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The Wild Card

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June 30

 

“I’ll clean out the fridge today, son,” the sheriff says casually over breakfast, ignoring the tense set of his son’s shoulders. “Make room for your courting gifts. There’s always someone who thinks a ham’s a good idea, god knows why.”

“I doubt we’ll need much room. I don’t even know if I’ll get any offers.” Stiles stares fixedly at his plate, fiddling with his toast.

John puts a finger under Stile’s chin and raises it. “I disagree, kiddo. I think you’ll be flooded with offers. Lord knows your mother was.”

“You really think I’ll have anyone interested?” Stiles looks at his father skeptically.

His dad shakes his head fondly. “You really think you won’t? You’re smart, and you're attractive. Plus, it’s your first year out as an omega. I think you’ll have to beat them off with a stick.”

Stiles perks up the tiniest bit. “Maybe. I mean, Scott’s offered to be a backup. You know, just in case there’s nobody.”

John rolls his eyes. “Son, trust me when I say that won’t happen.” He leans in closer. “I wasn't going to say anything, but I might have already fielded a call or two at the station asking about you, what you might like as a courting gift.” He gives Stiles a conspiratorial wink.

“Really?” Stiles is definitely interested now. “What did you tell them?”

John laughs softly. “I told them Courting Season starts on July first, and they can take their chances with the rest of them. I can guarantee you’ll have at least one eager alpha turning up tomorrow.”

When he hears that, Stiles gives a relieved smile. “Thanks, Dad. I just hope there’s someone I like. I really want my first heat to be with someone special, you know? I know it’s not due for months, but at least this way I can get to know the person better, get comfortable with them.”

His father nods. “You have a month to choose someone. If I were you, I’d just enjoy the process. Think about what you’re looking for in a partner, but keep an open mind. You might end up choosing someone you didn’t expect.”

“Yeah. Enjoy it,” Stiles repeats, almost to himself.  “I mean, I still don’t think I’ll have many suitors, but I'll try. It’s just weird, thinking about trying to pick someone when I’m not even close to heat. But I can see why they started doing it during summer vacation.”

“It’s a good system,” John agrees. “There’s a start and an end to it, and the rest of the year you’re left in peace. No random alphas turning up under your window at midnight to serenade you.”

Stiles makes a face at the thought. “I still feel like I’m the rabbit in an old Bugs Bunny cartoon. “Be vewwy vewwy quiet, it’s courting season,” he quotes, doing his best Elmer Fudd.

John snorts. “You’ve got it ass-backwards, kiddo. You’re not the rabbit, you’re the hunter. You have all the power here. As soon as you choose someone, it all stops, whether that’s on day one or day thirty one. And if you don’t choose anyone, that’s okay too. But I will say this, son. Don’t settle.”

Stiles thinks about that. He knows it's entirely possible to go through a heat without an alpha - he's heard that it's like a mild flu, if the flu made you horny and susceptible to sweet words and soft touches. So he doesn't have to choose someone. But, he thinks, he'd like to. Since he presented, he's started to think about it more and more, about having an alpha. He wonders if it's normal, but it's not like his Dad would know.

It’s times like this he misses his Mom, wishes she was here to tell him about this stuff. The health classes at school only cover so much. He lets out a tiny sigh, and determinedly turns his thoughts back to the impending season. “So, what should I look for in an aspiring alpha? How did you win Mom over?”

John laughs. “Actually, I didn’t do a damn thing. Your mother had so many alphas courting her, I was too chickenshit to even ask. In the end, she marched up to me and told me to just give her my card, for god’s sake, so she could accept it, because she was sick of waiting for me to grow a pair.”

“And you did?” Stiles is grinning now.

“Son, I was so excited I think I threw the damn thing at her. She just laughed, took me by the hand, and led me home, grinning like she'd won some kind of lottery. Turned out that she’d been flirting for weeks. I was completely clueless, thought she just liked me as a friend.”

Stiles laughs at that. “Smooth, Pops.”

His dad waves a hand at him. “You can laugh - we'll see if  you're any better. now go enjoy your last day of freedom for a month. Because tomorrow, you won’t be able to step out that door without being handed a gift or asked on a date, I guarantee it.”

Stiles heads towards the front door, and John smiles to himself. He’d said ‘a call or two’ but in reality, John’s been fending calls from interested alphas for weeks. Stiles has no idea that he’s considered the catch of the season, and John’s not about to tell him.

Let him find out for himself.

 


 

 

Stiles has already given some thought to what he wants in a partner. It’s not like he’s obliged to stay with whoever he picks for his heat – some omegas choose to be courted every year - but heat partners do often turn into actual partners. Surprisingly, he’s unfazed by the sex part of it. He’s a nineteen-year-old boy who’s reliant on his hands and his imagination for any kind of relief– if anything, he’s looking forwards to finally getting claimed.

Besides, his heat’s too far away to be nervous about taking a knot. Maybe it’ll worry him when the time gets closer. For now though, he’s more concerned about the kind of person he wants to spend his heat with, and whether there’ll be a viable candidate among the suitors that everyone assures him he’ll have.

He wants someone with a decent brain in their head - to Stiles, that’s the most important thing. They have to keep up. He point blank refuses to entertain the thought of bald guys or weird haircuts. It’s irrational, but it’s his choice, so. Age or gender really don’t worry him. There are things he loves about men and women. He loves the swell of a girl’s full breast, can imagine the flesh soft and yielding under his hands, and dreams of long hair that he can tangle his fingers in. He wants to have soft, full lips whispering in his ear.

But he won’t deny that a handsome face will sway him in a male alpha’s favor, and he might have a tiny thing for stubble, when it’s well cared for. A well muscled neck and chest can make him hot and bothered like nothing else. (Okay, maybe his gender preferences have a slight lean to them. So sue him.) Stiles lays in bed with his arms behind his head and closes his eyes, imagining it. Tries to work out the odds of finding a smart, attractive alpha that has a decent sense of humor, and who might possibly be interested in a skinny nineteen year old Sheriff's kid with zero experience.

He opens his eyes and stares into the dark, sighing.

He’s asking a lot, he knows.

 


 

 

July 1

 

Stiles wakes up briefly at 6 am, looks at the clock, and rolls over and goes back to sleep, because summer. It’s nearly nine when he finally wanders downstairs, wearing a ratty tee and a pair of old shorts that he won’t mind getting dirty. He has plans to tinker with the jeep, see if he can’t replace that radiator hose and finally get rid of the duct tape. He decides to skip breakfast so he can get the job done before the heat of the day hits, and heads straight for the front door. He opens it just as John says “Wait, son. There‘s – “

There’s a crowd of alphas.

Well, a queue really. There are fifteen men and women standing in a sort of a line outside, looking at him expectantly, all dressed in their best finery, all holding gifts. One of them is clutching a puppy. Stiles stares blankly as his brain tries to make sense of what he’s seeing. He slams the door shut, fumbles for his phone and dials. “Scott? I don’t think I’ll need you as a backup after all.”

Scott snorts. “I didn’t think you would. Who’s there?”

“I, um. I don’t know? People. Lots of people. Fuck. I- I gotta go talk to them, I guess.”

He hangs up to the sound of Scott laughing and takes a deep breath. “Fuck.”

His dad’s standing there, arms folded and an amused look on his face. “You planning to let them in, kiddo? Some of them have been waiting since 6 am.”

Stiles looks at his dad incredulously. “Why didn’t you wake me?”

John shrugs. “Because you’re running this show. They have to impress you, not the other way around.”

“Oh. Oh right. Yeah. So, I guess I should, um, start receiving them?” Stiles is still overwhelmed at the thought that this many people have turned up to stand outside in the summer sun in order to have a chance to spend his heat with him.

“Yep. I set up the dining room for you.” His dad indicates where the table’s been cleared of the usual odds and ends and had a nice cloth put on it. There’s a jug of iced water with a stack of disposable cups, and there’s a small basket for Stiles to put the cards of any alphas he likes in, as well as some sticky labels and a sharpie to mark who the gifts are from. Stiles had laughed when his dad had told him he might need help remembering who gave him what, but suddenly he sees the sense in it.

He takes a deep breath and lets it out, and he’s about to sit down when he looks at himself. “Shit. I guess I should look respectable, huh? Tell them I’ll be five minutes.” He can hear his father addressing his suitors (suitors! He has more than one!) as he bolts up the stairs and digs through his drawers for something socially acceptable. In the end he settles for a plain tee and a pair of jeans, wrangles his hair into something resembling a style, and leaves his feet bare.

He heads downstairs and seats himself at the table, trying to run through the protocols in his head. Greet the alpha. Be polite. Accept the gift. Or reject it, and the alpha offering it. Rinse and repeat. He takes a deep breath, and calls out “Okay, Pops. Send ‘em in.”

 


 

 

An hour and a half later, Stiles is halfway between stunned, overwhelmed, and slightly horrified at the thought of this happening for the next month.

He’s been gifted, in no particular order, the expected ham, a set of vaguely pornographic DVDs about knotting, chocolates, flowers, a puppy (Which he kindly but firmly rejected, on the grounds that pets should never be a gift, but he kept the alpha’s card anyway because the guy was adorable), three fruit baskets, muffins, a massage voucher, (he definitely kept that girl’s card), and a set of thick silver bracelets.

He turned down three of the gifts out of hand – the DVDs, the puppy, and the bracelets, because they made him uncomfortable in a Slave Leia kind of way, and so did the guy offering them. Stiles didn’t keep that card, or DVD woman’s. He politely told them not to call again.

He rejected two other alphas because the way they looked at him made him squirm. One promised that after he knotted Stiles, his ’saggy hole would be wrecked for anyone else’. Since that was the first thing he said after handing over his gift, Stiles felt no compunction in handing it back unopened and sending him packing. Sometimes, he reflects, it’s handy having your father be the sheriff, because after a quick glance over at his dad who was sitting there in full uniform, the man had left with no fuss.

The other alpha had been, well. Old. Like, in his sixties old. Stiles had noped right out of that one, and the man hadn’t even had to ask why. He’d shrugged, and said, “It was worth a try. Who knows, you might have wanted a silver fox.” Stiles didn’t say it, but he thinks the man’s definition of himself as a silver fox is generous. The guy’s more of a silver…panda.

He looks at the table full of gifts and the handful of cards, and grins. Keeping the cards doesn’t mean he’s obliged to call, the protocols are very clear, but it does mean the alphas are free to keep courting him until he tells him otherwise.

 He has honest to god suitors.

 


 

 

He doesn’t get to work on his jeep, because Derek calls and asks if he wants to come over and watch a movie with the pack. Stiles says yes of course, because Derek’s house has a kickass big screen tv and really good aircon, and the pack always has the best snacks. Stiles has somehow been adopted by the Hale pack after befriending Cora at school, and it’s pretty cool.  He heads over there, and when he knocks on the door Peter opens in for him with a smile. “Hello, Stiles.“

He walks inside, following Peter down the hallway and sneaking glances at his ass. Now that’s a silver fox, he thinks to himself, before conceding that Peter’s far too young for that label. He’s an alpha in his prime, if anything.  Peter glances over his shoulder and Stiles quickly snaps his eyes upwards. Peter smirks and doesn’t say anything, smug asshole.  It’s only when they’re settled in watching the movie that Peter asks casually, “First day of the season, right?”

“Uh huh. Dude, it’s crazy.”

“So does that mean you already have an offer, Stiles?”

Stiles grins at him. “Oh my god, so many offers. I went to go work on the jeep and there were all these alphas waiting. It was wild.”

Peter’s smile dims a little. “What’s wrong with the jeep?” he asks, abruptly changing the subject, which Stiles finds a little odd. He thought Peter would want to know more about the courting, since he was the one who brought it up.

“Just needs a service, and I’m finally replacing that radiator hose,” he replies. “I’ll get to it tomorrow, I guess.”

Peter hums, and they turn their attention back to the movie. It’s some action flick, since Derek got outvoted on watching Lord of the Rings again. Peter settles in next to Stiles and shares his popcorn with him, and they yell at the screen and pick holes in the plot together, just like they usually do. It drives the rest of the pack nuts, but Stiles likes it. He and Peter have always gotten along, sharing the same quick wit and irreverent sense of humor.  

Peter doesn’t let many people close, but somehow Stiles has gotten pulled into his inner circle. He even got to see inside Peter’s bedroom once, which Derek informs him is a rarity – Peter keeps  his private  spaces private. Stiles thinks they’re exaggerating – he only went in there because Peter had a book that he said Stiles could borrow, but he also said he couldn’t be bothered walking all that way, and if Stiles wanted it, he could go get it. (if Stiles spent a minute or two extra in there just inhaling because the scent of Peter’s alpha pheromones smelt so fucking good, that’s nobody’s business.)

The movie finishes, and Stile stretches and yawns. His shirt rides up, and he catches Peter looking at the strip of pale skin that’s showing. “I hope you don’t tease your alphas like that, Stiles,” he says, lightly running a finger over the exposed flesh.

Stiles laughs and slaps Peter’s hand away. “No handling the goods,” he jokes. “That’s prime real estate. I expect to have my alpha's card before they get to touch.”

Peter draws his hand away. “I’ll bear that in mind,” he says quietly, and something about his tone sends a shiver down Stiles’s spine. He has to take a second to remind himself that Peter’s not one of his alphas, and he doesn’t mean anything by it. It’s a running joke between them, like the way Peter will blow him kisses and call him sweetheart, call him pretty.

It doesn’t mean anything.

He looks at his watch, and seeing that it’s close to dinner time, he takes his leave. He guesses they’re having something with ham tonight.

He’s absolutely not prepared for there to be five cars parked along the street outside his house, and he’s definitely not ready for the alphas to descend as soon as he gets out of the car, all doing their best not to look like they’re running, while all racing to get to him first. He recognizes puppy guy, but the others are new. He catches puppy guy’s eye, and says, “Hey. Michael, right?”

The alpha preens a little at being singled out. “Yes, Stiles?”

“What…what is this? I already saw my suitors this morning. We’re done, right? I just need to pick?”

Michael’s brow creases. “The courting season runs for a month, Stiles. Any alpha can approach you and offer to be your partner at any time until it ends, not just on the first day.” He stops walking and stands still, ten feet from Stiles. “Didn’t they tell you that? Do you want us to leave?”

Stiles mentally curses. He did know that, of course he did, but it just never occurred to him that anyone else would turn up. He’d been pretty impressed with the eleven suitors he’d garnered this morning. And now there are more? He looks at them, spots Erica Reyes giving him a hungry look and holding what looks like a cake. He doesn’t want to be unfair, and there are only a few of them.

He sighs. “So, uh, come in I guess?”

The alphas all smile at him and follow him inside, where his dad’s smirking at him, his look very clearly saying I told you so. As he takes his seat at the table, Stiles asks Michael, “So, why are you back?”

“Oh! I thought about what you said about pets not being a good gift, and you’re right. I’m keeping the puppy. I’m calling her Daisy. I got you this instead.”

He pulls a small gift box out of his pocket, and Stiles opens it to find a plastic oval with a blank screen. His face splits into a wide smile. “Oh my god, where did you even get this? This is the best!” he picks up the Tamagotchi and hits the buttons to start the hatching process for his egg.

Michael shrugs. “I figured it’s the find of pet it’s safe to give you. I know a guy who deals in retro stuff.”

“Well I definitely accept, and I was already keeping your card, okay?” Michael smiles widely at that, and after kissing the back of Stiles’ right hand as is customary, he takes his leave.

Erica gives Stiles an absolutely wicked smile as she hands over her offering. “Devil’s food cake. Made me think of you, all sweet and creamy,” she says, handing over her calling card and kissing his cheek instead of his hand. It’s skirting the lines of what’s allowed, but it’s Erica, so Stiles would expect nothing less. He grins and makes a show of putting her card into the basket.

The next woman, a twentysomething blonde, (Stacey, according to the card she thrusts at him,) casts a critical look as Erica walks away. “Surely you’re not interested in someone like that?”

Her question rubs Stiles up the wrong way, and he ignores the gift box in her hands. “Actually, Erica and I go way back, and I don’t like your tone. Out.” He hands her card back to her. She looks slightly shocked, but takes her gift and leaves. Stiles feels slightly heady with power, if he’s honest.

The next man to approach is nice enough, in a beige kind of way, but Stiles tries to imagine spending a heat with him, and he just…can’t. He shakes his head wordlessly, and the man leaves. The last girl Stiles vaguely recognizes from school, and she seems sweet, so he accepts her gift of home made fudge and her card, and sends her on her way giggling after she kisses his hand.

“This shit is exhausting,” he grouses.

His dad chuckles. “Tell me again how you won’t have anyone interested.”

“Okay, fine, I have thirteen suitors. Shit, is that unlucky? Should I get rid of one of them?  Or get one more, maybe?”

His dad hauls himself out of the chair he’s been sitting in to supervise, and says, “Kid, you think this is it? Trust me when I say, getting one more isn’t gonna be a problem.”

 


 

 

July 2

 

There are five alphas waiting the next morning. Stiles gets out of bed at 7am because he can hear them outside and there’s no way he’s getting back to sleep now. He makes himself coffee before he waves them inside, and finds they’re all good candidates. He accepts all their cards, and all their gifts. (More chocolates, more muffins, a potted plant, a boxed set of graphic novels, and another damned ham.)

His dad gives him a speculative look. “You’ve certainly got plenty to choose from, son. Are you going to be able to narrow it down?”

“I’ve got plenty of time, Dad,” Stiles reassures him, although he does wonder. How will he choose, exactly?

He heads outside, and stops short when he gets to his jeep. The bonnet’s up, and there’s a familiar (and very pretty) ass on display. Dammit, Peter shouldn’t be able to make cargo shorts look that good. His top half is buried in the guts of the car, and Stiles can hear him muttering things like deathtrap and monstrosity as he works. “Hey, Peter. What’s up?”

Peter pops out from under the bonnet and smiles brightly. “Just in time. Want to take it for a test drive?”

“What are you doing?” Stiles bats away the thought that Peter looks awfully good in that grease smeared singlet.

Peter raises an eyebrow as though it should be obvious. “Well, with it being the season, I thought you might not have time to do the repairs, and I wasn’t busy, so I fixed the radiator and serviced it for you.” He wipes his hands on an old cloth, putting one hand in his pocket, fiddling with something.

Stiles’s face breaks into a grin, “Awesome! I thought I’d have time, but this whole courting thing’s a lot more intense than I expected, you know? I thought that yesterday morning would be it, but I had people here last night and this morning.”

“Really?” Peter’s hand stills.

“I know, right? And they’re mostly pretty great. I mean Erica’s a total bombshell, as you know, and this one guy Michael’s kinda cute, and the others are nice, so I kept their cards. I’m kinda spoilt for choice.”

Peter gets a pinched expression. “Others? Stiles exactly how many people are courting you so far?” 

“Um…” Stiles stops to count. “Eighteen?”

The pinched expression graduates to an actual frown. “I see. Well as long as you’re spoilt for choice. I have to go.”

And before Stiles can even thank him properly, or ask if he wants to wash up, Peter pulls his hand from his pocket, throws down the cloth he was holding, gets in his car, grease stains and all, and drives off without another word.

Huh. Weird.

 


 

 

July 10

 

Peter’s nostrils flare when Stiles opens the door to him, and he frowns. “You’re unhappy.”

Stiles shrugs listlessly. “Yeah, well.” He’s not sure why Peter’s here, but he’s happy to see him. He ignores the other people waiting and lets Peter inside. “One of the alphas dumped me last night,” he admits.

Peter puts a tray of coffees on the table and runs a hand over the nape of Stiles’s neck, soothing him. Peter’s always been physical, at least as far as Stiles is concerned, and Stiles hums at the familiar touch. “Who’s upset you, sweetheart? Who do I have to kill?”

The sheriff clears his throat loudly and Peter amends, “Threaten, then. Who do I have to threaten?”

Stiles drops his head forward instinctively, relaxing under Peter’s firm, comforting hand. “It’s nothing. I just didn’t expect it.”

“It’s not nothing if it's affecting you like this. And if they’re willing to walk away from someone as clever and interesting and handsome as you, more fool them,” Peter says, fingers trailing down Stiles’s neck in tiny soft strokes.

Stiles can feel himself blushing pink under the compliment, and it takes some of the sting away from last night’s rejection. But then he remembers what was behind it, and he scowls. “Apparently none of that matters if I’m not prepared to get knocked up,” he mumbles.

Peter’s hand stills and his voice is dangerously quiet. “I beg your pardon?”

Stiles looks at the floor as he tells Peter, ”So, David and I were on a date, and it was going well. Like, really well. And he was asking when exactly my heat was. And I told him it was November, and mentioned that I hadn’t decided what contraceptives I was going with, the implant or condoms. And he said, swear to god, no omega of mine will be taking preventative measures. He said that any omega worth their salt should be happy to be bred. Also, apparently real alphas don’t use condoms.

Stiles feels rather than sees Peter taking several deep breaths. “And then?”

“Well obviously, I told him he was full of shit, and he told me this wasn’t going to work, and then he made some crack about being glad he found out I wasn’t a suitable omega before he wasted any more time. I walked out before he could say anything else.”

 “Any alpha worth his salt shouldn’t need to inseminate someone just to feel like a real alpha, just like you don’t need to be barefoot and pregnant to be a suitable omega. That’s just antiquated drivel.” Peter’s tone is indignant, and somehow hearing it eases the feeling of not good enough that’s nagged at Stiles all night. Peter takes his hand off the nape of Stiles’ neck and pulls him in for a reassuring hug. Stiles goes willingly.

Stiles breathes in Peter’s scent, rich and comforting and familiar. After a minute or two, Stiles mutters into Peter’s shoulder,” It just makes me wonder, how many alphas think like that? Do they really see me as only good for breeding?” 

Peter pulls him closer. “Anyone who thinks like that doesn’t deserve you, Stiles. Even if you chose never to have a child, it wouldn’t make you any less amazing, or your partner any less lucky.”

 Hearing it coming from Peter helps, somehow. “Flatterer,” Stiles says with a tiny smile. “Maybe I should call all my suitors and flat out ask them what their stance is.”

“Actually, that’s an excellent idea. You’re far too good to be wasting your time on Neanderthals,” Peter agrees.

Stiles drinks his coffee, and spends the next half an hour calling his suitors, asking, “So. Contraception. Yes or no?”

A depressingly large number of them hem and haw, giving some variation of let nature decide, and at the end of it there are a dozen less cards in the basket.

“At least you know, now,” Peter tells him. “They’re not at all what you need. You deserve someone who recognizes you as their equal, and treats you with respect.”

Stiles gives him a watery smile. It’s been something of an emotional morning, and he’s lost several candidates that frankly, he expected better from. “Why does my life have to revolve around a heat partner right now? Can’t I just have one day to myself without worrying about this stuff?”  He sighs and drops his head on the table with a thunk.

His dad gets up at that and goes to the door. He opens it and calls out, ”Stiles isn’t taking callers today. Come back tomorrow.” He closes the door before anyone can object, and turns to his son. “There. No courting today.”

Stiles stares at him. “You can do that?”

“Damn straight, kid. I told you, you’re in charge.”

Stiles lets out a sigh of relief. “Thanks, Pops.” He looks at Peter, who’s sitting there watching him closely. “Hey. Wanna go do something? If you come with me, I can probably leave the house without getting stalked. You can be my bodyguard. Take me to brunch and can we talk about anything except courting?”

Peter  places both hands over Stiles’s. “Anything you’d like.”

Stiles reflects that he’s lucky to have Peter there to act as a human shield. Every omega should have a good friend like him.

 


 

 

July 12

 

Stiles buries his head in his pillow and refuses to come out. He and Scott stayed up late last night playing video games, and he didn’t get home till midnight. There weren’t any alphas waiting, but there were a couple of gift boxes with cards attached, and notes saying they’d call again in the morning.

He can hear the soft voices that means they’re outside already. He risks a look at his clock and groans. 6.30 am. He knows that a lot of these people have jobs, and if they don’t come early they won’t see him at all, but he’s still salty about being expected to be civil at this time of the day. While he’s on vacation, no less.

The whole thing’s lost a lot of its shine, honestly. He knows he’ll want a heat partner come November, but he just wishes it could be someone he already knows, someone he’s comfortable with, instead of this stream of vague acquaintances from school and total strangers who are really only interested in knotting his ass.

He stumbles downstairs in his pyjamas, hair matted, and pulls open the door. There are four new candidates today. “You can come in at ten, not before,” he tells them shortly, and slams the door shut in their faces. He hears his father snorting into his coffee behind him and ignores it. It’s been twelve days of this, of early mornings and politeness and ceremony, and Stiles honestly thinks that if all his potential suitors could just leave him alone now, he’d be a happy man.

But they just keep coming.

He slumps into a chair. “I’m putting a ban on all courting before ten. Anyone who disturbs me before then is out of the running. I’m making a sign.”

He rifles through the basket that’s full of cards and sighs. He’s got 23 suitors left, and that’s after a ruthless cull when he realized he had over forty cards and it was getting out of hand, not to mention the dozen he lost when he told them he wasn’t interested in children. He’s still shaking his head at that  - he’s nineteen, for god’s sake.  As well as the new potential mates who are appearing seemingly from nowhere, Stiles is trying to spend time with the ones already on his list, and he’s heartily sick of the two ‘decent’ restaurants in Beacon Hills already.

He was stalked at the mall the other day by Greenberg, who wanted to deliver a gift of a fur stole. In summer. Plus, it was real fur. Stiles had had no compunction about handing it straight back despite Greenberg’s protests that the animal had died from natural causes and he just happened to be there. It’s actually gotten so he can’t leave the house without someone sidling up to him and offering him a card, or a phone number, or a filthy suggestion, so he doesn’t even try. His musings are interrupted by a knock at the door. He groans, and goes to open it. “I said ten  – “he starts, but then he sees who’s standing there.

Peter holds out a tray with three coffees and a bag of pastries. “Breakfast, sweetheart?”

Stiles opens the door wider to let Peter inside, and one of the men waiting complains. “How come that alpha gets to come in?”

Stiles gives a dismissive wave his hand. “Not that it’s any of your business, but he’s not a candidate. It’s just Peter.” He turns to look at the young man again. Jackson fucking Whittemore. He sighs, and points at him. “We may as well do this now. You, no. because you bullied me and Scotty in grade two. Don’t think I don’t remember.” He gestures to the other young man, someone he’s never seen before and hopes to never see again. “And you, no. I just can’t, with the purple mohawk.”  He looks the other two women up and down for a second, before shaking his head. "Nope, sorry. Not my type." He slams the door again, ignoring their crestfallen looks. He’s gotten a lot blunter with his refusals now, and he’s set the bar a lot higher.  He takes the bag of pastries from Peter and has a danish stuffed in his mouth in seconds. “Oh my god, I could kiss you right now,” he mumbles through his mouthful.

‘Well not with your mouth full,” Peter says with a wry smile. “Besides, your father’s watching.” He grabs one of the coffees and hands it to John. “Sheriff, I trust it’s all going well with the season?”

John takes his coffee with a nod and says, “Pretty well. So far only two people have threatened to throw themselves off the bridge, and there have been hardly any stalkers this year, which is a nice change.”

“Indeed. Having the sheriff’s son in the mix and knowing you’re watching closely might be making people behave,” Peter suggests.

John nods in agreement. “That could be it.”

“Can we not talk about it while we eat?” Stiles pleads. “I just want an hour where someone’s not mooning over me and trying to get me to choose them.”

They drop the subject and enjoy their breakfast, until finally John looks at his watch and sighs. “Time to go in, I guess. Stiles, you okay on your own?”

Stiles flaps a hand at his dad. “I’m fine. And I’m not on my own. Me and Peter can just chill.”  His dad nods, and leaves for work. It only occurs to Stiles then that he hasn’t asked Peter if he wants to stay. “Is that okay? I mean, you didn’t have anywhere to be?”

Peter gives him a soft smile. “I’m happy to stay, sweetheart. We’ll watch a movie.”

“Oh god, that would be awesome. I’m desperate for company that isn’t someone trying to get into my pants.”

Peter’s face does something complicated at that.  ”Speaking of which, if you give me a list of your eligible alphas, I can run a background check on them for you.”

“Really? I mean, my dad already checked them out…”

Peter shakes his head. “Stiles, no disrespect to your father, but my sources are rather more extensive than his. When I say I’ll check them out, I mean thoroughly.”

Oh.

Stiles normally kind of ignores Peter’s role as the Hale pack enforcer, but he’s fully aware of his reputation. Everyone is, after he ripped the throat out of a woman trying to infiltrate the pack by wooing Derek a few years back. Or rather, the woman died in a 'wild animal attack' after Peter found out what she was trying to do, discovered her plans to set the pack house alight. No charges were ever laid –Derek was interviewed, calls were made, agreements were reached, and suddenly it was as if the whole thing never happened. So yes, Stiles knows that Peter’s background checks would be brutal and unforgiving. He chews on his lip for a moment before Peter leans forwards and tugs it gently from between his teeth. “None of that, sweetheart. We have to keep that mouth of yours pretty for your alphas.”

Right. Stiles should definitely be thinking about choosing an alpha, and not the way Peter’s fingers felt tracing across his face just now. Stiles turns his attention to Peter, who’s still waiting for an answer to his question. “If you're offering, it might be a good idea. I mean they all seem really nice, but I’m basically committing to a week in a locked room with them. I don’t want to choose someone who turns out to be a weirdo.” He has to reach across Peter to get a hold of the basket containing the names, and he thinks Peter leans in and scents him, but he can’t be sure. Werewolves are funny like that.

Peter looks at Stiles intently for a second. “Stiles, I don’t suppose - ” he starts, but then his gaze falls on the thick stack of cards.

“Mmm? You don’t suppose what?” Stiles is distracted, watching Peter’s neck as he swallows.

“Nothing. Never mind. It was a stray thought. Forget it. Give me those.”  He holds his hand out.

Stiles doesn’t get a chance to ask what that stray thought was because as soon as he hands the pile to Peter, he immediately starts tossing cards to one side with a muttered “No…no…definitely not…why is she even still in town?”  and suddenly Stiles finds his pile reduced to ten.

He looks at the much smaller stack Peter hands him, and at Peter’s satisfied expression. “How? You didn’t even google them!”

“I didn’t need to. Quite a few of them courted Laura a few years back and I recognized the names. Not good enough for you. And one or two are serial knotters, never commit.”

“Oh. Well, shit. In that case, they’re out.” There’s an unwritten understanding that when an omega chooses a heat partner, they choose someone they’d be happy to start a relationship with. Serial knotters though, drift from omega to omega, heat to heat, walking away at the end of the week and leaving a string of broken hearts, and sometimes unplanned ‘little miracles’. Stiles hesitates for just a second before he hands the rest of the cards back to Peter. “Check them out properly for me? I’ll hold off on going out with them till you tell me it’s okay. I trust your judgement.”

Peter gets a pleased look on his face. “Well, of course you do. I’m rarely wrong.” He pockets the cards, and they spend the rest of the morning binge watching Kitchen Nightmares, leaning against each other on the couch, Peter’s arm draped casually over Stiles’s shoulder while they mock the contestants together. Stiles didn’t realize how tense the whole courting thing was making him until he lets himself relax, safe in Peter’s company, able to stop thinking about whether his companion’s someone who he’d spend a heat with.

 


 

July 15

 

Stiles opens the door at exactly 10 am, and immediately shuts it again. His father looks at him over his coffee, his whole face a question mark. “There’s a string quartet on our front lawn, Dad. A string quartet.

John’s eyebrows raise higher. “Hell of a gift, son. They’re really raising the stakes, huh?”

“Yeah,” Stiles sighs. “Word’s got around that I’m picky, so now it’s just a giant dick measuring contest. Metaphorically speaking,” he hastens to add when he sees his father open his mouth.

Peter’s taking his role of candidate selection seriously, demanding that he get to approve every suitor Stiles is interested in, and Stiles is grateful, honestly. Out of the ten remaining suitors, only four had made the cut. Peter declined to say exactly what the others had done, he just tore their cards in half and declared “No,” and Stiles didn’t ask further. He knows Peter just wants to protect him, the same way he looks out for the rest of his pack. It’s kind of like having an extra parent.

The alphas, though, don’t know that Peter’s behind Stiles’s refusals. They just assume that he wants more - grander gestures, bigger gifts. And they’ve brought their A game, he has to admit. A string fucking quartet. He snaps a picture through the window and sends it to Scott, who’s finding the whole thing far too funny. Scott just sends back a string of laughing emojis.

“Do I really have to go out there?” he whines.

His father shoots him a look. “Until you choose, you have to entertain your suitors. Them’s the breaks.” Stiles pouts, but John just points at the door. “Go get quartetted, kid.”

Stiles opens the door and looks at the line of alphas. They’re all focused on the door, and all break into smiles at seeing him. He sees Michael and Erica waiting in the line, the only two left from his original pick. The third, Danny, had suddenly and unexpectedly been offered a job in Hawaii at a company he’d been trying to get hired at forever, and had withdrawn his offer. Stiles addresses the queue. “Okay. Who bought the band?”

It’s a new player who steps forwards. Older, but still very attractive. He’s wearing sunglasses and holding a white cane. “The name’s Deucalion.” He extends a hand in Stiles’s general direction, and Stiles gives him his hand and lets it be kissed. He feels an actual shiver run through him, in a good way. Now this, this is a silver fox.

“He wasn’t first in the line,” someone grumbles, and Stiles turns to find a short, angry looking man with his arms folded across his chest. “I got here two hours ago. I should be first to see you,” the man says with a scowl.

He cocks a brow at the man, a trick he’s been practicing with Peter.

“Excuse me? You know I don’t take callers until ten. If you got here early, that’s your problem. Now if you don’t mind, I’m gonna see what these guys can do, because they’ve been sitting here in a millionty fucking degrees in tuxedos waiting to play. You, buddy, can just cool your jets.” He pauses, thinking. “Actually, you know what? You’re rude and impatient. Not qualities I’m looking for in a lover. You can leave.”  He turns his back on the sputtering man, and gives all his attention to the musicians.

“I’m ready, guys. Hit me.”

He expects maybe Vivaldis’ Four Seasons, Beach Boys’ God Only Knows at a stretch. What he actually gets makes him laugh maniacally and give Deucalion a high five. It’s an absolutely flawless rendition of the Mario Brothers theme. He’s so delighted he gets them to play it again, and then goes inside to get them cool glasses of iced tea to reward them for coming out in the heat.  Needless to say, he takes Deucalion’s card, and they spend a long time chatting.

After Deucalion (call me Duke please) leaves, he makes dinner plans with Michael, arranges a date with Erica for tomorrow, and sends the rest packing without a second thought. Quite honestly, he figures if they haven’t thrown their hat into the ring by now, he’s obviously not their first choice, and he doesn’t want someone who doesn’t really want him.

By the time Peter arrives with coffee and croissants, the musicians have packed up and gone and Stiles is back inside under the admittedly subpar air conditioning. “No candidates this morning?” Peter asks as he hands over breakfast. Stiles still isn’t sure how it’s become habit for Peter to come over every morning, but he guesses it makes it easier for Peter, being able to vet people on the spot. It’s a terrifying and slightly arousing sight to see him walk up to someone, whisper in their ear, and watch them pale slightly before beating a hasty retreat.

“You missed them. You were late,” Stiles accuses. “I had to send the assholes away myself. I did keep one guy, though.”

Peter holds his hand out wordlessly, and Stiles hands over the card. Peter looks at the name and frowns. “Duke? Really? Isn’t he - “

“Blind? Yeah. What difference does that make?” Stiles tilts his chin, challenging.

“None, actually. That’s not what I was going to say,” Peter defends. “It’s just that he’s much older than your other choices. It surprised me.”

“Well yeah. But I mean, he brought a string quartet, Peter! They played the theme from Mario! The guy’s got serious game, and he’s hot, for an older dude. Besides, age isn’t really a big thing for me. I like the idea of someone experienced, you know?”

“Oh, well. In that case, I'm available." He lifts an elegant Hale eyebrow at Stiles in invitation, and just for a second, Stiles could swear that  he's serious. But when Stiles looks again, Peter’s back to wearing his usual slightly smug expression, and Stiles decides it was just wishful thinking on his part.

“Yeah, right. Because I’m such a catch.” Peter looks like he’s about to say something, but whatever it is, he’s interrupted when Stiles throws a couch cushion at him, hitting him square in the face. Peter grumbles and calls him a brat, throwing the cushion back with enough force to knock Stiles over sideways, and whatever the moment was, it's  gone.

 


 

 July 17

 

Stiles looks at the basket of cards and sighs. There are two cards left. He’d thought long and hard about it before culling his choices back to Erica, Michael, and Deucalion, and then Erica had overstepped last night, kissing him suddenly when she dropped him off, pressing up into his personal space, sliding her hands over his ass. It took a sharp shove and some harsh words for her to back off. She’d bitten her lip and looked not at all sorry as she faux-apologized, only offering, ”But your pretty face deserves to be kissed, baby.”

He’d bolted inside, but not before telling her, ”Um. Don’t come back, okay?”

“Really? Because of a little kiss? I couldn’t help myself.”

And that, really, is the problem. If she won’t respect his boundaries now, he’s not sure that’s someone he wants to be around when he’s in heat and vulnerable. He’d told her as much through a crack in the door, and her face fell, but she accepted it.

So now he’s down to Deucalion and Michael. Deuc’s clever and charming and oh, so sophisticated. Stiles spent the evening with him and he thinks he could really like this man. But there’s just something missing. Deuc has no sense of humor, tends to seriousness, sedateness. Stiles doesn’t feel like he’d see the funny side of things, like the time he and Peter covered Derek’s Camaro in post it notes. And Stiles wonders if that means he’d be the same in the bedroom.

Stiles hasn’t had sex before, but when he does, he’d like to think it will be, well, fun. He wants to laugh in between the sexytimes. Hell, he wants to laugh during the sexytimes - it’s part of who he is. Deuc’s attractive, and he's fairly likable, but Stiles doesn't know if he can be with someone who's that sensible.

And Michael? Well, Stiles really likes him. Has done since he came back with the Tamagotchi and told Stiles he was keeping the puppy. He does make Stiles laugh, and he’s definitely physically attractive, with his dark hair and stubble. He’s not quite Hale levels of hot, but he’s close. But he’s only a couple of years older than Stiles, and he’s… well. He's not the sharpest tool in the shed. He often struggles to keep up. Stiles finds he has to be careful, not jump all over the place in his conversations like he normally does, otherwise Michael will look at him blankly before asking, ”How – how did you get from Sleepless in Seattle to wondering how many active volcanoes  are islands?”

And to Stiles of course, the obvious link is Tom Hank and Meg Ryan, who starred in Sleepless, but also starred in Joe vs the Volcano, which features, well, a volcano. How can anyone not make the connection? He’s fairly certain Deuc would. He knows Peter would.

He bangs the two cards against each other listlessly, wishing there was some way to just meld the two men into one perfect partner. He wonders briefly if magic is a thing, if there’s a spell. He should ask Peter. If anyone would know, he would. Stiles perks up briefly at the thought that at least tomorrow night he gets to have fun. Peter’s taking him to a drive in. He’s found the worst Sci-Fi film for them to mock together. It has terrible reviews – Peter emailed them to him. Stiles can’t wait.

An evening with Peter will be much more fun than a date.

 


 

July 18

 

Stiles settles into the leather seats of Peter’s BMW and lets out a happy sigh. “Comfy, sweetheart?” Peter asks, obviously amused.

Stiles reclines the seat a little more and grabs another handful of popcorn. “Yeah,” he breathes. “This is perfect, honestly. I really needed to get out of the house.” He’s only half watching the film, too busy enjoying being out without someone hitting on him. ”The drive in was a great idea. Private, but public.”

“Yes, I thought so. None of your dates have thought to bring you here?” Peter asks.

Stiles shrugs. “Nah. I guess they don’t know I’m a movie buff like you do.”

Peter frowns at that. “Really?  It’s not like you hide the fact. Are these alphas even trying to get to know you?” Stiles thinks he looks like a disapproving parent right now.

“These alphas are fine. But did I tell you Erica’s out of the running, so now it’s just Michael and Duke?” Peter looks far too interested at that, so Stiles tells him about Erica trying to kiss him, not taking no for an answer until Stiles had shoved her away.

Peter rumbles deep in his chest. “Do I need to take care of her?” he growls.

It makes Stiles feel warm and gooey just for a second, hearing Peter offer to do violence on his behalf, but he waves Peter off. “Nah. But I figured if she has no self-control now, then maybe she wouldn’t be such a good heat partner.”

“Quite right too, sweetheart. She overstepped. You should only choose someone who respects your wishes.” Stiles kinda envies any omega Peter ever courts – they’ll be protected and worshipped within an inch of their life. He pushes away the seed of disappointment that it won’t ever be him.

Stiles drags his thoughts back to the present, and gestures at the screen. “Hey, thanks for this. It’s just good to go out and not have it mean anything, you know? I mean, you're not a potential partner, so I don't have to be on my best behavior. You already know I’m a mess. You probably don’t even care if I get buttery fingers all over your nice leather upholstery.”

Peter’s smile looks strained. “I wouldn’t say that. I have wet wipes on standby.” Stiles guesses from the tiny crease that appears between his brows that maybe Peter cares more about his immaculate interior than he lets on. After the movie, which is exactly as awful as they both hoped, Peter takes him out to eat, and the best part is that they don’t go to a ‘nice’ restaurant, instead they go to a tiny out of the way taco place and stuff themselves silly, and Stiles revels in the freedom of having sour cream and salsa smeared across his cheek and not being  judged for it. Peter just rolls his eyes as he dabs the mess away tenderly with a napkin and tells Stiles it’s a crime to hide such a pretty face under condiments.

Somehow, when Peter calls him pretty, it’s not condescending like when Erica said it.

 


 

 

July 25

 

Stiles hears a knock at the door, and since it’s nearly ten, drags himself out of bed, grumbling. It’s probably Peter, here to chaperone, officially this time. His dad’s on nights, and isn’t going to be awake today. Stiles’s callers have dropped right off, and now it’s mainly Duke and Michael dropping by with gifts and invitations, but there’s still the odd hopeful soul. Stiles had suggested that Peter could chaperone, since he’s here most days anyway, and Peter had gone quiet for a minute, and then said “Of course. Happy to help,” in a tone that suggested he was absolutely not happy to help. Peter’s been getting more withdrawn over the past few days, and snappy to boot. Stiles blames it on the approaching full moon.

When he opens the door though, it’s not Peter, but Derek. “Hey, Der! What’s up? Where’s Peter?” He peers around the Alpha, but he appears to be alone.

“When I left, he was still in the shower. I wanted to talk to you.” Derek looks distinctly uncomfortable, but then, thinks Stiles, when does he not where words are involved? “Can I come in?”

“Sure.” Stiles stands back and lets him in. A horrible thought strikes him suddenly. “You’re not here to, like, court me, are you? Cause you know I love you like a brother, but just. No.”

Derek shoves him affectionately. “No, idiot. But I do want to know what’s happening that has Peter coming home in a sulk every day this week. He’s miserable.”

Stiles frowns. “He is? He’s fine when he leaves here.” Derek’s eyebrows express his disbelief more eloquently than the spoken word ever could. “What?” Stiles protests. “It’s true. He comes over with breakfast, we do the courting thing, he stays for a while, and he leaves. Although now you mention it, he has been a little quiet.”

Derek scowls, but it’s not directed at him, Stiles knows. It’s Derek’s problem-solving face. “So, you haven't had a fight or anything? He comes over, you court, and that’s it? ”

“Pretty much, yeah. He’s been a really big help. Checks out the candidates for me, sends dirty looks at the ones who can’t take a hint.”

The furrow between Derek’s brows deepens enough that Stiles thinks you could probably lose a planet in there. “Wait, you’re seeing other alphas as well as Peter?”

“What do you mean as well as? Peter’s not courting me. He’s just, like, moral support.” It’s Stiles’s turn to furrow his brow. “Why would you think we’re courting? It’s – he’s Peter, for god’s sake! Peter doesn’t want me!”

Derek shakes his head and sighs, and the corner of his mouth twitches. “Stiles, for a genius you can be awfully stupid. Peter's always liked you, and you must know he had plans to make an offer.”

Stiles tries to ignore the slightest stirrings of hope, because he knows Derek's mistaken, which is honestly a shame. "Well he might like me as a friend, but he's not courting me. We just hang out. You're wrong about this, Der."

Derek raises an eyebrow. “You sure about that? Think about it. Has Peter said or done anything that might, might, be considered courting behavior?”

Stiles does think about it, and decides Derek’s definitely wrong. There’s nothing. Sure, Peter fixed his jeep for him, and yeah, he comes over with food and coffee every day, and they did go out a couple of times when Stiles was feeling particularly housebound, and there was that night they went to the drive in and had dinner. But those were all friend things, right?

Except-

He thinks a little harder. About how protective Peter’s been, about the compliments he’s been littering his conversation with. About his willingness to take Stiles out and spend time with him. About the way Peter had  ruthlessly culled the other candidates. The throwaway offer to be Stiles’s alpha, and the eyebrows that went with it. The way his face had fallen when Stiles had suggested he could chaperone.

Well, shit.

“In my defence,” he starts as Derek grins, eyes crinkled with amusement, “Your uncle’s cryptic as fuck. He never said anything. How was I meant to know?”

Derek laughs far too hard at that, in Stiles's opinion. “Oh my god, Stiles. I thought you were the clever one? He’s been leaving you a trail of breadcrumbs the size of houses, expecting you to follow it, and you haven’t even noticed. And all he's said to us is I’m going to Stiles’s, and we all know he likes you, so we assumed you two were, you know, a thing. But it turns out you're both idiots.” He pulls Stiles in for a rough hug.

Stiles groans against Derek’s firm chest. He lets himself enjoy the strong arms and reassuring beat of Derek’s heart for another minute before he pulls away. “But I mean, he never, he didn’t give me a card? He has to give me a card, that’s how it goes.”

Derek rolls his eyes. “I don’t know, okay? But being Peter, if I had to guess, I'd say maybe he was too proud to offer if he thought you'd turn him down. His giant ego couldn't take the rejection." Stiles snorts at the truth of that. "Stiles, just ask him for his card, all right?  And if you’re not interested, tell him. Put us all out of our misery.”

Stiles can feel a smile pulling at his lips. “Misery?”

“God, yes. He comes home and hides in his room muttering about ungrateful ignorant juveniles who are too stupid to see what’s right in front of them, and nobody dares speak to him. If you have other suitors, that would explain it. You know how possessive wolves are. He’s obviously jealous.”

Stiles’s smile gets a little bigger. “Jealous, huh? Maybe he is interested.”

Derek squeezes Stiles once more before he lets him go. “Maybe he is interested,” he mimics with a sigh. ”I swear, you two deserve each other. He cares more than you think. Ask him, Stiles. For his sake, and for the rest of us who have to put up with him pining.” Stiles thinks about how comfortable he and Peter are around each other, tries to imagine if that would carry over to a heat. That leads to him imagining Peter naked, which, yes please.  Derek abruptly shoves his chest, distracting him. “Jesus, Stiles. No. Whatever you’re thinking about, just stop it right now.” Derek looks distressed. “I don’t need to smell that on you.”

Stiles flips Derek the bird. “You brought it up,” he mumbles under his breath.

Derek groans, but he looks far less worried than when he arrived, so Stiles takes it as a win.

 


 

 

He makes the phone calls before Peter arrives, and hopes like hell he’s not making a mistake.

 


 

When Peter arrives, Stiles lets him in and takes the inevitable bag of pastries from him, but instead of eating, he puts them on the table. He ignores the coffee Peter offers, and says, “Actually, I need your advice.”

“Oh?” Peter raises a brow and sits down opposite Stiles.

“Yeah. There’s not long to go and I need to pick someone.” Stiles notes the way Peter flinches at that, and wonders how he missed it before. “Except I can’t.”  Peter nods, as if to say go on, his expression carefully neutral. Stiles picks up the basket that held the cards before, and tips it over, scattering the torn up remains of the last two across the table. ”They aren’t who I want. And the alpha that I do want, hasn’t offered me his card. We’ve known each other forever, and I really like him, but he’s never offered to court me, and I guess I don’t understand why?”

Stiles wills himself to stay still and quiet, waiting. He watches as a variety of expressions cycle across Peter’s face and settle on something that might be called hopeful. “Have you thought that maybe this alpha didn’t think you would be interested, maybe because they're older? Thought you only saw them as a friend? “ Peter pauses. “Maybe they didn't see the point of putting themselves out there only to be turned down, knew you already had plenty of other suitors.”

Stiles places the empty basket in front of Peter with a significant eyebrow. “Not any more, I don’t. I said no to them all. It’s my first heat and I wasn’t prepared to settle. So, if the right alpha were to want in on this, the competition’s literally non-existent right now. He could turn up at, say, eight tomorrow morning, take me out to breakfast, and I’d probably choose him on the spot. In fact, he could even give me his card right now, and we’d call it a done deal.”

Peter examines his hands as he says quietly, “Maybe that alpha has been trying to give you his card for a while, but every time he was about to offer, you made a comment about how nice it was to not have anyone trying to court you, or what a good friend he was to take your mind off it, or maybe you said He’s not a candidate, it’s just Peter, he doesn’t count. And maybe the moment was never quite…right."

Stiles gives a frustrated huff. “Okay, so maybe I messed this whole thing up. But I know what I want now. Just give me the damn card, Peter.”

The card Peter pulls from his pocket is decidedly tatty, the edges foxed, worn from handling. It has a tiny smear of engine grease on it. If he tries, Stiles can imagine Peter curling his fingers around it in his pocket, waiting for the right time.  Stiles turns it over and over in his hands, and reflects that he’s a colossal idiot. He places the card on the table, taking Peter’s hands between his own, kissing his knuckles.

“Are you really sure you want me? Because apparently, I’m too dense to know when I’m being courted by a clever, sexy werewolf.” That earns him a smile, a genuine one, and Stiles can sense the tension leaving Peter’s body. “It was all courting, wasn’t it? Fixing the Jeep, the dinners, the breakfasts, the movies.”

Peter nods. "All for you, sweetheart."

Stiles turns their hands so his are on top. “I accept your suit,” he says quietly, and his whole body floods with warmth when Peter kisses the back of both hands in acknowledgement, as is tradition.

 


 

Stiles makes a rough sign and tapes it to the door, while Peter watches and smirks. The sign says Courting Season Closed. Then they spend the rest of the morning curled up on Stiles’s bed laughing at their own stupidity, but also nuzzling and kissing each other, sliding hands under shirts and down pants and getting hot and bothered. Stiles has officially chosen Peter now, so that means they’re a thing, and they get to make out all they want. The fact that Peter was the chaperone at his own choosing is just a technicality, honestly.

Stiles finally gets his hands on that neck, and that ass, gets to kiss those lips. Peter jerks him off, looking far too pleased with himself when Stiles comes in about thirty seconds. Stiles has to stuff a fist in his mouth to keep from shouting and waking his dad. Afterwards he relaxes against Peter's chest, sprawling limply as Peter strokes his hair softly, calls him sweetheart, calls him pretty. Stiles can't stop grinning, because it turns out Peter meant all those things after all.

When his father finally gets out of bed that afternoon, he takes one look at the pair of them sprawled out in front of the TV watching a film together, takes in the lovebites littering Stiles’s throat, and extends his hands in a gesture that very clearly says ‘What the hell?’

“Um, I picked? Turns out Peter was a wild card. Did you know he was courting me all this time?” Stiles snuggles up closer to Peter, cheeks going pink with embarrassment and pleasure. Peter just beams, like the cat that got the cream.

John shakes his head, grinning. “About time you got a clue, son.”