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When We Were Bros

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Peter isn’t really surprised that the Stilinski boy is mixed up in all of this. What goes around comes around and all that. The boy continues to not surprise him with his willingness to jump into the middle of everything, to involve himself in all of this danger that his frail human form isn’t capable of withstanding. Not many people would willingly run towards an alpha werewolf in the middle of an attack, especially not when they know exactly the type of damage the wolf can do.

But Stiles does it. He runs right at him when he goes in to attack the little red-headed girl. And he’s certainly scared, but he sticks around. He confronts Peter, eye to eye. It’s impressive, but not surprising. He’d expect nothing less from this boy. The sentiment continues as Peter has Stiles help him locate Derek.

The least surprising thing of all about the boy is when he refuses Peter’s offer of the bite. He calls Stiles out on the way his heart speeds up when he says he doesn’t want it, but there’s a part of Peter that thinks, despite what an astounding beta the boy would make, he would have been disappointed if Stiles had said yes.

He almost opens his mouth to tell him so, but Peter decides to save that for another day.

Of course, beings as he gets killed a few hours later, it’s a while before he ever has a chance to bring up the subject again. He supposes it could have been a much more dramatic reveal, something to really throw Stiles off his game at a crucial moment, but when he finds the box nearly—miraculously—untouched up in the attic, Peter sort of can’t help it. He legitimately doesn’t have any nefarious plans in the works, and the pack is maybe sort of okay with almost trusting him a little bit. Sometimes it’s fun just to shake things up for no reason.

Also, who doesn’t love a bit of nostalgia?

He drags the box downstairs and plops right in the middle of the living room with a gleeful grin, ignoring the way that the younger pack members stare at him warily. Honestly, not all of this is to be an asshole. He does want to just look through these and remember the times when his mind wasn’t a whirlwind of phantom pain and burning desire for vengeance and the empty feeling of aloneness and echoing insanity.

The second it becomes obvious he’s looking through pictures, Derek’s interest is peeked. He’s his usual gruff and blunt self about asking what Peter’s got and where he found it. Peter holds out a picture from a kegger challenge in which he’s standing on the lawn, a blond girl perched on his back with two red cups of beer held high above her head. “Old college days,” he says with a fond air.

The others look around Derek to see, and Scott has an amusingly stunned expression, like he’s only just considered that Peter didn’t pop out of the ground in his late-thirties.

Okay, well, he did one time, but that’s not the point here.

Stiles’s eyes go wide, and he pushes Derek out of the way to grab the picture. He gapes down at it for a long, silent moment until Allison asks if he’s all right.

“That’s—that’s my mom,” Stiles gasps. Peter grins.

``

Elikonida prefers to be called Ellie for obvious reasons. Sure, it isn’t a terrible name like Mildred or something, but people always look at her funny, and teachers stumble over it at the beginning of every year. She cringes to think of how many times she heard it butchered over Rush a couple of weeks ago. But by now she knows everyone in her new sorority—or has at least met them—and everyone knows that the girl with the really complicated name has a thankfully easy nickname.

It’s Friday, and there’s a mixer this afternoon with the brother fraternity, a kegger. Technically it’s against PanHellenic rules, but no one ever really takes that sort of thing seriously, so long as there isn’t any big trouble that comes out of it. It’s a little bit warmer than usual for mid-September, so it’s the perfect excuse to milk shorts and tank tops for all they’re worth.

Ellie’s pledge class all walks down to the fraternity together. It’s a show of comradery that the older girls think is precious. Really, they’re all still learning their way around campus and its surrounding areas. But it isn’t too hard to find the place, and one of the brothers greets them at the front and gives them a brief tour of the common areas of the house before leading them out back to where everything is set up.

The pledge class is there a little bit earlier to mix with the brother pledge class before all of the actives arrive later in the afternoon. Ellie links arms with Cindy, who was in her Rush group, and they head off into the fray.

They’ve all been to one other pledge mixer last week, and it starts out much the same—which is an echo of Rush, but this time with guys around. It’s the basic meet and greet, the hi-how-are-you-what’s-your-name-where-are-you-from-what’s-your-major.

By the time the actives arrive, Ellie and Cindy have become pretty well stuck with three boys by the names of James, Corry, and Peter. James and Corry are doing their damnedest to sound impressive and manly and courteous, asking them every few minutes if they need refills. Peter is a bit quieter, and Ellie immediately gets the sense that he’s a bit of an odd fit for this fraternity. Really, for Greek life in general.

But she decides that she likes him when he manages to get her to say her full name and he knows that it’s Russian. It sets them off on the culture, mostly on myths and legends. Ellie knows all of this because of her father’s fascination with his home country, and she’s very impressed with Peter’s knowledge. He comments casually that supernatural lore is a bit of a hobby of his, and there’s a twinkle in his eye that Ellie can’t help but really want to get to the bottom of.

Because it’s a fraternity party, the intelligent conversation doesn’t last too much longer, and soon Cindy and Corry are challenging them to a drinking contest. “We’ll have this in the bag,” Corry taunts good naturedly, side eyeing Ellie and Peter. “Hale barely ever drinks.”

Peter just smiles lazily and looks down at Ellie. “I’m game if you are,” he says.

“I have a surprisingly high tolerance for someone of my size,” Ellie says. “I can carry you to a certain degree.”

“Oh, I don’t think it’ll come to that,” Peter says, and they all head off to the coolers. They grab a few other couples along the way and get set up.

It ends up being almost no contest. Ellie holds herself better than most of the other girls, but Peter absolutely smokes the rest of his brothers with an ease that says he’s not even trying. “What the—what—the hale—hale—“ Corry tries to get out.

“Hell,” Peter corrects with a smug grin, hoisting Ellie to a more comfortable position on his back, where she had jumped up at their victory. “Better luck next time.”

“Where do you two even keep it all,” Cindy pouts with a slur.

“In goblets crafted from pure honor and glory,” Ellie comments around a giggle. Peter laughs deeply, and Ellie’s Big Sister pops up with a camera. Ellie holds up her cup, toasting their victory as the shutter clicks.

``

“No,” Stiles says. “Okay. No. Just, no.”

“You can keep saying that, but it doesn’t change the fact that I was friends with your mother,” Peter says, idly digging through the box. “I was actually the one to convince her to move here after we graduated.”

“No,” Stiles says again.

“Keep at it,” Peter suggests dryly. “Maybe if you say it enough times, it’ll reverse the flow of time and erase everything from 1990 onward.” 

“But this—it can’t—you did not know my mom,” Stiles says firmly.

Derek watches over Peter’s shoulder as he flips through a stack. “Stiles’s mom was Miss Ellie,” he asks. “Huh.”

Stiles flails out his arms. “What,” he cries. “You knew my mom too?”

Derek shrugs. “She’d come over some for dinners.”

“Things you maybe could have mentioned,” Stiles yells.

“I didn’t know she was your mom,” Derek retorts. “She was just some lady that came over to hang out with Peter.”

“Just some lady,” Peter scoffs. “Please, you loved when she came over because she’d watch the Power Rangers with you.”

The younger pack members all turn to stare at Derek. Boyd arches a brow. Frowning, Derek says, “That was before it got crappy. Shut up.”

“It was always crappy,” Peter comments as though he’s finally telling a child that Santa isn’t actually real.    

“Okay,” Erica says, scooting closer to the box of pictures. “Derek’s questionable taste in childhood TV shows aside, I think we need to get back to the topic at hand. Were you and Stiles’s mom a thing?”

“Oh my God,” Stiles yells.

Peter smiles up at him. Really, he could let this go on and get plenty of entertainment from it, but he spares the boy. “We went to some formals together, but no, we never dated.”

“Oh, thank Christ,” Stiles sighs, bending over to hang his head between his knees. A few of them roll their eyes at the melodrama.

Lydia has found a small photo album. “Oh, body paint for football games,” she says dryly. “You were one of those types.” She holds up the pictures for everyone else to see.

“I was in a fraternity,” Peter says with a shrug.

Lydia keeps flipping and finally says, “Stiles, I’m sorry, but your mother suffered from a poor wardrobe.”

“It was the 90s,” Stiles says, leaning over to see what she’s talking about.

“No, not that,” Lydia says. “She’s wearing the same shirt in every one of these pictures, and they’re all obviously from several different games.”

“It’s the Cardinal Color Complex,” Peter comments, and Stiles drops his face into his hands with a groan.

“Oh God, you really did know my mom,” he whines.

``

He needs a new Polo, and she’s been complaining that she’s always underdressed for the games, so Peter and Ellie find themselves at the mall Friday afternoon on a mission to hunt down appropriate game day clothes. They go through the Macy’s, and it’s next to no effort for Peter to find himself a decent red shirt.

Ellie, however, has a bit more trouble.

They walk into the women’s section, and she makes a beeline for a blue and yellow striped sweater. “Oh, Peter, look at this,” she coos, holding it up against her.

“You remember that our colors are red and white, right,” he asks.

“Well, yeah, obviously, but this is a great top. Don’t you think?”

He eyes it up and down. “Good color combination. The yellow isn’t too bright, so that helps,” he says.

“Doesn’t hurt to try it on,” Ellie says. “And there’s no law in buying more than one shirt at a time.”

“Whatever helps you sleep at night,” Peter says.

They wander through the various clothing racks, and by the time Ellie makes it to the dressing rooms, she has four shirts, three of them blue and none of them with any red. She buys all four with a sheepish shrug, and they move on to another store.

It happens again. Ellie keeps stopping at tops that have blue and yellow in them, reaching out to touch the material and hold it up for closer inspections.

Finally, Peter comments, “You do realize that blue and yellow are Cal’s colors, right? And you might get your ass kicked if you wear that out in public on game day.”

Ellie stares at the shirt she’s holding with a horrified expression. Peter laughs. She’s completely torn between the appropriate disgust of wearing the colors of their school’s rivals and the weirdly instinctual desire for that particular color combination. “You have made me sad, Peter Hale. I demand compensation,” she says.

“Bacon cheeseburger with extra bacon,” he asks.

“You know all the ways to my heart,” she says, returning the shirt to the rack with a little look of longing.

In the end, it takes them seven stores before Peter finally just sits Ellie down with their bags and goes off to find a top for her. Obviously she can’t be trusted to make this decision by herself. Over the years, they jokingly diagnose it as an official mental illness on Ellie’s part, her complete inability to focus on anything else when there’s the option of blue and yellow around.

``

“So the wardrobe deficiency is a genetic thing,” Lydia says, and Stiles glares at her. She smiles back. “Well, it’s just nice to know that it’s not a lack of effort on my part that you still look like that despite all the times I’ve taken you shopping.”

“Just as hopeless as his mother,” Peter sighs, eyeing Stiles critically.

“Okay, when did we hop the portal into freaking Bizarro world,” Stiles cries. “Peter buddies with my mom. Lydia and Peter agreeing on things.” He points viciously at Peter. “This is all you. You are unnatural.”

“Obviously,” Peter says, his eyes glowing blue.

“So were you just college buddies,” Scott asks warily. “And like, I don’t know, fell apart when you got older? Or because—“

“Are you asking if she knew,” Peter says more than asks.

“Oh God, please tell me she didn’t,” Stiles bemoans. “Please tell me I at least had a chance at normal.”

Peter just smiles with little sympathy.

``

The intercom buzzes in his room to tell him he’s got a call from the Kappa house. Peter is obviously expecting it to be Ellie and is then surprised when Jan’s voice, heavy with emotion, answers. Then, of course, he’s immediately worried. “What happened,” he asks. “Is Ellie all right?”

“Not really,” Jan answers. “She’s not hurt, but her—um—her father was in an accident. He didn’t make it.”

“Fuck,” Peter breathes.

“Yeah,” Jan agrees. “She’s really upset, obviously, and she’s locked herself in her room. Do you think you could—“

“I’m on my way,” he says and hangs up, rushing out of the house and not even bothering with a coat. He runs, because it’s infinitely faster than getting into a car, probably even if he wasn’t using the extra boost. Again it’s Jan who meets him at the front door, ushering him inside. He doesn’t wait for her to show him upstairs. It’s technically against the rules for guys to be upstairs at the house, but no one is going to say anything.

Besides, he’s been up there plenty anyway.

He can hear her crying, has been able to for a couple of blocks, and the sound makes his chest feel too tight. Her father was the only bit of family she had left, and if he’s gone, then she’s alone.

Peter knocks on the door, calling out gently to tell her it’s him. He can hear her moving immediately, scrambling off the bed and stumbling across the floor to unlock the door. She throws it open, and he catches her in his arms, squeezing her tightly before maneuvering them in and shutting the door again.

She heads back home the next morning, and Peter drops everything to go with her. Most of his teachers are sympathetic to what’s going on, understanding that a person has to be there for his best friend when her only family dies, and those who aren’t immediately on board with Peter missing several days of classes, well, Peter’s always been very charming and good with words. It doesn’t take long to make them see his side.

The funeral preparations are miserable. Peter and their other friends who drove out do their best to help, but basically everything is up to Ellie. She’s barely there through the service, leaning into Peter’s side and clinging tightly enough to his hands that if he were human she might have done some damage.

Even after the funeral, Ellie still doesn’t get a break. Now she has to handle finances and bank accounts and the will and selling the house. It’s too big for just her, she mentions to him miserably, and even if it wasn’t, she can’t stay there. Too many memories, and a ghost around every corner.

A few of the girls who stick around a bit longer try to gently tell her that it’ll be all right and that she should focus on the good times. Peter doesn’t bother with that. He knows she’ll be able to do that one day, but right now everything is too fresh. It had been like that for him when his father died, and at least he and his family had still had each other to lean on to get through it. Ellie has no blood left.

They get back to school, and Peter doesn’t expect her to magically be better, but the longer she’s grieving the more Peter’s wolf is antsy. She smells only of sadness, and she’s his best friend. He hates it.

It takes a few weeks, but he finally makes a decision and hopes that his brother doesn’t rip his throat out the next time he goes home for a visit. He sneaks into Ellie’s room and hands her a coat, telling her they’re getting out of town for a little bit. He drives them out to the woods, and they walk along some trails for a bit before Peter leads them off into the underbrush.

When he finally sits them down on the crisp leaves, he’s honest with her about why they’re out here. She needs a distraction from everything that happened, something else to focus on, and he trusts her with this secret. Her heart is beating just a little bit faster, and she reaches out to link their fingers. And then, Peter shifts.

His eyes glow blue, his fangs and claws elongate, and his face deforms. Ellie just sits and stares for a few silent moments before touching his brow with her free hand. “Oh my God, are you a werewolf,” she asks, and Peter laughs.

He explains about his kind to her, tells her about how packs work. She makes a couple of wolf-man jokes and then looks up at the afternoon sky like she expects a full moon to be shining down. He tells her that they don’t need the moon to transform, but that the full moon does make control more difficult for new or young wolves, but the older and more experienced are able to enjoy the night without worrying about ripping into an unsuspecting human’s throat.

So, of course, Ellie being Ellie, she asks if she can be around him on the next full moon. He looks at her like she’s crazy, because she is. Any human with a lick of sense would be running in the opposite direction from him screaming, but she wants to see him at his most dangerous. Of course she does.

“You won’t hurt me,” she says, like it’s the truest thing in the world. “You’d never hurt me.”

She’s right. She almost always is.

``

“At least tell me my poor mother never had to be caught up in shit shows like what always rain down on my head, please,” Stiles begs.

“She saved me from some hunters once,” Peter says, rolling his right shoulder at the memory of the silver knife that had been embedded there. There’s still a scar. He’d had to pay a decent sum of money to get all the blood out from her car and then take her to the nicest restaurant in town for her troubles in having to “deal with that crazy shit in the first place.”

“Wait, stop, everyone shut up,” Erica cries, holding up a thick invitation sized piece of paper. “She asked you to be her maid of honor?”

Stiles collapses into Scott’s personal space, and Scott just pats his back, looking at Erica uncomfortably, as he completely supports Stiles’s weight.

“Another fun fact,” Peter says. “You are alive because I introduced your parents. Enjoy.”

“I can’t take much more of this,” Stiles whines into Scott’s neck.

“I’m pretty creeped out too, if it makes you feel any better,” Scott provides.

“The sympathy is nice,” Stiles answers.

``

The attraction is sickeningly immediate. They’re at a benefit for the Sheriff’s department, as the Hales donate a good sum of money annually to the force. It’s summer break, so Peter is completely unable to make excuses about not going, but at least this year he’s got Ellie along for the ride. Having no family and being in the know about the pack—his brother had indeed knocked him around pretty good for telling her without permission—she comes to Beacon Hills with him over the breaks, and she’d been enthused at the prospect of going to the benefit, because why wouldn’t she want to dress up all fancy and eat a nice, free dinner.

Even Laura’s big puppy dog eyes and Derek’s squishable cheeks aren’t enough to sway her on that opinion. And it’s not that Peter doesn’t like to go out and socialize, it’s just that these are completely ridiculous functions that involve a lot of small talk and trying to one up each other and brown nosing. He’d much rather spend the night babysitting his stupidly adorable niece and nephew.

However, Peter doesn’t mind talking to the actual Sheriff. He’s a personable man, getting on in years, and was friends with Peter’s father. He tells great work stories, because he’s a little free with the details that should probably be kept under tighter wraps, but really, there’s not much in the way of serious, terrible crime anywhere in Beacon County, so it’s never really a problem.

They’ve been chatting for about twenty minutes, the Sherriff and Peter’s mother laughing at some old story about his father, when the Sheriff waves a passing man over. “Peter, Maddie, Ellie, I’d like you to meet our newest deputy, just moved up from Sacramento. John Stilinski.”

He’s probably only a couple of years older than Peter and Ellie, with blond hair and light blue eyes and a pleasant smile. He shakes Peter’s and his mother’s hands firmly, and then he turns to Ellie. Peter does not in the least bit need his mother’s elbow in his ribs to notice the way the two are looking at each other. It’s like a movie, and Peter is willing to bet that they’re seeing everything in slow motion.

The conversation between them is laughable for the next few minutes. It’s like they can’t manage to form the words they’re so star-struck. Eventually the Sheriff excuses himself and his new deputy, who keeps glancing back over his shoulder as he walks away. To the point that he almost trips over the mayor.

Peter doesn’t bother to hide the loud bark of laughter. “Oh, you sure know how to pick ‘em,” he says, wiping away a mocking tear of mirth.

“Shut up,” Ellie snaps.

“No, seriously, what was that,” Peter asks, following behind her as she stalks back to their table. “Did everything go all misty like it does in old movies? Were there choirs of angels singing? Because I’m pretty sure I saw some little hearts floating above your head.”

“You’re an ass,” she says, but she’s smiling.

“Obviously,” he answers, pulling his chair closer to hers. “Now, let’s discuss your course of action into getting some from the hot new deputy.”

It turns out that they don’t really need much of a plan. John Stilinski is as completely enamored with Ellie as she is with him. It’s sort of sickening to watch, in that it feels like Peter’s drowning in a pool filled with syrup and sugar. John comes back to their table as soon as he gets a free moment, asking Ellie for a dance. She doesn’t need the push Peter gives her towards him, but he does it anyway, grinning widely when John catches her to steady her.

Ellie flips him off behind her back as they walk away.

They dance pretty much solidly for the rest of the night, and Peter’s a bit bored without Ellie around to make judgmental comments about other party goers’ fashion choices, but he makes due by finding a girl he went to high school with and making out with her in a closet.

When they get home that night, Ellie skips off to their room, and before they climb into their beds, Peter sees her carefully take out a slip of paper from her beaded bag and tuck it into her wallet. The next morning at breakfast, she’s still giddy, enough to the point that she scoops Derek off the floor of the kitchen where he’s playing with some blocks and spins him above her head. The toddler screams in delight, and Peter’s mother slips Ellie an extra slice of bacon with a wink.

Ellie and John start dating, and when she and Peter have to head back to Stanford, Peter sort of laments not having a bowl of popcorn to watch them saying goodbye. It’s the sappiest thing he’s ever seen, and he comments about needing to make an appointment with a dentist when she gets into the car. She knocks his head against the window and tells him to drive.

While they’re in Stanford, Ellie continues to rake up their phone bill to the point that Peter says he’s not even going to pay his half—it’s not a half, it’s more like his .5%—if she doesn’t free up the line some. And he loves Ellie, he really does, but if he has to hear about how John’s voice sounds like angels singing or the way his hair falls over his forehead one more time, he’s going to throw himself off the balcony.

Not that it would do the lasting damage he’s looking for, but it’d be a welcome change of pace.

“Please tell me that you’ll stop this crap when you actually get to see each other on a daily basis again,” he begs, interrupting her story about John finding a new burger place back home that apparently has the best curly fries ever.

Peter files the name away in the back of his mind for the next time they visit home.

Ellie huffs. “Well, maybe if you’d start dating someone,” she begins.

“Meh,” Peter replies, snatching a bag of chips away from her.

“Oh, come on,” Ellie complains. “It’s nowhere near as much fun when I’m the only one with stupid, mushy stories.”

“Well, I could tell you about Linda Gore at the Paradise Island party last week,” he suggests.

“You already did,” she says.

“Not everything,” he assures her.

“Yes,” she says dryly. “I’m sure you used all of your instinctual werewolf prowess to ensure that she had the most orgasmic experience of her life.”

“Oh, so I did tell you everything,” Peter says. She throws a pillow at him and takes the chips back.

There’s absolutely no twisting Ellie’s arm to get her to move back to Beacon Hills after graduation, and she and John are engaged pretty much immediately, married in less than six months, and expecting a baby within a year.

``

“They worked really fast on you,” Peter says, and Stiles lets out a sound that suggests his very soul is crying. Scott just holds him tighter and scratches behind his ear.

“I need everyone to shut up again,” Erica says, “because baby Stiles.” And she holds up a picture that Stiles has seen before, the day he was born, his mom tired and a mess but grinning as she and his dad hold him all wrapped up in a blue blanket. “Oh, God, look there’s more.” And she flips through a big stack.

“You have a lot of pictures of Stiles as a baby,” Boyd comments carefully.

“My best friend had her first and only kid,” Peter responds with a roll of his eyes. “She took a picture every time he freaking blinked and then made sure that everyone she knew had a copy.”

“I have officially died,” Erica yells and holds up another one. This time Stiles isn’t in it, per say. It’s his mom, heavily pregnant and sitting on a couch. There are two dark haired children on either side of her. The little girl, her hair held back with a large green bow, looks like she’s jabbering on about something that his mom is completely engaged in. The little boy, a couple of years younger, is lying so that his ear is pressed up against his mom’s belly.

“Oh my God,” Allison says, pushing Lydia aside to get a better look. “Is that Derek? Are you kidding me? Is that Derek listening to unborn baby Stiles?”

All three girls turn to glare at Derek, who looks vastly confused and a bit embarrassed—read: constipated with his eyebrows doing some weird tilt over a frown. “You son of a bitch,” Lydia says with a slow shake of her head. “That is the most goddamned adorable thing I have ever seen.”

``

“You’re naming him what,” Peter deadpans, getting smacked in the face with a toy car Derek is playing with as a consequence of the distraction.

“It was my father’s name,” Ellie says indignantly.

“And that’s perfectly fine that you want to remember him like that, but can’t you make that the kid’s middle name,” Peter asks. “Because you just said the name to me not thirty seconds ago, and I still can’t pronounce it. How in the hell is he ever going to learn how to spell it?”

“You’re not as funny as you think you are,” Ellie says, turning a considering stare down to the two Hot Wheels that Derek offers her and choosing the one with the flames on the side. Derek is solemn in his approval of her decision. Ellie thanks him, her expression just as serious but eyes twinkling. She’s going to be a great mom.

“I’m actually a treasure,” Peter says, grinning. “You run this by John yet?”

“He’s already agreed,” Ellie says triumphantly.

“That man is some kind of a saint,” Peter scoffs. “I didn’t think they made people that put up with such massive levels of bullshit.”

“No, he just knows that in a month I’m going to be—“ She reaches out to cover Derek’s ears, and the six year old scowls up at her. “—pushing a watermelon sized baby out of a walnut sized hole for something like twenty hours. He knows he’s already lost, so he’s just taking the defeat early. You could stand to learn that lesson.”

“Never surrender,” Peter says dramatically. “Right, Derek?”

“Right, Uncle Peter,” he immediately agrees, even though he probably has no idea what they’re talking about. Peter holds out a hand for his nephew to high five.

Laura, constructing a race track on the floor, rolls her eyes and says, “Boys are such dorks, Miss Ellie.” Ellie hums her agreement and then squawks when Laura adds, “But maybe you should have a nickname ready to go, just in case.”

Peter can only hope that when he has cubs of his own that they are half as perfect as Laura.

``

They’ve gone through nearly the entire box. It’s not all filled with pictures of Ellie. That would be odd, and Peter knows that so many more things that had to do with her were destroyed by the Argent bitch. But the things about Ellie are obviously the most interesting to the kids, because it’s all connected to Stiles, to this relationship that he had no idea ever existed.

“I don’t get it,” Stiles says, staring at a picture of Peter and Ellie making exaggerated wolf faces. She’s got her hand wrapped around his head to cover his eyes, because they were inside and the reflection from the flash would have ruined the shot. “You were friends with her. You were really good friends with her, enough that you told her about werewolves, and she stayed at your house during breaks. Why didn’t I know about any of this?”

There’s been a lot that’s been burned out of Peter, empathy, pity, kindness, love. He was burned and broken for so long, left only to stew in pain and anger. His mind has been clearer since Lydia brought him back, but there’s still a lot about the past that he doesn’t like to think about. Laura, for instance, and what his brother or mother would have thought to see what he’d done to her and to Derek.

This is something else he doesn’t like to think about, because Ellie had very nearly been pack.

``

He knows from the tone of her voice when she calls to ask him over that something bad has happened. Peter’s stomach is in knots the entire drive, and he tries not to wince when she meets him out on the porch.

They haven’t spent much time together lately, each with various responsibilities to their own families and jobs, and so it makes the differences he sees and smells all the more noticeable. She’s paler and thinner, with dark circles under her eyes, and that smell, the one he’d noticed months and months ago that said something was off, is close to overwhelming.

Ellie doesn’t beat around the bush with him. She just spills it all out. It’s a cancer, rapidly growing and not looking too good. She’s been feeling off for a while now, but with Stiles getting into all that trouble for conduct at school because he can’t focus or sit still, getting him to doctors and handling the ADHD, all while John’s been shouldering more and more responsibilities in the department, she just hasn’t had the time and they haven’t had the money.

The worlds tumble out of his mouth before he can think. “Take the bite.”

“The what,” Ellie asks, surprised.

He’s kind of surprised himself, but yes, that’s a good idea. She’s practically pack anyway, for all that she isn’t able to come around as much. “The bite,” he repeats. “To become a werewolf. It’ll help. It’ll heal you.”

“The bite could kill me,” Ellie says slowly.

“Maybe,” Peter says. “But there’s a better chance than with cancer. Shit, Elle. The bite, hang on, I’ll go call my brother, and he’ll come over and—“

“No, Peter,” Ellie says, and Peter drops back down onto the couch beside her, his legs suddenly not working right.

“What?” He absolutely could not have heard that right.

Her eyes are filling up with tears, but her heartbeat is steady as she repeats, “No. I don’t want it.”

“But how can you—it’s a gift, Ellie,” Peter argues. “It’ll make you well, and you’ll be better than you were before, faster, stronger. And something like this, it won’t happen again.”

“I know what being a werewolf entails, all the benefits,” she says. “But that’s still my answer. I’m not sure I can bring that here, do that to John and Stiles.”

“And so, what,” he snaps. “You’re just going to let them watch you die? You think they’d prefer that to you being a werewolf? Are you listening to yourself? Are you even considering them here?”

Ellie’s eyes go hard, flashing with something that can almost be called gold. “Don’t you dare,” she hisses. “Don’t you dare insinuate that I don’t love my husband and son with everything that I have. That is a low blow.”

“I know,” Peter says back, “and I’m willing to stick by it if it makes you see some sense.”

Ellie deflates a little bit, reaching out for his hand. He doesn’t want to let her take it. He wants to be petty and childish until she sees that she’s being stupid, but his body doesn’t agree with his mind, and he ends up clinging to her. “I’m scared too,” she says. “I mean, how am I actually supposed to accept that I might die and leave behind my husband and my son. Jesus, Peter, Stiles—he’s only eight. I shouldn’t have to tell my eight year old son that I’m dying.”

“Then, please,” he begs. “Please take the bite.”

She shakes her head. “I know it’s stupid, because I wanted to punch the people who said it to me when Papa died, but things happen for a reason, even if it’s a shitty reason.”

“That is stupid,” Peter agrees, his chest tight.

They don’t talk much after that, just sit together with Peter slumped enough so that he can rest his head against her shoulder. It’s about an hour later that he hears John’s cruiser approaching and then a constant stream of chatter from Ellie’s son. The boy is the first one into the house, bursting through the back door. He barely pauses to say hello to Peter, who has stood up from the couch, as he hurries over to his mother to tell her about everything that happened at school and how a girl named Lydia had a new dress that made her look like a princess and could he have his friend Scott come over to play because they had been playing Spider-Man versus Batman and they needed to see who was the better superhero.

It’s all terrible to listen to.

John is standing in the doorway, and he looks and smells completely exhausted and heartbroken. Peter walks over to shake his hand, and they both fall back into the kitchen where there’s no chance Stiles can pick up their conversation. “She told you,” John asks, but he already knows.

And Peter sort of wants to tell him, to tell him that there’s a better chance out there than chemotherapy to save her, and that when—when because he will not consider if—it works, there will never be problems like this again. Because if John knows, surely he’d be on Peter’s side on this, surely he would jump at the chance and urge Ellie to take it. And if Stiles knew, he’s a child. He’d just think it was amazing that his mom was a werewolf, and he’d blink up at her with those big, brown eyes that he inherited from his mother, and everything would be okay.

Except he can’t do that. Peter isn’t actually part of this family, no matter how important Ellie is to him. It’s not his place to say things like that. So he just has to nod and clap a hand on John’s shoulder. “If you need anything,” he says, “someone to get some groceries, pick up Stiles from school, or anything, just call.”

John reaches up and grasps Peter’s wrist with a shaking hand. “Thanks.”

As the cancer gets worse, Peter makes it a point to visit as much as he can while Stiles and John aren’t with her. He can help with Ellie’s pain, but they can’t exactly explain that away. But taking away the pain isn’t a cure, and the medicines aren’t really doing much for her. By the next year, she’s spending a lot of time in the hospital.

Peter sneaks into her room to stay about one night a week. She needs the rest, but she says she prefers the company. They talk about old college days, and Peter hates it because it sounds too much like the last time they’ll ever talk about it. But he hates listening to her talk about John and Stiles too because a ten year old boy should not be this familiar with a long-term care ward of a hospital.

The doctors call it a miracle when she finally starts getting better. For so long she hadn’t been responding to the treatment, but then, out of nowhere, the cancer falls into remission. The night before she’s released, she tells him that John and Stiles are so excited—although she can tell they’re still worried and nervous, not that she blames them—and that she’s thinking she’s going to cook herself a massive welcome home feast—because John has on multiple occasions in the past burned Easy Mac—and she’ll let him know when that is so he can come over with his family.

It’s only three days later that Kate Argent sets the Hale house on fire.

``

Peter is burned and scared and comatose in the hospital when Ellie Stilinski dies, so he has no idea about it until around four years after the fact, when he starts coming to again, after he’s killed his niece for her power and pack status. He gets some information from his nurse about the current state of things, about how Argents have moved into town, various big players he might need to watch out for.

There’s not much more thought to John Stilinski is the sheriff other than “oh.” And even learning that Ellie is dead isn’t as interesting or as useful as the fact that her son is running with Peter’s wayward betas. At that point, she’s just someone who had once been alive. Like Laura. Like his brother and mother and nephews and in-laws. He’d lost everything in that fire, and maybe Ellie dying had nothing to do with the Argents, but it’s just one more person. One more person that isn’t there anymore. One more person not there to care about what he’s become and what he’s willing to do to get revenge.

Peter’s interest in Stiles has little to do with Ellie. Sure, that makes the whole thing more fascinating, that Stiles ended up entangled in all of this when Ellie had never wanted him to be. But the boy is smart and shrewd and resourceful. Peter’s not lying when he says Stiles would make a good wolf.

And he’s certainly not lying when he looks over at Stiles—sitting on the floor of the partially renovated living room, pictures spread all around him, and looking every inch of him like of his mother—and says, “You’re just like her. She was too human for her own good too.”