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Things never stay quiet in Beacon Hills for long. A week after the Nogitsune is banished, Stiles disappears.

His friends all go out searching for him, but they just can’t catch his scent. That’s because they’re looking for Stiles, and their weak, unrefined senses can’t pick out the subtleties. Peter is a goddamn maestro compared to them and he has an advantage. He knows what he’s looking for. Wolves are good at finding foxes.

When Scott’s pack gives up, looking for clues in the less supernatural, Peter goes to the Preserve and shifts into his wolf form, and then he starts to hunt.

He picks up the scent easily enough, animal and earthy and full of fear. Those subtleties are there though, the ones Peter knew would be, the salty and sweet that underlies everything Stiles is; locker room and candy.

It doesn’t take Peter long to track Stiles into a clearing. He’s filthy and cowering, drawing away from the predator in front of him. He thinks Peter is a real wolf. Peter shifts back, standing before him, but it doesn’t put Stiles at ease. Peter sighs, considering him across the clearing.

“You can’t change back, can you?”

Stiles sits back at that, looking up at him with those big eyes that are unmistakable.

“You don’t even know how it happened.”

Peter takes a step forward and Stiles instantly tenses.

“It’s okay,” Peter says, holding up a hand. “The Nogitsune split you in two, the good and the bad, but you’re both foxes.”

Stiles tilts his head but it’s more wary than interested. Peter takes another step forward and then he crouches down, getting to Stiles’ level.

“It doesn’t have power over you anymore,” Peter assures him. “The Nogitsune. It’s gone. The power’s all yours now.”

Stiles looks thoughtful and Peter can see those little cogs turning. He’s the clever one.

“You just have to master it,” Peter says. “And if anyone can do that, it’s you.”

He holds out his hand and Stiles considers it for a moment before he finally stands, moving over. He places his paw into Peter’s waiting palm, looking him in the eyes.

“We should get you somewhere safe,” Peter says. “Get you cleaned up. Then I’m going to show you some books and let’s see if you can figure this out.”

Stiles narrows his eyes at Peter and pushes down on his hand with his paw. Mission accepted.

Stiles trots along by Peter’s side out of the woods, and Peter is glad he brought Derek’s car when he looks at the muddy paws on the passenger seat. When they get back to Peter’s apartment, he cleans Stiles off in his bathtub, washing away two days of roaming in mud and undergrowth. He looks so much cuter when he’s not bedraggled. As Peter towels him off, Stiles lets out a huge yawn.

“I guess you didn’t sleep so well in the woods,” Peter says. “You should get some rest. This will go a lot smoother if you do.”

Stiles doesn’t argue, he just walks out of the bathroom and jumps his damp fox ass right onto Peter’s bed. He settles down straightaway, eyes closing with a heavy sigh, and Peter wants to complain, but for some reason he doesn’t. Let the kid sleep. They have work to do when he wakes.

Peter gathers up the books that could be useful to Stiles and he sits down in the chair in his bedroom, looking through them to bookmark pages. His eyes keep drifting over to Stiles though, his orange fur lighting up like fire in the sunlight. Peter doesn’t like fire, but there’s a certain beauty to this. He doesn’t think for a second that it could hurt him.

The book ends up limply in his lap as he stares at Stiles, the soothing rhythm of his side rising and falling with each breath. He looks so at peace. That’s what he needs to be able to control his powers. He needs to feel centred and confident and safe. And he does, Peter can smell it coming off him in waves. Trust. Belonging. Right here in Peter’s bedroom.

Peter doesn’t think they’re going to need the books. He goes over to the bed, laying down beside Stiles, placing a hand on his side to feel those breaths through soft fur that tickles his palm. Stiles makes a little noise and snuggles closer to him. Peter closes his eyes and he thinks that when he opens them again, he might just have a boy in his arms.