With an exhausted sigh, Peter clicked his phone off and threw it far, far away from him. Not for the first time, he questioned his decision to return to his old profession. Surely there were better things to do with his time than entertaining the whims of idiots… it didn’t matter. Information brokering was what he had done before the fire. He was good at it—brilliant, when he didn’t have to put up with idiots—and it kept him busy.
The pay wasn’t bad, either.
Sighing yet again, Peter turned his back on the offending device—it knew what it did—and moved to the kitchen. Filling the kettle and flicking it on, he braced his hands on the counter and let his head fall forward as he waited. Tea, book, bed. Lovely.
God, he was so tired.
And lonely. But he wasn’t going to think about that. At all.
Of course, that’s when somebody chose to start knocking on his door and his head snapped up in a mix of startlement and soul deep vexation.
Narrowing his eyes in the direction of the front door, he inhaled deeply, pulling his own scent that had long since seeped into every pore of his apartment until he caught fragments that stood out. Citrus, petrichor.
Because of course it was.
He ignored it. If it was really so urgent the kid could go bother Derek.
“I know you’re in there,” Stiles called out, the words slightly muted because of the door. And the walls. And the general distance between them.
“I will stand out here all night if I have to.”
As far as threats went, that was rather mild.
Still, Peter made no move other than to reach up into the cupboards and retrieve a mug and tug the tea-box closer.
The knocking returned with vengeance—violent and loud. If he were a better man, he would be concerned about Stiles hurting his hand. As it was, the noise was giving him a headache.
God fucking dammit. Fine. Fine! The annoyance wasn’t worth the slight pleasure he gained from inconveniencing Stiles and, through him, surely, Scott. He would see what the brat wanted, then send him on his not-so-merry way. Perfect.
He threw open the door, catching it in one hand before it could bounce off the wall and…
“Well, aren’t you just the picture of good health,” he drawled, covering his momentary hesitation at the sight that met him.
It had only been a week since they’d since each other last, hadn’t it? And yet, somehow between then and now, Stiles had lost weight, enough that his cheekbones pushed sharply out from his pale face and dark shadows outlined his dull eyes. And. Peter’s eyes scanned Stiles from head to toe, an itch in the back of his mind. It was all… wrong.
“You look like shit,” he added, because the lack of response was unnerving.
Nothing. No reaction.
He reached out to slap him out of it—not literally. Christ knew he wasn’t his nephew—and almost jumped when, the moment his hand connected with a plaid-covered shoulder, Stiles shuddered, sucking in a wracking breath and came to life. Blinking brought color back to his eyes and looking wildly up and down the empty corridor brought color to his cheeks. Then he zeroed in on the hand on his shoulder, followed the lines from wrist to elbow, and finally looked up at Peter.
Stiles stared for a moment, eyes flicking left to right across Peter’s face. He swayed where he stood, like the very world was off-balance, and then he tilted forward. Peter lurched forward, making to catch him, certain the boy was about to fall, but Stiles caught himself against the doorframe, chest heaving.
“Stiles?” Peter questioned, letting his hands fall.
Stiles licked his lips and when he spoke, the words rasped like he’d been screaming.
“I’m losing time.”
Well. There went his evening.
Ushering the boy inside, Peter glanced around the open areas of his apartment. Books and files were scattered about, covering most of the table and all of the available dining room chairs bar one, stuffed full of loose-leaf papers covered in his hand, poking out from underneath spines and between pages. Not all of it was incriminating and he doubted Stiles was in any mind to go poking around. Still.
He guided Stiles to the seating area.
“Sit,” he told him, with a light push to the shoulder, then left for the kitchen.
He watched Stiles from the corner of his eye as he grabbed another mug and made tea for two—a novelty, that. Stiles dithered in place for a moment too long, staring at the sofa as though he’d never seen one before, or the purpose of it had escaped him, before slowly turning on the spot and curling up in the armchair.
Peter’s eye twitched but he let it go.
Carrying the mugs back to the seating area, he pushed one into Stiles hands, waited long enough to make sure he wasn’t going to drop it, then sat down on the sofa opposite. He blew the steam off and took a sip. Stiles just blinked and wrinkled his nose at smell of hot berries.
Peter rolled his eyes.
Bit by bit Stiles relaxed, going so far as to cautiously sip at his tea then, when he experienced no nefarious consequences, drank deeply.
Peter waited until Stiles wiped his mouth with the back of his hand to get down to business.
“Start from the beginning,” he said, “And tell me everything.”
And Stiles did. In fits and starts, Stiles told him everything, from waking up in the ice-bath to the nightmares, from the perpetual chill to falling asleep in class and waking screaming only to find that he’d never fallen asleep.
Peter listened as he spoke, mind turning over and all the while never once looking away. The itch in the back of his mind persisted, growing steadily more worrisome until, quite suddenly, it clicked.
Stiles wasn’t fidgeting. Oh, sure, he was moving, but not in the way Peter had grown accustomed to during their various interactions. His knee didn’t bounce, arms and wrists not forever in flight with each word. No. Instead, he was tucked in tight and still. Contained. His socked feet twitched and arms occasionally spasmed where they were wrapped around his knees and that was it.
At least it narrowed down the possibilities.
When Stiles eventually fell silent, head leaning listlessly against the back of the armchair, Peter set his mug aside. He leant his elbows on his knees rubbed an idle hand over his goatee.
“At a guess,” he began, then scraped that and started again. “Actually, from what you’ve told me, it’s almost certain. It sounds like you are being possessed.”
The blood drained from Stiles face. It wasn’t flattering. Given how pale he already was, the green tint left behind left him corpselike.
“Possessed,” he echoed. “As in…” he trailed off, swallowing heavily.
“As in a flesh and bone vessel for some dastardly supernatural evil?” Peter finished for him, because he was kind like that. Also, it never ceased to amaze him how flabbergasted the teens of Beacon Hills reacted to the next piece of insidious insight into the supernatural underbelly. “Yes, precisely that.”
Stiles covered his mouth with a shaking hand, pushing his mug away. “Oh my god.”
Peter eyed him, then got up. A quick browse of his bookshelves and he pulled free a tattered, leather-bound number done up in heavy buckles, weathered pages and that unique copper touch of aged blood long since spilled. Slipping a claw into the keyhole, Peter worked it open, checked to make sure it was the right book, and dropped it into Stiles lap as he passed to reclaim his seat.
At Stiles questioning look, he sighed. “Not every creature out there is capable of possession. Not only does the creature in question have to be ridiculously powerful—or have a way of getting that kind of power—it takes a frankly astounding combination of bad luck and perfect conditions to pull off a possession in the first place. That,” he pointed at the book, “is a compilation of creatures capable of possession in the first place, then covers how they do it, why they do it and what you can expect them to do with your body once they’ve done it.” He paused, considering. “I’m sure you get the idea.”
Stiles certainly looked like he got the idea. He rapidly paged through the book, barely sparing the necessary seconds to properly linger over the depictions and descriptions. His scent steadily soured, twisting with reedy sickness, acrid to Peter’s senses.
He made it halfway through the book before he was shoving it aside, stumbling through a leap from his seat and sprinting to the bathroom.
The clink of the toilet seat, the thud of Stiles falling to his knees, and then sound of the boy violently throwing up.
Feeling ever so slightly responsible—and really, there was no reason for it—Peter followed after him. At the very least, he could make sure the boy didn’t accidentally drown himself. Again.
The crunch of his dad’s tyres against the driveway registered slowly as he stared at his computer screen. He didn’t know what he was looking at or reading or watching. Whatever. He didn’t even know how long he had been sitting there. Had his dad come in at all? Said goodbye? Said anything?
Even weeks since ‘The Incident’, as he’d taken to thinking of it, his dad still couldn’t look him in the eye. Oh, he made a good show of it, but Stiles knew his tells, knew when people lied, knew when the Sheriff focused on that spot just to the left of his eyebrow to avoid just looking at him.
He wondered why it didn’t hurt nearly as much as it should have.
Maybe he’d finally grown resigned to being a disappointment. God only knew what a relief that would be. No more expectations, no more unsaid demands. He could relax and just… let go.
He shrieked and threw a highlighter. He belatedly registered who the voice belonged to but by then he was already spinning around and watching Peter duck under the flying projectile, one hand clutching his chest to stop his heart leaping out from behind his ribs.
“Shit.” He sucked in a breath, then glared accusingly at Peter. Peter, the asshole, simply stared back unrepentantly, one eyebrow half raised at an infuriatingly bemused angle. “Haven’t you people ever heard of doors?” he demanded. “What do you want?”
“Why Stiles. I’d almost think you weren’t pleased to see me.” Peter tsked—mockingly, Stiles thought—and claimed a seat on his bed. “And here I thought we’d been getting along. Shame.”
Stiles rolled his eyes and pointedly turned back to his computer. And sure, maybe turning his back on a man that had proved to be psychotic and unstable when denied something he wanted wasn’t the best of ideas but this was his bedroom. He would be damned if he showed even a modicum of hesitation in his safe-space.
Not that it was all that safe anymore, actually. But the mountain ash should at least take care of the werewolves—
He froze, completing the revolution on his desk chair. He looked at the open window then at Peter and back again.
Stiles scowled. “How the fuck did you get over the line?”
In a move that had to be practiced, Peter shrugged, lifting his hands in an elegant twist to adjust the sleeves of his shirt—a deep red button-down and boy, didn’t that take him back? The faint light from the street-lamp outside caught the perfect angle to glint off a hint of gold.
Sometimes, Stiles hated his curiosity. This was one of those times. He squinted at Peter, questions building on his tongue.
He could literally see Peter’s growing amusement and he huffed. “Fine,” he grudgingly allowed. “What is it?”
Flashing the grin that had earned him the label of ‘creeper’, Peter slipped what Stiles saw was a coin into his palm and held it up between his fingers to view.
“Spanish gold.” He tossed it towards him and Stiles fumbled to catch it, narrowly avoiding his eye. “It’s one of the more fool-proof methods of dispelling a mountain ash circled.” He paused. “Among other things. When will the good Sheriff be home?”
Turning the doubloon over in his fingers, Stiles shrugged. “He’s working a double shift.”
“Lovely. So you have nowhere to be for the weekend.”
“I would’ve thought you’d be more subtle in planning my murder.”
Peter fixed him with a look. Maybe Stiles was reading too much into it, but he couldn’t help thinking it lay along the line of I’ve thought of better comebacks in my sleep. If he wasn’t so tired, he probably would’ve cared a bit more.
“Infant, please,” Peter said instead, standing and brushing nothing off his pants. “I have far more entertaining things to do with my time.”
He was in Stiles space before he could blink, crowding in close. Peter’s fingers grasped his chin, tilting his face up into the light. This close, Stiles could see the way Peter’s nostrils flared and how the blue of his eyes gleamed unnaturally bright. Then, just as quickly as it began, he was released. Breaking out into delayed action, his desk chair rammed into the side of his desk at the same time as Peter stepped away.
“And time,” the werewolf said lowly, “is something you are fast running out of. Pack a bag. We’re going on a road-trip.”
He disappeared out the door before Stiles could splutter out a retort.
Grumbling under his breath, Stiles pushed out of his chair and started digging around for his wallet and keys.
Five minutes later, he was thumping downstairs, black duffel slung across his back and clutching his pillow to his chest.
“So I have a go-bag ready,” Stiles said, an inexplicable flush creeping up his neck. “Sue me.”
Peter, stopped in the middle of inspecting their kitchen cupboards, looked from his bag to his pillow and back to his face and raised his hands up in surrender.
Stiles wondered if he should bring his bat, too, if only to hit the werewolf over the head with it.
With the warning to not touch anything hopefully still ringing in Stiles’ ears, Peter pushed open the door of the little occult shop and stepped inside.
The clear tinkle of the bell rang out above their heads, breaking up the heavy smog collecting in dark corners and shadowed shelves, intermittently lit with golden puddles cast by old gas-lamps.
As peter had confessed to Stiles on the way over, Kyril may be a mage but drama was his passion.
They circled around a shelf practically bursting with borderline illegal bottled substances and came into sight of the front desk. Peter tightened his hand around Stiles wrist—a reminder and a reassurance, take your pick—before he let go.
Stiles opened his mouth but Peter shook his head, mouth a tight line and eyebrow raised as he pointedly tilted his head towards the drapes hanging against the wall. Stiles shut it again with a begrudging sigh, folding his arms over his chest.
Not a moment later, the drapes twitched aside and a portly fellow backed out of the hidden archway, a heavy tray laden down with things balanced in front of him.
Setting it down with a clatter, the man emptied his hands of the tray, turned around, and blinked at them.
As Peter had hoped, it did not take the mage long to recognize him.
With the loud exclamation of, “Peter!” the mage began pushing his rotund girth around the counter. “Old friend, it has been too long!”
Stepping forward, Peter shifted his hand to rest on the small of Stiles back. “Kyril.” If he hadn’t been looking for it, he would have missed the way, a tick after Kyril traced his eyes over Stiles, his smile tightened. “I couldn’t agree more. How are things?”
“Same old, same old,” Kyril said with a laugh.
“Wonderful.” If he showed too many teeth in is grin, who could call him on it? He tugged Stiles closer, away from a shelf of cursed talismans he had been inching towards. Stiles stiffened when his hand settled on his waist and Peter could almost taste the way the boy restrained himself. “Meet Stiles.”
Kyril, always one for manners, smiled. It was a tad cooler than the one he’d opened with and Peter knew Stiles could tell.
“We think he’s being possessed.”
The speed in which Kyril dropped the smile deserved an applause. “Oh,” he said. “Oh, that is very, very… troubling. Yes. Troubling. Indeed.” He stumbled forward and grabbed one of Stiles’ hands to clasp it between his and peered up at him solemnly. “Do you know whom…?”
“No,” Peter told him. “That’s why we’re here. We were hoping to use your witchlight.”
“My witchlight? You know that will cost you.”
Peter hummed. “How much?”
Kyril tilted his head thoughtfully. Decision made, he patted Stiles hands then backed away. “A favor,” he said, “to be called in whenever I need it.”
How reasonable. “Fine,” Peter agreed, but Kyril broke him off with a mysterious smile. “Not you,” he explained, together they focused on Stiles who was pulling off a very compelling imitation of a deer at the barrel end of a firearm. “Him.”
“Me?” Stiles squawked, flailing gesturing at all of himself.
Peter shrugged. “Deal.”
Kyril beamed. “Come on back, then.”
Unfortunately, things only got progressively worse from there.
Looking back, Peter should have expected it. Kyril was a mage of some not-inconsiderable power. Stiles was in the midst of becoming a vessel for a here-to-for unknown entity. Of course Kyril would have measures to… handle situations like this.
In his defense though, Peter never expected those measures to include suppressing the spark that was currently enabling Stiles to hold out against the possession.
“For fucks sake,” Peter muttered as Stiles dropped to the ground, spasming wildly.
Kyril watched on, perplexed at the reaction to his wards.
Peter glared at him. Then stooped to hoist the boy up into his arms. He was so glad he’d brought the safety-measure rope.
In the end, they resorted to trussing Stiles up with the wolfsbane and foxglove infused cord and tied him to a lead chair.
Peter kept a steady ear on Stiles’ heartbeat as they worked, moving faster when it seemed as though he might wake up.
Only once the last knot was tied did Stiles groan, head lolling to the side. He peeled his eyes open, blinked at the bare concrete room and the rope and the moderately sized crystal rock planted on the ground in front of him and looked up at Peter from beneath his lashes.
Peter shrugged. It was Stiles’ fault if he thought there were lengths Peter wouldn’t go to. Also, tying up an unconscious person? Barely scraped the list of his questionable activities.
“Really?” Stiles demanded, straining against the rope for the hell of it. A little too much pressure though, and he hissed, turning wide eyes down to his arms. Peter also inched forward, taken aback for all that he would never admit and, yep. New, shiny red lines decorated the pale skin of his supposedly very human wrists.
He fought back the urge to rub his own wrists by the skin of his teeth.
The glare Stiles directed at him promised retribution, however. The dark, painful kind and suddenly, it wasn’t all that hard to fight the urge.
“If you wanted to break out the ropes, all you had to do was ask.”
A valiant attempt at distraction, Peter would give him that, for all that his heartbeat gave him away, fluttering panic caged in his chest. “Don’t tempt me, sweetheart.”
“Why?” Stiles asked. “Too much for you? Don’t worry, I get it. Hey! What are you doing?”
He directed the last part at Kyril, who hovered in the vicinity of his ankles. His aborted knee-jerk reaction to kick out earned him a disgruntled harrumph from the mage and very little else.
Arms crossed Peter rubbed his forehead. Any longer, and Stiles was going to be insufferable on the flight home.
“Can we hurry this up?” he inquired, turning towards Kyril as he bustled about doing god knows what around the base of the crystal.
Kyril grunted an affirmative while Stiles sagged back into the chair, effectively giving in to the insanity. “You can’t rush perfection,” Kyril retorted and licked the crystal.
Peter wrinkled his nose. Even Stiles looked faintly disgusted.
Finally, Kyril stood and declared everything ready. Stiles was damn near out of his mind with the urge to fidget and Peter was quickly blowing through his reservoir of patience. It was almost like Kyril was punishing them… on second thought, this probably was Kyril passively aggressively displaying his displeasure with having a tainted individual in his shop.
And here Peter thought nine years would have mellowed the man out.
With a sneeze, a shake of his formidable forearms, a flurry of the tasseled ropes around his waist and a hastily exclaimed verse in Greek, he believed, Kyril clapped his hands. The crystal flared to life. Blind in the sudden wash of pure light, all Peter could hear was the sharp hitch in breath, a span of heavy seconds and then a pained gasp.
When again he could see, two things stood out. First, he thought he had seen fear on Stiles face before. He’d been wrong. What he had seen that night on the field, crouching over Lydia, was a mockery of desperation compared to the sheer terror now twisting his features and as he did his best to shy away from the glare of the witchlight.
And second, those nine tails cast by his shadow, splashed across the wall behind him—splayed and winding—well.
That was pretty damn telling.
Kyril, bless his soul, had seemingly prepared himself for the worst. Perhaps, if Peter had done that, the knowledge that Stiles was being possessed by a Nogitsune wouldn’t have been so shocking.
Checking his phone, Peter shifted over another half-inch. True North. Wonderful. He wiped smooth the dirt and set down the fourth and final candle.
It was electronic. This may be an ancient practice but he was not about to risk being around an open flame when he needed to keep his wits about him.
Behind him, Stiles shifted loudly where he stood on the edge of the Nemeton’s clearing.
Peter planted an incense stick in the dirt just in front of the candle, spilled three drops of jasmine onto the surrounding soil and picked up his phone. Now for the North-Eastern offering point.
“How do you even know how to do this, anyway?” Stiles finally asked, giving in to his curiosity. And need for a distraction. It sucked that he wasn’t allowed to enter the clearing yet, and the closest cardinal point was set too far away from the tree-line to be of much use. “I thought wolves couldn’t do magic.”
It was a question as much as it was an accusation, coated in a thin veneer of what else don’t I know? Peter hid his smile glad his back was turned. It was refreshing how suspicious Stiles generally was of generally everything.
Not for the first time, Peter thanked whatever gods cared to listen that McCall had not wrought morally redundant ideologies unto the phenomenon that was Stiles Stilinski.
The world was all the better for it.
Pulling a sprig of fresh nightshade from his bag, he crushed it between his hands and laid it down.
“Do you know what I did for my sister?” he asked, puncturing the berries with his claws and forcing the bitter liquid into the soil.
Stiles made a considering sound. “No. I mean, I kind of assumed you were, like, there. Around, I guess. Derek never talks about it.”
Of course he doesn’t.
He rose to his feet, turning to look at Stiles. The boy looked terrible, and that was saying it nicely. The plaid shirt, always too big for him anyway, now hung off his frame in a way that was distinctly worrying. The dark circles under his eyes and his pallor more so.
“I’ve always been interested in whatever annoys the most important people,” he said, starting forward. “I was the Left Hand, the pack enforcer.” His lip curled. “The fixer of the messes my sister frequently found herself in.”
“Wow,” Stiles deadpanned. “Bitter much?”
Peter tsked, coming to stop just inside the ritual lines he’d lain. “Talia was a great Alpha. Leagues behind beyond your so-called True Alpha.” He scoffed. “But she wasn’t perfect. She made mistakes. She made enemies where she would have been better off making allies and she was careless when she should have been paranoid. It was my duty to make sure those self-same mistakes never came back to bite her in the ass and she resented me for it. I still loved her, don’t get me wrong, but I often couldn’t stand being around her any longer than it took to start an argument.
“Anyway,” he shook off the memories, glancing around the clearing, double checking everything was in place. “My fixing typically required a magical touch and I trust magic users about as far as I can kill them, and that’s usually rather difficult for a single wolf, so,” he spread his hands in a there you have it gesture. Stiles snorted.
“So what? You learned so you could do it yourself?”
“When it benefited me,” Peter agreed, “But no. Not always. It agitated Deaton, for want of a more tedious word, and by extension Talia. Just for that alone I would have been interested.”
Stiles looked him over with a considering eye. “You know,” he said at length, “You pretend to be really aloof and uncaring and whatever but I don’t think that’s true. I think you do care.”
“Yeah. I mean, your helping me and—”
“And I like you,” Peter butted in. “I’ve told you before. I like you. I’m not in the habit of helping every poor soul that stumbles my way. Now, if your quite done contemplating my inner Good Samaritan – which I can assure you does not exist—can we get on with it? We’re losing moonlight.”
“Jesus. I say one nice thing and you bite my head off,” Stiles grumbled but he got moving.
“At least I’m not throwing you into walls,” Peter couldn’t help but retort, and he smirked at the sour edge saturating Stiles scent.
How nice to know the pack’s treatment of the token human was a sore spot.
Peter was sure he could use that to his advantage. Some day. When the timing was right.
The next few minutes were spent in relative peace as Stiles undressed—that earned him a dirty look and squinty-eyed glare—and climbed up onto the Nemeton. Lying flat on his back, Stiles barely reached the full width of the enormous tree stump.
“It’s weird,” Stiles said, apropos nothing, and Peter momentarily paused in shucking off his own trousers.
“What is?” he asked, kicking the material out of the circle and making towards the boy.
“Just…this.” Stiles waved his hand, encompassing exactly nothing. “Us. You. Me. I don’t know.” He paused. “I don’t like it here.”
And Peter, because he’s an asshole—“Here here, or just here?”
Stiles turned his head and called him on his assholish ways.
Peter shrugged, unrepentant, and jumped up onto the stump beside him.
It was a pity he’d left his underwear in place. The ways Stiles’ eyes widened; Peter would have paid dearly to see his reaction to the full package.
The blush spreading down Stiles’ neck didn’t hurt, either.
Figuring he’d give the kid a bit of leeway, Peter left it alone.
He plucked up the athame he’d left lying in place and weighed it in his hand. Stiles looked hesitantly at it, then visibly steeled himself for what was to follow.
“Are you sure about this?”
Stiles’ expression was one for the ages. “Am is sure I don’t want to be possessed by some crack-pot demon thingy that wants to use my body for evil and mayhem, all while I remain trapped in my mind with no way out? Do I look crazy to you?”
“Well,” Peter said consideringly.
Stiles growled. Peter thought it was adorable.
“Don’t ‘well’ me. Give me the fucking knife.” He held his hand out, palm up. Waiting.
Peter knew Stiles knew it was an athame.
“You can’t take this back.”
“Are you sure you don’t want the bite? It would be so much easier.”
“Still haven’t given up on that, have you? There’s no guarantee the bite would take.”
“I’ve always thought you’d make a fantastic wolf.”
Stiles bared his teeth. Peter sighed and handed over the athame.
“There’s no guarantee this will work either, you know.”
Of course Stiles knew that. He’d been part of the discussion when they’d addressed the risks with Kyril.
He’d been the one to ask how it could go wrong.
“It’s going to be fine,” Stiles chose to say. “Besides, can you see me following Scott’s lead? Me, a good little Beta? I don’t think so.”
“There’s still time. You help me and I can be an alpha by tomorrow evening.”
Stiles smiled. “I don’t like you that much.”
His heart tripped. Peter raised a mocking eyebrow. “You keep telling yourself that sweetheart.”
Stiles’ middle-finger hoisted up like a flag.
Laughing, Peter backed off an inch and they began the ritual.
As far as rituals went, it was one of the fewer no-nonsense sorts.
A few cuts, some chanted words and done. Problem solved.
Putting it into practice was a bit more difficult.
For starters, Peter had clearly underestimated how attached he’d grown. Each slice of the athame across Stiles’ palms and his wolf growled in worry.
And let nobody underestimate how nauseating it was to uphold the constant stream of Japanese and Welsh when the only person he has a tangible pack bond with is mimicking the shape of the Seppuku across his stomach.
Blood blossomed in the wake of the athame, spilling bright and hot across Stiles pale skin. His hitched gasps were loud in Peter’s ears, almost drowning out the sound of his own voice as he lowered to his knees beside him.
Stiles had his eyes clenched shut and his fingers dug into the trunk when Peter dipped his fingers into the shallow wound, bloodied palms flat against the old wood.
Then Peter started drawing and time fell away.
Whorls and spirals. Sharp lines and even sharper shapes.
He didn’t stop until every inch of skin was covered.
Magic snapped through the air. The pressure built until he could barely draw enough breath to finish the last sentence.
He held desperately to the idea of himself. He’d heard tales of druids and invokers that lost themselves to the swell of power.
It was with that thought that he finished the incantation.
The echo of his voice hung still, faraway and never closer all at once.
Stiles sucked in a shuddering breath.
And the universe exploded.
Like an elastic band stretched too thin, the magic snapped back, recoiling in on itself over and over again. Stiles body seized, convulsing atop the stump as Peter shied away, one hand covering his eyes.
The runes in blood burned with an inner fire, glowing brighter and brighter. Should he look, Peter suspected the patterns would be burned onto his retinas.
There was no sound, however. Nothing human, or discernible by human ears.
Like tides on the shore, the magic beat down, washing over their prone forms and spilling over onto the Nemeton’s stump, onto the clearing, into the earth, seeping outwards in every direction.
Peter really did not look forward to dealing with the inevitable fallout.
He wanted a break.
Clearly, he was asking for too much.
He watched Stiles from the corner of his eye. The glow beat in tempo with the magic before tapering off. Within moments, all that remained was Stiles’ motionless form and the taste of lightening on the back of his tongue.
Peter groaned and pressed his pounding head to the trunk. Fucking rituals. Surely he’s getting too old for this.
When he was certain his stomach could take it, Peter gathered himself and crawled over to Stiles.
He ended up laying length-wise beside the boy and wiping the blood from his nose and ears while he waited for him to wake.
“That,” Stiles groaned, coming awake in fits and starts, “hurt. Did we do it right?”
“Oh, we did it right,” Peter said darkly. He turned Stiles face towards him with a deceiving gentleness. “Tell me, do you feel any more… innocent?”
Upturned nose scrunching up, Stiles wriggled his arms and legs. “When you say it like that: gross, dude.”
Peter rolled over onto his back. Above them, the stars twinkled merrily. Peter frowned at them.
“Why do I feel like it didn’t do what it was supposed to?” Stiles asked, done with inspecting his blood-smeared body.
“That,” Peter replied, calm despite the enormity of the situation, “would be because it didn’t. Something you’ve been wanting to get off your chest, Stiles?”
His heart skipped a beat.
Peter didn’t look at him. “Did you know there were two possible outcomes to this ritual? Well, no. That’s not true. There were three, but your death wasn’t an option, so I’m only counting the two that matter. But you know that. You aren’t stupid. I know you were listening. Hell, I bet you went and searched the ritual yourself.”
He trailed off. The silence hung heavily between them.
“You didn’t expel the Nogistune.”
It wasn’t a question.
Peter could smell it. Just beneath the scent of hot metal and lightning.
He’d never thought ice and cold wind would be so appealing.
And maybe it wasn’t. Maybe, it was just Stiles.
“How long have you secretly been wishing to be a monster just like the rest of us?”
Shame scented the air. It was answer enough.
How sweet victory could be.
Peter sighed and turned his head. Stiles wasn’t looking at him, staring unfocused up at the night sky.
He could do any number of things. The possibilities ran wild through his head.
In the end, a Nogitsune—and such an old one to boot—would be a powerful thing, especially one that was loyal or, at the very least, allied to himself.
“I’ll teach you control,” he decided. “But you can’t tell anybody. Not yet. We don’t know who set it lose, or how such a creature even came to be in Beacon Hills in the first place. Until then, you’re a target.”
“Okay,” Stiles agreed easily, still staring at the sky.
Peter blinked at the easy concession. He’d been gearing up for a battle.
“Okay?” he questioned.
Finally, Stiles peeled his eyes from the constellations. He rolled his head towards Peter, blinking in the gloom, and laughed. “Yes,” he confirmed. “Okay.”
Peter froze when long fingers tangled with his.
He expected Stiles to let go immediately, brush it off as an accident.
When he didn’t, his wolf purred.
Peter never knew he could like a word as much as he liked the possibility of okay.
Ever since the sun had fallen past the horizon, Noshiko Yukimura had been unable to shake the feeling that something was terribly, monumentally wrong. It was like judgment, swinging over her head as the gods weighed the value of her life. Heavy. Inevitable. Final.
So when the shockwave shook through Beacon Hills, Noshiko knew. She knew deep in the very marrow of her bones, that she could stay no longer. She knew, just as certainly as the sun would rise elsewhere tomorrow, that she should have never come, never touched, never tampered.
The judgment had come, and she had been found wanting.
She prodded her husband awake where he lay sleeping beside her, sparing little thought to any harm she might cause him in her rush. He understood, though. He always understood and somedays she found herself almost loving him for more than the companionship he provided, but now was not the time to think on that. No, just as she packed her bags full of clothes and essentials, she packed those thoughts into crates and tucked them away in the corners of her mind, to reassess later. When she had time. When they were safe. When they were far away.
“Mama!” Kira exclaimed, frightful and lost all at once when Noshiko dropped her suitcases onto her bed. She’d been late getting home—crawling through her window like a hoodlum and hours past her curfew. They’d speak about it later. Not now. Now… now was never long enough.
“Pack your bags,” Noshiko said, snapping her fingers at where they lay empty. “We’re leaving.”
She turned on her heel, lists and considerations running through her mind. Kira followed after her, hands empty. They would take what they could now and hire a removal company for the rest—
“Mama, I don’t understand! Why are we moving! It’s too soon – mama, please. I – I have friends here; I don’t want to go.”
“Listen to me,” Noshiko hissed, lashing out and catching her daughter by the wrist. “Darkness is coming. I have,” she broke off, swallowing the bitter taste of regret. She breathed deeply. “I have made mistakes. Many mistakes. And for that I am sorry, but I will not remain still and let them win. We are leaving. It was wrong to come here. You can make friends elsewhere, I know.” She made to pull away, fixing Kira with a stern expression. “Do not let your infatuation cripple you.”
Then she was gone, a whirlwind frenzy hiding away their lives in suitcases. Pictures in their frames disappeared from the mantel. The tea sets and china stowed away in their Styrofoam protections. Towels and soaps gathered and separated.
Kira watched it all, standing still as tears spilled down her cheeks. There would be no reasoning, no compromising. Swallowing back her pleas, Kira went upstairs. She brushed past her father on the way up, and they shared a look. She hoped he’d tell her why in the car, if her mother wouldn’t.
Two hour later, they were stuffing the last things into the little crevices left around the larger bags when a chill crawled up her spine. Noshiko froze—an instinct cultivated over centuries warning her that she was in the sights of a predator. Despite her suddenly thrumming heart, she remained outwardly calm. Tucking the bag into place, she stepped back and closed the car door, bracketing Kira into the relative safety of the vehicle. From the corner of her eye she tried to see. Nothing but shadows met her but she knew better.
Her husband caught her eye as she rounded the car. Questions, questions. She shook her head and said nothing, slipping into the passenger seat and buckling the strap.
Without prompting, Ken pressed down on the gas and shifted the gears.
She tangled their fingers together on the gear shift, needing the strength he provided.
In the rearview mirror, the shadows shivered, aglow in the silver of the breaklights.
Time stills. The shadows seep away, leaving in their place a boy with darkness in his eyes and the moon on his skin. A blue-eyed wolf stands beside him and nine tails curl around them both. She blinks, and the boy grins. She blinks again and time runs forward.
The two figures are gone.
The fear remains.
She will dream of that scene for years to come.
Releasing the remains of his last witch, blonde tresses spilled across the floor. Peter used his foot to kick the carcass away from him and turned to find Stiles. The sight that met him made him grin, heat curling low in his belly.
Stiles stood surrounded by the evidence of his own kills—and really. A coven of witches, now? When were people going to get the message that Beacon Hills was off limits? Not that he minded too much. If not for the inconveniences, Peter might say he almost looked forward to each week’s Big Bad. It passed the time, anyway. And provided an outlet for all that pent up rage, among other things.
Other things being, of course, the thrill of lust whenever he assisted Stiles in… disposing the undesirables.
As he watched, Stiles raised a hand. His claws caught the light, gleaming wetly. Stiles tilted his head, as if enjoying the sight, then he brought his fingers to his mouth and licked the blood clean.
Peter groaned aloud. Whisky-gold eyes flicked up to meet his, pupils blown, and he raised an eyebrow, unashamed. Stiles knew what it did to him, seeing him like that. All blood-thirsty and teasing. Of course he did.
“Come here, sweetheart,” Peter said, stepping over an unrecognizable lump of flesh.
“Gonna make me?” Stiles purred, an ancient accent purring through, but he started moving regardless.
His hips swayed on the descent and behind him his tails flared out.
“That should not be so hot,” Peter noted mildly, fighting to drag his eyes away from the way they curled.
“There’s something wrong with you.”
They met in the middle. Peter caught Stiles hand in his, the blood tacky and cool between them. He pulled the Nogitsune closer until their hips were pressed flush together, until they shared the same breath and their heats beat on the heel of the other.
“With us,” he corrected, and licked a long line across the back of Stiles palm, working his tongue between Stiles’ long fingers.
“Besides,” Peter continued. “I’ve always preferred the term ‘fucked up’.” He buried his nose in the crook of Stiles shoulder, inhaling the potent scent of chilled petrichor and copper. “’Wrong’ suggests we can be corrected.”
Stiles’ hand had come up and tangled in his hair as he spoke. Now it curled into a fist, tugging gently on the short strands at the nape of his neck. “Can’t we?” Stiles asked. “Be corrected, that is? Is it really too late for that?”
Peter pulled away, just far enough to see the wry curve to Stiles mouth. “Darling,” he said and it was a promise as much as it was a vow and a threat and an oath. “You know it is.”
He pressed a kiss to Stiles mouth, sealing it between them and then all he knew was fire—a frenzy of hands and teeth and tongue, each vying to leave their marks on the other. To leave behind evidence, a sign saying look here, this is mine. They tore their clothes from their bodies, their need overruling their patience and settled for nothing less than everything.
When Stiles gasped, clawing at the tree he’d been slammed against, the noise was swallowed by the dead silence of the forest and the mouth of his lover.
When Peter roared, it was coupled with the hitching cry of his mate, and the ravens took flight.
“What’s wrong with him?” Scott demanded, eyeing the outer ring of crushed lilies nervously. There were three of them. Three rings. Each on made of a toxic substance. Lilies of the Valley on the outside, then silver-speckled foxglove and then a rare strain of wolfsbane. In it, pacing along the small patch of floor left to him, was Stiles. Just…not a Stiles he recognized.
Stiles snarled, then, and Scott fought the urge to flinch back.
Deaton hummed and hawed, hands clasped together. “I believe,” he said at last, tone considering and words gentle—that’s what he liked about Deaton, he was always kind. “The most likely explanation is the loss of his anchor. His behavior and the timing… well.” He trailed off.
Scott frowned. Well, what? And what did timing have to do with it? Nothing had even happened recently apart from—
“I had no idea he and Peter had grown so close,” Deaton supplied helpfully when Scott arrived at no conclusion of his own.
Scott spluttered. “Stiles and Peter?”
“So it would seem.”
“But Stiles wouldn’t—Stiles wouldn’t betray us like that. He knows what Peter did to me. He’d never go behind my back like that.”
An odd look came across Deaton’s face. It cleared quickly though, and the druid rocked back on his heels.
“Look at him, Scott. Does this look like your best friend, the boy you’ve known since childhood?”
And Scott looked.
How could he not, when Stiles threw himself against the barrier? It wasn’t desperate, not at all. It was…calculating. Like he was considering exactly how he should go about bringing the barrier down with minimal effort. Already, the foxglove curled and withered, silver dust blowing back.
There was something distinctly…feline, to the way he moved. The easy loping grace, every shift of weight purposeful and predatory. With his lips pulled back over vicious looking fangs, long, sharp nails catching the light whenever he clenched and unclenched his hands… vicious, feral hisses fell from him, normally honey colored eyes alight with a violet insanity…
This wasn’t his Stiles.
It wasn’t his Stiles when the pack had tried confronting him and he’d thrown Derek and Isaac through the wall and clawed them bloody. Or when he broke Allison’s arm, or shot Chris or drove some sort of blade through Scott.
He rubbed his stomach now, feeling the tenderness of healing flesh, and winced.
It had been a long time coming, really. Stiles had been more and more reckless, sharper with his words, crueler with his actions.
Maybe he should have known something was wrong when Stiles discovered they, as a pack, had made the decision to put Peter in Eichen and he’d flown into a rage.
At least then they would have had an idea that Stiles would try to break the man out before he killed six of the orderlies in their homes.
A man by the name of Armond Brunski had been unrecognizable.
Scott wanted to get sick just thinking about it.
God only knew where the Sheriff was, or what condition he was in.
“The best thing we can do is put him in Eichen,” Deaton said. “They can help him there.”
“Yeah.” There was no other choice. They were out of options. “I—okay. Yeah. Let’s do that.”
Unable to look at the… the thing that had once been his friend, Scott turned around and left the loft space. Deaton followed a step behind him.
They never saw the dark grin spreading across Stiles face, too many teeth crammed into a human jaw.
They heard his laugh, though, and it chilled them to the bone.
(They would discover later that the Sheriff had been out of town since Sunday. It being Thursday now, he’d escaped the brunt of Stiles feral rampage. Not that they told him that.)
“Is there a reason you didn’t tell me of your plans?”
It had… been a long time since he heard that voice. It was… mate. His. Mate his mine mine.
He dragged his eyes from the puddles of blood shining on the prison’s concrete floors. He had trouble focusing, his surroundings warping strangely. It was a side-effect of the wolfsbane they pumped through his veins daily. That and the ache in his bones and the way his blood burned like acid with each thump of his heart.
Eichen was the closest to hell on earth one could get but even they couldn’t take the memory of him.
For a moment, Peter almost thought he was hallucinating again. Those first few days, he’d seen many hallucinations. All strange and grotesque. He’d feared sleep, even when he couldn’t tell the difference between waking and dreaming, his mind never knowing a moments peace under the terror Valack forced on him.
Right up until he fought back long enough to slaughter the man during one of his ‘sessions’. He laughed, or he thought he did. The orderlies certainly learned from that, didn’t they? Up the dose for the monster. Twice daily, take no chances. We’ll kill him on any more who cares—
A crooning sound outside his cell and the shift of cloth.
Stiles swam into view, still blurry around the edges. He reminded him of one of those polaroid’s so popular in his youth, the image coming clear only if you shake it enough.
Focus. Focus focus focus.
He curled in on himself, clutching his shaking hands close. He couldn’t stop shaking. God, why couldn’t he stop shaking, couldn’t stop, couldn’t stop…
He flinched back from the hand on his cheek.
He expected… pain. He expected pain but there was only warmth and gentleness. Fuck, it had been so long. He leant into the comfort offered, distantly aware of the way his wolf whimpered.
“What have they done to you?”
Peter huffed an answer. The contact was nice, clearing his mind enough to dampen the haze surrounding him.
Uncurling, he stretched out until his fingers snagged cloth before huddling closer. Gaunt and thin. Surely, that was what he must look like. He wondered if Stiles thought him ghostly, all grey skin and sunken eyes and blackened veins. He wondered if he was imagining the laugh in his head.
He wondered how long he’d been stuck here.
“Two months,” Stiles said, brushing his lips against his hairline. Ah. He must have spoken out loud.
Inhaling deeply, Peter licked his lips and swallowed several times before he attempted more than a crazed babble of words.
“You…came,” he said at length. “For me. You came for me.”
Stiles pulled back. “Of course I did,” he replied, like he couldn’t conceive doing any different. “You’re mine, Peter Hale. A silly little thing like prison isn’t going to change that.”
Peter attempted a smile, wincing when his dry lips split. Eyes dropping to his mouth, Stiles shushed him. He cradled Peter’s face between both hands and… well, he’d never done it before so for all he knew he was indulging a fanciful whim and nothing more, but. He focused. He pictured his Spark as a physical pool of energy and carefully nudged it into Peter. He pictured it healing and hoped it worked.
Beneath his fingers, colour returned to Peter’s cheeks and before his eyes his lips healed and the bruises marring his neck faded.
Tired though his triumph was, Stiles flashed a smile and concentrated on flushing the rest of the poison from Peter’s system. They had time—they had all the time in the world—but ditching this place would be easier if Peter was in full control of a functional body.
It was going well, Stiles thought. Until Peter heaved and hurriedly pushed away, and then he figured that he might have to reevaluate when Peter keeled over and began throwing up black goo. Harsh coughs wracked his thin frame. Stiles crawled over, hovering uncertainly.
Eventually, there was nothing left to expel and Peter collapsed against him with a tired sigh.
“Let’s not do this again,” he muttered, eyes sliding closed.
“Okay,” Stiles agreed easily. Not that it was a hardship. His own imprisonment hadn’t exactly been a cake walk either. (But oh how he had made them beg in the end).
“I hurt you,” Peter then said, turning his head so they were eye to eye.
Stiles said nothing for a long moment. Then he shrugged and pushed his finger’s through his mates sweaty hair. “I hurt you, too.”
Memories of fire and Peter’s brows furrowed in distaste. “It didn’t work.”
Stiles quirked an eyebrow, tilting his head. Peter could almost hear the derisive, ya think?
He coughed, wiping the black spittle from his mouth with the back of his hand. “Forgive the assumption you would enjoy the ‘surprise’ part of the gift.”
Stiles barked out a laugh. It trilled through the air, a foreign sound in hell. “You can make it up to me,” he said, and kissed Peter’s cheek, oblivious to the rough stubble.
“You’re lucky I love you.”
“Luck?” Peter hated the delay between his thoughts and words. “Is that what we’re calling it now? If I’d known all I had to do was—” he swallowed and coughed, again. “—I’d have done it years ago, if I’d known.”
Stiles smiled, unbearably fond. “Idiot.”
“And don’t you forget it.”
They lingered for a handful of minutes after that before they finally picked themselves up and began making their way out.
As they walked, Peter made sure to remain pressed up tight to Stiles, even when it was inconvenient to do so. Each hall they passed bore the signs of Stiles’ handiwork. Deep grooves in metal and wood from his claws. Orderlies and guards and psychiatrists and doctors ripped apart with his teeth and magic. Their feet left tracks in the blood.
Peter couldn’t imagine a more perfect creature.
And still the answer escaped him when he fell into the passenger seat of a beat-up little Honda—their escape car, apparently.
Stiles climbed into the driver’s seat, checking the glovebox and mirror flaps for the keys, paying no mind to Peter’s staring.
Key found, he jammed it in, started up the engine and easily backed the car up and reversed out of the parking lot. Given the torture Peter’s body had been put through, it was hardly a surprise when he started to crash. Reaching over, Peter curled his hand around Stiles thigh. He let his head drop back against the headrest.
Eichen House groaned behind them, crumbling into ruin and charred to ashes and they were together.
Peter would have it no other way.