The damn creature is laughing.
Well, Peter thinks he (she? them? it?) is laughing. For one, the dark-skinned being’s facial features are nothing like a human’s, so he’s assuming that the horrifying widening of the mouth that’s showing too many and too sharp teeth is actually a smile. For two, the sound that’s coming from it, is at the same time shrill and deep and everything in between, as if more than two voices are speaking at the same time, the same exact words, in unison. Peter doesn’t like what that implies.
(Boy, did Disney get it wrong, by the way.)
And Scott is trying to talk to it.
Peter doesn’t regret many things in his life, but in the cases he does feel regret, the sentiment is strong, deeply and excruciatingly so. The clumsy way he handled the Paige matter, dismissing his own concerns and suspicions about Derek’s fishy behavior back then and the way he let Talia step over him even though she was the one that gave him the position of enforcer, are the most recent fine examples of that. Biting Scott McCall is rapidly climbing up to the very top of those.
“It doesn’t have to be this way,” Scott wails, expression earnest.
Also, right now, he’s regretting coming back to life altogether.
Why? Why? Why did he choose to come back? Ah, yes, Gerard. And his damn self-preservation instincts, because Peter has never known when to let go. But why didn’t he leave? Because being contrary and seeing their frustrated faces isn’t making up for the inconvenience anymore. He should have left to greener pastures a long time ago… especially since he’s caught some whispers of sending him to Eichen House as of late.
The creature lifts its hand to mockingly pet the little boy’s fox ears and Peter instantly becomes tense like a coiled spring, ready to jump in. There are warning shouts all around and Peter wants to scoff, because if warnings worked on that thing they wouldn’t be in this situation.
“You can relax,” it says, making a shiver go up Peter’s whole back, and, well, excuse him, but not happening. “I’m not going to hurt him.” Again, excuse him if Peter doesn’t trust… How can he be so stupid? Why is that stupid, stupid, stupid boy trusting what it says? Even his less than brilliant nephew hasn’t relaxed! The sheriff and the Argents (both of them, father and still healing daughter) are still pointing their guns at it! Peter doesn’t know where the rest of the pack is, but he’d bet his life that they wouldn’t trust that thing either, dammit. “But I thought we could play a little game.”
When a fairy says that, you better tense.
When a fairy says that while they smile with sharp shark/piranha teeth, you better be scared.
When a fairy says that while they smile with sharp shark/piranha teeth and two serpentine tongues come out from in between those aforementioned teeth, you better prepare your testament.
“What kind of game?”
Oh, for the love of…
“You want to play then, good,” it says and Peter wants to bash his head in the nearest flat surface. “It’s very simple, actually. I let pumpkin go and he has to choose who he trusts the most. Whoever he chooses wins a special reward, and the others lose. If he doesn’t choose anyone, everyone loses.”
“I thought he didn’t remember anything?“ Sure, concentrate on the important things, Scott, Peter thinks, nevermind asking what’s that special reward… and more importantly, what’s the punishment for losing. “How is that fair?”
“He doesn’t,” the thing nods, petting the ears again. The kit grumbles and swats at the hand like a kitty would at someone annoying. Everyone’s breath catches but the thing just laughs. “But I’m not unfair, the memories are there, deep down, so he’ll choose whom he instinctively trusts the most… which can be no one at all. Have you all been good?” It enquiries mockingly.
There’s a pregnant pause and the thing cackles. After the nogitsune and baby Argent’s very near death, Stiles has been avoiding everyone. Be it because they truly wanted to give him space (or they justified it like that anyway, in Peter’s very uncharitable opinion) or because they wanted to give him a wide berth, no one has been close to him these past few weeks. Peter, being the persistent bastard he is, has been tracking him down out of boredom just for the fun of bickering with him, but…
“We’ll play,” Scott says.
Peter regrets, he regrets so much. Damn the faery court’s rules that state that only the alpha or the alpha’s chosen representative can talk. Scott’s very own brain is about seven years old right now and sporting fox ears, claws, teeth and tail.
Peter hates Deaton with the heat of a thousand burning suns right now. Damn him for suggesting making a deal with the faery to heal Stiles and rid him of the nogitsune’s taint. If Peter wasn’t so estranged from the pack… If he had heard about this beforehand he would have…
“Wait! You didn’t say the rules! Can we call him? What’s the reward?”
The thing sets Stiles down, steadying him, before setting his dark beady eyes on Scott and smiling. “Oh, my bad,” it singsongs disturbingly as it lets go. “Whoever he choses gets to keep their life, the rest, well. And if he doesn’t choose anyone, everyone dies and this adorable pumpkin will be the court’s pet,” it finishes as faery guards fill the clearing.
They’re screwed. Completely screwed. Peter’s is going to find a way to haunt Alan Deaton into an early grave for this, because when he was thinking about greener pastures he didn’t mean this . He ignores the incredulous shouts and checks the clearing for an escape route so that, when Stiles inevitably chooses his father, maybe he can slip out in the commotion…
Small hands pat his leg and he looks down surprised to find the hopeful eyes of the kit fixed on him. Stiles makes an up gesture, wanting to be picked up and he obliges even though everything in him feels like jelly at having dodged the bullet, so to speak. There are shouts and angry voices right beside him but he can’t quite hear it above the ringing of his ears.
(He’s going to survive.)
Then, Stiles jerks in his hands suddenly and looking in his eyes, he knows that the boy has just remembered everything. Peter’s hairs stand on end as energy starts to concentrate on Stiles, and he just knows this whole thing isn’t going to end well as the faeries do the same.
(Or maybe not.)
If he hadn’t been right in the middle of it, Peter would have said that the colorful explosion was magnificent.
(For a moment he wonders how different his life would have been if the fire never happened.)
Peter wakes up with a shout and then starts choking. There’s poison in the air and he doesn’t recognize where he is. He falls from the bed coughing, his lungs burning horribly. He forces himself up, tumbles to the nearest window and tries to open it, only for the wood to burn his hands. The crackle of fire reaches his ears. Like lightning, memories flood him and his whole body convulses in protest, in horrified denial.
It can’t be.
Is this his particular and very personal hell? Whatever he’s done in his life, even killing Laura, doesn’t warrant this kind of punishment. He doesn’t deserve to relive this night. He doesn’t. Peter isn’t a good man, but he doesn’t.
He won’t give them the satisfaction of seeing him struggle and despair and hurt and fail. For once, he’ll accept what’s coming even if only to be a contrary bastard and not give them the satisfaction of doing what they want him to do. According the time the clock in his table is showing, it will be at least two hours until everything goes to hell (oh, the irony), and Peter is going to wait for it calmly, in peace. He closes his eyes.
He must have nodded off (probably the effect of the wolfbane in the air) because the next thing he knows is that there is a child spewing profanities right beside him and shaking him.
A child with fox ears, claws, teeth and tail. Stiles. He startles, shaking off the sluggishness that still lingered. Whatever Stiles is painting on his arm helps clear his head too.
“PETER! I swear to God, you bastard! Wake up, come on! The mountain ash is gone but I can’t do anything about the fire! You have to help me get them out!”
It’s not hell or a dream.
He raises, pulling the kit with him as he does so, and takes off running to locate and wake the rest of the family. He knows that Stiles won’t obey if he tells him to wait outside, so he doesn’t even try.
Derek and Laura arrive just as he’s pulling the last one out of the house. Derek screams and Peter doesn’t have to investigate much to know why. Kate Argent is pinned to the very first tree in the yard, making wet gurgling sounds as her own blood chokes her. Peter can’t find it in him to feel sorry for his nephew, and if that makes him a bad person, well, tell him something he doesn’t know already.
He drops to the floor as his legs start to tremble. He nearly just let go. He nearly lost everything again without even fighting it. He can hear the kids crying but he can’t deal with it right now, not when he can’t even breathe properly himself.
“Breathe,” Stiles says as he climbs into his lap. Peter’s arms circle him tightly before he can even think about it. “Breathe, Peter. Come on, listen to my heart.”
And Peter does, burying his head on the crook of Stiles’ neck. Talia is saying something but he doesn’t care. Kate emits another gurgle and Derek cries harder, Laura trying to console him, but that sound is like music to his ears, helping his heart calm.
Destroying the Argents is a balm to Peter’s soul. If he hadn’t been so out of his mind (an omega or very nearly one) the first time he went after them, he’d had chosen this route of revenge. Why kill them if he can make sure they suffer for many years to come? Or in Gerard, Kate and their hunter’s case, make them suffer through two weeks of imprisonment, interrogation and then sitting powerless as the matriarch was forced to execute them for their crimes. Kate was especially satisfying because she suffered two weeks with minimal pain relieving medication before being condemned to die.
“Psycho,” Stiles says rolling his eyes as he goes back to complete his homework, bored out of his mind. His ears even flicker in irritation and Peter’s bloodthirsty expression turns fond and amused.
“Kettle, meet teapot,” Peter drawls, remembering what Stiles did to Eichen House, and the kit sniffs but doesn’t resist as he pulls him into his lap, scenting him thoroughly.
Laura chooses that very exact moment to enter into his study without knocking. She scrunches her nose at the sight but very wisely keeps her mouth shut. Well, she’s not completely stupid then, congratulations Talia. But then again, even the sheriff has given up on saying anything after one day Stiles dragged him aside. He’ll probably never know what Stiles said to his father that day because he did something to make the room soundproof, but whatever he said did the trick, because the man never said anything about it again.
(Stiles is his anchor, his pack above pack. He won’t let anyone take anything from him without fighting ever again.)
“Derek wants to talk to you,” Laura says.
“Mmhm,” he answers raising an eyebrow. “And why isn’t he here then?"
“Please, uncle Peter?”
Derek has been going to therapy for a year now. He started talking again not so long ago and his frame is not so gaunt anymore. A vicious part of Peter wants him to suffer for as many years as Peter did for his stupidity first and then his betrayal. Laura too, to be honest, even if the only way he can hurt her now is by not helping Derek. Another part of him remembers that Derek suffered for years in their original timeline and that he killed Laura for her transgressions. Besides, if he’s just, in this time they have done no such thing. He sighs and Stiles rubs his chin on his arm.
“You shouldn’t meddle, Laura.” She purses her lips, obviously trying to contain a tirade about Derek just being a kid and many things he has heard before and he continues before she can even get a word in. “When is his therapy session?” She gapes. “Well?”
They still haven’t decided what to do about the Nemeton or the alpha pack, and they don’t know exactly how this whole time travel thing happened. Stiles is pretty sure that it was the result of the combination of his protective magic, the fairy’s powers and Peter’s desire to see what would have happened if there had been no fire, but Peter himself doesn’t really care about the how, so long those fairies don’t come back to finish what they started. Peter has everything he wants and needs, he thinks absently as he rubs his cheek on Stiles’ unfairly soft hair, so maybe it’s time to let go now.