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tomorrow is another day

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It starts the way it always starts with Stiles – a combination of curiosity, a thirst for new knowledge, and practicality. He knows he has magic now, he wants to know what it can do, and magic could save his life and – more importantly – his dad and Scott’s lives one day. There’s no better incentive for him to learn.

His car is first because he loves his car – it was his mom’s after all – and after crashing it once to save a girl who’ll never look at him twice, he doesn’t want it trashed again ’cause that shit costs money to repair, and wouldn’t it just be easier if it was decked out with some magical protection? If he can put power into mountain ash, surely he can do it to other things too.

So Stiles starts researching everything he can about magic and Sparks, and he starts creating his own little runes and wards. As a rule, the runes that people use are usually only for wards, for defense of a building or the basis of a ritual, which, why?  Why can’t runes do other things?

So he experiments.

He soaks up all the rudimentary knowledge he can find on runes before deviating from the books to attempt his own creations, and he’s surprised when he realizes how… instinctually easy it is for him.  He finds out that he doesn’t actually have to carve anything or even use blood because he’s a Spark and all he really needs is belief to make a rune exist for him, so ink will do, or even just a fingertip, though that usually leaves him exhausted because he has to channel the magic directly into whatever he’s warding.

He moves on to weapons after he successfully makes the frame of his jeep as hard as diamond (he’s done a test-run and everything – the headlong meet-and-greet with the side of a cliff far into the Preserve may have been a bit reckless but ultimately, the cliff face lost, so a round of applause for Team Stilinski, thank you very much).

He gets his hands on a knife, nothing special, the edge dulled even, the hilt chipped, a used one that he got from one of his contacts since they were throwing it away anyway. Stiles just wants to see if he can repair it.

He repairs it alright. But he also does one better. The hilt becomes a sturdy thing when he marks the base with a single reinforcement rune, and the blade sharpens when he figures out the correct intricate string of runes to emboss on one side of the knife. The other side – he traces elemental runes into. And the next time the Pack’s facing off against a nest of vampires, one gets its teeth way too close to Stiles’ jugular, and without hesitation, Stiles shoves the knife into its gut.

The vampire hisses with laughter. Stiles grins back, feral and dark, and thinks hard of a bonfire, and in the span of a single breath, the vampire reels back with a shriek as it goes up in a beautiful plume of flames that matches the setting sun on the horizon.

In the aftermath, Stiles flops onto his back on the forest floor and laughs at the crimson-streaked sky, breathless with the exhilaration of triumph.

 


 

The Pack finds out. Most of them think what he does is dangerous, especially when Stiles blows up Derek’s coffee table on his fifth attempt at creating a dynamite rune.

After being yelled at and sneered at and mocked, as well as forking over the money to replace the table, Stiles never makes the mistake of showing his work to the Pack again. He knows now that they won’t encourage him, and that doesn’t really surprise him, as sad as that is – people have been telling Stiles no, you can’t for as long as he can remember; not once has that ever stopped him from doing exactly what he wants to do anyway.

So he keeps trying, except he does it all in his bedroom instead, and his sixth through thirteenth attempts at the dynamite rune go the same way. His desk, his nightstand, and almost himself are sacrificed to the cause, but on his fourteenth attempt, the rune fizzles, sparks, and then blazes to life with a bang, and that makes it all worth the damages. Now, with the rune drawn on his left palm, the ink long gone but the magic still locked in place, all he has to do is clap his hands once, think of fireworks, and anything he touches goes boom.

It’s awesome.

Deaton, Scott tells him again and again with earnest (irritating) concern, Does Not Approve. The cryptic druid actually has the balls to come around to Stiles’ house and lecture him about responsibility and power and how he should stop.

Stiles asks him if he’s willing to teach Stiles something else if Stiles stops. Deaton is as vague as always but the man looks at Stiles with something uncomfortably close to fear, and the bottom line is no way.

“Then you have your answer,” Stiles tells him with a smile that’s probably more teeth than humour, and then he slams the door in the druid’s face, brushes fingers over the runes he pressed into the door frame the moment he learned how to ward his home, and smirks when he hears Deaton yelp on the other side from a small current of electricity.

So Stiles continues doing whatever he wants (which includes getting his hands on his dad’s backup piece and fusing a bunch of runes into the muzzle so that every bullet that comes out will pack a wolfsbane punch even when they’re just regular bullets; he warns his dad of course, who sighs at his son’s borderline criminal ways but doesn’t kick up too much of a fuss because he knows it won’t change anything) regardless of what anybody else wants because Stiles has always had a problem with authority, and if his dad can’t order him around, nobody else has a snowball’s chance in hell.

 


 

Not everybody is completely against what he does though. Allison sidles up to him one day at school, looking sheepish and hesitant and defiant all at once, and quietly asks if he can upgrade her bow and arrows (”They did nothing against those giant spiders last week, Stiles. ...I hate being useless.”).

Stiles agrees because he likes Allison, and not just because she’s Scott’s ex-girlfriend these days. Sanity can be overrated. Life is easier to handle when you’re crazy. And she has enough people looking at her like they’re waiting for her next psychotic break without Stiles jumping on that bandwagon too. That’s not to say he doesn’t keep tabs on her; he keeps tabs on everyone. But he likes her, and she’s the first to show nothing but interest and curiosity over what he can do, so he takes her bow for a week, and when he returns it, her arrows soar like comets when she wants them to.

Stiles is very good with fire, as it turns out. And Allison seems like a fire sort of girl.

 


 

They become bros when Allison keeps coming over even after Stiles finishes enhancing her bow, just to hang out. Stiles doesn’t realize how isolated (lonely) he’s been from everyone else, especially Scott now that he has another girl to distract him from reality with, until Allison climbs in through his window like a ninja at three in the morning, and they end up aggressively playing Mario Kart until dawn.

Eventually, Stiles wards some of Allison’s other weapons too. Runes blossom under his fingertips as easy as breathing. All of Allison’s daggers end up producing an electric shock.

Allison is delighted. She smuggles him some of her father’s hand grenades as a thank-you. Stiles only spares a few seconds to wonder if normal friendships are supposed to have weapons trade as a common interest, and then he remembers that his life hasn’t been normal since he found half a dead body in the woods, so he dismisses the thought for good.

He’s never liked normal anyway.

Chris gives him suspicious looks for weeks when Stiles starts coming and going from their house, probably wondering if he’s the next Scott, but then garden gnomes start invading the innocent lawns of Beacon Hills, a handful of them try to ambush Allison with lethal pitchforks on her way out the door one morning to fetch the paper, and only Stiles’ half-trip, half-tumble out of the second-floor guestroom window and onto the porch saves her. He slaps a hand on the railing, the entire piece of metal flashes once, and the subsequent repelling wards that spring up are so powerful that they launch every trespassing gnome off the Argent property and clean across the street with morbid pops akin to balloons at a porcupine’s birthday party.

The sight of raining gnomes – all of them reduced to smoking husks – makes for a pretty macabre spectacle, but Stiles subscribes to the whole ‘better them than us’ adage so he really doesn’t have much of a problem with it.

Turns out, the Argents don’t either. Allison gives him a kiss on the cheek, and Chris sighs in a way that says he’s two hundred percent done with Beacon Hills in general but the man hauls Stiles back inside anyway to wrap the sprained ankle he got after he leapt out the window like a failed Batman.

 


 

After that, Stiles more or less becomes a permanent fixture around the Argents’ house, and the first thing he does is walk the perimeter, leaving a trail of runes in his wake with every step he takes. They glitter under the afternoon sun for several minutes before sinking into the ground like they were never there. By nightfall, the Argent home – aside from the Sheriff’s house – is quite possibly the most protected place in all of Beacon Hills.

Possibly in all of California.

Allison teaches him archery in return, mostly because Stiles is already aces with a gun. He ends up almost shooting himself in the foot, then narrowly missing a passing sparrow, and then shaving off at least six lives from the neighbour’s poor cat.

When he finally manages to hit the dummy target, he ends up shooting its crotch, and Allison cackles so hard she falls over, dragging Stiles down with her in a tangle of limbs and laughter. That’s pretty much how Chris finds them when he gets home from work, sprawled on top of one another, breathless with giggling hysterics, and – for once – looking exactly like the seventeen-year-old teenagers they’re supposed to be.

Chris invites Stiles to stay for dinner. It’s the first of many shared meals for the three of them. Occasionally four when the Sheriff isn’t too busy, but Stiles becomes family and is probably the only male in existence whom Chris will knowingly allow into his daughter’s bedroom for the night without throwing a fit.

 


 

Stiles gives Chris an innocent smile and a handgun for the man’s birthday.

It saves the hunter’s life when he runs out of bullets during a shootout against the Alpha Pack, but instead of clicking on an empty chamber, something the smirking Alpha is undoubtedly expecting, the muzzle lights up with a multitude of complex runes instead, and within the next blink, the Alpha goes down hard with a dying wheeze of pure shock and doesn’t get back up.

Upon closer examination once the battle is over, there is an entrance wound and an exit wound – with the circumference of a bullet – that punches straight through fur, skin, muscle, bone, and through the heart, and then straight back out the other side.

It’s tiny but one hundred percent fatal.

It’s a bullet made of condensed wind, Stiles tells Chris with an excited grin because this is the first time he’s managed to incorporate an element other than fire into a weapon.

Chris gives him a long assessing look in return before telling him he’s terrifying. But then the man pulls out a second gun, messily shoots the dead Alpha three times in the chest area, and promptly erases all evidence of Stiles’ handiwork so that when Derek stalks over with a red-eyed glare, he doesn’t see anything apart from the regular wounds dealt by a hunter’s wolfsbane bullets.

Except when Chris turns around, there’s Peter Hale staring almost (no, there’s no almost about it) hungrily at Stiles, who hasn’t really noticed, still fluttering around the body with a thrilled expression that would’ve been better suited on someone who brought home their A+ science project instead of a corpse killed by a magically augmented gun.

Allison notices too though because she grabs Stiles and hustles him away, subtly shielding him with her body even as she pins the eldest remaining Hale with a glare of pure venom.

Chris brings up the rear. He starts detailing a list of ways to assassinate a werewolf as cunning as Peter always is.

 


 

Combining magic with weapons is fairly easy for Stiles by this point, so he turns his attention back to vehicles.

Allison lends him her car for experimentation; she doesn’t even get mad when he short-circuits the entire thing, though she makes him buy her ice-cream for the next two weeks while he tackles the engine problem.

Allison’s car, Stiles sulks when he pops the hood and gets a face full of cranky-feeling steam for his efforts, doesn’t seem to like being tampered with.

But he works with it like he would a particularly bad-tempered tiger, slowly, cautiously, gently coaxing magic into it to include an upgrade on the sunroof to ward off rain even when you’re halfway outside, and an enhancement added to the trunk and backseat so that they’re-

“Bigger on the inside than the outside!” Stiles crows proudly, bouncing around the vehicle in question and grinning maniacally at his audience. “The back seat can fit six people instead of three now. It’s a bit like the TARDIS, get it?”

Allison bites her bottom lip around a fond grin of her own even as she eagerly explores the interior, which is ridiculously roomy now, and none of it shows on the outside. Chris watches with an indulgent sort of exasperation, and he tosses Stiles a towel and some water and tells him to clean his hands and face before they’re permanently smudged with oil and ink and grease, but he also orders takeout from Stiles’ favourite Thai place that night in celebration, and he carries him to bed when the boy conks out midway through dinner.

Allison thinks, privately, if she was born with a brother, both she and her dad would’ve wanted it to be Stiles.

 


 

“Hello, Stiles,” Peter materializes beside him when he steps out of Home Depot with a bag of nails that he needs for his next project.

Stiles blinks bemusedly at the man for a moment. He hasn’t slept in close to forty-eight hours, but Chris is out of town for a business meeting, and Allison is down with the flu (which is why Stiles’ other hand is occupied with a bag of all the ingredients needed to whip up a homemade chicken noodle soup), so neither of them can scold him for his unhealthy sleeping patterns at the moment, and the Sheriff isn’t around enough to notice.

Stiles hasn’t had much to do with the Beacon Hills Pack recently. Derek honestly seems to loathe having humans in his little band of misfits, and Stiles is not in the habit of letting himself get degraded or pushed around every time he tries to help and even after he saves someone’s life, so he’s sort of… well, stopped trying, really. He only ever puts in an appearance for supernatural showdowns nowadays when Chris takes him and Allison along because Derek has – once again – fucked up one too many times for Chris to ignore. The bastard never thanks them either, always looking pissed instead when the three of them show up just in time to fend off the latest monster hell-bent on taking a chunk out of the Pack.

At least he doesn’t shove Stiles into walls or slap him over the head hard enough to make him woozy anymore. The first and last time he did it in the Argents’ line of sight after Stiles snickered out a dog joke in his presence – only to get slammed into a tree in return, leaving him seeing stars when the back of his head cracked against a knot in the trunk – Allison turned pale with rage and promptly sprayed Derek with a special brand of wolfsbane that made the Alpha howl in pain as he inhaled the concoction and immediately began to throw up black goo. Chris just went stone-faced and hunter-cold and told the convulsing Alpha in no uncertain terms that if he ever laid a finger on Stiles again, he’d put a bullet in Derek’s brain himself.

“I thought you claimed you were one of the civilized werewolves,” Chris remarked icily right before they left after taking down a golem for the Pack. “You don’t treat humans like that, Hale. Ever. Especially not over a goddamn joke from an ally who’s saved your life too many times to count.”

If Stiles was secretly pleased, secretly bewildered, and secretly grateful all at the same time, nobody needed to know.

But honestly, it’s a smart decision, to stay out of the insanity for once. His life expectancy – as the line graphs that he drew up once when he was bored have shown – has risen significantly now that he’s bowed out of the whole pseudo-vigilante supernatural-exclusive club angle that the Hale Pack is always going for.

His only regret is the canyon that now yawns between himself and Scott, but that’s been happening since Scott met Allison, and then Isaac, and now Kira. Ever since Scott became strong and fast and popular and was given other options, Stiles no longer had a place beside him because cool kids don’t mix with the jumbled mess that’s been Stiles since he was born.

Still, all of that just means that he doesn’t see a lot of people he knows outside of Allison and Chris these days, and his father to a certain degree when he isn’t working overtime at the station, which – let’s face it – doesn’t happen often.

And he certainly hasn’t seen Peter aside from the fights they’ve both been in, and Peter doesn’t tend to fight a lot, either because nobody trusts him on the battlefield or because he doesn’t feel like helping.

Stiles suspects it’s some of both.

So this is the first time he’s really conversed with Peter in… months, for all that they just saw each other a couple weeks ago against that sea serpent in one of the lakes in the Preserve.

(Stiles remembers it well. The grenade he threw into the lake exploded with enough ice to freeze the water, immobilizing the sea serpent. And to think, the first ice grenade he made – and obviously tested – froze his hair and eyebrows and gave him a brain freeze agonizing enough to cripple him for three days. Chris wanted to cart him to the hospital; it was that bad.)

And like this, standing outside Home Depot in a v-neck Henley and jeans, and a charming smile on his face, it’s almost easy to forget what Peter did at the height of his madness.

Almost.  Stiles isn’t in the habit of forgetting anything.

“Peter,” Stiles greets back, shifting his weight. He’s wearing his good sneakers today. That is to say, he’s wearing the pair with a rune under the right shoe, and one tap of his foot will send out enough vibrations into whatever it’s touching to cause a minor earthquake within a ten-foot radius. “What are you doing here?”

His expression turns wry as he glances up at the store behind them. “Finally decided to do some home renovations before the next storm buries you in rubble?”

Peter shrugs elegantly, smile curling into something equally dry. “That’s up to our Alpha, but Derek seems to like living on the edge. And you’re behind the times; I moved out months ago. I have my own apartment now.”

“What, not a cave in the wilderness? What a shame.” Stiles snarks back. He cocks his head. The word itches under his skin. “He’s not our Alpha, just yours.”

Peter hums. He doesn’t look surprised.

“So I’ve seen,” The werewolf nods, and his next words are a bit too pleasant to be genuine. “You’ve fallen in with the Argents lately, haven’t you?”

Stiles’ lips tighten. His shoulders square. He takes a deliberately measured breath.

“Ally and Chris aren’t Kate and Gerard,” His voice comes out flat and controlled. “And I like them, so if you ever decide to… extend your grudge against the people responsible for the Hale fire to people who weren’t, you and I are gonna have a serious problem.”

His chin lifts an inch with challenge, and his consequent smile feels too sharp for his face. “I destroy problems these days, Peter.”

Peter looks… amused. The man rocks back on his heels, still as relaxed as ever, and he regards Stiles with an unsettling gleam in his eyes. “There’s really no need to bring out the threats, Stiles. I have no desire to be on the wrong end of your little… inventions.”

Stiles frowns at him but he lets himself relax a little. Somehow, he doesn’t get the feeling that Peter’s lying at the moment. Still, the urge to show Peter exactly what Stiles can do these days – just as a warning – doesn’t entirely go away.

He toes the sidewalk with the tip of one sneaker. He can almost feel the rune pawing in anticipation, yearning to sink its teeth into the cement. Not a surprise. There’s a gravity component in it; of course it would want to return to the earth.

But…

What about anti-gravity? Zero gravity. But it would have to be controlled in some way or he’d just float aimlessly in the air.

But it’s a thought.

Stiles stares at the ground. Weightlessness. Wind component? That was always such a difficult element to harness.

Still.

Flight.

He could-

“I’ve lost you,” Peter remarks lightly, and Stiles’ head jerks back up, startled.

Oh. He forgot Peter was there. Peter, who looks… faintly annoyed. Mostly intrigued.

But Stiles suddenly has a million designs for a new rune racing through his mind, and he needs to get it down on paper right now. He thinks it’s going to be a complicated one, but the challenge is what makes it fun.

“I gotta go!” He blurts out in a rush, already turning away. “It was nice seeing you around; try not to get stabbed, eaten, burned to death, etcetera, etcetera. We should do this again sometime; see ya!”

And then he’s off, sprinting for his jeep, tossing his shopping bags into the back, and hastily clambering into the driver’s seat. He starts the car and speeds off towards the Argents’.

Oh damn, he still needs to make chicken noodle soup for Allison.

This at least slows him down a bit. A squiggle of guilt tugs at him. Allison’s sick; taking care of her is more important than runes, even if the end result of the latter could grant him flight.

Alright, Allison first, then runes.

 


 

Stiles jumps off a cliff on a Saturday morning. On hindsight, it may not have been the best idea, but his ideas after a month of sporadically caffeinated all-nighters are never particularly good.

He’s barefoot with the first version of his flight rune meticulously inked along the arch of each of his feet. The cliff he’s about to test it on is – in terms of cliffs – not that great in height. It’s ten feet, twelve at most, and Stiles is sure this will work.

It… almost works.

He takes a running leap off the edge, feels the runes flare to life, and for one, two, three seconds, he thinks he’s going to fly.

At the very least, he hovers for a moment.

And then, with a yelp, Stiles finds himself swung upside-down as the runes hoist him up so that he’s pretty much hanging feet-first in the air instead, bullied Severus Snape style, dangling helplessly as he tries to right himself, and then – another second later – the power in the runes sputter out like guttered candles, and all at once, gravity plucks him out of the air and flings him back towards unforgiving ground.

Stiles only has time to throw his arms up (or down, depending on how you looked at it) to shield his head but he knows it’s too late and his arms aren’t going to do shit except break themselves the moment they-

A snarl rents the air, and Stiles catches a blur of movement out of the corner of his eye a fraction of a second before something slams into him from the side. He’s crushed against someone’s chest, a hand braces the back of his neck, and an arm wraps around his waist, and then the world is spinning out of control like he’s living it through a ping-pong ball’s point of view.

They hit the ground with a jarring thud and roll several feet over dirt and rock before finally coming to a skidding stop with Stiles still bundled up in the cradle of-

He pulls away, though only far enough to get a good look at his unexpected savior, mostly because the hand at his neck and waist prickle twin clawed warnings against his skin and won’t let him get any farther.

Peter’s Beta blue eyes are very, very unimpressed.

What,” The werewolf growls, and wow, those are fangs peeking out. “Did you think. You were doing?”

Stiles is dumbfounded enough to answer honestly. “I was trying to fly.”

Peter stares. “…One would think that that’s a phase you would’ve already grown out of as a child.”

Stiles flushes and shoves at Peter’s chest. This time, the man lets him go, though when they both sit up, Stiles immediately spots the rips in Peter’s shirt, as well as the bloody scrapes crisscrossing the length and width of the werewolf’s side and back. They’re already beginning to heal, knitting themselves back together, but there’s also dust and debris caking the injuries, and Stiles very much doubts that having the skin heal over all of that is a good thing.

“Shit, okay, wait,” Stiles mutters, scrambling to his feet and running over to the bag he dropped over the cliff when he first got here. In addition to his notes, there’s also a water bottle inside, along with a pack of tissues, which will have to do for now.

He jogs back, falling to his knees beside Peter again. “Okay, take off your shirt. Er,” He tips his head and shrugs. “What’s left of it anyway.”

Peter arches an eyebrow. Stiles rolls his eyes. “Oh my god, just do it, you creep. Don’t turn this weird.”

“I didn’t say a word,” Peter admonishes mildly but he shrugs out of his tattered shirt with a smug twist of a smirk.

Stiles huffs and doesn’t dignify that with a response. The bastard was totally thinking it.

He washes out the scrapes with careful hands. It’s the least he can do even if it does annoy him on some level to be saved by Peter Hale of all people. Although…

“What are you even doing here?” Stiles asks, brow furrowing as he glances up at Peter. The werewolf is strangely docile under Stiles’ ministrations, letting him dab at the closing injuries. “And don’t tell me you were out for a morning run or something and just happened to see me.”

Peter smiles with faux innocence. “You did say we should ‘do this again sometime’.”

Stiles scowls, recalling his own words from a month ago. “So you- what, decided to stalk me ever since?”

Peter admits to nothing. He doesn’t really have to.

“You’re kind of really creepy,” Stiles deadpans, wiping away the last of some blood before sitting back and drying his hands. “Don’t you have anything better to do?”

“Like what? Babysit my emotionally stunted nephew?  Please.”  Peter scoffs, examining his mostly healed skin before stretching languidly right there in front of Stiles, muscles flexing subtly, all sinew and grace.  Stiles pointedly keeps his eyes on the werewolf’s face.  Peter smirks again but only assures, “You are far more interesting than Derek will ever be, Stiles.  I very much enjoy your company.  Even after you take a swan dive over a cliff.  Possibly especially after that, considering I got you to play nurse without any incentive on my pa-”

Stiles punches him in the arm just to shut him up.  Jesus.

“You’re such an ass,” Stiles mutters, sitting back on his heels. “Why are you such an ass?”

Peter shrugs, still looking far too amused. “It’s part of my irresistible charm. Besides, we’d both find me infinitely more boring if I became a second Scott McCall.”

“I’d perform an exorcism on you if you became a second Scott,” Stiles retorts. Peter just smirks unrepentantly back at him, amusement crinkling the corners of his eyes.

Stiles blinks, finding himself temporarily mesmerized before he gives himself a mental shake.

Odd.

He glances away, feeling an uncomfortable flush crawl up his neck.  Stupid, more like.

His gaze slides back to the cliff before lifting to the sky. It’s a nice day today, sunny but not too hot, a blue canvas stretching out in all directions with wisps of white to keep it company.

It’s a nice day to learn to fly. Now if only he could work out how.

“Why do you want to fly?”  Peter’s voice cuts into his thoughts, prompting Stiles to drag his eyes back to the werewolf.  Peter is watching him avidly, still seated on the ground beside him, half-naked and frustratingly distracting.

Stiles squints at him.  “I just want to see if I can do it.”

He pauses, looking back up at the sky.  His next words come unbidden.  “Besides, don’t you think it’d be nice to be able to fly?  All that open space with nothing to worry about.  Just go up there-”

“-and never come down again?”  Peter finishes candidly, leaning back on his hands.  His gaze hasn’t wavered when Stiles’ attention snaps back down to earth.  In quieter tones, he murmurs almost pensively, “So you’re one of those then.”

Stiles automatically bristles.  “What’s that supposed to mean?”

Peter – infuriatingly enough – only shrugs and deflects.  “Let me guess – you jumped off rooftops trying to fly when you were a kid, didn’t you?”

Stiles glowers.  “…I only did that once.”

Peter grins, looking very close to outright laughter.  Stiles scowls some more.  Bastard.

“If you can make fun of me, then you’re back to normal,” Stiles grumbles, hoisting himself to his feet.  “I’m going back to work.”

He stalks off, annoyed, though that soon slips away when he spots his bag.  Soon, he’s on his hands and knees with all his notes spread out on the ground and the poster-sized runic scheme diagram laid out in front of him.

He gnaws on his pencil as he studies the diagram, mentally reviewing his dive from the cliff.  He thinks he knows what he got wrong – the distribution of weight wasn’t balanced, being human and therefore too top-heavy, and it didn’t help that he placed the runes on his feet either.

He loses himself in his work, retracing his steps and peeling back the layers of runes to try and puzzle out exactly what he should change.  He tunes out everything else, and he doesn’t even remember another presence in the clearing until a hand drops onto his shoulder and gives him a firm shake.

“Stiles.”

Stiles lifts his head and blinks.  Peter’s face swims into view a foot away from his.  “Wha?”

Peter arches a sardonic eyebrow from where he’s crouching next to Stiles.  “The sun is setting, Stiles.  Don’t you think you should at least go get yourself something to eat?  I hear that’s an essential requirement for continued survival.”

Stiles blinks again before automatically looking down at his own stomach.  As if on cue, it gurgles a loud complaint.  He reddens, especially when he looks up again and finds Peter smirking at him.

“Why are you even still here?”  Stiles snaps defensively.  “Did you stick around the whole time?”

Peter’s other eyebrow joins his first to double the judging impact.  Stiles is kind of envious.

“Your lack of awareness when it comes to your surroundings is not exactly an asset considering what you’re involved in these days.”  Peter looks positively reproachful.

Stiles scrunches his nose at the werewolf.  “I’m aware enough.”

“You forgot me,” Peter points out.  “Twice.”

Stiles can’t help reaching out to pat the man’s shoulder with a good dose of mock commiseration.  “I’m sure your ego can handle it.  And if it can’t, then it probably needs to be taken down a peg or two anyway.”

His mouth clicks shut when Peter’s hand darts out to snag his wrist before he can retract his limb.

“Oh my ego’s fine, Stiles,” Peter purrs, claws suddenly prickling Stiles’ skin even as the werewolf turns his head to nuzzle the sudden spike in Stiles’ pulse.  “You really should be more worried about yourself.  Who knows what kind of shady questionable characters you might meet out in the middle of the woods?”

“I’m pretty sure I’ve already met my fair share,” Stiles clears his throat, gaze fastened on the sly tilt of Peter’s mouth half hidden behind his wrist.  He wiggles his fingers a little.  “Er, mind letting me go?”

Peter’s eyes flare electric blue for one unmistakeable second.

“I mind very much actually,” The werewolf murmurs, breath ghosting over pale skin as his expression sharpens into something hungry.  “In my opinion, I’ve let you go far too many times already, dear boy.”

But – before Stiles can do more than gape like an idiot – Peter does let go, relinquishing his grip on Stiles’ wrist but never looking away from Stiles himself.

Stiles snatches his arm back, cheeks probably a blotchy red by now even as he tries to calm his rapid heartbeat.

“You creep!”  Stiles splutters.  “This is not normal, socially acceptable behaviour; do you not realize that?!”

Peter just smiles blandly at him, wolfish corners tucked away once more.  “Do I strike you as a normal, socially acceptable person?”

It sounds more like do I seem that boring to you?

“You’re right,” Stiles concedes with an underscoring bite.  “You’d never be able to pull it off.”

Peter only grins, evidently choosing to take Stiles’ words as a compliment.

Stiles heaves a sigh.  There’s no winning with this guy.  At least his face doesn’t feel so hot anymore, and the conversation’s back on relatively safe grounds.

He glances back down at his notes.  The scheme isn’t working out; he’s close but he can’t quite get the-

“Stiles,” Peter interrupts a second time, this time in a more serious tone that quickly draws Stiles’ attention back up.  “Food.  Now.”

“I’m not done here!”  Stiles protests immediately.  “I’ve almost got it figured out!  It’s just weight distribution that’s driving me nuts and if I could just-”

“And you can do that after getting some food,” Peter chides sternly.  “When was the last time you ate something that wasn’t-” He gives an exaggerated sniff.  “-coffee and curly fries?”

Stiles glowers.

“Careful, sweetheart,” Peter has the gall to tap Stiles’ furrowed brow with one finger.  “You don’t want your pretty face stuck this way.”

Stiles bats the man’s hand away, instinctively baring his teeth in a way that only makes Peter laugh, so he glowers even harder just to be contrary.  “I can eat later.  Allison’s with Lydia until tomorrow, and Chris is out of town for some conference thing again, so I don’t have people to cook for today.  I’ll eat later.”

“You’ll eat now,” Peter corrects him.  “Come on, Stiles, you’ve been working all day.  A break isn’t going to kill you.”

Stiles refrains from crossing his arms like a sulking five-year-old.  Truth be told, a part of him does feel like yanking his hair out.

“I’ll treat you to dinner,” Peter adds like that’s some sort of incentive.

Stiles rolls his eyes.  “You know, I can take care of myself.”

“You can,” Peter agrees.  “But most of the time, you don’t.”

Stiles goes still for a too-long second, glancing sharply at the werewolf, who only returns his gaze with a knowing one of his own.

Somehow, it rattles Stiles, just a little.  He presses his lips together and focuses on packing up.  His concentration’s shot now, and there’s an ache building up behind his eyes.

Migraine.  He gets those.

“I’m going home,” Stiles says abruptly, clambering to his feet and slinging his bag onto one shoulder.

“Dinner first,” Peter reiterates, falling into step beside him as Stiles heads for the tree line.  The werewolf’s still shirtless.  “My treat, Stiles.”

Stiles slants a sideways look at the man.  “Has anyone ever told you how irritatingly persistent you are?”

“Not recently,” Peter smirks.  “But only because I haven’t come across anything nearly fascinating enough to pursue.  Until now.”

Stiles’ mouth drops open without his permission.  Peter’s smugly pleased expression snaps it shut again.

“Stop joking around,” Stiles mutters, unwillingly flustered.  “Seriously, how has no one gotten you arrested yet when you spout creepy shit like that all the time?”

He hurries on before Peter can say anything else, especially since the werewolf’s taken on a thoughtful look this time, still observing Stiles like he holds all the secrets in the world.

“Fine, you can take me to dinner!”  Stiles relents before jabbing a finger at the man.  “But you need a shirt first, and if you try to take me to any of those absurdly expensive restaurants, I’ll stab you with the fork.”

“We’ll stop by my apartment,” Peter placates, though it’s thoroughly ruined by the triumphant light in his eyes.  “And I have reservations at Theon’s Taverna downtown.”

“You presumptuous bastard,” Stiles scowls.  He pauses.  “I love the food there.”

Peter smiles.  “I know.”

Stiles sighs and gives up.  “We’ll take my jeep.”

 


 

Dinner is… nice.  Fun.  Which shouldn’t come as much of a surprise as it does.  He and Peter haven’t spent much time together ever since Stiles took a hint and started doing his own thing away from Derek’s Pack, but they share the same sharp wit and penchant for banter and snarky humour, and whether it’s about books or runes that Stiles brings up, or old myths and supernatural history that Peter divulges, or even just everyday stuff that they bring up about their respective lives, conversation always flows easily between the two of them.

It’s a bit worrying, Stiles thinks, especially when Peter makes him laugh over disparaging remarks about the moronic stunts that Derek and his pack of children like to pull.  Peter’s a former psychopath – he is very likely a sociopath – with blood on his hands and a future filled with possible backstabbing to regain his Alphaship.  But Stiles has blood on his hands too, he isn’t exactly the sanest of individuals either, and he doesn’t even have the excuse of going mad with grief and pain and loneliness like Peter did.

Sure, Stiles lost his mother, and that’s an ache that will probably never go away, and his own father doesn’t trust him – hasn’t believed a word that’s come out of Stiles’ mouth quite possibly since Stiles first learned to talk – and the Sheriff spends more time at the station than he does at home, so Stiles is no stranger to loneliness either, but compared to Peter’s train wreck of a life, Stiles figures he’s had an easier time of it.

Still, they’re very much alike, is the thing, him and Peter.  Stiles has come to love Allison like a sister, and he cares about Chris as well (against all odds), but Peter… interests him in a way nobody else ever has.  The werewolf listens to Stiles babble about new runes without looking like he wants Stiles to shut up or talk about something else.  He seems just as engrossed as Stiles when Stiles delves into the complicated construction of a particularly destructive rune that almost anyone else would be horrified by and would probably haul him off to the nearest madhouse for good measure.

But then, it’s Peter.  Peter is exactly the type to love this kind of thing, even though – or because – Stiles’ crazier runes usually end in blood and body bags for his enemies.

What does that make Stiles then, when he loves it too – creating a new rune, seeing it come together, powering it with his Spark, and watching it come alive – just as much as Peter does?  Stiles’ runes can strengthen, can build, they can give aid and heal and protect, but they can just as easily rob a life, and Stiles doesn’t care.

So it’s probably a good thing that he only ever uses his deadlier runes on people who dare attack him or his friends or his allies.

“I’ll drive you back to your place,” Stiles offers as they exit the restaurant.  A faint smile still rests on his lips as the cool night breeze ruffles his hair.

“I’d appreciate the lift,” Peter steps out beside him, looking sinful even in the simple v-neck and jeans he chose to wear, half-cloaked in the evening’s shadows.  His typical smirk curves his mouth like he knows exactly what Stiles is thinking.

Stiles just rolls his eyes.  He’s too content – with a full stomach and the lingering warmth of a more enjoyable dinner than he can remember having in a long time – to kick up much of a fuss.

“It’s just like old times,” Peter comments once they’re in the jeep and on their way back, the darkness of night outside permeated only by the streetlamps dotting the streets.  The werewolf’s in the passenger seat while Stiles drives, and it’s no hardship to realize what Peter’s referring to.  Stiles feels almost nostalgic when he thinks back to a similar night when he drove Peter away from the school and to the parking garage that the werewolf directed him to.

The night that ended with Peter burning all over again.

Stiles can’t say he’s completely sorry for his hand in killing Peter.  The man was well and truly crazy, unable to stop his killing spree even after he ripped Kate’s throat out.  But… Stiles supposes he should have tried something other than fire to incapacitate the werewolf.

Stiles isn’t good at apologizing.  It helps that he’s rarely ever been truly sorry about anything.  He’s sorry he couldn’t do anything to prevent his mother from dying.  He’s sorry he can’t be the son his father wants.  He’s sorry he dragged Scott out into the woods to look for a dead body that fateful night and getting him Bitten, if only because Scott always seemed to resent it despite all the benefits that the Bite has given him in return – friends and girlfriends, enhanced everything and a permanent lack of health problems for the rest of his life.  Considering the hostility towards Peter that Stiles has glimpsed every time the former Alpha and Scott are in the same vicinity, Scott will always take for granted everything he’s gained from becoming a werewolf.

Scott can forgive the Alpha Pack who murdered Boyd and Erica, and he can even let Gerard walk because the idiot’s still sending hopeful looks at Allison even with Kira on his arm these days, as if he thinks Allison actually wants her demented grandpa alive and anywhere on the planet and it’ll win him points from his ex who refuses to even look at him these days and sticks to Stiles at all times when they’re at school.

But Scott won’t ever forgive Peter, who – in a supernatural court of law, or hell, even just a human court of law – could quite literally plead PTSD and temporary insanity due to a horrendous lack of proper treatment, and any halfway decent lawyer would get him off scot-free for all his crimes, probably with a recommendation of some therapy on the side.

Sometimes, even Stiles doesn’t know how Scott can be so… so judgingly black-and-white all the damn time, and get Derek onboard with it (then again, maybe that’s not so surprising considering Derek’s been looking for redemption for years).  That’s probably one of the reasons Stiles and Scott can barely be labelled passing acquaintances these days.  That, and ‘stealing’ Allison, if the alternately hurt and angrily betrayed looks that the idiot’s been sending him ever since Allison started hanging out with Stiles is anything to go by.

Point is though, Stiles doesn’t say sorry.  What’s done is done.  He’s only ever apologized to his mother’s grave for not being able to do more to make her last weeks (months, years) more comfortable.

He doesn’t say sorry, but he can still make the effort to express it in some other way.

So when Stiles pulls up outside the apartment complex, he reaches into the glove box for one of the leather and silver bracelets inside.  Ally helped him melt down the metal before reshaping them into small silver buckles that were then attached to brown leather strips, engraved with microscopic but intricate runes, and forged and strengthened with his own Spark until the protective trinkets were pretty much simmering with Stiles’ magic.

Allison has one, of course, and Chris has another in his possession.  The Sheriff carries one with him even though he looked exasperated and more than a little dubious when Stiles pressed it on him.  There are two more leftover, and Stiles gives one now to Peter.

Peter stares at it, expression unreadable as the silver metal shimmers in the palm of his hand, glowing like starlight and pulsing with power.

“If you ever get into any real trouble, that’ll come in handy,” Stiles explains, fully aware of his stupid heart picking up speed again.  He mentally curses werewolf hearing.  “It’ll help you out if you’re in danger of getting badly hurt or dying or something.”  He chews on his bottom lip for a moment.  “In return for today, I mean.  For saving my life and all.  That might save you one day.”

He doesn’t mention that the thing is tied to his own magic.  No doubt, Peter will research the runes carved into the bracelet himself, just in case because Peter is nothing if not a survivor, not to mention – if Stiles knows anything about the guy – the werewolf will prefer researching the runes himself instead of having Stiles tell him everything about them.

So Peter will probably eventually figure out that the protection magic in the bracelet is still linked to Stiles’ Spark instead of Stiles imbuing the thing with just a bit of his magic, as most artifacts tend to be in the hands of other witches or mages or what have you.  It will be stronger this way, with a source to draw power from, dangerous for anyone who isn’t a Spark or even as strong as Stiles is, and Stiles is confident he won’t die from it should any of the bracelets ever have to be used.  Of course, if Peter ever attempts to reverse a rune or two and deliberately take some of Stiles’ magic through the connection, Stiles will feel it, and, well, he certainly won’t be happy about it.  Peter will be even less so once Stiles is done with him should the werewolf ever be suicidal enough to try it.

Peter’s fingers curl around the length of the leather, and he looks up again to meet Stiles’ gaze.  There’s something strangely bright in those blue eyes that has nothing to do with being a werewolf.  Stiles almost wants to squirm but he holds his ground instead.

Peter’s expression softens, like he can sense Stiles’ discomfort (of course he does) and – for once – he’s decided not to pounce on it and exploit it for his own amusement.

“Sounds useful,” is all the werewolf says.  “I’ll keep it with me.”

And before Stiles can so much as blink, Peter reaches out with his free hand and briefly cups Stiles’ jaw in one calloused palm.  Stiles freezes, brain unable to compute well enough to come up with a suitable response as Peter leans forward and blatantly scents him.

The gesture is shamelessly bold – no one’s ever scent-marked Stiles before, ever laid claim to him in any sort of capacity before, not even Scott when the two of them were still as close as brothers – but Peter does it without a hint of uncertainty, running his nose over Stiles’ cheek and brushing his thumb along Stiles’ jawline before finally sitting back again.  The natural heat from the werewolf’s hand lingers like a brand on Stiles’ skin.

“Goodnight, Stiles,” Peter murmurs, eyes at half-mast with all the lazy satisfaction of a cat after a successful hunt.  “Thank you for the gift, and of course your company over dinner.  We really should do this again sometime.”

And then he’s gone, car door shutting quietly behind him as the werewolf lopes off towards the nearest stairwell of his apartment, leaving Stiles sitting in dumbfounded silence right up until Peter disappears around one corner of the building on the second floor.

Well.  That was… new.

 


 

Stiles drives home in a daze.  ‘Home’ more often means the Argent house than the Sheriff’s house nowadays, but no one will be there tonight so Stiles heads to the Sheriff’s house instead since he’ll be alone either way.  His dad isn’t on a night shift but he’ll probably eat and sleep at the station again if he isn’t home already.  Stiles will have to remember to drop off a few more home-cooked packed meals tomorrow morning; otherwise, the Sheriff would never eat anything healthy ever again.

Stiles is in the privacy of his bedroom before his brain finally boots back online enough to realize, as he flops down onto his bed, that tonight – dinner at Stiles’ favourite Greek restaurant and my treat, Stiles and the scent-marking at the end, practically a possessive declaration of intention for any werewolf to smell – was in all likelihood a… date.

“That bastard,” Stiles mutters out loud, feeling torn between indignant and stunned at being tricked into going on a date of all things.

What is he supposed to do about this?  Well obviously, he can always reject any and all further advances by tazing the shit out of Peter if the werewolf doesn’t back off.  It’s what Stiles should do.  He’s seventeen, and absolutely no one would be particularly happy if they hear that there’s anything remotely intimate going on between Stiles and Peter.

But then since when has Stiles ever given a rat’s ass about what other people think when it comes to his own affairs?  He does what he wants, always (possibly why his father is always so disappointed in him, and even that’s not enough to make Stiles stop so why would anything else be able to), and what he wants from this

He scratches absently at one cheek, remembering the barely-there graze of Peter’s beard against his skin.

He had fun tonight.  He was happy.  In fact, he still is, the emotion squiggling stupidly in his chest even now, and he’s rarely ever this level of long-term happy anymore, even when he’s with Allison, and Allison is best friend and sister these days.

So it’s an established fact that he enjoys Peter’s company, even if that makes Stiles a bad person, or at least a not very wise one.  But that in itself comes with a slew of problems.  Things like age difference and Peter being technically dead (or has he fixed that?) aside, what if Peter’s just playing him?  Nobody wants to date Stiles; nobody.  He’s too weird, he doesn’t fit the mould, and most people avoid him because they’re either annoyed by him or intimidated by him.  There’s never been any concrete evidence but – before the supernatural happened – every student in BHHS knew not to bully Scott for a reason, and that reason certainly wasn’t Scott.  Humiliating things always mysteriously happened to anyone who didn’t have the brain cells to not pick on Stiles’ bro, and, well, no proof, but rumours did get around until only Jackson dared continue giving Scott and Stiles the occasional shove into a locker, and Stiles has always been just a little more lenient with that idiot, if only because of Lydia.  Nevertheless, there was a line that Jackson knew not to cross, and so long as he didn’t, Stiles tolerated the jock’s sporadic harassment that served to hide an inferiority complex the size of Mexico.

So nobody has ever liked Stiles, even as just a friendly acquaintance or a friend – Scott doesn’t count because Scott trusts everyone and their evil granddad to be A Good If Misguided Person, Peter notwithstanding, and Stiles went through too much crazy shit with (and against) Allison and Chris to not form some sort of bond with them that only grew once they really got to know each other – much less like him enough to trick him into going out on a date, yet Stiles can’t figure out Peter’s angle either.  He isn’t close enough to the Beacon Hills Pack these days for Peter to use him as leverage against one of them, and Peter’s big on self-preservation, he’s seen firsthand what Stiles can do with his Spark nowadays, so there’s no way the werewolf would try to use Stiles to get to Allison or Chris either if he doesn’t want Stiles putting him back into the ground.

Then maybe Peter’s doing it for the entertainment value?  But what entertainment value?  If Peter knows him at all, then the werewolf should at least guess that Stiles would get suspicious sooner rather than later, and if this really does turn out to be some kind of dumb joke on Stiles because Peter’s bored or something, the werewolf should know very well that Stiles is exactly the type of person to retaliate tenfold.

Of course, there’s also the possibility of Stiles making an entirely too big a deal out of absolutely nothing, and Peter actually doesn’t have any alternative motive at all – romantic or otherwise – and is just being his typical creepy self.

Stiles blows out a gusty breath, rolling onto his stomach to bury his face in his pillow.

All he can really do is wait and see.  He’s a big advocate of keeping your friends close and your enemies closer.

Well no, he prefers keeping his friends close and his enemies six feet under, but Peter hasn’t been an enemy for a long while now, not to Stiles at least, and if Stiles proceeds with caution, then surely there’s no harm in letting Peter…

Wait.  Now that he thinks about it…

Doesn’t all this boil down to the teeny little fact that… Stiles is apparently okay with the idea of dating Peter?

…It does.

Wow.  There really is something wrong with him.

He groans into his pillow.  This is one revelation he could’ve done without.

 


 

“This is one revelation I could’ve done without,” Allison tells him, nose scrunching cutely.

Stiles eyes her dubiously.  “Really?”

Allison huffs.  “Of course not.  If Peter really was hitting on you for whatever nefarious plans he’s concocting, I have to know so I can turn him into a pincushion if he hurts you.”

It’s the morning after The Maybe Date.  Allison climbed through his window twenty minutes ago with a bag of scones, only for a sleepy-eyed Stiles to greet her with a summary of yesterday’s events and his own hypotheses on the matter, so here they are now, lying beside each other on Stiles’ bed, their breakfast forgotten on the nightstand.

“Thanks,” Stiles grins, knees knocking against Allison’s when he wriggles onto a cooler patch of bed.  “Do you think he was?  Hitting on me?”

Allison scowls a little, head resting on the arm she’s tucked under it.  “That guy’s always been way more interested in you than anyone that much older than you should be.”

“He isn’t that old,” Stiles mutters, ears turning red when Allison arches a slender eyebrow at him.

“Do you want him to be in to you?”

“I dunno,” Stiles grumbles.  “I just- He’s kinda… interesting too, you know?”

“I don’t,” Allison says frankly.  “All I know is that he’s not good enough for you, interesting or otherwise.  But I guess that’s your choice, when it comes down to it.”

Stiles searches her features.  “…You’re not gonna tell me he’s bad for me?  That I shouldn’t go anywhere near him?  That I’m stupid for even thinking about it and I’ll regret it ’cause he’s evil and I’m too young and yaddy yaddy ya-ouch!

Stiles yelps from the pinch Allison gives his thigh.  The huntress snorts rather indelicately.  “Do I look like Scott to you?  You can make your own decisions.  I mean it’s your life, right?  And would you listen to me anyway if I tried to force you to do something you didn’t want to?  Of course not; it’s you.  Besides, too young my ass.  Neither of us is too young these days.  And you’re a lot of things but stupid isn’t one of them.”

She falls silent for a long moment before cautioning, “Just… you know Peter and power.  And the way I’ve seen him look at you sometimes, right after you kill something that Derek’s Pack can’t handle, it’s… it’s worth being careful about, you know?  I mean, I don’t think I have to tell you this, but you’re powerful, Stiles.  And if Peter does want a… a relationship with you, that’s probably at least part of the appeal.”

Stiles grunts an acknowledgement to this.  Although… “He said- He told me he liked me, even back when he was still psychotic and on a revenge spree.”

“Stiles,” Allison looks almost amused.  Mostly though, she just looks a mix of exasperated and gravely solemn.  “You were powerful even before you started throwing magic around.  We weren’t really close back then but even I could tell that you were smart and practical and ruthless when you had to be for the people you wanted to protect; Scott would never have survived without you looking after him, and he’s an idiot for giving that up.  Giving you up.  I don’t know much about Peter but I do know that he’s the sort of person to appreciate a cunning mind and a devotion that makes the people you give it to worth killing for, and he likes you because both of you have those traits in spades.”

Stiles plucks a spare pillow from the side and smothers himself with it.  His voice is muffled when he whines, “Do you have to put it like that, Ally?”

Allison giggles in his ear, and next thing he knows, she’s rolled on top of him and snatched his pillow away with deft hands just so she can smirk teasingly down at him.  “I love embarrassing you.  It’s hilarious.  I mean, nobody else can, and even I can’t in public.”

Stiles rolls his eyes before shaking his head.  “Your hair’s poking me; get off.  I don’t know why I put up with you.”

“’Cause you love me,” Allison answers matter-of-factly, an implied duh tacked to the end.  She makes no move to hop off of him.  “And I love you.  And whatever you decide to do about Peter, I’ll back you one hundred percent, but if he tries to screw you over and hurt you, don’t think I won’t step in and make him pay.”

“If he tries to screw me over and hurt me,” Stiles smiles grimly.  “You’ll have to get in line ’cause I call first dibs.”

“Deal.  But leave some for me.”

He regards her affectionately, hands settling on her waist seconds before he grins, hooks a foot around one of her ankles, and promptly flips them over in a move she showed him months ago.

“Breakfast?”  He suggests even as Allison laughs approvingly.

“Breakfast,” Allison agrees from underneath him.  “And then you can take me out shopping for all the trauma you’ve put me through.  All this talk about Peter Hale; once the smooching and wining and dining really starts, I can just see you swooning and sighing dreamily about his beard and pecs and what a great ass he ha-”

She breaks off with a high-pitched squeal of mirth as Stiles shuts her up by tickling her mercilessly, and soon their wrestling sends them both crashing off the bed and onto the floor, each trying to pin the other down and almost knocking over one of Stiles’ bookshelves in the process.

It’s a good start to the day.

And Stiles doesn’t even realize that he’s forgotten all about his work-in-progress flight rune until much later when he’s dutifully following Allison around with an armful of skirts and blouses.