"Or you could always google it if there aren't any," Stiles says helpfully.
"What?" Talia's husband says as Peter raises an eyebrow. "No delivery device is that fast..."
"But it will give you a lot of matches," Stiles points out, face earnest.
There are several pained groans and Peter looks like he's trying very hard to not wince. Stiles lets his helpful smile descend into shark-like territory.
"Are you sure taking some weight off the grill won't work better?" Peter joins in, eyes challenging.
"Oh my god, Peter," the man cries. "No."
"Joshua, really, just trying to be helpful here," Peter lilts. Stiles bites the inside of his cheek to contain himself, because he's never seen someone pained but at the same time proud of making a bad pun. "Because, you know, lighter."
"People are so ungrateful, it's such a shame," Stiles sighs.
"True that," Peter agrees, looking pointedly at Stiles.
"Right???" Stiles nods, looking at him as pointedly or even more.
What follows is several hours of battle of wits between Peter and Stiles while he keeps an eye on his kid. It's exhilarating and funny because they have to keep it PG with all the little ones around them. They brandish double meaning statements, puns and word games like weapons of mass destruction and Stiles hasn't had this much fun in a long time. Even funnier is that at one point it stops being entirely about one-upping each other and it starts being about how far they can push it before the people around them snap.
And then, the moon starts coming out and it gets even better.
Stiles grants them access into the enclosed safe space half an hour before the night sets in completely and then reminds them very briefly of how the wards work. (Peter's lips twitch like he knows how hard it is for Stiles not to get into it in depth and he has to resist the urge to throw something at the obnoxious man out of irritation.) After that, while they start shifting, Stiles activates his tattoos and the rune arrays he painted on himself this morning as a precaution, even though he doesn't think he'll actually need them. Some of them will sharpen his senses and the others will provide quite the level of protection against physical injury, so he's covered if any accidents happen.
Standing a little bit to the side, Stiles remembers that rumor has it that some of the Hales can do a full shift even out of the full moon and he wonders absently about its veracity while he watches them change.
The first few moments after the shift are chaotic, so Stiles simply observes from the sidelines, keeping a keen eye on Liam. It's like a free for all melee where only the adults have some semblance of control. A little violent because of the instincts running rampant, yes, but not too bad, all things considered. The violence seems to come mostly from the teens and some adults and the pups are clearly off limits, though, so Stiles doesn't intervene.
Liam jumps Stiles like an over-excited puppy as soon as he stops wobbling and gets used to the shift to four legs. He laughs, and lets himself fall, rolling with the impulse. He wrestles playfully with him for a bit before more little bodies join in with playful yips. Stiles is completely aware of how the rest of the pack is watching so he treads carefully.
They let them join, yes, but both he and Liam are unknowns and they're not completely trusted. (Especially Stiles, with his "mysterious" magical energy.) And Stiles is with their pups, he has no doubt they'll try to rip him to shreds if he tries something funny. He wholeheartedly approves, of course, God knows that he'd wipe them from existence without a thought if they even breathed wrong in his kid's direction.
His eyes cross paths with Peter's and they share an understanding right there, in a matter of seconds, smiles bloodthirsty and implacable.
The one that he's sure is torpedo peanut chooses that moment to jump on Liam and they fall to the side. The rest of the pack of terrors follow and Liam starts running in circles. Stiles, right in the middle, watches him fondly.
His eyes come back to Peter's and then an idea hits. He lets his smile widen and then, without any remorse whatsoever, he twists things so that the pups' new target is Peter. Maybe he should feel bad about manipulating kids into doing what he wants, but watching Peter get swarmed is too good to pass up.
Talia huffs, amused, and he grins at her. "I know, I'm such a bad person. It keeps me awake at night sometimes," he sniffs and she huffs again.
He looks towards Peter once again and he's rewarded by the sight of one pup hanging from his ear and another two doing their damnedest to jump on his back. Torpedo peanut is behind him, looking fixedly at his tail and preparing to pounce. Liam is barking like crazy and play fighting from the front.
Stiles can't help it, he cackles...
... and promptly dives to the right, dodging Peter's lunge.
The kids follow the movement and latch onto Peter once again. Stiles leans on the tree beside him, grinning madly. He waggles his eyebrows mockingly and then blows a kiss, winking.
Later, way too tired and pinned down by the weight of way too many pups and one adult wolf, he can't stop smiling.
"Ten out of ten, would repeat it again," he says.
"Great," Peter replies after a very smooth shift. He grins and lets more of his weight fall on him. "Then coffee tomorrow."
"I'm still not sold on how our wards are shit," he adds, lips twitching.
"I mean, it can't be that hard, right?"
Stiles narrows his eyes dangerously. He opens and closes his mouth several times. Then he narrows his eyes even more.
"Are you trying to provoke me into a date, pup?"
"Such absurd ideas you have, Stiles. Who would do that? But then again you said our wards are bad..." Peter lilts, leaning even more on him.
"Let me tell you-"
"Of course," Peter cuts in. "Tomorrow, over coffee."
...and gapes some more.
And then, he notices one thing: Peter's completely naked.
(But he doesn't say no.)