I wasn't sure how to tag this one, so here's the warning re mental health issues. Stiles is being medicated against his will by an abusive government department. The way his mental illnesses are addressed is in no way representative of people with the same diagnoses, because in this world Stiles has been intentionally misdiagnosed and the drugs they give him are not what they say they are.
“You disgust me, Chris,” his father says, and it’s pretty much how Chris knew the conversation would go. It’s bad enough in his father’s eyes that he’s divorced Victoria, but to take up with another alpha? That’s the unforgivable sin. Particularly since Gerard Argent has built an entire political platform on traditional family values. Good old fashioned bigotry mostly, but it’s made him a very popular and powerful man. He’s not going to let Chris take that away from him.
Chris had known that the moment he walked into the room, but it doesn’t stop the sting that is the fantasy of his father’s approval being ripped away from him and torn to pieces. Chris has been looking for that approval most of his life, if he’s honest, and he’s never really had it. Not when he knew this whole time that he was lying to both of them. Even when he’d mated with Victoria his father’s proud smile had hurt more than anything, because Chris had known the truth. He’d looked across the reception hall and caught Peter Hale’s gaze, and felt a jolt of guilt and shame and lust all wrapped up in one, even as he’d leaned in to kiss Victoria.
He’d been seventeen when Chris had mated Victoria. Just a cocky kid with a swagger and a smirk, and Chris had been so drunk at his stag night that he didn’t remember a lot about what had happened. He remembered a bathroom stall, he remembered his fingers tugging at Peter’s hair, and he’d remembered the way his sweat tasted as Chris had licked a path across his collarbones.
Just drunk, he’d told himself. Just a drunken thing.
The first time they fucked, Victoria was pregnant with Allison. She’d been heavy, sated, and the air was thick with her omega scent. And Chris had gone out one night, met up with Peter in a cheap hotel room, and fucked and been fucked. Two alphas. Two abominations. He’d been sick with guilt and shame after it happened, but not sick enough to stop it from happening again.
Peter Hale was a force of nature. Chris couldn’t ignore him anymore than he could ignore a hurricane.
“You’re ruining everything I’ve ever built,” Gerard says now, eyes narrow, voice bitter. “My enemies will destroy me!”
A part of Chris doesn’t care. The other part of him, the part that will always be the boy craving his father’s approval, wants to drop to his knees and beg for forgiveness.
The only reason he doesn’t, probably, is because he knows it wouldn’t make a difference.
“I didn’t do this to hurt you,” Chris says at last, holding his father’s gaze and willing him to hear the truth behind the words. “This is who I am.”
Gerard stares at him for a moment, then picks up his glass off the desk and downs the contents. “I’m eight months out from an election, Chris. I can’t have my son in an alpha/alpha relationship. We need to make this right.”
For a moment Chris is tempted to laugh. “Aren’t I a little old for one of those conversion camps you champion?”
Gerard is silent for a long moment, as though he’s seriously considering it. Then he turns away again, pours another drink from the decanter, and takes a sip. He doesn’t offer Chris a drink. When he turns back, there’s a gleam in his eye. “You’ll take an omega mate.”
Chris’s stomach sinks. Has Gerard heard nothing he’s said in here? “No, that’s not—”
“For appearances,” Gerard says. “You and Peter—” He almost growls when he says the name. “You’ll take an omega mate. Share it.”
Chris’s mind goes blank.
“It’s not ideal,” Gerard says. “But it’s not without precedent. More importantly, I can work with it, and nobody needs to know my alpha son takes it up the ass.”
Chris’s face burns.
Of course that’s what it’s really about. The fact that in a relationship with two alphas, one of them must play at being the omega. It’s bullshit, but it’s a prejudice Chris doesn’t have the energy to protest. Not today. Not with his father. Not when he’s already on the thinnest of ice.
“I’ll talk to Peter,” he says.
“You do that,” Gerard says, mouth downturned. “You do that, or you’re no longer any son of mine. Do you understand?”
Chris nods, and leaves his father’s study.
Peter takes the news as well as Chris knew he would.
“Are you kidding?” he demands, wrenching his tie from around his neck when he gets home to their apartment and Chris breaks it to him. “Are you fucking kidding?”
“It’s not ideal,” Chris says, and hates how his father said the exact same words.
“Not ideal?” Peter asks. “Twenty fucking years I’ve waited for you, waited for you to be ready, to—” He stumbles over what Chris thinks was probably a variation of waited for you to man up, and he drags his fingers through his hair. “To want to be with me more than you wanted to keep that poisonous old bastard happy, and this what you want? To bring someone else into our home? Into our bed?”
There’s a very fine line between wrath and devastation with Peter. There always has been. Chris has learned over the years to read it very well.
“Peter, you know what will happen if we go against him in this.”
Peter’s mouth thins into an angry line, but he doesn’t answer. He knows.
She’s eighteen now and Gerard is paying for her tuition at Columbia. And that’s $66 000 a year that Chris can’t afford. It was difficult enough for Allison to accept her parents’ divorce. To lose her future on top of that? Chris wouldn’t blame her if she never forgave him. And he’d promised Victoria that Allison’s happiness was still his top priority, and that nothing would change that. He can’t go back on that promise.
“Just think about it,” he says, his throat aching. “Please, Peter.”
Peter storms out of the room.
It’s Saturday morning and Chris is working on his motorbike in the parking garage of the apartment complex when he spies a pair of high-heeled boots heading toward him. He sits up and drops his wrench back in his toolbox. “Kate.”
His sister raises her eyebrows as she stares down at him. “Trouble in paradise, big brother?”
“Nope.” Chris wipes his hands on a rag.
“Bullshit,” Kate says. “You only ever work on that stupid bike when Peter is freezing you out.”
Unlike his father, Kate can say Peter’s name without growling, but she’s no particular fan of his. The Hales are an important family in Beacon Hills. They’re in local politics, rather than national like Gerard, but they attend a lot of the same local events. Talia Hale, Peter’s sister, is mayor. Her husband is the superintendant of the health department, and one of her other brothers is in charge of public works. And her daughter is a local deputy. You can’t cross the street in Beacon Hills without running into a Hale. Chris grew up going to the same events, even though their families are on different ends of the political spectrum.
“What do you want, Kate?” Chris asks, climbing to his feet.
“Dad mentioned your little problem,” Kate tells him. “And I think your little problem might help solve one of my little problems, and vice versa.”
“Cut the crap,” Chris mutters, pulling the garage door closed and locking it. The garage is his workshop. He and Peter park their cars in the street. They’ve talked about getting a house when everything was official. They’ve talked about a lot of things, except in the past three days when they haven’t talked at all.
“Fine,” Kate says, following him toward the elevator, her heels clicking on the concrete. “I’ve got an omega for you.”
Chris’s blood runs cold. “Peter hasn’t agreed to anything yet.”
“I know,” Kate says. “That’s why I’m here.” Her expression softens. “Just let me come up and talk to you both, okay?”
Chris sighs. “Okay.”
“Katherine,” Peter says, because he knows she hates it. “How lovely to see you.”
Chris rolls his eyes at him, and Peter almost smiles. Chris feels a jolt of wary pleasure, and wonders if maybe Peter has forgiven him.
“Hello, Peter,” Kate says, setting her handbag down on the kitchen counter.
“Can I make you something for brunch?” Peter asks.
Kate blinks at him, and takes a fraction too long to answer. “No. Thank you.”
And there it is, Chris thinks. Her automatic reaction to an alpha in the kitchen. Which is ridiculous. Most of the world’s best chefs are alphas, but an alpha cooking in his own home? Somehow that’s emasculating. Cooking is omega’s work. Chris doesn’t blame Kate for her reaction. It’s ingrained in her, like it’s ingrained in too many people. It doesn’t help that Kate works for the Department of Omega Welfare. It’s a state authority, and Kate is the director of the Beacon Hills office.
“Coffee then,” Peter decides, and crosses over to the machine.
Chris and Kate sit at the dining table in the breakfast nook.
Peter sets a coffee down in front of Kate, and then one in front of Chris. He squeezes Chris’s shoulder on his way back to collect his own.
Chris sips his coffee. “Peter, Kate’s here to talk about Dad’s idea.”
Peter’s steps falter, but he sits down at the table with them. “The idea I still haven’t agreed to, Christopher?”
“That’s the one,” Chris tells him.
Kate rolls her eyes. “Don’t worry, Peter. I’m not here to play advocate for Dad. I’m here because I’ve found the perfect omega.”
Peter curls his lip. “Let me guess. A docile little breeder who’ll pop out a kid every year and wouldn’t say boo to a goose?”
“No,” Kate says. “I mean, I’ve got the perfect omega for you.” She looks at them one by one. “I’ve got a seventeen year old ward of the state who is about to be aged out of the system. He’s been diagnosed with Schizoaffective Disorder, Attention Deficit Disorder, Oppositional Defiance Disorder, and Dissociative Identity Disorder.”
Chris looks at Peter just in time to see his jaw drop.
“I don’t even know what most of the words you just said are,” Peter tells her.
Kate’s teeth gleam when she smiles. “What they are is a damn fine reason nobody will ever want to breed from him. Which makes him perfect for you. And he’s on such a cocktail of drugs that all he does every day is sit and stare at the wall. He can feed himself, take himself to the bathroom, and shower himself. All you need to do is clear out a guest room for him, make sure he takes his meds every day, and you’ll never even hear a peep out of him.” She shrugs. “It’ll be like having a pet.”
“No,” Chris says. “Jesus, Kate, no.”
Kate reaches across the table and puts her hand over his. “Just think about it, okay? Both of you. You know… You know Dad is friends with your landlord, right? And your lease is coming up next month. Just something he happened to mention last night at dinner.”
It’s a threat. Not from Kate, even though she’s the one delivering it. It’s a threat that Gerard can make their lives hell, and that’s long before he even thinks about Allison’s tuition.
“Just think about it,” Kate says. “That’s all I ask.”
Peter doesn’t talk to him for another two days.
Two weeks later, Chris and Peter are standing in the foyer of the Beacon Hills Department of Omega Welfare. The department is in a building complex a little way outside of town. It reminds Chris of some sort of cross between a hospital and a prison. It’s like one of those concrete monstrosities from the Soviet era. He knows from what Kate’s told him that most omegas rarely need to visit the premises. But those that do… Well, it’s like a reform school, Kate told him once, where omegas who are sent here by the courts are educated and rehabilitated before being sent back into society. Chris has just never imagined it as so…
“I’m getting Cold War vibes,” Peter mutters, digging his hands into the pockets of his jeans and glaring at a poster on the wall.
Chris elbows him to shush him.
The beta woman at the front desk narrows her eyes at the pair of them.
Peter’s still angry with him, Chris knows, but he’s angrier at the situation and Chris can live with that. Peter came out to his family years ago as alpha/alpha oriented and, being the Hales, they took it in their warm, progressive stride and didn’t give any fucks at all. And this, as Peter snapped a few nights ago, feels like he’s taking a step back into the closet.
Chris has always been tri-oriented, he supposes, although he leans to alpha/alpha. If he hadn’t been attracted to Victoria at all, their marriage would have been even more of a sham than it was. But he and Victoria had always had a fulfilling sex life, even while he was carrying on an affair with Peter on the side. Maybe because he was carrying on an affair with Peter on the side. Chris isn’t proud of that, but he can’t bring himself to regret it either. It’s Peter.
The phone on the front desk buzzes, and the beta woman picks it up. She listens for a moment, and then says, “You can go through now.”
A lock disengages, and the door between the foyer and the corridor beyond slides open.
Kate is waiting for them on the other side of the door. She smiles when she sees them. “Let’s go and meet your omega.”
Chris can’t help looking around as she leads them to an elevator. There are offices on this floor. Most of the doors are open, and he sees people working, hears the hum of conversation and keys clicking, and catches glimpses of desks decorated with potted plants, knickknacks and family photographs.
They step into the elevator at the end of the corridor, and Kate swipes the fob on her lanyard over a scanner before she hits the button for the third floor.
“He’s looking forward to meeting you,” she tells them, and then smiles slightly. “Well, it’s sometimes hard to tell. But he knows his alphas are coming to collect him today, and he’s been very cooperative all morning.”
“And what happens when he’s not cooperative?” Peter asks, his voice sharp.
“He’s medicated, Peter,” Kate says. “If he’s not cooperative, he sits and sulks. Besides, you’re an alpha. Believe me, there’s nothing this omega can throw at you that you can’t handle.”
Chris and Peter exchange a look.
“Kate,” Chris says, “if he’s going to be violent then I think we—”
The elevator doors swing open, and Chris closes his mouth.
The elevator doors open into what looks like some kind of recreation room, if they were standing on the set of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. There’s a craft table, with one kid sitting at it. Her hair is lank and her eyes are unfocussed. She’s staring at a plastic tub of beads in front of her. There’s a TV in the corner, and a cluster of plastic chairs around it. Two boys are sitting there, both staring right through the screen. In another corner a girl who looks no older than twelve or thirteen is pacing back and forth slowly. A pair of orderlies watch on from the side of the room.
Kat’s heels click on the floor as she leads them through, and down a wide corridor. There are doors leading off on each side. They’re closed with names chalked on boards outside them.
Kate stops at the third door and peeks through the small window. She swipes her fob again, and the door clicks open.
Chris catches a glimpse of the name on the door as they follow her inside: Stiles.
There’s a narrow cot in the room and nothing else. Chris’s eye is drawn first to the empty restraints hanging off the end of the bed, and then to the boy sitting there. He’s wearing a pair of sweat pants and a loose t-shirt. His feet are bare. He’s thin and pale, his face lowered as he stares at the floor. He has dark hair, buzzed short.
“Stiles,” Kate says. There’s something off about her tone. It’s saccharine. Chris has never heard her speak to anyone like that before, not even with Ally when she was a baby. “Stiles, sweetie.”
The boy raises his head. His amber eyes are unfocussed. His face is pale, and dotted with moles. His thinness makes him look almost delicate.
“Your alphas are here, sweetie,” Kate tells him.
“Mmm,” the boy says. “Mmm-alpha?”
“That’s right, Stiles,” Kate says. “Your alphas.”
Stiles’s gaze slides over Chris, and then Peter. He twists his mouth, and then slithers off the bed onto his knees.
“Good boy,” Kate tells him, and winks at Chris. “You do remember your lessons, don’t you, omega?”
Chris doesn’t dare look at Peter.
Kate leans down and drags a small bag out from under the bed. “His spare clothes. I’ll get one of the doctors to talk you through his meds, we’ll sign the mating paperwork, and he’s all yours.”
“Kate,” Chris manages.
“Chris,” she counters with a grim smile. “This is the best option, trust me, to get Dad off your back. And Stiles is about to age out of the system. Do you really want me to tell you where he’s likely to end up if he’s not cared for? If he goes off his meds? He’d be living on the streets in a week, doing God knows what to survive. He’d end up in jail, or worse.”
“Yeah,” Peter says. “That’s not really our problem though, is it?”
“Not at all,” Kate agrees. “But it is your solution.”
“This is fucked up,” Peter says, arms crossed as they drive back toward town. He twists around to stare at the omega. “Hey. Are you even in there?”
The kid mumbles something and leans his head against the window.
“It’ll be fine,” Chris says tightly. “We’ll make this work. Kate said we’ll hardly notice him.”
“He’s drooling on the window,” Peter informs him smugly. “And I’m not fucking cleaning it up.”
The guest room in the apartment has been cleaned out. Chris takes charge of Stiles. He shows him where to unpack his scant spare clothes, where the bathroom is, and where the kitchen is. He lines up Stiles’s collection of pill containers next to the kitchen sink, and tapes the schedule to the refrigerator. When it’s time for dinner, Stiles obediently swallows a pink pill and a white pill. Their names are unpronounceable, frankly, and Chris has no idea what they’re supposed to do. But Stiles goes and sits at the table when Chris tells him to, and eats when Chris puts food in front of him, and then takes himself off to bed.
When Chris finally heads back out to the living room, Peter is sitting on the couch with his feet on the coffee table. His arms are crossed over his chest, and his jaw is a tight, angry line.
Chris sits down beside him, and reaches for the remote control. “How to Get Away with Murder?”
“Don’t fucking tempt me,” Peter mutters.
Chris doesn’t smile. He doesn’t. He rubs his hand up Peter’s clenched bicep to his shoulder. “Peter. Listen for a second, okay?”
Peter turns his head and glares at him. The intensity of his blue eyes shocks Chris every time. It always has. “For what? Some pithy speech about how this is all for the best?”
“No,” Chris says. “Just listen.”
Peter rolls his eyes.
“He’s quiet,” Chris says. “Not a peep, Kate said. So, yeah, okay, we drew the short straw in the omega stakes, but let’s give it a chance, okay? This gets my father off our backs. He gets to pretend we’re not alpha/alpha, his constituents don’t send him badly-spelled angry letters, and we get to live our lives.”
“And what if it doesn’t work?” Peter asks. “What if Bertha Mason back there snaps and sets the whole place on fire?”
Chris frowns. “Who?”
“The mad woman in the attic? Mr. Rochester’s wife? Jane Eyre?” Peter sighs. “Pick up a fucking book, Chris.”
Chris should have known better than to fall in love an avid reader who then became a college English major and, finally, a community college professor of English Lit. Of course, when it comes to Peter Hale, Chris should have known better about a lot of things.
“Kate said he has no history of violence.”
“Well forgive me if I’m not comfortable living with someone with more mental disorders than the Joker.”
Not everything Peter reads is high literature.
“Really?” Chris asks him, and leans back.
“What?” Peter asks, but there’s a faint flush on his cheeks. He knows.
“You sound like a bigot,” Chris tells him frankly. “You sound like the sort of asshole who’d vote for my father. You know there are plenty of them who think that being in an alpha/alpha relationship is a mental illness and should be cured with electroshock therapy.”
“Don’t,” Peter says in a low voice, and looks away.
He should be.
“Don’t be that guy, Peter,” Chris says quietly. “I know you’re unhappy about this. You think I’m thrilled about it? But don’t be ignorant. Just because he’s not neurotypical doesn’t mean he’s dangerous.”
Peter doesn’t apologize, but he doesn’t argue either. And with Peter, Chris knows, that’s the same thing as an apology. For now. Peter needs to stew on things for a while before he can bring himself to actually say the words. Once when he forgot Chris’s birthday it took him four days to bump up against him and whisper he was sorry.
They’re both cowards in different ways, really. Chris is terrible at standing up to his father and Peter is terrible at standing up to his lack of conscience, but they both usually get there in the end.
Peter finally reaches over and tugged the remote control from Chris’s loose grasp. “How to Get Away with Murder,” he mutters at last, and they settle in to watch.
In the middle of the night Chris detours on his way to the bathroom. He opens the door to the guest room—Stiles’s room—and peers inside. Stiles is sleeping on his side, his knees drawn up tight, his arms hugging them. The faint moonlight from the window illuminates his pale skin. His forehead is creased and Chris wonders if he is troubled by dreams.
He closes the door silently and treads silently back to bed.
At first he thinks he must have woken Peter when he’d gotten up to go to the bathroom, but Peter waves his glowing phone at him.
“Cora just sent me a text.”
“At midnight?” Chris asks, climbing back into bed.
“Oh, apparently it couldn’t wait,” Peter says, and passes the phone over.
Mom just saw Gerard on CNN and he said you and Chris and an omega are mated. YOU ARE IN SO MUCH TROUBLE UNCLE PETER! LOL!
Chris sighs. “Shit.”
“Shit,” Peter agrees, his mouth downturned. He grabs his phone again, turns his back on Chris, and tugs the comforter up aggressively.
Chris winces, and resists the urge to reach out and touch him.
He’ll wake him in the morning with a blowjob instead. Blowjobs are Chris’s not-so-secret weapon, and Peter’s kryptonite. Chris has the feeling he’ll have the world’s sorest jaw by the time he can make things right between them again.
Peter Hale is halfway through a lecture on the Romantics and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein when he gets a text from his sister Talia.
I’m taking you to lunch.
It’s not a question.
Peter winds up the lecture with his usual “Percy Bysshe Shelley was a chauvinistic ass clown” tirade, sets his class some homework, and then heads outside. Talia is waiting in the parking lot, leaning against her Lexus and glaring at Peter with the intensity of a thousand suns.
“Hello, sister dear,” Peter attempts.
“Peter. Really? Really?”
“Can we do this in the car?” Peter asks. “I’d actually rather my students didn’t hear every damn word.”
And also, air conditioning.
“We’re going to Burger King,” Talia says.
“That’s bullshit,” Peter says. “I demand In-N-Out.”
“Brothers who get officially mated without even telling me don’t deserve In-N-Out.” Talia’s gripping the steering wheel so hard her knuckles are white. “You’re lucky I’m not taking you to McDonalds!”
“Well there’s no need to torture us both,” Peter mutters.
In the end, they go to Burger King, rush through the drive through, and unwrap their burgers in Talia’s car when they park up by the Preserve.
“So?” Talia asks, dipping a fry in sauce.
“So Gerard doesn’t want a moral deviant for a son,” Peter says with a shrug. “This way he can pretend we both fuck the omega, and not each other. It’s a mating of convenience. I feel like the heroine of a nineteenth century novel.” He considers that for a moment. “Actually, let me clarify. I feel like the heroine of a novel set in the nineteenth century, not written then.”
“That’s a pointless distinction for ninety-nine percent of the population, you do realize?”
“Their loss,” Peter says, and then wilts under Talia’s gaze. It’s not a glare this time. It’s almost sympathetic. “It’s fucked up, Tee.”
The old nickname jolts her. Tears well in her eyes. “Oh, Peter.”
“It’s fine,” Peter says. “It will be fine. The omega isn’t an issue. He’s some reject from the mental ward that Kate found for us.” He brushes away the sting of guilt he feels at saying those words. Don’t be that guy, Peter. “He’s basically catatonic, hence the lack of mating ceremony. The poor kid would have just drooled in the photographs.”
“Are you serious?”
“Sadly,” Peter says around a mouthful of burger. “He’s on so many drugs he probably doesn’t know what planet he’s on. So no, he’s not going to be an issue.”
“Peter.” Talia shakes her head. “What the hell?”
“Right?” Peter asks brightly. “Plus side, Chris and I are officially together. On the down side, we are now unwilling roommates with a space cadet.”
Talia is silent for a long while. “This is not how I pictured you getting mated,” she says at last.
“I can’t say it cropped up much in my fantasies either,” Peter tells her. He sighs. “But it’s okay. We’re working with what we’ve got. As much as I’d like to tell Gerard to go fuck himself, Chris has Allison to think of.”
“Oh, Peter,” Talia says at last.
Peter steals some of her fries.
Chris works whatever hours his clients demand he work—and yes, everything in his weapons business is above board, and no, not all of his clients are super sketchy—whereas Peter’s hours are a lot more regular. Peter gets home at just past four, lugging a messenger bag full of marking that he’s supposed to get started on over the weekend. He turns his key in the lock, braces himself for whatever fresh hell is waiting for him on the other side of the door, and pushes the door open.
The apartment is clean and silent, just how he left it this morning. There’s no evidence of Stiles anywhere. Peter dumps his bag in the living room, toes his shoes off in the bedroom, ditches his tie, and exchanges his button-up shirt for a Henley. Then, barefoot, he pads down the hallway and opens Stiles’s door.
Stiles is sitting on his bed, staring at the floor.
“Stiles?” Peter asks, and gets no response. “Omega?”
Stiles shudders, and looks up. There’s a flash of something on his face, some expression Peter can’t translate, and then his mouth falls open and he blinks at Peter slowly. “Alpha?”
“Did you eat today, Stiles?”
“Alpha,” Stiles mumbles, and pushes himself off the bed and onto the floor on his knees.
“That’s not gonna work on me,” Peter mutters. “Stiles. Stiles. Did you eat today?”
Stiles looks up at him blankly.
Peter huffs at him, exasperated, then heads out to the kitchen to rustle up a snack. For both of them, if Stiles hasn’t had anything since the oatmeal he spooned down mechanically at breakfast. He checks the schedule on the fridge. Stiles is due for another one of his pink pills.
“Stiles!” he yells, not sure if he’ll even get a response, but a few minutes later the omega shuffles into the kitchen and stands waiting.
“Do you eat scrambled eggs?” Peter asks him.
Stiles mumbles something that Peter decides to take as an affirmative.
“Sit down at the table and wait,” Peter tells him.
By the time Peter has whipped up some eggs, Stiles is blinking around the kitchen. His gaze might be the sharpest Peter has seen yet, but that doesn’t count for much. He still looks as slow as a frozen creek.
Peter sets a plate of eggs in front of him, and a cup of milk. He crosses back to the sink to fetch one of the pink pills. He shakes one out onto his palm and holds it out for Stiles.
Stiles closes his mouth like a guppy.
“No,” Peter says firmly. “Open.”
Stiles’s mouth is a thin line.
Peter sighs. He grips Stiles’s jaw with his free hand, digging his thumb into the hinge. Stiles makes a small sound of surprise, and opens his mouth reflexively. Peter shoves the pill in, clamps his jaw shut, and tilts his head back roughly until Stiles swallows.
When Peter sits down opposite him, Stiles is still blinking in surprise.
“I worked at an animal shelter when I was in high school,” Peter tells him. “If I can worm a cat, you’re no challenge. Drink your milk.”
“A-alpha.” Stiles’s amber eyes shine. He blinks slowly. “Pom— pomóż mi.”
“Wonderful,” Peter says. “And now you’re speaking gibberish.”
“Hel...” Stiles mumbles. “’pha.”
“Drink your milk, omega,” Peter says sternly. “And eat your eggs.”
Stiles eats painstakingly slowly. Peter’s finished before Stiles has put away even a quarter of his eggs. Peter leaves him, sets his plate in the sink, and goes to get a start on his marking.
The afternoon shadows lengthen and soften as dusk approaches. Peter texts Chris a few times, wrangles a promise of takeout for dinner and a blowjob. It’s so quiet that he almost forgets Stiles is in the apartment as well until, some time later, he hears the shower. He hopes the omega is smart enough to shower without giving himself third degree burns, or leaving water all over the bathroom. Both, in Peter’s opinion, would be equally tiresome.
When Peter was seventeen and somehow scored an invitation to Chris’s stag night—okay, so he might have made out with Chris’s beta cousin—he decided then and there that he was going to have him. Like he was a soap opera villain. I will have Christopher Argent if it’s the last thing I do! He’d thought it would be funny at first. Seducing Gerard Argent’s alpha son, and laughing at the idea of Gerard finding out and heaving a literal heart attack. Sadly, the old man has proven himself to be tough as nails on the health front.
And Chris, bless his low tolerance for tequila shots, had made it very easy to be seduced. Chris had followed Peter into the bathroom, Peter had basically taunted him into kissing him, which ended up with Peter giving Chris a handjob while Chris had licked desperately across all the skin he could reach after half shoving Peter’s shirt off his shoulders. It had been frantic and messy and hot, and somehow Peter had fallen in love.
He certainly hadn’t been expecting that. And, at seventeen, he’d had no idea how to even begin unpacking those sorts of feelings. Now, twenty years later, he still doesn’t think he has a handle on them. He still can’t believe they’re here, not really. This is everything Peter had always wanted.
Chris is his mate.
In his teenage fantasies there had been no ex-mate of Chris’s, and no daughter. And there was certainly no omega. But still. It’s more than Peter had hoped. Well, not hoped. He’s spent twenty years hoping, and hoping is a fool’s game. Being mated to Chris is more than he ever expected to happen and, really, Gerard could have made it much harder for them.
The omega is just the price they have to pay to be together, and Peter is more than willing to pay it.
Peter waits a few minutes after the shower cuts out, and then goes to inspect the bathroom. There are a few foot-sized puddles on the tiles, but nothing Peter can’t clean up by sweeping the bath mat over them. He checks Stiles’s bedroom next, and finds the omega lying on the bed blinking up at the ceiling. He’s wearing a pair of sweat pants and nothing else.
“Stiles?” Peter asks.
Stiles twitches but doesn’t move.
“Those drugs sure do a number on you, don’t they?” He almost feels sorry for the kid, until he remembers the litany of disorders Stiles has been diagnosed with. Stiles on drugs might be pathetic, but Stiles off drugs? That’s a nightmare Peter hasn’t signed up for.
“Chris is bringing takeout,” he says at last. “Can you eat again?”
Stiles closes his eyes.
Well then. Peter supposes that answers that.
He pulls the door shut when he leaves.
Chris looks tired when he gets home, but he’s loaded up with Thai takeout.
“Good alpha,” Peter teases. “An excellent provider!”
“Yes, Peter,” Chris says, rolling his eyes. “I hunted down the Pad Thai myself.”
“Mmm,” Peter says, setting out plates. “Did you have to track it far? Did it put up a fight?”
Chris gives a wan smile.
“Bad day?” Peter asks him, hooking his fingers through the belt loops on Chris’s jeans and reeling him in for a quick kiss. What? He’s been domesticated apparently, and has the official paperwork to prove it.
“Not great,” Chris says, spooning some noodles onto a plate. “How did it go with Talia?”
“She’ll get over it,” Peter says. His sister is nothing if not eminently practical. “What happened with your day?”
“That tender to supply the Modoc County Sheriff’s Department?” Chris asks. “I didn’t get it.”
“I’m sorry,” Peter says sincerely. He knows the state of Chris’s finances. He knows that while he brings in more money than Peter’s modest wage, he gets frustrated that he can’t be earning even more, particularly when Gerard’s hold on him—or at least on Allison—is largely financial. Peter also knows that Chris is proud of the business he’s built from the ground up, and that he hates it when he misses an opportunity to do better. “But now you can start putting together a proposal for Beacon Hills, right?”
“That tender isn’t out yet,” Chris says, but his mouth quirks in a quick smile.
“Benefits of being the mayor’s little brother,” Peter tells him smugly. “I know she’s going to approve the department’s request in the next budget, so I know they’ll be putting one out soon.”
“That’s called nepotism,” Chris mutters.
“Nonsense,” Peter says. “It’s only nepotism if I use my influence to get you the tender. Which I won’t, because I have no influence at all with Talia. The woman refuses to be pressured. Or bribed. I’ve been trying since childhood.”
“I’ll bet you have,” Chris says, fondness tempering his tone. “And she’s really okay with… with Stiles?”
“Nobody is okay with Stiles,” Peter says frankly. “But I’m sure there’s a part of her that’s glad you’ve made me an honest man at last.”
“Huh,” Chris says. “I’m pretty sure we only signed a mating contract, Peter. We didn’t get you a personality transplant.”
“Asshole,” Peter tells him with a grin.
Chris’s smile is genuine this time. He knows how to translate Peter’s snark. And asshole has always meant I love you.
They eat dinner together in front of the television and, if not for the fact that Peter hears the toilet flush once, he could almost pretend there was nobody else here at all.
Bonus chapter because I wrote 2 today!
And hopefully "pomóż mi" is "help me" in Polish.
Stiles doesn’t like his pills. He doesn’t remember why he doesn’t like them though. He doesn’t remember much at all. This bed is a different bed. It’s bigger than the one in… the one in the other place. It’s nicer, and it has a nice pillow. Stiles thinks vaguely that he should feel happy about that, but he doesn’t remember how happy feels. He doesn’t remember how anything feels.
He can do texture. Sometimes he sits on the bed and runs his fingers over the comforter for a long time. He doesn’t know if it’s minutes or hours. It’s not important. The comforter is soft. It’s brown. He likes it. Maybe it’s a reward for doing something right.
He remembers, or he thinks he remembers, a time when he didn’t do the right thing. When he was loud, when the world was sharp, but he’s good now. There aren’t any more hard edges. Everything is soft and smooth and floaty.
Except he doesn’t like his pills.
The orderlies used to give him his pills. Stiles doesn’t remember their names or their faces. He remembers them as walls of beige. He remembers the feel of their scratchy uniforms against his skin when they held him down sometimes, when they buckled him into the restraints. When he wasn’t being good. Or maybe he just dreamed it.
There was another boy at the center. He was so pretty. Stiles was drawn to him, but not because of that. Because when the boy told him things, Stiles listened. The boy told him how to hide the pills under his tongue, or how to throw them up after.
The boy told him secrets. Stiles doesn’t remember what they were, but he remembers the way they felt like cold water on his skin. Like something shocking.
Then, one day, the boy was gone and there was nobody there to tell him not to take the pills.
Stiles takes his pills now. He’s good now.
Stiles has an alpha.
Stiles has two alphas, he thinks, but he’s not sure. Sometimes he hears their voices telling him what to do. To eat. To drink. To open his mouth for his pills. He doesn’t feel what he’s supposed to. From when he was learning, he thinks he remembers that he’s supposed to do things. He’s supposed to cook and clean and serve. He’s supposed to feel a thrill when he does those things, or when they do things to him, but Stiles has forgotten how to feel anything.
But it’s okay.
The comforter is soft and warm.
The tiles in the bathroom are smooth and nice.
And the pills don’t taste that bad.
It’s dark when Stiles wakes up, his bladder full. He climbs out of bed and goes to the bathroom. His feet remember the way but, on his way back to bed, he hears noises in the living room and wonders if the TV is on. Stiles likes TV. He shuffles down the hallway, feet scuffing on the carpet, and sees.
The one with the graying beard—Chris, his name is Chris—has the other one bent over the back of the couch, and they’re fucking. Stiles feels a distant jolt of surprise, but the ripples barely reach him. Not really. He stands there, jaw hanging open, while a vague sense of disquiet settles over him.
That’s not what alphas are supposed to do.
That’s Stiles’s job, isn’t it? Cooking and cleaning and being fucked.
The other alpha—Peter—is laughing. Laughing between moans as Chris fucks into him. Skin slaps against skin, and Stiles brushes a hand over the front of his sweat pants but doesn’t feel anything. He used to, he thinks. His dick used to get hard at the thought of an alpha taking him, claiming him, mating him so good he’d never want anyone else.
Stiles’s gaze drifts to the carpet, and then he forgets what he’s even doing there.
He wanders back to bed.
It rains one day, and Stiles watches the droplets slide down the window of his bedroom. It’s pretty.
Alpha Chris calls him for dinner, and makes him take his pill.
Stiles tries to tell him about the rain, but his words don’t come out right, and then he doesn’t remember what he was trying to say anyway.
His thoughts drift away in a haze.
The tiles in the kitchen are a marbled pattern. One of them looks like a face. The first time Stiles sees it, he sucks in a surprised breath.
“Stiles?” Alpha Chris asks him. “Are you okay?”
No, he never…
He never saw faces before. He remembers that. He remembers telling them that, that he never hallucinated, but maybe he did, and maybe what he thinks of as his memories are the hallucinations instead. Because there’s a face. There’s a face in the tiles on the floor, and it’s suddenly terrifying.
“No,” he mumbles, and there’s a sudden crash as a plate tumbles to the floor and shatters, and did he do that? His heart freezes, and panic squeezes his chest. “It’s looking. Looking.”
There’s a face, and there’s a broken plate and food spilled everywhere, and he needs help. He needs…
Those are the wrong words. Wrong. Nobody here understands them. There was someone once who… someone.
The face on the floor is still staring up at him, and Stiles flails backward out of his chair.
“Dad, pomóż mi!”
The pills don’t make the face on the floor go away.
It’s still there the next time Stiles comes into the kitchen.
He remembers something. Something about the way brains arrange things into faces. There’s a word for it. There’s a reason for it. Something evolutionary. Something twisted up in his DNA.
And the pills didn’t make the face go away, so it’s not a hallucination.
“The face,” he manages, and points a shaking finger at it. “The floor.”
Alpha Peter makes an angry sound, but then it fades away.
“I suppose so,” he says at last. “If you squint.”
The next time Stiles comes into the kitchen there’s a mat over the tiles.
That’s not what he wanted, is it? That’s not what was important.
The face is real.
He’s not hallucinating.
That’s what he told them back at the other place.
He thinks that’s what he told them.
Stiles doesn’t know if he’s a good omega or not. His alphas don’t use him the way a good omega is supposed to be used. Once he tries to clean the kitchen and Alpha Peter tells him to go away. Once he tries to present the way he learned in his classes at the center, and Alpha Chris tells him to go to bed.
“Mmm good?” he mumbles later.
Alpha Chris’s gray-blue eyes crinkle at the edges, and he pulls the comforter up over Stiles. “You’re good, Stiles. A good omega. We’re very happy with you.”
Stiles doesn’t know how that’s possible, but the words soothe him anyway.
He drifts off to sleep.
He’s numb. He can’t remember ever feeling any other way. Maybe there is no other way to feel. Maybe this is right. He sits on his bed and runs his hands over his comforter. It soothes him, like always. Touch soothes omegas. He doesn’t know if that’s something he learned at the center, or if it’s something he’s always known.
He remembers the touch of a callused hand. Remembers leaning into that touch. A big solid hand that cupped his jaw. Another one that scrubbed over his head, and made him feel warm and safe and right.
He remembers the word kiddo.
It makes him ache, for just a little while, before the numbness sneaks back in and claims him.
The scrape of his spoon against his plate is soft and jarring at the same time. Stiles does it again, just to listen to it one more time.
“Eat your breakfast, Stiles,” Alpha Chris says, his voice tempered with a smile. “Don’t just play with it.”
Stiles lifts his spoon to his mouth.
“You like him,” Alpha Peter says suddenly.
Stiles blinks up at them from his oatmeal.
“I like him,” Alpha Chris says, and then his expression morphs. “Jesus, Peter, not like that! He’s… he’s…”
The sudden silence is broken by crack of Alpha Peter opening one of the pill bottles, and the rattle of the pills inside.
“Open,” Alpha Peter says, and Stiles obeys. “I didn’t sign up to be a fucking nursemaid, you know.”
“Not now, Peter, please.”
Stiles swallows his pills and drifts.
He likes it here. It’s warm and safe, and his bed is very nice. Sometimes he watches TV, and half listens to his alphas talking in the background. They’re like TV noise. When Stiles tries to concentrate all their words slip out of reach, but when he lets himself drift just a little he can hear them again. He likes them.
It’s a lot nicer here than at the other place.
Kate promised it would be.
He’s not scared here. He’s not angry. He remembers those things like they happened to another person. Maybe they did. It doesn’t matter. It’s not important.
Sometimes he goes and sits on the kitchen floor and stares at the mat. Sometimes he wonders if the face is still there, or if it was ever there, and what it was supposed to mean. It wasn’t a real face, he thinks. It was an approximation of a face. It was like seeing animals in the clouds.
Stiles knows it’s important, but he doesn’t remember why.
He thinks of clouds instead, and wonders if he’ll ever see them again. Then he wonders if they were ever real as well, or if they’re just something he imagined once.
Stiles has lost something, he thinks, but when he tries to concentrate on what it is, he can’t. He blinks at the papers on Alpha Peter’s desk. He can read the words, but they don’t make any sense. They don’t mean anything. He tries again with the spines of the books on the shelves, and that same creeping feeling of loss encompasses him again.
The pills are bad.
Stiles doesn’t know where the thought comes from. He doesn’t know where any of his thoughts come from, or where they go again when he can’t hold them any longer.
There’s a little wooden carving of a wolf on the shelf. He picks it up and feels it. It’s smooth. He likes it. He puts it back in front of the framed photograph, and his gaze slides over the people smiling out at him.
It’s Alpha Peter. He has his arm around the shoulders of a young woman, and she’s smiling too. She’s wearing…
Stiles’s heartbeat stutters.
She’s wearing a khaki shirt with a badge on it. Just like…
Just like Dad.
Stiles screams and cries so much that Alpha Chris gives him two of the pink pills.
“No no no,” he mumbles, as Alpha Chris bundles him into his bed. “’pha, no! Help. Help me.”
“Shh, Stiles,” Alpha Chris says, and pries Stiles’s fingers free of the photo frame. “It’s okay. You’re okay.”
He sets the photo frame down, and holds Stiles wrists against the mattress until Stiles can’t fight him anymore. Until he can’t fight anything.
He cries himself to sleep.
Stiles wants so hard to be a good omega. He listens to his alphas, and he takes his pills, and he watches raindrops slide down the windowpane. He needs to be a good omega. That’s what they always told him. He needs to be good or nobody will want him.
He thinks he remembers a time when he laughed in their faces, but maybe that didn’t happen. Maybe none of it ever happened. Stiles can’t remember this morning. He can’t remember anything outside this precise moment in time.
He eats when they tell him.
He goes to bed when they tell him.
He takes all his pills.
Although Gerard Argent works out of Sacramento and Washington DC, he still tries to stay in Beacon Hills as much as possible. He insists on family dinners at least once a month. Chris won’t lie. He wishes they were less regular than that. And tonight’s? Shit. It’s going to be a doozey.
Like always, there’s a small knot of people at the front gates of Gerard’s house. A couple of the usual protestors with their homemade signs, their dreadlocks and their Goodwill clothes. They’re easily outnumbered by security though, and there’s no problem driving through the gate.
“I think I teach that one,” Peter murmurs, peering through the windows of the SUV and then flinching back abruptly as an egg smashes against the glass. “Well. Someone just got a D.”
Chris rolls his eyes. As if Peter would drop someone’s grade for protesting against Gerard.
“Is it always like this?” Peter asks, clutching the casserole dish more tightly as Chris drives slowly up the curved driveway toward the house.
“Usually there are a couple more of them,” Chris admits. “But it’s getting cold out.”
He’s never brought Peter over for dinner before. Why would he? Up until a few weeks ago Peter Hale was supposedly just an acquaintance of his. Certainly not the man he’s been sleeping with for the better part of two decades. But Gerard’s call earlier today made it clear that he wanted to meet Chris’s new mate. Mates.
In the back seat, Stiles is dozing. Even the egg didn’t shock him from his drug-induced stupor.
Yep. This is going to be a nightmare.
They pull up in front of the house, and Peter gets out of the car still clutching his potato bake and leaving Chris to deal with getting Stiles out. Getting him out is easier than getting him in. Once the seatbelt’s off him, gravity does most of the work.
“Be good,” Chris reminds him in a low voice, and Stiles nods. Chris pretends not to notice the way Peter’s shoulders stiffen as he squeezes Stiles on the arm.
The housekeeper lets them in, takes Peter’s casserole dish with a look of faint surprise, and shows them through to the living room, because Gerard always insists on drinks and conversation before dinner.
“Chris!” Kate exclaims when they arrive in the doorway. “Hello, Peter. And Stiles.”
Chris gives Kate a quick hug while Peter murmurs something suspiciously polite, and Stiles just stares at the floor.
“Chris,” Gerard says gruffly, gesturing to the empty couch. “Why don’t you all take a seat, hmm?”
Chris sits, with Peter beside him. He leaves room for Stiles, and Stiles shuffles forward. Before he has a chance to sit though, Kate puts a hand on his shoulder. The gentle pressure forces him to his knees in front of the sofa.
Chris rankles, and Peter opens his mouth to say something, but Kate shoots them both a warning glance.
Right, Chris thinks bitterly. A traditional omega. He remembers that Victoria knelt like this the first time she met Gerard, before familiarity led to the relaxation of that particularly unsettling tradition. Gerard is the head of Chris’s family. The Alpha of Stiles’s alpha, and so Stiles must kneel.
“How’s he settling in?” Kate asks, going to fix their drinks.
“Fine,” Chris says.
“If we allow certain definitions of fine,” Peter quips.
Kate ignores that. “See, Dad?” she asks proudly. “I told you he’d suit them.”
“He’ll do,” Gerard says, and Chris is surprised to see his father actually smiling at Stiles, as though he’s pleased to have him here. As though he even believes in the fantasy relationship he’s crafted here, and he really is able to accept Chris and Peter now, because of Stiles.
Chris exchanges a glance with Peter and sees his own cautious optimism reflected there.
“He’s not my type,” Gerard says, “but he has a certain charm about him, I suppose. It’s almost a shame he’s useless for breeding. He’d make pretty babies.”
Stiles gazes up at him.
“Well, he is,” Chris says firmly. “And we’re not doing that.”
“Are you getting clucky in your old age, Dad?” Kate teases to break the sudden tension.
Gerard barks out a laugh, and accepts the drink she presses into his hand. “No, no. I think you two still keep me busy enough, don’t you?”
Chris forces a smile, and only relaxes slightly when Peter reaches out and curls their fingers together.
“Now then,” Gerard says. “I think we should get the photographer in here before dinner.”
“The what?” Peter asks tightly.
“The photographer,” Gerard says with a smile. “I want to get a few pictures of the three of you to put on the website, to show my support.”
“Dad, that’s not—”
“Of course it’s necessary,” Gerard cuts in. “It’ll look good, for all of us.”
“Dad,” Kate says, raising her eyebrows. “I don’t think it’s a good idea to use Stiles for that. He can’t even smile. It’ll look…” She makes a face.
“Like he’s a drugged-out zombie incapable of giving his clear and explicit consent?” Peter asks archly. “Even your PR team might have trouble spinning that one, Senator.”
Chris tenses, but Gerard only laughs again.
“Fine, fine,” he says. “You Hales, hmm? Such progressives, with all your talk about consent. You know omegas aren’t capable of giving consent, or refusing. It’s why they need alphas to look after them, Peter. If it were up to omegas, they’d all be entirely at the mercy of their hormones and fucking for free at truck stops. With the right guidance they’re sweet and docile, but without it they’re just dirty little holes.”
Peter squares his shoulders. “Saints or whores, huh, with nothing in between? No complexity. No agency. Just things. Objects.”
Gerard’s smile vanishes as his expression hardens.
Kate cuts in. “I’m afraid you can’t fight the science, Peter,” she says, keeping her tone light. “Omegas are extremely weak-minded and easy to influence. The laws that you think are archaic are in place for their protection.”
“Besides,” Gerard says. “For a man who’s suddenly championing the rights of omegas, you do realize you haven’t looked at Stiles once tonight?” He grins, and swirls his drink in the bottom of his glass. “It’s almost like you think of him as… what was it? An object.”
Chris expects fireworks, but Peter only smiles tightly and leans back.
“Well,” he says at last, “you’ve got me there, Senator.”
Gerard laughs and motions for Kate to pour Peter another drink.
Kate catches Chris on his way to the bathroom.
“I misjudged Peter,” she tells him. “He clearly cares for you a lot.”
“He wouldn’t be here if he didn’t,” Chris mutters.
“I see that now,” Kate says, smiling slightly. “Look, I know how overbearing Dad is, but try not to let him get to you, okay?”
“It’s not me I’m worried about,” Chris says.
“I love you, you know,” Peter says in a tight voice as they drive home again. The protestors at the gate have gone. “I will never not love you.”
Chris throws him an almost-panicked look. “Why do I hear a ‘but’ coming?”
“You said butt,” Peter says with a grin.
From the back seat, Stiles lets out a little snort.
Peter raises his eyebrows, and turns around to look at him. “Stiles? You like my butt jokes?”
There’s no answer.
“Nope,” Peter says, settling back into his seat. “He’s gone again.”
Chris stops at a red light. “You will never not love me, but?”
“But I detest your father and everything he stands for,” Peter says mildly. “And that’s not just the liberal arts college graduate SJW talking. That’s me. That’s who I was before I was all those other things. That’s the kid who got a funny feeling in his tummy when he played wrestling games with the other alpha kids. The kid who was afraid of what it meant when he had wet dreams about the alpha down the street. The kid who spent years trying to hide the things he felt even from himself. I hate your father and people like him because he made me hate myself first.”
Chris reaches out and links their fingers together.
“If I didn’t love you, I would have been standing with those protestors tonight,” Peter continues. “But, you know, better dressed.”
Chris snorts at that.
“But I do love you, and I will always love you, and the only reason I grit my teeth and play nice with that man is because I know he still has the power to make you hate yourself too.”
It’s rare for Peter to be so honest about the way he feels.
“Please don’t make me go to any more family dinners,” Peter says at last. “Unless it’s Christmas or Thanksgiving or a special occasion and I have to go.”
“Okay,” Chris says, relief washing over him. “Deal.”
Back at the apartment, Chris watches as Peter helps get Stiles ready for bed. Peter seems more gentle with him now, more patient, and more forgiving of last week’s inexplicable tantrum. He keeps his tone even, reminding Stiles to have his shower, to brush his teeth, to take his pills. Chris knows it has nothing to do with Stiles, per se, and everything to do with the way Stiles knelt all throughout dinner.
“There we go,” he says as Stiles obediently swallows his pills. “Good boy.”
“Mmm good?” Stiles looks at him hopefully.
Peter’s smile doesn’t reach his eyes. “Yes, Stiles. You’re very good.”
“Oh look,” Peter says later, shifting his laptop so that Chris can see the screen. “Your father’s put out a statement about our mating. Again.” He scowls and begins to read aloud. “Senator Argent extends his full support to his son Christopher Argent, and to Peter Hale in their decision to jointly mate with an omega. The Senator believes that traditional families are the cornerstone of this great nation.” He slams his laptop shut. “He means families that can breed. Which is a pointless distinction anyway, because hello medical science. Hello surrogacy. Hello adoption. Hello fucking bigotry.”
Chris undresses slowly. “Uh huh.”
“What?” Peter asks. “Uh huh? Uh huh what?”
Peter’s only ranting about this now because he couldn’t do it in Gerard’s presence, but to call him on it will only make things worse.
“I love you too,” Chris says instead.
“I didn’t say it before in the car. But I love you too.” Chris unbuttons his shirt. “You’re my mate, and not because some piece of paper says so, not because including Stiles in all this makes it legitimate, but because it’s what we decided. What the public thinks, or the government thinks, or my father thinks… those things don’t matter. What matters is us.”
Peter sets his laptop on the bedside table and slumps back against the pillows. “I grew up in a political family, Chris, I know what it means to have a public image, but your family… Jesus. Your father takes it to a whole other level. All my parents used to say was don’t get caught smoking pot at the local Carols by Candlelight.”
“That seems oddly specific,” Chris comments.
“It happened once,” Peter says. “Okay, twice. Did you know Christmas carols are only barely tolerable if you’re stoned? But the lights look amazing. My dad was mayor back then, and my uncle was sheriff. I was grounded for months.”
“I didn’t know you were such a bad seed.”
“Oh, I was the worst of all the seeds,” Peter says with a smile. “Thank God juvenile records are sealed, right? Of course, it’s Beacon Hills. Everyone still knew. My dad said I almost tanked his entire re-election campaign, but I think he was underestimating the power of the sympathetic parent vote.”
Chris shucks off his jeans, and climbs into bed beside Peter.
Peter shifts closer, and rests his head on Chris’s chest.
“I hate your father,” he whispers, like it’s a secret he’s been keeping, a moonlight confessional instead of something he happily yells from the mountaintop on a daily basis.
Chris doesn’t laugh though. He cards his fingers through Peter’s hair. “I know.”
And thinks, for the first time in a long time, Me too.
And as of today I'm back at work, so I'll try to update at least once every 24 hours, but probably not any faster.
Of all his nieces, Cora is definitely Peter’s favorite. She’s sharp, sarcastic, and gives the impression she could kill a man with only the power of her stare. It’s all of the qualities Peter admires in himself, actually.
“So,” Cora announces when she joins him at his favorite table at his favorite coffee place, “tell me everything.”
“No,” Peter says mildly, and rolls his eyes at her glare. “It’s a grubby little situation that we’re making the best of. That’s all you need to know.”
“So I don’t get to meet your mysterious omega mate?”
And wouldn’t that be depressing? Peter doesn’t think he’d like the way Cora would look at him if she saw Stiles. As though Peter’s somehow responsible for the way he is, instead of just being guilty by association. He reminds himself of the Department of Omega Welfare though, and of the sheer fucking awfulness of the place. Stiles is better off with him and Chris and, as Kate says, better off than aging out of the system and being expected to function on his own. He’d be dead in a month.
“No,” Peter tells her. “Let it go, sweetpea, please.”
Cora flushes a little at both the term of endearment, and the sincerity in his voice. She pulls a few sachets of sugar out of the caddy in the middle of the table—Peter is suddenly struck by the memory of her grabbing and eating as many as she could, paper and all, when she was a toddler—and empties them into her coffee.
“Okay,” she says. “So, um, nice weather.”
“Very subtle,” Peter smirks.
“Right?” Cora asks. “I’m the subtlest. Learned it from you.”
“There’s my good little hellraiser,” Peter says.
“So,” Cora says at last. “If I just happened to ask you for money, what would you say?”
“I’d ask what you needed it for,” Peter says, narrowing his eyes. “And I’d wonder why you weren’t asking your parents, or your siblings. And then I’d secretly fret that you needed an abortion, and wondered if I was such a failure as an uncle that you couldn’t tell me that without fear of being judged.”
Cora blinks at him. “That’s very specific, and not at all what I want it for.”
“Because you’re not having sex with anyone,” Peter tells her.
Cora snorts. “Whatever you say, Uncle Peter.”
Cora is a beta, but she’s as opinionated and pushy as any stereotypical alpha. Just another reason Peter hates it when personality traits are tied to gender. Betas are supposed to be followers. Solid, dependable, but not leaders. It’s total rubbish, naturally, but at least unlike omegas—docile, weak, stupid and biddable—it hasn’t been written into legislation. Cora might face prejudices if she ever wants to be a CEO or a senator or an officer in the military or any other traditional leadership role, but no law can prohibit her from trying.
Peter smiles. “How much do you need?”
“Um, four hundred?”
“Or whatever you can spare,” she tells him hurriedly.
“Just tell me it’s not for drugs, or something else dangerous.”
Cora thinks a little too long before answering. “It’s not.”
“Did you just lie to me, sweetpea?”
“The money’s not for me, Peter,” she says, her dark eyes suddenly wide and pleading. “It’s for someone who needs it. And it’s the right thing to do.”
Peter sighs, but he was never going to say no. It’s why she asked. “Fine. We all have our secrets, don’t we?”
“We should totally make that our family motto,” she tells him, biting her bottom lip and smiling.
“Please. Your brother and sister are open books. You’re the mysterious one.”
The bells above the coffee shop door jangle merrily, and Peter glances over to see his other favorite niece arriving. She’s in uniform, her hair pulled back in a way that makes her look all business. She walks inside with that easy swagger all cops develop.
“I remember when nobody knew I drank my coffee here,” Peter says with a sigh.
Cora turns around, and waves at Laura.
Laura brightens, smiles, and heads for the counter to place her order. She joins them quickly—Laura never orders anything more complicated than black coffee—and Cora drags her bag off the spare seat so there’s room for her big sister to sit. A few papers scatter when she sets her bag on the floor, and Peter leans down to pick up the one that’s landed near his foot.
It’s a flyer of some sort. He’s seen them posted around the campus of the community college: FUCK THE STATE. He’s seen security take them down again, and bag them up to be handed over to the police and checked for prints. Because there is student activism and there is criminal activity, and Peter knows where FTS stands.
What the hell is his sweetpea mixed up in now?
Cora, ducking down to grab the papers, meets his gaze wide-eyed.
Suddenly her request for money seems more worrisome than he at first thought.
Peter folds the paper over and passes it back to Cora, and then straightens up. “And how are you today, Laura?”
Laura sips her coffee. “I’m good. How are you? How are the mates?”
“They are both well, and that’s all I’ll be saying on the matter,” Peter informs her.
“Mom wants to invite all of you to dinner,” Laura tells him. “This weekend.”
“That’s not going to happen,” Peter tells her. “Not this weekend, and maybe not for a long while.”
It’s not like Talia would force Stiles to kneel when she met him, but Peter doesn’t want his family to meet him. Because obviously he and Chris are exploiting some mentally ill teenage omega for the sake of their relationship. Peter would rather come to terms with that himself before he subjects himself to his family’s collective judgment.
“Well, I told her I’d try,” Laura says with a shrug. She jiggles her leg and checks her watch.
“Don’t let us keep you,” Peter tells her.
“I’m just excited,” she says, smiling broadly. “Guess who’s getting out of hospital today?”
Peter wracks his brain.
“John,” Laura says, and rolls her eyes at his blank look. “Sheriff Stilinski? My boss? The guy who was shot eight months ago?”
Right. Peter remembers reading something about that on the front page of the paper before immediately turning to the arts section. “Oh, that’s good news.”
“Yeah.” Laura draws a breath. “He was pretty messed up. He still is, I think, but he’s up and walking again, and the doctors say his speech is back, so… well, he’s got a long road ahead, I guess, but he can start putting his life back together. Jordan and I are going over to his place later to make sure he’s got everything he needs.”
“Jordan,” Cora sing-songs and waggles her eyebrows.
“Shut up,” Laura says, her face going red. Her phone beeps in her pocket, and she pulls it out. “That’s Jordan now. Gotta go. Later, bitches.”
Bitches, Peter mouths to Cora, and Cora laughs.
They both wait until Laura’s left the shop.
“About the—” Peter begins.
“I found it at school,” Cora says, cutting him off quickly. “It’s nothing, okay? I was just going to check out their website or whatever.”
“Don’t get mixed up in that nonsense, Cora,” Peter cautions her.
“Nonsense?” Cora narrows her eyes at him. “What, you think they’re wrong? You’re the one who taught me that gender counts for shit, Peter.”
“And that’s true,” Peter tells her. “But I don’t think the way to get that message across is to set fire to government property and endanger innocent people.”
“They haven’t hurt anyone,” Cora says mulishly.
“And is that good planning or good luck?” Peter asks her. “Cora, don’t get involved, please.”
Cora is silent for a long moment, and then she nods. “I won’t. I promise.”
God, he hopes that’s not a lie.
When Peter arrives at campus later in the morning, he spots a few more FTS flyers that have appeared overnight. He worries that he should have said more to Cora, that he should speak to Talia. Because yes, FTS has the right politics as far as Peter is concerned. All persons, regardless of gender, should have the same legal rights and protections. But last month someone set fire to a Department of Omega Welfare car. Next month, what if there’s someone inside it? Peter doesn’t want Cora involved in anything like that. It’s a no-win fight. Violence and property damage does not gain the cause the allies they need and whoever is behind the FTS will end up in prison so fast his head will spin, Peter is sure.
Peter’s still in a somber mood when he reaches the teachers’ lounge. The coffee here is terrible, but someone has made macaroons, so Peter takes one, sits on the nearest couch, and wonders what stupid questions his students will ask today. Well, he thinks students, but he means Blake. Lovely boy, but dumb as a box of rocks.
The couch dips as someone sits down beside him, and Peter glances over. “Alan,” he says with a nod.
He hates sharing this lounge with the behavioral sciences crowd. Probably psychoanalyzing him behind his back.
“Peter,” Alan Deaton says with a smile and a nod. “How are you?”
“My mother?” Peter asks. “Dead, I’m afraid.”
“As dead as that joke,” Deaton tells him. “Congratulations, by the way, on your mating.”
“Thanks.” Peter wonders if he should snaffle another macaroon.
“How are you finding mated life?” Deaton asks him.
“You know, the problem when psychologists ask questions like that is that I don’t know if you’re being polite or if you really want to know.”
“Well, I was just being polite,” Deaton says with a slight smile. “But now I’m curious.”
“It’s an adjustment period,” Peter tells him. “We are all, after all, works in progress.”
“And some of us are more full of shit than others,” Deaton agrees.
Peter snorts out a laugh. Okay, so he hates most of the behavioral sciences crowd, except for Deaton. And also, he trusts Deaton. Deaton’s known him for over ten years now, and he’s one of the few people who knew about Peter’s relationship with Chris. Peter won’t call what happened a breakdown exactly, but it was a near thing and Deaton helped him through it. He lowers his voice. “The omega was just for appearances.”
“I figured,” Deaton says mildly. “It can’t be easy, trying to get the approval of a man like Gerard Argent.”
“I have dreams that I lock him in a small box and set it on fire,” Peter says.
Deaton raises his eyebrows. “I can’t tell if you’re lying or not.”
“At this point, me neither.”
“Do you want some advice, Peter?” Deaton asks.
“Don’t let this omega ruin your relationship with Chris,” Deaton tells him quietly. “But don’t ignore the omega either. I don’t know what sort of arrangement you have, but, whether you like it or not, you’re now in a triad. Whether your relationship with the omega is intimate or—”
“Definitely not,” Peter cuts in.
“Okay, but it’s still a relationship. And you need to cultivate it and make it as healthy as possible, whether it’s a business relationship, or friendship, or whatever form it takes.”
“How about near-catatonic mental patient and unwilling carer?” Peter asks him in an undertone.
“That…” Deaton raises his eyebrows, and looks as close to shocked as he ever gets. “That is not what I was expecting you to say at all.”
“I’m full of surprises,” Peter tells him with a sigh.
Deaton is silent for a moment, forehead creased. Then he leans forward. “Peter, why is your omega near-catatonic?”
“He has all sorts of disorders and is on a shitload of drugs that the Department of Omega Welfare gave us,” Peter says. “Um, doxa-something, and, hell, I can’t remember the rest.”
“Send me the list,” Deaton says, and claps him on the shoulder. “I’ll look into it for you.”
“Your advice always ends up making me do something,” Peter grouses.
“Well, you are a work in progress,” Deaton reminds him. “The word work is right there.”
“You’re the most annoying person I know,” Peter mutters.
That actually pulls a smile out of Deaton. “The feeling is very mutual.”
On Wednesday morning Chris gets a call from Kate asking him to meet her at Gerard’s house. Chris seriously thinks about coming up with some excuse, but she promises him it’s work-related, and that she’s got the scoop on the Department wanting to arm their security guards, and possibly train them.
“Go,” Peter says, waving him away. “I’ll make sure Stiles eats his breakfast.”
Chris snatches a piece of toast from Peter’s plate, and frowns at the collection of pill containers that have somehow migrated from beside the sink to the table. “What are you doing?”
“Hmm?” Peter turns around from the coffee maker. “Oh. I was talking to Alan Deaton about Stiles, and he was interested in what meds he’s on. I’m making a list.”
Stiles looks up from where he’s sitting at the table, his forehead crinkled. He holds a finger up and traces a pattern in the air. “Rain?”
“This is California, Stiles. We don’t have rain. I think it’s the sprinkler system,” Peter says. “It hits your window.”
“It’s a drought,” Stiles says, and pauses suddenly.
Chris exchanges a look with Peter. Three little words, but they’re probably the most coherent thing they’ve heard out of Stiles since he arrived. He watches as Peter crosses to the table and picks up one of the pill containers.
Stiles opens his mouth obediently.
Peter hesitates for a moment before popping a pill in his mouth.
Something like unease twists in Chris’s stomach.
“Go,” Peter tells him again, shaking his head. “You don’t want to keep dear old dad waiting.”
“He probably won’t even be there,” Chris says, but it’s more of a wish than anything certain.
Kate is between places at the moment, so she’s been staying at the house. It’s certainly large enough that she and Gerard could avoid one another, and the staff, for days if they wanted. Chris finds her in the kitchen, still wearing her pajama pants and a tank top, drinking juice out of the carton.
“Are you twelve?” he asks, and smiles when she splutters.
“Chris,” she croaks. “Way to sneak up on a girl.”
“Shouldn’t you be at work?” he asks her. “And dressed?”
“I was up late,” she says, waving her hand vaguely. “I’ve got a project that’s killing me, so I’m taking the day off. Perks of being the boss.”
Chris wouldn’t know. He might be the boss, but it’s a one man show. If he doesn’t turn up, he doesn’t get paid.
“How’s Stiles?” Kate asks, setting the juice back in the refrigerator.
“Same as ever,” Chris says, but thinks of the way he spoke this morning. “Actually, he said a complete sentence today. Which is pretty amazing.”
Kate’s forehead creases. “Keep up with his meds,” she tells him, a warning tone creeping into her voice.
“You said he’s not dangerous.”
“Not to others,” Kate says. “But he’s delusional, and he has vivid hallucinations. He’s a danger to himself. We had him on suicide watch for days when he was first brought in.”
“You want to tell me about that?” Chris says. “It might help to know what we’re dealing with.”
“There’s not much to tell,” Kate says. “He was made a ward of the state because his father was incapable of looking after him. He exhibited severe mental health issues, and he’s been medicated ever since.” A shadow passes over her face. “I just don’t want to see him get hurt, you know?”
Chris feels warmth flood through him. Kate’s not usually as forthcoming about her feelings. A legacy of their father, he thinks, that they both inherited. He nods. “Yeah.” He clears his throat. “So, you guys are arming yourselves over at the Department now?”
“Just the security guards,” Kate says. “Because of all this FTS bullshit. You’ve heard about them?”
Chris nods again. Whether it’s rising crime stats or campaigns of civil disobedience, Chris keeps up to date with threats to public safety. It pays to, in his job. “Just some local shit stirrers, right? Until they actually hurt someone.”
“Right. So the government is looking for someone who can not only supply our guards with firearms and other tactical gear, but also train them.” Kate grins. “And I happen to know just the guy for the job.”
“I’ll put in a bid for the tender when it’s out,” Chris says, pleased. A state government contract could be just what he needs to finally start expanding, rather than picking up work piecemeal from local law enforcement agencies scattered across the region. It’s the training aspect that intrigues him. He’s wanted to get into tactical training for a while now, and build up his reputation as more than just a supplier. He’s already got a shortlist of guys to build a team. Ex-cops and vets mostly. Good guys.
“It should be posted next Monday,” Kate says. She digs a USB out of the pocket of her pajama pants and hands it to him. “But I wanted you to get a head start. This is the proposal so far.”
Chris takes it. “Thanks, Kate.”
“Hey, gotta look out for my big brother,” she tells him with a wink.
“I appreciate that. Really.”
Her grin broadens. “Okay, you big lug. Now get back out there and do whatever it is you do. I’ve got to be at my massage place in an hour, and I should probably shower first.”
“Probably,” Chris agrees, and her laughter chases him out of the kitchen.
Chris is just leaving as another car pulls up. A large man, dark-haired, climbs out of the driver’s seat and opens the back door for his passenger. A familiar figure steps out.
He’s a man with sharp edges and sharper suits.
He’s something to do with big pharma, Chris thinks, but he’s not great on the details. All he knows is that Deucalion bankrolled Gerard’s last campaign with some fairly astronomical donations. Chris isn’t sure how much, exactly, but he’s seen the way his father acts around Deucalion, and he knows it would have taken a lot of money to turn Gerard into a sycophant.
Chris really is in the wrong business, isn’t he? He can’t even pay his daughter’s college fees on his own.
He pulls out past the gate, and security closes it behind him again. There aren’t any protestors here today, but one of them has left a sign facedown in the street.
Chris pulls away, and heads for home.
“Did nobody go to work today?” Chris asks when he steps inside the apartment and finds Peter sprawled on the couch with his feet on the coffee table. Stiles is sitting on the other end of the couch, curled up and hugging his knees. Peter’s watching TV. Stiles is watching…nothing. His blank gaze is fixed somewhere in the middle distance.
“Bomb threat on campus,” Peter tells him cheerily. “I’m all yours for the day.”
Chris smiles. “I actually have work to do, Peter.”
“Do it later,” Peter says. “Come and sit. Come on.”
Chris lets himself be cajoled. It’s not really a battle he wants to fight. Not when Peter’s right there, on the couch, and he’s wearing a smirk. A part of Chris still can’t believe they have this, that he’s allowed to touch Peter, to kiss him, without having to look over his shoulder every other second. So much of their relationship has been hidden in dark corners and anonymous motel rooms. So much of it has been obscured by lies and alibis.
Chris sits on the couch between Peter and Stiles. Peter leans into him.
So much of Peter was hard angles and cutting one-liners when the thing they had was secret. Peter is softer now, or at least Chris is in a place where Peter allows him to see his gentler side. Neither of them have to wear their masks anymore.
Peter reaches out and takes Chris’s face between his hands. His fingers scrape against Chris’s beard, and he smiles. He kisses him then, and nips and goads, and bites Chris’s lower lip. Chris rumbles out his displeasure—not at the sting of pain, but at the teasing—and curls his hand around the back of Peter’s neck to hold him in place until he gets the kiss he wants: wet and open and filthy. It leaves them both a little breathless.
Chris has forgotten Stiles is even there until the couch shifts, and he hears the thump of Stiles’s knees hitting the floor.
Peter pulls back, face flushed. “What is he…?”
Stiles shuffles closer to them on his knees, then leans down and presses his forehead against Chris’s knee.
Chris exchanges a look with Peter, and puts his hand on Stiles’s head. His bristly hair is softer than it looks. Chris rubs his thumb against the ridge of bone behind Stiles’s ear, and Stiles’s shoulders shake.
“Is he crying?” Peter asks, his voice soft with uncertainty. He reaches out tentatively and places his hand beside Chris’s. “What are you crying for, Stiles?”
“Home,” Stiles mumbles. “Home.”
Chris’s heart skips a beat at the sheer misery in the boy’s tone. “This is your home now, Stiles.”
He hates himself for even saying the words, but he remembers what Kate said. There’s nobody else who can look after Stiles. He belongs here because there’s nowhere else for him to go.
Peter slides off the couch onto the floor, and kneels there beside Stiles. He puts an arm around his shoulders as his sobs slowly subside. “Stiles?”
Stiles turns his head and looks at him. His blank stare is back again.
“Stiles?” Peter asks again, and Stiles’s gaze slides off him.
“Kate said he was suicidal,” Chris says, his throat aching. “She says his father couldn’t look after him anymore. Maybe that means he wouldn’t.”
He thinks back to when Ally was born, and how she was the most perfect girl in the world. Still is. He wonders if his opinion of her might have changed if she’d had the multiple psychological issues that Stiles does. He doesn’t think it would, but how can he be sure? He doesn’t know what Stiles was like before he was medicated. Doesn’t know how bad it was, or how enduring years of it might drive a parent into giving up. This Stiles, he has to remember, isn’t that Stiles. Chris has no idea what that Stiles was like.
Stiles sits back on his heels, and reaches out to touch Peter’s hand. He draws it to his face, and presses it against his cheek. Peter looks confused for a moment, and Chris sighs as the realization hits him.
“He’s touch starved,” Chris says. “Victoria used to…” And then he trails off, because he knows Peter doesn’t like to hear about Victoria. He knows that’s guilt that they will both carry around for a very long time. “Omegas need touch.”
Peter cups Stiles’s cheek. “Better?” he asks.
Stiles blinks at him slowly, amber eyes glazed.
“Deaton says I need to remember I’m in a triad now,” Peter says at last. His gaze is still fixed on Stiles, but the words are for Chris. “He said just because our relationship with Stiles isn’t intimate, it doesn’t mean I can neglect him.”
Chris would argue about the meaning of the word intimate as he watches Peter slide his thumb gently underneath Stiles’s eye, catching the tears still drying there, but he doesn’t. This sort of intimacy isn’t a threat to what he and Peter have. This is giving comfort, and, more than that, it’s a new glimpse into the side of Peter that he rarely shows anyone.
Chris spends the rest of the day starting on his bid for the as yet unannounced Department of Omega Welfare tender. He works in the living room, where he can keep half an eye on the television, and half an eye on Peter and Stiles, who are dozing on the couch. Stiles is curled up with his head in Peter’s lap, and Peter’s hand is resting on the nape of his neck.
This isn’t what either of them had in mind when they talked of a future together, but it can work.
He pushes away his unease.
It can work.
It’s four a.m. on a Thursday morning, and Peter really, really regrets that speech he’s given his nephew and nieces since the time they were small. If you ever need someone’s help, and you don’t think you can call your parents, then you can call me. Always. Yep. It’s coming back to bite him in the ass now.
“You said I could have a phone call, Laura!” Cora is yelling when Peter answers the call. “This is my phone call!”
“Sweetpea?” Peter croaks into the phone, trying to get a sense of where he is, what time it is, and what the hell is happening. Beside him, Chris is snuffling awake.
“Uncle Peter!” Cora wails into the phone. “Laura wants to arrest me!”
Chris is calm and composed when they walk inside the Beacon Hills’ Sheriff’s Department. Peter wishes he could say the same thing about himself. He’s jittery, his thoughts scattered, anxious for someone to tell him this is a joke. He has no idea what the fuck is going on. Well, he hopes he doesn’t. He hopes it has nothing to do with the flyer he saw in Cora’s bag a few days ago. But what are the chances of that? What are the chances the universe isn’t going to fuck with Peter tonight?
Jordan Parrish in on the front desk. He’s a young, earnest beta, who radiates goodness like an apple-cheeked boy scout. So not Peter’s type.
“Mr. Hale,’ he says as Peter and Chris reach the desk. “Um, let me take you through.”
It’s been quite a few years since Peter saw the bullpen of the Sheriff’s Department. It looks like they’ve redecorated since Peter was last dragged in here by Uncle David for being busted with pot. Again. But some things never change. The tendency for the Hales to arrest their own family members, for example.
Cora is sitting at a desk looking small and vulnerable. Laura is standing beside her. Peter had expected Laura to look pissed off. The fact she looks more frightened than anything terrifies him.
“Laura,” he says. “What the hell is going on?”
“Jordan and I got a call from someone who lives by the high school. Said there was somebody breaking in.” Laura draws in a shaky breath.
“I wasn’t breaking in!” Cora exclaims.
“No, but you were putting these up!” Laura slaps a clear plastic evidence bag down on the desk, and yes, it’s the same flyer that Peter saw a few days ago. FUCK THE STATE. Jesus, he really hopes it’s not the exact same one. The one with Peter’s fingerprints on.
“It’s just posting flyers!” Cora snaps, although her voice shakes and her eyes are full of tears Peter knows she’s too stubborn to shed. “It’s not illegal to post flyers!”
“You know the FBI is all up in this shit, right?” Laura demands. “You know the media is calling them a terrorist group!”
Cora clamps her mouth shut into a thin, wavering line.
Peter picks up the evidence bag from the desk. FUCK THE STATE. A website address. A block of semi-coherent text about omega rights and fascism and the sort of conspiracy theories one usually only finds on the most obscure and paranoid subreddits. And, underneath it all, a name Peter’s never seen before: Camden Lahey was murdered.
Orange paper and Times New Roman, and Peter’s gaze keeps coming back to that one line of text.
Camden Lahey was murdered.
Is that supposed to mean something to him? Is he supposed to know what that is? Is it the sort of name that he’ll search online and only find a thousand different fake news articles that all reference each other, and no actual source?
He can’t believe Cora’s fallen for this bullshit, honestly.
“Who gave you the flyers?” Laura asks.
“Some boy,” Cora mutters at last. “Just some cute boy from school.”
“What’s his name?”
“I don’t know.”
“Cora, this is serious!”
“Okay,” Peter says. “Let’s just…” He has no idea where to go from there, and looks helplessly toward Chris.
“Is Cora under arrest?” Chris asks. Straight to the point, like always.
“No,” Laura says. She closes her eyes briefly and rubs her temples. She looks so much like Talia that Peter wants to laugh. “It’s only posting flyers. But, this isn’t something I can hide, you understand? I can’t just pretend I didn’t see this. I need to report this higher up the chain.”
“Okay,” Chris says with a nod. “You figure out what you’re going to do. In the meantime, Peter and I will take Cora home, and whoever wants to ask any more questions can do it at a more civilized hour.”
“Fine,” Laura says. “Make sure she calls Mom. And… and a lawyer.”
“Okay, sweetpea,” Peter says. “Let’s get you out of here, hmm?”
To her credit, Cora makes it as far as the car before she bursts into tears.
“Laura’s just pissy because the sheriff told her to fuck off,” Cora mumbles later, seated in Peter and Chris’s kitchen with her shaking hands curled around a mug of hot chocolate.
“I think she’s probably pissy because her little sister was found distributing flyers for a bunch of radicals who like to set things on fire,” Peter counters.
Chris is leaning up against the counter, his arms folded over his chest. He hasn’t said anything yet, but Peter can feel the anger rolling off him in waves. And why wouldn’t he be angry? FTS has been targeting the Department of Omega Welfare. And yes, so far they seem to be just a stupid bunch of angry malcontents, but Kate works for the Department. Cora has aligned herself with a group of people who want to harm Kate.
“It’s just flyers,” Cora mutters.
“I’m going to let that go,” Peter says carefully, “because I’m not your lawyer and, God forbid, I’m not the FBI. But, Cora, you promised me you weren’t doing anything dangerous. Remember that?”
Cora glares at the table.
“Have you thought about how this will affect your parents?” Peter asks, and feels dirty for even asking. Because Peter almost scuttled his father’s re-election campaign back in the day, didn’t he? But he has the feeling people are a hell of a lot more willing to overlook a stoned kid with a charming smile than they are this. This is a lot more serious than a little bit of pot. “And before you call me a hypocrite, no, I don’t just mean their jobs.”
Talia and James will be horrified, and heartbroken.
Cora lifts her gaze to glare at Peter, and then drops it again before he can call her on it. She really is exactly like him, which both makes him impervious to her death stares, and achingly aware of just how upset and fragile she is right now. Her churlishness is a very unconvincing mask.
Peter pulls out a chair and sits down beside her. “Want to tell me about this cute boy?”
Because, if he even exists, Cora needs to get her story straight. She needs to be a silly little girl who made a silly mistake because a boy smiled just the right sort of smile at her. She needs to be a naïve victim here, and not—
Not a radical. A criminal.
“Not really,” Cora mutters. She gives him the side-eye. “Want me to tell you why the sheriff told Laura and Jordan to fuck off?”
Peter sighs, exchanges a glance with Chris, and then shrugs.
“Because he thinks one of his own deputies set him up,” Cora says smugly.
Well. That’s a revelation Peter wasn’t expecting.
“Maybe we can just stick to one conspiracy theory at a time,” he suggests mildly.
Cora draws her brows together questioningly.
“I read the flyer,” Peter tells her. “Typical sophomoric stuff. The government is evil and it’s out to get us all.”
“Not the government,” Cora says, no trace of a smile. “Just the Department of Omega Welfare.”
From over by the counter, Chris huffs out a breath.
“Please don’t tell me you seriously believe this bullshit!” Peter rolls his eyes. “Cora, you’re a beta. Nobody’s out to get you.”
Cora snorts, and pokes aggressively at the marshmallow in her hot chocolate with her finger. “You should read the website then.”
“I really shouldn’t,” Peter says. “I’m pretty sure that’s an FBI watchlist I don’t want to be on.”
“You’re so full of crap, Uncle Peter,” she tells him with a scowl. “You’re all about omega rights when you’re standing in front of your class, aren’t you? But when it comes down to it, you’re just like everyone else. You don’t want to know the truth.”
Peter’s stomach clenches. Jesus. She does believe it. “No, Cora, I just don’t want my niece to end up in prison for getting mixed up with a bunch of wannabe fucking terrorists.”
Cora shoves her mug away and hot chocolate slops all over the table. “It was just flyers!”
The mug reaches the side of the table, and wobbles there for an excruciating moment. Then, before Peter can catch it, it tips over the edge and smashes onto the floor.
For a long while nobody moves, and then Peter is pushing his chair back to escape the sea of shards and liquid, and Chris is wetting a cloth under the tap in the sink, the water blasting, and Cora is saying, “Sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry.”
The commotion has woken Stiles, Peter realizes, when he looks up past Cora’s shoulder and sees him hovering in the doorway.
Chris crosses the floor, the damp cloth grasped in his hand. He notices the omega too. “Go to bed, Stiles. It’s nothing to worry about.”
Cora’s jaw drops, and she turns around in her chair to see. Then, heedless of the mess, she leaps to her feet.
“Stiles?” she asks, her voice pitched suddenly higher in shock. “Your omega is Stiles Stilinski?”
Peter doesn’t know why it took so long for him to realize. Jesus, he probably saw the kid a few times at whatever local events Talia managed to twist his arm into attending. It’s just that this kid here, this frail, slack-jawed omega with a buzzcut, doesn’t match up at all to the vague impressions he recalls of the Stilinski boy. Loud, animated, always on the move.
“Stiles,” Cora says again, crossing the floor to him and reaching out for his hands. He gazes at her blankly. “Stiles?” She rounds on Peter. “Why is he like this? What happened to him?”
“He’s medicated, Cora,” Peter tells her. “He’s schizophrenic. Psychotic.”
Cora shakes her head. “No.” She squeezes Stiles’s hands. “No, he goes to my school, or he did. He’s not crazy, Peter. He’s a regular kid. I—I know him. We did a science project together last year. Stiles isn’t crazy.”
Peter exchanges a wary glance with Chris.
“What happened?” Cora asks again, her voice cracking.
Stiles goes back to bed. Nobody else does.
Dawn creeps slowly in.
Peter doesn’t know what to make of any of this. Maybe Stiles was a regular kid when Cora knew him. Maybe he wasn’t showing any symptoms then. Maybe he knew how to hide his illness from his peers.
Or maybe everything they’ve been told about him is bullshit.
He gets a text from Alan Deaton just after seven: Peter, I haven’t heard of any of these drugs before. Where did you say you got them?
Wordlessly, Peter shows the text to Chris.
What the hell is going on?
The early morning sunlight glints on the windows of the house as the security guards wave Chris through. He pulls up out front, and then sits for a moment, trying to collect his thoughts. He’s not sure he can, to be honest. From being woken in the middle of the night to go and collect Cora, to finding out that Cora’s somehow mixed up with FTS…and now all this shit about Stiles? Chris threw down two cups of black coffee before he left the apartment, but it’s not helping him sort through any of this at all.
He climbs out of the car and heads inside.
Kate’s dressed for work this morning. She’s alone in the dining room, chewing a piece of whole meal toast as she reads something on a tablet.
“You’re out and about early,” she tells him with a smile, before her forehead creases. “You look like shit.”
Chris sits down opposite her. “Stiles Stilinski.”
Kate sets her tablet down. “You found out then.”
Chris’s temper flares. “How could you not mention he’s the sheriff’s son?”
Kate raises her eyebrows. “He’s your omega now. Nobody else has any claim on him.”
“This isn’t about a claim.” Chris drags his fingers through his disheveled hair. “You had to know we’d find out. Peter’s niece is a deputy!”
Kate gives a small, surprised laugh. “Of course I knew you’d find out! It was never a secret, Chris. Why would it be?” She shakes her head. “Look, I wasn’t allowed to tell you anything because the records of state wards are sealed. That’s the law. Did I feel good about keeping it from you? No, of course not, but I could lose my job if you found out from me. You know the omegas we deal with, Chris. Most of them are from abusive homes. Their previous identities are sealed to protect them. There was a case down in Kansas a few years ago. Omega girl, I think she was only about ten or eleven. She was put with a foster family, but someone in the department let slip in a meeting with her birth family where she was.” Kate’s expression hardens. “They tracked her down and beat her to death. So yes, we take that particular law very seriously.”
Chris lets his gaze slide over the framed family photographs on the wall. Him and Kate, mostly, from their childhood. Their father was always so conscious of the family image. No candid pictures here. All studio shots. Chris in a suit and tie, and Kate in pretty dresses. He remembers how much they used to hate photo days. How uncomfortable their clothes were, how hot it was under the lights, and how fake it felt to smile when the man told them to. He and Kate had been best friends back then, despite their age difference. Probably because their regimented schedules didn’t allow the time to build other friendships.
“You couldn’t even give me a heads up?” he asks her.
“Chris. This is my job.” Kate sighs. “I’m sorry this blindsided you. Maybe I should have…” She purses her lips. “No. I couldn’t, and I’m sorry. I knew you’d find out when I placed him with you, but you’re still his best option, don’t you see? I wasn’t just doing right by you and Peter. I was trying to do right by Stiles as well. People care about the kid, okay, because his father almost died doing his job. They need to know he’s being looked after, and who better for the job than you two? Because who are two of the most prominent families in town? The Argents and the Hales. You think I was somehow trying to sweep the sheriff’s kid under the carpet? Why would I, even if I could?”
“This doesn’t make any sense, Kate. He should be with his father, not mated.”
“Nobody expected his father to survive.” Kate closes her eyes briefly. “And, even though he has, he’s not in good enough health anymore to look after an omega with Stiles’s needs.”
“What about those needs?” Chris asks. “Cora knew him before. She said that there was nothing wrong with him.”
Kate looks incredulous. “Nothing wrong—Stiles had a total psychotic break, Chris! There is everything wrong with him.”
She is so certain, so vehement, that Chris has nothing to say.
“I’m not a doctor, Chris,” Kate says, her tone softening again. “But I trust my team. And I saw him when he was brought in…” She shudders. “You must look at him now and feel nothing but pity, but Chris? You didn’t see him when he was trying to hurt himself. It was like watching someone try and tear themselves apart, literally. It was heartbreaking.”
Chris’s throat aches. “I’m sorry,” he says, his tone wooden. “This was all just a shock.”
Kate’s smile is sympathetic. “Go home, Chris. Give Stiles his meds and tell him he’s a good omega. Make him as happy as you can.”
He waits until he’s driving before he calls Peter.
“Did you ask about the pills?” Peter asks as soon as he picks up.
“No,” Chris says, his gaze fixed on the road.
“Because it would have been pointless,” Chris says, his stomach twisting. “She was already lying to me.”
There’s an unfamiliar car parked in their visitor’s space when Chris gets back to the apartment. A beaten up old Toyota with a Beacon Hills Community College bumper sticker. Chris heads upstairs, and unlocks the apartment door to find Alan Deaton sitting on his living room coffee table. He’s talking in a low voice to Stiles, who’s sitting on the couch.
“You called Deaton?” Chris asks Peter.
Deaton glances at him, then looks back to Stiles.
Chris has never liked Deaton. He knows Peter went through some rough patches, largely thanks to Chris, and that he spoke to Deaton. Ever since finding that out, Chris has been uncomfortably aware of how the man must judge him. He’s only met him once or twice in passing, but surely every time Deaton is just looking at him and thinking: coward.
“I had to call someone,” Peter says, his voice almost a growl.
“I sent her home,” Peter says. “She won’t say anything.”
Because there’s nothing to say, Chris wants to insist. But he doesn’t believe it, not anymore. Kate lied.
Peter ushers Chris closer to the couch. “So what’s your opinion, Alan?”
“My opinion is that you should take him to a hospital, get his blood work done, and see exactly what he’s been taking,” Deaton says. “I’m not prepared to say he’s not suffering from Schizoaffective Disorder, or psychosis, or ADD or ODD, or Dissociative Identity Disorder, although that combination of such a perfect storm of disorders is highly unlikely. Particularly if he never showed symptoms as of eight months ago.”
“Cora says he had ADD,” Peter says. “She said he had to take Adderall when they were doing their project, or otherwise he’d be bouncing off the walls.”
Stiles bouncing off the walls? Chris can’t even begin to imagine that.
Deaton shakes his head. “I can’t diagnose someone on the strength of a third party’s recollection of him from months ago, Peter.”
“But it stinks, right?” Peter asks. “Something here stinks.”
“Oh, absolutely,” Deaton says. He takes Stiles’s hand in his own and holds it, palm up. He presses his fingers into Stiles’s palm, and Stiles’s fingers jerk. “Hello again, Stiles.”
Chris watches, something like jealousy coiling in his gut as Stiles unfurls a little toward Deaton. He gives the man a faint smile, and blinks his amber eyes.
“That’s it,” Deaton says, his own smile growing. “That’s it. You’re following my voice now, aren’t you? That’s good.”
“Po…” Stiles’s forehead creases in a frown. “Zabłądziłem.”
“I don’t understand what you’re saying, Stiles,” Deaton says calmly. “Can you tell me in English?”
“L-lost,” Stiles mumbles. “I’m lost.”
“Oh, Jesus,” Peter whispers suddenly, paling, and Chris curls his fingers around his forearm. “It’s not gibberish, is it? I thought…but it’s not.”
“I think it may be Polish,” Deaton says, his voice soft. “That’s very good, Stiles. You’re doing very well.” He looks across at Peter and Chris. “When did he have his last pill?”
“Before bed,” Chris tells him.
“Then maybe,” Deaton says, “we should see what happens when he doesn’t take one this morning.”
Deaton leaves with samples of Stiles’s pills in his pockets, and their word that they’ll take Stiles to the ER if his condition changes in any significant way. He’s agreed to take the pills to a pathologist he knows, to have them analyzed. It’s not a perfect solution, but Peter is suddenly adamant about keep Stiles out of the hospital if possible, and Chris can’t bring himself to disagree.
“Because he tried to talk to me,” Peter whispers furiously, watching where Stiles is sleeping on the couch. “He tried to tell me something and I thought he was speaking rubbish!”
And because Kate lied to Chris. Looked him right in the eye and lied.
That means something.
Chris has no idea what the hell it means, but it means something.
Stiles shivers on the couch for hours, rugged up in a blanket that he tries to push off every now and then. He mumbles a lot in his sleep, and sweats, and pushes Chris away when he tries to make him sip some orange juice.
“What?” he mumbles into the couch once. “What is…”
Chris has no idea if he’s suffering withdrawals, or if he’s suffering a mental health episode. How is he supposed to tell?
Kate sends a text in the afternoon, checking on him. He sends back that they’re all fine. He doesn’t know what else to say.
Peter spends a lot time on the phone to Talia.
“I don’t know, Tee,” he says for the umpteenth time. “Look, it’s probably just a rebellious phase. She said some boy asked her to put them up. You know Cora. She can never resist a dare. The more outrageous the better.”
Chris wipes Stiles’s forehead with a damp cloth.
Peter paces back and forth in front of the window. “Yes, well when I was a kid pot was the more rebellious thing I could think of. Clearly she’s more imaginative than I was.”
Stiles’s face scrunches up.
“Well, yes. You and I both know Cora wouldn’t do anything she didn’t want to just because of some boy, but that’s not the point, is it? It’s better they think she’s some stupid little ditzy girl than actually involved, isn’t it?” Peter barks out a laugh. “God, no, of course I don’t believe all that FTS bullshit. I don’t even own a tin foil hat.”
Chris rubs his thumb under Stiles’s eye, and Stiles sighs.
“Okay,” Peter says. “Okay, well keep me posted. I’ll talk to you later, Tee.” He ends the call.
“Tin foil hat?” Chris asks mildly.
“I’m feeling more and more like I need one, to be honest.” Peter’s expression shifts suddenly, and he grabs for the closest laptop. It’s Chris’s, and it’s password protected, when has something like that ever mattered to Peter? Passwords, personal space, every rule of polite society. Peter gives no fucks. He sits down on the coffee table with the laptop on his knees.
“What are you doing?” Chris asks him.
“I’m going hard or going home,” Peter says. “Fuck it.”
He types quickly, studies the screen for a moment, and then turns it around so Chris can see.
It’s a story from the Beacon Herald. It’s nine months old.
The body of Camden Lahey, 24 years old, was found today by workers on the Bridge Street redevelopment. Mr. Lahey, a veteran, had only recently returned to Beacon Hills after a deployment in Afghanistan. A spokesperson for the Sherriff’s Department said investigations were continuing, but there are believed to be no suspicious circumstances.
Chris draws his brows together in a frown. “Who is Camden Lahey?”
Suddenly Stiles sits bolt upright, the blanket falling from his sweat-drenched body. “Isaac!” he exclaims.
At that moment, the living room window shatters and all hell breaks loose.
Isaac’s stomach growls, but he keeps his eyes closed and does his best to ignore it. He’s hungry, but at least he’s not cold and wet. After all those weeks living in the Preserve, this place is the fucking Ritz.
It’s a huge loft, full of spiders' webs and more rats than Isaac really wants to think about, but it’s dry, and it’s secure. It’s at the top of the old brewery on Argyle Street. Cora’s family owns it. Nobody’s used it for ages.
It has a bed, for some reason, and the water in the old bathroom still runs. Not hot water, but Cora used the money her uncle gave her to buy him a camp stove along with a bunch of other stuff, so he can heat water if he needs it.
He doesn’t. He’s used to showering with cold water. It’s better than not showering at all.
The weather isn’t too cold yet, anyway. And, lying on the bed curled up in his sleeping bag is toasty warm. He’s hungry—he has some cookies in his stash, he thinks—but mostly he’s too comfortable to move yet. He drifts for a while, eyes closed, and jolts himself awake when his thoughts take a weird detour into an almost-dream.
Isaac doesn’t like to dream.
He wriggles out of his sleeping bag, and sets his feet down on the dusty concrete floor. His laptop is beside the bed where he left it, but he resists the urge to open it. It’s almost out of battery, and Cora hasn’t been back yet to take it somewhere and charge it.
He picks up his phone instead—a cheap burner—and checks for messages. None. Cora is the only one who has his number. The battery bar on the phone is worryingly low.
He hopes she didn’t get picked up by the police or something.
He relies on her.
And isn’t that a joke?
An alpha, relying on a beta.
His dad must be spinning in his grave.
Maybe it’s just like they kept telling him over and over again when he was at the Department.
Maybe he really is an omega.
Isaac was sixteen when it happened. He’d been in the grocery store, trying to buy booze for his dad. It was a fool’s errand, but what other choice did he have? His dad would beat the shit out of him if he didn’t come home with any. The clerk had rebuffed him, because he might have passed for a little older, but not twenty-one, so he’d been standing outside in the parking lot when the car pulled up.
The driver, a huge guy with an intimidating scowl to match his size, had headed inside while Isaac had slouched nearby, hands shoved into the pockets of his hoodie. He’d been looking at the fancy car, and at his own pinched reflection in the tinted windows, when suddenly the window had slid down.
“Hello, there,” the man had said, a smile hovering around his mouth. “You look troubled. Is there anything I can do to help?”
And that was how he met Deucalion.
Somewhere near the end of the nightmare, Cora Hale found him in the Preserve. Isaac had been sheltering in what he thought was an old root cellar or something, without realizing it was on the Hales’ property.
He hadn’t been much of an alpha by then. He hadn’t been much of a human being at all.
And Cora saved him.
“I don’t care about gender,” Cora told him one night, and Isaac had flinched away from her touch.
They were on the roof. The lights of the town sparkled a little below them, or maybe that was the sudden tears stinging his eyes.
It was supposed to be comforting, he thinks now, or brave or something. It was supposed to remind him that it was all bullshit, and his classification didn’t matter. And gender doesn’t matter, it shouldn’t, so how could he possibly articulate to her that it feels like there are pieces of him missing now, that they stole something from him that he can never get back?
Gender doesn’t matter. Not when it comes to equal rights.
But it matters when it comes to who is he.
Isaac doesn’t like to sleep. He doesn’t like the dreams he has. He stays awake as long as he can every night, listening to the rats scuttling around the edges of the floor. He should get traps. He should ask Cora to get him some traps, but the thought of having to remove the dead rats from the traps is somehow more disgusting than the thought of them running around the place, so he hasn’t asked yet. He keeps his food in a tin toolbox, so they can’t get to it, and pretends they don’t come near him while he’s sleeping.
At night he lies awake and tries not to think about what happened.
About how every time he felt a heavy hand on the back of his neck he tried to throw it off. About how it set his teeth on edge, how it made him want to struggle, not submit. How the drugs stole away his urge to fight, but never the sickness he felt, and how they told him You like it, omega. You need it. This is what you are.
Isaac tries to make it to the shower before he throws up.
There are things he learned at the center.
Sometimes he curls up with the sleeping bag Cora bought him, wearing the clothes she bought him, eating the food she brought him, and he feels warm and safe surrounded by those things, by the physical reminder of her kindness, of her protection, when she’s no longer there. Like he’s a needy fucking omega. It makes him want to claw his own skin off sometimes, to reach inside himself and pull those parts out. But as much as he hates himself for feeling the way he does, he never throws the clothes and the sleeping bag off.
He can hate himself, apparently, but he can’t deny himself.
“You know what I think?” Cora asked him one night, back in the Preserve still, back when he’d taken a blanket and taken some cans of food, but never let her get between him and the exit.
“What?” he asked, tugging the blanket around his shoulders and trying not to look at her hands and imagine what they’d feel like on his skin. He didn’t want that from her, and he didn’t need it from anybody.
“Fuck the state,” Cora said, scowling at the floor of the root cellar. “I mean it. Fuck them!”
It was the first time Isaac could remember smiling in forever.
“Yeah,” he said, feeling a flare of courage warm him as he dared say the words they’d almost managed to rip out of him forever at the Department of Omega Welfare. “Fuck the state!”
That was the moment FTS was born.
When he moved into the loft, Isaac wrote the articles for the website on the pages of a spiral notebook that Cora bought him. Cora typed them up and put them on a flashdrive, and they built the website together from one of the computers at the public library in town. Fake email address, a free website builder, and suddenly FTS was a real thing. It didn’t do anything, though. They hardly got any hits at all, even though Cora printed out a bunch of flyers and put them up at the high school, and the community college, and on any surface she could find.
One night Isaac stood on the roof of the loft and watched as watched as a group of kids set fire to a stolen car.
He could do that.
In the middle of the night Isaac walked back to the Department of Omega Welfare. He couldn’t get past the fence. Didn’t even want to try. But someone had left a department car parked outside on the street.
Isaac took a can of spray paint and painted FTS on the asphalt.
Then he set the car on fire.
The website got a lot of hits after that.
The day drags on, and Cora doesn’t arrive. Isaac finishes the cookies, and then cooks the ramen on his little camp stove. He tugs a hoodie on even though it’s not that cold. He likes to cover up all the inches of this skin that other people once uncovered for him. It felt worshipful once, when Isaac was too young and too stupid to know better. Now he covers up.
He paces in front of the massive windows, and imagines that he’s a criminal mastermind and this is his lair. It could work, probably, except for the dust and the cobwebs and the rats. The bones of it are all there: the architecture, the solitude, the criminal activity, and especially the messed-up-as-all-fuck origin story. Isaac likes to think that if he were really a criminal mastermind, he’d at least be living in luxury. Aren’t villains supposed to be feared, not pitied?
This one omega kid at the Department of Omega Welfare, he’d know the answer to that. Even when he was drugged out of his skull, if Isaac asked him about comics he’d slur out an answer. Focusing on that other kid had given Isaac something to do. Something to achieve. He wasn’t so helpless when he was helping someone else.
“Stiles? Hey, Stiles? You gotta stick your fingers down your throat. You gotta make yourself sick, okay?”
“What are you, a coward? A prissy little omega princess who hasn’t got the balls to do it!”
Nothing riled Stiles up more than shit like that. Nothing cut through his haze and made him angry enough to prove himself that someone calling him a weak omega.
“Anyhow,” he muttered as washed his vomit down the drain in the shower room, “you’re an omega just the same as me.”
“I’m not,” Isaac told him. “I’m an alpha.”
And Stiles just laughed and laughed and laughed. “Dude, you’re fucking crazier than me!”
Stiles features in a lot of Isaac’s nightmares, but not the worst of them.
Never the worst of them.
It’s a matter of appearances,” Deucalion says, humming thoughtfully.
“Appearances,” Deucalion repeats with a sigh, tugging his fingers through Isaac’s curls.
Isaac can’t move. He blinks at the ceiling, and then turns his head and looks at the glass of water on the bedside table. Small beads of moisture slip down the sides. He only had a sip, but now… now he can’t move.
Deucalion grips Isaac’s chin in his hand and turns his head back to face him. “I have a public image to uphold. There have been some unfortunate rumors. People saying that perhaps I’m not the alpha I pretend to be. I need a pretty little omega mate on my arm, do you see?”
For a wild moment Isaac thinks Deucalion is going to kill him. He opens his mouth to try and promise that he’ll never blackmail him, that he won’t say a word, but his tongue is suddenly too thick to move in the way he needs to make words.
“You’re pretty, aren’t you, Isaac?”
“M’alpha,” he tries to protest. “Not ’mega.”
Deucalion’s smile widens. “But you can be, my sweet boy. Don’t you want to make me happy? Don’t you want to kneel?”
Isaac wakes up covered in sweat, a half-formed scream in his throat, but the hands touching him are gentle, and the voice whispering to him is soft.
“I’m here,” Cora tells him. "It’s okay. I’m here.”
Peter hits the floor. The apartment is suddenly full of smoke, and he doesn’t know what’s going on. Stiles yelled out a name, and then the window shattered, and now the apartment is full of smoke. Not a sequence of events so much as three distinct things happening all at once, but Peter’s brain tries frantically to fit them all together, to mold them into a shape he can make sense of, but all he’s really aware of now is how fast his heart is beating, and how his limbs are shaking.
“Go,” Chris yells at him from somewhere through the smoke. “Bedroom! Go!”
Peter remembers reading an article once on how, in times of sudden, severe stress, some people propel themselves straight into action, and others are paralyzed by shock. Peter, apparently, falls into the second camp. As clearly evidenced by the fact he’s lying on the living room floor thinking about the flight, fight or freeze response, instead of fucking moving.
“Go!” Chris yells again.
Peter goes, on his hands and knees, bumping up once against the couch, and once against the wall before he makes it down the hallway into the bedroom.
Chris is right behind him, dragging Stiles along by the wrist. Stiles is gasping for breath, almost choking for it. The smoke, Peter thinks, but it doesn’t smell like smoke. It smells of chemicals, like the stuff that pours out of smoke machines in the clubs that Peter is probably too old to go to anymore, but screw that. Peter is daddy as fuck these days, thank you.
“What the hell is going on?” he gasps as Chris slams their bedroom door shut and locks it.
“I don’t know,” Chris says, and pushes Stiles toward Peter. “Get on the other side of the bed. Stay down.”
That sounds like the sort of command an action movie hero would give right before the armed attackers burst in. Is that what’s going on?
Peter drags Stiles around the bed and pulls him down onto the floor with him.
Chris crosses to the walk-in closet and wrenches the doors open. Oh yes, Peter thinks, he needed that closet because he had to store his weapons somewhere, right? As though Peter couldn’t have used more space for his books. Chris has a warehouse full of weapons downtown, but that’s like telling a toddler he has to keep his candy in a separate location. It’s not going to fly. Chris needs his personal favorites close by.
And, right now, Peter’s not going to make fun of that at all.
Peter fumbles in his pocket for his phone.
“No,” Chris says, emerging from the closet with all his holsters on, even the ones that he refuses to wear during sex.
Oh Jesus. This is real.
“I’m calling the cops!”
“Not until we know who’s out there,” Chris says.
That’s when Peter hears the front door bursting open. He clutches his phone to his chest. The neighbors will call the cops, right?
Chris steps over to him, holding out a gun. It’s a…well, Peter has no idea what sort of gun it is. He’s never fired a gun before in his life. Chris leans down and presses it into his hand.
“Safety’s on the side,” he says.
Smoke is curling into the room now, from underneath the door.
Stiles is sprawled on the floor. Peter sits up, gets his back against the wall, drops his phone, almost drops the gun, and pulls Stiles closer to his side. Stiles’s chest is heaving, his breath rasping like he can’t get enough air.
Chris looks down at them both.
“If,” Peter begins. “If it’s the police then—”
“It’s not the police,” Chris says, and strides toward the door.
It’s not the police. Then who the fuck else is in the habit of shooting smoke grenades through windows and breaking down front doors? In retrospect, Peter has been watching too many movies. Because this is Beacon Hills, California, and Laura’s most exciting war story is the one where she got her pants caught on a fence during a foot pursuit and Jordan had to cut her out of them. Does the Beacon Hills’ Sheriff’s Department even have a SWAT team?
“What?” Stiles mumbles, sucking in another wheezing breath. “Where’m I?”
Peter looks at the gun in his hand, looks at Chris standing by the door, and remembers he’s a fucking English professor. This is not a part of his skill set. Sarcasm, cynicism and cutting wit? Yes. Whatever this is? Hell no.
“Stay in here,” Chris says. “Don’t come out.”
Chris, Peter wants to say. Don’t leave us.
But the words stick in his throat and Chris is already gone.
When Peter was thirty, he had what he thinks he would class as a breakdown. It was messy. The stress of his job—a new department head who was an asshole, a TA who couldn’t do her job, budget cuts and, worst of all, a student who’d killed himself after Peter had failed him—had met head on with the stress of his relationship—“Peter, I can’t. I can’t give you what you want. We need to stop this”—and combined in a perfect shit storm that had seen Peter try to drown himself in a bottle of vodka before being unable to get out of bed for four days straight. Where the hell it would have ended, Peter didn’t know. He just knows that he sent a text to Alan Deaton, a man he didn’t even know outside of work at that point: I think I need help.
And Deaton had been there in less than twenty minutes.
Peter is not a good man.
Cora called him a hypocrite, and it’s truer than she knows.
Don’t be that guy, Chris has told him at the start of all this.
Don’t be the bigot. Don’t be the ignorant asshole. Don’t be the guy who treats Stiles like he’s not even a person.
Chris doesn’t know how bad Peter’s depression was, because Peter never told him. He’d come close, once or twice, to hospitalization.
Don’t be that guy.
If any of them should have been more sympathetic to Stiles, it’s Peter.
Peter was born a hypocrite and now, it turns out, he’s going to die one.
“Oh, Jesus Christ!” Peter’s heart skips a beat when he hears gunshots, and the dull thump of what can only be a body hitting the floor. Chris.
Stiles shoves against him. “Where’m I?”
Peter grips him by the back of the neck with his spare hand, and Stiles stills immediately. The response is as reflexive in him as Peter’s earlier freeze response. It’s biological. It’s evolutionary. Stiles has no defense against it, particularly in his current addled state, and Peter hates using it. But the firm grip does exactly what it’s supposed to do: drains all the fight out of Stiles and leaves him lying limp against Peter high on his own endorphins.
“Good boy,” Peter says, his voice shaking. “Good omega.”
He needs to keep Stiles down on the floor with him, keep him from getting up and blundering into the way of a bullet.
Peter flinches as he hears another shot, and then another.
The bedroom door handle turns, and the door opens.
It’s not Chris. It’s some big hulking guy, all muscle. And he’s holding a gun. Objectively, Peter should be terrified. But he hasn’t got time for that. He doesn’t freeze this time.
There’s an omega at his side—his omega—who needs to be guarded, and it kick starts something in the back of Peter’s lizard brain that he thought he’d totally evolved beyond: a sudden rush of righteous anger buoyed by a swell of protectiveness because no-one—no-one—gets to threaten his omega.
He doesn’t deserve a warning shot.
Peter raises and gun and fires before the hulk can even get a shot off. The man grunts in something between surprise and pain, and falls to the floor.
Chris steps through the door behind him, and puts a bullet in the back of his head for good measure.
“You hit?” Chris grates out. He’s holding his firearm in his right hand. His left hand is curled around his right bicep. There’s blood welling from between his fingers.
Peter climbs to his feet. “No. You are though.”
“It’s a graze,” Chris tells him. “Let’s get out of here. Let’s move.”
Peter looks down at the gun in his hand, surprised to find it there now the now that shock’s starting to kick in, and Chris grunts and holds out his bloody hand to take it.
“Before we go anywhere, you need to tell me what the fuck is going on,” Peter rasps.
Chris crosses to the closet again, and reemerges with the first aid kit. “I have no idea what the hell is going on, Peter, but I sure as hell don’t want to be waiting here when the cops arrive and ask the same thing, do you?”
When the cops arrive? Laura is a cop. This… this is insane.
“This isn’t a Hollywood thriller, Chris!” Peter drags his fingers through his hair. “There aren’t any shadowy faceless organizations out to get us. This is Beacon Hills! We know the cops!”
Chris turns his unflinching gaze on Peter. “You want to talk about shadowy faceless organizations and conspiracies that go all the way to the top? Because right now I’d love to know why the man you just killed is Deucalion’s driver.”
“Deucalion the business guy?” Peter asks. What?
“And a major donator to my father’s last election campaign,” Chris says, his voice low.
“Right,” Peter says, swallowing. “Let get the fuck out of here.”
He draws Stiles to his feet, and gets him moving.
“Leave your phone,” Chris says and Peter drops it wordlessly on the end of the bed.
Stiles is dazed and stumbling, aware enough of his surroundings now that he flails back when Peter urges him down the hallway, and starts struggling for breath. When Chris reaches back for him, he lets out a hoarse sound of alarm when he sees Chris’s bloody hand. Peter draws him closer. There’s a flare of panic in Stiles’s gaze, in the way he tries to bat Peter away with a trembling hand. Peter refuses to allow it. He rests one hand firmly on the back of Stiles’s neck, feeling Stiles relax under his touch, and walks him toward the living room.
Concentrating on dampening down Stiles’s panic gives Peter a handy distraction from his own. Peter avoids looking at the bodies. God. They’re never going to get their deposit back, are they? There’s blood so dark it’s almost black, soaking like ink into the carpet.
Peter wraps Stiles in the blanket from the couch, and tugs it tight around his shoulders.
“Let’s go,” Chris says, his voice clipped, stooping to pick up his cellphone from the coffee table. The screen is flashing. Chris taps it.
Kate’s voice, whispering, breathless voice filters into the room.
“Chris? Oh God, Chris. I don’t know what’s happening, but you have to get out of there. Take Peter and Stiles and—” She sucks in shallow, wavering breath, and Peter’s skin prickles. “I have to go. There’s someone here. I have to go.”
The call ends.
Chris stares at the screen for a moment longer, his face drawn. Then he sets the phone back down on the coffee table, tucks the first aid kit under his injured arm, and they leave the apartment.
Peter has no idea where the hell they’re going, and, right now, he’s too numb with shock to even ask.
The thin, thready note of Kate’s panic echoes in Chris’s mind, and he fights the temptation to go rush straight to her. But he needs to get Peter and Stiles somewhere safe first. Needs to ditch the car or hide it.
Why the hell is Deucalion trying to kill them?
How the hell does he even know who they are?
The connection is his father, of course. Somehow he’s in the middle of all this. Chris can’t imagine he’d do anything to hurt Kate, but nothing makes sense right now. All bets are off.
“Where are we going?” Peter asks.
Chris’s heartbeat quickens as a police car, siren screaming, speeds past them heading in the direction of the apartment. “Sanctuary.”
For a moment Peter stared blankly at him, and then Chris sees the moment that realization hits. “Yes,” he says. “That should work.”
The Hales have lived in Beacon Hills longer even than the Argents, something that Peter never gets tired of teasing Chris about. They built half the town, riding first on the back of the gold rush and then on the lumber industry. Money like that doesn’t usually last more than a few generations, unless families are kept small and focused entirely on empire building. The Hales were neither. The fortune filtered down the myriad of branches on the family tree and was diluted. The only real currency the Hales have these days is respect. They have always been a well-respected family. But a legacy stretching out over a century in the town means at least a few secrets, like the loft on Argyle Street. It was built as a brewery, undergone several conversions in its life, and is currently empty awaiting its next transformation. Half the Hales have probably forgotten the family owns it.
But Peter has always had a key.
When back alleys and hotels no longer worked for them, the loft on the top floor of the old brewery did. Chris didn’t have to feel like he was about to be found out there, not once Peter locked the doors behind them.
They can go there, regroup, and then figure out what the hell to do. Who to contact for help. Talia, maybe. She’s not Chris’s biggest fan, but she’s never been anything but a straight shooter. An honest politician. Peter’s always joked that’s why she refuses to move beyond local politics. She’s just not qualified.
Chris barely knows her, but he trusts her more than his own father.
God, he needs to find out what the hell is going on with Kate. He’s never heard her sound so afraid in his life. She was always fearless. He remembers staying at an aunt’s place in Florida one summer. He remembers a gully at the back of the house, with a fallen log spanning it. Chris and his cousins would dare one another to cross it, hearts in throats as it creaked and shifted underfoot. And Kate was so much younger than the rest of them, but she’d jutted out her chin and crossed the log anyway. Chris had been so proud of her that day.
“I have to go. There’s someone here. I have to go.”
He’s never heard her sound so scared.
He needs to get Peter and Stiles safe, and then he needs to make sure Kate’s okay too. He needs her to tell him what the hell is going on here.
In the backseat of the SUV, Stiles rattles at the door handle. Thank God for child locks.
“Stiles,” Chris says, and then raises his voice. “Stiles!”
A pair of wide, terrified eyes meet his in the rearview.
“It’s all right,” Chris tells him. “We’re going to keep you safe.”
“Wh-who the fuck are you?” Stiles asks, shivering.
Stiles appears to be deteriorating. By the time they reach the old brewery and park the SUV behind the thick wooden doors on the ground level, Stiles is shivering so hard that it almost looks as though he’s convulsing. Peter opens the back door of the SUV and Stiles tumbles out, and tries to push past Peter.
“No,” Peter says firmly, and pushes him up against the side of the SUV. Brackets him in with his arms. “Stiles. Listen. Listen.”
“Don’t… don’ touch me!” And then he vomits on Peter’s shoes.
Chris leads the way up the steps. Peter half drags, half-carries Stiles. Stiles is breathing rapidly, shaking and sweating, and muttering about ants on his skin. Chris wishes he could tell the difference between the symptoms of withdrawal and the symptoms of a mental health episode. The fact that even in the midst of whatever he’s going through that Stiles is more coherent than he’s ever been before…well, the obvious conclusion is that he’s coming down.
Chris’s arm is still bleeding, and he needs to get it strapped. It’s throbbing, the pain distracting him, making him lose his focus. That’s the last thing he needs.
He grimaces as he pulls the loft door open and steps inside.
It’s late afternoon. The sunlight is falling in long golden swathes across the floor. The bed is in the middle of the floor, and Chris swallows down the swell of emotion it elicits in him. He concentrates instead on how dusty the bedding must be. That kills the romance dead. How long has it been since he and Peter came here? Months.
It was the day he told Victoria he wanted a divorce.
He texted Peter to meet him at the loft once last time.
He hadn’t told Peter that though. He didn’t want him to take it the wrong way. This wasn’t a breakup, after all. This was a new beginning. They wouldn’t need to hide away in the loft anymore. They could be open at last.
And now here they are again, hiding again, in the dusty, empty loft they’ve spent so much time in before. Chris wasn’t joking when he called it their sanctuary. Despite whatever the hell is happening right now, despite the blood on his hands, stepping into the loft still feels a little like coming home.
Peter carries Stiles over to the bed, and deposits him on it. “He’s getting worse, I think.”
“I think it’s withdrawal,” Chris says.
Peter’s face is drawn. “How are we supposed to tell?”
“How the hell do I know?” Chris crosses to the bed and sits down on it. He sets the first aid kit down beside him, and opens it. Pulls out what he needs. “Do I look like a damn doctor?”
Peter gives him a look. “You’re holding a bandage right now.”
Chris can’t help the snort that escapes him. “Smartass.”
Peter squeezes Stiles’s forearm, and then turns his attention to Chris. “Let me help.”
Chris winces as Peter pushes up his sleeve to reveal the wound on his bicep. Only a graze, but it hurts like fuck. And it had started to clot as well, meaning Peter rips it open again when he moves the shirt.
“Okay,” Peter says, paling. “This isn’t actually as bad as I thought.”
“Don’t pass out on me.”
Peter narrows his eyes. “I didn’t pass out when I shot a man, Christopher. I’m not likely to do it now, am I?”
“Whatever you say,” Chris murmurs, and braces himself for the sting of the antiseptic wipe. The pain flares so bright it’s white, but then Peter’s rolling the bandage on, tight but not too tight, and fastening it. Chris’s arm throbs. “Thank you.”
Peter’s gaze is steady. “What now?”
“Kate,” Chris says. “I have to help Kate.” He closes his eyes briefly. When he opens them again, Peter is still watching him. “Whatever this is, however she’s mixed up in it—and I know she is, Peter, I’m not a fool—”
“Didn’t say you were.”
“Didn’t have to.” Chris quirks his mouth in a bitter smile. “She knew what was coming. That means she’s involved. But she tried to warn us to, so.”
“So.” Peter looks away for a moment. “You can’t trust her.”
“The only people I trust right now are in the room,” Chris tells him.
Peter huffs out something that might be a laugh. “Hear that, Stiles? You’re in fine company indeed.”
Stiles mumbles something in reply.
Peter’s expression darkens. “What if he needs the hospital? Deaton said—”
“We can’t risk it.”
Peter frowns, his mouth a thin line. “I don’t want a dead boy on my conscience.”
But it’s not an argument. There is no argument. Peter knows as well as Chris that the last thing they can do is take Stiles to the hospital.
“Do you trust his father?” Peter asks after a moment.
Stiles whines and thrashes a little.
“I don’t know,” Chris says honestly. “Either he’s in it as well, and we can’t trust him, or he’s already got a target painted on him too, in which case it’d be dangerous to go to him. If there are people looking for us, they’ll be watching our families. Stiles’s too.”
“Always so logical,” Peter murmurs. “So clinical. I often wondered, you know, if that’s something you inherited in your genetic make up, or if it’s something Gerard had to beat into you as a child.”
“He never beat me,” Chris says, his stomach clenching.
Peter’s gaze sees right through that particular lie, but he lets it go. “What’s the plan, then?”
“I go and find Kate,” Chris says, his resolve hardening. “I find out exactly what she knows, if it’s not already too late.”
The fear in her voice. Chris has never heard anything like it before. “I have to go. There’s someone here. I have to go.” What the hell is she mixed up in? It has something to do with Deucalion, undoubtedly, since the man’s driver was one of the attackers back at the apartment. And if it has something to do with Deucalion, it has something to do with Gerard as well.
When Chris was ten and sent to Bible camp, he didn’t have to struggle like some of the other kids. He didn’t have to imagine what it was like to be at the mercy of a cruel, capricious god. To approach him in anxious prayer not knowing if it would be manna or fire he rained upon you. Chris didn’t have to be taught how to love and fear at the same time. Chris and Kate were both half-afraid of him as children, and half worshipful. Being an adult doesn’t wipe that slate clean. There is some part of Chris that is still afraid to confront him, and always will be. Still afraid that his love will be withheld when, in reality, Chris doesn’t know how he can fear the loss of something he’s only ever known in its absence.
Chris stares at the blood on his hands. “I need to wash up.”
Peter nods, and cards his fingers through Stiles’s hair.
Chris stands, and climbs the spiral staircase to the floor above. There are rooms up here that he and Peter never used. The Hale who built the place was something of an eccentric, of the Howard Hughes variety: batshit crazy. He was so convinced his workers were stealing from him that he’d lived right above the brewery and refused to leave. All of his furniture is long gone, but the creaky 1930’s plumbing remains. Chris steps into the bathroom and crosses to the small sink. He washes the blood from his hands, digging his fingers along the lines in his palms to lift the flakes off. They disintegrate under the water.
Chris looks at his reflection in the spotted mirror, wondering if he’ll see someone different staring back at him.
Instead, he sees the shower curtain flicker.
He spins around quickly, his Glock out of his shoulder holster and back in his hand before he even registers it. He approaches the old claw-foot bath silently, his free hand extended to pull the mildew-spotted curtain back.
“You bought us a shower curtain, Peter, really?”
“I’m not mopping the bathroom floor after you, Christopher. Just go and put it up.”
“It has ducks on it.”
It’s rats, he guesses. Probably a whole damn nest of them in the old tub, and a few scuttling up the curtain making it shift. But he doesn’t lower his gun.
Chris wrenches the shower curtain aside, and stares in astonishment at the teenagers huddling together in the bottom of the bath, their terrified faces turned toward him.
“Cora?” he asks. “What the hell are you doing here?”
Peter takes the stairs two at a time, his heart pounding in his chest. He skids into the bathroom to discover Chris standing by the bath—still covered in blood and holding a gun in his lax grip—and Cora and some boy huddled in the tub.
What the fuck is going on?
And how many times today is he going to ask himself that question?
“U-uncle Peter!” Cora wails.
It might be the fear in her voice that startles Chris into a reaction. He steps back, holstering the gun, and showing Cora and the boy his palms.
“You pointed a gun at my niece?” Peter growls.
“I didn’t know it was her!” Chris looks as confused as Peter feels. “What are you doing here, Cora?”
The boy in the bath is almost frantic, somehow trying to hide behind Cora and shield her at the same time. He’s… Peter can’t get a read on him. His gaze is fearful and antagonistic at the same time, and his body language is a mess. Peter can’t tell if he’s cringing or posturing.
“We didn’t know it was you!” Cora says, and grips the boy tightly by the hands. It reminds Peter of the way she took Stiles’s hands when she saw him back in the apartment. “We thought it was someone from the Department!”
Why the hell would the Department…
“He’s a runaway,” Chris says. “An omega.”
“No!” the boy exclaims. “Cora!”
Cora glares. “Isaac’s not an omega! Don’t call him one!”
Peter shares a dubious look with Chris, and then schools his features. “Okay, sweetpea. Why don’t you both climb out of the tub and come downstairs, and you can tell us what the fuck is going on?”
Stiles is curled up on the bed when they all make their way back downstairs. He’s sleeping fitfully, his forehead shining with sweat. Beads of it gleam on his upper lip, and Peter fights the urge to gently wipe his face.
“Stiles!” Cora exclaims.
“Stiles,” Isaac echoes, his eyes wide. He crosses to the bed and kneels beside it. “Hey. Hey, Stiles.”
Stiles sucks in a wheezing breath.
“You know him?” Chris asks keenly.
Issac doesn’t meet Chris’s gaze. “From the Department. We were there at the same time.” He hunches his shoulders. “Withdrawal is a bitch.”
Cora makes a sympathetic noise, and kneels beside Isaac. She rubs his back, and Peter is struck by the way it calms him. There is no way the boy presents like an alpha.
“He was on tranquilizers and anti-psychotics, I think,” Isaac says.
“We don’t know what he was on,” Peter says. “My friend, a psychologist, didn’t recognize the drugs.”
“Half the drugs the Department uses aren’t on the market yet,” Isaac says, looking up at last. His eyes are very blue.
“You know a lot about pharmaceuticals?” Chris asks, his tone a little arch.
“I picked up some things.” Isaac’s expression hardens. “Anti-psychotics are basically tranquilizers anyway. They shut down their brains, their appetites, their sex drive. Makes them into little zombie omegas who sleep for twenty hours a day until they can’t remember their own names.”
“Were you on those drugs too?” Peter asks quietly.
Isaac flushes and looks away again.
“Isaac was also on hormone therapy,” Cora says, and flinches when he pulls away from her. “They gave him hormones that mimic an omega’s.”
“Why?” Peter asks, aghast. He looks to Chris. Chris is pale, face drawn.
“Cora,” Isaac mumbles.
“No, I have to tell them,” she says, her voice straining. Her eyes shine with unshed tears. “They have to know, Isaac. Please.”
Chris approaches the bed slowly, warily, as though he’s approaching a trapped animal. “Isaac?”
Isaac looks up, shaking his head.
“Isaac,” Chris repeats, his voice low and calm. “Someone tried to kill us today. Me, and Peter and Stiles. And I know it had something to do with whatever’s going on in the Department, and I know my family is involved. I know Deucalion is too.”
Isaac rears back when he hears the name, sprawling on his ass on the floor. He’s suddenly wild-eyed. “No!”
“Isaac,” Cora says, her voice breaking on a sob as she shuffles toward him on her knees. She holds out a hand beseechingly. “Isaac.”
Isaac wrenches away from her touch, and then leaps to his feet and bolts up the stairs.
Peter digs around in the toolbox he drags out from under the bed and finds a pack of sour candy. Which is disgusting, but he can use the distraction. He rips the pack open and tips the candy into his palm. Then he shoves it in his mouth.
“Don’t eat Isaac’s food!” Cora mutters, rubbing her eyes with the sleeves of her jacket.
“This isn’t food,” Peter tells her. “This is diabetes waiting to happen. Now, what the hell is going on, Cora?”
Chris stands while Cora and Peter sit on the bed beside Stiles. Cora leans into Peter’s side. “You might as well know. FTS. That’s us. Me and Isaac.”
“Fuck.” Peter rubs his temples in the vain attempt to stave off a sudden stabbing headache. “Cora, really?”
Cora purses her lips and nods.
“Nothing dangerous, Cora. I specifically said nothing dangerous!” No. His headache is definitely here to stay. “Remember that? You promised me it was nothing dangerous!”
“In fact, you said it was just flyers! Just flyers! And now you’re telling me that no, you’re actually the brains—and I use the term so very, very loosely—behind the goddamn FTS!”
“It was the right thing to do,” Cora says stubbornly.
“Oh, sweetpea.” The fight drains out of him. Peter doesn’t know if he’s angry or distraught or still in too much shock from killing a guy that he doesn’t feel anything at all. “You should have come to me, or your mother. Or the authorities!”
“Who would believe us?” Cora asks, her voice suddenly small. “All Isaac’s records say he’s an omega. They changed everything. He was a late presenter anyway and he hasn’t been to school in two years. Not since… not since he went to stay with Deucalion after his dad died. And Deucalion…” She glares at Peter. “You know what people like him are like. He can’t be seen to be alpha/alpha-oriented. Alphas don’t submit by taking—” She flushes suddenly.
“I’ve never felt particularly emasculated,” Peter says, “by taking it up the ass. Chris? How about you?”
Chris gives him a narrow look.
“Anyway, it’s a dumb prejudice,” Cora mutters.
“You’re preaching to the choir.” Peter inhales slowly, reaching out to rub his palm over Stiles’s forearm. His skin is clammy, and that’s a whole other worry that Peter’s just going to add to the pile. “What you’re saying is that Deucalion and Isaac were in an alpha/alpha relationship?”
The word relationship tastes sour on his tongue. It invites an ugly comparison, although Peter would be willing to bet his life that what he and Chris have is nothing at all like whatever was between Deucalion and Isaac.
Cora nods haltingly. “Deucalion told Isaac he wanted to make him into an omega. He…” She looks to Chris and then away again. “Isaac fought it, even with all the drugs, so Deucalion sent him to the Department of Omega Welfare to be trained. He broke out, and I found him hiding in the old root cellar. I helped him.”
“Oh, sweetpea. Why didn’t you tell anyone?”
“Because Camden went to the police, and ended up dead!”
“Who is Camden?” he asks.
Cora sniffles. “Isaac’s brother. He was in the military. He was posted overseas when Isaac met Deucalion. We think he came looking for him when he got home.”
Camden went to the police, and now he’s dead. No wonder Isaac and Cora don’t trust the authorities. But there’s someone else connected to all this somehow. Someone who, given what happened to both him and his son, must have gotten very close to the truth as well. If there’s one cop they can trust, it has to be him.
Peter looks over to Chris. “We need to talk to Sheriff Stilinski.”
Isaac has a burner phone. Perfect.
“Sheriff Stilinski?” Peter asks when the man answers.
“Who is this?”
“This is Peter Hale,” Peter tells him. “A few weeks ago my partner and I were mated with an omega through the Department of Omega Welfare. I would very much like to talk to you about that.”
There’s a moment of silence. Then: “Where are you?”
Peter gives him the address.
“I’m on my way.”
“I’m going to find Kate,” Chris says, his expression unreadable.
Peter stands up from the bed and crosses the floor. He steps into Chris’s space and curls his hand over his shoulder. “Chris. It’s too dangerous.”
“She’s my sister, Peter.”
Your sister who’s up to her neck in this.
But, also, his sister who tried to warn them. That has to count for something, doesn’t it? Peter has always fancied himself as a master manipulator of Byzantine standards, but he’s so out of his depth here. He and Chris have been thrust into the middle of something they have no hope of understanding. This isn’t a game of wits, is it? This isn’t Machiavellian. This is Peter playing blind on an unlevel field. Even Cora knew more than Peter did this morning. And Cora is a child. Well, a young woman now, but wasn’t it only yesterday that she was learning to walk by clinging to Peter’s finger? Peter’s sure it was only yesterday.
“I’ve got my eyes open, Peter,” Chris tells him. “I know she’s not innocent. But she tried to warn us.”
Peter knows Chris. Knows him too fucking well. And if there’s one thing Chris has always done, it’s suffer under the weight of his obligations. To his father, to Victoria, to Allison, and now to Kate. He tries so hard to do the right thing.
Be selfish! Peter yelled at him once, years ago now. Just be selfish for once!
The irony is, of course, that Peter would never have fallen in love with him if he’d been a selfish man.
“Don’t die,” Peter whispers.
Chris gives him a curt nod, then leans in and brushes a brief kiss against his mouth. “You too.”
He presses something into Peter’s hand, and Peter looks down to discover it’s a gun.
“I’ll be back soon,” Chris says.
Peter swallows. “I’ll be waiting.”
There’s a small grocery store a few blocks from the warehouse. Cora leaves and returns with cayenne pepper, orange juice and bananas.
“It helped Isaac when he was detoxing,” she says. “You’re supposed to wean them onto lower doses, but that’s not really an option.”
“How do you know all this?” Peter asks her.
She gives him the side-eye. “Google.”
Isaac slinks down the stairs in time to help Peter wrestle Stiles into a sitting position, and Cora forces him to drink some of the cayenne-laced orange juice. He tries to bat their hands away.
“Drink it,” Isaac orders him. “What are you? A coward?”
Stiles blinks at him blearily. “Isaac? ’m I dead?”
“Not yet,” Isaac tells him.
Stiles swallows another mouthful of the juice, and coughs. “Where am I?”
“You’re safe,” Peter tells him.
Stiles twists around to stare at him. He squints to focus. “Alpha?”
The word is suddenly sickening, but Peter forces himself to nod.
“You’re…” Stiles pushes at him, his eyes filling with tears. “You’re… What did you do to me?”
“Nothing,” Peter says. He catches Stiles by the wrists when Stiles tries to push him away. The mattress bounces, and Cora spills the juice onto the sheets. “Calm down! Calm down, Stiles!”
He tries to release one of Stiles’s wrists so he can cup the back of his neck, but Stiles wrenches away from him.
“Don’t touch me! Don’t touch me!”
“Calm down!” Peter says again.
“It’s okay, Stiles,” Isaac says over the sounds of Stiles’s rising panic. “It’s okay.”
“Stiles,” Cora says. “It’s me. It’s Cora.”
Stiles thrashes between them. “Don’t touch me!”
He’s making so much noise that Peter isn’t even aware of the door to the loft opening. Isn’t aware of anything until the man is standing right there, holding a gun in shaking hands and pointing it right at him. He looks weak, almost frail, but there’s a thread of pure steel in his voice when he speaks.
“Get your fucking hands off my son.”
Chris knows as well as anyone that there’s no way onto his father’s property without security realizing. There are no blind spots in the network of cameras, guards, and even dogs. He knows because he helped design the system. He’s the one who told his father just how many guards he needed. He’s the one who calculated the placement of the cameras. He vetted the head of security himself.
The only way in is through the front gate.
“Is Kate in?” he asks the guard on the gate.
The man’s expression flickers. He schools his features a second too late. “I believe so, Mr. Argent.”
So he’s expected then.
The gate rolls back and Chris drives through. He feels like a rat nosing closer and closer to a trap, but that’s his sister in there.
Chris pulls up at the front of the house.
When he gets out, there are four men waiting for him. Chris doesn’t recognize them. If they’re part of his father’s security team, they’re new. He doesn’t know them, and he didn’t vet them.
He doesn’t protest when they stop him.
They take his guns.
Chris lets them.
“I want to see my sister,” he says.
The men escort him into the house.
“Chris!” Kate exclaims when Chris is shown into the sitting room. It’s the same room where his father met Stiles. Photo portraits of Chris and Kate smile down from the walls. Kate leaps up from the couch. “What the hell are you doing here? I told you to get away!”
Chris sends a narrow glance toward the men. They leave, and close the door behind them. Chris hears the lock turn.
“I needed to make sure you’re okay.” He searches her gaze. “I can help you, Kate, if you tell me the truth about all of this.”
“Help me? Chris, you were supposed to run.” Kate shakes her head. “Now we’re both stuck here. So what’s the plan, big brother? What happens now?”
Chris folds his arms over his chest. “You tell me.”
Kate’s expression falls, and she drags her fingers through her hair. “This is a fucking mess!” She scowls at a portrait of their father.
“Stiles isn’t crazy,” Chris says quietly. “He never was.”
“No,” Kate says, exhaling heavily. “God. Sheriff Stilinksi was investigating Deucalion, and Deucalion wanted him dealt with. Well, you know how that went. He asked Dad for a favor. Wanted his help to clean up the mess.” Her mouth twists. “Twenty-three million dollars. That’s how much money Deucalion has given Dad’s campaign, and fuck knows how much he’s poured into the Foundation.”
“Deucalion bought him,” Chris says. He needs to hear it.
“Of course he did. Well, Dad will say it’s a friend helping out a friend, but let’s not pretend it’s not about the money.” Kate paces back and forth for a moment, agitated. “I shouldn’t have done it, Chris. Jesus, but I shouldn’t have done it. There was nothing wrong with Stiles, but I thought…” Her eyes shine with tears. “It was my idea. The sheriff was expected to die, you know? And Stiles was a loose end. Deucalion wanted him killed as well, but I was the one who told them no. What if the sheriff survives? You’ll need some leverage. Something to get him to shut his mouth, to play the game. Don’t kill the omega. You might need him.”
Chris feels sick to the stomach.
“I did it to save his life, Chris.” Kate’s eyes are wide, pleading for his understanding. “I did it because they would have killed him too. And that is God’s honest truth. I need you to say you believe me. My life’s work has been caring for omegas. I couldn’t let them just kill him.”
“I do believe you,” Chris says, and discovers it’s the truth. “I actually believe you thought you were saving him.”
Kate opens her mouth.
Chris speaks first. “But that doesn’t explain Isaac Lahey.”
Kate’s expression freezes.
“You were in this from the start,” Chris tells her. He feels more weary than angry. “Only someone at the Department, someone with your authority, could have changed all his paperwork, had him admitted as an omega. Maybe in some twisted way you were trying to help Stiles, but you weren’t trying to help Isaac, were you?”
“No,” he says, taking a step back as she moved toward him. “Twenty-three million dollars, Kate. Let’s not pretend it’s not about the money.”
Her expression grows cold, as though the mask of their father has landed on her face. In this moment Chris hardly recognizes her.
“Typical Chris,” she says. “You never cared where the family money came from. As long as Ally gets to go to Columbia, right?”
“Don’t try and put this on me,” Chris tells her, feeling a sudden bite of anger. “I didn’t drug some kid and hold him against his will!”
“Didn’t you?” she asks, her mouth curving up into a cruel smile.
Chris’s heart skips a beat. He flashes back to Stiles’s mouth opening under the gently pressure of his fingers, to slipping the pills inside. To stroking his forehead and promising him that he was okay. Thinking he was doing the right thing, when… when…
“I didn’t know.” He crosses to the couch and slumps down on his, his posture defeated. “I didn’t know.”
Kate doesn’t say anything.
Chris looks up at her. “You can still make this right, Kate. You can come to the police and—”
“It’s too late for that,” Kate says. “Besides, do you think Deucalion will let any of us do that? I’m as much a hostage here as you are.”
He doubts that.
Somehow Chris doubts that.
It feels like hours, but it’s probably only minutes before Gerard arrives. He strides into the room, and looks almost startled to see Chris sitting on the couch.
“I don’t believe it. You actually came,” he says and gives a small laugh.
“I told you he would,” Kate says, and Chris wants to punch the smug smile right off her face as the sickening realization rolls over him.
“I have to go. There’s someone here. I have to go.”
Not a warning. A trap. And she used herself as bait.
He’d always thought they were on the same team. They didn’t always see eye to eye, but when it came to their father… they always had each other’s backs, didn’t they? Ran interference when they had to. Deflected. Protected one another from the crippling weight of their father’s close scrutiny. He thought he knew her, this stranger standing in front of him.
Gerard looks Chris up and done. “You know then,” he says gruffly, as though Chris has somehow disappointed him.
“I didn’t want this,” Gerard says. “I didn’t want this for you, Christopher.”
Strange, but he hates when his father calls him that. Loves it when Peter does.
“Which one of you was it?” he asks. “Which one of you sent Deucalion after us?”
Gerard’s thin mouth curls into a smile. “Does it really matter?”
Chris can’t tell anymore. Maybe it does. Maybe he doesn’t want to believe Kate could do that to him, even though she’s proven today that she’s a match for their father in every way.
“What now?” he asks. “Peter and Stiles are safe. Whatever you do to me, they’re safe.”
“Do to you?” Gerard laughs. “Let’s talk about what you’ve done to me, shall we? Throwing away a good omega mate to take up with another alpha. You’re an abomination, Christopher, but I protected you. And this is how you repay me?”
Chris looks up to meet him in the eye. “I’ve been seeing Peter since before I got mated to Victoria. We’ve been together for twenty years now. And the first time we slept together? He was the one who fucked me. And I loved it.”
If he’s going to die, he at least wants to see the horrified shock on his father’s face first.
And there it is. It gives Chris a small moment of victory, which may be all he can hope for here.
“You—” Gerard looks ready to choke on his own bile. “You disgust me.”
Chris could say the exactly the same thing, he guesses.
Chris is getting mated tomorrow. He’s met Victoria once or twice, and she’s nice, but… But he’s drunk half a bottle of tequila just to try and dull the part of his brain screaming at him that this isn’t what he wants, this isn’t who he is.
There’s a boy standing over by the bar who’s way too young to drink, but he’s dangling a bottle of beer loosely from his fingers, and he’s smirking at Chris like he knows something Chris doesn’t. Chris feels a low burn start in his gut. It must be anger. It can’t be anything else.
The boy’s smirk grows, and then he sets his beer bottle on the bar and swaggers toward the bathroom.
Chris follows him.
He doesn’t know who invited the kid, and he tells himself he steps into the bathroom with the intention of telling the kid to leave.
That isn’t what happens.
Peter Hale has skin that tastes of salt and sweat. He has hair that Chris can tug his fingers through. He has a bright, sharp smile, and his teeth leave marks on Chris’s skin. He has long clever fingers that pop the button on Chris’s jeans and then curl around his dick. He has a laugh that’s low and dark and wrecked in Chris’s ear when they come together, rubbing up against one another in a filthy bathroom stall.
“See you next time, Christopher,” he smirks.
There isn’t going to be a next time, Chris should say, but he opens his mouth and says, instead: “Yes.”
Stiles blinks blearily up at him, the comforter pulled all the way up around his neck.
The mattress dips as Chris sits down. He cards his fingers through Stiles’s hair, and feels a swell of pity for the omega. He hates how hopeless he feels with Stiles. Hates how this is all he can give him.
“You’re a good boy, Stiles,” he murmurs, and his heart aches when Stiles smiles dozily. “Such a good boy. Sleep well.”
He pads down the hallway and climbs into bed with Peter.
Chris knows he isn’t leaving the house alive. That’s a given. He has no idea how they’re going to spin it, but he has no doubt they’ll find a way. Camden Lahey couldn’t get to them. Sheriff Stilinski couldn’t. Does Chris really think that he can?
“You’re disgusting,” Gerard snarls. “A disgusting, immoral, godless, worthless son!”
Even Kate looks surprised at the vehemence in his tone.
Chris isn’t going to get out of this alive. There are at least four men outside, armed, who will see that he doesn’t. But that doesn’t mean he’s not going to try. Because those four men? Those four men are incompetent.
Gerard steps closer to the couch, his hand raised.
Chris moves quickly, sliding his right hand down into his boot to tug his knife free. Gerard is already moving toward him, too late to stop. Chris rises to meet him. Blocks the slap with his left arm—and pain slices through him from the graze on his bicep—while at the same time he drive the knife into his father’s gut.
Gerard reels backward, hands clasped over the hilt of the knife, mouth wide open in shock.
Chris isn’t going to get out of this alive, but at least he’s taken his father with him.
Kate opens her mouth and screams for security.
A bonus chapter for today, since my shifts are changing. Next chapter will be up in about 24 hours.
“Don’t!” Cora yells. “Sheriff, don’t hurt him!”
Hurt who? Peter thinks. Oh, hurt him. Peter. Right. Because the sheriff has just walked in on Peter involved in a wrestling match with his abducted teenage omega son. Peter couldn’t look like more of an evil asshole if he tried, probably. He releases Stiles and stands up slowly, hands up, and back away from the bed.
“My name is Peter Hale,” he says, his heart thumping in his chest. “I’m not hurting Stiles. He’s in withdrawal, from whatever they gave him at the Department.” And whatever Peter gave him at the apartment, but this is probably not the time to bring that up. “Sheriff, this is the second time today I’ve had a gun pointed at me. I’d really appreciate it if you put it down.”
The sheriff nods at the gun in Peter’s waistband.
Oh God. He’d forgotten about that. Probably shouldn’t have got into a wrestling match with a loaded gun, right? That seems like something Chris would not approve of. Peter extracts the gun carefully from his waistband, sets it on the ground, and nudges it toward Sheriff Stilinksi with his boot.
The Sheriff holsters his weapon with shaking hands.
Stiles is still thrashing between Cora and Isaac. “Dad?” he asks, his voice breaking. "Daddy?”
Peter’s eyes sting at that. He sounds so young, and so, so afraid.
The sheriff’s face crumples, and he sits down on the edge of the bed. “I’m here, kiddo. I’m here now.”
Stiles launches himself at his dad, wrapping his arms around him tightly and burying his face in his stomach. “Dad!”
And to think Peter and Chris had once wondered if Stiles had been removed from the care of his family because of abuse or neglect. Clearly this is where Stiles belongs, and has always belonged. Peter feels a strange tug of… not jealously, exactly, but something proprietary he doesn’t want to dwell on.
The sheriff rocks back and forth slightly, making shushing sounds as rubs Stiles’s back.
“They told us at the Department that he was psychotic,” Peter says, his voice aching in his throat. “He was on medication. We didn’t question it.”
“Who is we?” the sheriff asks.
“Myself and my partner, Chris.” Peter lifts his chin. “We’re alpha/alpha. An omega mate gave us the appearance of a traditional family.”
“My seventeen year old son was mated without his consent?” The sheriff’s mouth twists down. “You’re his mates?”
“Only on paper,” Peter says. “We never touched him in that way. We wouldn’t.”
It seems like such a thin veneer of morality now, if he’s honest with himself. Well, we took your drugged son into a sham mating because it was convenient for us to do so, entirely disregarding his autonomy. But, good news, at least we never fucked him. And it’s probably no consolation at all to Sheriff Stilinksi that he can’t possibly think less of Peter in this moment than Peter thinks of himself.
The sheriff looks like he’s calculating how much Peter weighs, and how easy it will be to throw him out the window. Never mind that the man looks too weak to pick up a kitten at the moment, Peter is sure sheer stubbornness would see him manage it.
“Sheriff,” he says, and gestures to Cora and Isaac, both still sitting on the other side of the bed, hands held tightly together. “This is my niece, Cora. And this is Isaac Lahey.”
Recognition flickers across the sheriff’s drawn features. He strokes his hand up and down Stiles’s spine. “Lahey? Your brother came to see me. He reported you as a missing person. I’m so sorry for your loss, Isaac.”
Isaac stares back at him warily.
“It’s Deucalion,” Peter says. “You know him? The pharma guy.”
“Everyone knows who Deucalion is.” The sheriff’s brow creases. “How does he fit into all this?”
It’s Isaac who answers. “He said he loved me. He said he wanted me to be with him forever, but he could only do that if I was an omega.” His voice wavers. “He sent me to the Department of Omega Welfare.”
“The Department of Omega Welfare,” the sheriff says. “Three days after I first spoke with Camden, he called me and said he got a tip you were there. It seemed like he was clutching at straws, but the next day his body was found.”
“He didn’t kill himself!” Isaac exclaims. “He was looking for me! He wouldn’t leave me!”
“It didn’t sit right with me either,” the sheriff says with a sigh. “But there was no evidence it was anything but suicide. I called the Department anyway. Wanted to go out there and check on things, just to be sure.”
Peter’s stomach clenches.
“I never made it there.” The sheriff presses his mouth into a thin line. “Spent the last eight months in hospital, slowly coming back to myself. Couldn’t even talk, or write. And nobody could tell me where my boy was.”
Stiles is still sobbing gently in his lap. Tears slide down the sheriff’s face too.
“They took him for collateral, didn’t they?” the sheriff asks. “Held him hostage so that I couldn’t come after them.”
“Yes,” Peter says, his voice barely a whisper. “I think so, yes.”
“Sheriff?” Cora asks. “Laura says you think someone at the station set you up.”
The sheriff presses his mouth into a tight line before answering. “I said a lot of things when I was angry.”
Cora’s eyes are bright. “But you just said you called the Department first. Who did you talk to there?”
“The director,” the sheriff says. “I called the director.”
Cora meets Peter’s gaze.
Kate’s no victim in this, no follower. She’s an active fucking instigator, which means…
Which means she wasn’t trying to warn Chris at about the attack at all. She was trying to lure him to her in case he survived it.
“Call Laura!” Peter says, pointing at Cora. “And call your mother. Now.”
Within twenty minutes the loft is full of people. Talia, some of her people from the mayor’s office, Laura, Jordan, and a bunch of other deputies. A couple of guys from the FBI who are very interested in FTS, and it’s a mess. Stiles is still pretty much out of it, but the noise is making him frantic and even his father can’t calm him down, and it’s chaos.
Well, it’s chaos to a man who hasn’t tried to teach a bunch of college kids on the last Friday of term before Spring break.
“Shut the fuck up!” Peter yells. “Everybody just shut the fuck up and listen.”
Never let it be said that Peter Hale can’t control a room.
It ends, at least for now, in a flurry of action. It ends with the façade of the Argents’ house lit up like Christmas by the flashing strobe lights of police vehicles and ambulances. It ends with Peter trying to get close, trying to get through the fucking gates, and Jordan holding him back as the bodies are brought out.
Gurneys covered in plastic.
“Mr. Hale,” Jordan says, digging his fingers into Peter’s shoulders to keep his focus on him. “You can’t go in there, Mr. Hale.”
The protestors at the gate are watching slack-jawed, phones out to record the aftermath.
Peter watches as the coroner’s assistants jostle a gurney, and an arm flops out from underneath the plastic before one of them moves to hurriedly cover it up again.
Is it Chris? God, what if it’s Chris? Peter should be able to tell, shouldn’t he? He prides himself on knowing every goddamn inch of Chris’s body, but not like this. Never like this.
The media rolls up at some point, lights and cameras and on-the-spot reporters.
Kate, in handcuffs, is put into a police car. There’s blood staining her blouse, and her hair is unkempt. She looks like a wild animal, flinching, wide-eyed, as the cameras flash.
Talia appears out of nowhere, and tugs Peter out of Jordan’s grip.
“I don’t know,” she says before he can ask. “I haven’t been inside either, but apparently it’s a mess.”
Peter feels an odd swell of pride at that.
That’s my boy.
“There are two survivors with gunshot wounds,” Talia says. “There are three dead bodies. I’m sorry, Peter, but I don’t know.”
“Tee,” Peter whispers, and closes his eyes. “I only had him for just a moment. Waited our whole lives, and I only got just a moment.”
How is that fair? Which god is he supposed to rail against for that? He wishes he knew.
“Peter,” Talia says. “We don’t know.”
This isn’t fair.
Peter sits down in the gutter, and Talia sits with him. Her PA—Peter forgets the young man’s name—stands between them and the media, blocking their shots and shooing them away when they get too close.
“This is what Cora is mixed up in?” Talia asks, her arm around Peter’s shoulders.
“She’s a clever kid,” Peter says numbly.
Cora and Isaac are at Talia’s house, for now, with Talia’s lawyers. Well, with Talia and Peter’s brother William, who is a lawyer and has a massive conflict of interest here, but will protect his niece with all his might. Anyway, Peter has the feeling that the whole FTS nonsense will go away after today anyway. What’s a little vandalism compared to this? The FBI won’t go after a kid who set a car on fire and a kid who put up flyers when they’ve got the Department of Omega Welfare, the Argents and Deucalion to fix on.
“Come on, Peter,” Talia says at last. “Let’s get you home.”
Home? What’s home?
Peter shakes his head. “No, I need to stay, Tee. I need to—”
“Uncle Peter!” Laura pushes through a knot of reporters. There is blood on her uniform but she’s moving too quickly for it to be hers. “Uncle Peter, he’s alive! Chris is alive!”
“You fucking asshole,” Peter says, gripping something he hopes isn’t crucial as the ambulance takes a corner fast.
The paramedic keeping the pressure on Chris’s side gives him a startled look.
“I told you not to get hurt!”
“Tol’ me not to die.” Chris grins at him from behind his oxygen mask. He’s so pale. “C’mere.”
Peter twines his shaking fingers through Chris’s bloody ones. “Is that all you have to say to me, Christopher? You’re a man of few words now, are you? Now that you’ve decided to become a taciturn action hero with your bloody shirt and your miraculous survival?”
Chris says nothing at all. Just squeezes his hand tighter when Peter blinks and tears slide down his cheeks.
“Asshole,” Peter whispers, and leans down to press his forehead against Chris’s. “I love you.”
“Love you,” Chris echoes back. “Stiles okay?”
Peter waits for a burst of jealousy that doesn’t come.
“He’s with his father,” Peter says. “He’s safe now.”
Chris nods, and his eyes slide shut.
Chris is in surgery for two hours. Peter sits in the waiting room and, well, waits. Talia sits with him, and Laura and Jordan takes turns to lurk nearby.
“I’ve spoken to the FBI,” Talia says. “They raided Deucalion’s house, but he’s already gone. They’re interviewing Kate now.”
Peter doesn’t care, honestly.
He wants a shower, and he wants his bed, and he wants Chris.
“They’re putting you into protective custody for now,” Talia says. “You, and Chris as soon as he can be moved. Just until they can build a case against Deucalion to present to the Grand Jury.”
Talia looks almost surprised. “I thought you’d complain about it, to be honest.”
“Tee, I’m too tired to give a fuck right now.”
“Gerard’s dead,” Talia says, watching carefully for his reaction. “Chris stabbed him.”
“Good.” Peter will wait until he’s got his energy back, and then he’ll go and dance on the old bastard’s grave. Or piss on it. Or both. “Has anyone called Ally or Victoria? Told them Chris is in here?” He jolts. “Jesus. What are they hearing from the news?”
“James is taking care of it,” Talia says.
Peter relaxes a fraction. Talia’s husband is a good man. He’ll handle it judiciously. How, Peter isn’t sure.
Ally, good news and bad news. Your dad stabbed your grandfather, and got shot. But he’s expected to make a full recovery. Your dad, I mean. Your grandfather is dead as a fucking dodo. Oh, and your Aunt Kate is an evil fucking psycho bitch who will hopefully rot in jail until the end of time. Also, about your college tuition…
Yes, it’s probably better if James handles it.
“I’m going to get a coffee,” Talia says. “Do you want a coffee, Peter?”
He shakes his head.
He wants to see Chris.
Talia brings him a coffee anyway. It’s cold before he manages to drink it all. Still, not the worst thing that’s happened today, right? Peter’s looking on the bright side, and keeping it all in perspective. Look at him, considering the big picture and not sweating the small stuff.
He should probably call Deaton.
Ask if that counts as personal growth.
Stiles wakes up in a strange bed with a strange man leaning over him. He flails, a half-panicked shout forming in his throat.
Stiles turns his head to see his dad sitting beside him. “Dad? I didn’t dream you?”
“No, son.” His dad reaches out for his hand. His eyes are shining with tears. “This is Dr. Deaton. He’s monitoring your progress.”
“Hello, Stiles,” Dr. Deaton says. “I’m a psychologist. I’ve worked with addiction before. We’ve met, but I wouldn’t be surprised if you don’t remember.” He has a calm voice, like there’s nothing in the world that could shock him. “You and your father are in an FBI safe house. You’re under the care of a medical doctor, and also myself. We’re going to keep you on a very low dosage of Seroquel for just a few more days while we ease you off the other drugs you’ve been on.”
“I don’t want more pills!”
Deaton inclines his head. “I understand that, Stiles, but this is a very, very low dosage, just to keep the worst of the effects of withdrawal away, and your father will be here with you the whole time, okay?”
Stiles looks at his dad. “The whole time?”
“The whole time, kiddo. I promise.”
It takes Stiles a few days to piece together what happened. His dad shares his bed, and Stiles doesn’t mind feeling like a little kid because of it. He figures his pride was the first thing they took from him at the Department. He wants his dad there, even when he feels guilty for waking him up with nightmares. He hopes the nightmares are just because of the withdrawal. He hopes they’ll go away.
He stays in bed and dozes mostly. His dad has dragged a table in from somewhere, and they’re working their way through a jigsaw puzzle when Stiles is awake. It’s oddly soothing.
“How long was I in there?” Stiles asks on the third day, looking at his dad anxiously.
“Eight months,” his dad says, his voice scratchy. He presses a piece into the puzzle.
“It can’t be…” Stiles creases his forehead. His dad has too much gray in his hair. Too many lines on his face. He’s gotten thin. His hands shake all the time. “Dad, you got old.”
“I got shot in the head, kiddo,” his dad says, flexing his trembling fingers. “It’s slow going. Had to relearn everything. If the tremors don’t stop, I’ll be medically retired.”
“I don’t…I don’t remember that!”
His memories are patchy still.
“I don’t mind if you never do,” his dad tells him frankly.
Stiles knows what happened. The FBI agents have told him. He knew when it happened that his dad got shot, because someone from the Department took him from the hospital. They had paperwork that said he was in their custody now. But Stiles doesn’t remember anything about that night.
“Did I even get to see you before they took me?” He scrubs at his tears with the heel of his hand.
“I don’t know, kid,” his dad says. “But listen to me, Stiles. It’s not going to happen again, okay? Nothing like that is ever going to happen to you again.”
Stiles swallows, and forces down the low burn of anger inside his gut. Because it wasn’t supposed to happen the first time either. His dad always said that if anything happened to him, his mom’s family in Minnesota would look after him. His dad signed papers, just in case. But in the end, it didn’t matter, because some fucking judge believed that Stiles was crazy and only the Department could be trusted to look after him.
It just… it all feels so precarious. How is he supposed to believe it will never happen again if all it takes is something in authority—someone like Kate Argent—to tell a lie to a judge?
If all it takes is for someone to put a bullet in his dad’s head.
He hates not remembering. He hates not knowing what was done to him when he was drugged. He has flashes, indistinguishable from his nightmares, of orderlies forcing pills down his throat, of being strapped to the bed, of being forced to kneel. He doesn’t know how bad it got, both there and with his mates. Did anyone touch him? Deaton says he was on suppressants, so he didn’t have a heat. It doesn’t stop the other doctor for checking him for pregnancy though, just in case someone did stuff to him outside of heat. It’s rare for omegas to conceive then, but not impossible. His test came back negative, for pregnancy and STIs, but that doesn’t mean nobody touched him. The doctor couldn’t tell if he was still a virgin or not, only that there were no signs of recent intercourse.
How is he supposed to deal with not knowing?
How is he supposed to deal with his trauma when he doesn’t even know what it is?
“But you know exactly what it is, Stiles,” Deaton told him the night before. “It’s a loss of control, of autonomy. It’s a loss of trust. Whether or not you were physically raped, those feelings are still completely valid.”
His dad looked aghast when Deaton said that, but it made a kind of sense to Stiles. It seems somehow easier, now there’s a label he can put on the box that holds his feelings.
He fiddles with a jigsaw piece. “I’m tired of feeling like this, Dad. I want to get better.”
His dad pulls him into a hug.
“It’s slow going for both of us,” his dad says. “But we’re going to make it, Stiles.”
Stiles can do this.
They aren’t the only ones in the safe house. His dad and Deaton have told him. Cora and Isaac are here too. Stiles remembers Isaac from the center, and he remembers Cora from school, and apparently she’s just as badass he always suspected. But it’s not them Stiles is afraid to face when he finally makes his way downstairs.
Chris Argent and Peter Hale.
It’s not a magical word. He doesn’t feel any pull toward them or anything, like in those dumb movies where omegas are so in tune with their alpha that they turn into giant mood rings or whatever. Stiles hates those movies. He knows they’re only his mates on paper, and that it doesn’t mean anything… just another thing taken away from him, right? If he ever meets the alpha of his dreams—or the beta, Stiles doesn’t care about that bullshit traditionalist stuff that says omegas should only mate with alphas—then that’s another first he won’t be able to give his alpha. Stiles has always believed mating is for life, and look at him now. Mated and divorced at seventeen. Yay, Stiles.
Well, the divorce hasn’t been finalized yet, because Stiles hasn’t got an official guardian to sign the papers for him. He’s still a ward of the state until a judge can sort that out and put him back officially into his dad’s care. Took the fuckers the work of hours to have him basically kidnapped in the first place, but now they’re all about the correct bureaucratic process? Assholes.
Anyway, Stiles can do this.
He takes a deep breath and walks down the stairs.
The house is big and new. Stiles thinks that maybe they’re in that subdivision off Baxter Drive, the gated community with all the McMansions. He knows they’re still in Beacon Hills, because they didn’t drive long enough to get anywhere else. The stairs lead down to a foyer that has one of those modern chandeliers hanging in it. It’s steel or something, and looks more like a massive wind chime. It’s kind of ugly.
Stiles turns in the foyer and heads for the back of the house. He’s ostensibly seeking out the kitchen, but mostly he wants to scope the place—and the people—out.
Stiles hears voices from what he assumes is the kitchen. His dad, and maybe Cora? He’s drawn to the sound of them. He moves down the wide hallway, and finds himself stopping in the doorway of the living room.
There’s a man lying on the couch with his feet up and a blanket covering him. He has a salt-and-pepper beard. His gaze, when it locks on Stiles, is gray-blue.
There’s another man sitting on the floor, leaning back against the couch, reading aloud from a book. When he notices Stiles, his voice trails off and he sets the book aside. This man has facial hair too. A goatee that somehow doesn’t make him look like a total douchebag. How is that possible?
They’re both kind of hot for older guys—okay, so Stiles has always had a thing for older guys—but that’s not what makes Stiles’s flush. It’s the fact that he wants to go and sit with them, feel their hands cupping his face, stroking his hair. He wants to hear them murmur nice things to him.
Is it sense memory? Is that what they did when he was drugged?
Stiles pushes the urge away, and regards the two of them silently.
Chris Argent is the one on the couch. Stiles doesn’t know if that’s something he’s figured out because obviously the guy sitting on the floor isn’t going to be the guy who was shot in the side three days ago and probably still has gross drainage tubes and shit coming out of him. No, Chris is definitely the guy lying on the couch with the blanket over him. Maybe it’s not just a matter of deduction though. Maybe it’s something he remembers.
Which means the other guy is Peter Hale, the one who called his dad to the loft, and then called the police and the mayor. Who got everyone going to the Argent house when the shit hit the fan, because not everyone could have been involved, right? Stiles isn’t sure if that makes him clever or stupid or lucky or what it makes him. Maybe he just panicked, or maybe he just didn’t care about who he was putting in danger if his mate was at risk.
Chris and Peter are alpha/alpha mates. People are gross and weird about that sort of thing. Stiles knows all about prejudices like that. He’s an omega. He’s copped his fair share. Teachers who always say he should be quiet and stop asking questions. The neighbor who told him when he was twelve that he should be mated as soon as possible so that he would settle down and learn his place. The people at the summer camp who wouldn’t let him play lacrosse with Scott and the other alphas because he might get hurt. There’s this dumb idea that if alphas are mated to alphas, one of them has to be the weak one, the omega. Which is clearly fucking backward and medieval because Stiles isn’t anyone’s docile little omega, okay? And fuck anyone who thinks he is. Fuck them sideways.
He can do this.
He steps into the living room, and crosses the floor. He sits down in one of the armchairs that faces the couch, and crosses his arms over his chest. Projects a hell of a lot more attitude that he’s feeling right now, actually.
He’s terrified, but he’s not going to show them that. They don’t get to see that. That’s for his dad, and for Deaton, and for the room upstairs. Not for these assholes so they can judge him and pity him.
“Hey,” he says at last, breaking the silence. “I’m Stiles.”
Chris aches from more than his injuries when he sees Stiles. In some ways he looks no different at all—the pale mole-dotted skin, the high cheekbones, the snub nose, the eyes the color of dark amber—but what Chris has previously catalogued as a series of physical characteristics, as impersonal as the details on some official document or identification, are no longer disparate. Stiles is awake, alert. He is present.
It’s strange what lucidity can do to a person’s expression. It sharpens it almost beyond recognition. Stiles looks like a stranger.
He sits down in the chair across from Chris and Peter, and folds his arms over his chest.
“Hey,” he says. His amber gaze flicks between Chris and Peter. His mouth is set in a hard line. “I’m Stiles.”
“I’m Peter,” Peter says, and nods at Chris. “This is Chris.”
Chris forces himself to take a breath. His heart is beating fast. Faster now, possibly, than it did back in his father’s house when he’d been certain he was going to die. He was less afraid then than he is now. Stiles seems even more terrifying than Gerard, and Chris knows that’s because of the weight of his own guilt.
“How’d you think it was gonna work out, huh?” Stiles asks at last. “You’d just keep the drug-fucked omega in the background and try to forget about him while you went about your lives?”
Chris’s stomach clenches.
It’s Peter who answers, of course.
“Yes,” he says, tilting his head and looking at Stiles on a curious angle. “That’s exactly what we thought. You were the solution to all our problems.”
Stiles’s eyes widen, as though he really hadn’t thought Peter would just come right out and admit it.
“What?” Peter strokes his fingers over the cover of his discarded book. “We are both selfish men, Stiles. We didn’t question it because, well, gift horses and all that.” He looks back at Chris and raises a brow. “Although you turned out to be more like a Trojan horse, didn’t you?”
Stiles barely flinches, but Chris doesn’t miss the movement.
“Peter,” he says in a warning tone, and curls his fingers around Peter’s shoulder. He can feel how tense he is. “Enough.”
Peter’s first line of defense has always been attack. He’s arrogant, petty and vindictive. And those are some of his better qualities. Chris has known him for twenty years and feels like he still barely gets to see past the snark and the sarcasm that Peter projects for his audience. Peter’s ego is more fragile that it appears. He would much rather appear cruel and cold than he would weak. How much of that fragility is Chris’s fault? How much of it is twenty years of being unable to show anyone—not Talia, not Deaton, and sure as hell not Chris—how much he was hurting?
And Chris doesn’t care if Peter pushes all that shit onto him—Chris knows he has earned his share—but Stiles doesn’t deserve it.
The muscles in Peter’s shoulders bunch under Chris’s hand.
“Enough,” Chris says again.
Stiles’s amber gaze meets his, and even manages to hold it for a moment before he look away again.
That’s unusual for an omega. Impressive.
“Help me sit,” Chris says. He’s not in a lot of pain, but he doesn’t want to pull his stitches when he moves.
Peter stands, and then gives Chris his hand. Chris grasps his wrist tightly, braces for the inevitable stab of pain, and is warily pleased when a twinge is the worst he gets. When Chris is sitting up again, Peter sits down on the couch beside him.
Stiles watches them, his expression unreadable.
Chris can hear the cadence of voices from the kitchen, rising and falling into the natural patterns of easy conversation. So different from this.
“It’s my fault,” Chris says. “I wanted my father’s approval. This was the only way I could get even a semblance of that. I’m sorry.”
Peter bristles beside him.
“Don’t,” Chris warns him. Don’t defend the indefensible.
Of course Peter doesn’t listen.
“His father was a bigot,” he says. “And his sister sold us a very convincing lie. The first day we met you? You were dribbling like a leaky tap.”
The color rises in Stiles’s cheeks. “Shut up.”
“We thought you were a basket case,” Peter says. “A basket case who was about to age out of the system. So pardon us for agreeing to save you from a short, wretched life of fucking in back alleys and truck stops.”
“Enough!” Chris says again, but it’s too late.
Stiles is standing, cheeks blotched, the pressed line of his mouth wavering. His eyes are incandescent. Chris can’t tell if it’s from rage or from hurt. He can’t pick the difference in them himself these days. What are the chances he’d be able to untangle them in Stiles?
“Stiles,” he says, but Stiles is already hurrying out of the room. Chris turns to gaze at Peter. “Why did you to that?”
“It’s the truth,” Peter says.
“You don’t have to punish him with it to spare my fucking feelings, Peter! What we did was wrong. We bought into Kate’s lie because it suited us. Because it was convenient. And even if it had been the truth, that wouldn’t have made it right.” Chris slumps back against the couch. “And you know that as well as I do.”
Peter doesn’t answer him. He just reaches down to the floor, picks up the book, and begins reading aloud again.
Alan Deaton is staying in the house too. He usually has a session with Stiles every day, and a session with Isaac. Chris has so far refused Deaton’s offer of counseling, but that doesn’t mean that Deaton has given up on him.
“Would you like some tea?” he asks later in the day when Peter has vanished somewhere and Chris is wondering just how much it will hurt to get up and walk upstairs.
Deaton doesn’t wait for an answer. Just comes into the living room, and sets a mug of tea down within easy reach on the coffee table. Then he sits down across from Chris, nursing his own mug in his lap. Fragrant steam rises.
“I had a very complicated relationship with my father,” Deaton offers at last.
“Really?” Chris asks. “Did you stab him to death?”
“No,” Deaton says mildly. “Although I thought about it more than once.”
Is that a joke? It’s difficult to tell with Deaton.
“I have a sister as well,” Deaton says. “A younger sister. She’s a psychologist too. She works for the military. Not with servicemen or veterans. She works with prisoners.”
That piques Chris’s interest. “In Intelligence?”
“Yes.” Deaton takes a sip of his tea. “I suspect we’d make a fascinating case study, Marin and I. Both of us born and raised in the same environment. Both of us with the same professional focus. Except where I try to help people recover from trauma, she tries to take them apart. She thinks what I do is pedestrian. I think what she does is horrific.” He shrugs. “I still love her.”
Chris curls his fingers into a loose fist. If he closes his eyes he can still feel the tangle of Kate’s hair tugging at his skin as she tried to pull away from him.
“I used my sister as a human shield,” he says. “Do you think I still love her?”
“I think you do,” Deaton says quietly. “That doesn’t mean you have to like her, or approve of the things she’s done. I think she’s a toxic person and, if necessary, you should remove her from your life.”
“Yeah, the feds are taking care of that for both of us,” Chris says grimly.
Kate’s going to spend a long time in jail. Chris would feel a lot happier about that if there wasn’t a damn good chance he was going to do the same thing. He walked into the house with a knife in his boot. His father was unarmed when he killed him. And Chris doesn’t have the money for a lawyer, let alone a phenomenal one.
All he wanted was a quiet life. He wanted to be with Peter openly. He wanted Ally to stay at Columbia. He wanted to build his business, and live happily. These weren’t ridiculous dreams, were they? So how the hell did they lead him here?
“I don’t give a damn about Kate right now,” he says. His throat aches. “I want Stiles to know that I’m sorry.”
“Have you told him that?” Deaton asks curiously.
“Then he knows,” Deaton says. “Whether he’s accepted it or not, well, that’s not in your control. You don’t have a right to his forgiveness.”
Chris nods curtly.
“It must have been difficult,” Deaton says at last.
“To have an omega living in your space again,” Deaton says. “One who relied on you so much. To be fed, and clothed, and comforted. It must have been difficult, as an alpha, not to respond to that. Not to let a bond form.”
Chris meets Deaton’s very knowing gaze. He has no idea how to answer that. “Thanks for the tea,” he says instead.
Deaton rises from his seat and smiles. “Same time tomorrow?”
Why not? What the hell else has Chris got to do?
Phone calls are vetted and monitored by the FBI. Chris is trying unsuccessfully to lose himself in one of Peter’s books when the agent brings him the phone.
“Hello?” he asks.
“Victoria?” Chris asks, heart clenching. “Are you okay? Is Ally?”
“We’re fine,” she says. “I wanted to let you know I’ve sold the house.”
“It’s too big for me,” Victoria says. “Ally and I are going to share an apartment. She’s moving back.”
“Vicki, don’t let her—”
“Chris, I’m not letting her do anything,” Victoria says, and he almost smiles at that. Victoria might present as a traditional omega, but she’s never had trouble telling Chris exactly what she thinks. She has a core of steel. “She’s decided, and I’ve agreed, to transfer to the community college here in Beacon Hills. The money she’s getting back from her tuition and the money from the house are going toward getting you a lawyer.”
“Vicki.” He sighs.
“You think she’d rather visit you in prison?” Victoria asks him.
“I think that even with the best lawyer in the world, I’m not walking away from this.” He’s aware the FBI is listening. It doesn’t matter. He’s told them exactly what happened.
Did you go to the house with the intention to kill Senator Argent, Mr. Argent?
Did Senator Argent attack you?
It wasn’t self-defense. Not in any legal sense of the word. Practical, maybe, but not legal.
“Let me do this for you, Chris,” Victoria says. “Please.”
He huffs a breath into the phone. “Why would you? After everything I’ve done.”
Victoria is silent for a long while. Long enough that he thinks she’s possibly ended the call. Then she says, softly, “We’re still friends, aren’t we?”
“I’d like that,” he answers, his voice rasping a little.
“Then let me do this for you.”
“Okay,” he says. “Thank you.”
He’s not sure it will make a difference.
They share a house with the Stilinskis and Isaac, but they eat separately. Cora sometimes joins Peter and Chris to eat, digging eagerly into whatever the FBI has provided. Pizza and noodles seem to be hot favorites. Chris is starting to crave steamed vegetables. He wonders if they get those in federal prison.
It’s been almost a week, and they’re still in the safe house.
The story has broken, more of less accurately, in the media. Gerard might be dead, but he’s still leading the news bulletins every night. Just not in the positive light he might have wished. Kate is just as infamous now. Every omega in the care of the Department of Omega Welfare has been moved into alternate care until the investigating authorities are satisfied there have been no breaches of care in facilities other than Beacon Hills. That’s thousands of kids across the state.
Deucalion has vanished off the face of the earth.
Chris can’t find it in himself to believe that.
At night he sometimes hears the faint strains of Isaac’s nightmares.
He’s not the only one.
Two weeks in a safe house with nothing to do except lie around and read and eat. Which, really, sounds like Peter’s dream vacation, apart from the fact there’s no beach, no alcohol, and there are way too many teenagers. Peter doesn’t hate teenagers. He was an exceptional example of one himself at one time, and he certainly wouldn’t teach community college if he couldn’t handle them, but these teenagers here? They are not like other teenagers.
Cora, for starters, doesn’t count. She transcends her age bracket. Cora was born with the bitter cynicism of a middle-aged French existentialist playwright, and Peter adores her for it. But hell is other people indeed.
Isaac is more of a wraith than a human being. He keeps to himself, in his room. Peter thinks that one day one of the agents will go to wake him and discover he’s been entirely consumed by the bags under his eyes. He seems to crave Cora’s company and need to repel her at the same time. Peter has an inkling about how that feels.
“Fuck you, Chris. I don’t need your fucking pity.”
How many times has he said that over the past twenty years?
But Stiles is the one who looks right into Peter’s soul, isn’t he? Or at least somehow manages to give that impression from the furtive glances he throws him in passing. The house is large, but not large enough to avoid all contact.
And Peter finds himself watching Stiles more than he should.
Stiles is not like any other omega Peter has ever met. Or perhaps that’s just what he tells himself so that he can rationalize the way he feels about Stiles. The urge to touch him, to comfort him, to protect him. Which is objectively ridiculous. If Peter reached out and touched Stiles, the last thing the boy would feel was comforted and protected. In fact, every touch Stiles has ever received from Peter, and from Chris, has been a violation, hasn’t it? However well-intentioned.
Chris is right.
They’d believed what Kate told them about Stiles because it was convenient to them. Because they had no reason to disbelieve it, certainly, but Peter’s always been a contrary bastard. He’s questioned every damn thing in his life. But he didn’t, not with Stiles, because it suited him to believe it. And every time that Stiles tried to tell him, Peter had swept away his misgivings by reminding himself that he and Chris were doing the right thing.
Peter stands in the doorway of the living room and watches as Cora and Isaac and Stiles crowd around a Monopoly board. Ugh. Awful fucking game. Peter, of course, is a genius at it, but Talia has banned him from playing because apparently he makes the younger members of the family cry when he crushes them into bankrupt dust.
“The point is not to spare their feelings, Talia,” he tried to tell her last time eleven-year-old Matty was wailing on the floor. “The point is for them to learn a hard lesson about the merciless evil of capitalism. And for me to have a hotel on Boardwalk.”
“It’s a game, Peter!”
John Stilinski is sitting on the couch watching, or possibly umpiring. Isaac seems mostly disinterested, but Cora and Stiles both have the hungry look of budding Monopoly villains who are intending to take no prisoners. Peter’s seen that look on Cora’s face a thousand times. On Stiles, he finds it fascinating.
An omega, but no pushover. He’s full of attitude and clearly doesn’t back down from a fight. Peter hates that he finds that so very unusual in an omega. What was it Cora accused him of? Being all about equal rights when he’s in the classroom, but in the real world?
He was only too willing to believe that Stiles, that any omega, needed the protection of an alpha. And even if that’s true—and Kate’s stories about omegas aging out of the system and being unable to look after themselves for whatever reason are certainly true in some cases—that doesn’t make it right on any level. It’s not the omegas who are at fault. It’s society. And Peter was supposed to know that. He was supposed to know that all along, and not just forget it because Stiles was useful to him and Chris.
They should never have agreed to take Stiles.
They should have asked, instead, why there wasn’t a support system in place for him. They should have asked loudly, publically, what was being done for omegas like Stiles. In a rich, affluent society, why were any people allowed to fall between the gaps?
But they hadn’t, because taking him had been so easy.
Stiles reaches forward and grabs a Community Chest card. Crows triumphantly when he reads it, and shoves it in Cora’s face, laughing.
“Read it and weep, Hale! Read it and weep!”
He looks across at Peter then, his expression shifting as he sees him for the first time.
He looks wary, but his eyes are still bright and his smile is still frozen on his lips.
Peter’s never really thought that before.
It shakes him to his core.
“I’ve never been attracted to an omega before in my life,” Peter mutters under his breath, digging some leftovers out of the refrigerator.
“You’re a work in progress, remember?” Deaton says with an incredibly unprofessional smirk.
“Right,” Peter agrees flatly. “So what does it say about me that the first omega I actually want to touch in a way that’s not at all platonic is the one that Chris and I drugged and kept against his will?”
Deaton shrugs. “That the universe is a giant bag of dicks?”
Peter snorts despite himself.
That sounds about right.
The walls are thin so they wait until the middle of the night to turn their touches into something more heated. Peter’s fingers skirt the edges of Chris’s dressings, of the drainage tube that hasn’t done much in days and is coming out tomorrow. His skin feels odd where the tape has puckered up into weird ridges. Peter would have picked it off days ago, but he’s always been impatient.
In most things.
Chris is the exception to that rule.
“Not sure I’m up to much,” Chris murmurs, wincing slightly as he shifts on the mattress.
Peter slides Chris’s shirt up, baring his chest. When Chris was in his early thirties he went though a phase of waxing. He came up with some bullshit excuse about swimming, but he just happened to think about it the week after Peter laughed because he found a gray hair there? Please. It didn’t take long for Peter to convince Chris he liked his chest hair, and soon it was back, with a few more gray hairs than before. Peter loved it then and he loves it now. He runs his hand up Chris’s chest feeling the slight scratch of the hair against his palm and fingers.
“Let me do all the work then,” he whispers. “You can owe me one.”
“One what?” Chris asks, and then huffs out a laugh as Peter settles himself between his legs. “Oh, I see.”
Peter eases Chris’s boxers down carefully. Chris grunts a little with the strain as he lifts his ass off the bed.
It’s been a while since they did this, but if there’s one thing Peter is an expert on—apart from nineteenth century literature—it’s Chris’s dick. The look of it, the weight of it, the taste of it. He’s salivating even before he gets his mouth around the crown. Totally a Pavlovian response.
“Peter,” Chris whispers, and reaches down to curl his fingers in Peter’s hair and tug at it the way they both like.
Peter hums out his pleasure as he begins to bob his head up and down on Chris’s dick. He’s not in a great position to deep throat, so he closes his fingers around the base of the shaft and squeezes. Chris moans.
Peter pulls off. “Too dry?”
“Give it a second,” Peter tells him, and licks his hand. Chris dick is leaking pre-cum and Peter uses it to slick the shaft properly. Then he curls his fingers around him again, and gets back to work.
Despite his injury, Chris comes in record time, way before Peter’s jaw is starting to ache. Peter swallows him down, then sits back on his heels and takes care of himself while Chris watches with hooded eyes.
“I love you,” Chris tells him, and it’s just enough to take Peter over the edge.
He cleans them both up with tissues, and then crawls back into bed.
Chris kisses him. “Peter, if things go badly for me, I—”
“Don’t,” Peter says. He knows this is a talk they need to have, but not now. “Can we just bask a little in the afterglow, Christopher?”
“Okay,” Chris says, and kisses him again. “Okay.”
“I love you too,” Peter tells him. “Of course.”
They drift off to sleep together.
The next morning Peter approaches Stiles in the kitchen. Stiles is sitting at the table with his father. He’s eating cereal, and watching Cora argue with one of the agents about going into the back garden.
“Listen, Thing One,” Cora says, and Stiles grins. “I just want to go in the pool!”
“Call me Thing One again, Ms. Hale, and I’ll drown you in the pool,” the agent says.
Cora looks equal parts pissed and delighted. She always did respond in inappropriate ways to intimidation and threats. It’s a family trait that Peter inherited as well.
“Sweetpea,” Peter says in a warning tone. “Show the agent some respect, please. He’s clearly Thing Two.”
Cora laughs and sweeps away. The agent shoots Peter a narrow look and strides after her in case she’s still plotting escape. She probably is.
“The kids are going a little stir crazy,” John Stilinski says, and since this is the first time he’s initiated a conversation with Peter without pointing a gun at him at the same time, Peter feels obliged to reciprocate.
“Not just the kids,” he says.
John smiles wryly.
Peter crosses to the coffee machine on the counter and presses the button to start it. When he turns around again, Stiles is staring at him.
“I’m sorry for what I said to you the other day,” Peter tells him. He suspects he won’t have long until one of the Stilinskis shuts him down. “I’m sure you’ve figured out I’m an asshole. It’s a feature, not a bug.”
Stiles looks like he almost wants to smile at that. He sets his spoon down.
John reaches out and puts his hand over Stiles’s. Squeezes it.
“But I am sorry,” Peter says. “Chris and I never intended to hurt you in any way. We were lied to, but that doesn’t excuse what happened. You tried—” He clears his throat and swallows. “You tried to tell me you needed help, and I didn’t listen.”
He doesn’t say anything else. There’s no excuse he can offer.
Stiles slides his hand out from under his father’s and picks up his spoon again. He stirs his soggy cereal. “Okay,” he says.
It’s acknowledgement, not forgiveness, and Peter knows that’s all he has the right to hope for. He takes his coffee and crosses the floor to the doorway. He’s about to step through it when Stiles speaks again.
“I don’t hate you,” he says.
Peter turns back to look at him. His amber eyes are wide, and clever.
“I don’t hate you,” he says again, his voice steady. “But I never want to see either of you again once we’re out of here.”
Peter nods, his chest aching unaccountably, and leaves.
Stiles is bored. A bored Stiles is never a good thing. He’s taken his Adderall this morning, but it’s not working. It hasn’t worked the same since he got taken off all the other drugs. The doctor is still trying to figure out the right dose, but at the moment Stiles is bored, and twitchy, and so, so fucking tired of being locked in this goddamn house with its generic décor, its beige carpet and walls, and that ugly fucking chandelier. He wants to go home. He wants to go back to his own house, where every mark on a wall tells a different story, and the furniture doesn’t match, and his sheets are old and soft, and there are so many ugly magnets on the refrigerator that it almost has its own gravitational pull.
Stiles hates this fucking house.
He lines up the Monopoly houses on the edge of the coffee table, and then spends a few minutes flicking them off again and trying to hit the wall. When he manages to ping one off the really ugly lamp on the side table, he raises his arms and gives himself a cheer.
“Nice shot,” a voice says.
Stiles spins around, almost landing on his ass, to see Chris leaning in the doorway. “Oh, um, hey.”
“Hey,” Chris says, and gestures to the couch. “Do you mind?”
“No,” Stiles says, and scrambles to collect the Monopoly houses while Chris sits down.
“You’re got a good eye,” Chris says, and Stiles remembers he’s like a weapons dealer or something. Which sounds like he should be the head of a scary cartel or something, but his dad says is all legit.
Stiles flushes, setting his handful of houses back on the table. “I wasn’t actually aiming for it, so, um, it was just a fluke.”
Chris has a nice smile. “Why not see if you can hit it again?”
“Right,” Stiles says, settling on his knees in front of the coffee table. “I’ll just embarrass myself in front of the guy who probably goes target shooting all the time, right?” He sets up the houses in a little row anyway. “I thought you had a meeting with your lawyer or something this morning.”
“He’s running late.”
Stiles taps a house against the table, and glances back at Chris. “You have a different lawyer than Cora and Isaac, right? Some big hotshot?”
“Peter’s brother is representing Cora and Isaac,” Chris says. He presses his hand against his side as he readjusts his position on the couch. “It’s better he doesn’t represent me too.”
“Why?” Stiles asks.
“A few reasons.” Chris leans forward, wincing a little, and picks up one of the green plastic houses. “For starters, Cora and Isaac aren’t going to go to jail for the FTS stuff. Cora didn’t actually do anything illegal at all, and Isaac is looking at community service at worst after taking into account what happened to him. William doesn’t want their case connected to mine in any way.” He turns the house over and over in his palm. “And William’s a good lawyer, but I killed a senator. That’s a little out of his skill set.”
“But you’re not the bad guy.” Stiles feels a pang in his gut.
Chris shrugs. “I still killed him.”
“In self defense!”
Chris smiles again, and shakes his head. “My father wasn’t armed.”
That’s… that’s unfair. Okay, so Stiles has some pretty complicated feelings about Chris, and most of them are wound up so tightly in the coils of his own anger that he can’t untangle them yet, but he knows the guy doesn’t deserve to go to jail. Gerard was a fucking monster, who was so greedy for money that he didn’t just overlook Deucalion’s crimes, he actively fucking helped him commit them.
His eyes burn a little and he blinks. That’s weird, right? He shouldn’t really be getting so emotional over the fact that Chris might go to jail. Stiles already said he doesn’t want to see either of them again. Chris being incarcerated for the rest of his life would certainly make that easier.
He swallows, and turns around so his back is facing Chris. He lines his shaking fingers up beside one of the houses, and tries to flick it. It skitters off the side of the coffee table, landing barely a foot away.
“Maybe it was a fluke when you hit the lamp,” Chris says, and Stiles can hear the smile in his voice.
“Yeah,” he rasps. “Told you so.”
He sits back, and then almost jolts forward again when he realizes Chris’s knee is pressing gently against his back. But it feels… it feels good? Comforting, somehow, when it shouldn’t. Stiles doesn’t believe in mating bonds. Like, he knows all about the biology. He knows there’s something in him that’s hardwired to seek out an alpha. And he knows a mate bond is something that happens, when two people love one another, and spend time together. But it’s not some biological switch that gets suddenly flipped or something. A mating bond is built on love, and trust and respect. It doesn’t just happen because Chris signed his name on a piece of paper. That’s not…
“Did you touch me?” he asks, his voice hitching. “When I was with you?”
Chris doesn’t move his leg away. “Not sexually.”
“But you still touched me?”
“Only to…” Chris sounds like he’s in pain. “Only to comfort you when you were upset.”
God, he really fucking shouldn’t.
“How?” Stiles asks. He feels like he’s about to vibrate out of his skin. “Show me?”
For a moment he thinks Chris won’t do it, and then he shivers when he feels the soft touch of fingers on his scalp. His hair is still short, but it’s growing out. He wonders what it would feel like for Chris to tug it gently. Then Chris’s fingertips are grazing the nape of his neck, and Stiles closes his eyes as his skin comes out in goose bumps. Chris pulls his hand away.
“That’s nice,” Stiles murmurs. He feels weird. Like he’s buzzed or something. It must be sense memory. Chris, and maybe Peter too, touching him softy, solicitously. Making him feel safe. Making him feel loved.
He bows his head as tears sting his eyes.
“Stiles?” Chris asks in a soft voice.
Stiles flings himself forward again, scattering the Monopoly houses as he jostles the coffee table when he hauls himself to his feet.
“I have to go,” he says, without turning back to look.
He wakes in the middle of the night, kicking the blankets off.
“You okay, kiddo?” his dad asks him, voice gravelly like Stiles has ripped him from sleep.
“It’s hot. Is the AC on?” Stiles wipes his face with his t-shirt a second before his dad presses his palm against his forehead. “I don’t feel well.”
“Sore throat?” his dad asks. “Headache? How’s your stomach?”
“I’m just hot,” Stiles mutters. He shifts, and he’s sweating everywhere. His hairline, his neck, the crack of his ass… Oh shit no. That’s not sweat. “Dad. Dad, I think I’m going into heat.”
Stiles sits in a cold shower and quietly hates his life while he waits for the doctor to arrive. A fucking heat. Like he needs that on top of everything else. He’s forgotten how long it’s been since he had one, but his cycle’s been royally fucked up because of his treatment by the Department anyway. At least this explains why he went all weird with Chris today, right? He probably would have tried to jump Thing Two if he’d been the nearest alpha instead, and Thing Two is not at all his type. He’s the same age as Chris and Peter, but he doesn’t wear it as well. It’s a relief to know that Stiles’s thing for older guys has some limits. Like, he’s not going to be whoring himself out down at the old people’s home this time next month.
He squawks out a burst of almost hysterical laughter.
The bathroom door opens. “You okay, son?”
Stiles closes his eyes under the onslaught of cold water. “Is the doctor here?”
“He is. How about you get out of there now?”
Stiles climbs to his feet. The second he turns the water off, a wave of warmth hits him again, and it’s gross and horrible, and he doesn’t want to do this. He steps out of the shower into the towel his dad is holding out for him.
“Remember that time I didn’t want any more drugs?” he mumbles.
His dad pats him on the back.
“Now I want all the drugs.”
He’s clumsy and slow as he dries off and dresses in fresh clothes, and then his dad steers him back to their room.
“How are you feeling, Stiles?” the doctor asks.
“Like my internal organs are being slowly brought to a light simmer.”
“The suppressant will take a while to work,” the doctor tells him. “I can give you some Seroquel to make you sleep, if you like.”
Stiles appreciates that the doctor always asks. And if it was just anxiety or insomnia or bouncing off the walls—all things he’s very familiar with—he’d refuse. But a heat? Fuck no. Knock him the fuck out, he’s done.
Stiles sits on the edge of the bed and sticks his arm out. “Please.”
He closes his eyes when he sees the syringe.
The sting is short and sharp, and then he’s floating. “Dad?” he asks as he settles down to sleep. “Please don’t leave me alone. Not…”
Not when he has no control over his body. Not when he can’t defend himself.
“I’ll be here, kid,” his dad tells him. “I’ll be right here until you wake up.”
He doesn’t have to be scared.
Stiles wakes fuck knows how long later. He aches from being out too long, and he’s cotton-mouthed and still a little warm, but the suppressants must have kicked in and killed the worst of the heat. Thank fuck.
He blinks in the daylight, and turns his head.
His dad is dozing beside him, a book on his chest. His finger twitch even in his sleep, and Stiles wants to cry a little. His dad is so weak these days. The twitches, the limp, the way it sometimes takes him a while to form the words he wants to say. In some tiny way Stiles is glad he wasn’t there to see his dad struggle. And then he hates himself for even thinking it, because his dad shouldn’t have gone through all of that alone. Shouldn’t have woken up not knowing where Stiles was.
His dad is a fighter, but he also got lucky. If the bullet had lodged a few millimeters in any other direction…
Stiles’s breath catches at the thought of it.
So close. His dad came so close to dying, and Stiles might never have even known. And if his dad had died, then Stiles would have died too, probably. They wouldn’t have needed any leverage over a dead man, would they?
He has vague memories of Kate Argent. A smile and a sickly-sweet tone of voice she reserved only for the omegas.
Is it possible to hate her and still recognize that she saved his life? Saved it by stealing it, but saved it all the same. He has no doubt that Gerard Argent and Deucalion would have been happy to have him killed. Just a little loose end, just a footnote in Sheriff Stilinski’s own obituary. He wonders if they would have made it look like suicide.
And who would question it?
Nobody who knew him.
His dad slowly blinks awake. He’s confused at first, and then he smiles. “Hey, kiddo. How are you feeling?”
“Better,” Stiles says, and burrows into his side for a hug. “So much better.”
When Chris’s hotshot lawyer calls to set up a meeting saying he’s got news, there’s no way Peter won’t be there. Even though David Whittemore gets an uncomfortable look on his face whenever he’s reminded that Peter and Chris are together. Especially though David Whittemore gets that look, to be honest. The man is civilized enough to try and hide his discomfort, but Peter refuses to make it easier for him by making himself scarce. Chris is his mate, and fuck anyone who doesn’t like it.
Today though, Whittemore doesn’t even blink when Peter settles himself down beside Chris on the couch and puts a hand on his knee.
“I have some very good news for you, Chris,” he says instead, and waits for a reaction.
Chris looks cautious.
Peter leans forward. “If you’re charging an exorbitant rate by the hour, David, I’m going to need you to forgo the dramatic pauses, I’m afraid.”
Whittemore looks taken aback, but Chris’s mouth quirks up in a brief smile. Peter knows that smile. It’s the one that translates to: You’re an asshole, Peter Hale, and I love you.
“Well then,” Whittemore says, and recovers. “The prosecutor sent me a copy of Kate’s statement this morning. Her revised statement.” He sets a sheaf of papers down on the coffee table, and then raises his eyebrows at Peter. “But since you’re paying me by the hour, what say I just give you the highlights?”
Peter suddenly likes him a little more. “Do go ahead, please.”
Whittemore turns his attention back to Chris. “Kate has changed her story. She is now stating that Senator Argent was the one armed with the knife, and that he attacked you, and in the ensuing struggle he was fatally wounded.”
Chris goes suddenly pale, and Peter can’t even imagine what he’s thinking right now. What the fuck is Kate’s angle now? What’s she playing at?
Chris opens his mouth. “That’s not—”
“Shut the fuck up, Christopher,” Peter says. He’s aware of the fact that this conversation is meant to be private. He’s also aware of the fact that there are FBI agents in the house. “That’s exactly what happened. Chris was just trying to protect his father’s reputation and legacy when he gave his first statement. Gerard always abhorred violence and spoke so eloquently against it.”
Whittemore is smart enough to know that’s a total lie. Every single bit of it, especially the part that paints Gerard Argent as Gandhi. But Whittemore’s also smart enough not to argue. A faint smile flitters across his features, and he clears his throat. “Yes, I thought it must be something like that.”
“So what happens now?” Peter asks, threading his fingers through Chris’s. Chris is shaking slightly. “With the charges?”
“Now it’s a clear case of self-defense, Mr. Hale,” Whittemore says. “You’re paying me my exorbitant hourly rate to make sure there won’t be any charges.”
“What does Kate want?” Chris grinds out, his voice low.
“I can’t answer that,” Whittemore says. “But I do know one thing, Chris. You’re going to stay a free man.”
Chris looks almost devastated. It’s that fucking martyr complex of his. Always trying to do the right thing. Always volunteering to sacrifice himself first. Peter has seen every iteration of it during their years together. Chris has always tried so hard to be the good son, the good brother, the good husband and the good father. It tore him apart, wanting Peter. As fiercely as he loved Peter, he hated himself. And when Peter turned on him too—and there were many times when Peter turned on him—Chris just stood there, and let Peter rain down hell on him. Chris’s tragedy is that he’s always tried to be a good man in a bad situation. Peter’s tragedy, he thinks, is that he never has.
“Thank you,” Chris rasps out at last.
Whittemore gathers his papers and leaves.
The house is quiet. God only knows where the kids are. Peter suspects Cora and Isaac are holed up in Cora’s room. At some point Peter really must pay her more attention, so that when Talia asks him if she was okay during her enforced time in the safe house, Peter will be able to give her a better answer than a blank stare. It’s just that Cora naturally prefers the company of Isaac and Stiles to that of her uncle—as gloriously sarcastic as he can be—and that’s not a party Peter is welcome to crash.
Not that Stiles is spending time with Cora and Isaac today though, is he?
Stiles has been locked away in his room since last night. What with the doctor’s middle-of-the-night visit, it doesn’t take a genius to work out that he’s been hit by a heat.
When Stiles finally emerges from his room the next afternoon, bleary-eyed and dozy, he brushes past Peter on the stairs.
“Stiles,” Peter says. “Are you alright?”
Stiles stops and leans toward him slightly, blinking. He looks warm and soft and rumpled with sleep. Then he seems to shake himself awake. “Yeah.”
Peter resists the urge to curls his fingers around his hip and pull him close. Maybe press his mouth against the pulse point in his throat and just inhale, and listen to the sounds Stiles would make if he did. It takes more control than he expects to restrain himself. “I’m glad.”
“Mmm.” Stiles quirks his mouth in a sleepy smile, yawns, and continues on down the stairs.
That evening, Thing Two—Peter really should take note of his name at some point—gathers everyone into the living room. The kids are sitting on the floor, digging into a box of pizza. Chris and Peter take the couch, leaving one of the armchairs for John Stilinksi, and the other one for Deaton.
“We’re closing down the house,” Thing Two says. “The leads have dried up on Deucalion, but it’s likely he’s left the country. The director feels that the continued costs of this operation are unnecessary.”
Thing Two’s eye twitches, and Peter suspects he very much disagrees with that assessment.
“The Grand Jury will be convened tomorrow,” Thing Two continues. “And we have no doubt a warrant will be put out for his arrest. He won’t show his face in this country again. The warrant will be forwarded to Interpol.”
Peter looks at Isaac.
The boy is staring at the floor, a piece of pizza still in his hand. He’s breathing heavily, shoulders rising and falling with the effort to keep some emotion contained. Anger? Fear? Probably both. As Peter watches, Cora scoots closer and bumps their shoulders together. She doesn’t say anything.
Stiles lifts his chin. “So we get to go home?”
Thing Two nods. “We’ll arrange your transport in the morning.”
Peter doesn’t miss the way Stiles’s gaze flicks immediately to Chris, and lingers there for a moment before it finds Peter. Then he flushes, and looks away.
John looks wary. “So that’s it? We’re no longer under protection?”
“Sheriff, the director feels—”
“The director wasn’t shot in the head,” John says. “The director’s son wasn’t kidnapped by the government! You look me in the eye and tell me you really believe Deucalion can’t touch any of us, even if he is on the other side of goddamn world!”
“It’s out of my hands,” Thing Two says.
“Dad,” Stiles murmurs, shuffling over on his knees to where John’s seated. “We’ll be fine, Dad, okay? We’ll be fine.”
John sighs, deflating, and reaches out and rubs his shaking hand over Stiles’s head.
It’s an interesting dynamic. An alpha taking comfort from an omega instead of the other way around. Peter takes some comfort in it himself. He likes contrariness in all its forms and Stiles, he suspects, is contrary through and through.
“We will, kiddo,” John agrees. “We will.”
Peter glances at Chris, and discovers he’s watching Stiles as well. His expression is a little confused, as though he hasn’t understood yet what he’s seeing. Peter knows that expression. It’s the one Chris gave him in that stupid bar, all those years ago, when he looked across the room and saw something unexpected.
Peter waits for a sting of jealousy, but it doesn’t come.
“He’s pretty,” Peter murmurs later that night, curled up against Chris’s uninjured side. He breathes against Chris’s ear. “It’s his eyes, I think. Such beautiful eyes. Can you imagine what he’d look like on his knees, staring up at you?”
“What the hell are you doing, Peter?” Chris growls.
Peter makes a face in the darkness, and rolls away from Chris. He flops down on his back. “I’m being exciting in the bedroom, Christopher, just like Cosmopolitan recommends.”
“Don’t.” There’s a warning note in Chris’s tone that means Peter’s taken it too far. “Not with Stiles, Peter. Please.”
“So it’s serious then,” Peter murmurs.
“Are you saying you don’t feel anything?”
“For an omega?” Peter snorts, glad the darkness hides him from Chris’s stare. “That’s not the way I play.”
He’s thought about it though, hasn’t he? He’s thought about Stiles.
“I don’t want to talk about Stiles,” Chris says. His throat clicks as he swallows. “What do you think Kate wants?”
Peter decides not to point out he’d rather not talk about Chris’s sister in bed, thanks. Instead he stares at the ceiling for a while. “I think she’s probably scared. I would be, in her shoes. Gerard’s dead, and she’s going to spend a very, very long time in prison. You and Ally are her only family. Maybe she figures that at least this way you might visit one day.”
“I don’t know.” Peter reaches out and takes his hand.
“If she’s lying…” Chris can’t finish the sentence.
“Cui bono?” Peter says. The room might be completely dark, but Peter swears he can hear Chris roll his eyes. “It means—”
“For whose benefit,” Chris finishes for him. “Jesus, you really think I’m a Philistine, don’t you?”
“You’ve never read Jane Eyre, Christopher,” Peter reminds him. “That makes you worse than a Philistine. That makes you a monster.” Chris’s almost unwilling huff of amusement sends a wave of warmth through Peter. He tries to choose his words carefully, blunting the edges for once instead of sharpening them to precise darts. “I just don’t see how keeping you out of prison helps Kate in any way, that’s all. But I’ve known you for twenty years, and in that time you’ve told me a lot of stories about you and Kate growing up together. And I think that maybe she’s be thinking about those stories too.”
Peter hears the whisper of Chris’s body against the sheets and he shifts his position a little. He waits a long time before Chris responds.
“I have nothing to say to her.” Chris whispers it like a shameful confession, and not the natural reaction of a man who has been well and truly fucked over by his psychotic bitch of a sister.
“Good,” Peter says, reaching out to slide his hand down Chris’s flank. “Because I’m not Deaton. That’s as much empathy I have to spare for her, Christopher. She knowingly tried to lure you to your death. I hope she mouths off to the wrong inmate in prison and gets a rusty shiv in the guts on her first night. She’s the one in the wrong here. Not you. She’s the one who betrayed every decent memory you have of her. That statement she made? Too little, too fucking late. She was going to let you die. The least you can do in return is let her rot in prison.”
Chris is silent for a long moment. “You,” he says at last, and then stops.
Peter is almost afraid to ask. “Me, what?”
“You are more than I deserve.” Chris’s voice sounds shaky.
More than he deserves, but is he still enough? Peter has shared Chris with Victoria for the past twenty years. Is he going to spend the next twenty years loving a man who is always thinking about another omega?
It’s not going to be like that. Not this time. Tomorrow they’re getting out of here, and they won’t need to see Stiles Stilinski again.
Drunk posting at 9.23 pm on Xmas Eve, so sorry for any typos. Point them out and I'll correct when sober.
Also, I have no idea what time I will post tomorrow, but I'll try to get it done.
Happy Holidays, everyone!
Isaac sits in the back of the car and fiddles with his seatbelt. Stiles is sitting on the other side of his dad, barely containing himself as they turn into what must be a familiar street.
“Ha!” he exclaims, and then flushes when the agent in the front passenger seat turns around and looks at him. “It’s Mr. Goldman’s ugly as fuck garden gnomes! Jesus! I’d forgotten all about them!”
The sheriff smiles at him fondly.
Isaac’s never lived in a street like this one. When he lived with his dad, their place wasn’t so nice, and when he lived with Deucalion, their place wasn’t so pathetically suburban. But suddenly those quiet, unremarkable lives that Deucalion used to laugh about—“Alphas who’ve forgotten to be predators, Isaac! Forgotten how to take what they want!”—well, Isaac likes the idea of having one of those.
“You okay, son?” the sheriff asks, his voice a little slurred, and Isaac just assumes he’s talking to Stiles again. “Isaac? You okay?”
Isaac feels a jolt of surprise. “Um, yeah. Yes, sir.”
He should have gone home with Cora, maybe. But as what? The boy who got the mayor’s daughter mixed up in FTS? Yeah, it’s hard to imagine Talia Hale would be quick to warm to him after that, right? But also, even if she somehow was, Isaac doesn’t want to live with Cora. He likes Cora. He likes her a lot. Except some days he doesn’t know if he wants to be her alpha or her omega, and they’re sort of stuck in this pattern now where he goes to her when he needs to cry, and how is he supposed to turn that around? So he’s got this vague idea that he’ll live with the Stilinskis for a while, and relearn how to be an alpha, and then he’ll go and visit Cora one day and he’ll be himself again—or some better version of his old self—and Cora won’t ever have to feel sorry for him again.
“Less of the ‘sir’ stuff, Isaac,” the sheriff says. “It makes Stiles’s total lack of respect look even worse in comparison.”
His speech is worse in the mornings, like he has to relearn how to speak every day. Mostly he just sounds a little vague, maybe a little drunk. Isaac knows what that sounds like from his own dad.
Stiles grins. “You love me just the way I am, Dad.”
“Yup,” the sheriff says, and scruffs his hair. “Mouthy and disrespectful.”
“And awesome,” Stiles tells him.
“And awesome,” the sheriff agrees.
The sheriff is a weird kind of alpha. He doesn’t scare Isaac like his dad did. Or like Deucalion did, although Deucalion never scared him at first. That only came later. He’d thought Deucalion had loved him—he’d said he did—and Isaac didn’t see how twisted it was until it was too late. Didn’t see how thoroughly he’d been groomed. A lot of the stuff Deucalion did, Isaac thought was down to their age difference. It didn’t matter if Deucalion took the lead in everything, right? He was older. He knew more about stuff. It didn’t mean he thought that Isaac was any less of an alpha than he was… right up until that’s exactly what it meant.
Look at you, my darling boy. Taking it just like you should. Just like a little omega bitch.
And Isaac had never said how wrong it felt when Deucalion said things like that. He was sixteen. Dirty talk was supposed to feel wrong, wasn’t it?
The car pulls into the driveway of an ordinary-looking house. Stiles is almost vibrating with excitement, chewing his lip and jiggling his knee.
There’s a man in a deputy’s uniform waiting on the porch. He approaches the car cautiously, as though he’s not sure of the reception he’s going to get. It’s Parrish. Isaac recognizes him from the loft.
Stiles bounces out of the car and the sheriff climbs out after him. Isaac takes a deep breath and follows.
“Come on,” Stiles says. “I’ll show you around.”
Parrish is giving the sheriff some sort of rundown on the state of the lawn, and the porch step he fixed out the back, and how there’s a potato bake in the refrigerator.
Isaac wonders how much of the earnest deputy’s efforts to give the sheriff a home to come back to are down to the fact that John Stilinski is the type of man who inspires that kind of loyalty in his subordinates, or if it’s guilt because they handed Stiles over to the Department that night, to some bureaucrats with the right paperwork, and never questioned it.
Once, Isaac heard Kate Argent taking a call that had been transferred through to her cell.
“I appreciate that, Deputy.” He has no idea now which deputy she was talking to. Maybe Parrish, maybe Laura Hale. “But Stiles is in no condition to receive visitors, and he’s certainly in no condition to leave the center.”
Kate got lazy sometimes, and didn’t watch what she said around him when she was visiting Isaac in his room. And Isaac had perfected his slack-jawed zombie look a long time ago.
She’d ended the call, and then reached down and tousled his hair. “Hello, sweetie. Are you being a good omega today?”
He’d sought out Stiles after that. At first he’d thought Stiles might be like him, an intentionally mislabeled alpha, but Stiles was an omega. He didn’t belong in the center though. They had that in common.
Isaac taught him how to palm the pills instead of putting them in his mouth. Taught him how to throw them up again if they made him swallow them, for all the good it did.
The night Isaac got out of his cell, the night he found an open window in an office on the second floor… He ran. Didn’t think about it. Just ran. The last time he’d seen Stiles he’d been curled up on his bed, his hands buckled into thick mitts, bucking and screaming as an orderly jabbed a syringe into his thigh.
Stiles was his friend, and Isaac had left him behind.
Does he remember that?
Stiles’s expression is bright as he shows Isaac around the house. A fraction too bright. His wide grin is verging on manic.
“Take a breath, Stiles,” Isaac tells him with a scowl as Stiles is showing him where the refrigerator is and touching every single magnet. Touching them, and then touching them again, fingers shaking as bad as the sheriff’s.
“Don’t alpha me, asshole!” Stiles huffs out a laugh. “That shit only worked when I was out of my brain on sedatives.”
“No, that shit only worked because you were a stubborn little bastard who wanted to prove you weren’t a pushover.” Isaac reaches out and curls his fingers around Stiles’s wrists. “But take a breath, okay? You’re freaking out.”
“Okay,” Stiles says, nodding like a bobble head. He sucks in a too-quick breath. “Yep. I’m taking a breath. I’m aligning my chakras. I’m going to my happy place. I’m calming my fucking farm.”
Isaac puts his free hand on the back of Stiles’s neck. The touch is only light, but it’s enough to still him, to give him a chance to settle down.
They stand together quietly for a moment, and then Stiles pulls away. His cheeks are pink. “Um, thanks. Want to see upstairs?”
“Okay.” Isaac shoves his hands in his pockets and follows Stiles upstairs.
Isaac’s room is a guest room. It has a bed and a dresser, and a closet that’s full of miscellaneous junk that’s obviously migrated here over the years.
“We’ll clean it out tomorrow,” Stiles promises, and then his face lights up. “Hey, look! My ZhuZhu Pets!”
Living with the Stilinskis is better than Isaac expected. It’s easier. And Isaac’s glad to help out around the place, because it’s obvious that the sheriff can’t do a lot of the things he used to take for granted. The lawn mowing, the laundry, the cooking and the cleaning. It’s easy enough to divide those tasks up between Isaac and Stiles. They’re both kids who grew up knowing how to do housework, and at least nobody’s going to lock Isaac in a chest freezer if he screws up, right?
Not that Isaac shares that tidbit with the Stilinskis.
From a few things Stiles lets slip, Isaac knows they have some common childhood ground. Single dads who spent a lot of time in the bottle, mostly, though the sheriff got his shit together and crawled out again. Isaac wonders if his dad might have been different if he’d managed to the same. He wonders if he might have been different if his dad had managed to do the same. Maybe he wouldn’t have made such easy pickings for Deucalion if he hadn’t been so terrified to go home.
There are a lot of maybes in Isaac’s past. There are a lot in his future too.
Maybe he should change his name. Maybe he should go to school. Maybe he should get hold of Chris Argent’s slick lawyer and sue the living fuck out of whoever is in charge of whatever remains of Deucalion’s fortune.
Stiles laughs when Isaac tells him that. He flops on the couch and scratches his stomach. “Oh man, you could be so rich!”
“So could you.” Isaac raises his brows. “You should sue the Department.”
“Shit,” Stiles whispers, his eyes wide with wonder. “We could buy so many Cheetos.”
They both laugh so hard that the sheriff snorts awake from where he’s been dozing in his worn old armchair in front of the football game, and tells them both to shut the hell up.
Isaac gets a lot of nightmares that he’s back at the center, or that he’s back with Deucalion. He tells Alan Deaton about most of them, but not the worst one of all. In that one, Isaac is sleeping in Deucalion’s bed, and Deucalion wakes him with kisses. Isaac laughs.
Then Deucalion’s hands are on him, following the curve of his jaw, finding the pulse point in his throat, sweeping over the planes of his chest, and settling at last on his abdomen.
Isaac smiles up at him. “What are you doing?”
“You’re such a lovely omega, Isaac. Such a good mate for your alpha.”
Isaac tries to laugh. “But Deuc, I’m an alpha.”
And just like that the dream turns.
Isaac watches as Deucalion’s hands begin to rise, except he’s not moving them, not lifting them. Instead it’s Isaac who’s moving, who’s changing. His stomach is filling, distending into a grotesque pregnant belly, and Isaac starts to scream, except it’s a dream so he can’t make any sound.
And Deucalion presses his fingers into Isaac’s belly until the skin bursts like overripe fruit, and laughs and laughs and laughs.
In the daylight it always seems like such a stupid dream. Even with all the drugs and the hormone treatments and whatever the hell else Deucalion and Kate did to him, it’s impossible to have made him an actual omega capable of conceiving a child. Isaac doesn’t have the right biology for that. The dream shouldn’t terrify him the way it does. But he can never seem to shake the tendrils of it away fully. It’s always there, always in the back of his mind.
On his sixth morning in the Stilinski house he finds himself in the bathroom in just his boxers, holding his razor as he prepares to shave, except suddenly he’s not holding it against his jaw, he’s holding it against his stomach, and he just wants to see, and—
Isaac looks up to see the sheriff standing behind him, his careworn face reflected in the bathroom mirror.
“Put the razor down, Isaac.” His voice sounds more steady that Isaac has every heard it.
Isaac’s hand starts to shake. “I don’t… I wasn’t…”
The sheriff steps up behind him. “Put it down.”
Isaac drops the razor into the sink.
“It’s okay,” the sheriff says. “It’s okay, Isaac. Come here.”
Isaac turns into the man’s embrace and cries for the first time in as long as he can remember.
“It’s okay,” the sheriff says, over and over again, and maybe that’s a lie for now, but maybe it won’t be one forever. “It’s okay. I’ve got you, son. You’re safe now. I’ve got you.”
Wow. This turned out to be a depressing chapter to post on Christmas Day. Whoops.
The normal life that Chris has wanted forever seems further and further out of reach, more and more impossible each passing day. After they’re released from the safe house, he and Peter return to the apartment to pack their things. It’s no longer a crime scene, but the carpet and walls are still stained with blood.
“Well, I don’t think we’re going to get our deposit back,” Peter says.
Chris grunts out something he hopes sounds like agreement.
He finds himself drawn down the hallway to Stiles’s bedroom. The brown comforter he liked so much is still rumpled from the last time he slept here. There’s a sock on the floor. The room is as stark and impersonal as a guest room, and Chris feels a sting of self-recrimination. Stiles came to them as a blank slate, and they treated him like one. How did they never notice he was a person?
“Oh, Jesus!” Peter exclaims from the kitchen. “If you think the carpet is bad, you should see what happened to the leftover rogan josh in the refrigerator!”
He and Peter move in to the Hale house out in the Preserve, their belongings stacked in boxes in Peter’s old room. The overflow is stored in the basement. Peter moans about the state of his book collection. What if he suddenly needs the obscure volume he hasn’t picked up in years that’s now in the bottom of a box in the bottom of a pile of boxes in the basement?
Talia tells them they’re welcome to stay for as long as they need.
Chris is afraid it’ll be too long.
Their finances are shot. Chris’s business is going under, and not just because he’s been unable to tend to it for the past few weeks, but because he’s Chris Argent and he killed Senator Gerard Argent. His email and his phone are full of messages. Most of them are death threats. Gerard always cultivated a rightwing support base, and many of them aren’t afraid to remind Chris they’re angry and they’re armed.
David Whittemore is working to get Chris whatever he can from Gerard’s estate, but it’s not going to be an easy job. The directors of the Argent Foundation are adamant that Chris shouldn’t benefit financially from killing his own father, even if there were no criminal charges in the end. The civil case could drag on for years yet, and suck every last dollar out of Chris’s inheritance before he even gets to touch it. He’s not sure that it’s a battle he can win, or even one he particularly wants to fight.
Where the hell did it all go wrong?
He and Peter were supposed to be getting a fresh start, a life together finally. Peter waited for Chris for twenty years, and for what? To a shared bedroom in an already full house, and everything they own taped up in boxes. This isn’t the life they planned.
But Stiles is safe now.
Stiles is free.
Sometimes Chris thinks that’s the only thing that lets him sleep at night.
Allison visits on her first day back in Beacon Hills. She turns up at the Hale house wearing a summery dress and a nervous smile, and Chris hugs her, holding her tight for a moment before he releases her and searches her expression.
I’m sorry I divorced your mother.
I’m sorry I had a part in ruining our family’s name.
I’m sorry you’re not at Columbia anymore.
I’m sorry I’m not a better man.
Allison’s eyes shine as she holds back her tears. “I missed you, Dad. And I’d really like to meet Peter, if that’s okay?”
Chris leads her inside.
They go to the living room, and sit there as the Preserve whispers around them. The living room has large bay windows. Outside, leaves spiral to the ground in the breeze, and birds swoop past. Once, a fox approaches the edge of the lawn, muzzle held high. Then it darts out into the open, turns for a moment in the sunlight, and vanishes again into the trees.
“It’s nice here,” Alison offers in a small voice.
“Talia has been very generous letting us stay.”
Peter brings them tea, and is on his best behavior. No smirk, no snark, no artifice. He’s nervous.
“Ally,” Chris says, reaching out to take Peter’s hand when Peter sits beside him. “This is Peter.”
“Hi,” Allison says in a small voice.
“Hello,” Peter says. “It’s nice to meet you at last.”
They settle into the first of the many awkward silences that Chris knows are going to punctuate this conversation. Chris is on edge, glancing between Peter and Allison, wishing he knew how to break this awful tension between them. He loves them both so much. He needs them both. He’s so fixated on his own anxiousness that he barely even registers that Peter has asked a question about how she’s coping since the story broke before Allison is answering it.
“It’s been a mess,” Allison says. “The media was all over my tits like a drunken fratboy!” She flushes when she realizes what she’s said. “Sorry.”
“A university education,” Peter says wryly. “You can’t beat it.”
Chris smiles a little at that. “I’m sorry you had to go through that.”
“Me?” Allison asks. “Dad, I’m sorry you did! I mean, I never liked Grandpa’s politics much, but I never thought…” She shakes her head, eyes filling with tears. “And Aunt Kate? God. I’m just so glad you’re okay.” She glances at Peter. “Both of you.”
Peter looks taken aback.
Allison chews her lower lip for a moment. “I mean, what you did to mom was really unfair, but that’s between you and her to work out. I know it can’t have been easy for you, not being able to be open about who you are. But if you had been, obviously I wouldn’t be here, so.” She shrugs. “It’s also a mess.”
“That just about sums it up,” Chris agrees with a sigh. “I’m sorry about Columbia.”
Allison looks affronted. “I don’t care about that, Dad. Going there still would be like taking blood money. It’s gross. I don’t want anything to do with Grandpa’s money.”
How wonderful to be eighteen and idealistic, Chris thinks, and then wonders if he ever was. No. He doesn’t think so. Not in the same fierce, certain way that Allison is.
“I’m happy to be going to the community college,” Allison continues, and then looks worriedly at Peter.
“I teach English Literature,” Peter tells her.
Allison sags a little in relief. “I… I will not be taking that.”
Peter looks just as relieved.
The rest of the conversation goes a little more smoothly. Allison checks the time on her phone when she hears someone arriving. “Oh, wow. It’s almost five. I told Mom I’d help with dinner tonight.”
“Tell her I said hi,” Chris says, because what’s the etiquette for this sort of thing?
“She wants you come to dinner when things have settled down a bit,” Allison says. “You too, Peter.”
Chris exchanges a look with Peter.
“She’s not your enemy, Dad,” Allison says, laying her hand on his forearm. “She was as upset as I was when we heard you got hurt.”
“So, no strychnine in the appetizers then?” Peter jokes awkwardly.
Allison risks a smile. “Mom would never be so clichéd. She might be an omega, but she’d challenge you to a fair fight.”
Peter smiles at that, some of the tension bleeding out of him. “Pistols at dawn, then.”
“That’s much more her style,” Allison says, her smile widening and her dimples appearing.
“Go on,” Chris says, squeezing her hand. “You don’t want to be late.”
“Can I visit you again?” she asks him.
It’s Peter who answers. “You’re always welcome here, Allison.”
A tiny sliver of the tension Chris has been carrying chips off, and shatters.
The future might not be how either of them planned it, but they’re getting there.
The weeks pass slowly.
Chris thinks of Stiles a lot. He thinks of the way he leaned back toward Chris when they were in the safe house, and shivered when Chris touched his hair. He thinks of how he fought down the urge to lean closer, ignoring the pain in his side, and press his mouth to the back of Stiles’s pale neck.
Chris has been with Peter since before he married Victoria. He knows that Peter has slept with other people. In anger, sometimes, and sometimes because he was lonely and Chris wasn’t there for him. And he doesn’t begrudge Peter that. Peter has given him more than Chris can ever repay. And here’s Chris now, thinking of Stiles in a way that feels more like betrayal than any time Peter fucked some man he met at the Jungle.
This feels more like betrayal because Chris thinks too much about the glimpses he’s had of Stiles. The boy who was hidden for so long behind the blank mask that Kate forced him to wear.
Chris has feelings for Stiles, feeling too dangerous to label even in the hidden places of his own mind, and he hates himself for it.
“Oh, fuck this,” Peter says one morning, scrolling through a real estate site on his laptop. “These houses are fucking ugly.”
Chris is sure that’s code for expensive, but he lets it slide.
Peter flops back onto the bed, closing his laptop and setting it aside. “Didn’t you used to work construction in college?”
“I carted bricks for a summer,” Chris says, maneuvering his way through the maze of boxes to try to find his clean clothes. “I didn’t exactly gain any building experience.”
“Hmm.” Peter narrows his eyes. He could be plotting murder or thinking about the weather. It’s impossible to tell with Peter. “But we did binge watch that season of Master of Flip.”
Chris finds the shirt he’s after. “What are you getting at, Peter?”
“The brewery,” Peter says. “I’m going to ask Talia if I can have it. And we can renovate the loft.”
Chris pauses for a moment. “Why would Talia just give you the brewery?”
“Because I like to think I’m a step up from the colony of rats currently living in the place?” Peter rolls his eyes. “Besides, the family trust owns it, and I’m a part of the family, so why not? Maybe we get an architect in. See about getting the lower floors converted to apartments. It’s better than it sitting there empty.”
“That’s not a bad idea.”
“I beg your pardon, it’s a brilliant fucking idea,” Peter says with a smirk. “You are going to look so hot in a tool belt, Christopher.”
Chris considers it for a moment. Not the tool belt thing, but the construction thing. He supposes he could do it. As far as he can tell, the loft itself doesn’t need too much work. The downstairs though? That’s going to need actual expertise. Architects and qualified builders.
“We’d rent out the apartments,” he says at last. “Make the place generate some actual revenue. Maybe even turn a profit after a while, once the building costs are offset.” He works his way back through the boxes to the bed, and sits down. “We’d need a business plan.”
“Well, you know how to do those,” Peter says with a lazy wave of his hand. “You can take care of all the numbers and projections and things with graphs and percentages, and I’ll be the ideas guy.”
“Right.” Chris quirks his mouth in a smile. “You’re imagining yourself as a real estate mogul right now, aren’t you?”
“I’m going to get a monocle,” Peter says with a broad grin. “And a hotel on Boardwalk.”
“Do you think Talia will go for it?”
“Why not?” Peter asks.
“Is it even zoned for residential?”
“Christopher.” Peter gives him a super serious look, and lowers his voice to a conspiratorial whisper. “Guess what? I know the mayor!”
Chris snorts, and leans down to kiss him.
They’re very late for breakfast.
Going back to school is one of the hardest things Stiles has ever had to do. It helps to have Isaac by his side, and to have Scott McCall waiting staunchly for him at the front entrance. Scott pulls Stiles into a huge hug the moment he sees him.
“Dude,” Stiles says, his voice muffled in Scott’s shirt collar. “Alpha up.”
He says it through his own sniffles though.
Stiles and Isaac spend most of the first day in the counselor’s office, going through their new schedules and their “special circumstances”. Isaac hasn’t been to school in even longer than Stiles, but the school is arranging tutoring to help get him up to speed again. Stiles doesn’t care if he only manages to scrape a pass in all his subjects; he’s adamant he’s not going to get held back a year.
“Stiles,” the counselor says. “You’ve missed too much school to catch up. You need to set yourself some realistic goals.”
“Excuse you,” Stiles says. “This is a realistic goal. Before I missed so much school I was aiming for valedictorian.”
Isaac smirks a little.
Stiles throws himself into his schoolwork, both at school and at home. It helps him ignore the gossip that follows him and Isaac like a choking fog. Graduating on time is going to be a giant fuck you to everyone who whispers about that crazy omega Stilinski in the halls. It also helps him to stop from thinking about Chris and Peter. Chris, who’s so stoic and gentle, but totally fucking badass when it matters, and Peter, whose snark and assholery—that’s absolutely a word—is everything Stiles aspires to. He still thinks of them as his mates, even though his dad has finally been allowed to sign the papers to make that shitshow disappear. Mostly he thinks of them like that at night, when he’s touching himself. Stroking his dick and fingering himself, eyes squeezed shut and pretending they’re there. Touching him, whispering filthy things to him—that’s Peter, mostly—and telling him he’s their good boy.
He doesn’t regret saying he never wanted to see them again. Not exactly. He just kind of wonders what would happen if he did.
Beacon Hills is a small town though.
He glimpses Peter once when he’s passing a coffee shop and Peter’s inside at the counter putting in his order. He sees Chris’s SUV drive past when he’s pulling into the grocery store. And he sees Cora Hale every day at school, and maybe isn’t that subtle about asking how the family is.
“They’re fine. They’re whatever,” she says, looking him up and down as they wait in line at the cafeteria. “They wouldn’t mind if you visited.”
“That’s a hard no,” Stiles tells her.
“What?” Cora asks. “You’re playing hard to get?”
“No, I’m playing being on an entirely different planet.” Stiles nudges her forward as a gap opens up in the line. “”They’re like this thing, and I’m like… completely tangential.”
“Someone’s been studying their SAT words.”
“No,” Stiles says. “Someone’s just read a book before in his life.”
Cora’s expression shifts into something thoughtful. “I can see why Peter likes you, Stiles.”
Stiles’s face burns. “Shut up.”
So it’s awkward. And he doesn’t think about it. He studies, and hangs out with Isaac and Scott, and helps look after his dad, and doesn’t think about Chris and Peter at all.
Not at all.
Some nights, Isaac ends up sleeping with Stiles in his bed. It doesn’t feel as weird as it should. Mostly they just fall asleep after watching some show on Stiles’s laptop. Sometimes they don’t sleep much at all.
“I know he’ll come back for me,” Isaac says. “Deucalion.”
“Why would he though?” Stiles whispers in the darkness, his stomach clenching. “That’d be stupid, to come back here, and he’s not stupid.”
His dad has put in a lot of extra security since they got back home. An alarm system. Security screens and deadbolts. Bulletproof glass. And he lectures Stiles and Isaac every day about how they need to be careful, watch their surroundings, take note of the people around them, the cars. All of that, while at the same time telling them they’re safe now, to go to school, to live their lives.
Right. Sure. The woods are dark and deep and full of wolves, but here, little girl, take this basket to Grandma’s house.
It’s a weird kind of duality or something. Stiles can’t get his head around it. He thinks that mostly he hates the uncertainty of it all. Kate is locked up, but Deucalion is still out there somewhere. The FBI says he’s not coming back, but on nights like these when he and Isaac lie awake for hours, Stiles can’t help but wonder what the hell the FBI knows. The person who knows Deucalion the best is Isaac, and Isaac is terrified.
“He’s not stupid at all,” Isaac whispers back. “But he doesn’t like to lose.”
It’s been overcast all day, which seems kind of apt. Stiles sits on the end of his dad’s bed and watches as his dad takes forever to do the buttons on his shirt up. He fumbles them in his numb, shaking fingers, the lines around his mouth deepening as his frustration grows. When he finally gets the shirt buttoned up and reaches for his tie, Stiles jumps off the bed and grabs it first.
“I got it,” he says, and loops the tie around his dad’s neck.
He concentrates. He’s not great with ties. He’s never worn that many. And it’s hard to do it backwards. He remembers his dad doing this for him, years ago now, on his knees so he was the right height. That was the first time Stiles wore a tie. To his mom’s funeral.
His dad smiles at him as he finally finishes the knot and slides it into place. “Thanks, kiddo.”
“Looks sharp,” Stiles says, trying and failing to hide the waver in his voice.
“Stiles.” His dad puts a hand on his shoulder. “I’m okay.”
“I’m okay,” his dad repeats, searching his gaze.
Stiles blinks away tears.
“We knew this was coming, kiddo.” His dad’s smile is tinged with sadness. “Cheer up, huh? It’s a party.”
It’s not much of a party. At least, it’s not Stiles’s idea of a party. It’s drinks and speeches in one of the fancy reception rooms at Town Hall. It’s full of members of the city council, and the mayor’s office, and the Sheriff’s Department, and a bunch of people who own businesses around town and are in the Chamber of Commerce. It’s boring as shit, actually, and pretty fucking heartbreaking too. Talia Hale gives a speech where she thanks Sheriff Stilinski for his many years of service. He gets a watch, and a plaque, and a round of applause that echoes for ages after Talia’s done speaking.
Stiles’s dad stands up to speak. His eyes are shining. “Thank you,” he says to the room, annunciating his words carefully. His speech is slow, still not perfect, but it’s getting better. Stiles knows he wasn’t looking forward to speaking in front of a crowd though. “This isn’t how I wanted to end my term as sheriff, but, like my wife Claudia always used to say, sometimes the universe throws you a curveball.”
Stiles smiles despite himself, because that’s not what his mom used to say at all. She used to say that sometimes the universe shits all over you, but that’s probably not appropriate for this company.
His dad clears his throat. “It’s been an honor and a privilege to serve the people of Beacon Hills, first as a deputy and then as sheriff. And while I wish the circumstances were different, I stand here today happy to be alive, and happy to have my son safely home again. I might not be your sheriff anymore, but I’m looking forward to being your friend and your neighbor.” He clears his throat again. “Thank you again.”
He steps away from the microphone and is immediately surrounded by well-wishers.
Stiles helps himself to a glass of champagne from a passing server, and spins away into the crowd before the guy can call him on it.
The champagne has bubbles and tastes sort of revolting, but free alcohol, right? Stiles works his way around the knots of people toward the edges of the room. He’s looking for Isaac, but that’s not who he sees. He sees Chris and Peter instead, standing near the entrance. Chris looks as stoic as always, and Peter looks bored shitless. They’re both holding glasses of champagne as well, and oh, is that canapés? How did Stiles miss the canapés? His stomach growls.
He downs half the rest of his champagne in a gulp, and saunters over toward them.
“Hi,” he says, and picks a weird quiche thing off the plate that Peter’s holding. “Enjoying the party?”
Peter looks at him curiously.
Chris clears his throat. “Hello, Stiles. How are you?”
“Peachy.” Stiles drinks the rest of his champagne. “This is weird, right? Like, I know we’re divorced now or whatever, but we can still talk, right? We weren’t actually mated in any real sense, so we don’t have to be all bitter and angry and fighting over the custody of the dog or whatever.”
“Last time we spoke, you never wanted to see us again,” Peter reminds him. There’s nothing recriminating in his tone.
“It’s a small town,” Stiles says.
“And you get to change the rules whenever you like?” Peter raises his eyebrows.
“Actually, yes,” Stiles says. “I absolutely do get to change the rules whenever I like. You know why? Because I’m the one who was drugged against his will. I’m the one who gets to set the boundaries now, because I sure as fuck wasn’t given the chance the first time we met, was I?”
Peter meets his sudden rush of bravado with a smirk. Chris looks almost distraught.
“You’re very different,” Stiles says, looking between them.
“Opposites attract,” Peter points out.
“Yeah, usually that’s supposed to mean alphas and omegas.” Stiles snags another glass of champagne off another passing waiter. “But it’s a bullshit saying anyway.” He swallows another mouthful of champagne. “I don’t like clichés.”
Chris looks pained. “You might want to slow down a bit, Stiles.”
“You might want to remember I can do whatever the fuck I like,” Stiles says, and takes another long swallow just to prove it. Okay, so the room might be full of cops, but none of them are going to arrest Stiles at his dad’s retirement party, right? Stiles would like to see them try.
Chris and Peter exchange a glance that Stiles can’t read.
“I saw you fucking once,” Stiles tells them. He blinks at Chris. “You had Peter bent over the couch. It was hot.”
“Let the boy speak, Christopher,” Peter says, his voice low as a purr.
“Don’t fucking tease me,” Stiles says, jutting his chin out.
“Oh, I don’t think I’m the one doing the teasing,” Peter says. He reaches forward and plucks the champagne flute out of Stiles’s hand. “Do you?”
The air suddenly feels laden, and Stiles realizes he’s gone too far. He should… He should back the fuck off, and who cares if they think he’s a frightened little omega, all mouth and no fucking balls? He doesn’t owe them anything. But also…
Also he wants something. Wants them to notice him. Wants them to want him.
“I don’t tease,” he says.
He holds their gazes one by one, and then turns and heads toward the bathroom.
Leaves it up to them whether or not they follow him.
Oh, this boy. This contrary, impossible boy. Peter smirks as he pulls Chris into the bathroom with him. He feels like a predator on the scent of the most delicious prey.
Chris is reluctant, but not reluctant enough to say no. That’s Chris all over, isn’t it? Following the wrong boys into bathrooms and tumbling into disaster.
The bathroom is large and well-lit. Stiles is leaning up against the wall near the row of hand dryers, one foot on the floor and one on the wall behind him. His hands are shoved into his pockets. He’s the picture of casualness and boredom. Peter doesn’t believe it for a second. Stiles’s eyes are a fraction too wide, a fraction too watchful to pretend he’s anything close to relaxed. He pushes himself off the wall as the bathroom door swings shut behind Peter and Chris, and saunters down toward the stalls.
Peter curls his fingers around Chris’s wrist and follows.
Stiles is a fascinating study in contradictions. He’s clearly bristling with nerves, but too proud to show it. And Peter isn’t exactly sure what the boy is seeking here—apart from the obvious—but, unlike Chris, he’s more than willing to find out, and no last moment attack of moral fortitude is going to fuck it up for him. Peter wants. No moral debate necessary.
“Peter.” Chris’s voice is low, uncertain.
“Shh.” Peter draws him into the stall and locks the door behind them.
In the close, confined space they look at one another silently for a long moment.
“What do you want, Stiles?” Peter asks, and suddenly Stiles is in his space, pushing him up against the back of the door, fingers working at his belt and panting hot anxious breaths into his throat.
Well, now. This will not do.
Peter grips him by the hips and turns them so that Stiles is the one backed against the door. He brackets the boy there with his hands on either side of his head, and pushes his thigh between the boy’s. Lovely.
Stiles juts his chin out, his mouth wet, but Peter dodges the kiss with a smirk. “Oh, I don’t think so, sweetheart.”
For a second Stiles looks mortified, his face mottling as he flushes, and Peter lifts one hand off the back of the cubicle door. He slides his fingertips down Stiles’s burning cheek, and grasps his jaw lightly but firmly. Turns his face toward Chris instead.
“Christopher,” he says. “Give the boy a kiss. He’s being so very good for us.”
Because while there’s no question Peter had to make the first move—both Chris and Stiles would have stood here gawping at one another like idiots otherwise—the first kiss belongs to Chris, and this way both Stiles and Peter are giving it to him. It’s an odd sort of balancing act, Peter reflects, but it’s hot as fuck when Chris leans in and licks into Stiles’s mouth.
Stiles moans, his chest heaving, his fingers twitching against Peter’s chest. Peter watches the kiss for a moment, and then leans forward and sucks Stiles’s earlobe into his mouth. Stiles squirms, moaning again, his movements almost frantic. He’s breathing heavily when he breaks his kiss with Chris, and his eyes slide almost shut when Chris reaches out to run his fingers through his hair.
His hair is longer now than that god-awful buzz cut. Peter approves. He reaches under Stiles’s chin, presses two fingers against his jaw to turn his head back, and then that mouth is all his to claim. Stiles tastes like heat and champagne. Peter deepens the kiss, his tongue chasing the places that Chris’s has already been. Stiles scrabbles at his shoulders, trying to pull him closer, and then makes a beautifully tremulous noise as Chris leans in and does…something. Peter’s a little too invested in the kiss to check right now, honestly. When he finally pulls back he sees that the skin of Stiles’s neck is damp, and pink with beard burn. Peter knows just how that feels.
Stiles leans back, his head bumping gently against the door of the cubicle. “Which one of you wants their dick sucked first?” he asks, voice rough.
Peter and Chris exchange a glance.
“Have you ever done that before, Stiles?” Chris asks.
Stiles shrugs. “I’m a fast learner.”
“You know,” Peter says, pulling Stiles closer and then turning him around so that his back is pressed tight against Peter’s chest, “the best way to learn a thing is to observe the experts.”
Stiles opens his mouth to retort, and then his eyes widen as Chris drops smoothly to his knees. “Holy shit.”
Peter hooks his chin over Stiles’s shoulder and laughs softly. Stiles’s hands flutter in front of him anxiously as Chris reaches to pop the button on his jeans. His hard dick is already straining against the fly, and it’s the work of seconds for Chris to tug the zipper down, reach into Stiles’s underwear and free it.
Peter guesses all that stuff about omegas having smaller than average dicks is a lie as well.
“Do you ever top, darling?” he murmurs into Stiles’s ear.
Stiles sucks in a rasping breath. “Wha—no. Um. I’ve never…”
He’s such a pretty shade of pink. Peter licks a line up his jaw. “Well, if you ever get the urge, call me.”
Whatever answer Stiles has to that is completely forsaken when Chris leans in and sucks the head of his dick into his mouth. Stiles shudders, and Peter almost has to dodge a flailing arm.
“Put your hands on his head, Stiles,” he murmurs. “Pull his hair. He likes that, don’t you Christopher?”
Chris moans an affirmation, and Stiles gasps and his hips stutter. He curls his fingers into Chris’s hair obediently. Peter rubs up against him from behind, enjoying the tease of the abortive friction. It’s nowhere near enough, but that’s fine. Peter wants to enjoy the show.
Chris looks up and meets his gaze. He looks as incredible with Stiles’s dick in his mouth as he ever has with Peter’s.
There’s no jealousy here. How strange.
Stiles is making small sounds of distressed pleasure. Peter nuzzles his ear, and slides a hand up under his shirt to tweak a nipple. Stiles jerks against him, shuddering.
“You can let go, sweetheart,” Peter tells him in a low voice. “Whenever you like. Let him taste you.”
Stiles’s hips jerk again, and he squeezes his eyes shut as he comes. He sags against Peter heavily, almost melting into him, twitching a little as Chris swallows and then licks his dick clean.
Peter’s hand rises and falls rapidly with Stiles’s hitching breath.
Chris rises to his feet, reaching out to trace his fingers down Stiles’s cheek. Stiles leans into the touch like an affectionate kitten. “Good boy,” he says, his voice rough.
Stiles squirms a little, pink-cheeked.
“Did he taste nice, Christopher?” Peter asks, just to see the color on Stiles’s cheeks deepen.
“Amazing,” Chris says, swiping his tongue over his bottom lip.
And, oh, apparently there’s some jealousy. How unfair that Chris has tasted Stiles, and Peter hasn’t. Chris should know by now that when he orders dessert, he’s expected to share.
Peter reaches out a hand and tugs Chris close. He kisses him, a low, filthy kiss with Stiles sandwiched between them. Chris’s mouth tastes like cum, and Peter’s dick throbs in his pants.
“Fuck, that’s hot,” Stiles whispers, reverent, and Peter smirks and breaks the kiss.
They all freeze as the bathroom door squeaks open, and footsteps enter. A zipper rasps.
Stiles squeezes his eyes shut and wrinkles his nose as someone starts to piss. It’s loud. Peter smirks at Chris, delighted at Stiles’s embarrassment. Chris raises his eyebrows, not easily rattled. It’s not as though he and Peter are strangers to this sort of behavior. Still, sex in a bathroom stall at an event full of deputies is a new low. Or perhaps a new high? Yes, definitely a high.
They wait until the man using the bathroom leaves, and then Stiles sags between them, snorting with quiet laughter.
“Well, that was a mood killer,” Peter says with a grin. “He couldn’t hold it in for a few more minutes?”
“Rude,” Stiles agrees with a sated smile.
Chris kisses the top of Stiles’s head affectionately. “You okay?”
“Better than okay,” Stiles says. The challenge is back in his gaze. “You two?”
“Same,” Peter smirks.
Stiles looks to Chris carefully.
“Whatever you want from this,” Chris says, “from us, you set the boundaries, you set the rules. But if you want to do this again, then yes.”
Stiles tugs his underwear and jeans back up. “I meant what I said, Chris. I don’t tease. If you guys want to fool around with me, I’m into that.”
And there, Peter thinks, is the sting. Chris wants more. Peter might even want more. And Stiles, he suspects, isn’t as casual as he pretends. If he was, why not pick up some strangers? Why come to the men whose touch he’d already felt? The men who’d comforted him, even when they didn’t guess the extent of his pain. There’s something there, something that might be difficult to ignore if this goes much further.
Peter remembers feeling a little like this the morning after he and Chris first met.
It’s not love. Not yet. But it’s something.
Stiles is seventeen, the same age Peter was when he decided that Chris was the only person he would ever want. And here’s Stiles, proving him wrong. What the hell do seventeen-year-olds know about their own hearts? Teenagers are stupid.
So are thirty-seven-year-old English professors, evidently.
At some point, Peter muses, he should call Deaton. For now, there’s a beautiful boy standing in front of him who is offering himself up on a platter. And Peter has always been greedy.
“I think we can work something out,” he says, and draws Stiles in for another kiss he shares with Chris.
Peter will cross his bridges, and probably burn them, when he comes to them.
“I’m pretty sure I need a cigarette,” Stiles murmurs as they rejoin the party. Peter watches as he cranes his neck and searches the crowd for his father. The sheriff and Talia are at the buffet table. And, excellent, they both turn and look at exactly the same time.
Peter does his best to look like a man who hasn’t just watched his mate suck off the sheriff’s beloved only son in a bathroom stall.
Stiles just grins and gives his dad a wave. John does not look impressed.
From somewhere behind them, Peter sees Isaac and Cora whispering together, wide-eyed and speculative. He ignores them.
Chris hands Stiles his business card. “There’s my number.”
“Oh, a business card.” Stiles grins at it, and tugs his phone out of the pocket of his jeans. “That’s so old fashioned, dude. Here.” He unlocks the screen of his phone, opens his contacts, and passes the phone to Chris. “Put it in there.”
“That’s what he said,” Peter quips.
Stiles grins. “Not yet, he didn’t.” He shrugs. “But play your cards right and who knows?”
Oh yes, Peter could fall head over heels for this little shit. There’s a vulnerability to Stiles that worries him. Peter isn’t good at responding to vulnerability. He never has been. He’s always been afraid that someone else’s vulnerability throws his own inadequacies into sharp relief. But sarcasm and snark? Yes. That’s Peter’s language.
But it could work, couldn’t it? Because Chris shuts down under a barrage of sharp barbs, but knows how to offer comfort, and how to share strength without second-guessing his own. Between the three of them, this might actually work. And Peter finds that he wants to try.
Stiles takes his phone back from Chris and hands it to Peter.
Peter puts his number in.
“Cool,” Stiles says, flushing a little. “Welp. It’s been an interesting night.”
“You got that right,” Chris murmurs.
“I’ll call you,” Stiles says, tucking his phone back into the pocket of his jeans. “I guess I owe you both one, right?”
Chris looks suddenly pained. “That’s not—”
“He’s flirting, Christopher,” Peter smirks. “Not signing a blood contract.”
Stiles laughs. “I’ll call you,” he repeats, and then, giving them a charmingly awkward wave, wanders off to rejoin his father.
“Oh, I like him,” Peter says, and slides his arm around Chris’s waist. “I like him a lot.”
Chris quirks his mouth in a cautious smile. “Me too.”
One day, Peter thinks, as he watches Stiles talk with his father, he’d like to wake up with Stiles in their bed.
It’s healthy to set goals, right? Deaton would approve.
Peter won’t tell him, just in case.
It takes a little while for the approval to come through on the old brewery, mostly because Peter, for all his talk, really has no influence with Talia when it comes to official city business. But while they wait for the council to approve the development of the site, Chris gets to work on a business plan, and on getting a building inspection carried out. The official inspection confirms what he’d hoped: the structure is sound. Chris starts work on the loft first. He can tackle that on his own. The downstairs renovations will be better left to the professionals, once the bank comes through with the business loan.
There’s something cathartic about working on the loft. It’s hard work, and filthy, but the burn in his muscles at the end of the day makes him sleep better than he has in weeks. Peter drops by occasionally, but he’s back at work now too, and mostly he just blinks around in confusion at the mess.
“How does this look worse than before you started, Christopher?” Apparently Peter hadn’t paid as much attention as he pretended to Masters of Flip. “Where did all this dirt even come from? You’re filthy, and not in the way I like.”
“You going to stand there and bitch about it, or are you going to help me rip these baseboards out?”
Peter holds his messenger bag up like a shield. “I have a class to teach, Christopher! Young minds to mold and all that.”
He beats a hasty retreat, but returns after his class with burgers and a six pack of beer, and helps Chris tackle the rest of the baseboards.
Going to the loft every day gets him out of Talia’s house, and gets him moving again after his injury. Most of the work the loft needs is cosmetic only, although the bathroom needs gutting, and they’re going to need a kitchen. Chris spends a lot of time doing the sums on those. He and Peter don’t have the budget for a do-over if he screws it up.
It’s slow work, but Chris likes it.
Stiles texts every few days, and Chris discovers that he looks forward to whatever Stiles has to say to him, however random it occasionally gets.
The youngest pope was 11 yrs old.
My chemistry teacher is an asshole.
I just ate so many curly fries I think I reached enlightenment.
You should get some of those old railway luggage racks if you’re keeping the claw-foot bath.
Scott dared me I wouldn’t eat a grasshopper. Guess who now has $10?
Stiles makes Chris laugh even when he’s not in the room. Stiles is just what Chris needs right now, he thinks, and he wonders if the reverse is true. A part of him wants to ask—What do you need, Stiles? What can I do?—but he’s afraid that to do it will ruin things somehow. What if asking brings up questions of debts and recompense and makes Stiles think Chris sees this entire things as something transactional? When Chris has no idea, in all honesty, how he sees it. But somehow Stiles—sometimes funny, sometimes flirty, and always unexpected—is texting him.
Stiles texts Peter too, and Peter snorts with laughter when he reads his texts:
Did omegas faint so much in 19C novels because they’re all emo, or because of the corsets?
There’s a squirrel looking at me.
Cucumbers are actually a fruit. Bananas are actually a berry. Potatoes are actually a mineral. (That last one is a lie.)
Shut up. I would look ridiculous in a corset.
Because of course Peter is trying to transition from texting to sexting.
So no, Chris isn’t sure yet what they have here, or what they’re working toward, but he’s content, just for now, to bask in the warmth of whatever it is.
Chris is nervous. He checks the time, and takes a seat at a spare table at Victoria’s favorite coffee place. He stirs more sugar into his coffee than he actually wants, just because it gives him something to do with his hands. For some reason that makes him think of Peter, and how he used to smoke when he was younger. Fiddling with a cigarette, with his lighter, and always managing to burn holes in the sheets of the cheap motels they stayed at. Chris had been glad when he gave it up.
He doesn’t wait long for Victoria.
He looks up when the bells ring on the shop door. It’s been months since he saw her. She looks good. She’s cut her hair short. It suits her.
She sees him waiting, and waves before going to put her order in.
Chris stands when she walks over to the table, and they hug awkwardly.
“You look good,” he says, and they sit.
“You look tired,” she responds, but there’s no sharpness in her tone, no victory. “Are you okay?”
“It’s been an interesting few months,” he allows with a slight smile.
“I’m sorry about Kate and Gerard,” she says at last, curling her fingers around her mug. “That must have been a shock.”
“The understatement of the year.”
“Mmm.” She draws a breath. “In some ways, it’s easier when somebody dies, isn’t it? You say how sorry you are, and then move on. It doesn’t work like that with Kate, anyway. And it feels very odd offering you sympathies for Gerard, when…”
“When I’m the one who killed him?”
“I was going to say when he’s the one who attacked you,” Victoria says. “But I am sorry for your loss, Chris. Your loss of faith, if anything.”
Chris meets her unflinching gaze. “Is that what you think it was?”
She shrugs. “You always tried so hard to be the son your father wanted you to be. I’m sorry it ended the way it did.”
And that might be the crux of it, Chris thinks. Not that his father is dead, and not that Chris killed him, but because they never had the relationship he craved.
“Me too,” he says at last, and sighs. “Thank you. For everything you did. The money for the lawyer. And for… for being the better person. Nobody would have blamed you if you’d washed your hands of me.”
“I’m just glad it worked out.” They sit in silence for a moment, and then Victoria brightens a little. “Ally says you’re renovating a loft?”
“Yes.” Chris fills her in on the place, on the dimensions, and on some of the dumbass mistakes he’s made so far, like spending an hour hanging a damn door only to realize he’d put it on the wrong way. His phone buzzes while he talks, and he takes it out of the pocket to check it.
It’s from Stiles: Sea otters hold hands when they sleep so they don’t drift apart.
Chris smiles and sets his phone on the table.
Victoria raises her eyebrows. “Peter?”
“Um.” Chris clears his throat. “Stiles, actually. Stiles Stilinski. The omega boy that we…”
“I know who he is.” Victoria tilts her head a little. “So I’m guessing the issue was never that you weren’t attracted to omegas?”
“Don’t be.” Her smile is a little fragile. “It’s life. It happens.”
“I never meant to hurt you. Not then, and not now.”
“I know that.” Her gaze softens. She taps her fingers along the side of the mug. “Are you and Peter seeing Stiles?”
“I really don’t know how to answer that.”
Victoria’s mouth turns up in a smile. “I can see why he’d be receptive to you both.”
“Why?” Chris sure as hell can’t.
Victoria leans back in her seat. “When I was thirteen and I presented as an omega, I cried for a week.”
Chris feels a jolt of surprise. Omega or not, Victoria is one of the strongest people he’s ever known.
“I didn’t want to be an omega,” she says. “I didn’t want my parents to decide my mate for me. I didn’t want to have babies instead of going to college. But my parents were as traditional as your father, so of course I knew that’s what would happen. In many respects I was lucky to be mated to you, Chris. You let me make my own decisions. You let me have my own interests, my own life.” She snorts. “I realize now it was because you were busy elsewhere.”
“You were very different than the alpha I’d imagined,” she says. “You let me take birth control and heat suppressants. You never touched me if I didn’t want to be touched. I think, unless you’re an omega, you probably don’t understand exactly what that means.”
Chris doesn’t know what to say to that.
“So I think that’s probably why that boy is texting you,” Victoria says. “You kept him safe, and to be safe, particularly in the situation where he had no control at all, where he couldn’t even ask you not to touch him... well, I’m sure he’s had plenty of nightmares about what could have happened.”
Chris struggles to find the words. “It wasn’t—it wasn’t a decision we had to make! It was common decency.”
Victoria sips her coffee. “There’s no such thing as common decency, Chris.”
Chris thinks about their conversation for the rest of the day as he works on repairing the windows in the loft. The windows are old, the fittings rusted shut in most places, but he wants to keep them. He likes the industrial look of them, the history.
Stiles was trapped in a nightmare, thrown together with two alpha who had every right to use him how they wanted. Chris’s stomach twists as he remembers the time Stiles, addled by drugs, tried to present for him. Ass up, head down, just like a good little breeder.
Of course Chris had refused to touch him. It disgusts him—horrifies him—that maybe another alpha wouldn’t have been stopped himself.
“There’s no such thing as common decency, Chris.”
Stiles feels safe with Chris and Peter. Safe to tease and flirt and explore, because Chris and Peter had the perfect opportunity to take without asking once, and yet they never did.
It explains a lot.
That night, lying in bed with Peter, Chris asks, “How would you feel about taking Stiles to dinner?”
“My heart says yes,” Peter answers after a moment. “I’d like to get to know him properly. But my gut warns me that he’ll probably want to go somewhere with curly fries and plastic furniture.”
“So that’s a yes?” Chris clarifies.
“It’s a yes,” Peter confirms, and curls up against Chris’s side to fall asleep.
It takes about four weeks and a lot of calluses to get the loft ready. Chris has banned Peter from visiting for the last week while he finishes up. He wants the place to be a surprise.
Peter grouses and complains when Chris makes him close his eyes.
He rolls the door open.
“Holy shit.” Peter is wide eyed as he takes it in. “Holy shit. This is incredible!”
The empty dusty space has been transformed. The windows are clean, the new fixtures shining brightly, and the loft is filled with light. The main door opens into the large living space. The new kitchen is off to one side, separated by an island from the dining area. The dining area opens directly into the living room.
“Holy shit,” Peter says again, when he sees one of the previously blank brick walls now has floor-to-ceiling shelving, complete with a ladder on a track.
“If that doesn’t fit all your books, you need an intervention,” Chris tells him, smiling.
“You are amazing!” Peter exclaims, his face lit up with delight. “You are fucking amazing. I can’t even believe this is the same place.”
It was their sanctuary once, dark and secret. It’s full of light and color now. It’s the sort of place that Chris wants to come home to, every single day, but it’s not a hiding place. Not anymore.
Chris takes Peter by the hand and draws him toward the spiral steps. “Come and see the bedroom.”
Peter laughs. “I thought you’d never ask!”
Alan Deaton comes to visit Isaac and Stiles once a week, every Friday afternoon after he’s finished at the college and they’re finished at school. Isaac doesn’t like his sessions with Deaton. He doesn’t like all the protracted silences that punctuate them, and the way Deaton expects him to fill them. Most of all, he doesn’t like the way that he sometimes does, and has no idea where the words come from.
“I’m not your lawyer, Isaac,” Deaton says. “I’m not looking to trip you up. I know you’re here because the court ordered you to have counseling, but me? I could be playing golf right now, leaving you to the care of some court-appointed recent graduate who’s just looking to tick a box.” He shrugs. “You’re lucky I hate golf.”
Isaac doesn’t know what to say to that. “My father used to play golf once.”
And suddenly he’s telling Deaton all about his father, and about how he started drinking when his mom left, and how it only got really bad once Camden left, and how Camden was supposed to come back and save him. From their dad, from Deucalion, from himself.
Stiles seems to be getting better day by day, and Isaac is still just treading water. And he knows he shouldn’t compare them—they’re different people with different experiences—but when Isaac sees the way John lights up when Stiles cracks a stupid joke, it makes his chest ache. It makes him worry that John might expect that of him too and, when it doesn’t happen, he’ll get tired of Isaac and ask him to go.
Isaac is eighteen in five weeks. He won’t be a minor then, and John will be under no obligation to look after him.
He’s mowing the lawn one afternoon when John calls him inside.
“Take a break, huh?” he says, pouring Isaac a glass of water. The lip of the jug rattles against the glass. “You only just mowed it last week.”
“Yeah.” Isaac wipes his face with the bottom of his shirt. “It was getting a little messy again.”
John gives him a look. “No, it wasn’t.”
Isaac gulps down some water. “Okay.”
“You don’t need to keep doing things,” John says at last, and Isaac can’t tell if he’s speaking so slowly because he’s having a bad day, or because he’s choosing his words carefully. “At least, not the things that don’t need to be done. The lawn’s fine, and it’ll be fine for another few weeks. You’re not the hired help, Isaac.”
“I know that.”
“You’re a guest,” John says, and then reconsiders that. “Actually, no. What you are, Isaac, is part of this family now, okay? And that’s for as long as you need it.”
Isaac’s throat aches.
“I know you’ve been through hell, kid,” John says, and puts a shaking hand on his shoulder. “So I think I have to make this plain for you. This is your home now. That door is always going to be open for you, and it has nothing to do with how short the lawn is. You don’t have to earn a place here, Isaac. You’ll always have one.”
Isaac nods and swallows.
John pulls him into a quick hug. “Now go and watch TV and make a mess like my other idiot teenager, okay?”
“Okay,” Isaac says, pulling back and wiping furiously at his eyes.
That night they order pizza for dinner, and John watches fondly as Stiles and Isaac argue over the last piece of garlic bread before he swoops in and steals it himself.
Stiles is terrified of Cora.
“She can see into my soul,” he whispers frantically to Isaac when their English teacher announces that Cora, Isaac, Stiles and Scott have been put into a group to do their Shakespeare project together.
“You mean she knows you’re fooling around with her uncle and his mate,” Isaac whispers back.
Stiles goes a bright shade of pink. “That was one time.”
“Pretty sure it’d be more if your dad let you leave the house alone,” Isaac points out.
Stiles goes even pinker.
It’s weird that Stiles is okay with Chris and Peter, but Stiles is pretty weird himself. And Isaac sort of understands it, maybe. It’s complicated. And while Isaac gets that Chris and Peter saved Stiles, they wouldn’t have been in that position in the first place if they hadn’t volunteered to get mixed up in Kate’s bullshit to begin with. Like it worked out for Stiles in the end, but it so easily could have gone wrong. It’s weird and a little unsettling that Stiles doesn’t focus on that. Maybe he’s just an idiot, but maybe he’s a hell of a lot smarter than Isaac. Isaac can’t tell.
Cora’s wearing a t-shirt with FTS printed on the front. She’s become a total badass since the whole scandal broke, and Isaac sort of envies her that. She created FTS because she saw an injustice, and she wanted to fight back against it. Isaac was more like a cornered animal, lashing out because he was terrified, not because he was brave. He wishes he was one tenth the badass that Cora is. She’d liked him for that, once, even when he was mostly faking it.
“You guys!” Scott says, and waves. “Over here, you guys!”
They stake out a corner of the classroom.
“We should do Julius Caesar.” Stiles chews on the end of his pen. “But update it so we’re like businesspeople or something.”
“Lame,” Cora says immediately.
Stiles makes a face.
“What about Romeo and Juliet?” Scott asks.
“No, I hate that one!” Stiles exclaims. “They’re so stupid!”
“We could make Romeo the omega,” Cora suggests.
“Ugh.” Stiles huffs. “That’s been done a million times!”
“What about Hamlet?” Scott asks. “It’s the only other one I’ve heard of.”
“I don’t care,” Isaac says.
“This whole assignment is dumb,” Cora announces.
“It’s the go-to Shakespeare thing for every English teacher,” Stiles agrees. “Oooh! Why don’t we update it! The kids will really respond to that with enthusiasm and a newfound love for the bard!”
Isaac looks around in time to see Ms. Blake throw them an affronted look.
“Let’s just do Hamlet,” Scott says.
“No.” Stiles makes a face. “Maybe we can steer away from the whole people-think-he’s-crazy trope for this one. Since, you know, sometimes I still have nightmares that I can’t tell a hawk from a handsaw, even when the wind is southerly.”
“What hawk?” Scott asks, wrinkling his nose.
“Have you even read Hamlet?”
“No,” Scott admits. “But I’ve heard of it.”
“Back to the drawing board,” Stiles announces.
In the end they settle on Macbeth, and only if they set it in space, during a mutiny on a space station. Stiles’s idea.
“Dude,” he whispers to Cora, who looks very unimpressed at the title, “she never said we couldn’t update it all the way into the future!”
“We’re going to fail,” Cora tells him. “It’ll be a total disaster. Let’s do it.”
And that settles it.
“No,” Isaac says that night in response to Stiles’s pleading look. “The others aren’t here, so I’m not reading Macbeth without them. Also, since when did we need scene cards? It’s a six minute presentation, Stiles, not a feature film.”
“Not yet,” Stiles mutters, but then his phone chimes with an incoming message, and he’s immediately distracted by that.
Chris or Peter, Isaac wonders, but he doesn’t ask.
He goes to the kitchen to grab a soda.
John is out tonight. He scored a late session with his physical therapist at the hospital when someone else canceled, and the nerve pain in his legs has been troubling him for the past few days. Isaac’s seen him staring hard at his painkillers more than once, like he’s debating upping his dose before ultimately deciding against it.
John’s an alcoholic, even though he doesn’t keep alcohol in the house anymore. He knows the cost of addiction.
“Holy shit!” Stiles exclaims from the living room.
Isaac pops the soda can open as he re-enters the room. “What?”
“They want me to go on a date,” Stiles says, looking equal parts anxious and ecstatic. “Me.” He sits down heavily on the couch. “Okay, so I wasn’t really planning for this at all.”
“You had a plan?” Isaac asks, aching his brow.
“Shut up,” Stiles says. “And yes. Sort of. If casual bathroom blowjobs count as a plan.” He looks at his phone again. “But this is a date.”
Isaac sips his soda. “You’re going to have to tell your dad, you know?”
“Fuck.” Stiles winces. “How do you think he’s going to take it?”
“No,” John says when he gets home from the hospital. “No.”
Stiles nods anxiously. “Okay, but what if—”
“I get it, Stiles,” John says, while Isaac lurks anxiously in the doorway of the kitchen. “I get it. You’re a teenager, and you want to fool around. That’s perfectly normal, and if you want to do that, find yourself an alpha who—”
“This isn’t just about fooling around, Dad!” Stiles’s cheeks are mottled red, and his eyes are blazing. “This isn’t about scratching some biological itch, okay? This is about me liking them.”
All the fight seems to drain right out of John. “Oh, kid. Jesus.”
Stiles hugs his chest. “I didn’t mean for it to happen.”
“But it did,” John says with a sigh.
“Maybe.” Stiles makes a face. “It’s all kind of new? But I like them.”
John closes his eyes for a moment and rubs his temples. He opens his eyes again. “Can we talk about this in the morning, kid?”
“Are you angry with me?” Stiles’s voice is small.
Isaac edges into the kitchen and stands beside Stiles. Bumps their shoulders together.
“I’m worried about you,” John says. “I’m worried that you’re making a mistake.”
“Because I’m an omega?” Stiles asks, an edge to his voice. “Because I can’t be trusted to decide this for myself?”
“Because you’re my son, and I don’t want you to get hurt!” John shakes his head. “Don’t pull that gender crap on me, Stiles.”
“But it’s true, isn’t it?” Stiles demands. “You wouldn’t worry so much if I was an alpha!”
“Stiles…” John says, but that’s not an answer is it?
Stiles turns and storms out of the kitchen. His feet thump up the stairs.
“Jesus,” John mutters, and rubs a hand over his face.
Isaac feels a wrench of fear twisting in his gut. Alpha. Omega. Why do there have to be lines? Is Isaac’s need for comfort, for protection, only there because of whatever hormones Deucalion injected into him? John might say it’s not about gender, but what if it is? Is John’s concern for Isaac only there because he presents like an omega?
Isaac leaves the kitchen too, trying to outrun the sudden flare of panic inside him.
Is this only home, is this only family, because he’s been made wrong in his own skin?
The last time Isaac felt strong was somehow at the same time he was the most terrified he’d ever been. It was on the street outside the Department of Omega Welfare, when he set fire to that car.
The fuel for the mower is kept in the garden shed.
Isaac waits until everyone in the house is asleep, then he lets himself out and takes the fuel.
He has a lighter in his pocket, and he knows how to make himself feel strong again.
The gates at Deucalion’s house are chained shut. Isaac climbs the wall instead. He was so impressed when he saw this place first. It was the biggest house he’d ever seen. It’s out of town. It’s set on acres of land. The grass is overgrown now, and the windows of the house are black and empty.
Isaac wonders if one can of fuel is enough.
He’s here now.
Once, there would have been security guards patrolling the grounds. To keep the riffraff out, Deucalion had laughed. There are no guards now there’s nobody left to pay them. There are no sensor lights or alarms either. There’s no power.
Isaac levers open a window on the ground floor, and climbs in.
It takes a little while for his eyes to adjust.
The house is a tomb.
He’s in the library. There are papers scattered and drawers left opened, and Isaac imagines a team of FBI agents pulling the place apart. Good. It adds to the low burn of righteous anger in his gut. Good. They left the place a mess, but Isaac is going to do one better.
His hand shakes as he unscrews the lid of the fuel can.
He’s going to burn the place to the ground.
Peter Hale is not this person. He’s not the man who lies awake at night because he’s half-afraid that if he falls asleep he’ll wake up to discover it’s all been a dream. He is so not that guy. And yet here he is, smiling like some soft-hearted fool into the darkness while Chris sleeps beside him. He’s half-tempted to sneak out of bed and creep down the stairs just to look at those magnificent damn bookshelves, but the bed is warm, and Chris is close, and Peter is not that guy.
He is, however, the guy who’s taken to sleeping with his phone on silent under his pillow so the vibrations wake him if he gets a text. Stiles has worse sleeping patterns then Peter. Something to do with his ADD and his internet addiction, probably. Peter really shouldn’t encourage it. What can he say though? Apparently he just sleeps better after a text exchange of random facts, terrible jokes, and some surprisingly challenging opinions and alternate readings concerning classic literature. Peter might be shallow as fuck about most things in life, but not when it comes to the people in it. He wants to explore Stiles’s brain just as much as his body.
When his phone vibrates and Peter digs it out and rolls away from Chris so the light from the screen doesn’t wake him. He’s hoping to continue the not-quite-discussion they started about corsetry a few days earlier. Stiles might have laughed off the suggestion, but Peter has the feeling he hasn’t forgotten it. And he would look truly sublime.
Peter feels a flicker of guilt when he reads the text. It’s not about corsets at all.
I had a fight with my dad.
Peter sighs. A scant seven words, a simple statement of fact, but they say a lot more than Stiles intends. Peter remembers vividly how Stiles, coming down from his cocktail of drugs, buried himself in his dad’s embrace and shivered. And he remembers just as vividly how Stiles was the one who comforted John in the safe house; this astonishing omega who easily had enough strength to spare his father some.
Peter slips out of bed, clutching his phone, and heads downstairs. He sits on the bottom of the spiral staircase, and watches the way the moonlight plays over the shelves. He calls Stiles.
“Peter?” Stiles sounds tired. Unsurprising, given the hour. It’s past midnight. He also sounds upset still.
“Are you okay?”
“I told Dad you wanted to take me to dinner.” Stiles huffs. “He didn’t take it well.”
“I’m sorry to hear that, sweetheart,” Peter says, sincerely. Sorry for himself and for Chris, certainly, but mostly sorry that Stiles is upset.
“It’s not…” Stiles clears his throat. “It’s not a big deal. He’ll get over it.”
“Is there anything we can do?” Peter asks quietly.
“No. I don’t think so.” Stiles sounds very young suddenly. “Just talk to me for a bit?”
“Of course. Do you want me to tell you about the boy in my class today who thought a cabriolet was a type of wine?”
“Peter, I don’t know what a cabriolet is.”
“That’s because you don’t have the context clues, Stiles. You’re a nineteenth century gentleman, and to get from one end of the city to another, you take a cabriolet.”
“Is it a cab? Like a hansom cab?”
“See. You’re much smarter than half my class.”
Stiles makes a sound of approval, and then sighs. “I’m sorry I woke you.”
“I was still awake.” Peter shifts. “Don’t tell Christopher, but I like to come downstairs in the middle of the night and look at the loft. It’s really beautiful. Now, with the moonlight playing over everything, it seems more like a dream than anything else.”
“Sap,” Stiles says, but Peter hears the gentle smile in his voice.
“I’d like to see it,” Stiles says a little wistfully.
“You will,” Peter tells him. “I’m sure your father is just worried about you.”
“I know,” Stiles murmurs. “And I’ll be eighteen soon, so…” He doesn’t finish that thought, and Peter hears his breath catch, and senses his rising panic.
“Stiles,” he says. “Nobody is going to make you choose between us and your father, alright?”
And Jesus, he hopes that’s a promise he can make. Because what if John refuses to budge an inch, but Stiles still wants to pursue this thing? What’s that old paradox about an unstoppable force meeting an immovable object?
Stiles makes a small, distressed sound.
“Stiles,” Peter says firmly. “Take a breath for me, okay?”
“F-fuck off. Don’t alpha me!”
There’s the Stiles Peter knows and… well.
“Stiles,” he says sternly. “You can hang up now, or you can listen to me.”
Stiles’s rasping breath is the only sign he hasn’t ended the call.
“Put your free hand on the back of your neck,” Peter instructs him. He remembers how he calmed a distressed Stiles before by doing this. At the time he’d felt guilty for springing the cheap biological trick on the poor omega, but it had been necessary to get him to shut the hell up. Now Peter wants Stiles to calm down for his own sake. “Just squeeze gently. Gently but firmly.”
“Worst…” Stiles sucks in a breath. “Worst phone sex ever, asshole.”
Peter can’t stop the smile that tugs at his mouth. “Brat. Are you doing it?”
“Close your eyes,” Peter says. “Imagine that hand is mine, or Chris’s. Now take a deep breath. Hold it, and let it out slowly. And again. Breathe in. Hold it. Now out. Slowly. That’s good. That’s good, Stiles.”
They breathe together for a few minutes. Peter has his eyes closed too.
“I wish…” Stiles whispers at last. “I wish you were here.”
“I do too,” Peter says, smiling. “What does your room look like?”
“You’re doing the phone sex wrong again.”
Peter laughs quietly. “Humor me.”
“It’s kind of a mess,” Stiles says at last. “I have crap everywhere.”
Peter imagines it as a typical room, a little messy. Clothes on the floor, a laptop on a desk that’s also strewn with papers and books. Probably a bookshelf overflowing not just with books, but with action figures, and knickknacks, and treasures that wouls seem to encompass most of his childhood. Peter conjures him a Lego robot, a chunk of petrified wood, and a ceramic piggy bank that’s been broken and glued back together. Of course Stiles would be a bowerbird. He’s too curious not to hold on to the things that have ever caught his interest.
“I bet I don’t have as many books as you,” Stiles says. His voice is softer now, calmer.
“I’ll bet you don’t,” Peter agrees. “Books are my weakness. I have a third edition of Great Expectations. It’s not as spectacular as it sounds. It was worth a few hundred dollars, if that. I saw it in a rare bookstore when I was at college. It was the most beautiful book I’d ever seen in my life. I got kicked out of my apartment because I used my rent money to buy a book instead. My parents were not impressed.” He finds the book in question with his gaze. “Half the pages are now unreadable because Chris spilled bolognaise sauce over it when he came to visit me one weekend.”
“That heathen,” Stiles murmurs, and Peter hears the smile in his voice.
“That was possibly the weekend I realized I was in love with him,” Peter says. “When I didn’t stab him to death immediately for ruining my book.”
Stiles laughs gently, and Peter smiles to hear it.
“Feeling a little better?” he asks.
“Yeah,” Stiles says, stringing the word out on a sigh. “I wish it was your hand on my neck.”
“Me too, sweetheart,” Peter says. “Me too.”
It would be easy, Peter thinks, to reframe all his memories of Chris so that they lead to this intersecting point: Peter, Chris, the loft, this single point in time. It would be easy to imagine that Chris had always longed for him in the same way, but that wasn’t exactly how it happened, was it?
Once, years ago now, Peter saw Chris and Victoria at the park. Peter was there with Derek and Cora, nursing a hangover and questioning all the life choices that had led him to his moment: awake, before noon on a Saturday, where there was sunlight. He’d been whining more than Cora, and she was three.
And then he’d seen a pretty little dark-haired girl on the swings and felt a jolt of shock.
How often had he opened Chris’s wallet and seen that little girl’s face smiling out at him?
He’d turned, Cora tugging at his jeans, and seen Chris and Victoria walking hand in hand.
Hand in hand.
In some ways seeing them so casually intimate was worse than thinking of them fucking—and of course Peter had tormented himself with that whenever he wanted to feel that masochistic burn of guilt and anger.
And Peter understood. Ally was the most important thing in Chris’s life, and Victoria had been the one who had given him his daughter. He loved his daughter and his wife. Peter understood. Just, that day, he couldn’t handle yet another slap-in-the-face reminder that he was never going to come first.
“You said we could get ice-cream,” Derek bitched as Peter lifted Cora up and hurried them out of the park. “Uncle Peter! You said!”
They’d hardly made it out of the park when Peter had to stop. He set Cora down, and then sat down with her, because seeing Chris like that had been a punch in the gut.
“Uncle Peter?” Derek’s solemn face was suddenly full of concern. “Are you okay, Uncle Peter?”
No, no he really wasn’t.
But he forced a smile and bought them ice-cream anyway.
He never told Chris he’d see him in the park that day.
“Have you and Chris talked about this?” Stiles asks after a while. “About you two and me?”
Peter watches the moonlight make patterns on the wall. “Chris and I would both like to know you better. We’ve spoken about that.”
Peter’s brow creases. “You’re not an add-on, Stiles,” he says at last. “That’s a computer thing, right?”
“It was possibly a terrible analogy,” Peter admits. “The point is, I’m concerned you think of Chris and me as some joint alpha entity, or some partnership that will always outnumber you. And I want to make it clear that’s not the case.”
Stiles is silent.
“If we do this, Stiles,” Peter says, “if this becomes a relationship, then it’s a relationship with three people in it, do you understand? Not me and Chris as a united front against you, or some voting block that holds the balance of power every time.” He listens for a while. “I’m hoping your silence means you’re thinking about it, not that you’ve ended the call.”
Stiles’s breath is a whisper. “I’m still here.”
“I’m glad,” Peter murmurs back.
Peter has no idea what time it is when Stiles finally yawns his goodnight and ends the call. Peter stands up at last, and stretches to unknot his muscles. Then he treads upstairs again, one hand trailing on the curving rail of the stairs, and the other still clutching his now-warm phone.
He climbs back under the covers and winces guiltily when Chris rolls towards him, stretching awake. There’s an apology for waking him on the tip of Peter’s tongue when Chris yawns and speaks first.
“Did you and Stiles have a good talk?”
Peter reaches out and cups Chris’s jaw. Scrapes his thumb against his beard. “We did. He was upset. I don’t think we’re going to be getting his father’s blessing anytime soon.”
Chris’s mouth twitches. “That’s never bothered you before.”
“You’re right.” Peter laughs quietly and leans in to kiss him. “You’re absolutely right.”
It still makes him almost giddy with delight to imagine Gerard Argent spinning in his grave. John Stilinski has nothing on that asshole. John might be no fan of Peter and Chris, but he’s not an unreasonable man, surely, and in time he’ll come to see that Peter and Chris aren’t just taking advantage of his son.
Peter’s all too familiar with playing the long game when it comes to love, right?
Chris was worth it.
He thinks that Stiles might be too.
Stiles falls asleep with the sound of Peter’s softly murmured goodnight in his ear. When his phone rings again, he snorts awake, unsure of where he is, or what’s going on, but with Peter’s words still clinging to his dreams.
“Peter?” he mumbles.
For a moment there’s silence, and Stiles claws into wakefulness.
“Stiles?” It’s not Peter. It’s Isaac, and he sounds like he’s crying.
“What’re you doin’?” Stiles asks. "Why are you calling me from…”
From the next room? Unless that’s not where Isaac is at all.
Stiles is suddenly very awake.
“Where are you?”
“Stiles, I almost did something really stupid. Can you come and get me?” Isaac’s voice breaks. “Please don’t tell your dad.”
Stiles tugs his hood over his head as he pedals down the street. He couldn’t risk taking the Jeep. His dad knows the sound of that engine as well as Stiles does, and if he hears it starting up at ass o’clock in the morning, this whole thing is going to be a bust. So Stiles took his bike instead. He figures he’ll get to Isaac, and then call someone to drive them home, because Deucalion’s house is miles away and Stiles isn’t looking forward to the long walk home. Stiles doesn’t exactly have any money for a taxi, and it’s not a great idea to get a taxi driver to pick them up from the scene of the crime anyway, so…
He can call Peter and Chris, right?
And later on, this can be their Great Expectations bolognaise sauce story.
It’s kind of lucky that Deucalion lives so far away, because that gives Stiles time to work on his pitch.
Hey, Peter and Chris. Who wants to be my getaway driver?
Beacon Hills is quiet at this hour, and Stiles keeps to the back streets where he can to avoid what little traffic is out and about. The last thing he needs is to get picked up by the cops.
It takes about twenty-five minutes to get to Deucalion’s house. It’s a big old place out on Lakeview Drive. It’s too big for Beacon Hills, probably, which doesn’t exactly have an upper crust. It’s a huge place, set on acres of private land, with walls and a chained gate to keep out the peasants. It looks like the kind of house Gatsby would throw a party. It’s a shame Deucalion didn’t end up floating in the pool with a bullet hole in him, right?
Stiles leans his bike on the outside wall near the gate, behind a cluster of bushes, and wipes his sweaty hands on his jeans while he figures out the best way to scale the gate. His mom used to call him a little monkey because of the way he couldn’t see a thing without wanting to climb it, but apparently he’s outgrown that. He mutters to himself, mostly to hide his rising anxiety even from himself, and hauls himself over the wall.
Okay, so now he’s inside the grounds, the house looks less like Gatsby’s place and more like something out of a horror movie. The façade is dark and forbidding. But maybe it’s not the façade that bothers him. It’s the fact he knows what happened inside.
What the hell was Isaac thinking, coming back here?
Stiles approaches the house. When he gets closer he sees there’s a window open on the bottom floor. Stiles tries to look totally innocent and also absolutely stealthy as he creeps toward the window.
Fuck, he hopes this is the right house.
It is though. Of course it is. Everyone knows Deucalion’s house. He was Beacon Hill’s most famous rich guy. Well, maybe apart from Gerard Argent.
He reaches the window. “Isaac?”
Oh, thank god. Isaac’s okay, he hasn’t burned anything down, and also Stiles got the right house and is not going to be shot to death by an overzealous homeowner. Stiles pulls his phone out of his pocket and, because he still can’t think of a way to have this conversation, sends a joint text to Chris and Peter:
Can you pick me and Isaac up from Deucalion’s house? Long story. Don’t call my dad please.
He climbs inside the window.
It’s dark inside the house, and it takes a moment for his eyes to adjust. They’re in a library. Wow. Peter would give his right testicle for a library like this, probably. Stiles wonders idly if there’s a fancy copy of Great Expectations he can snaffle for him, but he doesn’t really want to steal anything. Well he does, but he doesn’t want to get caught. It’s a practical distinction, not a moral one.
Isaac is sitting on the floor, a can of mower fuel beside him.
“Are you okay?” Stiles asks.
“What the fuck am I doing?” Isaac asks. His voice is thick with tears. “What the fuck is wrong with me?”
Stiles crosses the floor and kneels down beside him. “You didn’t do anything. You stopped yourself. We can go home, and Dad won’t ever have to know about this if you don’t want to tell him, okay?”
“But you should probably tell Dr. Deaton,” Stiles says. “I mean, not because you did anything wrong, but it’s kind of scary you came this far, right?”
“The only thing that stopped me was thinking of what your dad would say,” Isaac mumbles. “I don’t want him to regret taking me in.”
“That’s not going to happen,” Stiles tells him. “He wouldn’t have asked you to stay with us if he didn’t mean it. And he’s not going to get angry at you just because you’re struggling, okay? But we don’t need to tell him about this. We can just go home, and pretend none of it even happened.” He forces a smile. “Then, like at Christmas ten years from now we can break it to him and watch him freak out about how you could have got hurt.”
“Let’s go home, Isaac,” Stiles says. “This place is creepy.”
Isaac lifts his gaze and seems to look right through Stiles. “It wasn’t, once.”
He’s seeing the past, Stiles thinks. Seeing whatever pretty lies Deucalion told him once that made him think this house was a home, and that Deucalion loved him.
Once, when Stiles was about ten or eleven, one of the popular kids at school was nice to him. So, full steam ahead for Stiles. He’d been convinced that finally someone had seen his worth—someone apart from Scotty, who saw worth in everything and everyone—and that at last Stiles would get what he was owed. Respect, maybe? Adoration, probably. He was ten. He wanted to be popular.
Except after about a week, Stiles happened to overhear the popular kids talking.
“He’s like a brain-damaged puppy. He won’t stop following us!”
And then they’d seen him, and they’d laughed.
Stiles had been mortified at first, and then so, so angry. Angry at them for being horrible, but also angry at himself for being stupid enough to fall for it. For sacrificing the last of his dignity only to have them laugh in his face and treat him like dirt.
And that, Stiles thinks, is the secret to bullying. It’s making the victim hate themselves more than they hate the bully. The same is true of so many different forms of abuse.
The worst victim blaming is internal.
Isaac probably hates himself for every smile of Deucalion’s that made him feel special.
He reaches out to twine his fingers through Isaac’s. “Let’s go, Isaac. Let’s go home.”
Isaac is still shaking when they climb the wall back onto the street. Stiles follows him over, holding the fuel can. It has Isaac’s fingerprints all over it—and Stiles’s now—so he’s not going to leave it there. He doesn’t know if anyone will notice the break and enter or not, but why leave all that handy evidence lying around just in case? Stiles isn’t an idiot.
“I brought my bike,” he says when he drops back over the wall near Isaac. “I didn’t want to start the Jeep and wake Dad.”
Isaac nods, and wipes his eyes with the ends of his sleeves.
“I, um, I texted Chris and Peter to come and get us.”
“What?” Isaac throws him a worried look.
“Dude, it’ll take forever to walk home!”
“Fine,” Isaac mutters, and jams his hands in his pockets.
Stiles shifts from foot to foot and waits for Chris and Peter to arrive.
They really need to get home and into bed before his dad wakes up.
A black SUV rolls slowly down the road, and Stiles squints at it. Chris drives an SUV, right? Stiles is almost sure he remembers it. The SUV stops in front of Deucalion’s gates, and Stiles darts out of the bushes. He leaves the fuel can where it is.
The window of the SUV slides down.
It’s Thing Two.
“Mr. Stilinski,” Thing Two says, rolling his eyes. “What a surprise.”
“Oh, hey, Agent, um…”
“Agent Malone, right,” Stiles says. “Nice night.”
“Get in the car, Stiles,” Thing Two says, and raises his voice. “And you too, Lahey.”
They get in the car.
“We got a tip that someone was lurking,” Thing Two says.
“Oh,” Stiles says.
“But I guess you aren’t Deucalion,” Thing Two tells them, turning around in his seat to glare at them both.
“Isn’t he supposed to be out of the country?” Stiles asks.
“That’s the theory,” Thing Two says. “It doesn’t mean we ignore reports of people on his property, does it?”
“I guess not,” Stiles agrees despondently. Shit. Dad is going to be pissed.
“Let’s get these two home,” Thing Two says to his partner.
Stiles doesn’t recognize the agent driving. He’s younger than Thing One was. Not Thing Two’s regular partner. He catches Stiles’s gaze in the rearview mirror and smiles.
Stiles returns the smile gratefully. At least he’s got one of them onside, right? He wonders if he should call Chris and Peter and tell them not to bother coming to get him. He decides against it though. Bad enough that he and Isaac are going to be in the shit for this. He doesn’t really want the FBI—or his dad—thinking they were somehow involved in tonight’s stupid escapade. He'll call them when he's alone again, and apologize for their wasted trip.
“I didn’t think anyone lived close enough out here to spot us,” he says at last.
“You boys tripped a silent alarm.”
“Really?” Stiles glares at Isaac.
Isaac shrinks into his seat.
The driver fiddles with the radio for a moment, skipping over a few songs until he finds one he likes.
“Jesus, Matt,” Thing Two says. “Let’s just go, okay?”
“Right.” There’s something odd in the agent’s voice.
Stiles hears the child locks click closed.
And then it all happens very, very quickly.
There’s sudden movement, there’s a gun, and then Agent Malone is slumped in his seat. Stiles, sitting behind him, cops a spray of hot blood to his face.
Shot, Stiles’s brain tells him while he blinks stupidly at the driver. He shot Thing Two.
Blood slides down Stiles’s face, as slow and thick as syrup.
Matt turns around to face them, showing them the gun. “Here’s how it’s going to be, boys. You’re going to sit there, nice and quiet like good little omega bitches, while I drive you to Mr. Deucalion. Is that understood?”
Stiles jerks his chin in a nod, his heart trying to beat out of his chest.
Isaac is pale and shaking.
“You’re worth a lot of money to your alpha, Isaac,” Matt says. “But your little friend here isn’t worth anything at all. Any stupidity, any theatrics, and I’ll shoot Stiles in the head.”
Stiles closes his eyes so he doesn’t have to see the blood, see the gun.
In his back pocket his phone is buzzing.
Stiles doesn’t reach for it. Even with his eyes squeezed shut all he can see is that gun. He keeps his hands clasped tightly in his lap as the SUV begins to move at last.
Matt flicks through another few stations on the radio. “Oh, I like this one,” he says at last, and turns it up a little.
He hums along to the song as he takes them toward wherever it is Deucalion is waiting.
Happy 2017 everyone!
Headlights slide up the windshield as Chris drives. In the passenger seat, Peter is trying to call Stiles again.
“He’s not answering,” Peter says, his voice level. He even sounds vaguely disinterested. Peter has a pathological need to always appear like he doesn’t give a fuck, but Chris knows him better than that. Chris can see right through him.
Took him long enough. How many times and in how many cheap motel rooms had he read that wrong?
“Hmm?” A lazy smirk that never failed to shut Chris down. “Run along now, Christopher. Victoria’s waiting.”
Peter had made it very easy to walk away from him every time. Chris already had the burden of his own guilt. He’s not sure what he would have done with the burden of Peter’s misery as well, and so Peter had withheld it. And Chris hadn’t noticed for a very long time.
“We’ll be there in a few minutes, Peter.”
“Right,” Peter says, and his mouth flattens into a thin line. “Right.”
Deucalion’s place is out on Lakeview Drive. There was probably a time when Chris wanted a house like this—okay, maybe not one as unnecessarily large as some of the places out here—and an address like this. A time when he would have marked his successes this way: the house, the car, the business, the family. His father had taught him that any deviation from the set parameters would be chalked up as a failure. And, in the long list of things it took Chris a lifetime to see, the realization that success can measured a different way probably doesn’t even make the top five.
The road curves.
Headlights are coming the other way.
It’s luck, Chris thinks. It’s stupid dumb luck. It’s the curve of the road and the way both cars have to slow to navigate it that causes the headlights of his SUV to hit the other vehicle at just the right angle.
Just the right angle to see, in a fraction of a second, a man slumped in the front passenger seat behind a window streaked and speckled with what looks like blood. And to see a boy sitting in the back, his face covered in the same.
Chris turns his headlights off, brakes, and wrenches the steering wheel as he pulls the car around.
“What the hell?” Peter asks, clutching his seatbelt.
“Stiles is in that car,” Chris says.
Chris hits the gas to close the distance between their vehicles.
Chris fell into the security business almost accidentally. He’s always been good with guns; one of the few hobbies his father wholeheartedly supported. At first Chris had intended to go into the military. Then, when he was about nineteen, some protester at one of Gerard’s rallies got too close to the main podium. Lobbed a water balloon full of red paint at the stage, screaming something about fascist scum.
Kate had only been about eleven or twelve. She’d stood there shaking, her pretty dress covered in paint, while Gerard’s security detail hustled their father away.
Only paint, but it could have been worse. What if the protester had been armed with a gun?
Chris started to really care about personal security then. He did courses, picked up work when he was in L.A. for school, and built a reputation on being the guy who never let his guard down, not even for a second. Working with celebrities was a hell of a chore in many respects, but Chris had learned a lot. He’d learned from the best how to avoid the paparazzi and the crazy fans. And then, for one summer, he’d worked for the paparazzi as well. He’d learned all their tricks before coming back to Beacon Hills to start his own weapons business. He’d always wanted to move back into the more practical side of security though. Not just the design of systems with alarms and CCTV, which he’d been doing for years as part of his work, but the close personal protection details he’d been a part of in L.A. That was the stuff he’d really been good at.
Chris knows how to lose a car. He knows how to follow one as well.
He knows, at night, to keep his lights off, and to keep his distance.
The lights of the SUV in front of them guide him.
“Is Laura working tonight?”
“I think so.”
“Call her,” Chris says, not taking his eyes off the SUV in front of them. “Put her on speaker.”
Peter calls her.
“Laura,” Chris says. “Are you working right now?”
“Yeah. What’s up, Chris?”
“We’re following a car that Stiles is in. Run a plate for me?”
He hears the tapping of keys. “Go.”
He likes that she doesn’t argue. Doesn’t remind him how much trouble she could get into for this. Laura’s a smart woman. He might not have given her the whole picture, but she knows that Stiles is in trouble.
Chris waits an agonizing few moments until the SUV in front of them passes under a streetlight. He eases back again, letting the darkness swallow his car, and relays the plate number to Laura.
“That’s… that’s a government plate. FBI.”
Which means either the FBI isn’t driving it right now, or one of them is dirty. And really, why would Deucalion only have a contact in the Department of Omega Welfare? A man like that would have all his bases covered, surely.
“We’re following that car right now,” Chris tells her. “We’re turning right off Lakeview, and heading east away from town. Stiles is in the car, and I’m guessing Isaac is too. I got a glimpse when we passed them earlier. I’m pretty sure there was blood all over one of the windows.”
“Shit. I’ll round up some crews, get them heading your way.”
“Keep it off the radio,” Chris advises. “And hang back for now, okay? I don’t think this guy knows we’re following him yet.”
“Okay. You keep relaying your position, and we’ll stay back until you need us.”
Chris turns his head and nods at Peter to take over.
“We’re passing the rowing club,” Peter says. “I think we might be headed for the highway.”
A few miles outside of Beacon Hills, off the highway, is the airport. It’s almost too small to be called that. It’s a few hangers and a utilitarian building that barely passes muster as a terminal. Chris has flown in to Beacon Hills a few times before, on the smallest, bumpiest planes he’s ever been on, and arrived at the Beacon Hills Airport. It doesn’t even have a café, just a vending machine that spits out disgusting coffee, and a snack machine that eats quarters without giving anything back in return. And while it barely qualifies as an airport in terms of commercial traffic, there’s a bustling skydiving business that operates out of one of the hangers, and there are at least a few people in Beacon Hills who are rich enough to have their own private planes there. Gerard was one of them. And Deucalion, of course, was another.
“We’re driving past the airport exit,” Peter tells Laura. “We’re turning left now, onto… I can’t see a sign. The first left after the airport exit. We’re passing a place called North California Aviation Solutions.”
All the businesses in here have something to do with the airport, Chris figures. He watches the SUV in front of them with one eye, and the lightening sky with the other. It’s almost dawn now, which means that if the driver of the SUV happens to check his rearview for traffic, the darkness won’t shelter them for much longer. But instinct tells Chris they’re almost at their destination. They’re right next to the airport, and what the hell else is there down this road?
“We’re pulling over,” Peter says. “Chris, why are we stopping?”
“Because he’s slowing down,” Chris says, parking up beside the entrance gate to a warehouse. A few hundred feet ahead, the SUV is pulling to a stop as well. The headlights turn off. A man climbs out of the driver’s seat and wrenches open the back door.
Chris squints to see in the gloom
Isaac clambers out of the car, Stiles behind him. The boys are clasping hands, and Chris feels a pang of fear for them.
“Shit,” Peter whispers.
The driver slams Stiles up against the side of the SUV, and digs into his pockets. He pulls something out—cellphone?—and inspects it. Then he slips it into his own pocket and holds his hand out to Isaac. Isaac passes over what must be his own cellphone.
“Did you text him?” Chris asks Peter in a low voice.
“Once,” Peter says. “I asked him where he was. Other than that, it’ll just show missed calls.”
Okay, so that’s not good, but it’s not bad either. It’ll show someone is missing Stiles, but it will also show that Stiles hasn’t tried to call them back. Hopefully that will count for something with his abductor.
Chris watches as the driver herds Stiles and Isaac toward one of the smaller warehouses. The door opens as they approach, but it’s too dark for Chris to make out who’s waiting for them. And then the door closes again, and the boys are trapped inside.
A few minutes later the driver comes outside again and moves the SUV around to the back of the building.
After that, nothing happens for a very long time.
Dawn sneaks in slowly, starting as a faint glow at the edges of the world before it climbs upward to drown out the stars one by one.
“It’s been an hour, Chris,” Peter says. “We should go in there!”
“We don’t know how many people are waiting in there,” Chris reminds him, reversing up the car to a few warehouses back, and pulling into the driveway of a courier company. The first of the police cars is already there.
“What’ve you got?” he asks Chris.
“Stiles and Isaac are being held in the warehouse four down on the left,” Chris says. “There’s no signage on it. It’s right beside Maxwell Food Services. There are at least two suspects, the one who was driving, and the one who let them in.”
“I should call Stiles again,” Peter says suddenly. “I mean, why would I stop?”
“Text him,” Chris says. “Tell him you’re going back to bed and he’d better call you in the morning with an explanation.”
Peter frowns but nods. He shows the text to Chris and Parrish before he sends it: I assume you found your own way home. I’m going back to bed. I expect an apology in the morning.
Three more police cars pull into the courier company’s parking lot. It’s Laura, and three other deputies, and John Stilinski. The man might be wearing jeans and a pullover underneath his borrowed bulletproof vest, but it’s clear that the deputies all still consider him their boss. They fall in behind him easily.
Laura jogs over to them, closing the distance quickly. “What’ve we got?”
Chris waits until John and the others are with them before he fills them in.
“Here’s what we’re gonna do,” John says. “I want someone on every corner of the warehouse. At some point they’re gonna try and get to the airport. Parrish, call air traffic control and find out if anyone’s put in a flight plan for today. I want all planes grounded until further notice. Tell them we’ve had a bomb scare if you have to.”
“Yes, sir,” Parrish says, and steps away to make the call.
“Garcia, move one of the cruisers to the end of the road back up near the highway. Nobody’s getting a car out of here.”
The deputy hurries to obey.
“They could still get to the airport on foot,” Chris points out. “It’s only about half a mile.”
John levels a look at him. “They can try.”
“We’ve got a SWAT team and a negotiator coming in from Redding,” Laura says, and checks her watch. “ETA an hour.”
It’s dawn. Chris isn’t sure they have an hour. Now that Deucalion has Isaac again—and Chris has no doubt that even if Deucalion isn’t in that warehouse, he’s somehow calling all the shots here—he’s going to want to move quickly.
“Let’s get into position,” Parrish says, putting his phone back in his pocket. “Chris, Peter, I’ve got spare vests in the cruiser.”
“Stay back,” Chris tells Peter as he’s helping him into a vest. He passes him his Glock. “If it goes to hell, hit the ground, okay?”
“I am never again going to make fun of you for carrying enough weapons to sink the Bismarck,” Peter murmurs. His hands are surprisingly steady as he takes the Glock.
“Okay,” John says to the team. “Let’s move in, take our positions. SWAT’s on the way.”
As hastily made plans go, it’s a good one. They just need to watch, and contain the scene until the SWAT team arrives. It’s exactly the sort of plan Chris would have made himself. It’s solid.
Except for the gunshots that ring out when they’re only halfway to the warehouse.
Isaac knows in his bones exactly who’s going to be waiting for him on the other side of the warehouse door, but nothing prepares him for the sheer blood-chilling terror of seeing Deucalion face to face again after so long.
“Isaac,” Deucalion says with a smile that doesn’t match the sharpness of his gaze. “What a delight.”
The FBI agent hauls Isaac and Stiles through the doorway, and pulls the door shut behind him. Isaac hears heavy locks click shut, and for a moment his heart forgets how to beat.
And then Deucalion’s hand is one the back of his neck, and Isaac’s skin crawls because it feels so wrong, this sickening urge to be still, to be quiet, to submit. He tries to shrug Deucalion off him, but Deucalion digs his fingers in hard, and the sudden burst of pain drives Isaac to his knees.
“Oh dear,” Deucalion says. “My little omega hasn’t been keeping up with his meds.”
Isaac could protest that he’s an alpha, he’s not an omega—he could, but what would be the fucking point? He clenches his hands into fists instead, and sways on his knees and concentrates on not passing out from sheer terror.
From beside him, he hears scuffling, and then Stiles yelps as he’s put on his knees too. Matt, the FBI guy, is standing behind him with a hand on the back of his neck, and Stiles is already looking a bit spaced-out as his system floods with dopamine.
“I’ve gotta go move the car around back,” Matt says.
Deucalion hums in agreement as he moves to stand in front of Isaac.
He looks good.
He always looked good. The handsome older guy who just radiates confidence and charm. He’s a man who knows exactly what he wants and isn’t afraid to take it. He’s a man who owns the world, and even now there’s something in his confident stance that takes Isaac’s breath away.
Deucalion doesn’t look like a fugitive. He’s wearing the same sort of expensive jeans and shirts he always wore around the house on weekends. He’s shaved, and his hair is neatly trimmed.
Isaac risks a glimpse around the warehouse.
It’s like an open plan house or something. There’s a bed in the middle of the living space, and a couch, and even a kitchenette. There’s a TV and a computer, and did Deucalion really throw all this together when he was already on the run, or has it always been here just in case he needed it? A place to lie low, right near the airport. It’s not luxurious exactly, but he’s hardly been slumming it either.
“Oh, Isaac,” Deucalion says. “I’ve missed you, my sweet boy.” He steps forward, and peers down at Stiles. “Now this one’s the sheriff’s omega, isn’t he? Kate’s little study in collateral.”
Stiles shuffles backward on his knees.
Deucalion smiles and moves around behind him. Grips him by the back of the neck. Stiles makes a sound not unlike a growl, and Deucalion tightens his grip until he’s not just touching his neck, he’s squeezing it. Hard. Stiles goes almost instantly limp, like a kitten being carried in its mother’s jaws. His pupils are blown, and his mouth hangs open slightly, even while tears slide down his cheeks and his fingers scrabble uselessly for purchase on the floor.
“Oh, this one’s a natural breeder, isn’t he?” Deucalion asks, pleased. “The fight just goes straight out of him when an alpha puts him in his place, doesn’t it?”
He releases Stiles, and Stiles sprawls forward onto the floor, breathing hard.
“Don’t hurt him,” Isaac manages. “Please, Deuc, let him go home.”
For the first time he becomes aware that there’s someone else in the warehouse. A woman, and she’s clearly another alpha. She’s been standing in the shadows this whole time. She moves like an alpha, and the smirk she throws him leaves Isaac in no doubt she sees herself at the top of the food chain.
“Please, Deuc,” the woman mimics. “Let him go home!”
“Kali,” Deucalion says, and leans down to tug his fingers through Isaac’s curls, “please do remember to be civil to my boy.”
The woman snorts and wanders away again.
Isaac curls his fingers around Deucalion’s ankle and doesn’t care that he’s begging like a dog. Like an omega. “Please. Please let Stiles go home.”
The door to the warehouse opens again, and Matt reappears. “It’s almost light,” he says.
Deucalion’s demeanor changes almost instantly. His smile vanishes. He nudges Isaac with his foot. “Keep out of the way while we get ready to leave, and I’ll consider your request, hmm?”
Isaac nods, fighting down his tears, and shuffles back to wait with Stiles.
Stiles’s face is streaked with dried blood. He scratches it away with his blunt fingernails while Isaac watches him.
Isaac isn’t the only one who watches Stiles. Matt watches too, a quiet, attentive look on his face that seems almost like hunger. It makes Isaac’s skin crawl.
Stiles doesn’t seem to notice.
“Stiles?” Isaac whispers, curling his hand around Stiles’s wrist. The tendons in Stiles’s wrist shift under the pressure of his touch, and Isaac thinks, wildly, of how Camden once tried to teach him to play the guitar, and of the way he used to press the strings against the frets.
Stiles blinks at him. He’s shaking a little now, coming down from his high. But he’s still got that stubborn gleam in his eye that drew Isaac to him to begin with. He sucks in a deep breath.
“Fuck,” he murmurs, and reaches up with his free hand to rub the back of his neck gently. “That’s gonna bruise.”
“Stay quiet,” Isaac whispers.
Stiles clamps his mouth tightly shut, and nods. He tugs his wrist free from Isaac’s death grip, but then curls his fingers through Isaac’s and squeezes his hand. “They don’t like mouthy omegas in this crowd, right?”
“They really don’t,” Isaac whispers back.
“What do you think, Isaac?” Deucalion asks as he slides his laptop into a bag and starts to flick through a pile of files on his desk. “Martinique or the Cayman Islands?”
Chateau Margaux or Chateau Lafite?
The Patek Phillipe watch in gold or platinum?
The pretty boy in alpha or omega?
Everything’s an aesthetic choice for a man of Deucalion’s fortune.
“Don’t,” Isaac says when Deucalion pulls him to his feet and steers him toward the bed. “Don’t, please.”
Not when Stiles is watching. Not when Kali is laughing and Matt is smirking.
Isaac wants to fight, but he can’t. His back hits the mattress, and then Deucalion is leaning into him, and Isaac freezes. Deucalion is a heavy, solid weight and a part of Isaac welcomes him, welcomes this, welcomes the alpha. And maybe it’s not just whatever hormones they kept injecting him with to make him act like an omega. Maybe it’s the memories too, of when he loved this man. When he thought he was loved in return. Before Deucalion changed him. Before he took without asking. A part of Isaac welcomes this, but another part of him, some part locked away in a corner of his brain, can only scream silently.
“I did it all for you, Isaac,” Deucalion tells him, his voice rough. “I did everything for you.”
“No!” Isaac manages, trying to push Deucalion off him. “You did it all for you!”
Deucalion makes a fist in Isaac’s hair and wrenches his head back. “I chose you above it all, Isaac. You’re the reason my reputation is in ruins. You’re the reason I’m a fugitive, and where is your gratitude?”
“You did those things yourself!” Isaac tries to roll away from him, but Deucalion wrenches him back roughly. Isaac’s eyes water as his scalp burns. “I’m an alpha! I’m an alpha!”
Deucalion leans in close, tightening his grip. “Are you sure about that? Because you certainly cry and moan like an omega bitch.”
Those words, so softly spoken, are like ice water. Isaac stills, his heart freezing, and stares up at Deucalion. This is his future, isn’t it? He can’t win this fight. Nothing he ever says will make Deucalion understand, because Deucalion will never value Isaac’s right to agency above his own desire to present as the right kind of alpha. The sort of strong, traditional alpha who could never be in an alpha/alpha relationship, and all because of the implication that it makes him somehow lesser.
Isaac will never win this fight.
Not when his own instincts are tugging at his resolve, telling him to just go still, go limp, to just submit. Deucalion’s touch makes his skin crawl, makes his guts roil, but it claws inside him like some sickening need that Isaac aches to appease. He remembers at the center, when they yelled at him, twisted his arms behind his back, brought him down with a baton behind the knees when he wouldn’t go any other way. If submitting like an omega was an easy thing, then Isaac would have done it every day just to stop fighting. But it never feels good when it happens. It never feels right. It makes him sick.
And this is what the rest of his life is going to be.
Deucalion releases his grip in Isaac’s hair, and runs his palm down his cheek instead.
“Deuc,” Isaac whispers, shaking his head.
“Don’t!” Stiles yells suddenly, clambering to his feet and stumbling toward the bed. “Don’t you touch him!”
Deucalion laughs as Matt hooks an arm around Stiles’s waists and swings him around like a girl at a barn dance. Stiles staggers, Matt lets him go, and he lands on his ass just in front of the couch. Kali, zipping up a bag, rolls her eyes at the spectacle.
“Really, Agent Daehler?” Deucalion asks with a smile. “You can’t even keep an omega on his knees? Now he’s scrappy, I’ll grant you that, but really?”
Matt snorts, and folds his arms over his chest.
Stiles shoots a wide-eyes look at Isaac, and then climbs up onto his knees. He’s shaking wildly, head bobbing. Isaac can hear his breath wheezing. He’s on the edge of a panic attack, Isaac thinks. A combination of delayed shock from seeing what happened to Thing Two, the very real danger they’re in now, his body’s too-quick release of both dopamine and epinephrine, and Stiles is barely hanging on. Isaac is skirting very close to the edge of panic himself. His shaking hands push uselessly against Deucalion’s chest.
Kali dumps the bag on the floor. “Can we hurry this along, Deuc?”
Deucalion rubs his thumb along Isaac’s cheekbone. He leans away, and suddenly Isaac can breathe again. “So impatient,” he says to Kali.
Stiles starts to whine, the sort of high-pitched sound an upset toddler might make as he winds himself closer and closer toward a meltdown.
“Shut him up, please,” Deucalion says, and strides over towards his desk.
Isaac’s heart skips at beat as Matt steps towards Stiles—he flashes right back to Thing Two, and the way his blood sprayed all over the window behind him when he skull came apart—but Matt only reaches down and grips the back of Stiles’s neck. Stiles whimpers, and reaches up to grab Matt’s trouser leg, the picture of a grateful omega.
Isaac is the only one who sees how his gaze sharpens.
Stiles rubs his cheek against Matt’s thigh, all soft and big-eyed again, and Matt grins and cards his fingers through his hair. Stiles tugs at Matt’s trouser leg with his right hand, but his left—
His left hand is reaching higher still.
Reaching for Matt’s belt. For his holster. For his gun.
Stiles catches Isaac’s gaze a second before he does it.
Isaac rolls off the bed and lands with a thump on the floor.
Deucalion turns toward him. “Isaac, what—”
Stiles pushes away from Matt, lands on his ass on the floor again, except this time he’s got a gun, and he’s pointing it right at Matt.
Everything happens in seconds.
Kali flips her jacket open, revealing her shoulder holster.
Deucalion dives toward Isaac, and Isaac scrabbles to get away.
Matt steps toward Stiles, a look of cold disdain on his face. “You don’t have the balls, you little—”
And Stiles pulls the trigger.
Stiles shoots—fucking misses—and shoots again. And then Matt’s down, gargling as blood spews from his throat, and oh god, that’s disgusting, but Stiles doesn’t have time to think. Because Kali is advancing on him, keeping the couch between them, and her aim is a hell of a lot steadier than Stiles’s.
How many bullets in the magazine? Standard government issue Glock. That’s fifteen, right? Fifteen, and maybe one in the tube. So sixteen. And Matt used one when he killed Thing Two, and Stiles has used two, so that’s twelve left, maybe thirteen. It seems like a lot of bullets, but at the same time nowhere near enough.
Stiles fires at Kali, and hits the ceiling instead.
Eleven left, maybe twelve.
This is nothing like a video game. This is hard, and terrifying, and his hands are slippery with sweat, and he’s shaking, and he’s going to fucking die here. No respawning. No do-over. This is not a game. This is the reason Stiles always got a curl of fear in his gut whenever he told his dad to have a good shift. This is the real thing.
Behind him, over by the bed, he can hear Deucalion and Isaac struggling. But he can’t look, can’t take his eyes off Kali, who’s smiling at him with her head on an angle like he’s just the cutest little thing, and someone needs to tell this psycho bitch it’s not a game. Or maybe it is to her, because she’s just so sure she’s winning.
Matt gasps and chokes on the floor, smearing blood everywhere as he flops around like a landed fish.
Kali levels her gun at Stiles.
He fires again, she jerks back.
A bullet hits the floor beside him, so close he can fucking feel it.
He’s got no cover here at all. He’s just kneeling on the floor, and she’s taking aim again.
I’m a leaf on the wind, Stiles thinks. Watch how I soar.
He fires again, and how does he keep missing? He swallows down a sob of panic that makes his hand shake more.
I am one with the force and the force is with me.
I am one with the force and the force is with me.
And yeah, he’s probably going to die just like those guys, right?
He tries to fire again, fumbles it, and drops the fucking gun.
Panic slices through him like a knife through a bladder of water, and Stiles is going to drown.
Stiles is going to die like Thing Two did, blood and brains and shards of his skull splattered on the floor behind him. Everything he is, he was, and he ever will be, snuffed out in an instant as the bullet tears through him.
Isn’t he supposed to be calm or something? Isn’t that a thing? That moment of cold clarity before death? That moment of acceptance.
Here I am, and there is nothing I can do. In this moment I can only be.
A leaf on the wind.
One with the force.
Staring eternity in the face.
“No!” Deucalion yells, and why is Stiles still alive? Except there’s a body shielding his. It’s Isaac. And Deucalion might be a crazy fuck, but he won’t let Kali shoot at Stiles when Isaac could get hurt.
Isaac and Stiles both scrabble for the gun.
“No!” Deucalion yells again.
And then Isaac is being wrenched away from Stiles, Kali’s fist in his curls, and the muzzle of Kali’s gun is pressed against Stiles’s forehead.
“Stiles!” Isaac gasps, eyes wide with terror.
Stiles’s heart freezes.
For a moment Stiles thinks he’s dead, and he doesn’t understand how his eyes are still open, how he’s still seeing things, how nothing has gone black.
Bang bang bang.
A burst of noise—not gunshots—and suddenly the door to the warehouse flies open.
Parrish? And Laura? And vests that say POLICE. Yelling, and shouting, and get down on the fucking floor now!
And Kali steps back, her hands up, because maybe she doesn’t actually want to die for Deucalion, or spend the rest of her life in prison, and Laura is all over her, taking her gun, twisting her arms behind her back, putting her on her knees, and then face-down on the floor, snapping on the cuffs.
Stiles tries to remember how to breathe.
And his dad is here too, and Chris and Peter, and who gave Peter a gun? Stiles wants to laugh at that, because Peter’s preferred method of dispatching his enemies just has to be poison right? The sort that comes from some exquisite lily that only grows in the moonlight for one day of the year on a secret Indonesian island or something, and is almost entirely undetectable to standard forensic tests. A gun is so banal.
And Stiles must be in shock, because he wants to remember to tell Peter that later, because he thinks it will make him laugh.
His dad is hurrying toward them, and all Stiles can do is watch him come and wonder how he’s not dead yet.
And Matt’s gun is still on the floor, and someone is reaching for it, and Stiles blinks and sees too late that it’s Deucalion.
“Stiles!” his dad yells.
There’s a flurry of movement, and Stiles scrambles back. When he twists his head to look, it’s Isaac holding the gun. He’s got it jammed up under Deucalion’s chin, his hands shaking.
“Isaac,” Deucalion says.
“Isaac,” his dad says, and it’s him that Isaac’s gaze flicks to quickly, before it fixes again on Deucalion. “Move away, Isaac. I’ve got him covered, okay?”
Peter drops to his knees beside Stiles, tugging him away further. He’s strong, and safe, and for a second Stiles forgets how to breathe again.
His dad is holding a gun on Deucalion. It’s shaking as much as Isaac’s.
Chris is right beside him, steady and silent.
One of the deputies is standing with them.
“Isaac,” his dad says again. “Move away, kid, please.”
Isaac is still kneeling in front of Deucalion, the gun still shoved up against his throat. He’s crying.
There are a thousand ways this could go wrong. Deucalion could grab the gun off Isaac, and turn it back on him. Or he could grab the gun and shoot Stiles’s dad, or Chris, or anyone else in the room before he’s killed himself. A gun, a shaking kid, and a man who’s still pulling all his strings. A thousand ways it could go wrong.
But mostly, Stiles thinks, it could go wrong if Isaac actually kills him.
“Isaac,” his dad says. “I know you think you want to do this, but I promise you it’s a mistake. Don’t let this man ruin your future as well, please.”
Revenge isn’t the same thing as justice.
And revenge carried out in a room full of deputies…
Maybe, with the right lawyer, Isaac won’t go to prison if he pulls the trigger. But maybe he also doesn’t need to see bloodshed every time he closes his eyes. Deucalion deserves to rot in hell, but Isaac doesn’t deserve to be haunted by him.
“Isaac,” his dad says again. “Son.”
And Isaac moves as though that one word breaks whatever spell he’s under, pushing himself away from Deucalion.
Chris and the deputy step forward, guns trained on Deucalion.
Stiles suddenly remembers how to breathe again, and Peter tugs him close, running his hands over his limbs like he’s looking for injuries. He stares intently at Stiles’s face, his brilliant blue gaze sharp with fear.
“I’m okay,” Stiles whispers. “I’m okay.”
He looks over at his dad, who’s crouching beside Isaac, arms wrapped around him.
“I’m okay,” he says again, and starts to shake apart.
His dad rides in the ambulance with them, growling at the paramedic who tries to make him ride up front. Stiles and Isaac each have a tinfoil shock blanket wrapped around their shoulders, and they’re sitting on either side of Stiles’s dad on the gurney in the back of the ambulance.
They’re not injured. Right now that seems even more miraculous than Stiles can process.
“I’m sorry,” Isaac whispers, flinching away from Stiles’s dad. “I’m sorry. It’s my fault. I went to the house, to…” He shudders.
His dad exchanges a searching look with Stiles, and Stiles knows he’s on the hook to tell the whole story later, and then puts an arm around Isaac. “Isaac, that doesn’t matter, okay? What matters is that you’re safe. You’re both safe. Whatever happened, we can talk about that later, but you’re safe, and he’s not going to come near you ever again, okay?”
Stiles leans against his dad. He’s bone-weary and jittery at the same time, like he’s been up all night drinking Red Bull. He doesn’t want to go to the hospital, but his dad insisted they both get checked out.
And he probably is in shock or something.
Whenever he blinks, he sees Thing Two’s skull coming apart.
Also, he only notices he’s crying when his dad wipes his face for him.
Stiles is sedated at the hospital, which he hates, but Melissa, Scott’s mom, is the nurse who administers the dose, so he doesn’t freak out too much. And his dad promises to stay in the room with him at all times. He and Isaac share a room.
Stiles wakes up sometime the next day.
It takes him a moment to remember where he is. His dad is snoring in the chair between their beds, and Isaac is still sleeping too.
It takes Stiles a moment to realize what’s woken him: Melissa is checking his chart.
“How are you feeling?” she asks him in a soft voice.
“Okay.” He has cotton mouth but, on balance, he’s not going to complain about that.
“You have visitors,” Melissa tells him in a whisper, checking to see his dad is still asleep.
Stiles throws the blankets off, his heart pounding. “Really?”
She puts a finger to her lips.
“Oh.” Stiles scrambles out of bed and then tugs at his hospital gown. “Can you help me not show my ass to them?”
Melissa produces a couple of safety pins from her pocket with a smile, and Stiles tries his hardest not to bounce from foot to foot as she makes him decent. Not that he’d mind Chris and Peter seeing his ass under other circumstances, but… well.
By the time Melissa is finished with him, Stiles is blushing.
Melissa points him down the hall.
Chris and Peter are sitting in a dreary waiting room at the end of the hall. There’s a vinyl couch, a couple of sad magazines, and a television that’s muted and playing some awful soap opera. But somehow it’s perfect.
“Hey.” Stiles smiles, suddenly shy.
They both stand at the sound of his voice, and for a second Stiles hesitates because not only does he not know what to do—handshake? hug? celebratory blowjob?—he doesn’t know which one of them to approach first, and his indecision cripples him.
Is that what every interaction will be like with them?
Will he have to keep a tally in his head of who gets what, like dividing up a treat between toddlers?
How is this supposed to work?
In the end they solve it for him, by approaching at the same time and sandwiching him in a warm hug. Stiles sinks into the embrace and then, not caring if anyone’s watching, brushes his mouth quickly against Chris’s, and then Peter’s. And then Peter’s again, and then Chris’s.
“Thank you for saving us,” he whispers to both of them. “Also, plus side, it’s going to be really hard for my dad to hate you after this.”
Peter shakes with silent laughter.
Chris looks slightly pained.
“I mean, he’ll try,” Stiles clarifies, “but he’s fighting a losing battle.”
That gets what looks to be an unwilling smile out of Chris.
Stiles rewards him with another brief kiss and remembers that time he told them he never wanted to see them again. Turns out Stiles was fighting a losing battle on that front too.
He’s never been happier to be wrong.
“This is not my idea of a first date,” Peter grouses when Chris hands him the safety glasses or whatever the hell they are.
Chris just quirks his mouth in a smile that says a lot more than words could. Because it doesn’t matter what Stiles had suggested, Peter would have jumped at the chance to spend some time with him.
It’s been two weeks since Deucalion’s arrest, and they’ve hardly seen Stiles. Peter’s missed him. Texting isn’t the same. Peter would rather hear Stiles’s laugh and see the way his eyes shine when he does it than get a texted LOL. So yes, he would have agreed to anything. He had hoped, though, for something with appetizers and a wine menu.
Stiles flashes him a grin, and adjusts his earmuff things.
Are they still called earmuffs if they’re not fuzzy and warm?
Peter has no idea. He’s completely out of his depth here.
The shooting range is mostly empty. Maybe there’s a busy period at places like this, and maybe there’s not. If there is, it’s certainly not today. They’re the only ones in this half of the—gallery? Peter wants to call it a gallery despite the depressing lack of art, or even a view. The term shooting gallery has to come from somewhere, right? And why not here? They’re in a long, wide hallway basically, and there is a series of narrow rooms off to the side where the targets are set up. It’s all very police buddy movie.
Peter might be out of his depth in his surroundings and completely hopeless with the terminology, but Chris is clearly in his element. He runs Stiles and Peter through the basic safety stuff, which Peter chooses to interpret as “Stay away from the guns and go and read a book in the car, Peter” because this really isn’t him.
So Peter did shoot and kill a man back in their apartment, but those were extenuating circumstances. And Peter is totally willing to believe that he will never again be put in a position where anything more this his currently rudimentary—or non-existent—knowledge of guns will be required. Peter never wants to touch a gun again. But Stiles clearly wants to learn how to, so that if there’s ever a next time he’ll feel more in control.
Stiles is soaking it up. He’s listening intently to Chris, and nodding to show his understanding.
And then Chris is standing behind Stiles, his hands on his hips to get his stance right, and Peter forgets all about the book in the car. To be fair, both Chris and Stiles both seem totally focused on what they’re doing, and Peter is probably the only one with his mind in the gutter, but Stiles looks good with Chris’s fingers splayed around his hips. Peter can’t help but imagine them naked, Chris’s cock sliding into the boy. Stiles’s mouth hanging open, his eyes sliding shut, every thrust punching out a sweet, strangled noise. Peter imagines licking the sweat and cum off both of them when they’re done.
Peter’s fantasy shatters the moment he sees how much Stiles is shaking as he raises his gun to shoot the paper target.
“You’re doing good,” Chris tells him. “Breathe in, and breathe out. Don’t hold your breath. Fire on the exhale.”
Stiles nods, swiping his tongue over his lower lip as he tries to steady his aim.
Stiles killed a man too, of course. Matt Daehler died on his way to the hospital and Peter hopes wholeheartedly that his last moments were full of pain and regret. Stiles is very probably a stronger man that Peter if he’s ready to pick up a gun again.
Stiles sucks in a deep breath, and holds it for a moment before he lets it out again. He fires, and Peter jerks at the noise despite his hearing protection.
“Fuck,” Stiles says, squinting at the target. “Right in the throat. Apparently I’ve got a signature style.”
“You’ve got bad aim,” Chris tells him with a smile. “You’re aiming for the chest, remember? Always go for the body mass, not the extremities.”
“No trick shooting with you then?” Stiles asks, his voice pitched a little higher than usual with nerves.
“No,” Chris tells him, and corrects his stance again. “Try again.”
They’re at the shooting range for an hour, until Stiles is wrung out, Chris declares him a decent student, and Peter has run through every fantasy of a naked Stiles in a thigh holster that he can imagine.
He’ll move onto fantasies of tearing body armor off him next time.
They eat a late lunch at a restaurant on Pine Street, that’s not quite the plastic and neon monstrosity that Peter had feared. The menus are laminated, but he gives them a pass on that because the place is otherwise charming. Although that might be the company.
Stiles orders a club sandwich and a soda, and then fiddles with his straw for a while before he says, suddenly, “Where did you guys go on your first date?”
Peter considers that for a moment. “Here.”
“You brought me to the same spot you had your first date?” Sties asks, raising his eyebrows.
“No,” Peter says. “I mean that this is our first date.”
Stiles’s jaw drops.
“We never dated,” Chris says. “I was mated to someone else.”
“We hooked up in a lot of filthy hotel rooms and back alleys,” Peter says. “And then the loft. We didn’t go out.”
“That’s…” Stiles blinks. “Wow. Not even a movie?”
Peter smiles a little at that. “Don’t feel too sorry for us, Stiles. We had some fantastic dirty sex, without the annoying social niceties attached.”
“Social niceties like getting to know the other person?” Stiles challenges.
“It’s amazing what you can learn about someone else during the fantastic dirty sex,” Peter shoots back, just to enjoy the flush that pinks Stiles’s cheeks.
“Particularly when the other person doesn’t know how to shut his damn mouth,” Chris says.
Peter smirks, and Stiles gives a snort of laughter.
“We did go out,” Chris says. “When I got divorced, remember?”
“We ate burgers in my car when I picked you up from the courthouse,” Peter says, and winks at Stiles. “And they say romance is dead.”
“I visited you when you were in college,” Chris reminds him.
“Yes,” Peter allows, although he can’t consider those dates either. Not really. They still didn’t have the freedom of going out and acting like boyfriends in public, since Peter’s circle of friends was mostly still from Beacon Hills, and they would know who Chris Argent was. The mated alpha son of Gerard Argent. Takeout meals and closed curtains were the extent of their time together then. “You visited. We didn’t date.”
“Okay,” Stiles says suddenly, his smile a fraction too bright as though he’s worried they’re going to argue about it. “So this is everyone’s first date, right? We’ll circle it on the calendar or something.”
Peter snaps a complimentary breadstick. “You don’t need to be the peacemaker, Stiles.”
“This asshole and I have got twenty years of baggage.” Peter shrugs. “It’s not your job to unpack it.”
“Right,” Stiles says with a nod. “So we’ll just load mine up and throw it in the back with yours?”
Peter shrugs again and smirks. “Why not?”
“That seems like a disaster of a plan,” Stiles says frankly and then takes a long sip of his soda.
Chris reaches out and squeezes Peter’s hand. “Well, he’s a disaster of a person.”
Stiles laughs so hard that soda comes out his nose.
Their second date is a movie. Stiles gets so excited during the part with explosions that he spills his popcorn all over the three of them.
There are things that Stiles doesn’t say to their faces, but he sometimes sends texts.
I don’t want to have heat sex with you. Or anyone. Is that ok?
“He’s too young,” Chris says when the text comes through. “If he can’t talk about sex to our faces, he’s too young.”
“Bullshit,” Peter says. “He’s suffered trauma and he’s terrified of having his control taken away from him. That’s why he’s texting, not talking. If he’s texting, nobody can railroad him. He can take as long as he wants to think of a reply, and we can’t change his mind. He’s not embarrassed by sex, Christopher, he’s afraid of losing his agency during heat.”
He texts back: You set the rules, sweetheart. Remember?
Their third date is possibly the most terrifying of all: family dinner with the Stilinskis. Peter finds himself perversely delighted at the prospect of facing John Stilinski’s disapproval. He’s never been given a shovel talk before and is almost looking forward to it. He makes an eggplant parmesan with fresh mozzarella to take with them, since Stiles insisted on something meat-free, but Peter knows will still earn John’s appreciation by being absolutely laden with cheese.
Stiles is cooking too, but clearly not just because he’s the omega of the household. He’s definitely in charge, and Isaac is his vegetable-chopping bitch. But the household is still traditional in some respects: John shows Peter and Chris into the living room, gestures at them to sit down on the couch, and then sits across from them and stares at them in silence for a long while.
Chris takes it all with his usual equanimity.
Peter suddenly regrets looking forward to this part.
At last, John sighs. “He’s my son,” he says, and then presses his mouth into a tight line and shakes his head slightly. “My son. If anything happened to him…”
And Peter understands, because yes, Stiles is precious. Stiles is one of the brightest stars in the sky. If anything happened to him, it wouldn’t just be John who was bereft.
“John,” Chris says, his voice calm and level. “The last thing Peter and I want is to hurt Stiles.”
“You’re a lot older than him,” John says. “You have a history that he can’t even begin to compete against.”
“And we don’t expect him to,” Chris says. He rubs his forehead for a moment, the slight movement signaling his nerves, and Peter melts a little. Chris, total fucking badass Chris, is nervous. Well, that makes two of them. “This is new territory for us as well. But we like Stiles a lot, and we respect him, and we would never intentionally hurt him in any way. That’s a promise.”
“Well,” John says finally. “I guess that’s all I can ask, isn’t it?”
He never does show them his gun collection.
Stiles is still smiling when he walks Peter and Chris to their car. “Thank you.”
“For what?” Peter asks.
“For letting my dad glare at you throughout dinner.”
Chris leans against the car. “He’s also glaring at us now from the front porch.”
Stiles turns around, squawking with indignation. “Dad! Jesus Christ! I’m giving Peter back his casserole dish!”
“Is that what the kids are calling it these days?” Peter murmurs, and Chris elbows him.
John looks pointedly at his watch and steps back inside the house.
“Guess I’d better make this quick then.” Stiles says, stepping closer.
Chris gets the first kiss, and Peter finds that he doesn’t mind, because it’s a beautiful thing to watch. Stiles melts into Chris, a feeling Peter is more than familiar with, and looks dazed when he finally steps back again.
And then Stiles’s mouth is warm against Peter’s, and Peter thrills to be following the same path that Chris’s tongue just did.
Stiles pulls back. “Your turn.”
Chris raises his eyebrows.
“Don’t make me smoosh you together like my GI Joe figures when I was eight.” Stiles’s smile is nine-tenths wicked. “Because I will.”
Peter smirks, and reaches out and curls his hand around the back of Chris’s head. Tugs him close into a kiss that’s quick, messy, and breaks when Chris starts to laugh.
“Still hot,” Stiles declares with a grin. “Goodnight!”
He waves awkwardly and jogs back toward the house.
Peter watches him go, warmth flooding through him. Beside him Chris is still smiling.
No, this was never about adding someone to their relationship, was it? This was about starting over, for all of them.
This is something new, and it just might be something wonderful.
“And you did all this yourself?” Victoria asks, a wine glass in one hand. She reaches out her other hand to trace the tiles of the kitchen splashback.
“I got the experts in for the plumbing and rewiring,” Chris says. “Everything else though, yeah.”
“It’s really beautiful,” she says with what he thinks might even be a genuine smile. “I know you’ll be very happy here.”
“Thank you,” he says, and swallows. “Thank you.”
She pats him on the forearm and goes back to join the party.
Chris hadn’t seen the need for a housewarming party for the loft, but Peter had insisted.
“I mean, at least we’ll get some houseplants out of it, right?” he’d said.
Right now Chris is staring at what looks like a peace lily sitting on the kitchen counter. There’s a ribbon tied in a bow around the ceramic pot. He leans forward to check the little tag planted like a flag in the soil. Yeah. Definitely a peace lily. Who would even…?
He spots the second tag.
From Cora. Figured you guys could use all the help you could get.
Chris snorts. He’s not sure if it’s referring to the past few weeks of total bloody mayhem, or a not-so-subtle dig at their personalities. With Cora, it could be either or both. She is Peter’s niece through and through.
Tonight though, Cora looks almost soft and shy as she sits squeezed into one of the armchairs with Isaac. They pair of them have barely made eye contact all night, but they’ve been holding hands since Cora arrived.
They’ll be okay, Chris thinks, and wonders when he started believing in happy ever afters for teenagers. Probably when he got involved with one himself, he figures.
Talia sweeps into the kitchen, grabs another bottle of wine, and sweeps out again. She smiles warmly at Chris on her way.
The housewarming is a bigger gathering than Chris had expected, but, then again, there are a lot of Hales. A few of the younger ones are scooting up and down the spiral staircase, which is sure to end in tears, and Derek is doing his best to curtail them. He’s failing hopelessly. They have him outnumbered.
Peter and Ally are standing in front of the bookshelves. Ally is holding a volume in her hands, and Peter is talking animatedly about it. Ally’s smiling though, and interjecting occasionally, so Chris figures she hasn’t been totally trapped. Stiles’s friend Scott is standing beside her, looking at her like she hung the moon.
Victoria is talking to Peter’s brother William over by the windows.
Laura and Jordan Parrish are here as well, along with what seems like half the Beacon Hills Sheriff’s Department. John, sitting on the couch with a soda in his shaking hand, is never without someone beside him. Most often it’s Stiles, bringing him food, or chattering about something, or showing him that video on his phone where the otters are holding hands. John looks relaxed, his smile broad as he talks with Stiles. Chris doesn’t miss the way he looks around for Isaac every few minutes, just to check he’s still okay.
A few of Peter’s colleagues from the college are here as well, including Alan Deaton. He wanders into the kitchen to leave a plate by the sink, and Chris catches his gaze.
“You have a beautiful home, Chris,” Deaton says.
“Thank you.” Chris offers him a fresh beer. “Can I ask you a question?”
“It’s about Stiles.”
Deaton tilts his head. “I’m his psychologist, Chris. There’s not a lot I can say.”
“Are we doing the wrong thing here?” Chris asks, afraid of any answer Deaton might give him.
Deaton reaches out and puts a hand on his shoulder. His expression is warm. “Are you moving too quickly? Maybe. But are you doing the wrong thing? I don’t know. Life is complicated. Love is. You took a hell of a chance on Peter once. I think Stiles deserves the same chance, don’t you?”
Chris takes a swig from his beer. “I don’t want to hurt him.”
“Like you hurt Peter?” Deaton’s tone is soft. “Then don’t.”
“Is it really that easy?” Chris asks, his throat aching a little.
“You’re not the same person you were when you met Peter.” Deaton smiles. “And Stiles is not the same person Peter was. This isn’t another turn on the same old carousel, Chris. This is something new.”
From the living area, Stiles lets out a burst of brilliant laughter at something someone says.
This is something new.
Most of the guests are gone by midnight, the Hales carrying out their sleeping kids. Parrish offers to take a bag of garbage downstairs when he goes, and Peter loads him up with two. When Chris closes the door behind him and heads back to the living room, John is putting his jacket on and fumbling with the zip.
“I got it,” Stiles says, and does it for him. Then he glances over to where Peter and Chris are cleaning up. “Um, so I might stay the night?”
Chris freezes, hand outstretched toward a plate.
He’s glad he hadn’t picked it up when John answers. He’s pretty sure he would have dropped it.
“Okay,” John says. “Call me if you change your mind.”
Stiles grins and flushes. “Thanks, Dad.”
John sends Chris and Peter a steady, warning look.
John digs into his pocket and produces his car keys. He holds them out to a surprised Isaac.
“I’m a little too worn out and shaky to drive right now,” he says. “Can I trust you to get us home without putting a dent in the car?”
“Yes!” Isaac grins. “Um, yes, s—” He clears his throat. “Yes, Dad.”
“Good boy,” John says, and claps him on the shoulder. “Goodnight, Stiles.”
Chris walks them to the door.
“Goodnight,” John says, and Chris waits for the verbal warning that doesn’t come.
“Goodnight,” he echoes at last, and shuts the door behind them.
Stiles says he’ll help with the clean up, but before long he’s perched on the ladder on the bookshelves, chewing his bottom lip and watching them both avidly.
“That was presumptuous, right?” he asks at last. “To invite myself to stay like that.”
“Oh,” Peter says airily, swiping a sponge over the dining table, “I do like a bit of presumption now and again.”
“I mean…I could sleep on the couch?”
Chris exchanges a look with Peter.
“You’re not sleeping on the couch, sweetheart,” Peter says, his voice suddenly low, and thick as honey.
“Not unless you want to,” Chris clarifies, because seduction is one thing, but clear and explicit consent is another.
Stiles curls his long fingers around the rail of the ladder. “Yeah. I’m pretty sure I don’t want to sleep on the couch.”
The rest of the cleaning can wait until morning.
Stiles laughs when Peter pushes into his space and presses up against him. His laughter dies with a bitten off moan as Peter takes his hands and holds them over his head. His shirt rides up, and Chris’s gaze is drawn to the thin band of pale skin it exposes.
Chris moves in beside Peter, and reaches out to touch that skin. Stiles squirms, his shoes knocking against the rungs of the ladder. Chris slides a knee in between his legs in case he slips, and Stiles jerks forward. He sucks in a breath and drops his head back against the ladder, and watches them both with his dark eyes.
Chris moves his hands to the button on Stiles’s jeans.
Stiles nods, a breath shuddering out of him.
“Fucking gorgeous,” Peter murmurs as Chris opens Stiles’s jeans and tugs them down. Stiles’s dick is hard, pressing up against his underwear. There’s a damp patch on the fabric, and Chris’s mouth waters as he remembers the taste of Stiles’s dick. He hooks his thumbs over the elastic of Stiles’s underwear, and eases the fabric down.
Stiles moans and squirms, the flush on his face extending down his throat and disappearing into his shirt. Chris suddenly wants to see all of him.
“Bed?” he asks.
“Y-yeah,” Stiles says.
Peter leans in and licks a stripe up the side of Stiles’s cheek before he releases his wrists. Chris steps back, and Stiles takes a moment to catch his breath. Then, seemingly remembering his jeans and underwear are still tangled around his thighs, he smirks and hitches them up again.
Peter leads the way up the stairs, tugging Stiles gently by the hand.
Their bedroom door is closed, off limits for all the little Hale kids and their sugar-sticky fingers from earlier in the night. Peter pushes the door open and flicks on the light.
“Nice,” Stiles says, his gaze falling on the bed. “Pretty much how I imagined.”
“You imagined our bed a lot?” Peter asks.
Stiles raises his eyebrows. “Duh.”
Chris laughs softly. Peter can always be relied upon to tease and Stiles, apparently, can be relied upon to not give a fuck. Chris likes that about him. A lot. He knows what he wants, and he’s happy to admit it.
Seems like that’s going to be a nice change after he and Peter took twenty fucking years to get their shit together. Stiles is infinitely complicated, infinitely fascinating, but he doesn’t do bullshit.
“You’re not the only one who imagined you in our bed,” Peter says. He tugs Stiles forward by the hips, and peels his shirt off.
“You too,” Stiles says when his head reappears, hair mussed up.
Peter swaggers forward, unbuttoning his shirt and revealing himself inch by inch to Stiles’s appreciative gaze.
“Fuck, you’re hot,” Stiles mutters, and then stares at Chris.
Chris pulls his shirt off.
“I think I’ve won some kind of lottery,” Stiles says frankly, rubbing his hand against the bulge in his jeans. His expression shifts into something more serious. “You guys have condoms, right? I mean, I’m on contraceptives, but um, they’re not a hundred percent, and I feel like I’ve already given my dad too many horrifying moments this year.”
Chris remembers that Peter said Stiles wasn’t anxious about sex, only about the prospect of losing control during heat sex, and this seems to back Peter’s theory up.
Peter crosses the floor to the bedside drawer, and pulls it open. He pulls out a box of unopened condoms, and a bottle of lube that’s definitely seen some action. “Bought them just for you, sweetheart.”
Stiles’s shoulders sag a little in relief. “Thanks. I mean, I’m not in heat or anything, but, you know. Better safe than sorry.”
“Ah, yes,” Peter says. “It’s like that old joke, isn’t it? What do you call a man who pulls out before coming?”
“What?” Stiles asks, a smile already twitching at the corners of his mouth.
“Daddy,” Peter deadpans.
Stiles laughs, and waggles his eyebrows. “Play your cards right and I might call you Daddy too.”
Chris almost chokes.
“Hmm,” Peter says. “Aside from the mental one-eighty I just had to do to get from actual babies to that very interesting little kink of yours, I think I could get behind that.”
Stiles grins cheekily and tugs teasingly at his jeans. “Yeah? Because I can think of something else I’d like you to get behind too.”
This isn’t something Peter and Chris have discussed, but Chris knows that gleam in Peter’s eye. He knows it well enough to predict exactly where Peter’s going to go with this. And he approves, wholeheartedly.
Peter grabs Stiles by the belt loops of his sagging jeans and reels him in for a filthy kiss that leaves Stiles breathless. He draws back then, and rubs his thumb along Stiles’s wet bottom lip. “Actually, sweetheart, how about Chris gets behind you, and you shove that lovely dick of yours in my ass first?”
Stiles blinks, jaw dropping.
Chris watches him, arousal coiling tightly in his gut.
“Yeah,” Stiles breathes at last. “Yeah, let’s do that.”
He toes his shoes off, shoves his jeans and underwear down, and crosses to the bed.
Peter and Chris follow.
Stiles tells himself he isn’t afraid, but it’s a lie. He trusts Peter and Chris implicitly, so this is probably the least afraid he can be going into this, but the fear is still there. Fear that it will hurt, or be awkward and humiliating, fear that he isn’t ready for this even though he’s jerked off more times than he can count to fantasies of this very scenario. And maybe fear that he’s built it up too much in his own mind, and that he’ll be disappointed or, worse, that they will be.
His heart beats fast in his chest as he sits down on the end of the bed. His dick is hard, but his hands are shaking, and all he can think of is those pamphlets they gave him one time in health class, which showed the position an omega was supposed to take to get bred. Face down, ass up, legs apart. He’d ripped them up and thrown them in the trash, but he still remembered those fucking pictures.
He watches as Peter shoves his pants and underwear down. He’s got an incredible body. Just… lots of muscle that Stiles doesn’t have. Not too much though. He’s not like weird and bulgy and stuff, like some bodybuilder who looks like he’s going to burst out of his own skin. He just looks strong, and Stiles immediately wants to roll over and present for him. Which, he remembers with a start, is not what Peter wants from him.
Peter’s mouth curls up into a smirk as he swaggers toward the bed. Oh yeah, he knows he’s hot. Well, why wouldn’t he, the asshole? He owns a mirror. And while there’s a part of Stiles who hates every arrogant fucking alpha who ever existed, this is different. Because this arrogant fucking alpha doesn’t expect Stiles to bend over for him. This arrogant fucking alpha expects Stiles to top. He wants to ignore all that alpha/omega gender bullshit, and Stiles is here for that. So, so here for that.
Peter’s smirk grows as he walks around the end of the bed, trailing a hand over Stiles’s shoulder as he goes, and then lies down. “Want to join me up here, Stiles?”
Stiles clambers toward him, his limbs flailing a little in his eagerness.
His dick is hard. So is Peter’s. It bumps against Stiles’s thigh as he settles against Peter, and Stiles shudders at the contact.
Peter leans in to kiss him, and oh.
Peter kisses like it’s a declaration of war. Hot and angry and desperate.
Stiles gets his hands on Peter’s shoulders and pushes him onto his back. Sprawls against him, kissing back hard, nipping at his lower lip, and his jaw, and then his throat. Peter arches his neck and moans, and the sound vibrates through Stiles like the lingering shockwaves of an earthquake. It settles in his bones.
He drags his fingers down Peter’s chest, through the hair there. The texture delights him, so he follows the path he traces with his mouth. Peter rumbles again, and Stiles looks up to see the man gazing at him through heavy-lidded eyes.
“Don’t tease me, sweetheart,” he says. “Fuck me.”
“Yeah,” Stiles breathes, eyes wide.
Peter moves out from underneath him, and turns over onto his stomach.
The mattress dips as weight settles on it, and Stiles looks around to see Chris kneeling beside him. Chris is naked too now. He’s leaner than Peter, but not less impressive. He’s lean like a predator. All strength and power.
Stiles’s gaze is drawn first to the scar on his side, still a little pink and puckered, and then to his dick.
God. That’s a nice dick.
“Want me to help you get him ready, Stiles?” Chris asks.
Stiles nods dumbly.
Chris leans over and grabs the lube. He squeezes some out onto his fingers, and then jostles Stiles a little as he shifts. For a second Stiles doesn’t realize what he’s doing, and then he jerks forward when he feels Chris’s fingers slide down into the crack of his ass.
Chris’s voice is low, his breath hot on Stiles’s ear. “You’re gonna need to use a little more on Peter. He doesn’t get wet like you do.”
Stiles moans as Chris’s fingers find his entrance, and slide over it. Back and forth, back and forth, until he applies just enough pressure that the tip of one finger slips inside.
“You have to go gently,” Chris says, easing his finger deeper inside Stiles. “Gently but firmly. He likes that.”
Yeah, well. Stiles can see why.
Chris’s mouth leaves a hot trail against Stiles’s shoulder.
Stiles reaches for the lube, and drizzles some onto his shaking fingers.
Peter’s ass is glorious. Stiles is definitely going to bite it at some point. But for now he does exactly what Chris is doing to him, and Peter moans and lifts his hips off the bed.
“Give him a little more, Stiles,” Chris says, and twists his finger inside Stiles. Crooks it, and—
And Stiles almost comes right then and there.
“Shit, shit, shit.” He squeezes his eyes shut as his entire body seems to light up with pleasure. He holds his breath to stop himself tumbling over the edge. “Chris!”
Chris bites down on his shoulder, and rumbles with amusement. “Give him some more lube now.”
Stiles fumbles with the lube, then slides two fingers back inside Peter. He’s tight inside, and hot, and he squeezes around Stiles’s fingers hard enough to make them both moan.
“That’s good,” Chris murmurs. “He’s ready for you now. Aren’t you, Peter?”
“Fuck, yes.” Peter groans, and gets his knees under him. Lifts himself up so that Stiles can line up his dick with his ass.
Condom condom condom.
Stiles manages to tear one open, then immediately puts his thumb through it. He rolls the second one on, slicks himself up with more lube, and shuffles forward on his knees—Chris’s fingers still inside him, stretching him—and presses the head of his dick up against Peter’s entrance.
Watching it slide slowly inside, and feeling that tight, hot pressure, might just be the best fucking thing Stiles has ever experienced in his life. And the sound it pulls out of Peter—a long, throaty moan—is incredible.
Stiles grips Peter’s hips tightly, his fingers digging in. He falters into what he thinks could be generously called a rhythm, and even manages to hold it for about three strokes before Chris is settling in more firmly behind him. And then Stiles hears the crackle of a condom wrapper being torn open, the slick of lube, and Chris puts a hand on his shoulder. His thumb rubs against the short hairs at the nape of Stiles’s neck.
“You ready for this, Stiles?”
“Yeah,” he rasps out. “Please, yeah.”
Stiles may or may not see fireworks when Chris slowly pushes in.
Stiles is rocked between them. Chris sets the pace and Stiles just goes with it, because, frankly, he’s suffering almost total sensory overload right now and has no idea how to make his body work. He’s holding it together, almost, when Chris starts to talk dirty.
Stiles would have bet money on Peter being the dirty talker.
“Can you feel him in you, Peter?” Chris asks. “Can you feel me fucking you with him?”
Peter moans, and digs his fingers into the sheets. “Fuck.”
“He’s good, isn’t he?” Chris asks, which Stiles feels might be over-stating his merits, but hey. “He’s tight too, Peter. So hot and tight around my cock. I’ll bet you can’t wait until you’re inside him.”
Stiles shudders. “Shut up! Oh my god!”
Chris’s laugh is a burst of warm breath against his throat. “Are you close, baby?”
“Yes!” He’s too close, and the fucking pet name doesn’t help. Stiles didn’t even know he could feel this dirty and hot and precious all at the same time. It’s hard enough keep his body from flying apart at the seams—the heat, the ache, the friction, the low thrum of pleasure that’s tightening into a hot coil in his belly—but Chris seems determined to fuck his head just as thoroughly.
There’s no fucking way Stiles can make this last.
“Come on, darlin’,” Chris tells him. “You can let go.”
“Do it,” Peter gasps. “Do it!”
Stiles shudders apart between them, crying out as he comes.
“Was it good?” he asks blearily, minutes or hours later, who can even tell?
Peter leans down over him and peels his condom off before Stiles can even protest he can do it himself. He wipes the sweat and lube from Stiles’s ass with a damp washcloth. “You were there, sweetheart. You tell us.”
Chris pads back into the bedroom, holding a bottle of water out to Stiles.
Stiles sits, and takes it. He cracks the seal. “Was it good for you guys, I mean.”
“I’m certainly not complaining,” Chris says, and motions for Stiles to move over so he can climb onto the bed with him.
“Me neither,” Peter says with a wink. “Of course, we must work on your stamina, but for a first timer? Wonderful.”
Chris reaches over Stiles and slaps Peter on the chest. “Peter!”
“What? The boy wanted a critique!” Peter grins at Stiles and rubs at the red mark on his chest. “You did good, Stiles. And next time, you’ll do good for even longer. Chris has this thing where he likes to see if he can make me come untouched. Spoiler alert, he totally can. I’d be very interested to know if you can manage the same.”
“What?” Stiles asks. “Coming untouched or making you come untouched?”
“Both,” Peter tells him with a smug smile.
“In that case, I would be very interested to know the same,” Stiles says.
Peter laughs, and Chris snorts and shakes his head.
Stiles dozes off and wakes up sometime before dawn, his limbs tangled with Chris’s and Peter’s in a way that should be uncomfortable but somehow isn’t. He blinks at the window. The darkness is just starting to soften a little. Morning can’t be more than an hour away.
A strange sense of sadness creeps over him, and it takes him a moment to unpack it. He’s happy. Here, right now, he’s happy. The sadness is for the coming morning, when he’ll get dressed and leave.
But it’s okay. It’s manageable. He likes Chris and Peter—more than likes them—and he knows they feel the same way. Stiles’s isn’t going to blindly dive right into the middle of their lives. Not yet. He can’t afford to be reckless with something like this. Something that feels so important. And that’s okay.
A bond isn’t something magical or mystical. It’s something that grows from trust, from closeness. It has nothing to do with biology or gender, and it can’t be forced with a mating contract or with pharmaceuticals. It’s a thing that exists between them, that will grow if they nurture it. It won’t force Stiles to kneel for his alphas. They won’t force that. They don’t want that anymore than Stiles does.
He trusts them.
He’s not their omega. He’s not an object they own. He’s Stiles, who happens to be an omega, but is also a lot of other things besides. Stiles is no more a stereotypical omega that Chris and Peter are stereotypical alphas. Life is a lot more complicated than tradition and biology.
Life is messy.
They’ll aggravate one another, and they’ll fight, because that’s what people do, but they’ll also apologize and make up. There aren’t any clean edges in life, but Stiles figures it would be boring as hell if there were.
So in the morning Stiles will leave, but he’ll do it with a smile. And then he’ll come back. They’ll cook dinner, watch movies, and have fantastic mind-blowing sex. They’ll tangle their messy lives together, and step on each other’s feelings once in a while, and have fantastic mind-blowing make-up sex. It’s going to be incredible.
And then, one day when Stiles comes back, he won’t ever leave again.
And thanks to everyone on tumblr who helped me come up with some pet names for Chris to call Stiles!
Six months later.
Stiles pushes the door open.
“Oh, fuck it all! Fuck my life, and fuck college, and fuck everything!” He flings his bag dramatically toward the table. It misses, and papers and books go flying everywhere.
“How was your day, dear?” Peter calls out from the kitchen, where he’s making something incredible-smelling for dinner.
“Um.” Stiles notices too late that they have company. “Hello, Talia.”
Talia and Chris are staring at him from where they’re sitting on the couch, documents spread out on the coffee table in front of them. Stiles chooses to interpret their expressions as fond amusement.
“Hello, Stiles,” Talia says, giving him the patented Hale look. The one that judges him. “Bad day?”
“Um.” Stiles shuffles his feet.
Peter breezes out of the kitchen and closes the distance between them. He tugs Stiles close and kisses him. “Stiles is always a cranky little monster on Thursdays. He has a late class, forgets to eat the snacks I pack for him, and his low blood sugar does terrible things to his temperament.”
Stiles flushes. “What Peter said.”
Talia smiles, and gathers up the documents. “Well, Chris and I are finished here, and I’ve got my own dinner to get home to.” She stands. “Will I see you on Sunday?”
It’s Cora’s birthday and everyone is getting together for the day. The Hales, the Argents, the Stilinskis and the hangers-on. Well, the hanger-on. Scott, basically. Although he’s pretty much an honorary Argent since he and Ally are joined at this hip these days.
“Of course,” Peter says. “Who else will bring the potato salad?”
Talia heads out, and Stiles ignores the mess his books and papers have made, and heads for the couch. He pretty much nosedives into Chris’s lap, grunting.
“I hate college,” he mumbles.
“No, you don’t.” Chris rubs his back. “You’re just hungry and tired.”
“I hate everything,” Stiles mumbles, and Chris moves his hand to the back of his neck and squeezes gently. Stiles lets his eyes fall shut as he floods with warmth.
“Don’t fall asleep,” Peter warns. “Dinner’s almost ready.”
“I’m not gonna,” Stiles lies.
He totally does.
Stiles wakes up some time later, to the gentle touch of a hand on his forehead.
“Dinner time, sweetheart,” Peter whispers with a smile.
Stiles blinks himself awake. “Shit. I fell asleep.”
“I’m sure you were just resting your eyes,” Peter teases, and straightens up again. He offers Stiles a hand to pull himself to his feet.
Stiles shuffles over toward the dining table, and notices guiltily that his backpack and books have been cleared away while he dozed. Jesus though. Thursdays are a killer. There should be no more Thursdays. Ever.
He sits down, and Chris appears from the kitchen with the plates.
“Spinach and ricotta agnolotti,” Peter announces, taking a seat beside Stiles.
“Smells good,” Stiles says, and waits until Chris sits down before he digs in. “Oh, Jesus. It tastes even better.”
Peter preens a little.
“Are you carb loading us for a reason, Peter?” Chris asks, a gleam in his eye and a smile playing at the corners of his mouth.
“Christopher.” Peter smirks. “What are you insinuating?”
He likes the way they tease one another. He also likes that he knows it’s not going to go anywhere tonight. Stiles is way too tired and will probably fall asleep again the moment he finishes eating. Thursday nights are cuddle nights. That’s the law. Friday mornings, though? Well, all bets are off for Friday mornings, once Stiles has had a decent night’s sleep.
“How’d the tenancy applications thing go?” Stiles asks and reaches for some salad.
It’s been months, but at last the construction is finished on the downstairs levels. The apartments are clean, and new, and were open for inspection last weekend. And Chris is going to be the building manager. The money isn’t great, but he’s got his eye on a property over on Mason Avenue that he wants to develop into apartments too, if the Hale Family Trust will invest again. Stiles doesn’t think it will be a problem.
“We got another three applications today,” Chris says. “Good people, from what I can tell. If the references check out, I’ll accept them.”
“Wow. It’s gonna get crowded around here soon.”
“It’s a good location,” Chris says. He raises his eyebrows. “So how was your day? Apart from fuck everything?”
Stiles feels a little better about it with some food in his belly. “Ugh. Why’d I choose early childhood education?”
“Because you’ll look adorable with a bunch of preschoolers hanging off you,” Peter suggests.
“Shut up.” Stiles flushes a little, because he’s thought about it, okay? Thought about maybe having a kid or two of his own. Of theirs. But not now. God no. Stiles has got college to finish, and a career to start, but holy crap, Chris could build such a gorgeous fucking nursery, right? And Peter would be awesome at picking out the best books for little kids. And Stiles bets he’d do the voices and everything. Stiles packs that fantasy away somewhere safe for the future. “So, this one kid in my psych class found out I want to be a preschool teacher, and she was all ‘Duh, of course the omega wants to do something with babies!’”
Chris bristles, and Peter narrows his eyes.
“It was funny though,” Stiles says. “Deaton said that if she’s going to bring that attitude with her, she can leave and find another class, and he would totally recommend gender studies.” He grins. “The look on her face!”
His alphas relax.
“Oh, also I got a message from Dad today.” He grins winningly at Chris. “His kitchen sink is leaking.”
Chris smiles. “I’ll go around in the morning.”
“There’s some leftover meatloaf in the fridge,” Peter says. “Take that around too.” He catches Stiles’s look. “Please. If we didn’t keep an eye of them, John and Isaac would exist solely on cereal and frozen dinners.”
It’s not exactly true, but Stiles doesn’t argue. He likes the little game of one-upmanship that Chris and Peter are engaged in when it comes to his dad. Chris is always tinkering with something around the house, and Peter is always dropping food off. Stiles’s dad also thinks their obvious attempts to try to charm him over are ridiculous, but he hasn’t told them that.
“They make you happy, kiddo,” he’d told Stiles a few weeks back. “That’s all that matters. But I’m not turning down free labor and food. I’m not an idiot.”
Stiles loves it.
Thursday night is movie night, which means Stiles cuddles on the couch with Chris and Peter and they let him choose whatever movie he wants to watch. Which is generally something from the Marvel universe. Stiles usually dozes through most of the movie, just reveling in being wrapped up with Chris and Peter.
This is when he feels most like an omega.
When he has an alpha on either side of him, and he’s warm and safe and happy. There are no negative associations with it at all. No expectation that he will kneel or submit. No insinuations that he’s weak or he’s somehow lesser than they are. Just warm and safe and happy, while their touches draw out all the stresses of the day and leave him calm and sated.
The world isn’t perfect. There will always be people who think that omegas are only good for breeding and doing the housework. There will always be people who look sideways at two alphas in a relationship. There will always be people who attach judgment values to gender and orientation, and some days it makes Stiles so frustrated he wants to punch the walls. But he tries to leave that imperfect world behind when he arrives home everyday. He’s not a fighter, not in the same way Cora still is. Cora’s going places, and fuck anyone who stands in her way and tells her she can’t lead because she’s a beta. He’s not even a fighter in the same way Isaac is. Isaac’s doing a lot better now. He and Cora are dating. Isaac’s still working hard to reconstruct the identity that Deucalion tried to rip away from him. He’s not a typical alpha anymore, but maybe he never was? Maybe nobody is, and that’s the point.
Stiles yawns, and Peter cards his fingers through his hair. Chris takes Stiles’s hand into his lap and holds it, rubbing his thumb gently back and forth across his palm.
On screen, something explodes.
At the lowest point of Stiles’s life, Chris and Peter were the best thing that could have happened to him. And now, all this time later, they still are.
That’s pretty amazing.
“I love you, you know,” he murmurs, then jerks properly awake when Chris and Peter both lean in to kiss him and knock their heads together.
“Motherfucker,” Peter mutters.
“Oh, there’s that fancy education of yours showing,” Chris shoots back, glaring.
Stiles snorts with laughter.
“You’re both fucking idiots,” Stiles tells them. “And I love you.”
He kisses them in turn: Chris first, and then Peter. And then Peter again, and then Chris. And then he leans back and watches as they kiss.
It’s all about balance.
It works for them.
And it’s going to keep working, Stiles knows, always.
Thank you for joining me on another ride on the crazy train! I hope you all enjoyed it, and I’ll see you next time!