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Unpack Your Heart

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It was far too early for a Thursday morning in late August, but Stiles was dutifully pulling his old Jeep into the parking lot of the vet clinic, ready to ask for magic lessons, or whatever you might like to call them.  He was not at all sure what kind of super powers an Emissary was supposed to have, but based on his interactions with the veterinarian, he had to assume they were vagueness and condescension.  His research led him to believe that they were meant to be advisors and protectors, but he had yet to learn any details.

"Mr. Stilinski, to what do I owe the pleasure?" the man asked, leaning on his mountain ash counter.  Stiles heard a few barks from the back room.  It felt weird to be asking his friend's boss to be his Lupin or whatever, but he had a job to do, so he might as well just get on with it. 

"I need your help finding Erica and Boyd," Stiles blurted out before his mind could catch up with his mouth.  "Peter thought you might still have some contact with Emissaries from other packs."  He took a deep fortifying breath and rushed on before he lost his nerve, "And I'd like you to teach me to use my spark," he raised his eyes from his sneakers, "so I can become the Emissary for the Hale pack."

"I see," Deaton responded, flipping the counter up and disappearing into the hallway.  Stiles assumed he was meant to follow, so he passed behind the counter and lowered the heavy piece of wood, trailing after the man. 

"I'm not sure I'm really the one to be teaching you anything, but the Hale pack is young again, and it could certainly use some fresh blood.  I'm getting a little old to be chasing after wolves all the time.  As for the pack contacts, I'll see what I can do."

Stiles was hoping for something a little more definitive than that, but why he expected Deaton to be forthcoming, he really couldn't say.  He watched the man go to a bookshelf in the corner and pull out a few ancient looking volumes, placing them on the table.  Some of them weren't in English, and Stiles could already picture himself getting Latin lessons from Lydia for the rest of forever.     

"Druids are tied to nature, but not only the trees and the birds, also the ebb and flow of natural energies and supernatural currents.  They tune in to the elements and feel what binds them together.  Druids are protectors of nature, so their magic is defensive rather than offensive.  It's a way of keeping emissaries impartial.  They don't use their magic to kill, or exact revenge, only to maintain balance.  Although balance can mean different things to different people, so you should still be wary of any others you come across.  You should be able to manipulate the Earth's energy and bend it to your will, like you did with the mountain ash."

"So can they control the elements?  Like benders?" Stiles asked, not understanding a damn word the man is saying.  Forget Lupin, this guy was totally Dumbledore; cryptic and insane.  He probably liked knitting patterns.  Stiles was tempted to take a peek to see what kind of socks Deaton was wearing.

"Yes and no," he answered, "it depends on how powerful the Druid is.  Most can manipulate plants, trees, organic matter.  Some who are more powerful can manipulate the Earth itself; dirt, sand, rocks, et cetera.  Those are rare, but not entirely uncommon."  Deaton continued, calm and still as ever.  "The most powerful Druids can control the weather, the Earth, and other organic elements, some even commune with animals."

Stiles glanced around at some of the cats sitting in their cages and narrowed his eyes at Deaton.

"No, no.  I'm not that powerful, and I certainly can't speak to animals.  There are probably only a few people in the world with that kind of magic.  Some are born with more potential and innate power than others, and some just work incredibly hard to get there, often at their own or other's expense.  You might want to look into your ancestry and try to find other Druids.  Some of your relatives may have written down their experiences."  Stiles made a mental note to ask his father to send some letters off to Poland, but pressed onward with his questions.

"So what can you do?" Stiles asked, crossing his arms over his chest and appraising the vet.  Deaton tightened his mouth slightly, growing irritated by the younger man's needling.  This was why he worked with animals, not children.

He went to a wall cabinet and unlocked it.  There were glass bottles of herbs and plants interspersed throughout the medical supplies, none of which were labeled.  Deaton seemed to know exactly what he was looking for though, and plucked a small vial from the back of one of the shelves.

He tapped a few small seeds out onto the metal table and dropped them into the palm of his hand with a careful movement and a serious look of concentration.  Clearing his throat, Deaton gestured at his hand, making sure Stiles was paying close attention before closing his fist and reopening it to expose a handful of small pink flowers.

Stiles' eyes widened as he leaned over the table to take a flower from Deaton's hand, twisting it this way and that, examining the long fresh petals.  "Woah."  The vet let the other flowers fall to the surface of the table and crossed his arms, mimicking Stiles' earlier pose.

With the constant chaos that made up his life, sometimes Stiles forgot that his friends were actually magic.  He forgot that werewolves weren't a fact of life for everyone else on the planet.  He had forgotten what it felt like to see something that by anyone else's standards should be truly unbelievable, and feel awed instead of terrified.  Those flowers just appeared; not out of thin air, out of seeds, but it was impressive nonetheless.

"I don't move the ground or anything, but I haven't tried in a while either.  Maybe I could if properly motivated, but I doubt it."

Stiles was still staring at the flower in his hand with an open mouth.  He could do this?  He could literally move the Earth?  It just didn’t seem possible.

"We can prepare magic by mixing herbs and other earthen substances into spells and rituals, the effects don't just come from our bodies or focus objects like witches or other magical practitioners.  Everything has to come from the Earth itself."

Stiles twisted the flower in his hand a bit, nodding as he listened.

"Things are also a little different because of where we live," Deaton said, looking a little more pleased with himself than his usual stoniness allowed.  "Beacon Hills is actually a beacon."

"What are you talking about?"

"Telluric currents."

"Which are?"  Stiles makes a circular motion with one hand, urging Deaton to elaborate.  Conversation was like pulling teeth with this guy.

"Extremely low level electrical currents that run through the Earth.  Usually they wouldn't do much of anything, but the topography of Beacon Hills amplifies them and makes our city a beacon for supernatural activity.  Those that possess and use magic are drawn to the potential increase in power.  Surely you didn't think Kanimas and werewolves and hunters were running all over the world in the numbers that we find here."

In fact, Stiles had been thinking exactly that.  How was he supposed to know they were living on the Hellmouth?  There better not be vampires coming out of the woodwork for his senior year of high school.  He didn't have time for that crap.  His dad kept nagging him to do yard work and his college applications. 

Thinking back to what Deaton had said before he got off track, Stiles found that he was still confused, "Can I get like a practical demonstration?" he asked, hoping it might clear things up a bit.

Deaton held out a palm, and to Stiles' surprise it started glowing a dark yellow, almost orange color.  He stepped forward and placed it on Stiles' forearm, where it instantly began to warm his whole body.  It felt pleasant and all encompassing, like it was radiating from the inside out.  Stiles eyes widened once more as Deaton pulled his hand away, a mist of something slightly shiny, almost glittery, hovering in the palm of his hand.   When Deaton had said "electric currents" he had expected a shock or a bolt, but this was completely different.  This was like light and goodness in its purest form.

"So you're a white lighter?" Stiles asked, trying to wrap his head around what he was seeing.

"I'm a what?"

"Can you orb?"

"Can I what?"

"Come on man, watch some TV once in a while!" Stiles said, slightly exasperated.

"I have no idea what you're talking about," Deaton said, flipping his palm over, light disappearing. 

"On Charmed, there are these people called white lighters, and they can throw these balls of energy around and turn into a bunch of light balls called orbs, and transport themselves and their friends around.  That would actually be really useful considering the amount of life threatening situations I usually find myself in," Stiles drew a breath and Deaton shook his head.

"No, I can't ‘orb.’  You have to just concentrate on the energy around you, and you will be able to direct it.  Like this," he said, raising his hands again.  The mist spouted out of both hands this time, heading toward Stiles' chest.  He felt it nudge him gently, and took a forced step backwards. 

"Can you heal people with that?" Stiles asked, excitement starting to color his voice.  Deaton shook his head, with a put upon sigh.

"What would I need to heal a pack of werewolves for?  They heal themselves just fine," he countered, not really finding the logic in Stiles' train of thought.

"There are humans in packs too," Stiles reminded him, gesturing at his entire body, "and werewolves are not exactly gentle."

"No, I can't heal anyone," Deaton said, effectively killing Stiles' mood.  The guy was such a downer.

"Okay, okay, so what about telekinesis?" Stiles asked eagerly, still wondering what the limits of Deaton's powers were. 

"No Stiles.  This isn't a movie," he said, a little harsher than he had been before. 

"Yeah, I'm aware,” Stiles answered angrily.  “This is my life.  I'm just trying to get some answers here."  He put a hand up to his forehead and turned around, pacing a little as he tried to think. 

"You need to clear your mind," Deaton told him, and dear God, now he was channeling Snape.  "Try meditating, feel the energy around you."  He quickly changed topic and continued on.  "There is a ritual that I can perform that will tie you to Derek as his Emissary, but it isn't immediate.  You're going to have to work at it."  Deaton spoke softly, trying to convey the seriousness of Stiles' magical education.

"Talk to Derek.  This is a big commitment you're making here.  I can sever the tie with another ritual, but depending on how close you become with the pack in that time, it could completely upset their balance and be very dangerous for everyone.  It's not something to be taken lightly."

 Stiles felt the gravity of Deaton's warning, but didn't anticipate changing his mind, even if his thoughts did flit back to those unfinished applications for a moment.  The older man carried on, giving instructions this time, "Spend more time with the wolves and really consider what you're doing here.  After the ritual you should form a bond with Derek that will allow you to sense him when he's not around.  That will extend to the Betas, and you'll be able to tell when the pack is in danger.  That is your biggest responsibility as an emissary.  Protect the pack from harm, be that harm mental or physical."

Stiles looked a little suspicious.  "So you can hear Derek in your mind?"  He wasn't sure how he felt about that.  Deaton hadn't done anything untrustworthy yet, but he still wasn't sure how safe he felt knowing that his pack was somehow tied into the Druid's mind. 

"No.  I could do it with Talia, but I have no real relationship with Derek.  And it’s not so much hearing as it is feeling," Deaton tried to explain.  "It will take some effort, but over time, you should be able to feel the Alpha the strongest, and then his Betas a bit less at first, but it’ll come with time." 

Stiles wasn't too thrilled about this.  Really connecting with Derek sounded like a nearly impossible task.  He wished he could just start with Peter and work his way up.   Before he could ponder that for too long, Deaton spoke again.

"Take this," he held out a truly gigantic leather-bound book, "and this," he handed him another, slightly less intimidating but equally dusty volume.  "Read these.  They should give you a good idea of what you're trying to accomplish.  Then spend time with Derek.  Try meditating with him in the room.  Somewhere quiet.  And call me if you think you're ready to do the ritual."

This was sounding more and more like couple's therapy to Stiles, and he couldn't say he was looking forward to it.  If Deaton asked him to stare deeply into Derek's eyes, he was going to lose it.

"Try meditating before bed.  I have some special candles you can use," he rustled through a medicine cabinet for a few minutes and then put two brown candles into a brown paper bag and placed it on top of the books.  "These are made with cedar.  They're best used to open your psychic channels and promote peace of mind.  You could probably use all the help you can get."

"Very funny, doc," Stiles shot back with a smirk.  "I'll get right on this.  But please, call me if you find out anything from another pack?"  Anxiety was creeping into Stiles' voice as he pleaded with the older man.  "We need to get them back, it's been months.  School starts next week."

"Do you really believe they're still alive?" Deaton questioned, daring Stiles to give him a show of juvenile optimism.

"I hope so," Stiles responded, eyes dimming slightly, "for Derek's sake, if nobody else's."

Deaton nodded and gestured toward the door, inviting Stiles to get the hell out of his office.  "I have a Pomeranian who needs bandaging."

 

***

 

Kicking off his shoes by the door, Stiles headed up to his room, balancing the bag of candles on top of the books Deaton had given him.  He flopped onto his bed, pulling one of the books into his lap and wrinkling his nose at the smell as he opened the cover.  This book, at least, was mostly in English, and he spent several minutes speed-reading through the pages, skimming when the language got overly flowery.  Surprisingly, Deaton had given him a fairly accurate description of the concept of becoming a pack Emissary, and he mentally thanked the man for being forthcoming for once.  He closed the book and glanced at the other one.  After noting that it was written in some sort of ancient language he'd never seen before, he set it aside and went to the floor, sitting cross-legged in the middle of the room.

Clear your mind.  Stiles giggled to himself, hearing Alan Rickman's voice in his head.  He thought back to what he had read about meditation during one of his late night Wikipedia marathons.  His psychiatrist had recommended he try it when he was younger and having frequent panic attacks, but he had never really been able to do it.  Breathing exercises were all well and good for keeping yourself from passing out when you actually had an attack, but when he just tried to meditate outright, circular thoughts always crept in.  Concentrate on your breathing.  When your mind wanders, bring it back to center.   Easier said than done.

Stiles stood to take off his red flannel shirt, shook out his arms, and reseated himself on the floor, closing his eyes.  In.  Out.  In.  Out.  He gave himself a minute of breathing before running through everything Deaton had said earlier.  He had to make a commitment to Derek, to the rest of the pack, and to Beacon Hills itself.  While he wouldn't mind making a commitment to Peter, Derek was an unknown quantity.  The man's issues had issues.  Did he really want to bind himself to Derek's mind?  To be responsible for his mental health?  Derek needed a professional therapist, not a spastic seventeen-year-old emissary poking around in his subconscious.  How would Peter feel about all this?  He had been encouraging before, but would he become jealous of Stiles' connection to Derek?

What about college?  He had planned on going, but he wasn't sure where or for what.  Part of him wanted to follow his father and join the police academy to become a detective, or something along those lines, but he wasn't sure.  The Sheriff had always hoped he would get out of town and explore, maybe not across the country, but at least out of the county.  But did he really want to leave his father anyway?  He would eat himself into an early grave if a troll or something equally horrifying didn't eat him first.  Were trolls real?  What about vampires?  And fairies?  And demons?  And ghosts?  Who knew what kind of supernatural baddies were going to come creeping out of the Earth the moment he left Beacon Hills.

Stiles squeezed his eyes shut even tighter and tried to breathe.  This was bigger than him.  Sure, graduating high school and going to college were important, but not more important than someone's life.  Erica and Boyd had been missing for months and he might be the key to finding them and bringing them home.  What if they were dying or being tortured by the Alphas and he didn't do anything to stop it?  He couldn't live with himself.

Making up his mind to at least move forward, Stiles texted his father to tell him where he was going to be, and headed over to the loft.

 

***

 

Knowing that Derek would hear him coming from the parking lot, Stiles slid open the door without knocking.  Derek closed the book he was reading and went to the fridge, wordlessly handing Stiles a can of soda and grabbing a bottle of water for himself.  Having no idea where Peter was, Stiles knew he was on his own for this conversation.  He cracked open the can of Coke and took a seat on the couch.  Derek leaned rigidly against a support beam.  With raised eyebrows, Derek said, "Peter's out."

"I'm here to talk to you actually," Stiles began, taking a deep breath.  "I talked to Deaton today, and--” He was cut off almost immediately by an irritated Derek.

"You know I don't trust that guy," he said gruffly, taking a sip of water and crossing his arms.

"Yeah, I'm aware, and I'm not sure that I do either, but I think I have a plan about how to find Erica and Boyd."  Derek inclined his head slightly to show that he was listening, and put his drink down on the table.  Stiles rushed onward, eager to get Derek on board.

"You need an Emissary."  Derek opened his mouth to interrupt again, but Stiles held up a hand and talked over him.  "No, shut up.  You do and you know it.  Deaton told me all about it and I read a bit and I think this is something I can do, so I'm here officially offering my services."

"As my Emissary?" Derek questioned, a laugh on his lips.

"As your Emissary," Stiles repeated, standing up and moving directly in front of Derek.  "Look, I know you think I'm an idiot, and don't know what I'm getting into, but I already got that lecture from Dr. Doolittle, so I really don't need it again."

Derek tightened his mouth and narrowed his eyes at the teenager squaring off against him.  He had balls, Derek would give him that, but he was also naïve and impulsive, always an inch away from putting his hand into the fire.  Stiles was going to have to do a lot better than that to convince him this was a good idea.

Sensing an opening, Stiles pressed on, full steam ahead.  "Look, I have a spark, okay?  And Deaton thinks I must have some Druid ancestors or something, because he said he could teach me to be like a Poison Ivy type badass and control plants and stuff," Stiles argued, but Derek just shook his head, nostrils flaring.  "If we do this ritual Deaton told me about, I can connect with you as your emissary, and then with your Betas, and then I can find Erica and Boyd, I know I can."  Stiles watched Derek's face soften ever so slightly, but he continued to shake his head.

"He also told me this town is an actual beacon for supernatural activity."  Derek tried to play it off but his eyes widened slightly at that tidbit, just enough for Stiles to see an extra millimeter of green.  Stiles barreled forward, knowing he had Derek on the ropes.  "Oh ho yeah, we're sitting on Sunnydale's sister city here my friend, and things are going to get worse before they get better.  You need me.  I can protect you."

"You're not a superhero Stiles, and I don't need you to protect me," Derek finally snapped, breath rumbling in his chest.

Stiles took another step forward, body tense with frustration, and pushed Derek by the biceps, causing him to unfold his arms and grumble even more.

"Fine!  You don't want to let me protect you?  Then let me protect my friends.  Peter," Stiles pleaded, growing more hysterical with every word, "my brother, my father, my home!"  He punctuated with a shove to Derek's chest.  The werewolf hadn't moved backward one step, but that didn't stop Stiles from trying.

"I can't let my friends die if there's something I can do to save them!  My father took an oath to protect the people of Beacon Hills," Stiles said, letting his outstretched arms fall to his sides.  "Let me do the same," Stiles finished quietly, turning away from the wolf and rubbing the back of his buzzed head.  Derek's face fell as he watched Stiles walk toward the windows, the afternoon sun just beginning to descend.

"I can't let you get dragged down with us.  This isn't your fight, Stiles.  It never was," Derek sighed heavily, following him across the room.

Stiles continued to stare straight ahead and spoke harshly, "This became my fight the minute Peter bit Scott.  The minute Gerard Argent cut me open while Erica and Boyd watched," he lowered his eyes slightly, "this became my fight the minute Peter said he loved me."

Derek raised his arm in an aborted movement to reach out to Stiles, but lowered it quickly, hoping Stiles didn't notice.  "I wanted to keep you out of it.  Our lives are dangerous and you don't heal.  What will happen to your father if you die?  And I don't even want to think about what Peter would do if something happened to you.  You're smart.  You could leave here, go to college, meet new friends."

"I'm not leaving my father," Stiles said firmly, having abruptly made that mental decision.  "This is my pack too.  I know that you know that, you've know it for months.  You can't push me away anymore."  Stiles turned back toward the Alpha and put an unsure hand on his shoulder, squeezing lightly.  "I know people have betrayed you before, but you can trust me.  This is family."

Derek watched a solitary tear fall down Stiles' cheek.  Stiles stood defiant and did not brush it away, keeping his hold on Derek's shoulder.  "What if they just left themselves?  Maybe they don't want to come back."

And that, Stiles finally realized, was the real cause of Derek's worry.  He thought he had fucked up so badly as an Alpha that Erica and Boyd didn't even want to come home.  "Derek, come on," Stiles soothed, "they would have called Isaac if they found a new pack.  They didn't leave you."  Derek shook his head, inhaling deeply.

"Do you think they're still alive?" he questioned lightly, his face lined in worry.  "I can barely feel them anymore, it's like-- a half a shadow of a feeling."

"I hope so," Stiles said, slowly rubbing the wolf's arm in what he hoped was a comforting way, expecting Derek to draw away any minute.  "And even if they're not," he stared at Derek until the man met his eyes again, "we can still bring them home."

 

***

 

Peter pushed into the loft with an improbable number of tote bags on one arm.  He found Stiles and Derek lounging on the couch with Isaac spread out on the floor, coffee table pushed to the side, movie playing.  "How's it going?" Peter asked, bringing some of the bags to the kitchen to put away.

"Ohana means family," Stiles replied, jerking his head toward Derek and winking.

"Family means no one gets left behind.  Or forgotten." Isaac added, smiling broadly up at Derek who rolled his eyes and held up the battered DVD case for Peter to see.

"Lilo & Stitch?" Peter questioned, turning to put some pasta in the pantry.

"Oh, I keep forgetting you missed six years of pop culture!  We have to catch you up on Disney movies.  There was Enchanted and Tangled, and then Pixar did some really great stuff too!  There was WALL-E and Up, and--"

"I know what it is, I was awake then.  I just wasn't a seven year old at the time," Peter said, "I can't believe you're watching that," he directed at Derek.

"It's not that bad," Derek allowed, letting his eyes flit over to Isaac and Stiles, who were holding back laughter.  Stiles heaved himself off of the couch and went to help Peter with the groceries.

"Where have you been all day?" he asked the wolf, handing him a few cans of pinto beans, gaze dropping down to Peter's mouth.  He did a quick check to see that the other two were still watching the TV before placing a soft kiss on his lips.  "I know you haven't been at the grocery store the whole time I've been here."

Peter hooked a finger into one of Stiles' belt loops and pulled him in, wrapping one arm around his back and bringing the other up to cup his face.  "No, I haven't," he said, kissing Stiles again with more pressure than he had gotten before.  "First I went to Sacramento to sniff around," he moved his lips to Stiles' jaw, rubbing them against his neck.

Stiles made a pleased noise and let him answer the unasked question.  "I couldn't smell any wolves that were there recently.  What I did pick up was a week old at best.  Went into the magic shop there, had a lovely conversation with a witch.  She tried to hex me--"

"I'm not surprised," Stiles muttered, letting Peter continue trailing kisses up behind his ear.

"I don't know what you're insinuating; I was painfully polite.  Must have just set off some silent werewolf alarm," Peter replied, pecking the beauty mark next to Stiles' mouth and then his lips again.  "Witches are notoriously wary of our kind, unless they really want to start trouble.  If you come across a witch that actually wants to talk to you, you should probably run.  They said they hadn't seen any wolves and that if they had they wouldn't tell me anyway, so that went well."

"You know we can hear you, right?" Isaac called over.

"Yes!" Peter yelled back while Stiles just cursed under his breath, hiding his face under Peter's chin.  Smirking slightly, the wolf pulled his human's face upward again and continued ignoring the others.

"Then I drove back to town, went to the library," he pressed their lips together one more time, "and then the supermarket.  Happy?"

"Ecstatic," Stiles replied, pulling away to peek in the last tote bag on the floor.  "You know you really shouldn't carry all the bags at once.  I don't care how big your arms are.  It's not subtle," Stiles warned, nudging his wolf with an elbow.

Peter rolled his eyes and moved away to continue putting the food away, but Stiles pulled him back by the bottom of his shirt and wrapped his arms around Peter's firm waist.  Stiles leaned in and whispered, "I need to tell you something."

"Is it that you're not wearing any underwear?" Peter questioned, raising his eyebrows.  Instead of another playful smack, Peter got pulled in closer, Stiles bringing his lips to the bottom of his throat and continuing to whisper.

"We are so not there yet, dirty man," Stiles teased, but returned to the serious by explaining, "Derek agreed to let me be his Emissary."  Peter was honestly surprised.  He had not expected his sullen nephew to give in nearly that easily.  Derek must have been much more desperate than he had realized.  He turned his head to press his neck further into Stiles' lips, silently asking him to keep talking.

"I want to know what that means for you though.  For us.  You're not really part of Derek's pack anymore are you?"  As much as Peter had hoped Stiles was taking their relationship seriously, he hadn't expected this kind of concern either.  If Stiles wanted to be sure that this wouldn't affect what they had, then he was going to reassure him.

"I want you to do anything that means you'll be better protected," Peter told him.  "If that's learning how to use your powers so you can defend yourself, then that's what you should do.  The rest will work itself out."

Stiles wasn't convinced Peter had understood the point he was trying to make.  "So, just to be clear, I'm going to mentally tie myself to your nephew and he's going to be able to get inside my head, and you're going to be okay with that?"

"I think you're underestimating my ego if you think that's going to be a problem.  You think I'm going to be jealous of my nephew because he could steal my boyfriend?  What is this, sixth grade?"

"No.  It's twelfth grade, thank you very much.  And have you seen your nephew lately?  He's a walking, talking wet dream."  Peter's scrunched up face told Stiles he really didn't need that bit of information.

"I changed his diapers, Stiles.  He's no threat to me."  Derek's scoff from the other room told them they had exited whisper territory and might as well invite everyone in on their conversation.  Isaac entered the kitchen carrying an armful of empty cans and water bottles destined for the recycling bin.

“What does that mean for us?” Isaac asked, brow furrowed slightly, his left arm rubbing the opposite bicep curiously.  “If you become the pack’s emissary, what does that mean for the Betas?”

“Any Betas that pledge themselves mentally to the Alpha and to the pack should be included in the connection,” Peter explained, having experienced this mildly in the past, “It will take some time though.  None of this will come easily.”

Stiles bit at the corner of his bottom lip, considering Peter’s words.  “And you’d be willing to do that?  Pledge yourself to Derek?”  There was no way Peter would willingly subjugate himself to his nephew.  Peter may have his trust now, and he was certain that the wolf would never do him harm, but he always had an ulterior motive.  The situation had to benefit Peter in some way, but try as he might, Stiles wasn’t able to puzzle it out.  Frustrated with his own lack of insight into his boyfriend’s psyche, he went for the direct approach; asking.  “Why?”

Derek, who had entered the kitchen when he heard his name, turned to face his uncle with crossed arms and an arched eyebrow.  He’d like to know the answer as well.  Peter wasted no time in presenting his case.  He did love to hear himself talk.  Stiles was surprised when he found out Peter used to be an architect.  He would have guessed lawyer.

“I don’t know how it’s managed to escape your notice, dear nephew, but our numbers are dwindling.”  Stiles forced himself not to wince, and instead met Isaac’s eye, silently asking the wolf to hear him out.  He hoped Peter knew where he was going with this, because that wasn’t the best opener.  “We used to own this town.  While I may not have always agreed with my darling sister’s politics, she was beloved and respected in this place.  We used to protect, not cower.  We used to demand respect.  It was a point of pride for our pack that I for one would like to see restored.  We are fighting a losing battle here, Derek.  I am not going to let our family name be dragged through the dirt and extinguished by some supernatural usurpers.  Hales do not go quietly into the night.  They burned us and broke us but we will rise again.”

“Literally,” Isaac said, snorting a laugh while Peter rolled his eyes.

“Figuratively.”  He turned his back on Isaac’s chuckling to stare at Stiles with wide blue eyes that looked about as close to pleading as Peter could get.  “If you can’t understand why I would want to bind myself to this pack, you’re not nearly as smart as you think you are.”

Stiles wanted to understand, he really did, but he knew he was missing something.  Was pride really all that important to Peter?  Maybe it was just werewolves in general that couldn’t stand to be overpowered.  Stiles was under no illusion that Peter cared about Erica and Boyd on a personal level, but that lack of fondness wasn’t a good enough reason to let Betas be stolen from the Hale pack.  It must be a point of embarrassment, like Derek was hinting at earlier.  If a werewolf left their Alpha, there must be some weakness there that could be exploited, something that must have made them leave.  Was Peter just trying to save face with the greater werewolf community?  Was there some secret ranking system he was unaware of?  Did someone become the Werewolf King of California like in True Blood?

Thankfully Derek pulled Stiles from his wandering thoughts before he went too deep into HBO folklore territory.  “He is an idiot,” Derek directed at Peter, “are you sure you want to be dating him?”

“Hey!” Stiles argued, opening his mouth to give more credence to his protest, but Peter just placed a firm hand around his wrist and held on.

“He’s doing it for you, dumbass.”

Stiles quirked his lips slightly, not wanting to have to ask Derek to elaborate, but hoping he would go on.

“Did you forget what Deaton told you about your connection with the pack’s Betas?” Derek pinched the bridge of his nose, realizing he would have to spell it out for him.  “He wants a connection with you.”  Stiles could feel the exasperation in Derek’s voice as it finally clicked for him.

Stiles turned back to Peter, searching his face for some sort of confirmation.  He barely noticed when Isaac and Derek left the room and went upstairs for the night.  “Stiles,” Peter began, taking the wrist he was still holding and bringing Stiles’ palm to rest against his chest.  This is how Talia had taught the young wolves to attune their hearing to someone’s heartbeat.  Before their hearing was strong enough, she would teach them to feel their family’s hearts and search for a lie.  “If there’s a way for me to know when you’re in danger, why wouldn’t I want that?”

Stiles mouth opened and closed a few times before he could come up with a response.  “I just,” he stumbled, still searching for the right words, “that sounds serious.  Super serious.  It didn’t even cross my mind.”

“Didn’t I tell you I was serious about you?” Peter asked, pressing Stiles’ palm harder against his chest with both hands.

“You did, I just--” Stiles pulled his lips in slightly, eyes softening, “I guess I didn’t understand how much.”  Peter ducked his head, pressing his lips against Stiles’ hand, which was now fisted in his V-neck.  “It’s not every day the spastic kid snags the hot, older man.”

“Flatterer,” Peter teased, bringing his head back up to Stiles’ to rub their temples together.  “I guess I’ll have to keep reminding you.  You’re not the spastic kid to me.”  He grabbed Stiles’ hand again and pulled him back to the couch, grabbing his guitar from the corner on the way.  Peter settled in his favored leather armchair and checked his tuning.  Stiles watched him attentively, he could never quite get enough of seeing Peter doing something so delicate.  It was both achingly sweet and kind of a turn on.

“I learned this one for you,” Peter smirked, waggling his eyebrows lasciviously.  Stiles shook his head slightly, knowing that almost every song Peter played he had learned for Stiles.  Not that the repetition did anything to diminish the effect.  He was still smiling when Peter began strumming.

 

“Hey there Little Red Riding Hood

You sure are lookin’ good

You’re everything a big bad wolf could want

 

Little Red Riding Hood

I don’t think that a big boy should

Go walking in these spooky old woods alone.

 

What big eyes you have

The kind of eyes that drive wolves mad

Just to see that you don’t get chased I think I

Ought to walk with you for a ways”

 

Stiles wasn’t even sure what he was listening to, but the wicked smile he got from Peter between verses made it clear he was joking with him, in his own way, and most definitely flirting.

 

“What full lips you have

They’re sure to lure someone bad

So until you get to Grandma’s place I think you

Ought to walk with me and be safe

 

I’m gonna keep my sheep suit on

‘Till I’m sure that you’ve been shown

That I can be trusted walking with you alone

 

Little Red Riding Hood

I’d like to hold you if I could

But you might think I’m a big bad wolf so I won’t”

 

At this point, Stiles couldn’t hold in the laughter.  Where had Peter learned this song?  It was completely ridiculous.   

 

“What a big heart I have

The better to love you with

Little Red Riding Hood

Even bad wolves can be good

 

Try to keep satisfied

Just to walk close by your side

Maybe you’ll see things my way

‘Fore we get to Grandma’s place

 

Little Red Riding Hood

You sure are lookin’ good

You’re everything a big bad wolf could want

 

Little Red Riding Hood

I don’t think that a big boy should

Go walking in these spooky old woods alone

 

What big eyes you have

The kind of eyes that drive wolves mad

Just to see that you don’t get chased I think I

Ought to walk with you for a ways

 

What full lips you have

They’re sure to lure someone bad

So until you get to Grandma’s place I think you

‘Ought to walk with me and be safe”

 

Peter ended the song with some fairly impressive simultaneous strumming and fingerpicking high notes and pulled his guitar strap over his head to lean it against his chair.  Stiles thought that was as good an invitation as any to muster up some dormant initiative and fold his long limbs into Peter’s lap, straddling him in the old leather chair.

“Where did you learn that song?  You didn’t write it, did you?”

“You’re kidding, right?  Even I couldn’t come up with something that perfectly dirty,” Peter laughed, running his nose up the side of Stiles' neck.  “It played during the credits of that stupid movie you made me watch last week.”

“The one with Amanda Seyfried?” Stiles asked, confused, “I must have fallen asleep.”

“How could you?  I watched the whole thing!” Peter huffed, somewhat put out.  “I thought you were trying to entice me into some weird, sexy role playing.”

“Poor baby,” Stiles soothed, pecking his wolf’s lips gently, “I’ll make it up to you someday.”

“Whenever you’re ready,” Peter responded, “maybe I’ll get you some red panties and a cape for the occasion.”  Stiles sucked in a breath through his teeth while trying desperately to refrain from rocking down into Peter’s lap.

“We’re still here, you know!” Derek called from upstairs, killing whatever mood Peter had managed to create with the oddly kinky serenade.

“That’s my cue,” Stiles sighed, leaning down to kiss his boyfriend goodbye while reluctantly lifting his lower body out of the chair.  Peter pulled him back in by the collar of his plaid shirt and deliberately deepened the kiss, plunging his tongue into Stiles’ mouth and making as much noise as possible.  Stiles darted out of his reach when he got the feeling he would never be able to leave, and pecked Peter on the forehead.  “Goodnight, Peter.”

Peter threw himself back into the chair dramatically, watching his future mate slide out the loft’s door.  “I hate you, you know!” he called up the stairs.

“Love you too, Peter!” Derek called in reply.