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Protect and Serve

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Stiles was well aware that this wasn't one of his best decisions, thank you very much , but if he's honest with himself then he's not really sure he cares right about now. Stumbling through the preserve on unsteady feet, Stiles takes a moment to lean heavily against the closest tree that he can see so that he can take a few deep breaths in attempts to calm the annoyance that's been building for longer than he'd like to admit.

 

It had started with Allison, and Stiles had found himself getting left behind more and more from Scott, but he'd been able to brush that off as some Romeo and Juliet bullshit that Scott and Allison had been going through at the beginning. It would have been different if it had stopped there, but it hadn't and then nearly four years went by and Stiles was left to watch Scott advance in everything besides schoolwork and never turn back to notice him lagging behind.

 

Other people had noticed immediately, of course; it was always considered a rarity to find Stiles without Scott and vice versa.

 

Jackson had noticed back at the beginning when Scott first started pulling away, which was the really odd part, even though he'd left for England not too long after the whole Kanima thing happened and Lydia had broken the curse. He'd come back that same summer and had knocked on Stiles' door with Lydia and asked for his personal opinion on Derek Hale. Jackson had quietly admitted that he'd stopped to see Scott first, had asked him for his own opinion on Derek, but hadn't been satisfied when all Scott did was start blaming Derek for everything that had happened to him.

 

The fact that it was Jackson and he was still willing to potentially trust Derek with himself ended up being a reality check for Stiles. In the end, Stiles had taken a while to think about his own opinion, shoving a handful of curly fries into his mouth, surprised when Jackson took a few from the offered bag as well. 

 

"I think he could be a good Alpha given time," Stiles admitted to Jackson, a little confused at how attentive Jackson was with him, that there had been no threats and no insults thrown his way. That's what gave him the confidence to add: "I think he could be good for you."

 

Jackson had taken another fry and chewed while Lydia looked between them both curiously, taking his time before he'd nodded slowly and mumbled: "I think so too."

 

After that, Jackson kept coming back to Stiles' house, sometimes with Lydia and sometimes without, though he seemed more and more on edge after a few weeks passed and Jackson still hadn't heard anything from Derek.

 

Stiles had known the day that Jackson came by and had been accepted into the pack because he'd pulled a very surprised Stiles into a tight hug and genuinely thanked him for his advice. He'd hugged Jackson back tentatively, but Jackson just squeezed him with human level strength and started talking about Isaac, Erica and Boyd, and how Jackson gave them the same advice that Stiles had given him.

 

In the end, that advice had saved them from a horrible painful death when Allison's grandfather came to town and kidnapped Erica and Boyd in attempts to torture them for information on Derek. Stiles had been taken as well, been beaten within an inch of his life while Erica and Boyd snarled and pulled at their ties, even with electricity running through them. The noise eventually caught the attention of Chris Argent, who let all three of them go in the middle of the night.

 

Stiles was practically dragged home by Erica and Boyd, who kept stumbling and turning back to the woods looking unsure and more than a little afraid. He didn't even have to ask before Erica nervously admitted that there were unknown wolves howling in the forest, and that she wanted to get as far away from them as she could, so Stiles offered to have them both stay and offered that he could line his bedroom in the mountain ash that he'd stolen from Deaton.

 

They'd agreed, and luckily his dad was working a late shift, because there was a lot of blood that Stiles needed to wash off, not including the dirt and grime all over Erica and Boyd. 

 

Still, Stiles had showered quickly, bandaged the worst of his wounds and limped downstairs, putting together enough sandwiches to feed a small army, and brought them upstairs to the waiting wolves. Erica was wearing a pair of his sleep pants and one of his dad's old shirts, and Boyd was shirtless, though he at least put on a pair of basketball shorts. He'd grabbed two sandwiches and handed the rest over to the wolves, allowing Erica to manhandle him onto his bed once they were all done eating.

 

Boyd had slipped in behind Erica and draped Stiles' Blanket over the three of them before Stiles had realized he hadn't laid the mountain ash line. He amended that and climbed back into bed, running his fingers through Erica's hair and trying not to think about the rush of fondness he felt for the two of them right then.

 

"I'm glad you guys are alright." Stiles admitted after he'd turned out the light, nearly startling when Boyd's large hand ruffled his hair gently, somehow avoiding the bruising. 

 

"I'm sorry that you're not." Erica whispered, refusing to fall asleep until Stiles told her that he didn't blame them, he blamed Gerard. She'd relaxed immediately, somehow curling back onto Boyd while resting on Stiles and fell asleep.

 

Surprisingly, he'd slept well that night too, and when his dad opened his bedroom door the next morning and found two strangers in Stiles' bed with him, he handled it with as much grace and grumbling as could be expected, but when Stiles came downstairs and his dad had caught sight of his face, Stiles admitted to getting caught and getting beaten by Gerard.

 

He was just so tired of the lies, of having to sneak around his dad, of having to see that look on his face every time he caught Stiles in a lie. John was a Sheriff for a reason, and he was damn good at his job.

 

Gerard was arrested hours later, and between Stiles' injuries and the equipment they found in his car, Gerard went to prison where he'd died nearly a year later. 

 

Scott didn't notice, though he did offhandedly mention to Stiles about having a plan to stop Gerard by forcing Derek to bite him, and when Jackson overheard Scott talking at lunch, Stiles had his hands full trying to keep the two from practically killing each other. Jackson had eventually left when Allison started talking sweetly about wolfsbane being untraceable in food and drink until it was ingested, and Stiles had left with him when it was clear that Scott wasn't going to listen to anything he had to say anyway.

 

It was uncomfortable that Scott was so willing to let Allison threaten Jackson like that, especially since Scott was aware that Stiles and Jackson actually get along these days.

--

 

The Alpha pack didn't change as much as it probably would if Derek's pack hadn't been so close. The Betas practically lived out of each other's pockets, spending their time halved between Stiles' house and Derek's new apartment.

 

Deucalion wanted Derek to kill his Betas and join the Alpha pack, but he'd refused and had listened to Stiles' suggestion about cashing in on the treaty with the Argents. Derek had agreed to meet Deucalion in a bank where he'd found Cora, his apparently not dead little sister all tied up and waiting for him as leverage. When the Wolfsbane gas started seeping in that Stiles had personally helped Chris create, Stiles had pulled out the extra masks he'd packed just in case and put it on Cora while Deucalion and Derek fought in another room.

 

A bullet to five heads stopped the reign of the Alpha pack, and Derek even managed to get his sister back. She'd readily joined the pack, and judging by the way she kept looking at Isaac, Stiles was curious more than anything about how long that would take to get somewhere.

 

So that had happened, but Scott had turned back to Allison and left Stiles in the bank on his own. That night, Jackson helped Stiles admit the existence of Werewolves to his father with permission from Derek, and John had poured himself nearly three fingers of Whiskey and asked the two of them to explain everything , so they did.

 

Later, his dad pulled him aside and asked whose pack he belonged to, and Stiles quietly admitted that he wasn't sure he belonged to either of them. His dad had simply raises a brow, looked at Jackson's retreating back and poured himself another glass.

 

That night he couldn't stop thinking about how Scott kept pulling away from him and Stiles realized that he kept waiting for Scott to wake up and realize that Stiles wasn't by his side anymore, but it never seemed to happen, which brings him back to now.

--

 

Now is stumbling between pack lines after Derek's pack had successfully wiped out a Darach that had tried to manipulate Derek almost the same way that Kate Argent had, which had left Stiles with a bad taste in his mouth and a distinct distrust of Deaton. On one hand, they learned why Lydia was immune to the bite, but on the other hand, Mr. Harris had almost died, and even Stiles wasn't that heartless to not feel at least a little bit bad about it. 

 

Scott hadn't even noticed that Stiles had left, he'd been too busy checking on Allison after the battle even though she wasn't the one who got flung through the air by some invisible and unmovable force, and for some reason, that was just it.

 

Stiles was done running after Scott, too exhausted by their dying friendship to only be acknowledged whenever something was wrong with Scott's relationship with Allison. He was so tired of the guilt he had saying no when Scott begged him to hang out after Stiles had seen Allison stomping away from him. So Stiles had gone home, grabbed the rest of his dad's whiskey bottle and drove into the preserve to drink himself into Oblivion, which he'd mostly managed.

 

Groaning, Stiles pushed himself off the tree that he'd been leaning on and stumbles his way into the clearing he'd been heading for, crouching down to lean against what was left of the Nemeton that is apparently responsible for the increase of Supernatural activity in Beacon Hills, if Deaton is to be believed. Honestly at this point Stiles doesn't know who he trusts less, Deaton, or Peter.

 

Peter had at least been taken in more or less by Chris Argent when he'd used Lydia to come back to life, and now he was more or less normal, whatever that is, but he's still creepy as hell. But Peter admitted that he remembers the Nemeton back when Talia and the rest of the Hales had been alive, that it had been tall and thriving, and that it had protected this town and the people in it. Their emissary had been linked to it in a way that all emissaries are connected to the land their packs live in, and that since this Hale pack has no emissary that the magic must be all over the place, now.

 

Derek has apparently refused to let Deaton anywhere near the new Hale house he's planning to build, and has sent out word to neighboring packs asking about emissaries and how to find one well suited for his pack. Stiles doesn't know if he's heard back from anyone yet because he's been too busy drinking himself stupid, and hadn't brought his phone which will piss off his dad, but there's nothing he can do about it now.

 

Stiles sighs, leaning back against the scratchy bark of the Nemeton and resting his head upon the edge where it had been cut down.

 

"Why would someone try to kill a magic tree?" Stiles asks out loud, reaching up and running a hand over the stump, giving the tree a good natured pat. "You're not a bad tree, are you? You're just misunderstood."

 

Pulling himself up by one of the stumps roots, Stiles manages to sit down on the stump and sighs happily now that there's no more rocks hurting his ass. The stump isn't exactly comfortable , but it's giving off enough subtle heat that Stiles is content to sit there anyways. He's too lost in his own head to notice a tiny sprout wiggling through one of the cracks in the stump of the Nemeton, but he soon becomes aware when it brushes against his pant leg.

 

He jerks back for a moment before curiosity gets the better of him and Stiles bends down, peering at the sprout uneasily, but it just sits there being green and doing absolutely nothing at all.

 

"You're going to be a good tree," Stiles decides right then and there as he sits, carefully taking his index finger and stroking the small leaves as carefully as he can. He feels deep in his chest that this tree is coming back to life right this very second, and maybe if he sticks around, it will be good in the end. "I'm going to visit you, and you're going to be the best damned Nemeton around. I believe in you, little dude."

 

With one last little pat, Stiles climbs off the stump with a surprising amount of grace, grimacing at the taste of old whiskey in his mouth and the lingering sense of sobriety in his body. It takes him a short time to get back to his Jeep, much shorter than he'd thought since he'd walked for what he thought was hours. Climbing into Roscoe, Stiles risks a glance at the clock on his dash and groans when the light reflects back at him, reading 5:35 in the morning. His dad was going to kill him, not to mention Jackson and Erica at the very least. 

 

Stiles turns on the Jeep, reversing out of the preserve and heads home, refusing to wonder about how he lost nearly six hours of time while sitting on that stump.

--

 

Stiles doesn't really see Derek much anymore now that Cora has been around these last few months, but Stiles still can't bring himself to be frightened when the first thing he sees when he wakes up the next day is a thick judgy eyebrow and Derek's thunderous scowl.

 

"Oh Alpha, My Alpha," Stiles rasps out, grimacing at the lingering taste of alcohol in his mouth, turning back to Derek. His arms are crossed over his chest and there are shadows under his eyes that Stiles relates to, considering he sees the same bags under his own eyes Everytime he looks into the mirror. "To what do I owe the pleasure?"

 

"How about the eight hours of sleep I missed last night since my betas dragged me out of bed looking for your drunk ass in the woods?" Derek quirks his eyebrow and simultaneously glares down at Stiles, who is too busy stretching to care anymore. Derek stopped being scary when Stiles had to hold him up for two hours in a swimming pool.

 

"Awe, I didn't know you cared , big bad." Scratching at his stomach, Stiles sits up and runs a hand through what feels to be an awful case of bedhead, further proven by how Derek's nostrils flare and his eyes flicker.

 

"You smell weird." Derek shifts uneasily from foot to foot before leaning the tiniest fraction closer and taking another breath of air. "What did you do last night, Stiles?"

 

When Derek asks, it's like he's resigned himself to the fact that Stiles must have done something simply because of the fact that he's Stiles. He could take it as an insult or as praise, but mostly Stiles is just resigned to Derek's resignation.

 

It seems like no matter how nice or informative he tries to be that Derek will never warm up to him as much as the rest of the pack has. Even Cora has come to Stiles requesting help with simple things, like how to win over Lydia, summer school homework, or just to have a place to escape to when memories of the Hales become too much.

 

"I got drunk and walked around in the woods for a while." Shrugging his shoulders, Stiles gets out of bed and heads for his bureau, grabbing a clean t-shirt and pulling it over his head. "I found a stump to sit on and must have fallen asleep for a while."

 

"So why couldn't we find you, then?" Derek has moved back towards the window, his hands clenched by his sides, his eyes narrowed. "We were following you, and then it's like you dropped clear off the face of the earth. Your heartbeat stopped, your scent trail disappeared, it was like you didn't exist anymore."

 

"So what you're telling me is that i'm going to have my day full of worried puppies, is that it?" Buttoning his jeans, Stiles shakes his head when he catches sight of himself in his mirror. He sure looks like he spent all night in the woods, he's even got some pine needles stuck in his hair.

 

"Damn it, Stiles." Derek mumbles it under his breath, but Stiles turns to him like he'd spoken loudly anyways. "Aren't you worried about this at all? You were in the woods, these woods, and basically stopped existing."

 

Stiles considers telling Derek about the Nemeton waking up, and how sure he was about it being healthy and good, but part of him was afraid that Derek might tell Deaton since he was the only one they could ask about magic in this damn town. But he really didn't want Deaton anywhere near his tree.

 

His tree?

 

Pushing that thought from his head, Stiles turns back to Derek and shrugs, leaning against his wall in what he hopes is a nonchalant manner. "Look Derek, I don't know what to tell you. I haven't been cursed or drained, it's not like I'm like you guys, and I don't have magic like Deaton. There's no reason for anything evil to take me, it's not like I'm necessary here or anything."

 

The glare fades from Derek faster than Stiles has ever thought was possible, leaving him wide eyed and confused, his head tilting off to the side. "What do you mean there's no reason things would want to get their claws in you, you're pack. "

 

Blinking, Stiles stumbles from the room and glances over his shoulder to see Derek frowning, looking more worried than Stiles has seen him look before. "Do you want breakfast?"

 

"You have got to know that you're pack." Derek blurts, following after Stiles without giving him a yes or no answer to the food. "Right, Stiles?"

 

He doesn't answer, jogging down the stairs instead and heads right into the kitchen, pulling down the cast iron skillet off the wall and grabbing everything he needs for homemade pancakes. "Can you call the rest of the pack and tell them to get their asses here for breakfast?"

 

"You didn't know?" Derek has his phone out and is typing rapidly, flicking his eyes up every so often to stare at Stiles. "How could you not know? You've been pack longer than Jackson. "

 

"I what?" Yelping, Stiles drops an egg and groans loudly when it shatters on the floor. He barely even notices Derek stepping around him, though he does notice when Derek starts pouring an obscene amount of salt over the broken egg. "Derek, why ?"

 

That "why" means many things to Stiles, and he's not sure that Derek understands.

 

Why didn't anyone tell him he was pack right away, why was he considered pack so early on, how has he been pack for four years and not notice , and for God's sake, why is Derek salting a shattered egg?

 

"You have to let that sit for about fifteen minutes," Derek puts the salt container back in the cupboard as easily as he found it, leaving Stiles open mouthed and gaping at him. When Derek notices, color slowly creeps into his cheeks and he crosses his arms over his chest again. "Just because we were wolves doesn't mean we were raised like them. Mom taught me this trick after Cora tried to help me make cookies one afternoon and we lost half a dozen eggs to the floor."

 

"Derek Hale knows how to bake homemade cookies," Stiles says dazedly, collecting himself when Derek begins to scowl again. "That's cool, man. I make amazing lasagna. It was my mom's recipe."

 

Derek softens a little when Stiles mentions his mother, but they're both distracted by his front door opening up and Jackson practically running into the kitchen and bullying Stiles up against the counter, sniffing at his hair, his neck, gagging when Stiles laughs in his face and he realizes he forgot to brush his teeth.

 

He takes care of that and comes back downstairs to find Boyd putting together pancake mix, Lydia playing around with Stiles' iPod dock while Cora flat out refuses to listen to anything on Stiles' iPod and suggesting a Pandora station instead, while Jackson and Derek are deep in conversation. Isaac is the first one to notice Stiles, and the shy smile is somewhat of a surprise, as is Isaac taking Stiles by the arm and dragging him back upstairs to his room before anyone else can say anything to Stiles.

 

"Isaac, buddy, you okay?" Stiles pulls his arm out of Isaac's hold the moment they're in his room and pats Isaac down for any aches and pains. The last time that training had gotten too rough for him, Isaac had limped to Stiles' house and curled up in his bed until he was healed. They're not the closest out of the pack, but Stiles always figured it was because Isaac was closer friends with Scott than Stiles was these days. They don't hate each other or anything, but Isaac searching him out is a rarity 

 

"Derek says you didn't know you were part of us," Isaac shuts Stiles' door and moves to sit on his bed, patting the spot next to him. He looks a little sheepish, which makes him look more like a kicked puppy than anything, which just about breaks Stiles's heart. He moves to sit next to Isaac, further surprised when he presses their shoulders together. " I thought you were being distant because we were just a substitute for Scott."

 

"I don't use people like that, Isaac." Stiles murmurs, trying his best to reassure him. He wriggles where he sits, making a mental note to take his Adderall after this. "I wouldn't try to replace Scott like that either. I like you guys, all of you, because of who you are, but I genuinely had no idea I was in the pack."

 

Isaac nods but doesn't respond, and Stiles can hear the soft chatter downstairs in the silence. It's what gives him the urge to add: "No one bothered to tell me that I was pack."

 

Jolting, Isaac mumbles something about stubborn Alphas before turning back to Stiles. "You never wondered why the pack always came to you when we needed a break from Derek? You never came to any of the pack meetings; we thought you just weren't interested, or that you didn't want to cause more issues with Scott."

 

"I thought it was just convenient to come here!" Stiles flails around for a moment before flopping back onto his bed with a loud groan. "God, I'm really fucking dense, aren't I?"

 

Isaac snorts softly, slowly laying himself down next to Stiles, like he's afraid of pushing some boundary that Stiles might have. It's easier to just open his arms and offer comfort to Isaac this way, considering Stiles barely has to wait before Isaac is curling up next to him and practically going boneless. He snuffles against Stiles' collarbone, making a soft grumbling noise that sounds more pleased than anything. Stiles is too busy trying not to get a mouthful of Isaac's curls everytime he opens his mouth to try and say something, which only gets remedied when Stiles lifts his hands and begins running his fingers through Isaac's hair to push it back.

 

Humming, Isaac tries to burrow closer to Stiles, his arms wrapping around his waist and tugging. "You're going to smell like me." When Isaac talks, his lips press against Stiles' skin. "Like us."

 

"I didn't already?" Stiles isn't sure how this whole scent thing worked but at least one of the pups was all over him whenever they hung out. "What's the difference between scenting me now?"

 

"Intent." Isaac slowly pulls back from Stiles, his pupils blown wide, cheeks red, and a slightly dopey grin on his face. "We assumed you knew what we were doing before, but now you do know, and instead of pushing me away, you pulled me closer. Intent is everything , Stiles."

 

"Huh," Stiles stretches out on his bed for a moment before the smell of pancakes reaches his human nose and his stomach growls. He rubs his stomach, taking Isaac's hand when it's offered, and lets himself be tugged to his feet. Isaac just grins at him, happier than Stiles thinks he's ever seen him, and opens the bedroom door to tug Stiles down the stairs.

 

To say he's surprised when they reach the kitchen is an understatement, because not only are his dad and Melissa sat at the table while Derek and his wolves move around the kitchen with ease, but Stiles is ushered to the table as well, interrupting his dad and Melissa's conversation. 

 

They're already eating pancakes, and have been for a while it seems, since both of their plates are nearly empty. Stiles smiles at them both until he notices the syrup puddle on his dad's plate and points a finger at him, getting ready to start another rant about healthy food when a large hand on his shoulder makes him pause.

 

Boyd is standing behind him with the skillet held up and away from Stiles in case of wayward flailing, and there's an amused look sent his way before Boyd turns back to the Sheriff.

 

"Would you like another pancake, Mr. Stilinski?" Boyd asks, already scooping a pancake from the pan to lay it on the Sheriff's plate, bringing the skillet back to the stove right after.

 

"Call me John, son." He calls to Boyd from over his shoulder, looking down at the pancake on his plate and nearly wriggling in his seat with excitement.

 

Erica dances her way to Stiles and sets down a plate with two buttery golden pancakes on top and leans down to press her lips against his cheek before she gently nuzzles her nose against his temple. She grins at him when Stiles feels the blush rush into his face but she doesn't comment, sliding back over to Boyd instead.

 

It's then that he notices the difference in color between his pancakes and his dad's. He spends an absurd amount of time looking between their plates before someone takes pity on him. It's not who he expected to help him out, though.

 

"They're wheat pancakes." Cora says quietly, sitting next to Stiles and snagging the syrup from its place on the table, pouring a healthy amount over her stack of six pancakes. "Jackson said you worry about your dad's health, so Lydia and Derek went out and bought wheat flour and some fresh fruit and vegetables since you didn't have anyone the house."

 

"Wednesdays are shopping days," Stiles offers absentmindedly, watching his dad dig into wheat pancakes with the amount of enthusiasm he usually saves for his monthly pizza. He feels a little like a hindrance and hunches his shoulders a little bit. "They didn't have to do that for me."

 

Cora wastes no time with slapping Stiles upside the head, the snickering he can hear from the living room sounds suspiciously like Jackson, and Stiles internally plans his demise. 

 

"Don't be stupid," Cora rolls her eyes, shoving what looks to be an entire pancake into her mouth, chewing fiercely before swallowing. "He's your dad."

 

"What Cora means to say is that if you're pack, then that obviously extends to your father." Lydia interjects, her hair pulled back into a messy bun, face makeup free and syrup on her left cheek. Stiles is both amazed to see her like this and completely unsurprised.

 

This is the Lydia Martin that he'd always wanted to see when he was younger, and though he still feels a rush of affection for her, it's nothing like it used to be. Jackson follows close behind her with his own empty plate and sidles up to the kitchen sink and starts doing the dishes .

 

Stiles takes a moment to gape at Jackson, snorting into his hand when the wolf begins to shake his ass and singing to some pop song on whatever Pandora station Cora and Lydia had chosen.

 

"Stiles," Melissa calls to him, jolting him out of what he was sure was an acid dream of some kind. "Aren't you going to eat?"

 

The wolves all pause what they're doing and turn to Stiles with their eyes wide. Boyd, for the first time since Stiles has met him, suddenly looks unsure, looking from Stiles' pancakes and back at him like something might be wrong with the food. It's that crestfallen look that has Stiles forgetting all about syrup and cutting off a huge piece of pancake and shoving it in his mouth.

 

Syrup is quickly proven unnecessary, because Stiles is sure that these are the best pancakes he's ever had in his life, and he says so to a suddenly sheepish Boyd, and then the noise is back in the kitchen. Stiles inhales his pancakes in record time, mumbling his thanks when Boyd deposits a third pancake on his plate before demolishing that one as well.

 

"You guys are going to have to roll me out of here if I keep eating like this." Rubbing his stomach, Stiles leans back in his chair and groans when a steaming cup of coffee is placed in front of him by a smug looking Derek Hale. Stiles tries his hardest not to do something stupid like sticking his tongue out at the alpha, but something must show on his face because Derek's smirk widens.

 

"Oh please," The Sheriff says with a roll of his eyes, pointing his fork at Stiles. "You could eat like this every day and not gain a pound, you know that."

 

Derek grins slowly, looking Stiles up and down in a way that would seem flirtatious if Stiles didn't know that Derek was just looking at how lanky and awkward his body is. Stiles grumbles and crosses his arms over his chest but doesn't bother to disagree with his dad.

 

Melissa and John take off not too long after that to get to work, Lydia and Jackson head out not too much later than that. Lydia stops to kiss Stiles' other cheek, but Jackson ruffles his hair on the way by. Boyd leaves next, clasping a hand on Stiles' shoulder again and squeezing twice, and Erica nuzzles back against him temple. Isaac pulls him into a tight hug, Cora punches his shoulder, and Derek-

 

Derek starts putting away the clean dishes, so Stiles is quick to stand a help him since the pack did all the work earlier. They work in near silence, some soft music from Pandora still playing in the background. A quick look from Stiles means that he notices that it's Derek's phone connected to Pandora now, and that the soft instrumental is a channel he has favorited.

 

It should be weird how domestic this morning was, Stiles thinks, but it hadn't been weird at all. He felt settled in a way that he hadn't thought was possible, comfortable in his own home to the point of it feeling like before when she was still here.

 

The grief hits him suddenly and all at once, and all Stiles can think of is how much his mother would have loved the pack, how she would have made sure that Isaac was safe even before he was a werewolf, or told Boyd that it wasn't his fault that his little sister went missing, that Erica didn't need to be so fierce all the time. She would have reassured Jackson that his mother and father might not have been his biologically, but that didn't mean that they loved him any less, and that Lydia should never have to hide how smart she was.

 

Claudia would have taken one look at broken nineteen year old Derek Hale and would decide that she would be his person, would have told Scott to stop being so stubborn because couldn't he see that Derek was trying? He was just a kid too, wasn't he? After all, he'd only been sixteen when most of his family died, and then his sister was murdered by their uncle, so hadn't he suffered enough ?

 

When she found Stiles sneaking out to go help the pack, she'd sneak out too, until John would catch on and put his hands on his waist and tell them they should have invited him along too, and everything would be different, so much better, if only-

 

If only-

 

"Stiles?"

 

Derek's voice jarrs him out of his own head, and when Stiles blinks back to himself, he's surprised to find Derek reaching out to him, a little unsure. It's the uncertainty that has Stiles taking the few steps necessary to be within reach of Derek, and what has him leaning down to press his forehead against his Alpha's shoulder.

 

He might not have the best sense of smell, but with his nose pressed so close, Derek smells good ; like dirt, pine needles, like Autumn and something spicy. It's comforting, so Stiles takes another step closer and takes hold of Derek's jacket to further anchor himself. That sense of calm doesn't come until Derek slowly, and oh so heartbreakingly carefully, wraps his arms around Stiles like he isn't sure whether he should pull him close or push him away.

 

In the end, that's what has Stiles letting go of the jacket to wrap his arms around Derek's waist, what has him turning his head and pressing his nose against Derek's throat. When all his Alpha does is tense up, Stiles pulls back to look at him, startled to find that Derek's eyes are red. 

 

Slowly, Stiles tilts his head off to the side, baring his neck for Derek. Derek growls low in his throat and bends his head down while Stiles stays as still as he possibly can while Derek snuffles hotly against the skin of his neck. They stay like that for a while until Derek whispers his name and presses blunt, thankfully human, teeth against his skin, pressing down gently before pulling away.

 

Some part of Stiles might have been worried that Derek might give him the bite years before, but he knows now that Derek would never force it on anyone, not after what happened with Jackson and what could have happened with Gerard.

 

"You trust me that much?" Derek looks confused, his hands shifting until he's holding Stiles by the shoulders, frowning down at him. It doesn't make sense to him, and Stiles tells him so. "You're the only one in this pack that I haven't had to force to submit."

 

 Derek's response makes his hair stand on end, but Stiles only pats the werewolf's chest and grins. "Big guy, I haven't been scared of you since the night in the pool, and you've had plenty of opportunity to rip my throat out with your teeth since then. And this? Submitting to you, or whatever?"

 

Derek glares when Stiles flails, letting go of his shoulders to cross his arms back over his chest, but Stiles is not deterred. "Yeah, of course I trust you. You're my Alpha, aren't you? That means you won't hurt me."

 

For a minute Stiles thinks he's said something wrong, because Derek's glare seems to harden even more before he blows out a breath and shakes his head slowly but it seems as though he was just getting himself under control because Derek rolls his shoulders and offers Stiles a small, tense smile.

 

"Pack night are on Fridays." Derek growls out, straightening his jacket before raising a brow at Stiles. "You're coming from now on." With that, he pushes himself off of Stiles' counter and heads for the door, grunting when Stiles shouting a goodbye after him.

--

 

He doesn't mean to go back to the Nemeton so soon, though this time he does text the pack now that he's in their group chat to let them know he's going into the woods and that he'll be fine and somehow, Stiles isn't surprised when he parks the Jeep that Boyd is leaning against a tree, looking nonchalantly at Stiles while he stares from inside Roscoe. He's a little frustrated, though he does still grab the water he packed and a few snacks before he exits the car and walks over to Boyd.

 

"What did you do to get stuck on babysitting duty?" Stiles asks, righteous anger flaring up inside. He's sure right now that if he was a wolf that his eyes would be gleaming a bright blue (Don't think about it, Don't.) while he glares at Boyd, his hands on his waist.

 

Boyd just shrugs, pushing himself off the tree with an ease that only serves in making Stiles envious. "I offered," He says, and juts his chin towards the woods. "We going?"

 

The anger melts out of Stiles like it wasn't even there in the first place, leaving him more tired than frustrated. He runs a hand over his face before nodding. "Yeah, we're going."

 

The walk takes a bit of time, considering that the last time Stiles was here he was drunk, and he's beginning to think that intoxication might just be a necessity until they both stumble across the clearing just when Stiles was considering asking Boyd to lead him back to the Jeep. They must have passed the clearing quite a few times, because Stiles isn't sure what he was expecting, but it sure as hell wasn't this.

 

The little sprout has more than tripled its size, and is now nearly almost as tall as Stiles is. The trunk is about as thick as his forearm, but it's sturdy, healthy looking, with branches full of green leaves that seem to rustle out to him when the wind gently blows.

 

Stiles takes a step forward, ignoring the warning growl from Boyd and reaches his hand towards the branches, which rustle a bit more and reach for him. He allows it, though Boyd does not , and the moment a single leaf comes in contact with his skin, he finds himself tugged back against a broad chest. Boyd is snarling, half shifted, eyes glowing, and a protective hand splayed over Stiles' chest. The tree shivers and shakes, it's branches folding into itself, looking for all the world like a scolded child.

 

"Boyd." When that gets no response besides another loud snarl, Stiles elbows him in the chest. It probably didn't hurt, but Boyd stops the noise and reluctantly lets Stiles go. "What was that?"

 

"This place smells weird," Boyd crinkles his nose when it flares again, baring his teeth when he gestures over at the tree. " That's where the smell is coming from."

 

"Well yeah, it's kind of a magic tree?" Stiles shrugs, taking a step closer to the tree and ignoring Boyd's snarling that starts up again. "It's not going to hurt me, Boyd. It's a good tree, aren't you?"

 

The Nemeton's leaves rustle as Stiles steps closer, and when he reaches out a hand and gently trails a finger over a leaf, all the branches reach for him, gently pulling at his shirt and pants. He gets patted down for a few minutes while Boyd paces unhappily a few feet away. It's clear that he doesn't like it and even more clear that he doesn't like that Stiles is willingly touching it, but he's not attacking and for that, Stiles is grateful.

 

"This is Boyd," Stiles tells the Nemeton when the branches stop petting him and seem to just bask in his attention. The moment he brings up Boyd, the leaves shiver and reach out to him. "He's part of the Hale pack in Beacon Hills."

 

The moment the word Hale is out of his mouth, the Nemeton shudders and grows another foot right in front of their eyes, reaching out to Boyd again with near desperation. The tree beckons him, curling a small branch in a way that seems to say come, please and Boyd takes a cautious step closer.

 

Boyd glances at Stiles, who smiles and keeps pushing that belief of good into the tree, so when Boyd steps closer, he's subjected to the same patdown that Stiles was. It's clear that something changes when a little broken noise leaves Boyd's lips and he steps back, looking from the tree to Stiles. He looks upset and at peace all at once, and pulls Stiles into a huge hug while the branches pat at them both, happily.

 

"The tree is magic, Stiles." Boyd breathes against his neck, squeezing him tightly before stepping back and out of its touch. He's hurting, that much is plain to see, but he points off into the distance in the woods. "That's where I'll be if you need me, okay?"

 

Boyd turns and starts to jog away, but Stiles calls his name and he stops, turning back. "What did you see?"

 

He wishes he didn't ask the moment Boyd's face falls, regardless of the fact that there's still a smile on his face. "My little sister, I know where she is now." He jogs off and this time Stiles let's him go, burying his face in the leaves and pushing more goodgoodgood into the tree.

 

Later, he'll find out that Alicia had tried to cut through the woods to get to a friend's house, but had slipped and fallen down a ravine, cracking her head on a rock. It was quick, Boyd reassures everyone, the tree insisted that it was quick and painless. Derek will look at Stiles the whole time Boyd is talking, a quietly crying Erica wrapped in his arms, and he'll know that Derek is aware that something is happening, but Stiles finds himself hoping that he doesn't know that the Nemeton is slowly waking up.

--

 

The funeral is on a Friday; Stiles and his father show up together and stand with Boyd and his grandmother, as do the rest of the pack. Even Scott shows up, though he brings Allison and Chris Argent, and all of them leave before Boyd's sister can finally be put to rest.

 

Erica refuses to leave Boyd's side, their fingers clenched so tightly that Stiles wonders if their bones have broken and healed multiple times over. Boyd's eyes are puffy and swollen, but his body, minus his hands, are relaxed. 

 

Earlier, Jackson had pulled Stiles aside and admitted that the bond connecting Boyd to the rest of them felt better , that he felt more calm than anything else. Lydia distracts Erica so Boyd and his grandmother can have their own time over the casket before it starts to lower into the earth.

 

Stiles doesn't comment about how his dad digs his fingers too hard into the meat of his shoulder, or that he can only see a different funeral play over and over the entire time he's standing there. He doesn't have to, he's sure they all know.

 

Boyd takes Stiles by the shoulder and says thank you and goodbye to the Sheriff all in one breath before steering Stiles towards the Camaro. He climbs in willingly, tucked in the back between Isaac and Boyd, Erica lounging in the passenger seat while Derek pulls away from the curb. The drive is quiet, Isaac tucked against Stiles' side, Boyd's hand on his thigh but soon enough, they pull into the preserve and park in front of the ruins of the old Hale house. One by one they all get out of the car, and stand in front of the charred ruins that seem to be deteriorating right in front of them.

 

 Stiles doesn't need a werewolf's nose to know that the air is thick with guilt, though he doesn't understand why the wolves move to surround him until a new voice speaks.

 

"I was really quite sorry to hear about your sister, Vernon." Peter steps out of the doorway of the Hale house, looking somber and serious for the first time since Stiles has known him. The older Hale glances over at Derek before taking a few steps closer and resting a hand against Boyd's shoulder, peering up at him. "I know what it's like to lose a child so young."

 

Stiles can't quite stop the way all the tension leaves his body when he stares at this odd version of Peter Hale. He's well aware that Chris Argent has had the wolf staying at his place, partly to keep him away from Derek, but mostly to keep him from completely losing his mind and wreaking havoc like he used to.

 

"What are you doing here, Peter?" Derek asks, sounding much more tired than he does upset, though he does cross his arms over his chest. Stiles wonders if Derek even knows that he's doing it, or if it's just another way to protect himself.

 

Erica shifts closer to Boyd when Peter drops his hand from him and takes a step back, his hands raised.

 

"The pack was hurting." It looks like it was hard for Peter to admit that if the scowl on his face is anything to go by. "I wanted to make sure that you were all alright."

 

For once, Stiles doesn't think that Peter is lying to them. There's something fragile and raw in his face that has Stiles stepping around the others and meeting Peter's suddenly hopeful eyes. For a while, nothing happens. He and Peter keep looking at each other, and Stiles suddenly hopes that he won't regret this decision anytime soon.

 

"How do you feel about pizza?" Offering the smallest smile he can, Stiles ignores the betas sputtering behind him and shifts to look over at Derek, who suddenly looks so hopeful that Stiles' heart just about breaks. 

 

All of the remaining Hales have suffered so much. It's time for that to end.

 

Peter stands there for a moment longer, looking lost, confused, and so much younger than he actually is before he gathers himself enough to speak. "I like pizza."

 

"Then come on," Rolling his eyes, Stiles reaches out and snags Peter's wrist, pulling him away from the pack and heading for the picnic area where they've been holding pack meetings. Stiles is surprised that Peter is allowing him to tug him along, and even more surprised when he stops on the outskirts of the clearing. "What are you waiting for?"

 

"You should tell them I'm here." Peter looks a little uncomfortable standing there with Stiles' hand wrapped tight around his wrist, so he loosens his grip a bit. "I don't want-"

 

He breaks off, frowning down at his feet while the sound of Jackson and Lydia talking finally reaches Stiles' ears. By the shrillness of her voice, Stiles suspects that Lydia already knows that Peter is on his way, so he clasps a hand on Peter's shoulder, the first time he's willingly touched the wolf in a kind way, and pushes through into the clearing. 

 

Sure enough, Jackson and Lydia are pressed together on one of the benches that Derek had made for the pack meetings, and the look she sends Stiles could curdle milk. Stiles understands her trepidation, but one look at Peter's uncertainty, at the hope in Derek's eyes, and Stiles claps his hands together, the sound echoing through the clearing like a clap of thunder.

 

"My Queen," Stiles grins bright and bold towards Lydia, who softens slightly under his focus. Then Stiles turns to Jackson and sticks his tongue out. "Lizard breath."

 

"Dickhead," Jackson flashed his eyes at Stiles even though it's clear his heart's not really in it. Stiles appreciates the attempt of normalcy and rests his hand on his chest in a wounded way.

 

Behind him, Erica starts to giggle softly, allowing Boyd to pull her over to their own bench. Isaac quietly moves to the loveseat in between Lydia's bench and Derek's. Shortly after, Derek follows their lead and settles himself down at his own bench, leaving Stiles and Peter as the only two standing. He can almost feel the nerves rolling off of Peter, and Stiles is about to open his mouth to speak about him when Lydia cuts him off.

 

"Stiles," Lydia's got a smile on her lips that doesn't reach her eyes, and her hand keep twitching towards her back where Stiles knows she's got a small Wolfsbane blade hidden away. "Are you aware that there's a leech attached to your back? I can cut it off for you if you'd like."

 

"We're trying something new today, Lyds. No maiming allowed." Stiles shakes his head and pushes Peter towards Derek, who nods his consent. He waits for Peter to sit, for Derek to duck his head and mumble quietly to his uncle before talking again. "I know that you've heard it before from him but you've never heard from me. Peter's different, somehow he's still the person from before, but this concern of his isn't just an act. Something's changing."

 

"So what, we're supposed to just sit here and hope that he doesn't go crazy and try to kill Derek or Lydia again?" Jackson drapes an arm over Lydia's shoulders to tug her close, looking out at the rest of the pack. His frustration is nearly palpable, and Stiles can't even be mad at him for feeling that way. None of them liked what Peter did to Lydia.

 

Derek cocks his head at the idea and pulls away from Peter, jogging the way they came instead. Boyd grunts out the word "Pizza" and the rest of them relax a bit, even Lydia.

 

They really have to work on Derek's communication skills.

 

"Look," Stiles admits quietly, knowing full well that his wolves could hear him just fine. This feeling he has is hard to explain, but somehow Stiles is certain that Peter isn't going to be attempting murder anytime soon. "I can't promise you anything except that he doesn't feel like he used to."

 

Everyone turns to look at him curiously after that, including Peter, but Stiles isn't worried about that right now.

 

"It's a huge deal to welcome a new wolf to a pack, and most of all it's going to be Derek's choice." At the annoyance on everyone's faces, Stiles hurries to correct himself. "That doesn't mean your opinion doesn't matter , it just means that Derek is hopeful right now, and we should do what we can to keep him that way." 

 

The clearing quiets down and Stiles finally makes his way to the little loveseat with Issac, curling up against his side while Isaac idly begins to play with Stiles' hair. Jackson and Lydia are talking to the right of him, their voices softer and less poisonous, and Erica is half draped in Boyd's lap, grinning up at him like she doesn't have a care in the world.

 

As one, all six wolves lift their noses right before Derek walks through with eight boxes of pizza. He sets them down on the log right in the middle of everyone's seats, barking out a " Wait" when Erica tries to slink forward.

 

"Stiles. Lydia." Derek gestures at the boxes and the two of them scurry to stand, but Derek just hands them each a box of pizza, waiting for them to settle back in their seats before snagging a box for himself. "Alright, now."

 

Boyd is the first one up despite Erica's attempts at reaching the stack of boxes, but he grabs two to placate her, and they share a kiss before turning back to Derek. Isaac and Jackson go up together; Isaac grabs the next box in the stack but when Jackson whines, he hands it over and takes the next box with a small little smile. They both headed back to their seat and turn towards Derek, but he's too busy looking at Peter to notice his pack is waiting for his permission to eat.

 

Stiles is about to hand his box over to Peter when Erica slowly stands and makes her way over to the last box sitting on the stump, nervously glancing at Derek, who is now watching her every move. He growls a little when she lifts the box, but Erica holds her head high and walks over to Peter, holding the box out to him.

 

"If Stiles and Derek think you deserve a second chance, then I'll treat you like I would any other wolf trying to find a place in this pack." When Peter tentatively takes the box from her, Erica's lips curl up in a smile that's half snarl, and she leans down to meet his eyes, her own flashing a vibrant gold. "If you do end up hurting my pack though, I will kill you, and I'll get Lydia to help me."

 

The wolves look a little more relaxed now that Erica has said what most of them had probably wanted to, and for a moment Stiles is worried that Peter might have actually been a bit frightened. Instead, Peter grinned boyishly and turned to Derek. "Your mother would have loved Erica." 

 

"She's a lot like Laura." Derek nods slowly, like he's unsure how to make smalltalk, though he does finally open his pizza box and take a massive bite out of a slice. "Can you imagine having two of them though?"

 

Peter shudders, waiting for everyone else to open their boxes and finish a slice of pizza before he opened his own. "All too well, Derek."

 

Laughing, Derek continue to inhale his pizza as do the rest of the pack as slowly but surely, the atmosphere begins to soften, and the pack meeting becomes just that: A meeting.

 

They discuss a few things that afternoon:

 

There's rumors courtesy of Peter that Victoria Argent is getting ready to divorce Chris and that she's contemplating moving elsewhere. Peter thinks that if she leaves then Allison will follow, as neither of them have been seeing eye to eye with Chris, lately.

 

Isaac brings up Scott, who has apparently been ignoring him to the point of sneaking out of his windows in the mornings to avoid Isaac at the McCall's house, which pisses Stiles off, if he's honest. Stiles suggests that Isaac move into his  house with his dad, and Isaac lights up like a child on Christmas morning.

 

Lydia talks about the lack of Supernatural deaths the last two years, and that if she concentrates very hard, she can get a feel for who is going to die normally next in town; though she really hates doing that.

 

When Boyd asks about Cora, Derek admits that she'd left not too long after the breakfast at Stiles', and that she's visiting with her old pack. Apparently the Cortez pack wanted to attempt an alliance with Beacon Hills, and Cora was their go between.

 

They talk and talk until Stiles and Lydia begin to shiver, and then the wolves collect their empty boxes and begin to head back towards the skeleton of the Hale house. Jackson has his arm around Lydia to keep her steady, and Stiles is startled but pleased when Derek puts a hand on his shoulder and leads him through the trail, mumbling warnings of rocks and sticks in his way.

 

By the time they make it back to the house, Stiles is feeling a little tired, and more than ready for the comfort of his own place.

 

"Isaac," Stiles waits for the beta to head over to him before continuing. "Are you staying tonight?"

 

"Can I?" Isaac looks between Stiles and Derek slowly, like he's waiting for permission from both of them, which gets granted when both Stiles and Derek offer him their yeses. Isaac beams and pulls out his phone to text Melissa, so Stiles pulls his own phone out to let his dad know.

 

They say their goodbyes shortly after and climb into the Jeep, turning the music up and heading home. Isaac is easy to talk to, easy to be with, and Stiles has a permanent smile on his face when they reach his house. He wordlessly leaves the rest of his pizza in the fridge for his dad to eat, gives Isaac a pair of his pajamas to borrow and is barely surprised when the wolf climbs into his bed.

 

Stiles climbs in after him, unashamed to curl up into Isaac's warmth, and finds himself falling asleep faster than he'd meant to, his arms wrapped protectively around someone more than able to protect himself.

--

 

Stiles is grateful that his father is such a forgiving man, because one conversation with Melissa, and suddenly all Isaac's stuff is being moved into their spare bedroom. His dad takes extra care around Isaac most of the time, sitting next to him on the couch, putting a gentle hand on his shoulder even though Isaac almost always always flinches at first. It's what Stiles imagines having a little brother would be like, and he's surprised by how little it bothers him.

 

Isaac seems to be flourishing with the attention his dad gives him anyways, and Stiles learns that Isaac really loves to draw when he shyly gives the Sheriff a sketch of him and Stiles together. The next day, John had come home with three bags full of art supplies and handed them over to Isaac with a grin and a request for him to keep drawing because he'd gotten compliments on the drawing at the station all morning.

 

It's no surprise to Stiles that Isaac ends up sleeping in his bed that night, curled up in a ball to make himself seem smaller. What is a surprise is that Isaac begins to talk about his father and just how bad he was getting before Derek had given him the bite. He talked about how different Stiles' dad and his own were, and that the Stilinski house has felt more like home in a single week than the McCalls had the last year.

 

Later that night when Isaac is still asleep and Stiles feels an itch under his skin, he peels himself away from the wolf and pulls on his red hoodie and a battered pair of sweats before pulling on his shoes. He leaves Isaac a brief note in case he wakes up, and Stiles leaves the house.

 

Deciding against Roscoe, Stiles grabs his bike and attaches the headlamp on it as makes his way down the street. It's been a while since Stiles had ridden a bike, but it's still such second nature that he's startled to see the McCalls house come into view. What's even more surprising is seeing Scott standing in his bedroom window, his arms crossed over his chest and his eyes gleaming yellow.

 

For the first time, Stiles is a little afraid of this Scott he barely knows, this posturing stranger watching him bike past his house. He feels eyes on him even as he goes past the house and turns onto the road to get to the preserve. That feeling lasts longer than he'd like, only truly fading when Stiles is swallowed up by a convenient mist barely fifty feet from where he knows the Nemeton to be.

 

Leaning his bike against the nearest tree he sees, Stiles pulls up the hood on his sweatshirt and began trudging through the woods. There's a lot of noise in the preserve tonight, animals smashing and crashing through the woods, but needless to say, Stiles is still caught off guard when he finds himself face to face with glowing blue eyes.

 

"What the fuck?" Stiles shouts, his arms pinwheeling while he tries to keep his balance as he jumps back from the figure in front of him. Strong hands take hold of his shoulders and steady him, and only then is Stiles able to see the face in front of him. "What- Peter?"

 

"Stiles?" It helps Stiles to hear that Peter's voice sounds just as confused as his own does. "What are you doing out here?"

 

"I could ask you the same thing." Stiles shakes himself free of Peter's hold and steps around the werewolf and begins to walk forward when a cautious hand stops his movement.

 

"I got turned around in the fog. Did Derek send you?" Peter sounds so hopeful that Stiles really doesn't want to admit to being here of his own volition, but he's not going to lie.

 

"No, he didn't." Peter drops his arm and Stiles heaves a sigh, grabbing Peter's arm and pulling him forward. "I'm just going to check on something, but you can come with me anyways. After I'm done I'll help you out of the fog."

 

For once, Peter doesn't respond, but Stiles is sure that the wolf is looking at him oddly, or at the very least is disbelieving that Stiles would be the one to help him out of the fog. Still, it doesn't take a long time to come across the Nemeton, and by Peter's sharp inhale, then he knows what the tree really is.

 

Like it had with Boyd, the leaves begin rustling almost immediately, and the wind helps to disperse a little bit of the fog; it's just enough for Stiles to see that the tree has doubled it's height yet again, and that the trunk is nearly too big for him to get his arms around. The trunk it's growing out of is still large enough for Stiles and three members of the pack to lounge on comfortably, but he doesn't want to touch the husk of what had been.

 

He's pulled out of his head by a branch somehow managing to push his hood off his head, leaves ruffling his hair. Behind him, Peter makes a little surprised noise, but Stiles just laughs and steps forward, pressing his palm against the bark.

 

"I missed you too!" The branch lifts from his head and joins the others in pleased rustling, and Stiles watches and beams. His tree is curious though, and before too long it notices Peter and gestures towards him in a question that Stiles is quick to answer.

 

"This is Peter Hale." Like it had before, the tree freezes at the name Hale before it's reaching longingly for Peter, who shies away from it at the same time that the tree shies away from him. A branch pats Stiles' shoulder, and he knows what it's asking without having to think about it. "Peter was in the fire, went into a coma, went completely insane and killed Laura Hale. After that, Derek killed him and he used our packmate Lydia to bring him back, but something's different now. Peter seems to be healing or at least trying to."

 

"It's hard." Peter admits his eyes once against glowing that neon blue that used to haunt Stiles' nightmares. "It's like there's something in my body that's trying to keep me from how I used to be. I wasn't always like this. I loved my sister and her children, I loved our pack and my wife and child. I don't want to be like this anymore."

 

And that it seems, is just what the Nemeton was waiting for, because the next time it extends a branch to Peter, there's a low hanging fruit just within his reach; a shining red apple. There's a glow around it that Stiles wouldn't trust coming from anything else, but as it is, he nods at Peter to take it and pushes GoodGoodPleaseGood into the tree again.

 

The apple falls directly into Peter's hand when he reaches for it, and with only a cursory glance at Stiles, Peter bites right into it, the crunch echoing through the quiet. For a while nothing happens, and Stiles thinks that maybe whatever is wrong with Peter can't be fixed, but then Peter goes in for another bite and freezes with his teeth sunk into the flesh of the fruit. His eyes widen, his clawed fingers drop the apple, Peter bends at the waist and begins to vomit the same black tar substance that reminds Stiles of Deaton's office, and Derek begging Stiles to cut his arm off.

 

Peter whines as he stumbles to his knees and gasps for breath, bending over and vomiting again. Stiles is hit with the sudden stench of death and decay, startled when familiar Wolfsbane flowers bubble to the top of the goop. It hits Stiles suddenly that the black mass is moving , and he follows Peter's lead when the wolf scurries back and away from the mass.

 

The Nemeton's ahead of both of them it seems, because it shoves a rather pointed branch right in the middle of the writhing mass and drapes branches over Stiles and a rather mortified looking Peter while the thing on the ground screeches and screams. The blackness then oozes up the branch and seems to dissolve into the wood, so Stiles grasps his branch and tries to banish the faint trickle of darkness he feels there.

 

Finally, the branches pull away and Stiles gets back to his feet, shuddering at the stain in the grass left behind from whatever that was.

 

"Well that was fun," Stiles has to look away from the grass or else he'll be adding his own stain to it and turns towards Peter, instead. "Hey dude, you okay?"

 

Peter doesn't answer, just keeps looking at the Nemeton and the spot where he got rid of whatever that was. He looks- different , looks healthy and red cheeked and bright eyed in a way that Stiles had never seen from him before.

 

"Peter?" Stiles calls to him and watches him startle and turn, watches his eyes widen and flare bright blue. He takes a step closer to Peter and sits down next to him in the grass while the tree shivers and shakes in its excitement above them. "How are you doing?"

 

"My entire life just changed, Stiles. How do you think I'm doing?" It's not said rudely or with much of any inflection at all, and that more than anything bothers Stiles. He gathers himself and bumps his shoulder against Peter's and awaits being mauled, surprised when all Peter does is lean back against him.

 

They sit there together for a while, until the fog around them starts to fade and Stiles gets that niggling sensation in his head that he realizes is actually someone calling Peter's name.

 

"Come on, then." Stiles slaps his hands against his thighs and pushes himself up to stand, peering down at a very lost looking Peter Hale. "Our Alpha awaits."

 

Peter's face crumples, and he looks so devastated that Stiles is tempted to pull him into a hug. He would if he thought it would be welcomed, but all he ends up offering is his hand.

 

"How can you stand to let me touch you?" Peter asks, though he does end up taking Stiles' hand and standing up. "How could Derek even consider letting me into the pack?"

 

"It's different now. You're different now, Peter." Stiles slaps the wolf on his shoulder and begins heading in the direction the tree points him in, and he feels more than sees Peter following after him. "Derek really only started calling for you when you expelled whatever that thing was. I'd bet you feel different to him now."

 

"He feels different to me, too." Peter sounds lost in thought and looks it when Stiles peers over his shoulder at the older man.

 

"What does he feel like?" Stiles can't help but be curious, and when Peter finally looks at him, Stiles tries his best to look as reassuring as he can.

 

Peter stares at him for a long time, and right before they come across their pack no clearing, Peter takes Stiles by the shoulder, looks right at him and whispers. "He feels like family."

 

Stiles let's Peter go first and watches as a frantic Derek spots his uncle and for the first time since they've met, Peter is all Derek sees. He's not sure who moves first, all Stiles knows is that Peter and Derek meet in the middle and absolutely cling to each other, and the moment they touch, Derek tosses his head back in a howl that reverberates right through Stiles.

 

It feels like hope, like happiness, like relief, and it nearly brings Stiles to his knees, and it's not long before the other members of the pack stumble sleep heavy into the clearing. 

 

Cora arrives first, which Stiles is only mildly surprised about; he hadn't known she was back home yet, and she stops on the edge of the clearing and stares at her brother and her uncle, looking more unsure than Stiles has ever seen her before.

 

"Uncle Peter?" Her voice is hesitant, and when Derek pulls away from his Uncle, his eyes are wide, glassy, and glowing Alpha red. Cora relaxes a little bit and looks back to Peter, who is staring at her in both horror and relief.

 

"Hey, Bunny." Is what Peter finally settles on saying, and it must be the right thing because Cora  clasps a hand over her mouth and almost immediately begins to cry. She runs over to the both of them and practically throws herself at Peter, curling up on his lap like a child and crying into his shoulder.

 

Lydia and Jackson come next, and the both of them come as close to Peter as they can possibly stand, and when he starts talking, it's obvious he's talking to Lydia, and that whatever it is he's saying is making that tenseness in her shoulders fade until it's barely there. It's Lydia that holds out a hand for Peter to shake, and he takes her hand in both of his. She dips her head, and Jackson drapes an arm around her, but not before running a hand on Peter's arm and dragging Lydia over to their bench.

 

Isaac comes through next, stumbling into the clearing and nearly falling flat on his face. He zeros in on Cora almost immediately, reeling back when he sees whose arms she's currently crying in, and sends a bewildered look towards Stiles. He shrugs, gesturing to Peter, Cora and Derek, pointing at Isaac and pointing at the wolves right after.

 

"Isaac," Derek's voice is soft and just the slightest bit wobbly, but his face is the most expressive that Stiles has seen from him yet. "Come meet my Uncle Peter."

 

Frowning, Isaac takes a few steps closer to Derek, cautiously scenting the air. It doesn't seem to help much if the puzzles look on his face is anything to go by. 

 

"He smells different," Isaac admits softly, allowing Derek to tug him down next to him into the grass. "How is that even possible?"

 

"He's been healed, that's all." Stiles shrugs when six people turn to stare at him all at once, their expressions ranging from disbelief (Derek) to calculating (Lydia) and Stiles ducks his head at the sudden scrutiny. "What?"

 

"That kind of magic always has a price, Stiles." Lydia admonishes, shaking her head slowly. She looks worried now, they all do except for Peter.

 

"Not when it's right from the source," Peter offers, shifting a bit so Cora can sit more comfortably in his lap. "We visited the Nemeton."

 

"That old tree stump? Why?" Derek crinkles his nose, frowning off in the direction of the Nemeton. The Alpha color has faded from his eyes, though it does flicker again when Erica and Boyd make their way into the clearing.

 

Erica takes one look at the group in the middle, straightens her shoulders, tosses her hair back out of her face and stalks over to them, surprising everyone but Stiles by sitting next to Peter and leaning into his side. Boyd simply shrugs when the pack looks at him and heads over to Erica, pulling one of her hands into his own.

 

"It's not the stump," Stiles admits once the pack's surprise at Erica fades. There's a reason that she's Derek's second after all; She's rarely afraid of anything and adapts to change better than Stiles has ever seen now that the pack is settled. "It's a new tree growing out of the stump."

 

"There's a new Nemeton and no one told me?" Derek actually looks a bit offended, like they've been sneaking around behind his back and Stiles realizes that he kind of has . Not to mention that he's taken members of the pack there, but never the Alpha himself.

 

"Man, I'm sorry, Derek." Stiles runs fingers through his hair and walls over to the alpha, sitting on his right side and leaning heavily against him. "I swear that I wasn't trying to keep this a secret from you. I can take you tomorrow if you want to go and check it out."

 

Derek huffs, crossing his arms over his chest and looking a little frustrated before he finally shakes his head and looks at Stiles. "No. I want the time for the pack to get used to Peter before I even think of going to the Nemeton. Next time, just tell me when you stumble upon a Supernatural tree close to my property."

 

"I promise," Stiles says eagerly, holding up his left hand with his pinky held out. Derek simply raises a brow, looking from the pinky up to Stiles' face, but Stiles simply waggles his brows, grinning when Derek gives in and loops their pinkies together.

 

That night, Stiles and Lydia are covered by wolves in the grass, pressed together as close as they can be. It hits Stiles that this must have been what Derek and Cora had been missing out on all this time, but now they had it back.

 

This is pack.

--

 

That night, Stiles dreams of being in his room, of seeing his bedroom door shut, the sound of someone knocking echoing through the room and a niggling in his brain to go open the door. When he moves to get off the bed, warm arms wrap around him, and a voice that sounds like hundreds of different tongues all speaking at once whispers in his ear to stay still emissary, don't you dare think opening that door .

 

A body pulls away from him, tucks a blanket around his shoulders and steps into his line of vision. Their body is ever changing, male, female, everything in between; sometimes they have wings, sometimes they have sharp teeth, but the things that never changes are the green leaves for hair, the rough bark substituting for skin. It strikes him as odd that the bark didn't hurt when it touched him, but then the being is heading for the door and looking over their shoulder.

 

Sleep soundly. I will protect you this night. It looks like they smile before they're turning and heading out of the door, closing it firmly behind them.

 

There's the feeling of electricity in the air, a disbelieving hiss in the corridor outside of Stiles' bedroom door, but he's not worried about it. In fact, he's getting a bit sleepy, so he allows his eyes to close, for a new dream to take over.

 

Meanwhile, out in the preserve while their pack lays sleeping, the Nemeton grows even larger, their branches quivering as their roots come across that thing hidden in a jar tucked under their predecessors roots.

 

Their previous self had allowed the prior Hale Emissary to slowly poison it, to trickle misfortune and death into the land, to bring sickness to Beacon Hills. It's not their previous self's fault though- they didn't have a Stiles back then, they didn't have someone reminding them to be good, that they should protect their pack and the land they live on.

 

Now though, they remember, and they know that what lies underneath their old roots has no right to belong there any longer. 

 

It's easy enough magic to shift the dirt around and over that jar with a fluttering bug inside, to harden that soil until it's nearly impenetrable. The dirt beneath it sinks down, down, down , so that what lays trapped inside can never sink its claws into what is rightfully theirs .

 

Their emissary, their Stiles can now sleep peacefully and unaware of what could have been once that Nasty Druid had influenced him just a little further into opening the door in his mind that should have never been opened in the first place.

 

That man will get his unhappy ending, and The Nemeton plans on helping their emissary when it's needed, by whatever means necessary.

 

Deaton will pay for attempting to harm what is theirs.

--