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What He Heard Just Then

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Peter flexes his jaw, wincing as he hears the bone fragments grind together. His face isn’t grateful for the beating it took earlier. This is all Scott’s fault. He swipes a hand through the condensation on the mirror, pleased to see that his face didn’t heal crooked.

Peter feels middle-aged, which isn’t a surprise considering that he’s moving through his upper 30’s. The lines forming on his forehead are what’s surprising, his age starting to show in upsetting ways. He’s a werewolf, he should have had another twenty years before getting a hint of wrinkles. It’s not even that he minds them, but it means his body has been under an amount of strain that’s aging him beyond werewolf life-extending abilities. It’s always hanging out with teenagers that’s screwed him over. Again, all Scott’s fault.

He scrubs a towel against the side of his head, footsteps light over the wood flooring as he moves into the hall. Peter wraps the damp fabric around his neck, hitting the heel of his palm against the side of his head as he opens the fridge. He doesn’t catch the noise at first, distracted by the thought of a warm meal and battered on by a lingering chill in his bones. Why are all these fights in the woods at night, anyway?

That’s when he hears it.

A heartbeat, just outside his door and faster than it should be. The familiarity allows him to place the stranger as Stiles, and he considers pretending that he’s not home. After all, the boy hasn’t even knocked yet and Peter left the lights off when he came inside. He knows from experience that turning them on after getting home from a fight leads to a massive migraine later.

The fridge door closes as Peter makes a decision, knowing that he should get this over with. Stiles is one of the few people he expects to follow through when something needs to be done. In this case, that means he would bust the door down if Peter didn’t answer. There is still no knock as he approaches. Peter feels uneasy, but removes the chain and listens as the heartbeat begins to slow down.

“I helped Scott this time, you can’t be here to kill or arrest me. I think one of the Ghost Riders broke my nose. If this can wait until tomorrow, I would appreciate it,” Peter says as he opens the door, staring at Stiles with the heaviest look of exhaustion that he can manage. The scent is stronger now, filling the space between them. The werewolf takes a breath, brain checking out as Stiles walks inside, ignoring the room to look back at him. The boy smells like anxiety as usual, but it’s so faint that this could be anyone at all.

The emotion that Peter’s senses are struggling to process is resignation. For some reason, Stiles is overwhelmed by his acceptance of defeat. If the bruises on Peter’s abdomen are any indication, they weren’t defeated. They fought until the end and won, as Scott’s Pack often does.

Stiles doesn’t even seem bitter about it, just accepting that this is where they’ve ended up, and Peter is certain that can feel his own frown forming. His usual mask of indifference fails as he tries to find the reason. Peter thinks he’s looking at Stiles, still holding the door open at a loss for words. He takes in the scent again, looking for the piece to solve the puzzle as it presses against his lips, soft and grounding. The werewolf didn’t realize he had closed his eyes.

When he opens them, Stiles is staring back, the resignation falling underneath creeping hands of want, claiming with just a kiss. That is not a “thank you for surviving long enough to give them my car keys” kiss. Peter’s hand shifts against the side of the door, arm extending until wood meets the frame with a gentle click. The heartbeat behind him is steady, less nervous than the werewolf has ever heard it as he slides the chain back into place.

Peter wakes up to an empty bed.