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Lucky Penny (Tastes Like Copper on Your Tongue)

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Peter didn’t even have the chance to wonder who the fuck thought speeding down wooded backroads after midnight, and without headlights was a great idea. He barely had time to register the rumble of an engine coming too fast and tires spinning over gravel before the world went blood red with pain and shock— yes, those were his ribs buckling in, the snap of bone deafeningly loud in the strangest way, and that was definitely his spine, and fuck

Then, before things could get any worse, it all went black.



As it turned out, things could get worse.

When Peter woke up, he spent a good fifteen or twenty seconds earnestly wishing that whatever had hit him had the courtesy to kill him outright. Because this? This was bullshit.

He was healing, definitely quicker than he would have done a few weeks ago— before he’d torn the throat out of that supremely unlucky Alpha— but not quickly enough to make his current situation anything less than excruciating. His ribs were definitely still broken, and at least one of them had punctured a lung if the amount of blood in his mouth was any indication, but he could take shallow breaths. Remembering the wildly unnatural feeling of his spine snapping, Peter focused on his toes, and was relieved to find he could wiggle them in his shoes, and even turn his ankles.

His body was probably diverting all of its energy to his more serious injuries first, which was considerate of it. His ribs were agony, his skin had been shredded raw under his torn, gritty clothes, and at least a few of his organs felt like they’d seen better days, but the idea of laying there helpless and paralysed while he waited for his spleen to knit back together was not pleasant.

Oh, and he was in the trunk of a moving car, instead of sprawled across the gravel or in a ditch. That was interesting.



It was possible he slipped in and out of consciousness a few times, much to his immense frustration, but it wasn’t too long before he could at least force himself to stay awake. The combination of grievous injury and desperate healing made concentration difficult. His thoughts were fitful, unfocused and elusive, but gradually clearing. That fuzziness had almost certainly been made worse by some sort of head trauma; the skin of his cheek tugged, raw and sore, with what was probably road rash, and he could smell a lot of his own blood. Head wounds tended to bleed so melodramatically.

The question of the car was one Peter was very eager to explore further. Rather than spending the drive cataloguing his injuries, or even resting and healing, he used every scrap of his debilitated attention to consider his current predicament. It would be best to have a plan before the trunk opened, after all.

Beyond his own blood and sweat, Peter could smell hot metal, rubber and plastic, gasoline— normal scents for a vehicle. A hint of gun oil, and the grease of fast food. More plastic crinkled under him, instead of carpeting; someone had laid down sheeting and possibly even a tarp or two before stuffing his broken body inside.

The lack of wolfsbane or mountain ash in the air was promising, since most hunters would at least keep a go-bag of supplies in their trunk, if not an entire arsenal. The gun oil and thick plastic sheeting was somewhat concerning, but then again, it wasn’t as though he could expect a good samaritan. Someone had hit him with a car in the dead of night, in the middle of nowhere, and now he was curled up in a trunk instead of the back of an ambulance.



By the time the car rolled to a stop, Peter was healed of all but a few lingering, superficial injuries— scrapes and bruises, a miserable headache— but that would all sort itself out. Internally, he was tender, but he no longer felt like a toy with all its stuffing ripped out, and he could take deep, even breaths without a twinge.

Without the engine noise, things seemed almost eerily quiet; there were no sounds of traffic or any obvious signs of life outside the trunk, except a single steady but somewhat rapid heartbeat that he could just barely hear through the frame of the car. He strained to listen after they parked, stretching his newly enhanced senses; the heartbeat faded for a moment, followed by the thud and vibration of a car door being shut.

Really, there were two paths laid out before him: Peter could play dead, or he could pounce the second the trunk opened. Both options came with an element of risk, of course. Keeping up the charade of being dead or even just severely injured and unconscious would allow him to observe before he acted, and Peter usually prefered to gather as much information as possible before making a move.

He who is prudent and lies in wait for an enemy who is not, will be victorious.

But he was already at a disadvantage in terms of knowledge and preparation. How likely was it that some random person, driving fast enough to do serious damage to an Alpha werewolf in his prime, had simply happened to mow him down in the middle of the woods, well away from any witnesses? A random person who kept thick plastic sheeting on hand, and was willing to drive around with a bleeding body in the trunk. There might not be a whiff of wolfsbane he could smell, but that didn’t mean Peter wasn’t about to get tased or doused in aconite mace the second the trunk popped.

Footsteps crunched over gravel, coming closer. A voice was talking, as well, and Peter suffered a brief flash of concern: he hadn’t heard a second heartbeat in the car. He didn’t think he’d hit his head hard enough to addle his senses that badly, but his current circumstances were precarious enough that he wasn’t going to rule anything out.

Or maybe the driver had taken them to someone else— it wasn’t entirely unheard of for hunters to hire help from outside their clannish little families, but Peter didn’t think he’d done anything recently to attract that kind of attention. Except kill an Alpha, but that had been over three weeks and two state lines ago, and he had been very carefully keeping his head down since. Returning to California, coming home, had felt like the proper thing to do with an Alpha spark humming like a current under his skin.

Beacon County was a big place, steeped in old magic that Peter had always felt in his very marrow. A big place with plenty of room for two Packs to coexist, especially when both were rooted in Hale blood. If he chose to stick around; he hadn’t decided if he wanted to poke that bear quite yet.

Regardless, he had no intention of encroaching on the heart of Hale territory until he had a better handle on his power and preferably a handful of strong, loyal Betas at his back. He hadn’t earned this power just to have Talia snatch it from him, like she used to pin him down and steal his toys when they were pups.

He should have known that stumbling upon a dying Alpha in the woods, shot full of wolfsbane and barely able to move, had been too good to be true. Bad luck for the unfortunate Alpha, obviously, and Peter’s good luck for finding the poor bastard before the wounds killed him. Which they would have done, doubtlessly, with a lingering death much more painful than the quick swipe of claws Peter had used to dispatch him.

At the time, Peter had squatted next to the wheezing, broken Alpha, weighing the pros and cons of getting involved. There had obviously been hunters out and about that night, and he was very keen on avoiding their notice, especially if they were either skilled, armed, or lucky enough to take down an Alpha. Perhaps even the Alpha’s Pack, as well.

But he hadn’t heard anyone skulking nearby, and really, wasn’t he just finishing their sloppy work for them? They ought to have been grateful for his timely assistance; one less werewolf in the world was exactly what they wanted, after all.

In the end, there wasn’t really a question. Whatever the potential risks, walking away when everything he’d ever wanted was all but giftwrapped and laid at his feet had never been an option.

If hunters, or some hunter-hired attack dogs, had actually tracked him all the way from fucking Idaho, Peter had seriously miscalculated some things. And if it wasn’t hunters, it could very well be the dead Alpha’s Pack, driven by grief and instinct, and out for blood without a leader to keep them in check.

He should have snapped the Alpha’s neck instead of ripping open his jugular, to better hide the cause of death, but the feeling of flesh and tendon parting under his claws and the rich wash of hot arterial blood had been too tempting. Damn it.

“—cramming all night isn't going to help if you fall asleep in the middle of the test, buddy.” The voice outside the car was coming closer. There was no audible response, just a silent pause, before the voice continued on. “Scott, you're delirious. Go to sleep. Yeah. Yeah, no. That's 'cause you fucking woke me up, man; it's after one. Yeah. Just relax, okay? Find me at lunch and you can borrow my notes. Yeah. You too. Later, brother.”

A phone call. Whoever was outside the car had been talking on the phone. There wasn’t another voice, which meant his mystery driver could be alone, without backup.

Peter didn’t relax, but his low burning tension didn’t ratchet higher, either.

The trunk popped open, and for one tightly drawn moment, it was as if the world stopped spinning. Every muscle in Peter’s body was a coiled spring, ready to move faster than this human— and yes, definitely human, he could smell clearly now— could hope to follow.

But there was still no stinging floral stench of aconite on the air, as the freshness of a cool night breeze chased through the stifling, blood-thickened congestion dissipating from the trunk. No warning click of a taser or stun baton.

The man didn’t move with any sense of urgency; he simply stood over the mouth of the trunk, and heaved a long, put-upon sigh.

“Pain in my ass,” the man said, and Peter unfocused his eye a split second before the jaundiced beam of a flashlight flickered to life. Humans were all but blind in the dark compared to werewolves, and the night around them was the yawning, velvet blackness that could only be found in deep woods and other secluded places, miles away from civilization.

As the light swung slowly over the length of his body, Peter held his breath and didn’t blink. The man’s heart rate remained quick, but steady; he wasn’t overly bothered by the sight of a bloody corpse, it seemed.

Things were getting more interesting by the minute.

The light bobbed drunkenly, then vanished along with the man; one of the car doors opened, then shut again after a short, rustling pause. When the man appeared above the trunk again, Peter managed to catch sight of his face without giving the game away: white, moon pale skin, with dark hair buzzed short and wide brown eyes that might have been doe-like in other circumstances. A lean build, bordering on scrawny. Possibly fairly tall, but it was difficult to tell from this angle.

Surprisingly young— no more than eighteen or nineteen at the outside, if Peter had to guess, and probably not even that old— and rather cute for a budding teenage psychopath, or whatever this was. There was something wonderfully filthy about the way those pink lips were stretched around the end of the flashlight, holding it in the kid’s mouth to keep his hands free.

Of course, the kid needed his hands free for the shovel he had apparently retrieved on his rummage through the car. Wonderful. Part of the puzzle was clicking into place, at least.

“S’gonna fucking suck,” the kid mumbled around the flashlight, and Peter nearly lost an eye when the shovel was tossed in beside him. The metal spade knocked hard against his cheek, and he swallowed back a snarl at the flash of pain.

The plastic crinkled, shifting around to basically swaddle him in some sort of macabre sling, and it wasn’t long before he was being pulled out of the trunk. The quiet of the night was broken by a slew of grunts and slurred cursing; some of the latter was inventive enough that Peter almost couldn't stifle his laughter.

Being dumped on the ground like a sack of potatoes was unpleasant, but Peter filed that away with all the other aches and inconveniences that he was going to take out of this kid’s hide before the night was over. Their slow, dragging progress wasn’t as bad as it could have been, though, with only the occasional rock and tree root breaking up the gentle slopes of the forest floor. The kid was having a much harder time of things, huffing and puffing as he struggled to haul Peter’s dead weight, and stumbling over his own feet every few steps.

When they stopped, finally, Peter listened very carefully to the sounds beyond the opaque sheets of plastic. There was a chance that the kid planned to dismember him before burial, and that would require Peter’s immediate intervention. Reattaching a limb was far too much hassle. Reattaching his own head would be a much trickier state of affairs.

The plastic was drawn away, the shovel retrieved, then the sheet paused, partially lifted off of Peter’s body.

“You’re way too goddamn heavy,” the kid said. “And sort of stupidly hot for a dead dude, which, shit, what a waste. Just my luck, right?”

Peter considered reminding the kid that he wasn’t the one who’d gotten creamed by a car that night, and was currently well on his way to being buried in an unmarked grave. If anybody was going to be moaning about bad luck, it wasn’t going to be the son of a bitch who’d been behind the wheel. Before he could say a word, however, the plastic was tossed back down, blanketing him from the world.

After a few minutes of nothing but heavy breathing and more quiet cursing, Peter heard the dull scrape of the shovel being forced down into what he assumed was firm, unbroken ground. His face was obscured by the humid shroud of plastic, so he allowed his genuine amusement to unfurl in a slow, curving smirk.

It was quite possible that the kid was digging his own grave, and didn’t even know it. Peter hadn’t decided yet. Either way, letting the little bastard tire himself out for a while was an enjoyable appetizer to the sizable payback Peter planned to savour.



At least an hour later, Peter was getting bored. The kid’s mounting frustration with digging wasn’t nearly as fun as it had been before Peter’s arm had fallen asleep, stinging with pins and needles. His shoulder was starting to cramp, and the air inside his plastic cocoon was getting claustrophobic.

To make matters even more unbearable, his cell phone was missing from the pocket of his jeans, so he couldn’t even amuse himself with a few muted games of TripleTown. Snapchat was also out, which was a pity; Cora would probably get a kick out of this.

Uncle Peter the murder burrito xx

Yeah, Peter was basically done with this shit now. And as luck would have it, his murder buddy seemed to be of the same mind.

“Okay, yeah, fuck this,” the kid said hoarsely, followed by a thud. “Good enough. Fuck it.”

It took another few minutes before shuffling footsteps brought the kid close; he grabbed hold of the plastic again, groaning as he gathered up the slack. Peter did him one better, and grabbed a skinny ankle instead, yanking the kid’s legs out from under him.

The kid lost his breath when his back hit the ground, which was probably the only thing keeping him from screaming his head off. Well, the only thing until a second later, when Peter had a hand clamped over the kid’s endearingly mole-dotted jaw.

His prey was easily pinned, and squirmed deliciously but ineffectually under Peter’s weight and superior strength. The kid’s arms were stretched awkwardly over his head, both wrists held tightly together in Peter’s other hand, and his legs thrashed without enough leeway to land even a single kick. Any purchase he might manage to gain if he dug in his heels wouldn’t be enough to buck off an Alpha werewolf.

Peter leaned in close, pressing them together hip to chest, and studied the kid’s wild, darting eyes. The flashlight had gone careening away during all the flailing; it was lying a few feet away, shining its sickly yellow beam against the mossy ground. Until his vision adjusted to the dark, the poor human likely couldn’t see anything more than a shadowy shape looming over him, holding him down.

“Hello there,” Peter whispered, nuzzling his nose against the kid’s damp temple. The traces of cheap shampoo and salty sweat smelled refreshingly clean and raw, especially compared to the stifling plastic sheeting. The kid made a noise under the muzzle of Peter’s hand, too rough to be a whimper of fear. More like a growl, really, and wasn’t that delightful?

“The woods are lovely,” Peter continued, in a gentle, soft tone that belied the warning press of his claws against the delicate skin of the kid’s cheeks. “Dark, and deep, but I have promises to keep. And miles to go before I sleep.”

Leaning away ever so slightly, Peter allowed his eyes to bleed red, glowing like twin embers in the dark. “I’m certainly awake now. What about you, sweet boy? Are you awake, or is this all some particularly vivid dream?”

Knowing the kid could see his eyes now, if nothing else, made lunging forward all the more satisfying. There was a choked off shout, muffled, and another uptick in the kid’s frantic, rabbiting heart.

“If you’re naughty—” Tilting the kid’s head to the side, Peter scraped his teeth over that fluttering pulse, keeping his fangs in check despite the yearning itch in his gums. “If you scream, I will eat your tongue. Nod for me, sweetheart. Tell me you understand.”

The small, jerky nod was the only movement Peter’s grip permitted, but he didn’t force the response. The kid agreed all on his own, though admittedly not without incentive.

“Good boy.” Slowly, Peter slid his hand away from the kid’s mouth, trailing it down to wrap loosely around his tense, craning neck instead. There was no screaming, as promised— just a shuddering inhale.

“What,” the kid croaked. His voice cracked when Peter nipped his jaw, but he didn’t lose his words entirely. “You were— Jesus Christ. What the hell are you, man? Besides a Robert Frost fan, I mean.”

“I’m the Big Bad Wolf,” Peter answered, because he’d never claimed to be above a bit of melodrama in the proper situation. This kid was interesting enough to keep alive, for the moment, so why not have some fun? “And you are quite a bad little boy, wandering so far into my deep, dark woods. Trying to hide your mischief, weren’t you? Bury the problem, and forget all about it?”

“Pretty much the plan, yeah.” The kid huffed, almost a laugh. Peter couldn’t tell if it was more amused, or hysterical. “The, uh, the whole thing was an accident, if that helps.”

“Oh? Did you accidentally stuff me into the trunk of your car?”

“That… in my defense, you were super dead at the time. Like, I could see your spine, dude.”

“Because you hit me with your car,” Peter murmured, rubbing his lips against the shell of the kid’s ear. “What’s your name, boy?”

“Danny,” the kid said, without hesitation. The lie, no matter how easily it had tripped from his tongue, still soured his scent and made his pulse skip under Peter’s hand. Peter hummed, then bit down hard enough to bloody the velvety earlobe that fit so nicely between his teeth. It wouldn’t be enough to risk turning him, probably, but it would hurt.

The kid shrieked, his wrists flexing in Peter’s grip, and tried to wriggle away. Peter held on for a moment longer before releasing the abused flesh, licking the iron taste from his blunt teeth.

“You lie beautifully, but you’re even prettier when you bleed. What’s your name, boy?”

“Fuck you.” Before Peter could do more than marvel at the nerve, the kid was continuing, and truthfully this time. “It’s Stiles. You gonna gobble me up, Big Bad? ‘Cause if I’m gonna die tonight, I’d like it to be before the wet grass soaks through the ass of my pants.”

“Tempting.” The kid hissed when Peter bit his ear again, higher along the shell. He gnawed the firm cartilage for a moment, without the intent to actually do any harm, and lapped up the last traces of bleeding. “It’s been something of a rough night, and you do taste divine. But how about we try something different, Stiles? Something more civilized.”

“I’m listening,” Stiles said, after a brief pause. He didn’t immediately agree to whatever yet-unspoken alternative Peter was suggesting, despite the threat of being eaten alive. It was an audacious sort of hesitance, and Peter couldn’t help but find it charming.

“I’ll give you the opportunity to sate my curiosity.” Peter smiled against Stiles’ ear. “Instead of my hunger. And then, when I’m satisfied, I’ll let you go, safe and sound.”

Peter could hear the dry click as the kid swallowed, and felt Stiles’ throat straining under his hand. “You’ll let me go.”

“Mm, I promise. But if you lie to me, I’ll smell it. I’ll know it.” He exerted tiny bit of pressure, squeezing around Stiles’ jugular just enough to restrict his breath, but not enough to choke. “Lie to me just once more, sweet boy, and I’ll rip you apart. That’s a promise, too.”

“Okay,” Stiles wheezed. “Yes, okay—” Peter relaxed his hold, and the kid let out a few harsh coughs, with unnecessary drama thrown in if Peter was any judge. Trying to garner some sympathy, perhaps. Adorable. “Can you— will you let me up? I was serious about the grass, man. There’s dew, or mud or something, and it’s really gross.”

“Of course, Stiles.” If he was going to be kind enough to forego the pleasure of Stiles’ firm, lithe little body writhing against him, Peter decided there was no reason not to enjoy his retreat. He made sure to let his hands linger, sliding down the lean muscle of the kid’s arms, and over his heaving sternum, silently lamenting the ridiculous layers of shirts Stiles seemed to favour, before sitting back on his haunches.

Predictably, Stiles wasted absolutely no time before scrambling away, crawling backward until there was a good few feet of empty blackness between him, and Peter’s glowing red eyes.

The handgun was a much more surprising twist. Peter was mildly embarrassed he hadn’t thought to check if the kid was armed, but the pistol appeared to have been hidden away in the small of Stiles’ back, trapped under their combined weight when Peter had pinned him.

Peter was on all fours and out of the line of fire before the gun’s safety clicked, but he didn’t go far. Even in full daylight, he would have been little more than a blur, darting to the left, then closing the distance in the span of a few frantic heartbeats. In the dark, Peter was confident Stiles wouldn’t see him coming.

And, naturally, he was entirely correct. He was on his feet, looming behind Stiles’ back before the kid realised he’d moved at all.

“Now, now.” Twisting Stiles’ wrist hard enough to grind the narrow bones, Peter easily wrenched the gun away without a single shot fired. He threw it aside, not as far into the woods as he could, but well beyond Stiles’ reach. His claws were still extended, and he made sure Stiles could feel every one of them when he gripped that slender neck again, tilting the kid’s chin up.

He bent closer and exhaled, letting his breath gust hotly across Stiles’ cheek. It was a disappointed sigh, and he hoped the boy recognized it as such.

“That wasn’t very nice.” Stiles’ fingernails were pinpricks of pain, gouging into Peter’s forearm in a useless attempt to free himself. With his healing process already well primed from the night's earlier adventures, whatever minor damage Stiles was inflicting was gone almost immediately, tickling as the scratches knit back together. “If you keep that up, Stiles, I’m going to get annoyed. I may decide not to waste that lovely grave you worked so hard digging. Stop it.

He may have used a hint of deep, Alpha growl in that last command, and found it was profoundly satisfying to be on the other end of things. He wondered vaguely if humans felt anything like the instinctive dread and need to submit that a wolf would, faced with that resonant roar.

The kid stopped tearing at him, but didn’t let go. His long fingers clamped like a vice around Peter’s wrist. Perhaps not entirely the same reaction— Stiles didn’t go limp, or try to cringe away— but good enough.

“Better,” Peter said, and gave Stiles’ throat a relatively gentle tug. “Get up, and keep your hands on me.”

Long, awkward legs moved with all the gracelessness of a newborn fawn, but Stiles did manage to gain his feet without landing in a heap. The moment he straightened up, Peter was flush against his back, hooking his chin casually over Stiles’ shoulder.

“Now, sweetheart, it’s very simple. I want you to answer yes or no, and keep in mind what I said about lying to me: do you have any other nasty little surprises hidden away? Any other weapons?”

There was a silence, then the boy hissed through his teeth. “Yes.”

Peter considered that for a moment, then pressed in closer, taking a deep breath of the sweat and scent of anger that clung thickly in the crook of Stiles’ neck.

“I’d ask you where,” Peter murmured, glutting himself on the swell of spicy fury rising up from Stiles’ smooth, soft skin. The smell was intoxicating. “But I think I’d rather conduct my own investigation. I hope you don’t mind.”

“Fuck yourself,” was the succinct reply, wheezy from lack of oxygen. Peter tightened his hand just a fraction more, and revelled just a bit in the resulting wordless whine. It would serve the boy well to learn some manners, though not too many. This defiance was too gorgeous to crush completely.

With his free hand, he trailed over the obvious places, mapping the tightly wound planes of Stiles’ body without much unsavory lingering. He might not be the kindest creature, or the most moral, but he had his limits; forcing himself sexually on another person had always been a repugnant notion.

A switchblade in the kid’s pants’ pocket, along with a smartphone and a canister of ordinary, capsicum mace. It was oddly flattering that Stiles considered Peter to be a threat worthy of the pistol, without hesitation, instead of a face full of pepper spray. Or perhaps he was simply ruthless enough to default to lethal force; his nonchalant attitude when he’d thought Peter was a corpse had certainly shown he wasn’t overly squeamish about death, even when he’d caused it.

Peter let his hand creep down, stroking over Stiles’ thigh in a way that was certainly suggestive, but didn’t actually stray too far toward the inappropriate. “Anything else? Yes or no?”


“Good boy.” Dragging his hand up a few inches, Peter pushed shirts and hoodie out of the way, and trailed his thumb over the kid's angular hip bone. The bare skin was damp with perspiration, clammy against Peter's much warmer hand, and Stiles shivered like a dry leaf. “Are you cold, sweetheart?”

Stiles’ breath exhaled in a rough, unpleasant scoff. “Doesn't matter.”

“If it didn't matter I wouldn't have asked. Now, yes or no?”

“If I say yes, are you gonna keep up the sex predator vibe and offer to warm me up?”

“I’m the most predatory thing you’ve ever met, boy.” He was careful not to break skin, but running the tips of his claws across Stiles’ vulnerable belly still made the kid jolt against him, pressing his back into Peter’s chest. There was something beautifully poetic about shying away from the more immediate threat, and into the jaws of the wolf.

“Tell me, Stiles,” Peter said, setting aside the question of the boy’s comfort, if only for the moment. “Yes or no, did you come to these woods looking for me? For something like me?”

“What?” Peter listened closely, pressing his ear against the hammering pulse in Stiles’ neck. The boy certainly didn’t seem like a hunter, but there was still something dangerous in him, lurking just under the surface, and a cautious nature had served Peter well for a long time. “No! No, I didn’t— dude, I literally have no idea what you are, besides creepy as hell.”

There was the smallest flutter, betraying a hint of something amid all the anxiety, and Peter considered all the evidence. After a moment, the bloom of realization was dazzling.

They were on the outskirts of Beacon County, miles outside Beacon Hills, but Hale territory was expansive. Maybe the Pack had grown less secretive under Talia’s dominance, but Peter doubted that, and Stiles didn’t smell even faintly of wolf. At least, not like any other wolf, besides Peter himself.

“Oh, clever boy.” Peter let Stiles feel the slick press of his teeth, bared in a smile. “I think you have some idea what I am.”

Stiles offered nothing else, leaving the word werewolf or something like it hanging unspoken between them, but Peter knew. He could all but hear the gears turning in Stiles’ skull, piecing together what must have seemed like so much lunacy, and yet, the proof was viciously unsubtle. A fitting epiphany to have, with the moon hanging fat and waxing gibbous above them, only a scant day from fullness.

Stiles might not want to believe it, but he had figured it out, and quickly too. What a strange and wonderful thing this boy was.

“I swear to god,” Stiles said, firm and truthful, and only somewhat tremulous. “I did not come out here looking for you.”

“I believe you,” Peter assured him, though neither of them relaxed. “Another question. Do you do this a lot?  Speed through backroads in the middle of the night, with a shovel and heavy-duty plastic sheeting in your car, and a gun in your pants, I mean. Exactly what sort of trouble are you looking for, Stiles? Thrill me.”

“I’m not,” Stiles started to say, then stopped himself, taking a few long, deep breaths instead. Peter was patient and perfectly content to wait, nuzzling lazily along the kid’s hairline, with his hand still resting peacefully on the clenching flatness of Stiles’ bare stomach.

“I think you’ll find me very open-minded,” Peter finally whispered, soft and sweet, after the silence stretched out to a nearly suffocating degree. “Very understanding, whatever sort of fun you were planning. Who were you going to kill, Stiles?”

The bark of laughter was startling, but after the gun, Peter was beginning to expect the unexpected when it came to this young man.

“Listen,” Stiles said, his voice warbling with uneven giggles. As though Peter would do any less. “You ever hear the one about the three legged dog who walks into the bar? Like he says to the bartender— I’m looking for the man who shot my paw.”

The punchline was a snarl, every ounce of humour burnt away by fierce, cold hatred, and Peter gladly let it wash over him like a tide. This was the beast that seethed inside the boy, and the wolf inside Peter roared with kinship.

“Tell me,” Peter ordered with peculiar gentleness, and Stiles did. He told Peter about his father, a sheriff’s deputy, and the late night call to a domestic dispute that turned bloody. How the man who’d put a bullet through his father’s brain had vanished before he’d seen the inside of a jail cell. About burying both his parents before he was eight years old, after some wasting disease stole his mother as well.

He told Peter about being shuffled through the system as a troubled kid without relatives, his emancipation only a few months ago, and now this: the plan he had been concocting in some shape or form for half of his young life. A last known address, found through impressive and highly illicit means, and then hoarded greedily from the proper authorities. Kept secret and safe, while Stiles shuffled pieces around the board precisely as he pleased.

The panic at the eleventh hour, burning his carefully calculated plans to ashes. The rumour that his prey was slipping away. Then, the quick descent into sloppiness: an illegal handgun, a stolen car, and no intention to return to Beacon Hills, one way or the other.

“You’re an idiot,” Peter said, then immediately tugged Stiles closer when he bristled at the insult. The boy instantly lost every bit of pliancy he’d gained while Peter had been listening intently, in favour of thrashing against the hold that had gradually become much more of an embrace as the story unfolded. “Easy, sweetheart. I didn’t mean it like that.”

Thankfully, Stiles reined in the worst of the fuss before Peter was forced to restrain him again. As it turned out, cradling Stiles against his chest could be quite comfortable, and Peter wasn’t keen to regress back to threats, or wrestle the boy to the ground. At least, not without some consensual motivation.

Stiles’ words were still harsh, however, gritted through his teeth. “How the hell did you mean it?”

“I’m sorry.” Peter was rather shocked to find he meant that exactly how it sounded. “If it helps, I was an even bigger idiot after my father was murdered.”

And just like that, Stiles went perfectly still.

The span of years had provided some clarity, some distance, but Peter still wasn’t eager to lay out the details of his own impulsive, bloody revenge and subsequent banishment from Beacon Hills and Talia’s good graces. To weave his own gruesome tale of the hunters he’d stalked, savaged, and slaughtered, one by one, and the war that mess had nearly started… that was a long story to tell, standing next to a shallow grave in the wee hours of the morning.

A long story for another time, maybe, if he could persuade Stiles to join him somewhere more comfortable, and peel back a few more of the boy’s layers first. Figuratively and literally.

“You don’t need to burn your bridges,” Peter continued, before Stiles could ask. “It’s much more satisfying to burn their whole world, instead— leave them broken and bloody, while you stay standing. It’s always better to take their lives, and spite them all over again with every day you’re breathing.”

Stiles was silent, sullen, but didn’t make any further attempts to wriggle away. It seemed as though he was listening, even in the midst of a sulk, so Peter carried on, rubbing slow, soothing circles against the boy’s stomach and ribs.

“You’ve done so well,” Peter crooned, coaxing. “Don’t let impatience ruin things now.”

Impatience didn’t total the front bumper of my car—”

“Shhh.” Just one finger pressed against plush, spit dampened lips was enough to quiet Stiles this time, instead of Peter’s entire palm. “You’ve done well within your circumstances, but what if I told you there was a way for you to get every single ounce of vengeance you’ve been aching for, without a scrap of evidence left behind? What if you could terrorize the man that stole your father from you— take him apart piece by piece, as vindictive and vicious as you want? And no one would ever suspect a thing.”

Peter had spent the last month wrestling with the increasingly feverish instinct to build a Pack. He’d resolved to be smart about it, to choose his potential Betas with care and precision, but that discretion had come at a cost. Talia may not have severed him from the family completely, but he had ostensibly been an Omega for years, with only thin, thready bonds tying him to a handful of blood kin in Beacon Hills. Suddenly becoming a packless Alpha had rocked his foundations more than he’d expected.

He’d been growing… unsettled, as the weeks passed. His skin ached, as though it was too tight on his bones, but fully shifting to his larger Alpha form didn’t relieve the tension. The cold, empty feeling that had taken root in his chest after Talia had thrown him out of her house was now a cavernous pit, throbbing like a poisoned wound.

That restlessness was the reason he’d been out in the woods tonight in the first place; he could already feel the moon burning through him in a way it hadn’t done since he was a teenager, and it wasn’t even full yet. Given the choice between prowling the forest, or pacing his motel room and quite possibly tearing the desk clerk apart, Peter had chosen what he’d thought was the safer option. Safer, until he’d let his distraction get the better of him and subsequently got hit by a car, but that was seeming more and more like a blessing in disguise.

Tomorrow night was the full moon again, the first since he’d become an Alpha, and Peter was still without a Pack, and without a tether. He’d underestimated the raw, visceral drive that came with all the benefits of Alpha power, and his prudence and planning had effectively backed him into a corner.

But here, now, it seemed fate may have intervened.

“What’s the catch?” Stiles said, with forced neutrality, even as a thin note of yearning crept into his scent. There was a wisp of arousal, too, spicy and deep, and Peter filed that away for later.

“Well, there are several.” He didn’t bother with denial; unless it was unavoidable, he didn’t intend to lie to this boy. His mouth was already watering with the taste of victory. “No such thing as a free lunch, sweetheart.”

Rather than indulging in more manhandling, Peter deigned to move himself instead, bringing them front to front. His arm stayed securely at Stiles’ waist, still rucked up under his clothes, slipping around until his hand splayed across the naked curve of the boy’s lower back. His other hand laid lightly over Stiles’ clavicle, resting his thumb in the delicate hollow of that long, pale throat.

They’d been in the in the dark long enough for even dull, human vision to adjust better than total blindness, and Peter watched with some fascination as Stiles’ eyes went wide. Peter’s own eyes were burning red, letting him catalogue every reaction, every twitch and fidget, as Stiles studied the shadowed contours of Peter’s face.

“I can make you like I am.” Peter leaned in, closing the distance between them until their foreheads touched, and Stiles didn’t flinch away. “Faster, stronger than you’ve ever been, with the power to butcher your enemies with impunity. And I can help you. I can show you so many ways to hurt them.”

“What’s. The. Catch,” Stiles said again, emphasizing every word. Peter let their noses brush, teasing in the dark, and breathed in the upsurge of ripe teenage lust. It didn’t hurt to indulge that much.

“I’ll give you everything, Stiles,” he said. “If that’s what you want. But in return, I get to keep you.”

“Keep… keep me how?”

“Keep you safe,” Peter explained, appealing to the loneliness of an orphaned boy who caged such a beast inside him. “Keep you happy, and whole, and mine. When’s the last time you’ve had someone to take care of you, sweetheart?”

“Fuck off,” Stiles snapped, but there was hardly any venom in the words. Peter ran his tongue along the blunt edge of his teeth, waiting. “I’m not— I take care of myself, asshole. And if I say no, what then? Is this keep me, or kill me?”

“Don’t be so dramatic.”

“Says the Big Bad Wolf, with his disco eyes and manicure from hell, waxing poetic about murder and getting all handsy in the middle of the woods.”

“You’re the one who quite literally dragged me out here,” Peter reminded him. “And no, I’m not going to kill you, Stiles. You are far too interesting, and I promised I’d let you go, safe and sound. If you say no, you can walk away and forget all of this ever happened. Go back to your life, or chase whatever messy end you’ve planned for yourself. Quite a waste, though.”

Before Stiles could work up another snarky reply, or deflection, or whatever else the kid had up his sleeve, Peter pressed their cheeks together, smearing his scent and breathing hot against Stiles’ ear.

“Do you want to be a werewolf, boy? Do you want claws and fangs, and the pull of the moon in your blood, and to never be alone again? It’s very simple: yes or no?”

Fuck.” Stiles heart was pounding like a drum, drowning out the rustle of wind through the trees. For something so wild, the sound was oddly soothing. “Yes. I want— yes.”

Exaltation swelled in Peter’s chest, like nothing he’d ever felt before. It was more than triumph; it was satisfaction, bone deep and primal. It was an Alpha claiming a Pack.

His fangs were dropping without conscious thought, and he dragged them as gently as he could along Stiles’ jaw, reeling in the slim body until they were pressed tightly together from knees to neck. Stiles’ arms were trapped between them, his palms forced to rest against Peter’s chest.

“Good boy.” Peter’s voice had dropped to a sonorous rumble, profoundly inhuman. Some distance away, foliage rustled from an animal’s spooked retreat. “Such a good boy.”

“Such a fucking creep,” Stiles muttered, but he didn’t kick up a fuss as Peter yanked the collar of his hoodie aside, all but tearing the t-shirt underneath.

A bite on the side would have been more traditional, and somewhat safer, avoiding the potential unpleasantness of nicking an artery. A bite on the wrist was a more personal touch, and one Peter thought this boy deserved, but his current state of mind didn’t lend itself to the necessary delicacy. He was liable to mangle Stiles’ arm if he tried.

“I’m going to bite you,” Peter said, slurring over the cragginess of his elongated teeth. “It’s going to hurt this time.”

“Great, ‘cause last time wasn’t exactly sunshine and puppies—” Stiles didn’t scream, but he did lose his sharp words to a breathless, punched out whine as Peter’s fangs sank deep into the meat of his shoulder. His hands clutched at Peter’s chest, fisting in ruined fabric. The pained sound made Peter bite down harder, revelling in the hot, vital flood of iron and the desperate cries of his prey, before he regained control of himself.

“Son of a bitch...” Stiles whimpered as Peter pulled away, then tried to flinch back from the first drag of a wet tongue over his wound. His fingers didn’t unclench from their death grip on Peter’s torn and bloodied shirt.

“Let me,” Peter said, trying for a soothing tone. The blood in his mouth made him hungry for more, but it was already easier to tamp the need down. “Let me, sweetheart. It’ll help.”

That wasn’t strictly true— lapping at the broken skin would do absolutely nothing to help it heal faster— but the intimacy of the act would help cement the bond between them, if the bite was going to take. And Peter had every confidence that it would.

“Stings,” Stiles hissed at him, sagging in Peter’s arms like his own legs wouldn’t hold him. It was more a result of shock than a sign of trust, but the Alpha in Peter still felt a surge of pleasure and pride, gathering his new packmate closer.

Cleaning away the worst of the blood, Peter left the sluggishly oozing wound in favour of burying his face in the crook of Stiles’ bared throat, gorging himself with deep inhales. The rich smells of fresh earth and fresher blood were strongest, but this close, the layers of scent unfolded like the pages of a book. Laundry detergent and cheap deodorant, mingling with traces of coffee and fried food, laid over top a wisp of some chemical Peter couldn’t identify and the natural musk of Stiles’ skin.

The first threads of wolf and Pack would flare to life soon, cleansing the boy’s scent like a wildfire, and the thought made Peter ravenous. The bite was still uncovered, visible; twin, shadowy crescents curved around Stiles’ pale shoulder, above the sharp jut of his collarbone. It was so strikingly beautiful, Peter couldn’t bring himself to look away for more than a few seconds at a time.

“You can pass out if you want,” he said. By this point, he was already propping up nearly all of Stiles’ weight anyway. “I won’t even tease you about it later. Well, not much.”

“Just… just gimme a minute.” Stiles clumsily slapped at Peter’s chest with his good arm. “Not like I get mauled by a goddamn werewolf every day— ah fuck, fuck, did you break my collarbone, you dick?”

“Don’t be such a baby. Nothing’s broken.” Peter may have scraped the bone with his teeth, just a little, but he hadn’t bitten hard enough to crack it. “You’ll be completely healed in a few hours; there won’t even be a scar.”

That was, perhaps, ever so slightly disappointing. A permanent mark appealed to Peter in a whole host of ways, but he doubted Stiles would appreciate most of them at the moment.

The idea was distracting, and they couldn’t afford too much of that. Not while there was still a stolen, bloodstained car to deal with, and a few issues to be sorted out concerning their immediate future. They didn’t have the benefit of a great deal of time, but Peter was already running through a few promising scenarios, even as he hoisted the noodly kid into a bridal carry.

“Whoa!” Stiles’ uninjured right arm looped around the back of Peter’s neck, clinging too tightly and digging in with blunt nails. At least he seemed to perk up. “Holy shit, put me down! Dude!”

“We’re on a schedule, Stiles.”

“What? Since when?”

“Since the full moon is in less than twenty-four hours.” Surveying the scene, Peter was vaguely insulted by the slipshod excuse for a ditch Stiles had decided was good enough for his body— the grave was uneven, and not even four feet deep. Regardless, mediocre work was a blessing in disguise, since nothing would need to be done about a somewhat suspicious hole in the woods. The bloody plastic needed to be gathered up and disposed of, though, along with the car. “Do you want to be completely above suspicion when you kill the man who killed your father? Or do you still want to disappear afterward?”

“I don’t…” Stiles hesitated, and the hand curled around Peter’s nape clenched before relaxing fractionally. “I don’t know.”

“Then we’re going with the plan that allows for the most options,” Peter explained, starting back through the trees, in the direction of the car. “If you want to stay in Beacon Hills, we can make that happen. If you’d rather start fresh somewhere, that’s possible too.”

“It’s up to me?” Understandably, Stiles sounded supremely surprised; Peter hummed in wordless agreement. “Why is it up to me?”

“It’s a Pack decision. I may be your Alpha, but the best Packs aren’t dictatorships.” Peter really only wanted to break this boy in the best ways, not crush his spirit. A spineless thrall for a Beta would be boring, and especially tragic in this case. Stiles was far too interesting already, and Peter had a feeling he’d only glimpsed a hint of what lurked under the kid’s skin.

“Did you just— my Alpha? Seriously?” The trees were thinning out, and Peter could see the glint of moonlight off the car’s windshield. “How many other people are in this Pack? Are you gonna call some kind of werewolf vote, like: show of claws, who wants to move to Beacon Hills so the newbie doesn’t get homesick?”

“It wouldn’t be much hassle.” Setting Stiles down to lean against the badly crumpled hood of the car, Peter made sure the kid had his feet under him before prowling around to front passenger door. “The last few years aside, I lived in Beacon Hills most of my life; it’ll be an overdue homecoming. Of all the cars your little delinquent ass could’ve stolen, you picked a Jetta?”

“As a final fuck you to the owner, yeah. Plus, it’s generic enough to be forgettable.” Opening the door, Peter found his cell phone and keys lying on the seat. He tucked the latter away in the pocket of what was left of his jeans, then tried to wake the phone. The screen was cracked, like a starburst across the glass, but still lit up.

“You owe me a new phone,” Peter said absently. Only half of the touchscreen actually functioned, but he could access enough to see he didn’t have any new messages waiting. Not that he’d been expecting any; it was nearly three in the morning. “But I’ll forgive it if you brought any spare clothes.”

“The gym bag in the backseat.” There was indeed a big black bag waiting in the back of the Jetta, and Peter stretched inside to drag it into the front.

“My car’s not too far from here,” he said, unzipping the bag. A pile of wrinkled fabric— a few t-shirts, jeans, boxer briefs— didn’t seem especially stylish, but they all reeked of clean laundry and Stiles. The scent was more appealing than it had any right to be. “I’ll bring you to it, and you’ll drive it back to Beacon Hills. Go home, get some sleep, and wait for me. Avoid people, if you can. I’ll find you once I’ve cleaned this mess up.”

“What?” The car shifted slightly when Stiles pushed himself up off of it. He’d shrugged his clothes back over the bite, covering it, and held his right side stiffly, obviously still in pain. “You said— We’ve gotta go get Barrett before he skips town. You said you’d help me kill him.”

“And I will. I promise.” The bag also turned out to contain a trio of sheathed hunting knives in varied sizes, a bundle of nylon rope, four rolls of duct tape, a open box of nitrile gloves, and a taser. Peter turned to Stiles with a smile. The kid looked haggard, lit by the jaundiced interior light of the car, but not fragile. Pale, certainly. Sharp-edged enough to cut, and definitely hungry. Gorgeous.

“You have another decision to make,” Peter said, zipping up the charming little murder kit. “We can plan to make your first full moon very special, if you want. Until you learn control, you’ll be overcome with bloodlust during the moon, driven by instinct. If I set you loose on him in that state, there won't be more than scraps left at the end of the night. Efficient and brutal, but the odds are good he’ll die very quickly. And you probably won't remember all the details afterward.”

For some, that possibility might have been a point in favour. Peter didn’t imagine this boy would see it that way.

Stiles frowned, while clearly scrutinizing Peter’s face closely now that they were in brighter light. “What’s behind door number two?”

“We wait. Not long,” Peter assured him. “An extra day or two, at most, plus the drive. Once the moon passes, you should be able to keep a better handle on your impulses, especially with me there. If we wait, you’ll be able to make it short and sweet, or take your time to savour. Whatever your pleasure.”

“He could take off any day now,” Stiles said, fidgeting with the hem of his hoodie; the frayed edge of the fabric suggested the tic was habitual. “He rented a U-Haul.”

“If he goes, we’ll follow him.” Leaving the car for the moment, Peter took a slow step, then another, flowing back into Stiles’ space like a rising tide. “We’ll hunt him to the ends of the earth, and sweetheart, we’re apex predators. There isn’t a hole deep enough for that sonofabitch to hide.”

Snagging Stiles loosely around the wrist, Peter slipped two fingers under the kid’s cuff, stroking feather-light over delicate veins and the flutter of his pulse. “You want to kill him, boy? I’ll lay him at your feet.”

“You’re serious.” It wasn’t quite a question, but Peter nodded anyway, holding Stiles’ gaze steadily.

“Completely. You’re my Pack.”

The kid licked his lips, wetting the chapped flesh. “You didn’t answer my question before. About how many—”

“You’re my Pack,” Peter repeated, with emphasis. “Just you, Stiles; you’re exactly what I’ve been looking for. And neither of us wants to be alone, do we?”

Stiles was quiet for a long moment, and Peter didn’t press the issue, letting the kid mull through whatever was knitting his forehead together.

Eventually, Peter felt Stiles’ wrist twist, and a clammy, long-boned hand curled around his own, lacing their fingers loosely. Something slotted into place in the centre of Peter’s chest, and it was suddenly easier to breathe than it had been in nearly ten years. Easier than it had been since he’d been run out of Beacon Hills, with the bruises from his sister’s grip still livid around his jugular.

“What’s your name, wolfman?”

“Peter,” he answered, with a genuine smile. “Peter Hale.”



By the time the taillights of his own Lexus were headed out toward the highway, driving southbound with Stiles behind the wheel, Peter was dangerously close to rethinking his initial opinions about the fun of spirited Betas.

Sweet Christ, the boy was stubborn. Not stupid, but hellishly determined to be involved in everything. Peter might have appreciated his new wolf’s desire to be glued to his Alpha’s side, but Stiles was still too human to be more than a hinderance when they were this short on time. Later, once the kid turned and learned enough control, Peter was eager to see the capable, magnificent wolf he’d be.

Convincing Stiles to go had almost required Peter to cow him with Alpha dominance, but he’d held off, goading and coaxing the kid with compelling arguments instead. Pushing too hard, ignoring Stiles’ concerns, was a good way to breed resentment. It was far too early in their relationship to risk spoiling it like that, and Peter had always been persuasive, even before he’d been an Alpha.

Jogging back towards the Jetta, Peter was glad he still remembered these woods so well. There was a deep ravine not too far west— a perfect final resting place for this unfortunate car to meet its fiery end, once he siphoned enough gas to light it up.



Beacon Hills stank like a sour amalgam of home and danger, but when Peter slipped inside the slummy little studio apartment just after dawn, the only scent that filled his lungs was Pack.

“You weren't sleeping,” he said in lieu of greeting, stepping out of the way and further into the apartment while Stiles locked and bolted the door behind him. Peter bypassed the dark, open bathroom door on his left, prowling into the main living space; there was a kitchenette and table for two on the right, an armchair with faded upholstery, a small desk and laptop, and an unmade double bed shoved into the far corner. Peter set the gym bag down beside the chair; the wrinkled sheets, when he ran a hand over them, didn’t hold a hint of body heat.

“I’m good,” Stiles said, clearly a lie even without his heartbeat to give him away. The boy was jittery, rubbing the knuckles of one hand rhythmically against the thigh of his jeans, and trailing after Peter. “I don’t sleep much— don’t need much sleep, I mean. Anyway, the sun’s already up, sort of. It’s coming up.”

Peter hummed, sliding his thumb down the spines of the books stacked on the bedside table. Some were school textbooks, while others appeared to be recreational. There were more books on the desk, and lining the few shelves on the walls.

A Complete Guide to Erotic Bondage,” Peter read aloud, smirking as he picked up a well-thumbed paperback from the top of a pile to study the hardcover beneath it. “And Whole Beast Butchery. Is this one just for the knifework, or were you planning to eat your kill?”

When no answer was immediately forthcoming, Peter turned from the books, and observed Stiles carefully. The boy had gone very still, staring back at Peter with his dark eyes gleaming in the low lamplight.

Once the transformation started in earnest, Peter was immensely curious to discover whether they would burn gold, or steely blue.

“I ate the heart of one of the hunters who killed my father,” Peter offered, relishing the memory of Argent blood spilling over his hands. “Raw and hot. She was awake when I tore it out.”

Just like in the woods, there wasn’t even the barest whiff of true fear sharpening Stiles’ natural scent. The kid had struggled when Peter first grabbed him, and there had been a certain healthy respect for razor sharp claws and vastly superior strength, but even when Stiles’ pulse had hammered hard enough to nearly burst through his ribs, he hadn’t smelled properly afraid.  Anxious, maybe, but not the sharp, briny smell of panicked prey.

It wasn't a normal reaction, and Peter could hardly believe his luck, stumbling upon such a wicked little creature at precisely the right time.

“Promise I can kill him,” Stiles said, half question and half demand. Peter dropped the paperback, closing the distance between them in two smooth strides.

“Stiles.” Reaching up, Peter cupped the boy’s smooth jaw in his hand.  There was a collar of dull, blotchy red blooming where Peter had squeezed his throat, but the marks would probably fade before they had the chance to darken to mottled bruises.  “Here, listen to my heartbeat. Once your senses sharpen, you’ll be able to do this from much farther away, but for now—”

Stiles allowed his head to be guided forward and down, until his ear was pressed against Peter’s chest.

“Deception has an acrid scent,” Peter murmured, giving into the urge to run his fingers gently over Stiles’ hair, stroking the incredibly soft bristles and mapping the shape of his skull.  “Which is more reliable and harder to mask than the skip in a pulse, though it’s not impossible to hide it. But most people also can’t keep their heartbeat steady when they lie. Ask me again.”

Stiles’ right arm curled around Peter’s back, fisting in the stretched fabric of his borrowed t-shirt. The scraps of Peter’s clothes had been burned along with the Jetta; changing into one of Stiles’ shirts and a pair of sweatpants from the gym bag had saved him the awkwardness of wandering into town in the wee hours of the morning, ragged and bloody.

“Promise me I’m going to kill Barrett.”

“I promise.” Peter could have made the effort and steadied his heart, but it wasn’t necessary. At that moment, he was being entirely truthful: he was going to do everything in his power to keep these promises. “I promise we’ll hunt him down, and you’ll kill him. I promise I’ll take such good care of you, from now on. You’re mine.”

If anything, that pronouncement made Stiles cling to him even harder, almost violently, as though he wanted to crawl under Peter’s skin.

“Come on, boy.” There was the finest tremble humming through Stiles’ muscles, like a shiver but constant. He was vibrating like a plucked string. “We’re going to sleep for a few hours.”

“I’m not tired,” Stiles muttered, then seemed to remember what Peter had explained about lying only a few short minutes before, and rephrased. “Fine. I don’t want to sleep.”

“Tough. You know I ran all the way here?” Untangling himself from Stiles’ grip, Peter tutted at the kid, still fully dressed in the same jeans and hoodie from the woods. “And since I figured I might not want to try sneaking into town at dawn looking like I'd been slaughtering hitchhikers, I had to scrub all that blood off.  In a stream that was so cold, I may never see my balls again.  I’ve had a hell of a long night, and you need to rest before the full moon. Get changed.”

“I’ve got school in like three hours—”

“You can either call in sick, or skip.” Peter pulled the too-small t-shirt off and toed off his muddy sneakers, pushing them under the bed. “Or you can go to school, and there’s a damn good chance you’ll lose control and randomly murder someone. That’ll make sticking around Beacon Hills more difficult.”

They were already going to have enough issues, with Talia to deal with. Parlaying with the territory's resident Alpha would probably be at least a little easier if they could avoid any unnecessary or conspicuous homicides in the interim.

He wasn’t exactly as prepared for the inevitable meeting as he’d hoped to be, with only one Beta and no solid plan yet, but Peter was gleefully curious to see the expression on his sister’s face when he made a formal overture, Alpha to Alpha. If she wanted him gone, she’d certainly find him harder to run off this time.

He lifted the blankets and crawled underneath, mashing one of the limp pillows into some semblance of a shape. The whole bed smelled like the staleness of sleep, sweat, and cum. It smelled of Stiles, languid and relaxed in his own den. And it smelled like no one else, even faintly. Except Peter.

“Turn off the light, close the blinds, and come to bed.” Peter patted Stiles’ own mattress in invitation. Stiles didn’t budge an inch.

“I know I let you bite me, dude, but this is weird.”

“Pack bonding.” Peter stretched, searching in vain for a comfortable spot. “Werewolves are physical, and we don’t do well alone. We’re pack animals, even more than humans. You already want to be near me; it helps you centre yourself, doesn’t it?”

Stiles made a low, distressed sort of sound in the back of his throat, more frustrated than anything else. “I’m just— I’m seriously gonna need a heads up if you think there’s gonna be any Pack bonding in the vicinity of my dick. Or really anything below the belt.”

“Relax. I don’t put out on a first date.” Heaving a sigh, Peter propped himself up on one elbow and levelled his yappy Beta with a bland stare. “I’m exhausted, Stiles. And I’m not going to molest you, unless you’re into that. We can discuss it later.”

“Why would you— I’m not—” The kid might ordinarily weave exquisite lies with every breath, but he couldn’t keep the truth from a werewolf. Peter tapped his own chest meaningfully, raising his eyebrows, and Stiles' arms flapped upward in exaggerated surrender. “No molesting!”

“Talk later.” Grabbing the pillow he hadn’t claimed as his own, Peter pitched it hard enough to knock Stiles breathless when it hit the kid in the gut. “Sleep now. I swear to god, I will smother you into unconsciousness if you don’t shut the fuck up.”

Flopping back down, leaving the blankets pooled low around his bare ribs, Peter closed his eyes and waited. After a minute, he heard the shuffle of feet against thin carpet, then the swish of plastic blinds being lowered over the apartment’s sole window.

There was a click that must have been the lamp, followed by the rustling of fabric, and a few soft grunts as the boy quickly stripped down for sleep.  It was tempting to watch, but Peter refrained from even a brief peek; there wasn't any rush.  He had a good feeling he'd be invited to map every mole in due time, but he really was bone-tired at the moment.  He wanted sleep, and the reassuring presence of his Pack.  

Another minute or two passed before the mattress dipped with the weight of another body.  

“Where’s my gun?”

Peter growled when a pillow was slapped down excessively hard against the bed, right in front of his face, but still didn’t bother opening his eyes. “In the glove compartment of my car.”

He’d sniffed out Stiles’ parking spot easily, and took the time to lock up the gun and the hunting knives. He wasn’t stupid enough to think Stiles didn’t have any number of other weapons stashed around his den, but actively arming the kid more than he already had felt superfluous at this point. Shortly after nightfall, he’d have his own claws, after all.

There was a jerky sort of hesitance in the way Stiles laid down, as though he wasn’t sure how to control his own limbs. Peter took one bony elbow to the sternum before he’d had enough of that, snaring the kid around the waist and pulling him close, spooned back to front.

“Stop flailing.”

“Stop molesting!”

“I’m just reliving the good old days,” Peter said, pinning two scrawny, sweatpants-clad legs under one of his own, and nuzzling lazily at Stiles’ shoulder through his t-shirt. He could smell the bite, ferrous and raw, without a hint of the putrid black bile of a rejected turning. “You remember, that time I was going to disembowel you in the woods, until you shut up and did what I asked.”

Stiles held himself rigid for another few seconds, before the taut line of his shoulders began to relax. “Yeah well, I seem to remember telling you to fuck off a couple of times, too. And here I am, mostly unventilated, with all my insides still totally inside.”

“You're going to be such a fierce, gorgeous wolf,” Peter mused, mostly to himself. “I’m glad I found you.”

By some miracle, Stiles didn’t seem to have anything to say to that.

Or, at least, nothing to say until Peter was drifting off, and the quiet words could jolt him awake again.

“You're the shittiest Yoda,” Stiles said, barely louder than a breath. “But this was way better than my usual nightmares, so, thanks I guess.”

The kid… the kid thought this was actually a dream? That probably explained at least some of his ease with the whole werewolf thing, and the relatively minor complaints he'd voiced about having a virtual stranger making himself at home.  It was also why he’d been so adamant about staying awake. He’d been desperate to keep the fantasy alive longer.

Peter huffed a laugh, tightening the arm he had thrown over Stiles’ waist. Misunderstanding or no, he had no qualms about pressing an advantage.

“Does that diner on Edgewood still serve breakfast all day?” he asked, keeping his own voice to a low, soothing rumble; Stiles made a noise of agreement. “Good. If you wake up and you’re a werewolf, I’ll buy you pancakes. I’ll probably even stop you from gutting the waitress, depending on the service.”

“Shittiest Yoda,” Stiles said again, as his hand found Peter’s, squeezing them together over the strong, thudding pulse of his own heart.