It's a quiet Sunday afternoon in the mid of winter.
Laura is trying to solve a Sudoku, Derek is angrily knitting a sweater (fiddling with wool is his form of instant stress relief), and Peter is reading a newspaper in an nearby armchair, close to them but not quite participating in the flow and ebb of their conversation. There are festive decorations all around the house, the centerpiece of which is a stately Christmas tree.
For the first time in ages, the rebuilt Hale house feels like home again.
“I heard Stiles is back in town,” Laura says. Mrs. Revell is their next-door neighbor and an incorrigible gossip, but living next to her has its perks.
“Oh yeah?” Derek looks up. “Is he visiting his dad?”
“No idea, Mrs. Revell couldn't tell me. Maybe's he's just coming back.”
Peter is quiet in a way that suggests that he's listening intently, even if his eyes don't stray from the newspaper even once.
“I heard he developed a cure for the wendigo bite,” Derek says.
“Yeah, and he created that spell that helps you hack into wi-fi networks.”
“And that super useful protection ward!”
“And don't forget the magical eggnog that only gives you the illusion of being drunk!”
“He's really making waves,” Derek says with appreciation. “One day be might be even more famous than Amanda Carrasco.”
“He has more talent in his little finger than she has in her whole body,” Peter says vehemently.
Laura and Derek look up, mildly startled by him suddenly piping up. It appears Peter has opinions, and surprisingly strong ones at that.
A couple of weird things happen after Stiles is back in town.
The first one being: a dead stag on their front porch.
It's a magnificent animal.
Laura and Derek stare at its body, lost for words. They can't even tell how it was killed – there's no blood, no sign it was injured at all. And yet its eyes stare at the sky, milky and unseeing, and its heart has long stopped beating. Laura's mind is racing, running a thousand miles an hour. Is this supposed to be a threat? Has some neighboring pack decided to start a feud? To question their claim? Or is that, like – like a gift? What the hell happened here?
Peter steps into their vision, and in the periphery of her vision Laura sees his mouth open in shock. He recovers quickly, but not quickly enough. Gobsmacked surprise is not a look that frequently graces Peter's face.
“What's the meaning of this?” Laura asks with a frown.
Peter ignores her, as he does so often. A part of Laura – the alpha part, to be exact– feels rankled at that, bristles and growls in the back of her mind, but rationally she knows it can't be easy for Peter to submit to someone who's almost ten years younger than him and his niece, someone who still played with Barbies when he was off to college. It also doesn't help that they have their fair share of disagreements on how the diminished pack should be led.
With great care, Peter walks around the stag. He eyes it keenly.
“Peter, why is there a dead stag on our porch?” Laura tries again.
“The better question is, why is Peter grinning so much?” Derek interjects.
They both frown darkly at their uncle, but naturally Peter doesn't deign them worthy of a response.
Bemused, they watch Peter haul the stag into thebasement (a feat he manages easily), where he then begins to skin the dead animal with his bare claws, all the while humming to himself softly, a merry little tune never far from his lips.
“Creepy,” Laura says.
“Alarming,” Derek agrees.
Peter stops humming and turns to them with a dangerous glint in his eyes. “Scramble, you rugrats.”
For once, they do exactly that.
Suffice it to say, there are lots of venison dishes in their immediate future. Peter prepares the meat with great attention to detail – one might even say lovingly – with mushrooms and salted butter, with a red wine reduction, with herbs and caramelized onions, with pears or other fruits. It's always delicious, but that doesn't change the fact hat Laura and Derek have no idea what's going on, and that's unsettling.
The second strange thing that happens is snow.
Or rather: the absence of it.
When Laura wakes up, she instantly knows winter has fully arrived. She left her window open the previous evening, and there's the chill of frost in the air, and the particular but familiar stillness that only occurs when the forest is covered in thick blankets of snow, all noises dampened for once. And indeed, when Laura looks outside, there's white as far as the eye can see. The tree branches bow down, yielding to the weight of their burden.
There's not a single snow flake on their property. The lawn is still as green as it was yesterday. The trees on their property have been spared as well, their branches brown and bare.
Laura puts on her little bunny slippers and a robe and hurries downstairs, venturing outside. She sniffs deeply. There's the faint tingle of magic in the air, but it's nothing sinister or threatening. She'd even say it feels... benevolent. Friendly. And then she sees it. A little folded card has been placed on their doormat. Laura picks it up and reads what has been scribbled into it. Wouldn't want you to get your paws wet, would we?
What the hell.
Seriously, what the hell.
Laura sniffs at the card, but there's no trace of a scent left behind, and that's another strange and rather informative detail.
When she goes back inside, she nearly runs into Peter. He sees the card in her hand and his face does something complicated and furious that results in him ripping the card out of her hands. ”That's not meant for you.”
“What's going on here?” Laura asks, following Peter into the kitchen.”Care to tell us why there's no snow on our lawn? Why are we suddenly living in eternal spring land?”
“Huh?” Derek looks up from crunching his cornflakes. “'S happ'ned?”
“Nothing does concerns any you,” Peter replies haughtily. He opens the card, and his face does something again, something even more complicated and much more... disturbing. Laura doesn't think she's ever seen such a gentle look on his face. It's enormously fond and warm, making him look soft and approachable for once, like a playful little kitten, and Laura didn't need to see that, ever.
“Uggh,” Derek articulates her feelings. “Gross.”
“It's too early for this shit,” Laura agrees and trudges upstairs again, burrowing into the warm nest of her blankets once more. She knows she's the alpha and everything, and it's her responsibility to care about strange events that involve her pack, but seriously, it's too early for this shit.
“Do you think someone is courting Peter?” Derek asks one evening. “You know, maybe he is getting wooed. In an old-fashioned way.”
Laura shudders. “Who would do that?”
They are both silent for a long moment, not daring to voice the answer: someone who is clearly a lunatic and who has the ability to spare their home from snowfall by magical means.
It's a short list of candidates.
The thing is, Peter is something of an incurable flirt (or to put it in less kind words, he's smarmy, sleazy, and a smooth talker), and he has hit on Stiles in the past.
It seemed Peter deliberately found ways to let their paths cross whenever Stiles came home from college. There had been innuendos, teasing, snarking and a whole lot of other things Laura has tried to burrow a mile deep in the bogs of her unconscious mind, even if Peter's attempts to hit on Stiles had been hilarious to watch on the few occasions Laura had witnessed.
And there had been one – or possibly two – moments where Stiles had appeared unsure, as if on the brink of acquiescing to Peter's advances. Where he had looked tempted.
Nothing had ever come of it, at least to Laura's knowledge. Stiles' spark had manifested rather late and abruptly, and after college he'd been accepted into a community of witches and druids. His training took years to complete and required him to remain celibate for its entire duration. Isaac had sweetly commented that that didn't change much for Stiles, and Stiles had been so angry he'd turned Isaac's hair into shades of blue and lilac. Of course, Scott had been pissed, as he usually was when his best friends metaphorically went at their throats.
Isaac hadn't been too fazed though. To Stiles' obvious displeasure, he had rocked that galaxy-themed hair.
Stiles hadn't returned to Beacon Hills after his training had been finished. News had traveled through the grapevine that he was doing apprenticeships of sorts, visiting renowned witches all over the world and shadowing them to absorb even more knowledge, to further hone his craft.
And now that none of them had expected him to return, he was back.
The third strange thing that happens is that they're attacked by a bunch of omegas.
Well. That's not the strange part. The strange part is what happens once Peter joins the brawl.
Now and then, some omegas will have the idea to band together, which is on and in itself not an ill-advised notion, until they either get cocky or desperate and try to take over an alpha's territory.
Laura and Derek are ambushed by a group of eight omegas while they patrol the outskirts of the preserve. The Hale pack is small, and Laura's strength is not nearly that of other alphas; it's tough going. She and Derek are all too aware that one misstep could mean death, and so they're clawing, punching and biting for their lives.
Even werewolves can't heal a severed spine or a shredded aorta.
Summoned by the distress of his packmates, Peter arrives after a few minutes and bares his fangs in an enraged snarl.
It's hardly surprising that they're more successful when they fight united as a pack. But when Peter steps into the clearing, it's like all of the cards are suddenly stacked in their favor. The omega who tries to rip out Laura's throat stumbles and trips, falling flat on his face and presenting Laura with the vulnerable expanse of his neck. Derek manages to dodge a couple of lightning-quick punches and knocks out two omegas at once, and Peter is even luckier and cuts through their opponents like an ancient warrior god. All of the omegas he is up against are seconds too late to dodge and to hit him, and so the dance that unfurls is graceful on one side and a bumbling on the other.
Between the three of them, they make quick work of the group until those that can still move whine in submission and hobble away, tails between their legs.
“Weird,” Derek pants, utterly exhausted. “Did you get the feeling that was too easy?”
“Yep, they collapsed like a house of cards,” Laura says.
Peter doesn't say anything, although his smile is rather telling.
The series of strange events finds its culmination on the night of the next full moon.
It's the first of the year. In the days of old, it was known as the mating moon, as this was the night where courting intentions were revealed and then either accepted or declined by the object of affection.
“I might have invited someone over,” Peter says a mere moment before the doorbell rings. He doesn't rise though, seeming oddly nervous, and so Derek goes in his stead.
When he returns, it's with someone in tow.
To be more exact: Stiles walks in the room, and holy shit. When and how did the boy develop that sort of - of swagger? He walks like he owns the room... and possibly the entire planet. Gone is the awkward, gangly teenager that Laura once knew. In his place is someone who's – well, certainly fit, but it's not even like he's a walking mountain of muscles. And yet there's no doubt he's striking. It's like every shred of his former insecurities has evaporated, leaving behind nothing but pure intent.
He comes to a stand much too close to Peter, leaning right into the werewolf's personal space.
“Stiles,” Peter says and does he sound vaguely breathless? “I got your gifts.”
“You liked them?” Stiles asks, but it's not a question. He knows exactly that Peter loved them. There's a little smirk hiding in the corners of his mouth, ready to bloom into a full grin. The guy might just be cockier than Peter, and that's no small feat to manage.
“I did. Very much.” Peter looks at his shoes for a moment – what the hell! - before his gaze flutters upward, meeting Stiles' eyes. “They were very thoughtful. Thank you.”
Stiles smiles, leaning closer. “Do you accept my courting claim, then?”
“Yes,” Peter breathes without hesitation – and again with that voice, as if he's been doodling Peter+Stiles 4ever into his notebook for weeks on end, complete with hearts and glitter and dreamy little sighs.
Which he might just have done. They can't rule that out.
The next thing that happens – and Laura will forever be grateful if Stiles invents some sort of permanent brain bleaching spell – is that Stiles grabs Peter's shirt and drags him forward into a demanding kiss. Peter melts into it, and then arms are suddenly everywhere and articles of clothing land on the floor, jackets soon joined by a scarf, gloves and a hoodie.
“GET A ROOM!” Laura bellows.
Filthy wet kissing noises are the only answer she gets.
Peter always had a flair for dramatics, but Laura never would have pegged him as the swooning maiden type.
He's still not much of a maiden, never was and never will be, but the swooning part he has freaking down.
Laura grabs Derek's hand – who looks wide-eyed and stands frozen in shock, very much traumatized by the unfolding dry-humping – and tries to drag him away from the spectacle. “Let's give them some privacy.”
With a shudder, Derek unfreezes. “How about moving out? I don't think I can ever eat at that table again.”